What We’re Reading: Jan 8, 2016

The Price of African Wildlife
We hear a lot about the per kilogram cost of poached rhino horn and elephant ivory but less about the costs of legal trophy hunting. This Bloomberg Business article discusses both the prices ranchers and hunters will pay for buffalo and antelope. Unsurprisingly, males with large horns fetch a lot of money (but market beware as we’ve seen that taking out this large animals decreases horn size into the future), but rare coat colors are also valued by the market. The article analyzes the increase in prices since the 2000s as part of a price bubble which may be popping as prices declined by 33% or more in 2015.

Global Conservation Issues for 2016
It’s a new year and, as has now become traditional, it’s time to check out the new horizon scan of global conservation issues for 2016. This series of papers (this is the 7th so far) highlights topics that are not currently well known or well understood, but that may have important implications (both good and bad) for conservation and biodiversity in the future.

For 2016, the top 15 issues identified are:

  • Artificial superintelligence
  • Changing costs of energy storage and consumption models
  • Ecological civilization policies in China
  • Electric pulse trawling
  • Osmotic power
  • Managed bees as vectors
  • Unregulated fisheries in the central Arctic Ocean threaten expanding fish stocks
  • Increasing extent of construction of artificial oceanic islands
  • Increasing aquatic concentrations of testosterone
  • Effects of engineered nanoparticles on terrestrial ecosystems
  • Satellite access to shipborne automatic identification systems
  • Passive acoustic monitoring to prevent illegal activity
  • Synthetic body parts of endangered animals
  • Artificial glaciers to regulate irrigation
  • Invasive species as reservoirs of genetic diversity

If you’re not sure how on earth some of these might affect wildlife conservation… you should read the paper!

Oceanic Climate Affects Gray Whale Distribution
Gray whales (Eschrichtius robustus) are the only baleen whale to have gone extinct from an entire ocean basin (the Atlantic Ocean) in recent times. They do however live in the Pacific Ocean, causing people to speculate that whaling may have been the driver of extinction in the Atlantic and that this may have been a different species. This paper (sub) used ancient and modern DNA and predictive habitat modeling to explain gray whales’ population history and project trends into the future almost 100 years. The Atlantic gray whale is not genetically distinct from Pacific gray whales and the Atlantic whale suffered from a decline in genetic diversity long before whaling, suggesting other, but unknown climate-related factors may have contributed to its decline. In the future, climate change will actually support new habitat for the gray whale with projections for a return to the Atlantic Ocean. Indeed, two sightings of gray whales have been observed in the Atlantic.

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