Food in supermarkets is increasingly connected to child labor and trafficking. Many laws aimed at ending these abuses overlook a key source of the problem: the rapid decline of fish and fauna.
During the 2011 and 2012 migration seasons, University of Missouri researchers monitored mallard ducks with new remote satellite tracking technology, marking the first time ducks have been tracked closely during the entirety of their migration from Canada to the American Midwest and back. The research revealed that mallards use public and private wetland conservation areas extensively as they travel hundreds of miles across the continent. Dylan Kesler, an assistant professor of fisheries and wildlife in the College of Agriculture, Food and Natural Resources at MU, says these findings illustrate the importance of maintaining protected wetland areas.
"We have lost nearly 90 percent of wetland areas in Missouri in the last century and 50 percent of wetlands across the country since the early 1800s," Kesler said. "This loss has affected migratory bird populations and migration timing and routes. Our research shows the importance of these wetland areas to maintain healthy populations of migratory birds and other species, especially in an age of budget cuts for government programs protecting these few remaining wetland areas. If we don’t maintain these wildlife preserves it will put dozens, if not hundreds, of wildlife species in danger."
The planet’s current biodiversity, the product of 3.5 billion years of evolutionary trial and error, is the highest in the history of life. But it may be reaching a tipping point. Scientists caution that the loss and decline of animals is contributing to what appears to be the early days of the planet’s sixth mass biological extinction event. Since 1500, more than 320 terrestrial vertebrates have become extinct. Populations of the remaining species show a 25 percent average decline in abundance. The situation is similarly dire for invertebrate animal life. And while previous extinctions have been driven by natural planetary transformations or catastrophic asteroid strikes, the current die-off can be associated to human activity, a situation that the lead author Rodolfo Dirzo, a professor of biology at Stanford, designates an era of “Anthropocene defaunation.”
A new report released by the World Meteorological Organization catalogs the economic damage from extreme weather conditions all over the world. The WMO survey looked at climate events from 1970 to 2012.
Here are a couple graphics that sum up the economic cost to North America, Central America, and the Caribbean.
Graphic by Simran Khosla/GlobalPost
WESTERN WATER CRISIS: Loss of groundwater worse than thought in the U.S. West
According to a new study by NASA and UC Irvine, the drought-stricken Colorado River Basin has experienced rapid and significant groundwater depletion since late 2004, posing a greater threat to the water supply of the western United States than previously thought. As reported by Deirdre Fulton in Common Dreams, satellites show groundwater supply at greater risk than previously thought.
Data from NASA’s Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment (GRACE) satellite mission indicated the changes in the mass of the Colorado River Basin, which is thought to have lost nearly 53 million acre feet (about 17 trillion gallons) of freshwater between 2004-2013 — almost double the volume of the nation’s largest reservoir, Nevada’s Lake Mead, which recently fell to its lowest level since the 1930s.
The implications are ominous for irrigated agriculture and urbanization in the fast-growing western states, which rely heavily on the disappearing water. The Colorado River Basin, which is the water source for more than 30 million people and 4 million acres of farmland, has been experiencing the driest 14-year period in the last 100 years. More than three-quarters of the basin’s total water loss was from groundwater.
Photo above: Los Angeles Basin, taken by B. Godfrey, Sept. 7, 2012
These maps show the tens of thousands of tons of plastic garbage floating on the surface of the waters in the world’s oceans. Map credit: National Geographic staff Jamie Hawk Source: Andrés Cozar, University of Cádiz, Spain.
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The Heartland Institute, a prominent, Chicago-based organization opposing climate science, has teamed up with the creationist Discovery Institute to launch a smear campaign against a group promoting the nationwide adoption of updated science education guidelines.
The guidelines in question are the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS), adopted so far by 11 states and the District of Columbia. The National Research Council, the National Science Teachers Association and the American Association for the Advancement of Science—working with 26 state governments—developed the NGSS to update K-12 science education in schools for the first time since 1998.
But, because the NGSS includes material on evolution and how humans are causing climate change, it has faced opposition in some states. Most recently, the Wyoming legislature became the first in the U.S. to reject the NGSS. Lessons on climate change, lawmakers said, would brainwash kids against the state’s coal and oil industries.