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The natural world. Looking pretty for 3.5b years.

Crossing Boundaries

Crossing Boundaries

Author: Hugh Bollinger/Sunday, February 25, 2018/Categories: natural history, wildlife conservation, birds, marine life, sustainability, environment, climate change, plants

    Illegal Deforestation in Para State, Brazil  December 2015 (credit: USAID/Rainforest Foundation)

Photo and video cameras are important tools for documenting environmental and ecological change. Images can be captured from space, by an aircraft, or on foot. No matter the scale, they acquire a special relevance now as environmental change accelerates. New imagery can be compared with archival material to view over different time-lines; focus on a single species or regional locale; and observe landscape-scale alterations due to human activities and a changing climate.

Publishing in Science Magazine, new research indicates ecological boundaries are now being crossed above safe limits to maintain biodiversity in many locations. The biologists used over 2 million records, totalling ~40,000 species, to model their response to land-use practices and changes in local biodiversity. The alterations are being driven by the wholesale conversion of grasslands and tropical forests to agricultural for soybean and cattle production to support expanding populations. The authors conclude:

"across 65% of the terrestrial surface, land use and related pressures have caused biotic intactness to decline beyond 10%, the proposed “safe” planetary boundary."

Their research followed the planetary boundaries concept developed in Sweden that recognizes "nine planetary boundaries within which humanity can continue to develop and thrive for generations", if maintained. The concept is explained by one of its developers:

Re-photography is another valuable tool for documenting environmental change over short or longer time spans. Kelp forested reefs off the Western Australia coasts have died in less than 5 years from exceptional water temperatures. These reefs are marine biodiversity "hotspots" and ocean nurseries for young fish.

           

        Kelp reef re-photographed, 2011 (credit: University of Western Australia)

This marine boundary will be covered in more detail separately.

WHB      

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