5 ways you can help endangered species today

Baboons

Baboons eating in Ethiopia. (© Robin Moore/iLCP)

This year for Earth Day, we turn our attention to endangered species — and what you can do to help protect them. Human Nature tapped five Conservation International experts for their best tips to help endangered species, whether you’re rustling up a mid-afternoon snack or shopping for new clothes.

Let’s jump in.

  1. Embrace meatless Mondays

“If you have easy access to food options, stop eating meat — or at least limit your consumption and choose locally sourced meat. Research shows that the rising consumption of animal-based proteins is one of the biggest drivers of the destruction of terrestrial ecosystems and the loss of species. Raising and feeding livestock also contributes to climate change, consumes tremendous water resources and generates pollution. The bonus to eating less meat? Many people in economically developed countries consume much more protein than they need — switching to a more plant-based diet would actually improve their health!” – Olivier Langrand, executive director, Critical Ecosystem Partnership Fund Continue reading

Medicated salmon, cold-water coral, insect rescue: 3 big stories you might have missed

Grasshopper in Guyana. (© Pete Oxford/iLCP)

Editor’s note: News about conservation and the environment is made every day, but some of it can fly under the radar. In a recurring feature, Human Nature shares three stories from the past week that you should know about.

  1. Human drugs are polluting the water — and animals are swimming in it

Pharmaceuticals are flowing from homes and factories into freshwater rivers, streams and lakes, harming aquatic species.

The story: Medication is entering freshwater ecosystems worldwide through our toilets and sinks — and its trip through the human digestive tract isn’t dampening its effectiveness, Rebecca Giggs reported for The Atlantic. According to recent research, a platypus living in a pharmaceutical-contaminated stream in Melbourne is likely to ingest more than half the recommended adult dose of antidepressants every day. Continue reading

Mangroves, mullets, humpback whales: 3 new science stories you should know about

Humpback whale

Humpback whale in Tahiti. (© Photo Rodolphe Holler)

Protecting nature starts with science. Here’s a roundup of recent policy-relevant science published by Conservation International experts.

  1. Invasive fish species may be better equipped for a changing climate

Native species already have to compete with invasive new species, but now climate change is creating even more challenges. According to a new study, an invasive species in Hawai‘i may be better suited to a changing climate than its native counterpart.

The invasive kanda mullet was accidentally introduced to Hawai‘i in the 1950s when it was unknowingly mixed into a shipment of Marquesas sardines that were released into Hawaiian waters. This isn’t a new problem: Invasive species have been introduced into ecosystems for thousands of years, competing with native species for food and habitat — and sometimes eliminating them entirely. The invasive kanda mullet is rapidly overtaking native mullet species in the estuaries across the Hawaiian Islands, due in large part to its biology: It reaches the age of reproduction faster and reproduces more often than native mullet species. Continue reading

Komodo dragons, beefless Whoppers, bleached reefs: 3 big stories you might have missed

West Papua

Sea life in West Papua, Indonesia. (© Shawn Heinrichs)

Editor’s note: News about conservation and the environment is made every day, but some of it can fly under the radar. In a recurring feature, Human Nature shares three stories from the past week that you should know about.

  1. Komodo considers tourist ban to help boost dragon numbers

Komodo Island in Indonesia may temporarily close its borders to tourists to enable dragon populations recover.

The story: Komodo dragon numbers have been dwindling — due in large part to smugglers, Kate Lyons reported for The Guardian last week. A temporary tourism ban would help protect the dragons from smugglers and let authorities replenish the dragons’ food supply by planting native vegetation. Continue reading

Climate heavyweights: We need nature

Tall trees in old growth forest in Mantadia National Park. (© Conservation International/photo by Sterling Zumbrunn)

The world has finally woken up to a truth we have known for decades: People need nature.

At least that’s how I felt reading this letter in The Guardian signed by the activist Greta Thunberg, journalist George Monbiot and an impressive group of world-renowned scientists, academics, artists and activists. As they put it, “Defending the living world and defending the climate are, in many cases, one and the same.”

This truth is at the heart of our work at Conservation International. If we have any hope at all of stopping catastrophic climate breakdown — which, to be clear, humans are causing — we need to use natural climate solutions. That means protecting what’s left of our natural world and restoring the parts we’ve systematically destroyed in the pursuit of development and profits. Continue reading

Protected areas good for health, wealth: study

Anzihe Protected Area

Anzihe Protected Area, Sichuan, China. (© Kyle Obermann)

Decades of research prove that protected areas — locations set aside to conserve nature and protect it from mining, overfishing and large-scale agriculture — are good for wildlife.  But can these conservation areas also benefit the communities who call the land in and near these places home?

According to a new study, the answer to that question is “yes” — with a few key caveats. Human Nature sat down with Dave Hole, a co-author of the study and vice president of global solutions at Conservation International, to understand precisely what makes a protected area good for the planet and for people. Continue reading

Dengue fever, frog fungus, melting Antarctica: 3 big stories you might have missed

tree frog

New Granada cross-banded tree frog in Colombia. (© Robin Moore/iLCP)

Editor’s note: News about conservation and the environment is made every day, but some of it can fly under the radar. In a recurring feature, Human Nature shares three stories from the past week that you should know about.

  1. Climate change could push tropical diseases to Alaska, according to a new study

Disease-carrying mosquitoes will fly north as their suitable habitat expands due to climate change.

The story: Almost 1 billion people could be newly exposed to dengue fever and Zika virus, tropical diseases spread by mosquitoes, Eric Holthaus reported for Grist last week. Places as far north as Alaska and Finland — locations that were traditionally too cold for disease-carrying mosquitoes to survive — could become home to them if global emissions continue to rise. Climate change will make current suitable habitat too hot for the mosquitoes, bringing some relief to people in warmer climates that will experience record droughts, heat waves and extreme storms because of climate change. Continue reading

What on Earth is REDD+?

Kenya

Cloud forest in Chyulu Hills, Kenya. (© Charlie Shoemaker)

Editor’s note: From “climate adaptation” to “blue carbon,” from “landscape approach” to “ecosystem services,” environmental jargon is everywhere these days. Conservation International’s Human Nature blog looks to make sense of it in an occasional explainer series we’re calling “What on Earth?” 

In this installment, we break down REDD+, an initiative that aims to curb climate change by protecting forests.

So: What is “REDD+”?

REDD+ is a United Nations-backed framework that aims to curb climate change by stopping the destruction of forests. REDD stands for “Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and forest Degradation”; the “+” signifies the role of conservation, sustainable management of forests and enhancement of forest carbon stocks.

Continue reading

Plastic pollution and over-tourism: It’s not (totally) your fault

Sea lion

Sea lion in the Galápagos (© Cristina Mittermeier)

Will your dream vacation destroy the very places you flew thousands of miles to experience?

According to a recent article in Vox, tourism in “last-chance” places — destinations that will be drastically affected by climate change over the next century, such as the Florida Keys or Bali — is rising, and contributing to local environmental problems, not least of them plastic pollution.

But when it comes to the relationship between over-tourism and plastic pollution, the headlines don’t paint the full picture, an expert at Conservation International says. While it’s easy to pin these issues on over-tourism alone — more humans equals more trash left behind — the reality is much less black-and-white.

Continue reading

Indonesian province leaps ahead in conservation

West Papua

Wayag Lagoon, Raja Ampat, West Papua, Indonesia. (© Keith A. Ellenbogen)

One of Indonesia’s easternmost regions is taking an unprecedented step toward sustainability.

Last week, the government of the province of West Papua, on the island of New Guinea, announced legislation establishing it as Indonesia’s first “conservation province.” What this means is that the government will ensure that all future economic activity and development will be sustainable.

The legislation also protects some of the most intact and healthy marine and terrestrial ecosystems in the Southeast Asian archipelago; promotes the development of sustainable jobs; and recognizes the rights of the region’s indigenous peoples.

Continue reading