About 66 million years ago, a 12-km asteroid struck Earth. The massive heat and impact likely triggered tidal waves and clouded the skies with ash, The Washington Post reported. Scientists estimate that up to 75 percent of all life on land went extinct, including the dinosaurs.
The space rock that triggered that mass extinction event is also the likely reason we have the Amazon Rainforest, a new study suggests. Published in the prestigious journal Science, the research indicates that that same asteroid that killed the dinosaurs also birthed all of Earth's tropical rainforests.
Mónica Carvalho, study co-author from the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institution (STRI) in Panama, examined tens of thousands of fossils in Columbia to understand how the plant life in Central and South America shifted from before and after the impact, reported Nerdist. Her team discovered that the type of vegetation comprising the continent's forests drastically changed from before and after. Before the crash, widely spaced conifers and ferns filled the region, allowing in large amounts of light, The Post reported.
After the asteroid struck, many species went extinct, particularly seed-bearing plants. Plant diversity declined about 45 percent after the impact, researchers found. Examining more than 50,000 fossil pollen records, the team discovered that flowering plants called angiosperms took over as the forests recovered during the next six million years. These filled in where other species had gone extinct, leading to the "reign of flowers," an STRI press release noted.
The impact also changed the spatial structure of forests, from widely spaced to densely packed. Leaf data from more than 6,000 fossils shows that the thick, dense tropical canopy associated with today's rainforests did not develop until after the impact. The data suggests that the spatial change from "relatively open to closed and layered... led to increased vertical stratification and a larger diversity of plant growth forms," News18 reported. As trees grew taller and closer, they partially blocked the sun, allowing different species of flowering plants to flourish, the Post reported. This is how Earth's most diverse terrestrial ecosystem — the tropical rainforests teeming with bright bromeliads and abundant orchids — developed, the study implies.
As for why, the researchers offered three theories: dinosaurs had kept the forest open and sparse by feeding on and trampling plants; falling ash enriched soils, giving an advantage to faster-growing flowering plants; and preferential extinction of conifers created the opportunity for flowering plants to take over.
While scientists aren't sure which theory, or combination of theories, created modern rainforests, Carvalho did conclude with one key takeaway: "The lesson learned here is that under rapid disturbances... tropical ecosystems do not just bounce back; they are replaced, and the process takes a really long time."
The end-Cretaceous asteroid impact that resulted in the destruction of nearly 75% of Earth's terrestrial life drast… https://t.co/nMS1dbmCCb— Science Magazine (@Science Magazine)1617726607.0
The shift in plant species and tree density likely also impacted the past and present climate, the STRI release added. Tropical rainforests, and the Amazon in particular, are some of the planet's most important carbon sinks. By absorbing greenhouse gases, the trees help curb the climate crisis and keep Earth habitable.
"The sparser canopies of the pre-impact forests, with fewer flowering plants, would have moved less soil water into the atmosphere than did those that grew up in the millions of years afterward," the STRI release explained. This increased humidity and cloud coverage, making the area much more productive, Wired reported.
Legume trees, a dominant feature in today's tropical rainforests, also entered the fossil record after the impact. These trees, with the help of symbiotic bacteria in their roots, fix nitrogen into soil, Wired reported. Without these shifts in forest spacing and makeup, today's climate could have developed differently.
The researchers hope the new study can help scientists understand how today's rainforests will respond to the rapidly changing climate currently threatening their existence.
According to Wired, Carvalho also warned, "The changes we are seeing today in relation to climate and deforestation are so rapid that we haven't really seen them in any other scenario in the history of the planet. Extinction is something that occurs really fast."
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Endangered North Atlantic right whales gave birth in greater numbers this winter compared to the past six years — a promising sign for a species that's been driven to the brink of extinction due to human activity.
From December through March, an aerial survey team reported 17 calves swimming with their mothers between Florida and North Carolina, AP News reported. This overall calf count is equal to the total number of births for the past three years and is a hopeful sign compared to 2018, when no right whale births were recorded.
North Atlantic right whales — which can grow to be 52-feet long, weigh up to 140,000 pounds and live about 70 years — each have unique callus patterns on their backs, helping scientists to track and identify individual whales and estimate total populations, according to NOAA Fisheries. But after being decimated by human hunting by the 1890s, right whales continue to be threatened by human activity, making them one of the most endangered large whale species in the world, with less than 400 individuals remaining.
"What we are seeing is what we hope will be the beginning of an upward climb in calving that's going to continue for the next few years," Clay George, a wildlife biologist who oversees right whale surveys for the Georgia Department of Natural Resources, told AP News about this year's higher birth rates. "They need to be producing about two dozen calves per year for the population to stabilize and continue to grow again."
According to scientists, the right whale's rebound could be attributed to shifting to a habitat where zooplankton food sources are more plentiful, Yale Environment 360 reported. "It's a somewhat hopeful sign that they are starting to adjust to this new regime where females are in good enough condition to give birth," Philip Hamilton, a right whale researcher at the New England Aquarium in Boston, told AP News.
But scientists warn that the hopeful news shouldn't distract from the leading causes of right whale deaths: entanglement in fishing gear and boat and ship collisions.
Since 2017, these threats have killed about 34 to 49 right whales, Yale Environment 360 reported. Research has also shown that entanglements caused 72 percent of diagnosed right whale mortalities between 2010-2018, according to The Conversation. Right whales that get tangled in lines and gear will often suffer for months or even years, slowly becoming emaciated and debilitated, the authors wrote.
"The greatest entanglement risk is from ropes that lobster and crab fishermen use to attach buoys to traps they set on the ocean floor. Humpback and minke whales and leatherback sea turtles, all of which are federally protected, also become entangled," explained Michael Moore, a senior scientist at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, and Hannah Myers, a guest investigator with Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution.
But recent proposals to reduce fishing activity that could harm right whales haven't gone without criticism. For example, Maine Gov. Janet Mills said the rules, which include reducing the number of vertical lines in the water, would be "devastating for the lobster fishery," AP News reported. "If this comes to pass, it is not only fishermen and their crew who will be impacted, gear suppliers, trap builders, rope manufacturers — all these businesses face a deeply uncertain future," Mills said in a letter to NOAA, AP News reported.
But for some conservationists, the solution is simple. "North Atlantic right whales can still thrive if humans make it possible," Moore and Myers wrote in The Conversation, pointing to the closely related southern right whales, which have recovered from just 300 individuals in the early 20th century to an estimated 15,000 in 2010, due to decreased human threats.
"If we reduced or eliminated the human-caused death rate, their birth rate would be fine," Hamilton told AP News. "The onus should not be on them to reproduce at a rate that can sustain the rate at which we kill them. The onus should be in us to stop killing."
Each product featured here has been independently selected by the writer. If you make a purchase using the links included, we may earn commission.
The bright patterns and recognizable designs of Waterlust's activewear aren't just for show. In fact, they're meant to promote the conversation around sustainability and give back to the ocean science and conservation community.
Each design is paired with a research lab, nonprofit, or education organization that has high intellectual merit and the potential to move the needle in its respective field. For each product sold, Waterlust donates 10% of profits to these conservation partners.
Eye-Catching Designs Made from Recycled Plastic Bottles
waterlust.com / @abamabam
The company sells a range of eco-friendly items like leggings, rash guards, and board shorts that are made using recycled post-consumer plastic bottles. There are currently 16 causes represented by distinct marine-life patterns, from whale shark research and invasive lionfish removal to sockeye salmon monitoring and abalone restoration.
One such organization is Get Inspired, a nonprofit that specializes in ocean restoration and environmental education. Get Inspired founder, marine biologist Nancy Caruso, says supporting on-the-ground efforts is one thing that sets Waterlust apart, like their apparel line that supports Get Inspired abalone restoration programs.
"All of us [conservation partners] are doing something," Caruso said. "We're not putting up exhibits and talking about it — although that is important — we're in the field."
Waterlust not only helps its conservation partners financially so they can continue their important work. It also helps them get the word out about what they're doing, whether that's through social media spotlights, photo and video projects, or the informative note card that comes with each piece of apparel.
"They're doing their part for sure, pushing the information out across all of their channels, and I think that's what makes them so interesting," Caruso said.
And then there are the clothes, which speak for themselves.
Advocate Apparel to Start Conversations About Conservation
waterlust.com / @oceanraysphotography
Waterlust's concept of "advocate apparel" encourages people to see getting dressed every day as an opportunity to not only express their individuality and style, but also to advance the conversation around marine science. By infusing science into clothing, people can visually represent species and ecosystems in need of advocacy — something that, more often than not, leads to a teaching moment.
"When people wear Waterlust gear, it's just a matter of time before somebody asks them about the bright, funky designs," said Waterlust's CEO, Patrick Rynne. "That moment is incredibly special, because it creates an intimate opportunity for the wearer to share what they've learned with another."
The idea for the company came to Rynne when he was a Ph.D. student in marine science.
"I was surrounded by incredible people that were discovering fascinating things but noticed that often their work wasn't reaching the general public in creative and engaging ways," he said. "That seemed like a missed opportunity with big implications."
Waterlust initially focused on conventional media, like film and photography, to promote ocean science, but the team quickly realized engagement on social media didn't translate to action or even knowledge sharing offscreen.
Rynne also saw the "in one ear, out the other" issue in the classroom — if students didn't repeatedly engage with the topics they learned, they'd quickly forget them.
"We decided that if we truly wanted to achieve our goal of bringing science into people's lives and have it stick, it would need to be through a process that is frequently repeated, fun, and functional," Rynne said. "That's when we thought about clothing."
Support Marine Research and Sustainability in Style
To date, Waterlust has sold tens of thousands of pieces of apparel in over 100 countries, and the interactions its products have sparked have had clear implications for furthering science communication.
For Caruso alone, it's led to opportunities to share her abalone restoration methods with communities far and wide.
"It moves my small little world of what I'm doing here in Orange County, California, across the entire globe," she said. "That's one of the beautiful things about our partnership."
Check out all of the different eco-conscious apparel options available from Waterlust to help promote ocean conservation.
Melissa Smith is an avid writer, scuba diver, backpacker, and all-around outdoor enthusiast. She graduated from the University of Florida with degrees in journalism and sustainable studies. Before joining EcoWatch, Melissa worked as the managing editor of Scuba Diving magazine and the communications manager of The Ocean Agency, a non-profit that's featured in the Emmy award-winning documentary Chasing Coral.
By John R. Platt
Spring has arrived, and while the rapidly improving weather begs us to spend more time outdoors and with friends and families, the ongoing pandemic also offers some good reasons to stay safe and indoors until most people have been vaccinated.
So let's get out into the world virtually with the latest books about environmental issues we care about. Publishers have lined up a great set of new titles to read while you stay indoors during what we hope is the final phase of the pandemic.
We've collected ten of the best new books of 2021 to date. They cover climate change, the extinction crisis, environmental justice and a whole lot more. You'll even find a cookbook to freshen up your mealtimes, a collection of comics to inspire the kids in your life, and some weird fiction to keep your blood pumping. Most are available now, with a few titles hitting the shelves over the next two weeks.
The New Climate War: The Fight to Take Back Our Planet by Michael E. Mann
We've been played, but we can fight back.
"A renowned climate scientist shows how fossil fuel companies have waged a thirty-year campaign to deflect blame and responsibility and delay action on climate change and offers a battle plan for how we can save the planet." (Check out our interview about Mann's previous book, The Tantrum That Saved the World.)
Earth's Wild Music: Celebrating and Defending the Songs of the Natural World by Kathleen Dean Moore
What does the extinction crisis sound like?
"At once joyous and somber, this thoughtful gathering of new and selected essays spans Kathleen Dean Moore's distinguished career as a tireless advocate for environmental activism in the face of climate change." (Read our interview with Moore.)
A relevant book as President Biden looks to undo the previous administration's damage.
"…acclaimed adventure writer David Roberts takes readers on a tour of his favorite place on Earth as he unfolds the rich and contradictory human history of the 1.35 million acres of the Bears Ears domain. Weaving personal memoir with archival research, Roberts sings the praises of the outback he's explored for the last twenty-five years."
Will the pen be mightier than the poisoners?
"Lee Johnson was a man with simple dreams. All he wanted was a steady job and a nice home for his wife and children, something better than the hard life he knew growing up. He never imagined that he would become the face of a David-and-Goliath showdown against one of the world's most powerful corporate giants. But a workplace accident left Lee doused in a toxic chemical and facing a deadly cancer that turned his life upside down. In 2018, the world watched as Lee was thrust to the forefront of one the most dramatic legal battles in recent history."
#EATMEATLESS: Good for Animals, the Earth & All by the Jane Goodall Institute
Honor your tastebuds and the natural world at the same time.
"…nourishing vegan recipes crafted especially for curious consumers looking to incorporate healthier dietary practices, those interested in environmental sustainability and animal welfare, and for fans of Jane Goodall's work."
Mutts Go Green: Earth-Friendly Tips and Comic Strips by Patrick McDonnell
Laughs and eco-lessons for younger readers, but the comic strips speak to us all.
"…a special kids' collection of the popular comic strip MUTTS, featuring themes of ecology, environmental friendliness and animal education." (Available 3/30.)
Gonna Trouble the Water: Ecojustice, Water, and Environmental Racism edited by Miguel A. De La Torre
A challenging book for challenging times.
"With compelling contributions from scholars and activists, politicians and theologians — including former Colorado governor Bill Ritter, global academic law professor Ved P. Nanda, Detroit-based activist Michelle Andrea Martinez, and many more — Gonna Trouble the Water de-centers the concept of water as a commodity in order to center the dignity of water and its life-giving character." (Available 4/1.)
Lessons From Plants by Beronda L. Montgomery
Look into the green world and learn.
"Lessons from Plants enters into the depth of botanic experience and shows how we might improve human society by better appreciating not just what plants give us but also how they achieve their own purposes. What would it mean to learn from these organisms, to become more aware of our environments and to adapt to our own worlds by calling on perception and awareness? Montgomery's meditative study puts before us a question with the power to reframe the way we live: What would a plant do?" (Available 4/6.)
The Water Defenders: How Ordinary People Saved a Country From Corporate Greed by Robin Broad and John Cavanagh
An inspirational story that will echo around the world.
"The David and Goliath story of ordinary people in El Salvador who rallied together with international allies to prevent a global mining corporation from poisoning the country's main water source."
Hummingbird Salamander by Jeff VanderMeer
Science fiction with a horrific real-world twist.
"Security consultant 'Jane Smith' receives an envelope with a key to a storage unit that holds a taxidermied hummingbird and clues leading her to a taxidermied salamander. Silvina, the dead woman who left the note, is a reputed ecoterrorist and the daughter of an Argentine industrialist. By taking the hummingbird from the storage unit, Jane sets in motion a series of events that quickly spin beyond her control." Sales benefit two organizations working to fight wildlife trafficking, the Wildlife Conservation Society and TRAFFIC. (Available 4/6.)
John R. Platt is the editor of The Revelator. An award-winning environmental journalist, his work has appeared in Scientific American, Audubon, Motherboard, and numerous other magazines and publications. His "Extinction Countdown" column has run continuously since 2004 and has covered news and science related to more than 1,000 endangered species. He is a member of the Society of Environmental Journalists and the National Association of Science Writers. John lives on the outskirts of Portland, Ore., where he finds himself surrounded by animals and cartoonists.
Reposted with permission from The Revelator.
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By Tara Lohan
It's not too hard to find salmon on a menu in the United States, but that seeming abundance — much of it fueled by overseas fish farms — overshadows a grim reality on the ground. Many of our wild salmon, outside Alaska, are on the ropes — and have been for decades.
Twenty years ago Pacific salmon were found to have disappeared from 40% of their native rivers and streams across Oregon, Washington, Idaho and California. In places where they remain, like the Columbia River system, the number of wild fish returning to streams is estimated to have plunged by as much as 98%. Today 28 populations of West Coast salmon and steelhead are listed as threatened or endangered under the Endangered Species Act.
New research is helping to put the problem — and solutions — into focus. But in some cases, policy to implement changes still lags.
1. Trouble in Washington
With 14 salmon and steelhead species listed as endangered in Washington, a new report by the state declared that "too many salmon remain on the brink of extinction. And time is running out." Four key factors, the researchers say, have been attributed to their historical decline: habitat, harvest, hydropower and hatcheries.
2. Upstream Changes
Along with historic threats, there's another new factor making salmon recovery challenging for Washington and other West Coast states: climate change. Increasing temperatures are causing snowpack declines, resulting in warmer streams that can stress or kill salmon. Additionally, more precipitation falling as rain instead of snow causes rivers to run faster earlier in the season, which can wash away salmon nests and sweep young salmon out of their calm-water habitat before they're ready — reducing their chances of survival.
3. Ocean Woes
It's not just freshwater habitat for salmon that's changing. A recent study in the journal Communications Biology looked at how eight populations of wild spring-summer Chinook from the Snake River Basin fared during the ocean phase of their lives. And it's not good. If ocean warming continues, by the 2060s mortality for Chinook could be as high as 90%.
4. Ripple Effect
Pacific salmon are an integral cultural resource for Pacific Northwest tribes and provide thousands of regional jobs. But the fish don't just feed people. They also nourish freshwater and marine ecosystems, along with more than 100 species.
And for one animal in particular, the critically endangered Southern Resident killer whale (Orcinus orca), the decline of Chinook is an existential threat. It's been long known that Southern Residents feed primarily on Chinook — the largest Pacific salmon species — during the summer. But a new study published in the journal Plos One found that Chinook were also important year-round.
Southern Resident killer whales. NOAA
5. Implementing Solutions
In an effort to help the recovery of Southern Residents and help boost salmon populations in the region, conservation groups have increased their calls to remove four dams on the Lower Snake River, a major tributary of the Columbia River in Washington.
While the science supports dam removal to save salmon, putting that into action has run into a wall of political opposition — mostly from conservatives. However, a recent plan proposed by Idaho Rep. Mike Simpson to breach the Snake River dams was a rare showing of Republican support, which could signal more bipartisan efforts ahead.
Other dam removals — both large and small — have proved beneficial for salmon in Washington and other states. In California a groundbreaking project to allow rivers to flood fallow farm fields in winter has helped provide both food and rearing habitat for salmon — and has helped prove that water managers don't have to choose between fish and farmers.
Tara Lohan 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 and others. She is the editor of two books on the global water crisis.
Reposted with permission from The Revelator.
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By Claire Wordley
The rancher peers at an enormous bird high in the treetops. Reining in his horse, he squints upward. It's not moving; maybe it will still be there when he gets back. An hour later, he returns with a gun. The huge animal is still there, motionless. Taking aim, he fires, and the heavy body comes crashing to the ground. He picks it up, marveling at its size and the incredible crest of feathers around its head. He strokes the soft gray and white plumes, perhaps feeling a sudden pang of sadness that the proud head is now lolling lifeless, as he puts the carcass over his saddle to show his family.
This scenario and others like it are impacting harpy eagle (Harpia harpyja) populations across Central and South America, according to a scientific paper recently published in the Journal of Raptor Research. Despite being the largest raptor in South America and the national bird of Panama, scientists know little about the extent to which the species is persecuted by humans.
In the study, the researchers found a total of 132 documented cases where a harpy eagle was killed or captured between 1950 and 2020, including 21 cases from Colombia and Panama that had never before been published in scientific journals.
"This story can be used to repair what has been done to this magnificent species over the last seven decades," said Helena Aguiar-Silva, of the University of São Paulo and Projeto Harpia, Brazil, one of the scientists who compiled the persecution data set.
The harpy eagle's range stretches from Guatemala and Belize in Central America, down into South America to Bolivia and Paraguay. Occasionally the birds are noted as far north as Mexico or as far south as Argentina.
Aguiar-Silva said there probably used to be stable harpy eagle populations in both those countries, but they have been driven locally extinct by the expansion of hunting and farming, as they were in El Salvador.
While the species' range spans more than half a continent, that doesn't mean it's abundant. Surveys show that it is never locally common. The bird is slow to reach sexual maturity, raising just one chick per pair every two or three years, and the number of harpy eagles is decreasing.
Aguiar-Silva said the declines and local extinctions, combined with the evidence that it is frequently persecuted, should serve as a basis to reanalyze the global conservation status of the species. While the harpy eagle's current conservation status on the IUCN Red List is "near threatened" at the international level, individual countries have placed it in more critical categories: it is classified as vulnerable in countries including Brazil, Peru and Venezuela, and critically endangered in Nicaragua.
Why People Kill Harpy Eagles
A female harpy eagle's wingspan can reach 224 centimeters (7.3 feet) and they can weigh up to 9 kilograms or 20 pounds in the wild, making them an impressive sight. Dietary analyses, including by Aguiar-Silva, have shown that harpy eagles mostly eat wild animals that live in trees. Sloths are by far their most important food source, but monkeys also make a popular meal.
Harpy eagles' role in killing leaf-eating animals and omnivores like capuchin monkeys are important in maintaining the rainforest ecosystem. According to the research so far, harpy eagles only occasionally eat livestock, probably in part because they carry their food to trees to eat. Even females, which can be double the weight of a male, rarely prey on animals heavier than 5 kg (11 lb).
Harpy eagle chick in its nest. Everton Miranda
However, the rarity with which the eagles carry off farm animals has not stopped people from hunting them. Everton Miranda, a Brazilian scientist affiliated with the University of KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa, has studied why people hunt harpy eagles in Brazil. His research, investigating more than 180 harpy eagle killings over two years in the state of Mato Grosso, will soon be published in the journal Animal Conservation.
He told Mongabay that people usually shoot the eagles "out of curiosity."
"People see this large raptor — they frequently don't know what it is — and shoot it to have a closer look," he said. "One trait that makes harpy eagles unfortunately prone to being killed … is that they remain perched on a single tree for several hours or even a whole day."
This behavior gives the hunter the time to travel home for their gun and return to shoot the animal.
According to the interviews he conducted, most of the people who killed the eagles out of curiosity later expressed regret about it.
This surprising finding — that curiosity and a desire to see the birds close up could account for up to 80% of harpy killings in some places — echoes results from an earlier Brazilian study. According to Miranda's research, prevention or retaliation for livestock predation represented only 20% of harpy eagle killings in his study site.
Hunters with a dead harpy eagle. Everton Miranda
Of course, the reasons behind such killings are likely to vary over the harpy eagle's range.
Santiago Zuluaga, senior author of the paper in Journal of Raptor Research, told Mongabay that in his experience some people hunt harpy eagles for food, while others capture them live for illegal sale. A recent killing in Colombia was to sell the bird's feathers and claws on the black market.
"There is also a story of an eagle that was hunted to obtain one of the claws that is now used to baptize children, which is supposed to give them luck and strength for the rest of their lives," said Zuluaga, with the Colaboratorio de Biodiversidad, Ecología y Conservación (ColBEC), Argentina, and the Fundación Proyecto Águila Crestada-Colombia, Colombia. "However, it is a story and we have not confirmed it."
According to Mateo Giraldo-Amaya at EAFIT University, Colombia, who led the Journal of Raptor Research paper, the cases they found are "only the tip of an iceberg."
"I believe that many more eagles are being killed today in Colombia and the Neotropics, but that this information usually does not come to light because of the nature of the events and the people who perpetrate them," he added.
Notably, researchers found no records of raptor persecution in seven of the 18 countries inhabited by harpy eagles, including Bolivia, Paraguay and Peru. But this may not be the good news it appears to be. Researchers say the lack of hunting records is probably because there are no dedicated harpy eagle research or conservation programs in those countries, meaning there is nobody to document kills.
Zuluaga said that even in countries with harpy conservation programs, like Panama and Brazil, people still shoot the eagles.
In Panama, Karla Aparicio, another co-author on the paper, has been working to understand and conserve harpy eagles since 1994. In 2015, she set up the Fundación Naturaleza y Ciencia 507 to focus on researching and conserving birds of prey.
Following the lead of Aguiar-Silva at Projeto Harpia in Brazil, the 507 team, named after the international dialing code for Panama, set up the first camera traps to monitor harpy eagle nests in the country. As well as studying the species in the wild, they established a center for rescued birds of prey. Birds that can't be reintroduced to the wild become ambassadors for their environmental education program, #HarpyS-cool.
Aparicio said she's committed to teaching people about birds of prey. She knows better than most how, given the right opportunities, even harpy hunters can change their ways: her assistant of 20 years, Euriato Bainora, used to hunt harpy eagles but now works to conserve them.
Soon after Aparicio set up the 507 foundation in Panama, a chance event set Giraldo-Amaya on a path to replicate her work in Colombia.
As an undergraduate in 2016, Giraldo-Amaya had a run-in with a harpy eagle that stuck with him. At first, he was excited when his fellow students showed him a harpy eagle nest that they found with an Indigenous guide, Antonio Cunampia, while on a university field trip.
"A week later, we got the news that someone had killed the eagle and its left leg had been cut off," he said. "It was very sad, and we were all extremely anxious about the fate of the chick without its mother."
To check on the chick, the researchers needed a drone. And it turned out undergraduate Giraldo-Amaya had one.
"The greatest coincidence of life," as Giraldo-Amaya put it. "Sadly, the chick died … but this experience marked me."
His sense of loss over the death of the chick led him to seek out an internship with Aparicio in Panama, which in turn inspired him to co-found the initiative Proyecto Grandes Rapaces Colombia to do similar research and conservation work over the border in Colombia — the first project in the country to focus on harpy eagles.
Harpy Eagle Tourism
In Brazil, scientist and conservationist Miranda has established a collaboration with wildlife tourist company SouthWild, based around making living harpy eagles a valuable resource for locals.
The ecotourism project offers $100 to local people for each harpy eagle nest discovered. The project also hires locals to build platforms so that tourists can see the birds at eye level, and to take care of visitors' needs.
A harpy eagle chick with a tourist viewing tower in the background in Mato Grosso, Brazil. Everton Miranda
Miranda said his harpy protection model also conserves the surrounding forest, providing habitat for many other species. Thirty landowners have signed an agreement that includes protecting at least 320 hectares (790 acres) of forest surrounding a harpy nest.
"We pay the landowner $20 per tourist per day," Miranda told Mongabay, noting that this has stopped eagle persecution in those areas.
Miranda said protecting the forest is vital, as deforestation remains the other major threat to harpy eagles. He said habitat loss caused by beef and soy farming are harder to address than direct persecution. Making meat production deforestation-free (soy is mostly used to feed farmed animals) requires action at every level, according to Miranda, from local law enforcement to international legislation.
But his years of working with the iconic harpy eagle make him determined to give the birds a fighting chance.
"There are a few occasions when you feel deep inside you're doing the right thing," he said. "When I first recorded a harpy laying an egg on a camera trap — then I felt heart-warmed by that small light that poets call hope."
Reposted with permission from Mongabay.
At first glance, you wouldn't think avocados and almonds could harm bees; but a closer look at how these popular crops are produced reveals their potentially detrimental effect on pollinators.
Turns out, bee labor is required to produce most avocados and almonds in the U.S. Honeybees pollinate most fruits and vegetables in the country, The Washington Post reported. With native bee populations in sharp decline, there aren't enough of them to complete the job naturally or efficiently, The Post added.
Enter migratory beekeeping. Farmers truck beehives full of European honeybees across the country and into their fields so that the insects can pollinate crops during important fertile periods, The Post reported. Without this practice, farmers would lose about one-third of their crops, including broccoli, blueberries, cherries, apples, melons and lettuce, according to The Post.
The practice is so widespread that Tracy Reiman, a representative for PETA, said, "Average shoppers can't avoid produce that involves migratory beekeeping, any more than they can avoid driving on asphalt," Vegan Life reported.
In 2013, Scientific American estimated that California's booming almond industry used 31 to 80 billion migrant honeybees a year in order to achieve maximum pollination during almond trees' two-week bloom. California produces up to 80 percent of all the world's almonds, Scientific American noted, and could not achieve such scale without migratory beekeeping.
Migratory beekeeping involves trucking millions of bees across the U.S. to pollinate different crops, including avocados and almonds. Timothy Paule II / Pexels / CC0
According to From the Grapevine, American avocados also fully depend on bees' pollination to produce fruit, so farmers have turned to migratory beekeeping as well to fill the void left by wild populations.
U.S. farmers have become reliant upon the practice, but migratory beekeeping has been called exploitative and harmful to bees. CNN reported that commercial beekeeping may injure or kill bees and that transporting them to pollinate crops appears to negatively affect their health and lifespan. Because the honeybees are forced to gather pollen and nectar from a single, monoculture crop — the one they've been brought in to pollinate — they are deprived of their normal diet, which is more diverse and nourishing as it's comprised of a variety of pollens and nectars, Scientific American reported.
Scientific American added how getting shuttled from crop to crop and field to field across the country boomerangs the bees between feast and famine, especially once the blooms they were brought in to fertilize end.
Plus, the artificial mass influx of bees guarantees spreading viruses, mites and fungi between the insects as they collide in midair and crawl over each other in their hives, Scientific American reported. According to CNN, some researchers argue that this explains why so many bees die each winter, and even why entire hives suddenly die off in a phenomenon called colony collapse disorder.
Adding pesticides to the picture, bees don't stand a chance. Many countries still use neonicotinoid pesticides (neonics), which are believed to kill bees. In Jan. 2021, the U.K. faced backlash after approving the emergency use of the toxin on sugar beets, despite pledging not to increase its usage in the wake of Brexit. Although restricted, this family of pesticides is still the most widely used in the U.S., and scientists warn that neonics' continued prevalence could be catastrophic for food supplies, honeybee populations and mass die-offs of native species. Neonics are a primary cause behind the massive honeybee and native bee losses each year, researchers and environmentalists argue.
In Columbia, mass bee deaths are being blamed directly on avocado farms, Phys.org reported. Avocado exports from Columbia skyrocketed from 1.7 tons in 2014 to 44.5 tons in 2019, and in 2021, Colombia became Europe's largest avocado supplier, Phys.org added. This boom has resulted in the increased use of neonic insecticide fipronil. Banned in Europe and restricted in the U.S. and China, fipronil is still used in Colombia to grow avocados and citrus for export. This has been bad for neighboring bees, which become contaminated as they buzz through pesticide-treated plantations looking for food.
"They bring this poison to the hive and kill everyone else," Abdon Salazar, a Columbian beekeeper, lamented to Phys.org after losing 800 hives and 80 million bees in the last two years.
Avocado and almond crops depend on bees for proper pollination. FRANK MERIÑO / Pexels / CC0
Salazar and other Columbian beekeepers described "scooping up piles of dead bees" year after year since the avocado and citrus booms began, according to Phys.org. Many have opted to salvage what partial colonies survive and move away from agricultural areas.
The future of pollinators and the crops they help create is uncertain. According to the United Nations, nearly half of insect pollinators, particularly bees and butterflies, risk global extinction, Phys.org reported. Their decline already has cascading consequences for the economy and beyond. Roughly 1.4 billion jobs and three-quarters of all crops around the world depend on bees and other pollinators for free fertilization services worth billions of dollars, Phys.org noted. Losing wild and native bees could trigger food security issues.
Salazar, the beekeeper, warned Phys.org, "The bee is a bioindicator. If bees are dying, what other insects beneficial to the environment... are dying?"
In October 2020, two men living in Indonesia's South Kalimantan province on Borneo managed to catch a bird that they had never seen before. They photographed and released it, then sent the pictures to birdwatching organizations in the area for identification.
📢 Missing for 170 years, BLACK-BROWED BABBLER has been rediscovered in South Kalimantan, Indonesian Borneo! Until now, a taxidermy specimen was only proof of this species existence. #ThursdayThought #Mega 🤩💚💎— Oriental Bird Club (@orientbirdclub) February 25, 2021
📷: Muhammad Rizky Fauzan pic.twitter.com/R0p75EN6EZ
To the men's surprise, the bird wasn't just new to them. Ornithologists identified it as the black-browed babbler (Malacocincla perspicillata), a bird last documented around 170 years ago. It is so rare that the data on the only collected specimen lists it as "presumed extinct."
"It feels surreal to know that we have found a species of bird presumed by experts to be extinct," Muhammad Rizky Fauzan, who found the bird along with Muhammad Suranto, told The Guardian. "We didn't expect it to be that special at all — we thought it was just another bird that we simply have never seen before."
Ornithologist Panji Gusti Akbar was equally surprised when he saw Fauzan and Suranto's picture of the bird on WhatsApp, Mongabay reported.
"I contacted as many leading ornithologists as possible, and they all agreed that there is no other bird that [it] looks [like] other than a black-browed babbler," Akbar told Mongabay. "It just blew my mind."
The black-browed babbler was first captured on an expedition to the East Indies in the 1840s, according to The Guardian. Charles Lucien Bonaparte, Napoleon's nephew, named and described it. German naturalist Carl A.L.M. Schwaner collected the only known specimen, now located at the Naturalis Biodiversity Center in the Netherlands, Mongabay reported.
Lead author Akbar detailed the new find in a paper published in BirdingAsia on Thursday. The report noted that this is the longest an Asian bird has been lost to science. The authors also detailed the rediscovered bird's physical characteristics and the differences between the one in the recent photograph and the taxidermied specimen.
"The facial appearance of the bird was very distinct, with the crown being chestnut brown, demarcated by a broad, black eye-stripe extending across the malars (cheekbone) to the nape and necksides," the report authors wrote.
There are three major differences between the live and stuffed specimens. The former has maroon irises instead of yellow; its legs are slate gray instead of brown; and its bill is a different color.
"These three parts of a bird's body are known to lose their tint and are often artificially colored during the taxidermy process," Akbar told The Guardian.
The researchers do not have enough information to determine the conservation status of the rediscovered species, but they hope to do further study. However, The Guardian noted massive deforestation in lowland Borneo, and Akbar believes habitat loss poses a threat. The bird's reemergence is another argument for preserving Borneo's unique rainforest.
"It's sobering to think that when the black-browed babbler was last seen, Charles Darwin's Origin of Species hadn't even been published and the now extinct passenger pigeon was still among the world's commonest birds," Ding Li Yong of BirdLife International and study coauthor said in a press release. "Who knows what other riches lie deep within Borneo's fabled rainforests, especially in the Indonesian part of the island?"
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"Nowhere is the world's nature crisis more acute than in our rivers, lakes and wetlands, and the clearest indicator of the damage we are doing is the rapid decline in freshwater fish populations. They are the aquatic version of the canary in the coal mine, and we must heed the warning," Stuart Orr, WWF global freshwater lead, said in a statement Tuesday announcing the report.
WWF is one of the many organizations behind the report, along with the Alliance for Freshwater Life, Conservation International and The Nature Conservancy, to name a few. Together, the groups emphasized the incredible diversity of the world's freshwater fish and their importance for human wellbeing.
There are a total of 18,075 freshwater fish species in the world, accounting for 51 percent of all fish species and 25 percent of all vertebrates. They are an important food source for 200 million people and provide work for 60 million. But their numbers are in decline. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species has declared 80 to be extinct, 16 of those in 2020 alone. The numbers of migratory freshwater fish such as salmon have declined 76 percent since 1970, while mega-fish such as beluga sturgeon have fallen by 94 percent in the same time period. In fact, freshwater biodiversity is plummeting at twice the rate of biodiversity in the oceans and forests.
Despite this, freshwater fish get much less attention than their saltwater counterparts, the report authors say. Titled "The World's Forgotten Fishes," it argues that policy makers rarely consider river wildlife when making decisions.
The main threats to freshwater fish include building dams, syphoning river water for irrigation, releasing wastewater and draining wetlands. Other factors include overfishing, introducing invasive species and the climate crisis.
"As we look to adapt to climate change and we start to think about all the discussions that governments are going to have on biodiversity, it's really a time for us to shine a light back on freshwater," Orr told NBC News.
To protect these forgotten fishes, the report authors outlined a six-point plan:
1. Let rivers flow more naturally;
2. Improve water quality in freshwater ecosystems;
3. Protect and restore critical habitats;
4. End overfishing and unsustainable sand mining in rivers and lakes;
5. Prevent and control invasions by non-native species; and
6. Protect free-flowing rivers and remove obsolete dams.
They also called on world leaders to include freshwater ecosystems in an ambitious biodiversity agreement at the upcoming UN Convention on Biological Diversity conference in Kunming, China.
But the solution will require more than just government action.
"It's now more urgent than ever that we find the collective political will and effective collaboration with private sector, governments, NGOs and communities, to implement nature-based solutions that protect freshwater species, while also ensuring human needs are met," Carmen Revenga of The Nature Conservancy told BBC News.
By Jeff Peterson
America's coastal saltwater wetlands are on a course toward functional extinction in the coming decades. Their demise will come at the hands of steadily accelerating sea-level rise and relentless coastal development. As these wetlands disappear, they will take with them habitat, storm buffering and carbon sequestration benefits of tremendous value.
Fortunately, there is still time to change course. A determined and coordinated effort by local, state and federal governments — led by the Biden administration — could dramatically increase the number of saltwater wetlands that survive and go a long way to maintaining their ecological and societal benefits into the future.
Saltwater Wetlands: To Know Them Is to Love Them
The most recent estimate of the extent of saltwater wetlands along the American coast, published in 2009, found some 6.4 million acres with about half occurring along the Gulf of Mexico. This is a mere remnant of their historic extent and a decline of some 95,000 acres from the previous assessment in 2004, largely in the Gulf of Mexico. Ominously, the rate of loss increased by 35% from the prior five-year reporting period.
The remaining saltwater wetlands still provide an impressive array of ecological services and benefits to society. Often termed "the most productive ecosystems on Earth" they are nursery grounds for fisheries and provide habitat for birds, mammals and other wildlife.
Wetlands also protect communities from storm surges and flooding. Along the Atlantic and Gulf coasts the protective value of wetlands is estimated to be about $1.8 million per square kilometer annually. On top of all that, saltwater wetlands help fight global warming by storing carbon at a rate that is about two to four times greater than that observed in mature tropical forests.
The Saltwater Wetland Extinction Scenario
Rising sea level and steady coastal urbanization pose an existential threat to saltwater wetlands.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration predicts that sea level along much of the American coast is likely to rise by 2 to 4 feet, and may rise by as much as 8 feet, by 2100. And seas will continue to rise in the centuries to come, with an "intermediate" estimate of more than 9 feet by 2200.
NOAA's National Geodetic Survey installs a device to provide data to model the fate of a Chesapeake Bay marsh in the face of rising water levels. National Ocean Service Image Gallery
The rising seas will eventually drown all the saltwater wetlands that now exist, converting them to open water. Some wetlands will survive in place for a time if seas rise slowly enough. But the rate of sea-level rise is accelerating rapidly and other factors, such as land subsidence, will shift the balance in favor of rising seas in the years ahead.
For most saltwater wetlands, survival will require landward migration. This is possible where geography does not present obstacles, such as steep slopes, and where human development has not already staked a claim. There is no national assessment of the feasibility of saltwater wetland migration, but several studies of smaller geographic areas present a bleak picture.
On the Pacific coast, some 83% of wetlands are projected to become open water by 2110 and "migration of most wetlands was constrained by coastal development or steep topography," according to a 2018 study in Science Advances. Along the Gulf of Mexico, estimated conversion of wetlands to open water varies for each state, with rates from 24 to 37% by 2060.
The outlook for saltwater wetland survival darkens further when one considers new coastal development occupying dry land that might otherwise become a new wetland. Population in the 100-year coastal floodplain is expected to almost double by 2060, significantly expanding the coastal development footprint.
And the rising sea levels that drive wetlands inland will also prompt people to defend the land they are on, often with seawalls, bulkheads or levees. Some 14% of the coast is already armored by this infrastructure and, if the current rate of armoring continues, that percentage is expected to double by 2100.
Finally, wetlands that are able to migrate will need years to provide the same degree of ecosystem services they did originally. A study of over 600 restored wetlands worldwide found that biological structure and biogeochemical functioning "remained on average 26% and 23% lower, respectively, than in reference sites" even a century after restoration, which means that even the wetlands to do survive won't provide the same benefits.
Envisioning a Strategy for Saving Saltwater Wetlands
What can be done to help saltwater wetlands survive the one-two punch of a changing climate and coastal development?
A critical step is to admit we have a problem and agree that we need a national response strategy. A national strategy should define a goal for saltwater wetlands protection (e.g., a net increase in acreage nationally and by state) and charge a federal agency (e.g., NOAA) with leading the effort.
The heart of a new strategy needs to be carefully planned for landward migration of saltwater wetlands and deployment of new authority and resources toward that end. This key objective is widely supported in the academic literature and the work to address it must engage local, state and federal agencies.
Since it's been more than a decade since the last published assessment of the United States' coastal wetlands, existing saltwater wetlands need to be mapped anew. Then their varying rates of natural change should be assessed and the feasibility of landward migration evaluated. Evaluation of migration should include obstacles, such as natural features, and both existing and likely future development. Coastal places that are not wetlands today but are well suited to become wetlands as sea level rises, should be identified. All this information should be used to develop place-specific plans to protect and preserve the land that wetlands will need to migrate inland on a priority basis.
While that work is going on, we'll also need to focus on dampening the rate of population growth right along the coast. This will be essential to leave space for successful landward migration of saltwater wetlands. State and local government have diverse tools, including land-use plans and regulations, to apply to this challenge, but the federal government needs to help. For example, FEMA should stop issuing federal flood insurance for new development in coastal floodplains.
Another critical tool is expanded authority to restrict new coastal armoring projects that would prevent landward migration of saltwater wetlands. Eight states have implemented total or partial bans on coastal armoring, but efficacy and enforcement vary. All states should adopt and enforce such bans. These projects also require permits from the Army Corps of Engineers and existing requirements should be revised to give stronger preference for "living shorelines" that replace traditional structures with designs using biological and natural materials.
Creating a "living shoreline" in the Delaware estuary. Danielle Kreeger CC BY-NC-ND 2.0
In some places, regulation will not be enough and acquisition of real estate will be necessary. Some states have land-acquisition programs that consider sea-level rise. For example, Maryland identifies "coastal lands with the highest potential to aid in adaptation if sea level rises a meter per century" and uses the assessment in making conservation investments. People in the San Francisco Bay area voted for Measure AA to provide local funds for wetlands protection in the face of sea-level rise. These programs and some others are a foothold but more states need to follow this example.
Federal agencies need to support these state initiatives by expanding modest existing federal programs that protect coastal wetlands to include purchasing land for prospective wetlands and removing buildings and other structures where needed.
Saving saltwater wetlands will require that Congress, federal agencies, states and local governments collaborate to agree on the strategy and then approve the new tools and funding needed to carry it forward. This will require years of effort, but the start of a new Congress and a new administration is an auspicious time to begin this important work.
Jeff Peterson is a retired senior policy advisor at the Environmental Protection Agency and the author of A New Coast: Strategies for Responding to Devastating Storms and Rising Seas. https://islandpress.org/books/new-coast
Reposted with permission from The Revelator.
By Jessica Corbett
A collection of new scientific papers authored by 56 experts from around the world reiterates rising concerns about bug declines and urges people and governments to take urgent action to address a biodiversity crisis dubbed the "insect apocalypse."
"The Global Decline of Insects in the Anthropocene Special Feature," which includes an introduction and 11 papers, was published Monday in Proceedings of the National Academies of Sciences alongside a related news article. "Nature is under siege," the scientists warn. "Insects are suffering from 'death by a thousand cuts.'"
The set of studies—resulting from a symposium in St. Louis—comes as the body of research on insect declines has grown in recent years, leading to major assessments published in February 2019 and April 2020, as well as a roadmap released last January by 73 scientists detailing how to battle the "bugpocalypse."
As the new package and below graphic explain, human stressors that experts have tied to bug declines include agricultural practices; chemical, light, and sound pollution; invasive species; land-use changes; nitrification; pesticides; and urbanization.
Emphasizing the consequences of such declines, University of Connecticut entomologist David Wagner, the package's lead author, told the Associated Press that insects "are absolutely the fabric by which Mother Nature and the tree of life are built."
According to Wagner, many insect populations are dropping about 1-2% per year. As he put it to The Guardian: "You're losing 10-20% of your animals over a single decade and that is just absolutely frightening. You're tearing apart the tapestry of life."
While most causes of declines are well known, "there's one really big unknown and that's climate change—that's the one that really scares me the most," he said, warning the crisis could be causing "extinctions at a rate that we haven't seen before."
Insect populations suffering death by 1,000 cuts, say scientists - ‘Frightening’ global decline is ‘tearing apar… https://t.co/iyKLoyUz4i— Damian Carrington (@Damian Carrington)1610396907.0
Roel van Klink of the German Center for Integrative Biodiversity Research told The Guardian that "the most important thing we learn [from these new studies] is the complexity behind insect declines. No single quick fix is going to solve this problem."
"There are certainly places where insect abundances are dropping strongly, but not everywhere," he said. "This is a reason for hope, because it can help us understand what we can do to help them. They can bounce back really fast when the conditions improve."
The package's introduction points out that while much recent research and resulting news coverage focused on drops in bug populations, "four papers in this special issue note instances of insect lineages that have not changed or have increased in abundance."
"Many moth species in Great Britain have demonstrably expanded in range or population size," the paper notes. "Numerous temperate insects, presumably limited by winter temperatures, have increased in abundance and range, in response to warmer global temperatures."
Pollinators such as the western honey bee in North America, "may well thrive due to their associations with humans," the introduction adds. "Increasing abundances of freshwater insects have been attributed to clean water legislation, in both Europe and North America."
As @dharnanoor points out in this article, too many bugs (thanks to #climatechange) can be a problem too--natural s… https://t.co/5ZNDwWhX80— erin sikorsky (@erin sikorsky)1610452988.0
In addition to the introduction, titled "Insect decline in the Anthropocene: Death by a thousand cuts," the package includes seven perspectives:
- "Agricultural intensification and climate change are rapidly decreasing insect biodiversity"
- "To us insectometers, it is clear that insect decline in our Costa Rican tropics is real, so let's be kind to the survivors"
- "Insects and recent climate change"
- "The decline of butterflies in Europe: Problems, significance, and possible solutions"
- "A window to the world of global insect declines: Moth biodiversity trends are complex and heterogeneous"
- "Deep learning and computer vision will transform entomology"
- "No buzz for bees: Media coverage of pollinator decline"
The body of work also includes three separate research articles:
- "Arthropods are not declining but are responsive to disturbance in the Luquillo Experimental Forest, Puerto Rico"
- "Insect biomass decline scaled to species diversity: General patterns derived from a hoverfly community"
- "Nonlinear trends in abundance and diversity and complex responses to climate change in Arctic arthropods"
The final piece is an opinion laying out "eight simple actions that individuals can take to save insects from global declines," which features five actions to create "more and better insect-friendly habitats, the loss of which is likely a leading cause of insect declines," and three that aim to adjust public attitudes.
As Dharna Noor wrote in her coverage for Earther: "I do not like bugs. Creepy, many-legged things make my skin crawl. But as unpleasant as they are, insects are absolutely crucial for our world's ecosystems to function, and sadly, new research shows that the creatures populations are on the verge of collapse."
To boost awareness and appreciation of insects, the scientists suggest countering negative perceptions, pushing for conservation efforts, and getting involved in local political advocacy. On the habitat improvement front, they recommend converting lawns into diverse natural habitats, growing native plants, cutting pesticide use, limiting light pollution, and lessening soap runoff from washing vehicles and building exteriors as well as the use of driveway sealants and de-icing salts.
"Avoiding some behaviors or adopting others will contribute both directly and indirectly to insect conservation," the scientists note. "Further, taking actions that address issues such as climate change can synergistically promote insect diversity. Climate change is increasingly recognized as a primary factor driving local and regional plant and animal extinctions."
Reposted with permission from Common Dreams.
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Only six to 11 percent of the habitat used by the fishing cat, leopard cat and rusty-spotted cat is currently protected, based on findings published in the journal Scientific Reports by researchers at Uppsala University in Sweden.
All three species are endemic to the Indian subcontinent, comprising India, Sri Lanka, Nepal, Bangladesh, Pakistan, Bhutan and the Maldives. Over a third of the world's wild felines call the region home, and the three species studied share a common cat ancestor. There are no current population figures on the rare cats as they are extremely difficult to find, even with state-of-the-art camera traps.
But the fishing cat, about twice the size of an average house cat, may no longer have a home, as its preferred habitat — mangrove swamps and coastal wetlands — are increasingly eradicated for development. Since 2016 the species has been listed as "Vulnerable" on the IUCN Red List.
"This study is important because it shows that many small, rare and elusive cats in the Indian subcontinent don't get as much attention as the more spectacular big cats. Nevertheless, the need to protect them is just as pressing," said Mats Björklund, a professor emeritus of Zooecology at Uppsala University, in a statement about the findings.
The leopard cat is also a victim of habitat destruction, but its environment ranges from shrub land and low-lying forests to inland wetlands, and populations are steadier than those of the fishing cat. Part of the study identified which ecological conditions each species preferred, using computer algorithms to predict their numbers and locations in favored areas.
The rusty-spotted cat is one of the smallest wild cat species in the world and mostly spends its time in the deciduous forests of India and Sri Lanka. It is listed as "Near Threatened" on the IUCN Red List, due to increased farmland use of its home.
"Species like the rusty-spotted cat exist only in this region, so to ensure we don't lose them it's essential to create more protected areas," said André P. Silva, the study's lead author and a doctoral student in the department of ecology and genetics at Uppsala University.
The goal of the study was to better understand environmental factors such as land cover, land use and climate, which threaten the three cat species. Thanks to this research, more protective measures can be implemented.
"The number and size of the protected areas must be increased to include more biotopes containing these species," says Björklund.
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The world's largest financial institutions loaned more than $2.6 trillion in 2019 to sectors driving the climate crisis and wildlife destruction, according to a new report from advocacy organization portfolio.earth.
For some perspective, portfolio.earth notes that $2.6 trillion is more than the entire GDP of Canada. The paper, Bankrolling Extinction, found that the world's largest banks funded an acceleration toward mass extinction in 2019 without trying to limit their impact on ecosystems, Reuters reported.
The top 10 banks implicated are Bank of America, Citigroup, JP Morgan Chase, Mizuho Financial, Wells Fargo, BNP Paribas, Mitsubishi UFJ Financial, HSBC, SMBC Group and Barclays, The Guardian reported.
The authors of the report note that not only do the banks lack an internal system to limit, monitor or measure the impact of their loans on biodiversity, but the current financial system rules protect the banks from any consequences.
To determine how much money adversely affected the natural world, the researchers matched the loans and underwriting services from 50 large investment banks to areas the United Nations has identified as driving biodiversity loss, The Guardian reported. The most threatening sectors are food and agriculture, forestry, mining, fossil fuels, infrastructure, tourism, transportation and logistics.
For example, Bankrolling Extinction stressed the outsized role that industrial agriculture plays in biodiversity loss, especially when tropical forests in the Amazon and Asia are cleared to make way for cattle ranches and commodity crops.
Some banks have responded to pressure from investors and limited investments in Arctic drilling, coal and new oil exploration, The Guardian reported.
"Banks are starting to realize that if they invest in sectors that cause climate change, that will hurt their returns," Liz Gallagher, director of portfolio.earth, told Reuters. "Banks need to understand that the same holds true for destroying biodiversity."
However, The Guardian reported that an analysis by Rainforest Action Network found that the world's leading banks had not aligned their investments with the goals of the 2016 Paris climate agreement.
"This report from portfolio.earth confirms what our research also shows, that banks globally still need to step up their game and develop an approach to protect biodiversity," Peter van der Werf, senior engagement specialist at Netherlands-based asset manager Robeco, told Reuters.
If banks changed their lending patterns, that money could prevent mass extinction and tackle the climate crisis.
"Imagine a world in which projects can only raise capital when they have demonstrated that they will contribute meaningfully and positively to restoring the planet's bounty and a safe climate for all? That's the future this report envisions and builds toward," Professor Kai Chan of the Institute of Resources, Environment and Sustainability at the University of British Columbia told The Guardian.
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