Letter to feds points out dangers of ‘genetic bottleneck’ Staff Report Political resistance at the state level shouldn’t deter federal biologists from releasing more Mexican gray wolves into the wild, according to conservation activists, who say that such releases are needed to prevent the wild population from becoming genetically crippled.
New law could help spur companies to reduce use of harmful plastics in personal care products
Just a few weeks after scientists issued a strongly worded call for a ban on plastic microbeads, California did just that, as Gov. Jerry Brown signed a new that will phase out the use of microbeads in beauty products by 2020.
The tiny plastic particles, used in common products like facial scrubs and toothpaste, have become a pollution scourge, with millions of tons bypassing water treatment and filtration and ending up in rivers, lakes and the ocean.
Biologists say that nearly all marine organisms are at risk from ingesting the tiny plastic bits. Up to 90 percent of all seabirds have already eaten plastic, and scientists have also documented the potential harm to sediment-dwelling worms, as well as crabs. Basically, microplastic pollution is everywhere.The new California law is precedent-setting because it doesn’t have the loopholes of similar legislation in other states. For example, according to the Center for Biological Diversity, bans in Indiana and New Jersey simply allow companies to replace the microbeads with different plastics.
Study ties ancient wildfire surge in the Rockies to warmer climate phase
Offering yet more evidence that the West’s recent spate of megafires is linked with a warming climate, University of Wyoming researchers showed that a warm spell about 1,000 years ago also spurred more blazes. The study suggests that large fires will continue to increase as a result of a warming climate.
“What our research shows is that even modest regional warming trends, like we are currently experiencing, can cause exceptionally large areas in the Rockies to be burned by wildfires,” says John Calder, a Ph.D. candidate in UW’s Program in Ecology and the Department of Geology and Geophysics.
Arctic once again loses thick multiyear ice Staff Report At the end of its melt season, the Arctic’s ice cover fell to the fourth lowest extent in the satellite record, both in the daily and monthly average, according to scientists at the National Snow and Ice Data Center (NSIDC). Sea ice extent hit 4.41 million square kilometers (1.70 million square miles) on September 11 and averaged 4.63 million square kilometers (1.79 million square miles) for the month of September. This year edged out 2008 as the fourth lowest extent since satellites started regularly monitoring sea ice in 1979. The lowest Arctic extent on record occurred in 2012, when sea ice measured 3.62 million square kilometers (1.40 million square miles).
Swiss study tracks online sales of potential invaders Staff Report Online commerce is accelerating the invasive species threat worldwide, Swiss reasearchers said last week after taking a close look at at the unbridled market for buying and selling plants on the internet. These days, all it takes is one click to spread potentially invasive plants from continent to continent – and unintentionally encouraging biological invasions, the researchers said, referring to invaders like goldenrod, Himalayan balsam and the Chinese windmill palm — all of which now threaten native biodiversity in the Alpine republic.
Mark Carney, the Governor of the Bank of England, delivered a stark warning on the disruptions climate change will bring if steps aren’t taken to mitigate it. He made his remarks in a speech to a gathering at Lloyds of London Tuesday.
“The challenges currently posed by climate change pale in significance with what might come,” the former Governor of the Bank of Canada told the gathering of insurers.
“The far-sighted among you are anticipating broader global impacts on property, migration and political stability, as well as food and water security.”
Carney noted that since the 1980s the number of registered weather-related loss events has tripled and related insurance losses have increased from an annual average of around $10 billion in the 1980s to roughly $50 billion in the last decade.
In order to meet the IPCC’s carbon budget limiting a rise in global warming to two degrees over pre-industrial levels, Carney said the budget would amount to between one-fifth and one-third of the world’s proven reserves of oil, gas and coal.
“If that estimate is even approximately correct it would render the vast majority of reserves ‘stranded’ – oil, gas and coal that will be literally unburnable without expensive carbon capture technology, which itself alters fossil fuel economics.”
Tom Steyer’s crusade to force politicians to confront climate change is well known, manifesting itself in millions of dollars of campaign funding, including the windfall he raised for Hillary Rodham Clinton recently in his San Francisco home.
Less well known is the billionaire’s crusade to force farmers to confront it.
At an 1,800-acre cattle ranch that Steyer and his wife, Kat Taylor, own near Half Moon Bay, they are plotting to upend agribusiness with the same precision – and even some of the same tools – that served Steyer well in the hedge fund business. They are also surprising some allies in the climate movement by cattle ranching at all. Many see the presence of massive numbers of cows on the planet as incompatible with efforts to contain global warming.
The couple have a different take.
“We would continue raising cattle even if no one ever ate another steak,” said Taylor. That’s how beneficial she and Steyer think these large farm animals can be. They want the cows to mimic the ancient migratory patterns of wild ungulates and naturally fertilize and aerate soil to reverse the mass erosion believed to be accelerating climate change.
This striking green-blue image isn't a lost work of Van Gogh — it's a giant, growing bloom of microscopic plants and animals in the Baltic Sea, which NASA photographed from space on August 11. But don't let its beauty fool you.
The fate of industrially farmed animals is one of the most pressing ethical questions of our time. Tens of billions of sentient beings, each with complex sensations and emotions, live and die on a production line
Ecotourism has been hailed as a sustainable economic driver and a force for environmental conservation, but a new report says we also need to account for the possible adverse effects of visitation to relatively wild spaces. In a new report published in Trends in Ecology & Evolution, researchers said all of those interactions between wild animals and friendly ecotourists eager to snap their pictures may inadvertently put some animals at greater risk of being eaten. It’s clear that the ecotourism business is booming. “Recent data showed that protected areas around the globe receive 8 billion visitors per year; that’s like each human on Earth visited a protected area once a year, and then some,” said Daniel Blumstein of the University of California, Los Angeles. “This massive amount of nature-based and eco-tourism can be added to the long list of drivers of human-induced rapid environmental change.”
NEW DELHI : Only 25 per cent of the original habitats in the eastern Himalayas remain intact and hundreds of species in the region face threat to their existence from unbridled developmental activities and climate change, a new study has said.
The latest regional species discovery report--'Hidden Himalayas: Asia's Wonderland', a World Wildlife Fund's (WWF) Living Himalayas initiative, while celebrating the discovery of 200 new species between 2009 and 2014, has also expressed concern over depletion of original habitats due to industrial growth, mining and climate change.
Unique student research project tracks immune response to virus at genetic level
Biological sleuthing by a group of young marine-disease researchers from around the country may help solve the mystery of a massive sea star die-off along the West Coast.
Millions of the animals have died the past few years. Scientists still don’t why. They suspect a common ocean virus is at fault, and the new study, published this week in PLOS ONE, has contributed key information about the sea stars’ immune response when infected with this virus, which causes the marine creatures to develops white lesions on its limbs and within days dissolve or into a gooey mass.
Up to 95 percent of U.S. coral reefs may be affected Staff Report Global warming is causing global coral bleaching, ocean scientists said today, confirming that rising ocean temperatures are resulting in massive and widespread impacts to reefs around the world. “The coral bleaching and disease, brought on by climate change and coupled with events like the current El Niño, are the largest and most pervasive threats to coral reefs around the world,” NOAA’s Coral Reef Watch coordinator, Mark Eakin, said in a statement.“As a result, we are losing huge areas of coral across the U.S., as well as internationally. What really has us concerned is this event has been going on for more than a year and our preliminary model projections indicate it’s likely to last well into 2016,” Eakin added.
Compiled by University of Oxford's Future of Humanity Institute and the Global Challenges Foundation, the report titled "12 Risks that Threaten Human Civilization" lists the most likely ways that apocalypse could occur.
"The idea that we face a number of global risks threatening the very basis of our civilization at the beginning of the 21st century is well accepted in the scientific community and is studied at a number of leading universities," the authors state in the assessment.
Far from being alarmist, however, the report's authors say they don't mean to cause panic, but rather find ways to turn challenges into opportunities.
‘The Central Valley has many areas where recent groundwater levels are more than 100 feet below previous historical low …’ Staff Report Farmers in California’s Central Valley pumped more groundwater than ever during the state’s ongoing drought, causing aquifers to drop to new record low levels, according to the U.S. Geological Survey. The agency recently launched a website to help track Central Valley groundwater depletion and land subsidence. A new paper released about the same time shows geographical nuances in the decline. The biggest changes are in the southern Central Valley, where farmers have shifted from planting annual and seasonal crops to perennial plants.Land subsidence has caused costly infrastructure damage such as canal buckling and reduced freeboard on canals and bridges. At some points, up to 11 inches of land subsidence was measured from 2012 to present. “The Central Valley has many areas where recent groundwater levels are more than 100 feet below previous historical lows,” said Michelle Sneed, USGS hydrologist. “These correspond to areas of recent active subsidence.”
A new salmon farm in Clayoquot Sound on Vancouver Island was dismantled and hauled away this week after being occupied by members of Ahousaht First Nations and local supporters from Tofino.
“This is the very first salmon farm that’s pulled out of B.C. because of protesters,” said Alexandra Morton, an independent salmon research scientist who has documented the devastating impacts of salmon farms on wild salmon and other marine species. Morton was part of the two-week occupation.
Lennie John, an Ahousaht man, was the first to tie his boat to the floating fish pens in the long narrow channel near the eastern shore of Flores Island with its intact ancient cedar rainforest and many creeks supporting runs of wild salmon. This is also home of the Ahousaht First Nations. Cermaq, a Norwegian-based salmon farming company (recently purchased by the Japanese conglomerate Mitsubishi) was granted permits this summer to install its 16th farm in Clayoquot Sound.
“We blocked Cermaq’s access and told them they were trespassing,” John, an Ahousaht tourism business owner, said.
“You wouldn’t want someone to come into your house and make a mess,” John told more than 100 people attending a Clayoquot Action event, called “Take a Stand for Wild Salmon,” in Tofino on Wednesday. Clayoquot Action is a local environmental organization.
John was soon joined by others who literally camped on the steel catwalks that frame large salmon net pens that can hold up to a million Atlantic salmon at a time when fully stocked. The group spent two weeks camped on the open water despite the very windy and wet weather the region is known for.
On ancestral lands, the Fond du Lac band in Minnesota is planting wild rice and restoring wetlands damaged by dams, industry, and logging. Their efforts are part of a growing trend by Native Americans to bring back traditional food sources and heal scarred landscapes.
The US Department of Agriculture has identified 14 species of glyphosate-resistant weeds in the United States, and 32 have been documented worldwide, according to a government-industry-university coalition.
Wyoming toad has been on endangered species list since 1984 Staff Report 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.
Fertilizer companies are the "Exxons of agriculture" and are blockingbeneficialclimateclimatepolicieswith their massive lobbying power, a new report charges.
The publication by GRAIN, an international nonprofit organization that advocates for locally-controlled, biodiversity-based food systems, describes how the fertilizer industry, whose products the group says are responsible for up to 10% of global greenhouse gas emissions, has joined forces with major corporations like Walmart in order to cast itself as a purveyor of "climate smart" policies while protecting its interests.
Up to three-quarters of fish sampled from the River Thames have been found to have plastic fibres in their gut. The Royal Holloway study was small and looked at just two species - but it highlights, say scientists, the pressing issue of plastic waste in London's great waterway. The Port of London Authority (PLA) has launched a campaign to raise awareness of the curse of litter. It wants public support to stop plastic from getting into the Thames. The PLA has teamed with other groups, including the charity Thames21, to ask people to "Do The Right Thing" and make sure any rubbish they have goes securely into a bin. "This is not just a problem along the river; it's affected by litter from across London," explained the authority's environment manager, Tanya Ferry. "So you might discard plastic near Buckingham Palace or Selfridges but if it gets into the drains, those drains could potentially discharge into the Thames and carry those plastic pieces with them."
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