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Sharkwater: The Explosive Documentary Film on the Costa Rica Shark Fin Trade

Rob Stewart tells the amazing story of the making of the documentary firm Sharkwater.  Rob uncovers the connection between the illegal shark fin trade, the mafia and the Costa Rican government.  Hear the story of how they were chased down by guns boats during the making of the film by the Costa Rican government.  Get the inside scoop of the story behind this remarkable film directly from the Director/Producers mouth.

Also Visit the Sharkwater Website
More  Information Here About Declining Shark Populations in Costa Rica

Filed under: Wildlife Conservation, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Today’s Mass Extinction: The Call of Life

WASHINGTON: Chances of humans benefiting from nature are receding, as natural habitats are becoming less productive due to the gradual extinction of plant species.

Many scientists now argue that the Earth is in the middle of the sixth mass extinction in the history of life. Some estimates suggest that as much as 50 per cent of all known species could be extinct by the end of this century.

According to an international team of scientists, new analysis shows plant communities as being composed of both stars and supporting players.

Some plants are so productive that they dominate the productivity of natural habitats. Supporting species complement key players and enhance the productivity of plant communities even further.

Lead authors of the study – Michel Loreau of McGill University in Montreal and Andy Hector, an assistant professor at the University of Zurich – further go on to say that species extinction is one of the most pronounced environmental changes of our time.

“Our analysis provide the most comprehensive evidence yet that natural habitats with a greater variety of plant species are more productive. Our analysis show that diverse communities are more productive because plants are ‘complementary’ in how they use biological resources. In other words, different plant species play unique roles in the environment,” said Loreau.

Assistant Professor Hector said: “The results of our analyses suggest that plant communities operate much like a soccer team. Teams are composed of both star players and supporting players. You probably can’t win many games if you lose your top striker because she or he is the most productive player and can dominate a game. But strikers cannot win games by themselves. They need great passes from supporting players and solid goal-tending if the team is going to be successful as a whole.”

“The process by which plants grow and produce more plant biomass is one of the most fundamental biological processes on the planet,” added Bradley Cardinale, assistant professor of biology at the University of California, Santa Barbara.

Plant productivity regulates the ability of nature to take greenhouse gases like carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere, as well as the ability of habitats to produce oxygen, food, fibre, and bio-fuels, according to the authors of the study.

“Therefore, species extinctions could compromise the benefits that nature provides to society,” said Cardinale.

The study summarized the results of 44 experiments from around the world that simulated plant species extinction and showed that ecosystems with fewer species produce up to 50 percent less plant biomass than those with more “natural” levels of diversity.

From:

http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/HealthScience/Earth_in_middle_of_6th_mass_extinction/articleshow/2521810.cms

Filed under: Climate Change, Wildlife Conservation, , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Cutting Down Trees to Save the Rainforest


Sustainable Forestry has been a solution in Papua New Guinea.  (See Video Below) The management planned developed by locals and environmental groups mimic the natural dynamic of the forest. By carefully observing the natural cessation of different native trees and their different roles in the forest ecosystem, they recreated the natural processes in the forest. Through the execution of this plan the forest areas were fully regenerated with virtually no long term negative effects on the forest. At the same time providing a sustainable income source for the people living on the land.

Filed under: Analog Forestry, Reforestation, , , , , , ,

The Secrects of El Dorado and the Magic of Terra Preta

Documentary Film Below

Many soil scientists insist an ancient Amerindian agrarian society will soon make a huge impact on the modern world. They say once the intricacies and formulation of the society’s “terra preta” (dark earth) is unlocked, the benefits will help stop environmental degradation and bring fertility to depleted soils. Developing and developed nations will benefit.

Orellana

The story goes that in 1542, while exploring the Amazon Basin near Ecuador in search of El Dorado, Spanish conquistador Francisco de Orellana began checking the area around one of the Amazon’s largest rivers, the Rio Negro. While he never found the legendary City of Gold, upon his return to Spain, Orellana reported the jungle area held an ancient civilization – a farming people, many villages and even massive, walled cities.

Later explorers and missionaries were unable to confirm Orellana’s reports. They said the cities weren’t there and only hunter-gatherer tribes roamed the jungles. Orellana’s claims were dismissed as myth.

Scientists who later considered Orellana’s claims agreed with the negative assessments. The key problem, they said, was large societies need much food, something Amazonia’s poor soils are simply incapable of producing. And without agriculture, large groups of people are unable to escape a nomadic existence, much less build cities.

The Secrect of El Dorado is 45 minute documentary examining this ancient Amazon Civilizations and the Terra Preta

Filed under: Carbon Offsets, Climate Change, , , , , , , , ,

Costa Rica’s Holdridge Toad Declared Extinct

The Holdridge’s toad is a small, black, deaf and mute toad that lived in Heredia’s Chompipe Mountain Range. After searching for the species with no luck, Barcelona’s Red List of Endangered Species, from the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) declared the small toad extinct from the globe.

Holdridge’s toad, whose scientific name is Incilius holdridgei, used to be a very prevalent toad in Costa Rica’s Heredia highlands.”Holdridge’s toad was a species endemic to the Central Mountain Range – at an average altitude of 2,270 meters (7,448 feet) above sea level,” Alan Pounds, renowned herpetologist for the Puntarenas Tropical Science Center, said. The species had only been seen before on Costa Rica Land, and since it has not been seen here since 1986, it was finally declared extinct.

According to Gerardo Chaves, scientist for the University of Costa Rica and coauthor of a national report that helped declare the species extinct, Holdridge’s toad was known for its rugged, bumpy skin, easily identified by its bright orange and black markings. “This frog was rather small and measured five centimeters in length, about three centimeters less than another other species of common toad,” Chaves explained.

In addition, they were deaf and mute, a very strange trait among frogs. Unlike most species, they did not communicate through noise, which means that they emitted no call or song. According to experts, this only makes sense in the species developed in an area with so much noise that other forms of communication were necessary. Mysteriously, the Chompipe Mountain environment is not loud, and is the only area where these toads were ever found.

Chaves added that the toad was very easy to spot during its April/May mating season – for the rest of the year, it was nearly impossible to find. “This species had a very interesting behavior. During mating season the frogs would meet up near the main street that goes toward Chompipe Mountain. There they formed hundreds of very impressive looking groups. There were many male toads waiting for their females… just imagine, [at that time] there were so many of them that the Holdridge’s toads would grab onto other species to [mate] with them.” Unfortunately however, this mating frenzy has not been witnessed since before 1986, more than 22 years ago.

Costa Rican scientists and experts from the IUCN believe that habitat reduction and climate change are the principal factors responsible for the species’ extinction. Most specifically, a chytrid fungus has been attacking Central America’s frog species, which essentially suffocates frogs with its growth. Frog populations have dwindled dangerously, and many species have all but disappeared from Costa Rica’s rain forests. Among them, the harlequin toad and the golden toad, two species now believed to be extinct.

Holdridge’s toad was put on the Red List of Endangered Species in 2006, but scientists held out hope for its rediscovery. Many teams headed out into the field to look for it, though obviously, none was successful. “From a biological point of view, the fact that a species goes extinct is not a strange thought, it’s almost a law of nature. That said, as a person and scientist in the field, one feels a tremendous impotence when he sees such an abundant species disappear before his eyes. You feel really bad,” Chaves concluded.

Filed under: Wildlife Conservation, , , , , , , , ,

Tropical Wetlands Sequester 80% More Carbon than Temperate Wetlands

Tropical wetlands store 80 percent more carbon than temperate wetlands, reports a new study that compared ecosystems in Costa Rica and Ohio.

William Mitsch of Ohio State University and colleagues found that the tropical wetland in Costa Rica accumulated around 1 ton of carbon per acre [2.63 t/ha] per year, while the temperate wetland in Ohio accumulated 0.6 tons of carbon per acre [1.4 t/ha] per year.

“Finding out how much carbon has accumulated over a specific time period gives us an indication of the average rate of carbon sequestration, telling us how valuable each wetland is as a carbon sink,” said Mitsch. “We already know wetlands are outstanding coastal protection systems, and yet wetlands continue to be destroyed around the planet. Showing that wetlands are gigantic carbon sequestration machines might end up being the most convincing reason yet to preserve them.”

Mitsch says that while wetlands are a natural source of methane – a potent greenhouse gas – from decomposition, CO2 sequestration appears to balance net carbon emissions.

“A big issue in wetland science is how carbon sequestration balances against the release of greenhouse gases,” Mitsch said. “Methane is a more effective greenhouse gas than is carbon dioxide in terms of how much radiation it absorbs, but it also oxidizes in the atmosphere. Carbon dioxide does not degrade – it is an end product. If you take that into account, I think wetlands are very effective systems for sequestering carbon.”

Mitsch conducted the study with graduate student Blanca Bernal, who presented the findings Wednesday at the Geological Society of America meeting in Houston.

Filed under: Carbon Offsets, Climate Change, , , , , , , , ,

Part 6 – Getting Our Priorities Straight – Common Sense Goals for Fighting Climate Change.

Climate Change Global Warming Solutions Carbon Offsets

By Kevin Peterson, CEO
Eco Preservation Society

At Eco Preservation Society we advocate two common sense long-term goals:

Common Sense Goal #1: Within thirty years we must replace fossil fuels as an energy source.

Common Sense Goal #2: Over the next one hundred years we must sequestered the excess carbon that has been added to the atmosphere over the last one hundred years.

As important as it is to reduce our CO2 emissions, it is also important to remove the excess CO2 that we have already put into the atmosphere. Certainly over the next 30 years we will be producing much more CO2 before we begin to produce less. To suggest that we should choose emissions over sequestation is a false choice. We must focus on both.

Further, when talking about Carbon Neutral or Carbon Offsets, reforestation is not only a “viable option”; it is our “only option”. Investing in future technologies to reduce emissions does NOTHING to remove the CO2 that we have already dumped into the atmosphere. There is only ONE viable and proven way to remove CO2 from the atmosphere and that is through the growth of trees and vegetation.

Common sense must prevail. The notion that planting trees is detrimental to the cause of protecting our environment does not pass the common sense test. Critics correctly note that as carbon sinks a forests ability to sequester carbon may follow a saw tooth pattern. However it is a fallacy to suggest that because carbon retention in our forests does not follow a linear pattern that it is somehow diminished in importance. This is non-sense! Simply because our understanding of these processes may be more complex than once thought, that does not mean that these processes are any less important to our future.

Those that argue that reforestation efforts are only “feel good” solutions because an individual tree may not permanently sequestered the carbon in its biomass are presenting an overly simplistic argument. An analogous argument could be made that one should not open a bank account because not ALL of the money that you deposit into that account remains there permanently. The concept of effectively managing a bank account does not require that every dollar you put into the account remain there forever. The concept is that money flows in and out and over time successful money manager will grow that account. This is how we need to look at our forests, as a renewable resource that plays an unparalleled and unique role in sequestering carbon from our atmosphere.

There is a danger that when we grasp at headlines like “Reforestation Contributes to Global Warming” that we promote an overly simplistic view of the problem. The headlines garnered by the Livermore Study were so seductive for so many, particularly those that have an interest in the emission reduction side of the Carbon Offset debate. However carbon cycle is only one factor in the equation of protecting our environment. Along with reducing CO2 emissions and removing the excess CO2 that has already been emitted, we should not loose sight of the role that trees play in the water cycle and in the production of the oxygen that we breath. The notion that environmentalist can make blanket statements like: “planting trees north of the Canadian bordered contributes to Global Warming” and to have so many accept these findings without serious scrutiny should be cause for great concern within the environmental community. It is no wonder that those in the business community look at us environmentalist as a bunch of flakes.

Climate Change Global Warming Solutions Carbon Offsets

We must do better

At Eco Preservation Society we believe that we need to re-examine all of our options in sequestering carbon. Today there are many web sites that feature Carbon Calculators that tell us about our individual Carbon Footprint. Yet in all of the Carbon Footprint Calculators, none take into account the amount of carbon that an affluent family has sequestered in their 4000 square foot wood structured home. We must do better!

Looking at the wood products industry as a possible solution to Global Warming problem is a politically incorrect discussion within the environmental movement. We must to take a fresh look at reforestation and forestry as a sustainable resource.

In the past the forestry industry has given us mono-habitats and clear cutting. These are obvious negative impacts and we must do better. How much more engineering and planning would it really require to manage these resources in a more diverse manner?

In the future we can do better and we need to take a fresh look at how we approach these issues.

Clearly the Lawrence Livermore study is not the final word. It only serves to awaken us to the fact that the complexities of the problems that we face are much greater than we once imagined. It is fair to conclude from the Livermore Study that overly simplistic monolithic solutions such as “Universal Tree Planting” are not viable. At the same time, overly simplistic conclusions drawn from the Livermore Study are equally inappropriate.

As leaders in the environmental movement it is important that we are responsible with the information that we feed to the public. We loose credibility with the public when we grasp at sensational headlines and do not deliver on thoughtful and meaningful examination of these critical issues.

Climate Change Global Warming Solutions Carbon Offsets

Solutions Moving Forward:

Perhaps it is time for us to reexamine the concept of deforestation, both in terms of methods and importance. Deforestation occurs in nature, it serves a purpose in nature’s cycles. Without question our last remaining old growth forest and primary rain forests must absolutely be protected. However when it comes to the management of lands that have already been deforested there are other options that have not been considered. For those interested in this topic see our article on the Resource Revolution.

Over the last century there have been vast amounts of lands that have been deforested and converted to pasturelands and croplands that should be converted back to forestlands and wildlife habitat. The key to realizing this goal is to provide economic incentives for landowners to covert these lands back to forests.

We see 3 sources of revenue incentives for conservation minded landowners.

First, financial incentives can come in the form of selective harvesting of trees in a diverse forest environment. Instead of planting a “mono crop” of trees that would be harvested all at once, a diverse environment could be created with a variety of trees that grow at different rates. Trees could be harvested in a selective manner at different times based on a variety of factors. Instead of wiping an entire habitat, trees can be harvested in a manner that preserves the habitat.

Second, this staggered harvest approach means that the forests will retain their value not only as a habitat, but as recreational areas as well. Recreational activities would be an additional source of revenue for the land owner: hiking trails, cross-country skiing, canopy tours, horseback riding, GPS tracking games, trail biking, ATV tours, ect, ect.

Finally, with the ability to sell carbon credits, there is a third possible source of revenue for the landowner.

Conclusions

It took us a century to create our problems with the environment; we need to take a long-term view at solving them. Realistically it is going to take us 30 years to phase out fossil fuels; there will be more damage to correct during that time. We need to start now and reforestation is the answer. We are conditioned to seek immediate gratification and we are not satisfied unless we achieve instant results. Instant results are not a realistic expectation for solving our environmental problems. From our view a longer-term approach is required. The key is for our generation to initiate the process and to raise our children with understanding that this will be the biggest challenge facing their generation. We need to provide our children with the values and the education so that they will have the tools and the imagination to solve these problems within their lifetime. The future belongs to our children and it is up to us to provide them the means to make their future a bright one. This is a living legacy that is our responsibility to deliver upon for future generations. This is the goal of the Eco Preservation Society.

Kevin Peterson, CEO
Eco Preservation Society
EcoPreservationSociety.org

Part 1 – Does Reforestation Contribute to Global Warming?
Part 2 – Reforestation, Aldedo and Lawrence Livermore Study
Part 3 – Rain Forests: The World’s Air Conditioner
Part 4 – Planting Trees in Cities
Part 5 – Does Reforestation Contribute to Global Warming? – A second look at the Livermore Study
Part 6 – Getting Our Priorities Straight – Common Sense Solutions to Climate Change

Filed under: Carbon Offsets, Climate Change, Reforestation, Sustainable Living, Wildlife Conservation, , , , , , , , , , , ,

The Amphibian Extinction Crisis – Amphibian Ark

amphibian ark

From Amphibian Ark

Amphibians are an important component of the global ecosystem, as indicators of environmental health and contributors to human health. They watched the dinosaurs come and go, but today almost half of them are themselves threatened with extinction. Addressing the amphibian extinction crisis represents the greatest species conservation challenge in the history of humanity.

amphibians frogs lizards toad costa ricaThe global conservation community has formulated a response in the Amphibian Conservation Action Plan, and an integral part of that response is the Amphibian Ark, in which select species that would otherwise go extinct will be maintained in captivity until they can be secured in the wild. Without immediate captive management as a stopgap component of an integrated conservation effort, hundreds of species could become extinct.

Addressing the amphibian extinction crisis represents the greatest species conservation challenge in the history of humanity. One third to one half of all amphibian species are threatened with extinction, with probably more than 120 already gone in recent years. The IUCN Global Amphibian Assessment has alerted us to the fact that hundreds of species face threats that cannot be mitigated in the wild, they require zoos to save them in the short term until adequate conservation measures to secure wild populations can be developed. Comparable calls to action are included in other IUCN documents.

amphibians frogs lizards toad costa ricaThe World Association of Zoos and Aquariums (WAZA) has joined with two branches of the IUCN Species Survival Commission (IUCN/SSC) – the Conservation Breeding Specialist Group (CBSG) and the Amphibian Specialist Group (ASG) – to form the Amphibian Ark (AArk). Since 2006 the Amphibian Ark has been helping the ex situ community to address the captive components of the Amphibian Conservation Action Plan, saving as many species as possible by providing global coordination, technical guidance, training, necessary linkages to other IUCN groups, communications, and guiding publicity and capital campaigns.

Without immediate captive management as a stopgap component of an integrated conservation effort, hundreds of species will become extinct. This conservation challenge is one that we, the ex situ community, are uniquely capable of addressing. Never before has the conservation community at large charged zoos and aquariums with a task of this magnitude. This is an opportunity for every zoo and aquarium, regardless of size, to make a vital conservation contribution, and for our community to be broadly acknowledged as a credible conservation partner. Supporting this call to action is clearly within the financial capacity of all zoos and aquariums, and engages the diverse expertise found within all institutions. Our goal is 100% participation of WAZA zoos and aquariums and the regional associations. If we do not respond immediately and on an unprecedented scale, much of an entire vertebrate class will be lost, and we will have failed in our most basic conservation mission as defined in the World Zoo and Aquarium Conservation Strategy.

Filed under: Climate Change, Family Eco Travel, Wildlife Conservation, , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Carbon Sequestration and Storage in Soils Could Solve Global Warming

Soils contain more than twice as much carbon as the atmosphere according to estimates (Food and Agriculture Association of the United Nations, FAO). Increasing the amount of carbon naturally stored in soils could provide the short-term bridge to reduce the impacts of increasing carbon emissions until low-carbon and sustainable technologies can be implemented. A group called Soil Carbon, based in Australia, makes the case for soil carbon storage in a presentation available in English, German, Spanish, Italian, Mexican and Portuguese. The Soil Carbon report includes impressive photographs, such as those above, demonstrating the difference between well-managed and poorly managed soils.

The Soil Carbon report makes a good read in a powerpoint format rich in pictures, and is an easy introduction to a complex topic for the interested layman. The more scientifically oriented, and truly committed, will want to review the FAO report, Carbon Sequestration in Dryland Soils which goes much more in depth in the science and facts behind soil carbon.

The FAO report sheds some doubt on the optimism in the figures presented by Soil Carbon. For example, Soil Carbon calculates the potential for CO2 sequestration in soil by starting from the assumption that soil organic matter can be increased 1% of the total weight of the soils to a depth of 1 meter. By this calculation, Soil Carbon claims a potential increase of 47 tons of carbon per hectare. As reasonable as a simple “1 % increase” may sound, it appears not to be scientifically valid.

Carbon Sequestration

According to the FAO (FAO report, page 28): the carbon content of dryland soils is estimated to be 4 tons/hectare. Carbon content ranges between 7 tons and 24 tons in normal (non-depleted) soils, depending on the climate zone and vegetation. Studies show that non-degraded savannahs can have up to 18 tons C/hectare (top 20 cm). Based on this, one can conclude that an increased carbon sequestration of 18 – 4 = 14 tons/hectare is the most optimistic potential achievement, well under the 47 tons/hectare that Soil Carbon suggests is achievable. Nonetheless, the FAO report point out that increasing the carbon content by only 1.5 tons/hectare on 2 billion hectares of degraded lands could balance out predicted increases in CO2 concentrations in the atmosphere due to annual emissions increases. (FAO report, page 6) This would buy time while fossil-fuel free technologies are developed.

Soil Carbon also targets exclusively the use of ruminant grazing as a soil restoration method. This is only one of many methods, which must be used in combinations depending on the local conditions. As much as the beef lovers amongst us may cheer the finding that cattle are an essential part of a healthy farming eco-system, the FAO points out that there is a large amount of disagreement about the value of ruminants in soil carbon cycling. That manure is the most efficient manner to incorporate carbon into soils is undebated. But some studies point out that feed must be grown on adjoining land, thereby depleting it, so the carbon added to one piece of land is in effect merely displaced from other land, rather than a net positive addition. The question of methane production, a 23-times more potent greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide, must also be considered. Somehow humorous in the multi-faceted evaluations required to make good decisions is the statement in the FAO report that when conducting carbon audits: “it is essential to remember that the purpose of agriculture is to feed people.”

The most interesting facet of the FAO report for the non-scientist may be the discussions of using funding available from carbon offsetting to implement soil restoration projects and help farmers apply methods which benefit soil carbon levels. The additional income from carbon offsetting would help alleviate poverty, and the more productive farming possible after restoration of soils could break farmers out of the cycle of land depletion for mere survival. Although the development of accurate models to measure carbon offsets and the implementation of measures to reduce the risk of reversal of the gains present obstacles, the prospect of carbon sequestration in soils is a win-win for developed and developing nations.

Filed under: Carbon Offsets, Climate Change, Sustainable Living, , , , , , , , ,

National Geographic Human Footprint – Trash

Have you ever considered how much waste and garbage that you will produce over the course of your lifetime. National Geographic took a look and here is the total impact for the average American.

The Human Footprint – Trash
The Human Footprint – Cars
Part One – Introduction
Part Two – Milk & Daily Industry

Part Three – Meat Consumption

Part Four – Eggs for a Lifetime

Filed under: Sustainable Living, , , , , , , , , , ,

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