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Editorial New Science Publications Editor Jeremy Webb Personal Asst & Office Manager Anita Staff Associate Editors Liz Else, Stephanie Pain News Editor Matt Walker Editors Helen Knight, Linda Geddes, Rowan Hooper, Celeste Biever Tel +44 (0) 20 7611 1206 Fax +44 (0) 20 7611 1250 Reporters LONDON Andy Coghlan, Hazel Muir, Paul Marks, Zeeya Merali [email protected] BOSTON US Bureau Chief Ivan Semeniuk David L. Chandler [email protected] Celeste Biever [email protected] Gregory T. Huang [email protected] SAN FRANCISCO Bureau Chief Peter Aldhous [email protected] Michael Reilly [email protected] Jim Giles [email protected] TORONTO Alison Motluk [email protected] BRUSSELS Debora MacKenzie [email protected] MELBOURNE Australasian Editor Rachel Nowak [email protected] Features Editors Ben Crystall, Kate Douglas, Clare Wilson, David Cohen, Graham Lawton, Valerie Jamieson, Michael Le Page, Caroline Williams Features Assistant Celia Guthrie Tel +44 (0) 20 7611 1201 Fax +44 (0) 20 7611 1280 [email protected] Opinion Editor Jo Marchant Editors John Hoyland, Amanda Gefter, Alison George, Eleanor Harris Tel +44 (0) 20 7611 1240 Fax +44 (0) 20 7611 1280 [email protected] Researcher Lucy Middleton Editorial Assistant Nick Christensen Production Editor Mick O’Hare Asst Production Editor Melanie Green Chief Sub John Liebmann Subeditors Vivienne Greig, Ben Longstaff, Julia Brown, Sean O’Neill Art Editor Alison Lawn Design Craig Mackie, Michelle Ofosu, Ryan Wills Graphics Nigel Hawtin, Dave Johnston Pictures Adam Goff, Kirstin Jennings Tel +44 (0) 20 7611 1268 Fax +44 (0) 20 7611 1250 Careers Editor Richard Fisher [email protected] Tel +44 (0) 20 7611 1248 Fax +44 (0) 20 7611 1280 Consultants Alun Anderson, Stephen Battersby, Michael Bond, Michael Brooks, Marcus Chown, Rob Edwards, Richard Fifield, Barry Fox, Mick Hamer, Jeff Hecht, Bob Holmes, Justin Mullins, Fred Pearce, Helen Phillips, Ian Stewart, Gail Vines, Gabrielle Walker, Emma Young, Anil Ananthaswamy Press Office and Syndication UK Claire Bowles Tel +44 (0) 20 7611 1210 Fax 7611 1250 US Office Tel +1 617 386 2190 NEWSCIENTIST.COM Online Publisher John MacFarlane Deputy Online Editor Shaoni Bhattacharya Editors Maggie McKee, Will Knight Reporters Tom Simonite, Roxanne Khamsi, David Shiga, Catherine Brahic, Sandrine Ceurstemont, Michael Marshall [email protected] Online Subeditor Dan Palmer Web team Neela Das, Michael Suzuki, Cathy Tollet, Ruth Turner, Ken Wolf, Vivienne Griffith, Rohan Creasey WHY bother saving species from extinction? To committed conservationists the question may seem almost sacrilegious, but it is one to which we urgently need answers that will convince a wider audience. Unless the conservation movement can come up with some, it will fail in its goal of protecting the planet’s biodiversity. The signs are not good. The World Conservation Union’s latest Red List of threatened species reveals that more than 16,000 are heading for extinction (see page 6). Some, such as the Yangtze river dolphin, may be beyond recall (see page 50). What is clear is that the traditional approach of appealing to the inherent moral or aesthetic value of preserving ecosystems is not working. Conservation hardly gets a look-in when it comes to economic and political decision- making, and it is ignored by the majority of people occupied with the day-to-day struggle for economic survival. What can be done to persuade people to take biodiversity more seriously? For a start, conservationists need to speak with one voice. Many organisations are striving to save the same species, with no clear sense of priorities. In any sphere, it is usually those movements that put up a unified front which achieve the most significant change. Conservationists need to be able to show that saving species and habitats is in everybody’s interests. With a majority of the world’s population now living in cities, the idea that we are all part of nature is becoming alien to ever more people. In the rich world, most of us are too worried about the impact of the current debt crisis on our mortgages to give much thought to the economic impact of the loss of a wetland. Yet there is a connection. Take, for example, the importance of forests in preventing soil erosion and recycling carbon, or the role of insects in pollinating crops. Making these links tangible could persuade more people to act in the interests of conservation. This is the logic behind the growing “ecosystem services” approach: first calculate the cash value of the services an ecosystem provides, such as flood control or ecotourism, then set up incentives to ensure those services are maintained. Some conservationists are alarmed by this utilitarian idea, arguing there is little evidence that it works. They have a point. Indeed, conservationists have a poor record of establishing which of their strategies do work. Gathering such evidence is essential, particularly when trying something new. Ecosystem services schemes are springing up across the world, but too few of them include adequate provision for monitoring. More thinking also needs to go into developing the financial instruments required to make the approach work. We need to do more than just put a price on nature’s head and hope for the best. ONE day, 5 billion years hence, our world will come to an end. By then, astrophysicists tell us, the sun will have exhausted the supply of hydrogen in its core and expanded to become a red giant, engulfing Earth. Our planet will simply evaporate away. Or perhaps not. We might share the fate of a planet that has just been found orbiting a star already past its red-giant phase (Nature, vol 449, p 189). It has survived encroachment by its parent star, V 391 Pegasi, yet it is not much further out than Earth is from the sun. Is this any comfort? Maybe not. Even before the sun becomes a red giant it will heat up enough to boil away our seas and leave Earth’s surface lifeless. Microbes buried deep in the crust might go on nibbling away at iron and sulphur and other geochemical goodies for a while, but when the crust eventually melts under a giant sun filling half the sky, there will be nowhere for even these bugs to hide. Even when the sun shrinks back again to become a white dwarf, things will remain pretty bleak. For a few million years the tiny super-hot sun will be brighter than it is today, illuminating our blasted landscape with a blue-white light and a heavy dose of ultraviolet and X-rays. Then it will cool, and Earth will freeze. The small white dot in the sky will cast stark shadows but give little warmth. The world may go on, but you wouldn’t want to live there. Not quite the end of the world Pandas are just the start Conservation is about much more than saving species for their own sake www.newscientist.com 15 September 2007 | NewScientist | 3

Earth could survive expansion of the sun after all

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Editorial–New Science Publications

Editor Jeremy Webb

Personal Asst & Office Manager Anita Staff

Associate Editors

Liz Else, Stephanie Pain

News Editor Matt Walker

Editors Helen Knight, Linda Geddes,

Rowan Hooper, Celeste Biever

Tel +44 (0) 20 7611 1206

Fax +44 (0) 20 7611 1250

Reporters

LONDON Andy Coghlan, Hazel Muir,

Paul Marks, Zeeya Merali

[email protected]

BOSTON

US Bureau Chief Ivan Semeniuk

David L. Chandler

[email protected]

Celeste Biever

[email protected]

Gregory T. Huang

[email protected]

SAN FRANCISCO

Bureau Chief Peter Aldhous

[email protected]

Michael Reilly

[email protected]

Jim Giles

[email protected]

TORONTO Alison Motluk

[email protected]

BRUSSELS Debora MacKenzie

[email protected]

MELBOURNE

Australasian Editor Rachel Nowak

[email protected]

Features Editors Ben Crystall,

Kate Douglas, Clare Wilson, David Cohen,

Graham Lawton, Valerie Jamieson,

Michael Le Page, Caroline Williams

Features Assistant Celia Guthrie

Tel +44 (0) 20 7611 1201

Fax +44 (0) 20 7611 1280

[email protected]

Opinion Editor Jo Marchant

Editors John Hoyland, Amanda Gefter,

Alison George, Eleanor Harris

Tel +44 (0) 20 7611 1240

Fax +44 (0) 20 7611 1280

[email protected]

Researcher Lucy Middleton

Editorial Assistant Nick Christensen

Production Editor Mick O’Hare

Asst Production Editor Melanie Green

Chief Sub John Liebmann

Subeditors Vivienne Greig, Ben Longstaff,

Julia Brown, Sean O’Neill

Art Editor Alison Lawn

Design Craig Mackie, Michelle Ofosu,

Ryan Wills

Graphics Nigel Hawtin, Dave Johnston

Pictures Adam Goff, Kirstin Jennings

Tel +44 (0) 20 7611 1268

Fax +44 (0) 20 7611 1250

Careers Editor Richard Fisher

[email protected]

Tel +44 (0) 20 7611 1248

Fax +44 (0) 20 7611 1280

Consultants Alun Anderson,

Stephen Battersby, Michael Bond,

Michael Brooks, Marcus Chown,

Rob Edwards, Richard Fifield, Barry Fox,

Mick Hamer, Jeff Hecht, Bob Holmes,

Justin Mullins, Fred Pearce, Helen Phillips,

Ian Stewart, Gail Vines, Gabrielle Walker,

Emma Young, Anil Ananthaswamy

Press Office and Syndication

UK Claire Bowles

Tel +44 (0) 20 7611 1210 Fax 7611 1250

US Office

Tel +1 617 386 2190

NEWSCIENTIST.COM

Online Publisher John MacFarlane

Deputy Online Editor Shaoni Bhattacharya

Editors Maggie McKee, Will Knight

Reporters Tom Simonite, Roxanne Khamsi,

David Shiga, Catherine Brahic,

Sandrine Ceurstemont, Michael Marshall

[email protected]

Online Subeditor Dan Palmer

Web team Neela Das, Michael Suzuki,

Cathy Tollet, Ruth Turner, Ken Wolf,

Vivienne Griffith, Rohan Creasey

WHY bother saving species from extinction?

To committed conservationists the question

may seem almost sacrilegious, but it is one

to which we urgently need answers that will

convince a wider audience. Unless the

conservation movement can come up with

some, it will fail in its goal of protecting the

planet’s biodiversity.

The signs are not good. The World

Conservation Union’s latest Red List of

threatened species reveals that more than

16,000 are heading for extinction (see page 6).

Some, such as the Yangtze river dolphin, may

be beyond recall (see page 50). What is clear

is that the traditional approach of appealing

to the inherent moral or aesthetic value of

preserving ecosystems is not working.

Conservation hardly gets a look-in when it

comes to economic and political decision-

making, and it is ignored by the majority

of people occupied with the day-to-day

struggle for economic survival.

What can be done to persuade people to

take biodiversity more seriously? For a start,

conservationists need to speak with one voice.

Many organisations are striving to save the

same species, with no clear sense of priorities.

In any sphere, it is usually those movements

that put up a unified front which achieve the

most significant change.

Conservationists need to be able to show

that saving species and habitats is in

everybody’s interests. With a majority of the

world’s population now living in cities, the

idea that we are all part of nature is becoming

alien to ever more people. In the rich world,

most of us are too worried about the impact

of the current debt crisis on our mortgages to

give much thought to the economic impact

of the loss of a wetland.

Yet there is a connection. Take, for example,

the importance of forests in preventing soil

erosion and recycling carbon, or the role of

insects in pollinating crops. Making these

links tangible could persuade more people to

act in the interests of conservation. This is the

logic behind the growing “ecosystem services”

approach: first calculate the cash value of the

services an ecosystem provides, such as flood

control or ecotourism, then set up incentives

to ensure those services are maintained.

Some conservationists are alarmed by

this utilitarian idea, arguing there is little

evidence that it works. They have a point.

Indeed, conservationists have a poor record

of establishing which of their strategies do

work. Gathering such evidence is essential,

particularly when trying something new.

Ecosystem services schemes are springing

up across the world, but too few of them

include adequate provision for monitoring.

More thinking also needs to go into

developing the financial instruments

required to make the approach work. We

need to do more than just put a price on

nature’s head and hope for the best. ●

ONE day, 5 billion years hence, our world will

come to an end. By then, astrophysicists tell

us, the sun will have exhausted the supply of

hydrogen in its core and expanded to become

a red giant, engulfing Earth. Our planet will

simply evaporate away.

Or perhaps not. We might share the fate of

a planet that has just been found orbiting a

star already past its red-giant phase (Nature,

vol 449, p 189). It has survived encroachment

by its parent star, V 391 Pegasi, yet it is not

much further out than Earth is from the sun.

Is this any comfort? Maybe not. Even

before the sun becomes a red giant it will heat

up enough to boil away our seas and leave

Earth’s surface lifeless. Microbes buried deep in

the crust might go on nibbling away at iron and

sulphur and other geochemical goodies for a

while, but when the crust eventually melts

under a giant sun filling half the sky, there will

be nowhere for even these bugs to hide.

Even when the sun shrinks back again to

become a white dwarf, things will remain

pretty bleak. For a few million years the tiny

super-hot sun will be brighter than it is today,

illuminating our blasted landscape with a

blue-white light and a heavy dose of

ultraviolet and X-rays. Then it will cool, and

Earth will freeze. The small white dot in the

sky will cast stark shadows but give little

warmth. The world may go on, but you

wouldn’t want to live there. ●

Not quite the end of the world

Pandas are just the startConservation is about much more than saving species for their own sake

www.newscientist.com 15 September 2007 | NewScientist | 3

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