Ecosystems

Harsh winter kills more than 750 in Afghanistan
February 9, 2008 03:31 AM - Reuters

KABUL (Reuters) - More than 750 people have perished as a result of severe cold and heavy snowfalls this winter across Afghanistan, a government official said on Saturday. The cold spell, the worst in decades in the impoverished and mountainous central Asian country, has also killed nearly 230,000 cattle, said Noor Padshah Kohistani of the National Disaster Management Commission.

Tenth of China's forests damaged by blizzards
February 9, 2008 02:36 AM - Reuters

BEIJING (Reuters) - About one-tenth of China's forests were damaged by recent winter storms, the worst in at least five decades, and in the hardest-hit regions nearly 90 percent of forests were ruined, Xinhua news agency said on Saturday. The State Forestry Administration (SFA) said total losses reached 17.3 million hectares of forest in 18 provinces in southern China, said Xinhua.

Coral Reefs May Be Protected By Natural Ocean Thermostat

The research team, led by NCAR scientist Joan Kleypas, looked at the Western Pacific Warm Pool, a region northeast of Australia where naturally warm sea-surface temperatures have risen little in recent decades. As a result, the reefs in that region appear to have suffered relatively few episodes of coral bleaching, a phenomenon that has damaged reefs in other areas where temperature increases have been more pronounced. The study* lends support to a much-debated theory that a natural ocean thermostat prevents sea-surface temperatures from exceeding about 88 degrees Fahrenheit (31 degrees Celsius) in open oceans. If so, this thermostat would protect reefs that have evolved in naturally warm waters that will not warm much further, as opposed to reefs that live in slightly cooler waters that face more significant warming.

Norway keeps whaling quota, draws ire
February 8, 2008 09:31 AM - Reuters

OSLO (Reuters) - Norway has set a commercial whaling quota of 1,052 minke whales in 2008, unchanged from last year, drawing criticism from environmental groups pressuring Oslo to join the international community and call off its hunts. Norway is the only country to hunt the giant mammal commercially despite a two-decade-old moratorium by the International Whaling Commission (IWC). Iceland stopped in 2007, citing a lack of markets for whale meat.

Gharials under grave threat
February 8, 2008 09:05 AM - WWF

More than 90 gharials (Gangeticus gavialis) have been reported dead in the last two months in the National Chambal Sanctuary in India for yet-to-be diagnosed reasons. The monarch of Indian rivers is under severe threat. A team of international veterinarians and crocodile experts – on government request - is working closely with scientists from the Indian Veterinary Research Institute (IVRI). Early results point to levels of heavy metals - lead and cadmium – leading to immune-suppression (or reduction in body’s ability to fight pathogens) and thereby making them susceptible to infections.

Ancient trees give clues to climate change
February 8, 2008 06:52 AM - Reuters

PUERTO BLEST, Argentina (Reuters) - On the shores of lake Nahuel Huapi, in the wild mountains of Argentina's Patagonia, live some of the world's most ancient trees. Known in Spanish as the alerce, the Patagonian cypress grows extremely slowly, but can reach heights over 50 meters (165 feet) and live for 2,000 years or more, putting some of them among the oldest living things on earth.

South Asian nations pledge cooperation on rampant wildlife trade
February 7, 2008 09:45 AM - WWF

Kathmandu, Nepal – All eight South Asian nations have agreed to step up cooperation in addressing wildlife trade problems in the area. The region, home to such rare and prized species as tigers, Asiatic lions, snow leopards, Asian elephants and one-horned rhinoceroses, is recognized as one of the prime targets of international organized wildlife crime networks.

Preparing for Global Warming's Health Crisis
February 7, 2008 09:40 AM - UCLA Today Online

Hurricanes pound the Gulf Coast with unrelenting force. Floods deluge the Midwest. Wildfires rage out of control in California and Florida. A "red tide" of algae blooms off the West Coast, endangering marine and coastal wildlife. Dengue fever spikes in Mexico and looms over the United States. No one can say with certainty that any single one of these events is due to global climate change. But there is little doubt among scientists that we are making unprecedented changes to our environment, with grave potential consequences already upon us and others on the horizon.

Deadly winter tornadoes not rare: NOAA
February 7, 2008 08:22 AM - Reuters

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Winter tornadoes that ripped across parts of the American South this week were unusually lethal but not particularly rare, a .government meteorologist said on Wednesday as the death toll mounted. Tornado season in the United States generally starts in March and continues through the summer months but winter tornadoes have become an almost annual occurrence, according to Harold Brooks of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

UK to spur research into climate impact on poor
February 6, 2008 09:36 AM - Reuters

LONDON (Reuters) - Britain will increase research into the possible impacts of climate change on the world's most vulnerable people, including deeper poverty and conflict, the international development minister said. Secretary of State Douglas Alexander said his department will spend 20 million pounds ($39.25 million) a year over the next five years, a tenfold increase, to pinpoint where global warming will hit hardest and show how to proof development against more extreme weather and rising seas.

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