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Global warming a growing threat to Arctic reindeer

JARFJORD, Norway (AFP) – On Norway's border with Russia, the consequences of climate change are affecting the reindeer population as rising temperatures hit food stocks and industry growth eats into vital grazing land.

The reason: the lichen his animals graze on has become tougher to find as winter temperatures rise. The snow thaws, and along with rain, then freezes anew -- covering the ground in layers impervious to all but the most tenacious reindeer.

Grazing land is also disappearing under the weight of industry as buildings, pipelines, roads and other infrastructure increasingly dot old pastures.

50,000 dead starfish found on Irish beach

Extreme weather conditions have killed tens of thousands of starfish and left them strewn across a sheltered beach. A carpet of pink and mauve echinoderms, a family of marine animals, appeared Thursday morning, November 5, on Lissadell Beach in north Co Sligo. The adult starfish, measuring between 7cm and 20cm in diameter and estimated to be up to 50,000 in number, stretched along 150 metres of the strand. A marine biologist speculated that they had been lifted up by a storm while feeding on mussel beds off shore. "The most likely explanation is that they were feeding on mussels but it is a little STRANGE that none of them were attached to mussels when they were washed in." If they had died as a result of a so-called 'red tide' or algal bloom, other sealife would have been washed ashore with them. "These were almost all adult size and the typical starfish variety that is found in the North Atlantic but there was nothing else mixed in with them."

Surveying the UNUSUAL scene, he placed some in a bucket of seawater to test whether they were alive, but while this prompted a slight response from one or two of the creatures, the vast majority were dead. The phenomenon was most likely caused by recent bad weather. "They turned up almost certainly as a result of an exceptional storm event. A storm hit the seabed where these sub-tidal animals were and lifted them up and washed them ashore." Investigations were continuing into how they came to be washed ashore but initial indications pointed to the stormy weather, which has been a feature in the north-west in recent days. In a similar episode earlier this year, thousands of dead starfish washed ashore on Youghal Beach in Co Cork. Scientists speculated that they, too, had been thrown on to the beach by an underflow, which was probably caused by a storm at sea

Species' extinction threat grows

More than a third of species assessed in a major international biodiversity study are threatened with extinction, scientists have warned.
Out of the 47,677 species in the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species, 17,291 were deemed to be at serious risk.
These included 21% of all known mammals, 30% of amphibians, 70% of plants and 35% of invertebrates.
Conservationists warned that not enough was being done to tackle the main threats, such as habitat loss.
"The scientific evidence of a serious extinction crisis is mounting," warned Jane Smart, director of the International Union for the Conservation of Nature's (IUCN) Biodiversity Conservation Group.
 "It's time for governments to start getting serious about saving species and make sure it's high on their agendas for next year, as we are rapidly running out of time."
The Red List, regarded as the most authoritative assessment of the state of the planet's species, draws on the work of thousands of scientists around the globe.

The latest update lists amphibians as the most seriously affected group of organisms on the planet, with 1,895 of the 6,285 known species listed as threatened.
Of these, it lists 39 species as either "extinct" or
 "extinct in the wild". A further 484 are deemed "critically endangered", 754 "endangered" and 657 "vulnerable".

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