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Scientists call for no-fishing zone in Arctic

Nature Thousands of scientists from 67 countries have called for an international agreement to close the Arctic high seas to commercial fishing until research reveals more about the freshly exposed waters. Recent Arctic sea-ice retreat during the summer months has opened up some of the waters that fall outside of the exclusive economic zones of the nations that circle the polar ocean. In all, more than 2.8 million square kilometres make up these international waters, which some scientists say could be ice free during summer months within 10–15 years. Although industrial fishing hasn’t yet occurred in the northernmost part of … Read more…

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Mixed Reviews for Quebec’s Plan Nord

The government of Quebec (Canada) has launched its multibillion-dollar Plan Nord, which will open the vast northern reaches of the province to mining and energy development–and protect 50% of the territory from economic development. The 1.2-million-square-kilometre region—twice the size of France—is known for its wild rivers, biodiversity, diverse ecosystems and a large swath (about 20%) of Canada’s boreal forest. Boreal forest covers more than 25% of Quebec. More than 120,000 people, including 33,000 aboriginals also live in the region. Quebec Premier Jean Charest said yesterday the government will invest CDN$80 billion into mining, forestry, transportation, energy development and tourism over the … Read more…

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Banking on biodiversity

The diversity of life on Earth gives ecosystems the resilience they need to thrive. Yet every day scores of plants and animals go extinct, victims of activities we humans undertake to feed, clothe, house and trans­port ourselves. How can we meet our own needs without destroying that which sustains us? The west coast of Vancouver Island in British Columbia, Canada, has a rugged, involuted shoreline, etched by fjords, sand dunes and shel­tered coves. It is sandwiched between two biospheres, the dark swelling sea and the emerald temperate rain forest, and it attracts all sorts—from salmon to surfers. As idyllic as … Read more…

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Taxonomy in Trouble in Canada

Canada is at risk of losing its taxonomic expertise, according to a report released today. The report details stagnant research funding, greying experts, a lag in digitization and a lack of support for national collections. This is threatening Canada’s understanding of its biodiversity, and the ecosystem services it provides, the report concludes. “Canadian contributions to describing new species has dropped from being 6th in the world to 14th in the last decade,” says Thomas Lovejoy, Biodiversity Chair at the Heinz Center for Science, Economics and the Environment, who chaired the panel of 14 Canadian and international experts who authored the report. “The … Read more…

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Cold cash for cold science

The recent funding wrap-up from the international polar year (IPY) has left many Canadian researchers scratching their heads, trying to find a way to continue their arctic science projects. A new grant from the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada may help close that research-funding gap. In its announcement yesterday, NSERC opened a competition to fund large-scale research with a focus—for this round of funding—on northern earth systems. The Discovery Frontiers initiative will heft Can$4 million over five years on the successful research team to study the physical, chemical, biological and social factors that affect the North and its … Read more…