Climate change and unsustainable development are threatening the biodiversity of sensitive environments across the planet. The Greater Mekong region of Vietnam came under the spotlight recently at the Myanmar Summit, when six leaders from the region that spans Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, Thailand, Vietnam and the south-western Chinese province of Yunnan met to devise new strategies guiding the next decade of economic cooperation.
While scientists mourn the extinction of the Javan rhino, a new report called ‘Wild Mekong’, issued by the World Wildlife Fund, reveals that an average of one new species is recorded by science every two days in the Mekong. A staggering array of 28 reptiles was discovered in 2010, including an all-female lizard (Leiolepis ngovantrii) that reproduces via cloning without the need for male lizards. Five species of carnivorous pitcher plants were also discovered, with some species capable of luring in and consuming small rats, mice, lizards and even birds. Field researchers also discovered a snub-nosed monkey (Rhinopithecus strykeri), 25 fish, seven amphibians, two mammals and one bird species.
“While the 2010 discoveries are new to science, many are already destined for extinction, struggling to survive in shrinking habitats,” said the authors of ‘Wild Mekong’.
A new report in Nature magazine also documents changes and discoveries in the Amazon Basin. Scientists have found that the dry season is growing longer in areas suffering from complete deforestation. In areas still untouched by humans, trees are growing faster, fuelling speculation that the accelerated growth reveals nature in extreme survival mode. Woods Hole Research Centre Senior Scientist and Executive Director Eric Davidson, lead author of the review, posits an alternative: that increasing levels of CO2 in the atmosphere – now roughly 392 parts per million and rising – may be fertilizing the rainforest.
In addition, says Davidson, the entire rainforest may be transitioning from a relatively undisturbed ecosystem to what scientists like to call a “disturbance-dominated regime”, or a biome that has become an ‘anthrome’ – a landscape dominated by human impact. While Brazil had begun to restrain mass deforestation, new laws may allow a return to forest-clearing practices.
Filed Under: Autumn 2012
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