Notes from a rare planet: U.S. losing one of its best defenses against climate change due to deforestation

Close encounter with a killer whale
This photo of a killer whale comes courtesy of Flickr user little frank.

Killer whales split into three separate species

  • “Using genetic evidence scientists have discovered that the world’s killer whales, also known as orcas (Orcinus orca), likely represent at least three separate species.”
  • Scientists have long thought that there may in fact be more than one species of killer whales due to behavior difference, small physical differences, and the animals’ primary food source: fish or seals.”
  • “Unraveling the relationship between killer whale species will allow scientists a better understanding of these massive oceanic predators’ ecology and how best to direct conservation efforts to make sure the diversity of killer whales is preserved.”

By losing forest, the United States also loses one of its best defenses against climate change

  • “Addressing U.S. deforestation will help meet our Copenhagen targets and strengthen the U.S. economy in our forest dependent communities.”
  • “According to Forest Service carbon accounting tools, the 21 million acres of forests that are expected to be lost to sprawl in the next 20 years sequester roughly 32 million tons of carbon per year. Furthermore, when cleared for development, carbon stored in these forests is also lost, amounting to approximately 8 million tons per year. Taken together, lost carbon sequestration capacity and emissions from clearing will represent a carbon footprint of at least 40 million tons per year by 2030. To put this into context, this amount is roughly 13% of the U.S. emissions reduction target President Obama announced at Copenhagen.”

Giant deep sea jellyfish filmed in Gulf of Mexico (and there is video!)

  • “Remarkable footage of a rarely seen giant deep sea jellyfish has been recorded by scientists. Using a remotely operated vehicle (ROV), they captured a video of the huge Stygiomedusa gigantea. The jellyfish has a disc-shaped bell than can be a metre wide, and has four arms that extend up to six metres in length. The jellyfish has only been seen 114 times in the 110 years it has been known to science, say researchers.”

40 Years After First Earth Day – Looking at where we need to be internationally on global warming in another 40 years

  • “Deforestation emissions need to be effectively reduced to zero. Every second an area of rainforest the size of two football fields is lost to deforestation. That is forest that won’t come back and the annual emissions associated with its loss is equivalent to the emissions of all the cars, trucks, buses, planes, trains, and boats in the world. So every second that we don’t stem the loss of tropical forests, we are making our effort to solve global warming that much harder.”

World failing on every environmental issue

  • On September 1, 1914, the last known Passenger Pigeon, named Martha, died in a zoo in Cincinnati. For a bird that only decades before numbered in the billions, the passenger pigeon proved just how rapidly human actions—in this case unsustainable hunting for cheap meat—can wipe out a once super-abundant and prolific species, let alone naturally rare ones.
  • “Habitat loss, deforestation, poaching, pollution, desertification, overharvesting, invasive species, climate change: never before has one species—humans—threatened the existence of so many others. Most biologists now agree that we have pushed life on earth into a mass extinction event: the sixth that has occurred. Mass extinction events wipe out a good percentage—usually over 50 percent—of species in a short amount of time, geologically speaking. Such losses forever re-write Earth’s ecology and require millions of years for species diversity to begin recovery.”

Stat of the day: “We recycle 38% of our paper, but we’re turning trees into paper at double the rate of 1970.” –