• The Incredible Elephants of the Sahara

    African elephants are known for hanging around rivers and mashes in the savanna and the edge of jungles. However, their range actually extends well into the north, all the way up to the Sahara desert. In Mali’s Gourma region, around the city of Timbuktu, there exists a species of desert-adapted African elephant (Loxodonta Africana). Every year, they undertake an amazing migration across an area of 32,000 square kilometers (over 12,000 square miles) in search of food and water. This annual journey was recently recorded by researchers from the group Save the Elephants, University of British Columbia, and Oxford University, who attached GPS collars to nine of the elephants and tracking them by satellite. Their report documents the elephants’ record-breaking trek to survive in the largest and harshest elephant range in the world. >> Read the Full Article
  • Lawsuit Targets $3 Billion in U.S. Funding for Fossil Fuel Project in Australia's Great Barrier Reef

    Conservation groups filed a lawsuit today challenging the U.S. Export-Import Bank's nearly $3 billion in financing for a massive Australian fossil fuel facility in the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area. Construction and operation of the liquefied natural gas facility will threaten sea turtles, dugongs and many other protected marine species, as well as the Great Barrier Reef itself. >> Read the Full Article
  • Frankincense

    Frankincense has been traded on the Arabian Peninsula and in North Africa for more than 5000 years. Frankincense is tapped from the very scraggy but hardy Boswellia tree by slashing the bark, which is called striping, and allowing the exuded resins to bleed out and harden. These hardened resins are called tears. Current rates of tapping frankincense - which according to the Bible was given to the baby Jesus by the three wise men at Christmas and which will feature in thousands of Nativity plays in coming days - are endangering the fragrant resin's sustained production, ecologists have warned. Writing in the December issue of Journal of Applied Ecology, ecologists from the Netherlands and Eritrea say that over tapping the trees results in them producing fewer, less viable seeds. >> Read the Full Article
  • Good Luck, Kihansi spray toad!

    This is an historic achievement! For the first time, an amphibian species, the Kihansi spray toad, that had been declared extinct in nature has been kept alive in a zoo, bred in captivity, and been re-introduced in the wild. The Wildlife Conservation Society's Bronx Zoo, the Toledo Zoo, Tanzanian government, World Bank and other partners have reintroduced 2,000 Kihansi spray toads into the Kihansi Gorge in Tanzania. This is the first example of an amphibian species that had been declared extinct in the wild being reintroduced into its native habitat. The repatriation effort marks a major milestone for a species declared extinct in the wild in 2009. It is the result of a 12-year partnership to breed the toads in captivity while its habitat was restored. >> Read the Full Article
  • 2012 Marks Extraordinary Year for US Wildfires

    The National Interagency Fire Center (NIFC) is the nation's support center for wild land firefighting and provides up-to-date reports on current forest fires. While the NIFC has been collecting data for the past 50 years, records maintained by the center and by NASA both indicate that 2012 was an extraordinary year for wildfires in the United States. NIFC statistics show that more than 9.1 million acres had burned as of December 7, 2012—the third highest total in the record that dates back to 1960. >> Read the Full Article
  • Recovery of Atlantic Forest depends on land-use histories

    The intensity of land-use influences the speed of regeneration in tropical rainforests, says new research. Tropical rainforests are a priority for biodiversity conservation; they are hotspots of endemism but also some of the most threatened global habitats. The Atlantic Forest stands out among tropical rainforests, hosting an estimated 8,000 species of endemic plants and more than 650 endemic vertebrates. However, only around 11 percent of these forests now remain. The quality of what remains is also a concern: 32 to 40 percent of remnants are small areas of secondary forest. >> Read the Full Article
  • Fisheries Commission Ignores Advice for Ending Overfishing

    A five-day meeting on fisheries ended last week (6 December) amid complaints that big fishing nations have blocked efforts to curb tuna overfishing and ignored scientific advice. The accusations were made following the ninth regular session of the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission, which is the governing body for an international fisheries agreement that seeks to ensure the conservation and sustainable use of highly migratory fish, such as tuna, in parts of the Pacific Ocean. >> Read the Full Article
  • Global Decline of Big, Old Trees Impacts Forest Ecosystems

    Trees can live hundreds, even thousands of years. But the problem is that these trees aren’t making it to old age and according to a new study, big, old trees are in decline throughout the world which can have detrimental impacts to forest ecosystems. Old trees are crucial organisms for many ecosystems: they provide homes for animals, provide space for other plants to grow, and they produce seeds, leaves, and nuts that serve as food. They also store large amounts of carbon and continue to sequester it as they grow, said study co-author David Lindenmayer, a researcher at Australian National University. >> Read the Full Article
  • Salmon to Blame for Upstream Contaminants

    As water in streams and rivers flow, pollutants and contaminants that come from urban, agricultural, and industrial runoff are carried downstream. But how and why are scientists finding contaminants upstream of industries and developments? The culprit: salmon. Research by University of Notre Dame stream ecologist Gary Lamberti and his laboratory has revealed that salmon, as they travel upstream to spawn and die, carry industrial pollutants into Great Lakes streams and tributaries. The team advises, if you plan on catching and eating fish from a Lake Michigan tributary with a strong salmon run, the fish may be contaminated by pollutants. >> Read the Full Article
  • Gravity and Plants

    When one examines the roots of a plant, one sees a tangled mess of tendrils. It is well known that plant growth patterns are influenced by a variety of stimuli, gravity being one amongst many. On Earth plant roots exhibit characteristic behaviors called waving and skewing, which were thought to be gravity-dependent events. This is how the roots develop and grow in terms of direction and changes in direction. However, Arabidopsis plants grown on the International Space Station (ISS) have proved this theory wrong, according to a study published in BioMed Central's open access journal BMC Plant Biology: root waving and skewing occur in spaceflight plants independently of gravity. >> Read the Full Article