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Complete Archive (organized by chapter)
New World View
Climate Change
Life and Climate
Losing Biodiversity
Energy Flow
Ecosystem Change
Population Growth
Energy Use
A Changing Cosmos
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Latest News and Updates

2015-06-22. Amazon Rain Forest Nourished by African Dust.

posted by Alan Gould

By Terri Cook, EOS publication of AGU. For GSS Energy Flow chapter 9. Excerpt: New satellite data highlight the important role African dust plays in maintaining the rain forest's long-term health. The productivity of the Amazon rain forest, which plays a crucial role in regulating Earth’s climate, is limited by the availability of nutrients, especially phosphorous. Because water runoff keeps depleting this key nutrient from the basin’s old and low-phosphorus soils, previous studies have suggested the Amazon’s long-term productivity must depend upon dust transported from a distance source such as the Sahara. This foreign source of phosphorous, however, is not well quantified, and large discrepancies exist between current measurements and model estimates. To resolve these discrepancies, Yu et al. published the first multiyear (2007–2013) satellite-based estimate of dust deposition in the Amazon Basin using three-dimensional (3-D) aerosol measurements from the Cloud-Aerosol Lidar with Orthogonal Polarization (CALIOP) instrument on board the Cloud-Aerosol Lidar and Infrared Pathfinder Satellite Observations (CALIPSO) satellite....

2015-06-30. China climate change plan unveiled.

posted Jun 30, 2015, 4:56 PM by Alan Gould

By Helen Briggs, BBC News. For GSS Climate Change chapter 9. Excerpt: China - the world's largest emitter of greenhouse gases - has announced details of its climate action plan. ...The statement, released following a meeting in Paris between Li and French President Francois Hollande, said China aimed to reduce its carbon dioxide emissions per unit of GDP by 60-65% by 2030, from 2005 levels. The carbon intensity target builds on a previous plan to cut carbon intensity by 40-45% by 2020. China also aimed to increase the share of non-fossil fuels in its primary energy consumption to about 20% by 2030, the statement added. Beijing previously set a goal of getting around 15% of its energy from clean sources by 2020. ...

2015-06-29. Poland Wants Bison to Multiply, but Others Prefer Subtraction.

posted Jun 30, 2015, 4:51 PM by Alan Gould

By Rick Lyman, The New York Times. For GSS Losing Biodiversity chapter 2. Excerpt: BIALOWIEZA NATIONAL PARK, Poland — ...Last month, Piotr Otawski, Poland’s deputy minister of the environment and chief nature conservator, announced a plan to codify and streamline government efforts to protect and grow the country’s herds of bison, an effort that might seem as uncontroversial as a government action can get. Yet many farmers see the bison as a hazard to their fields and crops. The officials in charge of the country’s national forests do not always welcome the idea of more such creatures in the wild. Some business interests worry that too many new environmental rules will hobble the country’s economic expansion. Even those who support protecting the bison cannot agree. One group of scientists thinks there are too many of them in some places and chafes under government regulations that prevent culling. Another group says the problem is not too many bison but too much human interference in their care. “People are the biggest problem,” Dr. Krzysiak said. “By far.”...

2015-06-23. The Pope Is Not Alone!

posted Jun 30, 2015, 4:47 PM by Alan Gould   [ updated Jun 30, 2015, 4:47 PM ]

By Nicole Greenfield, OnEarth, NRDC. For GSS Climate Change chapter 9. Excerpt: When it comes to climate change, Pope Francis and many other world religious leaders are cut from the same cloth. ...maybe it’s no surprise that yesterday Pope Francis delivered the Roman Catholic Church’s first-ever encyclical on the environment—most notably, on climate....

2015-06-19. Vanishing Vaquitas.

posted Jun 30, 2015, 4:39 PM by Alan Gould

By Clara Chaisson, OnEarth, NRDC. For GSS Losing Biodiversity chapter 7. Excerpt: A report finds that the world’s smallest cetacean has reached a dangerous new low. The world’s smallest porpoise is in big trouble. A report released today finds that the vaquita—which has likely been declining since the 1950s and is already considered the most endangered porpoise species in the world—is faring even worse in the waters off western Mexico than previously thought....

2015-06-26. Pakistan morgues run out of space as heat wave kills more than 1,000.

posted Jun 30, 2015, 4:32 PM by Alan Gould

By Syed Raza Hassan, Reuters. For GSS Climate Change chapter 8. Excerpt:  The worst heat wave to hit Pakistan's southern city of Karachi for nearly 35 years has killed more than 1,000 people, a charity said on Thursday, as morgues ran out of space and residents rushed to supply over-stretched public hospitals....

2015-06-22. Risk of Extreme Weather From Climate Change to Rise Over Next Century, Report Says.

posted Jun 30, 2015, 4:25 PM by Alan Gould   [ updated Jun 30, 2015, 4:29 PM ]

By Sabrina Tavernise, The New York Times. For GSS Climate Change chapter 8. Excerpt: WASHINGTON — More people will be exposed to floods, droughts, heat waves and other extreme weather associated with climate change over the next century than previously thought, according to a new report in the British medical journal The Lancet -

2015-06-19. Researchers push to prevent a last dance for the lesser prairie chicken.

posted Jun 21, 2015, 12:18 PM by Alan Gould

By Marianne Lavelle, Science. For GSS Losing Biodiversity chapter 6 and Climate Change chapter 8. Excerpt: many as 2 million lesser prairie chickens once lent crimson to the often beige landscape of the midwestern and southwestern United States. But just some 22,000 birds remain today, occupying about 16% of the species' historic range. The birds are found in five states: Texas, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Colorado, and Kansas—which holds an estimated 60% to 70% of the remaining population. The birds “are facing a tremendous number of threats,” says retired biologist Randy Rodgers, an expert on “lessers” who spent 37 years with the Kansas wildlife department. Lessers can tolerate some human disturbance, he says... “But as with many things,” Rodgers says, “a little is good. A lot is not.” Beginning in the 1950s, modern center-pivot irrigation farming became a major threat, carving crop circles into some of the lesser's favored vegetation: sand sagebrush and shrublike sand shinnery oak. Oil and natural gas wells further fragmented the bird's range, as have roads, power lines, wind farms, and housing developments. ...It took a climate shift, however, to push the lesser prairie chicken to the brink of disaster. In 2012 and 2013, a punishing drought hit the heart of its territory. Biologists estimate the population plummeted by half, to about 18,000 birds, before rebounding by about 20% in 2014. The crash was a major reason the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) decided in March 2014 to formally list the bird as threatened.  ...a much bigger looming battle over the fate of another rangeland bird: the greater sage grouse (see "Feature: Sage grouse war tests limits of partnership in West")....

2015-06-19. Vulture populations plummet across Africa.

posted Jun 21, 2015, 12:05 PM by Alan Gould

By Erik Stokstad, Science. For GSS Losing Biodiversity chapter 6. Excerpt: One of nature’s best scavengers is under serious threat in Africa, largely from poison. According to the first analysis of African vultures, populations of seven species have fallen by 80% or more over three generations. ...Despite their gloomy reputation, vultures provide valuable services. Egyptian vultures (Neophron percnopterus) have been found to remove up to 22% of the waste produced in towns along the Horn of Africa. And by picking clean the carcasses of dead animals, vultures indirectly keep the numbers of feral dogs in check; that, in turn, reduces transmission rates for diseases like rabies. ...The main threat appears to be poison. In most reported cases, vultures are the incidental victims of attempts by farmers to kill lions or hyenas by lacing carcasses with pesticides and other toxic compounds. But more and more frequently, vultures are being directly targeted by poachers who presumably don’t want park rangers to notice the birds circling over killed elephants or rhinos. ...Vultures are also killed for use in traditional medicine. Various parts are thought to bring good luck or ward off evil spirits, whereas eyes and brains are prized for clairvoyance. Vultures are eaten in some African countries, and smoked vulture meat is trafficked internationally....

2015-06-19. The Sequencer is Mightier than the Sword.

posted Jun 19, 2015, 3:18 PM by Alan Gould   [ updated Jun 19, 2015, 3:19 PM ]

By Brian Palmer, onEarth, Natural Resources Defense Council. For GSS Losing Biodiversity chapter 4. Excerpt: The U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service brought a ton of ivory to Times Square this morning—and crushed it into tiny pieces. The service hopes to send a message to poachers and traders that the United States is committed to protecting elephants and curtailing the ivory business. ...New York City is one of the country’s biggest hubs for the illegal ivory trade. ...Elephants range more than one million square miles of Africa. Policing an area that size is nearly impossible. released yesterday in the journal Science ...University of Washington biologist and elephant ivory expert Samuel Wasser analyzed 28 major ivory seizures between 1996 and 2014. Comparing the confiscated ivory’s DNA with DNA collected from elephant dung of known origin, Wasser found that poachers have narrowed their hunting grounds substantially over the past decade. Almost all the forest elephant ivory in Wasser’s sample came from a single protected ecosystem.... The ivory from elephants living on savannahs also came from a limited area, located mostly in Tanzania but spilling into northern Mozambique. This research is a gift to the anti-poaching effort. ...According to United Nations data, the illegal wildlife trade is now worth $20 billion per year, making it one of the world’s largest forms of organized crime. The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora announced that elephant poaching rates remained unchanged between 2013 and 2014, at a level that exceeds the species’ natural growth rate. Some estimates put elephant-poaching deaths at 96 each day, putting the animal on a steady decline into extinction. Rebel groups and poachers attack, torture, and murder anti-poaching police with alarming regularity. One watchdog group claims that at least two park rangers are killed every week....

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