June 30, 2006

Ocean circulation changes caused at the end of the past glacial period were more extensive than previously thought, according to new research scientists at the University of East Anglia and Cardiff University. The findings, published in the June 30 issue of the journal Science, indicate that the catastrophic freshwater release from glacial lakes in North America slowed ocean circulation and cooled the climate some 8200 years ago.

Open-air field trials involving five major food crops grown under carbon-dioxide levels projected for the future are yielding significantly less than those raised in earlier enclosed test conditions. Scientists at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign warn that global food supplies could be at risk without changes in production strategies.

June 29, 2006

Future temperature change in East Asian countries may be less significant than in countries bordering the North Atlantic, such as America and Great Britain, according to new research led by scientists at Newcastle University. Researchers examined pollen samples take from a Japanese lake sediment core and found moderate changes in temperature and precipitation during the period from 16,000 years ago to 10,000 years ago, a time that experienced climate change similar to what we expect in the near future. Researchers speculate that the Asian monsoon front may act as a barrier from the effect of North Atlantic cooling, which threatens other parts of the world with extreme climate change. Japan and lands east of the monsoon barrier could be spared the most drastic consequences.

The Wildlife Conservation Society launched an effort to protect wildlife in war-torn Afghanistan. Peter Zahler, Assistant Director for the WCS Asia Program said, "Conservation is critical for recovery and stability in a country where so many people directly depend on local natural resources for their survival."

June 28, 2006

Scientists say melting glaciers could induce tectonic activity. The reason? As ice melts and waters runs off, tremendous amounts of weight are lifted off of Earth's crust. As the newly freed crust settles back to its original, pre-glacier shape, it can cause seismic plates to slip and stimulate volcanic activity according to research into prehistoric earthquakes and volcanic activity.

The "Amazon Stonehenge" discovery is in the news again.

June 27, 2006

In Gabon, I had a couple of exciting encounters with elephants. One occurred when we got a little too close to a family of forest elephants. The experience almost provided an opportunity to test the theory that the best way to survive an elephant attack is to be faster than the slowest person in your group. As it was, our response to the elephant charge won't go down as a textbook example of what to do in that situation.

A study conducted earlier this year found that consumers say they would be willing to pay more for an environmentally friendly computer. The amounts ranged from $59 in Germany, $118 in UK, $199 in China and $229 in Mexico.

Scientists discovered a species of snake capable of changing colors. The snake, called the Kapuas mud snake, resides in the rainforest on the island of Borneo, an ecosystem that is increasingly threatened by logging and agricultural development. The "chameleon snake" was discovered by Dr. Mark Auliya, a German researcher who described it with the help of two American scientists. The find will likely bolster efforts to conserve Borneo's wild forestlands.

Researchers studying ancient tropical ice cores have found evidence of two abrupt climate shifts -- one 5000 years ago and one currently underway. The findings, published in the current issue of the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Science, may have important implications for immediate future since more than two-thirds of the world's population resides in the tropics.

June 26, 2006

In late May and early June I spent time in the Central African country of Gabon, a place known for gorillas, "surfing hippos", and biologist Mike Fay's megatransect across the Congo rainforest. I have now posted some of my pictures of Gabon

June 25, 2006

Researchers with the World Wildlife Fund found more than 160 animal species--including an undiscovered species of frog and eleven endemic species--in surveys of the Rubeho Mountains in Tanzania. The organization says urgent action is needed to protect the region's biodiversity which is increasingly threatened by subsistence agriculture, logging, and poaching.

In an interview with Fortune magazine, Berkshire Hathaway Chairman Warren Buffett announced he will give nearly $31 billion in stock -- most of his wealth -- to the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. The decision comes shortly after Mr. Gates said he would leave Microsoft to work full time with his philanthropic organization.

June 24, 2006

The state of Nevada had the largest increase in carbon emissions between 1990 and 2001 according to mongabay.com's analysis of figures released by the Energy Information Administration. Carbon dioxide emissions climbed 47 percent during the period, while the state's economy grew by 85 percent and its population increased by 73 percent. The figures show that Nevada, like the rest of the United States, is becoming getting more out of its carbon dioxide emissions than it did in 1990. Overall the United States was about 20 percent more carbon dioxide efficient in 2001 than in 1990, with each metric ton of carbon dioxide generating from $1,614 to 1,724 worth of gross domestic product.

This week France and Cameroon signed the first ever Central African debt for nature swap. This agreement will invest at least $25 million over the next five years to protect part of the world's second largest tropical forest, home to elephants, gorillas, hundreds of bird species and indigenous groups such as the Ba'Aka pygmies.

June 23, 2006

A survey of coral along Madagascar's northeast coast suggests that they island's reef may have so far escaped the damaging effects of warmer ocean temperatures attributed to global climate change. Researchers from Conservation International (CI), a leading conservation group, found that the region's coral reefs have avoided the bleaching that has affected other Indian Ocean reefs. The scientists believe that cool water currents from adjacent deep ocean areas have helped offset the warming effects of climate change.

Global warming accounted for around half of the extra hurricane-fueling warmth in the waters of the tropical North Atlantic in 2005, while natural cycles were only a minor factor, according to a new analysis by Kevin Trenberth and Dennis Shea of the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR).

The National Research Council has officially weighed in on climate change. The organization says that there is sufficient evidence from tree rings, boreholes, retreating glaciers, and other proxies of past surface temperatures to say with a high level of confidence that the last few decades of the 20th century were warmer than any comparable period in the last 400 years.

June 22, 2006

Africa's deforestation rate may be underestimated by satellite imagery according to a researcher at the University of Wisconsin. Holly Gibbs, a Ph.D. candidate at the Center for Sustainability and the Global Environment at the University of Wisconsin, presented her findings at a conservation conference held in Antananarivo, the capital of Madagascar. "The consensus is that Africa is losing about 0.4 to 0.7 percent of its forests each year but this is likely an underestimate," said Gibbs..

To recognize an internationally renowned primatologist and champion of Madagascar's unique biodiversity, scientists who discovered three new species of mouse lemur on the island nation have named one in honor of Russell A. Mittermeier, the president of Conservation International. Mittermeier, the longtime chair of the IUCN Primate Special Group, is an expert on Madagascar and its lemurs, the distinctive primates found nowhere else on Earth. He is the lead author of "Lemurs of Madagascar," a comprehensive field guide on the country's flagship species.