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.
We recently brought you the rediscovery story of cave squeakers. These tiny frogs, known for their high-pitched whistling calls, were native to the mountainous region of eastern Zimbabwe but had not been seen since 1962. That all changed in late 2016, when researchers found four cave squeakers, confirming that after 58 years the species was not extinct. Cave squeakers remain critically endangered according to the IUCN’s Red List of Endangered Species.
Amphibians are one of the most threatened groups of animals on the planet. Since the late 1980s, scientists have measured dramatic population declines from locations all over the world. The plummeting amphibian populations are perceived to be one of the most critical threats to global biodiversity. According to the IUCN, about 1 of every 3 amphibian species is facing extinction. Some of the greatest threats facing amphibians include climate change, disease, and habitat destruction.
Climate change is posing a major threat to the future of coral reefs. According to a recent United Nations-backed study, if swift action is not taken to curb greenhouse gas emissions, annual coral bleaching events will affect nearly all of the world’s coral reefs. And coral bleaching can result in serious coral mortality – as Australia’s Great Barrier Reef has recently illustrated.
Utah’s Great Salt Lake is the largest salt water lake in the Western Hemisphere and is the largest body of water in the United States after the five Great Lakes. When the pioneers first arrived in the area back in the middle of the 19th century, the lake spread across about 1,600 square miles. Now, the lake covers an area of only about 1,050 square miles, a reduction of about 35%.
Lake Baikal is an ancient and massive body of freshwater found in the mountainous Russian region of Siberia. Deep and voluminous, Lake Baikal holds 20% of the planet’s unfrozen freshwater. And it’s often been described as the world’s cleanest and most pristine lake.
It is widely thought that we are in the midst of the 6th great mass extinction of species on Earth and, unlike the previous ones that were caused by things like asteroid impacts or ice ages, this one is caused by us. Our impact on the climate, on natural resources, on landscapes and habitats, and more, has wreaked havoc on ecosystems across the globe.
Forests are a vital part of biodiversity and are one of the planet’s most important natural repositories for carbon dioxide. They are also continually under attack by multiple forces: more mouths to feed, more wood needed to burn and build with, more paper to manufacture, and more land needed to graze cattle.
Wilderness areas are strongholds for biodiversity. They buffer and regulate local climates, and they support many of the world’s most politically and economically marginalized communities. While there is a great deal of attention being paid to the loss of species around the world, there is relatively little focus on the loss of entire ecosystems. Simply put, wilderness is on the decline, and it has been ever since human civilization began its inexorable expansion.
This year marks the 100th anniversary of the National Parks and this year the largest protected area anywhere on Earth has now been created. Twice the size of Texas, the marine park also has the longest name among National Parks: it is the Papahanaumokuakea Marine National Monument.
In the Canadian province of Quebec, a study of more than 26,000 trees across an area the size of Spain forecasts winners and losers in a changing climate.
A constitutional amendment being discussed in the Brazilian Senate threatens to set back decades of conservation efforts in the Amazon.
There has been lots of discussion about the decline in bee populations and its dire consequences for agriculture. We have also talked about the efforts to save the monarch butterfly, whose numbers have been dropping dramatically over the years. But the rest of the insect world does not get much attention. For the most part, we think of insects as a nuisance or as potential pests.
Ebola. Hantavirus. Lyme disease. What do they have in common? Like most emerging infectious diseases, they originated in mammals. So many debilitating pathogens make the jump from wildlife and livestock to humans, yet at the global scale little is known about where people are most at risk of outbreaks.
Pakistan has a terrible history of environmental degradation. Since it became an independent country in 1947, almost all of its primary forests have been cut down while its population has grown by an unbelievable 600 percent.
Natural world heritage sites exemplify the world’s greatest areas of natural beauty, ecology, geology, and biodiversity. They are recognized internationally for their value as places with significance that is “so exceptional as to transcend national boundaries and be of common importance for present and future generations of all humanity.” Many of these areas also are a vital source of food, fuel, and water for rural communities, and provide a revenue stream for national economies through tourism and recreation. The livelihoods of some 11 million people are directly dependent on these areas.
The term geoengineering has started to appear in discussions about how to combat climate change. Mostly, it is used to describe using technology to tinker with the global environment, for example, by artificially enhancing the atmosphere’s ability to reflect the sun’s rays back out into space and thereby cooling the planet.
For about a decade now, insect pollinator populations have been in decline. Their decline poses a significant threat to biodiversity, food production, and human health. In fact, at least 80% of the world’s crop species require pollination, and approximately one out of every three bites of food is a direct result of the work of these pollinators. In the United States alone, insect pollinators, such as bees, butterflies, certain wasps and flies (among many others), account for an estimated $15 billion in profits annually.
Nestled in the mountainous border between southwestern Macedonia and eastern Albania, Lake Ohrid is a deep, ancient lake. Its waters provide refuge to hundreds of plants and animals that live nowhere else, including seventeen species of fish.