Deforestation takes center-stage at U.N. talks

Delegates at a global U.N. meeting to preserve natural resources were on Tuesday trying to agree on ways to deploy about $4 billion in cash to help developing nations save tropical forests. The talks in the Japanese city of Nagoya are aimed at setting new 2020 targets to protect plant and animal species, a protocol to share genetic resources between countries and companies and more funding to protect nature, especially forests. The U.N. Food and Agriculture Organisation estimates global deforestation fell from 16 million hectares (40 million acres) per year in the 1990s to 13 million hectares per year in the past decade, with the bulk of the losses in tropical countries. About 12 percent of the world's forests are designated primarily to conserve biological diversity, the FAO said in report earlier this month.

Great Marine Protection Areas

The Pacific Island nation of Kiribati has established the world's largest marine protected area of coral reefs and fish populations, but both of which are threatened by overfishing and climate change. The Phoenix Islands Protected Area conserves one of the world's last intact coral reef archipelago ecosystems with eight coral reefs, two submerged reef systems and underwater mountains, over 415,000 square kilometers of nearly uninhabited islands with abundant marine and bird life. A Marine Protected Area (MPA) is a protected area whose boundaries include some area of ocean. "MPA" is often used as an umbrella term that describes a wide range of marine areas that restrict human activity to protect living, non-living, cultural, and/or historic resources. Protections in various areas range from limits on development, fishing gear types, fishing seasons, catch limits, moorings, to complete bans on removing marine life of any kind.

Microbes Rapidly Consume Methane from Gulf Oil Disaster

The Deepwater Horizon spill was a horrible environmental disaster which caused the release of massive amounts of crude oil into the Gulf of Mexico. Methane, a natural greenhouse gas, was also released during the catastrophe. However, researchers have found that the methane is being consumed by microbes at a rate 10 to 100 times faster than previously believed. These microbes are essential in bringing the Gulf back to a healthier state.

Yemen’s capital ‘will run out of water by 2025’

[SANA'A, YEMEN] Water shortages in Yemen will squeeze agriculture to such an extent that 750,000 jobs could disappear and incomes could drop by a quarter within a decade, according to a report. Poor water management and the enormous consumption of water for the farming of the popular stimulant khat are blamed for the predicted water shortages, which experts say could lead to the capital Sana'a running out of water by around 2025.

Island nation announces Mongolia-sized sanctuary for whales and dolphins

Dolphins, whales, and dugongs will be safe from hunting in the waters surrounding the Pacific nation of Palau. At the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) in Nagoya, Japan, Palau's Minister of the Environment, Natural Resources and Tourism, Harry Fritz, announced the establishment of a marine mammal sanctuary covering over 230,000 square miles (60,000 square kilometers) of the nation's waters, an area the size of Mongolia.

Naples dump on hold, garbage piles up in the streets

The Italian government has put the opening of a new waste dump near Naples on hold after weeks of protests by residents, but demonstrators said the proposal was not enough and garbage continued to pile up in the streets. The head of the civil protection authority, sent to Naples by Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi to deal with the latest garbage crisis, has suspended indefinitely the opening of the new dump "to pursue optimal environmental and health conditions." Civil Protection chief Guido Bertolaso initially made the compromise offer conditional on the protests ending, but new clashes erupted in the outskirts of Naples as demonstrators demanded legal guarantees the new dump would be abandoned. Mayors of garbage-strewn towns near the planned new dump, where residents complain of the stench and of toxic waste coming from an existing landfill, refused to sign up to Bertolaso's proposal on Sunday.

Tropical Storm Richard aims for Belize, may become hurricane

Tropical Storm Richard dumped rain on Honduras on Sunday and was seen becoming a hurricane before hitting Belize and Mexico's Yucatan peninsula later in the day. Richard had top sustained winds near 70 miles per hour and was expected to barrel through southern Mexico and emerge in Mexico's oil-rich Bay of Campeche on Tuesday as a tropical depression, the U.S. National Hurricane Center said. At 5 a.m. EDT (0900 GMT), the storm was about 25 miles east of Isla Guanaja, Honduras, after brushing past the remote Miskito coast region where indigenous groups live in wooden houses along rivers vulnerable to flooding. The hurricane center said the storm was a relatively small tropical cyclone, but becoming better organized.

The Battle Over the Mekong

Chinese dams threaten one of the world’s most biodiverse rivers, critics say. It's not just environmentalists who are worried. The untamed, roaring currents of the mighty Mekong have long enchanted travellers, inspired explorers and sustained some 65 million inhabitants who live off the world's largest freshwater fisheries. From its source in the snow-capped mountains of Tibet, the Mekong flows 1,880 kilometres through China, winding down through the heart of South-east Asia before emptying into a fertile delta in Vietnam.

Air Pollution Control by Trees

Trees and other vegetation must use what is in their environment. So it is not surprising to find that they absorb pollutants (natural or man made) which may be absorbed successfully or may cause the vegetation to die. Vegetation plays an unexpectedly large role in cleansing the atmosphere, a new study finds. The research, led by scientists at the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) in Boulder, Colo., uses observations, gene expression studies, and computer modeling to show that deciduous plants absorb about a third more of a common class of air-polluting chemicals than previously thought.

The Promise of Fusion Power

It has been called the holy grail of energy technology; a perfectly clean source with an unlimited supply. Nuclear fusion has been demonstrated to be possible, but converting it to a viable energy source remains technically elusive. However, research on making fusion energy reality is in progress, and there are some who are convinced that there will be a day when this free and abundant source will arrive.