Picture of the Day

Wildlife discovery could lead to more affordable and effective species conservation

Shown here: A Goodfellow's tree kangaroo, a relative of the Wondiwoi tree kangaroo. No one had reported seeing the presumed-extinct Wondiwoi tree kangaroo -- a cross between a bear and a monkey -- since before the Great Depression. Then, this past summer, an amateur biologist stumbled upon one while trekking through Papua New Guinea. The revelation underscored how little we still know about the natural world -- a major obstacle to conservation. A new Stanford-led study supports one approach to protecting all species in an area -- the ones we know about and the ones, such as the tree kangaroo, scientists don't even know need protection. That conservation scheme focuses broadly on what are known as ecoregions. These are geographically unique regions, such as deserts and rainforests, that contain distinct communities of plants and animals. Scientists have long debated how well ecoregion borders separate species communities. If the borders are strong, then protecting an ecoregion, such as a rainforest, would effectively protect all of the species therein. If not, each species would need to be managed separately -- a much more uncertain undertaking, especially when we don't even know some species are there.

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