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Amazon Deforestation At Least 60% Greater Than Feared
(BBC NEWS, 21 October 2005)
Scientists from Brazil and the US say new research suggests deforestation of the Brazilian Amazon has been underestimated by at least 60%. . . . The team has completed a study using a more advanced technique of satellite imagery that can pick up more types of logging activity. . . . These include selective logging, where loggers pick out trees of value but leave the surrounding forest intact. . . . Deforestation in the Amazon is on such a massive scale that the only way of measuring it is by using satellites. . . . The trouble has been that while traditional aerial images can show areas that have been completely destroyed, they do not reveal selective logging of valuable trees such as mahogany. . . . With input from the Nasa space agency, the joint US and Brazilian team used an ultra-high-resolution technique to examine just how much selective logging was going on. . . . The report was published in the US journal Science. . . . The researchers concluded that the area of rainforest destroyed between 1999 and 2002 was thousands of square kilometres bigger than previously thought. . . . They also found that about 25% more carbon had been released into the atmosphere than estimated - possibly enough to affect climate change. . . . The businessmen involved in the practice claim picking out individual trees is more environmentally friendly than the blanket clearance of huge areas. . . . But environmental campaigners say that to reach the prized trees, roads have to be built and heavy equipment brought in. . . . This, they say, can be of no benefit to the Amazon.

posted by Lorenzo 2:25 PM

Scientists confirm: deepsea fisheries are in deep, deep trouble
(Greenpeace International, October 18, 2005)
Greenpeace today applauded the International Council for the Exploration of the Sea (ICES) for its drastic but responsible call for a complete overhaul of deep-sea fisheries management in the North Atlantic. ICES is recommending that no new deep-sea fisheries are allowed until they can be shown to be sustainable, and that existing deep-sea fisheries are significantly cut back. . . . "Unfortunately, the ICES recommendations confirm what we have been saying all along: that deep-sea fisheries are in deep, deep trouble, " said Karen Sack, Greenpeace Oceans Policy Advisor. . . . Deep-sea fisheries are considered particularly vulnerable to overfishing because they are slow growing and slow to reproduce. ICES is the oldest intergovernmental organisation coordinating and promoting marine research in the North Atlantic, Baltic and North Sea. It provides recommendations to 19 countries and is a meeting point for over 1600 marine scientists. . . . The European Community is responsible for more than half of all high seas bottom trawl catches worldwide, most of which occurs in the North Atlantic. Bottom trawling is widely recognised as the most destructive fishing method currently in use. . . . According to Saskia Richartz, Greenpeace EU Marine Policy Advisor, "it is time for the European Union to take responsibility for its actions. To start, it should support the establishment of a UN moratorium on high seas bottom trawling so that it can put the ICES recommendations to overhaul deep-sea fisheries management into practice." . . . Negotiations are currently underway at the United Nations on how to protect sensitive deep-sea habitats from the impacts of high seas bottom trawling. But many states, including some from the European Union, are claiming that negotiators reached a 'gentleman's agreement' last year to wait two years before taking action on this issue. . . . According to Sack, "it's unbelievable to think that these decision-makers may ignore urgent scientific advice because of a behind-closed-doors agreement that they made among themselves. There are too many examples of fisheries mismanagement already. The ICES findings show that scientific evidence clearly supports the need for immediate international action now to protect deep-sea life. The question is whether the policy makers will act or wait another year while they allow the destruction to continue."

posted by Lorenzo 11:59 AM

Images taken by a camera aboard the Mars Global Surveyor spacecraft provide evidence supporting earlier observations that the Red Planet's south polar cap is shrinking at a rate of about 3 meters every 2 Earth years. That's an indication that the planet, though frigid, is significantly warmer than it was just a few centuries ago, when frozen carbon dioxide was deposited to create its pitted terrain.

Maybe Mars is warming...but Martian industry is not causing the warming. It's likely that there is something happening in the solar system that is affecting the climate on both Earth and Mars. This warming is also not likely to be caused by humans.

Fresh Mars: Craft views new gullies, craters, and landslides
Ron Cowen
Mars may have been cold and dry for billions of years, but it's still an active place. A comparison of images taken just a few years apart by a Mars-orbiting spacecraft reveals freshly carved gullies and recent landslides. It also shows that a recently found, 20-meter-wide crater is only about 25 years old.

Orbiter's long life helps scientists track changes on Mars
California Institute of Technology, NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory news release

Further Readings:
Martian leaks: Hints of present-day water (Science News Vol. 158)

Recent Changes on Mars Seen by Mars Global Surveyor

posted by Hal 6:57 PM

U.S. Congress votes to speed up extinction of endangered species
(Houston Chronicle, October 10, 2005)
An effort to dilute federal protection for endangered wildlife and habitats has passed the House and awaits Senate action. If the euphemistically titled Threatened and Endangered Species Recovery Act is approved, successful efforts that have saved hundreds of species of plants and animals in their natural state for future generations will be undone. . . . The original Endangered Species Act, passed in 1973 during Richard Nixon's presidency, gives more than 1,250 species protected status and has designated more than 200 million acres of essential wildlife habitat. While it has scored major successes in helping such American symbols as the bald eagle bounce back from near extinction, land developers and agricultural interests have strongly opposed it. The Bush administration and Rep. Tom DeLay, R-Sugar Land, support California Congressman Richard Pombo's bill, which passed the House 229-193 on a largely party-line vote. . . . Dubbed "The Extinction Bill" by opponents, the legislation would eliminate all existing and future critical habitat protections, a section of the current Endangered Species Act considered essential in protecting threatened species. . . . One need not be a biologist to realize that species cannot be preserved in a wild state if they have no protected habitat in which to survive and multiply. Instead of allowing the secretary of the interior to designate such areas and impose land use restrictions, the bill would substitute vaguely defined recovery plans that environmentalists contend are unenforceable. . . . The bill also requires that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service respond to a landowner's request to develop previously restricted habitat within 180 days. After that time, the landowner is free to go forward. If the agency denies the request, it would be required to compensate the landowner for any losses incurred by the limits on development. According to Bryan O'Neal of the Arizona-based Center for Biological Diversity, those requirements would result in the Department of the Interior paying millions of dollars to corporations and developers out of the already lean budget for national parks and wildlife refuges. . . . After 30 years, the Endangered Species Act may require revisions, but it must not be destroyed. The Pombo bill would reverse the hard-won ecological progress the nation has achieved and sign a death warrant for creatures that have only recently been pulled back from the brink of extinction. The only species that will prosper and multiply under this law are developers indifferent to wildlife and biological diversity.

posted by Lorenzo 10:45 AM

Scientists Warn That California Ecosystem Is Collapsing
(Douglas Fischer, Argus 10/06/05)
The Sacramento San Joaquin River Delta is crashing. . . . At just about every level in the food web — big fish, little fish, zooplankton, phytoplankton — the ecosystem's wildlife populations are dropping, despite three wet years in a row and hundreds of millions of dollars spent on recovery and restoration efforts. . . . The problems come from many angles and affect a region that serves as a key wildlife sanctuary, a fertile farmbelt and a crucial water source for 22 million Californians and a huge chunk of the state's agriculture industry. . . . Researchers conducting ongoing surveys have long seen great swings in population levels. But until now, big drops have always followed droughts. These recent drops in fish populations such as Delta smelt and striped bass come as the state has enjoyed three consecutive wet years. More puzzling, fish populations in the San Francisco Bay have seen no clear decline. . . . The finger-pointing has centered on three culprits: -New toxins in the environment such as pyrethoid pesticides, a supposedly safe alternative to older, longer-lasting pesticides. Use has increased 300 percent in three years, according to the Department of Water Resources. . . . -Increased development pressures in the Delta, coupled with changes in how water is exported to Southern California. . . . -Flourishing non-native invasive species, particularly several species of zooplankton low in the food web that offer less nutrients for fish yet crowd out important food sources. . . . And there's no sign this will turn around soon, experts say, despite nearly $2.5 billion spent so far on efforts to restore the Delta. . . . "We've got a problem, especially when you take a long-term look over the next 50 to 100 years," said Jeff Mount, a University of California, Davis, geology professor and director of the school's Watershed Center. . . . The Delta, Mount said Wednesday, serves as a giant sewer for agricultural runoff, urban effluent, excess power plant heat. . . . The landscape has been completely changed, with massive waterworks, deeply sunken farmland and increasing urbanization. . . . All that has an effect, he said. . . . "Changes happen very fast. We're not grappling with or handling this very rapid change," he added. "We will have a collapse of the Delta." . . . Since 1993, 94,000 new houses, apartments and condos have been built in and around the Delta, said former Rio Vista Mayor Marci Coglianese, a member of the federal Bay-Delta Public Advisory Committee. That's akin to building in the estuary a new Hayward and Fremont — with all the roads, shopping centers, soccer fields, schools and utilities that come with such houses. . . . San Joaquin County has seen some of the most explosive growth, with Stockton proposing 30,000 more houses in flood-prone areas and Lathrop attempting to build 8,500 houses on a Delta island that flooded in 1997. . . . Meanwhile toxic algae blooms are up tenfold in the past few years. And the fish are disappearing: Delta smelt populations in the past three years are a quarter of the average from the previous five, according to the state. Striped bass are almost nonexistent. . . . And a change in how water is exported south aimed at protecting fish populations may have unintentionally caused further harm. Before, more water was pumped south in the spring, when it was plentiful. But the massive turbines also sucked in fish at a particularly vulnerable stage, so water managers switched some of the exports to summer. Now scientists suspect such a schedule sends too much of the fishes' food supply south. . . . Yet with no clear culprit, water managers urge caution. . . . "This is a pretty strong signal," Johns said. But "the worst thing we could do is do something because it makes us feel good."

posted by Lorenzo 9:52 AM

Amazon River at lowest level in 36 years in Peru
(, October 6, 2005)
The Amazon River, South America's largest, has hit its lowest level in the 36 years since records have been kept near its source in Peru, experts said. . . . Peru's National Port Company (ENAPU) has recorded the river's level at the river port of Iquitos, in northeastern Peru, since 1969. . . . The level at Iquitos was reported to be 106.5 meters (349 feet) above sea level, below the previous, 1995 record of 106.6 meters (350 feet). . . . The volume of the river's flow was a "weak" 12,000 cubic meters (424,000 cubic feet) per second, said hydrologist Jean-Loup Guyot. . . . "It is quite clear that low levels have been more frequent in the past 10 years," said the French researcher. . . . The Amazon is the second-longest river in the world, after the Nile, but discharges far more water at its mouth than any other. . . . It also drains more territory than any other, from Colombia, Bolivia, Ecuador, Peru, Paraguay and Venezuela before running across Brazil and into the Atlantic. . . . Low levels could bring economic havoc in areas of Peru that depend on the Amazon for shipping, by denying boats a navigable river as well as usable ports and harbors. . . . "This year we have had adverse weather conditions that are rarely seen along the Amazon, which have resulted in less rainfall," said Ena Jaime, a climatologist with Peru's National Meteorology and Hydrology Service.

posted by Lorenzo 9:43 AM

Birds Facing Extinction Due to Global Warming
(BBC NEWS, October 5, 2005)
Climate change could lead to the extinction of many animals including migratory birds, says a report commissioned by the UK government. . . . Melting ice, spreading deserts and the impact of warm seas on the sex of turtles are among threats identified. . . . The report is being launched at a meeting of EU nature conservation chiefs in Scotland. . . . It says that warming has already changed the migration routes of some birds and other animals. . . . Scientists have already observed a wide range of changes in the migration patterns of birds, fish and turtles, apparently in response to warming which has already taken place. . . . Some species normally associated with more southerly countries, such as the little egret, the loggerhead turtle, and the red mullet, are increasingly seen in and around the UK. . . . While many species have been able to adapt to new conditions simply by moving their ranges further towards the poles, the study warns that this option is not available to other animals, such as polar bears and seals whose habitat is disappearing rapidly with the melting of Arctic sea ice. . . . Even subtle changes in sea temperature can have dramatic impacts on wildlife with rapid depletion of the tiny plankton organisms which form the base of the food web in the oceans. . . . This is thought to have contributed to a recent drastic decline in the breeding success of some Scottish seabirds, as the fish on which they depend were suddenly deprived of food. . . . the fear is that the changes currently under way are simply too rapid for species to evolve new strategies for survival. . . . Their options are also being narrowed by the rapid conversion of ecosystems such as the draining of wetlands, felling of forests and development of coastlines - so if their existing habitats are hit by global warming, there is literally no place to go. . . . The report has important messages for conservation officials gathered in Scotland for this meeting convened by Defra. . . . They are being urged to make more use of "biological corridors" to widen the options available to migrating species as climate change takes hold. . . . The whole approach to conservation may have to be radically changed - the most perfectly-protected nature reserve could end up being of little use if the animals breeding there face starvation because they have nowhere to migrate.

posted by Lorenzo 9:51 AM

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