wild places | wild happenings | wild news
make a difference for our wild places

home | links | search the site
  all articles latest | past | articles by topics | search wildnews
wild news on wildsingapore
  Straits Times 10 Apr 07
Man's fellow creatures scorched by the heat

Yahoo News 1 Apr 07
Panel: Warming will end some species
By The Associated Press

Yahoo News 31 Mar 07
Climate draft charts extinctions
By Seth Borenstein, AP Science Writer

A key element of the second major report on climate change being released Friday in Belgium is a chart that maps out the effects of global warming, most of them bad, with every degree of temperature rise.

There's one bright spot: A minimal heat rise means more food production in northern regions of the world. However, the number of species going extinct rises with the heat, as does the number of people who may starve, or face water shortages, or floods, according to the projections in the draft report obtained by The Associated Press

Some scientists are calling this degree-by-degree projection a "highway to extinction."

It's likely to be the source of sharp closed-door debate, some scientists say, along with a multitude of other issues in the 20-chapter draft report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

While the wording in the draft is almost guaranteed to change at this week's meeting in Brussels, several scientists say the focus won't. The final document will be the product of a United Nations network of 2,000 scientists as authors and reviewers, along with representatives of more than 120 governments as last-minute editors.

It will be the second volume of a four-volume authoritative assessment of Earth's climate being released this year. The last such effort was in 2001.

Andrew Weaver, a climate scientist with the University of Victoria in British Columbia, said the chart of results from various temperature levels is "a highway to extinction, but on this highway there are many turnoffs. This is showing you where the road is heading. The road is heading toward extinction."

Weaver is one of the lead authors of the first report, issued in February. While humanity will survive, hundreds of millions, maybe billions of people may not, according to the chart if the worst scenarios happen.

The report says global warming has already degraded conditions for many species, coastal areas and poor people.

With a more than 90 percent level of confidence, the scientists in the draft report say man-made global warming "over the last three decades has had a discernible influence on many physical and biological systems."

But as the world's average temperature warms from 1990 levels, the projections get more dire. Add 1.8 degrees Fahrenheit 1 degree Celsius is the calculation scientists use and between 400 million and 1.7 billion extra people can't get enough water, some infectious diseases and allergenic pollens rise, and some amphibians go extinct. But the world's food supply, especially in northern areas, could increase. That's the likely outcome around 2020, according to the draft.

Add another 1.8 degrees and as many as 2 billion people could be without water and about 20 percent to 30 percent of the world's species near extinction. Also, more people start dying because of malnutrition, disease, heat waves, floods and droughts all caused by global warming. That would happen around 2050, depending on the level of greenhouse gases from the burning of fossil fuels.

At the extreme end of the projections, a 7- to 9-degree average temperature increase, the chart predicts: "Up to one-fifth of the world population affected by increased flood events ... "1.1 to 3.2 billion people with increased water scarcity" ..."major extinctions around the globe."

Despite that dire outlook, several scientists involved in the process say they are optimistic that such a drastic temperature rise won't happen because people will reduce carbon dioxide emissions that cause global warming.

"The worst stuff is not going to happen because we can't be that stupid," said Harvard University oceanographer James McCarthy, who was a top author of the 2001 version of this report. "Not that I think the projections aren't that good, but because we can't be that stupid."

Yahoo News 1 Apr 07
Panel: Warming will end some species
By The Associated Press

From the micro to the macro, from plankton in the oceans to polar bears in the far north and seals in the far south, global warming has begun changing life on Earth, international scientists will report next Friday.

"Changes in climate are now affecting physical and biological systems on every continent," says a draft obtained by The Associated Press of a report on warming's impacts, to be issued by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), the authoritative U.N. network of 2,000 scientists and more than 100 governments.

In February the panel declared it "very likely" most global warming has been caused by manmade emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases.

Animal and plant life in the Arctic and Antarctic is undergoing substantial change, scientists say. Rising sea levels elsewhere are damaging coastal wetlands. Warmer waters are bleaching and killing coral reefs, pushing marine species toward the poles, reducing fish populations in African lakes, research finds.

"Hundreds of species have already changed their ranges, and ecosystems are being disrupted," said University of Michigan ecologist Rosina Bierbaum, former head of the U.S. IPCC delegation. "It is clear that a number of species are going to be lost."

The IPCC draft estimates that if temperatures rise approximately 2 to 4 degrees Fahrenheit more, one-third of species will be lost from their current range, either moved elsewhere or vanished.

From Associated Press bureaus around the world, here are snapshots of animals and plants the IPCC will identify as already affected by climate change:

The frogs went silent in the night
SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico (AP)

Back in the Puerto Rican rain forest for the first time in five years, biologist Rafael Joglar sensed something was wrong. He wasn't hearing the frogs whose nocturnal calls he had long recorded in the misty highlands. It was as if a small orchestra had lost key players, he recalled.

After that discovery in 1981, Joglar and wife Patricia Burrowes, a fellow University of Puerto Rico amphibian specialist, found that other populations of frogs in the genus Eleutherodactylus known locally as coquis for the distinctive co-kee sound made by two species were also mysteriously absent. Similar reports trickled in from frog specialists worldwide, particularly in Central and South America.

Working their way through such suspected culprits as pollution and habitat loss, researchers here eventually zeroed in on climate change. The average minimum temperature had risen from 1970 to 2000 by 2 degrees Fahrenheit, a significant rise for climate-sensitive amphibians.

Scientists believe higher temperatures lead to more dry periods and a chain reaction, at higher elevations, that leaves the frogs vulnerable to a devastating fungus, Burrowes said.

In Puerto Rico and nearby islands, experts believe three of 17 known Eleutherodactylus species are extinct and seven or eight are declining.

Loss of the frogs, scientists warn, could have disastrous consequences, depriving birds and other predators of a food source, eliminating a consumer of insects and disrupting the ecosystem in ways impossible to guess.

Fragile, sensitive coral sounds the alarm
SYDNEY, Australia (AP)

The rainbow world of the Great Barrier Reef may fade away. Scientists say rising sea temperatures worldwide are causing more coral bleaching the draining of color when the fragile animals that form reefs become stressed and spew out the algae that give coral its color and energy to build massive reef structures.

Oceans are also absorbing more carbon dioxide, increasing their acidity and eroding coral's ability to build reef skeletons. Because just a 2-degree-Fahrenheit shift can trigger a major bleaching event, the behavior of corals is an early sign that global warming is already changing our world, experts say.

"We've got about 20 years to turn (greenhouse gas emissions) around or it's going to cost the world a lot environmentally but also economically," said Terry Hughes, a leading Australian coral specialist.

The 1,250-mile-long Great Barrier Reef, off Australia's northeast coast, produces $4 billion a year in tourism revenues. Forecasts vary, but many experts say ocean temperature rises projected for the next 50 years could strip this natural wonder of most of its color.

The changes will affect countless millions of fish and other marine organisms that depend on the reef. Many reefs worldwide will fare worse, since they don't have the protection against pollution and overfishing provided by the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area.

Ticks move north, carrying diseases with them

A bloodthirsty parasite is popping up in parts of Sweden where deep winter chills used to make survival difficult, if not impossible. Ticks are spreading north along the Scandinavian country's shorelines, pestering pets and spreading infectious diseases to humans.

"It probably has to do with the greenhouse effect," said Thomas Jaenson, professor in medical entomology at Uppsala University. "The fact that we've seen ticks in January indicates that there has been a major change."

Swedish studies have shown that ticks have multiplied countrywide in recent decades, spreading north from traditional breeding grounds in the Stockholm archipelago. The pinhead-sized arachnids have even turned up near the Arctic Circle.

"There are more of them now. And they show up earlier in the year," said Marja Lodin, 69, who has a summer house near the northern city of Umea.

Two years ago she was infected with Lyme disease, which causes fever, headache, fatigue and skin rash, from a tick lodged in her navel.

Sweden's disease control agency doesn't keep records on Lyme disease, but said the potentially deadly tick-borne encephalitis virus, known as TBE, is on the rise. Reported annual cases more than doubled from 60 in the late 1990s to 131 in the 2001-2005 period. In 2006, there were 155 cases, two of which turned fatal.

"It is possible that these people would be alive if we had had a more stable climate," Jaenson said.

White giants face future of too much water, too little ice

Inuit hunters in Canada's Arctic say they have seen polar bears moving farther north as the polar ice cap recedes, or farther south in search of new sources of food. The northern people who have hunted these majestic marine mammals for thousands of years say they haven't seen a dramatic decline yet in their numbers.

But scientists worry that the polar bear will be pushed steadily toward extinction by 2050, to be found only in zoos, as Arctic waters grow warmer. The bears depend on sea ice for survival. They have their pups and they hunt seal and walrus on ice floes.

But the summer ice cap is about 20 percent smaller today than in 1978, the U.N. climate panel reported in February. And as sea ice shrinks, bears are forced to hunt and to fast for longer periods.

Biologists believe 20,000 to 25,000 polar bears roam the frozen Arctic, about 60 percent in Canada. The research group Polar Bears International says one polar bear population, in Canada's western Hudson Bay, has dropped 22 percent since the 1980s, about the time Inuit hunters started noticing dramatic changes in wind and weather patterns.

The trends are so troubling that the U.S. government has proposed listing polar bears as threatened under the Endangered Species Act.

Changing climate, vanishing plankton threaten cod

Overfishing has cut deeply into the North Sea's cod population in recent decades, and scientists now say this important food fish faces a second challenge climate change.

North Sea water temperatures have climbed 1 degree Fahrenheit over the past 100 years, and that has shifted currents, carrying a major food source, plankton, away from the cod, said scientist Chris Reid of the Partnership for Observation of the Global Oceans in Plymouth, England.

"The only way that these increases can be explained is by greenhouse gas emissions," Reid said.

In their larval stage, the cod feed on the minute plants and animals known as plankton. Chances of survival without them are slim. North Sea cod that do survive today are smaller and less successful at mating and reproducing, Reid explained.

In addition, warmer temperatures increase cod metabolism and the larvae's need for nutrition, he and other marine scientists noted in a 2003 research paper.

Because the European Union's 2003 cod recovery plan isn't working, scientists and fishing industry representatives met March 9-10 to discuss new ways to counter the threats and help the cod.

The dimb's demise tells of African climate change
DAKAR, Senegal (AP)

It's getting harder for villagers in the north of this dry West African country to find a favored ingredient for a traditional couscous dish the fruit of the dimb tree.

The once-prevalent tree with its meaty fruit has disappeared from all but one village in an area the size of Connecticut, as shifting rainfall patterns have made northern Senegal drier and hotter, research has found.

Many tree species like the dimb are retreating from the Sahel, the arid region south of the Sahara Desert, losing ground to more arid species.

In the zone that climate change scientist Patrick Gonzalez studied, the dimb's range decreased 96 percent between 1945 and 1994 from 27 villages to one. Gonzalez said he looked at many factors, including population shifts and tree cutting, but "precipitation and temperature explained most of the variance in the data."

The greenhouse effect has warmed the southern Atlantic Ocean, source of the African monsoon, causing more rain to fall over the sea and less over the Sahel, said the Nature Conservancy's Gonzalez, who did the research while with the U.S. Geological Survey.

Fig and firewood species also are dying, forcing women gatherers to range farther and spend more time hunting firewood. "Once you don't have that, people start burning cow dung. And that's when environmentally the area is in great trouble," Gonzalez said.

This report was written by AP correspondents Charles J. Hanley, New York; Ben Fox, San Juan; Rohan Sullivan, Sydney; Karl Ritter, Stockholm; Beth Duff-Brown, Toronto; Courtney French, London; and Heidi Vogt, Dakar.

Straits Times 10 Apr 07
Man's fellow creatures scorched by the heat

As the world gets hotter, some species will become extinct, a new UN report warned last week. In the last part of a report on climate change, The Straits Times' Paula McCoy looks at the changes taking place.

FROM birds to bacteria, man's fellow creatures are already feeling the effects of global warming. Some species face extinction while new ones are being discovered as the Arctic ice melts. Others, meanwhile, are simply moving to fresh pastures.

In Sweden, fewer winter days below minus 12 deg C and more summer days above 10 deg C have encouraged the northward movement of ticks, which has coincided with an increase in cases of tick-borne encephalitis.

In Africa, mosquitoes have been slowly inching up the slopes around Mount Kenya, bringing malaria to high villages that have never been exposed before.

The spread of human disease has become one of the most worrisome subplots in the story of global warming.

Globally, the temperature change has been small - about 0.8 deg C over the past 150 years - but it has been enough to alter disease patterns across the globe, exposing new populations to diseases that they have never seen before.

In Alaska, the warmer waters have seen the spread of the bacterium vibrio parahaemolyticus - a dangerous microbe once found further south in the warmer waters of the Gulf of Mexico.

But by the summer of 2004, the temperature in Alaska's Prince William Sound had risen just enough to poke above the crucial 15 deg C mark. Cruise ship passengers who had eaten local oysters caught by oysterman Jim Aguiar were soon coming down with diarrhoea, cramps and vomiting - the first cases of vibrio food poisoning in Alaska that anyone could remember.

Mr Aguiar and others were forced to close down their oyster farms that year. 'We were slapped from left field,' he said. Now, when the temperature hits about 13 deg C, he drops his oyster baskets deep in the water for about 10 days to clear out the bacteria.

But the impact of global warming has not been all bad. One British study found that the number of children infected with a cold-like virus known as respiratory syncytial virus has been declining with warming temperatures.

Higher up the food chain, birds' egg-laying and migratory patterns have changed because of warmer climes, experts say. Some birds in Europe have stopped migrating altogether, says the WWF wildlife organisation.

But others are threatened with extinction because of threats to their habitats and sources of food and water.

In Asia, for example, increasing drought due to higher temperatures is thought to be one factor which led a group of Siberian cranes - there are only 3,000 in existence globally - to vacate Keoladeo National Park in India and become locally extinct.

Less frequent, but more intense, rainfall is threatening its migratory habitat in China too. In 2004, Britain's sea birds underwent a breeding crash, says the WWF in a report, due to a shortage of small fish called sandeels.

'As a result, the nearly 7,000 pairs of great skuas in the Shetland Islands, for example, produced only a handful of chicks, and starving adult birds ate their own young,' says the organisation. 'Warming ocean waters and major shifts in species that underpin the ocean food web are thought to be behind the major sandeel decline.'

In the seas, loggerhead turtles face a disastrous drop in population because global warming will cause the majority of eggs to hatch as female, a recent study shows.

The US east coast has the biggest population of loggerheads. 'An increase in temperatures of just 1 deg C could eliminate the birth of male turtles from some beaches,' Dr Brendan Godley, who led the study, told The Times Online. 'A rise of 3 deg C would lead to extreme levels of infant mortality and declines in nesting beaches.'

But it is not all bad news - at least not yet. The recent break-up of the Larsen ice shelf in the Antarctic led to the discovery of an estimated 1,000 species of animal and plant life on a seabed once hidden by ice 200m thick. Twenty of them were new to science, including a giant amphipod. New types of coral and jellyfish were found.

Scientists were surprised by the abundance of life in the newly discovered ecosystem. Mr Jesse Ausubel, coordinator of the Census of Marine Life which announced the findings, told The Times: 'One of the questions about climate change is whether ecosystems will shift to new areas - will the north of the UK in 50 years have the same plants as the south today, or will there be entirely new ecosystems?

'Observing what happens in the Larsen area could be instructive as to what happens elsewhere.'



Biodiversity 'fundamental' to economics
Sigmar Gabriel BBC 9 Mar 07

It's not just about climate
Ahmed Djoghlaf BBC 2 Mar 07

Related articles on Global issues: biodiversity loss
about the site | email ria
  News articles are reproduced for non-profit educational purposes.

website©ria tan 2003 www.wildsingapore.com