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News articles on biodiversity
Mongabay.com news articles on biodiversity in blog format. Updated regularly.
(07/21/2006) A new San Diego State University-led study found that many multispecies habitat conservation plans -- a cornerstone of modern efforts to balance development and ecological preservation -- have significant informational flaws that limit or overestimate the plans' conservation potential.
Tiger habitat declining
(07/20/2006) The most comprehensive scientific study of tiger habitats ever done finds that the big cats reside in 40 percent less habitat than they were thought to a decade ago. The tigers now occupy only 7 percent of their historic range.
Insect diversity in rainforests results from plant biodiversity
(07/18/2006) The high diversity of leaf-eating insect species in tropical forests results from the large number of plant species that exist in these ecosystems, according to new research published in the current issue of the journal Science.
West African black rhino may be extinct
(07/17/2006) Recent surveys conducted by IUCN in northern Cameroon found no evidence of the West African black rhino (Diceros bicornis longipes). The organization fears the sub-species is now extinct in the wild.
Logging resumes in Liberia
(07/17/2006) As former US president Bill Clinton arrives in Liberia to meet with President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, it's time to take a look at the state of the forests in the country. While Liberia's brutal civil war delayed the commercial exploitation of its tropical forests during the 1990s, 'conflict timber' was a key source of revenue for warring factions. The harvesting of this wood, combined with collateral damage from military operations and wildlife poaching, took a heavy toll on Liberia's forests. With the end of the war, Liberia's new government--which took power at end of the war in 1998--immediately established forestry as a national priority and instituted a five-year tax holiday on timber industries. This policy, combined with the return of commercial interests to the country, repopulation, and reconstruction efforts, has put pressure on Liberia's remaining forest resources. Since the close of the 1990s, deforestation rates have increased by 17 percent, and primary forest cover in the country has fallen to just over 1.3 percent of the total land area (or 4.1 percent of the forest cover).
Rare indri lemur born in forest reserve in Madagascar
(07/13/2006) A rare lemur known for its haunting whale-like call has given birth in a reserve outside its native forest. The news is significant because the Indri, as the world's largest living lemur is known, has traditionally done poorly when kept in captivity or introduced to outside its montane forest in Madagascar. The birth occurred at Palmarium, a small private reserve of lowland tropical forest established by a tour operator in Madagascar, and provides further hope for the successful conservation of the endangered species.
Yellowstone May Lose Pronghorn Antelope
(07/10/2006) A mammal that embarks on the longest remaining overland migration in the continental United States could vanish from the ecosystem that includes Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks, according to a study by the Wildlife conservation Society (WCS) and National Park Service. The pronghorn antelope, which travels more than 400 miles between fawning grounds and wintering areas could disappear because of continued development and human disturbance outside the parks according to the study, which appears in the latest issue of the journal Biology Letters.
Bushmeat from African apes sold in American markets
(07/06/2006) Bushmeat from wild primates in Africa is ending up on plates in North America and western Europe according to an article published in the current issue of New Scientist. Justin Brashares, a wildlife biologist at the University of California at Berkeley who carried out a survey of clandestine markets in seven major cities, says that the meat, which includes chimpanzee and gorilla parts, makes up nearly a third of the illegal international trade in bushmeat killed in Africa.
Frog extinction crisis requires unprecedented conservation response
(07/06/2006) The world's leading amphibian experts are calling for dramatic steps, including the formation of an Amphibian Survival Alliance (ASA), to prevent the massive extinction of amphibians worldwide. Scientists say amphibians -- cold-blooded animals that include frogs, toads, salamanders, newts and caecilians -- are under grave threat due to climate change, pollution, and the emergence of a deadly and infectious fungal disease, which has been linked to global warming. According to the Global Amphibian Assessment, a comprehensive status assessment of the world's amphibian species, one-third of the world's 5,918 known amphibian species are classified as threatened with extinction. Further, at least 9, and perhaps 122, have gone extinct since 1980.
Venture capitalists fund tiger conservation program
(07/06/2006) A new program that calls for a 50 percent increase in tiger numbers in key areas over the next decade blends a business model with hard science and has already attracted $10 million from venture capitalists according to an article published in the current issue of the journal Nature. The new initiative, backed by the Wildlife conservation Society, involves a dozen the conservation organization's field sites that are home to an estimated 800 tigers. The plan projects that these tiger populations can climb to an approximately 1,200 individuals across these sites within ten years.
Saving the world in six "easy" steps
(07/06/2006) General ideas toward a future where I won't have to apologize to my grandkids. Lots of people more intelligent than I am have theorized ways to "save the world" in terms of the preserving the environment in its current condition for future generations. Without getting too specific I believe there are six key concepts to address in achieving this goal.
Birds Face Extinction Risk Due To Human Activities
(07/05/2006) Human activities have caused some 500 bird species worldwide to go extinct over the past five millennia, and 21st-century extinction rates likely will accelerate to approximately 10 additional species per year unless societies take action to reverse the trend, according to a new report. Without the influence of humans, the expected extinction rate for birds would be roughly one species per century.
1250 bird species may be extinct by 2100
(07/04/2006) Two new studies paint a mixed future for the world's bird populations, one suggesting that 12 percent of existing species could be extinct by 2100 and the other finding shifts in migration patterns among birds that migrate long distances. Researchers at Stanford University, Duke University and the Missouri Botanical Garden in St. Louis examined the extinction record for birds and found that scientists have likely underestimated the number of extinctions.
Color-changing chameleon snake discovered in jungles of Borneo
(06/27/2006) Scientists discovered a species of snake capable of changing colors. The snake, called the Kapuas mud snake, resides in the rainforest on the island of Borneo, an ecosystem that is increasingly threatened by logging and agricultural development.
Debt-for-Nature Swap Protects Forest in Cameroon
(06/22/2006) France and Cameroon signed the first ever Central African debt for nature swap today. This agreement will invest at least $25 million over the next five years to protect part of the world's second largest tropical forest, home to elephants, gorillas, hundreds of bird species and indigenous people such as the Ba'Aka pygmies.
Previously undiscovered species found in Tanzania
(06/22/2006) The first field surveys of the Rubeho Mountains in Tanzania revealed over 160 animal species--including a new species of frog and eleven endemic species--according to an article published in the African Journal of Ecology this month. The findings elevate the importance of protecting this biologically-rich wilderness area and the broader Eastern Arc Mountain range from destructive activities underway such as clear-cutting for agriculture, logging and poaching.
3 new lemurs named in Madagascar
(06/21/2006) To recognize an internationally renowned primatologist and champion of Madagascar's unique biodiversity, scientists who discovered three new species of mouse lemur on the island nation have named one in honor of Russell A. Mittermeier, the president of conservation International.
Mammals in war-torn Virunga National Park recovering finds WCS survey
(06/20/2006) A recent wildlife census conducted in Virunga National Park in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) revealed that several species of large mammal are now recovering from a decade of civil war and rampant poaching.
Why does Madagascar have so many unique animals?
(05/24/2006) Scientists have developed the first comprehensive theory to explain Madagascar's rich biodiversity. Madagascar, larger than California and about size the size of Texas or France, is the world's fourth largest island. Isolated in the Indian Ocean off the coast of southern Africa, about 70% of the estimated 250,000 species found on the island exist nowhere else on the globe. The island is home to such evolutionary oddities as lemurs, a group of primates endemic to the island; brilliantly colored lizards including geckos and chameleons; tenrecs, spiny hedgehog-like creatures; and the fossa, a carnivorous animal that looks like a cross between a puma and a dog but is closely related to the mongoose.
Central America agrees to jaguar corridor
(05/23/2006) A group of environment ministers representing the seven nations of Central America and Mexico have agreed to establish a network of protected areas and wildlife corridors to safeguard jaguar populations, according to the New York-based Wildlife conservation Society. The decision was made at the Second Mesoamerica Protected Area Congress held in Panama earlier this month.
'Extinct' frog rediscovered in Colombia
(05/18/2006) Researchers exploring a Colombian mountain range found surviving members of a species of Harlequin frog believed extinct due to a killer fungus wiping out amphibian populations in Central and South America. The discovery of what could be the last population of the painted frog (Atelopus ebenoides marinkellei) indicates the species has survived the fungus, providing hope that other species also might avoid elimination from the epidemic caused by a pathogenic fungus of unknown origin.
India's Himalayan forests disappearing
(05/17/2006) A new report says Himalayan forests are disappearing at such a high rate that they could be gone by the end of the century. In the May 20 issue of New Scientist Magazine Maharaj Pandit of the University of Delhi and a team of researchers report that widespread deforestation in the Indian Himalaya region threatens the region's biodiversity which includes tigers, black bears, musk deer, leopards, golden eagles and bearded vultures.
Rare Chinese alligators sent to China
(05/17/2006) The U.S. made a slight dent in the trade deficit today when a dozen rare Chinese alligators were shipped from the Wildlife conservation Society's (WCS) headquarters at the Bronx Zoo directly to China, as part of an international effort to restore populations of these highly endangered reptiles
Exxon Valdez oil spill more damaging to wildlife finds study
(05/16/2006) New evidence suggests that oil from the Exxon Valdez may still causing damage to Alaska's Prince William Sound, 17 years after the ship ran aground. The study, by chemist Jeffrey Short and colleagues at the National Marine Fisheries Service in Juneau, Alaska, appears today on the Web site of the American Chemical Society's journal.
Roads tied to bushmeat hunting in Africa
(05/09/2006) A new study ties the presence of roads to bushmeat hunting in the Congo rainforest and also raises important questions on global conservation approaches. The study, published in the current edition of conservation Biology, found roads and associated hunting pressure reduced the abundance of a number of mammal species including duikers, forest elephants, buffalo, red river hogs, lowland gorillas and carnivores. The research suggests that even moderate hunting pressure can significantly affect the structure of mammal communities in central Africa. The researchers, lead by William F. Laurance of the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute, raise an interesting point with considerably wider implications for global conservation efforts, arguing that "as a multinational conglomerate, Shell-Gabon?s interests in environmental management at Rabi... largely reflect their sensitivity to international opinion and pressures from consumers." Drawing on their personal experiences in Africa and Latin America, the team writes "smaller corporations based in developing nations are sometimes less interested and often less capable of financially investing in environmental protection." This observation leads the researchers to ask, "As conservationists, do we pressure large, multinational corporations based in industrial nations to forego major projects in developing countries in an effort to limit environmental degradation, or do we favor such firms over smaller, national companies in the hope that they will be more sensitive to international pressures?" While their question us especially pertinent to Central Africa, it really applies to conservation on a worldwide scale. Multinational corporations can be particularly sensitive to criticism on their environmental policy and, as a result, can actually serve as competent stewards of the environment is some cases. Thus pressure exerted by green groups on large corporations may be an effective means for achieving conservation goals.
California butterflies disappear, climate change have impact
(05/08/2006) 2006 is looking like to could be the worst year in memory for California's butterflies due to cold and wet conditions in late winter, says Art Shapiro, a professor of evolution and ecology at the University of California, Davis. His observations raise concerns that future climate change could lead to declines in the state's native buttefly populations.
Concern at vanishing bananas
(05/07/2006) Shrinking numbers of wild bananas in India, the world?s premier producer, are causing concern at the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization. FAO is committed to preserving agricultural biodiversity.
Scientists discover Zooplankton species key to ocean food chain
(05/04/2006) Census of Marine Life scientists trawled rarely explored tropical ocean depths between the southeast US coast and the Mid-Atlantic Ridge to inventory and photograph the variety and abundance of zooplankton -- small sea bugs that form a vital link in the ocean food chain -- and other life forms.
History of the Chilean Sea Bass market
(05/04/2006) Today The Wall Street Journal ran an account of how the Chilean Sea Bass was first brought to market in 1977. Since its introduction, the species -- also known as the Patagonian toothfish -- has gone from being shunned to being welcomed at the worst's finest restaurants. But demand for the fish has taken its toll and the slow-growing species which takes 10-12 years to reach sexual maturity suffers from illegal over fishing in parts of its range. Some groups estimate that the illegal take may be up to five times the legal catch limit, leading some ecologists to predict the immanent collapse of the fishery.
Wal-Mart protects California forest
(05/03/2006) Last week Wal-Mart announced a $1 million grant to the Pacific Forest Trust to protect 9,200 acres for forest in Northern California near the towns of McCloud and Pondosa. The grant -- supported by the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation -- will be used in conjunction with funds from the Richard and Rhoda Goldman Fund to connect 2.1 million acres of protected forestlands in the Klamath-Cascade region.
16,119 species at risk of extinction
(05/02/2006) The number of known threatened species reaches 16,119. The ranks of those facing extinction are joined by familiar species like the polar bear, hippopotamus and desert gazelles; together with ocean sharks, freshwater fish and Mediterranean flowers. Positive action has helped the white-tailed eagle and offers a glimmer of hope to Indian vultures. The total number of species declared officially Extinct is 784 and a further 65 are only found in captivity or cultivation. Of the 40,177 species assessed using the IUCN Red List criteria, 16,119 are now listed as threatened with extinction. This includes one in three amphibians and a quarter of the world's coniferous trees, on top of the one in eight birds and one in four mammals known to be in jeopardy
Evolution is twice as fast in the tropics
(05/01/2006) Tropical species evolve twice as fast as temperate species according to research published in Tuesday's Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS). The study. which compared the genetics of 45 common tropical plants with similar species from cooler geographical areas, suggests that evolution takes place at a faster rate in warmer climates due to higher rates of metabolism, which leads to more genetic mutation, and shorter generations, so genetic changes are rapidly passed on to offspring. The researchers found that tropical plant species -- including species from Borneo, New Guinea, northeast Australia and South America -- had more than twice the rate of molecular evolution as closely related species in temperate parts of North America, southern Australia, Eurasia and New Zealand.
Forest restoration important in Guyana
(05/01/2006) Located on the northern edge of South America, bordered by Suriname, Brazil, Venezuela, and the Atlantic Ocean, lays a small but vibrant country with a wealth of culture, biodiversity and opportunity. During the week of 13-17 March 2006, representatives from Guyanese government departments, civil society and indigenous peoples' organizations met in the capital city, Georgetown, with the World conservation Union (IUCN) and the International Tropical Timber Organization at a national workshop on Forest Landscape Restoration (FLR). The workshop introduced the concept of FLR with the intention of better understanding how it may be applied in the Guyana context.
Corals may survive global warming by gorging themselves
(04/26/2006) A new study published in Nature says some coral are able to survive bleaching events by gorging themselves. An experiment with Hawaiian corals showed that when bleached, one species sharply increased its intake of food, increasing the likelihood that it would survive elevated water temperatures.
6 species of frogs discovered in Laos
(04/20/2006) Six new species of frogs have been discovered in the Southeast Asia nation of Lao PDR, according to the Bronx Zoo-based Wildlife conservation Society (WCS). Three newly discovered frog species are described in the recent issue of Copeia, the journal of the American Society of Herpetologists and Ichthyologists. WCS says that little is known about the new frogs, other than the location they were found and how the compare morphologically to similar species.
Lizard gives clues on evolution of eye
(04/14/2006) Lizards have given Johns Hopkins researchers a tantalizing clue to the evolutionary origins of light-sensing cells in people and other species. The lizard study describes how the lizard's so-called third, or parietal, eye, distinguishes two different colors, blue and green, possibly to tell the time of day. Specialized nerve cells in that eye, which looks more like a spot on the lizard's forehead, use two types of molecular signals to sense light: those found only in simpler animals, like scallops, and those found only in more complex animals like humans. Although the blue-green color comparison method used by the parietal eye is not one shared by humans, it does reveal one potential step in the evolution of color vision, the Hopkins researchers say. The proponents of intelligent design assert that the combination of nerves, muscles, sensory cells, and lens tissue in the eye could only have been 'designed' from scratch but this new research gives new insight into the evolutionary development of light-sensing cells, key to the eventual development of eye-like structures and color vision.
Global warming could doom the walrus finds new study
(04/14/2006) Add the walrus to the list of species threatened by climate change. A new study finds unprecedented pup abandonment in the Arctic due to disappearing sea ice. A new study warns that walrus calves are being stranded by melting sea ice in the Arctic Ocean. Researchers aboard the U.S. Coast Guard icebreaker Healy during a cruise in the Canada Basin in the summer of 2004 found lone walrus calves swimming far from shore--something never before documented. The sightings suggest that increased polar warming may be forcing mothers to abandon their pups as they follow the rapidly retreating ice northwards. If these observations portray a larger trend, a warming Arctic ice may lead to decreases in the walrus population say the scientists whose research was published in the April issue of Aquatic Mammals.
Forest protection best way to control rats finds study
(04/13/2006) The most cost-effective way to stop non-native rats and mongoose from decimating highly endangered species on larger tropical islands is not by intensive trapping, but instead by preserving the forest blocks where wildlife live, according to a study by the Bronx Zoo-based Wildlife conservation Society (WCS) and other groups.
Rainforest education site goes online; resources for students, teachers, and journalists
(04/12/2006) Mongabay.com, a leading environmental-science web site, announced today a revised version of a rainforest site, that has been a major resource on such forests for teachers, children, and researchers. "Mongabay.com is dedicated to providing necessary communication to those interested in the fate of our rainforests," Ira Rubinoff, director of the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute (STRI), said. "It has a scientific base that should provide reliable information to all who share an interest in the future quality of life on this planet." The revised site includes environmental profiles and deforestation statistics for more than 60 countries, and features thousands of rainforest wildlife photos from around the world. Additionally, the site includes a section geared towards children, with learning activities and educational resources for teachers.
Climate change is serious threat to biodiversity
(04/11/2006) The Earth could see massive waves of species extinctions around the world if global warming continues unabated, according to a new study published in the scientific journal conservation Biology.
Nitrogen emissions could sink plant species in biodiversity hotspots
(04/11/2006) Rising nitrogen emissions from human activities -- such as fossil fuel burning and livestock farming -- may soon threaten plant species in some of the world's most biodiverse places according to researchers at the Universities of Sheffield and York.
Ants are 140-168 million years old
(04/07/2006) Ants are considerably older than previously believed, having originated 140 to 168 million years ago, according to new research on the cover of this week'apos;s issue of the journal Science. But these resilient insects, now found in terrestrial ecosystems the world over, apparently began to diversify only about 100 million years ago in concert with the flowering plants, the scientists say
Tropical deforestation rates to slow in future - new study
(04/06/2006) As human population growth rates diminish in coming years deforestation rates are expected to slow according to research published in Biotropica online. The report offers hope that reduced rates of forest conversion can stave off a future extinction crisis in the tropics, where most of the world's biodiversity is found. Scientists estimate that as much as 50 percent of the planet's terrestrial biodiversity is found in tropical rainforests distributed around the world but the United Nations recently warned that the current rate of extinction is running 100 to 1,000 times the normal background rate.
Recent Coral Bleaching at Great Barrier Reef
(04/05/2006) An international team of scientists are working at a rapid pace to study environmental conditions behind the fast-acting and widespread coral bleaching currently plaguing Australia's Great Barrier Reef. NASA's satellite data supply scientists with near-real-time sea surface temperature and ocean color data to give them faster than ever insight into the impact coral bleaching can have on global ecology. Australia's Great Barrier Reef is a massive marine habitat system made up of 2,900 reefs spanning over 600 continental islands. Though coral reefs exist around the globe, researchers actually consider this network of reefs to be the center of the world's marine biodiversity, playing a critical role in human welfare, climate, and economics. Coral reefs are a multi-million dollar recreational destinations, and the Great Barrier Reef is an important part of Australia's economy.
Newly discovered rodent not so new or rare after all
(04/05/2006) The newly discovered species of rodent found in a marketplace in Central Laos turns out to not be so new or so rare after all. The Laotian rock rat (Laonastes aenigmamus), as the long-whiskered and stubby-legged rodent is now known, is a species believed to have been extinct for 11 million years. It is a member of a family that, until now, was only known from the fossil record. The species was first described by Wildlife conservation Society (WCS) researcher Dr. Robert Timmins after it was found on a table at a hunter's market in central Laos. In a return trip to the market, WCS conservationist Peter Clyne found the rats to be quite common, photographing several specimens. According to Clyne, the rat is commonly brought in by hunters and eaten by local people.
Insects worth $57 billion to US economy
(04/01/2006) A new study says insects are worth at least $57 billion to the American economy. In the April 2006 issue of BioScience, John E. Losey of Cornell University and Mace Vaughan of the Xerces Society for Invertebrate conservation estimate the value of ecological services provided by insects. Looking at just four services--dung burial, control of crop pests, pollination, and wildlife nutrition--Losey and Vaughan calculate that the annual value of insects in these roles is at least $57 billion in the United States.
Shahtoosh becomes illegal as Tibetan antelope is protected
(03/30/2006) The Bronx Zoo-based Wildlife conservation Society today applauded a decision by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to list the Tibetan antelope, also known as chiru, as an endangered species. Through a series of expeditions to China's windswept Chang Tang Reserve over the past two decades, WCS had played a key role in sounding the alarm about the dramatic decline of this elegant animal due to poaching.
Does tropical biodiversity increase during global warming?
(03/30/2006) Forest fragmentation may cause biodiversity loss lasting millions of years according to a new study published in the March 31, 2006 issue of the journal Science. Using cores drilled through 5 kilometers of rock in eastern Colombia and western Venezuela, Carlos Jaramillo of the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute (STRI) in Panama and a team of researchers derived a fossil pollen record for a 72 million-year period with samples ranging from 10 to 82 million years ago.
Avian Flu Threat to Biological Diversity
(03/23/2006) A far wider range of species including rare and endangered ones may be affected by highly virulent avian flu than has previously been supposed. Experts attending the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) conference say there is growing evidence that the H5N1 virus can infect and harm big cats like leopards and tigers, small cats such as civets and other mammals like martens, weasels, badgers and otters.
Red Tide Causes Sea Turtle Die-Off in El Salvador
(03/23/2006) A Red Tide event that occurred off the coast of El Salvador late last year directly caused the deaths of some 200 sea turtles, according to test results released today by the Wildlife conservation Society (WCS) and other organizations.
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