Pandas: Let ‘em die?

A Reuters article yesterday proclaimed that BBC television naturalist and conservationist Chris Packham thinks that scientists are wasting their time on the conservation efforts devoted to giant pandas. Pandas have reached “an evolutionary cul-de-sac,” he says, and they’re destined to die out because of their own habits. It’s true that pandas have a highly specialized lifestyle: they need to eat about 25 pounds...

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National parks aren’t doing the trick in Kenya

Elephants have changed the ecology of Amboseli and other national parks in Kenya. Credit: David Western Research in PLoS ONE today shows that animals in Kenya’s national parks are declining at the same rate as the same species outside the parks.  This means, potentially, that the protection of animals in safe spaces may not lead to their recovery or success. David Western, the author and founder/director of the African...

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Eco-engineering sustainable seawalls

People love living on the coast, and one of the most destructive human infrastructure practices is replacing natural shorelines with human-made seawalls.  These walls are often tall, flat, and featureless, making them bad habitat for shore animals and plants. Biodiversity in these areas, of course, declines. In a paper published online today in Oecologia, Gee Chapman and D.J. Blockley did a simple and elegant experiment where they...

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Biomes: Old-school?

A biome has traditionally been defined (broadly and loosely, of course) as an area that has similar plant and animal communities and geologic and climatic structures.  In recent years, the term ecosystem has come to be virtually interchangeable. But Erle Ellis of the University of Maryland at Baltimore County believes that doing ecology by defining biomes is antiquated.  In this video by The Discovery Channel, he proposes instead the...

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National Zoo’s Conservation Research Center

The Smithsonian National Zoological Park in Washington D.C.’s gorgeous Rock Creek Park is renowned as one of the most diverse and most visited zoos in the country, welcoming more than two million visitors each year (for free – that’s right, $0!). But the largely unknown gem of the place isn’t in downtown D.C., but rather 70 miles east in Front Royal, Virginia, at the edge of Shenandoah National Park: the...

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