Philip Donkersley, Lancaster University
How important are bees and what will happen when they go extinct? Is there research into what is killing them? I’ve been told it’s weed killers… – Tink, aged 18, Cornwall, UK.
Bees – including honey bees, bumblebees, and solitary bees – are very important because they pollinate food crops. Pollination is where insects move pollen from one plant to another, fertilising the plants so that they can produce fruit, vegetables, seeds and so on. If all the bees went extinct, it would destroy the delicate balance of the Earth’s ecosystem and affect global food supplies.
Continue reading Bees: how important are they and what would happen if they went extinct?
Wildlife crossings over (and under) the highways could make animals (both wild and domesticated) and people safer.
Our expanding network of roads are interrupting and fragmenting the territories of wild (and also domesticated) animals who need to cross our roads in search of food, water, mates, and shelter. Many are routinely struck and killed by vehicles in this most basic quest for survival.
In addition to conservation concerns, animal-vehicle collisions have a significant cost for human populations because collisions damage property and injure and kill passengers and drivers: in the United States only, collisions between wildlife and vehicles have increased by 50 percent in the most recently reported 15 years. These accidents now cost Americans $8 billion every year.
Continue reading Wildlife crossings make animals and people safer
We, humans, are destroying the Earth’s wilderness, very fast. Actually, we are the main (and probably the only) cause of the sixth major extinction event in the history of our planet. Now, a recent UN report says at least one million species (animals, plants, and insects) are at the risk of extinction. There will be serious consequences for life on Earth, and also for human beings.
Continue reading UN report warns one million species at risk of extinction
According to a study published in January in the journal Global Ecology and Biogeography, on the land, 28% of vertebrates (including mammals, birds, reptiles, and amphibians) die because of humans.
Continue reading 28% of vertebrates die because of humans on the land
We, humans, are destroying the Earth’s wilderness at an incredible pace. Scientists say we have destroyed 10% of Earth’s wildlife habitat in just 25 years. Since 1993, 3.3 million km2 of global wilderness areas, particularly in the Amazon basin (almost 30%) and central Africa (14%) were lost. This is almost twice of the size of Alaska!
Continue reading We are Destroying the Earth’s Wilderness
For centuries, humans have endeavoured to discover and describe the sum of Earth’s biological diversity. Scientists and naturalists have catalogued species from all continents and oceans, from the depths of Earth’s crust to the highest mountains, and from the most remote jungles to our most populated cities. This grand effort sheds light on the forms and behaviours that evolution has made possible, while serving as the foundation for understanding the common descent of life. Until recently, our planet was thought to be inhabited by nearly 10 million species (107). Though no small number, this estimate is based almost solely on species that can be seen with the naked eye.
Continue reading There are more microbial species on Earth than stars in the galaxy
Rainforests are the oldest living ecosystems and without a shadow of a doubt, the most vital habitats on Earth. They cover only 6% of the Earth’s surface but yet they contain more than half of the world’s plant and animal species. According to the current estimates, around 40% to 75% of all biotic species are indigenous Notes 1 to the rainforests.
What’s more, there are probably millions of species of plants, insects, and microorganisms still undiscovered in tropical rainforests. They are responsible for 28% of the world’s oxygen turnover. More than 20% of the world’s oxygen is produced in the Amazon Rainforest only, that’s why it has been described as the “lungs of our planet”.
Unfortunately, rainforests are rapidly disappearing due to deforestation. The loss is huge, and probably hundreds or even thousands of undiscovered species going extinct every single day. We are losing them forever.
Continue reading Rainforests of the World (Infographic)
When I hike up into the hills around Salt Lake City, above the Bonneville Shoreline Trail where the sagebrush gives way to the shade of the forest, mastodons are on my mind. Immense bones pulled from a sinkhole on the nearby Wasatch Plateau placed Mammut americanum in the area about 7,500 years ago – practically yesterday from the perspective of Deep Time. It might sound strange to say that I miss creatures I wasn’t around to see in the first place. But still, I mourn their loss as I plod through the woods, imagining their low rumbles and the splintering crashes as they browsed among the trees.
A small but growing number of scientists say that they could reverse that loss through de-extinction – genetic resuscitation in the style of the sci-fi yarn Jurassic Park. The idea is also now being marketed as conservation’s great hope to forestall the loss of biodiversity caused by humans. Biological Xeroxing was held up as one of the possibilities for species resuscitation at a National Geographic TEDx event on de-extinction in 2013. That same year, the discovery of a particularly juicy mammoth carcass, dripping with what appeared to be blood, sparked a flurry of reports assuring readers that the return of the mammoth is nigh. For if there’s blood, there’s DNA, and if there’s DNA, then we can have the Ice Age beast back, right?
Continue reading Extinction is forever: de-extinction can’t save what we had
An island or isle is any piece of sub-continental land that is surrounded by water. It is believed that there are over 100,000 islands in the world. It’s difficult to put a figure to the exact number as there are different kinds of them in various water bodies including oceans, seas, lakes, and rivers. There is even an island within a lake that is situated on an island located in a lake on an island. Only 322 of them are larger than 1000 km2 (386 sq mi). Here are the top 18 largest islands on Earth. Why 18? Because this is the number of islands that have a land area of greater than 100,000 square kilometers (38,610 square miles).
Continue reading Top 18 Largest Islands on Earth