Great Barrier Reef will be smothered with silt, because coal


Australia’s Great Barrier Reef Marine Park — a supposedly protected natural area containing thousands of reefs, which together are visible from space and attract nearly $6 billion a year in tourism — is a pretty terrible place to dump loads of silt. But it’s happening: The federal agency that governs the reef approved plans to dump up to 3 million cubic meters of silt that will be dredged from the marine park to help carve a superhighway for tankers ferrying coal to Asia.

It’s the final piece in Australian Prime Minister (and known climate denier) Tony Abbott’s already-approved master plan to dredge the shipping lane, expand an existing coal terminal, and extensively mine the northeastern state of Queensland for coal.

Reuters reports that backers of the coal export project, including two Indian firms and the heiress to an Australian mining empire, hope to deliver an estimated $28 billion of coal to…

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The number of monarch butterflies that made it to Mexico is at all time low


Monarch butterflies have it tough. Farmers have eradicated milkweed, the butterflies’ favorite food, and drought and heat are messing with butterfly reproductive cycles. Normally, monarchs migrate in droves from the U.S. down into Mexico for the winter. But surveys showed that last year there were fewer monarch butterflies spending the winter in Mexico than in any year since the surveys began in 1993.

In 2013, butterflies were found in just 0.67 hectares of forest, a 44 percent decrease from 2012. That’s after it had already dropped 59 percent over the previous two years. This is a pretty good indication of butterfly suffering. From the University of Minnesota:

Forest area inhabited by monarchs in Mexico is used as an indirect indicator of the number of butterflies arriving from Canada and the United States each year following a migration of more than 4,000 kilometers. The butterflies spend November through…

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Climate change is directly responsible for killing baby penguins


Being a baby penguin is no easy ride. To survive, the chicks must escape starvation, the jaws of predators, and being beaten or pecked to death by other penguins. Now, on top of these dangers, there comes evidence the baby birds are facing another challenge to their existence: climate change, which is making their habitats increasingly deadly.

Scientists have known for a while that the warming atmosphere is changing the global food chain, and that these alterations can starve seabirds. But a team of researchers that has been monitoring penguins since the 1980s alleges that more extreme weather is directly responsible for killing these birds, mainly through abnormal heat and powerful rainstorms. These worsening environmental stresses can decimate as much as half of a penguin-chick population in a year, they say in a new study in PLOS ONE.

The scientists, led by University of Washington biology professor Dee Boersma…

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World’s most endangered big cat is also super, super adorable


Today in Cute Tiny Animals, welcome baby Sochi into your heart. Born December 3 at the Denver Zoo, Sochi is one of the world’s few Amur leopards. (There are only about 30 Amur leopards in the wild, according to World Wildlife Fund.) The cub was named after Sochi, Russia, home to the upcoming Winter Olympics.

Zooborns has the scoop:

Sochi is the second cub for Dazma and her mate, Hari-Kari. Hari-Kari was born at El Paso Zoo in 2003, while Dazma was born at Cheyenne Mountain Zoo in 2001. The two came to Denver Zoo and were paired under recommendation of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) Species Survival Plan (SSP), which ensures healthy populations and genetic diversity among zoo animals. Fortunately, the couple has proved to be an excellent match.

Check out the cuteness:

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These balding coral reefs got seaweed hairplugs


Until a few decades ago, reefs near Sydney, Australia were covered in brown, sinuous macro-algae called Phyllospora comosa, or crayweed. Then Sydney dumped a bunch of sewage in the ocean in the 1970s and 1980s and killed most of it off. Reefs were barren at worst; at best, they were covered in simpler algae. But a group of scientists just tried transplanting a new crop of crayweed onto the reefs, like giving them hairplugs. And it worked.

Live Science reports:

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