Archive | Biodiversity

South American Insects Fight U.S. Weeds

WASHINGTON, May 24 (UPI) — U.S. scientists say they’re using a South American insect in an effort to control an invasive weed, water hyacinth, that’s common across the United States.

U.S. Department of Agriculture scientists at the department’s Agricultural Research Service said water hyacinth (Eichhornia crassipes) is a free-floating aquatic plant native to South America that has infested freshwater ecosystems across the nation, but which is especially problematic in the southeastern United States.

“The plant is a real menace, affecting water traffic, water quality, infrastructure for pumping and hydroelectric operations, water use and biodiversity,” the ARS said. “Other problems include fish kills due to low oxygen levels and increases in populations of vectors of human and animal diseases.”

ARS entomologists Philip Tipping and Ted Center said the work with researchers in Buenos Aires to find and test Megamelus scutellaris — a small planthopper native to South America whose nymphs and adults feed on the sap of water hyacinth. Scientists said the insect’s population increases rapidly, which will enable it to quickly affect the water hyacinth population.

Following extensive testing, the planthopper was found to be highly host-specific and non-threatening to native or economically important species.

The insects were released last week at the Edgefield Regional Stormwater Treatment Facility near Palatka, Fla.

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Posted in Biodiversity, Fish, Hydroelectric, Infrastructure, Other0 Comments

Three New Monitor Lizards Are Discovered

BONN, Germany, May 20 (UPI) — German scientists say they have found three new monitor lizards in the Philippines, suggesting an underestimation of the lizards’ Southeast Asian diversity.

Andre Koch of the Zoological Research Museum in Bonn, Germany; University of Bonn Professor Wolfgang Bohme and Maren Gaulke of the GeoBio-Center at Ludwig Maximilian University in Munich, Germany, described two new monitor lizard species and one new subspecies.

“After the spectacular discovery of several new monitor lizards from the Indonesian island of Sulawesi three years ago, our results now illustrate the diversity of water monitor lizards in the Philippines has also been largely underestimated,” said Koch, a doctoral candidate at the University of Bonn.

“It’s amazing that these largest living lizards of the world have been neglected for so long and that new species come up time and again,” Bohme said. “It shows that even with large vertebrates not all species of our planet are recognized and named. There are too few experts in the world, the education level at universities is declining and the essential knowledge about the global biodiversity stands to get lost!”

The findings are detailed in the journal Zootaxa.

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Scientists Cast Doubt on Selected Fishing

CANBERRA, Australia, May 19 (UPI) — Australian scientists say a less selective approach to commercial fishing is needed to maintain the productivity of the world’s marine ecosystems.

The study by Australia’s Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization was led by Shijie Zhou of CSIRO Wealth from Oceans Flagship.

Zhou said ecosystem-based fisheries management is broadly practiced as a means of reducing the impact of fishing on marine ecosystems while ensuring sustainable fisheries. The common view, he said, is that highly selective methods that catch only one or a few species above a certain size limit are more environmentally responsible.

But he said recent advances in fishery science and ecology suggest a selective approach might exacerbate, rather than reduce, the impact of fishing on both fisheries and marine ecosystems.

“The trade-off is lower exploitation levels on currently highly targeted species against better use of more parts of the ecosystem,” he said. “Selective fishing alters biodiversity, which in turn changes ecosystem functioning and may affect fisheries production, hindering rather than helping to achieve the goals of (ecosystem-based fisheries management). These effects have been overshadowed to some extent by a focus on overharvesting”.

Zhou added, “It is time to critically rethink traditional selective fishing approaches that might not protect ecosystems and fisheries as intended, but may in fact make them more vulnerable to large changes in structure and function.”

The research appears in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

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Several New Species Found in Indonesia

ARLINGTON, Va., May 17 (UPI) — Conservation International says an expedition to an Indonesian area often called “The Lost World” has resulted in the discovery of several new species.

The “stunning diversity of spectacular species” was announced Monday as part of activities marking next Saturday’s observance of the 2010 International Day for Biological Diversity.

The conservation organization said the newly discovered species include several mammals, a reptile, an amphibian, at least 12 insects and a new bird, all found in Indonesia’s remote Foja Mountains on the island of New Guinea in late 2008.

Officials said the discoveries include a bizarre spike-nosed tree frog; an oversized, but notably tame, woolly rat; a gargoyle-like, bent-toed gecko with yellow eyes; an imperial pigeon; and a tiny forest wallaby — the smallest member of the kangaroo family documented in the world.

The Foja Mountains encompass more than 1.8 million square acres (300,000 square hectares) of unroaded, undeveloped and undisturbed rain forest. The health and biodiversity of the wilderness provide a critical carbon sink for the planet, as well as vital ecosystem services to a series of forest-dwelling peoples who depend on its resources, Conservation International said.

A special feature on the expedition, which received financial and scientific support from the National Geographic Society, Smithsonian Institution and Indonesian Institute of Sciences, appears in the June issue of National Geographic magazine.

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Posted in Biodiversity, Conservation, Mammals, Other0 Comments

Mammal Diversity Causes Proposed

ANN ARBOR, Mich., May 5 (UPI) — A U.S. study suggests patterns of mammal diversity caused by biodiversity gradients arise from interactions between climate change and mountain building.

University of Michigan Assistant Professors John Finarelli and Catherine Badgley said biodiversity gradients are apparent when one travels from the tropics to the poles and sees the diversity of mammals declines with distance from the equator. Move from lowland to mountains, they said, and you’ll see diversity increases as the landscape becomes more varied.

The researchers said ecologists have proposed various explanations for the biodiversity gradients, often invoking ecological, evolutionary and historical processes.

But research conducted by Finarelli and Badgley suggest the elevational patterns of diversity we see today have appeared, disappeared and reappeared over Earth’s history and that the patterns arise from interactions between climate change and mountain building.

That, said Finarelli, has implications for conservation efforts in the face of modern-day global warming. “Based on our finding that more complex regions are more sensitive to climate change, threatened areas in mountainous regions should be a particular conservation concern, with respect to human-mediated climate change,” he said.

The finding also highlights the importance of studies that merge the disciplines of paleontology and biogeography, Finarelli said. “By marrying the two subjects, we can gain a better insight into the ecological and evolutionary processes shaping the world around us.”

The research appears in the early online edition of The Proceedings of the Royal Society B.

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World Fails on 2010 Biodiversity Target

WASHINGTON, April 29 (UPI) — Environmental organizations Thursday accused world leaders of failing to meet their commitments to reduce the Earth’s biodiversity losses by 2010.

The accusations are made in a study said to represent the first assessment of how the targets set at the 2002 Convention on Biological Diversity have not been met.

The researchers said they looked at more than 30 measures of different aspects of biodiversity and found no evidence that there had been a significant reduction in the rate of decline of biodiversity.

“Our analysis shows that governments have failed to deliver on the commitments they made in 2002. Biodiversity is still being lost as fast as ever, and we have made little headway in reducing the pressures on species, habitats and ecosystems,” said Dr. Stuart Butchart of the U.N. Environment Program. “Our data show 2010 will not be the year that biodiversity loss was halted, but it needs to be the year in which we start taking the issue seriously and substantially increase our efforts to take care of what is left of our planet.”

Matt Foster of Conservation International, added: “The steep loss of biodiversity is affecting all of us, but mainly those who are already the most vulnerable and dependent on nature for water, food and medicines. World leaders meeting in Japan this October must be more ambitious in halting biodiversity loss — our survival depends on it.”

The study appears in the journal Science.

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UPI NewsTrack Health and Science News

Stream and river temperatures increasing

COLLEGE PARK, Md., April 8 (UPI) — A study suggests water temperatures are increasing in many U.S. rivers and streams, including the Colorado, Potomac, Delaware and Hudson rivers.

The study — led by a team of University of Maryland ecologists and hydrologists — documents 20 major U.S. streams and rivers show statistically significant long-term warming that was typically correlated with increases in air temperatures. The researchers said rates of warming were most rapid in urbanized areas.

“Warming waters can impact the basic ecological processes taking place in our nation’s rivers and streams,” said Assistant Professor Sujay Kaushal of the university’s Center for Environmental Science, the study’s lead author. “Long-term temperature increases can impact aquatic biodiversity, biological productivity and the cycling of contaminants through the ecosystem.”

The researchers said they found 20 of the 40 streams studied showed statistically significant long-term warming trends, while an additional 13 showed temperature increases that were not statistically significant. The longest record of increase was observed for the Hudson River at Poughkeepsie, N.Y., and the most rapid rate of increase was recorded for the Delaware River near Chester, Pa.

“We are seeing the largest increases in the most highly urbanized areas, which lead us to believe that the one-two punch of development and global warming could have a tremendous impact on stream and river ecosystem health,” Kaushal said.

The study is reported in the journal Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment.

Expert: Bullying a mental health problem

LINCOLN, Neb., April 8 (UPI) — The public needs to be aware of the link between mental health issues and bullying, a U.S. expert says.

Susan Swearer, a licensed psychologist in the Child and Adolescent Therapy Clinic at the University of Nebraska, Lincoln, reports she and colleagues have seen an increase in referrals for bullying-related behaviors.

Swearer says depression and anxiety often go hand-in-hand whether students are bullies, victims, bystanders or bully-victims — those who are bullied and also bully others.

“I always assess for depression and anxiety when I’m working with youth who are involved in bullying,” Swearer says in a statement released by the American Psychological Association. “Bullying is a mental health problem.”

Swearer says parents and teachers must intervene when they see bullying take place. They need to tell those doing the bullying to stop, Swearer says.

“Parents and teachers need to document what they saw and keep records of the bullying behaviors. Victims need to feel that they have a support network of kids and adults,” Swearer says.

ESA’s CyroSat-2 is successfully launched

BAIKONUR, Kazakhstan, April 8 (UPI) — The European Space Agency’s CyroSat-2 satellite was launched at 9:57 a.m. EDT Thursday from an underground silo at the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan.

The launch from the silo, originally designed for use during the Cold War, followed a nine-hour, full launch simulation earlier this week. The original ESA CyroSat was destroyed on launch in October 2005 when the second stage engine of its rocket malfunctioned. Officials said they quickly decided to build an improved replacement.

ESA scientists said the satellite — which is fully redundant, with two of all of its instruments — is designed to measure tiny variations in the thickness of ice floating in the polar oceans and changes in the vast ice sheets on land. That will provide evidence of the speed at which Earth’s ice is diminishing. ESA scientists said the information will lead to a better understanding of the role ice plays in the Earth system and climate change.

“After the loss of the original CryoSat in 2005, we are extremely happy to have reached this point after four years rebuilding the satellite, including a number of improvements on the original,” said Richard Francis, the ESA’s project manager. “We are now very much looking forward to … delivering the data the scientific community so badly needs to build a true picture of what is happening in the fragile polar regions.”

The satellite, during its three-year mission, will orbit the Earth at approximately 435 miles

FDA OKs two generic hypertension drugs

WASHINGTON, April 8 (UPI) — The U.S. Food and Drug Administration says it has approved the first generic versions of two drugs used for the treatment of hypertension.

FDA officials said they have approved losartan potassium tablets and losartan potassium and hydrochlorothiazide tablets — a combination drug — that are the generic equivalents of Cozaar and Hyzaar tablets, in that order.

Cozaar and Hyzaar are widely-used anti-hypertensive drugs. The FDA said the generic losartan products will carry the same safety warnings as their brand counterparts, including a boxed warning against the use of these products during the second and third trimesters of pregnancy.

The generic drugs are manufactured in differing strengths by various companies, including TEVA Pharmaceuticals USA, Mylan Pharmaceuticals Inc., Roxane Laboratories Inc. and Torrent Pharmaceuticals Ltd.

Copyright 2010 United Press International, Inc. (UPI). Any reproduction, republication, redistribution and/or modification of any UPI content is expressly prohibited without UPI’s prior written consent.

Posted in Biodiversity, Other0 Comments

Stream and River Temperatures Increasing

COLLEGE PARK, Md., April 8 (UPI) — A study suggests water temperatures are increasing in many U.S. rivers and streams, including the Colorado, Potomac, Delaware and Hudson rivers.

The study — led by a team of University of Maryland ecologists and hydrologists — documents 20 major U.S. streams and rivers show statistically significant long-term warming that was typically correlated with increases in air temperatures. The researchers said rates of warming were most rapid in urbanized areas.

“Warming waters can impact the basic ecological processes taking place in our nation’s rivers and streams,” said Assistant Professor Sujay Kaushal of the university’s Center for Environmental Science, the study’s lead author. “Long-term temperature increases can impact aquatic biodiversity, biological productivity and the cycling of contaminants through the ecosystem.”

The researchers said they found 20 of the 40 streams studied showed statistically significant long-term warming trends, while an additional 13 showed temperature increases that were not statistically significant. The longest record of increase was observed for the Hudson River at Poughkeepsie, N.Y., and the most rapid rate of increase was recorded for the Delaware River near Chester, Pa.

“We are seeing the largest increases in the most highly urbanized areas, which lead us to believe that the one-two punch of development and global warming could have a tremendous impact on stream and river ecosystem health,” Kaushal said.

The study is reported in the journal Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment.

Copyright 2010 United Press International, Inc. (UPI). Any reproduction, republication, redistribution and/or modification of any UPI content is expressly prohibited without UPI’s prior written consent.

Posted in Biodiversity, Other0 Comments

Global Warming Threatens Plant Diversity

BONN, Germany, March 25 (UPI) — German and U.S. scientists say climate change will create global changes in the living conditions for plants, thereby producing major regional differences.

The researchers from Bonn, Gottingen and Yale Universities say climate change could bring “great confusion to the existing pattern of plant diversity,” with unpredictable consequences for ecosystems and mankind.

However, Jan Hennin Sommer of Bonn University’s Nees Institute for Biodiversity of Plants says the findings do not permit any predictions regarding the degree to which the biodiversity of any given region will, in fact, adapt to new conditions or — in other words — whether additional species will migrate into favored regions, or whether disadvantaged areas will in reality suffer mass losses of species.

“That would be fortune-telling,” Sommer said, but noting it is possible the worst effects of global warming on plant species numbers could be felt in the Amazonian rain forests of South America.

He said the adaptability of species and their interactions in the ecosystem can, like human land use, exert great influence on their distribution.

“This is a field about which we still know far too little,” Sommer said, while noting the study’s results provide an important pointer to the likelihood of the scales of immigration or losses to be expected in given areas.

The complex research is reported in the Proceedings of the Royal Society B.

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EU Fish Discard Ban May Threaten Sea Birds

LEEDS, England, March 24 (UPI) — British scientists say a proposed ban on throwing unwanted fish overboard from commercial boats could endanger the North Sea’s most successful sea birds.

University of Leeds researcher Keith Hamer says he plans to assess the extent to which the proposed EU ban will affect gannets, which rely on unwanted fish and offal thrown from fishing boats to successfully breed and raise their chicks.

“The North Sea has undergone massive environmental changes over the last 20 years, which has put pressure on nearly all sea bird species,” Hamer said. “Only gannets have consistently bred successfully, partly because they can travel as far as South West Norway to feed, but also because they are able to target food thrown overboard by fishing boats. Although discards should be stopped to protect marine biodiversity, research is needed on the impact of a ban, so policy makers can understand the best way to implement it.”

Hamer said he will work with colleagues at the universities of Exeter and Plymouth in conducting the research.

The scientists said it’s possible gannets may have specialized feeding habits, with some relying heavily on discards as others focus on finding sand eels or diving for mackerel and herring. If that’s correct, they said a ban would disproportionately affect some breeding pairs, rather than impacting the whole colony.

The work builds on gannet research reported in the Journal of Applied Ecology.

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Posted in Biodiversity, Birds, Fish, Other0 Comments

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