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Environment: Shifting a small amount of global military spending to conservation would go a long way

Elk Rocky Mountain National Park

Well-protected elk browse in Rocky Mountain National Park.

New paper outlines need for renewed conservation emphasis

Staff Report

FRISCO — Shifting just a small fraction of the world’s military spending to conservation could help ensure protection and sustainable management for important wildlife habitat, experts say in a new report released ahead of the upcoming IUCN World Parks Congress in Sydney.

The paper, published in Nature, was compiled by experts with Wildlife Conservation Society, the University of Queensland, and the IUCN World Commission on Protected Areas. The authors concluded that allocating US $45 – $76 billion —  just 2.5 percent of  global annual military spending — would go a long way toward meeting the need for better management of protected areas. Continue reading

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Biodiversity: Is Florida a global hotspot for reptile extinction?

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Freshwater turtles, like this specimen in Butrint, Albania, are facing serious threats. Bob Berwyn photo.

Freshwater turtles among the most threatened species

By Summit Voice

A recent far-reaching study of the world’s amphibians and reptiles finds that Florida is hotspot for environmental threats, with one of the highest concentrations of threatened reptiles in the world.

The new report highlights the need to address the global reptile extinction crisis: One in five reptiles is facing extinction from threats like habitat loss, overharvest and climate change.

“Florida is blessed with a rich diversity of lizards, turtles and snakes,” said Collette Adkins Giese, reptile-and-amphibian specialist at the Center for Biological Diversity. “Unfortunately, threats like habitat loss from rapid development are continuing to push many of these rare reptiles to the brink of extinction.”

More than 200 experts from the International Union for the Conservation of Nature’s Species Survival Commission collaborated to study a random sample of 1,500 of the world’s reptile species. Globally, one in five reptiles is facing extinction. The study also flagged the rapidly deteriorating plight of freshwater turtles, estimating that 50 percent of these animals are at risk of extinction. Continue reading

Many world heritage sites facing development pressures

West- and central African sites among the most threatened

Mesa Verde, well-protected as a national park, is Colorado’s only world heritage site. Photo courtesy National Park Service.

By Summit Voice

SUMMIT COUNTY — Many of the planet’s 217 world heritage natural sites are facing increasing threats, including oil and gas development, and need more protection, conservation leaders said at an occasion marking the 40th anniversary of the World Heritage Convention.

The 217 sites protect more than 250 million hectares of land and sea in more than 90 countries.

Nearly 8 percent of the 217 natural World Heritage Sites are on a danger list, while another 25 percent are affected by serious conservation issues. More than 60 percent of West and Central African sites are on the Danger list, and one in four of these iconic areas are threatened by planned mining, oil and gas projects. This includes Virunga National Park in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, home of the world’s last mountain gorillas.

“Too many World Heritage sites are left with few resources to ensure their proper management, risking their role as natural flagships for the protection of critical habitats and unique wildlife vital to the future of our planet,” said Tim Badman, director of IUCN’s World Heritage Programme. “Many face a barrage of challenges, not least from mining and oil exploration.” Continue reading

IUCN ‘Green List’ program to highlight successful conservation efforts

Designations seen as step toward worldwide biodiversity goals

The IUCN is developing a Green List program to highlight protected areas that are managed to high standards.

By Summit Voice

SUMMIT COUNTY — Along with a developing red list of endangered ecosystems, the International Union for the Conservation of Nature is focusing on highlighting well-managed protected areas with a Green List.

The Green List project will be formally unveiled at the 2014 World Parks Congress in Australia. The Green List will celebrate protected area successes, setting benchmarks to reward effective and equitable management.

Protected areas wishing to be included on the IUCN Green List will have to satisfy a threshold of agreed criteria, including meeting their conservation goals, achieving effective management and facilitating equitable governance. Continue reading

Morning photo: Endangered ecosystems

The planet’s life-support system is unraveling

Global warming is rapidly changing coastal ecosystems along the Antarctic Peninsula, where ice-dependent species are having a hard time keeping up with the pace of change.

SUMMIT COUNTY — While much public attention has been focused on saving individual charismatic species, there’s also a need to pay attention to the ecosystems that sustain those species, It’s tough, for example, to keep lynx alive if they have nowhere to hunt or raise their young. Most conservation biologists recognize that an ecosystem approach to conservation is likely to pay a bigger dividend, but we don’t have an endangered ecosystem act — we have an Endangered Species Act. Sometimes, though, acting to save individual species, like greater sage-grouse, for example, can work to protect larger ecosystems. On a global scale, the International Union for the Conservation of Nature has been developing a ‘Red List’ of ecosystems, based on the organization’s endangered species red list. 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

The cost of extinction

Endangered whooping cranes have been fighting off extinction for the last 50 years. They haven't been seen in Colorado since 2002. PHOTO COURTESY THE COLORADO DIVISION OF WILDLIFE.

Ecosystem values must be factored into global economy; loss of biodiversity could cost trillions of dollars

By Bob Berwyn

SUMMIT COUNTY — Species conservation isn’t just about feel-good efforts to save animals because they’re cute and cuddly.

Allowing the current rate of  of biodiversity loss to continue could cost the global economy untold trillions, said researchers who are compiling a comprehensive report on the cost of species loss. The report will be published in time for the October Convention on Biodiversity in Japan, part of the UN’s International Year of Biodiversity.

Using the best science available, the International Union for the Conservation of Nature estimates that 20 percent of all mammals, one-third of all amphibians and one in seven bird species are at risk of extinction. For the first time since the era of dinosaurs, animals and plants are going extinct faster than new species can evolve. Continue reading

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