Archives for June 2014

Primary forest cover loss in Indonesia over 2000–2012

Deforestation affects climate, biodiversity and other ecosystem services. This study quantifies Indonesia’s increasing rate of primary forest loss, which runs counter to the declining rates of loss in Brazil. The results highlight the value of thematically consistent and spatially and temporally explicit information in tracking forest change.

Nature Climate Change doi: 10.1038/nclimate2277

Nature Climate Change – AOP – science feeds

World’s Protected Areas Not Protecting Biodiversity

Scientists from James Cook University, the Wildlife Conservation Society, the University of Queensland, Stanford University, BirdLife International, the International Union for Nature Conservation, and other organizations have warned that the world’s protected areas are not safeguarding most of the world’s imperilled biodiversity, and clear changes need to be made on how nations undertake future land protection if wildlife is going to be saved. These findings come at a time when countries are working toward what could become the biggest expansion of protected areas in history. The authors of the new study found that 85 percent of world’s 4,118 threatened mammals, birds, and amphibian species are not adequately protected in existing national parks, and are therefore vulnerable to extinction in the near term. The new study appears in the esteemed international journal PLOS Biology.
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Borneo mega-dams threaten indigenous ‘ethnocide’

Massive dams in Sarawak, Malaysia, threaten to flood over 2,000 square kilometers of the world’s oldest rainforests, displace 10,000s of indigenous people, and aggravate climate change, writes Amanda Stephenson – all to generate electricity that no one wants.
Environment news & analysis, climate change reports –
The Ecologist

Drought survival of tropical tree seedlings enhanced by non-structural carbohydrate levels

Widespread forest die-back due to the increasing frequency and intensity of drought in many parts of the planet is focusing attention on the mechanisms of tree drought resistance. This study provides direct experimental evidence that greater non-structural carbohydrate concentrations before drought help maintain hydraulic function and thereby prolong drought tolerance in seedlings of ten tropical tree species.

Nature Climate Change doi: 10.1038/nclimate2281

Nature Climate Change – AOP – science feeds

Animals Built Reefs 550 Million Years Ago, Fossil Study Finds

These reefs were built by Cloudina ~548 million years ago, from the Nama Group, Namibia. (Credit: Fred Bowyer)

(Click to enlarge) These reefs were built by Cloudina ~548 million years ago, from the Nama Group, Namibia. (Credit: Fred Bowyer)

It is a remarkable survivor of an ancient aquatic world — now a new study sheds light on how one of Earth’s oldest reefs was formed.

(From ScienceDaily) Researchers have discovered that one of these reefs — now located on dry land in Namibia — was built almost 550 million years ago, by the first animals to have hard shells.

Scientists say it was at this point that tiny aquatic creatures developed the ability to construct hard protective coats and build reefs to shelter and protect them in an increasingly dangerous world.

They were the first animals to build structures similar to non-living reefs, which are created through the natural processes of erosion and sediment deposition.

The study reveals that the animals attached themselves to fixed surfaces — and to each other — by producing natural cement composed of calcium carbonate, to form rigid structures.

The creatures — known as Cloudina — built reefs in ancient seas that now form part of Namibia. Their fossilised remains are the oldest reefs of their type in the world.

Cloudina were tiny, filter-feeding creatures that lived on the seabed during the Ediacaran Period, which ended 541 million years ago. Fossil evidence indicates that animals had soft bodies until the emergence of Cloudina.

Findings from the study — led by scientists at the University of Edinburgh — support previous research which suggested that environmental pressures caused species to develop new features and behaviours in order to survive.

Researchers say animals may have developed the ability to build reefs to protect themselves against increased threats from predators. Reefs also provided access to nutrient-rich currents at a time when there was growing competition for food and living space.

Scientists say the development of hard biological structures — through a process called biomineralisation — sparked a dramatic increase in the biodiversity of marine ecosystems.

The study, published in the journal Science, was carried out in collaboration with University College London and the Geological Survey of Namibia. The work was supported by the Natural Environment Research Council, the University of Edinburgh and the Laidlaw Trust.

Professor Rachel Wood, Professor of Carbonate GeoScience at the University of Edinburgh, who led the study, said: “Modern reefs are major centres of biodiversity with sophisticated ecosystems. Animals like corals build reefs to defend against predators and competitors. We have found that animals were building reefs even before the evolution of complex animal life, suggesting that there must have been selective pressures in the Precambrian Period that we have yet to understand.”

Consortium for Ocean Leadership

Projected continent-wide declines of the emperor penguin under climate change

The criteria used to classify species as being at risk of extinction are based on global population estimates, making global-scale analysis important for conservation. Now, a study projecting population dynamics of all 45 known emperor penguin (Aptenodytes forsteri) colonies indicates long-term decline, primarily due to altered Antarctic sea ice conditions.

Nature Climate Change doi: 10.1038/nclimate2280

Nature Climate Change – AOP – science feeds

Could Fungus Save Antibiotics?

Researchers look to restore the efficacy of drugs as bacteria continue to evolve.
Discovery News

Connecting population growth and biodiversity decline

It took humans around 200,000 years to reach a global population of one billion. But, in two hundred years we’ve septupled that. In fact, over the last 40 years we’ve added an extra billion approximately every dozen years. And the United Nations predicts we’ll add another four billion—for a total of 11 billion—by century’s end. Despite this few scientists, policymakers, or even environmentalists are willing to publicly connect incredible population growth to worsening climate change, biodiversity loss, resource scarcity, or the global environmental crisis in general.
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Fishermen Are Throwing Fish Away, And They’re Losing Millions Of Dollars Because Of It

Popular dinner plate discards - Wasted value in millions (Credit: Oceana)

(Click to enlarge) Popular dinner plate discards – Wasted value in millions (Credit: Oceana)

The by-catch problem in the U.S. isn’t just hurting our oceans, but our pockets too, according to a new report by Oceana.

(From The Huffington Post / Dominique Mosbergen) – The environmental group estimates the U.S. fishing industry loses at least $ 1 billion annually from the staggering amount of seafood that is unintentionally caught (and then discarded) by fishermen.

As the report notes, this figure seems especially high, considering that in 2012 the total amount of seafood landed by U.S. fishermen was worth about $ 5 billion in total.

“The fishing industry in the United States is an important part of the economy, generating $ 82 billion in sales and supporting 1.2 million jobs,” the report reads. “Unfortunately, much of this value could be undercut by by-catch.”

The economic analysis, which was made public Thursday, is a follow-up to an earlier Oceana report’s estimate that 2 billion pounds of by-catch is discarded at U.S. fisheries every year.

According to that report, the use of unsustainable and indiscriminate fishing methods and gear in fisheries across the United States has meant that some fishermen are regularly throwing out a large percentage of everything they catch — either because the fish (or other marine creatures) have been injured or prematurely killed during their capture, or because they weren’t supposed to be caught at all.

Marine scientist and report co-author Amanda Keledjian told The Huffington Post that her team used the earlier report in their economic analysis, assessing what the value of the discarded fish would be if they were sold instead of thrown overboard.

The $ 1 billion figure was a “conservative estimate,” she said, adding that if one considers the “indirect cost of by-catch,” like reduced wages or the loss of jobs because of the lower number of fish brought to port, the “overall impact could very well be much higher.”

Ultimately, Keledjian says she hopes the new report will draw attention to just what an ecological and economic disaster the by-catch problem is in this country.

Addressing industry criticism that Oceana’s by-catch report did not adequately acknowledge the progress that the U.S. fishing industry has recently made with regard to by-catch, Keledjian said that the nonprofit’s goal was to provide an “overview of the by-catch problem” in the U.S. She added that although some fishermen and the government have made great strides to manage the issue, the problem of by-catch continues to contribute to overfishing and the decline of fish populations.

“There’s been a lot of progress. … But we’re not finished yet — and that’s our point,” she said. “It’s important that we keep taking these steps to benefit the marine environment and the people whose livelihoods depend on it.”

In its report, Oceana recommends that the government and the fishing industry devise new ways to “accurately count all catch, cap the amount of by-catch with science-based limits and control by-catch through effective management measures that will ensure limits are not exceeded and that by-catch is reduced over time.”

By-catch is, of course, just one of many problems plaguing our oceans today.

In a new report released this week, the Global Ocean Commission warned that the oceans are in serious decline. Overfishing, illegal fishing, pollution and climate change are just a handful of the many problems facing our seas which the report highlights.

Read Oceana’s “Wasted Cash: The Price of Waste in the U.S. Fishing Industry” report here.

Consortium for Ocean Leadership

The link between oceanic currents and climate

For decades, climate scientists have tried to explain why ice-age cycles became longer and more intense about 900,000 years ago, switching from 41,000-year cycles to 100,000-year cycles. In a new study in the journal Science, researchers found that the deep ocean currents that move heat around the globe stalled or even stopped, possibly due to expanding ice cover in the north. The slowing currents increased carbon dioxide storage in the ocean, leaving less in the atmosphere, which kept temperatures cold and kicked the climate system into a new phase of colder but less frequent ice ages, they hypothesize.
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