Back From the Dead: Why De-Extinction May Save Humanity

Publication: NBC News   Date: July 24, 2014   View Article

If current trends continue, elephants, giraffes, and zebras could go extinct in the not-too-distant future.

Rodents teeming with parasites that carry black plague would fill the void, suggests ongoing research in Africa. If so, the threat to human health could prompt the tantalizingly feasible solution of de-extinction — that is, resurrecting the big animals and releasing them back into the wild.

De-extinction for conservation purposes is a “matter of when, not if,” said Philip Seddon, a zoologist at the University of Otaga in New Zealand. “We need to think very hard about which are the good candidate species.”

Parched California Braces for Drought Without End in Sight

Publication: NBC News   Date: February 24, 2014   View Article

As California and other western states face what some scientists fear could be a prolonged drought amplified by global warming, water experts say there’s simply no way to predict how long the dry spell will last.

The best thing to do, they said, is to prepare for the worst and hope for rain. It wouldn’t be the first time California soil went parched for a long stretch. Tree growth rings in the region show evidence of prolonged periods of aridity in the past.

“To know that we are going into another pattern like that, that we could expect this drought to persist for 10 to 15 years is really, really, really hard to say,” Brian Fuchs, a climatologist with the National Drought Mitigation Center in Lincoln, Neb., told NBC News. “There is really nothing in our forecasting models that are being looked at that would suggest that we would even have the ability to do that.”

Extremely rare orchid ‘rediscovered’ on a remote island

Publication: NBC News   Date: December 10, 2013   View Article

An incredibly rare species of butterfly orchid has been “rediscovered” in the Azores, a group of islands in the North Atlantic Ocean.

The species is so rare that it may be confined to a single mountaintop forest, according to a researcher associated with the find.

It’s one of three species of butterfly orchid that scientists found flowering on the Azores.

World’s most ‘irreplaceable’ protected areas identified

Publication: NBC News   Date: November 14, 2013   View Article

Colombia’s Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta range rises more than 18,000 feet from the Caribbean Sea — a height that makes them the tallest coastal mountains in the world. The national park that houses them is also the world’s most irreplaceable protected area for the conservation of threatened species, according to a new report.

The park rose to the top of the analysis based on the diversity of plants and animals found only there, including a critically endangered harlequin frog and more than 20 birds. It is one of 134 protected areas in 34 countries highlighted as “exceptionally irreplaceable” by the analysis of 173,000 protected areas.

Saving most of Earth’s plants may take just a bit of land

Publication: NBC News   Date: September 5, 2013   View Article

Nearly two thirds of the world’s plant species — and the creatures and critters that depend on them for survival — can be saved by protecting patches of land, from the cloud forests of South America to islands in the Caribbean, Asia and Africa, according to a new study.

The finding is based on analysis of data on the distribution of more than 110,000 plant species, and is an effort to determine if internationally agreed conservation targets of protecting 17 percent of the Earth’s land area and 60 percent of its plants by 2020 are achievable.

Will fences save Africa’s lion king?

Publication: NBC News   Date: July 30, 2013   View Article

The world’s remaining lions are in trouble. There are simply too many humans hungry for the same land the majestic cats roam. The more the human population grows, the more the lion population plummets. Only fences can keep one species from killing the other, according to a leading lion researcher.

In fenced reserves such as South Africa’s Kruger National Park, which is as large as the state of New Jersey, “the population of lions is doing just fine,” Craig Packer, an ecologist at the University of Minnesota, told NBC News from his research site in Tanzania.

“However, that is just a small proportion of the total African population of lions. The vast majority of lions live in unfenced reserves and … the trends are pretty disturbing,” he added.

Aye aye! Sequence genomes to save species

Publication: NBC News   Date: March 25, 2013   View Article

A study of nocturnal lemurs in Madagascar known for their smarts, beaver-like teeth, and long, thin middle fingers may point to the future of endangered species conservation: cheap and fast genome analyses.

Researchers obtained and compared complete genomes from three separate populations of aye ayes and found that one is more distinct from the others than are humans of African and European descent, suggesting that the population warrants greater conservation attention.

© 2008-2010 Collected Writings By John Roach