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Author Topic: Pluto in Cap, the climate, ecology and environment topic  (Read 74099 times)
Steve
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« on: Jul 06, 2012, 08:39 PM »

I am starting this new topic for posting articles about the Earth's environment, ecology, and climate while Pluto is in Capricorn, and especially now that Pluto is exactly squaring Uranus, which in astrology rules the atmosphere.

The first post is a 17 minute YouTube video called Climate Change is Simple.  It explains all the basics one needs to know about how the environment is being impacted and what is going to happen if humanity continues ignoring the changes the collective needs to make.  The end results are alarming yet in the video the thoughts are presented in an objective, grounded way without fear or gloom and doom.  It simply states what is going on, and where this goes if we don't change our collective behavior.

If you are young this will change your life within your lifetime.  If you are older, then the same for your children and grand kids.   We need to know these things.  They are presented very well in this video.

Video URL: Climate Change is Simple  http://youtu.be/A7ktYbVwr90   17 minutes long

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« Reply #1 on: Jul 07, 2012, 05:08 PM »

Study finds arctic ice decline set new record in June

A study released Friday by the National Snow & Ice Data Center found that arctic ice levels underwent their most rapid loss ever for the month of June this year.

According to the study, the arctic lost 2.86 million square miles of ice in June, the largest such drop since at least 1979. Citing air temperatures that hovered one to four degrees Celsius (up to about seven degrees Fahrenheit) above the 30-year rolling average, the report found that the arctic as a whole had undergone a, ”period of especially rapid ice loss.”

As a result, arctic ice extent reached the second-lowest point ever for the month of June, trailing only June 2010 for that title. The past three Junes all mark the three lowest such months for arctic ice extent since 1979 as well.

In addition, the study found that snow levels in the Northern Hemisphere fell to their lowest June-levels since record keeping began in 1967. The report noted how low snow levels heading into the month could have had a self-destructive force, further deteriorating the already depleted levels.

“This rapid and early retreat of snow cover exposes large, darker underlying surfaces to the sun early in the season, fostering higher air temperatures and warmer soils,” the report notes.

From: http://www.rawstory.com/rs/2012/07/07/study-finds-arctic-ice-decline-set-new-record-in-june/
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« Reply #2 on: Jul 09, 2012, 08:01 AM »

Top marine scientists warn reefs in rapid decline

By Agence France-Presse
Monday, July 9, 2012 5:53 EDT

More than 2,600 of the world’s top marine scientists Monday warned coral reefs around the world were in rapid decline and urged immediate global action on climate change to save what remains.

The consensus statement at the International Coral Reef Symposium, being held in the northeastern Australian city of Cairns, stressed that the livelihoods of millions of people were at risk.

Coral reefs provide food and work for countless coastal inhabitants globally, generate significant revenues through tourism and function as a natural breakwater for waves and storms, they said.

The statement, endorsed by the forum attendees and other marine scientists, called for measures to head off escalating damage caused by rising sea temperatures, ocean acidification, overfishing and pollution from the land.

“There is a window of opportunity for the world to act on climate change, but it is closing rapidly,” said Terry Hughes, convener of the symposium, held every four years, which attracted some 2,000 scientists from 80 countries.

Jeremy Jackson, senior scientist at the Smithsonian Institution in the United States, said reefs around the world have seen severe declines in coral cover over the last several decades.

In the Caribbean, for example, 75-85 percent of the coral cover has been lost in the last 35 years.

Even the Great Barrier Reef in Australia, the best-protected reef ecosystem on the planet, has witnessed a 50 percent decline in the last 50 years.

Jackson said while climate change was exacerbating the problem, it was also causing increased droughts, agricultural failure and sea level rises at increasingly faster rates, which implied huge problems for society.

“That means what’s good for reefs is also critically important for people and we should wake up to that fact,” he said.

“The future of coral reefs isn’t a marine version of tree-hugging but a central problem for humanity.”

Stephen Palumbi, director of Stanford University’s Hopkins Marine Station, said addressing local threats, such as poor land development and unsustainable fishing practices, was also critical.

More than 85 percent of reefs in Asia’s “Coral Triangle” are directly threatened by human activities such as coastal development, pollution, and overfishing, according to a report launched at the forum earlier Monday.

The Coral Triangle covers Indonesia, Malaysia, Papua New Guinea, the Philippines, The Solomon Islands, and East Timor and contains nearly 30 percent of the world’s reefs and more than 3,000 species of fish.

International Society for Reef Studies president Robert Richmond stressed that the consensus statement was not just another effort at documenting the mounting problems.

Instead he said it was also about making the best available science available to leaders worldwide.

“The scientific community has an enormous amount of research showing we have a problem. But right now, we are like doctors diagnosing a patient’s disease, but not prescribing any effective cures,” he said.

“We have to start more actively engaging the process and supporting public officials with real-world prescriptions for success.”

[Red coral perch of the Red Sea, via Shutterstock.com.]


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« Reply #3 on: Jul 09, 2012, 09:55 AM »

Rootworms have developed resistance to genetically engineered corn

Last fall, the Environmental Protection Agency warned that Monsanto’s Bt corn, which was genetically engineered a decade ago to ward off rootworms, is now falling prey to worms that have developed resistance to the plants’ built-in insecticide. The EPA also expressed concern that Monstanto’s monitoring was “inadequate and likely to miss early resistance events.”

At the time, a company spokesperson denied there was a problem, telling Bloomberg News, “Monsanto continues to believe there’s no scientific confirmation of resistance to its Bt corn.”

However, this year’s corn-growing season is now well under way in the United States, and in some places the crops are suffering severe damage. Scientists have identitied the culprit as Bt-resistant rootworms.

The resistant rootworms have also appeared in South Africa, India, and China, but they may have the greatest impact in the United States, where more than half the corn grown is Bt.

According to Monsanto’s critics, this outcome amounts to a “perfect storm.” We’re stuck with the potential risks to human health that may result from eating genetically-modified foods and we’re not even getting the promised benefits. In addition, American taxpayers could find themselves picking up the tab for any crop failures, thanks to government subsidies.
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« Reply #4 on: Jul 09, 2012, 02:58 PM »

Ocean Acidification Is Climate Change's 'Equally Evil Twin,' NOAA Chief Says
AP  |  Posted: 07/09/2012 12:51 am Updated: 07/09/2012 12:51 pm

SYDNEY (AP) — Oceans' rising acid levels have emerged as one of the biggest threats to coral reefs, acting as the "osteoporosis of the sea" and threatening everything from food security to tourism to livelihoods, the head of a U.S. scientific agency said Monday.

The speed by which the oceans' acid levels has risen caught scientists off-guard, with the problem now considered to be climate change's "equally evil twin," National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration chief Jane Lubchenco told The Associated Press.

"We've got sort of the perfect storm of stressors from multiple places really hammering reefs around the world," said Lubchenco, who was in Australia to speak at the International Coral Reef Symposium in the northeast city of Cairns, near the Great Barrier Reef. "It's a very serious situation."

Oceans absorb excess carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, increasing sea acidity. Scientists are worried about how that increase will affect sea life, particularly reefs, as higher acid levels make it tough for coral skeletons to form. Lubchenco likened ocean acidification to osteoporosis — a bone-thinning disease — because researchers are concerned it will lead to the deterioration of reefs.

Scientists initially assumed that the carbon dioxide absorbed by the water would be sufficiently diluted as the oceans mixed shallow and deeper waters. But most of the carbon dioxide and the subsequent chemical changes are being concentrated in surface waters, Lubchenco said.

"And those surface waters are changing much more rapidly than initial calculations have suggested," she said. "It's yet another reason to be very seriously concerned about the amount of carbon dioxide that is in the atmosphere now and the additional amount we continue to put out."

Higher acidity levels are especially problematic for creatures such as oysters, because acid slows the growth of their shells. Experiments have shown other animals, such as clown fish, also suffer. In a study that mimicked the level of acidity scientists expect by the end of the century, clown fish began swimming toward predators, instead of away from them, because their sense of smell had been dulled.

"We're just beginning to uncover many of the ways in which the changing chemistry of oceans affects lots of behaviors," Lubchenco said. "So salmon not being able to find their natal streams because their sense of smell was impaired, that's a very real possibility."

The potential impact of all of this is huge, Lubchenco said. Coral reefs attract critical tourism dollars and protect fragile coastlines from threats such as tsunamis. Seafood is the primary source of protein for many people around the world. Already, some oyster farmers have blamed higher acidity levels for a decrease in stocks.

Some attempts to address the problem are already under way. Instruments that measure changing acid levels in the water have been installed in some areas to warn oyster growers when to stop the flow of ocean water to their hatcheries.

But that is only a short-term solution, Lubchenco said. The most critical element, she said, is reducing carbon emissions.

"The carbon dioxide that we have put in the atmosphere will continue to be absorbed by oceans for decades," she said. "It is going to be a long time before we can stabilize and turn around the direction of change simply because it's a big atmosphere and it's a big ocean."

In this Jan. 23, 2006 file photo provided by Centre of Marine Studies, The University of Queensland, fish swim amongst bleached coral near the Keppel Islands in the Great Barrier Reef, Australia.(AP Photo/Centre for Marine Studies, The University of Queensland, Ove Hoegh-Guldberg, File)
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« Reply #5 on: Jul 11, 2012, 07:02 AM »

Scientists to directly link extreme weather to man-made climate change

By Fiona Harvey, The Guardian
Tuesday, July 10, 2012 14:19 EDT

Climate change researchers have been able to attribute recent examples of extreme weather to the effects of human activity on the planet’s climate systems for the first time, marking a major step forward in climate research.

The findings make it much more likely that we will soon – within the next few years – be able to discern whether the extremely wet and cold summer and spring so far experienced in the UK this year are attributable to human causes rather than luck, according to the researchers.

Last year’s record warm November in the UK – the second hottest since records began in 1659 – was at least 60 times more likely to happen because of climate change than owing to natural variations in the earth’s weather systems, according to the peer-reviewed studies by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration in the US, and the Met Office in the UK. The devastating heatwave that blighted farmers in Texas in the US last year, destroying crop yields in another record “extreme weather event”, was about 20 times more likely to have happened owing to climate change than to natural variation.

Attributing individual weather events, such as floods, droughts and heatwaves, to human-induced climate change – rather than natural variation in the planet’s complex weather systems – has long been a goal of climate change scientists. But the difficulty of separating the causation of events from the background “noise” of the variability in the earth’s climate systems has until now made such attribution an elusive goal.

To attribute recent extreme weather events – rather than events 10 years ago or more – to human-caused climate change is a big advance, and will help researchers to provide better warnings of the likely effects of climate change in the near future. This is likely to have major repercussions on climate change policy and the ongoing efforts to adapt to the probable effects of global warming.

Peter Stott, of the UK’s Met Office, said: “We are much more confident about attributing [weather effects] to climate change. This is all adding up to a stronger and stronger picture of human influence on the climate.”

But the researchers also said that not every extreme weather event could be attributed to climate change. For instance, the extremely cold British winter of 2010-11 – starkly exemplified by the satellite picture of the UK and Ireland covered in white on Christmas Eve, as snow gripped the nations – was owing to variations in the systems of ocean and air circulation. Although such cold winters are now only half as likely as they were several decades ago, owing to a generally warming climate across the world, extremely low temperatures of this type are still possible depending on circulation effects – in this case, a negative North Atlantic Oscillation, the circulation system that is a key determinant of European weather.

Floods in Thailand last year, another example studied in the research, were also not judged to be due to climate change but to other factors such as changes in the management of local river systems.

Following and predicting temperature rises tends to be much less complex than predicting – and attributing the causes of – changes in precipitation patterns.

This year’s weather in the UK is an example. The Met Office has said the record wet conditions, which have brought serious flooding to regions from Yorkshire to the south-west, were owing to “a particularly disturbed jet stream”. That is the weather system across the north Atlantic that normally lies at higher latitudes during the British summer, but has been lower in latitude than usual for several years running, bringing wet and sometimes cold conditions. Some research has suggested that the massive melting of Arctic ice has been responsible for this effect – by changing the patterns of warmer and colder winds in the upper atmosphere.

But the key question – of whether man-made global warming is putting a dampener on British summers – will take several years to solve, according to Stott. “This is an open question in terms of research – it is too early days to be able to say,” he said.

© Guardian News and Media 2012
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« Reply #6 on: Jul 12, 2012, 07:08 AM »

Australia’s mining boom may doom Barrier Reef

By Agence France-Presse
Thursday, July 12, 2012 5:56 EDT

Asia-bound ships queue for weeks outside the Australian port of Newcastle as an endless stream of coal trains wind their way from mine to port.

Environmentalists say the nation’s unprecedented resources boom, which will see some US$500 billion pumped into gas, oil and mining projects in coming years, has come at the cost of the environment.

The United Nations has warned the Great Barrier Reef is at risk, while some scientists say it may already be too late to save it due to surging levels of shipping, offshore gas and oil exploration and port expansion.

By 2020 an estimated 7,000 ships will traverse the reef every year, up from 5,000 in 2010, of which one-fifth were coal freighters from Newcastle — the world’s biggest coal export hub in New South Wales state.

The nearby Hunter Valley has seen a six-fold increase in the number of open-cut mines in the past 30 years and locals say they are already feeling the impact as their health declines.

Asthma and respiratory illness have increased as explosive charges blast open new coal seams, and trains — uncovered and streaming dust — cross the pitted landscape 24 hours a day. Roads are grid locked.

Huge mine pits have slowly edged out what was once a thriving dairy industry and the community fears that farming could be wiped out altogether if plans to triple Newcastle port’s coal output are allowed to go ahead.

“It’s a big expansion,” said local environmental campaigner Simon Fane, adding that the mining rush was impacting farmland, food production and thoroughbred horse breeding.

“It’s globally significant what’s happening in Newcastle in terms of the coal.”

The port estimates that it will export some 139 million tonnes of the key energy and steelmaking fuel this financial year (July 2012-June 2013) and has unveiled plans to expand output to 330 million tonnes with a fourth terminal.

Environmentalists and sustainability experts have questioned the scale of the development, saying it is at odds with government policies aimed at reducing greenhouse gas emissions in line with international efforts.

Australia, among the world’s worst per capita polluters, has pledged to reduce its emissions by at least five percent of 2000 levels by 2020 and recently introduced a corporate pollution tax as part of that push.

But the tripling of Newcastle coal output alone will see coal exported and burned equivalent to 1.5 times Australia’s annual emissions, and there are similar port expansions planned all along Australia’s booming northeast coast.

Mark Diesendorf, an ex-government scientist now based at the University of New South Wales (UNSW), has warned that the mining-rich nation faces the loss of natural heritage such as the Great Barrier Reef if the rampant development continues.

“We are greatly expanding coal mining, coal exports, coal seam gas production and other industries which are likely to have very huge impacts, not only on our environment but ultimately on our whole economic future,” said Diesendorf, deputy director of the UNSW Institute for Environmental Studies.

“It’s really a clash between long-term goals, which are sort of treated as political aspirations rather than real programmes, and what (the government) see as short-term necessities.”

UNESCO recently delivered a stark report on the Barrier Reef, warning it faced a downgrading of its World Heritage status due to an “unprecedented” local development boom.

Offshore gas and oil exploration, port expansions and increased ship traffic were some of the major threats outlined by UNESCO, along with run-off and climate change, which was warming the ocean and making it more acidic.

Ports on the Barrier Reef coast currently export 156 million tonnes of coal per annum (mtpa) and there are plans to expand that to 953 mtpa within the next decade.

UNESCO called for a ban on any new port works near the reef until 2015, saying the scale and pace of proposals “appear beyond the capacity for independent, quality and transparent decision making”.

There was an immediate backlash from the Queensland state government, which declared itself to be “in the coal business” and said it would not put the environment before economic development.

Australia’s Environment Minister Tony Burke condemned the remarks and said the government was “committed to ensuring the best possible protection and management” of the reef, which as the world’s largest coral reef system is a major tourist attraction.

But Burke also warned that he could not “take away the rights at law that applicants have” where approval bids for major mining and port projects were already underway, and said the largest would not come under the UNESCO ban.

“My view is you want (the coal) industry to be able to continue in a way that is sustainable,” the minister said last month.

“That means putting the right conditions around, that means making sure that it’s sensitive to the environment.”

In Diesendorf’s view the time has passed for strict conditions on development, and even a total crackdown may be too late.

“I can’t see us saving the Barrier Reef to be honest,” he said.

“If we really pulled out all stops, not just in Australia but around the world, we probably could save it. But it will likely come too late to stop some very serious impacts.”


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« Reply #7 on: Jul 13, 2012, 07:01 AM »

Work resumes at huge Amazon dam site

By Agence France-Presse
Thursday, July 12, 2012 22:37 EDT

RIO DE JANEIRO — Some 1,600 workers resumed work Thursday after 150 indigenous people agreed to end their three-week occupation of a construction site for a huge hydro-electric dam in the Brazilian Amazon.

“The chiefs of several tribes have agreed and the others have followed,” said Cleanton Ribeiro, a spokesman for the Indigenous Missionary Council in the nearby town of Altamira.

He said the natives have been waiting “for more than a year” for promises made by the public consortium Norte Energia, which is in charge of the Belo Monte project.

The activists, including members of the Xicrin, Juruna, Arara, Aweti, Assurini and Parakanawa tribes were demanding the presence of Norte Energia chief Carlos Nascimento.

After two days of hard-nosed negotiations, Nascimento pledged to “respect past commitments by respecting the culture of these peoples” affected by the construction of the dam across the Xingu River, a statement said.

Norte Energia notably agreed to build schools and health clinics for the indigenous people and to provide them with transport vehicles.

The consortium said it could not determine the financial loss caused by the work suspension, the longest since construction began a year ago.

Norte Energia says some 17 socio-economic and environmental projects worth $117 million have already been launched in the region.

The third largest dam in the world, the 11,200-megawatt Belo Monte is one of several hydro projects meant to provide Brazil with clean energy for its fast-growing economy.

Work began a year ago, despite fierce opposition from local people and green activists.

Indigenous groups fear the dam will harm their way of life while environmentalists have warned of deforestation, greenhouse gas emissions and irreparable damage to the ecosystem.

Belo Monte is expected to flood an area of 500 square kilometers (200 square miles) along the Xingu and displace 16,000 people, according to the government, although some NGOs put the number at 40,000 displaced.

The federal government plans to invest a total of $1.2 billion to assist the displaced, by the time the dam is completed in 2019.


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« Reply #8 on: Jul 14, 2012, 07:31 AM »

Brazil puzzled by 512 penguins found dead on beaches

By Agence France-Presse
Friday, July 13, 2012 19:30 EDT

RIO DE JANEIRO — More than 500 penguins have been found dead on beaches of Brazil’s southern Rio Grande do Sul state, authorities said Friday.

The Center of Coastal and Marine Studies (Ceclimar) said veterinarians were investigating the deaths of the 512 marine animals which beached on the coast between the towns of Tramandai and Cidreira, some 100 kilometers (60 miles) from the state capital, Porto Alegre.

Some 30 samples from the penguins were being analyzed at Porto Alegre University and results were to be released within a month, it added.

Ceclimar officials told Globo’s G1 website that veterinarians were puzzled by the large quantity of animals found and by the fact that they appeared well fed, not exhausted and without injuries or oil stains.

These Magellenic penguins, named after the Magallenes region in which they breed, mate in large colonies in southern Argentina and Chile.

They traditionally migrate north between March and September along the Rio Grande do Sul coast to head up to Sao Paulo.

Their diet consists mainly of small fish and marine crustaceans and their chief enemy is the southern sea lion.

Photo of Magellanic penguin by David [CC-BY-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons


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« Reply #9 on: Jul 14, 2012, 07:33 AM »

Brazilian species set for extinction even if Amazon deforestation halts

By Ian Sample, The Guardian
Friday, July 13, 2012 9:51 EDT

The destruction of great swaths of the Brazilian Amazon has turned scores of rare species into the walking dead, doomed to disappear even if deforestation were halted in the region overnight, according to a new study.

Forest clearing in Brazil has already claimed casualties, but the animals lost to date in the rainforest region are just one-fifth of those that will slowly die out as the full impact of the loss of habitat takes its toll. In parts of the eastern and southern Amazon, 30 years of concerted deforestation have shrunk viable living and breeding territories enough to condemn 38 species to regional extinction in coming years, including 10 mammal, 20 bird and eight amphibian species, scientists found.

The systematic clearance of trees from the Amazon forces wildlife into ever-smaller patches of ground.

Though few species are killed off directly in forest clearances, many face a slower death sentence as their breeding rates fall and competition for food becomes more intense.

Scientists at Imperial College, London, reached the bleak conclusion after creating a statistical model to calculate the Brazilian Amazon’s “extinction debt”, or the number of species headed for extinction as a result of past deforestation. The model draws on historical deforestation rates and animal populations in 50 by 50 kilometre squares of land.

It stops short of naming the species most at risk, but field workers in the region have drawn attention to scores of creatures struggling to cope with habitat destruction and other environmental threats.

White-cheeked spider monkeys, which feed on fruits high in the forest canopy, are endangered largely because of the expansion of farmland and road building. The population of Brazilian bare-faced tamarins has halved in 18 years, or three generations, as cities, agriculture and cattle ranching has pushed into the rainforest. The endangered giant otter, found in the slow-moving rivers and swamps of the Amazon, faces water pollution from agricultural runoff and mining operations in the area.

Writing in the journal Science, Robert Ewers and his co-authors reconstructed extinction rates from 1970 to 2008, and then forecast future extinction debts under four different scenarios, ranging from “business as usual” to a “strong reduction” in forest clearance, which required deforestation to slow down 80% by 2020.

“For now, the problem is along the arc of deforestation in the south and east where there is a long history of forest loss. But that is going to move in the future. We expect most of the species there to go extinct, and we’ll pick up more extinction debt along the big, paved highways which are now cutting into the heart of the Amazon,” Ewers told the Guardian from Belém, northern Brazil.

Under the “business as usual” scenario, where around 62 sq miles (160 sqkm) of forest are cleared each year, at least 15 mammal, 30 bird and 10 amphibian species were expected to die out locally by 2050, from around half of the Amazon. Under the most optimistic scenario, which requires cattle ranchers and soy farmers to comply with Brazilian environmental laws, the extinction debt could be held close to 38 species.

Ewers said the model reveals hotspots in the Brazilian Amazon where conservation efforts should be focused on the most vulnerable wildlife. “This shows us where we are likely to have high concentrations of species which are all in trouble, and that becomes a way for directing our conservation efforts. We are talking about an extinction debt. Those species are still alive, so we have an opportunity to get in there and restore the habitat to avoid paying that debt,” Ewers said.

The Brazilian Amazon is home to 40% of the world’s tropical forest and one of the most biodiverse regions on the planet. About 54% of the area is under environmental protection, and in the past five years, stricter controls and better compliance have driven deforestation rates down to a historical low.

The trend towards less deforestation might not last though. Under pressure from the financial crisis, the Brazilian government has proposed a rapid development programme in the Amazon to fuel the economy. The move foresees the construction of more than 20 hydroelectric power plants in the Amazon basin and an extensive push into the rainforest.

Environmentalists are further concerned about an overhaul to Brazil’s Forest Code, which is widely expected to weaken the protection of the rainforest, and potentially speed up deforestation once more, according to an accompanying article in Science by Thiago Rangel, an ecologist at the Federal University of Goiás in Brazil. “Extinction debts in the Brazilian Amazon are one debt that should be defaulted on,” he writes.

Reducing the rate that extinction debts build up is not enough to preserve the Amazon’s biodiversity, Rangel argues. “The existing debt may eventually lead to the loss of species. To prevent species extinctions, it is necessary to take advantage of the window of opportunity for forest regeneration. Restored or regenerated forests initially show lower native species richness than the original forests they replaced, but they gradually recover species richness, composition and vital ecosystems functions, reducing extinction debt and mitigating local species loss,” he writes.

© Guardian News and Media 2012


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« Reply #10 on: Jul 15, 2012, 07:09 AM »

Lemurs the world’s most threatened mammal: study

By Agence France-Presse
Saturday, July 14, 2012 10:01 EDT

Lemurs, the furry apes brought to fame by the Disney animation film “Madagascar”, are the most endangered mammals on Earth, an International Union for Conservation of Nature conference found.

An IUCN workshop met in Madagascar this week to discuss the world’s 103 lemur species as conservation deteriorates amid political turmoil that has lasted three years.

“Madagascar has, by far, the highest proportion of threatened species of any primate habitat region or any one country in the world. As a result, we now believe that lemurs are probably the most endangered of any group of vertebrates,” said primatologist Christoph Schwitzer, one of the conference organisers.

Over 90 percent of the world’s lemur species — found only on the Indian Ocean island — were upgraded to critically endangered, endangered, or vulnerable on the IUCN’s Threatened Species list.

The destruction of the primates’ tropical forest habitat and an upsurge in bushmeat hunting have depleted lemur numbers since conservation efforts broke down after a coup in 2009, the body said in a statement late on Friday.

“Following this coup, there has been a serious breakdown of protective measures, with two key protected areas in northern Madagascar, Masoala National Park and Marojejy National Park, both of them part of a UNESCO complex of World Heritage Sites.”

“Political uncertainty has increased poverty and accelerated illegal logging. Hunting of these animals has also emerged as a more serious threat than previously imagined,” it found.

The bush meat trade also affected tortoises and other species.

Madagascar’s lemurs represent 20 percent of all primates, concentrated in an area less than one percent of global land area where apes roam.

These include the world’s smallest primate at 30 grams, Madame Berthe’s mouse lemur, and the blue-eyed black lemur, the only ape species with blue eyes besides humans — both endangered.

Since 2000, 40 new lemur species have been discovered.


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« Reply #11 on: Jul 15, 2012, 09:11 AM »

I thought I'd share a link to a site that has some awesome photography that gives a visual message about what we are doing to our planet in relation to plastic bottles, garbage and cigarette butts.

http://bigblueorb.wordpress.com/plastic-planet/
« Last Edit: Jul 15, 2012, 09:16 AM by cat777 » Logged
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« Reply #12 on: Jul 16, 2012, 10:28 AM »

In the USA ..........

2012 Drought Rivals Dust Bowl

Nick Wiltgen     

The 2012 drought disaster is now the largest in over 50 years, and among the ten largest of the past century, according to a new report released by the National Climatic Data Center today.

As The Weather Channel reported in an exclusive preview of the report Sunday, data computed from the Palmer Drought Severity Index shows that 54.6 percent of the contiguous 48 states was in drought at the end of June, the highest percentage since December 1956, and the sixth-highest peak percentage on record.

The June State of the Climate drought report from NCDC, released today, shows that in records dating to 1895, only the extraordinary droughts of the 1930s and 1950s have covered more land area than the current drought.

And by a slight margin, the current drought actually covers more area than the famous 1936 drought, though other droughts in the Dust Bowl years – particularly the extreme drought of 1934 – still rank higher.

Background

However, when excluding areas in "moderate" drought, the historical rankings change a bit. Some historical droughts were extremely intense, but more focused on specific regions rather than sprawling across large swaths of the country.

For example, infamous droughts in 1988, 2000, and 2002 each included over 35% of the country in the "severe" to "extreme" drought categories on the Palmer drought scale.  By comparison, severe to extreme drought covers 32.7% in June 2012.

In short, the overall 2012 drought now covers more territory than any drought since the 1950s; but the more severe drought categories don't cover quite as much land now as did the droughts of 1988 and the early 2000s.

That being said, the 2012 drought still ranks as the 10th-largest severe drought since 1895, even by that stricter definition.

And with July typically being the hottest month of the year, the drought may yet worsen. Note that among the top ten largest "severe" droughts on record, five of them peaked in the months of July and August.

Different Drought Measures

In recent months, we have updated you on drought statistics from the U.S. Drought Monitor report. This weekly report is a collaboration between multiple government agencies that incorporates field reports, stream flows, soil moisture, snow pack, and other indicators to give a qualitative overview of drought conditions across the United States.

The Drought Monitor report debuted in 1999, and the period of detailed records began in January 2000.

One of the many inputs in the Drought Monitor report is the Palmer Drought Severity Index.

The weekly Palmer Drought Severity Index for July 14, 2012.   

This index, developed by meteorologist Wayne Palmer in the 1960s, uses mathematical equations incorporating precipitation and temperature data to estimate evaporation, runoff, and soil moisture recharge.

Since these are fixed mathematical formulas, they can be applied retroactively to historical data, and the NCDC maintains a database of monthly Palmer drought indices dating to 1895. Some researchers have even calculated Palmer drought indices for the U.S. and other countries as far back as 1870.

Because of this much longer period of record, the Palmer index can be used as more of an "apples to apples" comparison between recent weather conditions and those from past decades, at least on a meteorological basis.

That being said, differences in land use and farming practices since the Dust Bowl make the comparison of real-world impacts more complicated. Erosion-control practices and drought-resistant crop hybrids are just two examples of ways in which modern agriculture attempts to mitigate the impacts of severe drought.

The Weather Channel team of meteorologists is currently analyzing the newly-released NCDC report. Stay connected with weather.com and The Weather Channel for more details and expert analysis as this story develops.


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« Reply #13 on: Jul 17, 2012, 06:47 AM »

Tropical butterfly discovered in Quebec a sign of warming

By Agence France-Presse
Monday, July 16, 2012 15:41 EDT

Caterpillars belonging to a species of butterfly previously unknown as far north as Canada have been discovered in Montreal, in a sign that this country’s cool climate is warming, researchers said Monday.

The city’s botanical garden and insectarium said the giant swallowtail butterflies (Papilio cresphontes Cramer) were recently found for the first time on a prickly ash plant there.

“The butterfly’s arrival in Montreal is a very clear example of the impact of climate change,” said a statement.

“In recent decades, milder temperatures in Nordic zones have enabled it to survive the winter and colonize new habitats. Giant swallowtails have gradually moved into Quebec, and the first native chrysalises are about to undergo metamorphosis at the botanical garden any day now!”

Giant swallowtails normally live in Central and South America. Starting in the late 1990s, they began showing up in North America as far north as the southern tip of Canada.

While other butterfly species are also edging northward at a rate of 16 kilometers (10 miles) per decade, the giant swallowtail is moving into new habitats at a rate 15 times faster than average.

Its range now extends a full 400 kilometers (248.5 miles) into areas previously too inhospitable to support a viable population.

With a wingspan of up to 15 cm, or the size of a dinner plate, it is the largest butterfly in North America.


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« Reply #14 on: Jul 18, 2012, 06:13 AM »

July 17, 2012 03:00 PM

Mississippi Levels 'Absolutely Not Normal' After Drought

By Susie Madrak

When you see some of the crazy "issues" being raised in this presidential election instead of leadership on climate change, doesn't it make you want to scream? Not only are we going to have massive crop failures as a result of this ongoing drought, we aren't even able to ship the crops we have when shipping channels like the formerly-mighty Mississippi are drying up:

    Companies operating along the Mississippi River are seeing a drastic cut in business as severe drought lowers water levels and makes shipping increasingly difficult.The drought, which now covers more than 1,000 counties across the US, has dropped water levels 50 feet below last year’s levels in some places. Last winter’s lack of snow, the absence of any major tropical storms from the Gulf of Mexico, sweltering temperatures, and the lack of rain this spring and summer are to blame for the shallow water.

    The Mississippi is a major trade conduit through the central U.S. Barges, which are often cheaper to operate than trains or trucks, carry goods such as grain, corn, soybeans, steel, rubber, coffee, fertilizer, coal, and petroleum products in and out of the interior of the country.

    As the water levels fall, barges have run aground near Vicksburg, Mississippi, where the water is already less than 5 feet deep, and shipping companies have been forced to curtail their business. The Wall Street Journal reports:

        ‘It’s causing headaches all up and down the river system right now,’ said Martin Hettel, senior manager of bulk sales for AEP River Operations, a St. Louis-based barge company.Mark Fletcher, owner of Ceres Barge Line of East St. Louis, Ill., said about 70% of his 220 barges aren’t being used now. First, the drought cut crops, reducing demand for shipping. Now, low water levels are making it more costly to ship.

        ‘It’s not good if you are in the barge business right now,’ he said. ‘In the last 60 days, you’ve watched a whole lot of money go out the window.’

        Some river ports have been forced to close temporarily or shut down parts of their operations because of the low water levels. At the port of Rosedale in the Mississippi Delta, port director Robert Maxwell Jr. said water levels are about 50 feet below what they were last year, when flooding shut down the port. If the water falls any lower, there was a ‘high likelihood’ he would have to close, he said. One of the port’s public loading docks is inoperable, with equipment normally in the water now hanging the air. The Army Corps of Engineers is supposed to come this week to dredge, where heavy equipment is used to dig out sediment from waterways to make them passable for shipping.

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