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Endangered Species

On planet Earth, there are 11,167 species of animals and plants that are known to be in danger of extinction, warns the latest edition of the so-called "Red List" published by the World Conservation Union (IUCN), considered an important tool for evaluating the state of biological diversity.

The Red List of Threatened Species 2002 includes 121 entries more than in the previous edition, from 2000.

In an information kit accompanying the Red List, the IUCN warns that many species are diminishing to critical population levels. The conservation organizations also states that the loss of biodiversity is one of the most pressing crises affecting the world, while acknowledging that concern and awareness are increasing about how biological resources are needed for human life as well.

The species included in the Red List are categorized according to their level of risk: critical, threatened or vulnerable. The IUCN estimates that the threat of extinction today is 1,000 to 10,000 times greater than it would be naturally, without the intervention of human activities and their impacts on the Earth.

Habitat destruction, overexploitation of resources, contamination, illegal trafficking in plant and animal species, degradation of ecosystems and phenomena related to climate change - caused by human activities - are all factors that contribute to species extinction.

Threats to biodiversity, understood as the variety of plants, animals and microorganisms that inhabit the planet, are a source of concern to the international community, as evidenced by the sheer amount of information available on the this issue via the Internet.

This widespread worry about the Earth's natural wealth has led to agreements among the world's governments. Perhaps the most important on this issue is the Convention on Biological Diversity, signed in 1992. The website of the Convention's secretariat reports that there are 13 million identified living species.

But it is thought that the true total is much higher. The All Species Foundation is carrying out a project that seeks to identify all living organisms within the next 25 years. Its website allows the cybernaut to ponder more than 800,000 species.

Another initiative aimed at protecting species is the Convention on International Trade of Endangered Species of Wild Flora and Fauna, known as CITES, the purpose of which is to fight the illegal trafficking of protected plants and animals.

IUCN: Red List of Threatened Species 2002
Red List 2002 Information Kit
IUCN: Species Survival Commission
CITES: Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species
World Resources Institute
Tierramérica: Connect Yourself to Biodiversity
All Species Foundation
UNEP: Secretariat of the Convention on Biological Diversity
Yahoo!: websites on endangered species
Internet Links on endangered species

The War against Malaria

The war to wipe out malaria has made enormous steps since the announcement that the genomes of the most dangerous of the parasites causing the disease and of the mosquito that transmits it had been decoded.

Simultaneously in early October 2002, the prestigious journals Science and Nature published the results of an international effort to decipher the sequences of those genomes, which is expected to provide key information for developing methods to control or cure malaria.

The genomes decoded where those of the mosquito Anopheles gambiae and of the parasite Plasmodium falciparum, which in combination produce the strongest strains of malaria.

Science magazine hailed the results of the study, as the search for weapons against the disease is important. At least 40 percent of the world's population lives in areas where malaria is endemic.

The World Health Organization (WHO), which has a section of its website dedicated to information about this disease, reports that more than 300 million people are infected with malaria each year, and more than a million die -- mostly children under age five in poor countries.

With the passage of time, the medications used in fighting malaria lose effectiveness, as the parasite develops resistance.

The search for ways to prevent the disease has also been complicated. Throughout much of the 20th century, the strategy was to eradicate the mosquito vector, but in spite of limited success in some countries, it was impossible to keep the mosquito population under control for very long.

Nor has the search for a vaccine been easy. One of the farthest-reaching initiatives in this area has been that of Colombian doctor Manuel Patarroyo, but no definitive solution has been reached.

The magnitude of the malaria problem is reflected in the abundance of websites related to the disease, with some dedicated to its characteristics, its transmission vector, or places on the planet where it is most common. Malaria OnLine points out that malaria has been around since ancient times, and in the past also affected Europe.

And it is a major problem for the Americas, because in several countries of this hemisphere malaria is endemic. The Pan-American Health Organization (PAHO) provides numerous documents on its website that cover the impact of malaria on the region.

Science Magazine: The Mosquito Genome - anopheles gambiae
Nature Magazine: special edition on malaria
World Health Organization: Malaria
Pan-American Health Organization: documents on malaria
Malaria OnLine (Australia)
Tierramérica: Dr. Patarroyo and the Drive to Eradicate Malaria
BBC: Malaria in the world
Yahoo! Special coverage - a discovery in the fight against malaria

Hurricane Season

The annual hurricane season brings with it the fury of nature: a combination of powerful winds, giant ocean waves and torrential rains that almost every year leave their mark somewhere in the Caribbean, the Gulf of Mexico or even farther north along the coast of the United States.

The force unleashed by this meteorological phenomenon causes reactions that range from alarm to outright fear. Although hurricanes are inevitable, society tries to reduce the damage they cause, implementing preventive measures. One of the most important tools is information, and the Internet plays a key role in its dissemination.

In cyberspace there are numerous websites that track the evolution of hurricanes and tropical storms in the area of the Atlantic Ocean where, says webpage Stormcarib, the season extends from June 1 to November 30.

Information about the nature and characteristics of hurricanes also abounds, and the web surfer can also find multimedia applications that show the behavior of a hurricane once it has formed.

One of the most complete websites is the National Hurricane Center of the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), which complements its information with satellite images, recommendations for action in emergency situations, and an archive with extensive information about these meteorological phenomena.

The English word "hurricane" originates in the name that the Taino Indians, a native Carib population, gave these powerful storms: hurakán.

According to the definition given by the website Infoplease, hurricanes are cyclones in which wind speed surpasses 119 km (74 miles) per hour. Although the term is used only for such storms in the North Atlantic, the phenomenon also appears in other parts of the world, and in the Pacific is known as a typhoon or a tropical cyclone.

The energy produced by the movement of a hurricane in one day is the equivalent of all the energy that would be consumed in the United States in six months, says another hurricane-dedicated Internet site.

U.S. NOAA: National Hurricane Center
Puerto Rico:
Stormcarib: Caribbean Hurricane Network
What is a hurricane?
Hurricanes: On-line guide
Encyclopedia Infoplease: hurricanes
Yahoo! Special coverage: Hurricane Season


Copyright 2002 Tierramérica. All Rights Reserved



Hippocampus reidi. Crédito E.G. Lines Jr./Shedd Aquarium. Fuente: UICN
Hippocampus reidi. Credit: E.G. Lines Jr./Shedd Aquarium. Source: UICN

























Anopheles gambiae. Credit: CDC/James D. Gathany
Anopheles gambiae. Credit: CDC/James D. Gathany
























Fuente: US NOAA
Source: US NOAA