MPorcius, a frequent and well-read commentator on my site, has started transferring his numerous amazon reviews and writing new reviews of classic SF (a substantial portion is pre-1980s) to his blo...
GarryRogers NatCon News
Nature Conservation News and information for animals, plants, and nature. See more at http://garryrogers.com.
Curated by Garry Rogers
In 1964, Donal Rusk Currey killed the oldest tree ever. It was a Bristlecone pine, and here's why they live so long
In the year (2012) this story appeared, an older Bristlecone pine was found.
Don Currey was studying historical climate change and did not know how old the tree was. At the time, no one did. Currey applied for permission from the U. S. Forest Service to cross-section the tree to count the annual growth rings. Two employees of the Forest Service assisted.
If we demonize Currey, we also demonize Charles Darwin and the thousands of other naturalists who have pursued, killed, and collected wild plants and animals around the world. (During a conference in 1980, a scientist at the Tree Ring Laboratory at the University of Arizona told me that he and others of his profession were thankful to Currey for guaranteeing that the Forest Service would provide annual funding to search for an older tree. In 2012, the search succeeded. Read the story here: http://bit.ly/1Mkmv7L.)
Throughout history, we have killed wild creatures in order to identify and study them. Natural scientists might argue that their few kills are insignificant compared to the numbers lost to hunting and other human activities. Centuries of research, however, have done little to benefit the plants and animals. Today, it is clear that despite our research, our history has indeed been that of the locust, destroying all in our efforts to satisfy our hunger for reproduction and growth. Though what Currey and the Forest Service employees did was standard practice at the time, I believe that today we must adjust our methods to avoid lethal science. With nature in a general free fall due to human impacts, we should begin to value every individual life. We should begin to value all life.
"Climate scientists agree that in order to prevent the worst consequences, global warming must be held to within 2 degrees Celsius. The pledges submitted so far will reduce emissions by about 60 gigatons compared to business as usual, but will limit temperature rise to only 3.5 degrees Celsius, according to Climate Interactive, the nonprofit tracking the progress of the global climate change movement.
"The pledges submitted so far are an encouraging sign that the Paris talks, unlike the unsuccessful ones in Copenhagen in 2009, will produce a binding climate treaty. The question now is how strong and ambitious the agreement will be.
"To be fair, these climate pledges are expected to be the starting point for these countries. As countries meet their targets in the coming years, they will review and revise them, potentially increasing the pace of emission reductions.
"Whether developing countries such as India commit to further emission reductions will depend on the assistance they receive from wealthier nations. So far, developed countries have pledged to provide about $10.2 billion in financing to poor nations through the Green Climate Fund, but that’s nowhere close to what the developing countries say they need to adapt to climate change."
What’s pulling the plug on the world’s carbon sink? Geoff Gallice, CC BY
Oliver Phillips and Roel Brienen, The Conversation, March 18, 2015.
"Tropical forests are being exposed to unprecedented environmental change, with huge knock-on effects. In the past decade, the carbon absorbed annually by the Amazon rain forest has declined by almost a third.
"At 6m km2, the Amazon forest covers an area 25 times that of the UK, and spans large parts of nine countries. The region contains a fifth of all species on earth, including more than 15,000 types of tree. Its 300 billion trees store 20% of all the carbon in the Earth’s biomass, and each year they actively cycle 18 billion tonnes of carbon, twice as much as is emitted by all the fossil fuels burnt in the world.
"The Amazon Basin is also a hydrological powerhouse. Water vapour from the forest nurtures agriculture to the south, including the biofuel crops which power many of Brazil’s cars and the soybeans which feed increasing numbers of people (and cows) across the planet.
"What happens to the Amazon thus matters to the world. As we describe in research published in Nature, the biomass dynamics of apparently intact forests of the Amazon have been changing for decades now with important consequences."
Conservation policy and the measurement of forests http://t.co/nCjgkqaZSf
GR: Remote (satellite) sensing has been unable to map the extent of Earth's forests. Far better methods of forest mapping are available. On-the-ground surveys using the 1970 UNESCO vegetation classification would give us maps at much less cost, and the maps would include far more information than the satellite maps. Moreover, who minds strolling through the woods with a clipboard? NASA, park the rockets and buy some hiking boots. Do it now.
By using fossil data, researchers have found that the structure of ecological communities leading up to the Permian-Triassic Extinction, one of the largest drivers of biodiversity loss in history, is a key predictor of the ecological communities...
We are going to have to see further analyses of this type if we are to predict which communities might survive the human mass extinction.
"In 1986, after a fire and explosion at the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant released radioactive particles into the air, thousands of people left the area, never to return. Now, researchers reporting in the Cell Press journal Current Biology on October 5 have found that the Chernobyl site looks less like a disaster zone and more like a nature preserve, teeming with elk, roe deer, red deer, wild boar, and wolves.
"The findings are a reminder of the resilience of wildlife. They may also hold important lessons for understanding the potential long-term impact of the more recent Fukushima disaster in Japan.
"It's very likely that wildlife numbers at Chernobyl are much higher than they were before the accident," says Jim Smith of the University of Portsmouth in the UK. "This doesn't mean radiation is good for wildlife, just that the effects of human habitation, including hunting, farming, and forestry, are a lot worse."
Other researchers have also reported that wildlife numbers are increasing around Chernobyl despite the prevalence of high radiation levels. Radiation sickness is less harmful than human presence.
Venezuela is losing at least 900,000 animals every year to the $320 million illegal wildlife trade.
Among the birds sold to the pet trade are 50 species of New World parrot, parakeet and macaw endemic to Venezuela, along with American flamingoes and extremely rare red siskins.
Patrolling the country’s porous 2,800-kilometer coastline and nearly 5,000 kilometer border with Colombia, Brazil and Guyana is a daunting task for law enforcers trying to stop clever wildlife traffickers.
The hunters ransack the vulnerable nests of tropical birds in richly biodiverse but poorly patrolled Venezuelan rainforests. Wildlife merchants brazenly display young fledglings, monkeys and other animals, right next to main roads throughout the forest. Many captives will travel a difficult path — an exhausting, often fatal journey covering thousands of miles, cleverly hidden inside bags and luggage, passing through airports and seaports, bound for Europe and elsewhere. It is a lucrative, shadowy trade, involving at least 900,000 animals annually, earning more than 300 million dollars for the criminals plying it, from which the local rainforest hunter gleans barely a fistful of Bolivares.
GR: We need to tell our children that animals have traits far more interesting than just their shapes and colors. In their natural homes, they use many strategies and techniques to build nests, attract mates, find food, and evade predators.
The mid-term review of the EU Biodiversity Strategy assesses whether the EU is on track to achieve the objective of halting biodiversity loss by 2020. The results show progress in many areas, but highlight the need for much greater effort to deliver commitments on implementation by Member States.
Nature’s capacity to clean the air and water, to pollinate crops and to limit the impacts of catastrophes such as flooding is being compromised, with potentially significant unforeseen costs to society and our economy.
An EU-wide opinion poll, also published last week, confirms that the majority of Europeans are concerned about the effects of biodiversity loss and recognise the negative impact this can have on human health and wellbeing, and ultimately on our long-term economic development.
In Malta, 500 face-to face interviews took place and 81% of those spoken to in the opinion poll thought that it might be important to halt the loss of biodiversity, and had a responsibility to look after nature.
71% of Maltese spoken to agreed that the EU should better inform citizens about the importance of biodiversity.
GR: Interesting article, but read with care; its sources are not cited.
As eye-opening as "Blackfish" and as inspiring as "An Inconvenient Truth".
Cowspiracy may be the most important film made to inspire saving the
This is an important film (Cowspiracy). World environmental organizations and government land-management agencies should pay attention. Clearly, however, the Earth can’t sustain our population even if we eat no meat. What I fear most, is that even if we adopted a one-child-per-couple policy today, we would still lose all our wildlife. Even if our population started shrinking today, the loss of wildlife would continue for centuries. We would have no animals left by the time our population reached a sustainable level.
This might not matter. Our resource consumption now exceeds the planet's production of new biomass. In other words, we are eating up the savings. Living on one's savings can't go on forever. There comes a point where they are gone. Long before we reach that point, the uneven distribution of resources will lead to great wars and human die-offs. This is nothing to desire, even by the most ethical among us, because all the animals will be gone by the time we are.
"After more than a quarter century on the Endangered Species List, Wyoming toads may have a chance at recovery under a new plan that sets specific targets and requires long-term monitoring.
"The once-common toads died off in massive numbers starting in the 1970s, succumbing to a deadly fungal disease that has afflicted amphibians around the world.
"Listed as endangered in 1984, the Wyoming toad is considered one of the four most endangered amphibian species in North America and is currently classified as “extinct in the wild” by the International Union for Conservation of Nature. Approximately 500 individuals are currently held in captivity for breeding and reintroduction efforts.
The goal is to establish stable populations at five sites. It will be tough. Amphibians face the harshest human impacts of any species group. They face declining habitats, increasing pollution, increasing short-wave solar radiation, increasing invasive predators and competitors, and disease. It will be tough.
In what may possibly be the last attempt by conservationists to prevent the critically endangered Sumatran rhinoceros from going extinct researchers have recommended that the small population left is consolidated, given strong protection, and that the percentage of breeding females remaining be determined.
The scientists from the University of Massachusetts Amherst and the Wildlife Conservation Society's (WCS) Indonesia Program have carried out an island-wide survey of the last wild population of Sumatran rhinoceros.
The study for the first time identifies priority forest protection zones "irreplaceable for saving the critically endangered species," the authors say, and identifies small and scattered populations that should be consolidated if they are to become viable.
A long-simmering row over plans to overhaul a corner of one of Britain’s best loved museums has burst into the open, with its director publicly defending the move.
Sir Michael Dixon, head of the Natural History Museum in London, has come under fire over plans to transform a wildlife garden in the museum’s grounds. He says the change will allow for the creation of a new entrance to the museum, necessary because visitor numbers have soared since free admission was introduced in 2001.
Established in 1995, the one-acre site, with ponds, heathland, meadows, woods and grazing sheep, has been the site of several important scientific discoveries.
A new edition of the “Arizona Wildlife Notebook” is available.
From the Introduction: In the year, 2015, lethal heat waves and storms made it clear that humanity is changing the Earth. Anyone who has paid attention to the news knows that Earth’s animals and plants are disappearing.