Amazon Rainforest Deforestation Hits Highest Rate in 10 Years
About 7,900 square kilometers (3,050 square miles) of forest was cleared in the Brazilian Amazon between August 2017 and July 2018, the worst annual deforestation rate in a decade, according to government data. That's a 13.7 percent jump from the same period last year.
As Greenpeace Brazil noted, approximately 1.185 billion trees cut down in an area equivalent to the size of 987,500 soccer fields.
The disturbing news comes amid fears that Brazil's new far-right president Jair Bolsonaro could make the situation worse due to his promise to open more of the Amazon to development.
Brazil’s New President Could Spell Catastrophe for the Amazon, Indigenous Rights and Global Climate https://t.co/mugfdgZMms @EcoWatch— AMAZON WATCH (@AMAZON WATCH)1540919408.0
As EcoWatch previously explained, deforestation in the Amazon had actually decreased from around 2005 to 2011 by an impressive 70 percent due to increased government protections in response to a growing popular movement to protect the rainforest. Even from 2011 to 2017, as the country entered a more chaotic political period, the decrease in deforestation stopped, but it didn't reverse. Bolsonaro's leadership, unfortunately, could undo any of that progress.
In a statement, Brazil's environment minister Edson Duarte blamed illegal logging for the increase in deforestation in the Amazon and called on the government to increase policing in the forests, Reuters reported.
Aerial photo of the Amazon rainforest taken on July 18, 2018ESA / A.Gerst / CC BY-SA 3.0 IGO
However, Greenpeace said that the Brazilian government is not doing enough to stop deforestation. Additionally, with Bolsonaro at the helm, "the predictions for the Amazon (and for the climate) are not good."
The loss of forests creates a nasty climate change feedback loop. Forests are an important carbon sink, and deforestation contributes more carbon dioxide to the atmosphere.
The new report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change on limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels said that planting more trees, and keeping existing trees in the ground, were both essential to meeting that goal.
Tropical Forests Lost 40 Football Fields of Tree Cover Per Minute in 2017 https://t.co/Xp1B25yonb @EARTHWORKS @GreenpeaceAustP— EcoWatch (@EcoWatch)1530135305.0
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By Aaron W Hunter
A chance discovery of a beautifully preserved fossil in the desert landscape of Morocco has solved one of the great mysteries of biology and paleontology: how starfish evolved their arms.
The Pompeii of palaeontology. Aaron Hunter, Author provided<h2></h2><p>Although starfish might appear very robust animals, they are typically made up of lots of hard parts attached by ligaments and soft tissue which, upon death, quickly degrade. This means we rely on places like the Fezouata formations to provide snapshots of their evolution.</p><p>The starfish fossil record is patchy, especially at the critical time when many of these animal groups first appeared. Sorting out how each of the various types of ancient starfish relate to each other is like putting a puzzle together when many of the parts are missing.</p><h2>The Oldest Starfish</h2><p><em><a href="https://www.biorxiv.org/content/10.1101/216101v1.full.pdf" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Cantabrigiaster</a></em> is the most primitive starfish-like animal to be discovered in the fossil record. It was discovered in 2003, but it has taken over 17 years to work out its true significance.</p><p>What makes <em>Cantabrigiaster</em> unique is that it lacks almost all the characteristics we find in brittle stars and starfish.</p><p>Starfish and brittle stars belong to the family Asterozoa. Their ancestors, the Somasteroids were especially fragile - before <em>Cantabrigiaster</em> we only had a handful of specimens. The celebrated Moroccan paleontologist Mohamed <a href="https://doi.org/10.1016/j.palaeo.2016.06.041" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Ben Moula</a> and his local team was instrumental in discovering <a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0031018216302334?via%3Dihub" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">these amazing fossils</a> near the town of Zagora, in Morocco.</p><h2>The Breakthrough</h2><p>Our breakthrough moment came when I compared the arms of <em>Cantabrigiaster</em> with those of modern sea lilles, filter feeders with long feathery arms that tend to be attached to the sea floor by a stem or stalk.</p><p>The striking similarity between these modern filter feeders and the ancient starfish led our team from the University of Cambridge and Harvard University to create a new analysis. We applied a biological model to the features of all the current early Asterozoa fossils in existence, along with a sample of their closest relatives.</p>
Cantabrigiaster is the most primitive starfish-like animal to be discovered in the fossil record. Aaron Hunter, Author provided<p>Our results demonstrate <em>Cantabrigiaster</em> is the most primitive of all the Asterozoa, and most likely evolved from ancient animals called crinoids that lived 250 million years before dinosaurs. The five arms of starfish are a relic left over from these ancestors. In the case of <em>Cantabrigiaster</em>, and its starfish descendants, it evolved by flipping upside-down so its arms are face down on the sediment to feed.</p><p>Although we sampled a relatively small numbers of those ancestors, one of the unexpected outcomes was it provided an idea of how they could be related to each other. Paleontologists studying echinoderms are often lost in detail as all the different groups are so radically different from each other, so it is hard to tell which evolved first.</p>
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