Where to target ocean conservation? New research points the way

Coral off the coast of Brazil.

Coral in Abrolhos National Park, Brazil. (© Luciano Candisani/iLCP)

Around the world, oceans are providers: of food, of livelihoods, of entire economies.

But, where do people depend on them the most? Knowing this could help to better protect marine ecosystems.

A new study, published in Conservation Letters, found that many Pacific and Indian island nations are the most dependent on marine ecosystems for their nutrition, jobs, revenues and coastal protection. Globally, 775 million people — 10 percent of the world’s population — live in areas with relatively high dependence on marine ecosystems.

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Best of 2018: Like to dive? New course will train you to be a ‘ghostbuster’ of the sea

Abandoned fishing gear

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

Editor’s note: As the end of 2018 approaches, Human Nature is revisiting some of our favorite stories of the year. To support crucial conservation work like this, consider making a donation to Conservation International.

Ghost nets — commercial fishing equipment and nets that are left behind or lost — trap, injure and kill whales, sharks and other marine species. Few professional divers are trained to remove such gear from the oceans. That is about to change.

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

Anzihe Protected Area

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

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. Welcome to the Eocene, where ice sheets turn into swamps

Human-caused climate change will cause Earth to undergo changes that it hasn’t seen in all of its history.

The story: A new study found that if we don’t dramatically reduce emissions, we will cause Earth to enter into a state similar to the Eocene period — about 56 million years ago — with massive repercussions, Eric Holthaus reported for Grist last week. During the Eocene, Earth was 8 degrees Celsius warmer, which resulted in mass extinctions and rains that were strong enough to “scour away the land surface at a continent scale.”

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The climate talks: 3 things you need to know

New Zealand

Mount Nicholas, Queenstown, New Zealand. (© Conservation International/photo by Nicole Han)

The adoption of the Paris Agreement in 2015 was a historic milestone. It set globally agreed goals for keeping Earth’s temperatures to “safe” levels and increasing resilience to the increasingly evident impacts of climate change.

However, agreeing on high-level goals alone isn’t enough to address a global problem this complex.

For the past several years, countries have been working on the rules and guidance to how to implement this monumental agreement. At the UN climate negotiations (known as COP 24), which just came to a close in Katowice, Poland, countries adopted the first installment of the “Paris Rulebook.”

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El Niño: 5 questions answered

Chyulu Hills, Kenya.

Chyulu Hills, Kenya. (© Charlie Shoemaker)

After one of the hottest years on record worldwide, it seems as if the next few months will offer no respite. According to the Climate Prediction Center, there is a 90 percent chance that there will be an El Niño this season. What does that have to do with weather and climate change? Human Nature is here with answers.

  1. What is El Niño?

The definition of “El Niño” — “little boy” or “Christ child” in Spanish, as it typically occurs in December around Christmas — is a natural weather event that causes warmer-than-usual waters in the eastern Pacific Ocean, and cooler-than-usual waters in the western tropical Pacific. These changes drive weather patterns that have global consequences. El Niño means below-average temperatures and more rain for the southern U.S., but hot, dry conditions for Australia, Indonesia, southeastern Africa and northern Brazil. The above-average ocean temperatures mean that fish migrate further north in search of cooler waters, and their predators follow suit. These migrations affect not only the marine food chain, but also humans that depend on those fish populations for nutrition and income. El Niño also causes a shift in precipitation, which means some areas may get more rain than usual while others get less, which affects agriculture.

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In case you missed it: 4 big stories from our world

Sorting corn in Tanzania.

Woman sorting corn in Tanzania. In order to feed the world’s growing population in a changing climate, agricultural methods must shift. (© Benjamin Drummond)

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 news stories from the past week that you should know about.

1. Can we grow more food on less land? We’ll have to, a new study finds

In order to fight climate change, we have to change the way we produce food, a new report finds.

The story: The world’s population is supposed to be almost 10 billion by 2050, and that means we’re going to need more food, Brad Plumer reported in The New York Times last week. If farmers were to produce this food the way they have been — by clearing forests — they would end up destroying an area two times the size of India, which would release enough carbon to almost certainly prevent us from reaching the 2 degree goal set by the Paris Agreement.

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Companies largely blind to magnitude of climate change risks, new study finds

Only 3 percent of companies are including nature as part of their adaptation strategy, a new study finds. Conservation International is working with companies to implement “green-gray infrastructure,” or infrastructure that combines mangroves and engineered structures, in the Philippines to protect communities on the coast. (© Nandini Narayanan)

Companies around the world are vastly underestimating the risks that climate change poses to their business, a new study finds.

The study, published today in the journal Nature Climate Change, analyzed disclosures from more than 1,600 global companies and found that they are collectively underreporting the financial implications of climate risks to investors by at least 100 times.

Human Nature spoke with Allie Goldstein, a scientist at Conservation International and the study’s lead author, about the findings.

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From ‘Tarzan’ to tarsiers: one conservationist’s wild journey

Wallacea Biodiversity Hotspot

Wallacea Biodiversity Hotspot, Indonesia. (© Conservation International/photo by Aulia Erlangga)

He has discovered 18 species new to science. He has eight species — including three frogs, a lizard and a monkey — named after him. He has visited every tropical forest on Earth.

His inspiration? Tarzan.

One of the world’s foremost conservationists, Russ Mittermeier, credits the venerable fictional jungle dweller with helping to launch his celebrated career in protecting nature.

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As emissions rise, UN climate talks take on greater urgency

National park in Mexico

Lagunas de Zempoala National Park, Mexico. (© Jessica Scranton)

This has been an alarming year for climate change effects. Wildfires scorched California, hurricanes took heavy tolls and coral reefs are dying. In the face of these natural disasters, greenhouse gas emissions, the main driver of climate change, aren’t decreasing — in fact, they’re going up, according to a new report.

A commentary on the report, published this week by Christiana Figueres, the former head of the United Nations climate change body and distinguished fellow at Conservation International, comes as countries gather this week and next for the UN climate talks (COP 24) in Poland.

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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.

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