Arquivo da tag: Biodiversidade

Faltam recursos para preservar o mascote da Copa (Jornal da Ciência)

JC e-mail 4973, de 16 de junho de 2014

Para driblar a extinção, tatu-bola ganha um plano nacional de conservação

O tatu-bola, escolhido como mascote da Copa no Brasil, é um animal em extinção devido à destruição de seus habitats na Caatinga e no Cerrado, além de sofrer com a caça. O pequeno mamífero também está correndo o risco de perder um importante reforço na luta por sua preservação. O trabalho desenvolvido pela Fundação Museu do Homem Americano (FUMDHAM) no Parque Nacional Serra da Capivara, no Piauí, está ameaçado por falta de recursos.

De acordo com a professora Rute Maria Gonçalves de Andrade, do conselho fiscal da FUMDHAM, todo o trabalho que vem sendo realizado em mais de 40 anos está ameaçado, além das espécies animais que ficarão desamparadas, mais de100 pessoas podem ficar desempregadas. “Infelizmente a fundação não tem recebido os recursos do ICMBio, nem do IPHAN já que o Parque é declarado pela UNESCO como Patrimônio Natural e Histórico da Humanidade, em quantidade suficiente e nos prazos devidos para fazer esta gestão”, desabafou.

Por meio de sua Divisão de Comunicação, o Instituto Chico Mendes de Conservação da Biodiversidade (ICMBio) informou que “não houve nenhuma interrupção de repasses para a Fundação Museu do Homem Americano. Em 2014, foram repassados R$ 400 mil de recursos de compensação ambiental e há a previsão de mais R$ 300 mil, oriundos de emenda parlamentar”. Já o Instituto do Patrimônio Histórico e Artístico Nacional (IPHAN), órgão do Ministério da Cultura (MinC), não se pronunciou até o fechamento desta edição por conta de uma greve de seus funcionários.

Desde os anos 90, a equipe da FUMDHAM, liderada por sua presidente a arqueóloga Niède Guidon desenvolve ações de preservação da fauna local, o que tem sido decisivo para manter o equilíbrio da densidade populacional no parque de muitos vertebrados. Este trabalho consiste em manter limpos e cheios os reservatórios naturais de água existentes no Parque conhecidos como caldeirões, além de outros que foram construídos, para que os animais tivessem água na época da seca.

Para Rute esse é o momento ideal para chamar a atenção para os esforços de preservação da fauna e flora brasileira. “Talvez fosse importante que a partir da Copa fosse lançada uma grande campanha nacional em favor das Unidades de Conservação que preservam a duras penas o tatu-bola”, sugeriu.

Até o momento o trabalho de conservação do tatu-bola – cujo nome científico é Tolypeutestricinctus – está dando bons resultados. Segundo a professora Rute ele é um dos animais que compõem a fauna do Parque. “Após a fiscalização relativa à caça e o trabalho de fornecimento de água na época da seca possibilitaram manter a população desta espécie de mamífero, endêmico do Bioma caatinga”, afirmou.

Plano Nacional de Conservação – O biólogo Leandro Jerusalinsky, coordenador do Centro Nacional de Pesquisa e Conservação de Primatas Brasileiros (CPB/ICMBio), em João Pessoa (PB), faz parte do Plano de Ação Nacional para a Conservação do Tatu-bola (PAN Tatu-bola). A ideia é consolidar uma estratégia para diminuir o risco de extinção de duas espécies. “O plano tem como objetivo geral a redução do risco de extinção do Tolypeutestricinctus, que habita a Caatinga e o Cerrado, para a categoria Vulnerável e avaliação adequada do estado de conservação do Tolypeutesmatacus, encontrado no Pantanal e Cerrado, em cinco anos”, explicou.

Ainda segundo Jerusalinsky, o PAN Tatu-bola vai ajudar na conservação destas espécies por estabelecer de forma clara quais são as ações prioritárias para reverter ou atenuar os principais impactos sobre elas, que consistem na perda e fragmentação de habitats, caça e falta de conhecimento. “Desta forma, as diversas instituições envolvidas em pesquisa, fiscalização e licenciamento ambiental, por exemplo, poderão adotar essas ações em sua atuação, ajudando a conhecer e a proteger os tatus-bola”, detalhou.

O PAN foi elaborado por um conjunto de especialistas nestas espécies, sediados em instituições de ensino e pesquisa como a Universidade Federal de Minas Gerais (UFMG), Universidade Federal de Sergipe (UFS), Universidade de São Paulo (USP), Universidade do Vale do Rio São Francisco (UNIVASF), Universidade Federal da Paraíba (UFPB), Universidade Estadual do Mato Grosso (UNEMAT), EMBRAPA Pantanal, além do próprio ICMBio.

(Edna Ferreira)
Essa matéria está na página 12 da última edição do Jornal da Ciência. Essa e outras reportagens podem ser acessadas em http://www.jornaldaciencia.org.br/impresso/JC760.pdf

Humans, not climate, to blame for Ice Age-era disappearance of large mammals, study concludes (Science Daily)

Date: June 4, 2014

Source: Aarhus University

Summary: Was it humankind or climate change that caused the extinction of a considerable number of large mammals about the time of the last Ice Age? Researchers have carried out the first global analysis of the extinction of the large animals, and the conclusion is clear — humans are to blame. The study unequivocally points to humans as the cause of the mass extinction of large animals all over the world during the course of the last 100,000 years.

Skeleton of a giant ground sloth at the Los Angeles County Museum of Natural History, circa 1920. Credit: Public Domain, via Wikimedia Commons

Was it humankind or climate change that caused the extinction of a considerable number of large mammals about the time of the last Ice Age? Researchers at Aarhus University have carried out the first global analysis of the extinction of the large animals, and the conclusion is clear — humans are to blame. A new study unequivocally points to humans as the cause of the mass extinction of large animals all over the world during the course of the last 100,000 years.

“Our results strongly underline the fact that human expansion throughout the world has meant an enormous loss of large animals,” says Postdoctoral Fellow Søren Faurby, Aarhus University.

Was it due to climate change?

For almost 50 years, scientists have been discussing what led to the mass extinction of large animals (also known as megafauna) during and immediately after the last Ice Age.

One of two leading theories states that the large animals became extinct as a result of climate change. There were significant climate changes, especially towards the end of the last Ice Age — just as there had been during previous Ice Ages — and this meant that many species no longer had the potential to find suitable habitats and they died out as a result. However, because the last Ice Age was just one in a long series of Ice Ages, it is puzzling that a corresponding extinction of large animals did not take place during the earlier ones.

Theory of overkill

The other theory concerning the extinction of the animals is ‘overkill’. Modern man spread from Africa to all parts of the world during the course of a little more than the last 100,000 years. In simple terms, the overkill hypothesis states that modern man exterminated many of the large animal species on arrival in the new continents. This was either because their populations could not withstand human hunting, or for indirect reasons such as the loss of their prey, which were also hunted by humans.

First global mapping

In their study, the researchers produced the first global analysis and relatively fine-grained mapping of all the large mammals (with a body weight of at least 10 kg) that existed during the period 132,000-1,000 years ago — the period during which the extinction in question took place. They were thus able to study the geographical variation in the percentage of large species that became extinct on a much finer scale than previously achieved.

The researchers found that a total of 177 species of large mammals disappeared during this period — a massive loss. Africa ‘only’ lost 18 species and Europe 19, while Asia lost 38 species, Australia and the surrounding area 26, North America 43 and South America a total of 62 species of large mammals.

The extinction of the large animals took place in virtually all climate zones and affected cold-adapted species such as woolly mammoths, temperate species such as forest elephants and giant deer, and tropical species such as giant cape buffalo and some giant sloths. It was observed on virtually every continent, although a particularly large number of animals became extinct in North and South America, where species including sabre-toothed cats, mastodons, giant sloths and giant armadillos disappeared, and in Australia, which lost animals such as giant kangaroos, giant wombats and marsupial lions. There were also fairly large losses in Europe and Asia, including a number of elephants, rhinoceroses and giant deer.

Weak climate effect

The results show that the correlation between climate change — i.e. the variation in temperature and precipitation between glacials and interglacials — and the loss of megafauna is weak, and can only be seen in one sub-region, namely Eurasia (Europe and Asia). “The significant loss of megafauna all over the world can therefore not be explained by climate change, even though it has definitely played a role as a driving force in changing the distribution of some species of animals. Reindeer and polar foxes were found in Central Europe during the Ice Age, for example, but they withdrew northwards as the climate became warmer,” says Postdoctoral Fellow Christopher Sandom, Aarhus University.

Extinction linked to humans

On the other hand, the results show a very strong correlation between the extinction and the history of human expansion. “We consistently find very large rates of extinction in areas where there had been no contact between wildlife and primitive human races, and which were suddenly confronted by fully developed modern humans (Homo sapiens). In general, at least 30% of the large species of animals disappeared from all such areas,” says Professor Jens-Christian Svenning, Aarhus University.

The researchers’ geographical analysis thereby points very strongly at humans as the cause of the loss of most of the large animals.

The results also draw a straight line from the prehistoric extinction of large animals via the historical regional or global extermination due to hunting (American bison, European bison, quagga, Eurasian wild horse or tarpan, and many others) to the current critical situation for a considerable number of large animals as a result of poaching and hunting (e.g. the rhino poaching epidemic).

Journal Reference:

  1. C. Sandom, S. Faurby, B. Sandel, J.-C. Svenning. Global late Quaternary megafauna extinctions linked to humans, not climate changeProceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences, 2014; 281 (1787): 20133254 DOI:10.1098/rspb.2013.3254

Extinção de espécies está dez mil vezes mais veloz do que se imaginava, alerta pesquisa (O Globo)

JC e-mail 4963, de 30 de maio de 2014

Ação humana sobre a natureza é tão destruidora quanto o fenômeno que causou o fim dos dinossauros

A ação humana acelerou em mil vezes a extinção de espécies, de acordo com um estudo publicado esta semana na revista “Science”. Novas tecnologias para mapear o desmatamento e a destruição de habitats permitiram uma revisão dos números que serviam como base para encontros internacionais, como a Convenção sobre Diversidade Biológica (CBD).

Se não houver ações urgentes, o impacto provocado pelo homem no meio ambiente causaria a sexta maior extinção em massa da História do planeta – uma das anteriores foi o desaparecimento dos dinossauros.

Não é simples estimar quantas espécies foram extintas desde o início do século XX, já que, segundo estimativas, apenas 3,6% delas são conhecidas pelos cientistas. Para calcular a velocidade das extinções, os cientistas criaram um modelo matemático levando em conta o percentual de desaparição das espécies conhecidas em relação a sua população total e extrapolaram os resultados.

O estudo defende que a Lista Vermelha de Espécies Ameaçadas seja radicalmente ampliada – a publicação abrigaria 160 mil espécies que correm o risco de extinção, em vez de 70 mil, como ocorre hoje. Esta atualização da listagem pode levar à criação de novas políticas de conservação ambiental.

– Hoje temos novas tecnologias para detectar o desmatamento e analisar o deslocamento de cada espécie – avalia Clinton Jones, coautor do estudo e pesquisador do Instituto de Pesquisas Ecológicas do Brasil (Ipê). – A maioria vive fora das áreas protegidas, por isso a compreensão da mudança de seus ecossistemas é vital. É uma oportunidade para atualizar mapas sobre os impactos e as ameaças a cada área.

Coautor do levantamento, Stuart Limm, professor de Ecologia de Conservação da Universidade de Duke (EUA), ressalta que ainda existe uma “cratera” entre o que os pesquisadores sabem e o que ignoram sobre a biodiversidade do planeta. A tecnologia, no entanto, está preenchendo este espaço, além de estender o acesso a dados científicos para amadores. Bancos de dados on-line e até aplicativos de smartphones facilitam a identificação de espécies.

– Quando combinamos informações sobre o uso da terra com as observações de milhões de cientistas amadores, conseguimos acompanhar melhor a biodiversidade e suas ameaças – assinala. – No entanto, precisamos desenvolver tecnologias ainda mais sofisticadas para sabermos qual é a taxa de extinção das espécies.

Espaço restrito
O homem eliminou os principais predadores e outras grandes espécies. As savanas africanas, por exemplo, já cobriram 13,5 milhões de km². Agora, os leões dispõem de somente 1 milhão de km². Trata-se de um exemplo de como a restrição do espaço colabora para as extinções.

– Sabemos que muitas espécies terrestres ocupam pequenas áreas, algumas menores do que o Estado do Rio. – alerta Jones. – Espécies distribuídas em pequenas regiões estão mais vulneráveis à extinção. Precisamos concentrar nossos projetos de conservação nestes locais.

Um dos pontos mais críticos é a Mata Atlântica, uma das 34 regiões do planeta onde há maior número de espécies exclusivas – ou seja, aquelas que só ocorrem naquele local – enfrentando risco de extinção.

– A floresta remanescente está degradada e há muitas espécies exclusivas em todos os seus ambientes, do solo às montanhas – destaca Jones. – Sua preservação deve ser uma prioridade mundial.

Os oceanos são ainda menos preservados. Somente 2% de suas espécies seriam conhecidas.

(Renato Grandelle / O Globo)
http://oglobo.globo.com/sociedade/ciencia/extincao-de-especies-esta-dez-mil-vezes-mais-veloz-do-que-se-imaginava-alerta-pesquisa-12655770#ixzz33Cw1T5yR

Outra matéria sobre o assunto:

Folha de São Paulo
Homem acelerou ritmo de extinções em mil vezes
http://www1.folha.uol.com.br/fsp/cienciasaude/168399-homem-acelerou-ritmo-de-extincoes-em-mil-vezes.shtml

Projeto avalia impacto da ocupação humana em florestas tropicais (Fapesp)

Mais de 40 pesquisadores brasileiros e britânicos se unem em força-tarefa para estudar áreas alteradas pelo homem na Mata Atlântica e na Amazônia (foto: Wikipedia)
30/05/2014

Por Karina Toledo

Agência FAPESP – Entender como a crescente ocupação da floresta tropical pelo homem poderá impactar a biodiversidade, os serviços ecossistêmicos e o clima local e global é o principal objetivo do Projeto Temático “ECOFOR: Biodiversidade e funcionamento de ecossistemas em áreas alteradas pelo homem nas Florestas Amazônica e Atlântica”, que reúne mais de 40 pesquisadores brasileiros e britânicos.

A pesquisa é realizada no âmbito do programa de pesquisa colaborativa “Human Modified Tropical Forests (Florestas Tropicais Modificadas pelo Homem)”, lançado em 2012 pela FAPESP e pelo Natural Environment Research Council (NERC), um dos Conselhos de Pesquisa do Reino Unido (RCUK, na sigla em inglês).

A equipe, formada por 16 pesquisadores sêniores, seis pós-doutorandos, 12 colaboradores e nove estudantes, esteve reunida pela primeira vez entre os dias 26 e 29 de março na cidade de São Luiz do Paraitinga, no Vale do Paraíba (SP).

“Nessa primeira reunião, definimos detalhadamente os protocolos de trabalho. A ideia é que todos os dados sejam gerados com a mesma metodologia, de forma que seja possível integrá-los em um modelo do impacto da fragmentação sobre a biodiversidade e os serviços ecossistêmicos. Foi o grande pontapé inicial do projeto”, contou Carlos Alfredo Joly, professor da Universidade Estadual de Campinas (Unicamp) e coordenador do Programa de Pesquisas em Caracterização, Conservação, Restauração e Uso Sustentável da Biodiversidade (BIOTA-FAPESP).

De acordo com Joly, toda a coleta de dados será realizada no Brasil. A equipe brasileira estará concentrada principalmente em regiões de Mata Atlântica situadas na Serra do Mar e na Serra da Mantiqueira, enquanto a equipe britânica centrará seu foco na Floresta Amazônica. Já a análise e a interpretação dos dados serão feitas de forma compartilhada tanto no Brasil como no Reino Unido.

“A ideia é ampliar significativamente a participação de estudantes brasileiros na pesquisa, que abre um leque de opções para trabalhos de mestrado e doutorado com alta possibilidade de realização de estágios no Reino Unido”, avaliou.

Segundo Jos Barlow, pesquisador da Lancaster University (Reino Unido) e coordenador do projeto ao lado de Joly, alguns estudantes britânicos também planejam fazer pós-doutorado em instituições paulistas.

“Os alunos e pós-doutorandos do Reino Unido vão precisar passar bastante tempo no Brasil, onde será feita toda a coleta de dados. Ou então focar seu trabalho na análise de dados de sensoriamento remoto e sistemas de informações geográficas (SIG). E, claro, os resultados serão publicados em conjunto, com a liderança vinda de ambos os países”, disse.

Malásia

O trabalho de investigação na Floresta Amazônica e na Mata Atlântica correrá em paralelo a outro projeto financiado pelo NERC desde 2009 em Bornéu, na Malásia. Nesse caso, o objetivo é estudar e comparar áreas de floresta primária (bem conservadas), áreas com exploração seletiva de madeira e regiões que sofreram profunda fragmentação.

“Dentro do possível, os dados gerados aqui no Brasil deverão ser comparáveis aos dados gerados na Malásia. Para assegurar essa integração foi estabelecido um comitê que reúne pesquisadores dos dois projetos”, contou Joly.

“Não seguiremos exatamente o mesmo desenho da pesquisa desenvolvida na Malásia, pois aqui temos situações diferentes. Mas os dois projetos visam estudar como as mudanças no uso da terra, que inclui extração de madeira, queimadas e fragmentação do habitat, alteram o funcionamento da floresta tropical, principalmente no que se refere à ciclagem de matéria orgânica e de nutrientes. Também queremos avaliar como essas alterações estão relacionadas com os processos biofísicos, a biodiversidade e o clima”, explicou Simone Aparecida Vieira, pesquisadora do Núcleo de Estudos e Pesquisas Ambientais (Nepam) da Unicamp.

De acordo com Vieira, a equipe brasileira adotou o Parque Estadual da Serra do Mar como uma espécie de “área controle” da pesquisa e os dados lá coletados pelo Projeto Temático Biota Gradiente Funcional serão comparados com as informações oriundas dos fragmentos e das florestas secundárias existentes na região que vai de São Luiz do Paraitinga até a cidade de Extrema, em Minas Gerais.

“Na Amazônia, temos um grande conjunto de áreas em estudo. Um dos focos é a região de Paragominas, que tem um histórico de extração madeireira. E inclui também Santarém, onde vem avançando a agricultura, principalmente a soja”, contou Vieira.

Os pesquisadores farão inventários florestais, coletando dados como quantidade de biomassa viva acima do solo, densidade da madeira, diâmetro e altura das árvores, quantidade de serapilheira (camada formada por matéria orgânica morta em diferentes estágios de decomposição) e diversidade de espécies vegetais e animais.

“Um dos objetivos é investigar o estoque de carbono nessas áreas e de que forma ele é alterado com os diferentes usos. Depois vamos relacionar esse dado com a mudança em relação à diversidade de espécies que ocorrem nessas áreas, trabalhando principalmente com um levantamento de espécies de árvores e de aves”, explicou Vieira.

A coleta de dados deve seguir pelos próximos quatro anos. Na avaliação de Vieira, está sendo criada uma estrutura que poderá ser mantida após o término do projeto, se houver novo financiamento. “O ideal é acompanhar os processos de mudança no longo prazo para entender de fato como essas áreas estão se comportando diante das pressões humanas e das mudanças climáticas”, disse.

Joly concorda. “O projeto vai estabelecer uma rede intensiva de monitoramento de áreas que vão desde florestas intactas até florestas altamente fragmentadas e alteradas pelo homem. Isso permitirá avaliar as correlações entre biodiversidade e funcionamento de ecossistemas, tanto na escala local como regional e global – quando estiverem integrados os dados da Mata Atlântica, da Floresta Amazônica e da Malásia”, disse.

Os resultados obtidos, acrescentou Joly, permitirão também o aperfeiçoamento de políticas públicas para promover o pagamento de serviços ambientais, como os de proteção a recursos hídricos e de estoques de carbono.

Entre as instituições envolvidas na pesquisa estão Lancaster University, University of Oxford, University of Leeds, Imperial College London, University of Edinburgh, Unicamp, Universidade de São Paulo (USP), Instituto Agronômico de Campinas (IAC), Museu Paraense Emílio Goeldi, Empresa Brasileira de Pesquisa Agropecuária (Embrapa), Universidade de Taubaté e a Fundação Florestal da Secretaria do Meio Ambiente do Estado de São Paulo.

Fauna brasileira registra 1.051 espécies em extinção, ante 627 em 2003 (O Estado de São Paulo)

JC e-mail 4958, de 23 de maio de 2014

Coordenador do estudo disse que situação não piorou, pois ‘o universo analisado quintuplicou’; ministra do Meio Ambiente anunciou pacote de medidas para a fauna brasileira

O estudo Avaliação do Risco de Extinção da Fauna Brasileira, desenvolvido por 929 especialistas entre 2010 e 2014, mostra que atualmente 1.051 espécies de animais estão ameaçadas de extinção. Na primeira edição, de 2003, eram 627.

“A situação não piorou. O universo analisado quintuplicou, daí o aumento da lista”, afirmou o diretor de pesquisa, avaliação e monitoramento de biodiversidade do Instituto Chico Mendes, Marcelo Marcelino, responsável pela coordenação do trabalho.

Ao todo, foram avaliadas 7.647 espécies. Do total, 11 foram consideradas extintas, 121 tiveram sua situação agravada. A situação piorou, por exemplo, para o tatu-bola. “Seu habitat, a caatinga, vem sofrendo uma redução. Além disso, a espécie é muito vulnerável à caça”, completou. Para outras 126, a ameaça foi reduzida, mas ainda persiste.

O trabalho mostra que 77 espécies saíram da situação de risco – entre elas, a baleia Jubarte. Em 2012, foram contabilizados 15 mil indivíduos, quantidade significativamente maior do que os 9 mil encontrados em 2008. Duas espécies dos macacos uacaris e o peixe-grama também saíram da situação de perigo.

Os números foram apresentados nesta quinta-feira, 22, pela ministra do Meio Ambiente, Izabella Teixeira. Além do balanço, ela anunciou um pacote de medidas para tentar preservar a fauna brasileira. Entre as ações, está a moratória da pesca e comercialização da piracatinga, por cinco anos.

A regra, que começa a valer a partir de janeiro de 2015, tem como objetivo proteger o boto vermelho e jacarés, que são usados como isca. “Vamos criar um grupo para tentar encontrar alternativas a essa prática”, afirmou Izabella. A pesca acidental e comercialização de tubarão-martelo e lombo-preto também estão proibidas, a partir da agora. As duas medidas foram adotadas em parceria com o Ministério da Pesca e Aquicultura.

Izabella anunciou também a criação de uma força-tarefa de fiscalização, formada pelo Ibama, ICMBio e Polícia Federal para combater a caça de fauna ameaçada, como peixe-boi da Amazônia, boto cor-de-rosa, arara azul de lear, onça pintada, tatu-bola, tubarões, arraias de água doce e a extensão da bolsa verde para comunidades em situação de vulnerabilidade econômica em regiões consideradas relevantes para conservação de espécies ameaçadas de extinção. A bolsa será no valor de R$ 100 mensais.

(O Estado de São Paulo)
http://www.estadao.com.br/noticias/vida,fauna-brasileira-registra-1051-especies-em-extincao-ante-627-em-2003,1170125,0.htm

The Mammoth Cometh (New York Times Magazine)

Bringing extinct animals back to life is really happening — and it’s going to be very, very cool. Unless it ends up being very, very bad.

By NATHANIEL RICHFEB. 27, 2014

Photo

CreditStephen Wilkes for The New York Times; Woolly Mammoth, Royal BC Museum, Victoria, British Columbia

The first time Ben Novak saw a passenger pigeon, he fell to his knees and remained in that position, speechless, for 20 minutes. He was 16. At 13, Novak vowed to devote his life to resurrecting extinct animals. At 14, he saw a photograph of a passenger pigeon in an Audubon Society book and “fell in love.” But he didn’t know that the Science Museum of Minnesota, which he was then visiting with a summer program for North Dakotan high-school students, had them in their collection, so he was shocked when he came across a cabinet containing two stuffed pigeons, a male and a female, mounted in lifelike poses. He was overcome by awe, sadness and the birds’ physical beauty: their bright auburn breasts, slate-gray backs and the dusting of iridescence around their napes that, depending on the light and angle, appeared purple, fuchsia or green. Before his chaperones dragged him out of the room, Novak snapped a photograph with his disposable camera. The flash was too strong, however, and when the film was processed several weeks later, he was haunted to discover that the photograph hadn’t developed. It was blank, just a flash of white light.

In the decade since, Novak has visited 339 passenger pigeons — at the Burke Museum in Seattle, the Carnegie Museum of Natural History in Pittsburgh, the American Museum of Natural History in New York and Harvard’s Ornithology Department, which has 145 specimens, including eight pigeon corpses preserved in jars of ethanol, 31 eggs and a partly albino pigeon. There are 1,532 passenger-pigeon specimens left on Earth. On Sept. 1, 1914, Martha, the last captive passenger pigeon, died at the Cincinnati Zoo. She outlasted George, the penultimate survivor of her species and her only companion, by four years. As news spread of her species’ imminent extinction, Martha became a minor tourist attraction. In her final years, whether depressed or just old, she barely moved. Underwhelmed zoo visitors threw fistfuls of sand at her to elicit a reaction. When she finally died, her body was taken to the Cincinnati Ice Company, frozen in a 300-pound ice cube and shipped by train to the Smithsonian Institution, where she was stuffed and mounted and visited, 99 years later, by Ben Novak.

The fact that we can pinpoint the death of the last known passenger pigeon is one of many peculiarities that distinguish the species. Many thousands of species go extinct every year, but we tend to be unaware of their passing, because we’re unaware of the existence of most species. The passenger pigeon’s decline was impossible to ignore, because as recently as the 1880s, it was the most populous vertebrate in North America. It made up as much as 40 percent of the continent’s bird population. In “A Feathered River Across the Sky,” Joel Greenberg suggests that the species’ population “may have exceeded that of every other bird on earth.” In 1860, a naturalist observed a single flock that he estimated to contain 3,717,120,000 pigeons. By comparison, there are currently 260 million rock pigeons in existence. A single passenger-pigeon nesting ground once occupied an area as large as 850 square miles, or 37 Manhattans.

The species’ incredible abundance was an enticement to mass slaughter. The birds were hunted for their meat, which was sold by the ton (at the higher end of the market, Delmonico’s served pigeon cutlets); for their oil and feathers; and for sport. Even so, their rapid decline — from approximately five billion to extinction within a few decades — baffled most Americans. Science magazine published an article claiming that the birds had all fled to the Arizona desert. Others hypothesized that the pigeons had taken refuge in the Chilean pine forests or somewhere east of Puget Sound or in Australia. Another theory held that every passenger pigeon had joined a single megaflock and disappeared into the Bermuda Triangle.

Stewart Brand, who was born in Rockford, Ill., in 1938, has never forgotten the mournful way his mother spoke about passenger pigeons when he was a child. During summers, the Brands vacationed near the top of Michigan’s mitten, not far from Pigeon River, one of the hundreds of American places named after the species. (Michigan alone has four Pigeon Rivers, four Pigeon Lakes, two Pigeon Creeks, Pigeon Cove, Pigeon Hill and Pigeon Point). Old-timers told stories about the pigeon that to Brand assumed a mythic quality. They said that the flocks were so large they blotted out the sun.

Brand’s compassion for the natural world has taken many diverse forms, but none more broadly influential than the Whole Earth Catalog, which he founded in 1968 and edited until 1984. Brand has said that the catalog, a dense compendium of environmentalist tools and practices, among other things, “encouraged individual power.” As it turned out, Whole Earth’s success gave Brand more power than most individuals, allowing him intimate access to the world’s most imaginative thinkers and patrons wealthy enough to finance those thinkers’ most ambitious ideas. In the last two decades, several of these ideas have materialized under the aegis of the Long Now Foundation, a nonprofit organization that Brand helped to establish in 1996 to support projects designed to inspire “long-term responsibility.” Among these projects are a 300-foot-tall clock designed to tick uninterruptedly for the next 10,000 years, financed by a $42 million investment from the Amazon.com founder Jeff Bezos and situated inside an excavated mountain that Bezos owns near Van Horn, Tex.; and a disk of pure nickel inscribed with 1,500 languages that has been mounted on the Rosetta space probe, which this year is scheduled to land on Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko, 500 million miles from earth.

Three years ago Brand invited the zoologist Tim Flannery, a friend, to speak at Long Now’s Seminar About Long-Term Thinking, a monthly series held in San Francisco. The theme of the talk was “Is Mass Extinction of Life on Earth Inevitable?” In the question-and-answer period that followed, Brand, grasping for a silver lining, mentioned a novel approach to ecological conservation that was gaining wider public attention: the resurrection of extinct species, like the woolly mammoth, aided by new genomic technologies developed by the Harvard molecular biologist George Church. “It gives people hope when rewilding occurs — when the wolves come back, when the buffalo come back,” Brand said at the seminar. He paused. “I suppose we could get passenger pigeons back. I hadn’t thought of that before.”

‘One or two mammoths is not a success. 100,000 mammoths is a success.’ – STEWART BRAND

Brand became obsessed with the idea. Reviving an extinct species was exactly the kind of ambitious, interdisciplinary and slightly loopy project that appealed to him. Three weeks after his conversation with Flannery, Brand sent an email to Church and the biologist Edward O. Wilson:

Dear Ed and George . . .

The death of the last passenger pigeon in 1914 was an event that broke the public’s heart and persuaded everyone that extinction is the core of humanity’s relation with nature.

George, could we bring the bird back through genetic techniques? I recall chatting with Ed in front of a stuffed passenger pigeon at the Comparative Zoology Museum [at Harvard, where Wilson is a faculty emeritus], and I know of other stuffed birds at the Smithsonian and in Toronto, presumably replete with the requisite genes. Surely it would be easier than reviving the woolly mammoth, which you have espoused.

The environmental and conservation movements have mired themselves in a tragic view of life. The return of the passenger pigeon could shake them out of it — and invite them to embrace prudent biotechnology as a Green tool instead of menace in this century. . . . I would gladly set up a nonprofit to fund the passenger pigeon revival. . . .

Wild scheme. Could be fun. Could improve things. It could, as they say, advance the story.

Photo

Passenger Pigeon Extinct 1914. Billions of the pigeons were alive just a few decades earlier. Like the other animals shown here, it has been proposed for de-extinction projects. Credit Stephen Wilkes for The New York Times. Passenger pigeon, Museum of Comparative Zoology, Harvard University.

What do you think?

In less than three hours, Church responded with a detailed plan to return “a flock of millions to billions” of passenger pigeons to the planet.

In February 2012, Church hosted a symposium at Harvard Medical School called “Bringing Back the Passenger Pigeon.” Church gave a demonstration of his new genome-editing technology, and other biologists and avian specialists expressed enthusiasm for the idea. “De-extinction went from concept to potential reality right before our eyes,” said Ryan Phelan, Brand’s wife, an entrepreneur who founded an early consumer medical-genetics company. “We realized that we could do it not only for the passenger pigeon, but for other species. There was so much interest and so many ideas that we needed to create an infrastructure around it. It was like, ‘Oh, my God, look at what we’ve unleashed.’ ” Phelan, 61, became executive director of the new project, which they named Revive & Restore.

Several months later, the National Geographic Society hosted a larger conference to debate the scientific and ethical questions raised by the prospect of “de-extinction.” Brand and Phelan invited 36 of the world’s leading genetic engineers and biologists, among them Stanley Temple, a founder of conservation biology; Oliver Ryder, director of the San Diego Zoo’s Frozen Zoo, which stockpiles frozen cells of endangered species; and Sergey Zimov, who has created an experimental preserve in Siberia called Pleistocene Park, which he hopes to populate with woolly mammoths.

To Brand’s idea that the pigeon project would provide “a beacon of hope for conservation,” conference attendees added a number of ecological arguments in support of de-extinction. Just as the loss of a species decreases the richness of an ecosystem, the addition of new animals could achieve the opposite effect. The grazing habits of mammoths, for instance, might encourage the growth of a variety of grasses, which could help to protect the Arctic permafrost from melting — a benefit with global significance, as the Arctic permafrost contains two to three times as much carbon as the world’s rain forests. “We’ve framed it in terms of conservation,” Brand told me. “We’re bringing back the mammoth to restore the steppe in the Arctic. One or two mammoths is not a success. 100,000 mammoths is a success.”

A less scientific, if more persuasive, argument was advanced by the ethicist Hank Greely and the law professor Jacob Sherkow, both of Stanford. De-extinction should be pursued, they argued in a paper published in Science, because it would be really cool. “This may be the biggest attraction and possibly the biggest benefit of de-extinction. It would surely be very cool to see a living woolly mammoth.”

‘I appreciated his devotion to the bird, but I worried that his zeal might interfere with his ability to do serious science.’ – BETH SHAPIRO

Ben Novak needed no convincing. When he heard that Revive & Restore had decided to resurrect the passenger pigeon, he sent an email to Church, who forwarded it to Brand and Phelan. “Passenger pigeons have been my passion in life for a very long time,” Novak wrote. “Any way I can be part of this work would be my honor.”

Behind the biohazard signs and double-encoded security doors that mark the entrance of the paleogenomics lab at the University of California, Santa Cruz, I found no mastodon tusks, dinosaur eggs or mosquitoes trapped in amber — only a sterile, largely empty room in which Novak and several graduate students were busy checking their Gmail accounts. The only visible work in progress was Metroplex, a giant Transformers figurine that Novak constructed, which was hunched over his keyboard like a dead robot.

Novak, who is 27, hastened to assure me that the construction of the passenger-pigeon genome was also underway. In fact, it had been for years. Beth Shapiro, one of the scientists who runs the lab, began to sequence the species’ DNA in 2001, a decade before Brand had his big idea. The sequencing process is now in its data-analysis phase, which leaves Novak, who studied ecology in college, but has no advanced scientific degrees, time to consult on academic papers about de-extinction, write his own paper about the ecological relationship between passenger pigeons and chestnut trees and correspond with the scientists behind the world’s other species-resurrection efforts. These include the Uruz project, which is selectively breeding cattle to create a new subspecies that resembles aurochs, a form of wild ox, extinct since 1627; a group hoping to use genetic methods to revive the heath hen, extinct since 1932; and the Lazarus Project, which is trying to revive an Australian frog, extinct for 30 years, that gave birth through its mouth.

As Brand and Phelan’s only full-time employee at Revive & Restore, Novak fields emails sent by scientists eager to begin work on new candidates for de-extinction, like the California grizzly bear, the Carolina parakeet, the Tasmanian tiger, Steller’s sea cow and the great auk, which hasn’t been seen since 1844, when the last two known members of its species were strangled by Icelandic fishermen. Because de-extinction requires collaboration from a number of different disciplines, Phelan sees Revive & Restore as a “facilitator,” helping to connect geneticists, molecular biologists, synthetic biologists and conservation biologists. She also hopes that Revive & Restore’s support will enable experimental projects to proceed. She and Novak realize that the new discipline of de-extinction will advance regardless of their involvement, but, she says, “We just want it to happen responsibly.”

When Novak joined Shapiro’s lab, he knew nothing about Santa Cruz and nobody there. A year later, apart from an occasional dinner on the Brands’ tugboat in Sausalito, little has changed. Novak is largely left alone with his thoughts and his dead animals. But it has always been this way for Novak, who grew up in a house three miles from his closest neighbor, halfway between Williston, the eighth-largest city in North Dakota, and Alexander, which has a population of 269. As a boy, Novak often took solitary hikes through the badlands near his home, exploring a vast petrified forest that runs through the Sentinel Butte formation. Fifty million years ago, that part of western North Dakota resembled the Florida Everglades. Novak frequently came across vertebrae, phalanges and rib fragments of extinct crocodiles and champsosaurs.

This was two hours north of Elkhorn Ranch, where Theodore Roosevelt developed the theories about wildlife protection that led to the preservation of 230 million acres of land. The local schools emphasized conservation in their science classes. In sixth grade, Novak was astonished to learn that he was living in the middle of a mass extinction. (Scientists predict that changes made by human beings to the composition of the atmosphere could kill off a quarter of the planet’s mammal species, a fifth of its reptiles and a sixth of its birds by 2050.) “I felt a certain amount of solidarity with these species,” he told me. “Maybe because I spent so much time alone.”

Photo

Great Auk Not seen since 1844, when Icelandic fishermen strangled the last known survivors. Credit Stephen Wilkes for The New York Times. Great Auk, Museum of Comparative Zoology, Harvard University.

After graduating from Montana State University in Bozeman, Novak applied to study under Beth Shapiro, who had already begun to sequence passenger-pigeon DNA. He was rejected. “I appreciated his devotion to the bird,” she told me, “but I worried that his zeal might interfere with his ability to do serious science.” Novak instead entered a graduate program at the McMaster Ancient DNA Center in Hamilton, Ontario, where he worked on the sequencing of mastodon DNA. But he remained obsessed by passenger pigeons. He decided that, if he couldn’t join Shapiro’s lab, he would sequence the pigeon’s genome himself. He needed tissue samples, so he sent letters to every museum he could find that possessed the stuffed specimens. He was denied more than 30 times before Chicago’s Field Museum sent him a tiny slice of a pigeon’s toe. A lab in Toronto conducted the sequencing for a little more than $2,500, which Novak raised from his family and friends. He had just begun to analyze the data when he learned about Revive & Restore.

After Novak was hired, Shapiro offered him office space at the U.C.S.C. paleogenomics lab, where he could witness the sequencing work as it happened. Now, when asked what he does for a living, Novak says that his job is to resurrect the passenger pigeon.

Novak is tall, solemn, polite and stiff in conversation, until the conversation turns to passenger pigeons, which it always does. One of the few times I saw him laugh was when I asked whether de-extinction might turn out to be impossible. He reminded me that it has already happened. More than 10 years ago, a team that included Alberto Fernández-Arias (now a Revive & Restore adviser) resurrected a bucardo, a subspecies of mountain goat also known as the Pyrenean ibex, that went extinct in 2000. The last surviving bucardo was a 13-year-old female named Celia. Before she died — her skull was crushed by a falling tree — Fernández-Arias extracted skin scrapings from one of her ears and froze them in liquid nitrogen. Using the same cloning technology that created Dolly the sheep, the first cloned mammal, the team used Celia’s DNA to create embryos that were implanted in the wombs of 57 goats. One of the does successfully brought her egg to term on July 30, 2003. “To our knowledge,” wrote the scientists, “this is the first animal born from an extinct subspecies.” But it didn’t live long. After struggling to breathe for several minutes, the kid choked to death.

This cloning method, called somatic cell nuclear transfer, can be used only on species for which we have cellular material. For species like the passenger pigeon that had the misfortune of going extinct before the advent of cryopreservation, a more complicated process is required. The first step is to reconstruct the species’ genome. This is difficult, because DNA begins to decay as soon as an organism dies. The DNA also mixes with the DNA of other organisms with which it comes into contact, like fungus, bacteria and other animals. If you imagine a strand of DNA as a book, then the DNA of a long-dead animal is a shuffled pile of torn pages, some of the scraps as long as a paragraph, others a single sentence or just a few words. The scraps are not in the right order, and many of them belong to other books. And the book is an epic: The passenger pigeon’s genome is about 1.2 billion base pairs long. If you imagine each base pair as a word, then the book of the passenger pigeon would be four million pages long.

There is a shortcut. The genome of a closely related species will have a high proportion of identical DNA, so it can serve as a blueprint, or “scaffold.” The passenger pigeon’s closest genetic relative is the band-tailed pigeon, which Shapiro is now sequencing. By comparing the fragments of passenger-pigeon DNA with the genomes of similar species, researchers can assemble an approximation of an actual passenger-pigeon genome. How close an approximation, it will be impossible to know. As with any translation, there may be errors of grammar, clumsy phrases and perhaps a few missing passages, but the book will be legible. It should, at least, tell a good story.

Shapiro hopes to complete this part of the process in the coming months. At that point, the researchers will have, on their hard drives, a working passenger-pigeon genome. If you opened the file on a computer screen, you would see a chain of 1.2 billion letters, all of them A, G, C or T. Shapiro hopes to publish an analysis of the genome by Sept. 1, in time for the centenary of Martha’s death.

Photo

Woolly Mammoth Became extinct about 4,000 years ago. Credit Stephen Wilkes for The New York Times; Woolly Mammoth, Royal BC Museum, Victoria, British Columbia

That, unfortunately, is the easy part. Next the genome will have to be inscribed into a living cell. This is even more complicated than it sounds. Molecular biologists will begin by trying to culture germ cells from a band-tailed pigeon. Cell culturing is the process by which living tissue is made to grow in a petri dish. Bird cells can be especially difficult to culture. They strongly prefer not to exist outside of a body. “For birds,” Novak said, “this is the hump to get over.” But it is largely a question of trial and error — a question, in other words, of time, which Revive & Restore has in abundance.

Should scientists succeed in culturing a band-tailed-pigeon germ cell, they will begin to tinker with its genetic code. Biologists describe this as a “cut-and-paste job.” They will replace chunks of band-tailed-pigeon DNA with synthesized chunks of passenger-pigeon DNA, until the cell’s genome matches their working passenger-pigeon genome. They will be aided in this process by a fantastical new technology, invented by George Church, with the appropriately runic name of MAGE (Multiplex Automated Genome Engineering). MAGE is nicknamed the “evolution machine” because it can introduce the equivalent of millions of years of genetic mutations within minutes. After MAGE works its magic, scientists will have in their petri dishes living passenger-pigeon cells, or at least what they will call passenger-pigeon cells.

The biologists would next introduce these living cells into a band-tailed-pigeon embryo. No hocus-pocus is involved here: You chop off the top of a pigeon egg, inject the passenger-pigeon cells inside and cover the hole with a material that looks like Saran wrap. The genetically engineered germ cells integrate into the embryo; into its gonads, to be specific. When the chick hatches, it should look and act like a band-tailed pigeon. But it will have a secret. If it is a male, it carries passenger-pigeon sperm; if it is a female, its eggs are passenger-pigeon eggs. These creatures — band-tailed pigeons on the outside and passenger pigeons on the inside — are called “chimeras” (from the Middle English for “wild fantasy”). Chimeras would be bred with one another in an effort to produce passenger pigeons. Novak hopes to observe the birth of his first passenger-pigeon chick by 2020, though he suspects 2025 is more likely.

At that point, the de-extinction process would move from the lab to the coop. Developmental and behavioral biologists would take over, just in time to answer some difficult questions. Chicks imitate their parents’ behavior. How do you raise a passenger pigeon without parents of its own species? And how do you train band-tailed pigeons to nurture the strange spawn that emerge from their eggs; chicks that, to them, might seem monstrous: an avian Rosemary’s Baby?

Despite the genetic similarity between the two pigeon species, significant differences remain. Band-tailed pigeons are a western bird and migrate vast distances north and south; passenger pigeons lived in the eastern half of the continent and had no fixed migration patterns. In order to ease the transition between band-tailed parents and passenger chicks, a Revive & Restore partner will soon begin to breed a flock of band-tailed pigeons to resemble passenger pigeons. They will try to alter the birds’ diets, migration habits and environment. The behavior of each subsequent generation will more closely resemble that of their genetic cousins. “Eventually,” Novak said, “we’ll have band-tailed pigeons that are faux-passenger-pigeon parents.” As unlikely as this sounds, there is a strong precedent; surrogate species have been used extensively in pigeon breeding.

During the breeding process, small modifications would be made to the genome in order to ensure genetic diversity within the new population. After three to five years, some of the birds would be moved to a large outdoor aviary, where they would be exposed to nature for the first time: trees, weather, bacteria. Small-population biologists will be consulted, as will biologists who study species reintroduction. Other animals would gradually be introduced into the aviary, one at a time. The pigeons would be transferred between aviaries to simulate their hopscotching migratory patterns. Ecologists will study how the birds affect their environment and are affected by it. After about 10 years, some of the birds in the aviary would be set free into the wild, monitored by G.P.S. chips implanted under their skin. The project will be considered a full success when the population in the wild is capable of perpetuating itself without the addition of new pigeons from the aviary. Novak expects this to occur as early as 25 years after the first birds are let into the wild, or 2060. And he hopes that he will be there to witness it.

‘Nature makes monsters. Nature makes threats. Many of the things that are most threatening to us are a product of nature.’ – DAVID HAUSSLER

While Novak’s pigeons are reproducing, Revive & Restore will have embarked on a parallel course with a number of other species, both extinct and endangered. Besides the woolly mammoth, candidates include the black-footed ferret, the Caribbean monk seal, the golden lion tamarin, the ivory-billed woodpecker and the northern white rhinoceros, a species that is down to its final handful of members. For endangered species with tiny populations, scientists would introduce genetic diversity to offset inbreeding. For species threatened by contagion, an effort would be made to fortify their DNA with genes that make them disease-resistant. Millions of North American bats have died in the past decade from white-nose syndrome, a disease named after a deadly fungus that was likely imported from Europe. Many European bat species appear to be immune to the fungus; if the gene responsible for this immunity is identified, one theory holds that it could be synthesized and injected into North American bats. The scientific term for this type of genetic intervention is “facilitated adaptation.” A better name for Revive & Restore would be Revive & Restore & Improve.

This optimistic, soft-focus fantasy of de-extinction, while thrilling to Ben Novak, is disturbing to many conservation biologists, who consider it a threat to their entire discipline and even to the environmental movement. At a recent Revive & Restore conference and in articles appearing in both the popular and academic press since then, they have articulated their litany of criticisms at an increasingly high pitch. In response, particularly in recent months, supporters of de-extinction have more aggressively begun to advance their counterarguments. “We have answers for every question,” Novak told me. “We’ve been thinking about this a long time.”

The first question posed by conservationists addresses the logic of bringing back an animal whose native habitat has disappeared. Why go through all the trouble just to have the animal go extinct all over again? While this criticism is valid for some species, the passenger pigeon should be especially well suited to survive in new habitats, because it had no specific native habitat to begin with. It was an opportunistic eater, devouring a wide range of nuts and acorns and flying wherever there was food.

There is also anxiety about disease. “Pathogens in the environment are constantly evolving, and animals are developing new immune systems,” said Doug Armstrong, a conservation biologist in New Zealand who studies the reintroduction of species. “If you recreate a species genetically and release it, and that genotype is based on a bird from a 100-year-old environment, you probably will increase risk.” A revived passenger pigeon might be a vector for modern diseases. But this concern, said David Haussler, the co-founder of the Genome 10K Project, is overblown. “There’s always this fear that somehow, if we do it, we’re going to accidentally make something horrible, because only nature can really do it right. But nature is totally random. Nature makes monsters. Nature makes threats. Many of the things that are most threatening to us are a product of nature. Revive & Restore is not going to tip the balance in any way.” (Some scientists have speculated that, by competing for acorns with rodents and deer, the passenger pigeon could bring about a decrease in Lyme disease.)

More pressing to conservationists is a practical anxiety: Money. De-extinction is a flashy new competitor for patronage. As the conservationist David Ehrenfeld said at a Revive & Restore conference: “If it works, de-extinction will only target a very few species and is extremely expensive. Will it divert conservation dollars from tried-and-true conservation measures that already work, which are already short of funds?” This argument can be made for any conservation strategy, says the ecologist Josh Donlan, an adviser to Revive & Restore. “In my view,” Donlan wrote in a paper that is scheduled to be published in the forthcoming issue of Frontiers of Biogeography, “[the] conservation strategies are not mutually exclusive — a point conservation scientists tend to overlook.” So far this prediction has held up. Much of the money spent so far for sequencing the passenger-pigeon genome has been provided by Beth Shapiro’s U.C.S.C. research budget. Revive & Restore’s budget, which was $350,000 last year, has been raised largely from tech millionaires who are not known for supporting ecological causes.

De-extinction also poses a rhetorical threat to conservation biologists. The specter of extinction has been the conservation movement’s most powerful argument. What if extinction begins to be seen as a temporary inconvenience? The ecologist Daniel Simberloff raised a related concern. “It’s at best a technofix dealing with a few species,” he told me. “Technofixes for environmental problems are band-aids for massive hemorrhages. To the extent that the public, who will never be terribly well informed on the larger issue, thinks that we can just go and resurrect a species, it is extremely dangerous. . . . De-extinction suggests that we can technofix our way out of environmental issues generally, and that’s very, very bad.”

Photo

The extinct heath hen, a candidate for resurrection. CreditStephen Wilkes for The New York Times. Heath hen: Museum of Comparative Zoology, Harvard University.

Ben Novak — who trails Simberloff in professional stature by a doctorate, hundreds of scientific publications and a pair of lifetime-achievement awards — rejects this view. “This is about an expansion of the field, not a reduction,” he says. “We get asked these big questions, but no one is asking people who work on elephants why they’re not working with giraffes, when giraffes need a lot more conservation work than elephants do. Nobody asks the people who work on rhinos why they aren’t working on the Arctic pollinators that are being devastated by climate change. The panda program rarely gets criticized, even though that project is completely pointless in the grand scheme of biodiversity on this planet, because the panda is a cute animal.” If the success of de-extinction, or even its failure, increases public awareness of the threats of mass extinction, Novak says, then it will have been a triumph.

How will we decide which species to resurrect? Some have questioned the logic of beginning with a pigeon. “Do you think that wealthy people on the East Coast are going to want billions of passenger pigeons flying over their freshly manicured lawns and just-waxed S.U.V.s?” asked Shapiro, whose involvement in the passenger-pigeon project will end once she finishes analyzing its genome. (She is writing a book about the challenges of de-extinction.) In an attempt to develop scientific criteria, the New Zealand zoologist Philip Seddon recently published a 10-point checklist to determine the suitability of any species for revival, taking into account causes of its extinction, possible threats it might face upon resurrection and man’s ability to destroy the species “in the event of unacceptable ecological or socioeconomic impacts.” If passenger pigeons, in other words, turn out to be an environmental scourge — if, following nature’s example, we create a monster — will we be able to kill them off? (The answer: Yes, we’ve done it before.)

But the most visceral argument against de-extinction is animal cruelty. Consider the 56 female mountain goats who were unable to bring to term the deformed bucardo embryos that were implanted in their wombs. Or the bucardo that was born and lived only a few minutes, gasping for breath, before dying of a lung deformity? “Is it fair to do this to these animals?” Shapiro asked. “Is ‘because we feel guilty’ a good-enough reason?” Stewart Brand made a utilitarian counterargument: “We’re going to go through some suffering, because you try a lot of times, and you get ones that don’t take. On the other hand, if you can bring bucardos back, then how many would get to live that would not have gotten to live?”

And, finally, what will the courts make of packs of woolly mammoths and millions of passenger pigeons let loose on the continent? In “How to Permit Your Mammoth,” published in The Stanford Environmental Law Journal, Norman F. Carlin asks whether revived species should be protected by the Endangered Species Act or regulated as a genetically modified organism. He concludes that revived species, “as products of human ingenuity,” should be eligible for patenting.

This question of “human ingenuity” approaches one of the least commented upon but most significant points about de-extinction. The term “de-extinction” is misleading. Passenger pigeons will not rise from the grave. Instead, band-tailed-pigeon DNA will be altered to resemble passenger-pigeon DNA. But we won’t know how closely the new pigeon will resemble the extinct pigeon until it is born; even then, we’ll only be able to compare physical characteristics with precision. Our understanding of the passenger pigeon’s behavior derives entirely from historical accounts. While many of these, including John James Audubon’s chapter on the pigeon in “Ornithological Biography,” are vividly written, few are scientific in nature. “There are a million things that you cannot predict about an organism just from having its genome sequence,” said Ed Green, a biomolecular engineer who works on genome-sequencing technology in the U.C.S.C. paleogenomics lab. Shapiro said: “It’s just one guess. And it’s not even a very good guess.”

Shapiro is no more sanguine about the woolly-mammoth project. “You’re never going to get a genetic clone of a mammoth,” she said. “What’s going to happen, I imagine, is that someone, maybe George Church, is going to insert some genes into the Asian-elephant genome that make it slightly hairier. That would be just a tiny portion of the genome manipulated, but a few years later, you have a thing born that is an elephant, only hairier, and the press will write, ‘George Church has cloned a mammoth!’ ” Church, though he plans to do more than just alter the gene for hairiness, concedes the point. “I would like to have an elephant that likes the cold weather,” he told me. “Whether you call it a ‘mammoth’ or not, I don’t care.”

Photo

Tasmanian Tiger Also known as the thylacine, it was last spotted in Tasmania in 1930.CreditStephen Wilkes for The New York Times. Tasmanian Tiger, Mammalogy Department, American Museum of Natural History.

There is no authoritative definition of “species.” The most widely accepted definition describes a group of organisms that can procreate with one another and produce fertile offspring, but there are many exceptions. De-extinction operates under a different definition altogether. Revive & Restore hopes to create a bird that interacts with its ecosystem as the passenger pigeon did. If the new bird fills the same ecological niche, it will be successful; if not, back to the petri dish. “It’s ecological resurrection, not species resurrection,” Shapiro says. A similar logic informs the restoration of Renaissance paintings. If you visit “The Last Supper” in the refectory of the Convent of Santa Maria delle Grazie in Milan, you won’t see a single speck of paint from the brush of Leonardo da Vinci. You will see a mural with the same proportions and design as the original, and you may feel the same sense of awe as the refectory’s parishioners felt in 1498, but the original artwork disappeared centuries ago. Philosophers call this Theseus’ Paradox, a reference to the ship that Theseus sailed back to Athens from Crete after he had slain the Minotaur. The ship, Plutarch writes, was preserved by the Athenians, who “took away the old planks as they decayed, putting in new and stronger timber in their place.” Theseus’ ship, therefore, “became a standing example among the philosophers . . . one side holding that the ship remained the same, and the other contending that it was not the same.”

What does it matter whether Passenger Pigeon 2.0 is a real passenger pigeon or a persuasive impostor? If the new, synthetically created bird enriches the ecology of the forests it populates, few people, including conservationists, will object. The genetically adjusted birds would hardly be the first aspect of the deciduous forest ecosystem to bear man’s influence; invasive species, disease, deforestation and a toxic atmosphere have engineered forests that would be unrecognizable to the continent’s earliest European settlers. When human beings first arrived, the continent was populated by camels, eight-foot beavers and 550-pound ground sloths. “People grow up with this idea that the nature they see is ‘natural,’ ” Novak says, “but there’s been no real ‘natural’ element to the earth the entire time humans have been around.”

The earth is about to become a lot less “natural.” Biologists have already created new forms of bacteria in the lab, modified the genetic code of countless living species and cloned dogs, cats, wolves and water buffalo, but the engineering of novel vertebrates — of breathing, flying, defecating pigeons — will represent a milestone for synthetic biology. This is the fact that will overwhelm all arguments against de-extinction. Thanks, perhaps, to “Jurassic Park,” popular sentiment already is behind it. (“That movie has done a lot for de-extinction,” Stewart Brand told me in all earnestness.) In a 2010 poll by the Pew Research Center, half of the respondents agreed that “an extinct animal will be brought back.” Among Americans, belief in de-extinction trails belief in evolution by only 10 percentage points. “Our assumption from the beginning has been that this is coming anyway,” Brand said, “so what’s the most benign form it can take?”

What is coming will go well beyond the resurrection of extinct species. For millenniums, we have customized our environment, our vegetables and our animals, through breeding, fertilization and pollination. Synthetic biology offers far more sophisticated tools. The creation of novel organisms, like new animals, plants and bacteria, will transform human medicine, agriculture, energy production and much else. De-extinction “is the most conservative, earliest application of this technology,” says Danny Hillis, a Long Now board member and a prolific inventor who pioneered the technology that is the basis for most supercomputers. Hillis mentioned Marshall McLuhan’s observation that the content of a new medium is the old medium: that each new technology, when first introduced, recreates the familiar technology it will supersede. Early television shows were filmed radio shows. Early movies were filmed stage plays. Synthetic biology, in the same way, may gain widespread public acceptance through the resurrection of lost animals for which we have nostalgia. “Using the tool to recreate old things,” Hillis said, “is a much more comfortable way to get engaged with the power of the tool.”

“By the end of this decade we’ll seem incredibly conservative,” Brand said. “A lot of this stuff is going to become part of the standard tool kit. I would guess that within a decade or two, most of the major conservation organizations will have de-extinction as part of the portfolio of their activities.” He said he hoped to see the birth of a baby woolly mammoth in his lifetime. The opening line of the first Whole Earth Catalog was “We are as gods and might as well get good at it.” Brand has revised this motto to: “We are as gods and HAVE to get good at it.” De-extinction is a good way to practice.

A passion for bringing a lost pigeon back to life is hardly inconsistent with scientific inquiry. Ben Novak insists that he is motivated purely by ecological concerns. “To some people, it might be about making some crazy new pet or zoo animal, but that’s not our organization,” he told me. The scientists who work beside him in the paleogenomics lab — who hear his daily passenger-pigeon rhapsodies — suspect a second motivation. “I’m a biologist, I’ve seen people passionate about animals before,” Andre Soares, a young Brazilian member of Shapiro’s staff, said, “but I’ve never seen anyone this passionate.” He laughed. “It’s not like he ever saw the pigeon flying around. And it’s not like a dinosaur, a massive beast that walked around millions of years ago. No, it’s just a pigeon. I don’t know why he loves them so much.”

I repeated what Novak told me, that the passenger-pigeon project was “all under the framework of conservation.” Soares shook his head. “I think the birds are his thing,” he said.

Ed Green, the biomolecular engineer down the hall, was more succinct. “The passenger pigeon,” he said, “makes Ben want to write poetry.”

Nathaniel Rich is a contributing writer and the author, most recently, of “Odds Against Tomorrow,” a novel.

Editor: Jon Kelly

Acústica ecológica, medida para a biodiversidade (O Globo)

Especialista na gravação de sons naturais, o músico e naturalista americano Bernie Krause prova que a paisagem sonora de um ambiente tem muito a informar sobre o seu equilíbrio

BOLÍVAR TORRES

Publicado:28/01/14 – 8h00 / Atualizado:28/01/14 – 14h47

<br />Bernie Krause. Músico largou as vaidades de Hollywood para se dedicar às paisagens sonoras e à acústica ecológica<br />Foto: Terceiro / Divulgação/Tim ChapmanBernie Krause. Músico largou as vaidades de Hollywood para se dedicar às paisagens sonoras e à acústica ecológica Terceiro / Divulgação/Tim Chapman

RIO – Em um longínquo verão de 1988, o músico e naturalista americano Bernie Krause teve uma experiência reveladora. Um dos maiores especialistas do mundo em sons naturais, ele ganhou permissão para registrar a paisagem sonora de Lincoln Meadow, uma área de manejo florestal californiana localizada a três horas e meia de São Francisco, antes e depois de uma extração seletiva. Munidos de estudos prévios, a madeireira responsável e os biólogos locais tinham garantido à comunidade que os métodos de extração não causariam impactos ambientais, já que apenas poucas árvores seriam derrubadas.

Alguns dias antes do manejo, Krause instalou seu sistema de gravação na campina e registrou os sons do amanhecer. Uma rica música natural explodiu em seus fones de ouvido, executada por pica-paus, codornas, pardais e insetos de todos os tipos. Um ano depois, já com as árvores derrubadas, Krause regressou ao local, no mesmo dia do mesmo mês, à mesma hora e sob as mesmas condições meteorológicas.

Assim como prometeram os biólogos, a floresta parecia intacta. Aos olhos humanos, não havia sinais de deterioração. Porém, a nova “música” capturada pelo gravador revelava um cenário muito diferente. O que antes formava uma amplo mosaico sonoro, limitava-se agora a um punhado carente de ruídos, no qual se destacavam apenas o correr do rio e o martelar solitário de um pica-pau.

Com uma gravação de apenas alguns segundos, Krause acabara de comprovar que o som de um ambiente pode informar muito mais sobre seu equilíbrio do que fotografias ou imagens de satélite. Conhecido como “ecologia acústica” (soundscape ecology), o conceito se tornou hoje uma disciplina científica, da qual o músico é um dos pioneiros. Em resumo, a ideia consiste em usar a sonoridade dos organismos vivos não humanos (“biofonia”) e a de fontes não biológicas (“geofonia”) como indicadores de biodiversidade: quanto mais “musicais” e complexas as propriedades acústicas de um habitat, mais saudável ele será.

– As gravações biofônicas simplesmente confirmam nossas relações com o mundo natural – explica o músico, em entrevista por e-mail à Revista Amanhã. – Se elas são saudáveis, a paisagem sonora indicará os padrões necessários que confirmam em que grau essa relação existe. Se não são, então não haverá som em determinado habitat, ou os padrões bioacústicos serão caóticos e incoerentes.

Nascido em 1938, em Detroit, Bernie Krause passou mais da metade de seus 75 anos perseguindo sons naturais pelos quatro cantos do mundo. Depois de trabalhar com artistas como Bob Dylan, The Doors e Rolling Stones, e ajudar a criar efeitos de filmes como “Apocalipse Now” (do qual foi demitido e recontratado uma dezena de vezes durante as filmagens), o músico cansou das vaidades de Hollywood e passou a se dedicar exclusivamente à acústica ecológica. Fonte para numerosos discos e publicações, sua coleção inclui desde fontes não biológicas, como fragores de trovões e “cantos” de dunas de areia, aos mais improváveis sons de animais (vocalizações de larvas e grunhidos de anêmonas-do-mar). Um balanço destas experiências pode ser lido em “A grande orquestra da natureza”, seu último livro, publicado no Brasil pela Zahar, em 2013.

O trabalho de Krause representa um divisor de águas na história da paisagem sonora: antes da sua contribuição, a técnica consistia essencialmente em capturar fragmentos monofônicos de fontes isoladas, restringindo as pesquisas aos limites de cada vocalização. Como, por exemplo, quando uma equipe de ornitólogos registrou, em 1935, o canto do raríssimo pica-pau-bico-de-marfim. Se quisermos saber como soava esta criatura, hoje provavelmente extinta, temos a amostra gravada.

Com o músico e naturalista americano, no entanto, o escopo de pesquisa começou a ser ampliado. Ao explorar florestas equatoriais da África, Ásia e América Latina, Krause percebeu que o que nos chega da natureza é profundamente conectado. Como músicos em uma orquestra, as diferentes espécies harmonizam suas vocalizações, modulam em conjunto, de acordo com os sons naturais de fontes não biológicas (o vento, a água, o movimento da terra e da chuva) de cada habitat.

Assinatura acústica

Esta complexa acústica multidimensional precisava ser capturada como um todo, e Krause usou sua experiência na produção musical para modernizar os modelos de gravações, antes limitados a um só canal.

– Separar as vozes das espécies individuais, especialmente na biofonia, é um pouco como tentar entender a magnificência da quinta sinfonia de Beethoven abstraindo o som de um único violino, fora do contexto da orquestra, e ouvir apenas uma parte dela – compara Krause. – Ao fragmentar ou descontextualizar as paisagens sonoras do mundo natural, é impossível entender a sua voz, as razões de uma determinada vocalização, ou ainda a sua relação com todos os outros sons de animais emitidos em um habitat. Gravando todos os sons juntos, ao mesmo tempo, ganha-se uma explicação contextual.

Isso não significa, contudo, que Krause ignore vocalizações específicas. Pelo contrário. Cada organismo possui uma assinatura sonora própria, e seu arquivo reúne as mais variadas espécies de animais. Em “A grande orquestra da natureza”, ele descreve algumas curiosidades. Descobrimos a inacreditável amplitude sonora do camarão-pistola, que com apenas cinco centímetros é capaz de produzir, debaixo d’água, um barulho mais intenso do que os volumes registrados em shows de rock.

Também aprendemos que os lobos aproveitam a privilegiada ressonância e propagação da noite para vocalizar, ou que os sons dos golfinhos, se produzidos fora do ar, equivaleriam ao disparo de uma arma de grosso calibre.

Há ainda detalhes sobre uma das melodias mais bonitas que existem, gerada por casais de gibão da Indonésia. “Cada par desenvolve os próprios diálogos musicais bastante elaborados – duetos encantadores de entrosamento amoroso”, descreve Krause.

As gravações nos ajudam a entender manifestações emocionais de certos animais. Neste sentido, poucas coisas soam mais tristes do que o choro de um castor em luto.

O músico também compara as vocalizações de duas duplas de baleias – uma de um grupo ainda selvagem, outra cativa num parque temático. Enquanto a primeira apresentava sons cheios de energia e vitalidade, na segunda se destacava uma lentidão letárgica nas vocalizações.

Assim como acontece com os organismos vivos, cada fonte não biológica possui um ressonância peculiar. Para Krause, o mar de Ipanema, por exemplo, traz uma assinatura acústica diferente das de outras praias: “Sempre achei que o som sedutor, lento e ritmado dessas ondas me acolhia e me chamava para a tentadora arrebentação”, escreve. Por outro lado, ele conta que a arrebentação no litoral da Louisiana, no Golfo do México, passou a soar “gorgolejante, lamacenta e morosa, como se a água estivesse engasgada e afogada em si mesma” depois de um grande vazamento de petróleo em 2010.

Em “A grande orquestra da natureza”, Krause mostra que a conexão entre os mundos sonoros humano e não humano se perdeu. Nosso modo de vida não só nos priva da capacidade de escutar com atenção o que está ao redor, como ainda silencia a diversidade acústica dos recintos do planeta. O autor lembra que metade das fontes de seu arquivo, gravadas ao longo das últimas quatro décadas, se encontra hoje extinta por causa da intervenção humana. Em muitos desses lugares, as alterações sonoras acontecem num ritmo assustador, como as geleiras do Kilimanjaro e de Glacier Bay, ou os recifes de coral.

Segundo Krause, um sintoma deste divórcio com a natureza está na própria autorreferencialidade e antropocentrismo da música ocidental, que nos últimos séculos teria se alimentado apenas de suas próprias experiências. O que não acontece com muitos povos indígenas, como os ianomâmi, que usam as melodias da chuva caindo sobre a vegetação e outros ritmos geofônicos na sua música tradicional. Krause mostra como seres humanos que vivem intimamente ligados à floresta, como os bayaka na África, ou os kaluli em Papua-Nova Guiné, encontram na biofonia uma espécie de karaokê ecológico. Em suas performances, a natureza se transforma em uma banda de apoio. O que leva à conclusão óbvia de que a música humana teria se originado nas sonoridades do mundo natural.

– Como pré-requisito para concessão de um diploma, eu aconselharia qualquer instituição acadêmica que treina músicos e compositores se certificar de que cada aluno tem pelo menos um ano de experiência de escuta e gravação em habitats selvagens extremos, o mais afastado possível de áreas urbanas e antropofônicas – opina Krause.

Discoteca ecológica

Anêmona-do-mar: Emissora de sons incomuns, solta grunhidos altos e irritantes quando perturbada.

Castor: Uma das vocalizações mais tristes gravadas por Krause é a de um castor que acabara de perder sua companheira e filhotes e nadava em círculos gritando sua dor.

Vento: Por sua força mística, é um dos mais etéreos sons geofônicos.

Neve: Para quem se dedica ao registro sonoro da natureza, o som da neve caindo equivale a “um prato da alta gastronomia”, segundo Krause: difícil de conseguir, mas inigualável.

Ouça mais sons na página do livro “A grande orquestra da natureza”:http://bit.ly/orquestranatureza

Leia mais sobre esse assunto em http://oglobo.globo.com/ciencia/revista-amanha/acustica-ecologica-medida-para-biodiversidade-11416452#ixzz2ru9qYO5n 
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Major Reductions in Seafloor Marine Life from Climate Change by 2100 (Science Daily)

Dec. 31, 2013 — A new study quantifies for the first time future losses in deep-sea marine life, using advanced climate models. Results show that even the most remote deep-sea ecosystems are not safe from the impacts of climate change. 

Large animals (megafauna), such as this hydroid Corymorpha glacialis, are projected to suffer major declines under the latest climate change predictions. (Credit: National Oceanography Centre)

An international team of scientists predict seafloor dwelling marine life will decline by up to 38 per cent in the North Atlantic and over five per cent globally over the next century. These changes will be driven by a reduction in the plants and animals that live at the surface of the oceans that feed deep-sea communities. As a result, ecosystem services such as fishing will be threatened.

In the study, led by the National Oceanography Centre, the team used the latest suite of climate models to predict changes in food supply throughout the world oceans. They then applied a relationship between food supply and biomass calculated from a huge global database of marine life.

The results of the study are published this week in the scientific journal Global Change Biology.

These changes in seafloor communities are expected despite living on average four kilometres under the surface of the ocean. This is because their food source, the remains of surface ocean marine life that sink to the seafloor, will dwindle because of a decline in nutrient availability. Nutrient supplies will suffer because of climate impacts such as a slowing of the global ocean circulation, as well as increased separation between water masses — known as ‘stratification’ — as a result of warmer and rainier weather.

Lead author Dr Daniel Jones says: “There has been some speculation about climate change impacts on the seafloor, but we wanted to try and make numerical projections for these changes and estimate specifically where they would occur.

“We were expecting some negative changes around the world, but the extent of changes, particularly in the North Atlantic, were staggering. Globally we are talking about losses of marine life weighing more than every person on the planet put together.”

The projected changes in marine life are not consistent across the world, but most areas will experience negative change. Over 80 per cent of all identified key habitats — such as cold-water coral reefs, seamounts and canyons — will suffer losses in total biomass. The analysis also predicts that animals will get smaller. Smaller animals tend to use energy less efficiently, thereby impacting seabed fisheries and exacerbating the effects of the overall declines in available food.

The study was funded by the Natural Environment Research Council (NERC) as part of the Marine Environmental Mapping Programme (MAREMAP), and involved researchers from the National Oceanography Centre, the Memorial University of Newfoundland, Canada, the University of Tasmania, and the Laboratoire des Sciences du Climat et de l’Environnement, France.

Journal Reference:

  1. Daniel O. B. Jones, Andrew Yool, Chih-Lin Wei, Stephanie A. Henson, Henry A. Ruhl, Reg A. Watson, Marion Gehlen.Global reductions in seafloor biomass in response to climate changeGlobal Change Biology, 2013; DOI:10.1111/gcb.12480

País ‘concorre’ a troféu por travar negociações na COP 11 (O Estado de São Paulo)

JC e-mail 4605, de 17 de Outubro de 2012

Brasil é indicado pela segunda vez, durante a Convenção da Diversidade Biológica, a prêmio organizado por rede internacional de ONGs.

Pela segunda edição seguida da Convenção da Diversidade Biológica (CDB), o Brasil figura hoje entre os indicados para o Troféu Dodô, que “premia” os países que menos têm evoluído nas negociações durante o encontro para evitar perdas de biodiversidade. Canadá, China, Paraguai e a Grã-Bretanha são os outros indicados pela CBD Alliance, uma rede internacional de ONGs que participa da convenção.

O pássaro dodô é o escolhido para dar nome ao prêmio por estar extinto há cerca de quatro séculos – a espécie vivia na costa leste da África, na Ilha Maurício. Nas convenções do clima, o equivalente é o Troféu Fóssil do Dia – o País foi “agraciado” em Durban, há quase um ano.

Entre as razões para a presença do País na lista está a falta de preocupação do governo com a biodiversidade na negociação de mecanismos de Redução de Emissões por Desmatamento e Degradação Florestal (Redd+) – sistema de compensação financeira para atividades que diminuam a emissão de carbono.

Na 11ª conferência das partes (COP-11) da CBD em Hyderabad, na Índia, o Brasil quer evitar a definição de salvaguardas de biodiversidade nos textos, fazendo pressão para que haja diferenças claras entre os acordos da CBD e os estabelecidos nas Convenções sobre Mudanças Climáticas (UNFCCC).

O governo brasileiro se alinhou a outros países descontentes, como Colômbia e Argentina, para criticar o texto que está sendo trabalhado na conferência da Índia. Em nota, o bloco afirmou que o documento está atrasado e não leva em conta as resoluções alcançadas nas Conferências do Clima de Cancún e de Durban.

“Muitas das recomendações que estamos vendo na COP-11 ou são redundantes ou colocam barreiras para a implementação dessa importante ferramenta (de Redd+)”, dizem os países. Além disso, o Brasil foi indicado ao troféu pelo fato de o governo não ter, segundo a rede de ONGs, uma boa relação com comunidades locais e tribos indígenas que vivem em áreas de relevância ecológica e biológica.

Nova indicação – Há dois anos, o País havia sido indicado por outro motivo: durante o encontro na cidade japonesa de Nagoya, os representantes brasileiros promoveram de forma escancarada os biocombustíveis e foram criticados por tentar abafar os possíveis impactos sobre a biodiversidade e as populações.

Os vencedores de 2010, porém, foram o Canadá e a União Europeia. O Canadá voltou a ser indicado neste ano, também acusado de tentar evitar a discussão sobre os biocombustíveis.

De acordo com as ONGs, a China tem desencorajado o desenvolvimento de áreas marinhas em países vizinhos, enquanto o Paraguai tem bloqueado qualquer progresso em assuntos socioeconômicos nas questões de biossegurança. Já a Grã-Bretanha estaria trabalhando para evitar discussões sobre biologia sintética e geoengenharia.

 

País ‘concorre’ a troféu por travar negociações na COP 11 (OESP)

JC e-mail 4605, de 17 de Outubro de 2012

Brasil é indicado pela segunda vez, durante a Convenção da Diversidade Biológica, a prêmio organizado por rede internacional de ONGs.

Pela segunda edição seguida da Convenção da Diversidade Biológica (CDB), o Brasil figura hoje entre os indicados para o Troféu Dodô, que “premia” os países que menos têm evoluído nas negociações durante o encontro para evitar perdas de biodiversidade. Canadá, China, Paraguai e a Grã-Bretanha são os outros indicados pela CBD Alliance, uma rede internacional de ONGs que participa da convenção.

O pássaro dodô é o escolhido para dar nome ao prêmio por estar extinto há cerca de quatro séculos – a espécie vivia na costa leste da África, na Ilha Maurício. Nas convenções do clima, o equivalente é o Troféu Fóssil do Dia – o País foi “agraciado” em Durban, há quase um ano.

Entre as razões para a presença do País na lista está a falta de preocupação do governo com a biodiversidade na negociação de mecanismos de Redução de Emissões por Desmatamento e Degradação Florestal (Redd+) – sistema de compensação financeira para atividades que diminuam a emissão de carbono.

Na 11ª conferência das partes (COP-11) da CBD em Hyderabad, na Índia, o Brasil quer evitar a definição de salvaguardas de biodiversidade nos textos, fazendo pressão para que haja diferenças claras entre os acordos da CBD e os estabelecidos nas Convenções sobre Mudanças Climáticas (UNFCCC).

O governo brasileiro se alinhou a outros países descontentes, como Colômbia e Argentina, para criticar o texto que está sendo trabalhado na conferência da Índia. Em nota, o bloco afirmou que o documento está atrasado e não leva em conta as resoluções alcançadas nas Conferências do Clima de Cancún e de Durban.

“Muitas das recomendações que estamos vendo na COP-11 ou são redundantes ou colocam barreiras para a implementação dessa importante ferramenta (de Redd+)”, dizem os países. Além disso, o Brasil foi indicado ao troféu pelo fato de o governo não ter, segundo a rede de ONGs, uma boa relação com comunidades locais e tribos indígenas que vivem em áreas de relevância ecológica e biológica.

Nova indicação – Há dois anos, o País havia sido indicado por outro motivo: durante o encontro na cidade japonesa de Nagoya, os representantes brasileiros promoveram de forma escancarada os biocombustíveis e foram criticados por tentar abafar os possíveis impactos sobre a biodiversidade e as populações.

Os vencedores de 2010, porém, foram o Canadá e a União Europeia. O Canadá voltou a ser indicado neste ano, também acusado de tentar evitar a discussão sobre os biocombustíveis.

De acordo com as ONGs, a China tem desencorajado o desenvolvimento de áreas marinhas em países vizinhos, enquanto o Paraguai tem bloqueado qualquer progresso em assuntos socioeconômicos nas questões de biossegurança. Já a Grã-Bretanha estaria trabalhando para evitar discussões sobre biologia sintética e geoengenharia.

(O Estado de São Paulo)

Ecosystems Cope With Stress More Effectively the Greater the Biodiversity (Science Daily)

ScienceDaily (Sep. 5, 2012) — Ecosystems with a high degree of biodiversity can cope with more stress, such as higher temperatures or increasing salt concentrations, than those with less biodiversity. They can also maintain their services for longer, as botanists and ecologists from the universities of Zurich and Göttingen have discovered. Their study provides the first evidence of the relationship between stress intensity and ecosystem functioning.

Higher average temperatures and increasing salt concentrations are stress factors that many ecosystems face today in the wake of climate change. However, do all ecosystems react to stress in the same way and what impact does stress have on ecosystem services, such as biomass production? Botanists and ecologists from the universities of Zurich and Göttingen demonstrate that a high level of biodiversity aids stress resistance.

Higher number of species leads to greater stress resistance

The scientists studied a total of 64 species of single-celled microalgae from the SAG Culture Collection of Algae in Göttingen. These are at the bottom of the food chain and absorb environmentally harmful COvia photosynthesis. “The more species of microalgae there are in a system, the more robust the system is under moderate stress compared to those with fewer species,” says first author Bastian Steudel, explaining one of the results. Systems with a higher number of species can thus keep their biomass production stable for longer than those with less biodiversity.

In all, the researchers studied six different intensities of two stress gradients. In the case of very high intensities, the positive effects of biodiversity decreased or ceased altogether. However, increasing stress in systems with few species had a considerably more negative impact than in those with high biodiversity levels. “The study shows that a high degree of biodiversity under stress is especially important to maintain biomass production,” says Steudel’s PhD supervisor Michael Kessler, summing up the significance of the research project.

Journal Reference:

  1. Bastian Steudel, Andy Hector, Thomas Friedl, Christian Löfke, Maike Lorenz, Moritz Wesche, Michael Kessler.Biodiversity effects on ecosystem functioning change along environmental stress gradientsEcology Letters, 2012; DOI: 10.1111/j.1461-0248.2012.01863.x

Research Reveals Contrasting Consequences of a Warmer Earth (Science Daily)

ScienceDaily (Sep. 3, 2012) — A new study, by scientists from the Universities of York, Glasgow and Leeds, involving analysis of fossil and geological records going back 540 million years, suggests that biodiversity on Earth generally increases as the planet warms.

New research involving analysis of fossil and geological records going back 540 million years suggests that biodiversity on Earth generally increases as the planet warms. (Credit: © mozZz / Fotolia)

But the research says that the increase in biodiversity depends on the evolution of new species over millions of years, and is normally accompanied by extinctions of existing species. The researchers suggest that present trends of increasing temperature are unlikely to boost global biodiversity in the short term because of the long timescales necessary for new forms to evolve. Instead, the speed of current change is expected to cause diversity loss.

The study which is published inProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) says that while warm periods in the geological past experienced increased extinctions, they also promoted the origination of new species, increasing overall biodiversity.

The new research is a refinement of an earlier study that analysed biodiversity over the same time interval, but with a less sophisticated data set, and concluded that a warming climate led to drops in overall diversity. Using the improved data that are now available, the researchers re-examined patterns of marine invertebrate biodiversity over the last 540 million years.

Lead author, Dr Peter Mayhew, of the Department of Biology at York, said: “The improved data give us a more secure picture of the impact of warmer temperatures on marine biodiversity and they show that, as before, there is more extinction and origination in warm geological periods. But, overall, warm climates seem to boost biodiversity in the very long run, rather than reducing it.”

Dr Alistair McGowan, of the School of Geographical and Earth Sciences at the University of Glasgow said: “The previous findings always seemed paradoxical. Ecological studies show that species richness consistently increases towards the Equator, where it is warm, yet the relationship between biodiversity and temperature through time appeared to be the opposite. Our new results reverse these conclusions and bring them into line with the ecological pattern.”

Professor Tim Benton, of the Faculty of Biological Sciences at the University of Leeds, added: “Science progresses by constantly re-examining conclusions in the light of better data. Our results seem to show that temperature improves biodiversity through time as well as across space. However, they do not suggest that current global warming is good for existing species. Increases in global diversity take millions of years, and in the meantime we expect extinctions to occur.”

Biodiversity Conservation Depends On Scale: Lessons from the Science–policy Dialogue (Science Daily)

ScienceDaily (Aug. 30, 2012) — The year 2010 marked the deadline for the political targets to significantly reduce and halt biodiversity loss. The failure to achieve the 2010 goal stimulated the setting up of new targets for 2020. In addition, preventing the degradation of ecosystems and their services has been incorporated in several global and the EU agendas for 2020. To successful meet these challenging targets requires a critical review of the existing and emerging biodiversity policies to improve their design and implementation, say a team scientists in a paper published in the open access journal Nature Conservation.

These and other questions of increasing the “scale-awareness” of policy makers have been actively discussed at a special SCALES symposium at the 3rd European Congress of Conservation Biology (ECCB) in Glasgow on 28th-31st of August 2012. The lead author Dr Riikka Paloniemi from the Environmental Policy Centre, Finnish Environment Institute (SYKE), in Helsinki, Finland, said: “The policies that regulate biodiversity protection and management operate at many administrative levels, employ a range of instruments at different scales, and involve a variety of governmental and non-governmental actors. These actors often have different insights as to what constitutes a scale-challenge and how to deal with it, inevitably leading to contrasting opinions.”

“The question of scale has never been so acute before. Neglecting the spatial and temporal scale at which ecosystems functions when designing conservation measures may lead to long-standing negative consequences, and the failure of the 2010 target is one of the best examples of that” added Dr Klaus Henle from the Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research — UFZ in Leipzig, Germany and coordinator of SCALES.

The main conclusion of the scientists is that scale-related problems, and their potential solutions, are all about improving our understanding of complexity of the processes. Dealing with a number of different scales and scale-mismatches in biodiversity conservation is challenging; it requires an analytical and political framework that is able to assess the adverse impacts of global change, and to implement the relevant policies at the relevant scale.

Journal Reference:

  1. Riikka Paloniemi, Evangelia Apostolopoulou, Eeva Primmer, Malgorzata Grodzinska-Jurcak, Klaus Henle, Irene Ring, Marianne Kettunen, Joseph Tzanopoulos, Simon Potts, Sybille van den Hove, Pascal Marty, Andrew McConville, Jukka Simila. Biodiversity conservation across scales: lessons from a science–policy dialogueNature Conservation, 2012; 2 (0): 7 DOI:10.3897/natureconservation.2.3144