Alien Species Cause Extinctions, Increase Poverty, Erode Ecosystems

Saltcedar, an invasive exotic weed, crowds out native vegetation along the Gila River in Arizona.

By Stephen Leahy

UXBRIDGE, Canada, May 21 (IPS) – Continent-hopping alien species are worsening poverty and threaten the agriculture, forestry, fisheries and natural systems that underpin millions of livelihoods in developing countries, warn biodiversity experts.

“The livelihoods for 90 percent of people in Africa directly rely on natural resources such as marine coastal biodiversity,” said Ahmed Djoghlaf, executive secretary of the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD).

“Around the world more than 1.6 billion people depend directly on forests for their survival,” he told IPS from Montreal.

Biodiversity is not just fuzzy animals and pretty birds. It is the diversity of life on Earth that comprises ecosystems which in turn provide vital ecosystem services including food, fibre, clean water and air.

“Biodiversity is poor countries’ most precious asset,” Djoghlaf stressed. Continue reading

Extraordinary Abundance of Life in Oceans Past

trophy fish 2007By Stephen Leahy

UXBRIDGE, Canada, May 26 (IPS) – Imagine large pods of mighty blue whales and orcas darkening the waters off Cornwall, England, while closer to shore blue sharks and thresher sharks chase herds of harbour porpoise and dolphins.

Pure fantasy? No, in fact that extraordinary abundance of marine life off the English coast was the norm for oceans around the world not so long ago, researchers have now documented.

And then humans began to mine the seas of anything worth eating.

“The impact of fishing over the centuries is far larger than anyone thought,” said Poul Holm, a professor at Trinity College in Dublin and global chair of the History of Marine Animals Population (HMAP) project which part of the 10-year Census of Marine Life.

While many valuable species have been fished out in recent years, that has been happening for hundreds of years around the world based on nine years of research by hundreds of experts.

“In looking back 500 to 2,000 years ago, you get a real sense of the impacts of fishing and the cascading effects on marine ecosystems, some of which may be beyond recovery,” Holm told IPS. Continue reading

Scientists Build a Macroscope of Life on Earth

clown fish anomenes iucnBy Stephen Leahy

UXBRIDGE, Canada, Jun 2 (IPS) – Imagine looking at a Google Maps-like satellite image of the Amazon forest and with a mouse click find out what lives in that bit of forest – what tree and plant species are there, what animals, birds and insects.

You could even look at the DNA of the microbes that live on those insects in this amazing, futuristic online “macroscope of life” on planet Earth.

The information about these Amazonian species, their habitats and even their DNA already exists in most cases. But it is scattered like dry leaves all over the world in dusty museum basements, science labs, libraries and hundreds of electronic databases.

This week, scientists are launching a 10-year global effort to gather and compile the world’s vast storehouse of knowledge about biodiversity into a single online, interactive information system for life on Earth that will take its place alongside the world meteorology data network that pools information to predict the weather. Continue reading

New $Billion Cash Hand Out To Fossil Fuel Companies Under ‘Green’ Economic Stimulus Plans

Shell in Curacao, Netherlands - Humane Care Fondation, Curacao[Updated: Monday Sept 28/09

Last Friday at the G20 countries agreed to phase out subsidies for oil and other carbon dioxide-spewing fossil fuels in the “medium term” as part of efforts to combat global warming. This article documents NEW taxpayer subsidies to some of the world’s richest corporations]

By Stephen Leahy

UXBRIDGE, Canada, May 29 2009 (IPS)

Despite the economic slow down, growing numbers of world leaders are calling for urgent action on climate change while many governments used their economic stimulus packages to increase subsidies to the fossil fuel industry.

Consider Europe, with the strongest public commitment to reduce carbon emissions that are causing climate change.

In the past five years, 8 billion U.S. dollars of public money went to Europe’s fossil fuel companies mainly to the natural gas sector. And in May the European Parliament approved an additional 3.35 billion dollars in subsides as part of Europe’s 225 billion dollars economic recovery plan, according to a new research report by Friends of the Earth Europe.

“We Europeans are supposedly leading the world on the path to a new green economy but we’re putting billions of euros into fossil fuel sector that’s taking us in the opposite direction,” Darek Urbaniak of Friends of the Earth Europe.

gulf spill nears coast Apr 30 2010 - ESA

Its complete hypocrisy,” Urbaniak told IPS from Brussels.

Perhaps recognising this fact, global business leaders at the World Business Summit on Climate Change that concluded May 26 called on governments to “strive to end the current perverse subsidies that favour high-emissions transport and energy”.
Continue reading

Snow Cover Turning to Lakes in the Himalayas

Iceberg in Glacier Strait, Nunavut, Canada, Image credit- Sandy Briggs.By Stephen Leahy

UXBRIDGE, Canada, May 7 (IPS) – As climate change takes hold, even the mighty Himalayas and Hindu Kush mountain ranges are now losing their snow and ice.

These are the world’s greatest repositories of snow and ice outside of the polar regions, and yet they may melt away in just 20 to 30 years, leaving more than a billion people desperately short of water, experts concluded in San Diego this week.

“There’s been a super-rapid decline in the glaciers of the region,” said Charles Kennel, senior strategist at the University of California San Diego Sustainability Solutions Institute and former director of Scripps Institution of Oceanography.

Kennel told IPS that nearly all of the 20,000 glaciers in the Himalaya-Hindu Kush mountain ranges are in retreat and the meltwater from some has created enormous lakes held back by rockslides that will inevitably burst, endangering anyone living in the valleys below. The World Wildlife Fund calculates there are 2,000 glacial lakes forming in Nepal and around 20 are in danger of bursting. Several have already flooded valleys in the past two decades in Nepal and Tibet.

“We are trying to make it known that the Himalayas are to the issue of the world’s water supply problem what the Amazon rain forest is to the issue of deforestation,” he said in reference to the “Ice, Snow, and Water” workshop convened at UC San Diego this week that included scientists from India, Nepal, Singapore and China. Continue reading