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Environment: New report takes a broader look the ecological impacts of the Deepwater Horizon disaster

Wider ecosystem services must be considered in damage assessments

Satellite view deepwater horizon oil spill

BP oil from the Deepwater Horizon drill rig spreads across the northern Gulf of Mexico.

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — The total impacts of the Deepwater Horizon oil disaster in the Gulf of Mexico can’t be quantified without accounting for how the spill affected ecosystem services provided by the Gulf. That includes trying to quantify the cost of increased storm damage due to wetlands losses, according to a new report from the National Research Council.

But a lack of baseline data about ecological conditions, as well as  an incomplete understanding of complex ecosystem interactions make establishing the full scope of damage difficult.

Capturing the entire range of impacts will also require more data on human and economic factors. The report emphasizes that many services may have enormous value despite being difficult to measure, and that such services should be given adequate consideration in evaluating restoration options. Continue reading

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Global warming likely to result in net loss of biodiversity

New report says impacts to ecosystems accelerating

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By Summit Voice

FRISCO — A major new report suggests that climate change will probably result in a net loss in global biodiversity, as plants and animal species shift their geographic ranges and the timing of their life events — such as flowering, laying eggs or migrating — at faster rates than researchers documented just a few years ago.

The report, Impacts of Climate Change on Biodiversity, Ecosystems, and Ecosystem Services, synthesizes the scientific understanding of the way climate change is affecting ecosystems, ecosystem services and the diversity of species, as well as what strategies might be used by natural resource practitioners to decrease current and future risks. It was prepared as a technical report on biodiversity and ecosystems to be used as scientific input for the 2013 Third National Climate Assessment.

“The report clearly indicates that as climate change continues to impact ecological systems, a net loss of global species’ diversity, as well as major shifts in the provision of ecosystem services, are quite likely,” said Michelle Staudinger, a lead author of the report and a USGS and University of Missouri scientist. Continue reading

Countdown to extinction: Conservation scientists list the world’s 100 most endangered species

The three-toed pygmy sloth is one of the world’s most endangered animals. Photo courtesy United Academics Magazine.

New report outlines world’s 100 most endangered species

By Summit Voice

SUMMIT COUNTY — Some of the world’s most endangered species, including a three-toed sloth and a rare spore-shooting fungi, may not get the protection they need simply because they aren’t seen as providing direct benefits to humans, according to leading conservation scientists who recently compiled a list of the planet’s 100 most endangered animals, plants and fungi.

“The donor community and conservation movement are leaning increasingly towards a ‘what can nature do for us’ approach, where species and wild habitats are valued and prioritised according to the services they provide for people,” said Professor Jonathan Baillie, director of conservation for the Zoological Society of London.

“This has made it increasingly difficult for conservationists to protect the most threatened species on the planet,” Baillie said. “While the utilitarian value of nature is important conservation goes beyond this. Do these species have a right to survive or do we have a right to drive them to extinction?” Continue reading

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