Why is biodiversity important?

Elephant near the Mara North Conservancy in Kenya. (© Jon McCormack)

Humanity must stop the pace of wildlife extinctions — or face extinction, according to the United Nations.

The world has two years to seal a new pact on wildlife protection, the head of the UN body on wildlife, the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), told The Guardian last week. In two days, the EU and 195 member nations of the CBD will gather for two weeks to try to stem the tide of species extinctions.

Nothing less than humanity is at stake, observers say.

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

Polar bears

Polar bears from The Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. (© Conservation International/photo by Russell A. Mittermeier)

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. Mining the deep ocean will soon begin

The seabed is the next frontier of mining — bringing promise for society but, potentially, peril for sea life.

The story: One of the benefits of deep-sea mining is that metals such as copper, nickel and cobalt can all be extracted from one place whereas on land, more than one metal is rarely found at each site, The Economist reported last week. Although the deep-sea isn’t home to many creatures, the ones that do live there are diverse and not well-studied, so disrupting their ecosystems could cause unknown harm.

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Without traditional knowledge, there is no climate change solution

Hindou Oumarou Ibrahim speaking at the United Nations Foundation in April 2016. (© Stuart Ramson, UN Foundation)

The world is waking up to the reality of climate change.

But for me — and for the millions of indigenous peoples around the world — climate change isn’t a revelation. It’s life.

For all indigenous peoples, whether we come from the mountain or the forest, the desert or the ice, our lives and livelihoods are linked to the environment. We are dependent on the land, and because of climate change, that land — and our futures — are in danger.

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What on Earth is a ‘non-timber forest product’?

Queretaro Province, Mexico.

A forest in the Queretaro Province of Mexico. (© Robin Moore/ iLCP)

Editor’s note: From “climate adaptation” to “blue carbon,” from “landscape approach” to “ecosystem services,” environmental jargon is everywhere these days. Conservation International’s Human Nature blog looks to make sense of it in an occasional explainer series we’re calling “What on Earth?” 

In this installment, we break down “non-timber forest products,” which benefit humans, and ultimately, the forest itself.

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

Tree frog in Peru.

A tree frog peers over a wood-rotting fungus in the Tambopata River region of Peru. (© Art Wolfe)

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. The unseen driver behind the migrant caravan: climate change

Thousands of people have joined a caravan fleeing Central America with hopes of entering the United States. The reason isn’t solely violence and poverty back home — it’s climate change.

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‘Alarming’ study: Oceans heating at a rapid pace

Monterey, CA.

Ocean in Monterey, CA. (© Ian Schneider)

Editor’s note: Two weeks after this study was published, the authors submitted corrections to their findings, acknowledging errors in their calculations. While the main premise of the study stands — that oceans are absorbing more heat each year — the figures that the team reported were found to be inaccurate, greatly increasing the margin of error of their findings.

Mistakes, corrections and transparency are part of the scientific process, and in that same spirit of transparency, we are leaving this post online.

The amount of heat accumulated by the oceans in recent decades may be much higher than originally thought, according to a study published this week.

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Like to dive? New course will train you to be a ‘ghostbuster’ of the sea

Abandoned fishing gear in Panama Bay.

Fish swim near abandoned fishing gear in Panama Bay. (© Conservation International/photo by Edgardo Ochoa)

Editor’s note: Throughout the world’s oceans, a silent plague is snaring marine life and smothering seafloors. Ghost nets — commercial fishing nets that are left behind or lost — can drift for thousands of miles, injuring or killing fish or whales that get tangled in them.

Now, a small army is being recruited to help remove them wherever they’re found. One of the main figures behind this effort, Conservation International Marine Safety Officer Edgardo Ochoa, explains.

Working on the ocean is often a source of great enjoyment: You get to see extraordinary things such as coral reefs and exotic species and revel in the vastness of the open sea. But, sometimes it can be a source of emotional turmoil.

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

Rhino, South Africa.

Rhino in South Africa. (© Steve Slater)

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. On eve of trial, Supreme Court leaves landmark climate case – filed by kids – in limbo

Twenty-two young people are suing the federal government for violating their constitutional rights, but the trial keeps getting pushed back.

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New web series chronicles whale songs in the key of climate change

Humpback whale.

Humpback whale in Tahiti. (© Rodolphe Holler)

Off the coast of a remote island in the South Pacific, a team of scientists and volunteers recently gathered on a boat to hear this year’s hit song.

The singers, in this case, are endangered Oceania humpback whales near the island of Niue, where they are considered sacred — and are a key to understanding the status of migratory marine species amid a changing climate.

A new series of videos created by New Zealand filmmaker Richard Sidey follows the team as they collect data about migratory Oceania humpback whales in the waters of Niue, which became a national whale sanctuary in 2003 and recently declared 40 percent of its ocean territory a large-scale marine protected area. The male humpback’s song — an example of the largest-scale documented cultural learning experience outside of the human race — is recorded using a hydrophone, or underwater microphone.

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Research offers new insights into a critical conservation tool

Anzihe Protected Area

Patrolling the Anzihe Protected Area in Chongzhou, Sichuan. (© Kyle Obermann)

Protected areas — locations set aside to limit certain uses such as mining, fishing or agriculture — remain one of the most crucial tools for sustaining ecosystem health and curbing climate change.

Yet, balancing the needs of communities who live in or near these areas — and ensuring that protected areas are well-managed — is a challenge that varies from one country to the next.

Three recent studies by Conservation International are shedding new light on how protected areas work, and how to make them better.

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