Top Stories

Want to benefit wildlife? Let land go untended.

Which environment would wildlife prefer, actively farmed and managed land, or untended natural land that to us might appear unkempt? Turns out that parts of the farm landscape that look overgrown and 'scruffy' are more important in supporting wildlife than they first appear, according to new research published today in Ecology Letters. The findings stem from an intensive study of an organic farm in Somerset by a team of scientists focussing on the complex ways in which animals and plants interact. First, the team of researchers from the University of Hull, the University of Bristol and the Centre for Ecology & Hydrology, created one of the world's largest terrestrial food-webs – a what-eats-what guide to the food-chain, and then developed a method of predicting what would happen to the whole food-web when habitats were lost. >> Read the Full Article

Drought and Desertification - Global Response

Land degradation – more specifically drought and desertification – have become increasingly pressing problems for a growing number of countries around the world, threatening efforts to alleviate poverty, improve basic health and sanitation and address socioeconomic inequality, as well as spur agricultural and sustainable economic development. The only multilateral, international agreement linking development and environment to sustainable land management (SLM), high-level representatives from 195 nations will be gathering in Windhoek, Namibia from September 16-27 for the 11th bi-annual Conference of Parties (COP) to review implementation of the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD). Meeting for the first time in southern Africa, UNCCD delegates will review implementation of the convention to date and plan for the ensuing two years of programs and actions. >> Read the Full Article

Effects of a Warming Planet on Tropical Lizards May Not be Significant

A new Dartmouth College study finds human-caused climate change may have little impact on many species of tropical lizards, contradicting a host of recent studies that predict their widespread extinction in a rapidly warming planet. Most predictions that tropical cold-blooded animals, especially forest lizards, will be hard hit by climate change are based on global-scale measurements of environmental temperatures, which miss much of the fine-scale variation in temperature that individual animals experience on the ground, said the article's lead author, Michael Logan, a Ph.D. student in ecology and evolutionary biology. >> Read the Full Article

Researchers Develop Highest-resolution Global Forest Cover Dataset to Date

Researchers at the University of Maryland have developed a 30-meter resolution forest cover data set that could boost efforts to track deforestation and forest degradation. >> Read the Full Article

Methane Across the Country

Methane is created naturally near the Earth's surface, primarily by microorganisms by the process of methanogenesis. It is carried into the stratosphere by rising air in the tropics. Methane is a potent greenhouse gas, stronger than carbon dioxide on a 20-year timescale, according to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, though on a century timescale, carbon dioxide is far stronger. "This research suggests significant benefits to slowing climate change could result from reducing industrial methane emissions in parallel with efforts on carbon dioxide," said Ira Leifer, a researcher with UC Santa Barbara's Marine Science Institute. Doing a a cross-continent drive, a UC Santa Barbara scientist has found that methane emissions across large parts of the U.S. are higher than is currently known, confirming what other more local studies have found. Their research is published in the journal Atmospheric Environment. >> Read the Full Article

DiCaprio's Environmental Charity Art Auction Raise $33 Million

Leonardo DiCaprio's environmental charity auction at Christie's in New York has raised an impressive $33.3 million from wealthy art collectors. Most of the sale proceeds went to environmental protection causes promoted by the Leonardo DiCaprio Foundation. The Hollywood actor, who was himself present at the auction, urged collectors to bid as if the planet's fate "depends on us" - and they responded to his call generously. >> Read the Full Article

Ice Age Climate Changed Quickly

Short, sharp fluctuations in the Earth's climate throughout the last ice age may have stopped trees from getting a foothold in Europe and northern Asia, scientists say. According to a new study, warm spells were so brief that trees were unable to establish themselves before the temperature shot back down again. 'The warm events were so short-lived that ecosystems weren't able to respond in full,' says Professor Brian Huntley, of Durham University, who led the study. >> Read the Full Article

Tundra Carbon Impact?

There is a concern with the carbon stored in the form of frozen partially decomposed vegetation in the vast tundra of the north. When the permafrost melts, it may releases carbon in the form of carbon dioxide and methane, both of which are greenhouse gases. The amount of greenhouse gases which will be released from the Arctic’s stockpile of carbon may be more secure than scientists thought. In a 20-year experiment that warmed patches of chilly ground, tundra soil kept its stored carbon, researchers report. Almost half of the world’s soil carbon is stored at high latitude, in the form of dead and decaying organisms. >> Read the Full Article

April Showers

They say "April showers bring May flowers" and this year, April really did live up to its expectations of bringing down the rain. According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the average precipitation for April in the contiguous US was 2.9 inches! This is 0.27 inches above average tying April 1953 as the 19th wettest April on record. Not all of the country experienced a wetter than normal average, but the northwest, Midwest, and southeast definitely saw the effects of this heavy precipitation. >> Read the Full Article

EarthTalk: Climate Change and Hawaii’s Coral Reefs

Despite sweeping protections put in place near the end of George W. Bush's presidency for large swaths of marine ecosystems around the Hawaiian Islands, things are not looking good for Hawaii’s coral reefs. Poisonous run-off, rising ocean levels, increasingly acidic waters and overfishing are taking their toll on the reefs and the marine life they support. Biologists are trying to remain optimistic that there is still time to turn things around, but new threats to Hawaii's corals are only aggravating the situation... >> Read the Full Article