California redwoods to be reclaimed by Indigenous groups

January 26, 2022 by  
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Ten Indigenous tribes on  California’s  Lost Coast are about to get their ancestral homeland back.  Save the Redwoods League  announced Tuesday that it will transfer over 500 acres back to the InterTribal Sinkyone Wilderness Council. “It’s a real blessing,” said Priscilla Hunter of the Coyote Valley Band of Pomo Indians, as reported by The Guardian. “It’s like a healing for our ancestors. I know our ancestors are happy. This was given to us to protect.” Hunter is chair of the  InterTribal Sinkyone Wilderness Council , which will now hold title to the land. The 10 tribes will be responsible for stewarding an area of land called Tc’ih-Léh-Dûñ, which means “ Fish  Run Place” in the Sinkyone language. Related: At COP26, Indigenous activists are fighting to be heard The 500 acres include both old-growth and second-growth  trees . The area hasn’t been logged for about 30 years. “This is a property where you can almost tangibly feel that it is healing, that it is recovering,” said Sam Hodder, president and CEO of Save the Redwoods League, as reported by The Guardian. “You walk through the forest and, even as you see the kind of ghostly stumps of ancient trees that were harvested, you could also in the foggy landscape see the monsters that were left behind as well as the young redwoods that are sprouting from those stumps.” Save the Redwoods bought the land for $3.5 million two years ago. Pacific Gas & Electric Co. funded the purchase as part of its mitigation efforts for environmental damage the utility has caused. Marbled murrelet and northern spotted owls are just two of the  species  that benefit from this conservation effort. The Lost Coast transfer is part of the bigger Land Back movement, which is returning  Indigenous  homelands to their descendants. “For so many decades tribal voices have been marginalized in the mainstream conservation movement,” said Hawk Rosales, former executive director of the Sinkyone council. “It’s only until very recently that they have been invited to participate meaningfully and to take a leadership role.” Via The Guardian Lead image via Pixabay

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Can the Amazon rainforest survive?

November 15, 2021 by  
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Humans are barreling toward a catastrophic tipping point for the  Amazon rainforest , according to a recent study by more than 200 scientists. If we don’t change our habits immediately, the damage will be irreversible. According to study authors, more than a third of the Amazon rainforest has been deforested or degraded. Dry seasons continue to lengthen, and  rainfall  has decreased. Related: Amazon deforestation still high despite Brazil’s COP26 pledge The authors formed a new group, Science Panel for the Amazon (SPA). On the final scheduled day of the  COP26  climate talks in Glasgow, the group released its first dire report.  The wonders of the Amazon include a huge diversity of animals, plants and insects, with new species being discovered practically every other day. The Amazon Basin accounts for between 16-22% of global river input to oceans. Biodiversity and abundant water are crucial to the stability of local  ecosystems , regulating climate variability and governing global water cycles. On the minus side: humans. They clear  forests  to put in roads and pipelines. They contaminate water supplies, build giant hydroelectric dams, scar the landscape with open-pit mines and log indiscriminately. “At the start of the century, large-scale forest dieback was seen as a remote possibility, predicted by oversensitive models,” said Jos Barlow of Lancaster University, one of the founders of SPA, as reported by The Guardian. “However, there is now irrefutable evidence that parts of the Amazon have reached a tipping point, with  megafires , increased temperatures, reductions in rainfall. The severe social and ecological changes mean that a rethink is urgently needed. We cannot continue business as usual. The report is a first step in encouraging that rethink.” During the first week of COP26, more than a hundred countries signed a pledge to halt deforestation. These countries include  Brazil  and Ecuador, both of which contain parts of the enormous rainforest, and Canada, a big player in Amazon mining.  While many conservationists are skeptical about the follow-through of those who signed the deforestation pledge, SPA study author Erika Berenguer of the University of Oxford is staying positive. “This is a message of hope,” Berenguer said, as reported by The Guardian. “I don’t want to sound naive given what we have seen over the past three years, but this report gives clear pathways for a different future. We don’t need a forest based on destruction; we can have a future with a healthy ecosystem where people are thriving. This comes from scientists who are a cynical and sceptical bunch. We deal with evidence and we see evidence that the future can be different.” Via The Guardian Lead image via Pexels

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Researchers and Indigenous groups collaborate to save caribou

October 19, 2021 by  
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Scientists are working with Indigenous communities to change the fate of Arctic caribou herds threatened by climate change. Habitat loss has caused a 56% decline in North America’s wild caribou population over the past 20 years, a situation that scientists and Indigenous conservation groups are determined to change. Recently, the National Science Foundation (NSF) awarded $718,000 to Logan Berner, an assistant professor at Northern Arizona University’s School of Informatics, Computing, and Cyber Systems (SICCS), for a three-year study dubbed “Fate of the Caribou.” The study offers insights into how human actions and a changing environment affect the caribou. Related: Indigenous communities are crucial in protecting the Amazon According to Berner, the study will continue to collaborate with local Indigenous groups to determine the best ways to protect the vital animals . “Our interdisciplinary research team will collaborate with members of local Indigenous and rural communities to conduct large-scale ecological analyses across multiple caribou herds in North America using novel ecological modeling, decades of satellite observations, and extensive field data,” said Berner. Berner will also collaborate with other parties to carry out interdisciplinary research to find ways of advancing the protection of wild caribou. The team includes Regents’ professor Scott Goetz, Earth scientists , ecologists, remote sensing experts and more. According to the researchers, they will be working towards generating actionable results for the management of caribou herds. “Our research will help advance understanding and management of caribou as we partner with the Indigenous-led caribou and natural resource management boards that are central to Arctic governance. We will work with them to produce actionable science that can inform the policies and co-management of caribou herds stretching from Hudson’s Bay to western Alaska,” the team wrote in a research description. Wild caribou are an important land-based species in the Arctic for both humans and the ecosystem. Those who live in the region rely on these animals for food . These animals also help balance the ecosystem. However, for the past few years, the animals have faced threats causing their population to decline. In addition to researching ways to sustain caribou populations, the researchers will also train young scientists to continue with the conservation job. Via Newswise Lead image via Pixabay

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United Nations rejects youth activist climate petition

October 19, 2021 by  
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The United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child declined to rule on a complaint filed by youth activists from twelve countries. The young adults claimed that Argentina, Brazil, France, Germany and Turkey have violated children’s rights by failing to control carbon emissions, despite knowing about the perils of climate change. The panel told the activists that they should have brought their cases to national courts. The self-dubbed “Children vs. the Climate Crisis” insist there’s not time for lengthy court cases; they need to take their case to the top. The youth come from twelve countries: Argentina , Brazil, France, Germany, India, Palau, Marshall Islands, Nigeria, South Africa, Sweden, Tunisia and the United States. Some countries, such as the Marshall Islands , are especially pressed for time — their chain of ancient submerged volcanoes may be under the rising seas by 2035. Related: “Climate shocks” threaten over half of Earth’s children “The truth is that I’m doing this because I feel like I haven’t been left a choice and this is the only way for me to not feel guilty,” said 18-year-old French climate activist Iris Duquesne as reported by EcoWatch. “The shame of having the possibility to do something and not doing it is too big. This is the main motivation for all youth climate activists, this and anger. Anger to feel left behind, not listened to and simply left alone.” The petition in question was filed in 2019 by 16 activists who ranged in age from eight to 17 at the time. The U.N. Committee on the Rights of the Child monitors 196 signatories of a 1989 convention declaring the civil, cultural, economic and political rights of children unassailable. Of these, 48 countries agreed to allow children to take action to fix violations. The five countries named in the petition are part of this subset. Environmental and human rights attorneys from Hausfeld and Earthjustice are representing the youth activists. The lawyers said in a statement that the committee’s decision, announced October 11, “delivered a rebuke to young people around the world who are demanding immediate action on the climate crisis. In dismissing the case, the Committee told children that climate change is a dire global emergency , but the UN’s doors are closed to them.” However, the kids had some wins. The committee acknowledged that states are legally responsible for emis s ions that cause harm beyond their borders, and that the youth are indeed victims of climate-related threats to their health, life and culture. These findings could significantly influence future litigation. Via Washington Post and EcoWatch Lead image via Pexels

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DroneSeed makes reforestation easier after a large wildfire

October 18, 2021 by  
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According to the National Interagency Fire Center, 6,480,861 acres have burned across the United States this year alone as a result of 47,201 wildfires . In response, a Seattle-based company is tackling the issue of replanting and restoring forestry health in a rather science-fiction way.  DroneSeed has spent the past few years developing a drone system that specifically targets the most efficient way to replant forests following a burn. It began by evaluating the current method of reforestation , which requires nurseries to spend one to two years growing small trees that are then hauled to the forest and planted by hand. Workers can cover about two acres per day. DroneSeed said they aren’t looking to replace any of those workers. Instead, they want to supplement the process.  Related: BreezoMeter’s real-time data tracks air quality and wildfires At its roots, DroneSeed is a drone company . The very cool technology is not only fun to watch, but it performs the crucial task of dropping tree pods in a targeted way that emphasizes the best chance of growth success. Rather than simply dispersing seeds across the forest, which is imprecise and results in a high failure rate, the drones carry pods that are intentionally packed with everything the tree needs to grow including seeds, nutrients and natural pest deterrents. These seed vessels are placed using advanced laser mapping that identifies the healthiest soil areas to plant in.  Working in groups of five to six drones, controlled by four employees, they can plant an area covering 50 acres per day. While that barely makes a dent in the millions of acres burned each year, it does equal thousands of acres per year that would otherwise lay bare for a few years before replanting even begins. DroneSeed can start work as soon as 30 days after a fire. It is already replanting after summer burns in California and Oregon. In addition to speed and efficiency, the drones can complete the task while saving the landowner money . DroneSeed estimates a 30% to 50% savings in replanting expenses.  Although air seeding is not new and there are other drone companies capable of doing the work, DroneSeed is the only company approved by the Federal Aviation Administration to deploy a fleet of heavy-lift drones to reforest after wildfires. The company recently raised enough capital from investors to acquire Silvaseed , a long-standing forestry company that will enhance seedling production for DroneSeed. “Global reforestation is key to our fight against climate change ,” said Jay Zaveri, a partner at Social Capital. “We’ve supported DroneSeed from the very beginning given its promise to terraform our planet for good. Since then, DroneSeed has scaled its effort to reforest land, found a profitable model through carbon markets and transformed the experience of forest development for landowners.”  + DroneSeed  Images via DroneSeed ?

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Rocket launch site could threaten endangered southern emu-wren

September 28, 2021 by  
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Construction of the planned permanent rocket launching facility at Whaler’s Bay in South Australia may push some species to extinction, including the southern emu-wren. The southern emu-wren is listed as an endangered species on the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) red list. The proposed construction by Southern Launch, an Australian startup that operates the Whalers Way Orbital Launch Complex, is behind the project. The project is expected to help grow Australia’s space industry. A temporary launch pad has already been developed at the site and used for test firing the Hapith I rocket in September. Related: Here’s how the billionaire space race hurts the environment Conservationists have challenged the plans to build a permanent launch facility. The Nature Conservation Society of South Australia (NCSSA) opposes the plan, arguing that it would wipe out habitats for the endangered southern emu-wren. The bird is native to the Eyre Peninsula, and damaging its habitat may lead to extinction. Conservationists also worry about the western whipbird, which also relies on the habitat targeted by the project. The proposed launching pad threatens not only these birds but the ecosystem at large. According to the proposal, the launching pad would host up to 35 launches each year when operating on a commercial scale. This would mean increased air pollution and chances of fire . Patrick O’Connor, an ecologist with the University of Adelaide, warned of how this project could impact the birds. “We’ve already lost more habitat than this [southern emu-wren] species can reasonably tolerate,” O’Connor said. “If we lose this site, it’s just a matter of time. They’ll either hang on in the state they’re in, but if a big site like Whaler’s Way goes the risk is extinction.” The current plans include constructing two permanent launch pads and support infrastructures such as fuel storage tanks, roads, power generators and offices. The space needed for the facility would require clearing about 23.7 hectares (58.7 acres) of vegetation . Although the project is still under review by the South Australian government, conservationists are raising the alarm to avoid further endangering the habitat. Via The Guardian Lead image via Laurie Boyle

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An underwater forest of sculptures attracts marine life in the Mediterranean Sea

August 18, 2021 by  
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Environmental activist and artist Jason deCaires Taylor specializes in site-specific sculptural artwork that’s installed permanently underwater and reflects modern themes of  conservation . The artist’s latest project brings him to Ayia Napa, a Mediterranean town on the southeast coast of Cyprus. Titled “Musan,” the art installation is an underwater forest located 8 to 10 meters below the Mediterranean Sea, just 200 meters off the coast of Ayia Napa. Completed in 2021, the underwater forest consists of 93 sculptural art pieces depicting nature and  trees  meant to be consumed and colonized by marine biomass. Related: Explore eerie wonders at the Museum of Underwater Art Perhaps most importantly, the pieces are designed to attract marine life on a large scale; the sculptures themselves are meant to develop organically and interact with their surroundings indefinitely. As time goes on, the pieces will provide food and shelter for a variety of marine creatures, all while serving as a reminder of the connection between humans, the natural world and  art . Additionally, the project references the depletion of marine life in the Mediterranean Sea, as the underwater forest area will replace a previously barren stretch of sand within a marine protected area. Eventually, the site will be accessible to divers and snorkelers. To create variety among the  sculptures , they are placed at different depths ranging from 8 to 10 meters below the water’s surface, laid out to resemble a path through a forest. Differing in height and shape, the “trees” will provide a complex environment for the marine life in the area, while the sculpture materials are pH neutral to attract a more diverse variety of marine flora and fauna. Images of children playing complement the trees, a reference to our need to be included in the wild places that once existed. + Jason deCaires Taylor Images © MUSAN / @JasondeCairesTaylor / Costas Constantinou

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Upper Los Angeles River Plan wins award for inclusive, sustainable design

August 4, 2021 by  
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The influential Upper Los Angeles River and Tributaries Revitalization Plan (ULART) has earned the prestigious global 2021 AZ Award from Azure Magazine for its plan to “recalibrate natural urban waterways by deploying nature-based solutions to create new community space and help rectify decades of neglect.” In an international competition commissioned by the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy and Mountains Recreation and Conservation Authority (MRCA), the ULART plan by Studio-MLA stood out for its comprehensive vision for 300-plus project site opportunities for the Upper Los Angeles River and its tributaries, taking the win in the Urban Design Visions category of the competition. The competition received over 1,200 project entries from 57 countries in the 10 designated categories. Related: Jiangyin urban development by BAU honors humans, history and the planet The design addresses the needs of underprivileged populations up and down the L.A. waterways and aims to reverse trends of paving natural spaces, instead planning for green beltways. “This integrated response to climate change via new green infrastructure , as well as the social infrastructure for renewed equity in cities, is urgently needed,” said AZ Award juror Marc Ryan of Toronto-based design firm Public Work. The ULART Plan is led by Los Angeles Councilmember Monica Rodriguez, Sarah Rascon of the Mountains Recreation and Conservation Authority on behalf of the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy, and Mía Lehrer from landscape architecture firm Studio-MLA. This combination of interests and skills culminated into a plan that supports local communities and the environment. “It was a privilege to lead this effort that begins to address environmental justice issues in communities that have historically suffered from underinvestment. The plan identifies over 300 opportunity sites for open-space amenities accessible to over 625,000 residents who live within a half mile of the river tributaries,” said Councilmember Rodriguez, the ULART Chair.  Rascon, environmental equity officer for MRCA, said the team relied on input from a variety of local representatives of municipalities, community leaders, non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and elected officials from throughout the Upper Los Angeles River watershed area. Delegates represented six cities throughout Los Angeles County, as well as dozens of Los Angeles city neighborhoods in the Upper Los Angeles River watershed . In addition to the contributions for human recreation, the plan works in conjunction with natural systems to address the historic droughts in the area. It includes the potential capture of 8,695 acre-feet of stormwater per year. Jan Dyer, principal and director of the Infrastructure Division at Studio-MLA said, “The ULART plan also provides over 1,000 miles of shaded green streets and trails, while preserving and enhancing over 6,000 acres of urban wildlife ecology.” + Studio-MLA Images by Studio-MLA and MRCA via v2com

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Sierra Nevada red fox to be listed as an endangered species

August 4, 2021 by  
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The Sierra Nevada red fox is to be listed as an endangered species following a decision by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service on Tuesday. The slender, bushy-tailed fox is one of the rarest mammals in the U.S., and its population has been threatened since the 1970s. According to the federal wildlife officials, the population of the red foxes has dropped to just 40 in an area stretching from Lake Tahoe to the south of Yosemite National Park in California. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service said in a ruling that the foxes in the part of the Sierra Nevada south of Tahoe are “in danger of extinction throughout all of its range”. While the agency has admitted not having a clear number of the remaining animals , it is estimated that just about 40 are left within their range in California. Related: Critically endangered bird found alive in Hawaii “While the exact number remains unknown and is also subject to change with new births and deaths , it is well below population levels that would provide resiliency, redundancy and representation to the population,” the agency said in a statement. Several threats have been identified as the main causes of declining numbers for the red foxes. Among them are wildfires, drought and competition in coyotes. They are also threatened due to increased breeding with non-native foxes. Another factor that has affected their population is climate change . About 20 years ago, some scientists declared the red fox extinct in the Sierra Nevada region; this changed when a small pack resurfaced in 2010. California banned the trapping of red foxes in 1974, a situation that has remained to date. There have been several attempts to get the Sierra Nevada red foxes recognized as endangered species in the past without success. The Center for Biological Diversity petitioned the federal government to protect the animals in 2011 and filed a lawsuit in 2013 and 2019. In 2020, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service proposed to have the foxes listed as endangered. The Sierra Nevada red fox is among the 10 North American subspecies of the red fox. With a small dog-like body, this red fox measures just 3.5 feet long and has long, pointed ears and a large tail. Via The Guardian Lead image via USFWS Pacific Southwest Region

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China removes giant pandas from endangered species list

July 12, 2021 by  
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Giant pandas are no longer endangered, according to an announcement made by the Chinese government. The number of pandas in the wild in China has reached 1,800; this doesn’t include those in captivity or protected shelters. Consequently, the animals are no longer endangered, but are still vulnerable. In 2016, the International Union for Nature Conservation removed giant pandas from the endangered species list, classifying them as vulnerable. China has now followed suit, due to an increase in giant panda numbers in the country. Related: Panda conservation efforts lead to unexpected losses In a statement, Cui Shuhong, head of the Department of Nature and Ecology Conservation in the Ministry of Environment, said the reclassification is due to improved living conditions. He also pointed out that these results come from China’s efforts to restore giant panda habitats. Earlier, experts opposed declaring giant pandas no longer endangered , arguing that such a move would spur complacence. As a result, China maintained the “vulnerable” status for its pandas even after being delisted by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). Besides giant pandas, the Chinese government has also reported significant improvement in Siberian Tiger , Amur leopard, Asian elephant, and crested ibis numbers. The government says that all these improvements are due to conservation efforts. The news has been celebrated on social media . One post read, “It shows all the efforts have been paid off. Well done,” while another noted, “It’s a good start indeed, but there are still threats to these species. Do not relax.” Foreign ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin said, “the concept that lush mountains and clear water are worth their weight in gold and silver has taken root among the public in China. We stand ready to work with all sides to strengthen international cooperation in ecological preservation and environmental management to jointly.” Despite these improvements, the pandas still face long-term threats. According to the IUCN, climate change could destroy about 35% of their bamboo habitats in 80 years. Via The Guardian Lead image via Pexels

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