conservation news and environmental science news.
Humans worsening the spread of forest-killing disease in California
(08/15/2007) The spread of Sudden Oak Death, a disease that is rapidly killing forests in the western United States, is being worsened by human activities, report studies recently published in the Journal of Ecology and Ecological Applications.
Climate change reducing Lake Tahoe's water clarity
(08/15/2007) Lake Tahoe in Northern California is losing is characteristic water clarity due to pollution and climate change, reports a new study by the University of California at Davis.
Group seeks salvation for 189 endangered bird species
(08/15/2007) BirdLife International has launched an appeal to save 189 endangered bird species over the next 5 years. The U.K.-based conservation group is seeking to raise tens of millions of dollars through its Species Champions initiative, by finding "Species Champions" among individuals, private foundations, and companies who will fund the work of identified "Species Guardians" for each bird.
conservation more effective than biofuels for fighting global warming
(08/15/2007) Conserving forests and grasslands may be a more effective land-use strategy for fighting climate change than growing biofuel crops argues a new paper published in the journal Science. Comparing emissions from various fuel crops versus carbon storage in natural ecosystems, Renton Righelato and Dominick Spracklen write that "forestation of an equivalent area of land would sequester two to nine times more carbon over a 30-year period than the emissions avoided by the use of the biofuel."
Earthquakes can break speed limit
(08/15/2007) Earthquakes can move faster than previously thought with rupture rates well exceeding the conventional 3 kilometeres per second, reports Oxford University professor Shamita Das writing in the journal Science. The finding suggests that earthquakes in the world's largest quake zones may be capable of more destruction than earlier projections.
Arctic sea ice shrinks to record low in 2007
(08/15/2007) Arctic sea ice has shrunk to a record low according the Japan Aerospace Exploration agency.
Antarctic Bottom Water has warmed since 1992
(08/14/2007) Deep ocean waters near Antarctica have warmed significantly since 1992, though variable temperatures may it difficult to determine whether it is a trend, reports a new study published in Geophysical Research Letters.
Geoengineering cure for global warming could cause problems
(08/14/2007) Proposed geoengineering schemes to reduce global warming may do more harm than good, warns a new study published in Geophysical Research Letters.
2004 Indian Ocean tsunami waves hit Florida, Maine
(08/14/2007) Waves from the devastating December 2004 tsunami were recorded along the Atlantic coast of North America, reports a new study published in Geophysical Research Letters.
Legless lizard retracts eyes to avoid retaliatory prey bites
(08/14/2007) For creatures without legs, snakes are remarkable predators. Pythons can capture and eat animals well over twice their size, while a mere drop of venom injected by an Australian death adder can kill a person. Scientists believe the main purpose for these adaptations is to help snakes avoid injury when pursuing and eating prey. However, snakes are not the only legless reptiles -- there are more than a dozen species of legless lizard distributed around the world. A new paper examines how these reptiles subdue their prey without venom or constriction.
Squirrels communicate with rattlesnakes using heated tail
(08/13/2007) Ground squirrels heat their tails to defend their young against predatory rattlesnakes, reports a study published in the early online edition of Proceedings of the Natural Academy of Sciences (PNAS).
Failing water supply destroyed lost city of Angkor Wat
(08/13/2007) The ancient city of Angkor in Cambodia was larger in extent than previously thought and fed by a single water system, according to a new map published by an international team of researchers. The study, published in the early online edition of the journal Proceedings of the Natural Academy of Sciences, suggests that the urban settlement sustained an elaborate water management network extending over more than 1,0000 square kilometers.
New flycatcher bird species discovered in Peru
(08/13/2007) Scientists have discovered a previously unknown species of bird in dense bamboo thickets in the Peruvian Amazon.
Low deforestation countries to see least benefit from carbon trading
(08/13/2007) Countries that have done the best job protecting their tropical forests stand to gain the least from proposed incentives to combat global warming through carbon offsets, warns a new study published in Tuesday in the journal Public Library of Science Biology (PLoS). The authors say that "high forest cover with low rates of deforestation" (HFLD) nations "could become the most vulnerable targets for deforestation if the Kyoto Protocol and upcoming negotiations on carbon trading fail to include intact standing forest."
Amazon deforestation in Brazil falls 29% for 2007
(08/13/2007) Deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon fell 29 percent for the 2006-2007 year, compared with the prior period. The loss of 3,863 square miles (10,010 square kilometers) of rainforest was the lowest since the Brazilian government started tracking deforestation on a yearly basis in 1988.
Global warming to stunt growth of rainforest trees
(08/12/2007) Global warming could reduce the growth rates of rainforest trees by 50 percent, reported research presented last week at the annual meeting of the Ecological Society of America in San Jose, California by Ken Feeley of Harvard University's Arnold Arboretum in Boston.
Scientists: Newsweek Erred in Global Warming Coverage
(08/12/2007) A statement from the University of Alabama argues that a recent Newsweek cover story on climate change made two important mistakes.
Climate change claims a snail
(08/12/2007) The Aldabra banded snail (Rachistia aldabrae), a rare and poorly known species found only on Aldabra atoll in the Indian Ocean, has apparently gone extinct due to declining rainfall in its niche habitat. While some may question lamenting the loss of a lowly algae-feeding gastropod on some unheard of chain of tropical islands, its unheralded passing is nevertheless important for the simple reason that Rachistia aldabrae may be a pioneer. As climate change increasingly brings local and regional shifts in precipitation and temperature, other species are expected to follow in its path.
Controversy over flawed NASA climate data changes little
(08/11/2007) NASA corrected an error on its U.S. air temperature data after a blogger, Steve McIntyre of Climate Audit, discovered a discrepancy for the years 2000-2006. The revised figures show that 1934, not 1998, was America's hottest year on record. The change has little affect on global temperature records and the average temperatures for 2001-2006 (at 0.66 C) is still warmer than 1930-1934 (0.63 C) in the United States.
European heat waves double in length since 1880
(08/11/2007) The most accurate measures of European daily temperatures ever indicate that the length of heat waves on the continent has doubled and the frequency of extremely hot days has nearly tripled in the past century. The new data shows that many previous assessments of daily summer temperature change underestimated heat wave events in western Europe by approximately 30 percent.
Floods affect 500 million people per year, will worsen with warming
(08/10/2007) Floods affect 500 million people a year and cause billions of dollars in damage, said U.N. officials Thursday.
New shrew species, orchid discovered in the Philippines
(08/10/2007) An unknown shrew species has been discovered on Palawan, a large island in the Philippines, by a conservation International-led expedition.
Papua seeks funds for fighting global warming through forest conservation
(08/10/2007) In an article published today in The Wall Street Journal, Tom Wright profiles the nascent "avoided deforestation" carbon offset market in Indonesia's Papua province. Barnabas Suebu, governor of the province which makes up nearly half the island of New Guinea, has teamed with an Australian millionaire, Dorjee Sun, to develop a carbon offset plan that would see companies in developing countries pay for forest preservation in order to earn carbon credits. Compliance would be monitored via satellite.
U.N. sends team to investigate gorilla killings
(08/10/2007) The U.N. said it will send a team of experts to probe the killings of critically endangered mountain gorillas in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). Four gorillas were shot "execution-style" last month, while three others have been killed so far this year. Rangers believe illegal charcoal harvesters from Goma are to blame.
Melting permafrost affects greenhouse gas emissions
(08/10/2007) Permafrost -- the perpetually frozen foundation of the north -- isn't so permanent anymore, and scientists are scrambling to understand the pros and cons when terra firma goes soft.
Apple comes up a bit short on eco-credentials of new iMac
(08/10/2007) While Apple has touted the environmental attributes of its newest iMac, critics say the new computer failed to live up to the company's goals for the use of mercury, reports the San Jose Mercury. In May, Apple said it would eventually replace mercury-containing fluorescent backlights in its LCD monitors with LEDs backlights, but the new computers don't use the new technology. The company said it still face technological hurdles in rolling out the new LCDs.
Floating sea ice shrinks in the Arctic
(08/10/2007) By one estimate, the extent of floating sea ice in the Arctic has shrunk more than in any summer ever recorded, reports the New York Times.
Temperate forests not a fix for global warming
(08/10/2007) Carbon sequestration projects in temperate regions -- already facing doubts by scientists -- were dealt another blow by Duke University-led research that found pine tree stands grown under elevated carbon dioxide conditions only store significant amounts of carbon when they receive sufficient amounts of water and nutrients.
U.S. government weather agency cuts hurricane outlook
(08/10/2007) The U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration on Thursday reduced its forecast for the number of tropical storms and hurricanes expected during the 2007 Atlantic season. NOAA said it now expected between 13 and 16 named storms, with seven to nine becoming hurricanes and three to five of them classified as "major" hurricanes (categories 3, 4, or 5).
Amazon deforestation rate falls to lowest on record
(08/10/2007) Deforestation rates in the Brazilian Amazon for the previous year were the lowest on record, according to preliminary figures released by INPE, Brazil's National Institute of Space Research.
New Park in Argentina Protects 500,000 Penguins
(08/09/2007) The government of Argentina will create a new marine park along the coast of Patagonia, reports the Bronx Zoo-based Wildlife conservation Society. Located in Golfo San Jorge, the park will protect more than half a million penguins and other rare seabirds.
Industrial pollution has caused Arctic warming since 1880s
(08/09/2007) Industrial soot emissions have been warming the Arctic since at the least the 1880s, reports a new study that examined "black carbon" levels in the Greenland ice sheet over the past 215 years. The research is published in current issue of the journal Science.
Global warming will slow, then accelerate reports ground-breaking model
(08/09/2007) Global warming will slow during the next few years but then accelerate with at least half of the years after 2009 warmer than 1998, the warmest year on record, reports a new study that is the first to incorporate information about the actual state of the ocean and the atmosphere, rather than the approximate ones most models use. The research, published by a team of scientists from the Hadley Center in the United Kingdom, appears in the current issue of the journal Science.
Experts: parks effectively protect rainforest in Peru
(08/09/2007) High-resolution satellite monitoring of the Amazon rainforest in Peru shows that land-use and conservation policies have had a measurable impact on deforestation rates. The research is published in the August 9, 2007, on-line edition of Science Express.
Wild ferrets, America's most endangered mammal, recover
(08/09/2007) Black-footed ferrets (Mustela nigripes), North America's most endangered mammal species, are recovering in their native Wyoming, reports a study published in the current issue of the journal Science.
Internet drives trafficking of endangered species
(08/09/2007) It's true, said U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Special Agent Ed Newcomer, that the Internet has made wildlife crime easier, and easier to hide. But it's also made it easier for wildlife law enforcement agents to pose as potential customers -- and to catch people.
Lowland rainforest less diverse than previously thought
(08/09/2007) While rainforests are the world's libraries of biodiversity, species richness may be more evenly distributed in some forests than in others, reports an extensive new study by an international team of entomologists and botanists. The work, published in the current issue of the journal Nature, has important implications for forest management and conservation strategies.
Organic, shade grown cacao good for birds
(08/09/2007) Bird diversity in cacao farms in Panama is considerably higher when crops are grown in the shade of canopy trees, reports a study published earlier this year in Biodiversity conservation. The research has implications for biodiversity conservation and the sustainability of cacao plantations.
Dr. Marc Van Roosmalen, discover of unknown monkey species, freed in Brazil
(08/08/2007) Dr. Marc van Roosmalen, a renowned primatologist who has discovered seven species of monkeys in the Amazon rainforest, has been freed in Brazil. Dr. van Roosmalen had been charged with illegally keeping wild animals and embezzlement and sentenced to nearly 16 years in prison in a case that was widely criticized by scientists.
Ethnobotanist honored for contributions to wilderness medicine
(08/08/2007) Renowned ethnobotanist and conservationist Dr. Mark Plotkin of the Amazon conservation Team was honored Wednesday with the 2007 Paul S. Auerbach Award, a distinction awarded by the Wilderness Medical Society (WMS).
Coral reefs declining faster than rainforests
(08/08/2007) Coral reefs in the Pacific Ocean are dying faster than previously thought due to costal development, climate change, and disease, reports a study published Wednesday in the online journal PLoS One. Nearly 600 square miles of reef have disappeared per year since the late 1960s, a rate twice that of tropical rainforest loss.
7.4 magnitude earthquake hits Indonesia
(08/08/2007) A 7.4 magnitude earthquake hit Indonesia's West Java on Thursday, causing widespread panic according to Reuters. There are no immediate reports of damage or casualties.
Extinction of the Yangtze river dolphin is confirmed
(08/08/2007) After an extensive six-week search scientists have confirmed the probable extinction of the baiji or Yangtze river dolphin. The freshwater dolphin's extinction had been reported late last year.
Primatologist freed but questions remain for Brazil after "attack on science"
(08/08/2007) While primatologist Dr. Marc van Roosmalen has been freed from prison pending appeal, prominent scientists had stinging criticism for the Brazilian government over its increasingly "hostile" treatment of researchers. Before Roosmalen was released Tuesday, some scientists even threatened "civil disobedience," according to a report in the journal Nature.
100 years ago: oil shortages spur need for alternative fuels
(08/08/2007) The fuels committee of the Motor Union of Great Britain and Ireland has issued a valuable report on motor-car fuels... a famine in petrol appears to be inevitable in the near future, owing to the fact that demand is increasing at a rate much greater than the rate of increase of the supply. In 1904 the consumption of petrol in the United Kingdom was 12,000,000 gallons; in 1907 it had risen to 27,000,000 gallons... the committee discusses in the report other possible fuels. The supply is divided into two parts. The first includes all fuels limited in quantity...The second group contains one item only - alcohol - and it is evident from the whole tone of the report that the committee expects to find in denatured vegetable spirits the fuel of the future.
Economics of next generation biofuels
(08/08/2007) 'Second generation' biorefineries -- those making biofuel from lignocellulosic feedstocks like straw, grasses and wood -- have long been touted as the successor to today's grain ethanol plants, but until now the technology has been considered too expensive to compete. However, recent increases in grain prices mean that production costs are now similar for grain ethanol and second generation biofuels, according to a paper published in the first edition of Biofuels, Bioproducts & Biorefining.
Rare pygmy elephants endangered by logging in Borneo
(08/08/2007) Pygmy elephants are increasingly threatened by logging and forest conversion for agriculture in their native Borneo, reports a new satellite tracking study by WWF.
Afghanistan's recovery effort drives poaching of rare wildlife
(08/07/2007) Few people associate Afghanistan with wildlife and it would come as a surprise to many that the war-torn, but fledging democracy is home to snow leopards, Persian leopards, five species of bush dog, Marco Polo Sheep, Asiatic Black Bear, Brown Bears, Striped Hyenas, and numerous bird of prey species. While much of this biodiversity has survived despite years of civil strife, Afghanistan's wildlife faces new pressures from the very people who are charged with rebuilding the country: contractors and the development community are driving the trade in rare and endangered wildlife. This development, coupled with lack of laws regulating resource management and growing instability, complicate efforts to protect the country's wildlife. Working to address these challenges is Dr. Alex Dehgan, Afghanistan Country Director for the Wildlife conservation Society (WCS). WCS is working to implement the Afghanistan Biodiversity conservation Program, a three-year project funded by the US Agency for International Development to promote wildlife and resource conservation in the country.
U.S. court blocks sonar testing to protect whales
(08/07/2007) A U.S. federal court blocked the Navy from using a type of sonar that environmentalists say pose a threat to whales off the coast of California. The judge noted that the Navy's own analyses concluded that the Southern California exercises "will cause widespread harm to nearly thirty species of marine mammals, including five species of endangered whales, and may cause permanent injury and death" and characterized the Navy's proposed mitigation measures as "woefully inadequate and ineffectual."
New species discovered in "lost" African forest
(08/07/2007) Scientists have discovered several unknown species during an expedition to a forest that has been off-limits to researcher for nearly 50 years due to civil strife.
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