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The Sixth Extinction: An Unnatural History by Elizabeth Kolbert

The Sixth Extinction: An Unnatural History by Elizabeth Kolbert | forests | Scoop.it
Elizabeth Kolbert is a staff writer at The New Yorker. She is the author of The Sixth Extinction: An Unnatural History and Field Notes from a Catastrophe: Man, Nature, and Climate Change
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How 60 of the weirdest birds are related - Futurity

How 60 of the weirdest birds are related - Futurity | forests | Scoop.it
Some of the loudest, oddest-looking, least-understood birds on the planet, called cotingas, just got a "family tree."

 

This circular rendition of the “tree of life” shows nearly all the sizes, colors, and adaptations for the continga family of birds radiating outward from the center and its common ancestor. Both males and females are shown except where plumage for both is the same. View larger. (Credit: Courtesy of the Handbook of the Birds of the World. Vol. 9. Cotingas to Pipits and Wagtails, Lynx Edicions 2004)


Via Christian Allié
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Christian Allié's curator insight, October 19, 10:28 AM

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When Berv and Prum examined patterns of evolution for these two traits across their new tree of life, there was no significant match. There have been many more evolutionary changes in color than there have been for breeding system. Berv says these traits may be evolutionarily “decoupled” in the cotingas.

However, sexual selection appears to have played a role in the evolution of sexual differences other than color in some cotingas.

“In one case, the Screaming Piha, the males and females look alike but the male sings one of the loudest songs on the planet,” says Yale’s Rick Prum. “That means male-female plumage difference alone is not evidence for sexual selection because sexual selection is also driving other traits such as voice and behavior.”

Crazy colors

Though the researchers didn’t find a link between the coloration of males and females and the evolution of polygynous breeding systems, Prum says some form of sexual selection almost certainly did play a role in the eye-popping colors some cotingas display.

Some species have evolved a variety of colors seen only in this group of birds, such as the glowing orange cowl of the Andean Cock-of-the-Rock, the fluorescence of the Turquoise Cotinga, or the blue-and-maroon combo of the Banded Cotinga.

 

“Some cotinga colors are not produced by pigments,” Berv explains. “Some of these birds have evolved cool nanoscale feather structures made with feather protein molecules. The nanostructures scatter light and produce visible color the birds use in sexual signaling.”

Figuring out how these feather structures evolved is an area of future study. In fact, “the sky’s the limit,” according to Prum, who notes other areas of study could include the evolution of elaborate courtship displays, clutch sizes, or the vocal organs that produce the ear-splitting sounds of the raucous bellbirds and pihas. Even the color question can be studied on a much more refined scale.

Beyond ‘yes or no’

“Rather than just asking whether males and females of a species are dimorphic, yes or no, we will next measure various color patches and quantify brilliance,” says Prum.

“For example, male and female robins look different, so that would be a ‘yes’ for dimorphism. But they’re not as different as the male and female Scarlet Tanager. On the ‘yes-no’ scale they would be scored the same. If we actually measure the colors we’d be able to say ‘Wow, males and females of one species are really a lot more different than the other.’ That would reflect the impact of sexual selection a lot better.”

“One of the biggest analytical differences between what we’ve done and past work is that we used a ‘species tree’ approach, which is potentially more accurate than what is typically applied to genetic data,” Berv says.

“We ran our data through more traditional types of analyses as well, and all of them strongly supported a consistent evolutionary ‘tree of life.’ We hope other scientists who are interested in these birds take our phylogeny and do all sorts of great things with it.”

 

The paper appears in Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution.

 

W. R. Coe funds from Yale University supported the work, as did the facilities and staff of the Yale University Faculty of Arts and Sciences High Performance Computing Center. The DNA work was performed at Yale; Berv did the data analysis and writing at the Cornell Lab.


Source: Cornell University

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Researchers find ferns communicate with one another to decide gender

Researchers find ferns communicate with one another to decide gender | forests | Scoop.it

(Phys.org) —A combined team of researchers from Nagoya University and the University of Tokyo has discovered that a certain type of fern plant communicates with others of its kind using pheromones as a means of choosing the gender of maturing plants. In their paper published in the journal Science, the researchers describe how their study of the Japanese climbing fern, led to a better understanding of the role that the pheromone gibberellin plays in its reproduction process. Tai-ping Sun, with Duke University offers a perspective piece in the same journal edition, providing a more in-depth analysis of the work the team has done.


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Bamboo Could Be a Savior for Climate Change, Biodiversity

Bamboo Could Be a Savior for Climate Change, Biodiversity | forests | Scoop.it

"The evidence shows that [bamboo] is being seriously undervalued as a possibility for countries to engage in biodiversity protection and protection of the natural environment.

 

The plant bamboo, and there are about 1,250 different species, has a very important role to play in environmental protection and climate change mitigation. Bamboos have very strong and very extensive root systems and are therefore amazing tools to combat soil erosion and to help with land degradation restoration."

-- Dr. Hans Friederich

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Lauri's curator insight, October 22, 9:05 PM

The idea of locking in a lot of carbon and then cutting it down and using it to build while another generation locks in even more is intriguing.

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Electric Power Rights of Way: An Unlikely Frontier for Conservation?

Electric Power Rights of Way: An Unlikely Frontier for Conservation? | forests | Scoop.it

Often mowed and doused with herbicides, power transmission lines have long been a bane for environmentalists.

 

Nobody loves electrical power transmission lines. They typically bulldoze across the countryside like a clearcut, 150 feet wide and scores or hundreds of miles long, in a straight line that defies everything we know about nature. They’re commonly criticized for fragmenting forests and other natural habitats and for causing collisions and electrocutions for some birds. Power lines also have raised the specter, in the minds of anxious neighbors, of illnesses induced by electromagnetic fields.

So it's a little startling to hear wildlife biologists proposing that properly managed transmission lines, and even natural gas and oil pipeline rights-of-way, could be the last best hope for many birds, pollinators, and other species that are otherwise dramatically declining.

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A new innovative way to fertilize through leaves

A new innovative way to fertilize through leaves | forests | Scoop.it

A new study suggests that foliar fertilization could be used as a tool to produce plants for high quality reforestation. Foliar feeding is used in agriculture to rapidly and precisely control the nutrition of plants. This technique has not been tested in the forestry area, but its application for nursery production can provide solutions to improve plant quality produced for afforestation.

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If you plant different trees in the forest, is it still the same forest?

If you plant different trees in the forest, is it still the same forest? | forests | Scoop.it

Nature Conservancy will plant seeds for 100,000 red oak, bur oak and white pine trees on 2,000 acres of federal, state and local forests in Minnesota’s Iron Range. Seeds from each species will come from two zones: one from within the test range, and another from distant parts of the species’ historic range (mostly from southern Minnesota, and, in some cases, a portion of Michigan where the trees exist).

 

Researchers from the University of Minnesota Duluth will then manage these test forests in different ways to find out whether varying how the trees are planted and managed affect how each species fares; how different climate conditions affect their viability; and whether seeds originating from other parts of the forest – where different conditions exist – impact how two seemingly identical trees withstand the same conditions.

 

If the trees moved from distant zones prove to adapt well, this kind of assisted migration could be adopted as a way to maintain the health of forests that might otherwise be decimated by climate change.

Some critics argue that this type of intervention would change the essential character of the forest. Indeed, some of the species being moved are the hardwoods that may one day replace the North Woods’ conifers in any case as a result of climate change.

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Oil palm: A visual story

Oil palm: A visual story | forests | Scoop.it
Palm oil can be produced without driving deforestation, two experts write in a book newly translated to English and published by the Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR).


“The problem,” authors Alain Rival and Patrice Levang write in “Palms of controversies: Oil palm and development challenges,” is not the oil palm “but the way people have chosen to exploit it.”
Click here to read more about the book. See below for a visual story of oil palm and the controversy behind it (click on the inforgraphic to expand it).

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Judit Urquijo's curator insight, October 21, 6:51 AM

En los últimos años, la palma aceitera se ha extendido por el mundo hasta el punto de convertirse en muchos países en un cultivo de carácter estratégico. Se trata de una especie con una gran productividad por ha/año y una elevada rentabilidad económica, significando para algunas naciones en desarrollo una importante fuente de ingresos.


Sin embargo, su evolución está tradicionalmente ligada a la deforestación de los bosques primarios, como ocurre en el caso de Colombia, donde se están ocupando suelos forestales que ejercen como áreas de recarga de acuíferos, con la reducción en el nivel freático que conlleva, tal y como se denuncia en este estudio de la Universidad de Sucre, que analiza varios aspectos relacionados con este cultivo.


No obstante, el uso de suelos forestales no es condición indispensable para el desarrollo de este cultivo. De hecho, la palma admite ser plantada en suelos degradados, por ejemplo. De ahí que Patrice Levang, experto del CIFOR, afirme en esta entrevista que no hay que confundir el impacto originado por el cultivo en sí con la gente que lo desarrolla.


En el libro que han escrito Levang y Rival, “Palms of controversies. Oil palm and development challenges” y que puede descargarse gratuitamente desde este enlace, se recogen numerosas medidas para reducir el impacto ambiental que ocasionan estas plantaciones monoespecíficas, algunas de las cuales están recogidas en la infografía adjunta. Estas técnicas pueden revertir también en mejorar las condiciones del suelo, aspecto evidenciado por los agricultores colombianos, que afirman que la palma aceitera hace un uso intensivo del suelo, impidiendo un aprovechamiento agrícola posterior.

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A Stamp to Protect Wildlife

A Stamp to Protect Wildlife | forests | Scoop.it

The Save Vanishing Species stamp is now on sale at the U.S. Postal Service. The semipostal stamp is designed to raise money to help protect endangered wildlife, including tigers, rhinos and marine turtles.

The stamp features an Amur tiger cub and is the result of a 10-year effort begun and led by WWF, in partnership with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, U.S. Postal Service and other international conservation organizations.

On September 19, 2014, President Obama signed the stamp reauthorization bill into law.

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Mgmt concerns for moist mixed-conifer forests of the US Cascades

Mgmt concerns for moist mixed-conifer forests of the US Cascades | forests | Scoop.it

Moist mixed-conifer forests—which are dominated by a combination of grand fir, white fir, and Douglas-fir trees—cover a large area east of the Cascade crest, where they occupy a critical intermediate position between the drier conifer forests and the wetter mixed-conifer forests that are juxtaposed on these eastside forested landscapes. These forests are important for watershed protection, wildlife habitat, carbon sequestration, outdoor recreation, and other ecosystem services, yet are drought-stressed and vulnerable to high-severity wildfire following decades of human disturbances and climate warming.

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Research on climate-resilient wheat keeps "Green Revolution" on track

Research on climate-resilient wheat keeps "Green Revolution" on track | forests | Scoop.it

Photo Credit: Malcolm Carlaw

Already, U.N. food agencies estimate that at least 805 million people do not get enough food and that more than 2 billion suffer from micronutrient deficiency, or “hidden hunger.”

 

Wheat production must grow 60 percent over the next 35 years to keep pace with demand, statistics from the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization show – an achievable goal only if wheat yields increase from the current level of below 1 percent annually to at least 1.7 percent per year.

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True Altruism: Can Humans Change To Save Other Species?

True Altruism: Can Humans Change To Save Other Species? | forests | Scoop.it

Photo Credit: Anita Ritenour

A grim new census of the world’s dwindling wildlife populations should force us to confront a troubling question: Are humans capable of acting in ways that help other species at a cost to themselves?

 

Ever since Darwin, biologists have been arguing about altruism — the concept that an individual may behave in a way that benefits its species, at a cost to itself. After all, the self-sacrifice implicit in altruistic behavior seems to run against the grain of evolutionary theory, which proposes that the well-being of a species depends on robust, individual self-interest. Many biologists argue that in the non-human world what looks like altruism — benefiting another at a cost to oneself — may be merely the final refinement of self-interest, self-interest operating not at the level of the organism or the species but at the level of the gene.


This is all very interesting. But the discussion nearly always concerns the behavior of individuals within a single species — the warning cries of vervet monkeys, which alert their fellow monkeys to predators while calling attention to themselves; the self-abnegation of a stinging bee. What I wonder is this: Is altruism possible across species boundaries? Can an individual from one species, at cost to itself, act in a way that benefits individuals from another species? And — the crucial question — can an entire species learn to shape its behavior, to its own cost, for the good of other species? 

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Activists urge outgoing Indonesian president to protect key forest area before he steps down

Activists urge outgoing Indonesian president to protect key forest area before he steps down | forests | Scoop.it
Activists have launched an urgent appeal calling upon outgoing Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono to step up protection of the only ecosystem that houses Sumatran orangutans, rhinos, elephants and tigers.

 

Environmentalists fear that a proposed plan to revise Aceh's spatial plan — the zoning law that governs land use in the north Sumatran province — will spur conversion of key habitat for industrial plantations and mining concessions. 

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Tree Kangaroo: Facts About a Declining Species

Tree Kangaroo: Facts About a Declining Species | forests | Scoop.it

Tree kangaroos inhabit the lowland and mountainous rainforests of Papua New Guinea, Indonesia and the far north of Queensland, Australia. Living up in the foliage, this species looks like a cross between a kangaroo and a lemur.

These animals need our help. Habitat loss through deforestation and poaching are pushing this species to the brink of extinction.

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Albania’s Coastal Wetlands: Killing Field for Migrating Birds

Albania’s Coastal Wetlands: Killing Field for Migrating Birds | forests | Scoop.it
Millions of birds migrating between Africa and Europe are being illegally hunted on the Balkan Peninsula, with the most egregious poaching occurring in Albania. Conservationists and the European Commission are calling for an end to the carnage.
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Retaining forests where raptors nest can help to protect biodiversity

Retaining forests where raptors nest can help to protect biodiversity | forests | Scoop.it

 

 

Researchers in the University of Helsinki and Novia University of Applied Sciences studied two common raptor species in Finland, the goshawk and the Ural owl. Researchers visited raptor nests and surrounding forests on two large forested areas and recorded the amount of biodiversity such as birds, flying squirrel and polypores around them.


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Biodiversity, Climate Change Solutions Inextricably Linked

Biodiversity, Climate Change Solutions Inextricably Linked | forests | Scoop.it

"Our biodiversity is important for our health, our status, our attractiveness as a country and it is important that we conserve it and use it in a sustainable manner that it is there for generations to come." -- Helena Brown

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Indonesian Villagers Use Drones to Protect Their Forest

Indonesian Villagers Use Drones to Protect Their Forest | forests | Scoop.it

The villagers of Setulang in Indonesian Borneo have enlisted a new ally in their fight against the illegal clearing of their forests for oil palm plantations: aerial drones.

 

“Dayaks and Drones,” a video produced by Handcrafted Films, chronicles how the villagers teamed up with an Indonesian nonprofit to learn how to program and operate drones. Equipped with GPS technology, the small drones photograph the forest and monitor the area for illegal activities, especially plantations and mines. The villagers will use information gathered by the drones to create a detailed map of their land, which will help in future conservation efforts.

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Lizard Stowaways Revise Principle of Ecology

Lizard Stowaways Revise Principle of Ecology | forests | Scoop.it
The movement of lizards around the Caribbean is forcing an accounting for human activity in even the most basic ecological models
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Behind on biodiversity targets, govts pledge to increase funding for conservation

Behind on biodiversity targets, govts pledge to increase funding for conservation | forests | Scoop.it

@RayBeckerman 

On the heels of a report showing that the world is far behind on targets to halve habitat loss, cut pollution, and reduce overfishing, delegates meeting at a United Nations conference in Pyeongchang, South Korea have agreed to increase step up efforts to conserve biodiversity in developing nations.

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Garry Rogers's curator insight, October 19, 5:24 PM

GR:  The UN appears to have the correct sentiment, but the increased funding for conservation is too small.  The fundamental fuel for environmental decline, human population growth, remains uncontrolled.  Scientists are telling us that the growing human population has exceeded the Earth's carrying capacity.  What motivates our leaders to continue with development and "progress" when they surely know what is happening?  Governments should budget an amount equal to the increased funding for conservation to reversing population growth.

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Don’t be afraid of landscapes complexity, expert says

Don’t be afraid of landscapes complexity, expert says | forests | Scoop.it
Balancing the many competing demands on rural lands is inherently complex—and researchers need to embrace this, according to a leading rural development specialist.

“We need to not be afraid of complexity,” said Kwezi Atta-Krah, Director of the CGIAR Research Program on Integrated Systems for the Humid Tropics, a global initiative that uses research to boost the incomes of rural farmers in the tropics.

Speaking at the recent CGIAR Development Dialogues in New York, Atta-Krah advocated for holistic “landscape” approaches to managing multiple land uses such as agriculture and conservation as the only way to responsibly balance tradeoffs among different sectors, such as forestry and agriculture. “We don’t have an option,” he said.
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Halloween Without Bats?

Halloween Without Bats? | forests | Scoop.it

What would Halloween be like without bats? Maybe a little less scary. Probably a little less fun. A really scary thought is to imagine what the world would be like if we didn't have any bats at all.

There are about 1200 species of bats in the world—one in every five mammal species. The largest bat is the flying fox, with a wingspan of six feet! The smallest species is the bumblebee bat that weighs less than a penny. Among all of those species, only three are vampires, so you don't really have to worry much about bats sucking your blood.

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Badru’s Story: Early Warnings From Inside an Impenetrable African Forest

Badru’s Story: Early Warnings From Inside an Impenetrable African Forest | forests | Scoop.it

In this six-minute video, winner of the 2014 Yale Environment 360 Video Contest, Benjamin Drummond and Sara Joy Steele document the researchers' work in Bwindi's remote, mountainous landscape. For the filmmakers, just preventing their equipment from snagging on the dense understory while trying to keep up with Badru and his colleagues posed a serious challenge. But their efforts were rewarded with remarkable camera-trap images of the park's primates, elephants, anteaters, and leopards – striking evidence of what is at stake in Bwindi and the world's tropical forests.

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Food security successes earn World Food Prize

Food security successes earn World Food Prize | forests | Scoop.it

“Global objectives for food security can most definitely be met. However, we must be able to rely on guaranteed research funding from both the public and private sectors to address the many challenges we face, including decreasing land availability and erratic environmental changes related to climate change.”

 

Wheat currently provides 20 percent of overall daily protein and calories consumed throughout the world. Production must grow 70 percent over the current amount by 2050, according to the international Wheat Initiative – an achievable goal if annual wheat yields are increased from a current level of below 1 percent to at least 1.7 percent.

 

Researchers at CIMMYT are aiming to develop resilient wheat varieties tolerant to the drought, heat, extreme wet and cold conditions anticipated by scientists to grow more extreme as mean annual temperatures continue to increase and weather patterns become more volatile.

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Bolivia enshrines natural world's rights with equal status for Mother Earth

Bolivia enshrines natural world's rights with equal status for Mother Earth | forests | Scoop.it

Bolivia is set to pass the world's first laws granting all nature equal rights to humans. The Law of Mother Earth, now agreed by politicians and grassroots social groups, redefines the country's rich mineral deposits as "blessings" and is expected to lead to radical new conservation and social measures to reduce pollution and control industry.

The country, which has been pilloried by the US and Britain in the UN climate talks for demanding steep carbon emission cuts, will establish 11 new rights for nature. They include: the right to life and to exist; the right to continue vital cycles and processes free from human alteration; the right to pure water and clean air; the right to balance; the right not to be polluted; and the right to not have cellular structure modified or genetically altered.

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'River wolves' recover in Peruvian park, but still remain threatened inside and out

'River wolves' recover in Peruvian park, but still remain threatened inside and out | forests | Scoop.it
Lobo de río, or river wolf, is the very evocative Spanish name for one of the Amazon's most spectacular mammals: the giant river otter. This highly intelligent, deeply social, and simply charming freshwater predator almost vanished entirely due to a relentless fur trade in the 20th Century. But decades after the trade in giant river otter pelts was outlawed, the species is making a comeback.
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