Koala populations across parts of Australia are on track to become extinct before 2050 unless "urgent government intervention" occurs, warns a year-long inquiry into Australia's "most loved animal." The report published by the Parliament of New South Wales (NSW) paints a "stark and depressing snapshot" of koalas in Australia's southeastern state.
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EcoWatch Daily Newsletter
By Elliot Douglas
A glacier in New Zealand is believed to have lost so much ice over the last three years that it could provide drinking water for every resident of the country over the same period, a research institute announced Wednesday.
'The Path to Extinction'<p>Damage sustained by some glaciers between 2018 and 2019 may place them on the path to extinction, Lorrey explained.</p><p>Marine heatwaves and record temperatures impacted snow lines. Ash from the recent Australian bush fires also blanketed some of the ice, increasing the potential for more melting as the ash absorbs more solar radiation.</p><p>It could take 20 or 30 years of improvement in snow cover before scientists could "even start to consider whether the recent damage can be reversed to any degree," Lorrey said.</p>
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By Alexander Richard Braczkowski, Christopher O'Bryan, Duan Biggs, and Raymond Jansen
A Cute But Threatened Species<p><a href="https://www.worldwildlife.org/stories/what-is-a-pangolin" target="_blank">Pangolins</a> are the only mammals wholly-covered in scales, which they use to protect themselves from predators. They can also curl up into a tight ball.</p><p>They eat mainly ants, termites and larvae which they pick up with their sticky tongue. They can grow up to 1m in length from nose to tail and are sometimes referred to as scaly anteaters.</p><p>But <a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/B9780128155073000332" title="Chapter 33 - Conservation strategies and priority actions for pangolins" target="_blank">all eight</a> pangolin species are classified as "<a href="https://www.pangolins.org/tag/endangered-species/" target="_blank">threatened</a>" under International Union for Conservation of Nature <a href="https://www.iucnredlist.org/search?query=pangolin&searchType=species" target="_blank">criteria</a>.</p><p>There is an unprecedented demand for their scales, primarily from countries in Asia and <a href="https://conbio.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/conl.12389" title="Assessing Africa‐Wide Pangolin Exploitation by Scaling Local Data" target="_blank">Africa</a> where they are used in food, cultural remedies and <a href="https://www.nature.com/articles/141072b0" title="Chinese Medicine and the Pangolin" target="_blank">medicine</a>.</p><p>Between 2017 and 2019, seizures of pangolin scales <a href="https://www.nationalgeographic.com/animals/2020/02/pangolin-scale-trade-shipments-growing/" target="_blank">tripled in volume</a>. In 2019 alone, 97 tons of pangolin scales, equivalent to about 150,000 animals, were <a href="https://oxpeckers.org/2020/03/nigeria-steps-up-for-pangolins/" target="_blank">reportedly</a> intercepted leaving Africa.</p>
Reintroduction of an Extinct Species<p>Each year in South Africa the African Pangolin Working Group (<a href="https://africanpangolin.org/" target="_blank">APWG</a>) retrieves between 20 and 40 pangolins through intelligence operations with security forces.</p><p>These pangolins are often-traumatised and injured and are admitted to the <a href="http://www.johannesburgwildlifevet.com/our-hospital" target="_blank">Johannesburg Wildlife Veterinary Hospital</a> for extensive medical treatment and rehabilitation before they can be considered for release.</p><p>In 2019, seven rescued Temminck's pangolins were reintroduced into South Africa's <a href="https://www.andbeyond.com/destinations/africa/south-africa/kwazulu-natal/phinda-private-game-reserve/" target="_blank">Phinda Private Game Reserve</a> in the KwaZulu Natal Province.</p><p>Nine months on, five have survived. This reintroduction is a world first for a region that last saw a viable population of this species in the 1980s.</p><p>During the release, every individual pangolin followed a strict regime. They needed to become familiar with their new surroundings and be able to forage efficiently.</p>
A ‘Soft Release’ in to the Wild<p>The process on Phinda game reserve involved a more gentle ease into re-wilding a population in a region that had not seen pangolins for many decades.</p><p>The soft release had two phases:</p><ol><li>a pre-release observational period</li><li>an intensive monitoring period post release employing GPS satellite as well as VHF tracking tags.</li></ol>
Why Pangolin Reintroduction is Important<p>We know so little about this group of mammals that are vastly understudied and hold many secrets yet to be discovered by science but are on the verge of collapse.</p><p>The South African and Phinda story is one of hope for the Temminck's pangolin where they once again roam the savanna hills and plains of Zululand.</p><p>The process of relocating these trade animals back into the wild has taken many turns, failures and tribulations but, the recipe of the "soft release" is working.</p>
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By Morgan Erickson-Davis
As the world heads towards 2021 with COVID-19 still raging overhead, it might be easy to forget about the other global crises. But a new app, debuted today, aims to light the way to a brighter future, showing how we can stop global warming, halt extinctions and prevent pandemics – all in one fell swoop.
‘Conserve at Least Half and in the Right Places’<p>The Global Safety Net combines six primary data layers: existing protected areas, habitats where rare species live, areas of high biodiversity, landscapes inhabited by large mammals, large areas of intact wilderness and natural landscapes that can absorb and store the most carbon.</p>
Areas of the terrestrial realm where increased conservation action is needed to protect biodiversity and store carbon. Numbers in parentheses show the percentage of total land area of Earth contributed by each set of layers. Unprotected habitats drawn from the 11 biodiversity data layers underpinning the Global Safety Net augment the current 15.1% protected with an additional 30.6% required to safeguard biodiversity. Additional CSAs add a further 4.7% of the terrestrial realm. Also shown are the wildlife and climate corridors to connect intact habitats (yellow lines). Data are available for interactive viewing at www.globalsafetynet.app. Dinerstein et al., 2020.<p>In a study accompanying the release of the platform published today in <a href="https://advances.sciencemag.org/content/6/36/eabb2824" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer"><em>Science Advances</em></a>, the researchers describe what we need to do in order to stave off the worst effects of global warming and extinction. Overall, they found that in addition to the 15.1% of the world's land that is already protected, 35.3% will need to be added to fold over the next 10 years. This means that ultimately 50% of the planet's land area will need to be protected from further degradation to keep it under the 1.5-degree threshold and stave off ecological collapse.</p><p>The researchers were surprised how well their numbers lined up with <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Half-Earth" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">previous estimates</a> of how much of the planet needs to be set aside for nature.</p><p>"Without trying, the analysis landed on 50.4% of the terrestrial surface requiring protection," said study coauthor Karl Burkart, managing director of the NGO One Earth. "Of course conservation is much more nuanced now and strictly protected areas are just one type of land designation that can contribute towards this goal."</p><p>Zooming in, the study finds 30% of land area is of "particular importance for biological diversity." An additional 20% of land area is needed to maintain ecosystem intactness and provide additional carbon storage and absorption. The authors also note that restoration of degraded areas could help meet carbon sequestration and wildlife conservation goals.</p>
Somalia has large areas inhabited by rare species – but very few protected areas. Global Safety Net<p>It should be noted that these rankings do not take into consideration deforestation within protected areas. If so, countries like <a href="https://news.mongabay.com/2020/05/takeover-of-nigerian-reserve-highlights-uphill-battle-to-save-forests/" target="_blank">Nigeria</a> and <a href="https://news.mongabay.com/2020/08/brazilian-amazon-protected-areas-in-flames-as-land-grabbers-invade/" target="_blank">Brazil</a>, where protected areas are increasingly beset by illegal clearing, might not rank so high on the list. Still, the researchers say protected areas provide needed accountability and a metric with which to measure conservation effort.</p><p>"Protected Areas (or area-based targets) are certainly no guarantee of conservation outcome, as we can see with the fires burning in Brazil as we speak," Burkart told Mongabay via email. "But without them we are lost at sea."</p><p>Both Burkart and Dinerstein view area-based targets as the "North Star" of biodiversity preservation and climate protection, and say they are an important part of creating a framework for action that civil society can use to help motivate and mobilize conservation efforts.</p><p>"We've got to take conservation out of the ivory towers of academic institutions (or basements of government ministries)," Burkart said. "It is the public good we're talking about, so we need an open and transparent stocktaking of where we are right now, and what we need to immediately prioritize. Area-based targets are just the beginning, a 'blueprint' if you will of the cathedral we need to build."</p>
Will It Happen in Time?<p>If more than tripling the amount of land under official, effective protection in less than 10 years sounds daunting, you're not alone. But Dinerstein and his colleagues say it is possible.</p><p>One avenue they recommend is safeguarding Indigenous territories. The Global Safety Net shows important conservation areas often overlap with areas occupied by Indigenous communities or regarded as ancestral land, which previous research indicates contain around 80% of the planet's remaining biodiversity and contribute significantly to carbon storage. Putting land under the management of Indigenous and local communities has been shown to <a href="https://news.mongabay.com/2014/07/true-stewards-new-report-says-local-communities-key-to-saving-forests-curbing-global-warming/" target="_blank">be an effective way</a> to protect it.</p><p>"Addressing indigenous land claims, upholding existing land tenure rights, and resourcing programs on indigenous-managed lands could help achieve biodiversity objectives on as much as one-third of the area required by the Global Safety Net," the researchers write in their study. "Simultaneously, this focus would positively address social justice and human rights concerns."</p><p>Protecting such a large amount of land will take a lot of money. But researchers say that the COVID-19 pandemic is showing just how quickly countries can allocate large amounts of resources if needed. And since <a href="https://www.nature.com/articles/d41586-020-02341-1" target="_blank">research shows</a> deforestation can increase the risk of outbreak of deadly diseases like Ebola and COVID-19, Dinerstein and his colleagues say there is added incentive for funding such efforts.</p><p>"The need for an ambitious global conservation agenda has taken on a new urgency in 2020 after the rapid spread of the COVID-19 virus," they write in their study.</p><p>The researchers were surprised to find that only 2.3% of the planet's land area would needed to be further protected to safeguard the species most at risk of extinction. This, they say, could be accomplished within five years.</p><p>Overall, they say the investment spent on preserving these important areas of land would be offset by the trillions of dollars worth of benefits provided by a healthy environment.</p><p>"Literally billions of dollars are being spent trying to invent technologies to remove carbon from the atmosphere with very little to show for it. Meanwhile we can protect the spectacular diversity of life on this planet while simultaneously providing all the ecosystem services humanity needs by protecting and conserving the 50% of lands identified in the GSN," Burkart said. "Based on a new economic analysis, we estimate that the global safety net would cost about $200 [billion per year] to manage. This is a tiny investment for a massive return, as nature provides $33 trillion in ecosystem services every year."</p><p>For their part, Dinerstein, Burkart and their colleagues are continuing to improve the GSN, and are planning on releasing an updated version next year that will include more data layers and higher resolution. They are also developing technology to help monitor elephant populations in the hopes of reducing human-elephant conflict and prevent poaching, as well as a system that detects logging trucks before they get a chance to start cutting down trees.</p><p>"Protecting forests begins with early detection and then enforcement," Dinerstein said. "We think our ForestGuard AI is an important piece of this."</p><p>But the main thing, the researchers say, is that governments must act – and soon.</p><p>"Human societies are late in the game to rectify impending climate breakdown, massive biodiversity loss, and, now, prevent pandemics," they write. "The Global Safety Net, if erected promptly, offers a way for humanity to catch up and rebound."</p>
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By Leslie Brooks
More than 75 percent of the world's food crops rely on pollinators, according to the United Nations Environment Program. Through their pollination, bees not only promote biodiversity, but also secure our food supply.
But one in four species of bee is at risk of extinction in North America, according to the United Nations Environment Program. And the International Union for the Conservation of Nature has recorded declines in bee populations in Europe, South America, and Asia.
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By Peter Yeung
A pair of pink Amazon river dolphins emerges for just a moment, arcing above the chocolate brown waters inside the Mamirauá Institute for Sustainable Development, a research facility at the tropical heart of the Brazilian Amazon. Powerful jets of water spray out of their blowholes as these freshwater mammals take in air before submerging.
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The sixth mass extinction is here, and it's speeding up.
Terrestrial vertebrates on the brink (i.e., with 1,000 or fewer individuals) include species such as (A) Sumatran rhino (Dicerorhinus sumatrensis; image credit: Rhett A. Butler [photographer]), (B) Clarion island wren (Troglodytes tanneri; image credit: Claudio Contreras Koob [photographer]), (C) Española Giant Tortoise (Chelonoidis hoodensis; image credit: G.C.), and (D) Harlequin frog (Atelopus varius; the population size of the species is unknown but it is estimated at less than 1,000; image credit: G.C.).
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Scientists have "rediscovered" a rare blue bee that they feared was extinct.
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By JoAnn Adkins
A landmark study by Global FinPrint reveals sharks are absent on many of the world's coral reefs, indicating they are functionally extinct — too rare to fulfill their normal role in the ecosystem.
By Robert McLachlan
Climate Explained is a collaboration between The Conversation, Stuff and the New Zealand Science Media Centre to answer your questions about climate change.
If you have a question you'd like an expert to answer, please send it to firstname.lastname@example.org
Is humanity doomed? If in 2030 we have not reduced emissions in a way that means we stay under say 2℃ (I've frankly given up on 1.5℃), are we doomed then?
<div id="98101" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="9c658bbc6292bd7eb49514c454053d13"><blockquote class="twitter-tweet twitter-custom-tweet" data-twitter-tweet-id="1078329950703357952" data-partner="rebelmouse"><div style="margin:1em 0">As I have been pointing out for some time, climate change isn't a cliff we go off at 1.5C or 2C. It's much more lik… https://t.co/tY8NoRq153</div> — Michael E. Mann (@Michael E. Mann)<a href="https://twitter.com/MichaelEMann/statuses/1078329950703357952">1545928869.0</a></blockquote></div>
Good Reasons Not to Give Up Just Yet<p>The <a href="https://www.ipcc.ch/" target="_blank">Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change</a> described the effects of a 1.5℃ increase in average temperatures in a <a href="https://www.ipcc.ch/sr15/" target="_blank">special report</a> last year. They are also nicely summarized in an article about <a href="https://climate.nasa.gov/news/2865/a-degree-of-concern-why-global-temperatures-matter/" target="_blank">why global temperatures matter</a>, produced by NASA.</p><p>The global average temperature is currently about <a href="https://climate.nasa.gov/vital-signs/global-temperature/" target="_blank">1.2℃</a> higher than what it was at the time of the Industrial Revolution, some 250 years ago. We are already witnessing localized impacts, including the <a href="https://theconversation.com/we-just-spent-two-weeks-surveying-the-great-barrier-reef-what-we-saw-was-an-utter-tragedy-135197" target="_blank">widespread coral bleaching</a> on Australia's Great Barrier Reef.</p>
This graph shows different emission pathways and when the world is expected to reach global average temperatures of 1.5℃ or 2℃ above pre-industrial levels. Global Carbon Project, Author provided
The Pessimist Perspective<p>Now suppose we don't manage that. It's 2030 and emissions have only fallen a little bit. We're staring at 2℃ in the second half of the century.</p><p>At 2℃ of warming, we could expect to lose more than 90% of our coral reefs. Insects and plants would be at higher risk of extinction, and the number of dangerously hot days would increase rapidly.</p><p>The challenges would be exacerbated and we would have new issues to consider. First, under the "<a href="https://news.mongabay.com/2009/06/proving-the-shifting-baselines-theory-how-humans-consistently-misperceive-nature/" target="_blank">shifting baseline</a>" phenomenon — essentially a failure to notice slow change and to value what is already lost — people might discount the damage already done. Continuously worsening conditions might become the new normal.</p><p><span></span>Second, climate impacts such as mass migration could lead to a rise of nationalism and make international cooperation harder. And third, we could begin to pass unpredictable "<a href="https://www.nature.com/articles/d41586-019-03595-0" target="_blank">tipping points</a>" in the Earth system. For example, warming of more than 2°C could set off widespread melting in Antarctica, which in turn would contribute to sea level rise.</p><p>But true doom-mongers tend to assume a worst-case scenario on virtually every area of uncertainty. It is important to remember that such scenarios are not very likely.</p><p><span></span>While bad, this 2030 scenario doesn't add up to doom — and it certainly doesn't change the need to move away from fossil fuels to low-carbon options.</p>
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By Tara Lohan
A logged forest is a changed forest, and for woodland caribou that could mean the difference between life and death.
Tar sands mining in Fort McMurray, Alberta fragments habitat for caribou. Kris Krüg / CC BY-NC-ND 2.0<p>But here's the twist: Moose do better in these disturbed landscapes, and that puts caribou further at risk, albeit indirectly.</p><p>Previous research has found that moose prefer the vegetation that grows in these early successional forests that follow a large-scale disturbance, like commercial logging. And a higher density of moose attracts more wolves, which are also able to <a href="https://besjournals.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1111/1365-2664.12732" target="_blank">move faster and hunt farther</a> by following linear clearings like roads and pipelines in these developed areas.</p><p>While moose are the primary prey for wolves, caribou that wander into these forests become another tasty target.</p><p>"The bottom line," Fryxell explains, "is that the combination of vegetation changes, increase in road density, increase in moose, and consequent increase in wolves threaten long-term viability of woodland caribou in boreal landscapes of Ontario, in a similar fashion to many other parts of Canada."</p><p>A national assessment found that around 70% of Canada's local <a href="http://registrelep-sararegistry.gc.ca/default.asp?lang=En&n=2FEAAC82-1#_ex" target="_blank">populations of woodland caribou were no longer self-sustaining</a>.</p><p>So what's to be done?</p><p>Last year provincial managers in Quebec floated the idea of <a href="https://www.nationalobserver.com/2019/12/11/news/quebec-plan-kill-wolves-protect-caribou-angers-conservationists" target="_blank">killing wolves</a> to protect caribou herds. Their idea met with public backlash, but wolves in British Columbia weren't so lucky. During the winter of 2019-2020, a whopping 463 wolves were killed by the B.C. provincial government for the stated purpose of protecting populations of southern mountain caribou, another caribou ecotype.</p><p>Some of the money to pay for the kill came from Coastal GasLink, a company actively clearing land in caribou habitat for a pipeline, the Canadian news outlet the <em><a href="https://thenarwhal.ca/a-dangerous-road-coastal-gaslink-pays-to-kill-wolves-in-endangered-caribou-habitat-in-b-c-interior/" target="_blank">Narwhal </a></em><a href="https://thenarwhal.ca/a-dangerous-road-coastal-gaslink-pays-to-kill-wolves-in-endangered-caribou-habitat-in-b-c-interior/" target="_blank">reported</a>.</p><p>And a <a href="https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s10531-020-02008-3" target="_blank">recently published study</a> in the journal <em>Biology and Conservation </em>found that the culls were not likely to aid caribou and pointed out several shortcomings in previous research that called for such wolf-control measures.</p><p>There are other, and better, options — like habitat protection and restoration.</p><p>Fryxell's study concluded that "the most secure conservation measure would be to set aside extensive tracts of boreal forest with natural patterns of disturbance to sustain viable caribou sub‐populations."</p><p>Research shows that the animals need at least 65% of their range undisturbed to have a good shot at survival.</p><p>And helping caribou will come with other environmental benefits. Canada's 2018 <a href="http://registrelep-sararegistry.gc.ca/default.asp?lang=En&n=2FEAAC82-1#_ex" target="_blank">federal action</a> plan to restore caribou stated, "Boreal caribou is also considered by many to be an indicator of the overall state of Canada's boreal forest ecosystem." So keeping forests intact or restoring habitat is a proposition that would benefit not only caribou but many other species.</p><p><em><a href="https://therevelator.org/author/taralohan/" target="_blank">Tara Lohan</a> is deputy editor of The Revelator and has worked for more than a decade as a digital editor and environmental journalist focused on the intersections of energy, water and climate. Her work has been published by The Nation, American Prospect, High Country News, Grist, Pacific Standard</em><em style=""> and others. She is the editor of two books on the global water crisis.</em></p>
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the Department of the Interior have failed to protect 241 plant and animal species under the Endangered Species Act, according to a federal lawsuit filed last week by the Center for Biological Diversity, as Bloomberg Environment reported.
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If world governments don't act to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, most polar bear populations will not survive the century, a new study has found.
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