News Roundup

  • Ecuador has voted on a new constitution. Nature got a right: “the right to exist, persist, maintain and regenerate its vital cycles, structure, functions and its processes in evolution.” Yes. Yes. Yes. Should we start aiming for a 28th amendment?
  • Cod are crashing because the baby cod are being killed from by-catch. This article has a funny pun in its headline.
  • Another frog has been found back from the dead (i.e. “The Lazarus Effect”, “The Romeo Effect”). It had originally been thought wiped out by the chytid fungus, which looks to be killing off most amphibian species on this planet. I had the “pleasure” of hearing David Wake talk about this today, and the whole thing really is chilling.
  • Look at this Andean mountain cat. Have a look at this beautiful motherfucking “snow leopard of the Andes” cat. He was last seen by Mauro Lucherini and colleagues being awesome in the huge ass high elevation mountains of Argentina, Bolivia, Chile and Peru, which is where he is right now being awesome as usual. He is about the most beautiful god damn cat in the whole world and chews on endangered prey all the time. Responds to “Xerxes”.[1]
  • Immediately after Grey Wolves were de-listed, the Disciples of Palin from Montana and Idaho “went on a shooting spree,” according to the LA Times. Initially this struck me as pretty interesting: whatever punative measures that were leveled under the ESA against hunting the wolves worked, despite what would seem like almost unplaceable odds against catching a poacher. Hunters were very well behaved in waiting to brutalize the wolves (population down 20% since being removed from the list).
Posted by Tim on September 29th, 2008 • • Comments Off
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keeping protected areas protected

A new report from the World Resource Institute argues that in light of recent moves (particularly in East Africa) to de-gazette or downlist parks,  focusing on protecting parks targeted for de-gazettement or de-notification is not enough–we also need to address the way that parks are established in the first place “to ensure that they are both secure in law and locally legitimate.” Though a bit long, this report which explores the current status and future of protected areas and property rights in Uganda, Kenya and Tanzania is a useful read for anyone interested in the viability of protected areas, and people-park dynamics.

Posted by Clare on September 28th, 2008 • • Comments Off

IUCN Red List Exposed

Heck, that was good timing. In the in press issue of Conservation Biology, Georgina Mace and colleagues give a great overview of the IUCN Red List — its origins, history, and current status; its methods and pitfalls (especially good discussion of the issues concerning “Data Deficient” species). The more I think about it, the less I value efforts to use the Red List to assess ecological traits that might pre-condition species for endangerment: many of those traits are highly correlated with the conditions for being Red Listed (e.g. habitat specificity and Criterion B: Small Range Area and Decline). The Red List isn’t a list of species that will go extinct; it’s a list of species that very smart and concerned scientists believe might go extinct based on a number of factors that they believe would pre-condition a species for extinction. So any study using the Red List is inevitably analyzing what those traits are, as defined by the Red List.

And since I mentioned genetic uniqueness in that post about the Red List, here’s a paper by Daniel Faith from the very same issue of Cons Bio discussing the EDGE of existence program: an effort to combine extinction probability with phylogenetic risk. Heavenly.

Mace, G. et al. Quantification of Extinction Risk: IUCN’s System for Classifying Threatened Species. Conservation Biology, in press. (doi: 10.1111/j.1523-1739.2008.01044.x)

Faith, D. Threatened Species and the Potential Loss of Phylogenetic Diversity: Conservation Scenarios Based on Estimated Extinction Probabilities and Phylogenetic Risk Analysis. Conservation Biology, in press. (doi: 10.1111/j.1523-1739.2008.01068.x)

Posted by Tim on September 26th, 2008 • • Comments Off
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How about a bail-out for biodiversity?

With all the uproar over the current economic crisis and the proposed $700 billion bail-out, it seems to me a time of opportunity for broader discussion of the conservation implications of our bloated economy. Rather than throw the equivalent of 2000 McDonalds apple pies for every American (thanks Jon Stewart!) at the big bankers with no strings attached, couldn’t this be a time to try to steer the economy towards a more sustainable path? (although I admit that the thought of throwing pies at those CEOs is appealing!)

A new report from UNEP and the Worldwatch Institute suggests that millions of new “green jobs” can be created in the next decades as part of the market for environmental products and services, predicted to reach $2.7 trillion by 2020. Considering the extent and pace of degradation of the world’s ecosystem services driven by our ever-growing economy (see the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment), perhaps such reports can help our leaders recognize the need for a ‘sustainability stimulus package’!

[For an unconventional take on the economy and economic growth, check out the Center for the Advancement of the Steady State Economy.]

Aside from overconsumption, human population growth is another major driver of impacts to biodiversity (remember I=PAT?). The Worldwatch Institute also hasn’t shied away from this controversial topic, devoting the latest issue of World Watch magazine to its coverage. Included is an interesting article that explores American attitudes toward population growth, exposing mixed messages from the media and misunderstandings among the general public. Their survey suggests that only half of the U.S. population is concerned about the impact of overpopulation on the Earth. Interestingly, only 38% of those earning more than $75,000 believe that at the current rate of growth there will not be enough resources for today’s children when they reach adulthood, whereas that jumped to 63% among those earning $20,000-29,000. While 6 out of 10 respondents agreed that “having fewer children would increase their financial options”, only 39% agreed that having fewer children would help protect the environment. Conservation biologists tend to use human population growth (or density) as a proxy for threats to biodiversity, but it appears that many Americans do not share their assumption.

Posted by Cole on September 26th, 2008 • • Comments Off

Friday Insanity 1.6

Watch as Alaska’s coastline gets gobbled up in 2 hour chunks [from Revkin]:

Posted by Tim on September 26th, 2008 • • Comments Off
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UN Millenium Development Goals Now with Biodiversity

The UN has agreed to add biodiversity targets to its Millenium Development Goals, specifically reducing the proportion of species threatened with extinction using the IUCN Red List. Here’s a press release from BirdLife.

This is fantastic news. Getting buy-in from the UN will no doubt politicize the process of categorizing species on the Red List. But it should also improve it in a number of ways, by increasing transparency and strengthening guidelines. I’d love to see species weighted by genetic (or functional) uniqueness, but any index is better than none. This is a big step forward.

Posted by Tim on September 25th, 2008 • • 1 comment
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News Roundup

  • WWF and the People’s Bank of China have released a report, Towards Sustainable Development: Reform and (the) Future of China’s Banking Industry. In it, they suggest that commercial banks in China use their regulatory powers to drive sustainable development.
  • Twelve fish species have gone extinct in a lake near Istanbul due to pollution.
  • Even if you recycle 100% of your waste (my fair city’s goal), a couple of airplane trips a year will completely wipe out any carbon gains you may have made. A new report shakes a finger at all you environuts who think you can make a difference: those most environmentally oriented tend not to recognize the true cost of all their actions. Tsk tsk. [Note: To you Americans, when they say "rubbish," they mean "trash." As in "stereotyping people by saying 'there is this middle class environmentalism where being green is part of the desired image. But another part of the desired image is to fly off skiing twice a year' is complete rubbish."]
  • Over at ConservationBytes, Corey Bradshaw’s introduced a new feature today: “Spotlights,” in which he focuses on conservation luminaries, starting with Norman “Hotspots” Myers. If you want more from Dr. Myers, there’s an extensive interview with him over at YT.
  • Finally, if you don’t already read “The Big Picture,” (rss) the Boston Globe’s captivating blog of high res photojournalism, you ought to take a look. A few days ago they featured some beautiful pictures of India (scroll down for the tiger jumping off a boat in the Sunderbans, the pair of turtles and the astounding tiger dance).
Posted by Tim on September 24th, 2008 • • Comments Off
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News Roundup

  • The Kirtland’s Warbler may be permanently endangered, says the AP. In the same article, they admit that their population has increased ten-fold in the past 20 years. Headlines!
  • CI describes the World Conservation Congress, the “Olympics of Conservation,” says Russ Mittermeier.
  • Speaking of Urban Ecology, Nick Paumgarten, in his typically shambolic prose, describes the work of Marko Pecarevic. Pecarevic, a grad student with James Danoff-Burg, studied ant population dynamics in the medians of Manhattan. Previous New Yorker coverage of Manhattan’s wildlife: Beaver, Coyote
Posted by Tim on September 22nd, 2008 • • Comments Off
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Live Where I Say, Not Where I Do

Here’s a fascinating article in Conservation Biology (and picked up by Nature) on home location choice and environmental attitudes in the Teton Valley outside Yellowstone. The authors found that the more their respondants cared about the environment, the more likely they were to be living in an environmentally damaging way (i.e. big ranches, small families), whereas people with lower environmentally-oriented attitudes lived in a more sustainable manner, in denser areas closer to town. Interestingly, the authors also found that the longer folks had been living out in the wilderness, the lower their concern for environmental issues.

That second point could, I think, be taken one of two ways: either they’re just finding that people who have lived out in Wyoming and Idaho for 50 years weren’t raised with the same environmental ethos that the recent Hollywod Celebrity Types and the other enviro-carpetbaggers bring with them. I think the more interesting angle would be if people legitimately became less concerned with enviromental issues the longer they’re in a place that’s more “natural.” I think the current crop of American environmental scientists, ecologists, conservationists, etc., were raised in suburbs and exurbs that have changed substantially over the course of our lifetime: seeing the loss of local creeks, small town forests, and trails was, for me, a great motivator. Being able to connect those local issues with global ones pushed me into this science. But there are no doubt areas that are doing just fine, especially if you own the 1,000 acres (404 ha) around you. No development problem there!

I think, also, this article re-highlights the need for a substantial shift in our focus on urban ecology: people who care about environmental issues are driven out of cities because there’s so little nature there. We need to find ways to make city living attractive to people who crave wilderness.

Peterson, M.N. et al. Household Location Choices: Implications for Biodiversity Conservation. Conservation Biology, 22:4. (doi: 10.1111/j.1523-1739.2008.00929.x)

Posted by Tim on September 22nd, 2008 • • Comments Off
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Politics

McCain, in the September/October issue of Contingencies:

Opening up the health insurance market to more vigorous nationwide competition, as we have done over the last decade in banking, would provide more choices of innovative products less burdened by the worst excesses of state-based regulation. [emphasis mine. lulz]

I promise this blog will return to a better balance of journal reviews soon; I made a promise to myself to limit this space to one politics-related event over the course of the campaign, and this is as good as it’s going to get. Happy weekend.

Posted by Tim on September 19th, 2008 • • Comments Off
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