62 Natural Wonders of the World at Risk From Climate Change
By Joe McCarthy
The marshy expanses of the Everglades in Southern Florida contain hundreds of species of animals, including flamingos, alligators and manatees. Clusters of mangroves span its coastline, acting as ecosystem hubs, and if you take a boat through the region, you'll see countless plants that are native to the area.
But the Everglades, which have been around for more than 5,000 years, are collapsing, as saltwater intrudes from rising sea levels, pollution seeps from surrounding industries, invasive species kill off native species, bad water management techniques dry parts of the wetland, and climate change intensifies.
vladeb / Flickr
In fact, the number of world heritage sites—places of supreme natural splendor and biodiversity—threatened by climate change has nearly doubled in the past three years, going from 35 in 2014 to 62 in 2017, according to the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources.
The threats facing these places are many—invasive species, logging, fires, tourism, urban sprawl, water pollution and more.
But the threat with the greatest potential for harm is climate change, according to the report.
"Protection of World Heritage sites is an international responsibility of the same governments that have signed up to the Paris agreement," said Inger Andersen, IUCN Director General, in a press release. "This IUCN report sends a clear message ... climate change acts fast and is not sparing the finest treasures of our planet."
The report was released during the third round of international negotiations for the Paris climate agreement, held in Bonn, Germany.
World Heritage Sites are a designation created by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO). Out of more than 220,000 potential sites, only 221 places have received the special distinction.
Serengeti National ParkAnita Ritenour / Flickr
Of the sites, 64 percent have a positive conservation outlook, according to the report by IUCN. These include many places that have rebounded from endangered status, including the Serengeti National Park in Tanzania and the Ujung Kulon National Park in Indonesia.
Some places, such as Thailand's Dong Phayayen-Khao Yai Forest Complex, have benefited from international agreements designed to stem to illegal logging and bolster conservation efforts, according to the report.
Romaine Smith / Flickr
The Comoé National Park in Côte d'Ivoire has also rebounded because of an international effort to contain poaching and illegal gold mining and better manage agricultural practices, the report noted.
This trend of regional cooperation is growing around the world, especially in relation to marine environments. For instance, the number of marine reserves and no-fish zones has skyrocketed in recent years. As of the end of 2016, more than five percent of the world's oceans were under formal protection, compared to one percent in 2007.
Throughout the world, North America remains the region with the best conservation outlook, followed by Oceania and Asia, where the majority of heritage sites are in a good state. The worst conservation outlooks are in Africa, South America, Mesoamerica and the Caribbean, where less than half of heritage sites are adequately protected.
Global Citizen campaigns on the Global Goals, which call for the effective management and conservation of the natural environment. You can take action on this issue here.
While invasive species remain the greatest threat to heritage sites for their ability to crowd out native species and undermine ecosystems, climate change is the most rapidly growing threat.
Rising sea levels from global warming temperatures is pushing saltwater from the Atlantic Ocean into the Everglades, which is killing off large sections of wildlife, including mangroves.
Mangroves in the EvergladesDaniel Hartwig / Flickr
The Great Barrier Reef off Australia, however, may be the clearest example of climate change's destructive capacity.
Rising ocean temperatures have caused nearly 100 percent of the reef's coral colonies to begin bleaching, which is the stage before death, when microscopic algae that provide sustenance and give the plants color are shed.
Richard Ling / Flickr
And its destruction, just like with other World Heritage Sites, would have myriad consequences.
As Tim Badman, Director of IUCN's World Heritage Program, said in a statement:
"Their destruction can thus have devastating consequences that go beyond their exceptional beauty and natural value. In Peru's Huascarán National Park, for example, melting glaciers affect water supplies and contaminate water and soil due to the release of heavy metals previously trapped under ice. This adds to the urgency of our challenge to protect these places."
Reposted with permission from our media associate Global Citizen.
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By Alyssa Murdoch, Chrystal Mantyka-Pringle and Sapna Sharma
Summer has finally arrived in the northern reaches of Canada and Alaska, liberating hundreds of thousands of northern stream fish from their wintering habitats.
A Good News Story?<p>On the surface, the <a href="https://doi.org/10.1111/fwb.13569" target="_blank">results from our study</a> appear to provide a "good news" story. Warming temperatures were linked to higher numbers of fish, more species overall and, therefore, potentially more fishing opportunities for northerners.</p><p>Initially, we were surprised to learn that warming was increasing the distribution of cold-adapted fish. We reasoned that modest amounts of warming could lead to benefits such as increased food and winter habitat availability without reaching stressful levels for many species.</p>
Photo of Arctic grayling (left) and Dolly Varden trout (right). Alyssa Murdoch / Lilian Tran / Nunavik Research Centre and Tracey Loewen / Fisheries and Oceans Canada<p>Yet, not all fish species fared equally well. Ecologically unique northern species — those that have evolved in colder, more nutrient-poor environments, such as Arctic grayling and Dolly Varden trout — were showing declines with warming.</p>
Fish Strandings and Buried Eggs<p>Recent news headlines run the gamut for Pacific salmon — from their increased escapades <a href="https://nunatsiaq.com/stories/article/more-pacific-salmon-showing-up-in-western-arctic-waters/" target="_blank">into the Arctic</a> to <a href="https://www.juneauempire.com/news/warm-waters-across-alaska-cause-salmon-die-offs/" target="_blank">massive pre-spawning die-offs</a> in central Alaska. Similarly, results from our study revealed different outcomes for fish depending on local climatic conditions, including Pacific salmon.</p><p>We found that warmer spring and fall temperatures may be helping juvenile salmon by providing a longer and more plentiful growing season, and by supporting early egg development in northern regions that were previously too cold for survival.</p><p>In contrast, salmon declined in regions that were experiencing wetter fall conditions, pointing to an increased risk of flooding and sedimentation that could bury or dislodge incubating eggs.</p>
Headwaters of the Wind River within the largely intact Peel River watershed in northern Canada. Don Reid / Wildlife Conservation Society Canada / Author provided<p>Interestingly, we found that certain climatic combinations, such as warmer summer water temperatures with decreased summer rainfall, were important in determining where Pacific salmon could survive. Summer warming in drier watersheds led to declines, suggesting that lowered streamflows may have increased the risk of fish becoming stranded in subpar habitats that were too warm and crowded.</p>
The Fate of Northern Fisheries<p>The promise of a warmer and more accessible Arctic has attracted mounting interest in new economic opportunities, <a href="https://doi.org/10.1016/j.marpol.2019.103637" target="_blank">including fisheries</a>. As warming rates at higher latitudes are already <a href="https://www.ipcc.ch/sr15/" target="_blank">two to three times global levels</a>, it seems probable that northern biodiversity will experience dramatic shifts in the coming decades.</p><p>Despite the many unknowns surrounding the future of Pacific salmon, many fisheries are currently <a href="https://doi.org/10.1080/03632415.2017.1374251" target="_blank">thriving following warmer and more productive northern oceans</a>, and some <a href="https://doi.org/10.14430/arctic68876" target="_blank">Arctic Indigenous communities are developing new salmon fisheries</a>.</p><p>As warming continues, the commercial salmon fishing industry is poised to expand northwards, but its success will largely depend on extenuating factors such as <a href="https://www.eenews.net/stories/1060023067" target="_blank">changes to marine habitat and food sources</a> and <a href="https://www.yukon-news.com/news/promising-chinook-salmon-run-failed-to-materialize-in-the-yukon-river-panel-hears/" target="_blank">how many fish are caught during the freshwater stages of their journey</a>.</p><p>Even with the potential for increased northern biodiversity, it is important to recognize that some northern communities may be unable to adapt or may <a href="https://thenarwhal.ca/searching-for-the-yukon-rivers-missing-chinook/" target="_blank">lose individual species that are associated with important cultural values</a>.</p>
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If you get a call from a number you don't recognize, don't hit decline — it might be a contact tracer calling to let you know that someone you've been near has tested positive for the coronavirus.
Interviews With Contact Tracers<p>Contact tracing is a public health strategy that involves identifying everyone who may have been in contact with a person who has the coronavirus. Contact tracers collect information and provide guidance to help contain the transmission of disease.</p><p>It's been used during outbreaks of sexually transmitted infections (STIs), Ebola, measles, and now the coronavirus that causes COVID-19.</p><p>It starts when the local department of health gets a report of a confirmed case of the coronavirus in its community and gives that person a call. The contact tracer usually provides information on how to isolate and when to get treatment, then tries to figure out who else the person may have exposed.</p><p>"We ask who they've been in contact with in the 48 hours prior to symptom onset, or 2 days before the date of their positive test if they don't have symptoms," said <a href="https://case.edu/medicine/healthintegration/people/heidi-gullett" target="_blank">Dr. Heidi Gullett</a>, associate director of the Center for Community Health Integration at the Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine and medical director of the Cuyahoga County Board of Health in Ohio.</p>
“You’ve Been Exposed”<p>After the case interview, contact tracers will get to work calling the folks who may have been exposed to the coronavirus by the person who tested positive.</p><p>"We give them recommendations about quarantining or isolating, getting tested, and what to do if they become sick. If they're not already sick, we still want them to self-quarantine so that they don't spread the disease to anyone else if they were to become sick," said Labus.</p><p>Generally, the contact tracer won't ask for additional contacts unless they happen to call someone who is sick or has a confirmed case of the virus. They will help ensure the contact has the resources they need to isolate themselves, if necessary. The contact tracer may continue to stay in touch with that person over the next 14 days.</p><p>"We follow the percentage of people that were contacts, then converted into being actual cases of the virus. It's an important marker to help us understand what kind of transmission happens in our community and how to control the virus," said Gullett.</p>
Why You Should Participate (and What Happens If You Don’t)<p>A <a href="https://www.thelancet.com/journals/laninf/article/PIIS1473-3099(20)30457-6/fulltext" target="_blank">Lancet study</a> from June 16, which looked at data from more than 40,000 people, found that COVID-19 transmission could be reduced by 64 percent through isolating those who have the coronavirus, quarantining their household, and contacting the people they may have exposed.</p><p>The combination strategy was significantly more effective than mass random testing or just isolating the sick person and members of their household.</p><p>However, contact tracing is only as effective as people's willingness to participate, and a small number of people who've contracted the coronavirus or were potentially exposed are reluctant to talk.</p><p>"Contact tracers have all been hung up on, cussed at, yelled at," said Gullet.</p><p>The hesitation to talk to contact tracers often stems from concerns over privacy — a serious issue in healthcare.</p>
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