The Amazon River is known for its pink dolphins and dangerous piranhas. But now, it will be known for something new: a huge coral reef that spans 600 miles. The reef was discovered in the muddy waters at the mouth of the Amazon by a team of scientists from Brazil and the US. Check out the video to learn more about this amazing discover:
Climate change is affecting sea turtles in an unusual way: sex. The sex of hatchlings, that is.
According to a study by Florida State University, rising global temperatures are causing a gender imbalance. Scientists researched Brazilian loggerhead turtles and found that the warmer temperatures cause higher incubating temperatures, which leads to more female hatchlings.
Optimal hatching temperatures are between 75.2 to 93.2 degrees Fahrenheit, but temperatures below 85.1 degrees results in more male turtles and temperatures above yield more females.
Assistant Professor of Oceanography at Florida State University Mariana Fuentes said:
“We’re concerned we’re going to have a feminization of marine turtles. This study came from the need to understand the current sex ratio being produced at loggerhead nesting grounds to establish baseline parameters as climate change progresses and to identify beaches that produce a higher proportion of males.”
Researchers believe projected increases in temperature will cause gender imbalance in marine turtle populations to worsen. Fuente and her team will move forward trying to identify the best practices to protect the turtles. They will coordinate with government officials and conservationists in Brazil to create conservation plans, working to make sure this imbalance does not negatively impact the species.
Imagine our world without up to 656,000 square miles of forest – an area than twice the size of Texas. Our world would look a lot different.
According to a World Wildlife Fund (WWF) report released in April, this could be the case by 2030. The report identified 11 regions around the world with the greatest expected loss of forest over the next 15 years.
These forests are home to countless animals, including rare and endangered species, and such habitat loss would be detrimental to them. And even worse, it could all happen in as little as 15 years from now unless we address major forest threats like mining, illegal logging, agriculture and road construction.
Here are the 11 forests identified in the WWF report:
The Amazon jungle is the world’s largest forest, but it’s also projected to have the greatest habitat loss. Over a quarter of the forest will be gone if current trends persist, especially today’s cattle ranching and agriculture in the region.
2. Atlantic Forest/Gran Chaco
The Atlantic forest spans parts of Paraguay, Brazil and Argentina and is one of the richest rainforests in the world, with more biodiversity per acre than the Amazon. But 75% of the Brazilian population lives there, causing deforestation in both the Atlantic forest and the neighboring dry forest Gran Chaco.
In 2030, there could be as little as 33% of the lowland Borneo rainforest left. Weak government and instability only exacerbate deforestation as more and more people create palm oil plantations in the region.
The Cerrado is a high plateau region in Brazil that isn’t as well-known as the Amazon but is just as threatened. Cattle ranching and converting forest to soy plantations are the major causes of deforestation.
Running along South America’s northwestern Pacific coast, these forests face deforestation from roads, power lines, mining and oil exploration. Most damage has occurred in the Ecuadorian Choco, but the regions in Panama and Colombia are also in jeopardy.
6. Congo Basin
The Congo Basin is one of the world’s most important wilderness regions, containing 20% of the planet’s tropical forests and the most biodiversity in Africa. These forests are especially threatened because the human population is expected to double by 2030.
7. Eastern Africa
This region has the miombo woodlands and coastal and mountain forests, all of which are threatened. The forests are illegally logged, over-harvested for timber and fuel wood or converted to livestock and cash crops. Sadly, the coastal forests of Tanzania and Kenya are already down to 10% of their original area.
8. Eastern Australia
Although there have been recent reductions in deforestation in the states of Queensland and New South Wales, weak legislation raises concerns about forest loss. Conversion of forest land to pastures for livestock is the main cause of deforestation, but key species are affected, including koalas, possums, gliders and birds.
9. Greater Mekong
Because of a booming economy, the region’s forest land is being converted for sugar, rice, rubber and biofuels. But as more and more of the forests are converted for economic development, the area’s animals become increasingly threatened and the Greater Mekong forests are rich in species. For instance, in 2011 alone, 126 new species were discovered there, including fish, snakes, frogs and bats.
10. New Guinea
New Guinea and neighboring islands are home to the largest remaining regions of tropical forests in the Asia-Pacific area and home to more than 6% of the world’s species. But with agriculture on the rise, the forests and their inhabitants are in jeopardy.
Indonesia’s palm oil production is now centered in Sumatra, and particularly the Riau province, causing deforestation in the area. It even affects protected forests and national parks, threatening the region’s rhinos, tigers, orangutans, and other wildlife
What Can We Do?
WWF believes that stopping deforestation now is more strategic and cost-effective than dealing with the consequences later. Deforestation accounts for around 15% of global carbon emissions – more than the total emissions from every single the motor vehicles, airplanes and ships in the world. If we don’t address this issue and take action, we could lose over 600,000 square miles of our planet’s forests. With that, we would lose the benefits those forests provide, including jobs, clean water and wood, and we would lose precious habitat for much of the world’s wildlife and many endangered species.
Featured image by David Evers / CC BY 2.0
Over the next 100 years, our planet’s tropical amphibians may go extinct.
A new study found that in the last 30-40 years, 200 frog species have gone extinct around the world and that hundreds more may disappear in the next century. Habitat loss and destruction, climate change and deadly diseases are the factors that put these amphibians at risk.
John Alroy, associate professor in biological sciences at the Macquarie University in Australia authored the study. To estimate the number of extinct species, he looked at samples from museums of amphibians and reptiles in nine different regions and compared them to published observations.
Some of the worst rates of extinction were in Latin America, possibly due to the chytrid fungus. Alroy says:
“There’s pretty good agreement that the biggest threat for amphibians is the [chytrid] (Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis) fungus. However, I think habitat destruction might have a bigger role than people realize — and future climate change is going to have huge and unpredictable consequences.”
While tropical amphibians face high extinction rates, those in the Southeast United States do not. In addition, reptiles in all regions faced low extinction rates except in a few areas like Madagascar.
There are 703 species and sub-species of primates in the world, from apes to monkeys to lemurs. And more than half of them are facing extinction.
Most of the endangered statuses of these primates are caused by habitat loss and destruction, like burning forests, as well as poaching and the illegal wildlife trade.
Leading primatologist and director of conservation at Bristol Zoological Society in Britain, Christoph Schwitzer says:
“This research highlights the extent of the danger facing many of the world’s primates. We hope it will focus people’s attention on these lesser-known primate species, some of which most people will probably have never heard of.”
First timers on the most endangered list include the Philippine tarsier and the Lavasoa dwarf lemur from Madagascar – a species discovered just two years ago. Other primates on the list, like the Roloway monkey from Ghana and the Ivory Coast, are on the brink of extinction.
The red colobus monkey in Africa and some of South America’s howler monkeys and spider monkeys are also threatened. These species are larger primates, which makes them easy targets for bushmeat hunting.
“Some of these animals have tiny populations remaining in the wild. Support and action to help save them is vital if we are to avoid losing these wonderful animals forever.”
Here is the list of the 25 most endangered primates for 2014-2016, along with their estimated remaining population size. Five of the primates are from Madagascar, five from Africa, 10 from Asia, and five from Central and South America:
1. Lavasoa dwarf lemur – unknown
2. Lac Alaotra bamboo lemur – about 2,500-5,000
3. Red ruffed lemur – unknown
4. Northern sportive lemur – around 50
5. Perrier’s sifaka – 1,700-2,600
6. Rondo dwarf galago – unknown, but remaining habitat is just 40 square miles
7. Roloway monkey – unknown, but thought to be on the verge of extinction
8. Preuss’s red colobus monkey – unknown
9. Tana River red colobus monkey – 1,000 and declining
10. Eastern lowland gorilla – 2,000-10,000
11. Philippine tarsier – unknown
12. Javan slow loris – unknown
13. Pig-tailed langur – 3,300
14. Cat Ba langur (golden-headed langur) – 60
15. Delacour’s langur – 234-275
16. Tonkin snub-nosed monkey – less than 250
17. Kashmir grey langur – unknown
18. Western purple-faced langur – unknown
19. Hainan gibbon – 25
20, Sumatran orangutan – 6,600
21. Ka’apor capuchin – unknown
22. San Martin titi monkey – unknown
23. Northern brown howler monkey – less than 250 mature animals
24. Colombian brown spider monkey – unknown
25. Ecuadorian brown-headed spider monkey – unknown
The list comes from a report that was put together by the IUCN, Bristol Zoological Society, International Primatological Society and Conservation International and is updated every two years
Thought climate change was bad for everyone? Think again. It may actually have benefits to the only penguin native to the northern hemisphere, the Galápagos penguin.
According to a study led by researchers at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, shifting equatorial winds and water temperatures – potentially related to climate change – have caused an undersea river to reach the Galápagos Islands. The river, called the Equatorial Undercurrent, creates a steady flow of cold ocean water that has revitalized food sources on the western side of the Galápagos, where a majority of the penguins live.
Now that the Galápagos penguins have more fish to eat, they’ve hatched more babies who make it to adulthood, more than tripling their numbers. 15 years ago, there were just a few hundred, but today there are over 1,000 penguins.
The refreshed food supply has also been good for fur seals and iguanas in the region. Associate scientist with Woods Hole and lead author of the study Kristopher B. Karnauskas says:
“When you see a cold pool of water where you’d expect to see warm water, that indicates something is mixing that water up from below. That water is feeding everything from plankton on up. It has been strengthening in the past 30 years and expanding northward…The sea surface temperature trend shows that just to the north of where most of the penguins are has become more of a suitable environment than it was in the past.”
Karnauskas believes the findings in his study can help conserve and increase the Galápagos penguin population. But he is only cautiously optimistic because rising ocean temperatures are still harmful to the rest of the world’s marine habitats. Karnauskas explains:
“This could be interpreted as ‘Global warming is good for penguins.’ I think that’s glossing over the details too much. The Galápagos happens to be this little outpost that, at least in the near term, is benefiting from changes in ocean circulation that could be driven by anthropogenic climate change. But I wouldn’t necessarily count on this saving them forever.”
What marine ecosystem is most at risk of extinction from human impact? An international team of scientists used 23 million years of fossil records to conclude that the tropics are most at risk of extinction today.
In a paper published in the journal Science, researchers found that the predictors of extinction vulnerability, geographic range and the type of organisms have remained consistent over the past 23 million years.
Study co-author and professor at the ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies, University of Queensland John Pandolfi states:
“We used these estimates to map natural extinction risk in modern oceans, and compare it with recent human pressures on the ocean such as fishing, and climate change to identify the areas most at risk. These regions are disproportionately in the tropics, raising the possibility that these ecosystems may be particularly vulnerable to future extinctions.”
With these records, the scientists were able to assess a baseline extinction risk for tropical ecosystems and marine animals like sharks, whales, dolphins, snails, clams, corals and more. They then mapped the regions where those species with high risk were most impacted by humans and climate change.
By identifying these regions, humans can now target the tropics and the species that dwell there in conservation efforts and policies. From Simon Fraser University, British Columbia, co-author Dr. Sean Anderson says:
“It’s very difficult to detect extinctions in the modern oceans but fossils can help fill in the gaps. Our findings can help prioritize areas and species that might be at greater risk of extinction and that might require extra attention, conservation or management – protecting vulnerable species in vulnerable places.”