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Climate Change

Oceans

  • What on Earth is 'aquaculture'?
    on July 21, 2022

    In this explainer, we dive into “aquaculture,” a method for farming fish, which can sustainably satisfy the world's growing appetite for seafood — when done correctly.

  • 4 things you may have missed at the UN Ocean Conference
    on July 1, 2022

    Here are some announcements you may have missed from the 2022 UN Ocean Conference.

  • New study dives into what's killing the world’s largest fish — and more
    on June 30, 2022

    Protecting nature starts with science. Here’s a roundup of recent research published by Conservation International experts.

  • News spotlight: New hope for Mekong ‘megafish’
    on June 28, 2022

    In case you missed it: A giant stingray hooked (and released) by a fisherman in Cambodia’s Mekong River earlier this month has taken the title of world’s largest freshwater fish.

  • A self-cloning sea grass is the world’s biggest plant: 3 stories you may have missed
    on June 13, 2022

    Editor's note: News about conservation and the environment is made every day, but some of it can fly under the radar. In a recurring feature, Conservation News shares three stories from the past week that you should know about. 1. The world’s largest plant is a self-cloning sea grass in Australia Scientists have discovered a new contender for the largest living organism. The story: Last week, we brought you a story about the world’s oldest living things. This week, it’s the largest. A new study has revealed that a massive meadow of sea grass off the coast of Australia is one giant, self-cloning organism, reports Kate Golembiewski for the New York Times. The species, called Poseidon’s ribbon weed, or Posidonia australis, has been expanding over an area the size of Cincinnati for more than 4,500 years. Golembiewski writes that Posidonia is able to clone itself by creating new shoots that branch off from its root system. But it gets even stranger: Posidonia isn’t just a clone. Researchers believe it may also be a polyploidy — a hybrid from two distinct species, possessing two complete sets of chromosomes. Polyploidy occurs in many different species, but often produces individuals that can't reproduce. In the case of Posidonia, cloning itself is the only way to stay alive. The big picture: Posidonia isn’t the only clonal plant colony in the world. One of the most famous and largest is a quaking aspen colony in Utah known as “Pando,” which originated from a single seed sometime near the end of the last ice age. The colony now makes up 40,000 aspen trees that are connected by a continuous root system. Scientists fear climate change and other sustained environmental degradation could spell the end of Pando, which has been shrinking in size in recent years. Posidonia, which is old enough to have survived the last ice age, may fare better in the face of rapidly shifting temperatures. In fact, Elizabeth Sinclair, one of the study’s authors, said the plant’s extra genes could give it “the ability to cope with a broad range of conditions, which is a great thing in climate change.” Read more here. 2. Crackling or desolate?: AI trained to hear coral's sounds of life Scientists can now listen for healthy coral. The story: The world’s coral reefs are struggling to survive. Climate-driven marine heatwaves have caused mass bleaching and die-offs, with 14 percent of the world's coral reefs destroyed between 2009 and 2018. Now, a group of scientists has developed a novel approach for detecting the damage: Using hundreds of reef recordings, they’ve trained a computer to track the health of coral reefs by listening to them, reports Angie Teo for Reuters. Thriving reefs sound a bit like a campfire, crackling with the cacophony of underwater life. In contrast, degraded reefs are far more silent. New research has shown that artificial intelligence can pick up on audio patterns that are not detectable to humans — providing fast, accurate data. “Sound recorders and AI could be used around the world to monitor the health of reefs, and discover whether attempts to protect and restore them are working,” the study’s co-author Tim Lamont told Cosmos. “In many cases it’s easier and cheaper to deploy an underwater hydrophone on a reef and leave it there than to have expert divers visiting the reef repeatedly to survey it, especially in remote locations.” The big picture: From motion-detector cameras that provide a real-world view of vulnerable species’ habitats, to tracking devices for monitoring wildlife migrations — technology is helping conservationists find solutions for critical environmental challenges. For example, Wildlife Insights, a cloud-based platform developed by Conservation International, Google and other partners, uses algorithms to identify camera trap images far faster than any researcher can. The data is critical to crafting smart policies for wildlife conservation. This month, Conservation International and partners launched a new app called “Fin Finder,” which enables customs inspectors to take a photo of a shark or manta ray fin and identify it within seconds. Powered by artificial intelligence, the app can help governments confiscate fins that are illegal to trade. Read more here. FURTHER READING: In high seas, scientists see a lifeline for coral reefs New tech could transform science of wildlife ‘selfies’ New app aims to take a bite out of illegal shark fin trade 3. How this golden-eyed feline became the biggest comeback in cat conservation This cat is the star of a success story. The story: The Iberian lynx is the most endangered feline species in the world. The elusive cat, known for its distinctive amber eyes and bushy beard, was pushed to the brink by hunting, habitat loss and a virus that killed its main source of prey — the European rabbit. At its lowest point, less than 100 existed in the wild. But now, after 20 years of dedicated conservation efforts and a successful captive-breeding program, the lynx has made a triumphant return throughout its native habitat in Spain and Portugal, reports Christine Dell’amore for National Geographic. Slowly but surely, the population has inched upward and now there are around 400 individuals roaming the scrublands of Southern Europe. The big picture: The comeback cat still has a long road to recovery. Like many other large predators, the Iberian lynx needs a large, uninterrupted habitat with plenty of room to roam. But right now, its thousand-square-mile territory is fragmented and honeycombed by busy highways and other infrastructure. For Iberian lynx to truly bounce back, the isolated populations need to be able to reach one another and breed. The solution is to build wildlife corridors — essential passageways that allow animals to move from one safe location to another. It’s an approach that has worked for many other highly mobile species, including chimpanzees. Right now, efforts are underway to reconnect the fragmented habitat and help these felines find one another once again. Read more here. FURTHER READING: New science: a path for protecting chimps and more Will McCarry is a staff writer at Conservation International. Want to read more stories like this? Sign up for email updates here. Donate to Conservation International here. Cover image: A large seagrass bed in Honduras (© Joanne-Weston)

Forests

Biodiversity

  • News spotlight: Earth’s most unique birds are also most likely to go extinct
    on August 15, 2022

    In case you missed it: A new study found that birds with distinctive shapes and sizes are the most likely to be lost.

  • News spotlight: To boost biodiversity and climate resilience, bring back the mammals
    on August 10, 2022

    In case you missed it: Large mammals are critical to keeping ecosystems in balance.

  • News spotlight: Desert bacteria could unlock more powerful antibiotics
    on July 26, 2022

    In case you missed it: Species living in extreme conditions could advance antibiotic production.

  • A self-cloning sea grass is the world’s biggest plant: 3 stories you may have missed
    on June 13, 2022

    Editor's note: News about conservation and the environment is made every day, but some of it can fly under the radar. In a recurring feature, Conservation News shares three stories from the past week that you should know about. 1. The world’s largest plant is a self-cloning sea grass in Australia Scientists have discovered a new contender for the largest living organism. The story: Last week, we brought you a story about the world’s oldest living things. This week, it’s the largest. A new study has revealed that a massive meadow of sea grass off the coast of Australia is one giant, self-cloning organism, reports Kate Golembiewski for the New York Times. The species, called Poseidon’s ribbon weed, or Posidonia australis, has been expanding over an area the size of Cincinnati for more than 4,500 years. Golembiewski writes that Posidonia is able to clone itself by creating new shoots that branch off from its root system. But it gets even stranger: Posidonia isn’t just a clone. Researchers believe it may also be a polyploidy — a hybrid from two distinct species, possessing two complete sets of chromosomes. Polyploidy occurs in many different species, but often produces individuals that can't reproduce. In the case of Posidonia, cloning itself is the only way to stay alive. The big picture: Posidonia isn’t the only clonal plant colony in the world. One of the most famous and largest is a quaking aspen colony in Utah known as “Pando,” which originated from a single seed sometime near the end of the last ice age. The colony now makes up 40,000 aspen trees that are connected by a continuous root system. Scientists fear climate change and other sustained environmental degradation could spell the end of Pando, which has been shrinking in size in recent years. Posidonia, which is old enough to have survived the last ice age, may fare better in the face of rapidly shifting temperatures. In fact, Elizabeth Sinclair, one of the study’s authors, said the plant’s extra genes could give it “the ability to cope with a broad range of conditions, which is a great thing in climate change.” Read more here. 2. Crackling or desolate?: AI trained to hear coral's sounds of life Scientists can now listen for healthy coral. The story: The world’s coral reefs are struggling to survive. Climate-driven marine heatwaves have caused mass bleaching and die-offs, with 14 percent of the world's coral reefs destroyed between 2009 and 2018. Now, a group of scientists has developed a novel approach for detecting the damage: Using hundreds of reef recordings, they’ve trained a computer to track the health of coral reefs by listening to them, reports Angie Teo for Reuters. Thriving reefs sound a bit like a campfire, crackling with the cacophony of underwater life. In contrast, degraded reefs are far more silent. New research has shown that artificial intelligence can pick up on audio patterns that are not detectable to humans — providing fast, accurate data. “Sound recorders and AI could be used around the world to monitor the health of reefs, and discover whether attempts to protect and restore them are working,” the study’s co-author Tim Lamont told Cosmos. “In many cases it’s easier and cheaper to deploy an underwater hydrophone on a reef and leave it there than to have expert divers visiting the reef repeatedly to survey it, especially in remote locations.” The big picture: From motion-detector cameras that provide a real-world view of vulnerable species’ habitats, to tracking devices for monitoring wildlife migrations — technology is helping conservationists find solutions for critical environmental challenges. For example, Wildlife Insights, a cloud-based platform developed by Conservation International, Google and other partners, uses algorithms to identify camera trap images far faster than any researcher can. The data is critical to crafting smart policies for wildlife conservation. This month, Conservation International and partners launched a new app called “Fin Finder,” which enables customs inspectors to take a photo of a shark or manta ray fin and identify it within seconds. Powered by artificial intelligence, the app can help governments confiscate fins that are illegal to trade. Read more here. FURTHER READING: In high seas, scientists see a lifeline for coral reefs New tech could transform science of wildlife ‘selfies’ New app aims to take a bite out of illegal shark fin trade 3. How this golden-eyed feline became the biggest comeback in cat conservation This cat is the star of a success story. The story: The Iberian lynx is the most endangered feline species in the world. The elusive cat, known for its distinctive amber eyes and bushy beard, was pushed to the brink by hunting, habitat loss and a virus that killed its main source of prey — the European rabbit. At its lowest point, less than 100 existed in the wild. But now, after 20 years of dedicated conservation efforts and a successful captive-breeding program, the lynx has made a triumphant return throughout its native habitat in Spain and Portugal, reports Christine Dell’amore for National Geographic. Slowly but surely, the population has inched upward and now there are around 400 individuals roaming the scrublands of Southern Europe. The big picture: The comeback cat still has a long road to recovery. Like many other large predators, the Iberian lynx needs a large, uninterrupted habitat with plenty of room to roam. But right now, its thousand-square-mile territory is fragmented and honeycombed by busy highways and other infrastructure. For Iberian lynx to truly bounce back, the isolated populations need to be able to reach one another and breed. The solution is to build wildlife corridors — essential passageways that allow animals to move from one safe location to another. It’s an approach that has worked for many other highly mobile species, including chimpanzees. Right now, efforts are underway to reconnect the fragmented habitat and help these felines find one another once again. Read more here. FURTHER READING: New science: a path for protecting chimps and more Will McCarry is a staff writer at Conservation International. Want to read more stories like this? Sign up for email updates here. Donate to Conservation International here. Cover image: A large seagrass bed in Honduras (© Joanne-Weston)

  • Thomas Lovejoy, ‘godfather of biodiversity,’ dies at 80
    on December 26, 2021

    The conservation movement has lost one of its giants. Renowned ecologist Thomas Lovejoy died Dec. 25 at the age of 80, National Geographic reported.

Earth Institute columbia

From BBC News