Weekly round-up: September 27

A study by scientists from the United States Department of Agriculture Forestry Service have predicted that planting new trees in understocked forests could increase the nation’s annual carbon sequestration capacity by 20 per cent. At present, approximately one per cent of understocked federal woodland is reforested annually.
Publication Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences

The Convention on Biological Diversity unveiled Local Biodiversity Outlooks 2 this month, focusing on the perspectives and experiences of indigenous peoples and local communities on the current ecological crisis. The report accompanies Global Biodiversity Outlook 5, which showed none of the 20 Aichi targets had been met in the previous decade. Local Biodiversity Outlooks 2 states that: “Ongoing disregard of the vital contributions of indigenous peoples and local communities (IPLCs) to biodiversity conservation and sustainable use – including in national biodiversity strategies and action plans – constitutes a major missed opportunity for the United Nations Decade on Biodiversity 2011-2020.” 
Source Convention on Biological Diversity

Scientists have discovered why male funnel web spiders’ venom is deadlier than that of females – and fatal to humans, despite not being a natural predator. Although both sexes produce toxins in order to kill and feed on insects, males developed their even more potent venom due to the need to defend themselves against larger, vertebrate predators while searching for mates.
Publication Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences

The Amazonian rainforest is home to approximately 25 per cent of the planet’s plant and animal species, yet human activity could reduce it to a savannah in our lifetime, according to new research by Professor Mark Bush. Using fossil pollen and charcoal to monitor changes in vegetation and the frequency of fires, the study shows the rainforest is ‘closer to an ecological tipping point than at any time in the last 100,000 years’. Fire, deforestation and global warming are all factors in the increasing degradation of the rainforest, with the study concluding: “The risk that our generation will preside over the irreversible collapse of Amazonian and Andean biodi-versity is huge, literally existential.”
Publication Annals of the Missouri Botanical Garden

Summer sea ice covering in the Arctic was at its second lowest on record in 2020. The minimum surface area covered by ice dipped at 1.44 million square miles – 958,000 square miles below the 1981-2010 minimum average. A Siberian heatwave prompted an earlier than usual start to the sea ice melt season.
Source NASA

Warming Arctic summers are also resulting in a greener landscape, with higher air and soil temperatures leading to increased plant growth. While greater vegetation coverage will remove carbon dioxide from the air through photosynthesis, thawing of Arctic permafrost could also result in the release of more greenhouse gases, including methane, a much more powerful warming agent.
Publication Nature Communications

A new study suggests that male baboons with female friends live longer. Researchers from the Amboseli Baboon Research Project studied 542 baboons over 35 years and discovered that both sexes benefit from strong social ties, while males enjoyed the added benefit of better chances of survival.
Publication Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B

Balancing the economic and environmental needs of an area is problematic across the globe, but a Finnish study has shown that eco-tourism can be a tool in resolving local conflict. The study focused on Koli National Park, Finland, previously an area of intense debate over whether to develop the land into a modern resort, or protect the region’s natural landscape. The resulting compromise of sustainable nature tourism both ensured preservation of the environment while simultaneously generating jobs and stimulating the local economy.
Publication Tourism Geographies

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