Insect apocalypse? Not so fast, at least in North America : The Conversation

Recent reports of dramatic declines in insect populations have sparked concern about an ‘insect apocalypse.’ But a new analysis of data from sites across North America suggests the case isn’t proven.

Source: Insect apocalypse? Not so fast, at least in North America : The Conversation

High-value opportunities exist to restore tropical rainforests around the world – here’s how we mapped them : The Conversation

The green belt of tropical rainforests that covers equatorial regions of the Americas, Africa, Indonesia and Southeast Asia is turning brown. Since 1990, Indonesia has lost 50% of its original forest, the Amazon 30% and Central Africa 14%. Fires, logging, hunting, road building and fragmentation have heavily damaged more than 30% of those that remain.

These forests provide many benefits: They store large amounts of carbon, are home to numerous wild species, provide food and fuel for local people, purify water supplies and improve air quality. Replenishing them is an urgent global imperative. A newly published study in the journal Science by European authors finds that there is room for an extra 3.4 million square miles (0.9 billion hectares) of canopy cover around the world, and that replenishing tree cover at this full potential would contribute significantly to reducing the risk of harmful climate change

But there aren’t enough resources to restore all tropical forests that have been lost or damaged. And restoration can conflict with other activities, such as farming and forestry. As a tropical forest ecologist, I am interested in developing better tools for assessing where these efforts will be most cost-effective and beneficial.

Over the past four years, tropical forestry professor Pedro Brancalionand I have led a team of researchers from an international network in evaluating the benefits and feasibility of restoration across tropical rainforests around the world. Our newly published findings identify restoration hotspots – areas where restoring tropical forests would be most beneficial and least costly and risky. They cover over 385,000 square miles (100 million hectares), an area as large as Spain and Sweden combined.

The five countries with the largest areas of restoration hotpots are Brazil, Indonesia, India, Madagascar and Colombia. Six countries in Africa – Rwanda, Uganda, Burundi, Togo, South Sudan and Madagascar – hold rainforest areas where restoration is expected to yield the highest benefits with the highest feasibility. We hope our results can help governments, conservation groups and international funders target areas where there is high potential for success.


Source: High-value opportunities exist to restore tropical rainforests around the world – here’s how we mapped them : The Conversation

This ‘king’ once ruled the green, lush forests of Antarctica | MNN – Mother Nature Network

If you happened to be living on this planet 250 million years ago, you probably wanted to spend your vacations in Antarctica.

Scientists paint a vivid picture of the tropical paradise that the frozen continent once was — and perhaps what the continent will be like again: verdant grasslands, gushing rivers and forests as far as the eye could see.

Warm, wet and only rarely below freezing, the South Pole was fit for a king. Namely, the Antarctic king.

That’s how researchers at the Field Museum are describing a newly discovered reptile that once prowled those lush lands.

Scientifically dubbed Antarctanax shackletoni — a combination of “Antarctic king” and the name of intrepid explorer Ernest Shackleton — this lizard probably didn’t come off as particularly stately. At least in size.

Its dimensions, based on an incomplete fossil skeleton found this week, put it somewhere in the neighborhood of a modern-day iguana.

“This new animal was an archosaur, an early relative of crocodiles and dinosaurs,” Field Museum researcher Brandon Peecook notes in a press release. “On its own, it just looks a little like a lizard, but evolutionarily, it’s one of the first members of that big group. It tells us how dinosaurs and their closest relatives evolved and spread.”

And despite its humdrum appearance, Antarctanax lived in strange times indeed, according to the study published this week in the Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology.

Hints of a unique ecosystem


Source: This ‘king’ once ruled the green, lush forests of Antarctica | MNN – Mother Nature Network

Human evolution: secrets of early ancestors could be unlocked by African rainforests : The Conversation 

Think of rainforests and the picture is inevitably one of a dark and forbidding realm where life is abundant, yet alarmingly cryptic. Rather than the sense of space offered by long, iconic grassland vistas, distance is compressed into tangled webs of foliage, veiling both predators and prey. Diffuse and difficult to access proteins, carbohydrates and fats increase the chances of encountering an array of lurking dangers. For these reasons, it has long been thought that humans were only able to colonise rainforests in the last few thousand years, after the development of agriculture.

In fact, we still have no clear idea when humans first began to inhabit rainforests. But mounting evidence is deconstructing the idea that rainforests – that is, forests requiring between 2,500 and 4,500 mm of rain a year – were hostile “green deserts” to early hunter gatherers.

In South Asia, there is now compelling archaeological evidence that Homo sapiens rapidly adapted to life in rainforests. At Niah Cave in Borneo, toxic plants obtained from nearby rainforest habitats were being processed as far back as 45,000 years ago, soon after people were first documented in this region. In Sri Lanka, there is evidence for direct reliance on rainforest resources at least 36,000 years ago. And a paperpublished in Nature last year reported the presence of humans in a rainforest environment on Sumatra dating back to a staggering 70,000 years ago.


Source: Human evolution: secrets of early ancestors could be unlocked by African rainforests : The Conversation

Borneo – the ongoing massacre of Orang-utans. : Opher’s World

Orang-utans are kind gentle creatures. They are harmless. The last place they have now is Borneo. Yet since 1990 100,000 of these poor gentle creatures have been mindlessly killed – over 50% of them are gone.


Source: Borneo – the ongoing massacre of Orang-utans. : Opher’s World

Meet Singye Wangmo, tiger protector | Stories | WWF

Singye Wangmo exudes a natural passion for wildlife. One of the few female forestry officers working on the ground in Bhutan, she spends her days protecting the tigers of Royal Manas National Park from poachers.

Leading a team of 30 rangers, Singye works across the national park to set up camera traps monitor wildlife; and conduct surveys on foot. The team patrols hotspot areas for poaching as the threat from wildlife poachers and timber smugglers is real and ever-present. Additionally, the landscape becomes treacherous with flooding and landslides during the monsoon season.

Singye’s role requires her to leave her husband, parents and pets at home as she spends weeks working in the field protecting tigers and other wildlife that live in the park. “My parents and husband are my tower of strength,” says Singye. “They think my job is very special and unique for a woman, but at the same time they’re worried sick about my safety when I’m in the field.”

Source: Meet Singye Wangmo, tiger protector | Stories | WWF