conservation news and environmental science news.
Protecting watersheds secures freshwater and saves billions of dollars
(03/19/2009) The World Water Forum brings together 25,000 experts this week in Istanbul, Turkey to discuss the water challenges facing a growing world. According to a compilation of case studies by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), which is sponsoring the event, one of the simplest and least expensive ways to have ample water for a growing human population is to protect watersheds. Not only do protected watersheds provide clean and easy-access water for many of the world's largest cities, their protection also saves billions of dollars.
Political turmoil in Madagascar threatens lemurs, parks
(03/19/2009) Political turmoil in Madagascar has wrecked the country's emerging ecotourism industry and is now threatening to undo decades of conservation work. Conservation in Madagascar is highly dependent on income from tourism. Half of park entrance fees are returned to communities living in and around protected areas. Without this source of income, locals in some areas may turn to conservation areas for timber, fuelwood, agricultural land, and wildlife as food and for export.
37,000 sq km of Amazon rainforest destroyed or damaged in 2008
(03/19/2009) Logging and fires damaged nearly 25,000 square kilometers (9,650 square miles) of Amazon rainforest in the August 2007-July 2008 period, an increase of 67 percent over the prior year period, according to a new mapping system developed by Brazil's National Institute for Space Research (INPE). The damage comes on top of the nearly 12,000 sq km (4,600 sq mi) of rainforest that was cleared during the year.
Photo: critically endangered vulture saved from poisoning
(03/19/2009) Seven critically-endangered white-rumped vultures were found dead in Cambodia after feeding on the corpse of a poisoned buffalo. Two survivors however were also apart of the group. An adult and a juvenile that had fed on the poisoned buffalo were sick but alive. The pair was sent to a veterinary clinic in Phnom Penh to be cared for by staff from the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) and the Angkor Centre for Conservation of Biodiversity (ACCB).
Rash of tiger attacks linked to deforestation by large paper corporation APP
(03/18/2009) The Sumatran tiger, a critically-endangered subspecies, is hanging on by a thread in its island home. Biologists estimate that at most 500 individuals remain with some estimates dropping as low as 250. Despite the animal's vulnerability, large-scale deforestation continues in its habitat mostly under the auspices of one of the world's largest paper companies, Asian Pulp and Paper (APP). Shrinking habitat and human encroachment has led to a rise in tragic tiger encounters, causing both human and feline mortalities.
Smallest Andean frog discovered in cloud forests of Peru
(03/18/2009) At 3,000 meters (9,842 feet) in the Andes herpetologists were surprised to discover a frog so small it could sit on a dime with room to spare. Further study showed that this new species, named Noble's pygmy frog, is the smallest frog in the Andean mountain range.
Plastic garbage accounts for one-third of leatherback sea turtle mortalities
(03/17/2009) A new study in Marine Pollution Bulletin has confirmed that the world's largest sea turtle is succumbing in startling numbers to an environmental issue that receives little attention: plastic trash in the oceans.
Mr. President, it is time for a speech on climate change
(03/17/2009) Now that Barack Obama has been president for nearly two months, it is time for him to give a defining speech on climate change. While Obama has spent most of his time on what the majority of Americans consider the most pressing issue—the economy—he has proven himself adept at juggling the economy with other vital issues. A fact-based speech on climate change would accomplish several goals.
Experts forecast probability of global warming tipping points
(03/16/2009) The probability of Earth's climate passing a "tipping point" that could result in large impacts within the next two centuries is greater than 50 percent, according to research published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences
Tuna industry launches new organization to save tuna from itself
(03/16/2009) Yesterday saw the launch of the International Seafood Sustainability Foundation (ISSF). Composed of scientists, environmental organizations, and the tuna industry, ISSF will focus on ensuring that tuna populations are preserved from overfishing.
Economic crisis hurts forestry sector, sustainability initiatives
(03/16/2009) The global economic crisis has slowed demand for timber products and may undermine efforts to improve the environmental performance of forestry, reports the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) in its biannual "State of the World's Forests 2009", released today.
Dams in Laos threaten Asia's largest waterfall, critically endangered river dolphin
(03/16/2009) Eleven proposed hydroelectric projects on the Mekong River in Southeast Asia threaten migratory fish stocks, regional food security, and the livelihoods of millions of people, warns a new campaign launched by environmental groups.
Shortsighted recommendations to eat more fish ignore large-scale environmental impact
(03/16/2009) Recommendations by international health agencies, doctors, nutritionists, and the media to consume more fish for better health ignore the fact that fish stock are collapsing worldwide, reports a new study published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal. “Even at current levels of fish consumption, fisheries globally have reached a state of severe crisis. Already, the demand from affluent and developing economies, particularly newly affluent China, cannot be met by the world’s fisheries,” states the new report.
Rise in sea levels due to global warming could imperil New York City
(03/16/2009) A new study shows that sea levels along the United States' northeastern coast will rise nearly twice as fast during this century than previous predictions. By 2100 the waters around New York city could rise as much as 18 inches, leaving Manhattan particularly vulnerable to flooding from hurricanes and winter storm surges.
Fastest evolving bird family produces new species
(03/16/2009) Discovered in the Solomon Island of Vanikoro, a new species of bird from the white-eye family leads credence to the belief that white-eyes are the world's fastest evolving family of birds.
85% of the Amazon rainforest may be lost due to global warming
(03/14/2009) Warming climate could decimate up to 85 percent of the Amazon rainforest by 2150, according to a new computer model.
Shells thinning due to ocean acidification
(03/13/2009) By soaking up excess CO2 from the atmosphere oceans are undergoing a rise in acidity which is having ramifications across their ecosystems, most frequently highlighted in the plight of coral reefs around the world. However, a new study in Nature Geoscience shows that the acidification is affecting another type of marine life. Foraminifera, a tiny amoeba-like entity numbering in the billions, have experienced a 30 to 35 percent drop in their shell-weight due to the high acidity of the oceans.
New greenhouse gas ‘4,800 times more potent’ than carbon
(03/12/2009) Scientists from MIT and Scipps Institution of Oceanography have announced the discovery of an exceptionally potent new greenhouse gas. Sulfuryl fluoride is an up-and-coming fumigant against insects, but scientists have discovered that if the new gas becomes widely used it could contribute significantly to climate change.
More Americans than ever believe global warming is ‘exaggerated’ by media
(03/12/2009) While a majority of Americans believe the media is either correct or underestimating the threat of climate change, more than ever believe the threat is exaggerated.
Historic US law now extends to illegal logging
(03/11/2009) Enacted in 1900 by William F. McKinley the Lacey Act is the oldest wildlife protection law in the US; for a over a century it has protected animals from being illegally hunted and trafficked. An amendment made last year has now extended the law to protect plants for the first time, making it possible for the US to support efforts abroad and at home to combat illegal logging.
Elephants populations in the Congo drop 80 percent in fifty years
(03/11/2009) According to the conservation organization Wildlife Direct , Wildlife Direct a recent survey of elephants in the Democratic Republic of Congo reveals that populations have dropped 80 percent in fifty years. The survey was conducted by John Hart using forest inventories, aerial surveys, and interview with local peoples.
Dedicated rock-throwing chimp proves longterm planning
(03/10/2009) Biologists have suspected for a long time that animals other than humans are capable of making plans for future events, but it has proven difficult to show conclusively. However, a new study in Current Biology claims the first unambiguous evidence of an animal premeditating. Mathias Osvath of Lund University in Sweden has spent a decade observing a male chimpanzee in a zoo collecting stones, making them into concrete discs, and then throwing them at zoo visitors.
Poison frog diversity linked to the Andes
(03/10/2009) Electric colors, wild markings, and toxic skin have made poison frogs well-known inhabitants of the Amazon rainforest. With 353 recognized species, and probably more awaiting discovery, poison frogs are an incredibly diverse group of amphibians. While it has long been believed that the Amazon basin, itself, was the source of their diversity, a new study published in PLoS Biology has uncovered that the Andes mountain chain has served as an oven of evolutionary biodiversity for poison frogs over several million years.
Seven new species of deep sea coral discovered
(03/09/2009) In the depths of the Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument, which surrounds ten Hawaiian islands, scientists discovered seven new species of bamboo coral. Supported by the National Ocean and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the discoveries are even more surprising in that six of the seven species may represent entirely new genus of coral.
All about giraffes: an interview with a giraffe expert
(03/09/2009) Dr. Julian Fennessy probably knows the giraffe better than anyone. Trekking across savannah, forest, and the deserts of Africa, Fennessy is collecting genetic samples of distinct giraffe populations and overturning common wisdom regarding their taxonomies. It had long been accepted knowledge that the giraffe was made up of one species and several subspecies, however with Fennessy's work it now appears that several of the subspecies may in fact be distinct species. Such discoveries could have large conservation impacts, since conservation funds and efforts are largely devoted to species. The giraffe has suffered significant declines in the past decade with the total population dropping some 30 percent across Africa.
Rarest rhino caught on film wallowing in mud with calf
(03/06/2009) In a scene that appears out of an old jungle movie, The World Wildlife Fund (WWF) has caught the world’s rarest rhino on film. With less than 60 Javan rhinos estimated to exist in the wild, it is one of the world’s most imperiled species.
Infant blue whale filmed underwater
(03/06/2009) Off the waters of Costa Rica in January 2008 scientists and photographers with National Geographic filmed an infant blue whale swimming near its mother. They believe this is the first time a baby blue whale has been filmed underwater.
In exchange for marriage certificate Indonesians must donate trees
(03/05/2009) An Indonesian district in West Java, Garut, has started a unique program to support reforestation. As reported by Reuters, any couple planning to get married must give ten trees to local authorities for reforestation efforts before marriage will be legally sanctioned.
Drought threatens the Amazon rainforest as a carbon sink
(03/05/2009) Drought in the Amazon is imperiling the rainforest ecosystem and global climate, reports new research published in Science. Analyzing the impact of the severe Amazon drought of 2005, a team of 68 researchers across 13 countries found evidence that rainfall-starved tropical forests lose massive amounts of carbon due to reduced plant growth and dying trees. The 2005 drought — triggered by warming in the tropical North Atlantic rather than el Niño — resulted in a net flux of 5 billion tons of carbon dioxide (CO2) into the atmosphere — more than the combined annual emissions of Japan and Europe — relative to normal years when the Amazon is a net sink for 2 billion tons of CO2.
'Stopgap’ to preserve US bats from devastating fungus
(03/05/2009) Half a million bats have succumbed to a mysterious fungal disease known as white-nose syndrome in two years. Found in seven states in the northeastern US, this syndrome has left biologists baffled since first discovered in 2006. While researchers are still trying to uncover the relationship of the syndrome to the bats, a recent study published in Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment e-View suggests a way to mitigate the syndrome devastating affect. Employing a mathematical simulation the researchers found that using localized heat sources on hibernating bats may preserve populations while a long-term solution is found.
When science hijacks conservation funding
(03/04/2009) A scientist's job is to create new knowledge. Thus it is not surprising that scientists are most interested in their own research. Scientists use many methods to raise funds to support their research agendas and build their reputations. Scientists collect information, publish their results, and seek out new opportunities. Because science is a tool that can be used for conservation, scientists often seek donations from conservation organizations to support their research projects.
Clean energy investment moving too slowly to avoid irreversible climate change
(03/04/2009) Stalled clean energy investment due to the current recession makes severe climate change more likely, according to a new report by analysts with New Energy Finance (NEF).
Only one out of 91 antelope species is on the rise
(03/04/2009) The springbok is the only antelope species whose population is on the rise, according to a new review by the Red List for the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). In addition, over a quarter of the antelopes, 25 species out of 91, are considered threatened with extinction. “Unsustainable harvesting, whether for food or traditional medicine, and human encroachment on their habitat are the main threats facing antelopes,” says Dr Philippe Chardonnet, Co-Chair of the IUCN Antelope Specialist Group.
Indonesia applies for REDD partnership to protect forests
(03/04/2009) Indonesia has applied to join the World Bank's Forest Carbon Partnership Facility, becoming the largest developing country to apply to a program that seeks to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by saving tropical forests, reports Reuters.
Amazon deforestation drops 70% for Nov 2008-Jan 2009 period
(03/04/2009) Deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon fell to 291 square miles (754 square kilometers) in the November 2008-January 2009 window, a drop of 70 percent compared to the year earlier period when 976 sq mi (2,527 sq km), said Environment Minister Carlos Minc.
Climate change could devastate lizards in the tropics
(03/04/2009) With help from data collected thirty years ago, scientists have discovered that tropical lizards may be particularly sensitive to a warming world. Researchers found that lizards in the tropics are more sensitive to higher temperatures than their relatives in cooler, yet more variable climates. "The least heat-tolerant lizards in the world are found at the lowest latitudes, in the tropical forests. I find that amazing," said Raymond Huey, lead author of a paper appearing in the March 4 Proceedings of the Royal Society B.
Papua New Guinea creates first nature reserve
(03/03/2009) Home to numerous endemic species and some of the Asia's last intact tropical forests, Papua New Guinea has created its first national conservation area. Unique in structure, the park is owned by 35 surrounding indigenous villages which have agreed unanimously to prohibit hunting, logging, mining, and other development within the park. The villages have also created a community organization that will oversee management of the park. The 10,000 villagers found partners in Wooland Park Zoo in Seattle, Conservation International, and National Geographic. The conservation organizations spent twelve years working with locals and the Papua New Guinea government to establish the YUS Conservation Area.
Tigers continue killing rampage in Indonesia
(03/03/2009) Two more illegal loggers were attacked and killed Sunday night in Sungai Gelam district in Jambi Province on the island of Sumatra, reports the Jakarta Post. The deaths bring the total number of people killed by tigers in the province since January 24th to nine.
Economic crisis hits conservation but may offer opportunities, says TNC president
(03/03/2009) In 2008 The Nature Conservancy (TNC) surprised the conservation world when it selected Mark Tercek, an investment banker from Goldman Sachs, as its new president and CEO. But for people who have worked with Tercek, the move made strategic sense – Tercek was a leading figure in the Goldman's effort to improve its environmental record. In 2005 Tercek was appointed to head up the firm's Environmental Strategy Group, which develops and implements its environmental policy, and its Center for Environmental Markets, an initiative that examines market-based solutions to environmental challenges. In that role Tercek worked with pioneers in ecosystem services science, including Gretchen Daily of Stanford University; John Holdren, the former director of the Woods Hole Research Center and currently President Obama's chief scientific adviser; and Peter Kareiva, chief scientist at TNC.
Cameroon may liquidate rainforest reserve if conservationists don't step forward
(03/02/2009) The opportunity to conserve a one million hectare tract rainforest in Cameroon is fast dwindling due financial pressures in the Central African country, reports a bulletin from the Ngoyla Mintom Foundation. In 2002 the government of Cameroon suspended logging rights and extended an offer to protect Ngoyla Mintom — a forest reserve that houses 4,000 lowland gorillas, 1,500 endangered chimpanzees, 3,000 forest elephants and an important population of vulnerable Mandrills — provided someone step forward to pay for it. To date there have been no takers. Now facing a mounting economic crisis, the government of Cameroon says it will soon concession Ngoyla Mintom for logging.
Aquatic animals emit powerful greenhouse gas
(03/02/2009) A number of water-dwelling species emit the greenhouse gas nitrous oxide, researchers announced today in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences . Although nitrous oxide is low in concentration globally, it is considered the fourth largest contributor to climate change. This is due to its potency: in a hundred year period nitrous oxide by weight packs 310 times more punch as a greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide.
Time to give up on Tasmanian tiger, says DNA expert
(03/02/2009) Money and energy spent on finding the Tasmanian tiger should be used for other conservation purposes, according to Dr. Jeremy Austin from the University of Adelaide’s Centre for Ancient DNA. The Tasmanian tiger, or Thylacine, has captured the imagination of cryptozoologists ever since the last known individual died in the 1936 in the Hobart Zoo, which closed the next year. There have been several unreported sightings throughout the island since the 1930s, including inconclusive photos taken by German tourists.
Largest US protest on climate change today
(03/02/2009) At 1 PM EST activists from across the US plan to engage in civil disobedience at Capitol Power Plant in Washington DC. Organizers from 90 different groups estimate that more than 2,500 people will be joining in the protests making it the largest US protest on climate change to date. Owned by congress, Capital Power Plant is seen by activists as a longtime symbol of the US government’s consistent support for the use of coal, the leading source of CO2 emissions in the US.
14,000-barrel oil spill in the Ecuadorean Amazon
(02/27/2009) A ruptured oil pipeline caused 14,000 barrels of crude to spill into a river in the Napo region in northeast Ecuador, an area known for its high biological diversity, reports Reuters.
Deforestation blamed for tiger maulings in Sumatra
(02/27/2009) WWF has attributed six recent killings of villagers by tigers to deforestation in Sumatra. Habitat loss — together with prey depletion by hunting — is believed to be driving tiger-human conflict on the Indonesia island.
Massive freshwater stingray takes 13 men to pull it ashore in Thailand
(02/27/2009) It took ninety minutes and thirteen men to reel in an astounding specimen of giant freshwater stingray on the Ban Pakong River in Thailand. At seven feet wide and weighing an estimated 580-770 pounds (265-350 kilograms), the monstrous fish is thought to be the largest freshwater fish ever caught with a rod and line, according to Fishsiam, a company that provides fishing tours in Thailand.
China's emissions rise 45%, but Western demand accounts for 30% of increase
(02/26/2009) Thirteen-and-a-half percent of China's 45 percent rise in greenhouse gas emissions between 2002 and 2005 can be attributed to export production for Western countries, reports a new study published in Geophysical Research Letters. In other words, outsourcing of manufacturing by American and European firms accounted for larger share of carbon dioxide emission growth than rising domestic consumption in China (which made of 7 percent of the figure). The results, which indicate that Western companies are effectively outsourcing emissions along with manufacturing, have implications for future climate treaties, says one of the authors.
Could America’s 700 billion stimulus have saved life on earth?
(02/26/2009) In a January op-ed in Science, ecologist Jaboury Ghazoul wistfully and wittily ponders how far the 789 billion stimulus bill recently passed by the US Congress could go toward saving our planet's embattled life-forms. In his essay, Ghazoul suggests we put the 700 billion “in the context of the species extinction crisis”. According to various scientific analyses the extinction rate is currently 100 to 1,000 times the average. Such a catastrophic loss of species—while making the world a lonelier and less interesting place—will unpredictably reshape ecosystems we depend on, causing social, political, and economic upheaval.
400-million-year-old fish at risk from harbor project
(02/26/2009) A harbor project in Tanzania may put a population of coelacanth at risk, reports Nature News.
Illegal fishing estimated at $10-24B per year
(02/26/2009) Global losses from illegal and unreported fishing are estimated at $10-23.5 billion per year, according to a new study published in PLoS One. Analyzing fishing data from 54 countries, David J. Agnew of Imperial College London and colleagues estimate the "Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated" (IUU) fish catch at 11 to 26 million tons per each year. The authors found a strong link between governance and illegal fishing — illicit practices were most widespread in developing countries with poor monitoring and law enforcement. Estimated catches in West Africa were 40 percent higher than reported catches.
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