Almost all lemur species are now officially endangered

Almost all lemur species are now officially endangered

SOURCE: New Scientist DATE: July 9, 2020 SNIP: This lemur species was once common across the south of Madagascar, but is now listed as critically endangered, the last category before extinction. The fate of Verreaux’s sifaka (Propithecus verreauxi) is sadly shared by many of its cousins, with an update of the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List today finding more than half of African primates outside Madagascar are now endangered to some extent. Due to rampant deforestation and hunting in their heartland of Madagascar, lemurs have it particularly bad: 103 of the world’s 107 species of these animals are threatened by extinction. A growing lemur pet trade in the country has also emerged as a new pressure. “Everything seems to be stacked up against lemurs,” says Russ Mittermeier at the IUCN. Local taboos about hunting Verreaux’s sifaka had previously helped the species, but with new people moving to the forests they occupy as charcoal production booms, that protection has evaporated. “It’s a wonderful, beautiful animal,” says...
Algae turn Italian Alps pink, prompting concerns over melting

Algae turn Italian Alps pink, prompting concerns over melting

SOURCE: The Guardian DATE: July 5, 2020 SNIP: Scientists in Italy are investigating the mysterious appearance of pink glacial ice in the Alps, caused by algae that accelerate the effects of climate change. There is debate about where the algae come from, but Biagio Di Mauro of Italy’s National Research Council said the pink snow observed on parts of the Presena glacier is likely caused by the same plant found in Greenland. “The alga is not dangerous, it is a natural phenomenon that occurs during the spring and summer periods in the middle latitudes but also at the Poles,” said Di Mauro, who had previously studied the algae at the Morteratsch glacier in Switzerland. The plant, known as Ancylonema nordenskioeldii, is present in Greenland’s so-called Dark Zone, where the ice is also melting. Normally ice reflects more than 80% of the sun’s radiation back into the atmosphere, but as algae appear, they darken the ice so that it absorbs the heat and melts more quickly. More algae appear as the ice melts more rapidly, giving them vital water and air and adding red hues to the white ice at the Passo Gavia, altitude 2,618 metres (8,590 feet). Tourists at the glacier lament the impact of climate change. “Overheating of the planet is a problem, the last thing we needed was algae,” said tourist Marta Durante. “Unfortunately we are doing irreversible damage. We are already at the point of no return, I...
Green-Energy Companies Have a Human-Rights Problem

Green-Energy Companies Have a Human-Rights Problem

SOURCE: Bloomberg News DATE: July 4, 2020 SNIP: Land seizures. Dangerous working conditions. Mistreatment of native populations. For decades, such practices were associated in the public mind with the oil and gas industries. That perception in turn undermined confidence in fossil fuels and, as climate change worsened, helped set the stage for a widespread boom in the renewable-energy business. Now that business is itself under scrutiny — and for some of the same practices. According to a new report, at least 197 allegations of human-rights abuses have been leveled against renewable-energy projects in recent years, including land-grabs, dangerous working conditions and even killings. Meanwhile, many of the world’s largest publicly held solar and wind companies are failing to meet widely accepted human-rights benchmarks. The report comes from the Business & Human Rights Resource Centre, a London-based group that promotes human rights in the corporate world and which has been scrutinizing the renewables business for several years. In 2019, the group documented 47 attacks, ranging from frivolous lawsuits to violence, on individuals who raised concerns about human-rights abuses in the industry. That ranked fourth, behind only mining (143 attacks), agribusiness (85) and waste disposal (51). That’s hardly the kind of company that most renewables executives want to keep, and the report offers some insight into what’s gone wrong. The group evaluated 16 of the world’s biggest public renewables companies against standards including the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights, as well as against several criteria that the group developed specific to the green-energy industry. The results were not good. None of the companies had policies to “to respect...
Arctic plants may not provide predicted carbon sequestration potential

Arctic plants may not provide predicted carbon sequestration potential

SOURCE: University of Stirling DATE: July 2, 2020 SNIP: The environmental benefits of taller, shrubbier tundra plants in the Arctic may be overstated, according to new research involving the University of Stirling. Current ecosystem and climate models suggest that, as the Arctic warms, tundra ecosystems are becoming more productive, with greater photosynthesis resulting in more carbon being removed, or sequestered, from the atmosphere. However, most models do not consider the transfer and fate of this carbon below-ground, and how this can interact with soil carbon through the activities of soil microorganisms. This is critically important because the vast majority of carbon in Arctic ecosystems is found in soil and ‘permafrost’ (permanently frozen soil or sediment) in the form of organic matter produced by the incomplete decay of dead plants, animals and soil organisms in cold conditions. The new research considered the impact of a shrubbier Arctic on soil carbon stocks and the overall carbon sequestration potential of these ecosystems. Significantly, it found that some tall shrub communities stimulate recycling of carbon in soils, releasing it back into the atmosphere as carbon dioxide – meaning that more productive shrubs might not always result in greater carbon sequestration. Professor Wookey said: “While previous studies suggest that a warmer, greener Arctic may increase the rate that carbon dioxide is removed from the atmosphere, our research identified an acceleration in the rate of loss of carbon from soils, back into the atmosphere. “This may more than offset carbon sequestration and would, unexpectedly, turn these ecosystems into a net source of carbon dioxide to the atmosphere. Significantly, current ecosystem and climate models do not...
Climate change will make world too hot for 60 per cent of fish species

Climate change will make world too hot for 60 per cent of fish species

SOURCE: New Scientist DATE: July 2, 2020 SNIP: Fish are at a far greater risk from climate change than previously thought, as researchers have shown that embryos and spawning adults are more susceptible to warming oceans. In a worst-case scenario of 5°C of global warming, up to 60 per cent of fish species around the world would be unable to cope with temperatures in their geographical range by 2100, when different stages of their lives are taken into consideration. Even if humanity meets the Paris deal’s tough goal of holding warming to 1.5°C, it would be too hot for 10 per cent of fish. Previously, we thought that just 5 per cent of fish species would struggle to cope with 5°C of global warming, but that was based on analysis of adult fish alone. Previous analysis has focused very little on life stages, but the team took into account differences between spawning and non-spawning adults, larvae and embryos. Spawners and embryos were found to cope with a much smaller gap between minimum and maximum temperatures, on average 7.2°C and 8.4°C respectively, than the 27.5°C range for adults. The greater vulnerability for embryos and reproductive adults is a “major cause for concern”, said Jennifer Sunday at McGill University in Montreal, Canada, who wasn’t involved the study, in a commentary in the journal Science. The main reason why embryos and spawners are less tolerant of warming oceans is down to their greater oxygen needs. Oxygen is more soluble in colder waters and less so in warmer ones. Unfortunately, seas are expected to warm too quickly for evolutionary adaptation. While fish can...