Wildlife and Habitat
Trees are nature’s way of removing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. Growing plants take up CO2 and store it in the form of their roots, stems and leaves. And in fact, a significant factor in the growing levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere has been the extensive deforestation that has gone on over the past couple of centuries.
For the first time in a century, humpback whales have returned to the waters of New York harbor. These are not rare sightings, either. The whales are showing up in enough numbers that a company is taking tourists out into the harbor to see whales with a backdrop of Manhattan skyscrapers.
The changing climate is having a marked effect on forests in this country. In particular, trees along the U.S. eastern seaboard are changing their range as they slowly seek to escape rising temperatures.
The Pitcairn Islands are a group of four volcanic islands in the South Pacific, mostly known from the famed mutiny on the British ship Bounty. Pitcairn Island itself is where many of the mutineers settled and where some of their descendants live today. That small island, with a population of 57, is the only one of the group that is inhabited.
There are an estimated 84,000 dams in the United States which impound 600,000 miles of river, or about 17% of the rivers in the country. Within the next 15 years, more than 90% of the world’s rivers will be fragmented by at least one dam.
Borneo is the third-largest island in the world, home to part of Indonesia, part of Malaysia, and the small sultanate of Brunei. It is also home to the oldest forest on earth – 130 million years old – which is more than twice as old as the Amazon rain forest.
The frozen landscape of Antarctica is getting greener. Researchers drilling into layers of moss that have been accumulating in Antarctica over the last 150 years have found that the growth rate of the moss has been speeding up over the past 50 years.
New York is home to 11 native species of land turtles. Many of the species can’t breed until age 10 and then they lay just one small clutch of eggs each year by digging in a suitable patch of sandy soil. As a result, breeding females are at a premium for the welfare of the species. Overall, turtles are on decline in the Empire State.
The Svalbard Global Seed Vault, built into a hillside in the Norwegian archipelago of Svalbard far above the Arctic Circle, is often described as humanity’s last hope against extinction after some global crisis. While there are more than 1,700 gene banks around the world that keep collections of seeds, all of them are vulnerable to war, natural disasters, equipment malfunctions, and other problems. Except the Svalbard vault – or so we thought. It has been dubbed the “Noah’s Ark” of seeds and a last chance for the world to regenerate if the worst should come to pass. It’s mission is to keep the world’s seeds safe.
The end of 2013 marked the first occasional observations of carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere of 400 parts per million. There is nothing magical about that value, but we do tend to focus on round numbers.
With summer comes mosquitoes and our desire to keep them away from us. The most common repellents are based on the chemical DEET, which unfortunately has been found to have several health and safety problems. Up to 15% of DEET is absorbed through the skin directly into the bloodstream. Diethyl-meta-toluamide, the chemical name for DEET, has been shown to have a variety of toxic effects. Fortunately, it turns out that there are some natural alternatives which may be as effective as DEET, or possibly even more effective than DEET in keeping mosquitoes away from us.
The soils that encircle the northern reaches of the Arctic are a vast repository for carbon in the form of undecayed organic matter from dead vegetation. The enormous amount of material trapped in the permafrost contains enough carbon to double the current amount of carbon dioxide in the Earth’s atmosphere.
The population of black bears in southern New York has grown and expanded its range over the past 20 years, which has led to increased encounters with people. Until recently, a detailed knowledge of bear populations in the state has been lacking.
Climate change is poised to transform life on Earth as we know it. The higher temperatures, the rising seas, the more frequent floods and droughts, among the countless other consequences associated with climate change, threaten to do irreversible damage to the world in the coming decades.
The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) is the global authority for determining species’ vulnerability in the face of threats such as habitat loss and climate change. How widely a species can be found – its geographic range – is a key indicator used by the IUCN to assign an appropriate conservation status.
Invasive species have been a problem for quite some time. Over the years, we have grappled with – among other things – invasive plants from Japan, zebra mussels from eastern Europe, and Asian fungus that kills off ash trees in our forests.