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sixth extinction
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News stories about "sixth extinction," with punchlines: http://apocadocs.com/d.pl?sixth+extinction
Related Scary Tags:
ecosystem interrelationships  ~ hunting to extinction  ~ anthropogenic change  ~ massive die-off  ~ climate impacts  ~ overfishing  ~ global warming  ~ habitat loss  ~ death spiral  ~ holyshit  ~ ocean acidification  



Thu, Apr 14, 2016
from NYTimes, via DesdemonaDespair:
The Looming 'Planetary Crisis': Mass Bleaching of the Coral Reefs
The damage off Kiritimati is part of a mass bleaching of coral reefs around the world, only the third on record and possibly the worst ever. Scientists believe that heat stress from multiple weather events including the latest, severe El Niño, compounded by climate change, has threatened more than a third of Earth's coral reefs. Many may not recover. Coral reefs are the crucial incubators of the ocean's ecosystem, providing food and shelter to a quarter of all marine species, and they support fish stocks that feed more than one billion people. They are made up of millions of tiny animals, called polyps, that form symbiotic relationships with algae, which in turn capture sunlight and carbon dioxide to make sugars that feed the polyps. An estimated 30 million small-scale fishermen and women depend on reefs for their livelihoods, more than one million in the Philippines alone. In Indonesia, fish supported by the reefs provide the primary source of protein. "This is a huge, looming planetary crisis, and we are sticking our heads in the sand about it," said Justin Marshall, the director of CoralWatch at Australia's University of Queensland.... ...


Surely we can devise a few million floating solar-powered water coolers to stabilize those reefs!

ApocaDoc
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Fri, Jan 22, 2016
from Phys.org:
Evolutionary clock ticks for snowshoe hares facing climate change
Snowshoe hares that camouflage themselves by changing their coats from brown in summer to white in winter face serious threats from climate change, and it's uncertain whether hare populations will be able to adapt in time, according to a North Carolina State University study. Based on field research with radio-collared snowshoe hares in Montana, mismatched snowshoe hares suffer a 7 percent drop in their weekly survival rate when snow comes late or leaves early and white hares stand out to predators like "light bulbs" against their snowless backgrounds.... Camouflage mismatch has the potential to impact at least 14 species worldwide that change coat colors seasonally, Mills says. His team of researchers is expanding the coat color research to other species globally, including mountain hares, white-tailed jackrabbits, weasels and arctic foxes. ...


Hare today, gone tomorrow.

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Mon, Aug 17, 2015
from Gail at Wit:
Dispatch from the Endocene, #9
Following is the transcript from my segment on Extinction Radio which airs Sunday, August 16 ... The Dead zone in the Gulf of Mexico is larger this summer than it has ever been, about the size of Connecticut and Rhode Island combined.... [Elsewhere,] "The toxic algae blooms in the Pacific Ocean stretching from southern California to Alaska -- already the largest ever recorded -- appear to have reached as far as the Aleutian Islands, scientists say. "The anecdotal evidence suggests we're having a major event," said Bruce Wright... "Insecticides that are sprayed in orchards and fields across North America may be more toxic to spiders than scientists previously believed"... "[T]he recent determination that cancer is almost entirely the result of exposure to various modern toxins"... "Every year over the last decade and a half, the U.S. Geological Survey has descended on Yosemite and Sequoia National Parks in California to give 17,000 trees a physical. But in a growing number of cases, what's starting off as a check-up is turning into an autopsy."... "I used to call them 'the immortals,' because they just never seemed to die," he says. "In the fourth year of drought, they've started dying by the bucket-loads. So they're no longer the immortals." ...


If all this were really happening, I'd be hearing about it on the news. Because that's what they're giving us, right? News? What's really happening?

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Sat, Jun 27, 2015
from Vice:
Sea Stars in Death Match With Themselves
But Gong quickly understood that this was different. Her [sea] stars weren't merely shedding their arms. They were tearing them off. They were tearing them off the way a man, lacking access to a sharp tool, might tear off one of his own arms: by using one arm to wrench the other out of its socket. "They twisted their arms together," Gong said, "and they'd pull and pull and pull, until one of them came off. Then the arm walks away because it doesn't know that it's dead. It was horrific. They weren't just dying. They were tearing themselves to pieces." ... Nobody knew exactly what to call it. Was it a die-off? A plague? A population crash? An extinction event? Scientists began referring to it as "the Wasting." ... "It was creepy," said Raimondi, using a term one doesn't typically hear from biologists. The Wasting has that effect. It makes scientists, who tend to choose their words with severe caution, speak like teenagers. In conversations they kept using words like "shock," "horror," and "nightmare." ... Raimondi has recently received reports of mass wasting among sea urchin populations. He does not know whether the same densovirus is responsible, but it looks familiar. "It's a lot like the early days for sea stars," he told me. ...


Bad enough we're losing the birds and bats and bees. We're going to lose the stars, too?

ApocaDoc
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Sun, May 3, 2015
from Clapway:
Study Says Large Herbivores on Verge of Extinction
If the results of a recent study conducted by wildlife experts at Oregon State University is correct, large herbivores are on the verge of extinction all over the world. The study of 74 different kinds of plant eaters showed that there has been a very large reduction in large plant eaters, especially in Africa and Asia, where the majority of them travel and reside. Professor William Ripple, the lead author of the study, announced that results point to as much as 60 percent of the large herbivores that weight over 220lbs are dying off due to things like habitat loss, climate change, over hunting, poaching, and global warming issues. ...


Little Jack Horner, come blow your horn! / All your cow's relatives may never be born!

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Wed, Dec 31, 2014
from Associated Press:
More Monarchs return to Mexico, but now face cold
More Monarch butterflies appear to have made the long flight from the U.S. and Canada to their winter nesting ground in western Mexico, raising hopes after their number dropped to a record low last year. But experts still fear that unusual cold temperatures will threaten the orange and black insects. While an official census won't be ready until mid-January, observers are seeing healthy populations of butterflies bunched together on fir and pine trees in protected sanctuaries... Mexico's National Meteorological Service predicts 55 cold fronts for the country through May, a 15 percent increase from the average, and with the possibility for repeated cold systems to extend into March and April. ...


We're going to have to knit them little hats, coats and mittens.

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Tue, Dec 30, 2014
from Reuters:
Monarch butterfly eyed for possible U.S. endangered species protection
Monarch butterflies may warrant U.S. Endangered Species Act protection because of farm-related habitat loss blamed for sharp declines in cross-country migrations of the orange-and-black insects, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service said on Monday. Monarch populations are estimated to have fallen by as much as 90 percent during the past two decades because of destruction of milkweed plants they depend on to lay their eggs and nourish hatching larvae, according to the Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation. ...


No crying over spilled milk(weed).

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Mon, Nov 17, 2014
from Ecology Action Center:
Atlantic Bluefin Tuna Quota Raised Despite Risk, Shark Conservation Measures Fail Again
The 19th Special Meeting of the International Commission on the Conservation of Atlantic Tuna (ICCAT) concluded today in Genoa, Italy. This year, Canada and the other ICCAT contracting parties who fish for western Atlantic bluefin tuna agreed to increase the quota for the 2015 and 2016 fishing years. ICCAT members also raised the quota for the eastern stock for the 2015, 2016 and 2017 years.... "These tuna are in a precarious state. While Canada claims to be committed to the precautionary approach, which requires that they exercise caution when scientific information is uncertain, they directly contravened any commitment to precaution at ICCAT this year by agreeing to a quota increase," explains Schleit. "Equally disappointing was the lack of transparency during quota negotiations. We think that Canadians deserve to know what their government is advocating for on their behalf." ...


The tuna will surely increase reproduction in response to our increased demand!

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Thu, Sep 11, 2014
from Guardian:
Amazon deforestation jumps 29 percent last year
The destruction of the world's largest rainforest accelerated last year with a 29 percent spike in deforestation, according to final figures released by the Brazilian government on Wednesday that confirmed a reversal in gains seen since 2009. Satellite data for the 12 months through the end of July 2013 showed that 5,891 sq km of forest were cleared in the Brazilian Amazon, an area half the size of Puerto Rico. Fighting the destruction of the Amazon is considered crucial for reducing global warming because deforestation worldwide accounts for 15 percent of annual emissions of heat-trapping gases, more than the entire transportation sector. Besides being a giant carbon sink, the Amazon is a biodiversity sanctuary, holding billions of species yet to be studied. ...


That biodiversity will just have to go somewheres else. There's money waiting to be made!

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Tue, Aug 26, 2014
from London Independent:
Pulitzer-winning scientist warns wildlife face a 'biological holocaust'
Half the planet should be set aside solely for the protection of wildlife to prevent the "mass extinction" of species, according to one of the world's leading biologists. The radical conservation strategy proposed by Dr E.O. Wilson, the hugely-influential 85-year old Harvard University scientist, would see humans essentially withdraw from half of the Earth. ...


I nominate Asia and Africa!

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Sat, Aug 23, 2014
from Mongabay, via DesdemonaDespair:
Twenty percent of Africa's elephants killed in three years - 'We are shredding the fabric of elephant society and exterminating populations across the continent'
Around 100,000 elephants were killed by poachers for their ivory on the African continent in just three years, according to a new paper in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Between 2010 and 2012 an average of 6.8 percent of the elephant population was killed annually, equaling just over 20 percent of the continent's population in that time. Elephant deaths are now exceeding births, which on average are 5 percent annually.... ...


And tragically, the remaining 80 percent never forgets.

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Fri, Aug 15, 2014
from BBC:
Giant prehistoric Amazon fish 'locally extinct' due to overfishing
A 10ft (3m) long fish which used to dominate the Amazon river has been fished to extinction in a number of areas, scientists have revealed. Arapaima populations were found to be extinct in eight of the 41 communities studied, and extremely low on average.... Previously, bio economic theory predicted that fishing does not cause extinctions because fishermen inevitably move away from depleted resources. Scientists, led by Dr Leandro Castello, from Virginia Tech, US, wanted to know how healthy the arapaima populations in the Lower Amazon region were. They also wanted to find out whether these fisheries supported bio economic predictions, or the alternative fishing-down theory which predicts that large, high-value, easy-to-catch fish will be fished to extinction.... Almost a quarter of the fishermen in each community fished arapaima regardless of the population's status. The research team say the results contradict conventional economic thinking and instead support "fishing-down" predictions. ...


Bio-economics: The dismal bioscience.

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Mon, Jul 28, 2014
from Stanford University:
Biologist warn of early stages of Earth's sixth mass extinction event
The planet's current biodiversity, the product of 3.5 billion years of evolutionary trial and error, is the highest in the history of life. But it may be reaching a tipping point. Scientists caution that the loss and decline of animals is contributing to what appears to be the early days of the planet's sixth mass biological extinction event. Since 1500, more than 320 terrestrial vertebrates have become extinct. Populations of the remaining species show a 25 percent average decline in abundance. The situation is similarly dire for invertebrate animal life. ...


Evolution didn't plan on us.

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Want more context?
Try reading our book FREE online:
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More fun than a barrel of jellyfish!
Tue, Jul 8, 2014
from Reuters, via HuffingtonPost:
Pope Francis Calls Exploitation Of Nature The Sin Of Our Time
"This is one of the greatest challenges of our time: to convert ourselves to a type of development that knows how to respect creation," he told students, struggling farmers, and laid-off workers in a university hall. "When I look at America, also my own homeland (South America), so many forests, all cut, that have become land ... that can longer give life. This is our sin, exploiting the Earth and not allowing her to her give us what she has within her," the Argentine pope said in unprepared remarks. Francis, who took his name from Francis of Assisi, the 13th century saint seen as the patron of animals and the environment, is writing an encyclical on man's relationship with nature. ...


You mean God didn't place us on the earth to use it up as fast as possible?

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Tue, Jul 8, 2014
from Huffington Post:
Battle Over Protection Of Obscure Bird Could Decide Fate Of Senate This November
An obscure, chicken-sized bird best known for its mating dance could help determine whether Democrats or Republicans control the U.S. Senate in November. The federal government is considering listing the greater sage grouse as an endangered species next year. Doing so could limit development, energy exploration, hunting and ranching on the 165 million acres of the bird's habitat across 11 Western states... Two Republican congressmen running for the U.S. Senate in Montana and Colorado, Steve Daines and Cory Gardner, are co-sponsoring legislation that would prevent the federal government from listing the bird for a decade as long as states try to protect it. ...


We're going to do our gosh-darned best to protect the planet!

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Mon, Jul 7, 2014
from Los Angeles Times:
U.S. reverses proposal to list wolverine as threatened species
A U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service official has ordered federal biologists to withdraw their conclusion that the last 300 wolverines in the continental United States deserve threatened species status. The biologists had recommended the protection on grounds that climate change is destined to destroy the near-arctic conditions of the remaining animals' habitat -- even though the population of about 300 has shown signs of slight growth in recent years.... The states also warned that safeguarding the animals could have dire economic effects on recreational activities, development and trapping on large swaths of alpine terrain already locally managed for wolverines in their states. ...


At least we'll always have the X-Men movies.

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Thu, Jun 12, 2014
from GuyMcPherson.com:
Guy McPherson Sings Sad Songs without Solace
... American actress Lily Tomlin is credited with the expression, "No matter how cynical you become, it's never enough to keep up." With respect to climate science, my own efforts to stay abreast are blown away every week by new data, models, and assessments. It seems no matter how dire the situation becomes, it only gets worse when I check the latest reports.... I'm not implying conspiracy among scientists. Science selects for conservatism. Academia selects for extreme conservatism. These folks are loathe to risk drawing undue attention to themselves by pointing out there might be a threat to civilization. Never mind the near-term threat to our entire species (they couldn't care less about other species). If the truth is dire, they can find another, not-so-dire version.... Gradual change is not guaranteed, as pointed out by the U.S. National Academy of Sciences in December 2013: "The history of climate on the planet -- as read in archives such as tree rings, ocean sediments, and ice cores -- is punctuated with large changes that occurred rapidly, over the course of decades to as little as a few years." ...


This article changes my perspective entirely on my credit score.

ApocaDoc
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Thu, May 29, 2014
from AP, via HuffingtonPost:
World On Brink Of Sixth Great Extinction, Species Disappearing Faster Than Ever Before
Species of plants and animals are becoming extinct at least 1,000 times faster than they did before humans arrived on the scene, and the world is on the brink of a sixth great extinction, a new study says.... "We are on the verge of the sixth extinction," Pimm said from research at the Dry Tortugas. "Whether we avoid it or not will depend on our actions." The work, published Thursday by the journal Science, was hailed as a landmark study by outside experts. ...


Alas, poor species. We knew them, Horatio, small fellows of infinite jest, of most excellent fancies.

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Wed, May 14, 2014
from U of VT, via EurekAlert:
Surprising global species shake-up discovered
... But the researchers did discover something changing rapidly: which species were living in the places being studied. Almost 80 percent of the communities the team examined showed substantial changes in species composition, averaging about 10 percent change per decade -- significantly higher than the rate of change predicted by models. In other words, this new report shows that a huge turnover of species in habitats around the globe is under way, resulting in the creation of novel biological communities. "Right under our noses, in the same place that a team might have looked a decade earlier, or even just a year earlier, a new assemblage of plants and animals may be taking hold," Gotelli says. ...


Maybe this proves that Nature will evolve itself out of the crisis humans have created!

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Mon, Feb 17, 2014
from Aarhus University:
Arctic biodiversity under serious threat from climate change
Climate change caused by human activities is by far the worst threat to biodiversity in the Arctic. Some of these changes are already visible. Unique and irreplaceable Arctic wildlife and landscapes are crucially at risk due to global warming caused by human activities according to a new report prepared by 253 scientists from 15 countries. ...


Arcticktockticktock...

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Mon, Feb 3, 2014
from University of Leicester:
Rat islands 'a laboratory of future evolution': Rats predicted to fill in Earth's emptying ecospace
... Dr Jan Zalasiewicz from the Department of Geology at the University of Leicester suggests that we better get used to having rats around -- and that their global influence is likely to grow in the future as larger mammals continue to become extinct... As rats fill the newly opened ecospace left in the wake of other extinct mammals, over time they, like many species of animal, experience evolutionary adaptation. Gigantism can occur in animals as they adapt to their environment and Dr Zalasiewicz believes that rats will prove to be no exception to this timeless rule. ...


We look forward not just to rats but to gigantic rats!

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Sun, Jan 19, 2014
from Telegraph (UK):
UK weather: mild spell causes birds to break into song and flowers to bloom
... Wildlife experts have received dozens of reports of snowdrops blooming across the UK, nearly a month before they would normally be expected.... Some birds have also been recorded nesting while the first reports of song thrush singing arrived on 13 January now several have been spotted around the country.... "For insects and amphibians it is not so rosy. Ladybirds, for example, have finite energy reserves and nectar at this time of year will be thin on the ground, so they might not make it through to the spring. "Similarly frogs only get one chance to breed each year and if it gets very cold the spawn can freeze and will be lost if they are fooled into breeding too early." Since the start of January much of the country has seen temperatures in double figures, with the average temperature for the whole country last week being around 47.6 degrees F.... However, the heavy rain, strong winds and tidal surges that have accompanied the mild conditions have also taken their toll on many species. Waterfowl such as ducks, which have been nesting earlier than usual due to the mild conditions, had their nests destroyed by flooding. Sussex Wildlife Trust has reported swallows nesting and several species of butterflies on its nature reserve. ...


Jeez, wildlife -- toughen up!

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Thu, Oct 31, 2013
from Environmental Health News:
As people live longer, threats to wildlife increase, study finds
As countries' human life expectancy grows, so do their numbers of invasive and endangered species, according to a new study by University of California, Davis researchers. The researchers examined social, economic and ecological information for 100 countries to determine which factors are most strongly linked to endangered and invasive birds and mammals. Human life expectancy is rarely included in such studies but turned out to be the best predictor of invasions and endangerment in these countries, according to the study published in Ecology and Society. "Increased life expectancy means that people live longer and affect the planet longer; each year is another year of carbon footprint, ecological footprint, use of natural resources, etc. The magnitude of this impact is increased as more people live longer," the authors wrote. ...


Who ya calling an old fart?

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Mon, Oct 28, 2013
from GSA, via EurekAlert:
Next generation science standards and drive toward climate literacy generate synchronicity of ideas
... Working with the National Research Council (NRC), an advisory group of scientists, cutting-edge child education experts, and science teachers have developed the first set of science teaching standards in more than 15 years. This framework for science education offers students and teachers the means to engage with science through more hands-on experiences and includes a section on developing climate literacy, which has not previously been included.... One of the biggest shifts in the NGSS, says Wysession, "is a real emphasis on the anthroposphere." The relevance of earth science and engineering to the human experience, and conversely, the impact of humans on earth systems, is presented in a way never attempted before. "Climate now is the capstone" for all interdisciplinary science, says Wysession. Climate literacy, says Wysession, "is critically important, for one, because it's an incredibly delicate system," which has shaped the evolution of life and human civilizations for eons.... ...


The mother of all human sciences: species survival.

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Mon, Sep 30, 2013
from NewScientist:
Climate report: Lull in warming doesn't mean we're safe
Humanity's role in driving climate change is more certain than ever before, but the most extreme scenarios of future warming are looking less likely than a few years ago. This is the upshot of the latest scientific assessment from the UN's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), published today.... The new report leaves no doubt that a storm is brewing. It is unequivocal -- temperatures are rising and human activity is to blame. Without drastic action to curb emissions, it says, the world faces a century of strong warming, in which glaciers and ice sheets melt, sea levels rise, the oceans acidify, weather systems shift and rainfall patterns change.... this stark warning will be sidelined by the scientific conundrum over the "missing heat" that should, according to most climate models, have been warming the atmosphere ever faster these past few decades. This may be a short-term blip -- perhaps a result of the oceans temporarily taking up more heat from the atmosphere, says one of the IPCC's lead authors, Myles Allen of the University of Oxford. The report underlines that, whatever is happening to the atmosphere, the oceans continue to warm dramatically. ...


Damn you, ocean, for trying to save us all.

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Sun, Sep 15, 2013
from Seattle Sun-Times:
Actual journalism on ocean acidification
Imagine every person on Earth tossing a hunk of CO2 as heavy as a bowling ball into the sea. That's what we do to the oceans every day.... Scientists once considered that entirely good news, since it removed CO2 from the sky. Some even proposed piping more emissions to the sea. But all that CO2 is changing the chemistry of the ocean faster than at any time in human history. Now the phenomenon known as ocean acidification -- the lesser-known twin of climate change -- is helping push the seas toward a great unraveling that threatens to scramble marine life on a scale almost too big to fathom, and far faster than first expected.... "There's a train wreck coming and we are in a position to slow that down and make it not so bad," said Stephen Palumbi, a professor of evolutionary and marine biology at Stanford University. "But if we don't start now the wreck will be enormous."... Roughly a quarter of organisms studied by researchers actually do better in high CO2. Another quarter seem unaffected. But entire marine systems are built around the remaining half of susceptible plants and animals.... [T]he winners will mostly be the weeds."... The pace of change has caught everyone off guard. ...


... the weeds, the vermin, the generalists that reproduce quickly. Plague of rats, weeds, and insects, anyone?

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You're still reading! Good for you!
You really should read our short, funny, frightening book FREE online (or buy a print copy):
Humoring the Horror of the Converging Emergencies!
We've been quipping this stuff for more than 30 months! Every day!
Which might explain why we don't get invited to parties anymore.
Sat, May 25, 2013
from Tom Englehardt:
Terracide: The Biggest Criminal Enterprise in History
We have a word for the conscious slaughter of a racial or ethnic group: genocide. And one for the conscious destruction of aspects of the environment: ecocide. But we don't have a word for the conscious act of destroying the planet we live on, the world as humanity had known it until, historically speaking, late last night. A possibility might be "terracide" from the Latin word for earth. It has the right ring, given its similarity to the commonplace danger word of our era: terrorist.... And yes, when it comes to terror attacks, the Boston Marathon bombings weren't pretty either. But in both cases, those who committed the acts paid for or will pay for their crimes. In the case of the terrarists -- and here I'm referring in particular to the men who run what may be the most profitable corporations on the planet, giant energy companies like ExxonMobil, Chevron, ConocoPhillips, BP, and Shell -- you're the one who's going to pay, especially your children and grandchildren. You can take one thing for granted: not a single terrarist will ever go to jail, and yet they certainly knew what they were doing. ...


Terrarism in the name of the Profit is still a crime.

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Tue, Apr 23, 2013
from Sydney Morning Herald:
Indonesian forest open for mining, logging
A mining company has boasted of an Indonesian government decision to free up 1.2 million hectares of virgin forest in Aceh for commercial exploitation. The announcement to the Canadian stock exchange late on Tuesday was met with disbelief by environmental groups worried about endangered orang-utans, Sumatran tigers, rhinos and elephants across the heavily forested region. But Ed Rochette, chief executive of Canadian mining company East Asia Minerals, celebrated the ''good progress and positive news for mineral extraction in the area''. The company's announcement quotes Anwar, chairman of the Aceh government's spatial planning committee, as saying the Indonesian forestry ministry had accepted ''almost 100 per cent of the province's new spatial plan'' that would ''zone large blocks of previously protected forest for mineral extraction, timber concessions and oil palm plantations''. ...


"Orangs and Tigers and 'phants, oh my!"

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Fri, Feb 15, 2013
from KIRO TV, through DesdemonaDespair:
Eagle heads, bear penises, cougar meat part of local wildlife black market
An exclusive KIRO 7 Investigation uncovers stunning proof of animals being killed illegally to sell their parts for profit.... He found bald eagle heads turned into rattles. Bear gall bladders sold for medicine. And even an entire cougar delivered right to the back door of a restaurant. There are criminals in Washington illegally killing animals every day and selling their meat and body parts on the black market. It could threaten entire species.... Undercover detectives say people contacted them wanting to illegally buy and sell everything from bears, cougars, elk and eagles, with no concern about wiping out the animals. "For them, it's not a living animal, it's a way to make a buck," said Hobbs. ...


Everybody's gotta make a buck (or an eagle, or a cougar) somehow.

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Thu, Feb 14, 2013
from Scientific American:
Where Few Trees Have Gone Before: Mountain Meadows
... with a warming climate, snow has begun melting earlier and growing seasons have lengthened; that extra time with little or no snow cover has given trees a boost. As a result, tree occupation rose from 8 percent in 1950 to 35 percent in 2008, reports a U.S. Department of Agriculture Forest Service-funded study published last October in Landscape Ecology. At a time when so many forests are threatened, aren't more trees something to celebrate? Not necessarily, say the authors of the new study. These tall trees block light that meadow grasses, shrubs and wildflowers need to survive. Once trees become established, the surrounding seed banks of native grasses tend to fade away. The meadows' "biodiversity value is much larger than the amount of area they occupy," explains lead author Harold S. J. Zald, postdoctoral research associate at Oregon State University, who hatched the idea for the study while backpacking in the Cascade Range. The researchers do not yet know which plant or animal species would be endangered. ...


Apocaiku:
Not too cool for school./ Never have mountain meadows/ been made in the shade.

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Fri, Feb 8, 2013
from Smithsonian Magazine:
Minnesota's Moose Are Missing, And No One Really Knows Why
More than half of Minnesota's moose population has disappeared in the past two years, says the Minnesota's Department of Natural Resources, a striking drop that only adds to a long trend of the species' decline in the region. According to the DNR, a survey conducted last month suggests that there are just 2,760 moose left in the state, a drop from the 4,230 estimated moose of 2012. And over the past seven years, Minnesota's moose population has shrunk nearly 70 percent. The natural resources department doesn't really know what is causing the population to plummet, says NBC News, but they've put a freeze on moose hunting until they can figure out what's going on. ...


It's obvious to me that Boris and Natasha are involved.

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Mon, Feb 4, 2013
from Nature:
Terrestrial pesticide exposure of amphibians: An underestimated cause of global decline?
Amphibians, a class of animals in global decline, are present in agricultural landscapes characterized by agrochemical inputs. Effects of pesticides on terrestrial life stages of amphibians such as juvenile and adult frogs, toads and newts are little understood and a specific risk assessment for pesticide exposure, mandatory for other vertebrate groups, is currently not conducted. We studied the effects of seven pesticide products on juvenile European common frogs (Rana temporaria) in an agricultural overspray scenario. Mortality ranged from 100 percent after one hour to 40 percent after seven days at the recommended label rate of currently registered products. The demonstrated toxicity is alarming and a large-scale negative effect of terrestrial pesticide exposure on amphibian populations seems likely. Terrestrial pesticide exposure might be underestimated as a driver of their decline calling for more attention in conservation efforts and the risk assessment procedures in place do not protect this vanishing animal group. ...


Should we be blamed if amphibians are a little thin-skinned?

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Mon, Jan 21, 2013
from Washington Post:
Erratic bat behavior at Great Smoky park may be linked to lethal syndrome
In the dead of winter, bats should be in a deep sleep. But at Great Smoky Mountains National Park, they're out and about, flying erratically in many cases, acting crazy. Out of nowhere, they've launched their mouse-sized bodies at unsuspecting visitors, forcing people to shoo them off with fishing poles, walking sticks and their bare hands. At least one bat flew smack into a trail walker's forehead. ...


Doesn't sound erratic to me. Sounds intentional!

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Mon, Dec 31, 2012
from Washington Post:
Scientists try to save the frogs as time runs out
In moist, mossy rooms, rows of glass aquariums bathed in eerie light shelter the last of the last of the frogs. It is a secure facility, for here reside the sole survivors of their species, rescued from the wild before a modern plague swept through their forests and streams in a ferocious doomsday event that threatens the planet's amphibians with extinction. The lab smells like a junior-high locker room where the bleach is losing. Perhaps it is all the crickets, larvae, flies -- the food that is keeping the frogs alive. They are safe, at least for now, in what scientists are calling an "amphibian ark." ...The villain is a rather extraordinary fungus, an amphibian version of a case of athlete's foot from hell, with an impossible name, Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis, which scientists call "Bd," a virulent, lethal fungus that has spread around the globe. ...


I don't suppose we could frack for frogs.

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Fri, Nov 30, 2012
from NPR:
Cornstalks Everywhere But Nothing Else, Not Even A Bee
There were no bees. The air, the ground, seemed vacant. He found one ant "so small you couldn't pin it to a specimen board." A little later, crawling to a different row, he found one mushroom, "the size of an apple seed." (A relative of the one pictured below.) Then, later, a cobweb spider eating a crane fly (only one). A single red mite "the size of a dust mote hurrying across the barren earth," some grasshoppers, and that's it. Though he crawled and crawled, he found nothing else. "It felt like another planet entirely," he said, a world denuded.
...


I think the cornfield biodiversity looks lots tidier!

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Sat, Oct 13, 2012
from Scientific American:
State of the Earth: Still Seeking Plan A for Sustainability
The state of the planet is grim, whether that assessment is undertaken from the perspective of economic development, social justice or the global environment. What's known as sustainable development--a bid to capture all three of those efforts in one effort and phrase--has hardly advanced since it was first used in the 1980s and the world is hardly closer to eradicating extreme poverty, respecting the dignity and rights of all peoples or resolving environmental challenges, whether climate change or the extinction of plants and animals.... "We've only felt half the warming from the gases already added to the atmosphere," thanks to the long lag time in warming the oceans, a process also already well under way. As a result, the world can expect at least as much warming of average global temperatures as has already happened--0.8 degree Celsius--even if all greenhouse gas emissions stopped today. ...


At least there's something I can do.

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Fri, Oct 12, 2012
from New York Times:
Will Seismic Blasts Upend Atlantic Marine Life?
The tests are to be performed by a vessel that trails evenly spaced hydrophones in its wake as compressed air is blasted downward by the vessel's airgun. The resulting sound waves, as high as 250 decibels, are far greater than the sound emitted by a jet engine upon takeoff, Oceana notes. Once the sound waves hit the ocean floor, the hydrophones register echoes that reflect the densities of materials like gas and oil within the seabed.... The intensity and reach of the noise will not only drive some marine animals away and disrupt their feeding patterns, Oceana argues, but could damage or destroy their hearing. This is particularly worrisome for whales, which do not have sharp eyesight and depend heavily on their hearing. Without it, "they can't navigate, they can't function," Mr. Huelsenbeck said. "They keep contact with others based on their calls." Animals like whales decline slowly once their hearing is gone, making it difficult to link a death directly with the seismic tests, he added. ...


Environmentalist's concerns are falling on deaf ears.

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Wed, Aug 22, 2012
from University of Missouri, via EurekAlert:
Super-strong, high-tech material found to be toxic to aquatic animals
Carbon nanotubes (CNTs) are some of the strongest materials on Earth and are used to strengthen composite materials, such as those used in high-performance tennis rackets. CNTs have potential uses in everything from medicine to electronics to construction. However, CNTs are not without risks. A joint study by the University of Missouri and United States Geological Survey found that they can be toxic to aquatic animals.... "One of the greatest possibilities of contamination of the environment by CNTs comes during the manufacture of composite materials," said Hao Li, associate professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering at MU. "Good waste management and handling procedures can minimize this risk. Also, to control long-term risks, we need to understand what happens when these composite materials break down." ...


You don't think I'm safe either? But I'm a land animal!

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Fri, Aug 17, 2012
from The Independent:
Seas score a meagre six out of 10 in new marine health index
Marine scientists have for the first time worked out a systematic way of scoring the health of the world's oceans, in an attempt to assess how well they are coping with the pressures of overfishing, pollution and anything else that affects the well-being of the sea. The overall global score for the Earth's coastal seas is 60 points out of a possible maximum of 100, showing there is still plenty of "room for improvement", they concluded. Some areas with the lowest scores, such as the coastal waters off the troubled West African state of Sierra Leone, which scored 36, failed in almost every one of the 10 measures the scientists used to assess the health of the sea. ...


I think I'd call that glass "three-fifths full."

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Sun, Jul 22, 2012
from New Scientist:
2011 heatwave transformed Australian marine life
Heatwaves aren't just a problem for humans. They can reshape marine ecosystems too. Such extreme weather events will become more common because of climate change. They can ravage land ecosystems, but until now little has been known about their effects in the seas. Events last year in the sea off Australia's west coast suggest that the impact can be extreme and rapid. For more than ten weeks beginning in January, sea temperatures were between 2 deg C and 4 deg C warmer than usual along a 2000-kilometre stretch of coast - the area's most extreme warming event since records began.... The ecosystem had lost complexity. The kelp (Ecklonia radiate) that covered 80 per cent of the area, providing a range of habitats, had declined to cover just 50 per cent. Mats of algal "turf", which create fewer distinct niches, had moved in instead.... Thomas predicts that climate change will commit 15 to 37 per cent of species to extinction by 2050 (Nature, DOI: 10.1038/nature02121). He says the toll may be made worse by more frequent extreme weather events. ...


Perhaps it's time for some extreme grassroots events!

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Mon, May 28, 2012
from University of Bristol:
It Took Earth Ten Million Years to Recover from Greatest Mass Extinction
It took some 10 million years for Earth to recover from the greatest mass extinction of all time, latest research has revealed. Life was nearly wiped out 250 million years ago, with only 10 per cent of plants and animals surviving. It is currently much debated how life recovered from this cataclysm, whether quickly or slowly.... The end-Permian crisis, by far the most dramatic biological crisis to affect life on Earth, was triggered by a number of physical environmental shocks -- global warming, acid rain, ocean acidification and ocean anoxia. These were enough to kill off 90 per cent of living things on land and in the sea...Professor Benton added: "We often see mass extinctions as entirely negative but in this most devastating case, life did recover, after many millions of years, and new groups emerged. ...


So there is hope.

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Tue, May 15, 2012
from Edinburgh Scotsman:
The world is not enough: soon we'll need three planet Earths
HUMANS are using so many resources that by 2030 even an extra planet will not be enough to sustain our demands, a report has warned. Green group the WWF concludes in its Living Planet Report 2012 that mankind is already living as though we have one and a half planets at our disposal. By 2030 even having two planets at our disposal will not be enough and if lifestyles do not change, by 2050 we would need almost three. ...


I'm seeing two planets right now!

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Tue, Mar 27, 2012
from Fox News:
Hammerhead shark 'twin' means species is rarer than formerly thought
Scientists recently confirmed that endangered scalloped hammerhead sharks have a fishy twin -- a newfound species, still unnamed, that is distinct, yet very closely resembles the threatened sharks. The case of mistaken identity indicates that scalloped hammerhead sharks are even more scarce than once thought, according to some researchers. Since it's very hard to tell the two species apart -- only differences in their DNA and number of vertebrae reveal their true identities -- it's likely that previous assessments of scalloped hammerhead sharks exaggerated their numbers because the counts likely included the look-alike sharks. "It's a classic case of long-standing species misidentification that not only casts further uncertainty on the status of the real scalloped hammerhead, but also raises concerns about the population status of this new species," Nova Southeastern University Oceanographic Center professor Mahmood Shivji said in a statement. ...


Let's just pretend we didn't know that. It's working so far everywhere else!

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Mon, Mar 19, 2012
from The Oregonian:
It's a comeback story: Bald eagles rebound from near extinction
...Bald eagles are back, baby. They're out on Sauvie Island, around Bend, up at Wallowa Lake and throughout the lower Columbia River. Drive down Interstate 5 in late winter and you may see them in bright green fields along the freeway. Ride your bike along Portland's Springwater Trail and it's common to see a baldie giving a baleful stare from tree or transmission tower. The state wildlife commission took bald eagles off the state endangered species list this month; it was removed from the federal list in 2007. ...


Back just in time to watch the rest of us go.

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Fri, Mar 16, 2012
from HuffingtonPost:
Monarch Butterflies Mexico Migration Dropped This Year
The number of Monarch butterflies wintering in Mexico dropped 28 percent this year, according to a report released Thursday, a decline some experts attribute to droughts in parts of the United States and Canada where the butterflies breed and begin their long migration south. Others say damage to wintering grounds in central Mexico's mountains remains a factor in the decline, citing deforestation of the fir and pine forests they favor. The numbers of butterflies spending the winter in Mexico have varied wildly in recent years. Concern rose two years ago, when their numbers dropped by 75 percent in the wintering grounds, the lowest level since comparable record-keeping began in 1993. They partially recovered last year, when the number of butterflies nearly doubled from that record low point. ...


Democracy butterflies are doing fine.

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Sun, Mar 11, 2012
from The Independent:
Half the world's seabirds are in decline, says report
The populations of almost half of the world's seabirds are thought to be in decline, according to a study published in Bird Conservation International. It found that 28 per cent of species are in the highest categories of risk. Conservationists are particularly concerned for the albatross family. Threats include commercial fishing and damage to breeding colonies caused by rats and other invasive species. Researchers say seabirds are an important indicator of the health of the oceans. ...


I hadn't realized coal-mine canaries were sea birds.

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Mon, Feb 20, 2012
from Science News:
Carbon dioxide breaking down marine ecosystems
If carbon dioxide emissions don't begin to decline soon, the complex fabric of marine ecosystems will begin fraying -- and eventually unravel completely, two new studies conclude. The diversity of ocean species thins and any survivors' health declines as the pH of ocean water falls in response to rising carbon dioxide levels, scientists from England and Florida reported February 18 at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. What's more, affected species aren't restricted to those with shells and calcified support structures... ...


CO2, an equal opportunity destroyer.

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Fri, Jan 20, 2012
from Duke University via ScienceDaily:
Harp Seals On Thin Ice After 32 Years of Warming
Warming in the North Atlantic over the last 32 years has significantly reduced winter sea ice cover in harp seal breeding grounds, resulting in sharply higher death rates among seal pups in recent years, according to a new Duke University-led study."The kind of mortality we're seeing in eastern Canada is dramatic. Entire year-classes may be disappearing from the population in low ice years -- essentially all of the pups die," said David W. Johnston, research scientist at the Duke University Marine Lab. "It calls into question the resilience of the population." ...


Climate change is like a giant, brutal hakapik.

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Wed, Jan 18, 2012
from Scientific American:
Manta Rays Endangered by Sudden Demand from Chinese Medicine
Demand for the gills of manta and mobula rays has risen dramatically in the past 10 years for use in traditional Chinese medicine (TCM), even though they were not historically used for this purpose, a team of researchers from the conservation organizations Shark Savers and WildAid has discovered. "We first came across manta and mobula ray gills in Asian markets several years ago, and followed the trail to the dried seafood markets of southern China," Manta Ray of Hope Project lead investigator Paul Hilton said in a prepared statement released on January 14. Specifically, the market was for gill rakers, the thin filaments that manta and mobula rays use to filter food from the water, which are being sold for up to $500 per kilogram. TCM practitioners are marketing the rakers--known locally as peng yu sai--as an ingredient for soup that they claim boosts the immune system by reducing toxins and enhancing blood circulation. Other supposed medical benefits include curing cancer, chickenpox, throat and skin ailments, male kidney issues and, as we often see with TCM, fertility issues.... The researchers found that some of the gill raker trade is conducted by the same networks responsible for the devastating trade in shark fins, which have turned to rays for additional profits as worldwide shark populations decline. ...


Man, ta think there's no real rayson for killing them kinda makes me sick.

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Mon, Jan 16, 2012
from Nature Climate Change, via EPOCA:
Carbon dioxide is 'driving fish crazy'
"For several years our team have been testing the performance of baby coral fishes in sea water containing higher levels of dissolved CO2 - and it is now pretty clear that they sustain significant disruption to their central nervous system, which is likely to impair their chances of survival," Prof. Munday says.... ["]They were confused and no longer avoided reef sounds during the day. Being attracted to reefs during daylight would make them easy meat for predators." Other work showed the fish also tended to lose their natural instinct to turn left or right - an important factor in schooling behaviour which also makes them more vulnerable, as lone fish are easily eaten by predators. "All this led us to suspect it wasn't simply damage to their individual senses that was going on - but rather, that higher levels of carbon dioxide were affecting their whole central nervous system." ...


They'll fit right in to this crazy world!

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Fri, Jan 6, 2012
from Christian Science Monitor:
Climate change models flawed, extinction rate likely higher than predicted
As climate change progresses, the planet may lose more plant and animal species than predicted, a new modeling study suggests. This is because current predictions overlook two important factors: the differences in how quickly species relocate and competition among species, according to the researchers, led by Mark Urban, an ecologist at the University of Connecticut. Already evidence suggests that species have begun to migrate out of ranges made inhospitable by climate change and into newly hospitable territory. "We have really sophisticated meteorological models for predicting climate change," Urban said in a statement. "But in real life, animals move around, they compete, they parasitize each other and they eat each other. The majority of our predictions don't include these important interactions." ...


"Real life"? Didn't we already innovate ourselves out of that mess?

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Thu, Dec 15, 2011
from University of Adelaide via ScienceDaily:
Hundreds of Threatened Species Not On Official U.S. List, Research Shows
...A study -- now published in the latest issue of Conservation Letters -- has compared the ESA [Endangered Species Act] list of endangered species with the world's leading threatened species list, the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List. The study has found that of the American species included on the IUCN Red List, 40 percent of birds, 50 percent of mammals, and 80-95 percent of other species such as amphibians, gastropods, crustaceans, and insects, were not recognised by the ESA as threatened. This amounts to approximately 531 American species on the IUCN Red List that have not made the ESA protection list. ...


In America, to get attention, you need lobbyists.

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Sun, Dec 11, 2011
from Nature.com:
Acidic oceans threaten development in young fish
Ocean acidification -- caused by climate change -- looks likely to damage crucial fish stocks. Two studies published today in Nature Climate Change reveal that high carbon dioxide concentrations can cause death and organ damage in very young fish. The work challenges the belief that fish, unlike organisms with shells or exoskeletons made of calcium carbonate, will be safe as marine CO2 levels rise.... "These two studies are part of a growing trend that realizes that the broader effects of ocean acidification are much more than just calcification," says Donald Potts, a coral-reef biologist at the University of California, Santa Cruz. ...


Fish, it's time to team up with your mollusk buddies and brainstorm a solution!

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Fri, Dec 9, 2011
from Scientific American:
Climate Negotiations Fail to Keep Pace with Science
DURBAN, South Africa-- By 2020, human activity could produce some 55 billion metric tons of greenhouse gases per year, up from roughly 36 billion metric tons currently. All the accumulating gas is enough to raise the global average temperatures by more than 3 degrees Celsius by century's end -- more than triple the amount of warming that has already occurred.... The latest science suggests that international negotiations are proceeding far too slowly to have any significant impact on global warming and may well dawdle too long to prevent catastrophic climate change. ...


Somebody wake me from this nightmare.

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Tue, Dec 6, 2011
from PLoS One -- IU-Bloomington:
Study finds climate changes faster than species can adapt
The ranges of species will have to change dramatically as a result of climate change between now and 2100 because the climate will change more than 100 times faster than the rate at which species can adapt, according to a newly published study by Indiana University researchers. The study, which focuses on North American rattlesnakes, finds that the rate of future change in suitable habitat will be two to three orders of magnitude greater than the average change over the past 300 millennia, a time that included three major glacial cycles and significant variation in climate and temperature. ...


Let's feed 'em steroids, caffeine and sugar to speed 'em up.

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Thu, Nov 10, 2011
from CNN:
Africa's western black rhino declared extinct
Africa's western black rhino is now officially extinct according the latest review of animals and plants by the world's largest conservation network. The subspecies of the black rhino -- which is classified as "critically endangered" by the International Union for Conservation of Nature's (IUCN) Red List of Threatened Species -- was last seen in western Africa in 2006. The IUCN warns that other rhinos could follow saying Africa's northern white rhino is "teetering on the brink of extinction" while Asia's Javan rhino is "making its last stand" due to continued poaching and lack of conservation. "In the case of the western black rhino and the northern white rhino the situation could have had very different results if the suggested conservation measures had been implemented," Simon Stuart, chair of the IUCN species survival commission said in a statement. ...


Strange that their extinction occurred because they were too horny.

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Tue, Nov 8, 2011
from PNAS, via New Scientist:
Frog-killer chytrid fungus was born in trade
The global amphibian trade spread the lethal chytrid fungus, which is decimating frogs around the planet, and it now looks like it may have created the disease in the first place. The team behind this finding are calling for an amphibian quarantine to help slow the disease's spread.... The best and simplest explanation is that 20th-century trade, which shipped amphibians all over the world, enabled the mating, says Farrer's supervisor Matthew Fisher. "We've got to restrict trade, or at least make sure that amphibians are not contaminated," says Fisher. One approach would be for countries to quarantine all imported amphibians and only allow them to stay if they are uninfected. ...


Take out the "fun" in "fungus," and what's left?

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Wed, Oct 26, 2011
from Yale Environment 300:
A Rise in Fungal Diseases is Taking Growing Toll on Wildlife
In an increasingly interconnected world, fungal diseases are spreading at an alarming rate and have led to deadly outbreaks in amphibian, bat, and bee populations. And in the last decade, researchers note, some of the most virulent strains have infected people. On the southeastern outskirts of Washington, D.C., inside the Smithsonian Institution's cavernous Museum Support Center, one can see some frogs that no longer exist. Alcohol-filled glass jars hold preserved specimens of Incilius periglenes, the Monte Verde golden toad; the Honduran frog Craugastor chrysozetetes, which in life was olive-brown with purple palms and soles; its Costa Rican cousin, Craugastor escoces; and Atelopus ignescens, a black toad not seen in the wild for decades. All of these extinct species are likely victims of the fungus Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis, which attacks the outer skin layers of amphibians, disrupting their water and electrolyte intake so severely that infected animals can die of cardiac arrest. ...


The fungus among us is ruinous.

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Mon, Oct 17, 2011
from Scientific American:
Poachers Wiping Out Rare Monkey in Tanzania
An endangered Old World monkey species found in only two sites in Tanzania is in danger of being poached and eaten into extinction, researchers from the Tanzania Forest Conservation Group (TFCG) and Udzungwa Ecological Monitoring Center reported last week.... Mokoro Kitenana, a field technician with the TFCG, told IPP Media that the researchers found many traps in the Udzungwa Scarp Forest Reserve, as well as monkey meat for sale in nearby villages and scant evidence of remaining mangabeys in the forest. Not only does this bode poorly for the monkey itself, it could also affect the economy of the region: "If this is left to continue, the animals will be depleted from the mountains and that would be the end of tourists and foreign researchers visiting the Udzungwa Scarp," he said. ...


Monkey see, monkey eat.

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Mon, Sep 5, 2011
from BBC:
Endangered species set for stem cell rescue
In a novel marriage of conservation and modern biology, scientists have created stem cells from two endangered species, which could help ensure their survival. The northern white rhino is one of the most endangered animals on Earth, while the drill - a west African monkey - is threatened by habitat loss and hunting. The scientists report in Nature Methods that their stem cells could be made to turn into different types of body cell. If they could turn into eggs and sperm, "test-tube babies" could be created.... "Only when numbers get so low that the genetic contribution of every last animal (including those represented only in frozen cell lines) contributes measurably to the total species diversity - maybe around 10 individuals - would we want to do everything possible to ensure that those genes are transmitted to future generations. "Tragically, northern white rhinos have undergone just such a decimation." ...


I hear there's big money in test-tube rhino horns. Not so much the animal itself.

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Fri, Sep 2, 2011
from Scientific American:
Thylacine Hunted into Extinction for No Reason, Study Reveals
The thylacine (Thylacinus cynocephalus), better known as the Tasmanian tiger, has long been the poster child for human-caused extinction. Hunted out of existence by Australian farmers who feared that the striped, canine-like marsupials would kill their sheep, the last thylacine died in captivity in Hobart Zoo 75 years ago next week, on September 7, 1936 (although the species was not officially declared extinct until about 25 years ago). Now, just a few days before the annual observance of National Thylacine Day in Australia, a new study reveals that the predator was probably not a threat to sheep after all. Its notably long jaw (one of the animal's most distinctive features) could open to an amazing 120 degrees but was too weak to kill sheep, according to a study published September 1 in the Journal of Zoology. "Our research has shown that its rather feeble jaw restricted it to catching smaller, more agile prey," lead author Marie Attard of the University of New South Wales in Australia, said in a prepared statement. Instead, it appears the thylacine killed and ate smaller animals, such as possums. ...


The sheep look up, and say "whatever."

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Thu, Sep 1, 2011
from UC-Davis, via EurekAlert:
Warming streams could be the end for salmon
Warming streams could spell the end of spring-run Chinook salmon in California by the end of the century, according to a study by scientists at UC Davis, the Stockholm Environment Institute and the National Center for Atmospheric Research. There are options for managing water resources to protect the salmon runs, although they would impact hydroelectric power generation, said Lisa Thompson, director of the Center for Aquatic Biology and Aquaculture at UC Davis.... They fed in scenarios for climate change out to 2099 from models developed by David Yates at NCAR in Boulder, Colo. In almost all scenarios, the fish died out because streams became too warm for adults to survive the summer to spawn in the fall. The only option that preserved salmon populations, at least for a few decades, was to reduce diversions for hydropower generation at the warmest time of the year. "If we leave the water in the stream at key times of the year, the stream stays cooler and fish can make it through to the fall," Thompson said.... Salmon are already under stress from multiple causes, including pollution, and introduced predators and competitors, Thompson said. Even if those problems were solved, temperature alone would finish off the salmon -- but that problem can be fixed, she said. ...


My money is on the nano-powered CoolingSalmonSuits™.

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Thu, Sep 1, 2011
from Scientific American:
Newly Discovered Hawaiian Bird Could Already Be Extinct
Here's something amazing: a new bird species has been discovered in the U.S. for the first time since 1974. Unfortunately, the discovery wasn't a live bird. It was actually a museum sample collected in 1963, and the scientists who discovered it fear it may already be extinct or threatened with extinction. The specimen was collected on Midway Atoll nearly 40 years ago, at which time it was identified as a little shearwater (Puffinus assimilis). But Peter Pyle, an ornithologist at the Institute for Bird Populations in Marin County, Calif., examined the sample several years ago while assembling a monograph on Hawaiian birds and thought it might be another species, the Boyd's shearwater (P. boydi). But even that assessment didn't seem right to Pyle, since the sample had a shorter wingspan and tail than the Boyd's.... The discovery of this new species reveals less information than is needed for effective conservation, unfortunately. No one knows where the birds live or breed, how many there are, or what could be done to preserve them. ...


My goodness, but humans work fast.

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Fri, Aug 26, 2011
from Science News:
Helping Bats Hold On
There, a pathologist confirmed that white-nose syndrome had officially reached Nova Scotia as well. This year's Canadian cases mark the northernmost expansion of the syndrome. In the five years since the disease first arrived in caves near Albany, N.Y., it has spread to more than 190 sites in 16 eastern states -- with suspected cases in two more, west of the Mississippi -- and to four Canadian provinces. The disease's toll now exceeds well over 1 million bats. It's "the most devastating wildlife disease in recorded history," says biologist Thomas Kunz of Boston University.... A mine that for ages served as New York's largest hibernaculum used to host more than 200,000 bats. Once white-nose struck, the resident population plummeted to 2,000 within just three years.... But there is growing concern that the initial waves of infection won't leave enough survivors to successfully breed and reproduce, jeopardizing the chance of building a more resistant population, says ecologist Winifred Frick of the University of California, Santa Cruz. Although bats mate in the fall, a female doesn't ovulate and become pregnant until the following spring, and then only if she is fat and healthy enough to support a pup. ...


Isn't about time we gave that fungus a stern talking-to?

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Wed, Aug 24, 2011
from Mongabay:
Humanity knows less than 15 percent of the world's species
Scientists have named, cataloged, and described less than 2 million species in the past two and a half centuries, yet, according to an new innovative analysis, we are no-where near even a basic understanding of the diversity of life on this small blue planet. The study in PLoS Biology, which is likely to be controversial, predicts that there are 8.7 million species in the world, though the number could be as low as 7.4 or as high as 10 million. The research implies that about 86 percent of the world's species have still yet to be described.... "We have only begun to uncover the tremendous variety of life around us," says co-author Alastair Simpson, also with Dalhousie. "The richest environments for prospecting new species are thought to be coral reefs, seafloor mud and moist tropical soils. But smaller life forms are not well known anywhere. Some unknown species are living in our own backyards—literally." Less is even known about the threats to species in what scientists say is an age of mass extinction. ...


Ah, species, we hardly knew ye.

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Sun, Jul 31, 2011
from Telegraph.co.uk:
One-third of freshwater fish threatened with extinction
Among those at the greatest risk of dying out are several species from UK rivers and lakes including the European eel, Shetland charr and many little known fish that have become isolated in remote waterways in Wales and Scotland. Others critically endangered include types of sturgeon, which provide some of the world's most expensive caviar, and giant river dwellers such as the Mekong giant catfish and freshwater stingray, which can grow as long as 15 feet. The scientists have blamed human activities such as overfishing, pollution and construction for pushing so many species to the brink of extinction. They also warn that the loss of the fish could have serious implications for humans. In Africa alone more than 7.5 million people rely on freshwater fish for food and income.... "Sadly, it is also not going to get any better as human need for fresh water, power and food continues to grown and we exploit freshwater environments for these resources."... "We have to find ways of reducing impacts on these ecosystems while allowing people to continue to use the resources that freshwater environments have to offer." ...


Only thirty percent? That means we haven't even reached "peak biodiversity" yet!

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Mon, Jul 11, 2011
from PlanetForward:
Evolution and Climate: Thoreau's Woods Reveal Patterns
Primack combined his data with that of Henry David Thoreau, a 19th century naturalist, to illustrate that the effect of climate change on different plant species is biased against certain lineages. Groups of closely related plants that have not shifted the timing of traits (such as when they flower) to match changes in temperature have decreased in abundance due to climate change. Primack wanted to know how evolutionary relationships influence plant species' susceptibility to climate change. He and his students surveyed Thoreau's woods for flowering-time responses and abundance of the same plants Thoreau and other botanists counted a century and a half earlier. Thoreau's woods, located in the town of Concord, Massachusetts, are ideal for such studies because up to 60 percent of Concord land is protected or undeveloped.... More specifically, there was a correlation between flowering-time tracking of seasonal temperatures and changes in abundance, indicating that plant species that did not track temperatures have experienced greater declines than species that do track temperature. This pattern was found in plant families such as dogwood, mint, orchids and roses. The study is notable because it shows that climate change-induced species loss is happening and does not occur randomly. Entire lineages, encompassing many closely related species, are being lost completely. ...


Those lineages lead lives of quiet desperation.

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Wed, May 18, 2011
from Reuters:
Plant, animal extinction risks often exaggerated: study
A projected spate of extinctions of animals and plants this century may be less drastic than feared because the most widely used scientific method can exaggerate losses by more than 160 percent, a study said on Wednesday. "Extinctions caused by habitat loss require greater loss of habitat than previously thought," two experts, based in China and the United States, wrote in the journal Nature. Despite that good news, the report also endorsed past findings that human activities are wrecking habitats from the tropics to the Arctic, threatening the worst losses of species since the dinosaurs. "Our results must not lead to complacency about extinction due to habitat loss, which is a real and growing threat," Fangliang He and Stephen Hubbell wrote. ...


Isn't 160 percent of zero still dead?

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Tue, May 17, 2011
from Agence France-Press:
Extreme makeover: are humans reshaping Earth?
If alien geologists were to visit our planet 10 million years from now, would they discern a distinct human fingerprint in Earth's accumulating layers of rock and sediment? Will homo sapiens, in other words, define a geological period in the way dinosaurs -- and their vanishing act -- helped mark the Jurassic and the Cretaceous? A growing number of scientists, some gathered at a one-day symposium this week at the British Geological Society in London, say "yes"... For the first time in Earth's 4.7 billion year history, a single species has not only radically changed Earth's morphology, chemistry and biology, it is now aware of having done so. ...


Pimp my planet!

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Tue, Apr 19, 2011
from AP, via CBC:
Mediterranean fish in peril: study
A new study suggests that more than 40 fish species in the Mediterranean could vanish in the next few years. The study released Tuesday by the International Union for Conservation of Nature says almost half of the species of sharks and rays in the Mediterranean and at least 12 species of bony fish are threatened with extinction due to overfishing, pollution and the loss of habitat. Commercial catches of bluefin tuna, sea bass, hake and dusky grouper are particularly threatened, said the study by the Swiss-based IUCN, an environmental network of 1,000 groups in 160 nations.... The IUCN study, which began in 2007 and included 25 marine scientists, is the first time the group has tried to assess native marine fish species in an entire sea. The study blames the use of highly effective trawlers and driftnets for the incidental capture and killing of hundreds of marine animals with no commercial value. But it also concluded there's not enough information to properly assess almost one-third of the Mediterranean's fish.... The U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization says fish stocks continue to dwindle globally despite increasing efforts to regulate catches and stop overfishing. ...


Thank goodness it's only a microcosm!

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Tue, Apr 19, 2011
from Global Saskatoon:
Deadly bat-fungus shows up in Nova Scotia
The brown bat population in Nova Scotia is at risk of being wiped out if a lethal fungus spreads throughout the province. The Department of Natural Resources has reported its first case of white-nose syndrome, a fungus that can grow on the ears, nose and wings of hibernating bats. Nova Scotia is now the fourth province to see signs of the devastating illness.... Because the fungus thrives in the winter climate it disrupts the animal's seasonal sleeping patterns, causing them to exhibit irregular behavior. The bats wake up and search for food in daylight or in temperatures they're not acclimatized to, eventually starving to death. Only one bat has tested positive in for white-nose syndrome in Nova Scotia so far, in Hants County, but in neighbouring New Brunwick the disease has already led to 25 per cent of the brown bat population dying in one area. ...


So what, they can't play baseball? They still have hockey!

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Mon, Apr 18, 2011
from St. Petersburg Times:
USF study concludes that common fungicide is deadly to frogs
Two years ago some University of South Florida researchers began studying the effects of the most widely used fungicide in the country to see if it might kill more than just fungus. Turns out it's also a pretty effective frog-icide. "We were completely surprised to see it basically killed everything," said Taegan McMahon, the lead researcher on the study, which was published this week in a scientific journal called Environmental Health Perspectives. Frogs on farms with treated fields, frogs in ponds on golf courses, frogs in the back yard -- the fungicide could be lethal to any of them, the study suggests. "We don't know what the effect on humans could be," she added. "And we use it heavily in Florida." The fungicide, chlorothalonil, sold under such names as Bravo, Echo and Daconil, is used to treat farmers' fields, lawns and golf courses and is an ingredient in mold-suppressing paint. It's part of the same chemical family, organochlorines, as the banned pesticide DDT. It is known to cause severe eye and skin irritation in humans if handled improperly. Chlorothalonil kills mold and fungi by disrupting the respiratory functions of the cells, explained Jason Rohr, an assistant professor who co-authored the study and heads up USF's Rohr Ecology Lab. At this point the researchers don't know if that's how it kills frogs, too, he said. They just know it's lethal. ...


On Silent Pond.

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Mon, Apr 18, 2011
from Sacramento Bee:
Potent new rat poisons killing California wildlife
Outside Palm Desert, a young bobcat dies mysteriously at a nature preserve. South of Nevada City, a farmer finds an owl dead near his decoy shed. In San Rafael, a red-shouldered hawk bleeds heavily from its mouth and nose before succumbing at an animal care center. Each of those incidents shares a link to a widely used toxin that is turning up at dangerous levels in wildlife across California: rat poison. Over the years, rat poison has spared state residents untold filth and disease. But a new generation of highly toxic, long-lasting poisons is killing not only rats, mice and ground squirrels, but whatever feeds on them, too.... "Rodenticides are the new DDT," said Maggie Sergio, director of advocacy at WildCare, a Bay Area wildlife rehabilitation center that has responded to dozens of poisoning cases. "It is an emergency, an environmental disaster. We are killing nature's own rodent control."... Around Bakersfield, 79 percent of endangered San Joaquin kit foxes tested have turned up positive for rodenticide. Near Los Angeles, 90 percent of bobcats sampled had rat poison in their blood. "Basically, when we look for it, we find it," McMillin said.... Two tongue-twisting toxins turn up most often in wildlife: brodifacoum and bromadio-lone. On store shelves, they go by such names as D-Con, Havoc, Talon, Tomcat Ultra and Just One Bite. ...


"Killing nature's own rodent control" is just good business. Think of all those future rat poison sales!

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Fri, Apr 8, 2011
from Reuters:
Biodiversity vital to streams as extinctions rise
As Earth enters a period of mass extinction, a study released on Wednesday offers a new reason to preserve biodiversity: it's an effective, natural pollution scrubber in streams. Environmental activists have long warned that waning biodiversity means the loss of such ecological services as stream-cleaning, control of pests and diseases and increased productivity in fisheries. The latest study, published in the journal Nature, shows how this works, demonstrating that streams that contain more species have better water quality than streams that have fewer. The species being discussed are microorganisms such as algae that incorporate elements of pollution into their bodies. The more types of algae there are in a stream, each with a minutely different habitat, the better they are collectively at filtering pollution out of the water. ...


Can't we just bioengineer a quicker picker-upper?

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Thu, Apr 7, 2011
from PhysOrg:
Scientists have new measure for species threat
The index, developed by a team of Australian researchers from the University of Adelaide and James Cook University, is called SAFE (Species Ability to Forestall Extinction). The SAFE index builds on previous studies into the minimum population sizes needed by species to survive in the wild. It measures how close species are to their minimum viable population size.... "The idea is fairly simple - it's the distance a population is (in terms of abundance) from its minimum viable population size. While we provide a formula for working this out, it's more than just a formula - we've shown that SAFE is the best predictor yet of the vulnerability of mammal species to extinction."... Of the 95 mammal species considered in the team's analysis, more than one in five are close to extinction, and more than half of them are at 'tipping points' that could take their populations to the point of no return. "For example, our studies show that practitioners of conservation triage may want to prioritise resources on the Sumatran rhinoceros instead of the Javan rhinoceros. Both species are Critically Endangered, but the Sumatran rhino is more likely to be brought back from the brink of extinction based on its SAFE index," Professor Bradshaw says. ...


Species triage via SAFE? It makes me Unnaturally Nauseated, Sorrowful, And Freakin' Ecoplectic!

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Tue, Mar 22, 2011
from EnvironmentalResearchWeb:
Climate change adaptation 'needs to move up the agenda'
Adaptation urgently needs to move up the climate change agenda, according to Richard Betts, head of climate impacts at the Met Office in the UK. "Talking about adaptation to climate change has for a long time been frowned upon as it is seen as giving up on mitigation," Betts told environmentalresearchweb. "But people need to wake up to the fact that we are already locked into a certain amount of climate change and we need to make sure we are prepared for the consequences."... Betts believes it is the role of the media, climatologists and policymakers to make sure that the need for adaptation moves up the agenda and that people are not so distracted by mitigation alone. ...


Not to worry -- the Republicans already voted global warming down.

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Mon, Mar 21, 2011
from Daily Mail:
Slaughtered for the market place: Huge rise in ray hunting threatens ocean's 'gentle giants'
They are known as the ocean's gentle giants, but an alarming rise in manta and mobula ray hunting could threaten the very existence of the species. From India to Ecuador, manta and mobula fishing has become big business for fisheries who are selling their gills to be used in soups and traditional Chinese medicine. Conservationists have warned that demand could soon rival that of the controversial shark fin trade. The rays are pulled from the ocean, either with fine gill nets or spears, and slaughtered to meet growing demand, mainly from the Chinese market.... A single fishing fleet can easily wipe out a local manta population in weeks or months, with little chance of stocks replenishing given their slow reproduction, limited local populations and lack of migration for some of the species. Their slow maturation and reproductive cycles have raised serious concerns for the future of these species.... No international laws and only a handful of national laws exist to prevent ray fishing. ...


C'mon! There's always more rays in the sea!

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Thu, Mar 17, 2011
from University of York, via EurekAlert:
Intervention offers 'best chance' to save species endangered by climate change
A University of York scientist is proposing a radical programme of 'assisted colonisation' to save species endangered by climate change. Chris Thomas, Professor of Conservation Biology, says the strategy is applicable across the world, and he suggests Britain as a potential haven for species such as the Iberian lynx, the Spanish Imperial Eagle, the Pyrenean Desman and the Provence Chalkhill Blue butterfly. In an opinion paper in Trends in Ecology and Evolution, Professor Thomas, of the University's Department of Biology, says that moving endangered species is the only viable option to maintain some climate-endangered species in the wild.... Professor Thomas says a more radical policy is now required if humanity wishes to minimise the number of species that become extinct from all causes, including from climate change and species invasions. He says increased local and regional species richness that would result is positive, provided that this does not result in higher global extinction rates. "Translocation represents one of the principal means of saving species from extinction from climate change; in conjunction with maintaining large areas of high quality (low human impact) habitats," he says. ...


I didn't know Noah had a doctorate.

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Fri, Mar 4, 2011
from WorldFishingToday.com:
Considering moratorium on Caspian sturgeon fishing
As per media report the coastal nations of Caspian Sea are ready for a moratorium on sturgeon fishing in the sea. The Azerbaijani ecology minister said that the moratorium will apply to commercial fishing only. He also added that Azerbaijan fully supported the proposal, which had been welcomed by President Ilham Aliyev. Azerbaijan has already stopped fishing for two types of sturgeon - Fringebarbel and beluga. It agreed a sturgeon fishing quota of 84 tonnes for 2010, which broke down into 46 tonnes of Russian sturgeon and 38 tonnes of starry sturgeon. The quota was agreed at a meeting of the Caspian Commission on Aquatic Bioresources in Tehran in June last year. The quota year runs from 1 March 2010 to 28 February 2011 in order to reflect the fishing season. According to the Ministry of Ecology and Natural Resources, the government is stepping up its work to tackle corruption. He said that tough measures have been taken against forestry wardens from Sheki to Shamakhi. Over 120 forestry wardens have been sacked. At the last meeting, six senior people - a national park director, his deputy and the heads of forestry warden departments - lost their jobs. ...


Moratoriums are easy when there's not much left.

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Wed, Mar 2, 2011
from London Independent:
Turtles now world's most threatened vertebrates
Turtles and tortoises are now the most endangered group of vertebrate animals, with more than half of their 328 species threatened with extinction, according to a new report. Their populations are being depleted by unsustainable hunting, both for food and for use in traditional Chinese medicine, by large-scale collection for the pet trade, and by the widespread pollution and destruction of their habitats, according to the study Turtles In Trouble, produced by a coalition of turtle conservation groups. The result is that their plight has never been greater, and the world's 25 most endangered tortoises and freshwater turtles will become extinct in a few decades without concerted conservation efforts, the report says. ...


They have vertebrae? I didn't even realize they were amphibians!

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Thu, Feb 17, 2011
from Huffington Post:
Lost Frogs May Be Extinct, Sign Of 'The Sixth Great Extinction'
Scientists around the world have come up short after an unprecedented attempt to locate 100 species of "lost" frogs, salamanders, and caecilians. These amphibians have all been missing for over a decade, and now scientists fear they are extinct. The Search for Lost Frogs, organized by Conservation International, the IUCN Amphibian Specialist Group, and Global Wildlife Conservation, involved 126 researchers seeking to document the existence of threatened species. But after a five-month search, only four out of 100 missing species have been located. Conservationists believe that these shockingly low numbers should be a signal to countries that greater efforts must be taken to protect environmentally sensitive species. Over 30 percent of amphibians are threatened with extinction due to habitat loss and a deadly fungus. ...


Well if we found them they wouldn't be lost, now would they?

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Wed, Feb 9, 2011
from Associated Press:
APNewsBreak: Endangered decision delayed on walrus
Pacific walrus need additional protection from the threat of climate warming but cannot be added to the threatened or endangered list because other species are a higher priority, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service said Tuesday. Walrus will be added to the "warranted but precluded" list, said agency spokesman Bruce Wood, a designation under the Endangered Species Act that allows delays in listing if the agency is making progress listing other species and does not have resources to make a decision on others. "The threats to the walrus are very real, as evidenced by this 'warranted' finding," said Geoff Haskett, the service's Alaska region director, in a statement. "But its greater population numbers and ability to adapt to land-based haulouts make its immediate situation less dire than those facing other species such as the polar bear." ...


I can't even understand "warranted but precluded," how can a walrus?

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Mon, Feb 7, 2011
from Mongabay:
Bushmeat trade pushing species to the edge in Tanzania
Hunters are decimating species in the Uzungwa Scarp Forest Reserve, a part of the Eastern Arc Mountains in Southern Tanzania, according to a new report compiled by international and Tanzanian conservationists. Incorporating three research projects, the report finds that bushmeat hunting in conjunction with forest degradation imperils the ecology of the protected area. "Some species in this region are on the brink of extinction from one of their last remaining strongholds, especially the Udzungwa red colobus, a monkey species found only in these mountains and nowhere else in the world," said Arafat Mtui, Udzungwa Ecological Monitoring Center coordinator, in a press release. The report also finds that duikers, a small antelope, are in danger of vanishing from the forest due to hunting, and that the Angolan colobus may already have disappeared from the forest. ...


The kids are hungry.

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Sat, Feb 5, 2011
from BBC:
New Zealand scientists record 'biodiversity breakdown'
Scientists in New Zealand say they have linked the modern-day decline of a common forest shrub with the local extinction of two pollinating birds over a century ago. They say the disappearance of two birds - the bellbird and stitchbird - from the upper North Island of the country has lead to a slow decline in common plants, including the forest shrub New Zealand gloxinia. Ship rats and stoats imported into the country around the year 1870 are blamed for the birds' demise.... The researchers wanted to observe the impact on New Zealand gloxinia of these disappearing bird populations and so compared the situation on the mainland with that of three nearby island bird sanctuaries where the birds remain abundant. What they found was that pollination rates were vastly reduced on the mainland with seed production per flower 84 percent lower compared with the islands. While this has yet to fully manifest itself in the density of adult gloxinia populations on the mainland, the researchers found 55 percent fewer juvenile plants per adult plant on the mainland vis-a-vis the islands.... An estimated 49 percent of all land birds have been lost in New Zealand, say the researchers, and the consequences of that are far greater than those outlined in this study. ...


I suppose that implies something I should infer.

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Tue, Feb 1, 2011
from PhysOrg:
Surprising approach could help rescue fragile ecosystems and halt cascades of extinctions
Feral pigs introduced to the Galapagos Archipelago shortly after Charles Darwin's historical visit have damaged the ecosystem of Santiago Island, causing, it is believed, the extinction or imperilment of a number of species. The complete removal of the pigs 11 years ago is beginning to restore balance to the island. Two Northwestern University scientists have developed a mathematical model that supports the management choices in perturbed ecosystems, such as the Galápagos, and illustrates how human intervention may effectively aid species conservation efforts. The selective suppression or removal of one or more species in a troubled ecosystem can save many more species.... Motter explained further, "We find that extinction cascades can often be mitigated by suppressing -- rather than enhancing -- the populations of specific species. In numerous cases, it is predicted that even the proactive removal of a species that would otherwise be extinct by a cascade can prevent the extinction of other species." ...


If you think about this a minute, it has disturbing implications for invasive humans.

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Wed, Jan 26, 2011
from Cambridge News (UK):
Bird numbers plummet to record low in county
Numbers of farmland and woodland birds across Cambridgeshire have hit an all time low and experts warned the decline is "incredibly worrying". A Defra report highlighted that around half of farmland birds have been lost in England since 1970, reaching their lowest recorded levels. The report also showed that their woodland counterparts have fallen by a quarter. The decline has been linked to decades of habitat change -- a lack of nesting sites and a shortage of food -- but investigations into the exact reasons are to continue.... "The decline is incredibly steep and incredibly worrying. We all need to work together to get these birds out of the red." ...


The sedge is wither'd from the lake, / And no birds sing. (Keats)

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Tue, Jan 25, 2011
from Hebrew University of Jerusalem via ScienceDaily:
Climate Change Threatens Many Tree Species
Global warming is already affecting the earth in a variety of ways that demand our attention. Now, research carried out at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem indicates that many tree species might become extinct due to climate change if no action is taken in time. According to the research, trees which disperse their seeds by wind, such as pines and maples, will be unable to spread at a pace that can cope with expected climate changes. ...


I suspect we'll all have trouble keeping up.

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Sat, Jan 15, 2011
from Telegraph.co.uk:
Climate change could happen much faster than previously thought
Humans are in danger of making large parts of the Earth uninhabitable for thousands of years because of man made climate change, according to new evidence based on geological records. The US study predicted that if society continues burning fossil fuels at the current rate, atmospheric levels of carbon dioxide could rise from the current level of 390 parts per million (ppm) to 1,000 by the end of this century.... But unlike last time, when it happened over millions of years, temperatures will rise too fast for species to adapt and change. In the short term he said temperatures could rise by more than 10.8F (6C) by the end of the century, which will also wipe out species.... "A truly conservative position is to conserve what we have, to not radically change things and if we do not want to radically change the environment then the conservative approach is to conserve the Earth as the human species has known it ever since we have been around on this planet." ...


Perhaps wiping out millions of species will decrease the atmospheric CO2, since they'll no longer be exhaling.

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Sat, Jan 8, 2011
from EnvironmentalResearchWeb:
What triggers mass extinctions? Study shows how invasive species stop new life
An influx of invasive species can stop the dominant natural process of new species formation and trigger mass extinction events, according to research results published today in the journal PLoS ONE. The study of the collapse of Earth's marine life 378 to 375 million years ago suggests that the planet's current ecosystems, which are struggling with biodiversity loss, could meet a similar fate. Although Earth has experienced five major mass extinction events, the environmental crash during the Late Devonian was unlike any other in the planet's history. The actual number of extinctions wasn't higher than the natural rate of species loss, but very few new species arose.... In a departure from previous studies, Stigall used phylogenetic analysis, which draws on an understanding of the tree of evolutionary relationships to examine how individual speciation events occurred.... As sea levels rose and the continents closed in to form connected land masses, however, some species gained access to environments they hadn't inhabited before. The hardiest of these invasive species that could thrive on a variety of food sources and in new climates became dominant, wiping out more locally adapted species. The invasive species were so prolific at this time that it became difficult for many new species to arise. ...


Hmmm. Wasn't it about 200,000 years ago that we left the savannah and began to take over the world?

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Fri, Dec 31, 2010
from PNAS, via EnvironmentalResearchWeb:
Ocean acidification changes nitrogen cycling in world seas
Increasing acidity in the sea's waters may fundamentally change how nitrogen is cycled in them, say marine scientists who published their findings in this week's issue of the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS). Nitrogen is one of the most important nutrients in the oceans. All organisms, from tiny microbes to blue whales, use nitrogen to make proteins and other important compounds. Some microbes can also use different chemical forms of nitrogen as a source of energy. One of these groups, the ammonia oxidizers, plays a pivotal role in determining which forms of nitrogen are present in the ocean. In turn, they affect the lives of many other marine organisms.... In six experiments spread across two oceans, Beman and colleagues looked at the response of ammonia oxidation rates to ocean acidification. In every case where the researchers experimentally increased the amount of acidity in ocean waters, ammonia oxidation rates decreased. These declines were remarkably similar in different regions of the ocean indicating that nitrification rates may decrease globally as the oceans acidify in coming decades, says David Hutchins of the University of Southern California, a co-author of the paper.... As human-derived carbon dioxide permeates the sea, ammonia-oxidizing organisms will be at a significant disadvantage in competing for ammonia.... "What makes ocean acidification such a challenging scientific and societal issue is that we're engaged in a global, unreplicated experiment," says Beman, "one that's difficult to study--and has many unknown consequences." ...


It's not like Neptune would allow this to continue. Nor would Aquaman. Atlantis would rise up!

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Wed, Dec 22, 2010
from University of Bristol, via EurekAlert:
New fossil site in China shows long recovery of life from the largest extinction in Earth's history
Some 250 million years ago, at the end of the time known as the Permian, life was all but wiped out during a sustained period of massive volcanic eruption and devastating global warming. Only one in ten species survived, and these formed the basis for the recovery of life in the subsequent time period, called the Triassic. The new fossil site - at Luoping in Yunnan Province - provides a new window on that recovery, and indicates that it took about 10 million years for a fully-functioning ecosystem to develop.... 'The fossils at Luoping have told us a lot about the recovery and development of marine ecosystems after the end-Permian mass extinction,' said Professor Benton. 'There's still more to be discovered there, and we hope to get an even better picture of how life reasserted itself after the most catastrophic global event in the history of our planet.' ...


I think the word "heretofore" may be missing from that description.

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Thu, Dec 9, 2010
from The ApocaDocs:
2010 Year in Review from the ApocaDocs
The shocking truth ripped from the headlines! An appalling sense of humor in full display! The TOP 100 STORIES selected from the 1600+ news items archived and bequipped by the ApocaDocs in 2010, our The Year in Review displays not just the most holy shit, death-spiral-ish stories of the year, but also many of our favorite quips ("holy shit" stories tend to bring out the quipsters in both of us). All displayed in staggering CHRONOLOGICAL ORDER to help recap the year. You'll find yourself asking "What, all this, and it's only June!?!" Groans, grimaces, and guffaws abound in this rollercoaster reprise of a most eventful year. ...


How could you keep it to only a hundred?

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Sun, Nov 21, 2010
from BBC:
Only 3,000 tiger left in the wild
Governments of the 13 countries where tigers still live aim to agree moves that could double numbers of the endangered big cats within 12 years. The International Tiger Conservation Forum in St Petersburg will discuss proposals on protecting habitat, tackling poaching, and finance. About 3,000 tigers live in the wild - a 40 percent decline in a decade. There are warnings that without major advances, some populations will disappear within the next 20 years.... A recent report by Traffic, the global wildlife trade monitoring organisation, said that body parts from more than 1,000 tigers had been seized in the last decade.... "Some people are saying 'well, doubling the tiger population is good, but we have no room' - I've heard that said [in preliminary meetings]," he told the BBC. "It needs to be done everywhere - especially we need to see a doubling where you have significant populations. ""If you leave tigers alone and don't kill them and don't poach them, then naturally they will double in 10 years." ...


What kind of vicious, voracious alien could be a predator of tigers?

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Sat, Oct 30, 2010
from Scientific American:
Nations agree to historic deal to save nature
Nearly 200 nations agreed on Saturday to a sweeping plan to stem the loss of species by setting new 2020 targets to ensure greater protection of nature and enshrine the benefits it gives mankind. Environment ministers from around the globe also agreed on rules for sharing the benefits from genetic resources from nature between governments and companies, a trade and intellectual property issue that could be worth billions of dollars in new funds for developing nations. Agreement on parts of the deal has taken years of at times heated negotiations, and talks in the Japanese city of Nagoya were deadlocked until the early hours of Saturday after two weeks of talks. Delegates agreed goals to protect oceans, forests and rivers as the world faces the worst extinction rate since the dinosaurs vanished 65 million years ago. They also agreed to take steps to put a price on the value of benefits such as clean water from watersheds and coastal protection by mangroves by including such "natural capital" into national accounts. Services provided by nature to economies were worth trillions of dollars a year, the head of the U.N. Environment Programme, Achim Steiner, said in a statement, adding businesses from banks to miners were key in halting rapid loss of ecosystems. ...


Agreeing to "2020 targets" is step 1 of at least 2019 more steps.

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Mon, Oct 18, 2010
from AP, via PhysOrg:
UN meeting on saving species opens in Japan
Delegates from more than 190 nations kicked off a U.N. conference Monday aimed at ensuring the survival of diverse species and ecosystems threatened by pollution, exploitation and habitat encroachment. But the two-week marathon talks of the U.N. Convention on Biological Diversity face some of the same divisions between rich and poor nations over what actions to take that have bogged down global climate negotiations. Scientists warn that unless we start doing more to protect species, extinctions will spike and the intricately interconnected natural world will be damaged with devastating consequences. "We're on the verge on the major extinction spasm," said Russ Mittermeier, president of Conservation International and a field biologist who has spent decades studying primates. "Healthy ecosystems are the underpinnings of human development."... Scientists estimate that the Earth is losing species 100 to 1,000 times the historical average. They warn that's pushing the Earth toward its sixth big extinction phase, the greatest since the dinosaurs were wiped out 65 million years ago. ...


If we can cause the Sixth Extinction, why can't we kill off bedbugs?

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Fri, Sep 3, 2010
from PhysOrg:
Rolling the dice with evolution: Massive extinction will have unpredictable consequences
New research by Macquarie University palaeobiologist, Dr John Alroy, predicts major changes to the rules of evolution as we understand them now. Those changes will have serious consequences for future biodiversity because no one can predict which groups will come to dominate after the current mass extinction..... Thus, a group's average rate of diversification or branching into new species in the past is not a good predictor of how well it will fare after a mass extinction event.... Organisms that might have adapted in the past may not be able to this time, he said. "You may end up with a dramatically altered sea floor because of changes in the dominance of major groups. That is, the extinction occurring now will overturn the balance of the marine groups." When there is a major mass extinction, it's not just a temporary drop in richness of species, he said. Alroy likens what is happening now to rolling the dice with evolution. "What's worrisome is that some groups permanently become dominant that otherwise wouldn't have. So by causing this extinction, we are taking a big gamble on what kind of species will be around in the future. We don't know how it will turn out. People don't realise that there will be very unpredictable consequences." ...


Snake eyes, when baby needs new shoes.

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Mon, Aug 2, 2010
from NC State University, via EurekAlert:
'Ribbit Radio' shows frog populations likely overestimated
Scientists track amphibian populations because these animals are sensitive to changes in their environment and can serve as "canaries in the coal mine" to give researchers early warnings about pollution or other ecological problems. But new research from North Carolina State University shows that data from the largest amphibian monitoring program in the country may have flaws that, if uncorrected, could result in overestimates of frog populations.... Simons and his co-authors wanted to test the accuracy of these surveys by using the "Bird Radio" system Simons developed previously to test the accuracy of bird census methods. The system, renamed "Ribbit Radio," consists of a series of remotely controlled playback devices that can be used to mimic populations of calling frogs. The researchers set up "Ribbit Radio" in a field and used it to test how well observers identify frog species. Simons says the researchers immediately noted a lot of "false positives" in the data - meaning that some observers were saying they heard species that were not played by the "Ribbit Radio" system. ...


If those amphibians would just fill out their census forms!

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Mon, Jul 5, 2010
from Greenwich Time:
Local lobstermen say no to moratorium
Once a thriving industry that provided seafaring men a comfortable existence, Long Island Sound's lobstermen have been virtually wiped out over the past 10 years. A new recommendation by the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission to prohibit lobstering in the Sound for the next five years will ensure their demise, they say. The commission is calling for a five-year moratorium on lobstering from Cape Cod, Mass., to Cape May, N.J., under a plan it hopes would allow the lobster population to recover. ...


As go lobsters... so go the lobstermen.

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Mon, Jul 5, 2010
from Science, via McClatchy:
World ocean: 'overwhelming evidence' that it's 'a lot worse than the public thinks.'
A sobering new report warns that the oceans face a "fundamental and irreversible ecological transformation" not seen in millions of years as greenhouse gases and climate change already have affected temperature, acidity, sea and oxygen levels, the food chain and possibly major currents that could alter global weather.... "We are becoming increasingly certain that the world's marine ecosystems are reaching tipping points," Bruno said, adding, "We really have no power or model to foresee" the impact. "It's a lot worse than the public thinks," said Nate Mantua, an associate research professor at the University of Washington's Climate Impacts Group. Mantua, who's read the report, said it was clear what was causing the oceans' problems: greenhouse gases. "It is not a mystery," he said. ...


Alright! If it's not a mystery, then we can do something about it!
Right?
Right?


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Thu, Jul 1, 2010
from Oregon State University:
'Trophic cascades' of disruption may include loss of woolly mammoth, saber-toothed cat
A new analysis of the extinction of woolly mammoths and other large mammals more than 10,000 years ago suggests that they may have fallen victim to the same type of "trophic cascade" of ecosystem disruption that scientists say is being caused today by the global decline of predators such as wolves, cougars, and sharks. In each case the cascading events were originally begun by human disruption of ecosystems, a new study concludes, but around 15,000 years ago the problem was not the loss of a key predator, but the addition of one - human hunters with spears. In a study published today in the journal BioScience, researchers propose that this mass extinction was caused by newly-arrived humans tipping the balance of power and competing with major predators such as saber-toothed cats. An equilibrium that had survived for thousands of years was disrupted, possibly explaining the loss of two-thirds of North America's large mammals during this period. "For decades, scientists have been debating the causes of this mass extinction, and the two theories with the most support are hunting pressures from the arrival of humans, and climate change," said William Ripple, a professor of forest ecosystems and society at Oregon State University, and an expert on the ecosystem alterations that scientists are increasingly finding when predators are added or removed.... "Rather, we think humans provided competition for other predators that still did the bulk of the killing. But we were the triggering mechanism that disrupted the ecosystem."... "The tragic cascade of species declines due to human harvesting of marine megafauna happening now may be a repeat of the cascade that occurred with the onset of human harvesting of terrestrial megafauna more than 10,000 years ago. This is a sobering thought, but it is not too late to alter our course this time around in the interest of sustaining Earth's ecosystems." ...


What can we learn from early times?/ that history's different, but still, it rhymes.

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Wed, May 12, 2010
from SciDev.net:
Biodiversity leaders lament failure to reach the powerful
Poor communication has contributed to the failure to meet the 2010 global conservation targets, according to a major report released yesterday (May 10). The world is nearing ′tipping points′ in which whole ecosystems could collapse, said the third Global Biodiversity Outlook, produced by the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD). But, though the importance of biodiversity loss has reached some parts of many governments around the world, it has failed to be absorbed by those with the power to act, the report finds.... "The CBD has very nearly universal participation from the world's governments, yet those involved in its implementation rarely have the influence to promote action at the level required to effect real change," says the report. ...


There, there, biologists. You just go and do another of your little studies, and we'll put it on our "to be read" stack.

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Mon, May 10, 2010
from BBC:
Nature loss 'to damage economies'
The Earth's ongoing nature losses may soon begin to hit national economies, a major UN report has warned. The third Global Biodiversity Outlook (GBO-3) says that some ecosystems may soon reach "tipping points" where they rapidly become less useful to humanity. Such tipping points could include rapid dieback of forest, algal takeover of watercourses and mass coral reef death. Last month, scientists confirmed that governments would not meet their target of curbing biodiversity loss by 2010.... The global abundance of vertebrates - the group that includes mammals, reptiles, birds, amphibians and fish - fell by about one-third between 1970 and 2006, the UN says.... "If the world made equivalent losses in share prices, there would be a rapid response and widespread panic."... "Humanity has fabricated the illusion that somehow we can get by without biodiversity, or that it is somehow peripheral to our contemporary world: the truth is we need it more than ever on a planet of six billion heading to over nine billion people by 2050." ...


And who are you to be calling my belief system an illusion?

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Sun, May 9, 2010
from Times Online:
Third of all plants and animals face extinction
ANIMAL and plant species are being killed off faster than ever before as human populations surge and people consume more, a United Nations report is expected to say this week. It will warn that the expansion of countries such as China, India and Brazil is adding hugely to the environmental threats already generated by developed western nations, and that a third of species could face extinction this century. The report is one of the starkest issued by the UN and the decision to draw an explicit link between extinction rates and economic growth makes it politically sensitive. It will point out that the extinction threat extends across all main ecosystems, affecting living things as diverse as tree frogs, coral reefs and river dolphins.... "The magnitude of the damage [to ecosystems] is much bigger than previously thought," said Djoghlaf. "The rate of extinction is currently running at 1,000 times the natural historical background rate of extinction." ...


That sounds a little alarmist. How about "only three orders of magnitude greater"?

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Fri, May 7, 2010
from Agence France-Press:
World needs 'bailout plan' to protect endangered species
Facing what many scientists say is the sixth mass extinction in half-a-billion years, our planet urgently needs a "bailout plan" to protect its biodiversity, a top conservation group said Thursday. Failure to stem the loss of animal and plant species will have dire consequences on human well-being, the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) warned... A fifth of mammals, 30 per cent of amphibians, 12 per cent of known birds, and more than a quarter of reef-building corals -- the livelihood cornerstone for 500 million people in coastal areas -- face extinction, according to the IUCN's benchmark Red List of Threatened Species. ...


Perhaps... on some level ... we're just trying to winnow life down -- back to that original organism.

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Sun, May 2, 2010
from The ApocaDocs:
From the ApocaDesk: The 'Docs are in
We've been hearing from you. You're calling, you're emailing (ApocadocsATgmail.com), you're hurting. This oil of river pouring from the wound in the Gulf of Mexico is just beginning.

Your hearts are breaking, and so are ours, but we are Doctors of the Apocalypse and we are here to help with some advice.

First: Keep an eye on it. Take breaks, but stay with the horror. Look it square in the face.

Second: Realize that, despite how terrible this seems, it is happening, more or less, all over the planet. Just read our site -- Biology Breach is a clarifying scenario for this. Climate Chaos, too. People everywhere are already in the grips of habitat collapse, whether due to toxins like oil or ewaste or plastic -- or by climate change itself. Ask the Inuits, the Indians, the Australians, the Tanzanians.

Third: Do something, today. Commit to some change in your consumer or energy-use behavior. Stop driving your car. One day a week. Then make it two. Stop using plastic, whether in packaging or, worst of all, water bottles. Let this be the beginning of your stewardship of the earth.

Fourth: Speaking of stewardship, start something. Go to our Recovery scenario, then read the amazing feats that humans can do. Just yesterday, we found the story of an 82 year old woman who convinced her town of Concord, Massachusetts, to outlaw plastic water bottles.

Fifth: Hold the criminals accountable, whether they are politicians who do nothing to address climate change, or CEOs who don't change their corporate cultures to care for the planet. The rights of nature MUST BECOME transcendent.

Sixth: Download our book. This is not self-promotion. The book is free. You can read it in one afternoon (if you have the stomach). We want you to see what we are learning, what we are witnessing.

Let the horror of what's happening in the Gulf of Mexico be the awakening we need.

...




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Mon, Apr 26, 2010
from Telegraph.co.uk:
David Attenborough warns of ecological disaster in 'Silent Summer'
The naturalist made his comments in the foreword to a new book, Silent Summer, in which 40 prominent British ecologists explain how humankind is wiping out many species.... The new book explains the negative impact of pesticides, population growth, farming and other factors on the plants and species that prop up Britain's ecosystems.... The book details how three quarters of British butterfly species are in decline, thanks in part to the destruction of the plants caterpillars feed on, treated by farmers as weeds. Moth numbers were down by a third from 1968 to 2002 for the same reasons, with at least 20 species having seen populations decline by more than 90 per cent. Rivers in Britain have also suffered, with caddis flies, mayflies and stoneflies said to have badly suffered from the increased use of pesticides on sheep and cattle, which can wash off and poison the water if the animals enter a river or stream. ...


Fewer critters just means more room to expand!

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Sat, Apr 10, 2010
from Wildlife Conservation Society via ScienceDaily:
Rarest of the Rare: List of Critically Endangered Species
The Wildlife Conservation Society released a list of critically endangered species dubbed the "Rarest of the Rare" -- a group of animals most in danger of extinction, ranging from Cuban crocodiles to white-headed langurs in Vietnam. The list of a dozen animals includes an eclectic collection of birds, mammals, reptiles and amphibians. Some are well known, such as the Sumatran orangutan; while others are more obscure, including vaquita, an ocean porpoise. The list appears in the 2010-1011 edition of State of the Wild -- a Global Portrait. ...


I'll have mine medium rare.

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Fri, Apr 9, 2010
from BBC:
'World needs a barometer of life'
The world needs a "barometer of life" to prevent ecosystems and species being lost forever, scientists have warned. Existing schemes, they said, did not include enough species from groups such as fungi and invertebrates to provide a detailed picture of what is at risk. Writing in the journal Science, the researchers said the barometer would increase the number of species being assessed from almost 48,000 to 160,000. The data would help identify areas in need of urgent action, they added.... "The barometer would broaden the reach of the Red List to make it representative of all life, that's what it's all about," Dr Stuart explained. The authors hope that broadening the taxanomic base of the Red List and increasing the database to 160,000 species would deliver practical benefits. "A representative barometer would provide a solid basis for informing decisions globally," the authors suggested. ...


The high pressure zone shows no sign of abating.

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Sun, Mar 28, 2010
from via ScienceDaily:
Dawn of the Anthropocene Epoch? Earth Has Entered New Age of Geological Time, Experts Say
Geologists from the University of Leicester are among four scientists- including a Nobel prize-winner -- who suggest that Earth has entered a new age of geological time. The Age of Aquarius? Not quite -- It's the Anthropocene Epoch, say the scientists writing in the journal Environmental Science & Technology. And they add that the dawning of this new epoch may include the sixth largest mass extinction in Earth's history... The scientists propose that, in just two centuries, humans have wrought such vast and unprecedented changes to our world that we actually might be ushering in a new geological time interval, and alter the planet for millions of years. ...


Let's call it the Age of Anthroposcrewup.

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Tue, Mar 9, 2010
from Guardian:
Humans driving extinction faster than species can evolve, say experts
Conservation experts have already signalled that the world is in the grip of the "sixth great extinction" of species, driven by the destruction of natural habitats, hunting, the spread of alien predators and disease, and climate change. However until recently it has been hoped that the rate at which new species were evolving could keep pace with the loss of diversity of life.... "Measuring the rate at which new species evolve is difficult, but there's no question that the current extinction rates are faster than that; I think it's inevitable," said Stuart.... Stuart said it was possible that the dramatic predictions of experts like the renowned Harvard biologist E O Wilson, that the rate of loss could reach 10,000 times the background rate in two decades, could be correct. "All the evidence is he's right," said Stuart. "Some people claim it already is that ... things can only have deteriorated because of the drivers of the losses, such as habitat loss and climate change, all getting worse. But we haven't measured extinction rates again since 2004 and because our current estimates contain a tenfold range there has to be a very big deterioration or improvement to pick up a change." ...


That's so fast that we won't even have to know what we missed!

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Fri, Feb 19, 2010
from ASU, via EurekAlert:
Idea of restoring 'natural systems' misses mark as response to climate change challenges
Particularly in the debates about how to respond to atmospheric greenhouse gas buildup, climate change and humankind's impact on the global environment, Allenby says, "We are often framing the discussion from narrow and overly simplistic perspectives, but what we are dealing with are systems that are highly complex. As a result, the policy solutions we come up with don't match the challenges we are trying to respond to."... One misstep in such endeavors is that we are searching for solutions that will restore natural systems. But Allenby contends "the planet no longer has purely natural systems. What we have is an integrated natural-human environment, one shaped over centuries by a combination of natural factors and technological evolution." The questions in which we must frame discussion of potential geoengineering solutions should be grounded in awareness of this reality, he says. "Responding to something like climate change is not just a scientific and technical matter," he says. "Whatever attempted solutions we chose, or reject, will have significant cultural and ethical implications." ...


Centuries, as compared to the mere millions that evolved us to here.

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Mon, Jan 11, 2010
from BBC:
World's biodiversity 'crisis' needs action, says UN
Eight years ago, governments pledged to reduce the rate of biodiversity loss by 2010, but the pledge will not be met. The expansion of human cities, farming and infrastructure is the main reason... "The urgency of the situation demands that as a global community we not only reverse the rate of loss, but that we stop the loss altogether and begin restoring the ecological infrastructure that has been damaged and degraded over the previous century or so," [Achim Steiner, executive director of the UN Environment Programme (UNEP)] said. The UN says that as natural systems such as forests and wetlands disappear, humanity loses the services they currently provide for free. ...


Nature should strongly consider charging for her services!

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Wed, Jan 6, 2010
from San Francisco Chronicle:
Vast protected area proposed for leatherbacks
The battle to save Pacific leatherback turtles from extinction prompted federal biologists Tuesday to propose designating 70,000 square miles of ocean along the West Coast as critical habitat for the giant reptiles. The designation by the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration would mark the first time critical habitat has ever been established in the open ocean for the endangered leatherbacks, which swim 6,000 miles every year to eat jellyfish outside the Golden Gate. If approved, the regulations would restrict projects that harm the turtles or their food. The government would be required to review and, if necessary, regulate agricultural waste, pollution, oil spills, power plants, oil drilling, storm water runoff and liquid natural gas projects along the California coast between Long Beach and Mendocino County and off the Oregon and Washington coasts. ...


Yeah, if it weren't for the turtles why even worry about waste, pollution, oil spills, etc...

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Tue, Jan 5, 2010
from Inter Press Service:
Biodiversity: Invasive Species Multiply in U.S. Waterways
The U.N. says some experts put the rate at which species are disappearing at 1,000 times the natural rate, and invasive species -- which consume the food or habitat of native species, or the native species themselves -- are one factor contributing to this acceleration. Climate change is another major factor. "Often it will be the combination of climate change and [invasive] pests operating together that will wipe species out," says Tim Low of the Australia-based Invasive Species Council. The International Union for Conservation of Nature says that 38 percent of the 44,838 species catalogued on its Red List are "threatened with extinction" -- and at least 40 percent of all animal extinctions for which the cause is known are the result of invasive species. ...


Why can't native species fight back? Are they wussies???

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Sat, Jan 2, 2010
from London Daily Telegraph:
We're losing the riches of the world
Species are now going extinct at between 1,000 and 10,000 times the natural rate. The consequences will be disastrous... Another year, another Year. After the official 2009 International Year of Natural Fibres -- following my favourite, the International Year of the Potato in 2008 -- we are now two days into the UN-designated International Year of Biodiversity. And though the celebrations of spuds and sisal may have happily passed you by, this one, I would suggest, is worth noticing. For a start, it marks one of the most spectacularly broken, but least-known, of all environmental promises. In 2001, EU heads of governments said they would aim to "halt" human destruction of the world's wildlife and wild places by 2010, and the next year world leaders, meeting at the Johannesburg Earth Summit, committed themselves to "a significant reduction" in the rate of loss by the same date. ...


Oops! Spaced out THAT one!

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Fri, Dec 18, 2009
from University of California - Berkeley via ScienceDaily:
Mammals May Be Nearly Half Way Toward Mass Extinction
If the planet is headed for another mass extinction like the previous five, each of which wiped out more than 75 percent of all species on the planet, then North American mammals are one-fifth to one-half the way there, according to a University of California, Berkeley, and Pennsylvania State University analysis. Many scientists warn that the perfect storm of global warming and environmental degradation -- both the result of human activity is leading to a sixth mass extinction equal to the "Big Five" that have occurred over the past 450 million years, the last of which killed off the dinosaurs 68 million years ago. Yet estimates of how dire the current loss of species is have been hampered by the inability to compare species diversity today with the past. ...


Is "equal to" the best we can do?

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Wed, Dec 16, 2009
from COP15:
New study: Substantial irreversible damage to ocean ecosystems
According to the study, seas and oceans absorb approximately one quarter of the carbon dioxide emitted to the atmosphere from the burning of fossil fuels, deforestation and other human activities. As more and more carbon dioxide has been emitted into the atmosphere, the oceans have absorbed greater amounts at increasingly rapid rates. Without this level of absorption by the oceans, atmospheric CO2 levels would be significantly higher than at present and the effects of global climate change would be more marked. However, the absorption of atmospheric CO2 has resulted in changes to the chemical balance of the oceans, causing them to become more acidic.... This dramatic increase is 100 times faster than any change in acidity experienced in the marine environment over the last 20 million years, giving little time for evolutionary adaptation within biological systems. ...


Irreversible? C'mon, we're humans. We'll figure something out.

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Fri, Dec 11, 2009
from EcoWorldly:
Only 8 Northern White Rhinos Still Survive As Controversy Brews Among Rhino Experts
Now believed extinct in the wild, the world's only surviving northern white rhinos are currently in captivity in just two locations: ZOO Dvur Kralove in the Czech Republic and San Diego Zoo's Wild Animal Park.... Most rhino experts understand that the window for achieving a "pure" population of the northern white rhino (NWR) subspecies (Ceratotherium simum cottoni) is now tragically closed. And while it is generally acknowledged that the best chances of preserving any genetic material is via hybrid offspring of NWR and the southern white rhino (Ceratotherium simum simum), rhino experts are currently divided on how to successfully preserve the NWR genes. At the heart of the controversy is a plan to move four of the eight surviving NWR from the Czech Republic to Africa. ...


At least we know where the eight are.

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Fri, Dec 4, 2009
from BBC (UK):
Galapagos Islands are transformed
The Galapagos archipelago has already been transformed by global climate changes and human activity, a report has concluded. A series of events, including the 1982 El Nino, overfishing and the appearance of urchins that destroy coral, has altered the islands' marine ecosystems. At least 45 Galapagos species have now disappeared or are facing extinction. That suggests future climate change driven by human activity will have an major impact on the islands' wildlife.... All live on the Galapagos, and most are found nowhere else. These 45 species include five mammals, six birds, five reptiles, six fishes, one echinoderm, seven corals, six brown algae and nine red algae. Among those is the coastal-living Mangrove finch, a species once studied by Charles Darwin. ...


Humans: the only evolutionary pressure that matters.

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Fri, Nov 20, 2009
from Foreign Affairs:
Where the Wild Things Were
Ten percent of the world's terrestrial surface is now at least nominally under some kind of protection. National biodiversity assessments and the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment have provided useful information on the "state of nature" in various places. The world knows more and is doing more about conservation than in the past. Nevertheless, the loss of biodiversity -- wildlife, genetic material, ecosystems, and evolutionary processes -- has not abated. The United States has still not ratified the CBD, and the UN system for conservation is still weak, lacking sanctions for states that fail to live up to their commitments. Trade in protected wildlife continues and poaching runs rampant. Funding for conservation remains vanishingly small, and important animal populations and entire species are in grave danger.... Savannah elephants have no exit corridors from East African drought; changes in water availability threaten natural areas and force the rural poor to resettle; migrating birds arrive at the wrong time, finding little food or nesting opportunities; small populations of animals are simply blinking out. ...


Why worry about biodiversity? Just build more zoos!

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Fri, Nov 6, 2009
from London Times:
Experts say that fears surrounding climate change are overblown
...The International Union for the Conservation of Nature backed the article, saying that climate change is "far from the number-one threat" to the survival of most species. "There are so many other immediate threats that, by the time climate change really kicks in, many species will not exist any more," said Jean Christophe Vie, deputy head of the IUCN species program, which is responsible for compiling the international Redlist of endangered species. He listed hunting, overfishing, and destruction of habitat by humans as more critical for the majority of species. However, the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds disagreed, saying that climate change was the single biggest threat to biodiversity on the planet. "There's an absolutely undeniable affect that's happening now," said John Clare, an RSPB spokesman. "There have been huge declines in British sea birds." ...


At least we agree they're screwed!

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Tue, Nov 3, 2009
from BBC:
Species' extinction threat grows
More than a third of species assessed in a major international biodiversity study are threatened with extinction, scientists have warned. Out of the 47,677 species in the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species, 17,291 were deemed to be at serious risk. These included 21 percent of all known mammals, 30 percent of amphibians, 70 percent of plants and 35 percent of invertebrates. Conservationists warned that not enough was being done to tackle the main threats, such as habitat loss. "The scientific evidence of a serious extinction crisis is mounting," warned Jane Smart, director of the International Union for the Conservation of Nature's (IUCN) Biodiversity Conservation Group. The latest analysis... shows that the 2010 target to reduce biodiversity loss will not be met," she added. ...


Looks like we're headed for a bio-mono-verse world.

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Fri, Oct 30, 2009
from Public Library of Science via ScienceDaily:
French Male Bears In Immediate Need Of More Females
The population of brown bears (Ursus arctos) in France is now so small that the species might become extinct in the near future. However, there is new hope in the form of new research published October 28 in PLoS One, which suggests that relocating new bears doesn't just boost the population size but can also reverse some of the causes of the population decline. "Our results suggest that having a viable bear population in France requires further translocations. In particular, male bears need more females," says Guillaume Chapron... ...


What's a better portal for this: match.com or eharmony?

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Fri, Oct 30, 2009
from Penn State via ScienceDaily:
Global Warming Cycles Threaten Endangered Primate Species
Two Penn State University researchers have carried out one of the first-ever analyses of the effects of global warming on endangered primates.... The scientists focused on the large-bodied monkeys of South America, which are highly threatened. Choosing one species from each of the four genera of Atelines, Wiederholt and Post examined abundance trends and dynamics... The team hypothesized that the trees' response to the warming events might provide a crucial link between changes in climate and monkey abundance....The results of the team's analyses were spectacular. All four monkey species showed drops in abundance relating to large-scale climate fluctuations. ...


Just so it doesn't endanger any threatened species.

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Wed, Oct 7, 2009
from Financial Times:
Shopping habits of China's 'suddenly wealthy'
And while China's nouveaux riches share many of the tastes of their counterparts in any other part of the world, there are also a number of customs and cultural legacies that have ­created new markets for ­products that have little value elsewhere. This has encouraged global companies to invest an increasing amount of time and money in understanding what makes the Chinese customer special and how best to market or customise products. In some cases, traditional Chinese tastes, combined with the explosion in wealth during the past decade, have created a rapacious and unsustainable call for the body parts of endangered species. The manufacture of ­traditional delicacies, ornaments and medicinal ingredients has helped to cut swathes through populations of sharks, elephants, seahorses and other species across the world -- and that demand is only expected to increase. ...


The new evolutionary imperative: Consumer Demand.

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Sun, Sep 27, 2009
from The Journal-News, Martinburg, WV:
Southern bats now dying from white-nose fungus
"In some hibernaculum, 90 to 100 percent of the bats are dying," a Fish and Wildlife Service Web site reads. In a cave advisory issued earlier this year, federal officials said it has not only "killed hundreds of thousands" of bats in northeastern states, but it threatens to spread to the Midwest and Southeast -- home to many federally endangered bat species, as well as one of the largest bat populations in the country.... Once bats become infected, it interferes with their hibernation patterns, Bennett said. "Bats normally wake up five, six or seven times during their hibernation, when they'll preen a little bit and then go back to sleep. But this fungus itches them, so they wake up constantly and scratch till they use up their fat reserve. So they wake up in the middle of winter and they're hungry. They have to eat to survive, so they fly out of the cave," he said. White-nose syndrome was discovered by cavers in West Virginia this past summer in Pendleton County, Bennett said. Shortly afterward, it was discovered in Bath County, Va., he said.... "But the other caves they found it in were popular caves, so this is why they are thinking that humans may be helping to spread it," he said. ...


Just another of our surplus species. Y'know, we own millions of 'em.

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Fri, Sep 4, 2009
from Guardian (UK):
How global warming sealed the fate of the world's coral reefs
If you thought you had heard enough bad news on the environment and that the situation could not get any worse, then steel yourself. Coral reefs are doomed. The situation is virtually hopeless. Forget ice caps and rising sea levels: the tropical coral reef looks like it will enter the history books as the first major ecosystem wiped out by our love of cheap energy.... "The future is horrific," says Charlie Veron, an Australian marine biologist who is widely regarded as the world's foremost expert on coral reefs. "There is no hope of reefs surviving to even mid-century in any form that we now recognise. If, and when, they go, they will take with them about one-third of the world's marine biodiversity. Then there is a domino effect, as reefs fail so will other ecosystems. This is the path of a mass extinction event, when most life, especially tropical marine life, goes extinct." ...


I wish these scientists would speak in less "technical" language. Oh, and more good news, willya?

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Sat, Aug 15, 2009
from Telegraph.co.uk:
Species Discoved, Species Extinguished
We are in the middle of a golden age for discovering new wildlife around the globe. And, at the same time, we are bringing about the greatest toll of extinctions in some 65 million years. Not since the death of the dinosaurs have so many species been dying out so fast. Scientists increasingly believe – as Lord May, the former president of the Royal Society, has put it -- that "we are on the breaking tip of a sixth great wave of extinction in the history of life on Earth". And yet scientific collections and reference volumes are bulging as never before, as more and more species are found, described and named.... And just this week, WWF (formerly the World Wildlife Fund) announced that 100 new animal and 250 plant species had been identified over the last decade in the eastern Himalayas alone. Yet the scientists excitedly adding to our knowledge are merely trying to hobble up a downward escalator that is rapidly accelerating: we are losing species infinitely faster than we are finding them.... And for every new discovery ... hundreds of species perish before they are ever found. Like the death toll, the consequences are incalculable. ...


One step forward, a hundred steps back?

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Sat, Aug 8, 2009
from BBC (UK):
Extinction hits 'whole families'
Whole "chunks of life" are lost in extinction events, as related species vanish together, say scientists. A study in the journal Science shows that extinctions tend to "cluster" on evolutionary lineages -- wiping out species with a common ancestor. The finding is based on an examination of past extinctions, but could help current conservation efforts. Researchers say that this phenomenon can result in the loss of an entire branch of the "tree of life".... "In seabirds for example, the same drivers -- climatic change and habitat loss -- are threatening whole groups of species." Richard Greyner likened this loss to a fire in a library. "Because whole sections are lost -- the whole of the physics section, or all of the romantic fiction, the overall loss is much worse than if you randomly burned every 400th book." ...


'Family' comes between 'Class' and 'Genus' -- and between 'birth' and 'death.'

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Sun, Aug 2, 2009
from Edinburgh Scotsman:
Scientists claim planet is heading for 'irreversible' climate change by 2040
Carbon dioxide levels are rising at a faster rate than the worst-case scenario envisaged by United Nations experts, with the planet heading for "catastrophic" and "irreversible" climate change by 2040, a new report claims. The rise of greenhouse gases will trigger an unprecedented rate of global warming that will result in the loss of the ice-covered polar seas by 2020, much of our coral reefs by 2040 and see a 1.4-metre rise in the sea level by 2100. The apocalyptic vision has been outlined in a paper by Andrew Brierley of St Andrews University, which is likely to influence the views of UN experts gathering in Copenhagen this December to establish a new protocol that will attempt to halt global warming. ...


"Apocalyptic"? Where are the plagues of locusts?

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Wed, Jul 29, 2009
from Guardian (UK):
Human activity is driving Earth's 'sixth great extinction event'
Earth is experiencing its "sixth great extinction event" with disease and human activity taking a devastating toll on vulnerable species, according to a major review by conservationists. Much of the southern hemisphere is suffering particularly badly, and Australia, New Zealand and neighbouring Pacific islands may become the extinction hot spots of the world, the report warns.... Researchers trawled 24,000 published reports to compile information on the native flora and fauna of Australasia and the Pacific islands, which have six of the most biodiverse regions on the planet. Their report identifies six causes driving species to extinction, almost all linked in some way to human activity. "Our region has the notorious distinction of having possibly the worst extinction record on Earth," said Richard Kingsford, an environmental scientist at the University of New South Wales in Sydney and lead author of the report. "We have an amazing natural environment, but so much of it is being destroyed before our eyes. Species are being threatened by habitat loss and degradation, invasive species, climate change, over-exploitation, pollution and wildlife disease." ...


Only one species matters... us!

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Thu, Jul 2, 2009
from BBC:
World 'still losing biodiversity'
An unacceptable number of species are still being lost forever despite world leaders pledging action to reverse the trend, a report has warned. The International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) says the commitment to reduce biodiversity loss by 2010 will not be met. It warns that a third of amphibians, a quarter of mammals and one-in-eight birds are threatened with extinction. The analysis is based on the 44,838 species on the IUCN Red List. "The report makes for depressing reading," said co-editor Craig Hilton Taylor, manager of the IUCN's Red List Unit. "It tells us that the extinction crisis is as bad, or even worse than we believed. ...


"Still"? Heck, we're just gettin' started!

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Tue, Jun 2, 2009
from CBC (Canada):
Scientists unveil plans for online directory of life on Earth
The directory will be a free resource that everyone — not just those working in the scientific community — can contribute to or use, say the people behind the project. The idea is to link together the efforts of thousands of observers around the world who already log their observations of flora and fauna online into one comprehensive, searchable directory.... The Encyclopedia of Life (EOL), one of the databases chronicling life on earth, will contribute data to the new directory. Those running EOL -- based out of the Smithsonian Institute in Washington, D.C. -- are among the major backers of the project. "We are creating a virtual observatory for world biodiversity, where environmental observations, specimen data, experimental results, and sophisticated modelling can be done across all levels of biodiversity -- from genes to ecosystems," Dr. James Edwards, executive director of EOL, said of the proposed directory. ...


They better hurry, or it could be a really short directory.

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Mon, May 11, 2009
from New Scientist:
Brazil's other big forest in dire straits
The ongoing degradation of the Amazon rainforest has obscured the plight of its smaller sibling: the Atlantic forest in Brazil, which is a biodiversity hotspot. Once covering about 1.5 million square kilometres, the rainforest has been reduced to about one-tenth of its original area in the past 500 years, a new study has shown. The Atlantic forest supports more than 20,000 species of plants, 260 mammals, 700 birds, 200 reptiles, 280 amphibians and hundreds of unnamed species. Unless the damage is halted, monkeys and birds unique to the region will go extinct, including iconic species such as the golden lion tamarin (Leontopithecus rosalia) and the northern woolly spider monkey (Brachyteles hypoxanthus), both among the most endangered of all the world's monkeys. "Unfortunately, the forest is in very bad shape," says Jean Paul Metzger at the University of Sao Paulo in Brazil. "Species extinctions will occur more rapidly and, since 30 per cent of the species are endemic to the region, they will disappear forever." ...


That Amazon "spare" is flat?

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Thu, May 7, 2009
from BBC (UK):
Wild fruit trees face extinction
The wild ancestors of common domestic fruit trees are in danger of becoming extinct, scientists have warned.... These disease-resistant and climate-tolerant fruit trees could play a role in our future food security. But in the last 50 years, about 90 percent of the forests have been destroyed, according to conservation charity, Fauna and Flora International.... "A lot of our domestic fruit supply comes from a very narrow genetic base," she continued. "Given the threats posed to food supplies by disease and the changing climate, we may need to go back to these species and include them in breeding programmes." ...


Most of my ancestors are already dead. What's the big deal?

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Thu, May 7, 2009
from Mongabay:
Chimpanzee population plummets 90 percent in supposedly strong region
A new survey of our closest relatives in the Cote D'Ivoire found that the population fell from an estimated 8,000 to 12,000 individuals to a paltry 800 to 1,200, a decline that took place in less than twenty years. Perhaps most troubling about this new survey is Cote d'Ivoire was supposed to be a stronghold for chimpanzees in West Africa. The report warns it is likely that similar declines have occurred in other West African nations. Researchers point to an increase of humans in Cote d'Ivoire as the primary reason. Since 1990 the nation has seen its human population grow by 50 percent. This has lead to increases in poaching and deforestation, activities which target both chimps and their habitat. "The habitat is gone, and all the protected areas have been invaded by people. It's not just the chimps -- [there's] no animals at all," lead author Genevieve Campbell told National Geographic. ...


We're running the risk of genus-cide.

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Sat, Apr 4, 2009
from TIME Magazine:
The New Age of Extinction
...There have been five extinction waves in the planet's history — including the Permian extinction 250 million years ago, when an estimated 70 percent of all terrestrial animals and 96 percent of all marine creatures vanished, and, most recently, the Cretaceous event 65 million years ago, which ended the reign of the dinosaurs. Though scientists have directly assessed the viability of fewer than 3 percent of the world's described species, the sample polling of animal populations so far suggests that we may have entered what will be the planet's sixth great extinction wave. And this time the cause isn't an errant asteroid or megavolcanoes. It's us... Through our growing numbers, our thirst for natural resources and, most of all, climate change — which, by one reckoning, could help carry off 20 percent to 30 percent of all species before the end of the century — we're shaping an Earth that will be biologically impoverished. A 2008 assessment by the International Union for Conservation of Nature found that nearly 1 in 4 mammals worldwide was at risk for extinction... ...


Do androids dream of electric Tasmanian devils?

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Mon, Mar 9, 2009
from Mongabay:
Seven new species of deep sea coral discovered
In the depths of the Papahanaumokuakea 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. "These discoveries are important, because deep-sea corals support diverse seafloor ecosystems and also because these corals may be among the first marine organisms to be affected by ocean acidification," said Richard Spinrad, NOAA's assistant administrator for Oceanic and Atmospheric Research. ...


"Discovered" just in time to be lost.

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Sun, Mar 8, 2009
from New Scientist:
Conservationists deciding which species to survive
Would the animal have made it into the ark? That's the kind of question conservationists have been asking when it comes to the thorny issue of picking which threatened species to save.... In the 1990s, Weitzman devised a formula for prioritising species for conservation. This considers the cost of saving a species, how useful or genetically diverse it is, and the increase in its chance of survival if chosen.... The aim is to figure out where money would make a difference, says co-author Karin Holm-Muller of the University of Bonn in Germany. "If a cattle breed is not at risk, or if there is no chance of changing anything, don't put money into it." ...


With that logic, we have no reason for putting money into saving the human species.

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Mon, Mar 2, 2009
from Mongabay:
Time to give up on Tasmanian tiger, says DNA expert
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.... Austin's lab has examined numerous dropping believed to be from the Tasmanian tiger only to find that most belong to the Tasmanian devil. This continued lack of success for Austin means there is little to no hope of discovering a living Tasmanian tiger.... According to a Tasmanian newspaper, The Mercury, Austin is also doubtful of efforts to clone a Tasmanian tiger. He believes that DNA fragments of the animal are too broken to create a complete genome, and even if a Tasmanian tiger could be cloned, it would only provide the world with a single individual which couldn't reproduce. The millions of dollars it would take to clone a Tasmanian tiger would be better spent on conservation efforts for the hundreds of threatened species including several in Tasmania, according to Austin. ...


Apocaiku: A sterile tyger
as a genetic orphan...
too sad to make true.


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Tue, Feb 10, 2009
from Stanford University, via EurekAlert:
No joy in discoveries of new mammal species -- only a warning for humanity
In the era of global warming, when many scientists say we are experiencing a human-caused mass extinction to rival the one that killed off the dinosaurs, one might think that the discovery of a host of new species would be cause for joy. Not entirely so, says Paul Ehrlich, co-author of an analysis of the 408 new mammalian species discovered since 1993. "What this paper really talks about is how little we actually know about our natural capital and how little we know about the services that flow from it," said Paul Ehrlich, the Bing Professor of Population Studies at Stanford. "I think what most people miss is that the human economy is a wholly owned subsidiary of the economy of nature, which supplies us from our natural capital a steady flow of income that we can't do without," Ehrlich said. "And that income is in the form of what are called 'ecosystem services' -- keeping carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere, supplying fresh water, preventing floods, protecting our crops from pests and pollinating many of them, recycling the nutrients that are essential to agriculture and forestry, and on and on." ...


Another of those "we're all interconnected" messages. Didn't we already hear that once before?

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Sun, Dec 21, 2008
from London Daily Telegraph:
Neanderthals could have died out because their bodies overheated
Analysis of DNA obtained from Neanderthal remains has revealed key differences from modern humans that suggest their bodies produced excess heat. While in the cold climate of an ice age this would have provided the species with an advantage, as the earth warmed they would have been less able to cope. Ultimately this would have caused their extinction around 24,000 years ago. ...


This story is soooooo hot!

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Sat, Dec 6, 2008
from Telegraph.co.uk:
21 new species in danger of extinction, UN convention hears
Twenty-one animal species, including the cheetah, three dolphin families and an Egyptian vulture, were added to the list of those in danger of extinction by a UN conference in Rome. Six other bird species as well as manatees have also been placed on the list of animals benefiting from increased protections, called list I. In addition, next year has been proclaimed the "Year of the Gorilla" to help the survival of threatened species.... Several species of sharks have been placed on the list of threatened species, including two families of Mako sharks in the Mediterranean whose population have fallen off by 96 per cent in recent years due to overfishing. ...


Not a one of them are natural declines. We know what species to blame: Austrolopithicus Africanus.

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Wed, Dec 3, 2008
from Brisbane Courier-Mail:
White possum said to be first victim of global warming
The white lemuroid possum, a rare creature found only above 1000m in the mountain forests of far north Queensland, has not been seen for three years. Experts fear climate change is to blame for the disappearance of the highly vulnerable species thanks to a temperature rise of up to 0.8C. Researchers will mount a last-ditch expedition early next year deep into the untouched "cloud forests" of the Carbine range near Mt Lewis, three hours north of Cairns, in search of the tiny tree-dweller, dubbed the "Dodo of the Daintree"....Scientists believe some frog, bug and insects species have also been killed off by climate change. But this would be the first known loss of a mammal and the most significant since the extinction of the Dodo and the Tasmanian Tiger. ...


We may all be Dodos someday.

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Sun, Nov 30, 2008
from Guardian (UK):
Africa's vanishing herds
As the rain begins to fall on Tanzania's Tarangire National Park, thousands of zebra, wildebeest and giraffe will begin one of the world's greatest migrations. But many of the herds trampling across the grass at the foot of the Rift Valley highlands are falling in number - and scientists do not know why.... Numbers of wildebeest have fallen from 50,000 to 6,000 in the past 20 years, and numbers of antelope species, such as hartebeest and oryx, have declined by 90 and 95 per cent respectively. Confusingly some species -- zebra, giraffe, gazelle and buffalo - have remained relatively stable. To understand such contrasting fortunes, scientists from America's Dartmouth and Utah universities are working to determine whether habitat loss, changed food sources, or hunting -- or a combination of all -- is responsible. ...


You mean that National Geographic special I saw in 1988 is no longer valid?!

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Tue, Nov 18, 2008
from New York Times:
Congo Violence Reaches Endangered Mountain Gorillas
Congo's gorillas happen to live in one of the most contested, blood-soaked pieces of turf in one of the most contested, blood-soaked corners of Africa. Their home, Virunga National Park, is high ground -- with mist-shrouded mountains and pointy volcanoes -- along the porous Congo-Rwanda border, where rebels are suspected of smuggling in weapons from Rwanda. Last year in Virunga, 10 gorillas were killed, some shot in the back of the head, execution style, park officials said. The park used to be a naturalist's paradise, home to more than 2,000 species of plants, 706 types of birds and 218 varieties of mammals, including three great apes: the mountain gorilla, the lowland gorilla and chimpanzees. Now Virunga is a war zone. ...


Natural borders clash with national borders...

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Sat, Nov 15, 2008
from Toronto Sun:
Got a spare Earth anywhere?
If the world continues to pillage and plunder Earth's natural resources at the rate we are now, by 2030 we will need two planets to support us. If everyone on Earth consumed the equivalent resources of Canadians, it would take three Earths to meet the demand. Since the late 1980s, we have been in overshoot -- meaning our ecological footprint has exceeded Earth's biocapacity to sustain our rate of consumption -- by about 30 percent.... Deforestation and land conversions in the tropics, dams, diversions, climate change, pollution and over-fishing are killing species off, the reverberations of which are felt along the food chain. ...


I don't think NASA is ready to terraform Mars just yet.

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Wed, Oct 22, 2008
from Saskatoon Star Phoenix:
Ecological stocks plummet around the world
In fully 52 per cent of the mammals for which population trends are known, numbers are dwindling. Some 188 species are in the highest threat category of critically endangered. An additional 29 species have been flagged as critically endangered possibly extinct, and nearly 450 mammals have been listed as endangered. The greatest threats mammals face are deforestation and other habitat loss, as well as overhunting. Habitat loss and degradation affect 40 per cent of the world's mammals and climate change is increasingly a factor affecting habitat. ...


Only 52 percent? We can do better than that!

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Mon, Oct 20, 2008
from The Scotsman:
For every 100 of these birds that graced our skies, just five remain
THE number of Arctic terns in Scotland has dropped by a shocking 95 per cent in the past two decades. The graceful seabirds, well known in Shetland and Orkney for zealously guarding their nests and letting out rasping cries, are suffering severe declines. The dramatic decline, outlined in the Scottish Government's consultation into the Scottish Marine Bill, has been described as a "wake-up call". Other seabirds, including the Arctic skua and the black-legged kittiwake, have also suffered large drops in numbers. ...


What a lousy way to wake up.

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Tue, Oct 14, 2008
from Daily Mail (UK):
Rick Stein vows to continue using endangered fish in his restaurants
Rick Stein, Britain's top seafood chef, has vowed to go on using endangered species of fish in his acclaimed restaurants despite warnings of over-fishing. The 61-year-old claimed following government and fishery guidelines would lose him 80 per cent of his menus and he would not be able to keep his four restaurants in Padstow going. And, controversially, he questioned whether the fish stocks situation is really as bad as the government and marine conservationists are saying. ...


Now or later, Rick.
Now or later.
Idiot.

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Mon, Oct 6, 2008
from Associated Press:
1 in 4 mammals at risk of extinction, scientists say
Conservationists have taken the first detailed look at the world's mammals in more than a decade, and the news isn't good... "We estimate that one in four species is threatened with extinction and that the population of one in two is declining," the researchers said in a report to be published Friday in the journal Science... "How impoverished we would be if we lost 25 percent of the world's mammals," said Smith, one of more than 100 co-authors of the report. ...


If human mammals would start controlling their population numbers, maybe other mammals wouldn't be in such peril!

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Wed, Oct 1, 2008
from Associated Press:
Experts warn species in peril from climate change
ORLANDO, Fla. - Climate change threatens to kill off up to a third of the planet's species by the end of the century if urgent action isn't taken to restore fragile ecosystems, protect endangered animals and manage growth, scientists warned Wednesday as a wildlife summit opened. "Much of the predictions are gloom and doom. The ray of hope, however, is that we have not lost our opportunity. We still have time if we act now," said Jean Brennan, a senior scientist... ...


It's not a threat, it's an opportunity!

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Mon, Sep 8, 2008
from The Independent (UK):
Red kite reintroduced after 200 years and killed within weeks
An endangered bird of prey reintroduced to Northern Ireland after a 200-year absence has been found shot dead, it emerged yesterday.... "These magnificent birds were neither a threat to humans nor livestock, so we can only assume that whoever did this was either ignorant or gets a perverse sense of enjoyment from killing birds of prey." ...


Or both.

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Wed, Aug 13, 2008
from Scientific American:
Population Bomb Author's Fix For Next Extinction: Educate Women
"It's an uncomfortable thought: Human activity causing the extinction of thousands of species, and the only way to slow or prevent that phenomenon is to have smaller families ... according to Stanford University scientists Paul Ehrlich and Robert Pringle... Ehrlich and Pringle call for educating women, which has slowed or stopped population growth in the developed countries of Europe. "Education and employment -- for women especially -- along with access to contraception and safe abortions are the most important components," they write." ...


Well, we know how trying to educate men has worked out!

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Mon, Aug 11, 2008
from Arkansas Democrat-Gazette:
It's time to declare mussel extinct, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service says
The turgid-blossom pearly mussel -- a shiny yellow-green mollusk less than 1. 6 inches in length -- has been on the endangered species list since 1976.... "One of the things that we say as biologists is that these are kind of like canaries in a coal mine," Christian said. "They are an indicator that environmental conditions aren't good, and that may be an indicator of water quality." ...


Yet another bivalve in a coal mine.
That mine's getting full of canaries.

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Tue, Aug 5, 2008
from Nature:
Almost half of primate species face extinction
"The first comprehensive review in twelve years on the conservation status of primates is revealing that our closest relatives are in serious danger. The review, presented today at the 22nd International Primatological Society Congress in Edinburgh, UK, shows that of the 634 known primate species and subspecies, nearly 50 percent are threatened with extinction in the next decade. That soars to more than 70 percent in Asia, with individual countries such as Vietnam and Indonesia seeing at least 80 percent of their primate species threatened. Cambodia was at the top of the list, with 90 percent of its primate species in imminent danger." ...


Hey, more bananas for us humans!

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Tue, Jul 29, 2008
from WLUC (MI):
Cute, cuddly and endangered
And it's because of low survival rates and poaching that Siberian tigers are nearly extinct in the wild. "All tigers, no matter what subspecies it is, will be extinct by 2015," said Cramer. "The Siberian tiger is the most endangered of any of the large carnivores in the world," DeYoung said. "They claim over in Russia, there's only 200 left on the Russia-China border." ...


Lions and tigers and bears, oh my!

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Sun, Jul 6, 2008
from Guardian (UK):
Wildlife extinction rates 'seriously underestimated'
Endangered species may become extinct 100 times faster than previously thought, scientists warned today, in a bleak re-assessment of the threat to global biodiversity. Writing in the journal Nature, leading ecologists claim that methods used to predict when species will die out are seriously flawed, and dramatically underestimate the speed at which some plants and animals will be wiped out.... "Some species could have months instead of years left, while other species that haven't even been identified as under threat yet should be listed as endangered," said Melbourne. ...


Why do we never see headlines that read
human impact seriously overestimated?

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Mon, Jun 30, 2008
from Afriquenligne (France):
Namibian govt to auction eight live black rhino
The Namibian government said Monday it would auction eight live black rhinos to foreign buyers and hundreds of other wildlife to raise funds for conservation purposes.... Government also said it would auction 40 disease-free buffalo to foreign buyers... [as well as] 16 sable from the Etosha national park and 21 giraffe from the Waterberg Plateau park. ...


We're selling the species to save them.

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Tue, Jun 24, 2008
from Globe and Mail (Canada):
First nations join pool of Fisheries petitioners
"The government has often used economics to rationalize wiping out or eradicating a particular species, or wiping out habitat for a species. They rationalize it with this thing called 'no net loss'," he said. "In other words they are arrogant enough to think that man is able and capable of making a decision on wiping out habitat, God's creation, and replacing it with some man-made habitat. And I don't think it's possible. "That's one of the policies I'd like the Auditor-General to look at, that goofy policy called 'no net loss'. ...


Goofy indeed: 'no net loss' of microbes? 'no net loss' of fungi? 'no net loss' of insects?

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Sun, Jun 22, 2008
from Illawara Mercury (Australia):
Eight species disappear
At least eight species of wildlife have been wiped out of the Illawarra in the past 100 years, according to a report released by the Department of Environment and Climate change.... The species the department listed as "extinct" [from the area] -- animals which could no longer be found in a given area -- were: eastern quoll, ground parrot, wompoo fruit dove, superb fruit dove, rose-crowned fruit dove, bush stone curlew, jabiru, and the magpie goose. ...


Come back, Ptilinopus magnificus, come back!

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Mon, Jun 16, 2008
from Times Online (UK):
90 per cent of pandas in jeopardy after China earthquake
Nearly all of China's endangered pandas are in jeopardy after the earthquake last month devastated the remote mountain corner that is their last remaining [natural] habitat. Already boxed into these steep and thickly forested hillsides by the advance of [humans], its numbers limited by a slow rate of reproduction and with its food supply threatened by the scarcity of its favourite arrow bamboo, the panda is now facing its most severe crisis in decades. Chinese officials ... have announced that the last 1,590 pandas living in the wild face a very uncertain future after the earthquake. ...


There's under 2,000 left in the world?
My brain is quaking.

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Thu, Jun 5, 2008
from NSF, via ScienceDaily:
Human Viruses Appear To Be Making Wild Chimpanzees Sick
After studying chimpanzees in the wilds of Tanzania's Mahale Mountains National Park for the past year as part of a National Science Foundation (NSF) grant, Virginia Tech researcher Dr. Taranjit Kaur and her team have produced powerful scientific evidence that chimpanzees are becoming sick from viral infectious diseases they have likely contracted from humans. ...


I thought it was just our behavior that was making them sick.

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Mon, Jun 2, 2008
from BBC (UK):
Progress at UN biodiversity forum
Nearly 200 countries have agreed on measures to protect the world's most threatened wildlife. At a Bonn conference they pledged to set up a deep-sea nature reserve and increase by tens of millions of hectares the area of land protected. But environmentalists... said progress was too slow compared to the threat to the world's species. ...


Pesky environmentalists. Why don't they just get a job while they still can?

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Sat, May 31, 2008
from Toronto Star:
The Frozen Ark: Toward Jurassic Park
Since 2004, the little-known Frozen Ark project in Nottingham, England has been quietly gathering, storing and preserving genetic "backups" of species for whom conservation efforts have come too late – or not at all. Priority is being given to 40 animals that are extinct in the wild but still living in zoos. Next in line are 10,000 or so species whose populations have fallen as human numbers inexorably rose. The Frozen Ark is a "doomsday animal vault." Small tissue samples of endangered species are being frozen and preserved in liquid nitrogen. ...


Let's see -- can we freeze the ecosystems needed to support the critters?

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Fri, May 30, 2008
from Guardian (UK):
Ecosystem destruction costing hundreds of billions a year
The steeply accelerating decline of the natural world is already costing hundreds of billions of pounds a year, say leading economists, in a review of the costs and benefits of forests, rivers and marine life. The losses will increase dramatically over the next generation unless urgent remedial action is taken, they say.... The economists warn that on current trends, 11 percent of the world's untouched forests and 60 percent of its coral reefs could be lost by 2030. About 60 percent of the Earth's ecosystem, examined by the researchers, has been degraded in the past 50 years. Population growth, changing land use and global climate change will lead to further declines. ...


Whoa! There's money involved in nature?

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Sat, May 17, 2008
from The Scotsman:
'Frightening' future must be avoided to retain the integrity of planet we share
Nearly 200 national governments will say next week that they are unlikely to meet a target of slowing the rate of extinctions of living species by 2010, a failure which could threaten future food supplies.... UN experts say that the planet is facing the worst spate of extinction since the dinosaurs died out 65 million years ago and some say three species vanish every hour as a result, largely, of human activity causing pollution and loss of habitat. ...


Three an hour is about what a heavy smoker smokes. What's the sound of one planet coughing?

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Thu, May 15, 2008
from Metro.co.uk (Great Britain):
Alarm over dramatic wildlife decline
There are almost a third fewer animal, bird and fish species today than three decades ago, an alarming new report has revealed. According to the WWF's Living Planet Index, land-based, marine and freshwater species fell overall by 27 per cent between 1970 and 2005. The report comes ahead of the UN Convention on Biological Diversity next week, which will discuss aims to achieve a "significant reduction" in the current rate of biodiversity loss by 2010. ...


That means the glass is
more than two-thirds full!

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Thu, May 15, 2008
from The Statesman (India):
Flora species on verge of extinction in Sikkim
Forty-six species of flora are facing extinction in Sikkim, says a recent survey by the Botanical Survey of India. "The bio-diversity is being threatened in some areas of the state owing to easy accessibility, large scale extraction, collection of medicinal herbs, poaching and encroachment in the natural habitat... The forest is being cleared for various developmental activities like road, building, dams and industrial development which is threatening the species in Sikkim." ...


Sikkim is an ecological hotspot, one of only three among the ecoregions of India, nestled in the lower Himalayas.
And yeah, we didn't know either.

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Tue, May 6, 2008
from University of Washington, via ScienceDaily:
Trouble In Paradise: Global Warming A Greater Danger To Tropical Species
Polar bears fighting for survival in the face of a rapid decline of polar ice have made the Arctic a poster child for the negative effects of climate change. But new research shows that species living in the tropics likely face the greatest peril in a warmer world.... [T]ropical species have a far greater risk of extinction with warming of just a degree or two. That is because they are used to living within a much smaller temperature range to begin with, and once temperatures get beyond that range many species might not be able to cope.... "Unfortunately, the tropics also hold the large majority of species on the planet," he said. ...


You'd think those critters would just grow more hair. Isn't that how evolution works?

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Wed, Apr 23, 2008
from BBC (UK):
Biodiversity loss "bad for our health"
A new generation of medical treatments could be lost forever unless the current rate of biodiversity loss is reversed, conservationists have warned.... Further research [on the southern gastric brooding frog (Rheobatrachus silus)] could have lead to new ways of preventing and treating stomach ulcers in humans, but the amphibian was last recorded in the wild in 1981. "These studies could not be continued because both species of Rheobactrachus became extinct... The valuable medical secrets they held are now gone forever." ...


At least now we have a reason to stop the species-cide: stomach ulcers.

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Tue, Feb 19, 2008
from Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council:
Sharks In Peril: Ocean
"Sharks are disappearing from the world's oceans. The numbers of many large shark species have declined by more than half due to increased demand for shark fins and meat, recreational shark fisheries, as well as tuna and swordfish fisheries, where millions of sharks are taken as bycatch each year." ...


Play the theme from Jaws in your head as you read this story ... then weep.

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Sat, Feb 9, 2008
from National Geographic:
Warming Creating Extinction Risks for Hibernators
"When researchers at the Rocky Mountain Biological Lab in Crested Butte, Colorado, started documenting marmot hibernation patterns in the 1970s, the animals rarely awoke before the third week of May...These abbreviated hibernations are part of a growing body of evidence suggesting that hibernating animals are waking up earlier -- or not going to sleep at all -- due to rising temperatures from global warming. From chipmunks and squirrels in the Rocky Mountains to brown bears in Spain, these altered slumber patterns are putting animals at risk both of starvation and increased predation, researchers say -- which could bring many species to the brink of extinction." ...


For poor Yogi it may be over when it's over sooner rather than later.

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Sat, Jan 12, 2008
from Washington Post:
The Sixth Extinction
More than a decade ago, many scientists claimed that humans were demonstrating a capacity to force a major global catastrophe that would lead to a traumatic shift in climate, an intolerable level of destruction of natural habitats, and an extinction event that could eliminate 30 to 50 percent of all living species by the middle of the 21st century. Now those predictions are coming true. The evidence shows that species loss today is accelerating. We find ourselves uncomfortably privileged to be witnessing a mass extinction event as it's taking place, in real time. ...


"We, and certainly our children, will find ourselves largely embraced by a pest and weed ecology ideal for the flourishing of invasive species and new, potentially dangerous microbes to which we haven't build up a biological resistance." Evolution ain't just a theory, it's a balance we're totally screwing up.

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Tue, Dec 11, 2007
from The Washington Post (2005, US):
Wave of Marine Species Extinctions Feared
"Sitting in a small motorboat a few hundred yards offshore on a mid-July afternoon, Samuel H. Gruber -- a University of Miami professor who has devoted more than two decades to studying the lemon sharks that breed here -- plunged into despondency. The mangroves being ripped up to build a new resort provide food and protection that the sharks can't get in the open ocean, and Gruber fears the worst." ... "It's been a slow-motion disaster," said Boris Worm, a professor at Canada's Dalhousie University, whose 2003 study that found that 90 percent of the top predator fish have vanished from the oceans. "It's silent and invisible. People don't imagine this. It hasn't captured our imagination, like the rain forest." ...


"At the end of my career, I get to document the destruction of the species I've been documenting for 20 years," [Gruber] lamented as he watched the bulldozers. "Wonderful."


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