South America ravaged by unprecedented drought and fires

    by Jordane BERTRAND Agence France Presse MONTEVIDEO, Uruguay (AFP) — Under stress from a historic drought, large swathes of forest and wetlands in central South America known for their exceptional biodiversity have been ravaged by devastating fires. Experts say the wildfires in a region that spans Argentina, Brazil, Bolivia and Paraguay — especially the region between the Paraguay, Parana and Uruguay rivers — have become critical in 2020. “There has been a dramatic […]

Hong Kong pink dolphins enjoy comeback as pandemic slows marine traffic

by Ayaka MCGILL Agence France Presse Rare pink dolphins are returning to the waters between Hong Kong and Macau after the coronavirus pandemic halted ferries, but scientists remain deeply concerned about their long-term survival in one of the world’s busiest sea lanes. The tell-tale flash of pink leaping from the waters alerts Naomi Brennan to the presence of a local Chinese white dolphin and she jots the animal’s location into a GPS device. Conservationists like […]

Biggest North Pole mission back from ‘dying Arctic’

by Yannick PASQUET Agence France-Presse BERLIN, Germany (AFP) — Researchers on the world’s biggest mission to the North Pole returned to Germany on Monday, bringing home devastating proof of a dying Arctic Ocean and warnings of ice-free summers in just decades. The German Alfred Wegener Institute’s Polarstern ship returned to the port of Bremerhaven after 389 days spent drifting through the Arctic trapped in ice, allowing scientists to gather vital information on the effects of […]

Coronavirus ‘can survive for 28 days on surfaces’: study

by Holly ROBERTSON Agence France-Presse BRISBANE, Australia (AFP) — The coronavirus that causes Covid-19 can survive on items such as banknotes and phones for up to 28 days in cool, dark conditions, according to a study by Australia’s national science agency. Researchers at CSIRO’s disease preparedness centre tested the longevity of SARS-CoV-2 in the dark at three temperatures, showing survival rates decreased as conditions became hotter, the agency said Monday. The scientists found that at 20 […]

Fires brought under control in Syria, Lebanon

DAMASCUS, Syria (AFP) — Dozens of fires that ravaged parts of Syria and Lebanon in recent days were brought under control on Sunday, authorities in the two countries said. In Syria, blazes fuelled by high temperatures broke out Friday in the provinces of Homs, Tartus and Latakia, where at least three people died, according to the health ministry. Several families had to flee residential areas near the fires, according to media reports. Syrian Agriculture Minister […]

Russia probes pollution off Pacific coast after ‘ecological disaster’

MOSCOW, Russia (AFP) — Russian authorities Wednesday opened an investigation into suspected toxic waste pollution off the Kamchatka peninsula on its Pacific coast which has led to the mass death of marine animals. Locals sounded the alarm in late September as surfers experienced stinging eyes from the water and sea creatures including seals, octopuses and sea urchins washed up dead on the shore. The Russian branch of Greenpeace has described the situation as an “ecological […]

Unique vine ‘greenhouses’ found by 91-year-old nature volunteer

by Kelly MACNAMARA Agence France-Presse PARIS, France (AFP) — An unusual vine discovered by a 91-year-old volunteer nature guide in Japan has a “unique” way of using its leaves to curl around its fruits to envelop them in a protective microclimate, scientists said on Wednesday. The cucurbitaceous vine, a type found in East Asia, is an oddity because while leaves come in all shapes and sizes and perform a crucial role in photosynthesis, they are […]

Last month warmest September on record globally: EU

  by Marlowe HOOD Agence France Presse PARIS, France (AFP) — Earth’s surface was warmer last month than during any September on record, with temperatures since January tracking those of the hottest ever calendar year in 2016, the European Union’s Earth Observation Programme said Wednesday. This year has now seen three months of record warmth — January, May and September — with June and April virtually tied for first, the Copernicus Climate Change Service reported. […]

14 million tons of microplastics on sea floor: Australian study

  SYDNEY, Australia (AFP) — The world’s sea floor is littered with an estimated 14 million tons of microplastics, broken down from the masses of rubbish entering the oceans every year, according to Australia’s national science agency. The quantity of the tiny pollutants was 25 times greater than previous localised studies had shown, the agency said, calling it the first global estimate of sea-floor microplastics. Researchers at the agency, known as CSIRO, used a robotic […]

Wildfires raze dozens of homes in New Zealand

WELLINGTON, New Zealand (AFP) — Wildfires have destroyed up to 50 homes in New Zealand, authorities announced Monday, saying it was a miracle no one was hurt as “a wall of orange” razed most of a remote South Island village. The blaze began in a mountain forest early Sunday morning and, fanned by strong winds, swept through the village of Lake Ohau, forcing residents to flee for their lives. Fire and Emergency New Zealand (FENZ) […]

‘Like wolves to Yellowstone’: Tasmanian devils released on Australian mainland

by Holly ROBERTSON Agence France-Presse SYDNEY, Australia (AFP) — Tasmanian devils have been released into the wild on Australia’s mainland 3,000 years after the feisty marsupials went extinct there, in what conservationists described Monday as a “historic” step. Aussie Ark, along with a coalition of other conservation groups, revealed Monday that they had released 26 of the carnivorous mammals into a 400-hectare (1,000-acre) sanctuary at Barrington Tops, about 3.5 hours north of Sydney. Tim Faulkner, […]

California wildfires turn beloved Napa wine spots to ash

by Glenn CHAPMAN Agence France-Presse CALISTOGA, California (AFP) — The Silverado Trail has long been a place of dreams for Napa Valley wine lovers as it winds gently through vineyards and on to Calistoga. California’s Glass Fire turned much of that dream to ash, destroying a 3-star restaurant at Meadowood resort, torching wineries such as Chateau Boswell, and tainting precious grapes with smoke. The United States’s west coast is experiencing a record-breaking fire season, with […]