September 30, 2005
The likely source of SARS -- which killed 770 people in 2003 -- is the horseshoe bat, a new study in the journal Science suggests. Now that a bat has been identified as the origin for the respiratory disease, there is concern that all bats will be persecuted. This would be a shame. Not only do bats play a crucial role in the health of ecosystems but they are also helpful in controlling insects, including malaria-carrying mosquitoes.
September 29, 2005
The International Commission on Zoological Nomenclature expects that more than 20,000 species will be described by zoologists in 2005. This year's discoveries include four species of lemurs from the island of Madagascar, a monkey from Tanzania, an odd-ball rodent from Vietnam, a parasitic "vampire fish" from the Amazon.
September 28, 2005
China is considering reopening the domestic trade in tigers and tiger parts, banned there since 1993, a move that would spell disaster for the already endangered species according to World Wildlife Fund (WWF) and TRAFFIC.
September 27, 2005
September 26, 2005
Yesterday's copy of The Guardian carried the most amusing story yet to emerge out of Hurricane Katrina. The newspaper reports that a group of armed dolphins "trained by the US military to shoot terrorists and pinpoint spies underwater" may have gone missing in the Gulf of Mexico when their coastal compound was breached during the storm. Leo Sheridan, an accident investigator with knowledge of the situation says, "My concern is that they have learnt to shoot at divers in wetsuits who have simulated terrorists in exercises. If divers or windsurfers are mistaken for a spy or suicide bomber and if equipped with special harnesses carrying toxic darts, they could fire."
September 25, 2005
In a move that sets a new standard in African conservation, the nation of Gabon, which contains some of the most pristine tropical rainforests on earth, announced today that it will set aside 10 percent of its land mass for a system of national parks. Up to this point, Gabon had no national park system. Gabon is poised to become a leading destination for ecotourists.
As many as 10 million people in Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, Swaziland, Zambia and Zimbabwe have been assessed as food insecure and will need humanitarian assistance until the next harvest according to a food security brief from USAID.
September 24, 2005
A distant supernova that exploded 41,000 years ago may have led to the extinction of the mammoth, according to research presented today by nuclear scientist Richard Firestone of the U.S. Department of Energy's Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory. The controversial theory is seen as an alternative to the belief that a combination of human hunting, disease, and climate change caused the demise of ancient megafauna in North America.
September 23, 2005
This month's issue of The Ecological Finance Review details Greenheart Conservation Company, a for-profit company that designs, builds and operates conservation based canopy walkways (canopy trails) and other nature-based attractions around the world. Operating on the premise that conservation can be economically viable, Greenheart believes that is has already become a "model of how to shift gears from an industrial to a green economy." Greenheart has developed or is developing canopy walkways in Peru, Nigeria, Madagascar, Ghana, Brazil, Guyana, the United Kingdon, and Canada.
September 22, 2005
Hurricane Katrina was the most expensive natural disaster in the history of the United States. Hurricane Rita threatens to add to the 2005 hurricane season's toll. Is there anything that can be done about these deadly and destructive storms? The answer is someday there may be ways to reduce the intensity of these tropical storms but in the meantime, the best option is to avoid new construction in hurricane-prone regions.
September 21, 2005
Hurricane Rita has strengthened to a Category 5 Hurricane.
September 20, 2005
After their summit this past weekend in Washington DC, conservation scientists proposed a $404 million effort to preserve declining global amphibian populations. The strategy would call for funding from governments, private institutions and individual donors to finance long-term research, protect critical habitats, reduce the trade in amphibians for food and pets, and establish captive breeding programs.
September 19, 2005
NASA research has found that deforestation in the tropics affects rainfall patterns in North America. Deforestation in the Amazon region of South America influences rainfall from Mexico to Texas and in the Gulf of Mexico. Similarly, deforesting lands in Central Africa affects precipitation in the upper and lower U.S Midwest, while deforestation in Southeast Asia was found to alter rainfall in China and the Balkan Peninsula.
September 18, 2005
The World Bank introduced a new measure of wealth that takes into account the depletion of natural resources and damage to the environment. These factors are neglected under current indicators used to guide development decisions, notably Gross Domestic Product (GDP). Using this new metric in its "Where Is the Wealth of Nations?" report published last week, the World Bank says resource depletion and population growth are draining the net "savings" of the world's poorest countries, which continue to get poorer.
September 17, 2005
An email obtained by The Clarion-Ledger suggests federal officials appear to be seeking proof to blame the flood of New Orleans on environmental groups. The U.S. Department of Justice has sent an email various U.S. attorneys' offices asking for information about litigation "by environmental groups seeking to block or otherwise impede the [Army Corps of Engineers'] work on the levees protecting New Orleans." The problem with the tactic: the Mississippi River levees on which the government is seeking information were not the ones that broke causing New Orleans to flood. The breached levees were those on Lake Pontchartrain and were not part of the litigation.
September 16, 2005
Wildlife experts began rescuing a group of eight bottlenose dolphins that were swept from their Gulfport aquarium home into the Gulf of Mexico by Hurricane Katrina. Two dolphins were rescued Thursday.
September 15, 2005
Scientists are meeting this weekend to discuss strategies for addressing the global decline of amphibians. Earlier this year, the Global Amphibian Assessment, a survey of the planet's amphibian species, found that nearly a third (32%) of the world's amphibian species are threatened and 129 species have gone extinct since 1980.
September 14, 2005
Speaking at the U.N. General Assembly, President Bush challenged world leaders to abolish all trade tariffs and subsidies in an effort to promote prosperity and opportunity in struggling nations. His comments are significant due to the wide-reaching impact subsidies have on developing countries and the environment. Oxfam, a nonprofit organization working to reduce poverty in the world's poorest regions, estimates that subsidies and other forms of protectionism in rich countries cost the developing world over $100 billion a year. Further, subsidies have a significant role in tropical deforestation. Governments have long subsidized land-clearing projects in places like the Amazon that would not otherwise be economically viable.
September 13, 2005
The Louisiana Department and Wildlife and Fisheries estimates that Hurricane Katrina will cost the state's fisheries $1.1 billion in lost revenue over the next year. That number would represent a 40 percent loss to the total value of the state's commercial and recreational retail harvest values based on 2003 sales levels of $2.85 billion.
September 12, 2005
Two sea otters and 19 penguins from the New Orleans Aquarium have been sent to Monterey Bay Aquarium. The aquarium will start providing updates on the animals once they have been stabilized. There are currently no plans to place them on exhibit at Monterey Bay.
September 11, 2005
Last week a Bay Area icon shut its doors. Kepler's bookstore in Menlo Park suddenly and unexpectedly closed after 50 years of bookselling on the Peninsula. The independent bookseller was considered one of California's literary landmarks, a place where well-read employees could make informed recommendations on virtually any genre. While high rent is reported to have played a role in the closure, Kepler's employees cited slow sales and competition from discount and online retailers as reasons for shutting the doors. While the environment has become tougher for independent bookstores, did Kepler's really need to close?
September 10, 2005
Friday night animal survivors from New Orleans Aquarium were moved to the Audubon Zoo in New Orleans, Monterey Bay Aquarium in California, and the Dallas World Aquarium in Texas. In all the aquarium lost virtually all its 10,000 fish.
September 9, 2005
Surviving animals from the New Orleans aquarium will find new homes according to aquarium spokeswoman Melissa Lee. Despite escaping Hurricane Katrina with little physical damage, the Aquarium of the Americas in New Orleans suffered significant loss of animal life when the facility's emergency generator failed and made conditions unlivable for most its animals.
Warming in the Arctic is stimulating the growth of vegetation and could affect the delicate energy balance there, causing an additional climate warming of several degrees over the next few decades. A new study indicates that as the number of dark-colored shrubs in the otherwise stark Arctic tundra rises, the amount of solar energy absorbed could increase winter heating by up to 70 percent
New evidence suggests human evolution was caused by specific periods of climatic change in Africa according to a theory presented at the Annual Conference of the Royal Geographical Society. These climatic influences played a crucial part in enhancing human development says Dr Mark Maslin, Senior Lecturer in Geography at University College London
September 8, 2005
The Congressional Budget Office projects 400,000 people will be unemployed due to Hurricane Katrina. Further, the hurricane is unlikely to have much impact on overall economic growth in the United States. Generally, the overall impact of natural disasters is often close to neutral since lost output from destruction and displacement is then compensated for by a big increase in reconstruction and public spending.
New Orleans Aquarium update: The sea otters, penguins, leafy and weedy seadragons, birds (macaws and raptors), and the white alligator are fine. Most of the fish are not.
Chernobyl's ecosystems seem to be recovering just 19 years after the region was badly contaminated with radiation from a nuclear meltdown according to a report backed by the United Nations. The report, "Chernobyl's Legacy: Health, Environmental and Socio-Economic Impacts," says 4,000 deaths will probably be attributable to the accident ultimately - far less than the tens of thousands predicted at the time of the accident. Meanwhile, researchers say that biodiversity around the doomed plant is actually higher than before the disaster.
The tropical rainforests of Kalimantan have long been threatened and increasingly endangered by deforestation and other invasive types of human activity. However, a lesser known ecosystem in the region that is literally coming under fire, is the tropical peat lands, particularly in the central area of the province of Indonesian Borneo.
September 7, 2005
An eyewitness account of hurricane destruction along the Mississippi Gulf Coast. Included is information on plans to provide pro bono services from out of state lawyers to the storm victims, many of whom will need assistance in dealing with insurance companies, relief bureaucracies, and possibly personal or small business bankruptcies in the aftermath of the storm.
Global warming will cause gasses trapped beneath the ocean floor to release into the atmosphere according to research presented at the Annual Conference of the Royal Geographical Society. The impact could trigger catastrophic climate change.
The use of fire for creating and maintaining agricultural areas is an annual practice across most of Africa. NASA's Earth Observatory recently released a news brief documenting fire patterns across the African continent for 2005.
September 6, 2005
The Aquarium of the Americas in New Orleans has lost more than 1500 fish and will be closed at least one year.
September 5, 2005
The American Zoo and Aquarium Association (AZA) reports that the Jackson zoo, Birmingham zoo, Montgomery Zoo, and Baton Rouge Zoo came through Hurricane Katrina with relatively little damage. None of the facilities lost staff or animals and most of the damage was limited to fallen trees. Meanwhile, the Marinelife Oceanarium in Gulfport, Miss., suffered major storm damage to the building and injuries to some animals, while the Aquarium of the Americas in New Orleans has lost at least a third of its fish.
September 4, 2005
Despite escaping Hurricane Katrina relatively unscathed, the zoo and aquarium facilities in New Orleans could use donations to help with the feeding and care of their animals: How to help the New Orleans Zoo and Aquarium
September 3, 2005
The Audubon Zoo, the Aquarium of the Americas, the Audubon Center for Research of Endangered Species in New Orleans survived Hurricane Katrina relatively unscathed according to reports from operators of the facilities. Dan Maloney, general curator at the Audubon Zoo, reports that although "attendance is really down," the staff that have stayed at the zoo are doing fine.
September 2, 2005
NOAA released aerial pictures showing Hurricane Katrina from the inside and widespread destruction in New Orleans.
September 1, 2005
NASA released satellite photos showing destruction caused by Hurricane Katrina. The images, available on NASA's Earth Observatory web site clearly show significant parts of the city inundated with flood water.
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