Earth ChangesS


Lizards join frogs in rapid decline

The precipitous loss of amphibians in recent years has been blamed on habitat loss, global warming, fungal infections, and pesticides. Globally, all of these factors probably combine for a multiple whammy. Now, research published online April 20 in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences U.S.A. reveals a new combo: climate change is causing some species to lose their leaf-layer habitat - and the damage is killing reptiles, too.

Steven Whitfield of Florida International University and colleagues examined 35 years' worth of data from the La Selva Biological Station in Costa Rica. The team found that populations of frogs and common reptiles such as lizards plummeted 75% since 1970. Globally, human activities are closely linked with disappearing frogs and salamanders. One-third of all amphibian species are threatened with extinction, according to a recent estimate, in large part because humans encroach on their habitats and introduce nonnative species. But even in areas without large human influences, such as the patch of protected old-growth rainforest that the researchers studied, many species are disappearing.


Venomous Brown Widow Spiders Making Themselves Known In Louisiana

A dangerous spider is making itself known to Louisiana residents. The brown widow spider is becoming more common, according to entomologists with the LSU AgCenter.

Generally found in tropical areas, the brown widow spider is closely related to the black widow spider and is poisonous, according to LSU AgCenter entomologist Dr. Dennis Ring.

Experts say the spider ranges in color from gray or tan to dark brown and may reach 1 inch to 1½ inches long. Like its better-known black widow cousin, the brown widow spider has a yellow-to-orange hourglass marking on the underside of its abdomen. It also has black and white marks on the top of the abdomen and often has dark bands on its legs. "Its venom is more toxic than the black widow's," Ring said. "But it doesn't put out as much venom in its bite."


Murder as an act of mercy: Kangaroo cull mooted for Canberra

Thousands of kangaroos could be shot by professional shooters in and around Canberra's north after populations have been deemed to be out of control.

A Defence spokeswoman has confirmed Belconnen Naval Transmission station and the Majura Training area have a serious over-population of eastern grey kangaroos.

The 6,500 animals are facing starvation because of the drought and are causing permanent damage to the sites.

Defence has been trialing a project to reduce the fertility of local kangaroos but ecology consultants have said that will not solve the problem.

Bizarro Earth

Warming World Threatens Migratory Birds

BONN, Germany - Disoriented by erratic weather, birds are changing migration habits and routes to adjust to warmer winters, disappearing feeding grounds and shrinking wetlands, a migration expert says.

Red Flag

Wildfire: Tourists Asked To Avoid Catalina Island

Santa Catalina Island's main town was out of immediate danger Sunday as firefighters made progress against the 4,200-acre wildfire that reached the edge of Avalon. The fire, which began Thursday afternoon, was 35 percent contained as of early Saturday, fire officials said.

Red Flag

Wildfires burn more than 330,000 acres in Florida and Georgia

Officials closed a 35-mile stretch of Interstate 75 from the Georgia-Florida state line to Lake City, Fla., as well as a 40-mile stretch of Interstate 10, from U.S. 90 to U.S. 129, as a gigantic wildfire approached them Saturday morning.

©Florida Division of Forestry

Smoke plumes visible from space

Cloud Lightning

36-Foot Waves Thrash Reunion Island

SAINT-DENIS, Reunion - Waves reaching 36 feet high thrashed France's Reunion Island in the Indian Ocean, leaving two fishermen missing and flooding homes and hotels, authorities said Sunday.

Bizarro Earth

Congo lake's deadly gases could be hidden blessing

Lake Kivu, Congo - The blue-green waters of Congo's Lake Kivu conceal a deadly invisible mixture that could trigger a fiery disaster or be a blessing in disguise for the 2 million people who live around its shores.


Climate change triggers 'alarming' retreat of Himalayan glaciers

The glaciers of the Himalayas store more ice than anywhere on Earth except for the polar regions and Alaska, and the steady flow of water from their melting icepacks fills seven of the mightiest rivers of Asia.

Now, due to global warming and related changes in the monsoons and trade winds, the glaciers are retreating at a startling rate, and scientists say the ancient icepacks could nearly disappear within one or two generations.

©Bernardo De Niz/MCT
A Tibetan girl poses in front of one of the glaciers on the Tibetan Plateau.

Cloud Lightning

Biblical Weather, Coast to Coast

As the sun set Tuesday evening, fire exploded across ridge tops in Griffith Park, lighting up the sky and threatening luxury homes in the Los Feliz neighborhood.

"They rapped on the front door and said, 'C'mon, you're getting out.' So I grabbed the cat and we left," said resident James Mahler.

The fire may have been sparked by a person who discarded a cigarette, authorities say. A person who walked out of the brush onto a golf course after the fire started is being questioned by police, The Associated Press reported.

The world-class Griffith Observatory, the Los Angeles Zoo and the Autry Museum were also in harm's way.

With temperatures in the mid-90s, extremely dry conditions, low humidity and brush that had not burned in decades have made conditions ripe for a major brush fire.

"What made this fire particularly challenging was the steep terrain and swirling winds," Los Angeles Fire Department Chief Douglas Barry said. "Even though the winds were not blowing very hard, they kept changing directions."

Firefighters hope to fully put out the spectacular blaze later today.