Science  12 Oct 2012:
Vol. 338, Issue 6104, pp. 177

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  1. The Cost of Biodiversity

    Conservation funding worldwide must increase by an order of magnitude to meet international targets for safeguarding biodiversity by 2020. A paper published online in Science this week unveils this first-ever global biodiversity price tag: $78 billion dollars a year.

    To calculate the cost, the researchers leaned heavily on data about birds, the best known taxa. On average, threatened bird species receive only 12% of the funding needed to lower their risk of extinction; and just 28% of the most important habitat is completely protected. Adding up full funding for those programs and for similar programs for other organisms (using comparative data about conservation costs) yielded the final tally.

    That cost of conservation is vastly outweighed by the potential ecosystem benefits to humans, says Stuart Butchart, global research coordinator for BirdLife International in Cambridge, U.K.

    The 2020 targets were set by the Convention on Biological Diversity in 2010 (Science, 10 September 2010, p. 1272). Convention delegates are meeting in Hyderabad, India, until 19 October to figure out how to achieve these targets.

  2. Vipers Go Viral


    Every spring, the Eastern equine encephalitis virus (EEEV) reemerges in the eastern United States, where it can cause devastating disease in horses and humans. Scientists have wondered how the virus, which is transmitted by mosquitoes, survives the winter. The answer is snakes, a new study suggests. A team led by microbiologist Thomas Unnasch of the University of South Florida in Tampa found signs of the virus in two venomous species—the cottonmouth and the copperhead—collected in Alabama's Tuskegee National Forest. And experiments with less dangerous garter snakes showed that EEEV could hang out while they hibernated, researchers reported last week in The American Journal of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene. Now, says virologist Laura Kramer of the New York State Department of Health's Wadsworth Center in Albany, they have to prove “the last little piece of this puzzle”—that snakes are infecting mosquitoes in the wild.