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News articles on biodiversity

Mongabay.com news articles on biodiversity in blog format. Updated regularly.









Climate change will cause biomes to shift and disappear

(03/26/2007) Many of the world's local climates could be radically changed if global warming trends continue, reports a new study published in the early online edition of the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. The authors warn that current climates may shift and disappear, increasing the risk of biodiversity extinction and other ecological changes.


Extinction, like climate change, is complicated

(03/26/2007) Extinction is a hotly debated, but poorly understood topic in science. The same goes for climate change. When scientists try to forecast the impact of global change on future biodiversity levels, the results are contentious, to say the least. While some argue that species have managed to survive worse climate change in the past and that current threats to biodiversity are overstated, many biologists say the impacts of climate change and resulting shifts in rainfall, temperature, sea levels, ecosystem composition, and food availability will have significant effects on global species richness.


Too many nutrients reduce biodiversity

(03/25/2007) researchers. The research is consistent with findings in other parts of the world that suggest high nutrient abundance can increase the productivity of a few species, but limited overall species richness.


Salamanders dying due to common pesticide

(03/25/2007) Atrazine, one of the most widely used pesticides in the United States, may be killing salamanders, according to American biologists writing in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives.


Photos of world's tiniest owl, recently found in Peru

(03/23/2007) One of the world's smallest owls was spotted for the first time in the wild by researchers monitoring the Area de Conservacion Privada de Abra Patricia -- Alto Nieva, a private conservation area in northern Peru, South America. Biologists consider the Long-whiskered Owlet (Xenoglaux loweryi) "a holy grail of South American ornithology."


Global warming may cause biodiversity extinction

(03/21/2007) Extinction is a hotly debated, but poorly understood topic in science. The same goes for climate change. When scientists try to forecast the impact of global change on future biodiversity levels, the results are contentious, to say the least. While some argue that species have managed to survive worse climate change in the past and that current threats to biodiversity are overstated, many biologists say the impacts of climate change and resulting shifts in rainfall, temperature, sea levels, ecosystem composition, and food availability will have significant effects on global species richness.


Fruit-eating birds at particular risk from Indonesian deforestation

(03/20/2007) A new study on the island of Sulawesi in Indonesia confirms the critical importance of fig trees to the rainforest ecosystem. The research has implications for wildlife conservation in an area of high rates of forest loss from agricultural conversion and logging.


Amazon, Madagascar, Borneo are top plant biodiversity hotspots

(03/20/2007) A new map devised by biologists at the University of California, San Diego (UCSD) and the University of Bonn in Germany, shows that the Andes-Amazon region of South America, Madagascar, Borneo, and New Guinea reign as the world's hotspots for plant diversity. The researchers say the map will help both prioritize areas for biodiversity conservation and forecast the impact of climate change on plant communities and the ecological services they provide.


Invasive predators more harmful to biodiversity than native predators

(03/20/2007) Alien predators are more harmful to prey populations than native predators finds a study published in the current issue of the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences.


Bush administration seeks to cull Endangered Species Act

(03/20/2007) After losing a series of lawsuits to protect endangered species, the Bush administration moved to reinterpret the Endangered Species Act so that it would only apply to areas where species are at risk, not areas where they are thriving or have already disappeared.


Evolution is faster in temperate zones

(03/15/2007) A new study argues that temperate zones are hotbeds of evolution, not tropical areas as conventionally held.


Ivory-billed Woodpecker sighting may be a mistake

(03/14/2007) A new study casts doubt on the apparent rediscovery of the Ivory-billed Woodpecker in Arkansas. J. Martin Collinson, a researcher at the University of Aberdeen in Scotland, says that the sighting of the thought-to-be-extinct bird is a case of mistaken identity. Using video analysis, Collinson argues that ornithologists have confused the Ivory-billed Woodpecker (Campephilus principalis) with the similar Pileated Woodpecker (Dryocopus pileatus).


New cat species discovered in Borneo

(03/14/2007) Scientists have declared that the clouded leopard found on the islands of Borneo and Sumatra is an entirely new species of cat, genetically distinct from the clouded leopard that lives in mainland southeast Asia. The scientists say that the two species of clouded leopard appear to have diverged about 1.4 million years ago. They also note that the results of the genetic study are supported by separate research on geographical variation in the coat color of the clouded leopard.


Newly discovered ocean genes could help address world problems

(03/13/2007) An expedition lead by genome pioneer Craig Venter has turned up more than 6 million unknown genes among ocean microbes, some of which could be used to help fight climate change and develop clean sources of energy, according to a study published in PLoS Biology, an open-access journal.


New bamboo species discovered in U.S., first in 200 years

(03/13/2007) Botanists have discovered a previously unknown species of North American bamboo in the hills of Appalachia. It is the third known species of bamboo in the United States, but the first new species in more than 200 years. The species is named Arundinaria appalachiana.


Caribbean coral reefs result of mass extinction, rise of isthmus

(03/12/2007) Extinctions that resulted from the formation of the Panamanian isthmus were delayed two million years according to a new study by researchers at the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute, Scripps Institution of Oceanography and London's Natural History Museum. The findings may have implications for global species extinction and evolution.


Biodiversity extinction crisis looms says renowned biologist

(03/12/2007) While there is considerable debate over the scale at which biodiversity extinction is occurring, there is little doubt we are presently in an age where species loss is well above the established biological norm. Extinction has certainly occurred in the past, and in fact, it is the fate of all species, but today the rate appears to be at least 100 times the background rate of one species per million per year and may be headed towards a magnitude thousands of times greater. Few people know more about extinction than Dr. Peter Raven, director of the Missouri Botanical Garden. He is the author of hundreds of scientific papers and books, and has an encyclopedic list of achievements and accolades from a lifetime of biological research. These make him one of the world's preeminent biodiversity experts. He is also extremely worried about the present biodiversity crisis, one that has been termed the sixth great extinction.


New Snapper Species Discovered in Brazil

(03/09/2007) A new species of snapper was discovered off the coast of Brazil. The popular game fish had long been mistaken for a more common species, according to scientists with conservation International (CI) and Environmental Defense. The description of the Lutjanus alexandrei snapper is published in the journal Zootaxa.


Birds follow racoon-like coati to find food

(03/08/2007) A number of rainforest bird species are known to follow columns of army ants eating insects and other animals as they try to escape the marauding ants. Now the behvaior has been documented in birds that follow the coatimundi, a racoon-like mammal, as it forages in the rainforest.


Human hunting causes changes in monkey behvaior

(03/08/2007) Human hunting pressure causes significant behvaioral changes in Central Africa monkeys and duiker according to a paper published in the March issue of the journal Biotropica.


Jumbo squid and sperm whales tagged

(03/08/2007) Scientists have simulatenously tagged sperm whales and jumbo squid off Mexico's Pacific coast, allowing them to be tracked by satellite even as they dive to depths exceeding 3000 feet. Details of the effort are published in in the March 12 edition of the journal Marine Ecology Progress Series (MEPS).


Deforestation causes species extinction in Madagascar

(03/07/2007) Deforestation has already caused the extinction of a large number of endemic insect species on the island of Madagascar, according to new research published in the March edition of the journal Biology Letters. The work suggests that only half the species confined to these forest areas will survive.


World's only blue lizard heads toward extinction

(03/07/2007) High above the forest floor on the remote Colombian island of Gorgona lives a lizard with brilliant blue skin, rivaling the color of the sky. Anolis gorgonae, or the blue anole, is a species so elusive and rare, that scientists have been unable to give even an estimate of its population. Due to the lizard&spod;s isolated habitat and reclusive habits, researchers know little about the blue anole, but are captivated by its stunning coloration.


Bird species rediscovered after 139 years

(03/06/2007) A wetland bird that has been 'lost' for nearly 140 years was rediscovered at a wastewater treatment plant in Thailand according to bird conservation group BirdLife International.


Fish extinctions alter critical nutrients in water, study shows

(03/03/2007) Ecosystems are such intricate webs of connections that few studies have been able to explore exactly what happens when a species dies out. Now, a Cornell study using computer simulations has teased out how the disappearance of a freshwater fish can affect the availability of certain nutrients that other species rely on.


Tradable biodiversity rights can help to conserve species richness

(03/02/2007) The decline in biodiversity compels us to look at the sustainable use of living resources in a different manner. To conserve biodiversity, the social and economic aspects of the use of biodiversity must be taken into account, in addition to the ecological aspects. From this perspective it then becomes clear, for example, that the portion of the world population that lives in poverty is incapable of contributing to the conservation of biodiversity. In their daily search for food, energy and shelter, they simply cannot pay attention to this aspect. Professor Steven De Bie made this point during his acceptance of the endowed chair in the Sustainable Use of Living Resources on 1 March at Wageningen University. To compensate for this decline in biodiversity in the poorer regions, De Bie proposes establishing tradable 'biodiversity rights'.


African penguin population drops 40% - cause unknown

(03/02/2007) African penguin populations have fallen by 40 percent in the past few years according to an article published in the March 2, 2006 issue of Science. Biologists are puzzled by the decline.


Cheetah in Iran?

(03/01/2007) Biologists from the Wildlife conservation Society (WCS) have fitted critically endangered cheetahs in Iran with Global Positioning System (GPS) collars. This marks the first time this population of Asiatic cheetah can be tracked remotely.


Role of global warming in extinction may be overestimated

(03/01/2007) Extinction is a hotly debated, but poorly understood topic in science. The same goes for climate change. When you bring the two together to forecast the impact of global change on biodiversity, chaos reigns. While many ecologists argue that climate change could well doom many more species to extinction, others say that the threat is overstated.


Biologists record call of rare Sumatran ground cuckoo for first time

(02/26/2007) A team of biologists with the New York-based Wildlife conservation Society (WCS) have recorded for the first time the call of the extremely rare Sumatran ground cuckoo, found only on the island of Sumatra in Indonesia.


Melting ice reveals unknown species in Antarctica

(02/26/2007) An expedition to an area of seabed recently exposed by melting ice in Antarctica has discovered several previously unknown species of marine life, including deep sea lilies, gelatinous sea squirts, glass sponges, amphipod crustaceans, and orange starfish. The findings were announced Sunday by the Census of Antarctic Marine Life, a 10-year effort to map the biodiversity of the world's oceans.


Elephant poaching for ivory accelerates

(02/26/2007) Thousands of African elephants are being killed for their ivory tusks, according to a new study led by a biologist from the University of Washington. In a paper published in the online edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Dr. Samuel Wasser, director of the University of Washington Center for conservation Biology, shows that elephants are being slaughtered at the highest rate since the international ban on the ivory trade took effect in 1989.


Pakistani snow leopard settles in at Bronx Zoo

(02/26/2007) An orphaned snow leopard cub from northern Pakistan in enjoying its first winter at the Bronx Zoo in New York, according to the Wildlife conservation Society (WCS). The cub, named Leo, was moved to an open-air exhibit at the zoo last fall.


Giant squid use bioluminescence to hunt prey, communicate

(02/23/2007) The giant squid uses bioluminescence to hunt its prey, according to new deap-sea observations using a high definition underwater video camera system. The findings are published in the online edition of the roceedings of the Royal Society B.


Photos of world's largest squid

(02/22/2007) Fishermen in New Zealand may have captured the largest Colossal squid ever recorded. It may be the first time a Colossal squid has ever been seen alive. The beast, weighing 450 kilograms (990 pounds), was eating a Patagonian toothfish (Chilean sea bass) hooked by fishermen when it was captured in the deep, frigid waters in the Ross Sea near Antarctica. The squid was reported to be 10 meters (33 feet) in length and took more than two hours to land.


Chimps hunt bush babies with spears

(02/22/2007) Researchers have observed wild chimpanzees in Senegal hunting bush babies with spears, according to a paper published in the March 6 edition of the journal Current Biology. The study is the first to report primates using tools for hunting other vertebrates.


15 'new' bird species revealed in North America

(02/18/2007) DNA testing has revealed 15 'new' species of birds in North America and six 'new' species of bats from the South American country of Guyana, according to a paper appearing in the British journal Molecular Ecology Notes.


New monkey species in Uganda

(02/18/2007) Uganda may soon have a new species of monkey according to a report published in Kampala's New Vision newspaper. Dr. Colin Groves of the Australian National University told New Vision that the local population of the gray-cheeked mangabey (Lophocebus albigena) will soon be designated as a unique species, the Ugandan gray-cheeked mangabey (Lophocebus ugandae).


'Ark' aims to save amphibians from extinction

(02/15/2007) Scientists are meeting in Atlanta is discuss last minute efforts to save disappearing amphibians from extinction. A mysterious outbreak of fungal disease has wiped out an estimated 170 species in the past decade, and put more than one-third of the world's remaining amphibians at risk.


Blind pink snake discovered in Madagascar

(02/14/2007) A pink worm-like snake has been rediscovered in Madagascar more than 100 years after it was first found. The snake, which is blind and measures about ten inches long, is described in the February 1, 2007 edition of Zootaxa, a leading taxonomic journal.


Mysterious outbreak killing millions of bees

(02/14/2007) An mysterious outbreak is causing the deaths of millions of honeybees in 22 states according to an entomologist from the University of Montana. Jerry Bromenshenk says that Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD) is "causing agricultural honeybees nationwide to abandon their hives and disappear."


Salamander diversity tied to elevation in the tropics

(02/13/2007) Scientists have long documented high levels of biodiversity at mid-elevation ecosystems in the tropics, but no one has ever conclusively determined the underlying causes of this species richness. A new study, which examined 13 genera and 137 species of tropical salamanders, suggests that this pattern may result from the time when the habitats were first colonized.


Extinction risk accelerated when interacting human threats interact

(02/07/2007) A new study warns that the simultaneous effect of habitat fragmentation, overexploitation, and climate warming could increase the risk of a species' extinction.


Lemurs at risk due to invasion of feral beasts, global warming

(02/07/2007) The lemurs of Madagascar are among the world's most threatened primates. Extensive habitat destruction, hunting, and the introduction of alien species have doomed dozens of species to extinction since humans first arrived on the island within the past 2000 years. Most of the casualties were Madagascar's largest lemurs -- today the biggest lemur is but a fraction of the gorilla-sized giants that once ruled the island. Despite this relative impoverishment of megafauna, Madagascar still boasts nearly 90 kinds of lemurs, all of which are unique to the island (save one species that was probably introduced to some nearby islands). Lemurs display a range of unusual behvaiors from singing like a whale (the indri) to sashaying across the sand like a ballet dancer (the sifaka). Interest in lemurs has helped Madagascar become a global conservation priority, though they are still at risk. Continued deforestation, scattered hunting, and looming climate change all pose significant threats to some lemur populations. One largely unexamined threat comes from introduced species such as the Indian civet and mongoose, but especially dogs and cats that have become feral.


Just how bad is the biodiversity extinction crisis?

(02/06/2007) In recent years, scientists have warned of a looming biodiversity extinction crisis, one that will rival or exceed the five historic mass extinctions that occurred millions of years ago. Unlike these past extinctions, which were variously the result of catastrophic climate change, extraterrestrial collisions, atmospheric poisoning, and hyperactive volcanism, the current extinction event is one of our own making, fueled mainly by habitat destruction and, to a lesser extent, over-exploitation of certain species. While few scientists doubt species extinction is occurring, the degree to which it will occur in the future has long been subject of debate in conservation literature. Looking solely at species loss resulting from tropical deforestation, some researchers have forecast extinction rates as high as 75 percent. Now a new paper, published in Biotropica, argues that the most dire of these projections may be overstated. Using models that show lower rates of forest loss based on slowing population growth and other factors, Joseph Wright from the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute in Panama and Helene Muller-Landau from the University of Minnesota say that species loss may be more moderate than the commonly cited figures. While some scientists have criticized their work as "overly optimistic," prominent biologists say that their research has ignited an important discussion and raises fundamental questions about future conservation priorities and research efforts. This could ultimately result in more effective strategies for conserving biological diversity, they say.


98% of orangutan habitat in Borneo, Sumatra gone by 2022

(02/06/2007) A report from the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) today warns that illegal logging is rapidly destroying the last remaining habitat for orangutans in Borneo and Sumatra. The report says that up to 98 percent may be destroyed by 2022 without urgent action.


Rare vulture colony found in Cambodia

(02/06/2007) Working in the remote forests of Cambodia, conservationists from the Wildlife conservation Society (WCS) have just discovered Southeast Asia's only known breeding colony of slender-billed vultures, one of the world's most threatened bird species.


13% of Florida's whooping cranes killed in weekend storms

(02/05/2007) 17 whooping cranes were killed in severe storms in Florida according to a report from the Associated Press. The whooping crane, the tallest bird in North America, is one of North America's most endangered birds with a wild population of less than 360. Until the recent storms, Florida was home to a non-migratory population of 53 and a migratory population of 83, according to the Whooping Crane conservation Association.


Unknown mollusks and crustaceans discovered in the Philippines

(02/05/2007) A French-led marine expedition team may have discovered hundreds of previously unknown species of mollusks and crustaceans around Panglao, an island in the Philippines, according to a report from the Associated Press.


Female butterflies become more promiscuous when males are scarce

(02/05/2007) Female butterflies become more promiscuous when males die from bacteria outbreaks, according to a new study published in the journal Current Biology. The research suggests that surviving males have a tough time keeping up their frisky mates, showing "signs of fatigue and put less effort into mating."



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