Wildlife

The Antarctic Ozone Hole May Be Closing
July 7, 2016 07:21 AM - s.e. smith

There’s good news from Antarctica, where researchers with tools like ozonesondes — pictured above — have been following the infamous ozone hole as it waxes and wanes over the seasons. The ozone hole has shrunk by 1.5 million square miles – around 4 million square kilometers — and this “healing” trend appears to be continuing.

A major ecological catastrophe has been averted, and we can cite human intervention as the reason. When the globe swept into action with 1987′s Montreal Protocol, which banned a number of substances known to contribute to ozone depletion, it apparently worked.

When scientists first began to observe a hole in the ozone layer over Antarctica, it was a cause for grave concern. Though ozone levels actually fluctuate throughout the year, they perform an important function by blocking the sun’s harmful UV radiation.

Carbon emissions from Indonesia forest fires hit new high
July 6, 2016 10:40 AM - Dyna Rochmyaningsih via Scidev.net

Forest fires in Indonesia last year released 11.3 million tonnes of carbon per day, researchers have found. This figure exceeds the daily rate of 8.9 million tonnes of carbon emissions from the whole of the European Union, the study says.

The 2015 fires were the worst since 1997, when a strong El Niño also fanned widespread fires, says the study, published in the journal Scientific Reports.

Fire is widely used in South-East Asia to clear vegetation and maintain land for the growing of crops, the paper explains. Last year, fires were exacerbated by extended drought associated with El Niño, releasing 857 million tonnes of carbon dioxide from September to October 2015, the authors say. This represents 97 per cent of the country’s annual carbon emissions.

Penguin colonies at risk from erupting volcano
July 6, 2016 07:06 AM - British Antarctic Survey

A volcano erupting on a small island in the Sub Antarctic is depositing ash over one of the world’s largest penguin colonies.

Zavodovski Island is a small island in the South Sandwich archipelago and its volcano Mt Curry has been erupting since March 2016. The island is home to over one million chinstrap penguins – the largest colony for this species in the world.

An ingredient in your sunscreen can be killing sharks
June 30, 2016 06:51 AM - Natalia Lima, Care2

Most animal lovers wouldn’t dream of harming an animal for fashion. Fur? No, thank you. Leather? I don’t think so. Yet they might be unknowingly killing sharks — and highly endangered kinds on top of that — for their beauty routine.

Unbeknownst to most, one little ingredient in products like sunscreens, moisturizing lotions, lip balms, lipsticks and face creams is responsible for the death of over three million sharks annually.

 

Crucial peatlands carbon-sink vulnerable to rising sea levels
June 29, 2016 05:06 PM - University of Exeter via EurekAlert!

Rising sea-levels linked to global warming could pose a significant threat to the effectiveness of the world's peatland areas as carbon sinks, a new study has shown.

The pioneering new study, carried out by Geographers at the University of Exeter, examined the impact that salt found in sea water has on how successfully peatland ecosystems accumulate carbon from the atmosphere.

The researchers studied an area of blanket bog - a peat bog that forms in cool regions susceptible to high rainfall - at Kentra Moss, in Northwest Scotland.

Humans artificially drive evolution of new species
June 29, 2016 07:14 AM - University of Copenhagen via EurekAlert!

Species across the world are rapidly going extinct due to human activities, but humans are also causing rapid evolution and the emergence of new species. A new study published today summarises the causes of manmade speciation, and discusses why newly evolved species cannot simply replace extinct wild species. The study was led by the Center for Macroecology, Evolution and Climate at the University of Copenhagen. 

Picky eaters: Bumble bees prefer plants with nutrient-rich pollen
June 27, 2016 04:39 PM - Penn State via EurekAlert!

Bumble bees have discriminating palettes when it comes to their pollen meals, according to researchers at Penn State. The researchers found that bumble bees can detect the nutritional quality of pollen, and that this ability helps them selectively forage among plant species to optimize their diets.

"Populations of many bee species are in decline across the world, and poor nutrition is thought to be a major factor causing these declines," said Christina Grozinger, director of the Center for Pollinator Research, Penn State. "Our studies can help identify plant species and stocks that provide high-quality nutrition for bumble bees and potentially other bee species, which will help in the development of pollinator-friendly gardens and planting strips."

Where do rubber trees get their rubber?
June 24, 2016 03:33 PM - RIKEN via EurekAlert!

Researchers at the RIKEN Center for Sustainable Resource Science (CSRS) in Japan along with collaborators at Universiti Sains Malaysia (USM) have succeeded in decoding the genome sequence for Hevea brasiliensis, the natural rubber tree native to Brazil. Published in Scientific Reports, the study reports a draft genome sequence that covers more than 93% of expressed genes, and pinpoints regions specific to the biosynthesis of rubber.

Natural rubber flows in latex ducts and protects plants from insects when the plant becomes injured. For humans, it is an important resource for many industrial applications because it has several useful properties that have not been reproducible in synthetic petroleum-based rubber. While some strains of rubber tree yield higher amounts of rubber than others, the reasons for this are still unknown. The team led by Minami Matsui at the RIKEN CSRS and Alexander Chong at USM set out to sequence and analyze the H. brasiliensis genome. Explains first author Nyok Sean Lau, "genomic information can reveal which genes contribute to the rubber tree's capacity to produce high amounts of latex. This in turn will help us develop rubber trees with higher yields."

Threats to habitat connectivity as sea waters inundate coastal areas
June 21, 2016 07:05 AM - Jim Melvin, Clemson University

By the year 2100, sea levels might rise as much as 2.5 meters above their current levels, which would seriously threaten coastal cities and other low-lying areas. In turn, this would force animals to migrate farther inland in search of higher ground. But accelerated urbanization, such as the rapidly expanding Piedmont area that stretches from Atlanta to eastern North Carolina, could cut off their escape routes and create climate-induced extinctions.

First Mammal Goes Extinct From Manmade Climate Change
June 17, 2016 07:23 AM - Kevin Mathews, Care2

We’ve reached a sad milestone: Climate change has claimed its first mammal species. Scientists have been warning us that a large percentage of species will face extinction thanks to manmade global warming, and the future is unfortunately here.

According to The Guardian, climate change’s first mammal victim was an adorable rodent known as the Bramble Cay melomys. Sometimes called a mosaic-tailed rat, the melomys was named after Bramble Cay, an Australian island close to Papua New Guinea, that was the only known home for the species.

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