Scientists in Ecuador's Galapagos islands are hoping to restore a turtle species believed extinct since the 1800s. The Chelonoidis elephantopus lived on Floreana Island and was captured by seamen in large numbers for food during their long journeys across the Pacific. The species is thought to have disappeared shortly after Charles Darwin's celebrated visit to the treasured archipelago. But a group of international scientists who collected 1,700 blood samples from turtles on Isabel Island farther north discovered 80 had genetic traces of the lost species. Researchers with the Galapagos Conservancy and the Galapagos National Park have selected 20 turtles with higher amounts of the Floreana turtle in its DNA to reproduce, in hopes of one day creating a turtle that bears close resemblance to the extinct tortoise.
More efficient plants could help offset carbon emissions
As carbon dioxide continues to build in the atmosphere, scientists are figuring out how life on earth is adapting to its effects. A new study in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences supports a long-standing theory that some plants become more efficient at using water under higher carbon dioxide concentrations. This is a boon for the plant, allowing for more efficient photosynthesis, the chemical process by which plants make food for themselves. Better photosynthesis helps plants grow bigger — which in turn allows them to store more carbon away. That means if plants continue to adjust to rising carbon dioxide concentrations, increasing their biomass on a global scale, they could actually help offset some of our human carbon emissions by removing more carbon dioxide from the air.
Emerald ash borer could claim over 8 billion trees
Five prominent species of ash tree in the eastern U.S. have been driven to the brink of extinction from years of lethal attack by a beetle, a scientific group says. Tens of millions of trees in the U.S. and Canada have already succumbed, and the toll may eventually reach more than 8 billion, the International Union for Conservation of Nature said. Ash trees are a major part of eastern forests and urban streets, and their timber is used for making furniture and sports equipment, including hockey sticks. The rampage of the emerald ash borer is traced to the late 1990s, when it arrived from Asia in wood used in shipping pallets that showed up in Michigan. Asian trees have evolved defenses against the insect, but North America presented it with vulnerable trees and no natural predators.