Planes, slaves (!) and tree loss: 3 new science stories you should know about

Great Bear rainforest

Wildlife in Canada’s Great Bear Rainforest. (© Jon McCormack)

Protecting nature starts with science. Here’s a roundup of recent policy-relevant science published by Conservation International experts.

  1. Noise from airplanes may harm marine life

Research has shown that noise from shipping can harm marine life. A recent study found that loud noise above the surface can also disrupt life below the waves.

Researchers in Bali, Indonesia, studied the effects of air travel to the island, a hotspot of tourism — and biodiversity. The island’s lone airport is right on the coast, meaning that planes fly low over a large area of water. By placing microphones underwater, scientists found that decibel readings hit as high as 100, a not insignificant level of noise considering that shipping noise can reach as high as 190 decibels.

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In case you missed it: 3 big stories from our world

Yosemite National Park

Yosemite National Park. (© Etienne Desclides)

Editor’s note: News about conservation and the environment is made every day, but some of it can fly under the radar. In a recurring feature, Human Nature shares three stories from the past week that you should know about.

  1. Africa’s black panthers emerge from a century in the shadows

A black panther was captured on camera in Kenya. It’s the first confirmed sighting of one in Africa in almost 100 years.

The story: The last documented black panther spotting in Africa occurred in Ethiopia in 1909. Despite the name, black panthers are actually a type of leopard — an extremely rare one that makes up only 11 percent of all leopard populations — Iliana Magra reported for The New York Times last week.

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Valentine’s Day, animal edition: 6 weird ways animals get it on

Albatross

Albatross love in Ecuador. (© Will Turner)

Editor’s note: It’s Valentine’s Day, and whether you plan on sipping champagne with your significant other or binge-eating discount chocolates in bed with your cat, some members of the animal kingdom are literally sacrificing their lives in the name of love. From kinky spider bondage to death-inducing foreplay, Human Nature dives into the fascinatingly depraved world of animal mating rituals. 

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In case you missed it: 3 big stories from our world

Himalayan mountains

Himalayan mountain range, Nepal. (© Rod Mast)

Editor’s note: News about conservation and the environment is made every day, but some of it can fly under the radar. In a recurring feature, Human Nature shares three stories from the past week that you should know about.

  1. Rising temperatures could melt most Himalayan glaciers by 2100

Even if countries meet the strictest requirements for climate action, one-third of Himalayan glaciers will melt by the end of the century, a new study found.

The story: If no action is taken and greenhouse gas emissions continue at the current rate, two-thirds of the glaciers that provide water to a quarter of the world’s people will melt, Kai Schultz and Bhadra Sharma reported for The New York Times last week. The rapid melting is caused by human-caused greenhouse gas emissions that trap heat in the atmosphere.

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Protecting fisheries can fight poverty: study

Tonle Sap Lake

Tonle Sap Lake, Cambodia. (© Conservation International/photo by Koulang Chey)

For many people in developing countries, freshwater fisheries are their lifeline.

In Cambodia, for example, millions of people rely directly on the Tonlé Sap lake, the largest lake in Southeast Asia, for their food and income. But overfishing has depleted stocks of fish there, perpetuating poverty in one of the region’s poorest countries.

So, how to boost fish stocks without hampering people’s ability to eat and make a living?

One answer is to establish freshwater protected areas, new research finds.

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Connecting data and people, Hawai‘i charts course to sustainability

Manini fish

Manini school swimming off Oahu, Hawai‘i. (© Frazer McGilvray)

With its temperate weather and vibrant coral reefs, it’s no surprise that Hawai‘i attracts 9.4 million tourists every year. But because of climate change and human pollution, the islands are in danger of losing the very thing that makes them so appealing: nature.

The solution? The Aloha+ Challenge — the culmination of two separate ocean sustainability projects and the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals — which aims to effectively manage 30 percent of Hawai‘i’s nearshore waters by 2030.

The National Center for Ecological Analysis and Synthesis (NCEAS), which co-led both ocean sustainability projects, posted an article about the challenge and how synthesis science helped make it all possible.

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New documentary features an unlikely, and silent, hero

Mangroves in Colombia

Cispata Mangroves project, Colombia. (© Conservation International)

A young girl’s struggle to learn to swim is the subject of a new documentary film that screened at last week’s Sundance Film Festival.

“Dulce” takes place in a coastal village in Colombia where the effects of climate change are already being felt — and raising the urgency of Dulce’s swimming lessons.

The film was executive produced by the actor and activist Lee Pace, who wrote about the film in a recent essay on Medium. The film’s unsung star, he writes, maintains a silent presence in nearly every scene — and has ramifications for all of humanity.

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In case you missed it: 3 big stories from our world

French Grunts, Squirrelfish, Blue Tang and soft coral on a shallow reef. Shot in Exuma Cays Land and Sea Park, Bahamas. (© Jeff Yonover)

Editor’s note: News about conservation and the environment is made every day, but some of it can fly under the radar. In a recurring feature, Human Nature shares three stories from the past week that you should know about.

  1. Massive starfish die-off is tied to global warming

Starfish deaths from wasting disease — which can disrupt entire ocean ecosystems — are correlated with higher ocean temperatures, a new study finds.

The story: Beginning in 2013, sunflower starfish, along with 19 other starfish species, began dying of a wasting disease at a rapid rate, Rebecca Hersher reported for NPR last week. A new study finds that similarly to how warmer ocean waters make coral susceptible to diseases that result in bleaching, warmer waters make starfish susceptible to the wasting disease.

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Where unsustainable mining once reigned, ‘radical change’ beckons

Salar de Uyuni

Piles of salt dry in the arid atmosphere of Bolivia’s Salar de Uyuni. (© Art Wolfe/ www.artwolfe.com)

In Potosí, Bolivia, most families survive on less than US$ 2 per day.

The local indigenous community in this Andean city is economically dependent on mining — an infamously grueling and hazardous way of life here — but a nearby mine, the country’s largest, will close in just seven years.

It’s no secret: This community will soon need new jobs — and ideally, jobs that don’t damage the environment in this impoverished region.

Fortunately, the nearby Uyuni salt flats — the world’s largest — are a few hours’ drive from the indigenous village in Potosí, and attract hundreds of thousands of tourists every year who have made the photogenic flats something of a social media star.

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In case you missed it: 3 big stories from our world

Ecuador

Yasuní National Park, Ecuador. (© Joshua Bousel/Flickr Creative Commons)

Editor’s note: News about conservation and the environment is made every day, but some of it can fly under the radar. In a recurring feature, Human Nature shares three stories from the past week that you should know about.

  1. New frog species is armed with special skin-puncturing claw

A newly discovered frog species may use its claw to defend itself against predators and knock out the competition.

The story: The Hyloscirtus hillisi frog was recently discovered in a largely unexplored region of the Andes in Ecuador, which is under threat from large-scale mining, Liz Langley reported for National Geographic last week. They, along with four other similar species of frog, have a claw structure on the side of their thumbs that is thought to be used to attack predators — or other frogs competing for mates.

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