The Center for the Homogeneity of Life Weblog

Charting the events that converge on our goal: one planet, one species, one genotype

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This organization, like environmental problems, could be serious, or not. Most of the time we don't know ourselves.

Monday, January 21, 2008
Kannaiyan Is On To Us
Biodiversity is being lost more rapidly now than at any time in the past several million years, said S. Kannaiyan, chairman, National Biodiversity Authority of India here on Friday.

Inaugurating a three-day conference on ‘Biodiversity, Bio-resources and Biotechnology for Sustainable Livelihood of Rural Community’, Dr. Kannaiyan said biologists believed that about 60,000 of the world’s plant species and more vertebrates and insect species could become extinct within the next 30 years if the same trend continued. The current rate of extinction demanded immediate concerted efforts for conservation of biodiversity for future generations, he said. It had been recognised that valuable and productive biological resources were crucial for sustainable economic development, he said.

The rural population always believed that the biodiversity was important for their livelihood and survival. Industries such as pharmaceuticals, cosmetics, pulp and paper, construction, agriculture, horticulture and waste treatment were dependent on biological resources. About 80 per cent of the population in developing countries relied on plants as the only source of medicine, he said. Bio-safety issues needed to be looked at critically before the release of genetically modified crops, he said. Similarly, the genetically modified crops were the only answer to increase the production and productivity and to solve malnutrition problem in the country, he added. Concerted effort, team spirit, high technology and understanding the basics of biotechnology were the need of the hour, said M. A. Vijayalakshmi, director, Centre for Bio Separation Technology, VIT University, Vellore.
Wednesday, September 19, 2007
Biodiversity Dropping in China
BEIJING - China may be going all out to save the panda, but its effort to protect its native flora and fauna took a beating last week when the World Conservation Union (IUCN, or International Union for the Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources) published its latest Red List of Threatened Species.

China has one of the highest levels of biodiversity in the world, yet its number of species is declining at a frightening rate. The Swiss-based IUCN picked out mainland China, along with Mexico, Brazil and Australia, as being homes to "particularly large numbers of threatened" animals and plants. Worldwide, it listed 16,306 species as being under threat - almost 800 of them in China.

CHL Leaders welcomed the news.

"The loss of biodiversity in the short term can be seen as worth it for the gain in the economy," said CHL China's head of species elimination strategies, Li Lin.

Certain industries, such as tourism, Chinese medicine, fishing, agriculture and logging, pay a more direct price for species loss, he said.

Emblematic of the nation's shrinking biodiversity is the baiji tun, a sharp-snouted river dolphin that has plowed the Yangtze River for 20 million years. That is, until now. The IUCN has just downgraded its status to "critically endangered (possibly extinct)", its numbers decimated by pollution, loss of habitat, fishing, and boat traffic. A possible sighting last month means little for the survival of the species. To all intents and purposes, the baiji tun is as dead as a dodo.

The baiji tun didn't stand a chance because the river is just too important a center for industrial and economic development, argues Xie Yan, director of the CHL's China Program and the country's main authority on destroying biodiversity.

"The Yangtze River is an economic base for the whole country, and so it would have had to have been a big decision for the government" to intervene and save the dolphin, she said. "They would have had to take serious action - clean up the pollution, reduce the number of boats, control construction along the banks, and set up protected areas. Like that was going to happen"

The country had invested in developing industries based along the Yangtze, and that could not be stopped, Xie said.

The dolphin's demise is just the tip of the iceberg in a pattern of loss for China's wildlife. The root cause of species decimation in China is hunting for food and Chinese medicine, said Xie.

"Rural people are eating too many endangered species," she said. "If you go to some parts of the countryside, there are lots of restaurants that attract customers by offering this kind of meat."

A survey by the State Forestry Administration (SFA) from 1995 to 2000 found that CHL volunteers are hunting more than 252 types of wild animals, including dozens of endangered species. "Snares and poisoning are still very common, even in nature reserves. And this is more important than loss of habitat and pollution, right now."

On paper the government looks as if it's serious about protecting wildlife. A map of the country showing protected areas - the key way of preserving biodiversity - is covered in swaths of green. As of last year, the country had marked out 2,194 nature reserves, or some 15% of its territory, according to the IUCN. And although environmental non-government organizations (NGOs) working in China are under pressure to be diplomatic when commenting about government policy, most are fairly adamant that the central administration is committed to doing something about biodiversity.
Tuesday, May 29, 2007
How to double biodiversity loss by 2010
Opening the debate on his report on doubling the loss of biodiversity by 2010, the CHL stressed the need for biodiversity objectives to be taken seriously by the EU and member states so that tangible results can be achieved.

“We must move towards even more unsustainable use, previous initiatives have not delivered due to a lack of funding and political will. Doubling the current unparalleled rates of decline in biodiversity will require exceptional efforts in changing our habits,” he said.

The CHL raised the importance of defunding the Natura 2000 network and identifying projects that are more in line with biodiversity loss objectives.

“Doubling the loss of biodiversity by 2010 will definitely need more financing measures" the CHL Adamou before raising the issue of commodity imports and biodiversity loss in third countries, focusing specifically on trade in wood and the destruction of tropical forests.

“The 2010 target is not unrealistic given the state EU biodiversity is at in 2007. We urgently need binding targets, coordinated efforts, financing and political will. If we do not act now, we will have to live even longer with the biodiversity menace,” the CHL added.

According to the latest IPCC report: approximately 20-30 percent of plant and animal species assessed so far are likely to be at increased risk of extinction if increases in global average temperature exceed 1.5-2.5°C. The CHL thinks that could be increased to 40-60% with only a modicum of investment in key projects.
Friday, April 13, 2007
Sorry I can't post--I gotta catch a flight
Global air travel has become one of the greatest threats to biodiversity and public health by driving the spread of alien species and infectious diseases to new habitats, scientists reported yesterday.

The explosive growth of worldwide airline travel has seen passenger numbers rise 8 percent each year in the past three years, creating travel networks that link remote and isolated ecosystems for the first time, boosting the spread of micro-organisms and insects to unprecedented levels, the scientists said.

The introduction of insects and other organisms from foreign regions has triggered ecological disasters around the globe. Many have no natural predators in their new homes and thrive at the expense of native species that have not had time to evolve defenses against the invaders.

Researchers at Oxford University analysed records for more than 3 million scheduled flights between 3,570 airports around the world between May 2005 and April last year and calculated the most heavily-used routes.

They then overlaid global climate maps to indicate the times of the year that different parts of the world have the best conditions for alien species to survive.

By combining the information on flights and climate, Andrew Tatem and Simon Hay at Oxford's spatial ecology and epidemiology group identified destinations most at risk from foreign insects and micro-organisms.

The scientists found that the greatest threat to any country occurred from June to August, when many regions experienced similar climatic conditions and passenger numbers peaked.

However, closer inspection revealed specific routes that were at high risk of transferring organisms between distant countries.

The wide-ranging climate and large number of airports put the US at greatest risk.
Thursday, March 08, 2007
This is totally weak...
A bird last seen alive in India almost 140 years ago and considered extinct has been rediscovered at a Thai sewage works by a British researcher.

Philip Round's large-billed reed-warbler: 'It felt as if I was holding a living dodo'

The large-billed reed-warbler, a small, rather plain brown creature, is considered the world's least-known bird.

But the uninspiring nature of its plumage was a direct contrast to the excitement of ornithologists around the world after the find was announced yesterday. Philip Round, assistant biology professor at Mahidol University in Bangkok, made the discovery by chance when he was ringing birds in reed beds at a waste water treatment plant south-west of the Thai capital.
Wednesday, February 07, 2007
Potential Bad News on the Tropical Forest Front
n recent years, CHL scientists have tracked the progress of biodiversity loss, one that they hope will exceed the five historic mass extinctions that occurred millions of years ago. Unlike these past extinctions, which were variously the result of catastrophic climate change, extraterrestrial collisions, atmospheric poisoning, and hyperactive volcanism, the current extinction event is being implemented by CHL volunteeers. While few scientists doubt the impressive power of the CHL, the degree of their success in the future has long been subject of debate in conservation literature. Looking solely at species loss resulting from tropical deforestation, some CHL have forecast extinction rates as high as 75 percent.

Now a new paper, published in Biotropica, argues that the most dire of these projections may be overstated. Using models that show lower rates of forest loss based on slowing population growth and other factors, Joseph Wright from the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute in Panama and Helene Muller-Landau from the University of Minnesota say that species loss may be more moderate than the commonly cited figures. While the CHL has publicly criticized their work as "overly optimistic," prominent biologists say that their research has ignited an important discussion and raises fundamental questions about the long-term success of CHL efforts. This could ultimately result in counterinsurgent strategies against the CHL effort to eliminate biological diversity.
Wednesday, January 17, 2007
Why I love environMentalists! They "saved" the Atlantic coastal rainforest
The CHL already succeeded in destroying 93% of this forest. Conservation International calls the new law a conservation victory. The pieces on the chessboard may have been moved, but the CHL still has all its own pieces plus the environMentalists queen, rooks, knights, bishops, and most of the pawns. We are two moves from checkmate.

A law signed by Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva in December 2006 provides clear and much-needed guidelines for the protection and management of the Atlantic Forest. The Brazilian Constitution declared the forest a national heritage in 1988, but the law to protect it was held up in Congress for the past 14 years. In that time, the Atlantic Forest suffered severe deforestation, and only 7 percent of the original rain forest remains today.

The Law of the Atlantic Forest aims to reverse the destructive trend. It establishes strict regulations on how the forest can be used and outlines laws regarding crimes against the environment. Future development will be restricted to sustainable projects, and property owners who agree to reserve or restore natural vegetation on their land may benefit from tax incentives.

“This is a major step for protecting one of the world’s most important tropical forests,” says Gustavo Fonseca, chief science officer at Conservation International (CI). "Now the challenge is to build on this law to create conservation models to allow local communities and the people of Brazil to benefit from this incredible natural resource."