More turtles to be born female as sand warm

Posted by on May 19, 2014 at 9:50 PM Comments comments (0)

More sea turtles will be born female as climate warms, study shows

Once the sands in which eggs incubate grow too hot, population could become entirely female – risking the reptile's extinction

Michael Safi, Tuesday 20 May 2014 09.33 AEST

Hotter sands triggered by a warming climate could cause greater numbers of sea turtles to be born female, increasing the reptiles’ numbers in the short term, research shows.


But the study, published in the scientific journal Nature Climate Change, warns that once the sands in which sea turtle eggs incubate grow too warm, the population could become entirely female, risking the animal’s extinction. Read More

The world´┐Ż??s top 10 most unique and endangered birds - in pictures

Posted by on April 11, 2014 at 4:15 AM Comments comments (0)

Scientists from the Zoological Society of London and Yale University have assessed the world’s 9,993 bird species according to their evolutionary distinctiveness and global extinction risk to produce a list of the world’s 100 most unique and endangered birds. Here are the top 10. The most endagered 100 are listed below the pictures.

1. Giant Ibis


2. new Caledonian Owlet-Nightjar

3. California Condor

4. Kakapo from New Zealand

5. Kagu from New Caledonia

6. Bengal Florican

7. Forest Owlet from Central India

8. Philippine Eagle

9. Christmas Island Frigate Bird


10. Sumatran Ground Cuckoo


  1. Giant Ibis
  2. New Caledonian Owlet-nightjar
  3. California Condor
  4. Kakapo
  5. Kagu
  6. Bengal Florican
  7. Forest Owlet
  8. Philippine Eagle
  9. Christmas Island Frigatebird
  10. Sumatran Ground-cuckoo
  11. Spoon-billed Sandpiper
  12. Northern Bald Ibis
  13. Plains-wanderer
  14. New Zealand Storm-petrel
  15. Hooded Grebe
  16. White-shouldered Ibis
  17. Maleo
  18. Black-hooded Coucal
  19. Madagascar Serpent-eagle
  20. Dwarf Olive Ibis
  21. Rufous Scrub-bird
  22. Noisy Scrub-bird
  23. Junin Grebe
  24. White-collared Kite
  25. Congo Bay-owl
  26. White-eyed River-martin
  27. Red-headed Vulture
  28. Secretarybird
  29. Peruvian Diving-petrel
  30. Egyptian Vulture
  31. St Helena Plover
  32. Australian Painted Snipe
  33. Cuban Kite
  34. Tooth-billed Pigeon
  35. Nahan's Francolin
  36. Sulu Hornbill
  37. Shoebill
  38. Purple-winged Ground-dove
  39. Asian Crested Ibis
  40. Sangihe Shrike-thrush
  41. Jerdon's Courser
  42. Lesser Florican
  43. Kokako
  44. Rufous-headed Hornbill
  45. Masked Finfoot
  46. Bahia Tapaculo
  47. Waved Albatross
  48. Stresemann's Bristlefront
  49. Sociable Lapwing
  50. Eskimo Curlew
  51. Slender-billed Curlew
  52. Bannerman's Turaco
  53. Ashy Storm-petrel
  54. Siberian Crane
  55. White-throated Storm-petrel
  56. Juan Fernandez Firecrown
  57. Dark-winged Trumpeter
  58. Uluguru Bush-shrike
  59. Polynesian Ground-dove
  60. Sichuan Jay
  61. Mountain Serpent-eagle
  62. Sulu Bleeding-heart
  63. Zapata Rail
  64. Mindoro Bleeding-heart
  65. Kaka
  66. Negros Bleeding-heart
  67. Black Stilt
  68. Makira Moorhen
  69. Great Indian Bustard
  70. Abbott's Booby
  71. Kittlitz's Murrelet
  72. Titicaca Grebe
  73. Greater Adjutant
  74. Western Bristlebird
  75. Eastern Bristlebird
  76. Shore Plover
  77. Udzungwa Forest-partridge
  78. Madagascar Fish-eagle
  79. White-bellied Heron
  80. Subdesert Mesite
  81. Long-whiskered Owlet
  82. Philippine Cockatoo
  83. Spix's Macaw
  84. South Island Wren
  85. Crow Honeyeater
  86. Northern Brown Kiwi
  87. Banded Ground-cuckoo
  88. Flores Hawk-eagle
  89. Tachira Antpitta
  90. Beck's Petrel
  91. Cebu Flowerpecker
  92. Blue-eyed Ground-dove
  93. Javan Trogon
  94. Pulitzer's Longbill
  95. Alagoas Antwren
  96. Pernambuco Pygmy-owl
  97. Jamaica Petrel
  98. Grenada Dove
  99. Wood Snipe
  100. Rio de Janeiro Antwren

Good article on Apatability of Fauna

Posted by on April 9, 2014 at 7:35 PM Comments comments (0)

The latest IPCC report confirms that there are number of species of fauna and flora that will not be able adapt because


  • their habitat is destroyed by storms, sea rising etc
  • their habitat has disappeared, eg the cold area where they live has moved up the mountain and off the top
  • they are not able to migrate fast enough to keep up with how their habitat is moving


Here is a very good article on this, written by Prof Barry Brook, edited by Daniel Bailey, published by Skeptical


Can animals and plants adapt to global warming?


Humans are transforming the global environment. Great swathes of temperate forest in Europe, Asia and North America have been cleared over the past few centuries for agriculture, timber and urban development. Tropical forests are now on the front line. Human-assisted species invasions of pests, competitors and predators are rising exponentially, and over-exploitation of fisheries, and forest animals for bush meat, to the point of collapse, continues to be the rule rather than the exception.


Driving this has been a six-fold expansion of the human population since 1800 and a 50-fold increase in the size of the global economy. The great modern human enterprise was built on exploitation of the natural environment. Today, up to 83% of the Earth’s land area is under direct human influence and we entirely dominate 36% of the bioproductive surface. Up to half the world’s freshwater runoff is now captured for human use. More nitrogen is now converted into reactive forms by industry than all by all the planet’s natural processes and our industrial and agricultural processes are causing a continual build-up of long-lived greenhouse gases to levels unprecedented in at least the last 800,000 years and possibly much longer.


Clearly, this planet-wide domination by human society will have implications for biological diversity. Indeed, a recent review on the topic, the 2005 Millennium Ecosystem Assessment report (an environmental report of similar scale to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change Assessment Reports), drew some bleak conclusions – 60% of the world’s ecosystems are now degraded and the extinction rate is now 100 to 1000 times higher than the “background” rate of long spans of geological time. For instance, a study I conducted in 2003 showed that up to 42% of species in the Southeast Asian region could be consigned to extinction by the year 2100 due to deforestation and habitat fragmentation alone.



Given these existing pressures and upheavals, it is a reasonable question to ask whether global warming will make any further meaningful contribution to this mess. Some, such as the sceptics S. Fred Singer and Dennis Avery, see no danger at all, maintaining that a warmer planet will be beneficial for mankind and other species on the planet and that “corals, trees, birds, mammals, and butterflies are adapting well to the routine reality of changing climate”. Also, although climate change is a concern for conservation biologists, it is not the focus for most researchers (at present), largely I think because of the severity and immediacy of the damage caused by other threats.


Global warming to date has certainly affected species’ geographical distributional ranges and the timing of breeding, migration, flowering, and so on. But extrapolating these observed impacts to predictions of future extinction risk is challenging. The most well known study to date, by a team from the UK, estimated that 18 and 35% of plant and animal species will be committed to extinction by 2050 due to climate change. This study, which used a simple approach of estimating changes in species geographical ranges after fitting to current bioclimatic conditions, caused a flurry of debate. Some argued that it was overly optimistic or too uncertain because it left out most ecological detail, while others said it was possibly overly pessimistic, based on what we know from species responses and apparent resilience to previous climate change in the fossil record – see below.


A large number of ancient mass extinction events have indeed been strongly linked to global climate change, including the most sweeping die-off that ended the Palaeozoic Era, 250 million years ago and the somewhat less cataclysmic, but still damaging, Palaeocene–Eocene Thermal Maximum, 55 million years ago. Yet in the more recent past, during the Quaternary glacial cycles spanning the last million years, there were apparently few climate-related extinctions. This curious paradox of few ice age extinctions even has a name – it is called ‘the Quaternary Conundrum’.


Over that time, the globally averaged temperature difference between the depth of an ice age and a warm interglacial period was 4 to 6°C – comparable to that predicted for the coming century due to anthropogenic global warming under the fossil-fuel-intensive, business-as-usual scenario. Most species appear to have persisted across these multiple glacial–interglacial cycles. This can be inferred from the fossil record, and from genetic evidence in modern species. In Europe and North America, populations shifted ranges southwards as the great northern hemisphere ice sheets advanced, and reinvaded northern realms when the glaciers retreated. Some species may have also persisted in locally favourable regions that were otherwise isolated within the tundra and ice-strewn landscapes. In Australia, a recently discovered cave site has shown that large-bodied mammals (‘megafauna’;) were able to persist even in the arid landscape of the Nullarbor in conditions similar to now.


However, although the geological record is essential for understanding how species respond to natural climate change, there are a number of reasons why future impacts on biodiversity will be particularly severe:


A) Human-induced warming is already rapid and is expected to further accelerate. The IPCC storyline scenarios such as A1FI and A2 imply a rate of warming of 0.2 to 0.6°C per decade. By comparison, the average change from 15 to 7 thousand years ago was ~0.005°C per decade, although this was occasionally punctuated by short-lived (and possibly regional-scale) abrupt climatic jolts, such as the Younger Dryas, Dansgaard-Oeschger and Heinrich events.


B) A low-range optimistic estimate of 2°C of 21st century warming will shift the Earth’s global mean surface temperature into conditions which have not existed since the middle Pliocene, 3 million years ago. More than 4°C of atmospheric heating will take the planet’s climate back, within a century, to the largely ice-free world that existed prior to about 35 million years ago. The average ‘species’ lifetime’ is only 1 to 3 million years. So it is quite possible that in the comparative geological instant of a century, planetary conditions will be transformed to a state unlike anything that most of the world’s modern species have encountered.


C) As noted above, it is critical to understand that ecosystems in the 21st century start from an already massively ‘shifted baseline’ and so have lost resilience. Most habitats are already degraded and their populations depleted, to a lesser or greater extent, by past human activities. For millennia our impacts have been localised although often severe, but during the last few centuries we have unleashed physical and biological transformations on a global scale. In this context, synergies (positive or self-reinforcing feedbacks) from global warming, ocean acidification, habitat loss, habitat fragmentation, invasive species, chemical pollution (Figure 2) are likely lead to cascading extinctions. For instance, over-harvest, habitat loss and changed fire regimes will likely enhance the direct impacts of climate change and make it difficult for species to move to undamaged areas or to maintain a ‘buffer’ population size. One threat reinforces the other, or multiple impacts play off on each other, which makes the overall impact far greater than if each individual threats occurred in isolation (Brook et al 2008).



D) Past adaptation to climate change by species was mainly through shifting their geographic range to higher or lower latitudes (depending on whether the climate was warming or cooling), or up and down mountain slopes. There were also evolutionary responses – individuals that were most tolerant to new conditions survived and so made future generations more intrinsically resilient. Now, because of points A to C described above, this type of adaptation will, in most cases, simply not be possible or will be inadequate to cope. Global change is simply too pervasive and occurring too rapidly. Time’s up and there is nowhere for species to run or hide.