Monthly Archives: August 2007

UK’s Biodiversity in Crisis

 Plentymag

1,149 British plant and animal species need special protection, according to the UK Biodiversity Action Plan, which this week released its updated list of priority species and habitats.

The revised list — now containing twice as many species as it did ten years ago — contains such iconic British creatures as the hedgehog, house sparrow and harvest mouse, as well as more than 20% of all British bird species.

The Plan “will be used to decide which species and habitats should be targeted for conservation work in an effort to halt the loss of biodiversity by 2010,” according to a report in The Times.

The Action Plan actually has a good track record. Since it was first initiated 12 years ago, 123 species have rebounded well enough to be removed from the priority conservation list.

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An environmental group plans the largest ever legal action in the history of the Endangered Species Act.

Mongabay

An environmental group plans the largest ever legal action in the history of the Endangered Species Act.

Wednesday the Center for Biological Diversity said it would sue the Department of the Interior over 55 endangered species in 28 states and seek restoration of 8.7 million acres of protected habitat stripped by government actions.

“This is the biggest legal challenge against political interference in the history of the Endangered Species Act,” said Kieran Suckling, policy director of the Center for Biological Diversity. “It puts the Bush administration on trial at every level for systematically squelching government scientists and installing a cadre of political hatchet men in positions of power.”

The group says that many of the decisions were engineered by former Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Interior Julie MacDonald, who resigned in following a embarrassing investigation by the inspector general of misconduct at the Department of the Interior. MacDonald was accused of overruling of scientific experts and allowing industry lobbyists to illegally review internal documents.

“The Bush administration has tried to keep a lid on its growing endangered species scandal by scapegoating Julie MacDonald,” said Suckling, “but the corruption goes much deeper than one disgraced bureaucrat. It reaches into the White House itself through the Office of Management and Budget. By attacking the problem systematically through this national lawsuit, we will expose just how thoroughly the distain for science and for wildlife pervades the Bush administration’s endangered species program.”

Among the 55 species in the legal filing are the marbled murrelet (CA, OR, WA), Florida manatee (SC to TX), Arctic grayling (MT), West Virginia northern flying squirrel (WV), California least tern (CA), brown pelican (LA, TX, PR, VI), California red-legged frog (CA), arroyo toad (CA), Mexican garter snake (AZ), piping plover (NC to TX), snowy plover (CA, OR, WA) and Preble’s jumping meadow mouse (CO, WY).

California had the most affected species with 24, followed by Texas (16) and New Mexico (9).

The Center for Biological Diversity says that in many of the cases, “government and university scientists carefully documented the editing of scientific documents, overruling of scientific experts, and falsification of economic analyses.”

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Signs indicate life on earth is facing a new mass extinction

 From Weird News.

 Carboniferous-Permian geological history is the most critical period

Carboniferous and Permian is the final two Paleozoic century, representatives from 354 million years ago to 252 million years ago the historical stage. Carboniferous-Permian the lithosphere, hydrosphere, atmosphere and biosphere evolution are in a very crucial stage of evolution. Geological history of north-south pole of the pan-continent during this period due to large-scale activities to form plate; Carboniferous-Permian also occurred early largest glacier; Carboniferous history of the Earth is also the largest-scale carbon burial period, the rest of the world at present a large number of coal mining resources in that period formed.

Carboniferous-Permian was a world full of vigor, biological species very busy, biodiversity than any time before, in a fairly long period of time to maintain stability and prosperity in the forests there were even two-meter-long wings of dragonflies. Marine life during this period is very busy. However, in the late Permian geological period, the largest of biological extinction events.

CAS Nanjing Institute of Geology and Paleontology researcher Shen Shuzhong in an interview with reporters, said that attending the “16th International Carboniferous-Permian geological conference,” Chinese and foreign scientists, in the Carboniferous-Permian biological evolution and the environment with the theme around the Carboniferous-Permian JI biota and climate change, isotope geochemistry and geology biology, sedimentology and stratigraphy, high-resolution integrated biological stratigraphy, the end of the Permian mass extinction and environmental background, “gold nail” with the global comparison, the Earth time system of extensive discussions and exchange views.

In recent years, China end of the Permian mass extinction in the sea and continental strata record, as reflected in the model, the Carboniferous-Permian flora and ancient climate evolution of the Carboniferous-Permian the “gold nail” and high-resolution stratigraphic correlation, Quantitative paleontology and stratigraphy research by foreign experts to the concerns . By the late 0800-gan led by the International Working Group to establish a China Lopingian represented by international standards, the Upper Permian most two “golden nails” were nailed on Changxing Meishan in Zhejiang and Guangxi in Penglai profile guests around Meishan section Zhejiang end of the Permian mass extinction research has made the world attention achievements.

As the Carboniferous-Permian, and the importance of research achievements in recent years, the Nanjing Institute of Geology and Paleontology of the Late Paleozoic group formed by the State Natural Science Fund Committee, the outstanding innovation groups, groups several members of the international Carboniferous and Permian stratigraphy branch of the Election Committee members, international Carboniferous-Permian related research played a substantial role.

Super extinction

Extinction of biological taxa is unable to adapt to environmental changes and to survive, life is the history of endless natural events, competition among species, and natural selection led to the extinction of the conventional rate of extinction. But some large numbers of biological groups in a short time away, but the whole world, and lead to a sudden cluster of extinction, paleontologists have been called mass extinction. Since Precambrian biological outbreak since there were five major extinctions, which occurred in ancient at the turn of the Mesozoic, that is the end of the Permian mass extinction, the largest of biological development of the most profound impact.

CAS Nanjing Institute of Geology and Paleontology 0800-gan academicians wrote : “This is a super extinction, the diversity of marine life down to below one-tenth of the original ecosystem has been completely updated, as the Paleozoic and Mesozoic pillar, and all other extinctions are far from it and Great extinction, nor biological evolution process in such a major turning point. ”

Long time, the mystery of the extinction of dinosaurs has been featured, in fact, since the late 18th century, scientists around the world have not only studied the extinction of dinosaurs true, the first study to or after the extinction of dinosaurs to extinction of other events. Although the extinction of dinosaurs to the theory of evolution had a tremendous impact, but compared to those living in the Carboniferous-Permian biological, the dinosaur extinction event is not the most “tragic”.

“Geological period, the largest-scale extinction events occurred in the late Permian, the statistics show that on the Earth, and more than 90% of marine species and 75% of land species in all this period of extinction.” Shen Shuzhong said.

The end of the Permian, corals, dragonflies calcareous sponges, brachiopods, trilobites, such as fixing the sea, feeding the passive category of extinction or have a large number of abatement, reef ecosystem collapse, burying carbon stop. The terrestrial species, the Carboniferous-Permian flora ferns mainly to the coastal swamp forest zone formation, but to the rapid demise of the late Permian, miniature plants to replace. Four-footed vertebrate animals in there Late Carboniferous, Permian quickly become the most representative of terrestrial animals, in the Late Permian who had up to 5 ~ 6 meters, like mammals reptiles — beast Hole. But by the end of the Permian, 63% of the four-footed rapid extinction of the Branch.

Mystery extinction

Scientists from the current available information, the end of the Permian mass extinction in a very short period of time of rapid, then what is destroying the Permian prosperous populations?

The current mass extinction due to a combination of different explanations, no one recognized the unanimous view. A more generally accepted view that the late Permian and may frequent eruption of the volcano. Geological evidence shows that the late Permian mass volcanic eruptions, the Earth’s surface at that time there were several volcanic eruptions, including Siberia and the south China region. Volcanic eruptions have large amounts of toxic gas, the release of large amounts of carbon dioxide, the greenhouse gas, a result of plant and animal extinction.

Research has also found that the mass extinction strata containing sulfur rich minerals, suggesting volcanic eruptions releasing large amounts of hydrogen sulfide gas, followed by acid rain, pollution of the ancient oceans, causing massive extinction of marine life. In addition, some people think the end of the Permian there was similar to the end of the Cretaceous celestial impact, the impact sites may be located in Western Australia, causing instantaneous death of a large number of biological, but such reasoning was lack of sufficient evidence.

Currently, scientists on this important historical events are the causes, mechanisms, and the environment at the time, the whole process of renewal time is not very clear, all these comments have been no sufficient evidence to prove that the end of the Permian mass extinction reason is a mystery. The well-known American scientist Douglas Irvine put the end of the Permian mass extinction described as “Oriental Express on the murder case,” that there are many different factors working together caused the end of the Permian mass extinction events.

Mankind is witnessing a new mass extinction?

Studies have shown : mass extinction, without exception, by the Global Environment arising from the severe deterioration. In recent years, due to increased human activities on the ecological environment has continued to worsen, endangered and extinct species growing to the global biodiversity poses a serious consequences, as well as a threat to the survival of mankind itself. This has caused people to doubt the planet is facing a “sixth mass extinction events?”

The recently published in “Nature” magazine says the article, 50 years later, more than 100 million land-based biological disappear from the planet. The International Federation of natural resources to protect the “2004 Global Species investigation” revealed : a global Earth more than 15,000 species of endangered species, the rate of extinction than any time in the past. Scientists have discovered that human activities causing the extinction of species extinction than natural high-speed 1,000 times per hour, have a species to extinction.

According to a conservative estimate that the current annual extinction on Earth about 30,000 species, such prehistoric extinction rate than normal (annual extinction of about three species), nearly 10,000 times faster, far more than any large prehistoric extinctions. Five major extinction by prehistoric strength and size, there are scholars who believe the current biosphere has entered a “sixth extinction” period and that the only real modern human face mass extinction process. Biological and environmental development not only aroused extensive public concern, has become a hot research scientists.

Carboniferous to Permian from both biological evolution and climate conditions at that time and so on are all at a relatively stable stage, but a time of the late Permian, the environment has been deteriorating. Such sudden changes What is the mechanism? Now the scientific community is unclear. Some scientists have proposed that the Earth’s ecological environment and the climate system, such as the rapid reduction of biodiversity, acid rain frequency, the overall deterioration of the environment, the greenhouse effect, etc., in the late Permian and environmental conditions comparable to a certain extent, it is necessary for us to attach great importance to mankind.

With the lives of the Earth, and biological environment has become a mutual restraint, mutual promotion of the Community. The Earth’s environment to create a life, to promote the development of life-changing social environment. The geological period some major life changes directly with the major global changes linked, but significant period of global change biology and the environment appear most clearly period. All the signs indicate that the earth is facing today a new twist to the Earth, environmental degradation, biodiversity dramatic reduction is a serious threat to human survival and sustainable development of natural resources. The mass extinction of the study is to explore not only the extinction model, but more importantly out of our own care. Mankind is witnessing.

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Rare Japanese Wildcat Edging Closer to Extinction

Tony McNicol in Tokyo
for National Geographic News

August 29, 2007

Cars, hotel development, and the threat of a deadly frog fungus are pushing one of the world’s rarest wildcats closer to extinction, conservationists warn.

This month Japan‘s Ministry of the Environment reclassified the Iriomote cat as “critically endangered” on the government’s Red List of threatened species.

Iriomote cat picture

This change in status is the latest indication of the dire predicament facing the unusual feline, experts say.

The wildcat is found only on Iriomote Jima, a tiny, tropical, mountainous island on the southern end of the Ryukyu archipelago, which stretches from Japan to Taiwan .

The Iriomote cat has been considered at-risk since it was discovered in 1967, and surveys in 1985 and 1994 estimated that only about a hundred animals remain.

Now a three-year survey, still in progress, is providing evidence that the cat’s already small population is shrinking, researchers say, most likely due to habitat loss and road-kill deaths.

“If we think about how to stop destruction of the cat’s habitat, prevent traffic accidents, and take other measure we can stop the extinction,” said Masako Izawa, a professor at the University of the Ryukyus who has been studying the cat since 1982.

“The reclassification to ‘critically endangered’ is a warning.”

Road Kill

About the size of a large house cat, the Iriomote cat has a long, dusky brown pelt that helps it blend in to its jungle surroundings.

The feline was originally considered a unique species, but recent DNA studies have suggested that it might be a subspecies of the Southeast Asian leopard cat.

The cat likely arrived on Iriomote Jima when the island was joined to the Asian continent about 200,000 years ago. Due to the small available range, the wildcat has probably never numbered more than a few hundred animals.

The animal favors lowland coastal areas, and much of its habitat runs from the northern to the southeastern part of the island.

But this same region is also home to most of the island’s 2,318 human residents.

Izawa said she has no doubts about the most serious threat to the cat’s survival: the destruction and fragmentation of its habitat by humans.

People first settled on the island shortly after World War II. Over the last decade the human population has increased by a fifth, while the number of tourists has almost tripled since 1990 to current counts of more than 350,000 visitors a year.

Although Iriomote Jima only has a single main road, that highway runs along the northern coast—straight through the nocturnal feline’s habitat.

Forty-one road-kill deaths have been recorded since 1978, most of which happen at night when the cat hunts.

To make the road safer for the animals, part of it has been designated an “eco-road,” with warning signs for drivers and no less than 80 special underpasses meant for the cats to use when crossing.

Since 1995 the Iriomote Wildlife Conservation Center has operated a clinic on the island to look after ill and injured cats. To date 12 cats have been taken in and 4 successfully released back into the wild.

The center also tries to safeguard the cat’s varied prey.

At the top of the island food chain, the Iriomote cat eats everything from small mammals to birds, lizards, snakes, fruit bats, crickets, and crabs. And unusually for a cat, it also hunts frogs.

That is why scientists are deeply concerned about the risk from chytrid fungus, a deadly frog disease first reported in Japan near Tokyo late last year.

If the fungus reaches the island, it could have a catastrophic effect on the frog population with correspondingly severe consequences for the Iriomote cat.

Conservationists have laid out disinfectant mats in the island’s ports, and a poster and flier campaign is underway to warn residents and visitors of the danger.

The wildlife center is also working to keep out poisonous cane toads, an invasive foreign species that has already reached nearby islands in the Ryukyus.

Public Perception

But the Iriomote cat is still on the decline, and there is no end in sight to the problem of habitat destruction.

Despite opposition from conservationists, a new hotel with room for 423 guests was built and opened in July 2004.

“In the present situation we are not able to do much to limit the increase and are concerned the island will be overexploited,” said Maki Okamura, a scientist at the Iriomote Wildlife Conservation Center.

Iriomote is in Japan’s poorest region, and many islanders are keen to increase tourism as well as bolster local agriculture.

“The most difficult and important thing is gaining the understanding of the islanders on the need to protect the cat,” Okamura said.

“At times the island’s development and the cat’s protection are directly opposed.”

Extending reserves is one option, Izawa of the University of the Ryukyus said. But, she noted, the cat already shares much of its main habitat with islanders, tourists, and vehicles.

“Reserves are not the solution for all problems. We need some regulation or management by government for the development for tourism.”

Both Okamura and Izawa stress that it is still too early to think about captive breeding, saying that the first priority should be efforts to protect the cat in the wild.

“Hopefully,” Okamura said, “the reclassification to critically endangered will help to increase awareness that the cat is facing extinction.”

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Red kite found shot dead in Wicklow

The Irish Times

Efforts to revive Ireland’s once extinct red kite population have been dealt a blow after a bird released in the Wicklow mountains was found shot dead, it was revealed today.

The bird, set free six weeks ago with 29 other kites, had been hit with shotgun pellets and was found on farmland north of Arklow yesterday.

Gardaí are investigating the killing which is believed to have happened between Sunday and yesterday.

Kites are protected under the Wildlife Act and have also been awarded the highest level of protection under European law.

The Golden Eagle Trust (GET), which is managing the project with the National Parks and Wildlife Service and the Welsh Kite Trust, said the loss was a major blow.

“Obviously, after all the hard work and support for the project in Wicklow, nationally and in Wales, it is very worrying to recover a shot kite so soon after they have been released,” GET project manager Damian Clarke said. “But I must stress that the level of support from all the local farmers, landowners and local gun clubs and shooting syndicates has been excellent.”

Red kites were driven to extinction in Ireland from shooting, trapping and poisoning even though they pose no threat to either game birds or livestock. Kites have a wingspan of up to 1.8m but with weak beaks and claws they are not powerful predators and feed mostly on carrion in the winter and small mammals, crows, insects and worms.

“We hope that all landowners can advise people shooting on their property that red kites must be left unmolested. These species are fully protected by the law and it is illegal to shoot red kites, by mistake or otherwise,” Mr Clarke said. “It is very unfortunate that we should recover a shot kite during National Heritage week – it once again highlights the importance that everyone needs to play a role in protecting Ireland’s natural and cultural Heritage.”

The red kite programme is one of three schemes to return previously extinct birds of prey to the Irish skies. Pairs of golden eagles have been released in Donegal and one set have bred successfully while in Co Kerry sea eagles have been returned to parkland around Killarney.

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Yet Another Noah’s Ark to Save 500 Frog Species from Extinction

Green Diary 

Be it directly connected to global warming or sexual reproduction, the alarmingly spreading deadly fungal disease, killing amphibians across the world is getting worrisome for scientists.

Do you know, between one-third and one-half of the world’s nearly 6,000 species of amphibians could eventually go extinct within the next just 50 years? Grim figures postulated by scientists assert that more than 170 species have gone extinct in last 26 years!

So, as last-ditch efforts in saving the world’s most threatened frogs from extinction, experts are bidding to find an alternative solution – by housing 500 individual frogs from each 500 species in a bio-secure facility – Amphibian Ark, rightly coined after the ‘Noah’s Ark.’

And to help make the project necessarily successful, public interest in the campaign is a must, especially, the zoos, botanical gardens, and aquariums that can play a vital role in the effort, by serving as breeding grounds for the endangered species.

With this in mind, they have declared 2008 “The Year of the Frog.”

The money from the campaign will be invested in training, capacity building, and setting up facilities for protecting the species.

Hope, this modern-day “Noah’s Ark” will prove an effective paradigm for several conservation projects.

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Experts mull fate of Indonesia’s elephants, tigers

Radio Australia 

More than 100 experts and officials are meeting in Indonesia to draft a plan to save Sumatran elephants and tigers from extinction.

Satellite images show large areas of their habitat, lowland tropical forests have been destroyed by farming and logging.

This has led to conflicts with humans, resulting in the deaths of 42 people and 100 elephants between 2002 and 2007.

The three-day meeting in the Sumatran city of Padang, is attended by about 120 local and international delegates.

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