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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More than 350 elephants have died in Botswana since May, and no one knows why.
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EcoWatch Daily Newsletter
By Jacqui Stol, Annie Kelly and Suzanne Prober
In box gum grassy woodlands, widely spaced eucalypts tower over carpets of wildflowers, lush native grasses and groves of flowering wattles. It's no wonder some early landscape paintings depicting Australian farm life are inspired by this ecosystem.
Native yellow wildflowers called 'scaly buttons' bloom on a stewardship site. Jacqui Stol, Author provided
Huge Increase in Plant Diversity<p>These surveys were part of the Australian government's <a href="http://www.nrm.gov.au/national/continuing-investment/environmental-stewardship" target="_blank">Environmental Stewardship Program</a>, a long-term cooperative conservation model with private landholders. It started in 2007 and will run for 19 years.</p><p>We found huge increases in previously declining native wildflowers and grasses on the private farmland. Many trees assumed to be dying began resprouting, such as McKie's stringybark (<em>Eucalyptus mckieana</em>), which is listed as a <a href="https://www.environment.gov.au/cgi-bin/sprat/public/publicspecies.pl?taxon_id=20199" target="_blank">vulnerable species</a>.</p><p>This newfound plant diversity is the result of seeds and tubers (underground storage organs providing energy and nutrients for regrowth) lying dormant in the soil after wildflowers bloomed in earlier seasons. The dormant seeds and tubers were ready to spring into life with the right seasonal conditions.</p><p><span></span>For example, <a href="https://www.qld.gov.au/environment/plants-animals/plants/herbarium" target="_blank">Queensland Herbarium</a> surveys early last year, during the drought, looked at a 20 meter (65 feet) by 20 meter plot and found only six native grass and wildflower species on one property. After this year's rain, we found 59 species in the same plot, including many species of perennial grass (three species jumped to 20 species post rain), native bluebells and many species of native daisies.</p><p>On another property with only 11 recorded species, more than 60 species sprouted after the extensive rains.</p><p>In areas where grazing and farming continued as normal (the paired "control" sites), the plots had only around half the number of plant species as areas managed for conservation.</p>
Spotting Rare Marsupials<p>Landowners also reported several unusual sightings of animals on their farms after the rains. Stewardship program surveyors later identified them as two species of rare and endangered native carnivorous marsupials: the southern spotted-tailed quoll (mainland Australia's largest carnivorous marsupial) and the brush-tailed <a href="https://bie.ala.org.au/species/urn:lsid:biodiversity.org.au:afd.taxon:b6930f29-3f26-415e-a760-c12c320c2931" target="_blank">phascogale</a>.</p><p>The population status of both these species in southern Queensland is unknown. The brush-tailed phascogale is elusive and rarely detected, while the southern spotted-tailed quolls are listed as <a href="http://www.environment.gov.au/cgi-bin/sprat/public/publicspecies.pl?taxon_id=75184" target="_blank">endangered</a> under federal legislation.</p><p>Until those sightings, there were no recent records of southern spotted-tailed quolls in the local area.</p>
A spotted tailed quoll caught in a camera trap. Sean Fitzgibbon, Author provided<p>These unusual wildlife sightings are valuable for monitoring and evaluation. They tell us what's thriving, declining or surviving, compared to the first surveys for the stewardship program ten years ago.</p><p>Sightings are also a promising signal for the improving condition of the property and its surrounding landscape.</p>
Changing Farm Habits<p>More than 200 farmers signed up to the stewardship program for the conservation and management of nationally threatened ecological communities on private lands. Most have said they're keen to continue the partnership.</p><p>The landholders are funded to manage their farms as part of the stewardship program <a href="http://nrmonline.nrm.gov.au/catalog/mql:2407" target="_blank">in ways</a> that will help the woodlands recover, and help reverse declines in biodiversity.</p><p>For example, by changing the number of livestock grazing at any one time, and shortening their grazing time, many of the grazing-sensitive wildflowers have a better chance to germinate, grow, flower and produce seeds in the right seasonal conditions.</p><p>They can also manage weeds, and not remove fallen timber or loose rocks (bushrock). Fallen timber and rocks protect grazing-sensitive plants and provide habitat for birds, reptiles and invertebrates foraging on the ground.</p>
Cautious Optimism<p>So can we be optimistic for the future of wildlife and wildflowers of the box gum grassy woodlands? Yes, cautiously so.</p><p>Landholders are learning more about how best to manage biodiversity on their farms, but ecological recovery can take time. In any case, we've discovered how resilient our flora and fauna can be in the face of severe drought when given the opportunity to grow and flourish.</p>
The rare hooded robin has also been recorded on stewardship sites during surveys. Micah Davies, Author provided<p>Climate change is bringing more extreme weather events. Last year was the <a href="http://www.bom.gov.au/climate/current/annual/aus/" target="_blank">warmest on record</a> and the nation has been gripped by severe, protracted drought. There's only so much pressure our iconic wildlife and wildflowers can take before they cross ecological thresholds that are difficult to bounce back from.</p><p>More government programs like this, and greater understanding and collaboration between scientists and farmers, create a <a href="https://publications.csiro.au/rpr/download?pid=csiro:EP154278&dsid=DS4" target="_blank">tremendous opportunity</a> to keep changing that trajectory for the better.</p>
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By Brett Walton
Use of Colorado River water in the three states of the river's lower basin fell to a 33-year low in 2019, amid growing awareness of the precarity of the region's water supply in a drying and warming climate.
Raising Lake Mead<p>Just five years ago, in 2015, the three states were making use of their entire 7.5-million-acre-foot allotment. By statute and tradition, the basin is divided into a lower basin, where use is higher, and an upper basin, which includes Colorado, New Mexico, Utah, and Wyoming. The basins have different water allocation systems and rules governing its use.</p><p>In the lower basin, Arizona's annual allocation is 2.8 million acre-feet, but last year it used just 2.5 million. Nevada used 233,000 of its 300,000 acre-feet. The big savings were in California, which used only 3.8 million of its 4.4 million acre-feet. California hasn't used that little water from the Colorado since the 1950s, Fleck said.</p><p>The drop in California last year is due in large part to Metropolitan Water District, which consumed only 537,000 acre-feet. Five years ago, the district's tally was around 1 million acre-feet per year. Urban conservation and development of local water sources have played a large role in the decline, but the district's Colorado River water use is also influenced by snow levels in the Sierra Nevada mountains. When more water is available to be imported from the northern part of the state, as it was last year, the district leans less heavily on the Colorado River.</p>
Total Lower Colorado Basin Consumptive Use<img lazy-loadable="true" src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yMzQxMTU1OS9vcmlnaW4ucG5nIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTY0MzM0NDYxM30.RVr3Rzi1jqZHweILfonMU8SWs_LGJBGqg9lMiQ-jrVY/img.png?width=980" id="d31ab" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="15ef390e64a1be66991bfd26b0f0fee5" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" />
- 4 Ways to Beat the California Drought and Save the Colorado River ... ›
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- Colorado River Has Lost 1.5 Billion Tons of Water to the Climate ... ›
By David Elliott
Dive beneath the brilliant blue waters surrounding Thailand's Koh Tao island and you might come face to face with a giant sculpture of the sea goddess Mazu.
But a closer look reveals an even bigger surprise – Mazu is alive.
<span style="display:block;position:relative;padding-top:56.25%;" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="8f055bac39f517e94abf83f7fe746959"><iframe lazy-loadable="true" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/J1b1SPUOnyA?rel=0" width="100%" height="auto" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" style="position:absolute;top:0;left:0;width:100%;height:100%;"></iframe></span>
Small Pieces, Big Impact<p>Angeline Chen, Executive Director of Global Coralition – who spoke recently at the World Economic Forum's <a href="https://www.weforum.org/events/virtual-ocean-dialogues-2020/sessions/uplink-ocean-solutions-sprint" target="_blank">Virtual Ocean Dialogues</a> event – is effusive about the benefits of growing coral on land and the role it could play in rebuilding damaged ocean habitats.</p><p>Coral can be grown up to 50 times faster this way, she says, using a technique called <a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0925857418303094" target="_blank">microfragmentation</a>. This involves dividing a piece of coral into much smaller fragments, which<a href="https://www.researchgate.net/publication/287204400_The_cultivation_of_massive_corals_using_micro-fragmentation_for_the_reskinning_of_degraded_coral_reefs" target="_blank"> stimulates the tissue</a> to grow. The pieces are grown a short distance apart and – because<a href="https://www.bbcearth.com/blog/?article=saving-coral" target="_blank"> corals are clonal animals</a> – they fuse together when their edges meet, forming a single mass.</p><p>Combined with other scientific methods, like<a href="https://www.globalcoralition.org/our-approach" target="_blank"> larval propagation and assisted evolution</a> to increase the resilience and reproductive rate of corals, Chen believes the impact of such projects, practiced all around the world, could be massive.</p><p>"With these farms, we could be growing a diverse array of resilient coral on a huge scale," she says.</p><p>Many organizations are practicing these methods, including <a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0925857418303094" target="_blank">Mote Marine Laboratory</a> in Florida, US, and the government of Hawaii, which is out-planting 1 meter by 1 meter (3.2 foot) corals grown in one year – the <a href="https://dlnr.hawaii.gov/blog/2020/05/28/nr20-072/" target="_blank">largest to be grown in a land-based</a> nursery.</p>
<div id="507c8" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="e2c57fd8c727e7692e37866d6fc81164"><blockquote class="twitter-tweet twitter-custom-tweet" data-twitter-tweet-id="1266170721882890240" data-partner="rebelmouse"><div style="margin:1em 0">In the world of nursery raised corals, a one-meter coral is considered big. Yesterday, a team of biologists and te… https://t.co/wNWMyaARVf</div> — DLNR (@DLNR)<a href="https://twitter.com/dlnr/statuses/1266170721882890240">1590713599.0</a></blockquote></div>
Empowering Communities<p>Driving the work of Global Coralition and organizations like it is a simple fact: coral is vital to the planet.</p><p>Coral reefs are among the <a href="https://oceanservice.noaa.gov/education/tutorial_corals/welcome.html" target="_blank">most diverse ecosystems</a> on Earth, and they support nearly<a href="https://earthobservatory.nasa.gov/features/Coral" target="_blank"> 1 million species of fish</a>, invertebrates and algae. They're crucial to humans, too. They<a href="https://oceanservice.noaa.gov/facts/coral_protect.html#:~:text=Coral%20reefs%20provide%20a%20buffer,%2C%20property%20damage%2C%20and%20erosion." target="_blank"> protect our coasts from storms</a> and floods, and<a href="https://scripps.ucsd.edu/projects/coralreefsystems/about-coral-reefs/value-of-corals/" target="_blank"> provide work, medicine and food</a> to more than 1 billion people. In fact, coral <a href="https://www.unenvironment.org/news-and-stories/story/coral-reefs-we-continue-take-more-we-give#:~:text=Coral%20reef%20ecosystems%20provide%20society,the%20tourism%20and%20fisheries%20industries." target="_blank">reef ecosystems give society resources</a> and services worth $375 billion per year, according to the United Nations.</p><p>But coral faces myriad threats, including overfishing, pollution and climate change. Almost <a href="https://www.statista.com/chart/17126/reef-building-corals-under-threat/" target="_blank">half of reef-building coral species are under threat</a>, according to UN figures. And scientists predict we'll lose up to <a href="https://phys.org/news/2020-02-acidic-oceans-coral-reef-habitats.html" target="_blank">90% of all reefs</a> in the next 20 years if something isn't done soon.</p><p>For Chen and the Global Coralition, the answer lies in engaging and empowering local communities with the knowledge, tools and resources to reduce the local impacts of reef degradation while increasing key habitats and species.</p><p>The organization uses art, like the sculpture of Mazu, to bring people together around cultural themes that are <a href="https://www.globalcoralition.org/our-approach" target="_blank">meaningful to their communities</a>.</p><p>It then works with parties including local officials, marine ecologists, fisherman, students and dive centers to foster the unique skills to rehabilitate their local ecology. This work in turn improves quality of life, water quality, food security, income and employment opportunities and education in the region.</p>
The world's reef-building corals. Statista
Global Effort<p>Global Coralition is currently building a marine farm in a fishing village in the Dominican Republic. It consists of an expansive underwater sculpture garden inspired by Taino wisdom, a land-based coral farm, mangrove and oyster restoration and a community education center.</p><p>As part of this project, Chen says, it used the World Economic Forum's <a href="https://uplink.weforum.org/uplink/s/uplink-contribution/a012o00001G7i5TAAR/global-coralition" target="_blank">UpLink</a> platform to connect the community with a recycling facility that pays locals to collect trash, which can be turned into material to be sold back into the economy.</p><p>The organization wants to create <a href="https://www.weforum.org/events/virtual-ocean-dialogues-2020/sessions/uplink-ocean-solutions-sprint" target="_blank">200 of these marine hubs</a> across the globe in collaboration with local communities and governments, fishing villages, dive communities, restoration groups, hotels and local officials.</p><p>"Based on recovery rates, scientists predict we can rebuild marine life by 2050 if we can mitigate climate change, reduce local pressures and increase the abundance of our keystone habitats and species," Chen says.</p><p>"If these methods were applied all over the world, we could scale our collective rates of restoration."</p>
By Tara Lohan
With its white-sand beaches and glittery high-rises, Miami is still a vacation hotspot. But lapping at those shores is another reality. The city is also a "possible future Atlantis, and a metonymic stand-in for how the rest of the developed world might fail — or succeed — in the climate-changed future," wrote Miami journalist Mario Alejandro Ariza in his forthcoming book, Disposable City: Miami's Future on the Shores of Climate Catastrophe.
Flooding in Miami's Brickell neighborhood in 2017. Phillip Pessar / CC BY 2.0<p>Ariza explains how decades of racist policies and real-estate practices have pushed communities of color away from the beach and the newly emerging suburbs. They ended up sandwiched in between, in an area of high ground that now looks enticing to developers.</p><p>This new pressure is increasing gentrification in communities already barely surviving. It's liable to get worse, too, Ariza explains. Between $15-$23 billion worth of property may be underwater in 30 years. The market has yet to broadly reflect that, but developers are building on borrowed time, even as the lower-income communities are already feeling the pinch.</p><p>"Everything we know about climate change indicates that it pulls at society's loose ends," said Ariza. These cracks in vulnerability could become chasms if the right policies aren't enacted as the city works to mitigate and adapt.</p><p>By the end of <em>Disposable City, </em>it's likely readers won't be wildly optimistic about Miami's chances. But they will be armed with a deeper view of what's at stake and the complexities of trying to solve an environmental and social challenge of this magnitude. Even if the city itself does everything right, it still needs the state of Florida to embrace climate reality and the rest of the world to meet science-based targets for greenhouse gas reductions. Efforts are underway, including a <a href="https://www.miamiherald.com/news/local/environment/article243276326.html" target="_blank">newly released draft plan</a> from the Army Corps of Engineers to spend $4.6 billion on sea walls and other projects to protect businesses and homes from storm surges. But much more will be needed.</p><p>In Miami these next decades will be fight or flight. Or a combination of both. And he muses on what that would look like. And feel like. Ariza himself is an immigrant, having come to Miami from the Dominican Republic as a kid. He already carries the grief of having left a homeland — a feeling that half the city's population also knows intimately.</p><p>"Now we have to face the fact that climate change may well force us to scatter again," he wrote.</p><p>The end of the book turns from this hard reality to a future vision as Ariza shifts to a fictional envisioning. No spoilers, but it's safe to say Miami in 2100 will be a changed place. And that's at least one thing we know for sure about this warming world — it is a changing one.</p><p>Ariza's deep dive into Miami is an intricate look at <em>his</em> vulnerable city, but it's likely to get readers thinking about their own. What will your hometown look like in 80 years? What do you want it to look like? What will you do to make that hope a reality?</p>
The Vatican urged Catholics to closely consider where they invest their money and to take a close look at the environmental impact of the companies they may be shareholders in, as Reuters reported.
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By Jessica Corbett
"Humanity's broken relationship with nature comes at a cost."
That cost is new zoonotic diseases, which are passed from animals to humans and "are emerging at an alarming rate." That is according to a World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) report released Wednesday as the coronavirus pandemic continues to devastate communities and economies across the globe.
<div id="8bf27" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="abcfdcc8ebf06dbba43a9b5295022d5b"><blockquote class="twitter-tweet twitter-custom-tweet" data-twitter-tweet-id="1273245890652901377" data-partner="rebelmouse"><div style="margin:1em 0">#COVID19 is the greatest health, economic and social crisis in a century. How we respond to it will shape the futur… https://t.co/aXOKL2N0Vb</div> — WWF (@WWF)<a href="https://twitter.com/WWF/statuses/1273245890652901377">1592400450.0</a></blockquote></div>
<div id="7facd" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="0d96b0f1be500e1be6fa1b430334a062"><blockquote class="twitter-tweet twitter-custom-tweet" data-twitter-tweet-id="1273174411399626752" data-partner="rebelmouse"><div style="margin:1em 0">Nature provides food & water, powers our economies & underpins our health. Yet we are pushing it to the brink.… https://t.co/8A2wAvIKwN</div> — WWF (@WWF)<a href="https://twitter.com/WWF/statuses/1273174411399626752">1592383408.0</a></blockquote></div>
Located just off the southeastern coast of Africa, Madagascar is a remote island nation and home to one of the most biodiverse pockets in the world, among them the elusive diamond frog. Even in the most well-studied areas, new species are constantly being discovered.
The Senate overwhelmingly approved a major conservation bill worth billions on Wednesday. The Great American Outdoors Act provides a stimulus to nationwide conservation projects, outdoor recreation and maintenance of national parks and other public lands, according to AP News. The bill's supporters say the legislation would be the most significant conservation legislation enacted in nearly half a century.
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- Senate Passes Massive Public Lands Conservation Bill - EcoWatch ›