Archive | Biodiversity

Canadian Student Finds 19 New Bee Species

TORONTO, Aug. 31 (UPI) — A Canadian doctoral student has identified 19 new species of bees, including one in downtown Toronto close to his research lab, researchers say.

Jason Gibbs of York University completed a study of 84 species of sweat bees — so called for their attraction to human perspiration — and found 19 varieties never identified or described before, a university release said Tuesday.

Gibbs’ extensive study will help scientists track bee diversity, understand pollination biology and study the evolution of social behavior in insects, scientists say.

Bees are responsible for pollinating a large proportion of agricultural crops. Researchers estimate as much as one of every three bites of food that humans eat, including some meat products, depends on the pollination services of bees.

Sweat bees, common visitors to a wide range of plants including fruits and vegetables, make up a third to a half of bees collected in biodiversity surveys in North America.

Gibbs’ task was a difficult one as sweat bees are morphologically monotonous — that is, their physical characteristics are very similar among species.

“No one has been able to identify these bees until now even though they make up so many of the bees we collect,” Gibbs says. “It’s important to identify these species, because if we don’t know what bees we have, we can’t know what bees we’re losing.”

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Camera 'traps' Track World Biodiversity

LONDON, Aug. 31 (UPI) — U.K. scientists have developed a method to monitor rare and endangered species over large landscapes — and it’s as easy as clicking a camera shutter, they say.

Researchers from the Wildlife Conservation Society and Zoological Society of London collect images from remote “camera traps” that automatically photograph anything that walks, crawls or flies by for a “Wildlife Picture Index” containing thousands of images of dozens of species, a Society release said Tuesday.

These virtual photo albums are then run through a statistical analysis to produce data for diversity and distribution of a broad range of wildlife.

“The Wildlife Picture Index is an effective tool in monitoring trends in wildlife diversity that previously could only be roughly estimated,” Tim O’Brien of the WCS said. “This new methodology will help conservationists determine where to focus their efforts to help stem the tide of biodiversity loss over broad landscapes.”

WPI was used to track changes in wildlife diversity over a 10-year period in Bukit Barisan Selatan National Park in southwest Sumatra, Indonesia.

The 1,377-square-mile park contains the last remaining tracts of habitat for large mammals including Sumatran tigers, rhinoceroses and Asian elephants.

After running an analysis of some 5,450 images of 25 mammals and one terrestrial bird species photographed throughout the park, the Wildlife Picture Index showed a net decline of 36 percent of the park’s biodiversity.

“The Wildlife Picture Index will allow conservationists to accurately measure biodiversity in areas that previously have been either too expensive, or logistically prohibitive,” John Robinson, WCS executive vice president for conservation and science, said.

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Review: EU Falling Down on Environment

BRUSSELS, Aug. 30 (UPI) — The European Union has earned a failing grade on its environmental commitments in almost all areas, recent officials studies say.

From protecting biodiversity to improving air quality in the cities, official reviews of the EU’s performance overwhelmingly say more must be done, Inter Press Service reports.

The European Commission, the bloc’s governing body, confirms the worrisome problems in its latest Environment Policy Review released Aug. 2.

Although many official environmental protection programs have been launched and progress is evident in some areas, “further efforts are needed, in particular (to tackle) the loss of biodiversity,” the EC review said.

Only 17 percent of protected EU habitats and species have a good conservation status, the review said.

“Grasslands, wetlands and coastal habitats are the most vulnerable, mainly due to factors such as the decline in traditional patterns of agriculture, pressure by tourist development, and climate change,” it said.

The review also found the quality of air in most European cities continues to be “bad.” Exposure to particulate matter, especially ozone and other heavy polluters such as sulfur dioxide and nitrogen dioxide, remains high, it said.

European Commissioner for Environment Biodiversity Janez Potocnik has urged European governments to increase their environmental efforts.

“A number of data and trends (in environmental protection) remain worrying. I see a clear need … for further EU and national policy measures to make Europe more resource efficient,” Potocnik said.

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One of World's Tiniest Frogs Discovered

KUCHING, Malaysia, Aug. 25 (UPI) — One of the world’s tiniest frog species has been discovered in the forests of the island of Borneo, researchers say.

The smallest frog in the Old World — Africa, Asia and Europe — the minuscule amphibian is a species of microhylid, composed as the name might suggest of miniature frogs smaller than half an inch, ScienceDaily.com reported Wednesday.

The discovery was made by researchers from the Institute of Biodiversity and Environmental Conservation at the University Malaysia Sarawak and the Museum of Hamburg.

“I saw some specimens in museum collections that are over 100 years old,” Indraneil Das of the Sarawak University said.

“Scientists presumably thought they were juveniles of other species, but it turns out they are adults of this newly discovered micro species.”

The mini frogs — Microhyla nepenthicola — are just a half inch long, and finding them proved a challenge for the researchers.

The frogs were tracked by their calls and then collected for study.

The discovery was published in the taxonomy journal Zootaxa.

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Mobile Nature Lab to Visit Indiana Schools

INDIANAPOLIS, Aug. 20 (UPI) — An innovate science program on wheels will roll to U.S. elementary and middle schools this fall, turning school grounds into nature labs, officials say.

The hands-on Discovering the Science of the Environment mobile program from Indiana University-Purdue University in Indianapolis will bring environmental science to thousands of central Indiana students in grades 4-9, a university release said Friday.

Interactive technology tools, Web interface and sophisticated computerized mapping capabilities in a self-contained mobile trailer will turn school campus natural areas into environmental laboratories, allowing young students to explore, analyze and learn about the nature around them, program officials said.

The students aren’t alone in eagerly anticipating the program. Interdisciplinary teams of central Indiana teachers will take part in a week-long DSE Summer Institute, university officials said.

Upon completion of the institute, teachers are ready to take advantage of the sophisticated resources DSE provides to teach students about soil, water quality, wetlands, plant biodiversity and dozens of other topics.

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Mediterranean Under Species 'invasion'

ATHENS, Greece, Aug. 5 (UPI) — Biodiversity in the Mediterranean Sea is at risk from an invasion of hundreds of foreign marine species arriving in the last 140 years, researchers say.

Scientists at the Hellenic Center for Marine Research in Greece say at least one new species arrived in the sea each week, and between 960 and 975 “foreign” species have been recorded in the sea around Greece in the past century and a half, Athens newspaper Kathimerini reported.

In the last decade there has been an “aggressive increase” in foreign species, HCMR researcher Aygyro Zenetos said, with the number doubling in that time.

She says many of the invaders may have come in seawater used as ballast by an increasing number of research vessels from around the world conducting marine research in the Mediterranean.

But many likely species came via the Suez Canal and the Strait of Gibraltar, Zenetos said.

“We are seeing the creation of a new kind of sea and it is likely we will stop seeing many species that we recognize,” she said.

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Historic Census of Sea Life Completed

SAN FRANCISCO, Aug. 5 (UPI) — U.S. researchers say a 10-year census of marine life has identified areas of the world’s oceans with the highest species diversity — and areas most at risk.

Scientists participating in the international Census of Marine Life have tallied an average of 10,000 known marine species in each of 25 important ocean zones, and discovered 1,200 new species, ScienceNews.org reported this week.

Researchers say Australian and Japanese ocean waters, each with about 33,000 species, top the list for highest diversity among the 25 regions surveyed, and the Gulf of Mexico, surveyed before the oil spill, ranked in the top five with 15,374 species.

The seas around China and the Mediterranean Sea were also high in biodiversity.

The census identified the biggest threats to sea life, with overfishing being the most serious, followed by habitat destruction from coastal development, pollution, trawling and other human activities.

The census gives “the first integrated look at the diversity and distribution of life in the oceans,” marine ecologist Daria Siciliano of Sea Web in San Francisco said.

“In the wake of an oil spill in U.S. waters that is likely the worst environmental disaster in history, I hope the public is more likely to pay attention to what happens to the oceans,” Siciliano said.

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Research Finds 'waves' of Deforestation

LONDON, Aug. 3 (UPI) — European scientists studying tropical forest deforestation around the world say it happens in “waves,” with highest-value timber being removed in a first wave.

An international team of researchers says economics drives each succeeding wave, with high-value trees being in the first “wave,” followed by a wave that removed mid-value timber before the remaining wood was felled for charcoal, the BBC reported Monday.

“This translates to a prediction that waves of forest degradation will emanate from major demand centers and expand into nearby forested areas, targeting resources in sequence, starting with those of highest value,” a study printed in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences said.

The team says the deforestation model could help manage forests as vital carbon sinks and limit the loss of biodiversity.

The team used data collected around Tanzania’s largest city, Dar es Salaam, to see how far the degradation “waves” traveled between 1991 and 2005.

“The first wave that emanates is high-value timber, and that is mostly used for export,” Antje Ahrends of the Royal Botanical Garden, Edinburgh, said. “There has been a massive demand for this in China, and this is where most of the timber ends up.”

The second wave saw medium-valued timber trees being felled, generally used in the city for construction and furniture.

“This is expanding very rapidly, in line with urban migration,” she said. “The town has an average growth rate of about 7 percent each year, so there is — again — a rapidly growing demand for this material.”

The third and final wave involved local people collecting wood to make charcoal for cooking.

“It’s the most destructive of all of the waves because charcoal burners would collect everything,” Ahrends said.

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U.N. Names 2 More Heritage Sites

UNITED NATIONS, July 31 (UPI) — A U.N. agency Saturday added Sri Lanka’s Central Highlands and Hawaii’s Papahanaumokuakea islands and atolls to the World Heritage List.

The U.N. Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization said in a release issued in New York .

The Central Highlands comprise the Peak Wilderness Protected Area, the Horton Plains National Park and the Knuckles Conservation Forest. UNESCO says the region is considered a super biodiversity hot spot noted for its range of flora and fauna, including several endangered species, including the western purple-faced langur, the Horton Plains slender loris and the Sri Lankan leopard.

Papahanaumokuakea is an isolated cluster of small, low-lying islands and atolls about 150 miles northwest of the main Hawaiian Islands and stretching for about 1,200 miles

UNESCO says the area has deep cosmological and traditional significance for native Hawaiian culture. It also is one of the largest marine protected areas in the world.

The additions bring the total number of World Heritage Properties to 892.

UNESCO’s World Heritage Committee has been meeting in Brasilia, Brazil, this week to review candidates for inclusion on its heritage list and assess its List of World Heritage in Danger.

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Survey Says Biodiversity Down at Chernobyl

PRIPYAT, Russia, July 30 (UPI) — Researchers say a wildlife census in the exclusion zone surrounding the site of the Chernobyl nuclear disaster in Russia shows animal populations are declining.

Professor Timothy Mousseau from the University of South Carolina and Dr. Anders Moller from the University of Paris-Sud, France, spent three years counting and studying animals in the area, the BBC reported Friday.

From 2006 to 2009, they counted and examined wildlife including insects, amphibians, reptiles, birds and mammals.

In a report in the journal Ecological Indicators, they say they found evidence that radiation contamination has a “significant impact” on biodiversity.

“The truth is that these radiation contamination effects were so large as to be overwhelming,” Mousseau said.

The research compared the population of species in the exclusion zone with similar types of habitats in areas that were not contaminated.

Birds provided the best “quantitative measure” of these impacts, the researchers said, noting barn swallows were observed with tumors on their feet, necks and around their eyes.

“We think they may be more susceptible, after their long migrations, to additional environmental stress,” Mousseau said.

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Posted in Amphibians, Biodiversity, Birds, Mammals, Nuclear, Other, Radiation, Reptiles0 Comments

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