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Letters to the Editor

Readers write about bird species' decline, carbon credits, preserving plant diversity, increasing cars' fuel efficiency, and the US role in the global community.

June 19, 2007

Bird species' marked decline could lead to extinction

Thank you for the June 15 article, "Common bird species in dramatic decline," that encourages more people to realize that bird populations are declining.

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The article mentions that although a population can dip to 500,000 globally, that doesn't mean it is in danger of extinction. Well, maybe these species won't be extinct in the next 20 years, but perhaps they will be in 40 years.

Anytime a population loses hundreds of thousands of individuals or 50 percent of its mass, there is certainly a likelihood of extinction.

Considering the decline of habitat that will not come back and the climate that will continue to change, I think it's obvious that many bird species are probably on their way out. It's time for people to admit the dire problems and stop hemming and hawing over the consequences.

Teri Matelson
Silver City, N.M.

Walk the talk of reducing carbon

Regarding your June 15 editorial, "Global warming's Keystone Kops": While I agree that we all need to be responsible in taking care of the earth that we have, I believe the prevailing wisdom that we can change the earth's climate is akin to calling my local weatherman and asking him to bring a blizzard to southern California.

While former Vice President Al Gore and Democratic presidential candidate John Edwards trade carbon credits for their monster homes, private planes, and motorcades, I will air-condition my small home and drive my minivan without guilt until I see them make serious efforts to downsize their actual carbon footprints.

Carbon credits! What malarkey!

S.D. Woodall
Valencia, Calif.

Preserving plant diversity for the future

Regarding the June 13 article: "Stashing seeds in 'Noah's fridge' ": We are glad to see that the good work of seed banks is getting attention in the media.

Americans need to know that ex-situ conservation strategies are part of a larger strategy to preserve the biological diversity on our planet. The article focused on the initiative of the Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew (near London) to commemorate the new millennium by educating people about the very real need to preserve genetic diversity of plants.

Next year, the US Department of Agriculture-Agricultural Research Service (USDA-ARS) National Center for Genetic Resources Preservation in Fort Collins, Colo., will celebrate its 50th year of preserving plants. We conserve genetic diversity of plant species from all over the world. One-third of the 450,000 seed samples in our vaults are wild seeds. Our liquid nitrogen facilities are unique among global seed banks and provide the only means to conserve the untapped resources from species in tropical rain forests.

The strategies used by the Millennium Seed Bank Project, Svalbard, and other gene banks worldwide originated in our laboratory, and we have shared this technology in hopes that each country will join in the initiative to preserve plant genetic diversity in local, national, and international seed banks.

Within the US, we have been working for 20 years with the Center for Plant Conservation to preserve the remaining genetic diversity of America's most imperiled plant species.

Christina Walters
Research leader, Plant Germplasm Preservation ResearchUSDA-ARS National Center for Genetic Resources Preservation
Fort Collins, Colo.