Biodiversity

Devonian die-off teaches grim lesson

Publication: msnbc.com   Date: December 30, 2010   View Article

A long, long time ago — between 378 million and 375 million years ago — about half of all species on the planet vanished. The trigger for this mass extinction, one of five known in Earth’s history, was a lethal combination of sea level rise and invasive species, according to a new study.

“The basic processes that normally result in new species forming were blocked,” study author Alycia Stigall, a paleobiologist at Ohio University, told me today.

Reefer Madness: The race to save corals

Publication: MSNBC.com   Date: May 10, 2010   View Article

Climate change, coastal development and overfishing have effectively wiped out nearly a fifth of the world’s coral reefs, and by the end of this century they “are unlikely to look much like the reefs that we are familiar with today,” said Peter Mumby, a marine biologist at the University of Queensland in Australia, who envisions smaller and weaker reefs that harbor fewer fish.

“But there will still be reefs and they will still be very important,” he said. “And so what we really have to do is take all the steps we can locally to

Check out seven ways scientists and conservationists are pushing to preserve reefs for future generations.

Pictures: Rare Bees Make Flower-Mud “Sandwiches”

Publication: National Geographic News   Date: May 10, 2010   View Article

What appears to be part of a spring wedding bouquet is actually a nest for a rare species of solitary bee, a new study says.

Called a “flower sandwich,” the three-tiered arrangement consists of a thin layer of petals on the outside, then a layer of mud, and finally another layer of petals lining the inside of the chamber, according to study leader Jerome Rozen, a curator of invertebrate zoology at the American Museum of Natural History in New York.

At the core of the sandwich is the bee’s larva, which feasts on nectar and pollen deposited inside the chamber by its parent before the egg is laid and the nest is sealed.

Photos: Ten Environmental Losses of 2009

Publication: National Geographic News   Date: December 15, 2009   View Article

2009 saw vast patches of the planet protected and world leaders pledge to fight global warming, but the climate continued to change dramatically–putting it in the “loss” column for the environment this year, according to experts who spoke to National Geographic.

2000-2010: A Decade of (Climate) Change

Publication: National Geographic News   Date: December 10, 2009   View Article

A decade ago, global climate change was largely considered a problem for the distant future. But it seems that future has come sooner than predicted.

One of the most remarkable, and alarming, environmental changes to occur over the last decade is the melting of Antarctic ice sheets and the recession of Arctic glaciers at speeds much faster than climate change models had predicted, according to environment experts.

Photos: Ten Environmental Wins of 2009

Publication: National Geographic News   Date: December 8, 2009   View Article

A giant woolly rat found in Papua New Guinea is just one of hundreds of species previously unknown to science that were brought to light in 2009. These discoveries are just one of ten things the environment gained in 2009.

‘Extinct’ species found alive and kicking

Publication: MSNBC.com   Date: November 12, 2009   View Article

The Rabb’s fringe-limbed tree frog, shown here, is one of 17,291 species threatened with extinction, according to an assessment of 47,677 animals and plants by the International Union for Conservation of Nature. The frog is found only in the mountains surrounding the town of El Valle de Anton in central Panama. Deforestation and a fungal disease are blamed for its decline. Only one male has been heard calling in the wild since 2006, and captive breeding efforts have so far proven unsuccessful, according to the IUCN’s “Red List of Threatened Species.”

Many conservationists say an extinction crisis is under way, driven by factors that range from overfishing and forest clear-cutting to global climate change. Amid all this doom and gloom, however, a bit of fleeting good news appears every now and again, when a species thought gone for good surprisingly reappears.

Learn eight of these stories. The endings may not be happy, but at least their stories are not yet over.

© 2008-2010 Collected Writings By John Roach