conservation news and environmental science news.
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).
War of words over new climate change report, 'hockey stick' model
(07/16/2006) Paleoclimatologist Michael Mann criticized a report challenging the familiar 'hockey stick' temperature record of the past thousand years. The report, commissioned by Texas Representative Joe Barton, chairman of the House Energy Committee, and championed in an op-ed piece appearing in last Friday's issue of The Wall Street Journal said that there is no evidence that the 1990s were the warmest decade in a millennium or that 1998 was the warmest year in the last 1,000.
DDT linked to smaller brains in birds
(07/14/2006) For the first time researchers have found evidence that natural exposure to a contaminant damages the brain of a wild animal. Scientists at the University of Alberta discovered that the regions in robins' brains responsible for singing and mating shrink when exposed to high levels of DDT. The new study, published in the current issue of Behavioural Brain Research, suggests that exposure to environmental levels of DDT can cause significant changes in the brains of songbirds.
High school students compete in solar car race
(07/13/2006) Beginning on July 16th, high school students from the US, Puerto Rico and India will travel to Texas Motor Speedway to compete in the 11th annual Dell-Winston School Solar Car Challenge, a race tasking students to design, build and race their own solar powered cars.
Increased hantavirus risk in the US southwest
(07/13/2006) The Four Corners region of the United States will be at greater risk for hantavirus outbreak this year than in 2005, say scientists at Johns Hopkins University, the University of New Mexico, and other institutions.
Formation of clouds linked to air pollution
(07/13/2006) NASA scientists have determined that the formation of clouds is affected by the lightness or darkness of air pollution particles. This also impacts Earth's climate. In a breakthrough study published today in the online edition of Science, scientists explain why aerosols -- tiny particles suspended in air pollution and smoke -- sometimes stop clouds from forming and in other cases increase cloud cover. Clouds not only deliver water around the globe, they also help regulate how much of the sun's warmth the planet holds. The capacity of air pollution to absorb energy from the sun is the key.
Meerkats are teachers
(07/13/2006) A team of scientists from Cambridge University has found that adult meerkats directly teach their young how to obtain food. The findings which are significant because they depart from the more commonly observed behvaior whereby young learn simply by observing older members of their group. Evidence of true "teaching" with the sole intent of instructing young has been rare in animal research.
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.
Soybean biodiesel has higher net energy benefit than corn ethanol
(07/11/2006) The first comprehensive analysis of the full life cycles of soybean biodiesel and corn grain ethanol shows that biodiesel has much less of an impact on the environment and a much higher net energy benefit than corn ethanol, but that neither can do much to meet U.S. energy demand.
Large dinosaurs may have been hot-blooded
(07/11/2006) If you think dinosaurs are hot today, just think back to about 110 million years ago when they really ran hot and heavy. One of the larger animals, a behemoth called Sauroposeidon proteles, weighed close to 120,000 pounds as an adult. Now, a new study led by the University of Florida suggests it may have had a body temperature close to 48 degrees Celsius. The new findings show that even though dinosaurs were cold-blooded reptiles, large dinosaurs dissipated body heat more slowly, and thus maintained higher, more constant body temperatures similar to today's birds and mammals.
Secrets of hallucinogenic mushrooms uncovered by scientists
(07/11/2006) Using unusually rigorous scientific conditions and measures, Johns Hopkins researchers have shown that the active agent in "sacred mushrooms" can induce mystical/spiritual experiences descriptively identical to spontaneous ones people have reported for centuries.
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.
Technique could add "tens of billion of barrels" to Saudi reserves
(07/10/2006) An oil recovery technique using steam injection could add "tens of billion of barrels" to Saudi Arabia's reserves said Saudi Oil Minister Ali Naimi in an interview with The Wall Street Journal. The paper reports that earlier this year U.S.-based Chevron Corp. began a field test of a technique that could pump heavy crude oil that previously considered unrecoverable. The story shows that high oil prices will continue to drive drillers to pursue traditionally marginal sources of energy, even ones that a particularly difficult to recover and refine.
Japan depletes Borneo's rainforests; China remains largest log importer
(07/10/2006) Almost three quarters of Japan's tropical timber imports come from the endangered rainforests of Borneo according to figures from the International Tropical Timber Organization (ITTO), an industry group. Meanwhile, ITTO says that China remains, by a large margin, the largest consumer of tropical logs. Japan is the third largest importer of tropical logs after China and India. 74 percent of tropical logs brought into Japan come from Sarawak, a Malaysian state on the island of Borneo. Sawarak has seen a rapid decline in its forest cover since the 1980s, raising the ire of environmental groups and causing the Malaysian government to recently announce it would phase out logging in some areas. About 20 percent of Japan's tropical logs originate in Papua New Guinea.
Brazil establishes 3 new parks in the Amazon rainforest
(07/10/2006) Last month Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva decreed three new protected areas in the Amazon basin, placing 1.84 million hectares (4.55 million acres) of rainforest off-limits for development. The environmental ministry said that since 2002 President Silva has created 57 protected areas in the Amazon preserving some 19.3 million hectare of rainforest. More than twice that area -- at least 55 million hectares -- has been cleared since 1978, mostly as a result of forest conversion for cattle pasture and settlement.
Alps could lose 80% of glacier cover by 2100
(07/10/2006) The European Alps could lose 80 percent of their glacier cover by the year 2100, if summer air temperatures increase by three degrees Celsius according to a study published in Geophysical Research Letters, a journal of the American Geophysical Union. The research, based on modeling experiments by Swiss scientists, found that should in summer temperature rise more than three degree Celsius, only the largest glaciers and those on the highest mountain peaks could survive into next century.
$400-Million Initiative Proposed to Address Amphibian Crisis
(07/09/2006) Fifty of the leading amphibian researchers in the world have called for a new Amphibian Survival Alliance, a $400-million initiative to help reduce and prevent amphibian declines and extinctions -- an ecological crisis of growing proportion that continues to worsen.
Ancient raindrops reveal the origins of California's Sierra Nevada range
(07/07/2006) One of the longest ongoing controversies in Earth science concerns the age of California's Sierra Nevada, the tallest mountain range in the continental United States and site of Yosemite National Park, Lake Tahoe and other scenic wonders. "The debate falls into two camps," said C. Page Chamberlain, professor of geological and environmental sciences at Stanford University. "One is that the mountains rose from sea level in the last 3 to 5 million years, which is very recent on a geologic time scale. The other group suggests a much more ancient origin going back 60 million years or so."
Silent earthquakes may foreshadow destructive temblors
(07/07/2006) A team of American geoscientists is urging colleagues around the world to search for evidence of tiny earthquakes in seismically active areas, such as the Pacific Northwest, that are periodically rocked by powerful temblors of magnitude 8 and higher.
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.
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.
Some corals can adapt to ocean acidification
(07/06/2006) While scientists warn that increasing ocean acidity will doom marine animals that build skeletons and structural elements out of calcium carbonate, new research has found that corals can change their skeletons, building them out of different minerals depending on the chemical composition of the seawater around them. However, the research provides further evidence that corals are extremely sensitive to rapid environmental change and will be negatively affected by increased carbon dioxide levels in the short-term.
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.
Climate change fuels more forest fires in the United States
(07/06/2006) New research says the frequency of large forest fires has increased in the western United States since the mid-1980s as spring temperatures climbed, mountain snows melted earlier and summers got hotter. The new findings, published in the July 6 issue of Science Express, suggest that climate change, not fire suppression policies and forest accumulation, is the primary driver of recent increases in large forest fires.
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.
Genetic contact between reef fish across the 5000 km Pacific divide
(07/05/2006) Reef fish share genetic connections across what Darwin termed an 'impassable barrier', 5000km of deep ocean separating the eastern and central Pacific, according to a report by Smithsonian scientists.
Increasingly acidic oceans damaging to marine life
(07/05/2006) Carbon dioxide emissions are altering ocean chemistry and putting sea life at risk according to a new report released today. The report, "Impacts of Ocean Acidification on Coral Reefs and Other Marine Calcifiers," summarizes known effects of increased atmospheric carbon dioxide on marine organisms that produce calcium carbonate skeletal structures, such as corals. Oceans worldwide absorbed approximately 118 billion metric tons of carbon between 1800 and 1994 according to the report, resulting in increased ocean acidity, which reduces the availability of carbonate ions needed for the production of calcium carbonate structures.
Land use, land cover affect human health, food security
(07/05/2006) A Kansas State University geography professor is using satellite imagery to research how land use and land cover changes affect human health and food security.
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.
Half of Brits want more energy efficient products
(07/04/2006) Half of British consumers want to see energy inefficient products banned from the market according to a new survey by Energy Saving Trust (EST), a UK-based non-profit organization.
Severe damage expected for Caribbean coral reefs in 2006
(07/04/2006) Caribbean Sea temperatures have reached their annual high two months ahead of schedule according to a report from The Associated Press. Scientists are concerned that the region's coral reefs may suffer even worse damage than last year when 70 percent of coral was bleached in some areas.
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.
Sea creatures may have role in global warming
(07/04/2006) Small sea creatures known as salps may have a role in global warming by locking up carbon in surface seas and sending it to the depths of the ocean. By prevening carbon from re-entering the atmosphere, these animals may have a small role in countering climate change resulting from increased levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.
Environmental education lacking in the U.S. finds new study
(06/29/2006) A new study found that there is a general lack of consensus when it comes to teaching students about human interaction with the environment.
Ozone hole recovery slower than expected
(06/29/2006) Scientists from NASA and other agencies have concluded that the ozone hole over the Antarctic will recover around 2068, nearly 20 years later than previously believed. Researchers from NASA, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) have developed a new tool, a math-based computer model, to predict the timing of ozone hole recovery. Their findings will be published tomorrow in Geophysical Research Letters.
New process makes fuel from simple sugar
(06/29/2006) The soaring prices of oil and natural gas have sparked a race to make transportation fuels from plant matter instead of petroleum. Both biodiesel and gasoline containing ethanol are starting to make an impact on the market.
Great flood disrupted ocean currents, cooled climate, finds new research
(06/29/2006) Ocean circulation changes caused at the end of the past glacial period were more extensive than previously thought, according to new research scientists at the University of East Anglia and Cardiff University. The findings, published in the June 30 issue of the journal Science, indicate that the catastrophic freshwater release from glacial lakes in North America slowed ocean circulation and cooled the climate some 8200 years ago.
Future crop yields lower than expected under higher carbon dioxide levels
(06/29/2006) Open-air field trials involving five major food crops grown under carbon-dioxide levels projected for the future are yielding signifcantly less than those raised in earlier enclosed test conditions. Scientists at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign warn that global food supplies could be at risk without changes in production strategies.
Japan, China may be less affected by climate change
(06/28/2006) Temperature change in East Asian countries may be less significant than in countries bordering the North Atlantic, such as America and Great Britain, according to new research led by scientists at Newcastle University. Researchers examined pollen samples take from a Japanese lake sediment core and found moderate changes in temperature and precipitation during the period from 16,000 years ago to 10,000 years ago, a time that experienced climate change similar to what we expect in the near future.
Some earthquakes may be linked to climate change
(06/28/2006) Scientists say melting glaciers could induce tectonic activity. The reason? As ice melts and waters runs off, tremendous amounts of weight are lifted off of Earth's crust. As the newly freed crust settles back to its original, pre-glacier shape, it can cause seismic plates to slip and stimulate volcanic activity according to research into prehistoric earthquakes and volcanic activity.
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.
Last 50 years 'unusually warm', tropical glaciers melting rapidly finds research
(06/27/2006) Researchers studying ancient tropical ice cores have found evidence of two abrupt climate shifts -- one 5000 years ago and one currently underway. The findings, published in the current issue of the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Science, may have important implications for immediate future since more than two-thirds of the world's population resides in the tropics.
Documentary explores Borneo for possible anti-HIV medicine
(06/27/2006) Rainforest plants have long been recognized for their potential to provide healing compounds. Indigenous peoples of the rainforest have used medicinal plants for treating a wide variety of health conditions while western pharmacologists have derived a number of drugs from such plants.
When elephants attack. Surviving an elephant charge in the Congo rainforest of Gabon
(06/26/2006) The elephant charges. The ground trembles. Hearts racing, we are now sprinting through the forest dodging vegetation as the elephant plows right through it. The problem with being chased by an elephant, aside from their obvious size advantage, is they can run faster than you. While wild elephants can be dangerous animals under the right circumstances, other creatures are responsible for more deaths in Africa. Topping the list is the hippo, whose penchant for capsizing canoes that come too close results in the dumping of passengers who often can't swim. Buffalo, crocodiles, and lions are directly responsible for more deaths and injuries.
Consumers want environmentally friendly computers
(06/26/2006) A study conducted earlier this year by Ipsos-MORI on behalf of Greenpeace found that consumers say they would be willing to pay more for an environmentally friendly computer. The amounts ranged from $59 in Germany, $118 in UK, $199 in China and $229 in Mexico.
Pictures of Gabon: gorillas, rainforest and white sand beaches
(06/26/2006) Mongabay.com, a leading rainforest and environmental web site, today announced the availability of new photos from the Central African country of Gabon. Site founder Rhett A. Butler visited Loango National Park in Gabon in late May and early June.
Buffet to give nearly $31 billion to Gates foundation
(06/25/2006) In an interview with Fortune magazine, Berkshire Hathaway Chairman Warren Buffett announced he will give nearly $31 billion -- most of his wealth -- to the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. The decision comes shortly after Mr. Gates said he would leave Microsoft to work full time with his philanthropic organization, which is dedicated to bringing innovation to global health and education.
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.
Global Warming Fueled Record 2005 Hurricane Season Conclude Scientists
(06/22/2006) Global warming accounted for around half of the extra hurricane-fueling warmth in the waters of the tropical North Atlantic in 2005, while natural cycles were only a minor factor, according to a new analysis by Kevin Trenberth and Dennis Shea of the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR). The study will appear in the June 27 issue of Geophysical Research Letters, published by the American Geophysical Union
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