Tag Archives: biodiversity

Climate Change Could Wipe Out Amazing Baobab Trees in Madagascar

19 Jul
Photo: Baobab trees over water by Rita Willaert.

Photo: Baobab trees over water by Rita Willaert.

by John R. Platt / The Scientific American

The Ewe people of Togo, Africa, have a proverb: “Wisdom is like a baobab tree; no one individual can embrace it.” The proverb refers to the massive trees of the genus Adansonia that can live thousands of years, reach 30 meters into the sky and achieve trunk diameters of 10 meters or more. One baobab tree in South Africa is so large that a popular pub has been established inside its trunk. Many local cultures consider baobab trees to be sacred. Others use them for their nutritious fruits, edible leaves and beautiful flowers. In addition, old baobabs, like many long-lived trees, often have natural hollows in their trunks, which in their case can store tens of thousands of gallons of water—an important resource not just for the trees themselves but also for the people who live near them.

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A Manifesto for Rewilding the World

30 May

Raccoon

A mass restoration of ecosystems offers us hope where there was little hope before.

by George Monbiot

Until modern humans arrived, every continent except Antarctica possessed a megafauna. In the Americas, alongside mastodons, mammoths, four-tusked and spiral-tusked elephants, there was a beaver the size of a black bear: eight feet from nose to tail(1). There were giant bison weighing two tonnes, which carried horns seven feet across(2). Continue reading

The Ancient Art of Midwifery Practiced by Chinese Snub Nosed Monkeys

12 Feb

by Russ McSpadden / Earth First! News

[The text of this work is free to share and distribute under the following Creative Commons License CC-BY-ND 3.0]

Photo by Xi Xhinong

Photo by Xi Xhinong

The art of midwifery is ancient.  The lineage of women healers aiding childbearing mothers during pregnancy can be dated textually as far back as the Middle Kingdom period in ancient Egypt (and similarly in the Middle East and Greece). Archeological and anthropological evidence suggests it may very well date to the origins of our species.  It continues as a well respected profession practiced internationally today.

Its also not an exclusively human tradition. Recently, a team of zoologist observed the art of midwifery practiced by Chinese black snub nosed monkeys.

Its the first time biologists have actually ever seen these high-altitude monkeys labor and birth, because they usually do so in forest canopy at night and in under 15 minutes.

So imagine the surprise when Wen Xiao of Dali University in Yunnan and his colleagues stumbled upon a black snub nosed monkey mother in a rare day time birth aided but what appears to be a monkey midwife. Continue reading

Love and Revenge: Sperm Whales Adopt Disabled Dolphin

4 Feb

by Russ McSpadden / Earth First! News

[The text of this work is free to share and distribute under the following Creative Commons License CC-BY-ND 3.0]

It was Moby Dick that dismasted me; Moby Dick that brought me to this dead stump I stand on now. Aye, aye! it was that accursed white whale that razeed me; made a poor pegging lubber of me for ever and a day. Aye, aye! and I’ll chase him round Good Hope, and round the Horn, and round the Norway Maelstrom, and round perdition’s flames before I give him up. And this is what ye have shipped for, men! to chase that white whale on both sides of land, and over all sides of earth, till he spouts black blood and rolls fin out. –Captain Ahab– from Moby Dick

illustration by becka rankin

illustration by becka rankin

Spoiler alert, Moby Dick, the human devouring sperm whale of Herman Melville’s epic whaling novel of the same name, kills Captain Ahab—that ole son-of-a-barnacle’s-taint—and to the great relief of many a hunted sea beast. As a character, Ahab truly was a fine example of a dastardly whaler and neither Greenpeace nor Sea Shephard could be written to have given him his just deserts as well as our cetacean comrade.  In the text, Moby Dick is both hero and antagonist and a truly enigmatic literary metaphor for the savagery of both nature and civilization, for revenge, madness, greed, god, the soul and justice, but never love.

But what shall ye make of the knowledge, Mr. Mellville, of sperm whales as loving adoptive parents who were recently sighted crossing the species boundary to care for a disabled dolphin?

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Alarming Biodiversity Collapse in Protected Forests

31 Jul

{from Mother Jones}

Juvenile howler monkey picking berries: Alphamouse via Wikimedia Commons

In the science journal Nature this week, a piece was co-authored by more than 200 scientists from around the world—a veritable who’s-who of researchers from the world of tropical forest ecology.

The gist of the paper is alarming:

  1. The rapid disruption of tropical forests worldwide probably imperils global biodiversity more than any other force today.
  2. The best hope lies in protected areas.
  3. Yet many protected areas are not effectively protecting biodiversity.

The authors write:

Our analysis reveals great variation in reserve ‘health:’ about half of all reserves have been effective or performed passably, but the rest are experiencing an erosion of biodiversity that is often alarmingly widespread taxonomically and functionally.

Comparison of ecological changes inside vs outside protected areas, for selected environmental drivers. The bars show percentage of reserves with improving vs worsening conditions: Laurance, et al, Nature 2012, DOI:10.1038/nature11318

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Most Biodiverse Place on Earth Could Open for Oil Exploration

23 Sep

A new map highlights the importance of conserving Yasuni National Park as the most biodiverse ecosystem in the Western Hemisphere, and maybe even on Earth. Scientists released the map to coincide with the United National General Assembly in support of a first-of-its-kind initiative to save the park from oil exploration through international donations. Known as the Yasuni-ITT Initiative, the plan, if successful, would protect a 200,000 hectare bloc in Yasuni National Park from oil drilling in return for a trust fund of over $3 billion.

“The map indicates that Yasuni National Park is part of a small, unique zone with the maximum biological diversity in the Western Hemisphere,” explained Clinton Jenkins, lead designer of the map and Research Scholar at North Carolina State University, in a press release.

The map shows that eastern Ecuador (the location of Yasuni) and northeastern Peru have the highest number of species in the hemisphere based on data on birds, mammals, amphibians, and plants. To highlight this point, researchers have found more tree species (655 to be exact) in a single hectare in Yasuni than in all of the US and Canada combined. Yasuni also contains the highest biodiversity of reptiles and amphibians in the world with 271 species. But bugs may win the day yet: according to entomologist Terry Erwin, a single hectare of rainforest in Yasuni may contain as many as 100,000 unique insect species. This estimate, if proven true, is the highest per unit area in the world for any taxa, plant or animal.

Oil is currently Ecuador’s biggest exporter and the nation’s economy remains largely dependent on the fossil fuel. But oil has also brought the nation trouble with pollution, disease, forest destruction, and conflict with indigenous people.

Ecuador’s President, Rafael Correa, has said that if the fund does not receive its first $100 million by this December, he will cancel the initiative and oil drilling will proceed.

To see the map and read the full article click here