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“New Species Conservation Auction” - Unique Conservation Fundraiser to help counter the Biodiversity Crisis, closes this Thursday

Conservationists hope trial run of “taxonomic tithing” in British Columbia to protect old-growth forests becomes a model for protecting diverse ecosystems around the world.

Ancient Forest Alliance Press Release, December 11, 2011

­­­For Immediate Release
Monday, December 12, 2011

“New Species Conservation Auction” - Unique Conservation Fundraiser to help counter the Biodiversity Crisis, closes this Thursday

Conservationists hope trial run of “taxonomic tithing” in British Columbia to protect old-growth forests becomes a model for protecting diverse ecosystems around the world

A public auction for the naming rights to a recently discovered species of lichen in British Columbia’s  temperate rainforest will close at 3 pm EST on Thursday, December 15.  The new species was discovered by botanical researcher Trevor Goward, the curator of lichens at the Beaty Biodiversity Museum at the University of British Columbia. Funds from the highest bidder will benefit a new B.C. conservation organization, the Ancient Forest Alliance (www.ancientforestalliance.org) working to protect the province’s endangered old-growth forests.

Conservationists are hoping that this first trial run of “taxonomic tithing” in British Columbia will provide a successful model that inspires similar taxonomic tithing initiatives around the world for conservation organizations working to protect diverse ecosystems and endangered species. “Taxonomic tithing” is a term coined by Goward whereby a biological researcher who describes a new species donates its naming rights for conservation purposes (see  http://www.waysofenlichenment.net/tithe/home).

“Thousands of new species are described every year,” notes Goward.  “If our auction is successful, it could inspire taxonomists around the world to get involved in auctions of this kind: a whole new niche for conservation fundraising! My dream is that Canadians will lead the way on this initiative!”

According to scientific protocol, the right to give a new species its scientific name goes to the person who scientifically describes it. However, an online auction will earn the highest bidder the right to name the new lichen species - whether after loved ones, themselves, or whomever they choose. Groups can also pool their money to make bids. The scientific species name could last centuries, enshrined in the scientific nomenclature as a legacy for environmentally-concerned individuals long after they have passed away. Recently a new species of lichen was named by a researcher after US President Barack Obama. The small lichen is named Caloplaca obamae (see http://www.livescience.com/3524-newfound-lichen-species-named-obama.html).

“We’re excited about this taxonomic tithing trial run in B.C. not just because it could greatly help fund our campaign to protect endangered old-growth forests here, but also because it could be applied just about everywhere else,” stated Ken Wu, Ancient Forest Alliance co-founder. “Taxonomic tithing holds great potential as a creative conservation fundraiser:  it connects species to efforts to protect the ecosystems in which they were discovered; it focuses media and public attention on the need to protect these ecosystems; and it’s a creative way to raise greatly needed funds for conservation groups across the planet as new species are still being found almost everywhere on Earth.”

Currently, about 18,000 species of animals and plants are scientifically described each year on Earth, with less than two million species having been described in total. The latest research estimates the number of species on Earth at about 8.7 million species (see http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/08/110823180459.htm), meaning most have not even been discovered, described and named. Ecologists believe the Earth is now experiencing its sixth mass extinction event, the greatest extinction crisis since the demise of the dinosaurs 65 million years ago – only this time the extinction crisis is due to one species, humans. Scientists estimate that up to half of the Earth’s species could go extinct this century due to human modification of the environment – logging, climate change, exotic species introductions, agriculture, urbanization, mining, etc.

B.C.’s old-growth forests are home to numerous species at risk that require old-growth forests to flourish, including mountain caribou, spotted owls, marbled murrelets, Vaux’s swifts, and many species of lichens. After old-growth forests are logged, they are replaced by tree plantations that lack the structural diversity and ecological characteristics that support these unique species. These plantations are to be re-logged every 30 to 80 years before they can become old-growth forests again. About 80% or more of the old-growth forests in southern British Columbia have already been logged and converted to second-growth tree plantations, farmland, and cities. See spectacular images of Vancouver Island’s old-growth forests at:   http://www.ancientforestalliance.org/galleries.php

“With Christmas coming, here’s a perfect opportunity to give something back to the Earth and at the same time honour a loved one by naming a new species after them,” states Goward. “It has been almost three centuries since Carolus Linnaeus invented the modern biological classification system; and even now the names of the people he honoured in the name of various plants and animals are still with us. With any luck, your name will last at least as long as our civilization exists.”

Lichens are small organisms often mistaken for plants, but perhaps better thought of as cooperative (symbiotic) unions of fungi and algae: fungi that have discovered agriculture http://www.waysofenlichenment.net/.

The lichen being donated to the Ancient Forest Alliance is a “Horsehair Lichen” or Bryoria, which forms elegant black tresses on the branches of trees. “These are the lichens that provide winter food for the Mountain Caribou, British Columbia’s version of Santa’s reindeer,” says Goward. “Without lichens, caribou and reindeer would soon disappear; and where would Santa Clause be then?”

The Ancient Forest Alliance is a new British Columbian environmental organization established in 2010 working to protect BC’s remaining old-growth forests and to ensure sustainable forestry jobs. It works through research and public education to promote the establishment of new laws and policies to protect old-growth forests. Goward is also donating the naming rights of another new species of lichen to The Land Conservancy, a conservation organization working to purchase parts of the Clearwater Valley to make a wildlife corridor near Wells Gray Provincial Park in British Columbia.

To make a bid, visit the Ancient Forest Alliance’s website www.ancientforestalliance.org or go directly to Charity Buzz at  http://www.charitybuzz.com/catalog_items/272986 or phone 250-896-4007. The auction closes on December 15 at 3 pm EST.

  


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