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

Katydid in Costa Rica

A newly discovered katydid in Costa Rica. (© Piotr Naskrecki)

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 insect apocalypse is here

Insect populations are rapidly declining due to climate change, herbicides and pesticides and loss of habitat due to human expansion.

The story: Insect populations are declining worldwide, and a recent study in Germany found that overall insect abundance had decreased by 75 percent over just 27 years, Brooke Jarvis reported in The New York Times last week. Because of insects’ declining numbers, bird and fish populations have been affected — one half of farmland birds in Europe have disappeared in the last three decades.

The big picture: The decline in insects is just part of the world’s sixth mass extinction — “the sixth time in world history that a large number of species have disappeared in unusually rapid succession, caused this time not by asteroids or ice ages but by humans,” Jarvis wrote. But extinction isn’t the only thing worrying scientists: Population declines in common species, such as vultures, affect ecosystems more than declines in exotic or rare species, and since 1970, 60 percent of the populations of land animals has been lost.

Read the story here.


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  1. Countries vowed to cut carbon emissions. They aren’t even close to their goals, U.N. report finds

Most countries, including the U.S., are behind on their Paris climate goals, a new report finds.

The story: Not only are countries not meeting the goals they set for themselves, but those goals aren’t strict enough to halt global warming at the 2 degrees the Paris agreement set, Chris Mooney reported in The Washington Post last week. Among the countries failing to meet their goals are Canada, the E.U., Australia and South Africa. But, a few countries are actually on track to exceed their goals — Russia, India and Turkey — though some believe this may be because their goals were too modest to begin with.

The big picture: In order to avoid the most devastating effects of climate change, global warming must be halted at 1.5 degrees Celsius, but that seems increasingly impossible as emissions tick upward. “Rich countries need faster reductions; the poorer countries need to slow down the growth,” said Glen Peters, an author of the report and research director of the Center for International Climate and Environmental Research in Oslo. “No one is doing enough.”

Read the story here.

  1. First wild Sumatran rhino captured in urgent bid to save species

One of the 80 Sumatran rhinos remaining in the wild was captured by conservationists in what is considered a win for the critically endangered subspecies.

The story: Conservationists hope to use Pahu, the female Sumatran rhino they captured, for captive breeding purposes in an attempt to save the species, Jason Bittel reported in National Geographic last week. Pahu was recovered from a remote mining concession in a lowland rainforest in Borneo, and it’s currently unknown if she is able to reproduce.

The big picture: Sumatran rhinos are critically endangered mainly due to poaching, and the populations that still exist are widely fragmented, which conservationists hope to remedy by capturing them and bringing them closer to one another. “The Sumatran rhino is one of the most evolutionarily distinct mammals on the planet, and this week’s rescue is a critical step in making sure we don’t lose an entire branch of the rhino tree of life,” said Jonathan Baillie, executive vice president and chief scientist at the National Geographic Society.

Read the story here.

Olivia DeSmit is a staff writer for Conservation International.

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