Posts Tagged ‘Extinction’

Fungi Expert’s Solution for Oil Spill

Tuesday, September 14th, 2010

Now the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico has been contained, few in the media are delving into the severity of its continued impact on the planetary ecosphere. But mushroom expert, author and Bioneer, Paul Stamets, has a viable solution for the long-term clean-up procedure. Recently named as one of the ‘50 Visionaries Who Are Changing Your World’, he has made extraordinary discoveries about how the humble mushroom could be the key.

Fungi were the first life forms to inhabit the land 1.3 billion years ago; 600 million years before plants evolved. After asteroid impacts darkened the skies, de-greened the Earth and caused mass extinctions 65 million years back, the only organisms to survive were the ones that ‘paired up’ with fungi and learnt how to
be co-dependent.

“It’s time for another re-greening,” Paul thinks, “as Earth recoils from the on-going catastrophes inflicted by our species.” And cleaning up after oil spills, pollution, storm damage, floods and volcanic clouds is just another day at the office for fungi. It’s a process he has called mycoremediation and here’s how it works.

Beneath the fruit – or mushroom as we call it – fungal roots, known as Mycelia, spread outwards to create a vast mat of underground cells that permeate the soil. Now known to be the largest biological entities on the planet, a single colony can cover an area equal to 1,665 football fields and travel several inches a day. A massive network of whispering spaghetti, these ‘neurological’ tendrils intersect with neighbouring colonies and even fuse with the roots of other species to share water, food and communicate vital information.

Paul explains:

“Mycelia are the Earth’s natural internet – the essential wiring of the Gaian consciousness. The creation of the computer internet is merely an extension of a successful biological model that has evolved over billions of years.”

Once the Mycelium has taken root, it gets to work as a super-filter, producing enzymes and acids that break down the components of woody plants. But importantly, these same enzymes are excellent at disintegrating hydrocarbons – the base structure of all oils, petroleum products, pesticides and pollutants.

Through a series of trials, Paul’s team at Battelle Laboratories, in the US, made some astonishing findings. Soil that had been heavily contaminated with oil and hydrocarbons was inoculated with Oyster mushroom spawn. After four weeks, it was bursting with fruit, while 99% of the hydrocarbons had been destroyed. Only non-toxic components remained and even the mushrooms themselves revealed no traces
of petroleum.

“And then came another startling revelation,” Paul says. “As the mushrooms rotted, flies arrived. The flies laid eggs, which became larvae. The larvae, in turn, attracted birds, who apparently brought in seeds. Soon it was an oasis, teeming with life!”

Amazingly, Paul’s team also found that Oyster mushrooms are tolerant to salt water. Mixed with straw, which will also absorb oil, and encased in biodegradable hemp-socks that are called MycoBooms, the Mycelium is able to colonize and get to work underwater. Myceliated straw and woodchip tubes could also be placed at the shoreline to capture and break down the incoming hydrocarbons. Meanwhile, the mushrooms sprout to create floating gardens; gnats and flies gather, and fish, birds, bats and insects benefit from the emerging food source.

Ahead of the game, back in 1994, Paul proposed that world governments set up Mycological Response Teams who could be deployed after events, such as hurricanes and oil spills.

Mycoremediation centres could be hubs of learning; places to cross-educate others and build central bodies of knowledge for our future generations. In time, world leaders, policy makers, scientists, students and citizens would have all of the Mycoremediation tools necessary to address every single environmental event.

During his 30 years working with fungi, Paul has also made other significant discoveries. Mycelium can protect human blood cells from major infections, such as smallpox, hepatitis B, influenza, HIV and various strains of cancer. Another type of fungi consumes and effectively eliminates the bacteria E. coli, while one species – and the research is currently classified by the Department of Defence – will destroy biological and chemical warfare agents; especially VX, the same deadly nerve gas that Saddam Hussein was accused of using in the Gulf War.

“The time to act is now,” Paul says. “Waiting for science and society to wake up to the importance of these ancient old growth fungi is perilously slow and also narrow in vision… But an unfortunate circumstance we face,” he continues, “is that mycology is poorly funded in a time of intense need. We need to educate our friends, family and policy makers about these solutions and bring local leaders up to speed.”

In order to appreciate the many benefits of mycotechnology, including the ones not yet discovered, Paul believes we need to adopt a ‘mycelial perspective’ of the world and wholly understand how it is  interconnected with every living being on the planet.

“Your job,” he tells us, “is to become embedded into the mind-set of Mycelium and to run with it… Earth is calling out to us, and we need to listen.”

Source: Positive News UK

Date: 14 September 2010

Over 25% of flowers face extinction – many before they are even discovered

Wednesday, July 7th, 2010

The giant carnivorous plant, Nepenthes attenboroughii, is under threat of extinction - along with 25% of all others on earth

The giant carnivorous plant, Nepenthes attenboroughii, is under threat of extinction - along with 25% of all others on earth

Scientists say human activity could spell end for a quarter of all flowering plants, with huge impact on food chain

More than one-in-four of all flowering plants are under threat of extinction according to the latest report to confirm the ongoing destruction of much of the natural world by human activity.

As a result, many of nature’s most colourful specimens could be lost to the world before scientists even discover them.

One-in-five of all mammals, nearly one-in-three amphibians and one-in-eight birds are vulnerable to being wiped out completely.

The researchers started by carrying out an independent review of how many flowering plants – which make up most of the plant kingdom – exist. The team calculated that there is another 10-20%, which has still to be officially discovered.

The second stage was to assess the level of threats from habitat loss due to clearing land for planting crops or trees, development, or indirect causes such as falling groundwater levels and pollution.

A study published in the journal Endangered Species Research in 2008, which estimated that one-in-five known species were vulnerable to extinction.

The warning comes as there is growing international recognition of the value of the natural world to humans in providing ecosystem services, from flood protection and medicines to spiritual spaces and enjoyment.

“Plants are the basis for much of life on earth with virtually all other species depending on them; if you get rid of those you get rid of a lot of the things above them,” David Roberts, at the University of Kent added.

Source: Over 25% of flowers face extinction – many before they are even discovered - guardian.co.uk

Date: 07 July 2010

Malians mobilise to protect dwindling elephants

Monday, July 5th, 2010
A desert elephant walks in the north of Mali, known as the Gourma area. Inhabitants of the Gourma region of Mali have organized vigilante brigades, and even attached global positioning systems (GPS) on the pachyderms to protect them from poachers in the region.

A desert elephant walks in the north of Mali, known as the Gourma area. Inhabitants of the Gourma region of Mali have organized vigilante brigades, and even attached global positioning systems (GPS) on the pachyderms to protect them from poachers in the region.

Ali Ag Rhissa, a young Touareg nomad, sits in his tent, his gun ready, on the frontline of one of Mali’s battles — protecting its majestic but dwindling herds of desert elephants.

Faced with the dual threat of drought and poachers, the elephant population has almost halved in recent decades.

But help is at hand from local people in northern Mali, who have started to form conservation brigades to ward off poachers and protect the animal from extinction.

Between 1972 and 1974 there were 550 elephants in the Gourma region, now there are no more than 354. In June alone, severe drought killed 21 of the animals.

The elephants of the Gourma are the biggest in Africa and are tempting quarry for poachers, both for their ivory tusks and their meat, which is popular in neighbouring countries.

“When we hear the sound of a vehicle, we get ready to make sure the poachers can’t settle here and kill our elephants,”

said Rhissa, who lives in a tent with his wife and three children in Banzena, near Timbuktu.

“We take precautionary measures. In this no elephants have been victims of poaching since we organised our protection brigades,”

said Bakary Kame, a water and forestry ranger.

“But you can never be too careful,”

added Kame, who had a rifle slung across his back.

According to official statistics, 50 percent of the elephants in the Gourma are adult females, with 11 per cent male adults, 26 percent young and 11 percent “very old”.

Gourma elephants are the only nomadic elephants in the world and the only ones that live in the desert apart from a group in Namibia.

Every year, they migrate hundreds of kilometres (miles) along the southern edge of the Sahara towards the border with Burkina Faso and back again in search of food and water.

Each one consumes up to 250 kilograms (500 pounds) of vegetation per day, and can suck up 10 litres in every trunkful of water.

They leave huge footprints close to a metre (three feet) deep when they trek across the barren landscape.

“To protect them from poachers, we have placed GPS chips in collars around the necks of some of the elephants. This way, we know where they are all the time,”

said Biramou Sissoko, the national coordinator for the government programme to conserve the elephants and biodiversity in the Gourma.

The government of Mali is taking steps to protect the elephants. Efforts are being made to educate local people about the plight of the animals, while legislation is also being drawn up to combat poaching.

The conservation action plan has been launched to protect the elephants’ ecosystem, and “biodiversity co-ordinators” are being appointed under Sissoko.

“Our role is to educate, and raise awareness of the damage done by poachers and the destruction of the environment,”

said Amadou Bore, one of the co-ordinators.

“Whoever comes here to take the tusks of elephants will find instead our own tusks — our rifles,” he said.

Source: Malians mobilise to protect dwindling elephants – france24

Date: 05 July 2010

Dorset landmark to raise awareness of at-risk species

Sunday, July 4th, 2010
The landmark is to be based in Portland, Dorset

The landmark is to be based in Portland, Dorset

Plans for a “living monument” are under way to raise awareness of 17,000 global species under threat from extinction.

The Mass Extinction Memorial Observatory will be built on the World Heritage Jurassic Coast in Dorset, famous for fossils of extinct species.

The landmark, in Portland, will be made of white Portland stone blocks, each carved to depict 850 species lost since 1662, when the last dodo was seen.

Dorset County Council’s cabinet approved the project last week.

A council spokesperson said the plans should bring millions of pounds into the local economy, create jobs and attract an extra 100,000 visitors each year.

The total cost is expected to be in the region of £3m to £5m, which the council says will come from donations, corporate sponsorship and charitable grants.

The council will make a one-off grant towards the project of £30,000, with private donations making up the rest of the £150,000 initial planning costs.

The council said:

“A circular enclosure open to the sky, it would act as an ‘observatory’ to ongoing extinction, with each new extinct species requiring a new block and carving.”

The project director, sculptor Sebastian Brooke, a former Weymouth College student, has the backing of the Royal Society, the World Wildlife Fund UK, novelist Philip Pullman and the co-founder of the Eden Project, Tim Smit.

‘Fragility of life’

Mr Smit, who is the principal advisor to the project, said:

“MEMO is an extraordinary project to create a truly global monument to the species being lost, now and ongoing, in the Earth’s sixth mass extinction.

“We are seeking to build something that is a living monument to the fragility of life.

“A monument for our times, it will undoubtedly attract many visitors. It could and should become Europe’s finest.”

The council aims for the landmark to be completed by 2012, when Portland is hosting the Olympic sailing events with neighbouring Weymouth.

Two sites in Portland are being considered for the landmark, which have been offered at no cost, the council said.

They are New Ground – which overlooks Fortuneswell, Portland Harbour and Chesil Beach – or a site overlooking the East Weares.

Source: Dorset landmark to raise awareness of at-risk species – news.bbc.co.uk

Date: 04 July 2010

Biologist Warns Of Danger From Rising Sea Levels

Saturday, July 3rd, 2010

In his new book, Flooded Earth, Peter D. Ward argues that even if humans stopped all carbon dioxide emissions today, the oceans will still rise up to 3 feet by 2050, wreaking havoc on many coastal cities and their infrastructure. In the worst case scenario, Ward tells host Guy Raz, the world may see water levels rise as much as 65 feet by 2300 causing massive human migration and a spread of tropical diseases.

Transcript

GUY RAZ, host:

Welcome back to ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News. I’m Guy Raz.

Peter Ward is a biologist at the University of Washington. He’s not a historian but in his new book, “The Flooded Earth,” he writes as a historian, but a historian describing the year 2120. And here’s what happened to the city of Miami.

Professor PETER WARD (Biology and Earth and Space Sciences, University of Washington; Author, “The Flooded Earth”): (Reading) Miami had become an open city. It was also an island, although to the north it was still contiguous with the vast peninsula that had been Florida. The flooding had cut off all freeway and railroad ties while the airport itself was now a vast a lake. All this was because the level of the world’s oceans had risen 10 feet.

The reason for this vast geographic change, one that rendered every school child’s world atlas obsolete, was readily apparent: Greenland had lost its ice cover.

RAZ: That’s Peter Ward reading from his new book, “The Flooded Earth.” It paints a pretty bleak picture of how life on this planet will begin to change dramatically – as early as 2050, as sea levels continue to rise. Peter Ward joins me from KUOW in Seattle.

Welcome to the program.

Prof. WARD: Thank you so much for having me.

RAZ: You paint a picture of Miami. The city becomes kind of an archipelago of little islands, many islands, barely habitable. Is that really going to happen based on your projections?

Prof. WARD: It may not happen that early – that’s the worst case scenario – but it will absolutely happen if we continue to be producing emissions at the rate that we are. I’ve now spent two field seasons in Antarctica. I’ve been able to look there at the recession of the glaciers and also of the ice sheets.

Remember, everybody worries about icecap, but ice floating on the sea, even if it all melts, has no direct effect on…

RAZ: Right. It’s like ice in a glass. If ice melts…

Prof. WARD: Exactly.

RAZ: …it doesn’t change the level.

Prof. WARD: But, see, ice on land – and the two critical places are Greenland and Antarctica. I mean, those are really what we must worry about. I almost want to print out T-shirts: Keep the Ice Sheets, because we need to stabilize these.

RAZ: You focus on mass extinction of humans, of animals. You’re saying that sea levels will rise – they rise every day, they’re rising as we speak. What’s the best case scenario by the end of this century in terms of how high the sea will rise?

Prof. WARD: Best case scenario that I can see is going to be a little less than three feet.

RAZ: So if we do nothing now, if we freeze…

Prof. WARD: We do nothing.

RAZ: …mm-hmm. We do nothing, we freeze or emissions now, the seas will still rise by about three feet by the end of this century.

Prof. WARD: Three feet. And from all the engineers I’ve talked to – and it’s been an interesting ride for me – civilization can deal with up to a five-foot sea level rise without major dislocation. But anything above five feet and you’re talking tremendous economic and biological dislocation.

RAZ: Worst case scenario?

Prof. WARD: Worst case scenario would be five feet by 2100. But the problem with the five-foot rise, a sea level rise is something that doesn’t take place at a constant level. It’s accelerating. So once you have a five-foot rise by 2100, you might have a 50-foot rise by 2200.

So the five-foot rise would be catastrophic economically but it would also really be pointing the gun to the head of all of the coastal cities. Sooner or later, within a century or two after that, you’re going to be dealing with triage, trying to figure out what do we save and what don’t we.

RAZ: Where in the U.S. are we likely to see the effects? I mean, we think about, let’s say, the Eastern Seaboard of the United States, and we can imagine what that looks like on a map, right? Will that look the same in 100 years?

Prof. WARD: In some senses. The place that will be most mitigated in terms of geography will be the entire Gulf region. I mean, that poor benighted place where we have all that nasty oil going to shore, that is the area where sea level will have the greatest impact.

RAZ: So when you talk abut the Gulf, are you talking about, for example, the Mississippi Delta?

Prof. WARD: Yes. The Mississippi Delta and every other delta on this planet is an endangered species. Deltas are completely tied into sea level. Even a one-foot rise in sea level tremendously affects the sedimentology of delta formation.

And here’s why deltas are so important: an enormous proportion of the world’s rice comes from the deltas in the tropical areas of the planet. When we have a rise even of a foot in sea level, we have many feet of lateral salt migration, the problem isn’t the vertical rise of the sea. It is the fact that salt has this nasty habit of migrating sideways. And sideways into soil kills off agricultural crops.

Salt and plants that produce crops just don’t mix. Mangroves, if we could eat mangroves, we’d be in great shape. But we’re looking at this confluence, and this is why I’m so disturbed. We’re looking at a global population that’s going from 6.6 billion to nine billion. We’re looking at a sea level rise from one to three feet, and we’re looking at a reduction in arable land because of that sea level, so the equation is more people less food.

RAZ: You say that there are three possible outcomes of global warming. One, that scientists are wrong and that the icecaps won’t actually melt; the second that the icecaps will melt but humans will adapt and they’ll begin to cooperate; and the third is kind of a, I would call, “Mad Max” scenario where the ice caps melt and you have something akin to global anarchy. Which of these do you see as the most likely outcome?

Prof. WARD: I hope it’s number two. I mean, this is just a hope. And we’re looking back at history to try to understand how things happened and yet we’ve never had an industrial civilization of our level in history encountering rising sea level.

The fastest rise we know of in the past from Ice Age melting, though, is about five meters a century. So that’s 15 feet in one century. We know from geological records it can go that fast. And this was in consequence to changes in atmospheric carbon dioxide far less than what we’re doing now.

RAZ: And that would’ve been the results of volcanoes, for example?

Prof. WARD: What we’re doing to the atmosphere now is very similar to what I studied in the deep past, which is that the Permian extinction and the Triassic extinction, when there were enormous volcanic vents of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere at rates that seem to be akin to what we’re doing now.

Now, we just came through a horrible global recession and yet emissions globally did not reduce to where we hope they were. Even with the recession, emissions keep going up. Carbon dioxide levels keep going up. If we return to full employment, with all these extra people, what happens? Higher emissions, less ice sheet, higher sea level.

RAZ: Peter Ward, all of the scenarios you lay out are quite shocking and they’re fascinating, but I wonder at what point does all you say become tangible, become something that people can actually see and be affected by, because, you know, one could argue that until that point, this is just theoretical and it’s difficult to get people to respond and to make changes.

Prof. WARD: Look, what if we’re wrong about the sea level rise? What will we have done to mitigate it? We will have searched for alternative forms of energy all good. We will have tried to do defenses on our coastlines, and with rising temperatures we’re going to get stronger hurricanes; all good. So even if the sea level doesn’t rise, the attempts to defense it are actually very powerful and positive things.

The alternative, doing nothing, well, maybe we’ll get away with it. Maybe we’ll dodge the bullet, but what if we don’t?

RAZ: That’s Peter Ward. He is a professor of biology and Earth and space sciences at the University of Washington in Seattle and author of the new book, “The Flooded Earth.”

Peter Ward, thank you so much.

Prof. WARD: Thank you.

Source: Biologist Warns Of Danger From Rising Sea Levels - npr.org

Date: 03 July 2010

Disappearance of rare wetland bird could herald the beginning of Earth’s ‘sixth great extinction’

Wednesday, May 26th, 2010

A rare Madagascan wetland bird has been declared extinct in what scientists believe may herald the beginning of a global catastrophe only recorded five times in Earth’s history.

The dying out of the Alaotra grebe, found only in Madagascar and not seen for 25 years, has led biologists to claim we are on the verge of the ‘sixth great extinction’.

The previous five cataclysmic events during Earth’s prehistory, such as the extinction of dinosaurs 65 million years ago possibly caused by a meteorite hitting Earth, were naturally caused. This is the first time humans have been implicated in causing mass global extinction.

The Alaotra grebe has been declared extinct due to the introduction of carnivorous fish into its habitat and the use of fishing nets that caught and drowned the bird.

The disappearance of yet another type of bird has led scientists to believe that the rate at which species are vanishing from the planet could point to a period of mass global extinction.

Scientists now claim we could be on the verge of the next great extinction.

The RSPB’s international director Dr Tim Stowe said:

‘The confirmation of the extinction of yet another bird species is further evidence that we are not doing enough in the fight to protect the world’s wildlife. ‘Although there are some key successes, overall the trend is downward, bringing more species year on year to the brink of extinction and beyond.’

The inclusion of the Alaotra grebe on the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List, which is the most comprehensive inventory of extinct species, comes as experts warned an eighth of bird species now faced extinction.

Bird species alone seem to be disappearing at the rate of one per decade.

The wetland bird was last seen in 1985 and its disappearance comes as experts warned an eighth of bird species now faced extinction.

The number of birds threatened with global extinction now stands at 1,240 species, according to the latest assessment.

The IUCN Red List’s update for birds, carried out by Birdlife International, said 25 species had been added to the list of those at risk.

Other wetland birds are under increasing pressure from the introduction of invasive species, as well as from drainage and pollution of their habitats, the conservationists warned.

Dr Stuart Butchart, Birdlife’s global species programme officer, said:

‘Wetlands are fragile environments, easily disturbed or polluted, but essential not only for birds and other biodiversity but also for millions of people around the world as a source of water and food.’

Along with the Azores bullfinch, the yellow-eared parrot from Colombia and the Chatham albatross have been downlisted from critically endangered to endangered.

Dr Butchart said:

‘These successes show what is possible, and they point the way forward to what needs to be done by the global community. 2010 is the International Year of Biodiversity; world leaders failed to stem the decline of biodiversity. We cannot fail again.’

EARTH’S FIVE GREAT EXTINCTIONS

  • 65 million years ago: Cretaceous-Tertiary (K-T extinction). About 75% of species became extinct, possibly caused by a meteorite hitting the earth. Wiped out dinosaurs.
  • 205 million years ago: Triassic-Jurassic extinction. Most non-dinosaurs were eliminated, leaving dinosaurs with little terrestrial competition.
  • 440-450 million years ago: Ordovidician-Silurian. Two linked events that are considered together to have been the second worst extinction on the list.
  • 360-375 million years ago: Late Devonian. A prologued series of extinctions that may have lasted 20 million years.
  • 251 million years ago: Permian-Triassic. Known as ‘The Great Dying’ after about 96% of marine species and 70% of land species disappeared.

Source: Disappearance of rare wetland bird could herald the beginning of Earth’s ‘sixth great extinction’ - Mail Online

Date: 26 May 2010

30,000 kinds of plants, 5,000 animals threatened with extinction, disappear one kind per hour

Tuesday, May 25th, 2010

Habitat destruction, over-exploitation of resources, environmental quality degradation and invasive species are causing the extinction of species “Disaster Quartet”, and human activity is the current large-scale loss of biological diversity, the main reason. At present, the world’s biological species is the rate per hour and one kind of disappearing, there are around 34,000 kinds of plants and more than 5200 kinds of animals threatened with extinction. This is from May 22 in Beijing at the “International Biodiversity Day” campaign on the public informed of.

Biodiversity is the formation of biological and ecological environment and the associated complex of the various ecological processes combined. Extinction of wild species, local extinction range, subspecies and ecocide are common forms of biodiversity loss. According to statistics, about 36.3% of species threatened with extinction, more than half of China’s mammal numbers have drastically declined.

At present, protection of biodiversity has attracted nationwide attention, as global co-operation, the main channels, including in situ and ex situ. Among them, the in situ conservation of biological diversity in the establishment of nature reserves is the most effective protection.

Source: 3万种植物5千种动物濒临灭绝 每小时消失1种 – xinhuanet, Science and Technology Daily

Date: 25 May 2010

Mammoths contributed to global warming with methane emissions

Monday, May 24th, 2010

Together with other large plant-eating mammals that are now extinct, they released around 9.6 million tonnes of the gas each year, experts estimated.

When the ”megafauna” disappeared there was a dramatic fall in atmospheric methane which may have altered the climate.

Analysis of gases trapped in ice cores suggests that the loss of animal emissions accounted for a large amount of the decline.

”The changes in methane concentration at this time seem to be unique,” said the researchers, writing in the journal Nature Geoscience.

Methane is a powerful greenhouse gas. The scientists, led by Dr Felisa Smith from the University of New Mexico in the US, pointed out that a ”cold event” hit the Earth at about the same time that methane levels plunged.

”Our calculation suggest that decreased methane emissions caused by the extinction of New World megafauna could have played a role..” they wrote.

Source: Mammoths contributed to global warming with methane emissions – Telegraph.co.uk

Date: 24 May 2010

Mammoths contributed to global warming with methane emissions

Research Suggests Large Mammals Influenced Global Climate

Monday, May 24th, 2010

More than 13,000 years ago, millions of large mammals such as mammoths, mastodon, shrub-ox, bison, ground sloths and camels roamed the Americas and may have had profound influences on the environment according to research in a paper titled, “Methane Emissions from Extinct Megafauna” released in the publication Nature Geosciences Sunday.

The extinction of these large herbivores, which also include horses, llamas and stag moose in addition to the giant wooly mammoth, probably led to an abrupt decrease in methane emissions and atmospheric concentrations of the gas with potential implications for climate change says Dr. Felisa Smith, Associate Professor of Biology at the University of New Mexico.

The research also involved Dr. Scott Elliott from the Climate, Ocean, Sea Ice Modeling Team at the Los Alamos National Laboratory and Dr. Kathleen Lyons in the Department of Paleobiology at the National Museum of Natural History at the Smithsonian Institution.

“This is arguably the first detectable influence of humans on the environment going back 13,400 years to when humans first got to the continent,” said Smith. “I think that it’s intriguing because there are a lot of ramifications. Potentially, if the decrease in methane, which is synchronous with this ice spell, was actually the cause, then humans contributed to the Younger Dryas cold episode.”

“We were able to come up with an estimate, which turns out to be about 10 teragrams. This is really pretty enormous,” said Smith.

“When you bracket it, at the very minimum, the demise of all these animals explains 12 percent of the decrease in methane seen at this time. At the maximum, it explains the entire decrease. This suggests that the extinction of megafauna by humans caused a detectable impact on the environment long before the development of agriculture and the industrial age.”

Ice core records from Greenland suggest the methane concentration change associated with a 1 degree Celsius temperature shift ranges from 10 to 30 parts per billion by volume with a long term mean of about 20 ppbv. A drop of 185 to 245 ppbv methane drop observed at the Younger Dryas stadial is associated with a temperature shift of 9 to 12 degrees Celsius. The calculations suggest that decreased methane emissions caused by the extinction of New World megafauna could have played a role in the Younger Dryas cooling event.

Source: Research Suggests Large Mammals Influenced Global Climate – UNM Today

Date: 24 May 2010

Climate appeal by Pacific islands

Friday, May 21st, 2010

Pacific island nations have compared global warming to an invading army in a plea for the UN Security Council to break the stalemate in negotiations over a legally binding global climate treaty.

The 11 nations that make up the Pacific Small Island Developing States wrote to members of the UN’s most powerful body to argue that the threat they face from a warmer world and rising sea levels is comparable to armed conflict.

The 15-nation Security Council oversees threats to international peace and security.

“Climate change can devastate a country just as thoroughly as an invading army,” Nauru’s UN Ambassador Marlene Moses said as chair of the island nations’ group.

Ms Moses said the Security Council must step in because the UN-led negotiations for mandatory cuts in greenhouse gases and assistance for the most vulnerable nations is stalled.

“If (the) international community fails to take immediate action, then it will be complicit in the extinction of entire nations,” she said.

The group said climate change is contributing to severe food and water shortages in the Pacific and already making refugees of people in Vanuatu, Micronesia, Papua New Guinea, Tuvalu and the Solomon Islands.

The group’s letter, sent by UN ambassadors from the 11 Pacific island nations, was pointedly critical of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change that sponsored the last major climate summit in Copenhagen, Denmark last December.

A last-minute political agreement fell short on specific steps to cool the planet, but urged deeper cuts in emissions of carbon dioxide and other gases blamed for warming the globe. It also set up the first significant programme of climate aid to poorer nations and adopted a goal of holding the rise in global temperatures below two degrees Celsius.

A promised 30 billion US dollar (£21bn) fund over the next three years, scaling up to 100 billion US dollars (£69bn) a year by 2020, was a key element.

Source: Climate appeal by Pacific islands – Belfast Telegraph

Date: 21 May 2010

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