Monthly Archives: July 2010

World’s largest freshwater fish face extinction threat

HINDUSTAN TIMES

The survival of some of the world’s largest freshwater fish – including a giant catfish – is threatened by a series of hydro-power dams planned for the Mekong River, a leading environmental group has warned. The construction of a particular dam in northern Laos would disrupt the migration of four

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of the world’s top 10 largest freshwater species to crucial spawning grounds, the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) has said.

In its report “River Giants: Giant Fish of the Mekong”, WWF said the catfish that grow up to 350 kg and freshwater stingray that can weigh in at 600 kg, would be threatened with extinction if the plans go-ahead, says a Telegraph report.

China has already completed four hydro-power dams on the Mekong, while another 11 are being built or planned in Laos, Thailand and Cambodia. Other smaller dams are proposed along its tributaries.

The Mekong is south-east Asia’s longest river, rising in Tibet and flowing through southern China, Burma, Laos, Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam before reaching the South China Sea.

But WWF’s most pressing concern in the hydropower plant planned for Sayabouly province, in Laos, which boasts ambitious plans to supply power to south-east Asia in an effort to become the “battery” of the region.

The elusive giant catfish swims from Cambodia’s Tonle Sap Lake up the Mekong to breed in Laos and northern Thailand.

“A fish the size of a Mekong giant catfish simply will not be able to swim across a large barrier like a dam to reach its spawning grounds upstream,” said Roger Mollot, a freshwater biologist for WWF in Laos.

Yet the river plays also host to many unique fish including the vast stingray – the world’s biggest freshwater fish – a giant barb and dog-eating catfish, so-called because of its passion for dog carcasses.

“More giant fish live in the Mekong than any other river on earth,” said Dang Thuy Trang, co-ordinator for WWF’s Greater Mekong Programme.

“Currently, the lower Mekong remains free-flowing, which presents a rare opportunity for the conservation of these species, but the clock is ticking.”

The plans for the new dam are currently under scrutiny by the Mekong River Commission – an international body made up of Thailand, Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam. But WWF is urging it to veto the plan on the grounds of its effects on the wildlife, fishing and agriculture in the region.

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Thousands of undiscovered plant species face extinction

XINHUA

LOS ANGELES, July 7 (Xinhua) — Thousands of rare flowering plant species worldwide may become extinct before scientists can even discover them, according to a new research.

The joint research by American and British scientists cited habitat loss and climate change as threats to the species.

They used novel methods to refine the estimate of total species for flowering plants, and calculate how many of those remain undiscovered.

Their findings were published on Wednesday in the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B.

“Scientists have estimated that, overall, there could be between five million and 50 million species, but fewer than two million of these species have been discovered to date,” said lead author Lucas Joppa of Microsoft Research in Cambridge, Britain, who received his doctorate from Duke University earlier this year.

Based on data from the online World Checklist of Selected Plant Families at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Britain, the scientists calculated that there are between 10 and 20 percent more undiscovered flowering plant species than previously estimated.

It is estimated that between 27 percent and 33 percent of all flowering plants will be threatened with extinction if taking into consideration of the number of species that are currently known to be threatened and those that are yet to be discovered, the researchers noted.

“The year 2010 is the International Year of Biodiversity. We wrote the paper to help answer the obvious questions: How much biodiversity is out there, and how many species will we lose before they are even discovered?” said co-author Stuart Pimm, Doris Duke Professor of Conservation Ecology at Duke’s Nicholas School of the Environment.

This finding has “enormous conservation implications, as any as- yet-unknown species are likely to be overwhelmingly rare and threatened,” Joppa said.

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Flowers may soon be extinct

HINDUSTAN TIMES

More than one in four of all flowering plants are under threat of extinction, according to a report by scientists. Many of nature’s most colourful specimens could be lost to the world before scientists even discover them, say the researchers, whose work was published on Wednesday in the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B. The

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ults reflect similar global studies of other species groups by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN), which estimates that one  in five of all mammals, nearly one in three amphibians and one in eight birds are at risk of being wiped out.

Later this year the results of a huge global analysis by the Royal Botanic Gardens, in Kew, west London, of all the world’s estimated 400,000 plants are due to be published by the IUCN as part of its mission to assess the state of all life on Earth. The researchers reviewed how many flowering plants — which make up most of the plant kingdom — exist.

The team calculated that on top of the existing ‘best estimate’ of 352,282 flowering plants there are another 10-20 per cent, or 35,000-70,000, still to be officially discovered. The second stage of their research was to assess the level of threats from habitat loss.

The warning comes amid growing international recognition of the practical value of the natural world.

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More protection needed for wildlife or species will disappear: report

WINNIPEG FREE PRESS

OTTAWA – Canadian wildlife needs more protection or species will disappear, warns a report released Friday.

The report by the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society says bigger, better-managed parks — and more of them — are needed if they are to fulfil their critical role in protecting wildlife.

“In spite of our existing parks system, overall the news about Canada’s biodiversity is not great,” says the report. “There are over 500 species listed as at risk of extinction, and the list is growing.

“The majority of species at risk of extinction in Canada are at risk because of a lack of adequate protection for their habitats. Every effort must be made to combat this trend.”

Governments can do that, says the report, by creating more and bigger parks and protected areas, connecting them to enable wildlife movement, and focusing on healthy ecosystems and wildlife.

The review “How is Wildlife Faring in Canada’s Parks?” argues that parks are a cornerstone of Canada’s efforts to protect biodiversity — the variety of flora and fauna that make up an ecosystem.

It is the group’s third annual review of parks to mark Canada Parks Day, July 17. It’s focused on biodiversity this year because the United Nations declared 2010 the International Year of Biodiversity.

“In Canada we have one of the best opportunities left in the world to create big parks that can protect species that need large areas of wilderness to survive — before those species get in trouble,” said the group’s executive director, Eric Hebert-Daly.

While it praises government efforts over the last year to create new parks, particularly Gwaii Haanas National Marine Conservation Area off the B.C. coast, the group recommends a range of measures, including creating and expanding parks, maintaining movement corridors, restricting development and limiting recreational activities.

“Where wildlife species are thriving as part of healthy ecosystems within our parks, such as grizzly bears in Alberta’s Willmore Wilderness Park, the parks generally protect large areas of habitat, and there are strict limits on such human activities as road-building, mechanized-vehicle use and commercial and industrial developments.

“Where species are in trouble within our parks, such as moose in Manitoba’s Nopiming Provincial Park, the problems are often human-caused and require management actions to be fixed.”

The report also says reintroduction of species after they have disappeared from specific areas can help their overall recovery from the brink of extinction and restore parks’ natural biodiversity.

Among other vulnerable species protected by parks: the Ipswich savannah sparrow of Sable Island, N.S.; the black dogfish of the Laurentian Channel of the Gulf of St. Lawrence; and the eastern wolf of Ontario’s Algonquin Park.

Among those facing uncertainty, the report says, are the little brown bat in the Fisher Bay area of Lake Winnipeg, Man.; the northern gannet of Atlantic Canada; and New Brunswick’s American marten.

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Pacific bird species face extinction threats

RADIO AUSTRALIA NEWS

A new report says a quarter of the world’s birds facing extinction are from the Pacific region.

BirdLife International has presented the Important Bird Areas in the Pacific report to the Secretartiat of the South Pacific Regional Environment Programme in Apia.

The four year study lists endangered birds in Australia, Fiji, French Polynesia, Palau, New Caledonia, New Zealand and Samoa.

A study is also under-way on endangered bird life in the Cook Islands.

Altogether there are 190 birds on the critically endangered list and 44 of those are in the Pacific region.

“Many of the problems that exist in the Pacific are exacerbated because the islands are very small, the habitat is very fragmented, and very vulnerable to issue like habitat loss and issues also like climate change, ” said David Sheppard, director of the South Pacific Regional Environment Programme.

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