conservation news and environmental science news.
Whale sharks threatened by interbreeding
(04/08/2009) The world's largest living fish, the whale shark, is threatened by interbreeding, according to a new study in PLoS ONE. Comparing the DNA of 68 individual whale sharks from eleven locations across the globe, geneticists found that the whale sharks had little genetic variation between the populations.
Reserves with roads still vital for reducing fires in Brazilian Amazon
(04/08/2009) Analyzing ten years of data from on fires in the Brazilian Amazon, researchers found that roads built through reserves do not largely hamper a reserve's important role in reducing the spread of forest fires. The finding is important as Brazil continues a spree of road-building while at the same time paving over existing roads.
Male chimps use meat to seduce
(04/07/2009) Male chimpanzees who share meat with females over a long period of time have a better chance of mating, according to a new study published in PLoS ONE. Studying chimps in Tai National Park, Côte d'Ivoire, researchers from the Mac Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology observed that female chimps have sex more frequently with males who have shared meat with them at least once as opposed to males who never share.
Arctic ecosystem in danger as ice thins
(04/07/2009) Recent dramatic news points to both poles undergoing transformation due to climate change. This weekend an ice bridge disintegrated on the Wilkins Ice Shelf in Antarctica, leaving the whole shelf vulnerable to melting, and then yesterday new evidence was released of the impact of warming in the Arctic. Younger thinner ice has become the dominant type in the Arctic over the past five years, reports a new study led by Research Associate Charles Fowler of the Colorado Center for Astrodynamics Research. The thinner ice does not bode well for the Arctic ecosystem, as the ice is more prone to summer melting.
Marine Protected Areas too small for whales and dolphins
(04/07/2009) Current Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) are too small to adequately serve whales and dolphins according to the Whale and Dolphin Conservation Society (WDCS). The international organization is calling for a global network of MPAs to save the ocean's most beloved inhabitants. "A worldwide effort must be made urgently to identify and define whale and dolphin critical habitats and hot spots,” said WDCS Research Fellow, Erich Hoyt.
Stop staring at me: birds react to human gaze
(04/06/2009) A new study of jackdaws shows that these crow-like birds react to humans watching them, changing their behavior depending on who is looking and how the gaze moves.
Vital corridor for Asian elephants to be severed by government development in India
(04/05/2009) The largest wild population of Asian elephants in the world is threatened by development over a 2.5 kilometer wide corridor, according to Rainforest Information Centre which is apart of an international campaign to change the location of the development. The corridor, located in the Western Ghats of India, is the last unbroken forest leading the elephants from wet season to dry season feeding grounds. Unfortunately the corridor also connects two different Indian states: Kerala and Karnataka.
Black carbon linked to half of Arctic warming
(04/05/2009) Black carbon is responsible for 50 percent of the total temperature increases in the Arctic from 1890 to 2007 according to a study published in Nature Geoscience. Since 1890 the temperature in the Arctic has risen 1.9 degrees Celsius, linking black carbon to nearly an entire degree rise in Celsius or almost two degrees Fahrenheit.
Ice bridge collapses, leaving Wilkins Ice Shelf vulnerable
(04/05/2009) As though commenting on world leader's lack of progress in combating climate change at the G20 conference last week, an ice bridge connecting the Wilkins Ice Shelf to the Antarctic continent broke off over the weekend. Long expected by scientists, the break is perhaps the beginning of the Wilkins Ice Shelf completely coming loose from Antarctica.
Amphibians could develop immunity against devastating fungal disease
(04/03/2009) The fungal disease chytridiomycosis has ravaged amphibian populations, including contributing to several extinctions. But new research may bring some hope for currently threatened amphibians.
Greenpeace opposes forest conservation initiative in Indonesia
(04/02/2009) Greenpeace criticized Indonesia's plan to reduce deforestation through a market-based emissions mechanism known as REDD (Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation), reports AFP.
Former environment minister Silva honored with prestigious environmental award
(04/02/2009) Brazil's former Environment Minister Marina Silva was awarded Norway's $100,000 Sophie Prize for her efforts to protect the Amazon rainforest.
Replacing natural experiences with technology hurts humans and the natural world
(04/02/2009) What is the difference between a robotic dog and a real one? Or a plasma screen displaying high definition images of natural splendor and a window that looks out an on actual natural scene? According to psychologists from the University of Washington the difference is massive. Writing in the journal Current Directions in Psychological Science Dr. Peter Kahn, a developmental psychologist, explores the different effects produced by humans interacting with actual nature and technological nature, i.e. technology meant to represent the natural world in some aspect.
World leaders meet to discuss future of rainforests
(04/02/2009) World leaders met Wednesday to discuss the role rainforests can play in reducing greenhouse gas emissions.
Brazil: 'Soy King', Environment Minister strike deal on Amazon deforestation
(04/02/2009) Meeting at the Katoomba payments-for-ecosystem-services conference in Cuiaba, Brazil, Carlos Minc, Brazil's Environment Minister, and Blairo Maggi, Governor of the State of Mato Grosso and the world's largest individual soy grower, put aside their ideological differences and agreed to grant a temporary reprieve for ranchers and farmers in the Amazonian state, allowing them up to four years to reforest their holdings to bring them up to legal code. Under Brazilian law landowners in the "legal Amazon" are required to maintain 80 percent forest cover on their holdings, but in practice, the regulation is widely ignored.
Ecological Cacao? Thinking about all sides of your chocolate bar
(04/01/2009) As concern for the preservation of forest eco-systems in the tropics has increased over past decades, there has been a growing consideration for ways to harmonize tropical agricultural production with the surrounding environment. The idea of shade grown products, especially coffee and cacao, have become the focus of scientific study and of marketable interest for environmentally conscientious consumers. However, the practical and dependable nature of the practice of shade growing for farmers and conservation objectives is still the matter of some debate.
Revolutionary new theory overturns modern meteorology with claim that forests move rain
(04/01/2009) Two Russian scientists, Victor Gorshkov and Anastassia Makarieva of the St. Petersburg Nuclear Physics, have published a revolutionary theory that turns modern meteorology on its head, positing that forests—and their capacity for condensation—are actually the main driver of winds rather than temperature. While this model has widespread implications for numerous sciences, none of them are larger than the importance of conserving forests, which are shown to be crucial to 'pumping' precipitation from one place to another. The theory explains, among other mysteries, why deforestation around coastal regions tends to lead to drying in the interior.
Massive population of rare Irrawaddy dolphins discovered in Bangladesh
(03/31/2009) The Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) has discovered an unknown population of the rare Irrawaddy dolphin in Bangladesh numbering 6,000 individuals. The dolphins were found in the freshwater areas of the Sundarbans mangrove forest. Prior to this discovery, the largest known populations of Irrawaddy dolphins numbered only in the hundreds.
Hopeful conservation news emerges out of Madagascar political crisis
(03/31/2009) A bit of hopeful conservation news has finally emerged out of the political crisis in Madagascar, report local sources. Wednesday representatives from several NGOs active in conservation in Madagascar met with a minister from island nation's new government. The minister said his top priority was putting an end to illegal logging that emerged when rangers abandoned their posts and armed gangs moved into protected areas in the wake of the political crisis.
Development of Google Earth a watershed moment for the environment
(03/31/2009) Satellites have long been used to detect and monitor environmental change, but capabilities have vastly improved since the early 1970s when Landsat images were first revealed to the public. Today Google Earth has democratized the availability of satellite imagery, putting high resolution images of the planet within reach of anyone with access to the Internet. In the process, Google Earth has emerged as potent tool for conservation, allowing scientists, activists, and even the general public to create compelling presentations that reach and engage the masses. One of the more prolific developers of Google Earth conservation applications is David Tryse. Neither a scientist nor a formal conservationist, Tryse's concern for the welfare of the planet led him develop a KML for the Zoological Society of London's EDGE of Existence program, an initiative to promote awareness of and generating conservation funding for 100 of the world's rarest species. The KML allows people to surf the planet to see photos of endangered species, information about their habitat, and the threats they face. Tryse has since developed a deforestation tracking application, a KML that highlights hydroelectric threats to Borneo’s rivers, and oil spills and is working on a new tool that will make it even easier for people to create visualizations on Google Earth. Tryse believes the development of Google Earth is a watershed moment for conservation and the environmental movement.
Deforestation maps for Sumatra now available on Google Earth
(03/31/2009) Despite many years of research in conservation biology, precise maps of tropical deforestation that document the global spatial extent of tropical forests destruction are generally not available outside of the scientific community, says David Gaveau a researcher from Durrell Institute of Conservation and Ecology (DICE) points out. For nearly seven years, Gaveau has been documenting forest destruction on the entire island of Sumatra since early 1970s using satellite technology, and he has found the way to make his full-resolution maps and scientific results public using Google Earth.
Two Sumatran elephants shot dead in Indonesian park
(03/31/2009) As reported by the Associated Press, two 20-year-old female Sumatran elephants were found on March 24th dead in the forests of Kerinci National Park due to gunshots in the head. The females had been partners with local rangers, who rode them to patrol the park to keep out illegal loggers.
Have Australian cane toads finally met their match?
(03/31/2009) This weekend in Queensland, Australia the government held the first 'Toad Day Out' where hundreds of locals went hunting for the invasive cane toad, catching an estimated 10,000 toads to be euthanized. At the same time, researchers announced in the journal Functional Ecology that they may have discovered a native Australian species that will finally rout the cane toad—and it's not man. The meat ant is a notoriously aggressive and abundant insect which is known to consume anything edible, including the scientists argue, cane toads.
Será a palmeira de óleo a próxima ameaça emergente á Amazônia?
(03/31/2009) A Bacia Amazônica parece sofrer a experiencia da rápida expansão da agricultura de palmeiras de óleo. Quase metade da Amazonia é apropriada para o cultivo de palmeira de óleo, e corporações da Malásia estão agora se mudando para a região para estabelecer novas plantações enquanto o governo Brasileiro está considerando uma lei que contaria as plantações de palmeira de óleo como “florestas” em relação á exigencia de reserva florestal nas terras do proprietário. São prováveis fortes incentivos econômicos para uma grande industria de palmeira de óleo Amazonensse, dadas as crescentes demandas globais por óleos comestíveis, produtos baseados em óleo e combustiveis. Temos duas grandes preocupações. Primeira, as plantações de palmeira de óleo são ecologicamente pobres, suportanto pouquissima vida selvagem que depende da floresta. Segunda, nós desacreditamos em afirmações políticas e corporativas que sugerem que as plantações de palmeiras de óleo estarão concentradas em terras previamente desflorestadas da Amazônia. Na realidade, produtores de palmeiras de óleo sao fortemente a favor de desmatar florestas primárias para plantações porque assim eles podem obter lucros imediatos da produção de madeira. Esses lucros são vitais para compensar os gastos com custos do estabelecimento da plantação e manutenção dos 3-5 anos iniciais até que as plantações se tornem rentáveis. Portanto, a agricultura de palmeiras de óleo poderiam em breve emergir como uma nova grande ameaça para o meio ambiente da Amazônia.
Amazonian region likely to become savannah due to burning, deforestation
(03/31/2009) A new analysis shows that the heavily-deforested Amazonian region of Mato Grosso is particularly susceptible to 'savannization' due to repeated burning that has likely depleted the region's soils of precious nutrients. According to the study, published in the Journal of Geophyscial Research, savannization, or the process of tropical ecosystems shifting to savannah, is likely in northern Mato Grosso even if no further deforestation occurs.
Carbon credits from forest conservation would crash carbon market, says Greenpeace
(03/30/2009) Inclusion of forest conservation in a market-based mechanism for reducing greenhouse gas emissions would crash carbon prices by swamping the market with cheap credits, claims a new report from Greenpeace. The environmental group said low carbon prices would "derail global efforts to tackle global warming" and cause "developing countries losing out on billions of dollars a year for investment in clean energy technologies".
Conservation groups condemn 'open and organized plundering' of Madagascar's natural resources
(03/30/2009) Eleven conservation organizations—including WWF, CI, and WCS—have banded together to condemn logging in Madagascar's world renowned parks during a time of political crisis. Taking advantage of the turmoil after interim president Andry Rajoelina took control of the country in a bloodless coup from former president Marc Ravalomanana on March 17th, pristine forests have been plundered for valuable wood, wildlife trafficking has increased, and illegal mining operations have begun say the conservation organizations.
Can carbon credits from REDD compete with palm oil?
(03/30/2009) Reducing emissions from deforestation and degradation (REDD) is increasingly seen as a compelling way to conserve tropical forests while simultaneously helping mitigate climate change, preserving biodiversity, and providing sustainable livelihoods for rural people. But to become a reality REDD still faces a number of challenges, not least of which is economic competition from other forms of land use. In Indonesia and Malaysia, the biggest competitor is likely oil palm, which is presently one of the most profitable forms of land use. Oil palm is also spreading to other tropical forest areas including the Brazilian Amazon.
Crabs feel pain, and remember it too
(03/30/2009) Research from Queen's University Belfast has raised new issues about the culinary arts. Long-thought by cooks and diners to be insensible to pain, a new study published in the journal Animal Behvaiour shows that crabs not only feel pain but remember it well-enough after the sensation has passed to affect their future decisions. According to Dr. Bob Elwood, who headed up the research, the study should bring about changes in how crustaceans like crabs are treated by the fishing and food industries.
Plant communities changing across the globe, says scientist Sasha Wright
(03/29/2009) Having studied plant communities across three continent and within widely varied ecosystems—lowland tropics, deciduous forests, grasslands, and enclosed ecosystems on hill-tops—graduate student Sasha Wright has gained a unique understanding of shifts in plant communities worldwide as they respond to pressures from land use and global climate change. “Plant communities are certainly changing,” Wright told Mongabay.com in a March 2009 interview. “These changes are undoubtedly affected by an increased occurrence of extreme weather events, temperature fluctuations, atmospheric CO2 concentrations, human land use, and in some cases urbanization of populations.”
Flu epidemic killing bonobos in Congo sanctuary
(03/29/2009) Six bonobos, a species of chimpanzee, have died from a flu epidemic in a month at the Lola Ya Bonobo in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). Ten more have contracted the flu. “There is no fever. Antibiotics don’t do anything. The bonobos have severe respiratory infections and then they can’t breath for 3 days then they die,” writes a staff member on the sanctuary's blog through the conservation organization WildlifeDirect. The staff of Lola Ya Bonobo have sent out a plea for help and donations, as the flu continues to sweep through their center.
Advancements in satellite technology will help scientists and policy makers map and monitor forest carbon
(03/29/2009) Given that deforestation accounts for nearly one fifth of anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions, reducing forest clearing and degradation is increasingly seen as an critical component to any framework addressing climate change. By some estimates, a mechanism that compensates countries for reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation (REDD) could funnel billions of dollars per year towards forest conservation. However the effectiveness of such a mechanism will hinge on the quality of data. Effective mapping and monitoring of forest carbon stores is absolutely key to any mechanism that compensates countries for reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation.
More than 300 gorillas butchered each year in the Republic of Congo
(03/27/2009) During 2008 and early 2009, Endangered Species International (ESI) conducted monitoring activities using undercover methods at key markets in the city of Pointe Noire, the second biggest city in Congo. Findings reveal that 95 percent of the illegal bushmeat sold originates from the Kouilou region about 100-150 km northwest to Pointe Noire where primary and unprotected rainforest still remains. The Kouilou region is one the last reservoirs of biodiversity and endangered animals in the area.
Harbor seals return to New York
(03/26/2009) More than a hundred years passed, and the Hudson River and Atlantic Ocean estuary was cleaned up—enough to support the comeback of the harbor seal. In spring of 2006, kayakers and recreational boaters who frequent the waters around the Verrazano Bridge, took note of what appeared to be marine mammals that had not been there before. Were there harbor seals, again in this urban estuary? The boaters notified the Kingsborough Community College for Maritime Studies and the New York Aquarium, who teamed up to investigate, and thus, began the first annual harbor seal survey.
After seizure, gorilla receives MRI scan free of charge
(03/26/2009) The Wildlife Conservation Society announced today that a 42-year-old western lowland gorilla named Fubo received a free MRI scan after suffering a seizure at his home in the Bronx Zoo's Congo Gorilla Forest exhibit. The MRI was provided by The Brain Tumor Foundation, which sent a 48-foot-long moveable MRI facility to the zoo. Overseen by vets, zookeepers, and various medical personnel, the scan revealed that Fubo had a lesion on his left temporal lobe of his brain.
New technology allows researchers to study mass migrations of fish
(03/26/2009) Employing a new technology, MIT engineers have studied the origins of a mass gathering of hundreds of millions of fish and their subsequent migration. This is the first time a mass migration of animals has been studied from beginning to end, according to their paper published in Science.Until now biologists have depended on theory rather than data from the field, employing computer simulations and experiments in the lab.
Greenpeace accuses Sinar Mas corporation of violence toward its protestors
(03/26/2009) In a press release issued by Greenpeace the organization states that Sinar Mas corporation security guards “brutally kicked and punched” peaceful protestors in Jakarta, Indonesia on March 19th. Greenpeace activists had chained themselves to the entrance of Sinar Mas headquarters and hung a banner labeling the corporation a 'Forest and Climate Criminal'.
Malaysian palm oil targets the Amazon
(03/25/2009) Malaysia's Land Development Authority FELDA will soon break ground on a joint venture with a Brazilian firm to establish 30,000-100,000 hectares (75,000 - 250,000 acres) of oil palm plantations in the heart of the Amazon rainforest, reports the Malaysian Star.
Hawaii continues to stand-by as sheep destroy critically-endangered palila bird's habitat
(03/25/2009) The environmental legal organization, Earthjustice, has filed legal papers against the Hawaii State Department of Land and Natural Resources for failing to keep feral sheep and goats out of the critically-endangered palila bird's last habitat. According to Earthjustice, the court has already issued three orders beginning in 1979 that found the state of Hawiai in violation of the Endangered Species Act by not protecting the palila bird from the destructive feeding practices of sheep and goats.
Photos: Undocumented species discovered in Papua New Guinea
(03/25/2009) Colorful jumping spiders, a tiny frog with a "ringing song" and a striped gecko are among more than 50 previously unknown species discovered during a recent survey in the remote highlands of Papua New Guinea. More than 600 species were documented during the 2008 expedition, which was led by Conservation International (CI) under its Rapid Assessment Program (RAP).
Fisherman killed by two Komodo dragons
(03/24/2009) Mohamad Anwar, 32, was killed by two Komodo dragons after trespassing in Komodo National Park in order to gather fruit according to CNN.
Fire in Kenya threatens some of the world's most beloved parks
(03/24/2009) Started by arsonists, fires have swept through Kenya's Great Rift valley, home of some of the world's most treasured parks and ten million Kenyans already suffering from long-term drought.
Twenty years on, some birds still haven't recovered from Exxon Valdez oil spill
(03/24/2009) Twenty years ago today—at 12:04 AM on March 24th, 1989—the Exxon Valdez tanker struck Bligh reef in Prince William Sound causing 10.8 million gallons of crude oil to spill into the sea. The spill decimated the ecosystem and wildlife for 11,000 square miles and became one of the world's most infamous oil spills. Twenty years later, researchers say that several bird species have yet to recover from the spill.
Ebay bidders to decide new shrimp's name
(03/24/2009) A new way to raise conservation funds has captured attention worldwide. The Australian Marine Conservation Society (AMCS) has auctioned the naming rights of a newly discovered species of shimp Ebay. "The shrimp is in the group or genus of shrimps known as Lebbeus, but is awaiting the addition of a unique species name," said Anna McCallum, a Melbourne scientist who discovered the new species in deep waters off the Southwest coast of Australia.
Ocean fertilization will not help reduce CO2 levels, suggests experiment
(03/24/2009) A controversial 'ocean fertilization' experiment suggests seeding the seas with iron to boost carbon-absorbing phytoplantkon will not sequester much carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. Some — including researchers and private companies — had hoped iron fertilization might be an easy fix for climate change.
EPA takes first step towards regulating global warming emissions
(03/23/2009) The Obama Administration is reviewing a finding by the Environmental Protection Agency that carbon dioxide emissions — and associated impact on climate — are a danger to public health, reports the Associated Press.
Scramble to log Madagascar's valuable rainforest trees in midst of crisis
(03/23/2009) Armed gangs are logging rosewood and other valuable hardwoods from Marojejy and Masoala parks in Madagascar following abandonment of posts by rangers in the midst of the island nation's political crisis, reports marojejy.com and local sources.
REDD in Indonesia could evict forest people from their lands, warns U.N. committee
(03/23/2009) In a letter released today, the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination expressed concern that a scheme to promote forest conservation in Indonesia via the Reduced Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation (REDD) mechanism could increase conflict over land if the government doles out forest-carbon concessions in the same manner that it has with logging concessions. In the worst cases, forest people could be denied access rights to their traditional territories say indigenous rights' groups.
Will palm oil drive deforestation in the Amazon?
(03/23/2009) Already a significant driver of tropical forest conversion across southeast Asia, oil palm expansion could emerge as threat to the Amazon rainforest due to a proposed change in Brazil's forest law, new infrastructure, and the influence of foreign companies in the region, according to researchers writing in the open-access journal Tropical Conservation Science. William F. Laurance, a senior scientist at the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute (STRI) in Panama City, Panama, and Rhett A. Butler, founder of environmental science web site Mongabay.com, warn that oil palm expansion in the Brazilian Amazon is likely to occur at the expense of natural forest as a result of a proposed revision to the forest code which requires land owners to retain 80 percent forest on lands in the Amazon. The new law would allow up to 30 percent of this reserve to consist of oil palm.
Mama tree iguanas targeted by hunters as source of traditional medicine in Bolivia
(03/23/2009) Harvesting of a Bolivian lizard for its purported healing powers is leading to its depletion, report researchers writing in Tropical Conservation Science. Erika De la Galvez Murillo and Luis F. Pacheco of the Universidad Mayor de San Andrés found that collection of the Andean Tree Iguana or "Jararank'o" (Liolaemus signifer), a lizard found on Bolivia's dry Altiplano, for use in traditional medicine reduced population by nearly half relative to unharvested sites. They note that the species may suffer increased mortality when dens are destroyed during harvesting since mother lizards — targeted by collectors for their size — care for their young.
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