Clouded Leopard Declared Extinct in Taiwan
|A Formosan clouded leopard, now extinct in Taiwan. CREDIT: Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Republic of China (Taiwan)|
The Formosan clouded leopard, a clouded-leopard subspecies native to Taiwan, is now extinct, according to a team of zoologists.
“There is little chance that the clouded leopard still exists in Taiwan,” zoologist Chiang Po-jen told Taiwan’s Central News Agency (CNA). “There may be a few of them, but we do not think they exist in any significant numbers.”
Zoologists from Taiwan and the United States have looked for the animal on and off since 2001, to no avail. To see if any of the animals remained, the researchers set up about 1,500 infrared cameras and scent traps in the Taiwanese mountains but found nothing.
Now, the only one left in the country is a stuffed specimen at the National Taiwan Museum, zoologist Liu Jian-nan told CNA. There are two live clouded leopards at Taipei Zoo, but they are an imported subspecies from Southeast Asia.
The range of clouded leopards (Neofelis nebulosa) spans from the hills of the Himalayas to Southeast Asia to China. The animals are known for the patches on their fur that resemble clouds. They also sport fangs larger than those of any other feline.
In 2006, research revealed that clouded leopards found in the Sunda Islands of Southeast Asia — which which include Borneo, Java, Sumatra and Bali — were a separate species, now known as Sunda clouded leopards (Neofelis diardi).
Formosan clouded leopards, which were not thought to be a separate species, have been driven to extinction by habitat destruction and illegal hunting for their skin and bones.
Yellowstone’s Volcano Bigger Than Thought
|Yellowstone is an active volcano. Surface features such as geysers and hot springs are direct results of the region’s underlying volcanism. CREDIT: National Park Service|
SALT LAKE CITY — Yellowstone’s underground volcanic plumbing is bigger and better connected than scientists thought, researchers reported here today (April 17) at the Seismological Society of America’s annual meeting.
“We are getting a much better understanding of the volcanic system of Yellowstone,” said Jamie Farrell, a seismology graduate student at the University of Utah. “The magma reservoir is at least 50 percent larger than previously imaged.”
Knowing the volume of molten magma beneath Yellowstone is important for estimating the size of future eruptions, Farrell told OurAmazingPlanet.
Geologists believe Yellowstone sits over a hotspot, a plume of superheated rock rising from Earth’s mantle. As North America slowly drifted over the hotspot, the Yellowstone plume punched through the continent’s crust, leaving a bread-crumb-like trail of calderas created by massive volcanic eruptions along Idaho’s Snake River Plain, leading straight to Yellowstone. The last caldera eruption was 640,000 years ago. Smaller eruptions occurred in between and after the big blasts, most recently about 70,000 years ago. [Infographic: Geology of Yellowstone]
The magma chamber seen in the new study fed these smaller eruptions and is the source of the park’s amazing hydrothermal springs and geysers. It also creates the surface uplift seen in the park, said Bob Smith, a seismologist at the University of Utah and author of a related study presented at the meeting.
The volcanic plume of partly molten rock that feeds the Yellowstone supervolcano. Yellow and red indicate higher conductivity, green and blue indicate lower conductivity. Made by University of Utah geophysicists and computer scientists, this is the first large-scale ‘geoelectric’ image of the Yellowstone hotspot.
“This crustal magma body is a little dimple that creates the uplift,” Smith said. “It’s like putting your finger under a rubber membrane and pushing it up and the sides expand.”
A clearer picture of Yellowstone’s shallow magma chamber emerged from earthquakes, whose waves change speed when they travel through molten or solid rock. Farrell analyzed nearby earthquakes to build a picture of the magma chamber.
The underground magma resembles a mutant banana, with a knobby, bulbous end poking up toward the northeast corner of Yellowstone National Park, and the rest of the tubular fruit angling shallowly southwest. It’s a single connected chamber, about 37 miles (60 kilometers) long, 18 miles (30 km) wide, and 3 to 7 miles (5 to 12 km) deep.
Previously, researchers had thought the magma beneath Yellowstone was in separate blobs, not a continuous pocket.
The shallowest magma, in the northeast, also matches up with the park’s most intense hydrothermal activity, Farrell said. The new study is the best view yet of this zone, which lies outside the youngest caldera rim.
Additional molten rock, not imaged in this study, also exists deeper beneath Yellowstone, scientists think.
Original article on LiveScience’s OurAmazingPlanet.
Tar Sands Is Worse Than You Can Imagine: Incredible Images You Have to See: AlterNet is teaming up with the Post Carbon Institute to bring you mind-blowing images and stories that will inspire you to take action.
With activists killed in Brazil, Cambodia, the Philippines, and elsewhere, 2012 may have been the worst year yet for violence against those working to protect the environment. So far, little has been done to halt this chilling development.
by Fred Pearce / Yale Environment 360
Where is Sombath Somphone? With every day that passes, the fate of one of Southeast Asia’s most high-profile environmental activists, who was snatched from the streets of Laos in December, becomes more worrisome.
His case has been raised by the State Department and countless NGOs around the world. But the authorities in Laos have offered no clue as to what happened after Sombath was stopped at a police checkpoint on a Saturday afternoon in the Lao capital of Vientiane as he returned home from his office. It looks increasingly like state kidnap — or worse, if recent evidence of the state-sponsored killings of environmental campaigners…
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I haven’t seen our annual influx of Hummers, here in NE Florida, yet. It was 20F, night before last, killed lost of new growth and blossoms, but there will be more. The Hummers and other migratory birds seem to be hanging out a couple of hundred or so miles south of here (I am north- west of Jacksonville) until some inner swareness of the exterior weather tells them OK GO!
If I put feeders out too soon, then the yellow-jackets (wasps) and ants and mold and fungi find them before the birds do. The insects and have no trouble finding feeders that are moved regularly, or even irregularly.
It is a daily bother to keep up with feeders, but if you create dependent birds, then you must. So don’t start what you can’t keep up. To not feed dependent birds is the same as starving them. Not just the hummers, but the birds you feed other foods, as well. —-Granny Bear
Researchers say warmer weather may be encouraging hummingbirds to migrate to North America 12 to 18 days earlier than in years past.Johnson said. extremely early arrivals, he said.
World’s Oldest-Known Wild Bird Hatches Another Chick Released: 2/4/2013 4:33:23 PM
|Contact Information: U.S. Department of the Interior, U.S. Geological Survey Office of Communications and Publishing 12201 Sunrise Valley Dr, MS 119 Reston, VA 20192|
Wisdom’s mate tends to his newly hatched chick just hours after it hatches on Sunday…
Wisdom & Mate
After returning from foraging at sea on November 29, 2012, Wisdom (left) attempts to nudge her mate…
MIDWAY ATOLL — A Laysan albatross known as “Wisdom” – believed to be at least 62 years old – has hatched a chick on Midway Atoll National Wildlife Refuge for the sixth consecutive year.
During the morning hours on Sunday, the chick was observed pipping its way into the world by U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service biologist Pete Leary, who said the chick appears healthy. Wisdom was first banded in 1956, when she was incubating an egg in the same area of the refuge. She was at least five years old at the time.
“Everyone continues to be inspired by Wisdom as a symbol of hope for her species,” said Doug Staller, the Fish and Wildlife Service superintendent for the Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument (Monument), which includes Midway Atoll NWR.
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Ethiopians ‘driven out in land grabs’ by Staff Writers Addis Ababa, Ethiopia (UPI) Feb 8, 2013
disclaimer: image is for illustration purposes only
Thousands of Ethiopians are being driven off ancestral lands that the government’s selling to foreign investors buying vast swathes of farmland, a U.S. watchdog reports.
Amid a new rash of land grabs in Africa by foreign governments or business groups seeking to produce food for export, the Oakland Institute of California says that Ethiopia, one of the world’s poorest states, has leased 1.5 million acres of prime farmland to companies from India, Malaysia and elsewhere.
The institute, an independent policy think tank that specializes in food and land issues, says the crisis is likely to worsen as the foreign companies move in and start operations.
It said the Addis Ababa government plans to lease as much as 15 percent of the land in some regions of the land-locked East African country, which has long been beset by drought, famine and war.
The institute says that in the Lower Omo Valley, where the government has earmarked 1.1 million acres for plantations to grow palm oils, cereals and other crops, human rights abuses are rampant among the 200,000 pastoralist farmers with tribal leaders imprisoned and dozens of people killed.
Mass relocations are being carried out because the government’s building the $2 billion Gibe hydroelectric dam on the Omo River to irrigate the plantations, part of major irrigation plan to boost agriculture.
Ethiopia also plans to invest $12 billion in hydropower projects on the Blue Nile, which rises in the Ethiopian highlands, and its tributaries to boost electricity generation to 40,000 megawatts by 2035.
Some 2,000 troops reportedly have been deployed in the Omo region to clear out the villagers.
Addis Ababa denies human rights abuses and says the plantations will create 150,000 jobs but Oakland Institute researchers said they found little evidence to substantiate that.
British relief organization Oxfam reported last week that foreign investors were “deliberately targeting the weakest-governed countries to buy cheap land” across Africa.
“Poor governance allows investors to secure land quickly and cheaply for profit,” said Barbara Stocking, Oxfam’s chief executive.
“Investors seem to be cherry-picking countries with weak rules and regulations because they’re easy targets.
“This can spell disaster for communities if these deals result in their homes and livelihoods being grabbed,” she declared.
Oakland observed that the Ethiopian government has extended generous tax breaks and other incentives to the investing companies, as well as some of the cheapest land on the planet.
Oakland says the Ethiopian “land rush” is part of a global phenomenon in which sales in Africa, Latin America and Asia have been led by farm conglomerates back by Western hedge and pension funds, speculators and even universities.
Many Middle Eastern governments, burdened by water problems and little arable land, have supported the sales with loans and guarantees to ensure future food supplies for burgeoning populations.
The head of the United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization warned in 2012 that the “land grabs” of vast tracts of African farmland by foreign governments and investors is like the “Wild West” and threatens the continent’s food security.
Graziano da Silva said the FAO is powerless to stop the stampede that began several years ago, and declared that a “sheriff” is needed to restore order before the phenomenon gets out of control.
At a time when food shortages are becoming more common as the world’s population keeps swelling, da Silva told Britain’s Guardian newspaper: “I don’t see that it’s possible to stop it.
“They’re private investors. We don’t have the tools and the instruments to stop big companies buying land. Land acquisitions are a reality.
“We can’t wish them away but we have to find a proper way of limiting them. It appears to be like the ‘Wild West,’ and we need a sheriff and law in place.”
The land grabs were triggered by the 2007-08 world food price crisis, with countries like oil-rich Saudi Arabia and South Korea buying or leasing vast tracts of land in Africa, Asia and Latin America to grow food for their own populations.
Oxfam says much of the land taken over is being used by speculators, including U.S. banks, hedge funds and other high-profile institutions, to grow biofuels to sell for hefty profits rather than produce food.
Potential for ‘Superquakes’ Underestimated, Recent Earthquakes Show
|A village near the coast of Sumatra lays in ruin, Jan. 2, 2005, as a result of the tsunami that struck South East Asia Dec. 26, 2004. CREDIT: U.S. Navy photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Philip A. McDaniel|
The earthquakes that rocked Tohoku, Japan in 2011, Sumatra in 2004 and Chile in 1960 — all of magnitude 9.0 or greater — should not have happened, according to seismologist’s theories of earthquake cycles. And that might mean earthquake prediction needs an overhaul, some researchers say.
All three earthquakes struck along subduction zones, where two of Earth’s tectonic plates collide and one dives beneath the other. Earlier earthquakes had released the pent-up strain along Chile’s master fault, meaning no big quakes were coming, scientists had thought. Japan and Sumatra both sat above on old oceanic crust, thought to be too stiff for superquakes.
And records of past quakes, combined with measurements of the speed of Earth’s tectonic plates, suggested the Tohoku and Sumatra-Andaman regions couldn’t make quakes larger than 8.4, almost nine times smaller than a magnitude 9.0 temblor.
“These areas had been written off as places incapable of producing a great earthquake,” said Chris Goldfinger, a marine geologist at Oregon State University in Corvallis.
But the events of 1960, 2004 and 2011 showed that these faults were capable of producing some of the most destructive earthquakes in recorded history, suggesting earthquake researchers need to re-think aspects of how they evaluate a fault’s earthquake potential.
“It’s time to come up with something new,” Goldfinger told OurAmazingPlanet.
Faults are like batteries
When two tectonic plates collide, they build up strain where a fault sticks, or locks, together. Earthquakes release this strain, which is a form of energy.
For decades, scientists assumed faults acted like rubber bands, steadily building up strain and then releasing it all at once, Goldfinger said. The longer the time since the last earthquake, the larger the next earthquake would be, the model predicted. [Video: What Does Earthquake ‘Magnitude’ Mean?]
The problem was researchers failed to recognize that faults can store energy like a battery, Goldfinger said. And just like batteries, they can discharge energy in small amounts, or all at once, he explained.
Goldfinger and other researchers now think if a “small” quake hits, it may not release all of the accumulated energy in a fault. (On a subduction zone, a small quake can still register in the magnitude-8.0 range, which is devastating to nearby cities.)
Thus, a fault can “borrow” stored energy from previous strain-building cycles, generating larger earthquakes than expected, such as those that hit Sumatra and Tohoku, Goldfinger and his colleagues propose in a study published in the January/February 2013 issue of the journal Seismological Research Letters.
“Those models were already being called into question when Sumatra drove one stake through their heart, and Tohoku drove the second one,” said Goldfinger, the lead author of the study.
Superquakes and supercycles
Goldfinger said scientists’ failure to recognize that faults could store energy comes from a lack of data. Historic earthquake records go back only 100 years, he noted. Geologists are only now getting histories that reach back thousands of years, via techniques that decode evidence of past earthquakes in sediments.
“What is happening on a short-term timescale is actually imposed on a long-term cycle,” he said.
Goldfinger calls these long-term histories supercycles, and the unusually large and rare earthquakes that discharge the battery are superquakes. The sequence, size and location of quakes vary from one supercycle to the next, he said.
Seismologist Marco Cisternas first proposed that faults could store energy in 2005, with a study showing that the magnitude 9.5 Chile earthquake in 1960, the largest on record, released more energy than had been stored since its most recent quake, in 1837. Tsunami deposits in Chile indicate the last superquake occurred in 1575, and smaller quakes since then had only partly released the strain built up on the fault, his study found.
In Sumatra, south of the Andaman region, analyses of corals uplifted and killed during earthquakes also indicated that the subduction zone undergoes supercycles, according to a 2008 study led by geologists at the Earth Observatory Institute in Singapore. Each series of quakes in the region lasts between 30 and 100 years, according to the study. The supercycles unfold every 200 years or so.
Forecasting the future
Goldfinger and his colleagues have evidence that the Cascadia Subduction Zone, which stretches from Northern California to British Columbia, is also in the middle of an earthquake supercycle.
Over the past 10,000 years, 19 superquakes and four supercycles have occurred along the zone, Goldfinger said.
“These would typically be of a magnitude from about 8.7 to 9.2, really huge earthquakes,” Goldfinger said. “We’ve also determined that there have been 22 additional earthquakes that involved just the southern end of the fault. We are assuming that these are slightly smaller, more like 8.0, but not necessarily. They were still very large earthquakes that if they happened today could have a devastating impact,” he said.
The present cycle seems like it’s gently ratcheting downward, Goldfinger said. “This would suggest that we’re not due for a giant [quake] anytime soon, but the model has no predictive value,” he said.
The battery model of earthquake energy storage and discharge makes it difficult for scientists to forecast future earthquakes, as there’s no explanation yet for why faults would behave this way, Goldfinger said. Plus, it’s hard to say how much energy a fault’s battery stores. “We haven’t yet figured out how to effectively put a voltmeter on a fault and say how charged it is,” Goldfinger said.
But with more detailed records of past earthquakes, such as those in Sumatra and Cascadia, Goldfinger believes scientists can give better estimates of seismic hazards, and prevent surprises like Sumatra and Tohoku.
“The long records are revealing very useful things,” he said. “We’re not sure what’s driving the long-term cycling, but at least we can tell people what to prepare for,” Goldfinger said.