Conservation planning must consider global warming

More than two-thirds of the species at risk from global warming haven’t been targeted for conservation

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By Summit Voice

FRISCO —Global warming hasn’t been a key consideration in long-term conservation planning, which means that most species at greatest risk from climate change are not currently prioritized for conservation, according to an International Union for Conservation of Nature study that has introduced a pioneering method to assess the vulnerability of species to climate change.

The paper, published in the journal PLOS ONE, is one of the biggest studies of its kind, assessing all of the world’s birds, amphibians and corals. It draws on the work of more than 100 scientists over a period of five years, including Wits PhD student and leader of the study, Wendy Foden. Download the study here. Continue reading

Scientists eye protection for largest Balkan lake

This picture shows Spring Karuč on the bottom of Skadar Lake.

This picture shows Spring Karuč on the bottom of Skadar Lake. Photo via the Creative Commons.

Discovery of new snail species highlights lake’s biodiversity

By Summit Voice

FRISCO —Scientists in the Balkans are hoping the discovery of a new snail species will help spur greater conservation efforts at Skadar Lake, the largest on the Balkan Peninsula.

“Ancient lakes are among the most vulnerable and threatened ecosystems, and their faunas are frequently under extreme anthropogenic pressure,” said University of Montenegro researcher Vladimir Pešić. “The small range of many endemic species living in the Skadar Lake system, together with ever increasing human pressure, make its fauna highly endangered,” Pešić said, describing the lake as a regional biodiversity hotspot. Continue reading

Oceans: Sharks, manta rays win CITES protection

Hammerhead sharks received much-needed protection from unsustainable trade. Photo courtesy Florida Museum of Natural History.

Hammerhead sharks received much-needed protection from unsustainable trade. Photo courtesy Florida Museum of Natural History.

International group sanctions restrictions on trade of endangered species

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — Years of efforts by ocean conservation advocates yielded results last week, as the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species adopted new protections for five species of highly traded sharks, as well as two species of manta rays and one species of sawfish.

Japan, Gambia and India unsuccessfully challenged the Committee decision to list the oceanic whitetip shark, while Grenada and China failed in an attempt to reopen debate on listing three hammerhead species. Colombia, Senegal, Mexico and others took the floor to defend Committee decisions to list sharks. Continue reading

IUCN working on ‘red list’ for ecosystems

Global risk standards to help inform management options

Coastal ecosystems along the Antarctic Peninsula are at risk from global warming. Photo by Bob Berwyn.

By Summit Voice

SUMMIT COUNTY — The International Union for the Conservation of Nature already maintains the most extensive global list of endangered and threatened species; now the organization plans to build a similar list for ecoystems to help identify coral reefs, rainforest and deserts that are at risk.

The Red List of Ecosystems will be modeled on the IUCN’s Red List of Threatened Species, based on an internationally accepted set of criteria for risk assessment. In addition to providing a global standard for assessing the status of ecosystems, the outputs of the Ecosystem Red List could also be used to inform on the current and future threats to the services that such ecosystems provide, such as clean water, climate regulation and natural products.

“Natural environments are under increasing pressure from unsustainable use and other threats,” said Jon Paul Rodriguez, Leader of the IUCN Commission on Ecosystem Management’s Ecosystems Red List Thematic Group. “Functional ecosystems are essential to our livelihoods and well-being. We will assess the status of marine, terrestrial, freshwater and subterranean ecosystems at local, regional and global levels, Rodriquez said during the IUCN’s conservation congress on Jeju Island in Korea. Continue reading

IUCN ‘conservation Olympics’ starts in South Korea

We’re all in this together. Photo courtesy NASA.

Global environmental issues on the agenda at conservation summit in South Korea

By Summit Voice

SUMMIT COUNTY — When it comes to the global environment, there’s no shortage of issues to discuss, so delegates to the International Union for the Conservation of Nature’s quadrennial summit meeting should have plenty to talk about the next 10 days.

This edition of the congress starts today on on Jeju Island, South Korea, with 8,000 people from more than 170 countries on-hand to tackle some of the most pressing environmental issues facing the planet. The congress brings together government and non-governmental organizations, scientists, business and community leaders.

Follow the proceedings at the IUCN’s twitter hub.

“Nature is inherently strong, but we must improve how quickly nature and people adapt to change,” said IUCN director-general Julia Marton-Lefèvre. “If we strengthen nature, we’ll see that ecosystems are more resilient and people, communities and economies are healthier.” Continue reading

Biodiversity: New bluefin tuna fishing rule challenged

Recreational anglers clean a haul of tuna at a marina in Venice, Louisiana. PHOTO BY BOB BERWYN.

Conservation advocates say increase take will speed demise of rare fish

By Summit Voice

SUMMIT COUNTY —Conservation advocates are challenging a new fisheries rule that increases the take of rare Atlantic bluefin tuna, a species already under pressure from overfishing and illegal commerce driven in part by Japan’s nearly insatiable demand for sushi-grade tuna.

Atlantic bluefin are listed as a species of concern under the Endangered Species Act. The species is also listed as endangered on the IUCN Red List. Most other species of tuna are also identified by the IUCN as being in trouble. Check this IUCN Red List web page for more information. Continue reading

Biodiversity: Amphibian decline projected to speed up

Overlapping threats seen as ‘multiple drivers of extinction’

More trouble for amphibians. PHOTO COURTESY USGS.

By Summit Voice

SUMMIT COUNTY — Global amphibian declines have been well-documented and attributed to a combination of climate change, habitat impacts from development, agriculture and other land-use factory, and the deadly chytrid fungus. Worldwide, about 30 percent of all amphibian species are listed as threatened under International Union for the Conservation of Nature’s Red List.

In some of the latest research on amphibians, an international team of scientists tried to map the the spatial distribution of these threats and their interactions. Based on overlapping risk factors, the study concluded that the population declines could intensify in the future. Continue reading

Biodiversity: So, how many species are there on Earth?

Biologists involved in trying to count the number of species on the planet say thousands of species of fungi have yet to be identified.

New modeling techniques narrow the range

By Summit Voice

SUMMIT COUNTY — Researchers working on a comprehensive census of marine life have used some of their modeling techniques to come up with what they say could be the best guess yet as to exactly how many species of plants and animals exist on this planet.

Give or take a million, that number would now stand at about 8.7 million, with about 6.5 million on land and 2.2 million dwelling in the ocean depths — and 90 percent of those have yet to be discovered, fully described and categorized, according to the study published this week by PLoS Biology.

“The question of how many species exist has intrigued scientists for centuries and the answer, coupled with research by others into species’ distribution and abundance, is particularly important now because a host of human activities and influences are accelerating the rate of extinctions,” said lead author Camilo Mora of the University of Hawaii and Dalhousie University in Halifax, Canada. “Many species may vanish before we even know of their existence, of their unique niche and function in ecosystems, and of their potential contribution to improved human well-being.” Continue reading

Biodiversity: Tuna populations verging on collapse

A rampant black market and lax regulations are quickly leading to the demise of the eastern Atlantic bluefin tuna.

Drastic reductions in catch needed to recover populations

By Summit Voice

SUMMIT COUNTY — You may want to think twice before you order your next plate of sushi. Five of eight tuna species have been assigned threatened or near-threatened status on the international Red List maintained by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature.

The listing comes as the IUCN completes an assessment of all species of scombrids (tunas, bonitos, mackerels and Spanish mackerels) and billfishes (swordfish and marlins). Of the 61 known species, seven are classified in a threatened category, being at serious risk of extinction. Four species are listed as near threatened, while nearly two-thirds have been placed in the least concern category.

The only way to recover tuna populations before they collapse completely is to drastically reduce fishing and to enforce those regulations, a group of international researchers said in a strongly worded warning. Continue reading

Opinion: Biodiversity crisis threatens humankind

Golden toads were discovered in Coata Rica in 1966. None have been seen since 1989, despite intensive surveys. They are presumed extinct. PHOTO COURTESY U.S. FISH AND WILDLIFE SERVICE.

It’s Endangered Species Day, so hug a boreal toad (if you can find one)

By Bob Berwyn

SUMMIT COUNTY — May 20 is Endangered Species Day, a good time to consider that the global wave of species extinction currently under way threatens human existence in ways we can’t even begin to understand.

It’s time to get serious about protecting habitat on a global scale to try  and preserve as many species as we can. At the same time, we have to put forth every effort to try and understand those species. Until we do, we’ll be “flying blind in the biosphere,” as biologist E. O. Wilson said. Continue reading

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