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Ecoregions of Burkina Faso

July 29, 2012 - 12:41pm

Except for the northern most portion of the country, Burkina Faco is covered by West Sudanian savanna [1]. and the Sahelian Acacia savanna [2] to the north.


 

West Sudanian savanna

The West Sudanian Savanna is a hot, dry, wooded savanna composed mainly of large tree species and long "elephant" grass.

The habitat has been greatly reduced, degraded, and fragmented by agricultural activities, fire, and clearance for wood and charcoal, while populations of most of the larger mammal species have been decimated by over-hunting. Although many protected areas exist, most are under-resourced "paper parks" with little active enforcement on the ground.

The hot climate and poor infrastructure have resulted in little development of tourism in the region.

There has been significant loss and fragmentation of the original wooded savanna habitat, especially in areas of high human population density such as Nigeria. The remaining blocks of habitat are found mainly in protected areas, which have been established in most of the countries of the ecoregion.

The total area of protected lands is over 90,000 km2. This is a relatively large area, but only represents 6.7% of this huge ecoregion. There are also damaging activities occurring in many of these protected sites, which are resulting in further declines in large animal populations. Protected areas in this ecoregion include the transboundary ‘W’ National Parks in Niger, Burkina Faso, and Benin.

The habitats of the ecoregion are principally threatened by the agricultural and herding activities of the local populations. There are considerable pressures on the land from seasonal farming, grazing animals, cutting trees and bushes for wood, burning woody material for charcoal, and from wild fires. All of these pressures have reduced and degraded natural habitats. Climatic desiccation is a further threat, exacerbating human pressures, as the ability of the ecosystem to recover from overuse is reduced when there is little rainfall.

Sahelian Acacia savanna

The Sahelian Acacia Savanna stretches across Africa from northern Senegal and Mauritania on the Atlantic coast to Sudan on the Red Sea, varying in width from several hundred to over a thousand kilometers (km). The word "sahel" means "shore" in Arabic and refers to the transition zone between the wooded savannas of the south and the true Sahara Desert. The ecoregion thus lies south of the Southern Saharan steppe and woodland Ecoregion and north of the West and East Sudanian savanna Ecoregions.

The original Acacia bushland of this ecoregion has been greatly altered over thousands of years, through long-term climatic changes and also through anthropogenic effects. In the past there were substantial populations of large mammalian herbivores, which would have grazed and browsed the vegetation. The remaining blocks of intact habitat are found mainly in the protected areas. In other areas the habitat is often degraded, but extensive and relatively continuous in sparsely populated areas.

The total area of protected land is around 224,825 km2. This is a large total area, but because the ecoregion is so vast, the actual percentage protected is quite low (approximately 5 percent). Parks found in this area include the Sahel Partial Faunal Reserve in Burkina Faso.

Context

Ecoregions are areas that:

[1] share a large majority of their species and ecological dynamics;
[2] share similar environmental conditions; and,
[3] interact ecologically in ways that are critical for their long-term persistence.

Scientists at the World Wildlife Fund (WWF), have established a classification system that divides the world in 867 terrestrial ecoregions, 426 freshwater ecoregions and 229 marine ecoregions that reflect the distribution of a broad range of fauna and flora across the entire planet.

 

Ecoregions of Bulgaria

July 25, 2012 - 11:51am

Bulgaria has sixecoregions that occur entirely or partly within its borders:

  1. Balkan mixed forests covers most of Bulgaria
  2. East European forest steppe
  3. Pontic steppe
  4. Euxine-Colchic deciduous forests (only a very samll part of Bulgaria is included in this ecoregion)
  5. Rodope montane mixed forests
  6. Aegean and Western Turkey sclerophyllous and mixed forests extends into Bulgaria in the far south east corner of the country

Balkan mixed forests

The Balkan mixed forests ecoregion covers much of Bulgaria and bordering countries, excluding the Rodope Mountains. The vegetation of this ecoregion, especially that of the forests and grasslands, is Central European in character.

The diversity of flora and fauna is relatively high compared to the rest of Europe and there are a high number of endemic plant species. Mixed oak forests are characteristic, with Quercus frainetto as the dominant tree species. Oak forests are interspersed with pine, silver fir (Abies alba) and Norway spruce (Picea abies) forests, woodland-pastures, shiblyak and grasslands. High valleys and sheltered slopes feature forests dominated by beech (Fagus sylvatica) and hornbeam (Carpinus orientalis and C. betulus). The region’s herpetofauna is among the most diverse in Europe.

The ecoregion has a good network of protected areas; however, the changing political climate threatens them with fragmentation

East European forest steppe Pontic steppe Euxine-Colchic deciduous forests

Extending along the southern Black Sea coast, the vegetation in the Euxine-Colchic deciduous forests ecoregion ranges from temperate rainforest to coastal bottomland forests, peatlands and coastal sand dunes. Primarily is Turkey, the ecoregion extends acros the border to the southeastern tip of Bulgaria. The old-growth forests are home to one of the largest brown bear populations in Europe, and the migratory populations of many waterfowl, passerines, and raptors fly through the eastern end of the region. The draining of wetland habitat for agriculture, logging, and poaching are among the greatest threats to the flora and fauna.

Rodope montane mixed forests

The Rodope Montane Mixed Forests Ecoregion is composed of the Balkan (Stara Planina) and Rhodope Massifs in the central Balkan Peninsula.

Central European in character, mixed deciduous forests (Fagus sylvatica, Carpinus orientalis, C. betula, Quercus spp.) grow on mountain slopes while the higher elevations are dominated by conifers (Abies alba, Picea albies, Pinus nigra).

On the highest peaks, forests are replaced by heaths and alpine grasslands. It is estimated that the flora of the region includes about 3,000 vascular plant species. Many are endemics from the Pleistocene glaciation, as the region served as a refuge for species that never re-established to the north.

The position of the ecoregion at the crossroads of several floristic elements (European, Alpine, and Mediterranean) also enhances floral diversity . Several of Europe’s threatened fauna species are found here such as otter (Lutra lutra), pine marten (Martes martes), imperial eagle (Aquila heliaca), cinereous vulture (Aegypius monachus), and ferruginous duck (Aytha nyroca).

Although there is a good network of protected areas, the ecoregion faces many threats from the changing political climate, expanding agriculture, and increasing tourism.

Aegean and Western Turkey sclerophyllous and mixed forests

Situated in parts of Turkey, Greece, (and entending into a small part of the southwestern most corner of Bulgaria) and on some of the the Aegean Sea islands, the Aegean and Western Turkey sclerophyllous and mixed forests ecoregion enjoys a Mediterranean climate and encompasses islands, coastal areas and some inland plains. It still supports a few areas of pine forest, and hosts rare and endemic species such as oriental sweetgum and cretan palm. The endangered loggerhead turtle nests here, and fox, wolf and wild boar are included among its mammal populations. Many resident and migratory birds are found here, including threatened species such as the pygmy cormorant, Dalmatian pelican, white-headed duck, and the lesser kestrel. The dense human populations that have inhabited this ancient area of civilization have severely degraded most of the original habitat, beginning in the earlier Holocene, and accelerating in more modern times with the recent human population explosion. .

See also:

Context

Ecoregions are areas that:

[1] share a large majority of their species and ecological dynamics;
[2] share similar environmental conditions; and,
[3] interact ecologically in ways that are critical for their long-term persistence.

Scientists at the World Wildlife Fund (WWF), have established a classification system that divides the world in 867 terrestrial ecoregions, 426 freshwater ecoregions and 229 marine ecoregions that reflect the distribution of a broad range of fauna and flora across the entire planet.

 

Ecoregions of Brunei

July 25, 2012 - 11:51am

WWF identifies four ecoregions that exist entirely or in part in Brunei:

  1. Borneo montane rainforests occupy a small tip of southeastern Brunei at the location of the Ulu Temburong National Park;
  2. Borneo lowland rainforests, cover most of the nation of Brunei and consist of a highly biodiverse dipterocarp tropical forest assembly;
  3. Sunda Shelf mangroves are found along parts of the South China Sea and Brunei Bay margins; and,
  4. Borneo peat swamp forests occupy most of the near coastal areas along the South China Sea;

Borneo montane rainforests

See main article: Borneo montane rainforests

Borneo montane rainforests cover the small area of the southeastern extremity of the nation of Brunei. These forests comprise the higher elevation portions of the Ulu Temburong National Park. The geographic isolation of this forest type has produced a unique and diverse set of montane species. Of Borneo's endemic bird species, twenty-three (73 percent) are montane. There are more than 150 mammal species in montane forests, making this ecoregion globally outstanding for mammal richness, and it is the most speciose montane rain forest found in the Indo-Pacific region. Despite this wealth of diversity, sizable tracts of Borneo's montane forests have not been explored to allow the cataloging of their flora and fauna.

Borneo lowland rainforests

See main article: Borneo lowland rainforests

Borneo lowland rainforests comprise the largest ecoregion of Brunei, covering most of the interior of the country. This ecoregion exhibits the richest rainforests in the world and rival the biodiversity of New Guinea and the Amazon. The geology of this area consists of limestones, volcanic rocks, schist-gneiss complexes and sedimentary rocks. Notable protected areas of the Borneo lowland forests within Brunei include Labi Forest Reserve and Bukit Ladan Forest Reserve.

With 267 Dipterocarpaceae species (155 endemic to Borneo), Borneo is the center of the Earth's diversity of dipterocarps. These forests are home to the world's smallest squirrel, the eleven centimeter long pygmy squirrel, and the endangered orangutan. These forests are globally outstanding for both bird and plant richness, with more than 380 birds and an estimated 10,000 plant species found within its boundaries. 

 

Sunda Shelf mangroves

See main article: Sunda Shelf mangroves

There are a number of major mangrove types, or consociations, recognized within the Sunda Shelf mangroves, based on the dominant species within the genera of Avicennia, Rhizophora, Sonneratia, Bruguiera, and Nypa. The relative occurrence of each type is based on fluctuations in soils, salinity, and the tidal regime. Typically, mangroves display a zonation or succession of forests, with each zone being dominated by one of the consociations. On the seaward sediments, Avicennia-Sonneratia forest dominates. Moving inland, there are typically softer and deeper mud sediment dominated by Rhizophora-Bruguiera forests. Further inland, the soils become firmer and the forests display a greater species diversity. In areas with a substantial freshwater influence, Nypa palms dominate. 

This mangrove ecoregion occurrence within Brunei occurs chiefly: (a) near Danau; (b) on the coastline at the Berakas Forest Reserve; and (c) at coastal areas of the Selirong Recreation Park on Selirong Island. At the last of these three locales does the ecoregion extend farthest inland. Several primates including the Long-tailed macaque are found in this ecoregion.

Borneo peat swamp forests

See main article: Borneo peat swamp forests

Borneo peat swamp forests cover considerable portions of the island of Borneo in lowland areas; moreover, these forests occupying most of Brunei's coastal zone along the South China Sea. are not as biodiverse as neighboring lowland rainforests—the Borneo peat swamp forests—categorized by the WWF as unit IM0104 are among the most speciose peat swamp forests of Southeast Asia. These peat swamp forests are a key habitat for the unique and endangered Borneo endemic proboscis monkey (Nasalis larvatus). Also, they are home to the world's most desirable aquarium fish, the arowana (Scleropages formosus).

Based on the Köppen climate zone system, the Borneo peat swamp forests are within the tropical wet climate zone. The peat swamp forests of Brunei have plant association and edaphic characteristics similar to Sabah, Sumatra and peninsular Malaysia. The peat soil is chiefly organic matter, which builds up inland of mangrove swamps. These soils are rain-fed, and are recent in origin. Such peat swamp forests form when sediments accumulate on the backshores of mangroves as rivers drain toward the coastal zone.

Context

Ecoregions are areas that:

[1] share a large majority of their species and ecological dynamics;
[2] share similar environmental conditions; and,
[3] interact ecologically in ways that are critical for their long-term persistence.

Scientists at the World Wildlife Fund (WWF), have established a classification system that divides the world in 867 terrestrial ecoregions, 426 freshwater ecoregions and 229 marine ecoregions that reflect the distribution of a broad range of fauna and flora across the entire planet.

References 
  • E.F.Brünig. 1973. Species richness and stand diversity in relation to site and succession of forests in Sarawak and Brunei (Borneo). Amazoniana 4: 293-320.
  • Colby Loucks. 2001. Borneo montane rainforests. in Terrestrial ecoregions of the Indo-Pacific: a conservation assessment. World Wildlfe Fund. Island Press
  • Li and Sun. 1999. Palynological records since Last Glacial Maximum from a deep-sea core in the southern South China Sea. Quat. Sci. Rev. 23: 2007-2016
  • B.P.C.Maguire and P.S.Ashton. 1977. Pakaramoideae, Dipterocarpaceae of the western hemisphere. II. Systematic, geographic, and phyletic considerations. Taxon 26:359-368.
  • Alistar I.Robertson. 1992. Tropical mangrove ecosystems. American Geophysical Union. 329 pages
  • Pinxian Wang. 2009. The South China Sea: Paleoceanography and Sedimentology (Google eBook) Springer. 506 pages
  • Eric D.Wikramanayake. 2002. Terrestrial ecoregions of the Indo-Pacific: a conservation assessment. Island Press. 643 pages

Ecoregions of British Virgin Islands

July 25, 2012 - 11:51am

Most of the British Virgin Islands are within the Leeward Islands xeric scrub ecoregion [1]. The north western part of  Tortola and Jost van Dyke along with nearby islands are within the Leeward Islands moist forests ecoregion [2]

Leeward Islands xeric scrub

This ecoregion covers much of the land area on most of the Caribbean’s Leeward Islands. This ecoregion is characterized by low elevation, little rainfall and an arid climate. It is found either as a coastal band or in the case of islands such as Anguilla and Antigua, it encompasses nearly the entire island. More specifically, it covers most of Grande Terre and Marie-Galante of Guadeloupe, Antigua, Anguilla, St. Martin, St. Barthelemy, Saba, and the eastern portions of the US Virgin Islands and British Virgin Islands.

On islands such as the US and British Virgin Islands, large portions are encompassed by this xeric ecoregion.

Leeward Islands moist forests

This ecoregion is found in various proportions on the Caribbean’s Leeward Islands and is characterized by rugged, volcanic mountains covered in moist tropical forest. Specifically, this ecoregion covers approximately 85% of Basse Terre of Guadeloupe, the central, mountainous portions of Montserrat, St. Kitts and Nevis, small southern portions of Antigua, and western portions of the U.S. and British Virgin Islands.

Parks

Terrestrial parks in the British Virgin Islands (BVI) cover 2.1% of the land area. The BVI park system plan sought to define a system of parks and protected areas that would incorporate the existing parks into a larger system of comprehensive ecological units in order to preserve the most important areas of natural and cultural heritage. Twelve additional parks were proposed, but none of these has yet been declared. This is partly due to the approach adopted in the BVI of preparing management plans and strengthening institutions in advance of park declaration.

See also:

Context

Ecoregions are areas that:

[1] share a large majority of their species and ecological dynamics;
[2] share similar environmental conditions; and,
[3] interact ecologically in ways that are critical for their long-term persistence.

Scientists at the World Wildlife Fund (WWF), have established a classification system that divides the world in 867 terrestrial ecoregions, 426 freshwater ecoregions and 229 marine ecoregions that reflect the distribution of a broad range of fauna and flora across the entire planet.


Virgin Gorda. Source: Wikimedia Commons

 

Insect Repellent

July 25, 2012 - 11:51am
Insect Repellent Use and Safety Do Not Ignore Insect Repellent Directions

Applying insect repellant is not complicated, but before you do, be sure to read the label for any warnings and to see the active ingredients. All insect repellents, including products combined with sunscreen, should be used according to instructions on the label.

Insect repellents can be used at all ages unless the label specifically states an age limitation or precaution. As long as you read and follow label directions and take proper precautions, insect repellents with active ingredients registered by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) do not present health or safety concerns.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recommends using products that contain active ingredients registered by EPA for use on skin and clothing. EPA registration of insect repellent active ingredients indicates the materials have been reviewed and approved for human safety and effectiveness when applied according to instructions on the label.

The active ingredients DEET and picaridin are conventional man-made, chemical repellents according to EPA. Oil of lemon eucalyptus, oil of citronella and IR3535 are repellents made from natural materials such as plants, bacteria, and certain minerals.

Insect Repellents and Children

Insect repellents containing DEET should not be used on children under 2 months of age. Oil of lemon eucalyptus products should not be used on children under 3 years of age.

When applying insect repellents to children, avoid their hands, around the eyes, and cut or irritated skin. Do not allow children to handle insect repellents. When using on children, apply to your own hands and then put it on the child. After returning indoors, wash your child’s treated skin or bathe the child. Clothes exposed to insect repellants should be washed with soap and water.

Sunscreens Combined with Insect Repellents

If a sunscreen containing DEET is used, then a sunscreen-only product should be used if additional sunscreen is needed. The sunscreen that contains DEET should not be reapplied because repeated applications may increase potential toxic effects.

For sunscreen products made with natural insect repellent ingredients follow package directions. Re-application of the combination product may be all right depending upon the particular formulation. After returning indoors, wash treated skin with soap and water, especially if using repellents repeatedly in a day or on consecutive days.

How Long Does Protection Last?

Although higher concentrations of any of the active ingredients provide longer protection, concentrations above 50 percent generally do not increase protection time. Products with less than 10 percent of the active ingredient offer only limited protection, about one or two hours.

Of course, protection and duration vary considerably among products and insect species. Temperature, perspiration, exposure to water, and other factors affect duration and effectiveness.
 

Information about insect repellents can be found at the following sites:

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) regulates all pesticides and provides extensive information about insect repellents:

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) offers information about mosquito repellents:

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) has information about the use of mosquito repellents in children:

The Medical Letter contains an article on insect repellents:

Insect Repellents

Alpine plants: missing flowering date

July 25, 2012 - 11:50am

A study conducted over 38 years shows one species' timing has shifted by 13 days. In a changing climate, that "hurry-up-and-flower" date is moving ever earlier on the calendar. How quickly can plants respond?

It's Wildflower Season on Mountain Peaks,
But Alpine Plants May Soon Miss the Date

July brings a riot of color--a rainbow-hued carpet of wildflowers--to the high peaks of the Rockies. In these mountain environments, however, plants have a narrow window of opportunity to set their buds.

Now, in a changing climate, that hurry-up-and-flower date is moving ever earlier on the calendar. How quickly can plants respond? The alpine growing season in places like the Rockies doesn't begin until snows melt, sometimes as late as June. Snows may fall again by October. In such habitats, snow covers the ground for eight to nine months of the year--or used to. In recent decades, climate change has warmed the planet and caused snows to melt earlier.

In response, plants and animals at high altitudes become active much sooner. In the case of plants, is it because their populations are evolving or because their flowering time is flexible? A paper published this week in the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society of London - Biological Series reports that climate change has significantly affected Drummond's rockcress (Boechera stricta), an alpine plant native to the Rocky Mountains.

Using a unique combination of long-term data on the timing of flowering and snowmelt, and an experimental genetics approach, ecologists Jill Anderson of Duke University, David Inouye and Amy McKinney of the University of Maryland and Colorado's Rocky Mountain Biological Laboratory and colleagues found that Drummond's rockcress flowered 13 days earlier in 2011 than in 1973. Other co-authors of the paper are Robert Colautti of the University of British Columbia and Thomas Mitchell-Olds of Duke University.

The change results from a combination of earlier flowering by individual plants and gradual genetic changes in the population of wildflowers. "More than 38 years of data on flowering time gives us important insights into how this wildflower--and other species--is responding to climate change," said Inouye.

If climate change continues at the same rate, Drummond's rockcress should bloom a month sooner by 2100 than it does now.  Do the plants have the flexibility to change flowering time that much? "Global climate change imposes severe new stresses on organisms," said Anderson. "Species that cannot evolve fast enough risk extinction."

Faced with a new but uncertain threat, remaining flexible makes the most sense, said Saran Twombly, program director in NSF's Division of Environmental Biology, which funded the research. "So it is with the plant species studied here. Flexibility in response to rising temperatures will contribute directly to its success."

Plants have evolved to bloom in response to certain climate conditions. Those conditions--timing of snowmelt, growing season temperature, and light levels--have always signaled the beginning of the growing season. Temperatures may increase into the foreseeable future, scientists believe, but climate change is unlikely to affect environmental variables such as light. That results in a decoupling of previously reliable--and linked--cues, potentially disrupting the reproductive biology of many species that rely on multiple signals to bloom. At the end of each summer, the seeds of Drummond's rockcress fall just beneath the mother plant. So the species has a limited ability to migrate to higher elevations to escape increasing temperatures.

Drummond's rockcress will need to adjust to climate change not by moving to cooler environs, but by finding a way to thrive right where it lives. How will it succeed? Inouye says it will happen through a long-term combination of changing responses by individual plants and evolutionary changes by the population of wildflowers. The only hope--at least for the Drummond's rockcress--may be as an earlier and earlier early-bloomer.

July 11, 2012

NSF Contact: Cheryl Dybas, NSF (703) 292-7734 cdybas@nsf.gov


Related Websites

Ecoregions of Brazil

July 23, 2012 - 11:37am

Brazil includes 44 ecoregions that occur entirely or partly within the country as shown in the figure below:  [1] Marajó varzea; [2] Guianan moist forests; [3] Guyanan savanna; [4] Gurupa varzea; [5] Uatuma-Trombetas moist forests; [6] Rio Negro campinarana; [7] Guianan piedmont and lowland moist forests; [8] Pantepuis; [9] Negro-Branco moist forests; [10] Caqueta moist forests; [11] Japurá-Solimoes-Negro moist forests; [12] Monte Alegre varzea; [13] Juruá-Purus moist forests; [14] Purus varzea; [15] Southwest Amazon moist forests; [16] Iquitos varzea; [17] Purus-Madeira moist forests; [18] Madeira-Tapajós moist forests; [19] Tapajós-Xingu moist forests; [20] Xingu-Tocantins-Araguaia moist forests; [21] Tocatins/Pindara moist forests; [22] Amazon-Orinoco-Southern Caribbean magroves; [23] Maranhão Babaçu forests; [24] Northeastern Brazil restingas; [25] Caatinga Enclaves moist forests; [26] Atlantic Coast restingas; [27] Southern Atlantic mangroves; [28] Pernambuco coastal forests; [29] Pernambuco interior forests; [30] Caatinga; [31] Atlantic dry forests; [32] Campos Rupestres montane savanna; [33] Bahia coastal forests; [34] Bahia interior forests; [35]  Cerrado; [36] Mato Grosso seasonal forests; [37] Beni savanna; [38] Chiquitano dry forests; [39] Pantanal; [40] Humid Chaco; [41] Alto Parana Atlantic forests; [42] Uruguayan savanna; [43] Araucaria moist forests; [44] Serra do Mar coastal forests

 

Marajó varzea

This forest ecoregion is located at the mouth of the Amazon River in eastern Brazil. Islands are numerous throughout the region. This flooded area captures nutrient rich soils, which are carried down the river; tidal activity floods the region twice daily. Vegetation is shorter than surrounding areas, plant diversity is lower, and palms dominate. Fauna diversity is richer; avifauna is particularly rich with about 540 species.

The Marajó várzea, because it lies at the mouth of the Amazon’s "super highway," is a region greatly affected by human activities, both historically and in the present. Both the natural habitat and native biodiversity of the Marajó várzea have suffered severe degradation from large-scale agricultural, forestry, and ranching operations. There are no protected areas in this ecoregion.

Guianan moist forests

The Guianan Moist Forests are one of the largest continuous tracts of relatively pristine lowland tropical rainforest in the world. The southern boundary is formed by the watershed of the Acarai Mountains and Serra Tumucumaque, which also is the international border between Brazil and the northern Guianan countries of Guyana, Suriname, and French Guiana (an overseas department of France). A small portion to the east includes the upper tributaries of the lower Amazon in Brazil.

This ecoregion is characterized by high species richness and local and regional endemism, particularly among the flora, as well as relatively intact ecological processes. Species assemblages are shared with the Orinoco and Amazon Basins, and with the Guianan highlands and Tepuis formations – and is thus a convergence zone for speciation. These lowland forests were relatively intact until recently; gold mining, wildlife export, logging, and hunting are now encroaching on the area and will increase exponentially if unregulated.

Guyanan savanna

Also call Guianan savanna, this ecoregion occupies an area within the Roraima formation distinguished by extensive savannas and schrubby vegetation.

The savanna encompasses the treeless and tree patch mosaic of the Gran Sabana, and occurs as three distinct outliers: the largest spanning northern Brazil, southeastern Venezuela, and southeastern Guyana (also several small patches extending north along the Pakarima footfills); a smaller patch bordering northern Brazil and extending into southern Suriname, and the smallest and most elongate outlier, that occurs in eastern Brazil north of the Amazon extending from near Macapa to near Calcoene.

The region is traversed by streams with gallery forests, and extensive savannas. In this ecoregion, recurrent fires and extremely poor soils are the most important factor in the advance of savannas in place of forest and the processes that are derived by these changes. Comparing with Guyanan Tepuis, endemism is low; however, an important number of endemics are found.

Mount Roraima National Park at Brazil, covering 1,160 km2, and the Parque Indigena Tucumaque protect portions of the savannas.

Gurupa varzea

The Gurupa várzea ecoregion is named for the large alluvial island, Ilha Grande de Gurupá, that occurs in the mouth of the Amazon River. Extending from the mouth of the Tapajós River at the city of Santarém to the Xingu River, which drains into the mouth of the Amazon itself. It is distinct from the flanking várzea ecoregions in that a majority of the landscape is savanna rather than dense tropical forest. The Xingú, Jari, and Tapajós Rivers, which drain into this lowest section of the Amazon River, are blackwater rivers that carry little, if any, sediment. The ocher-colored Amazon River is considered a whitewater river because it carries suspended organic and inorganic sediment loosed from the Andes. The term várzea refers to land that is inundated by overflow from whitewater rivers.

The flooded forests of this várzea ecoregion exemplify the incredible adaptability of species. Trees, grasses, and shrubs can be partially submerged under water for months at a time. Animals and fish move to and from the area in synchronization with the floods to feast on the fruits produced by the trees. In addition, the resident species that live in these tropical savannas have very high diversity with many endemic species, such as the scaled spinetail.

The Amazon várzea has a long history of human occupation because of their high productivity and accessibility. Principle activities on the Gurupa várzea are subsistence agriculture, fishing, selective logging, and ranching. Much of the forest along these banks of the Lower Amazon have been cleared and the natural savannas altered to expand pasture area for cattle or water buffalo. The production systems of small holder farmers tend to be biologically diverse agroecosystems with a strong tree component, so land degradation does not generally occur where small-scale farmers live. Much of the forest that remains is managed or unmanaged secondary forest. A few urban centers such as Monte Alegre are located on the riverbank in this region, and urban sprawl has replaced some natural habitat. The major commercial timber species such as Virola surinamensis and Ceiba pentandra are all but depleted in this region.

Uatuma-Trombetas moist forests

The Uatuma-Trombetas moist forests ecoregion comprise the vast region north of the Amazon River in the eastern portion of Brazil, east of the Rio Branco-Rio Negro Basin. The region extends east almost to the Atlantic Coast and north to the Serra do Acarai Santa de Tumucumaque Mountains dividing the Guianas and Suriname from Brazil.

This large ecoregion with its evergreen tropical forests, falls in the eastern section of Amazonia. Due to ecoregion wide changing topography and associated climate variations, the ability to support a wide range of species both flora and fauna, elevates this ecoregion to a level of high biological diversity. With mainly blackwater rivers flowing through the ecoregion the soils are not as fertile as many of the other ecoregions yet there were 235 species of trees counted in one hectare and at least 5 species of primates, restricted to eastern Amazonia, found here.

Much of the interior of this region remains intact, but there is considerable deforestation along the major rivers and roads, particularly between Óbidos and Monte Alegre along the Amazon River, around Manaus, and north along the road to Nova Paraiso. Several protected areas and biological research stations have been established near Manaus, and the Rio Trombetas Biological Reserve covers 3,850 square kilometers of dense tropical forest, riverine forest, and lake vegetation along with the Jari Ecological Station further east which covers 2,271 km2. The Balbina Dam in the southwest of this region, along the Rio Uatumã, has drowned thousands of acres of upland forest.

Rio Negro campinarana

The Rio Negro Campinarana ecoregion occur in isolated patches along the Rio Negro and Rio Branco basins in northern Brazil.

Campinarana habitat is very unique with vegetation adapted to extremely poor soil types, leading to a high number of endemic species. There are multiple vegetative layers in this one ecoregion, moving from herbaceous savannas with lichens and grasses through stages to trees and forests. With this structure comes a wide variety of primitive faunal species including at least four species of primates and plant species that are exclusive to the compinarana ecoregion.

The ecoregion as a whole, comprising large, isolated patches, is fairly intact. None however, falls within a protected area. Because of the low productivity of these areas, there is little intensive land use on them, in general although some cattle grazing and burning has degraded portions of them.

Guianan piedmont and lowland moist forests Pantetepuis

The Guayana Highlands ecoregion in northern South America is host to an archipelago of isolated sandstone plateaus and dramatic summits atop nearly vertical escarpments.

More than 50 of the highest tabletop mountains are the remains of the ancient sandstone tableland overlying the even more ancient granitic Guayana Shield. They range from 1,000 to 3,000 meters (m) in elevation. And they are called tepuis (singular: tepui), a word from the Pemón Amerindians.The ecoregion is also referred to as Pantepuis.

Many tepuis are graced with dramatic waterfalls, the tallest of which (in fact, the tallest in the world) is Angel Falls in Venzuela dropping 979 meters.

These dramatic features in the landscape perforate an extensive matrix of highland savannas and rain forests across southern Venezuela mostly, with a few outliers in western Guyana, Suriname, and northern most Brazil. Hundreds of smaller sandstone mountains exist in the ecoregion as well.

Due to the inaccessibility of both the steep slopes and high summits of the Tepui Mountains, much of the natural habitat is intact. However, there have been many anthropogenic changes. Human-induced fires at the base of the mountains have destroyed vegetation in extensive areas. The mountains above 800 m are designated protected conservation areas as natural monuments, national parks, or biosphere reserves. However, because of the remoteness of the mountains, enforcement of conservation regulations by reserve staff is difficult; illegal activities such as gold mining and burning proceed unchecked.

Negro-Branco moist forests

The Negro-Branco ecoregion abuts to the northern banks of the Rio Negro, along the southwestern edge of the Guayana Shield in eastern Colombia, southwestern Venezuela, and northwestern Brazil. This area consists of forested lowland plains, with some wide, rolling hill-lands, and low sandstone table mountains. This area hosts diverse plant communities, including both seasonally flooded and non-flooded tall evergreen lowland forests, that can reach 40 meters (m) in height, as well as low evergreen flooded palm forests, which reach only 20 m in height. Elevations range from 120 m-400 m and annual precipitation is between 2,000-3,000 millimeters (mm).

Due to the inaccessibility of this ecoregion, the forest remains largely intact. No paved roads exist here although unpaved roads exist to the north and west of the ecoregion in Colombia. People living in settlements along the rivers practice small-scale rotational agriculture, and boat traffic along the rivers brings loggers and merchants. Brazil nut collectors set fire to the lower portion of the forest as a management practice. This alters the understory in some stands, but this is a localized practice. The largest biosphere reserve in the tropics, the Alto Orinoco-Casiquiare Biosphere Reserve, in Venezuela lies mostly in this ecoregion. In Brazil a small portion of this ecoregion lies within the Pico da Neblina National Park.

Caqueta moist forests

The Caquetá moist forest occurs in the Colombian Amazon. It is bound on the northeast by the Guainía, Guaviare, and Guayabero rivers and to the western extreme at the small Rio Losada, south of the Serrania de la Macarena. The southern border of the region extends southeast from the headwaters of the Rio Caguan, which then converges with the Caquetá. The region extends east just into Brazil. The Apaporis, Vaupés, and Yari rivers dissect this region, and large expanses of seasonally flooded forest occur on their banks.

Flora diversity is rich as is a transitional area between these floristic provinces of the Amazon Basin forests and the Guayana region. Fauna diversity is high although endemism is not. A few species that are endemic include the Chiribiquete emerald (Chlorostilbon olivaresi) and grey-legged tinamou (Crypturellus duidae), and tamarin (Saguinus inustus). Large-scale cattle ranching poses the most serious threat to this ecoregion. Large tracts of forest have been logged to cultivate pastures for grazing.

Japurá-Solimoes-Negro moist forests

This region of dense tropical rain forest is situated on the lowland plateau in the central northern portion of the Amazon Basin in Brazil with tiny sections just touching Colombia and Venezuela. This interfluvial region extends west from the Amazon City of Manaus at the confluence of the Rio Negro and Rio Solimões (Amazon), following these rivers until the latter forks with the Japurá at the City of Tefé. The southern limit of the region then follows the Japurá west to the Colombian border, turning northward and skirting below the lowest foothills of the Guayana Shield.

This tropical rainforest in the northern Amazon Basin is dissected by rivers. Biodiversity is high and includes a number of primates such as black spider monkeys (Ateles paniscus), red-handed tamarins (Saguinus midas), and common squirrel monkeys (Saimiri sciureus).

The Japurá-Solimões moist forest is mostly intact, especially in the interior. Along the rivers that delimit the region, both intensive activities, such as mining and agriculture, and extensive activities, such as logging, agriculture, hunting, and fishing, have resulted in deforested or degraded habitat and resultant population reductions in plants and animals. No roads exist in this region except very near to Manaus, but there is heavy boat traffic. The southern half of the Puinawai National Reserve below the Guainía River in Colombia protects a diversity of habitats. Also, this region hosts a very large corridor of protected areas extending from the Mamirauá Sustainable Development Reserve in the Purus Várzea ecoregion (not included here) through the Amanã Sustainable Development Reserve (half igapó forest and half adjacent terra firme), and Jaú National Park, Brazil’s largest national park. Because people live in the reserves, the conservation goal is to manage the natural resources sustainably while protecting the rich flora and fauna. Logging, mining, cattle ranching, uncontrolled fires, and urban development all pose threats to the environment in this region.

Monte Alegre varzea

This ecoregion in Brazil comprises portions of the low, seasonally inundated river basins of the central and lower Amazon, much of the length of the Madeira River Basin, and the mouth of the Purus River where it joins the Solimões (Amazon), as well as several smaller tributaries to these. An isolated patch occurs on the border of Brazil and Bolivia along the Mamoré River. The western limit of this ecoregion lies at an extensive area of várzea at the confluence of the Purus and Amazon Rivers about 300 kilometers (km) southwest of Manaus. The eastern limit is at the mouth of the Tapajós River that feeds into the Amazon.

The large urban centers of Manaus, Itacoatiara, Coari, and Óbidos lie in or near the várzea in this ecoregion. These flooded forests are called várzea because they are seasonally inundated by overflow from whitewater rivers .

Biodiversity is extremely high in this flooded forest along the lower Amazon. The region hosts an amazing number of avifauna; there are 681 reported bird species including red-shouldered macaws (Ara nobilis), sun parakeets (Aratinga solstitialis), and green-rumped parrotlets (Forpus passerinus). Over two hundred species of mammals are found here including jaguars (Panthera onca), ocelots (Leopardus pardalis), tapirs (Tapirus terrestris), and a number of primate species. There are few protected areas in this ecoregion, which is threatened by cattle ranching and large scale agriculture.

Juruá-Purus moist forests

The Juruá-Purus moist forest ecoregion lies in the western part of the Brazilian Amazon Basin between the Solimões (Amazon) and Purus Rivers. It covers the interfluves between the westermost Amazon River, crossing the basins of the Jutaí, Jurua, Tefé, and Tapauá Rivers east to the Purus River. The southwestern limit is before the lowest elevations of the Carauari Arch, an ancient zone of uplift, excluding the upper portions of the Juruá and Purus Rivers.

This area lies entirely on the low Amazon basin, and the terrain is mostly uniform consisting of flat forested plains dissected by large rivers which are characterized by endless meanders, frequent oxbows, and thousands of tiny streams, all of which flood annually. This ecoregion does not include the abundant riparian flooded várzea, which is described under the Purus varzea ecoregion. This hot and humid aseasonal tropical region receives on average 2,500 millimeters (mm) of precipitation per year but with some areas to 3,500 mm. Elevations in this terrain range between 20 meters (m) and 60 m above sea-level.

Because no roads traverse this ecoregion, lack of access prevents over-hunting and extensive habitat disturbance. The Brazilian company Petrobras has been prospecting for oil and natural gas in this ecoregion for years, regularly deforesting patches throughout the area. Near Tefé, a large patch of forest was removed for an experimental agriculture project, but it has returned to secondary forest. Aside from these, the forests of the interior remain largely intact. Along the rivers, a few large urban centers (Carauari, Tefé, Coari, Jutaí) and many small settlements of farmers have an impact on the forest environment through clearing for urbanization, agriculture, and cattle ranching.

Purus varzea

This ecoregion in Brazil comprises portions of the low, seasonally inundated river basins of the central Amazon, including the Solimões River (name for the Amazon west of Manaus in Brazil), much of the Juruá, central Purus, and Japura/Caquetá Rivers, (Amazon), as well as the smaller tributaries to these. The eastern limit of this ecoregion lies at an extensive area of várzea at the confluence of the Japura and Solimões Rivers, 600 kilometers (km) west of Manaus. The urban centers of Tefé, Tabatinga, and Carauarí lie in or near the várzea in this ecoregion. These flooded forests are called várzea because they are seasonally inundated by overflow from whitewater rivers . Whitewater rivers are those which carry a great deal of suspended organic and inorganic sediment and have an ochre color.

Avifauna diversity is extraoridinary with over six hundred and thirty species. Terrestrial mammal diversity is smaller because the habitat is often flooded; two narrow endemic primates inhabit this region, the white uakari monkeys (Cacajao calvus calvus) and blackish squirrel monkeys (Saimiri vanzolinii) . Also, the largest snake in the world, the great anaconda (Eunectes murinus), is found here.

The várzea, because it lies along water "highways," is a region much affected by human activities, both historically and in the present. Today, the várzea is used for agriculture and forestry by smallholder farmers, and their systems tend to be biologically diverse agroecosystems. Hence, much of the forest is managed or unmanaged secondary forest. Small-scale ranching and extractive logging occur as well. Nevertheless, there is a certain amount of degraded deforested habitat. This region includes part of a large corridor of protected areas. They include the Mamirauá Sustainable Development Reserve that lies entirely within the várzea, Amanã National Park which is half igapó forest (flooded by blackwater systems) and half adjacent terra firme, and Jaú National Park on terra firme and some igapó (not in this ecoregion), together covering 57,090 km2 and protecting one of the most diverse aquatic ecosystems on Earth. These areas, particularly Mamirauá, have strong conservation programs.

Southwest Amazon moist forests

This ecoregion located in the Upper Amazon Basin, is characterized by a relatively flat landscape with alluvial plains dissected by undulating hills or high terraces.

The biota of the southwest Amazon moist forest is very rich because of these dramatic edaphic and topographical variations at both the local and regional levels.

This ecoregion has the highest number of both mammals and birds recorded for the Amazonian biogeographic realm: 257 with 11 endemics for mammals and 782 and 17 endemics for birds. The inaccessibility of this region, along with few roads, has kept most of the habitat intact. Also, there are a number of protected areas, which preserve this extremely biologically rich ecoregion.

Several extractive reserves, the largest being Chico Mendes and Alto Juruá, are actively managed in Brazil.

Iquitos varzea

This ecoregion comprises the low, seasonally inundated river basins of the upper Amazon, Ucayali, Marañon, and Madre de Dios, in Peru and Bolivia, several smaller tributaries to the Amazon in Peru, and the upper Juruá and Purus Rivers in Brazil. A large portion of the region centers around the extensive seasonally flooded plain in northeastern Peru at the confluence of the Marañon and Ucayali Rivers that join to form the Amazon. The Rivers Pacaya and Simiria bisect this plain.

Purus-Madeira moist forests

The Purus-Madeira moist forest region lies in the center of the Brazilian Amazon south of the Amazon River on the interfluvial plain between the Purus and Madiera rivers. The region extends to the southwest reaching the lowest foothills of the Carauari arch, an ancient zone of uplift. The terrain here is almost uniformly flat, being entirely on the low Amazon basin, and the vegetation are seasonally inundated tropical lowland rainforests. These lowland plains are dissected by large rivers characterized by endless meanders, frequent oxbows, and thousands of tiny streams, all of which flood annually. This hot and humid region receives on average 2,500 millimeters (mm) of precipitation per year, and elevations range from 20-60 meters above sea level.

Madeira-Tapajós moist forests

The Madeira-Tapajós moist forest ecoregion lies in central Amazonia in Brazil south of the Amazon River. It spans the lowland Amazon Basin reaching south to the border with Bolivia. It encompasses portions of three Brazilian states (Amazonas, Rondônia, Mato Grosso) and part of the Bolivian Department of Beni. The region includes the large interfluve between the Madeira and Tapajós Rivers, both major tributaries to the mighty Amazon, and extends southward into the headwaters of the Tapajós to the Rio Guaporé Basin. The region encompasses a variety of vegetation types including dense lowland rain forest, dense submontane rain forest, open-canopy submontane rain forest, and woodland savanna.

This region hosts one of the most degraded environments of central Amazonia. It is located in central Rondônia where colonization and subsequent deforestation has left over one-third of the landscape of the state denuded and degraded. Most of this occurs along the Humaitá-Cuiabá road, but significant land degradation has occurred along the Transamazon Highway from the middle Tapajós to Humaitá. The southern edge of Amazonia, in general, suffers from encroaching development from the savanna regions to the south. Mining that is both intensive and illegal has left great scars on the banks of the Tapajós and Madeira Rivers. The protected area system is not well implemented here. The Amazonia National Park straddles the Tapajós River near Itaituba, covering 9,935 km2, but suffers from inadequate administrative capacity. The Pacaas Novos National Park protects 7,648 km2 of montane and submontane area in the Chapada dos Parecis.

Tapajós-Xingu moist forests

This ecoregion lies between the Tapajós and Xingu rivers that flow within the Amazon Basin of central-eastern Brazil.

Characterized by a high density of lianas (woody vines), which create a low, open understory, this region hosts an impressive level of biodiversity; over one hundred and sixty species of mammals are found here and more than five hundred and fifty species of avifauna.

The Transamazon Highway and road south to Cuiabá traverse the Tapajós-Xingu moist forest region. Along these roads, colonization, logging, ranching, and large-scale development projects result in large-scale deforestation and land degradation. Urban centers here include Altimira on the Iriri River, Santarém at the mouth of the Tapajós, and Aveiro on the Lower Tapajós. Very few protected areas are established here. The Amazonia National Park straddles the Tapajós River near Itaituba covering 9,935 km2 but suffers from inadequate administrative capacity. Tapajós National Forests offers little protection to the forests near Aveiro.

Xingu-Tocantins-Araguaia moist forests

The Xingu-Tocantins-Araguaia moist forest ecoregion lies in eastern Amazonian Brazil south of the Amazon River. It spans the interfluve between the Xingu and Lower Tocantins Rivers. It encompasses the middle and lower Araguaia River Basin, which branches to the southwest from the Tocantins. The Xingu and Tocantins Rivers are major tributaries to the mighty Amazon. The region extends southward into the uplands of the Brazilian Shield.

The landscape is relatively flat with flooded plains and many small rivers transecting the region. Biodiversity is high within this region, although not as high as other areas of Amazonia. Bat diversity is particularly high, with over ninety species and dominates the mammal fauna of this ecoregion. Avifauna is also particularly high with 527 species including many parrots, parakeets and macaws. One of the most deforested regions of Amazonia, this area has been ravaged by fire, logging for lumber, and the cultivation of pasture for cattle grazing. One biological reserve inadequately protects this important ecoregion.

This is one of the most deforested and degraded regions in Amazonia, second only to the Tocantins-Araguaia-Maranhão moist forest region to the east. Extensive deforestation occurs on the frontier with the drier, more populated zone to the south. Urban development radiates from the Amazonian cities of São Felix do Xingu on the Xingu; Porto de Moz, Oeiras do Pará, and Gurupá on the Amazon; and Marabá on the Tocantins. The Transamazon Highway traverses the middle of the region east to west and another highway flanks the Tocantins River. Most of the forest along these roads has been felled, burned, and replaced by cattle ranches, municipal infrastructure, or agricultural fields. Most of the valuable timber has been removed from the remaining forest. Many insects, birds, mammals, plants, and fish are locally extinct. The protected area system is weak here with only the Tapirapé Biological Reserve that covers 1,030 km2.

Tocatins/Pindara moist forests

The Tocantins-Araguaia-Maranhão moist forest is an area of dense rain forest in the eastern extreme of the Amazon Basin flanked by the mouth of the Amazon River and the Atlantic Ocean. In the state of Pará, the region extends west to the Tocantins River and south to the Mearim River in Maranhão State. A number of rivers run through the region including the Gurupi, Capim, and Guamá which feed into the mouth of the Amazon and are influenced by the daily tides that push Amazon water upstream. The Pindaré and Mearim drain into the Atlantic Ocean. Most of the region lies on a flat alluvial plain which has been heavily influenced by the dynamics of the Amazon River over geologic history.

This region hosts a rich and varied biota with some species restricted to this area at the eastern extreme of the Amazon province. The area may well be a center of diversification for many tree taxa. In this dense evergreen rain forest there is noted heterogeneity in the biota due to the presence of many rivers and to the transitional nature of the region. It hosts elements of the moist evergreen forests of the Amazon Basin in the east and north as well as the drier vegetation of Brazil’s central plateau to the south. A refugium is believed to have existed in the west of this region . One of the most developed areas of Amazonia, cities and interconnecting highways threaten most of the habitat.

This is one of the most developed areas of Amazonia with several highways connecting the important cities of Belém, Paragominas, and Bragança. These big roads attract large-scale industry and development projects. At least one-third of the forests are cleared and much of this land is degraded. The region has become a mosaic of forest remnants, cattle pastures, agricultural fields, secondary forests, degraded (logged) forests, and sprawling urban areas. A great many species are rare or threatened by deforestation. The Tucuruí Dam on the Rio Tocantins below the city of Marabá has flooded 2,430 km2 of low-lying forest, drowning the flora and fauna and displacing human residents. Several small protected areas are established here, and the 2,000 km2 Caxiuanã National Forest protects some forest habitat. There is a small amount of frontier forest remaining here and that is very threatened by continued human-induced deforestation and land degradation.

Amazon-Orinoco-Southern Caribbean magroves

See:

Maranhão Babaçu forests

The Maranhão Babaçu Forest is located in eastern Brazil at the very eastern and southern flank of the Amazon Basin.

This region comprises a transition zone between the moist evergreen forests of the Amazon Basin and the drier woodlands and scrub savannas of Brazil’s central plateau. Floristic elements of both regions intermingle, and the region is characterized by a vegetation mosaic .

The dominant type is cerrado vegetation of woodland, scrub, and patches of dry savanna. The western portion hosts tall species-rich moist evergreen and deciduous forest.

A small area of seasonally wet savanna dominated by sedges and grasses exists on the lower reaches of the major rivers.

Much of the ecoregion’s original habitat has been altered by agriculture development; there are no large protected areas in this region.

Northeastern Brazil restingas

Restingas are coastal dune environments which host with a variety of moist tropical and subtropical habitat types with elements of mangrove, wetland, caatinga, and moist forest, and occur in patches along much of the coast of central and southern Atlantic Brazil. The Northeastern Brazil restingas are the most northern occurrence of this ecoregion type, and are the most extensive and continuous of the Brazilian restingas. Much of the western portion of the ecoregion is protected by the Lencóis Maranhenses National Park, which contains some extraordinary dune-lake formations. This regions hosts a number of endemic and restricted range species and provides important habitat to several endangered species.

Caatinga Enclaves moist forests

Caatinga moist forest enclaves (regionally called "brejos") represent well-defined patches of Atlantic forest surrounded by the Caatinga dry forest and the Cerrado savanna-like vegetation in northeast Brazil. This region’s vegetation consists primarily of semi-deciduous forest. Isolated from each other, these regions show excellent examples of speciation; there are many examples of closely related species separated by only kilometers (km).

Because of their more comfortable climate, Caatinga moist forest enclaves receive much stronger human pressure than their semi-arid surroundings. Consequently, these forests have been reduced in area by 96 percent. Forest conversion still persists at alarming rates. Remaining natural vegetation is represented by 1,915.7 km2 of semi-deciduous forest, with the last largest blocks of habitat (10 to 20 km2) restricted to the areas with difficult access for people.

Atlantic Coast restingas

Brazilian Atlantic Coast restingas consist of a number of well-defined enclaves of restinga forests distributed from northeastern to southeastern Brazil.

This small ecoregion is characterized by sandy dunes with shrubs and low forests further inland. This ecoregion's isolation and unique characteristics help support a relatively high diversity of plants and moderate level of endemism, including the endemic restinga antwren. Less than ten percent of the original vegetation remains and with little protection, the remaining areas are threatened by urban expansion.

Southern Atlantic mangroves Pernambuco coastal forests

Pernambuco coastal forests is a tropical moist forest covering an 80 kilometer (km) strip along the northeast coast of Brazil. The climate is tropical and the four-strata vegetation provides for a high level of biodiversity.

This area is considered one of the more distinctive centers of endemism in South America. The ecoregion is considered an Endemic Bird Area, and harbors a number of threatened avifauna species.

Most of the Pernambuco coastal forests have been cleared in the last centuries. First, the extraction of Brazil wood ("Pau Brazil") was the main goal. This cycle was followed by a long period in which the sugarcane industry was mainly responsible for most of the clearing. Today, even though forest remnants are legally protected, forest conversion into agricultural fields, logging and hunting still persist. Remaining natural vegetation is represented by 233.3 km2 of moist forests, with the last largest blocks of habitat (10 to 20 km2) in private ownership. Thousands of 0.01 to 0.1 km2 remnants surrounded by sugarcane fields compose the dominant landscape in this ecoregion. Protected areas cover 87 km2 of lowland moist forest, but these reserves are few (41), too small (97 percent are smaller than 10 km2) and isolated to maintain most of the biodiversity and key ecological processes.

Pernambuco interior forests

Pernambuco interior forests are located in a narrow strip (approximately 50 km wide) between the ecoregions of Pernambuco coastal forests and Caatinga, in northeastern Brazil. In the north, its border is the Curimataú River; in the south, it is limited by the large São Francisco River.

Characterized predominantly by low-elevation plateaus, this narrow region in separates the Pernambuco coastal forests and Caatinga ecoregions. This ecoregion serves as a transition from the coastal region to dry forests. Biodiversity is rich, because the flora and fauna of both regions characterizes this ecoregion.

Deforestation for fuel, timber, agriculture, and cattle ranching has removed 95 percent of the original vegetation. Today, most of the forest is represented by small (1-10 ha), isolated, floristically impoverished fragments, and it is difficult to discern without careful botanic studies which are primary and which are secondary forests. Forest remnants comprise approximately 900 km2 of semi-deciduous forests and 420 km2 of ecotonal vegetation (Atlantic forest transition to Caatinga dry forest). There are only three protected areas, and they cover about 90 km2 of semi-deciduous forest. The most important reserve is Pedra Talhada Biological Reserve, in Quebrangulo, Alagoas. It has been indicated as one of the more important areas for protection of threatened birds in South America.

Caatinga

Caatinga is the largest dry forest region in South America and certainly one of the richest dry forests in the world. It encompasses the drier part of northeastern Brazil (Piauí, Ceará, Rio Grande do Norte, Paraíba, Pernambuco, Sergipe, Alagoas, Bahia, and northern Minas Gerais). Caatinga has very complex borders with Cerrado, Atlantic forest and Amazon, which have allowed a considerable biotic interchange among these regions during the evolutionary time. In general, Caatinga is located on crystalline or sedimentary depressions, whose continuity is broken by isolated plateaus distributed in mosaic fashion.

This large scrubland in northeastern Brazil provides habitat for an array of flora and fauna species; over 1,200 species of vascular plants occur here, of which thirty percent is endemic. Particularly rich in avifauna, over three hundred and fifty species are found here including two of the ten most threatened birds in the world, the indigo macaw and little blue macaw.

At least 50 percent of the Caatinga has been already been either completely converted from its native vegetation or modified in a major way. The severe overuse of caatinga for grazing and browsing for so many centuries has resulted in large-scale environmental modification of the region. In addition, unsustainable timber extraction for fuel, extensive and uncontrolled fires and, more recently, cotton cultivation have all played critical roles in the nearly complete destruction of important regional ecosystems.

As a result, a large area of the ecoregion is ranked today as highly threatened by desertification. In contrast with the huge proportion of the area under strong human pressure, less than 1 percent of the ecoregion is protected in parks or reserves. Several of these protected areas need to be implemented according to the best management guidelines. One of the best managed Brazilian National Parks is in the Caatinga: Parque Nacional da Serra da Capivara. This park combines two extraordinary features: an important set of Caatinga’s biota and one of the most important archeological sites in South America.

Atlantic dry forests

This forest-dominated ecoregion is surrounded by open vegetation of Caatinga (north and east) and Cerrado (west and south) and is partially isolated from the main core of the Atlantic forest complex of ecoregions. Located mostly along the pediplained depression on River São Francisco, Atlantic dry forests cover an extensive area on eutrophic soils derived from limestone rocks of the Bambuí group.

Dry forests are one of the most threatened and least-known of South America's ecosystems. And the Atlantic dry forest is certainly one of the richest and most vulnerable among them. The biodiversity of this region is relatively unknown, however, it is though that endemism is high do to the many cave habitat, and also that there are unique migrations of certain bird species, including many that are globally threatened.

Approximately 70 percent of the native forest has largely been destroyed. Because these forests grow on relatively rich soils, they are prime candidates for clearing both irrigated and dry-field agriculture. Furthermore, the high biomass of these forests makes them important sources of fuel for Brazil's steel and pig iron industries, which run entirely on charcoal. The most diverse dry forests on flat terrain and rich soil have been completely removed.

Campos Rupestres montane savanna

The Campos Rupestres montane savannas are part of the Espinhaço Range (Cadeia do Espinhaço), an ancient plateau formed by Precambrian crystalline rocks that extend from the North Bahia (near the right bank of the São Francisco River) southward to Serra do Ouro Branco, near the historical city of Ouro Preto, Minas Gerais.

Campos rupestre literally means rock fields but in this context represents a type of vegetation which accompanies this unique habitat type. These shrubby savanna habitats occur on a elevation gradient between 700 and 2000 meters (m). This ecoregion is noted for a high degree of endemism at both genus and species levels. In addition it is listed as an endemic bird area and a center of plant diversity, exemplifying its diverse flora and fauna.

A large portion of this Campos Rupestres ecoregion remains in its natural state. However, threats are increasing and only 5% of the ecoregion is currently in the federal system of protected areas. Protected areas are located in the Espinhaço Range, mostly Serra do Cipó, and Serra do Sincorá.

Bahia coastal forests

Bahia coastal forest covers a 150-kilometer-wide strip along the Atlantic coast of Bahia and Espirito Santo states in Brazil.

This ecoregion has been given high priority for biodiversity conservation because it harbors an extraordinary number of endemic plants, birds, primates, and butterflies. Many of these species are endangered including the Maned Three-toed sloth (Bradypus torquatus) and Golden-headed lion tamarin (Leontopithecus chrysomelas).

The forests of coastal Bahia are considered among the more endangered habitats on Earth because they have been reduced by 95 percent. In southern Bahia, only 0.4 percent of the original forest remains.

At present, forest conversion into pasture is occurring at alarming rates stimulated by the economic crash of cocoa plantations.

Remaining natural vegetation is represented by approximately 9,532 km2 of moist, semi-deciduous and associated restinga forests. The largest blocks of habitat are protected by Sooretama Biological Reserve (240 km2), and by Linhares Forest Reserve (220 km2).

Natural protected areas cover 920.03 km2 (0.9 percent of the ecoregion) of both lowland moist and semi-deciduous forests.

Bahia interior forests

Heterogeneity is the best word to describe the Bahia interior forests. This ecoregion covers a large area, including the Brazilian states of Sergipe, Bahia, Minas Gerais, Espírito Santo, and Rio de Janeiro. It is bordered by the ecoregions of Bahia coastal forest (east), Cerrado (west), Caatinga (north) and Paraná-Parnaíba (south). Although the dominant vegetation in this ecoregion is a kind of seasonal forest, at least five other types of vegetation have been reported for it, ranging from rocky savannas ("campos rupestres") to evergreen forests.

Bahia interior forest is one of the most modified ecoregions in Atlantic forest region. There are few large remnants of forests (of more than 10 kilometer2 (km2), and even these are currently under strong pressure from anthropogenic activities. Less than 1 percent of this ecoregion is officially protected as reserves or parks. The most representative park of this ecoregion is the State Park of Rio Doce, which is composed of 359 km2 located on the middle valley of the Rio Doce, with areas in the districts of Marlieria, Dionísio, and Timóteo.

Cerrado

Cerrado is the largest savanna region in South America and biologically the richest savanna in all the world. It encompasses Central Brazil (most of Mato Grosso, Mato Grosso do Sul, and Tocantins; western Minas Gerais and Bahia; southern Maranhão and Piauí; all Goiás and Distrito Federal; and small portions of São Paulo and Paraná), northeastern Paraguay and eastern Bolivia. Because of its central position in South America, Cerrado has borders with the largest South American biomes: the Amazon basin (on north), Chaco and Pantanal (on west), Caatinga (on northeast), and Atlantic forest (on east and south). Several of the major South American rivers (e.g., São Francisco, Tocantins, Araguaia, Xingu, Paraguay) have their headwaters in Cerrado. Most of the Cerrado is located on large blocks of crystalline or sedimentary plateaus, whose continuity is broken by an extensive network of peripheral depressions.

Over 10,400 species of vascular plants are found, fifty of which are endemic. Fauna diversity is very high also with 180 species of reptiles, 113 of amphibians, 837 of birds and 195 of mammals.

Around 67 percent of the Cerrado ecoregion has been already either completely converted or modified in a major way. In contrast, only 1 percent of the total area of the Cerrado Region is protected in parks or reserves. Most of the large-scale human modification in the Cerrado took place in the last 50 years. With a construction of a new capital of Brazil (Brasília), several highways were built, opening the region to a large process of development. During the 1970's and 1980's, several investment programs financed by multilateral funding agencies together with generous government subsides transformed the Cerrado in a new agricultural frontier. Managed pastures and large-scale plantations of soybeans, corn, and irrigated rice were established. As a result, thousands and thousands of square kilometers of cerrado were removed without any studies on environmental impacts.

Mato Grosso seasonal forests

The Mato Grosso dry forests are located in the Mato Grosso and Para provinces of Central Brazil. This region is a transitional zone between the moist forests to the south and "cerrado" grassland savannas to the west; thus it hosts a great variety of habitat types such as lowland forest, savanna, gallery forests, and dense thicket areas. The ecoregion encompasses part of the Alto-Xingu, which constitutes the headwaters of the Xingu River.

This is an ecoregion of an extraordinary diversity of plants, animals and indigenous peoples. The region constitutes a transitional area between the Amazonian moist forest and the cerrado vegetation. A sector of great biological interest in this ecoregion is the Serra do Cachimbo, a 700 meter (m) escarpment, considered an endemic area for various species. Isolated until the construction of highways in the area in the 1970s, the region was the site of scientific expeditions before and during the 1970s. Threats to the region include gold mining, which has brought thousands of people to the area, logging, agriculture and cattle ranching.

Beni savanna

The Beni savannas are located in the lowlands of the southwestern Amazon Basin, extending northeastward from the foot of the Andean ranges. Almost all of the ecoregion lies within Bolivia, with small areas along the Iténez (Guaporé) River in the Brazilian State of Rondonia and in the Pampas del Heath of the Madre de Dios Department of Peru.

The Beni savannas, also known as the Moxos plains, are the third largest complexes of savannas in South America. This ecoregion has been identified as a plant diversity and endemic center. The abundance of fauna and flora, including threatened species, makes this region highly valuable.

Chiquitano dry forests

Roughly in the center of the South American continent, most of the Chiquitano forest lies within the eastern lowlands of Santa Cruz, Bolivia, with smaller patches extending into western Mato Grosso, Brazil. Situated at the southern limit of Amazonian forests, this forest marks a transition to drier thorny scrub forests further south in the Chaco. This forest takes its name from the indigenous groups, Chiquitanos, which inhabited them at the time of European colonization. It provided the scenario for most of the Jesuit missionary work during the 17th and 18th century. This is the largest patch of healthy dry forest ecosystem alive today, and one of the most biologically diverse dry forests in the world.

Pantanal

The Pantanal is the largest wetland in South America, and the largest wetland in the world that has not been substantially modified by humans. Located roughly in the center of South America, near the borders of Brazil, Bolivia, and Paraguay, the Pantanal stretches from 16° to 20° S latitude. The majority of the ecoregion occurs in Brazil as a floodplain around the Rio Paraguay and tributaries.

While endemism in the area is low, the sheer abundance of large birds, reptiles, and mammals mark its importance as a huge reservoir of biodiversity. Much of the ecoregion remains intact; however, pesticide runoff constitutes a major threat to the watershed of the Rio Paraguay. Also, a project by several governments plans to provide navigable waterway for shipping and dams for hydroelectricity generation, which would drastically alter this pristine habitat.

Humid Chaco

The Chaco Humedo ecoregion is located in northeastern Argentina, the center of Paraguay, and small areas in southwestern Brazil. This region is a mosaic of ecosystems, combining woods with savanna. In this mosaic, various species of trees, shrubs, and coarse grass develop and are associated with numerous species of fauna adapted to this diverse environment. Poaching and exploitation of plants are the main threats to the natural habitat in this ecoregion, which has been considerably altered due to cattle raising.

Alto Parana Atlantic forests

Also known as Parana/Parnaíba interior forests, this area, extending through southern Brazil, and western Argentina and Paraguay, represents the largest portions of the Brazilian Atlantic semi-deciduous forest region.

This region serves as a corridors for species migration between moist and semi-deciduous forests and also between Atlantic forests and Cerrado habitats. Due to this, species richness is high, although endemism is relatively low.

Parana/Paranaíba forests have been reduced in area by 95 percent in Brazil. Remaining vegetation is represented by approximately 17,211 km2 of semi-deciduous forests. The largest blocks of forest (300 to 1,000 km2 are protected public areas, but thousands of 0.01 to 1 km2 remnants, surrounded by pastures and agriculture, represent the dominant biological scenery.

Such remnants are expected to lose a significant part of their biodiversity due to the increase of lianas and ruderal species. Protected areas occupy only 1,866.3 km2 of this semi-deciduous forest ecoregion. Timber extraction, agriculture and hunting represent continuous threats to the biodiversity of Paraná/Paraiba forests. Such activities will increase the pressure on timber trees, game species, and large carnivores.

Uruguayan savanna

The Uruguayan savanna ecoregion extends from the extreme southern part of the Rio Grande do Sul, a Brazilian state, to include the entire country of Uruguay, and a small section of the Argentinean province of Entre Ríos. These savannas encompass a mosaic of gallery forests, palm savannas and out cropping of submontane forests. The gallery forests are found along the Uruguay, Negro, Yaguarí, Queguay, and Tacuarembo Rivers in the easternmost part of the ecoregion, while submontane forests and palm savannas are scattered throughout the ecoregion.

The savannas are critically endangered due to the fact that there are few small isolated patches of intact habitat remaining. The whole ecoregion has been severely altered by cattle ranching

Habitat destruction and modification, and introduction of alien species to the ecoregion have caused the extinction of the collared peccary (Tayassu tajacu), the giant anteater (Myrmecophaga tridactyla), tamandua (Tamandua tetradactyla), jaguar (Panthera onca), and jaguarundi (Herpailurus yaguarondi). Among some of the introduced species are the axis deer (Axis axis), fallow deer (Dama dama), European hare (Lepus europeous) and wild boar (Sus scrofa).

Araucaria moist forests

This ecoregion spans the mountainous areas of southern Atlantic Brazil and extends into northeastern Argentina. These forests are a relict of a once widespread ecosystem of mixed coniferous and broad-leafed trees, spread out across a mountainous landscape.

Forests spread from middle-level plateaus of around 500 meters (m) to the high slopes of the Serra da Mantiqueira, which rise to 1600 m above sea-level. The climate is subtropical with frequent frosts and without a dry season. Annual precipitation is high, and ranges from 1300-3000 millimeters (mm).

These mixed forests are convergent with savanna regions to the south, cerrado scrub to the north, and moist forests to the east and west.

These moist forests have been reduced in area by 87 percent. Remaining vegetation is represented by 35,045.67 km2 of mixed forests. Few large blocks of habitat are preserved by official protection. In addition, thousands of private 1- to 100-hectare remnants surrounded by pastures and agriculture represent a significant part of remaining vegetation. Protected areas cover only 0.62 percent of the ecoregion. More reserves are needed to save these biologically rich forest from illegal logging and urban expansion.

Serra do Mar coastal forests

The Serra do Mar coastal forests cover a 100-kilometers(km) wide strip along the Atlantic Coast of Southeast and South Brazil.

This tropical moist forest ecoregion along the southern coast of Brazil has a subtropical climate with high levels of annual rainfall.

The Serra do Mar mountain range defines this ecoregion with montane forests of Bromeliaceae, Myrtaceae, Melastomataceae, and Lauraceae species. This region contains outstanding biodiversity in endemism and species richness of flora, mammal, bird, and herpetofauna.

The Serra do Mar forests have been reduced in area by 53 percent. Habitat loss occurs preferentially in lowland forests, which are replaced quickly by urban areas. Remaining natural vegetation is represented by 45,928 km2 of moist forest, but there are few large blocks of lowland forests. Protected areas encompass 1,403 km2 of moist forests, including large blocks of montane forest.

Tourism and urban development represent huge threats to natural habitats because human population and cities continue to increase. Serra do Mar forests are spread over the more industrialized region of Brazil in which human population sometimes reaches 1,000 individuals per km2. In addition, traditional human activities like palm-heart extraction represent a severe threat to plants and frugivorous vertebrates. In some localities, more than 10,000 kilograms(kg) of palm-heart is extracted per year.

Context

Ecoregions are areas that:[1] share a large majority of their species and ecological dynamics;
[2] share similar environmental conditions; and,
[3] interact ecologically in ways that are critical for their long-term persistence.

Scientists at the World Wildlife Fund (WWF), have established a classification system that divides the world in 867 terrestrial ecoregions, 426 freshwater ecoregions and 229 marine ecoregions that reflect the distribution of a broad range of fauna and flora across the entire planet.


Marine:

Tocantins/Pindare moist forests

July 23, 2012 - 11:37am

Biome: Tropical and Subtropical Moist Broadleaf Forests
Size: 74,700 square miles
Conservation Status: Critical/Endangered

This region hosts a rich and varied biota with some species restricted to this area at the eastern extreme of the Amazon province. The area may well be a center of diversification for many tree taxa. In this dense evergreen rain forest there is noted heterogeneity in the biota due to the presence of many rivers and to the transitional nature of the region. It hosts elements of the moist evergreen forests of the Amazon Basin in the east and north as well as the drier vegetation of Brazil’s central plateau to the south. A refugium is believed to have existed in the west of this region . One of the most developed areas of Amazonia, cities and interconnecting highways threaten most of the habitat.

Location and General Description

The Tocantins-Araguaia-Maranhão moist forest is an area of dense rain forest in the eastern extreme of the Amazon Basin flanked by the mouth of the Amazon River and the Atlantic Ocean. In the state of Pará, the region extends west to the Tocantins River and south to the Mearim River in Maranhão State. A number of rivers run through the region including the Gurupi, Capim, and Guamá which feed into the mouth of the Amazon and are influenced by the daily tides that push Amazon water upstream. The Pindaré and Mearim drain into the Atlantic Ocean. Most of the region lies on a flat alluvial plain which has been heavily influenced by the dynamics of the Amazon River over geologic history. The low hills (less than 200 m) of the Serra do Tiracambu and Serra do Gurupi rise in the southwest. Temperature averages 26° C over the year, and annual rainfall ranges from 1,500 mm in the southern area to 2,500 in the north near the city of Belém. A pronounced dry season brings less than 100 mm of rain falling per month for about five months. This is particularly true in northwest Maranhão. The soils are mostly poor, deeply weathered clay.

Two main forest types occur here: terra firme (upland non-flooded forest) and flooded forest, of which there are two types: igapó, flooded daily by blackwater rivers (whose waters contain no suspended solids), and várzea, flooded daily by whitewater rivers (such as the Guamá) which contain suspended organic and mineral materials. The soils of the igapó forest are white sand, acidic, and poor in nutrients. The vegetation here is especially tolerant of these conditions. The forests are less diverse than terra firme forests and shorter.

Common species in flooded forests are Caraipa grandiflora, Virola surinamensis, Euterpe oleraceae, Ficus pulchella, Mauritia martiana, Symphonia globulifera, and species of Tovomita and Clusia . Dominant families of the terra firme include Lecythidaceae, Chrysobalanaceae, Burseraceae, Fabaceae, Lauraceae, and Sapotaceae. Prominent tree species include Lecythis odora, Lecythis turbinata, brazil nut (Bertholletia excelsa, rare in this area), Cenostigma tocantina, Bombax tocantinum, and the large liana Bauhinia bombaciflora. Mahogany (Swietenia macrophylla) is found in the Upper Capim and Guamá Rivers. Orchids are noticeably absent from this region . The important leguminous timber tree acapú, Vouacapoua americana, is restricted to eastern Amazonia north and south of the river.

Biodiversity Features

Rare or threatened trees in the area include jaborandi (Pilocarpus microphyllus), mahogany (Swietenia macrophylla), and Dicypellium caryophyllatum, a timber tree whose bark contains a pleasant-smelling essential oil. The avifauna hosts 517 bird species. Two herons are uncommon elsewhere in Amazonia (Egretta tricolor and Nyctanassa violacea). Also present are toucans (Ramphastos spp.), two guans (Pipile cujubi, Penelope pileata), many Nearctic migrants, parrots, and parakeets. Out of the 149 mammals recorded in this region, more than 80 are bats. The bearded saki (Chiropotes satanas), howler monkey (Alouatta belzebul), and red-handed tamarin (Saguinus midas) are all eastern Amazonian primates. Two species of sloths (Bradypus variegatus and Choloepus didactylus) and the nine-banded armadillo (Dasypus novemcinctus) are common here. The rivers host a great number of fish and aquatic reptiles. More than 76 species of snakes are found here.

Current Status

This is one of the most developed areas of Amazonia with several highways connecting the important cities of Belém, Paragominas, and Bragança. These big roads attract large-scale industry and development projects. At least one-third of the forests are cleared and much of this land is degraded. The region has become a mosaic of forest remnants, cattle pastures, agricultural fields, secondary forests, degraded (logged) forests, and sprawling urban areas. A great many species are rare or threatened by deforestation. The Tucuruí Dam on the Rio Tocantins below the city of Marabá has flooded 2,430 km2 of low-lying forest, drowning the flora and fauna and displacing human residents. Several small protected areas are established here, and the 2,000 km2 Caxiuanã National Forest protects some forest habitat. There is a small amount of frontier forest remaining here and that is very threatened by continued human-induced deforestation and land degradation.

Types and Severity of Threats

Colonization along roads and rivers, expansion of agriculture, cattle ranching, and urban sprawl threaten the natural habitats of this region. Fire is used as a tool to facilitate these activities, and it poses the most serious threat to the integrity of the forest ecosystems . Drought and erosion in pastures creates an environment inhospitable to rain forest tree seedlings, therefore hindering the regeneration of forest.

Justification of Ecoregion Delineation

This interfluvial ecoregion is bound on the east and across the southwest by the Tocantins River (the Tucurui Reservoir is not considered for historic coverage) and by the Pindare River and São Marcos Gulf in the east. Linework for this ecoregion follows these rivers, and the IBGE (1993) map classification of "lowland ombrophilous dense forest", "submontane ombrophilous dense forest", and all subsequent "secondary forests and agricultural activities" within this broad classification. Northern limits follow the coastal mangroves, and southern delineation follows the transition to "seasonal deciduous forest" which we classify as cerrado. The ecoregion is isolated from similar forest by the surrounding rivers, and is justified in its endemic species. 

References

Ducke, A., and G. A. Black. 1953. Phytogeographical notes on the Brazilian Amazon. Anais da Academia Brasileira de Ciências 25: 1-46.

Fundação Instituto Brasilero de Geografia Estatástica-IBGE. 1993. Mapa de vegetação do Brasil. Map 1:5,000,000. Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

Nepstad, D. C., P. R. Moutinho, C. Uhl, I. C. Vieira, and J. M. da Silva. 1996. The ecological importance of forest remnants in an eastern Amazonian frontier landscape. Pages 133-150 in J. Schelhas and R. Greenberg, editors, Forest Patches in Tropical Landscapes. Washington, DC: Island Press.

Pires, J. 1974. Tipos de vegetaçao da Amazônia. Brasil Forest 5: 48-58.

Prance, G. T. 1977. The phytogeographic subdivisions of Amazonia and their influence on the selection of biological reservers. Pages 195-212 in G.T. Prance and T.S. Elias, editors, Extinction is Forever. New York: New York Botanical Garden.

Silva, J.M. C. 1998. Um método para o estabelecimento de áreas prioritárias para a conservação na Amazônia Legal. Report prepared for WWF-Brazil. 17 pp.

Prepared by: Robin Sears

State of the Climate in 2011

July 22, 2012 - 11:30am

Worldwide, 2011 was the coolest year on record since 2008, yet temperatures remained above the 30 year average, according to the 2011 State of the Climate report released online by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).

Back-to-back La Niñas cooled globe and
influenced extreme weather in 2011 NOAA-led report examines climate conditions experienced around the world

The lead character of the 2011 climate story was a double dip La Niña, which chilled the Pacific at the start and end of the year. Many of the 2011 seasonal climate patterns around the world were consistent with common side effects of La Niña. More information.

Worldwide, 2011 was the coolest year on record since 2008, yet temperatures remained above the 30 year average, according to the 2011 State of the Climate report released online today by NOAA. The peer-reviewed report, issued in coordination with the American Meteorological Society (AMS), was compiled by 378 scientists from 48 countries around the world. It provides a detailed update on global climate indicators, notable weather events and other data collected by environmental monitoring stations and instruments on land, sea, ice and sky.

“2011 will be remembered as a year of extreme events, both in the United States and around the world,” said Deputy NOAA Administrator Kathryn D. Sullivan, Ph.D. “Every weather event that happens now takes place in the context of a changing global environment. This annual report provides scientists and citizens alike with an analysis of what has happened so we can all prepare for what is to come.”

Two back-to-back La Niñas, each characterized by cooler-than-average water temperatures in the eastern equatorial Pacific, affected regional climates and influenced many of the world’s significant weather events throughout the year. These included historic droughts in East Africa, the southern United States and northern Mexico. La Niña conditions contributed to an above-average tropical cyclone season in the North Atlantic hurricane basin and a below-average season in the Eastern North Pacific. It was also associated with the wettest two-year period (2010–2011) on record in Australia, which was particularly remarkable as the wet conditions followed a decade-long dry spell.

La Niña chilled the eastern tropical Pacific in 2011, but ocean heat content nearly everywhere else was above the long-term average. Maps and trend graphs of 8 additional are available from climate.gov. More information.

Download here. (Credit: NOAA Climate Portal).

The Arctic continued to show more rapid changes than the rest of the planet. Sea ice shrank to its second smallest “summer minimum” extent on record during 2011, as older ice (four to five years old) reached a new record minimum at more than 80 percent below average. Overall, glaciers around the world continued to lose mass. Loss from Canadian Arctic glaciers and ice caps were the greatest since measurements began in 2002.

The report used 43 climate indicators to track and identify changes and overall trends to the global climate system. These indicators include greenhouse gas concentrations, temperature of the lower and upper atmosphere, cloud cover, sea surface temperature, sea level rise, ocean salinity, sea ice extent and snow cover. Each indicator includes thousands of measurements from multiple independent datasets.

Highlights:

  • Warm temperature trends continue: Four independent datasets show 2011 among the 15 warmest since records began in the late 19th century, with annually-averaged temperatures above the 1981–2010 average, but coolest on record since 2008. The Arctic continued to warm at about twice the rate compared with lower latitudes. On the opposite pole, the South Pole station recorded its all-time highest temperature of 9.9°F on December 25, breaking the previous record by more than 2 degrees.
     
  • Greenhouse gases climb: Major greenhouse gas concentrations, including carbon dioxide, methane, and nitrous oxide, continued to rise. Carbon dioxide steadily increased in 2011 and the yearly global average exceeded 390 parts per million (ppm) for the first time since instrumental records began. This represents an increase of 2.10 ppm compared with the previous year. There is no evidence that natural emissions of methane in the Arctic have increased significantly during the last decade.
     
  • Arctic sea ice extent decreases: Arctic sea ice extent was below average for all of 2011 and has been since June 2001, a span of 127 consecutive months through December 2011. Both the maximum ice extent (5.65 million square miles, March 7) and minimum extent (1.67 million square miles, September 9) were the second smallest of the satellite era.
     
  • Ozone levels in Arctic drop: In the upper atmosphere, temperatures in the tropical stratosphere were higher than average while temperatures in the polar stratosphere were lower than average during the early 2011 winter months. This led to the lowest ozone concentrations in the lower Arctic stratosphere since records began in 1979 with more than 80 percent of the ozone between 11 and 12 miles altitude destroyed by late March, increasing UV radiation levels at the surface.

NOAA's State of the Climate in 2011 report was published by the Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society.

For more, visit NOAA's State of the Climate 2011 webpage

Download here. (Credit: NOAA).

 

  • Sea surface temperature & ocean heat content rise: Even with La Niña conditions occurring during most of the year, the 2011 global sea surface temperature was among the 12 highest years on record. Ocean heat content, measured from the surface to 2,300 feet deep, continued to rise since records began in 1993 and was record high.
     
  • Ocean salinity trends continue: Continuing a trend that began in 2004 and similar to 2010, oceans were saltier than average in areas of high evaporation, including the western and central tropical Pacific, and fresher than average in areas of high precipitation, including the eastern tropical South Pacific, suggesting that precipitation is increasing in already rainy areas and evaporation is intensifying in drier locations.

The report also provides details on a number of extreme events experienced all over the globe, including the worst flooding in Thailand in almost 70 years, drought and deadly tornado outbreaks in the United States, devastating flooding in Brazil and the worst summer heat wave in central and southern Europe since 2003.

The 2011 State of the Climate report is peer-reviewed and published annually as a special supplement to the Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society. The report is part of a suite of climate services NOAA provides government, business and community leaders so they can make informed decisions. It was edited by Jessica Blunden, Ph.D., and Deke Arndt of NOAA’s National Climatic Data Center. The full report can be viewed online. The report highlights are available online.

Additionally, for the first time a complementary article has been published by AMS today examining the linkages between climate change and extreme events of 2011. The paper looks at six global extreme weather and climate events from last year.

Findings:

  • Determining the causes of extreme events remains difficult. While scientists cannot trace specific events to climate change with absolute certainty, new and continued research help scientists understand how the probability of extreme events change in response to global warming.
     
  • La Niña-related heat waves, like that experienced in Texas in 2011, are now 20 times more likely to occur during La Niña years today than La Niña years fifty years ago.
     
  • The UK experienced a very warm November 2011 and a very cold December 2010. In analyzing these two very different events, UK scientists uncovered interesting changes in the odds. Cold Decembers are now half as likely to occur now versus fifty years ago, whereas warm Novembers are now 62 times more likely.
     
  • Climate change cannot be shown to have played any role in the 2011 floods on the Chao Phraya River that flooded Bangkok, Thailand. Although the flooding was unprecedented, the amount of rain that fell in the river “catchment” area was not very unusual. Other factors, such as changes in reservoir policies and increased construction on the flood plain, were found most relevant in setting the scale of the disaster.

The paper, Explaining Extreme Events of 2011 from a Climate Perspective, was produced by NOAA and UK Met Offices scientists as well as numerous colleagues around the world. It was edited by Thomas Peterson, NOAA’s National Climatic Data Center; Peter Stott, UK Met Office-Hadley Center; and Stephanie Herring, NOAA’s Office of Program Planning and Integration. The study can be viewed online.

July 10, 2012

Ecoregions of Andorra

July 21, 2012 - 11:08am

The ecoregions of Andorra are enumerated in a single ecoregion: Pyrenees conifer and mixed forests. In Andorra, this ecoregion is severely fragmented, with the major axis of urban development being the Riu Valira River, including its two tributary forks. This intense development is where virtually all the 85,000 human population lies, and the development prevents any meaningful biological corridor connecting the upper slopes on either side of the river valleys.

Geology

The geology of the ecoregion is dominated by that of the Pyrenees Mountains themselves. The central axis of the Pyrenees is comprised of granite and slate exceeding 200,000,000 million years in age, flanked by Mesozoic (limestone, dolomite, and sandstone) and quaternary sedimentary rocks. Alpine orogeny here has shaped the complex Pyrenean landform, that consists of steep rocky slopes, spectacular canyons, high karstic plains and  summits in the entirety of the Pyrenees exceeding 3000 metres. Evidence of Quaternary glaciation is abundant, with spectacular [cirque] and ice-smoothed, U-shaped valleys, and a few small glaciers are found on some of the highest Pyraean peaks.

Vegetation of the Pyrenees conifer and mixed forests

The Pyrenees Mountains are an interzonal mountain system (termed orobiome), essentially a transition area between Central and Mediterranean Europe. There remains a high degree of [intact habitat] over large areas, especially at higher elevations. Approximately 3500 vascular plant species are recorded in the Pyrenees conifer and mixed forests, of which around 200 are endemic, such as Thalictrum macrocarpum, Androsace hirtella, Saxifraga hariotii, Hieracium compositum, Gentiana burseri, Globularia gracilis and Galium caespitosum. There are two endemic genera representing relicts of subtropical origin: Borderea pyrenaica and B. chouardii from the central Pyrenees, and Xatardia scabra from the eastern Pyrenees. The genus Ramonda, which has one species endemic to the Pyrenees (R. myconae) and two species endemic to the Dinaric Mountains, is also noteworthy.

Birds of the Pyrenees conifer and mixed forests

Around 120 species of breeding birds have been recorded in the Pyreness conifer and mixed forests, along with about the same number of migratory species. The highly endangered raptor, lammergeier (Gypaetus barbatus), is reisdent in this ecoregion, of which some forty pairs are  found in the Pyrenees Mountains. Other endangered species, more widely distributed in Northern Europe, form disjunct populations in certain montane areas. These taxa include the capercaillie (Tetrao urogallus) and the ptarmigan (Lagopus muta).

Mammals of the Pyrenees conifer and mixed forests

Around sixty-four mammalian species are found in the Pyrenees Mountains, including some endemic subspecies. Large carnivore populations have been reduced in size or fragmented into small remaining groups. The brown bear (Ursus arctos) population is composed of only a few individuals. Large herbivores are generally have wide distributions, with the exception of the Pyrenean endemic ibex subspecies (Capra pyrenaica pyrenaica), which became extinct in early 2000.

Conservation

The ecoregion is threatened by ongoing urban development as well as certain logging uses; however much of the damage of habitat fragmentation has already been carried out by the virtual cutting ot the two sides of the forested valleys by a swath of roadway, commercial and residential development. The most significant mitigation measure would be to provide for a significantly wide biological corridor to connect the two valley sides. Given the extent of urban development, such an action would likely be expensive and entail a tunnel for the main through roadway and a restored habitat above the tunnel to connect the two valley sides.

References
  • Elena-Rosselló, R. 1997. Clasificación Biogeclimática de España Peninsular y Balear. Ministerio de Agricultura, Pesca y Alimentación, Madrid.
  • Gomez Campo, C. 1985. Plant Conservation in the Mediterranean Ecosystems. Junk Ed. (Geobotanica 7).
  • Gruber, M. 1980. Etages et séries de végétation de la chaine pyrénéenne. Ecologia Mediterranea 5.
  • Heath, M.F. and Evans, M.I., editors. 2000. Important Bird Areas in Europe: Priority sites for conservation. Vol 2: Southern Europe. BirdLife International (BirdLife Conservation Series No: 8). ISBN: 0946888361
  • IUCN. 1996. 1996 IUCN Red List of Threatened Animals. IUCN, Publication Service Unit, Cambridge. ISBN: 2831703352
  • Medail, F. and Quezel, P. 1997. Hotspots Analysis for Conservation of Plant Biodiversity in the Mediterranean Basin. Ann. Missouri Gard. 84
  • Ozenda P. 1994. Vegetation du continent Europeen. Delachaux et Niestle, Lausanne, Swizerland. ISBN: 2603009540
  • Shackleton, D.M., editor, and the IUCN/SSC Caprinae Specialist Group. 1997. Wild Sheep and their Relatives. Status Survey and Conservation Action Plan for Caprinae. IUCN, Gland, Switzerland and Cambridge, UK. ISBN: 2831703530
  • Sainz Ollero, H. and J.E. Hernández-Bermejo. 1981. Síntesis corológica de las dicotiledoneas endémicas de la Pen´nsula Ibérica e Islas Baleares. INIA, Madrid.
  • Swenson, J.E. et al. 1999. Final Draft Action Plan for Conservation of the Brown Bear (Ursus arctos) in Europe. WWF, Switzerland.
  • Water, K.S., and Gillett, H.J., editors. 1998. 1997 IUCN Red List of Threatened Plants. Compiled by WCMC. IUCN, Publication Service Unit, Cambridge.
  • WWF and IUCN. 1994. Centres of Plant Diversity. A guide and strategy for their conservation. 3 Volumes. IUCN Publication Service Unit, Cambridge. ISBN: 2831701988

Reef crustacean named after Bob Marley

July 21, 2012 - 11:08am

President Obama, Stephen Colbert, Elvis Presley, Beyoncé and Bill Gates—each has one. Each of these luminaries has a biological species that has been named after them.

New Coral Reef Crustacean Described and Named
After Late Reggae Performer Bob Marley

Study of new parasitic coral reef species advances understanding of factors influencing disease transmission in oceans.

President Barack Obama has one. Comedian Stephen Colbert has one. Elvis Presley has one. Even computer software magnate Bill Gates has one. And now, Bob Marley--the late popular Jamaican singer and guitarist--also has one. So what is it that each of these luminaries has? The answer: they each have a biological species that has been named after them.

Paul Sikkel, an assistant professor of marine ecology and a field marine biologist at Arkansas State University, discovered and just named after Marley a "gnathiid isopod"--a small parasitic crustacean blood feeder that infests certain fish that inhabit the coral reefs of the shallow eastern Caribbean. Sikkel named the species Gnathia marleyi. All of the life stages of Gnathia marleyi are described by Sikkel and his research team in the June 6th issue of Zootaxia. This research was partly funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF).

Sikkel said, "I named this species, which is truly a natural wonder, after Marley because of my respect and admiration for Marley's music. Plus, this species is as uniquely Caribbean as was Marley."

Gnathia marleyi is a new species within the gnathiid family, and the first new species to be described in the Caribbean in more than two decades. By concealing themselves within coral rubble, sea sponge or algae, juvenile Gnathia marleyi are able to launch surprise attacks on fish and then infest them. Sikkel explained that adult gnathiids do not feed at all. "We believe that adults subsist for two to three weeks on the last feedings they had as juveniles and then die, hopefully after they have reproduced."

There have been increasing numbers of reports that the health of Caribbean coral reef communities is declining due to diseases. "We are currently researching the relationships between the health of coral reef communities and gnathiid populations," said Sikkel.

"Gnathiids, in general, are the most common external parasites found on coral reefs and are ecologically similar to land-based blood-sucking ticks or disease-carrying mosquitoes," Sikkel said. "Gnathiids live on the ocean floor from pole to pole, and from shallow reefs to the abyss--and everywhere between. They are also the most important food item for cleaner fishes and thus key to understanding marine cleaning symbioses."

Sikkel explained that his research group is interested in the combined ecological effects of fishing pressure and reef degradation. "We suspect that coral degradation leads to more available habitat for external parasites to ‘launch attacks' on host fishes," he said. "And as the number of potential host fish decreases, each remaining host will become more heavily parasitized."

"Our current work is focused on how changes in coral reef environments, such as coral bleaching, influences interactions between hosts and parasites," said Sikkel. "We're including in our studies any effects on cleaning organisms that remove parasites from hosts."

About 80 percent of all organisms found on coral reefs are parasites. The gnathiid isopods are among the most ecologically important of them, according to biologists, because many diseases afflicting desirable fish are either caused by, or are transmitted by gnathiids. In addition, the immune system of fish also depends on the overall health of coral reefs, which are known as the "rainforests of the sea" because of their vast biodiversity.

At the end of the day, it comes down to simple oceanic economics: the more parasites there are, the fewer fish there are--at least until the parasites run out of hosts to infect. And fewer fish in the sea can cause significant losses to the populations that depend on them.

Studying the effects of changes in sea-bottom communities associated with coral and sponge diseases and their interactions among other species will advance knowledge of blood-borne pathogens. Sikkel suspects that Gnathia marleyi may be a vector in transmission of these diseases.

Sikkel says his team's current funding through NSF's Ecology and Evolution of Infectious Diseases (EEID) initiative and Biological Oceanography is enabling the team to study precisely which species of Caribbean reef fish harbor these blood parasites. "We are determining the role of Gnathia marleyi, which will help us understand the impacts of changes in coral reef habitat on the transmission of a fish disease called haemogregarines--a type of fish malaria that may weaken their immune systems through a reduction in certain blood cells."

"Disease ecology is a rapidly maturing field in marine science," said Michael Lesser, a program director in NSF's Biological Oceanography Program. "To advance this field, scientists must identify which organisms are the main players in disease transmission in oceans."

Lesser continued: "With so much marine diversity yet to be described, parasitic species don't always get the attention they deserve. But Sikkell and his team have taken an important step by helping to analyze the ecological effects of a parasite on Caribbean coral reef fish populations by describing this previously unknown species."

Sikkel initially discovered Gnathia marleyi about 10 years ago in the U.S. Virgin Islands where it is relatively common--so common, in fact, that Sikkel had assumed for years that the species had previously been described. Nevertheless, compelled by a hunch, Sikkel ultimately sent a specimen of the species to Nico J. Smit of North-West University in South Africa, a member of Sikkel's research team, who confirmed that the species had, in fact, previously been overlooked by taxonomists. With the help of Whitney Sears, one of Sikkel's students, the research team raised the isopod from its juvenile stage through adulthood, a laborious task that was necessary because most taxonomy descriptions of gnathiids are based on adult males, which usually differ in appearance and other ways from juvenile gnathiids.

Specimens of Gnathia marleyi will be housed indefinitely at the American Museum of Natural History in New York City. "We are currently discussing with AMNH the possibility of creating an exhibit featuring this species that could be viewed by the public," said Sikkel.

Sikkel's research team includes Charon Farquharson of the University of Johannesburg in South Africa and Smit.

And by the way, if you are wondering, President Obama has a lichen named after him; Colbert has a beetle; Gates has a flower fly, Beyoncé has a fly, and Elvis has a wasp.

-NSF-
July 9, 2012

Media Contacts

Program Contact

  • Michael Lesser, National Science Foundation (703) 292-8142 mlesser@nsf.gov

Principal Investigator

Ecoregions of Bosnia and Herzegovina

July 21, 2012 - 11:08am

Bosnia and Herzegovina has four ecoregions

  1. Illyrian deciduous forests
  2. Dinaric Mountains mixed forests
  3. Pannonian mixed forests
  4. Balkan mixed forests

Illyrian deciduous forests

Illyrian deciduous forests encompass coastal areas on the eastern coast of the Adriatic Sea. This ecoregion is actually comprised of three distinct forest types, two of which are broadleaf and one of which is a mixed conifer/broadleaf plant community. The region has a relatively high floral endemism rate with many relict and narrow range species. Faunal diversity is high, and a number of IBAs (Important Bird Areas) and threatened SPECs (Species of European Concern) are found within the region. Illegal logging, illegal hunting, and uncontrolled plant harvesting have destroyed extensive forest areas that have been relatively intact until recently.

Overexploitation of forests is ongoing in certain areas due to the political instability of most countries in the ecoregion. Additinally the coastal aspects of the region are a present attractant to the tourism industry, and significant amounts of tourism infrastructure and urbanisation are ongoing in the region from these drivers.

Dinaric Mountains mixed forests

The Dinaric Mountain mixed forests ecoregion encompasses the northwest-southeast Balkan mountain ranges, from the eastern Alps to the northern Albania massifs. The Dinaric Mountain range spans several countries of Eastern Europe and is covered by mixed forest with an outstanding variety of deciduous oak trees. These forests are among the largest and most continuous tracts of forested habitat remaining for large carnivores in Europe. The flora has a relatively high endemism rate with many relict and restricted range species. Faunal diversity is high, and a number of IBAs (Important Bird Areas) and threatened SPECs (Species of European Concern) are encompassed within the region. Human impact remains high in this ecoregion, mainly due to the socio-economic and political instability of most countries in the region, where illegal logging, illegal hunting, and uncontrolled plant harvesting have recently destroyed extensive forest areas that had remained virtually untouched until current times.

The mountain ranges of this region have had low human populations, and tall forests still prevail widely throughout. A significant number of pristine large forest stands remained quite untouched until very recently. Rapid and intense forest degradation in the form of illegal logging, pollution, and fire took place during the recent Balkan conflicts that led to the division of the Former Yugoslavia into a number of independent republics. Overexploitation of forests is ongoing in certain areas due to the political instability of most countries in the ecoregion.

Pannonian mixed forests

This ecoregion consists of the depression surrounded by the Carpathian Mountains, Alps, and Dinaric Mountains. Avifauna diversity is high; there are fifty Important Bird Areas in this ecoregion. Lake Neusiedel with Seewinkel National Park, and other important wetlands are renowned for their bird life. Resident mammals are of the widespread throughout Europe including the European rabbit (Oryctolagus cuniculus), wolf (Canis lupus), and the endangered European mink (Mustela lutreola). There are a number of endangered reptiles including Orsini’s viper and Balkan wall lizard. Recreation and tourism, unsustainable exploitation, development and fragmentation, agricultural abandonment, and disturbance of wildlife, are other important threats. There are a number of natural parks in this ecoregion, but much of the natural habitat has been lost to agriculture.

Balkan mixed forests

The Balkan mixed forests ecoregion covers much of Bulgaria and bordering countries, excluding the Rodope Mountains. The vegetation of this ecoregion, especially that of the forests and grasslands, is Central European in character.

The diversity of flora and fauna is relatively high compared to the rest of Europe and there are a high number of endemic plant species. Mixed oak forests are characteristic, with Quercus frainetto as the dominant tree species. Oak forests are interspersed with pine, silver fir (Abies alba) and Norway spruce (Picea abies) forests, woodland-pastures, shiblyak and grasslands. High valleys and sheltered slopes feature forests dominated by beech (Fagus sylvatica) and hornbeam (Carpinus orientalis and C. betulus). The region’s herpetofauna is among the most diverse in Europe.

The ecoregion has a good network of protected areas; however, the changing political climate threatens them with fragmentation.

Context

Ecoregions are areas that:

[1] share a large majority of their species and ecological dynamics;
[2] share similar environmental conditions; and,
[3] interact ecologically in ways that are critical for their long-term persistence.

Scientists at the World Wildlife Fund (WWF), have established a classification system that divides the world in 867 terrestrial ecoregions, 426 freshwater ecoregions and 229 marine ecoregions that reflect the distribution of a broad range of fauna and flora across the entire planet.

 

CIGAR Consortium

July 20, 2012 - 10:51am

The CGIAR Consortium is a global partnership that unites organizations engaged in research for a food secure future.

CGIAR Consortium

The name CGIAR comes from the acronym for the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research. In 2008 the CGIAR underwent a major transformation. To reflect this and yet retain our roots we have kept CGIAR as our name.

CGIAR research is dedicated to reducing rural poverty, increasing food security, improving human health and nutrition, and ensuring more sustainable management of natural resources. It is carried out by 15 Centers, that are members of the CGIAR Consortium, in close collaboration with hundreds of partner organizations, including national and regional research institutes, civil society organizations, academia, and the private sector.

The 15 Research Centers generate and disseminate knowledge, technologies, and policies for agricultural development through the CGIAR Research Programs. The CGIAR Fund provides reliable and predictable multi-year funding to enable research planning over the long term, resource allocation based on agreed priorities, and the timely and predictable disbursement of funds. The multi-donor trust fund finances research carried out by the Centers through the CGIAR Research Programs.

We have over 8,000 scientists and staff, unparalleled research infrastructure and dynamic networks across the globe. Our collections of genetic resources are the most comprehensive in the world.

Making a difference

We have a solid reputation for acting in the interests of the world’s poor. Our track record spans four decades of research—research that has made a difference.

Our research accounted for US$673 million or just over 10 percent of the US$5.1 billion spent on agricultural research for development in 2010. The economic benefits run to billions of dollars. In Asia, the overall benefits of CGIAR research are estimated at US$10.8 billion a year for rice, US$2.5 billion for wheat and US$0.8 billion for maize.

It has often been cited that one dollar invested in CGIAR research results in about nine dollars in increased productivity in developing countries.

Sweeping reforms for the 21st century

Political, financial, technological and environmental changes reverberating around the globe mean that there are many opportunities to rejuvenate the shaky global food system. Developments in agricultural and environmental science, progress in government policies, and advances in our understanding of gender dynamics and nutrition open new avenues for producing more food and for making entrenched hunger and poverty history.

The sweeping reforms that brought in the CGIAR Consortium in 2010 mean we are primed to take advantage of these opportunities. We are eagerly tackling the ever more complex challenges in agricultural development. We are convinced that the science we do can make even more of a difference. To fulfill our goals we aim to secure US$1 billion in annual investments to fund the current CGIAR Research Programs.

CGIAR has embraced a new approach that brings together its strengths around the world and spurs new thinking about agricultural research for development, including innovative ways to pursue scientific work and the funding it requires. CGIAR is bringing donors together for better results and enabling scientists to focus more on the research through which they develop and deliver big ideas for big impact. As a result, CGIAR is more efficient and effective, and better positioned than ever before to meet the development challenges of the 21st century.

What we do

We collaborate with research and development partners to solve development problems. To fulfill our mission we:

  • Identify significant global development problems that science can help solve;
  • Collect and organize knowledge related to these development problems;
  • Develop research programs to fill the knowledge gaps to solve these development problems;
  • Catalyze and lead putting research into practice, and policies and institutions into place, to solve these development problems;
  • Lead monitoring and evaluation, share the lessons we learn and best practices we discover;
  • Conserve, evaluate and share genetic diversity; and
  • Strengthen skills and knowledge in agricultural research for development around the world.
Key documents

 

Global Sea Surface Currents and Temperature

July 20, 2012 - 10:51am

This visualization of the world's oceans was produced using NASA/JPL's computational model called Estimating the Circulation and Climate of the Ocean, Phase II or ECCO2. ECCO2 is high resolution model of the global ocean and sea-ice. ECCO2 attempts to model the oceans and sea ice to increasingly accurate resolutions that begin to resolve ocean eddies and other narrow-current systems which transport heat and carbon in the oceans.The ECCO2 model simulates ocean flows at all depths, but only surface flows are used in this visualization. There are 2 versions provided: one with the flows colored with gray, the other with flows colored using sea surface temperature data. The sea surface temperature data is also from the ECCO2 model. The dark patterns under the ocean represent the undersea bathymetry. Topographic land exaggeration is 20x and bathymetric exaggeration is 40x.

  Completed: 2012-02-10 Animators: Greg Shirah (NASA/GSFC) (Lead)   Horace Mitchell (NASA/GSFC)   Eric Sokolowsky (GST) Producer: Michael Starobin (HTSI) Scientists: Hong Zhang (UCLA)   Dimitris Menemenlis (NASA/JPL CalTech) Platforms/Sensors/Data Sets: GTOPO30 Topography and Bathymetry (3-2007 through 2-2008)   ECCO2 High Resolution Ocean and Sea Ice Model

 

Gulf Stream Sea Surface Currents and Temperatures

July 20, 2012 - 10:51am

This visualization shows the Gulf Stream stretching from the Gulf of Mexico all the way over towards Western Europe. This visualization was designed for a very wide, high resolution display (e.g., a 5x3 hyperwall display).

This visualization was produced using model output from the joint MIT/JPL project: Estimating the Circulation and Climate of the Ocean, Phase II or ECCO2.. ECCO2 uses the MIT general circulation model (MITgcm) to synthesize satellite and in-situ data of the global ocean and sea-ice at resolutions that begin to resolve ocean eddies and other narrow current systems, which transport heat and carbon in the oceans. The ECCO2 model simulates ocean flows at all depths, but only surface flows are used in this visualization. There are 2 versions provided: one with the flows colored with gray, the other with flows colored using sea surface temperature data. The sea surface temperature data is also from the ECCO2 model. The dark patterns under the ocean represent the undersea bathymetry. Topographic land exaggeration is 20x and bathymetric exaggeration is 40x.

  Completed: 2012-02-14 Animators: Greg Shirah (NASA/GSFC) (Lead)   Horace Mitchell (NASA/GSFC) Scientists: Hong Zhang (UCLA)   Dimitris Menemenlis (NASA/JPL CalTech) Platforms/Sensors/Data Sets: ECCO2 High Resolution Ocean and Sea Ice Model   Hipparcos/Telescope/Tycho 2 Catalogue   GTOPO30 Topography and Bathymetry

 

Perpetual Ocean

July 18, 2012 - 10:26am

This visualization shows ocean surface currents around the world during the period from June 2005 through December 2007. The visualization does not include a narration or annotations; the goal was to use ocean flow data to create a simple, visceral experience.

This visualization was produced using model output from the joint MIT/JPL project: Estimating the Circulation and Climate of the Ocean, Phase II or ECCO2. ECCO2 uses the MIT general circulation model (MITgcm) to synthesize satellite and in-situ data of the global ocean and sea-ice at resolutions that begin to resolve ocean eddies and other narrow current systems, which transport heat and carbon in the oceans. ECCO2 provides ocean flows at all depths, but only surface flows are used in this visualization. The dark patterns under the ocean represent the undersea bathymetry. Topographic land exaggeration is 20x and bathymetric exaggeration is 40x.

  Completed: 2011-04-08 Animators: Greg Shirah (NASA/GSFC) (Lead)   Horace Mitchell (NASA/GSFC) Video Editor: Victoria Weeks (HTSI) Scientists: Hong Zhang (UCLA)   Dimitris Menemenlis (NASA/JPL CalTech) Platforms/Sensors/Data Sets: GTOPO30 Topography and Bathymetry   Hipparcos/Telescope/Tycho 2 Catalogue   ECCO2 High Resolution Ocean and Sea Ice Model (06/2006 - 12/2007) Series: Flows

 

Humans Change Earth

July 14, 2012 - 9:44am

Big Idea 9: Humans Change Earth is the last of 10 short videos explaining what we all should know about the science of the Earth — how the planet's land, water, air, and life systems interact. The American Geological Institute has developed these videos to bring to life the core concepts identified by the U.S. National Science Foundation-funded Earth Science Literacy Initiative (www.earthscienceliteracy.org). For educational activities exploring each of the nine "Big Ideas of Earth Science" illustrated in the videos, visit Earth Science Week (www.earthsciweek.org).

In Why Earth Science?, stunning video sequences and images illuminate the importance of knowing how Earth works and illustrate opportunities for careers in the Earth sciences.

Natural Hazards Affect Humans

July 12, 2012 - 9:17am

Big Idea 8: Natural Hazards Affect Humans is the ninth of 10 short videos explaining what we all should know about the science of the Earth — how the planet's land, water, air, and life systems interact. The American Geological Institute has developed these videos to bring to life the core concepts identified by the U.S. National Science Foundation-funded Earth Science Literacy Initiative (www.earthscienceliteracy.org). For educational activities exploring each of the nine "Big Ideas of Earth Science" illustrated in the videos, visit Earth Science Week (www.earthsciweek.org).

In Why Earth Science?, stunning video sequences and images illuminate the importance of knowing how Earth works and illustrate opportunities for careers in the Earth sciences.

Earth Provides Resources

July 11, 2012 - 9:00am

Big Idea 7: Earth Provides Resources is the eighth of 10 short videos explaining what we all should know about the science of the Earth — how the planet's land, water, air, and life systems interact. The American Geological Institute has developed these videos to bring to life the core concepts identified by the U.S. National Science Foundation-funded Earth Science Literacy Initiative (www.earthscienceliteracy.org). For educational activities exploring each of the nine "Big Ideas of Earth Science" illustrated in the videos, visit Earth Science Week (www.earthsciweek.org).

In Why Earth Science?, stunning video sequences and images illuminate the importance of knowing how Earth works and illustrate opportunities for careers in the Earth sciences.

Life Evolves on Earth

July 11, 2012 - 9:00am

Big Idea 6: Life Evolves on Earth, is the seventh of 10 short videos explaining what we all should know about the science of the Earth — how the planet's land, water, air, and life systems interact. The American Geological Institute has developed these videos to bring to life the core concepts identified by the U.S. National Science Foundation-funded Earth Science Literacy Initiative (www.earthscienceliteracy.org). For educational activities exploring each of the nine "Big Ideas of Earth Science" illustrated in the videos, visit Earth Science Week (www.earthsciweek.org).

In Why Earth Science?, stunning video sequences and images illuminate the importance of knowing how Earth works and illustrate opportunities for careers in the Earth sciences.