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Animals
A reindeer in Sweden. Alexandre Buisse (Nattfodd) / GNU Free Documentation License

Reindeer Numbers Have Fallen by More than Half in 2 Decades

It's a sad Christmas for the world's reindeer—the antlered Arctic grazers associated with all things Santa Claus. Their numbers have fallen by more than half in the past 20 years, and climate change is likely to blame.

The latest numbers come from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's 2018 Arctic Report Card, which listed the increasing impacts of global warming on the earth's northernmost region, as EcoWatch has already reported. But the loss of Rangifer tarandus—called caribou in North America and Greenland and reindeer in Siberia and Europe—is of note because it threatens to further throw Arctic ecosystems and cultures out of whack. Reindeer are important prey for wolves and biting flies, and a key source of food and clothing for indigenous groups.

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Rainbow Mountains in Vinicuna, Perú. Megan Lough / UI International Programs / CC BY-ND 2.0

7 Reasons Why #Mountains Matter

December 11 is International Mountain Day, an annual occasion designated by the United Nations to celebrate Earth's precious mountains.

Mountains aren't just a sight to behold—they cover 22 percent of the planet's land surface and provide habitat for plants, animals and about 1 billion human beings. The vital landforms also supply critical resources such as fresh water, food and even renewable energy.

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David Ledig / BLM

Otters, Polar Bears and Abraham Lincoln: The Best New Environmental Books of December

By John R. Platt

It's the last month of the year, which means holidays galore—and, of course, plenty of reasons to give (and receive) books. Here are our picks for the eight best new environmental books coming out in December, with titles covering a range of challenging topics, delightful creatures and painful histories. Whether you're giving or receiving (or just buying copies for yourself), these are all books that should help to inform and energize any reader for the coming year ahead.

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Black autumn truffles from France with leaves of oak, beech and hazel. kabVisio / iStock / Getty Images Plus

Why Wild Plant Ancestors Need Protection

By Tim Radford

Only a small percentage of the wild plant ancestors vital to human life can be considered safe from extinction.

Botanists who have monitored the conservation status of almost 7,000 species—the wild forerunners of plants that humans use for food, medicine, shelter, fuel and livestock feed—found that most could be counted as not properly conserved and protected.

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Ambrosia artemisiifolia, common ragweed. PLOS ONE

Allergen Alert: Ragweed Is Spreading to New Regions

By Marlene Cimons

Cristina Stinson never had an allergic reaction to ragweed until after she started working with it. "I think the repeated exposure to the pollen is what did it," she said. It also didn't help that her community is chock-full of it. "There is plenty of ragweed in my neighborhood," she said. "In fact, it grows right outside my door."

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Baby mountain gorilla. Pixabay

Conservation and 'Renewed Hope': Mountain Gorilla Numbers Rebound

First, the good news. Collaborative conservation efforts have brought "renewed hope" for mountain gorillas and two large whale species, according to today's update from the International Union for Conservation of Nature's (IUCN) Red List of Threatened Species.

The mountain gorilla subspecies moved from "critically endangered" to "endangered" due to anti-poaching patrols and veterinary interventions. In 2008, their population dropped to as low as 680 individuals––but the new estimates reveal that the number of mountain gorillas has increased to more than 1,000 individuals—the highest figure ever recorded for the eastern gorilla subspecies, the IUCN said.

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The world's forested area shrunk by 129 million hectares between 1990 and 2015. Pixabay

France Looks to Curb Palm Oil and Beef Imports to Halt Deforestation

In a significant move to combat worldwide deforestation, the French government unveiled a national strategy on Wednesday that looks to curb imports of soybean, palm oil, beef and beef products, cocoa, rubber, as well as wood and its derivatives.

The new plan, a joint effort from five French ministries, identifies these items as contributing the most to "imported deforestation"—meaning these products are directly or indirectly tied to forest degradation.

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Brazil, home to the Amazon, is one of five countries that control 70 percent of the world's remaining wilderness. Danita Delimont / Getty Images

5 Countries Control 70% of the World’s Remaining Wilderness

This week began with the disturbing news that human activity has caused a 60 percent decline in wildlife since 1970.

Now, a group of researchers from the University of Queensland and the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) have released a stunning map showing that just five countries are home to more than 70 percent of the world's last, undisturbed wilderness areas.

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East Island in the French Frigate Shoals, an atoll around 550 miles northwest of Honolulu. Screenshot / YouTube / Chip Fletcher

‘Oh My God, It’s Gone!' Hawaiian Island Important for Seals and Turtles Washed Away by Hurricane

A small Hawaiian island that was an important habitat for endangered species has entirely disappeared, The Huffington Post confirmed Tuesday.

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