Monthly Archives: October 2007

ECUADOR: CLIMATE CHANGE ENDANGERS CORAL IN GALAPAGOS

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BOSTON, Oct 19, 2007,– The inclusion of coral on the World Conservation Union’s Red List of Threatened Species 2007 is the first result of an ambitious marine life observation project concerned with global conservation.

The decision to add corals to the Red List was based on studies initiated a little more than a year ago by the Global Marine Species Assessment, a joint effort of the World Conservation Union and Conservation International.

Ten species of coral in Ecuador’s Galapagos Islands — two in critical danger of extinction and one that is considered vulnerable — have been included on the Red List, the most detailed guide to the global state of conservation — or decline — of plants and animals worldwide.

This is the first in a series of assessments and additions to the list focused on marine species around the world, said Kent Carpenter, the coordinator of the Global Marine Species Assessment, which is based in the biological sciences department of Old Dominion University in Virginia.

The Global Marine Species Assessment compiles information about all known species of vertebrates and a selection of invertebrates and plants. Then it adds this information to the World Conservation Union’s Species Information Service database.

The experts responsible for the project hope to have detailed data on the status of 20,000 marine species from around the world by 2010, thus enabling them to determine the relative risk of extinction of each one according to the Red List’s criteria and categories.

So far, there are just 1,530 marine species among the 41,415 flora and fauna species included on the Red List this year in the various categories, ranging from “extinct” to “not evaluated.” According to Global Marine Species Assessment scientists, sea life has not been adequately studied.

“The marine world has been relatively little studied and explored in comparison with land species,” said Stuart Banks, an oceanographer with the Charles Darwin Foundation, in an interview.

“The lack of assessment of marine species is due to the limited access to information, as well as logistical factors. Groups as important as seaweed and coral, which form productive environments, which sustain entire communities, have been very difficult to identify,” Banks said.

For Stefan Hain, the head of the Coral Reef Unit at the United Nations Environment Program, this has a simple explanation.

There is a phenomenon of “out of sight, out of mind” — “What you cannot see is very difficult to protect. It is much easier to follow the population of species on land because we can observe them directly,” he said in an interview for this report.

The Charles Darwin foundation provided data to the Global Marine Species Assessment and the World Conservation Union for the conservation of species in the Galpagos, and it has been fundamental in the evaluation of species added to the Red List.

The data for the first report on Galpagos corals were obtained by Carpenter and other researchers following a series of workshops and field studies carried out in the last year at the Charles Darwin Science Station, which is based in that Ecuadorian archipelago in the Pacific Ocean.

The Red List indicates that the floreana coral and Wellington’s solitary coral are critical endangered or at extremely high risk of extinction, and the Polycyathus isabela coral is vulnerable to extinction.

Coral reefs are formed by plates of calcium carbonate produced over thousands of years by tiny animals known as polyps. Coral algae and a vast array of flora and fauna live inside of them. The reefs are true communities that serve as host and habitat to one of every four marine species.

The report indicates that Ecuador’s corals have been particularly sensitive to temperature changes, primarily those related to the cyclical climate phenomenon known as El Nino, a warm current of surface water flowing from west to east across the Pacific. The 1982-1983 El Nino was particularly devastating.

According to Carpenter, global climate change is leading to the extinction of these species and a decline in their distribution in the world’s oceans.

The near disappearance of the floreana coral illustrates this threat. According to the report, 80 percent of it has been destroyed since the early 1980s, when its population was dispersed in six different areas of the Galpagos.

Furthermore, in the reefs of the tropical eastern Pacific there has been widespread bleaching of corals. The corals lose their color due to rising temperatures in the ocean and due to its declining salinity, Carpenter said.

Bleaching also occurs when the polyps are abandoned by the algae that feed them.

The health of coastal ecosystems is also affected by pollution and by fishing, which affect both the coral and the algae, because they have impacts on the entire food chain.

The Red List, which was presented Sept. 12, also assessed 74 algae of the Galpagos, 10 of them in critical danger and six possibly extinct.

According to Banks, the loss of species in the archipelago must be stopped through fisheries resource management and initiatives to ensure long-term sustainability.

“The most viable strategy is the implementation of measures to prevent factors like tourism and fishing from worsening the situation and compromising the natural recovery of these species,” he said.

But experts say the biggest challenge is to mitigate the effects of climate change on these especially vulnerable ecosystems.

“The question is how these ecosystems can adapt to the changes,” Banks said. In this aspect, the Galpagos are in a unique situation, like a socio-biological laboratory, with their multi-use reserve where “new measures could be learned for counteracting species loss.”

For Hain of the United Nations Environment Program, the main thing is “to make sure that the reefs are healthy and strong in order to cope with climate change.”

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Five Rare Critically Endangered Species Of Asiatic Lions Found Dead In India

 All Headline News

New Delhi, India (AHN) – Five rare Asiatic lions were found electrocuted Friday at India’s Gir National Park in western Gujarat state, the Wildlife Protection Society of India reports.

The recent death of lions was caused by an electrified fence that was put up illegally by a farmer to protect crops near the sanctuary. A total of 32 rare lions have died at a national park this year.

Belinda Wright, the society’s executive director told the AFP, “The Asiatic lion is one of the most critically endangered species on this planet and this added twist of so many lions being killed by electrocution… is a catastrophe.”

“Preliminary information suggests that the three lionesses and two cubs were electrocuted by a crop protection fence put up by a farmer near Dhari, Amreli district, in an area adjoining Gir National Park,” she said in a statement.

Eight lions killed by poaching, six electrocuted, five fallen into wells, one hit by a vehicle and 12 others found dead, the society said.

Police had arrested the farmer responsible for recent death. If convicted in building an unauthorized fence that killed animals, the farmer faces seven years in prison.

Asiatic lions were once common in many parts of Asia, but only about 350 are known to remain, all in Gujarat state of India.

Their bones and claws are highly prized in India for use in traditional Chinese medicine and amulets respectively.

The 560-square-mile sanctuary is the world’s only natural habitat for the lions. The Society is currently working closely with the enforcement authorities to curb the killing of lions by professional poachers.

 

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Gujjars Lose 12 Pet Species, 6 on Verge of Extinction: Study

Kashmir Observer

Srinagar, Oct 20 (KONS): Within the period of last 40 years the nomadic Gujjars and Bakerwals have lost one dozen of the rarest of rare traditional and indigenous species of sheep, goat, horses and dogs and almost half a dozen of rare native species considered most threatened in the world are at the verge of extinction in Himalayan belt of Jammu and Kashmir and Himachal Pradesh, a recent study made public today said.

The study, conducted by Tribal Research and Cultural Foundation, a national organization working on tribal affairs of India – reveals that the species which were distinctive with nomadic Gujjars and Bakerwals from the times immemorial have gradually been lost since 1968 when Indian Council for Agricultural Research, New Delhi ( ICAR) under Ministry of Agriculture , Government of India, introduced certain foreign origin breeds in the state, adding this was done in order to get maximum yield in terms of wool, mutton and other viable benefits and is continues till date.

Releasing the study, Dr Javaid Rahi, the national secretary of Tribal Research and Cultural Foundation said that it is unfortunate that the planners while introducing the cross breeds among the livestock of nomads have not plan to preserved the native and indigenous species of the livestock of the Gujjars and Bakerwals in any pocket of the Himalayan belt.

The study reveals that among the traditional species of sheep, Ghidord Phamphri, Punchi Bakerwali, Bani and Karnahi have already vanished while in the goat species Gurziya , Belori, Lamdi, and Goodri, species have already been extinct.

In the horse breeds Yarkandi (Bakerwali), Nukra and Bharssi horse species have do not exist any more.

Study further reveals that in goat species, Kaghani , Lubdi and Kilan species are at the verge of extinction while as the Jaskardi, Kaliani and other rare species of horses are also at the verge of extinction.

The Gujjars and Bakerwals of Himalayan belt have lost almost all the native species of Sheep and presently they have only foreign Australian an Merino species of sheep are available in the livestock. The study further reveals that the Bhrokpa, Changpa and Dard tribes of Ladakh are lucky enough as their traditional species of their livestock are still preserved in remote pockets of Shivalik area of Himalayan belt.

“Most of Gujjars and Bakerwals who are unhappy with the present state of affairs in respect of cross breeding of their livestock wish to switch over to their traditional breeds but such species do not exist anywhere in the Himalayan belt of India.” Rahi said.

It is astonishing that no genetic study has been ever conducted to preserved the distinct characteristics of the primitive traditional species of the livestock of Gujjars and Bakerwals and without the knowledge of consequences, such species have lost their existence, the study said .

“It is a world wide phenomena that the government institutions preserve the genres of rarest of rare species and the same has been done in respect of Australia , Canada, USA, UK, USSR and brazil where besides introducing cross breeds the traditional species have also been preserved and where cross breed does not work or is not viable in terms of climate or commercial benefits, they switch back to original species and thus safeguard the interests of the people connected with livestock . The same has not been in case of Himalayan States of India , by ICAR .

In same difficult areas of the Himalayan Region some of the foreign origin breeds have almost failed to deliver the required results and in the meanwhile the rarest rare of species which were for mountainous and cold regions of the area have been finished to take the place, said the study.

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Resort Threatens Last 100 Grenada Doves

 Plenty mag

It sucks to be a country’s national symbol. Around the world, the plants, birds and animals that many nations call their national symbols are, ironically, at risk. The US managed to save the bald eagle, but other species, such as New Zealand’s kiwi, could soon face extinction. Now comes news that Grenada’s national symbol, the critically endangered Grenada Dove, could be wiped out so Four Seasons can build a big resort.

With less than 100 Grenada Doves left, every bird counts. The dove has only one major nesting ground, in a 155-acre national park which was created to protect the species. Unfortunately, last April, Grenada’s government approved an amendment which allows them to sell off their national parks to any private interest.

That amendment makes it possible for developers to destroy as much as half of the dove’s previously protected national park so they can build a luxury resort for the Four Seasons chain. The American Bird Conservancy submitted a critique of the development plans, along with a plan to help protect the dove, but the developers have completely ignored them and are moving ahead, un-phased and unchallenged.

So yes, we may soon be saying good-bye forever to Grenada’s national symbol. But hey, at least Grenada will get a new golf course out of it.

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Half of life could go extinct by century’s end, warn eminent biologists

Africa Online

In “fireside chat” at Yale University on Wednesday, prominent naturalists Edward O. Wilson and Peter H. Raven predicted dire consequences for the planet’s biodiversity and habitability unless current trends in consumption and environmental degradation are reversed. The two scientists were awarded the Addison Emery Verrill Medal by the Peabody Museum of Natural History for their contributions to natural science before a capacity crowd at Yale’s Sprague Hall. Both are known for their environmental activism as well as extensive research and popular writing.

Wilson, known for his contributions to island biogeography as well as the controversial field of sociobiology, said that humans—like all earth species—are adapted to this world. But most people have the dangerous attitude that this world is “a waystation for a better world”, warned Wilson. Humans could cause the extinction of half of all species by the end of the next century, he stated.

The event was billed as a debate between the two scientists, but they found little to disagree about. (Raven quipped that he did not care for Wilson’s tie, the extent of their disagreement for the evening.) Raven pointed to unsustainably high levels of consumption, especially in the United States, that will lead to ecological disaster if left unchecked. Levels of consumption have to be cut drastically, he argued. But Wilson claimed that it would be possible to maintain and even improve quality of life even while significantly reducing the population’s ecological footprint. Current models, he said, predict that human population will peak at around 9 billion, and that “if we use what we have” intelligently, the world could be a sustainable paradise by the 22nd century.

Raven and Wilson both argued for the compatibility of religious and environmentalist viewpoints. According to the second chapter of Genesis, said Raven, man was put on the earth in order to preserve it. Wilson said that we need to “form an alliance” to save life on earth—an alliance including both religious and non-religious people—and that one can be a “conservative right-wing Christian” and an environmentalist. His recent work, including the Encyclopedia of Life, has focused on creating such an alliance.

The most important thing, Raven said, is to expose children to nature. Invoking the argument of Rachel Carson’s 1965 A Sense of Wonder, Raven said that children between the ages of 4 and 10 are extremely impressionable, and that teaching them to appreciate the natural world will be the most effective way to ensure environmental consciousness in the next generation. But although Raven was a naturalist from a young age, he said that he “didn’t give a thought to conservation” while in graduate school in the 1950s. Carson’s 1962 book on the dangers of pesticides, Silent Spring, was Raven’s introduction to dangers of environmental degradation. Wilson also emphasized Carson’s legacy for the environmental movement; he proudly noted that Carson biographer Linda Lear had recently called him the “only surviving person who actually helped Rachel Carson” put together Silent Spring.

Raven and Wilson were only the 16th and 17th, respectively, to receive the Verrill Medal, which is the highest honor awarded by the Peabody Museum. Before a sympathetic crowd, Wilson tactfully avoided any mention of his own institution, Yale’s rival Harvard.

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Too late to save coral species: researchers

Australian Broadcasting Corporation

Australia’s leading researchers on coral say many species will become extinct over the next 50 years.

A conference in Fremantle has looked at the effects of global warming on marine life, and specifically the effects of rising sea temperatures and acid levels.

Conference participant Doctor Bruce Russell from the Northern Territory’s Department of Natural Resources says the impact of global warming on coral is now irreversible.

“There’s not a lot we can do, but we can mitigate the effects by reducing other impacts that are likely to affect coral – for example coastal development, increased sediment loads, and the like.”

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Seven Years To Stop Amazon Deforestation

Sietchblog – The Naib

The IPCC says we have 8 years to stop global warming, and now Greenpeace and nine non-governmental organizations, say we have 7 years to stop deforestation in the Amazon. These groups have launched a proposal for a national agreement to end Amazon deforestation at an event attended by the Brazilian Minister of Environment and State Governors. The proposal aims to achieve a broad commitment from sectors of the Brazilian government and civil society for measures to ensure urgent protection for the Amazon rainforest.

“As we launch this initiative, the forests in the Amazon are being slashed and burned. This has to end. We show that it can end if political will, financing and conservation efforts work in a co-ordinated manner” said Greenpeace Amazon Campaign Co-ordinator Paulo Adario.

“Protecting the world’s remaining forests will significantly reduce climate change, maintain the livelihood of millions of people who depend on the forest and protect a huge amount of the world’s biodiversity” he said.

The proposal, entitled the ’Agreement on Acknowledging the Value of the Forest and Ending Amazon Deforestation’ shows that adopting a system of reduction targets could end deforestation in the Amazon by 2015.

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