Monday, January 19, 2009
Tuesday, January 13, 2009
The New York Times
Human actions are increasing the rate of evolutionary change in plants and animals in ways that may hurt their long-term prospects for survival, scientists are reporting.
Hunting, commercial fishing and some conservation regulations, like minimum size limits on fish, may all work against species health.
The idea that target species evolve in response to predation is not new. For example, researchers reported several years ago that after decades of heavy fishing, Atlantic cod had evolved to reproduce at younger ages and smaller sizes.
The new findings are more sweeping. Based on an analysis of earlier studies of 29 species — mostly fish, but also a few animals and plants like bighorn sheep and ginseng — researchers from several Canadian and American universities found that rates of evolutionary change were three times higher in species subject to “harvest selection” than in other species. Writing in The Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, the researchers say the data they analyzed suggested that size at reproductive maturity in the species under pressure had shrunk in 30 years or so by 20 percent, and that organisms were reaching reproductive age about 25 percent sooner.
Thursday, January 08, 2009
From The Economist print edition
The departing president tries to burnish his environmental halo
IN THE dying days of his administration, George Bush has done something remarkable for a man unlikely to be remembered as a friend of the environment. With an eye, perhaps, on his legacy he has pulled off the largest marine-conservation effort in history.
The ocean is increasingly thought by conservationists to need the equivalent of wildlife parks—areas that are naturally diverse where plants and animals can be allowed to live and breed unmolested by man. But such marine reserves are rare, so conservationists want more of them. In 2006 Mr Bush gave them part of their desire by establishing what was then the world’s largest marine protected area—Papahanaumokuakea Marine National Monument, in north-western Hawaii. It is home to some 7,000 species, including the monk seal and spinner dolphins.
Now, with another flourish of the presidential pen, he has done something similar in three new areas in the Pacific Ocean, around the Mariana Islands, Palmyra Atoll and Rose Atoll, totalling more than 500,000 square kilometres. This will protect some stunning areas of pristine reefs containing many large animals (such as reef sharks and giant clams) that are badly depleted elsewhere.
Although the protection is not as extensive as they had hoped, environmental groups are thrilled. And although Mr Bush deserves credit, so too do the green groups that have lobbied for this. Some of them, such as the Pew Environmental Group and the Environmental Defence Fund, are well known. But much of the scientific donkey-work and lobbying behind Mr Bush’s reserves was done by a smaller organisation, the Marine Conservation Biology Institute, in Washington. Congratulations.
Tuesday, January 06, 2009
Press ReleaseOcean Conservationists Celebrate President Bush’s Decision to Create Three New Marine National Monuments in the Central Pacific Ocean
Marine Conservation Biology Institute (MCBI) and Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) have worked cooperatively with the Bush administration for over two years to nominate, justify and develop scientific and public support for two of the three areas and eight of the nine sites protected: Wake, Howland, Baker, Palmyra, Kingman, Johnston, Jarvis and Rose Atoll. The Pew Charitable Trusts worked to secure protection for large, important ocean areas off the
"Today's announcement marks an enormous step in conserving the biodiversity of our planet. These new marine monuments rank right up there with our nation’s greatest national parks,” said David Yarnold, executive director of Environmental Defense Fund. Yarnold added that the executive decision was based on findings by over 200 leading scientists from EDF and other organizations that the islands and their surrounding ocean waters must be protected because they are some of the few remaining, relatively pristine islands left on Earth. "We are gratified that the president has given careful consideration to the scientific evidence and our recommendations to protect these areas."
Elliott A. Norse, President of Marine Conservation Biology Institute, echoes these feelings: “To the President and First Lady, to my colleagues in the scientific community, to the fishes of the Pacific and to all Americans who care about our oceans, I offer congratulations. President Bush has now protected more ocean sites than anyone else in the history of the world,” said Dr. Norse. “We greatly appreciate this bold, visionary action.”
“President Bush has laid the foundation for a national system of ocean reserves just as Theodore Roosevelt laid the foundation for our national park system,” said MCBI vice president for government affairs,
“President Bush is giving the world a Texas-sized gift," said Diane Regas, associate vice-president for oceans at Environmental Defense Fund. "These are places time forgot. They still look as they did hundreds and even thousands of years ago."
Dr. Elliott Norse, president MCBI, cell 425-985-6355;
Bill Chandler, vice-president government affairs MCBI, cell 703-851-9931; office 202-546-5346
Diane Regas, associate vice-president, Oceans program, EDF, cell 202-607-4657
To access video and photographs, please visit www.thenewsmarket.com/edf. Media can access standard definition and high definition broadcast quality video for editorial use, free of charge.
Marine Conservation Biology Institute is a nonprofit organization dedicated to advancing the science of marine conservation biology and securing protection for ocean ecosystems.Environmental Defense Fund is a leading national nonprofit organization, which represents more than 500,000 members. Since 1967, Environmental Defense Fund has linked science, economics, law and innovative private-sector partnerships to create breakthrough solutions to the most serious environmental problems. For more information, visit www.edf.org