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News on Australia
Could the Tasmanian tiger be hiding out in New Guinea?
Many people still believe the Tasmanian tiger (Thylacinus cynocephalus) survives in the wilds of Tasmania, even though the species was declared extinct over eighty years ago. Sightings and reports of the elusive carnivorous marsupial, which was the top predator on the island, pop-up almost as frequently as those of Bigfoot in North America, but to date no definitive evidence has emerged of its survival. Yet, a noted cryptozoologist (one who searches for hidden animals), Dr. Karl Shuker, wrote recently that tiger hunters should perhaps turn their attention to a different island: New Guinea.
New endangered list for ecosystems modeled after 'Red list' for species
The IUCN has unveiled the first iteration of its new Red List of Ecosystems, a ranking of habitats worldwide.
Common moth can hear higher frequencies than any other animal on Earth
A common little moth turns out to have the best ears in the animal kingdom. According to a new study in Biology Letters, the greater wax moth (Galleria mellonella) is capable of hearing frequencies up to 300,000 hertz (300kHz), which is 15 times the frequency humans can hear at their prime, around 20 kHz.
Last 30 years were the warmest in the last 1,400 years
From 1971 to 2000, the world's land areas were the warmest they have been in at least 1,400 years, according to a new study in Nature Geoscience. The massive new study, involving 80 researchers from around the world with the Past Global Changes (PAGES) group, is the first to look at continental temperature changes over two thousand years, providing insights into regional climatic changes from the Roman Empire to the modern day. According to the data, Earth's land masses were generally cooling until anthropogenic climate change reversed the long-term pattern in the late-19th Century.
Norwegian Pinot Noir?: global warming to drastically shift wine regions
In less than 40 years, drinking wine could have a major toll on the environment and wildlife, according to a new study in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS). The study finds that climate change will likely force many vineyards to move either north or to higher altitudes, leading to habitat loss, biodiversity declines, and increased pressure for freshwater. Some famous wine-growing areas could be lost, including in the Mediterranean, while development of new wine areas—such as those in the Rocky Mountains and northern Europe—could lead to what the the scientists describe as "conservation conflicts."
Scientists clone extinct frog that births young from its mouth
Australian scientists have produced cloned embryos of an extinct species of frog known for its strange reproductive behavior, reports the University of New South Wales.
Wildfire forces anti-logging activist from tree after 449-day vigil
A bushfire has forced an environmental campaigner from the top of a tree following a 449-day vigil to block logging of a stand of old-growth forest in Australia.
Forests under fire: Australia's imperiled south west
In the far southwestern corner of Western Australia, beyond the famed wineries in the shadow of the Margaret River, lies an ecosystem like no other, the South West ecoregion. This part of Australia has been identified as one of 34 global biodiversity hotspots, home to rare endemic flora and fauna like the Carnaby's black cockatoo, numbat (banded anteaters), woylie (brush-tailed bettong), mainland quokka and over 1500 plant species, most found nowhere else. Unfortunately, this unique habitat is being increasingly fragmented and its inhabitants threatened by a number of forces, including climate change, dieback, fires and logging. And, on the eve of the Western Australia's state elections, the future of the South West hangs in the balance.
First strike: nearly 200 illegal loggers arrested in massive sting across 12 countries
One-hundred-and-ninety-seven illegal loggers across a dozen Central and South American countries have been arrested during INTERPOL's first strike against widespread forestry crime. INTERPOL, or The International Criminal Police Organization, worked with local police forces to take a first crack at illegal logging. In all the effort, known as Operation Lead, resulted in the seizure of 50,000 cubic meters of wood worth around $8 million.
Indigenous knowledge reveals widespread mammal decline in northern Australia
Over the course of four years, a team of elite Australian researchers journeyed through the remote landscapes of Northern Australia to tap a vanishing resource: the wealth of knowledge carried by the indigenous inhabitants. Their study, published this year in Biological Conservation concludes that there have been major declines in native Northern Australian mammals, and also suggests a relationship between the decline of Indigenous knowledge and the decline of biodiversity.
New wind power cheaper than coal or gas in Australia
Electricity supplied from a new wind farm is cheaper than that from a new gas or coal-fired power plant in Australia, reports a new analysis published by Bloomberg New Energy Finance.
Man drove Tasmanian Tiger to extinction in Australia
Man, not disease, drove the Tasmanian Tiger to extinction, according to a new study published in the Journal of Animal Ecology.
Cute koalas have become 'urban refugees'
According to Susan Kelly, koalas have become "urban refugees," under siege by expanding cities that bring with them deforestation, dogs, traffic, and other ills for native wildlife. Director of Global Witness, and writer, producer and director of the new documentary Koala Hospital, Kelly has spent 3 years working to understand the rising threats to one of the world's most beloved marsupials. While Koala Hospital highlights the many perils facing koalas, including climate change due to record fires across Australia, it also looks at the efforts of individuals who work to save koalas one—by—one at Port Macquarie Koala Hospital, taking in patients who have been orphaned, hit by cars, scarred in fires, or attacked by dogs.
Getting intimate with a giant, yet poorly known flightless bird: the cassowary
For large, conspicuous, and somewhat notorious animals, relatively little is known about cassowaries, a group of flightless birds that roams the rainforests of Northern Australia and New Guinea. This fact is highlighted in Cassowaries, a recent documentary by Australian journalist and film producer Bianca Keeley. Cassowaries tells the story of cassowaries struggling to survive after a major cyclone destroyed their rainforest home.
Australia reels from record heatwave, fires
Yesterday Australia recorded its highest average temperature yet: 40.33 degrees Celsius (104.59 Fahrenheit). The nation has been sweltering under an unprecedented summer heatwave that has spawned wildfires across the nation, including on the island of Tasmania where over 100 houses were engulfed over the weekend. Temperatures are finally falling slightly today, providing a short reprieve before they are expected to rise again this weekend.
Scientists: bizarre mammal could still roam Australia
The continent of Australia is home to a wide variety of wonderfully weird mammals—kangaroos, wombats, and koalas among many others. But the re-discovery of a specimen over a hundred years old raises new hopes that Australia could harbor another wonderful mammal. Examining museum specimens collected in western Australia in 1901, contemporary mammalogist Kristofer Helgen discovered a western long-beaked echidna (Zaglossus bruijnii). The surprise: long-beaked echidnas were supposed to have gone extinct in Australia thousands of years ago.
The year in rainforests
2012 was another year of mixed news for the world's tropical forests. This is a look at some of the most significant tropical rainforest-related news stories for 2012. There were many other important stories in 2012 and some were undoubtedly overlooked in this review. If you feel there's something we missed, please feel free to highlight it in the comments section. Also please note that this post focuses only on tropical forests.
Photos: 3 colorful lizard species discovered in Australia
Researchers in Australia have described three new lizard species from the northwestern part of the continent.
'Exporting deforestation': China is the kingpin of illegal logging
Runaway economic growth comes with costs: in the case of China's economic engine, one of them has been the world's forests. According to a new report by the Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA), China has become the number one importer of illegal wood products from around the world. Illegal logging—which threatens biodiversity, emits carbon, impoverishes local communities, and is often coupled with other crimes—has come under heavy pressure in recent years from the U.S., the EU, and Australia. Each of these has implemented, or will soon implement, new laws that make importing and selling illegal wood products domestic crimes. However, China's unwillingness to tackle its vast appetite for illegal timber means the trade continues to decimate forests worldwide.
Australia outlaws illegally-logged wood from abroad
In another blow to illegal loggers, Australia has passed the Illegal Logging Prohibition Bill, joining the U.S. in outlawing the importation of illegal logged timber from abroad. The new legislation makes it a criminal offense for Australian businesses to import timber from illegal operations. The Australian government estimates that $400 million worth of illegal timber products are sold in the country each year often as outdoor furniture and wood for decks
Great Barrier Reef loses half its coral in less than 30 years
The Great Barrier Reef has lost half of its coral cover in the last 27 years, according to a new study released today in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS). Based on over 2,000 surveys from 1985 to this year the study links the alarming loss to three impacts: tropical cyclone damage, outbreaks crown-of-thorns starfish that devour corals, and coral bleaching.
Australia sets aside 40 percent of its waters for protection
In an announcement to coincide with the beginnings of the UN's Rio+20 Summit on Sustainable Development, Australia has announced ambitious plans to protect 3.1 million square kilometers (1.19 million square miles) of its ocean, including the Coral Sea. If enacted, the proposition will increase Australia's marine protected areas from 27 to 60, covering about 40 percent of Australia's waters.
Island bat goes extinct after Australian officials hesitate
Nights on Christmas Island in the Indian Ocean will never again be the same. The last echolocation call of a tiny bat native to the island, the Christmas Island pipistrelle (Pipistrellus murrayi), was recorded on August 26th 2009, and since then there has been only silence. Perhaps even more alarming is that nothing was done to save the species. According to a new paper in Conservation Letters the bat was lost to extinction while Australian government officials equivocated and delayed action even though they were warned repeatedly that the situation was dire. The Christmas Island pipistrelle is the first mammal to be confirmed extinct in Australia in 50 years.
KFC Australia stops using palm oil
Kentucky Fried Chicken (KFC) has stopped using palm oil for fast food sold in its Australian outlets, reports ABC News.
We should help solve illegal logging, not be part of the problem
It's tempting to think of illegal logging as an environmental crisis but it takes a serious human toll too. Just ask the wife and children of Chut Wutty, an environmental activist who was murdered last week for investigating rampant illegal logging in Cambodia. Wutty was far from alone. Criminal gangs increasingly control illegal logging, and don't hesitate to kill those who dare to oppose them.
Pictures of the day: activists highlight personal impacts of climate change worldwide
On Saturday, people around the world gathered to highlight the varied impacts of climate change on their lives. Organized by 350.org, the global day of action was a call to "connect the dots" between a warming Earth and extreme weather events, such as droughts, floods, and fires among other impacts. Nearly 1,000 events were held worldwide.
Massive coal mine in Australia beats back climate change legal challenge
An Australian court last week ruled that climate change was not reason enough to halt the $6.3 billion Wandoan coal mine in Australia in a landmark case. Swiss coal mining company Xstrata succeeded in defeating a challenge from the environmental NGO Friends of the Earth and local farmers, which argued that the mine should be halted due to its resulting carbon emissions.
Australia-led peat conversation project in Borneo failing to deliver on hype
A $100 million peat conservation project launched in the heart of Indonesian Borneo by the Australian government has been dramatically scaled back and is largely failing to meet expectations, hampering efforts to develop an effective Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and forest Degradation (REDD+) program in Indonesia, concludes a new analysis published by researchers at Australian National University.
Humans killed off magnificent Australian megafauna, flipping rainforest into savannah
The theory that humans, and not climate change, was primarily responsible for the extinction of giant marsupials in prehistoric Australia takes another step forward with a new study in Science. Exploring sediment cores for past evidence of big herbivores, researchers found that the arrival of humans coincided with the loss of a menagerie of magnificent beasts, from giant kangaroos to fearsome marsupial lions and monster birds to Komodo dragon-like reptiles. The decline of this megafauna ultimately led to ecological changes that may have caused Australia's rainforest to become savannah.
Featured video: scientists capture first footage of Shepherd's beaked whale
Scientists have captured what is believed to be the world's first footage of the cryptic Shepherd's beaked whale (Tasmacetus shepherdi), one of a number of beaked whale species about which scientists know almost nothing.