Once decimated by disease, eelgrass is now recovering in the state’s lagoons after scientists spent decades trying to restore…
“When Pinatubo blew up, probably the last thing on anyone’s mind was that a little species of mouse was thought to live only on that one mountain, and might well have become extinct as a result. What we’ve learned subsequently really blew us away,” says Larry Heaney, the Negaunee Curator of Mammals at Chicago’s Field Museum and one of the paper’s authors.
It’s been 70 years since jaguars left their round, four-toed footprints in the ground of the Iberá Wetlands, a 1.3-million-hectare (3.2-million-acre) tract of swamps, waterways and islands in northeastern Argentina’s Corrientes province. But things are changing now.
Two weeks ago, conservationists opened up a pen that held two 4-month-old jaguar cubs, Karai and Porã, and their mother, Mariua, giving them free and open access to Gran Iberá Park, a 709,717-hectare (1.75-million-acre) park established in 2018 by the NGO Tompkins Conservation. This release is part of a grand scheme to rewild the Iberá Wetlands by reinstating several species, including the jaguar (Panthera onca), which was driven to local extinction due to hunting and habitat loss.
It is no secret that over the last few decades, humans have changed nature at an ever-increasing rate. A growing collection of research covers the many ways this is impacting our quality of life, from air quality to nutrition and income. To better understand how which areas are most at risk, scientists have combed through volumes of literature to present global trends in the relationship between human wellbeing and environmental degradation.
Their work, which included Fabrice DeClerck from the Alliance of Bioversity International and CIAT, was summarized in “Global trends in nature’s contributions to people”, which was recently published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
This systematic review builds on the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) Global Assessment Report, which in 2019 provided the most comprehensive assessment yet of nature’s decline and biodiversity loss, when it emphasized that 1 million plant and animal species face extinction.
Just like us, many insects need a decent night’s sleep to function properly, but this might not be possible if they have been exposed to neonicotinoid insecticides, the most common form of insecticide used worldwide, suggests research by academics at the University of Bristol.
A consortium of conservationists that hopes to release wild lynx into the Scottish Highlands has launched a year-long study to see whether the public supports their reintroduction.
The study, part-funded by two billionaire Danish estate owners in the Highlands, Anders Povlsen and Lisbet Rausing, will test whether farmers, landowners and rural communities will agree to a pilot project in a remote area of Scotland.
The lynx, Europe’s largest native cat, became extinct in northern Britain more than 500 years ago through habitat loss, hunting and persecution, but proposals by other rewilding advocates to reintroduce the species into the UK have foundered.
Conservationists believe the new project, run by the Vincent Wildlife Trust and Trees for Life, alongside campaigners at Scotland: The Big Picture, has a significant chance of success.
There may be plenty of fish in the sea, but how many did there used to be? The answer to that question is lurking in DNA hidden at the bottom of the ocean.
Japanese scientists who analyzed DNA trapped in seafloor sediments have now shown, for the first time, how this preserved genetic material can be used to chart changes in fish populations over centuries. The new technique, reported in a recent study, could be used to help understand population dynamics of marine species.
Just as humans shed hair and skin cells throughout their lives, fish similarly drop genetic material. Some of this gene-stocked debris inevitably ends up entombed in clays or organic matter in the water column before sinking to the ocean floor. Over time, the sediment builds up, creating a layered time capsule.
While previous studies have analyzed the DNA in sediment to identify which species are present in a region, none have tried to estimate population sizes. The Japanese team, led by Ehime University paleoceanographer Michinobu Kuwae, set out to see if it could be done.
One after another, the sensors went dark. In normal times, technicians tasked with maintaining the small network of meteorological instruments scattered off the coasts of Great Britain and Ireland could have traveled to fix or replace the defunct devices. But the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic meant they could only watch in vain as the technology failed, leaving weather forecasters without a handful of important data, including atmospheric pressure measurements. At the start of 2020, this regional network had 12 locations providing data. Because of kaput sensors, that number now stands at just seven.
Emma Steventon, marine networks manager at the United Kingdom’s Meteorological Office in Exeter, knew she had to come up with a plan. In June, she and her team sent eight drifting buoys to the port of Liverpool where they were loaded onto a ship and subsequently dropped into the Atlantic Ocean off Ireland’s southwest coast. The spherical buoys, encased in cardboard packaging that breaks down in seawater, soon separated and drifted off into the distance. “This was something new that we’ve not done before,” she says. The buoys, she anticipated, would provide a short-term fix, filling the data gap left by failing sensors. “We were expecting them to be picked up by the currents and be washed ashore within a few months.”…
When my student said, “I am hopeless because the state of the planet is hopeless,” she believed that to be true, and I felt sad for her suffering. But I also saw her statement as an example of just how taken for granted and powerful the mindset of doom and gloom is. She described both her hopelessness and the hopeless state of the planet as nonnegotiable fixed facts—as reality.
The vast scale, complexity, urgency, and destructive power of biodiversity loss, climate change, and countless other issues are real. Yet assuming a fatalistic perspective and positioning hopelessness as a foregone conclusion is not reality. It is a mindset, and it’s a widespread and debilitating one. It not only undermines positive change, it squashes the belief that anything good could possibly happen.
Governments, policy makers, corporate institutions, et al, have failed to respond to decades long warnings from scientists that CO2 emissions from industrial and domestic activities pose serious risks to human life and human society, to the world’s ecosystems and perhaps ultimately to much of life on Earth. Those scientists, conservationists and activists who have understood this, have nevertheless failed to effect the change necessary to prevent an ecological and climate emergency. There are complex reasons for these failures, and though it is vitally important that we try to fully understand them, I will not speak to them here.
I want to focus on the urgent question ‘what do we do now?’ by considering the response emerging from the new and quickly growing environmental mobilizations such as Extinction Rebellion in which people are beginning to resort to techniques of disruption and civil disobedience in the face of governmental and systemic inaction. Are these measures necessary, are they are morally justified, and are they perhaps even morally required?
An endangered Indian rhinoceros was born last week in Poland’s Wroclaw Zoo, a hopeful development in efforts to preserve the rare animals.
Born Jan. 6, the female baby is the first Indian rhinoceros birth in the zoo’s 155-year history, the zoo said Wednesday. Its parents are seven-year-old Maruska and an 11-year-old male, Manas.
“Maruska, a first-time mom, behaves wonderfully,” zoo president Radoslaw Ratajszczak was quoted as saying.
More than 43 million hectares of forest—an area bigger than Germany—have been lost in a little over a decade in just a handful of deforestation hotspots, conservation organisation WWF said Wednesday.
Swathes of forest continue to be flattened each year—mainly due to industrial-scale agriculture—as biodiversity-rich areas are cleared to create space for livestock and crops.
Analysis by WWF found that just 29 sites across South America, Africa and South East Asia were responsible for more than half of the global forest loss.
Arokiaraj Francis, a 40-year-old fisher, felt the weaves of his plastic net tighten as his trawler puttered around India’s Pamban Island, a mere 29 kilometers from Sri Lanka. It was 11 p.m. and the swirling waters were dark. Only after he’d heaved the net into his boat did he realize what he had caught: an olive ridley sea turtle weighing as much as a bag of cement.
A third-generation fisher, Francis says there was a time during his childhood when fisherfolk like him would eat the olive ridley without a second thought. “I’ve cooked and eaten sea turtles on countless occasions,” he says. “Our fishing community believed that sea turtles would enrich the blood and strengthen the bones. But today, it’s different.” Today, Francis cut a significant portion of his own blue net to release the turtle, even though he knew it would cost him two hours of labor on a swaying boat and INR 2,000 (US $27) to mend it. “I know that these are endangered animals that are of great value to fishermen—I heard about it on the radio and felt such a joy that I could save its life,” he says.
For the past two years, he’s been tuning into a program called Samudhram Palagu (Learn about the Oceans) aired by the local radio station Kadal Osai (Sound of the Sea) and that, he says, has changed his perspective. The show has taught him to value the lives of sea creatures and better appreciate what the ocean provides.
Rising carbon dioxide levels have been boosting plant growth, but this “fertilisation effect” has been declining faster than predicted by computer models, according to an analysis of satellite records. This means plants will soak up less CO2 than forecast and we will need to make bigger cuts in carbon dioxide emissions than we thought to limit global warming.
Living organisms are made of chains of carbon, and plants get this carbon from the CO2 in the air. When plants have enough water and other nutrients, such as nitrogen and phosphorus, the level of CO2 in the atmosphere can be the factor that limits their growth.
The rising levels of CO2 since the start of the industrial age have boosted plant growth and led to a global greening effect. This fertilisation effect is why the land and seas have continued to soak up half of all the CO2 we emit even though we are emitting more than ever.
Studies involving raising CO2 levels at small test sites suggest that the fertilisation effect fades rapidly as other limits kick in. For instance, in eucalyptus forests in Australia low phosphorus levels limit the effect. The models that inform projections of future warming predict a slow decline in the fertilisation effect.
Scientists have figured out a cheaper, more efficient way to conduct a chemical reaction at the heart of many biological processes, which may lead to better ways to create biofuels from plants.
Scientists around the world have been trying for years to create biofuels and other bioproducts more cheaply; this study, published today in the journal Scientific Reports, suggests that it is possible to do so.
“The process of converting sugar to alcohol has to be very efficient if you want to have the end product be competitive with fossil fuels,” said Venkat Gopalan, a senior author on the paper and professor of chemistry and biochemistry at The Ohio State University. “The process of how to do that is well-established, but the cost makes it not competitive, even with significant government subsidies. This new development is likely to help lower the cost.”
At the heart of their discovery: A less expensive and simpler method to create the ‘helper molecules’ that allow carbon in cells to be turned into energy. Those helper molecules (which chemists call cofactors) are nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide (NADH) and its derivative (NADPH). These cofactors in their reduced forms have long been known to be a key part of turning sugar from plants into butanol or ethanol for fuels. Both cofactors also play an important role in slowing the metabolism of cancer cells and have been a target of treatment for some cancers.
Rising temperatures are altering the sex ratio of sea turtles. Researchers are exploring one possible fix.
In a newly released map, the coastal waters of the eight main Hawaiian islands are alight with color. Blue, turquoise, green, yellow, orange and red tinge the islands’ perimeters, each hue representing a different level of live coral cover. Blue means that the surrounding reefs contain less than 10% live coral, while at the other side of the spectrum, red corresponds to 90% live coral.
A team of researchers developed this map to provide an overview of living coral distribution around the main Hawaiian islands. Like many coral reef systems around the world, Hawaiʻi’s reefs, which cover 166,000 hectares (410,000 acres) across the archipelago, have been subjected to a profusion of anthropogenic pressures, including coastal development, pollution, fishing activities, and climate change events like marine heat waves. Using 3D imaging techniques conducted from the air, the research team scanned the reefs at a water depth of 16 meters (52.5 feet), and identified places where coral cover was either dense or sparse. A study on this mapping technique was published last month in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America (PNAS).
With an estimated lifespan between 25 to 40 years, the queen conch (Strombus gigas) is a prized delicacy long harvested for food and is revered for its beautiful shell. Second only to the spiny lobster, it is one of the most important benthic fisheries in the Caribbean region. Unfortunately, the species faces a challenge of survival: how to endure and thrive, as populations are in a steady state of decline from overfishing, habitat degradation and hurricane damage. In some places, the conch populations have dwindled so low that the remaining conch cannot find breeding partners. This dire situation is urgent in ecological and economic terms.
To preserve this most significant molluscan fishery in the Caribbean, a scientist from Florida Atlantic University’s Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institute has dedicated more than four decades of research into the science and art of growing queen conch. Her latest contribution—an 80-page, step-by-step user manual that provides complete illustrations and photos of how to culture queen conch. The “Queen Conch Aquaculture: Hatchery and Nursery Phases User Manual,” was recently published in the National Shellfisheries Association’s Journal of Shellfish Research.
The threshold for dangerous global warming will likely be crossed between 2027 and 2042, research indicates.
That’s a much narrower window than the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s estimate of between now and 2052.
In a study published in Climate Dynamics, researchers introduce a new and more precise way to project the Earth’s temperature. Based on historical data, it considerably reduces uncertainties compared to previous approaches.
Scientists have been making projections of future global warming using climate models for decades. These models play an important role in understanding the Earth’s climate and how it will likely change. But how accurate are they?
Climate models are mathematical simulations of different factors that interact to affect Earth’s climate, such as the atmosphere, ocean, ice, land surface, and the sun. While they are based on the best understanding of the Earth’s systems available, when it comes to forecasting the future, uncertainties remain.