Fears flood water runoff could ‘smother’ Barrier Reef

SYDNEY, Australia (AFP) — Runoff from recent floods in northern Australia is flowing onto parts of the Barrier Reef, scientists said Friday, starving coral of light and providing fodder for the predatory crown-of-thorns starfish. Parts of northern Queensland are still reeling after nearly two weeks of unprecedented rainfall that turned roads into rivers and inundated hundreds of homes with floodwater. Scientists at James Cook University say the floods swelled a number of rivers along hundreds […]

Activists file suit to stop dolphin hunting in Japan

TOKYO, Japan (AFP) — Environmental campaigners have filed an unprecedented lawsuit in a bid to halt the so-called “drive hunting” of dolphins in Japan, arguing the practice is cruel and illegal. In drive hunting, fishermen force dolphins into a cove by beating on boats to disorient them. The panicked animals often get tangled in nets, suffocate and drown. Activists say some dolphins smash into rocks and die of injuries, while others are killed by fishermen […]

World seeing ‘catastrophic collapse’ of insects: study

by Marlowe HOOD Agence France Presse PARIS, France (AFP) — Nearly half of all insect species worldwide are in rapid decline and a third could disappear altogether, according to a study warning of dire consequences for crop pollination and natural food chains. “Unless we change our way of producing food, insects as a whole will go down the path of extinction in a few decades,” concluded the peer-reviewed study, which is set for publication in […]

The art and science of Japan’s cherry blossom forecast

by Natsuko FUKUE Agence France-Presse TOKYO, Japan (AFP) — As spring approaches in Japan, the country’s weather forecasters face one of their biggest missions of the year: predicting exactly when the famed cherry blossoms will bloom. Japan’s sakura or cherry blossom season is feverishly anticipated by locals and visitors alike. Many tourists plan their entire trips around the blooms, and Japanese flock to parks in their millions to enjoy the seasonal spectacle. “People pay more […]

Melting ice sheets may cause ‘climate chaos’: study

by Marlowe HOOD Agence France Presse PARIS, France (AFP) — Billions of tonnes of meltwater flowing into the world’s oceans from the Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets could boost extreme weather and destabilize regional climate within a matter of decades, researchers said Wednesday. These melting giants, especially the one atop Greenland, are poised to further weaken the ocean currents that move cold water south along the Atlantic Ocean floor while pushing tropical waters northward closer […]

Mexican zoo welcomes baby penguins

GUADALAJARA, Mexico (AFP) — After painstakingly recreating an Antarctic environment in the balmy climate of central Mexico, the Guadalajara Zoo has welcomed two baby Adelie penguins into the world. The pair, born in late December, made their public debut this week as their parents, Blanquita and Pippin, began allowing them to venture out from between their feet for the first time. The babies will be named after undergoing medical exams in another eight to 10 […]

Voyage into the unknown explores Indian Ocean’s hidden depths

by Robin MILLARD Agence France-Presse LONDON, United Kingdom (AFP) — A mission to explore uncharted depths in the Indian Ocean was launched on Wednesday, hoping to discover hundreds of new species and find out what impact plastic is having way below the surface. The First Descent expedition, led by British-based ocean research institute Nekton, is set to send submersibles as deep as 3,000 meters off the Seychelles from March to test the health of the […]

Chinese hunger for ‘world’s smelliest fruit’ threatens Malaysian forests

by Sam Reeves / with Lillian Ding in Beijing Agence France Presse RAUB, Malaysia (AFP) — Soaring demand for durians in China is being blamed for a new wave of deforestation in Malaysia with environmentalists warning vast amounts of jungle is being cleared to make way for massive plantations of the spiky, pungent fruit. Grown across tropical Southeast Asia, the durian is hailed as the “king of fruits” by fans, who liken its creamy texture […]

Deadly Brazil dam collapse raises fears of environmental woes

by Marc BURLEIGH Agence France Presse RIO DE JANEIRO, Brazil (AFP) — Nearly a week after a dam storing mining waste collapsed in southeast Brazil, the human cost is clear, with nearly 350 killed or missing, but the environmental impact is still being evaluated. Authorities fear the mineral-laced slurry released by the collapse could eventually pollute the Sao Francisco River, the second-longest in Brazil, which hosts various species of fish and has many towns on […]

Storage of nuclear waste a ‘global crisis’: report

PARIS, France (AFP) — Nuclear waste is piling up around the world even as countries struggle to dispose of spent fuel that will remain highly toxic for many thousands of years, Greenpeace detailed in a report Wednesday. Analysis of waste storage facilities in seven countries with nuclear power revealed that several were near saturation, the anti-nuclear NGO said. All these nations also confronted other problems that have yet to be fully contained: fire risk, venting […]

US shivers as extreme cold invades, but is this climate change?

by Kerry SHERIDAN Agnce France Presse TAMPA, United States (AFP) — An Arctic-like deep freeze gripping much of the United States with double-digit subzero temperatures is the coldest of its kind in two decades, but is it linked to climate change? Experts say it could be, but whether global warming plays a role in this particular extreme weather phenomenon is still up for debate. Here’s why: What is a polar vortex? “It is a mass […]