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Greenland melting, warming nights, COVID and wildlife: 3 stories you may have missed

© Levi Norton

Editor's note: News about conservation and the environment is made every day, but some of it can fly under the radar. In a recurring feature, Conservation News shares stories from the past week that you should know about.

1. Greenland could lose more ice this century than it has in 12,000 years 

The Earth’s northernmost ice sheet is melting at a record pace.  

The story: If climate change continues at its current rate, more than 6,100 billion tons of Greenland’s ice sheet could melt by the end of the century, reported Madeleine Stone for National Geographic. Compiling historic data from average temperatures and snowfall in Greenland, a group of scientists created a model that assesses the potential impact of climate change on this 1.7-million-square-kilometer (66,200-mile) ice sheet over the next 100 years. They discovered that Greenland stands to lose more ice this century than it has at any point in the past 12,000 years — and that melting could worsen if climate change continues to accelerate. 

The big picture: “We have found a gas pedal and we have put a brick on it in terms of climate,” glacier expert Ted Scambos told National Geographic. “And it’s not going to stop until we change.” Research shows that temperatures in the Arctic are rising twice as fast as temperatures on the rest of the planet, triggering widespread melting of sea ice that is contributing to global sea level rise. According to a recent study, these rapidly rising sea levels could affect more than 150 million people around the world by 2050, submerging major coastal cities such as Shanghai and Mumbai. 

Read more here

Recent research revealed that global warming is occurring at different rates in the daytime compared with the night in many areas. 

The story: A new study found that temperature rise caused by climate change is occurring faster at night than during the day in many regions of the world, including Europe and Central Asia, reported Damian Carrington for The Guardian. In the first global study of its kind, researchers compared global temperature rise in the day with the night in the same geography over the past 35 years for places around the world, discovering that more than one-third of them are warming faster at night than during the day. This difference is likely caused by each region’s level of cloud cover: When clouds absorb sunlight during the day, it reduces heat, but when they are carried over into the night, these heated clouds may actually be raising temperatures. 

The big picture: According to the authors of the study, differences in temperature rise in the night and day could have catastrophic consequences for wildlife and plants, altering their feeding patterns, reproduction and many other biological activities. Additionally, increased heating at night could threaten populations impacted by heat waves, as they will no longer have a reprieve from dangerously high temperatures during the night. 

Read more here

From surges in poaching to a recovery of some species, the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on wildlife around the world are diverse. 

The story: Lockdowns during the COVID-19 pandemic have had a variety of impacts on global wildlife — from an increase in poaching in some areas to rebounding species populations in others, reported Caitlin Hu, Natalie Gallón, Hira Humayun, Ingrid Formanek and Zamira Rahim for CNN. In Kenya and Honduras, ecotourism has ground to a halt, resulting in a surge of poaching as many local communities struggle financially without revenue from tourism operations and are forced to seek other means of income. However, in other regions, COVID-19 lockdowns have offered a respite for many species that are negatively affected by human activities. For example, baby bass populations in Ontario, Canada, have more than tripled, which scientists attribute to the halt on sportfishing in the province. 

The big picture: "There's more wildlife visiting inhabited areas,” Conservation International  executive vice president Sebastian Troëng told CNN. “We've seen the penguins in Cape Town, the kangaroos jumping down the streets in Adelaide and so on. In those contexts, it probably has given nature a bit of a break." According to a recent report, roughly two-thirds of the world’s wildlife populations has been decimated in the past 50 years prior to the pandemic. As scientists compile research about the impact of COVID-19 lockdowns on nature conservation, early evidence has shown that limiting human activities such as development and transportation can help conserve wildlife populations. 

Read more here


Kiley Price is a staff writer at Conservation International. Want to read more stories like this? Sign up for email updates here. Donate to Conservation International here.

Cover image: A gorilla in Uganda (© Levi S. Norton)

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