Biodiversity

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.

Forests disappearing since 2000? Google cloud maps global changes

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

In this era of big data, anyone can now see how and where the world’s forests are changing thanks to a new mapping project made possible, in part, by the computing resources of the tech giant Google.

The map compiles 100-foot-resolution satellite images of Earth’s land area taken each season, every year between 2000 and 2012, to paint a picture of where trees were lost or gained. Globally, the map shows that 888,000 square miles of forest were lost between 2000 and 2012. In the same period, 309,000 square miles were gained.

Radar is game changer in saving endangered birds

Publication: msnbc.com   Date: March 20, 2012   View Article

A portable radar system combined with night vision goggles and thermal imaging cameras are helping scientists find and protect a rare bird in the Caribbean, a conservation group explained Monday.

While none of these technologies are new, they are now inexpensive enough to do more than track airplanes and find thugs hiding behind enemy lines.

New Shark Species Found in Food Market

Publication: National Geographic News   Date: September 1, 2011   View Article

It’s unlikely anyone’s ever complained, “Waiter, there’s a new species in my soup.” But the situation isn’t as rare as you might think.

A monkey, a lizard, and an “extinct” bird have all been discovered en route to the dinner plate, and now a new shark species joins their ranks, scientists report.

Fish taxonomists found the previously unknown shark at a market in Taiwan—no big surprise, according to study co-author William White.

Cutting trees to cool the planet?

Publication: msnbc.com   Date: July 19, 2011   View Article

In a twist, a new study suggests that regularly logging forests can quadruple the amount of carbon dioxide soaked up from the atmosphere.

The trick is to use the harvested wood in place of steel and concrete during the construction of new homes and buildings and replant the forest with fast-growing, carbon-soaking trees.

Microbe could make biofuels hot

Publication: msnbc.com   Date: July 5, 2011   View Article

A record-breaking microbe that thrives while munching plant material at near boiling temperatures has been discovered in a Nevada hot spring, researchers announced in a study published today.

Scientists are eyeing the microbe’s enzyme responsible for breaking down cellulose — called a cellulase — as a potential workhouse in the production of biofuels and other industrial processes.

Science explodes at African lake

Publication: msnbc.com   Date: June 28, 2011   View Article

The depths of Africa’s Lake Kivu harbor untold quantities of carbon dioxide and methane gases that could provide abundant electricity to millions of Rwandans and Congolese settling along its shores. But those gases could suddenly release, killing everything in and around the lake.

“Understanding whether you can find scenarios that would lead to something like that, a catastrophic release of gas, is of course important,” Anthony Vodacek, a remote sensing scientist at the Rochester Institute of Technology in New York, told me on Monday.

© 2008-2010 Collected Writings By John Roach