U.S. Considers Listing Giraffes as Endangered Species
U.S. officials have announced that giraffes may qualify for protection under the Endangered Species Act following a lawsuit filed by conservation groups at the end of last year. Once a foreign species is listed as endangered, they are given protections that prohibit the import and export of any part of the animal.
The lawsuit was brought on by the Center for Biological Diversity, the Humane Society and the Natural Resources Defense Council after the U.S. Forest Service did not respond to a petition by the groups to consider the species current conservation status, citing extinction concerns over "all or a significant portion of its range."
Giraffa comelopardalis is imperiled by habitat loss, disease, civil unrest, overhunting and an increasing demand for international trade in skins, trophies and bone carvings with American markets being a significant contributor to the latter. More than 21,400 bone carvings, as well as thousands of skin pieces and hunting trophies, were imported into the country over the last decade, according to the Center for Biological Diversity. Conservationists argue that limiting import and trade into the U.S. would give the species important protections to heighten global awareness through international cooperation.
"The U.S. on average imports more than one giraffe trophy a day, and thousands of giraffe parts are sold domestically each year," said Anna Frostic, an attorney for the Humane Society of the United States and Humane Society International. "The federal government must now expeditiously take stock of the role we are playing in giraffe decline and how we can work to instead save these unique animals."
Africa's iconic species have dropped 40 percent in the last three decades with fewer than 70,000 mature individuals left throughout their native forests, shrublands and savannas of Africa. Just last year, the International Union for the Conservation of Nature elevated the two of the nine subspecies to "critically endangered" for the first time last year.
However, endangered status does not prohibit hunting of the species outside of the U.S. Legal sport hunting is primarily at the national and international level, whereas locals tend to illegally harvest meat for food.
"The United States has long been complicit in the trade of giraffe parts, so it's time for the federal government to stick its neck out for this species," said Elly Pepper at NRDC. "The United States has taken action to help staunch the trade of numerous species in trouble. Sadly, now it is time to take action to ensure giraffes remain on the planet. They need Endangered Species Act protections and they need them now."
Hunter organizations like the Safari Club International oppose the listing, saying "not only is the listing unnecessary, but it would likely harm giraffe populations in countries where giraffes are thriving and which rely on regulated hunting to fund their national conservation programs."
Under the ESA, individuals or groups may submit a formal petition request to list a species and officials must make preliminary findings within 90 days in order to determine if the listing is warranted. The initial proposal was filed in April 2017 and was followed up by the lawsuit when USFWS had failed to issue a response for nearly two years. A spokesperson for the USFWS told CNN that the lawsuit did not affect the timing of the agency's decision. Now, officials will take public comments on the scientific and commercial impact before making their decision within a year.
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By Katherine Kornei
Clear-cutting a forest is relatively easy—just pick a tree and start chopping. But there are benefits to more sophisticated forest management. One technique—which involves repeatedly harvesting smaller trees every 30 or so years but leaving an upper story of larger trees for longer periods (60, 90, or 120 years)—ensures a steady supply of both firewood and construction timber.
A Pattern in the Rings<p>The <a href="https://www.encyclopedia.com/science/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/coppice-standards-0" target="_blank">coppice-with-standards</a> management practice produces a two-story forest, said <a href="https://www.researchgate.net/profile/Bernhard_Muigg" target="_blank">Bernhard Muigg</a>, a dendrochronologist at the University of Freiburg in Germany. "You have an upper story of single trees that are allowed to grow for several understory generations."</p><p>That arrangement imprints a characteristic tree ring pattern in a forest's upper story trees (the "standards"): thick rings indicative of heavy growth, which show up at regular intervals as the surrounding smaller trees are cut down. "The trees are growing faster," said Muigg. "You can really see it with your naked eye."</p><p>Muigg and his collaborators characterized that <a href="https://ltrr.arizona.edu/about/treerings" target="_blank">dendrochronological pattern</a> in 161 oak trees growing in central Germany, one of the few remaining sites in Europe with actively managed coppice-with-standards forests. They found up to nine cycles of heavy growth in the trees, the oldest of which was planted in 1761. The researchers then turned to a historical data set — more than 2,000 oak <a href="https://eos.org/articles/podcast-discovering-europes-history-through-its-timbers" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">timbers from buildings and archaeological sites</a> in Germany and France dating from between 300 and 2015 — to look for a similar pattern.</p>
A Gap of 500 Years<p>The team found wood with the characteristic coppice-with-standards tree ring pattern dating to as early as the 6th century. That was a surprise, Muigg and his colleagues concluded, because the first mention of this forest management practice in historical documents occurred only roughly 500 years later, in the 13th century.</p><p>It's probable that forest management practices were not well documented prior to the High Middle Ages (1000–1250), the researchers suggested. "Forests are mainly mentioned in the context of royal hunting interests or donations," said Muigg. Dendrochronological studies are particularly important because they can reveal information not captured by a sparse historical record, he added.</p><p>These results were <a href="https://www.nature.com/articles/s41598-020-78933-8" target="_blank">published in December in <em>Scientific Reports</em></a>.</p><p>"It's nice to see the longevity and the history of coppice-with-standards," said <a href="https://www.teagasc.ie/contact/staff-directory/s/ian-short/" target="_blank">Ian Short</a>, a forestry researcher at Teagasc, the Agriculture and Food Development Authority in Ireland, not involved in the research. This technique is valuable because it promotes conservation and habitat biodiversity, Short said. "In the next 10 or 20 years, I think we'll see more coppice-with-standards coming back into production."</p><p>In the future, Muigg and his collaborators hope to analyze a larger sample of historic timbers to trace how the coppice-with-standards practice spread throughout Europe. It will be interesting to understand where this technique originated and how it propagated, said Muigg, and there are plenty of old pieces of wood waiting to be analyzed. "There [are] tons of dendrochronological data."</p><p><em><a href="mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Katherine Kornei</a> is a freelance science journalist covering Earth and space science. Her bylines frequently appear in Eos, Science, and The New York Times. Katherine holds a Ph.D. in astronomy from the University of California, Los Angeles.</em></p><p><em>This story originally appeared in <a href="https://eos.org/articles/tree-rings-reveal-how-ancient-forests-were-managed" target="_blank">Eos</a></em> <em>and is republished here as part of Covering Climate Now, a global journalism collaboration strengthening coverage of the climate story.</em></p>
Earth's ice is melting 57 percent faster than in the 1990s and the world has lost more than 28 trillion tons of ice since 1994, research published Monday in The Cryosphere shows.
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Noreen Nunez lives in a middle-class neighborhood that rises up a hillside in Trinidad's Tunapuna-Piarco region.