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News articles on Pacific Islands
Mongabay.com news articles on Pacific Islands in blog format. Updated regularly.
(05/15/2013) With islands and atolls scattered across the ocean, the small Pacific island states are among those most exposed to the effects of global warming: increasing acidity and rising sea level, more frequent natural disasters and damage to coral reefs. These micro-states, home to about 10 million people, are already paying for the environmental irresponsibility of the great powers.
Industrialized fishing has forced seabirds to change what they eat
(05/14/2013) The bleached bones of seabirds are telling us a new story about the far-reaching impacts of industrial fisheries on today's oceans. Looking at the isotopes of 250 bones from Hawaiian petrels (Pterodroma sandwichensis), scientists have been able to reconstruct the birds' diets over the last 3,000 years. They found an unmistakable shift from big prey to small prey around 100 years ago, just when large, modern fisheries started scooping up fish at never before seen rates. The dietary shift shows that modern fisheries upended predator and prey relationships even in the ocean ocean and have possibly played a role in the decline of some seabirds.
Saviors or villains: controversy erupts as New Zealand plans to drop poison over Critically Endangered frog habitat
(04/10/2013) New Zealand's Department of Conservation (DOC) is facing a backlash over plans to aerially drop a controversial poison, known as 1080, over the habitat of two endangered, prehistoric, and truly bizarre frog species, Archey's and Hochsetter's frogs, on Mount Moehau. Used in New Zealand to kill populations of invasive mammals, such as rats and the Australian long-tailed possum, 1080 has become an increasingly emotive issue in New Zealand, not just splitting the government and environmentalists, but environmental groups among themselves. Critics allege that the poison, for which there is no antidote, decimates local animals as well as invasives, while proponents say the drops are the best way to control invasive mammals that kill endangered species like birds and frogs and may spread bovine tuberculosis (TB).
Humans killed over 10 percent of the world's bird species when they colonized the Pacific Islands
(03/25/2013) Around 4,000 years ago intrepid Polynesian seafarers made their way into an untamed wilderness: the far-flung Pacific Islands. Over a thousands or so years, they rowed from one island to another, stepping on shores never yet seen by humans. While this vast colonization brought about a new era of human history, it also ended the existence of well-over a thousand bird species according to a new study in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS).
The Role of Science for Conservation - book review
(03/18/2013) The Role of Science for Conservation, edited by Matthias Wolff and Mark Gardner, celebrates Charles Darwin’s Bicentennial and 50 years of research by the Charles Darwin Foundation in The Galápagos, Ecuador.
U.S. Admiral: climate change, not North Korea, biggest threat in the Pacific
(03/13/2013) This week, Admiral Samuel J. Locklear II, the head of U.S. military forces in the Pacific, told The Boston Globe that climate change was the gravest threat in the region. While such an assessment may be surprising, given North Korea's recent nuclear tests, the U.S. military has long viewed climate change as a massive destabilizing force on global security.
Extinction warning: racing to save the little dodo from its cousin's fate
(03/04/2013) Sometime in the late 1600s the world's last dodo perished on the island of Mauritius. No one knows how it spent its final moments—rather in the grip of some invasive predator or simply fading away from loneliness—but with its passing came an icon of extinction, that final breath passed by the last of its kind. The dodo, a giant flightless pigeon, was a marvel of the animal world: now another island ground pigeon, known as the little dodo, is facing its namesake's fate. Found only in Samoa, composed of ten islands, the bird has many names: the tooth-billed pigeon, the Manumea (local name), and Didunculus ("little dodo") strigirostris, which lead one scientist to Christen it the Dodlet. But according to recent surveys without rapid action the Dodlet may soon be as extinct as the dodo.
Tokelau, 1st county with 100% renewable energy, leads call for climate action
(03/02/2013) The tiny territory of Tokelau is today leading a call by 14 Pacific island nations for the world to take action to stop climate change.
Arachnopocalypse: with birds away, the spiders play in Guam
(09/17/2012) The island of Guam is drowning in spiders. New research in the open-access journal PLOS ONE has found that in the wet season, Guam's arachnid population booms to around 40 times higher than adjacent islands. Scientists say this is because Guam, a U.S. territory in the Pacific, has lost its insect-eating forest birds. Guam's forests were once rich in birdlife until the invasion of non-native brown tree snake (Boiga irregularis) in the 1940s decimated biodiverse bird communities. Now, the island is not only overrun with snakes, but spiders too.
Solomon Islands' export of 'captive-bred' birds deemed to be a farce
(08/14/2012) Over 68,000 birds listed on CITES (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora) were exported from the Solomon Islands during 2000-2010 according to a recent report by wildlife-monitoring NGO, TRAFFIC. Although the majority of birds were listed as 'captive-bred,' the report raises the question of whether these species were not in fact taken from the wild.
Lonesome George passes, taking unique subspecies with him
(06/25/2012) Lonesome George, the sole surviving member of the Pinta Island tortoise (Chelonoidis nigra abingdoni), was found dead on Sunday by staff at the Galapagos National Park. With George's passing, the Pinta Island tortoise subspecies officially falls into extinction. First found in 1972, Lonesome George became famous for representing the last of his kind. He was believed to be around 100—middle-aged for a Galapagos tortoise which can live to 200 years old. Staff plan to do an autopsy to determine the cause of death.
Why bird droppings matter to manta rays: discovering unknown ecological connections
(06/04/2012) Ecologists have long argued that everything in the nature is connected, but teasing out these intricate connections is not so easy. In fact, it took research on a remote, unoccupied island for scientists to discover that manta ray abundance was linked to seabirds and thereby native trees.
New book series hopes to inspire research in world's 'hottest biodiversity hotspot'
(01/17/2012) Entomologist Dmitry Telnov hopes his new pet project will inspire and disseminate research about one of the world's last unexplored biogeographical regions: Wallacea and New Guinea. Incredibly rich in biodiversity and still full of unknown species, the region, also known as the Indo-Australian transition, spans many of the tropical islands of the Pacific, including Indonesia's Sulawesi, Komodo and Flores, as well as East Timor—the historically famous "spice islands" of the Moluccan Archipelago—the Solomon Islands, and, of course, New Guinea. Telnov has begun a new book series, entitled Biodiversity, Biogeography and Nature Conservation in Wallacea and New Guinea, that aims to compile and highlight new research in the region, focusing both on biology and conservation. The first volume, currently available, also includes the description of 150 new species.
Sober up: world running out of time to keep planet from over-heating
(10/24/2011) If governments are to keep the pledge they made in Copenhagen to limit global warming within the 'safe range' of two degrees Celsius, they are running out of time, according to two sobering papers from Nature. One of the studies finds that if the world is to have a 66 percent chance of staying below a rise of two degrees Celsius, greenhouse gas emissions would need to peak in less than a decade and fall quickly thereafter. The other study predicts that pats of Europe, Asia, North Africa and Canada could see a rise beyond two degrees Celsius within just twenty years.
Marshall Islands creates world's biggest shark park
(10/03/2011) The Republic of the Marshall Islands has created the world's biggest shark reserve: so large that all of Mexico could fit comfortably inside. With new legislation, commercial shark fishing is now completely banned in Marshall Islands' 768,547 square miles (1,990,530 square kilometers) of ocean.
Activists worldwide push for leaving the fossil fuel age behind
(09/25/2011) On six continents, in over 75 percent of the world's countries, people came out en masse yesterday to attend over 2,000 events to demonstrate the power of renewable energy to combat global climate change. As apart of the 'Moving Planet' campaign organized by 350.org, activists created a giant human-windmill in Paris, gave out bike lessons in Buenos Aires, practiced evacuation measure in the Pacific island of Tuvalu imperiled by rising sea levels, and marched in Cape Town for a strong agreement at the next UN climate meeting hosted in Durban, South Africa.
New seabird discovered from Hawaii, but no one knows where it lives
(08/30/2011) Researchers have uncovered a new seabird native to Hawaii stuffed in a museum. Originally identified as a smaller variation of a little shearwater (Puffinus assimilis), DNA tests showed that the bird, which was collected over four decades ago, was in fact a unique species. Named Bryan’s shearwater (Puffinus bryani), the fate of this bird in the wild remains unknown.
New species is eel-equivalent of the coelacanth
(08/18/2011) The ocean holds endless surprises still. In an underwater cave off the Pacific island nation of Palau, reachers have made an astounding discovery: an eel species unknown to science that harkens back 200 million years. The species, described in the Proceedings of the Royal Society B as an 'enigmatic, small eel-like fish', sports anatomical features that differentiate it from the over 800 known species of eel surviving today.
Environmental law landmark: island nation challenges faraway coal plant for climate impact
(05/25/2011) The far-flung Federated States of Micronesia (FSM), located in the Pacific Ocean, has created legal history by challenging the decision to extend the life of a massive coal plant in the Czech Republic. The over 600-island nation, Micronesia, argues that greenhouse gas emissions from the Czech plant are impacting the way of life in Micronesia, many of whose islands are facing submersion under rising sea levels.
Left alive and wild, a single shark worth $1.9 million
(05/02/2011) For the Pacific island nation of Palau, sharks are worth much more alive than dead. A new study by the Australian Institute of Marine Science (AIMS) has found that one reef shark during its full life is worth $1.9 million to Palau in tourism revenue. Sold for consumption the shark is worth around $108. In this case a shark is worth a stunning 17,000 times more alive than dead.
Scientists urge Papua New Guinea to declare moratorium on massive forest clearing
(04/19/2011) Forests spanning an area larger than Costa Rica—5.6 million hectares (13.8 million acres)—have been handed out by the Papua New Guinea government to foreign corporations, largely for logging. Granted under government agreements known as Special Agricultural and Business Leases (SABLs), the land leases circumvent the nation's strong laws pertaining to communal land ownership. Now, the Association for Tropical Biology and Conservation (ATBC), the world's largest professional society devoted to studying and conserving tropical forests, is urging the Papua New Guinea government to declare a moratorium on SABLs.
Fiji eyes investment from Malaysian palm oil industry
(03/30/2011) Officials in Fiji met with investors from the Malaysian palm oil industry this week to discuss the potential development of oil palm plantations in the Pacific island nation, reports FijiVillage.com.
Expedition granted?: hoping to save nearly-extinct seals through National Geographic contest
(03/24/2011) Dashiell Masland, known as 'Dash', has always been in love with the sea and its inhabitants. Now, she is hoping to take that passion to the Hawaiian Islands to save one of the world's most threatened marine mammals: the Hawaiian monk seals (Monachus schauinslandi). Extinction is a real possibility: already, the related Carribbean monk seal vanished forever around 1950. Decimated by sealers, whalers, and even soldiers in World War II, the Hawaiian monk seals are struggling to make a come back with only 1,100 individuals surviving and the population decreasing by 4% a year. Today many face starvation due to a lack of prey. This is where Masland, who is currently competing in National Geographic's Expedition Granted, hopes to help.
5 million hectares of Papua New Guinea forests handed to foreign corporations
(03/23/2011) During a meeting in March 2011 twenty-six experts—from biologists to social scientists to NGO staff—crafted a statement calling on the Papua New Guinea government to stop granting Special Agricultural and Business Leases. According to the group, these leases, or SABLs as they are know, circumvent Papua New Guinea's strong community land rights laws and imperil some of the world's most intact rainforests. To date 5.6 million hectares (13.8 million acres) of forest have been leased under SABLs, an area larger than all of Costa Rica. "Papua New Guinea is among the most biologically and culturally diverse nations on Earth. [The country's] remarkable diversity of cultural groups rely intimately on their traditional lands and forests in order to meet their needs for farming plots, forest goods, wild game, traditional and religious sites, and many other goods and services," reads the statement, dubbed the Cairns Declaration. However, according to the declaration all of this is threatened by the Papua New Guinea government using SABLs to grant large sections of land without going through the proper channels.
New Caledonia's forests are second most threatened in the world, not New Zealand's
(02/06/2011) On February 2nd, Conservation International (CI) released a list of the world's top 10 most threatened forest hotspots. The original press release incorrectly named New Zealand as number two, when in fact it is the island of New Caledonia and the surrounding East Melanesian islands.
Forgotten species: the plummeting cycad
(12/06/2010) I have a declarative statement to make: cycads are mind-blowing. You may ask, what is a cycad? And your questions wouldn't be a silly one. I doubt Animal Planet will ever replace its Shark Week with Cycad Week (perhaps the fact that it's 'animal' planet and not 'plant' planet gave that away); nor do I expect school children to run to see a cycad first thing when they arrive at the zoo, rushing past the polar bear and the chimpanzee; nor do I await a new children's book about a lonely little anthropomorphized cycad just looking for a friend. In the world of species-popularity, the cycad ranks pretty low. For one thing, it's a plant. For another thing, it doesn't produce lovely flowers. And for a final fact, it looks so much like a palm tree that most people probably wouldn't know it wasn't. Still, I declare the cycad to be mind-blowing.
Record number of nations hit all time temperature highs
(11/23/2010) To date, nineteen nations have hit or matched record high temperatures this year, according to Jeff Master's Wunder Blog, making 2010 the only year to have so many national records. In contrast, no nation this year has hit a record cold temperature.
Island nation announces Ukraine-sized sanctuary for whales and dolphins
(10/24/2010) Dolphins, whales, and dugongs will be safe from hunting in the waters surrounding the Pacific nation of Palau. At the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) in Nagoya, Japan, Palau's Minister of the Environment, Natural Resources and Tourism, Harry Fritz, announced the establishment of a marine mammal sanctuary covering over 230,000 square miles (60,000 square kilometers) of the nation's waters, an area the size of Mongolia.
U.S. government bombs Guam with frozen mice to kill snakes
(09/28/2010) In a spectacularly creative effort to rid the island of Guam of an invasive species, the US Department of Agriculture is planning to 'bomb' the rainforests with dead frozen mice laced with acetaminophen. The mice-bombs are meant to target the brown tree snake, an invasive species which has ravaged local wildlife, and angered local residents, since arriving in the 1940s.
As a tiny island nation makes a big sacrifice, will the rest of the world follow suit?
(09/15/2010) Kiribati, a small nation consisting of 33 Pacific island atolls, is forecast to be among the first countries swamped by rising sea levels. Nevertheless, the country recently made an astounding commitment: it closed over 150,000 square miles of its territory to fishing, an activity that accounts for nearly half the government's tax revenue. What moved the tiny country to take this monumental action? President Anote Tong, says Kiribati is sending a message to the world: 'We need to make sacrifices to provide a future for our children and grandchildren.'
Monster turtle killed off by man
(08/17/2010) Researchers have linked another extinction to human beings: this time of a massive prehistoric horned turtle. Prehistoric turtles in the Meiolania genus were thought to have vanished some 50,000 years ago. However, scientists have found a new species that was likely wiped out by human hunters much more recently.
Summer from hell: seventeen nations hit all-time heat records
(08/09/2010) The summer isn't over yet, but already seventeen nations have matched or beaten their all-time heat records. According to Jeff Masters' WunderBlog, Belarus, the Ukraine, Cyprus, Russia, Finland, Qatar, the Sudan, Saudi Arabia, Niger, Chad, Kuwait, Iraq, Pakistan, Colombia, Myanmar, Ascension Island, and the Solomon Islands have all equaled or broken their top temperature records this year. In addition, the hottest temperature ever recorded in Asia was taken in Pakistan at 128 degrees Fahrenheit (53 degrees Celsius); this incredible temperature still has to be reviewed by the World Meteorological Organization (WMO).
Amazing reefs: how corals 'hear', an interview with Steve Simpson
(07/21/2010) Corals aggregate to form vast reefs, which are home to numerous species and provide vital ecological services such as protecting shorelines. However, coral reefs are one of the most threatened ecosystems in the world due to many factors, such as global warming and ocean acidification. Recent research by Simpson and his team of scientists has shown that corals, rather than drifting aimlessly after being released by their parent colonies and by chance landing back on reefs, instead find their way purposefully to reefs by detecting the sound of snapping shrimps and grunting fish on the reef. However, that discovery also means that the larvae might struggle to find reefs when human noises, like drilling or boats, mask the natural ocean sounds.
On the edge of extinction, Fiji petrels observed at sea for the first time
(09/15/2009) The Critically Endangered Fiji petrel has been observed at sea for the first time by BirdLife International and NatureFiji-MareqetiViti. First recorded in 1855 from one specimen found on Gau Island, Fiji, the rare seabird disappeared from scientific view for 130 years. Beginning in 1984 a handful of 'grounded' Fiji petrels Pseudobulweria macgillivrayi were found after landing on village roofs in Gau, but this is the first observation of the bird in its element: at sea.
Did fish poisoning drive Polynesian colonization of the Pacific?
(07/07/2009) The reasons behind the colonization of the Pacific islands have long been sources of controversy and fascination. Now a new study looks into toxic fish poisoning as a possible migration catalyst. Between AD 1000 and 1450, Polynesian colonization of the South Pacific flourished. The voyages that were undertaken in the discovery of these new lands were very dangerous and the people who conducted them undoubtedly had good reasons to do so. Researchers from the Florida Institute of Technology have performed research which shows that toxic ciguatera fish poisoning would provide sufficient impetus for such risky voyages.
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.
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.
Fastest evolving bird family produces new species
(03/16/2009) Discovered in the Solomon Island of Vanikoro, a new species of bird from the white-eye family leads credence to the belief that white-eyes are the world's fastest evolving family of birds.
Seven new species of deep sea coral discovered
(03/09/2009) In the depths of the Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument, which surrounds ten Hawaiian islands, scientists discovered seven new species of bamboo coral. Supported by the National Ocean and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the discoveries are even more surprising in that six of the seven species may represent entirely new genus of coral.
New bird species discovered in the South Pacific
(04/19/2007) University of Florida scientists have discovered a new genus of frogmouth bird in the Solomon Islands. The findings are published in the April edition of Ibis: The International Journal of Avian Science.