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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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Animals
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Green Groups Sue to Get Giraffes on Endangered Species List

Four Animal welfare groups sued the Trump administration on Thursday for failing to protect Africa's vulnerable giraffes, Reuters reported.

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Animals
Swift parrot. Dejan Stojanovic / ANU

Love Triangles Kill, at Least for Swift Parrots

Tasmania's swift parrots can't catch a break. Logging has reduced their preferred blue gum breeding habitat by a third in the past 20 years. Sugar gliders, a kind of nocturnal possum introduced in the 1800s, are gobbling up female parrots at an alarming rate. And now, The Guardian reported Tuesday, scientists have found that the skewed male-to-female ratio is changing the mating habits of the endangered species in a way that puts its survival further at risk.

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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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Animals
926F wolf with a glance. Mark Perry / Getty Images

Iconic Yellowstone Wolf Shot Dead in Legal But 'Senseless Killing'

A cherished Lamar Valley wolf known as 926F was shot dead after a legal hunt just five miles outside the sanctuary of Yellowstone National Park, prompting calls from advocacy groups for greater protection of the region's wolves.

Tragically, the 7-year-old female was the daughter of Wolf 06—"the most famous wolf in the world"—who was killed the same way back in December 2012.

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Using Trump Tax Cut for Good: Patagonia Donates $10 Million to the Planet

Outdoor retailer Patagonia is giving away the $10 million it made as the result of the "irresponsible" Republican tax cut.

"Based on last year's irresponsible tax cut, Patagonia will owe less in taxes this year—$10 million less, in fact. Instead of putting the money back into our business, we're responding by putting $10 million back into the planet. Our home planet needs it more than we do," CEO Rose Marcario wrote in a LinkedIn blog post published Wednesday.

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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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The rare white-letter hairstreak butterfly was spotted in Scotland for the first time since 1884. Ian Kirk / Wikipedia

Climate Change Is Threatening Many Species, But One Is Getting a Boost

By Lucy Goodchild van Hilten

A towering elm tree stands 30 meters (approximately 98 feet) tall, somewhere near the border between England and Scotland, defying the fate that so many of its cousins met when Dutch elm disease ravaged the species in the 1970s. One of relatively few elm trees left, it is a haven for wildlife. Look closely and you can see the erratic fluttering of a small brown butterfly, with a W-shaped white streak across its wing.

This butterfly is making history: It's crossed the border into Scotland, where it has settled happily in a native wych elm tree and been sighted in the country for the first time in 133 years. The white-letter hairstreakSatyrium w-album—has been squeezed slowly out of its habitat over the last 40 years, but now it seems to be getting a helping hand from an unexpected source: climate change.

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Animals
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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