The Six Scenarios:
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Entire marine food chain at risk from rising CO2 levels in water
Researchers studied the behavior of coral reef fish at naturally occurring CO2 vents in Milne Bay, in eastern Papua New Guinea. They found that fish living near the vents, where bubbles of CO2 seeped into the water, "were attracted to predator odour, did not distinguish between odours of different habitats, and exhibited bolder behaviour than fish from control reefs". The gung-ho nature of CO2-affected fish means that more of them are picked off by predators than is normally the case, raising potentially worrying possibilities in a scenario of rising carbon emissions. More than 90 percent of the excess CO2 in the atmosphere is soaked up by the oceans. When CO2 is dissolved in water, it causes ocean acidification, which slightly lowers the pH of the water and changes its chemistry. Crustaceans can find it hard to form shells in highly acidic water, while corals risk episodes of bleaching.
A quarter of Europe's bumblebees, vital to crops, face extinction: study
Almost a quarter of Europe's bumblebees are at risk of extinction due to loss of habitats and climate change, threatening pollination of crops worth billions of dollars, a study showed on Wednesday. Sixteen of 68 bumblebee species in Europe are at risk, the Red List of the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) said. It is preparing a global study of the bees, whose honeybee cousins are in steep decline because of disease.
from NOAA, via TriplePundit:
Tropical Pacific Ocean Acidification Occuring Much Faster Than Expected, NOAA Finds
Change is taking place in the tropical Pacific Ocean, where NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) researchers have found that carbon dioxide (CO2) concentrations have increased as much as 65 percent faster than atmospheric CO2 since 1998. Rising CO2 concentrations of this magnitude indicate that tropical Pacific waters are acidifying as fast as ocean waters in the polar regions, which may have grave repercussions for marine food webs, biodiversity, fisheries and tourism.
'Shocking' scale of pangolin smuggling revealed
The globally threatened animals are sought for their scales which are used in traditional Chinese medicine. Annual seizures have been estimated at roughly 10,000 animals but experts warn the illegal trade is far greater.... "The numbers of pangolins traded are shocking, and all the more so considering the pharmaceutical pointlessness of the trade. This trade is intolerably wasteful," said Prof Macdonald, director of the University of Oxford's Wildlife Conservation Research Unit (WildCRU), and a co-author of the paper.... Prolific smugglers have received prison sentences from 11 years to life but with demand out-stripping supply, the trade is only becoming more lucrative. According to the report, pangolin scales are currently worth $600 per kilo, twice the amount they traded for in 2008.
from New York Times:
Minnesota Mystery: What's Killing the Moose?
For moose, this year's winter-long deep freeze across the Upper Midwest is truly ideal weather ... Yet moose in Minnesota are dying at an alarming rate, and biologists are perplexed as to why... In Northeast Minnesota, the population has dropped by half since 2006, to 4,300 from more than 8,800... Seth Moore, a wildlife biologist in Grand Portage, theorizes that recent years of warmer, shorter winters and hotter, longer summers have resulted in a twofold problem. The changing climate has stressed out the moose, compromising their immune systems. And warmer temperatures have allowed populations of white-tailed deer, carriers of brain worm -- which is fatal to moose -- to thrive.
White Nose Syndrome Shows Up In Mammoth Cave National Park
Staff at Mammoth Cave National Park in south central Kentucky say a fatal bat disease has now shown up in visitor passageways. The disease was found in remote sections of the cave system last year.... "Every visitor walks over a bio-control mat after their tour that will hopefully clean their shoes off and keep them from potentially moving those fungal spores to someplace else." Of all of the tour trails, the disease has been most noticed at the entrance to the Historic Cave tour. Since it was first introduced White Nose Syndrome has killed about seven million cave-dwelling bats.
Melting starfish are 'keystone species' for their ecosystem
['Keystone species'] refers to particular organisms that keep the relationships between the ecosystem's other plants and animals functioning properly. Without them, ecosystems collapse--like an arch would without its center block. Well, as it so happens, when ecologist Robert T. Paine first coined the term back in 1969, he got the idea by messing around with a bunch of starfish. Paine crawled along the tidal plains of Washington's Tatoosh Island, pulling up all the ochre stars (Pisaster ochraceus) he could find and tossing them out into the ocean beyond his study area. He played this game of starfish Frisbee for three years, and discovered that without the seastars, his study area became so thick with mussels that little else could survive. Ochres mow down mussel beds like it's closing time at Old Country Buffet. What was once a rich community of 28 species of animals and algae along Tatoosh Island, Paine turned into a mussel monoculture. And today, more of this mussel dominance could be on its way, since ochres are one of the 15 starfish species currently turning into mush.
from Huffington Post:
10 Million Scallops Dead In B.C. Waters
Rising acidity in the sea water around Qualicum Beach has led to the death of 10 million scallops -- equivalent to three years' product, and every scallop the company put in the ocean from 2009-2011, Island Scallops CEO Rob Saunders told The Parksville Qualicum Bay News. "I'm not sure we are going to stay alive and I'm not sure the oyster industry is going to stay alive," Saunders told the newspaper. "It's that dramatic." The disaster constitutes a $10-million loss to the business once so successful, they were featured on The Food Network.
from Associated Press:
Bumblebees getting stung bad by honeybee sickness
Wild bumblebees worldwide are in trouble, likely contracting deadly diseases from their commercialized honeybee cousins, a new study shows... "Wild populations of bumblebees appear to be in significant decline across Europe, North America, South America and also in Asia," said study author Mark Brown of the University of London. He said his study confirmed that a major source of the decline was "the spillover of parasites and pathogens and disease" from managed honeybee hives.
from New York Times:
Migration of Monarch Butterflies Shrinks Again Under Inhospitable Conditions
Faltering under extreme weather and vanishing habitats, the yearly winter migration of monarch butterflies to a handful of forested Mexican mountains dwindled precipitously in December, continuing what scientists said was an increasingly alarming decline. The migrating population has become so small -- perhaps 35 million, experts guess -- that the prospects of its rebounding to levels seen even five years ago are diminishing. At worst, scientists said, a migration widely called one of the world's great natural spectacles is in danger of effectively vanishing. The Mexican government and the World Wildlife Fund said at a news conference on Wednesday that the span of forest inhabited by the overwintering monarchs shrank last month to a bare 1.65 acres -- the equivalent of about one and a quarter football fields. Not only was that a record low, but it was just 56 percent of last year's total, which was itself a record low. At their peak in 1996, the monarchs occupied nearly 45 acres of forest.
from Environment 360:
Northern Mystery: Why Are Birds of the Arctic in Decline?
"These and other seabirds are superbly adapted to the sea ice environment. Without that ice, and with polar bears and mosquitoes hitting them hard, the only future in the Arctic for them is to move north." ... Predators such as the peregrine, the gyrfalcon, the snowy owl, and the Greenland long-tailed skua depend on peaks in these prey species to reproduce in numbers that will sustain their populations. For these birds, collapsing prey cycles are bad news. A team of Danish scientists, for example, recently documented how a collapse in collared lemming cycles at two sites in Greenland between 1998 and 2010 resulted in a 98 percent decline in the snowy owl population. They also documented a similar, albeit less drastic, decline in the population of long-tailed jaegers, part of the skua family.... University of Alberta biologist Alastair Franke has unequivocal evidence of peregrine falcon nestlings starving to death on the west coast of Hudson Bay. But lack of food, he says, is not the main thing killing these birds. According to a recent study led by graduate student Alexandre Anctil of the University of Quebec, some regions of the Arctic are now experiencing more periods of heavy rain each summer when compared to the early 1980s. With their downy white coats insulating them against the snow and the cold, these chicks do just fine. When it rains heavily, however -- as it has increasingly been doing along the west coast of Hudson Bay since 1980 -- up to a third of the peregrine chicks in the study area die of hypothermia as their wet feathers rapidly draw heat from their bodies. Some even drowned in their nests.
from Telegraph (UK):
UK weather: mild spell causes birds to break into song and flowers to bloom
... Wildlife experts have received dozens of reports of snowdrops blooming across the UK, nearly a month before they would normally be expected.... Some birds have also been recorded nesting while the first reports of song thrush singing arrived on 13 January now several have been spotted around the country.... "For insects and amphibians it is not so rosy. Ladybirds, for example, have finite energy reserves and nectar at this time of year will be thin on the ground, so they might not make it through to the spring. "Similarly frogs only get one chance to breed each year and if it gets very cold the spawn can freeze and will be lost if they are fooled into breeding too early." Since the start of January much of the country has seen temperatures in double figures, with the average temperature for the whole country last week being around 47.6 degrees F.... However, the heavy rain, strong winds and tidal surges that have accompanied the mild conditions have also taken their toll on many species. Waterfowl such as ducks, which have been nesting earlier than usual due to the mild conditions, had their nests destroyed by flooding. Sussex Wildlife Trust has reported swallows nesting and several species of butterflies on its nature reserve.
More than three quarters of large carnivores now in decline
When they looked at 31 big meat eaters, they found that they were under increasing pressure in the Amazon, South East Asia, southern and East Africa. "Globally, we are losing our large carnivores," said lead author Prof William Ripple from Oregon State University. "Their ranges are collapsing. Many of these animals are at risk of extinction, either locally or globally."... When they looked at wolves and cougars in Yellowstone National Park in the US, they found that having fewer of these big predators resulted in an increase in animals that browse such as elk and deer. While this might seem like good news, the researchers found that the rise of these browsers is bad for vegetation and disrupts the lives of birds and small mammals, leading to a cascade of damaging impacts.
from Huffington Post:
Why 100,000 Dead Bats Fell From The Sky In Australia
Something unusual rained down on residents of Queensland, Australia, over the weekend. In a bizarre incident, thousands of bats reportedly fell from the sky in the northeastern state. While the mass deaths may seem baffling, it appears Australia's heat wave is to blame. The Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals confirmed that about 100,000 bats recently died as the likely result of extreme heat in the region, according to the Australian Broadcasting Corporation.
The 2014 Shrimp Season In The Gulf Of Maine Has Been Canceled
They're small and sweet, beloved by locals and tourists alike, and will soon be indefinitely unavailable. The Northern shrimp population in the Gulf of Maine has officially collapsed and a moratorium on shrimping is being recommended for the 2014 season. Restaurants in Maine are rushing to get their hands on whatever is left over from last year's catch.... "I think everyone was startled by what we saw in 2012, and there was a lot of pressure to close down the fishery for the 2013 season," said John Annala, Chief Scientific Officer at the Gulf of Maine Research Institute. "The survey this summer found just 20 percent of the 2012 record low, so it has fallen off incredibly sharply." Perhaps most worrying is the fact that juvenile shrimp have not been picked up in a survey since 2010. Northern shrimp live about five years, so the lack of younger shrimp for three years straight may mean empty nets for years to come.
from Science Daily:
Rising Ocean Acidification Leads to Anxiety in Fish
A new research study combining marine physiology, neuroscience, pharmacology, and behavioral psychology has revealed a surprising outcome from increases of carbon dioxide uptake in the oceans: anxious fish. A growing base of scientific evidence has shown that the absorption of human-produced carbon dioxide into the world's oceans is causing surface waters to decline in pH, causing a rise in acidity. This ocean acidification is known to disrupt the growth of shells and skeletons of certain marine animals but other consequences such as behavioral impacts have been largely unknown.... The researchers say the anxiety is traced to the fish's sensory systems, and specifically "GABAA" (neural gamma-aminobutyric acid type A) receptors, which are also involved in human anxiety levels. Exposure to acidified water leads to changes in the concentrations of ions in the blood (especially chloride and bicarbonate), which reverses the flux of ions through the GABAA receptors. The end result is a change in neuronal activity that is reflected in the altered behavioral responses described in this study.
from PLoS One:
Pesticides + Fungicides = Weak in the Bees
Pesticide exposure and pathogens may interact to have strong negative effects on managed honey bee colonies. Such findings are of great concern given the large numbers and high levels of pesticides found in honey bee colonies. Thus it is crucial to determine how field-relevant combinations and loads of pesticides affect bee health.... We detected 35 different pesticides in the sampled pollen, and found high fungicide loads. The insecticides esfenvalerate and phosmet were at a concentration higher than their median lethal dose in at least one pollen sample. While fungicides are typically seen as fairly safe for honey bees, we found an increased probability of Nosema infection in bees that consumed pollen with a higher fungicide load. Our results highlight a need for research on sub-lethal effects of fungicides and other chemicals that bees placed in an agricultural setting are exposed to.
from New York Times Review:
The Year the Monarch Didn't Appear
ON the first of November, when Mexicans celebrate a holiday called the Day of the Dead, some also celebrate the millions of monarch butterflies that, without fail, fly to the mountainous fir forests of central Mexico on that day. They are believed to be souls of the dead, returned. This year, for or the first time in memory, the monarch butterflies didn't come, at least not on the Day of the Dead. They began to straggle in a week later than usual, in record-low numbers. Last year's low of 60 million now seems great compared with the fewer than three million that have shown up so far this year. Some experts fear that the spectacular migration could be near collapse. "It does not look good," said Lincoln P. Brower, a monarch expert at Sweet Briar College.... Another major cause is farming with Roundup, a herbicide that kills virtually all plants except crops that are genetically modified to survive it. As a result, millions of acres of native plants, especially milkweed, an important source of nectar for many species, and vital for monarch butterfly larvae, have been wiped out. One study showed that Iowa has lost almost 60 percent of its milkweed, and another found 90 percent was gone. "The agricultural landscape has been sterilized," said Dr. Brower.
from Washington Post:
Sea stars are wasting away in larger numbers on a wider scale in two oceans
Sea stars off the nation's eastern and western coasts are dying in large numbers and in the most undignified ways. Their colorful limbs are curling up at the tips. Squiggly arms are detaching from dying bodies like tails from lizards and wiggling until they also drop dead. Ulcers are opening holes in tissue, allowing internal organs to ooze out. Marine scientists say the sea stars are under attack by an unknown wasting disease that turns their bodies to goo, and the results are gruesome, nasty and grisly.
from Zoological Society of London:
The Last Croak for Darwin's Frog?
Deadly amphibian disease chytridiomycosis has caused the extinction of Darwin's frogs, believe scientists from the Zoological Society of London (ZSL) and Universidad AndrĂ©s Bello (UNAB), Chile. Although habitat disturbance is recognised as the main threat to the two existing species of Darwin's frogs (the northern Rhinoderma rufum endemic to Chile, and the southern Rhinoderma darwinii from Chile and Argentina), this cannot account for the plummeting population and disappearance from most of their habitat. Conservation scientists found evidence of amphibian chytridiomycosis causing mortality in wild Darwin's frogs and linked this with both the population decline of the southern Darwin's frog, including from undisturbed ecosystems and the presumable extinction of the Northern Darwin's frog.
from Ensia/Scientific American:
14 humans fed/acre vs. 3 humans fed/acre. It's Time to Rethink America's Corn System
... For corn-fed animals, the efficiency of converting grain to meat and dairy calories ranges from roughly 3 percent to 40 percent, depending on the animal production system in question. What this all means is that little of the corn crop actually ends up feeding American people. It's just math. The average Iowa cornfield has the potential to deliver more than 15 million calories per acre each year (enough to sustain 14 people per acre, with a 3,000 calorie-per-day diet, if we ate all of the corn ourselves), but with the current allocation of corn to ethanol and animal production, we end up with an estimated 3 million calories of food per acre per year, mainly as dairy and meat products, enough to sustain only 3 people per acre. This is lower than the average delivery of food calories from farms in Bangladesh, Egypt and Vietnam. In short, the corn crop is highly productive, but the corn system is aligned to feed cars and animals instead of feeding people.
from University of Sydney:
Evidence of Unsustainable Fishing in the Great Barrier Reef
Sea cucumber fishing in the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park shows worrying signs of being unsustainable. Many species being targeted are endangered and vulnerable to extinction, as determined by the International Union for Conservation of Nature.... "Sea cucumbers play a vital role in reef health and our previous research indicates that they may help reduce the harmful impact of ocean acidification on coral growth. The viability of their numbers may well be crucial to the condition of coral reef ecosystems."
from Canadian Press, via HuffingtonPost:
Starfish Deaths Alarm Vancouver Scientists
Last month, a diver alerted Vancouver Aquarium staff that he had found a number of dead and decaying sunflower sea stars in the cold Pacific waters of a popular dive spot just off the shore of West Vancouver. Within weeks, the tentacled orange sea stars had all but disappeared in Howe Sound and Vancouver Harbour, disintegrating where they sat on the ocean floor.... "Where the population density had been highest in summer of 2012, on the western shore of Hutt Island, all the sunflower sea stars are gone from that area, with rivers of ossicles (a hard body part) filling ledges and crevices," Marliave wrote in his blog.... The Howe Sound research team have heard from veterinarians and other marine experts that similar die-offs have taken place in Florida and California.... In July, researchers at the University of Rhode Island reported that sea stars were dying in a similar way from New Jersey to Maine, and the university was working with colleagues at Brown and Roger Williams universities to figure out the cause.
from The Guardian:
Jellyfish clog pipes of Swedish nuclear reactor, forcing plant shutdown
A huge cluster of jellyfish forced the Oskarshamn plant, the site of one of the world's largest nuclear reactors, to shut down by clogging the pipes conducting cool water to the turbines. Operators of the plant on the Baltic coast in south-east Sweden had to scramble reactor No 3 on Sunday after tons of jellyfish were caught in the pipes.... The species that caused the Oskarshamn shutdown is known as the common moon jellyfish. "It's one of the species that can bloom in extreme areas that ... are over-fished or have bad conditions," said Moller. "The moon jelly likes these types of waters. They don't care if there are algae blooms, they don't care if the oxygen concentration is low. The fish leave ... and [the moon jelly] can really take over the ecosystem."
from Science Daily:
Whale Mass Stranding Attributed to Sonar Mapping for First Time
An independent scientific review panel has concluded that the mass stranding of approximately 100 melon-headed whales in the Loza Lagoon system in northwest Madagascar in 2008 was primarily triggered by acoustic stimuli, more specifically, a multi-beam echosounder system operated by a survey vessel contracted by ExxonMobil Exploration and Production (Northern Madagascar) Limited.... Based on these findings, there is cause for concern over the impact of noise on marine mammals as these high-frequency mapping sonar systems are used by various stakeholders including the hydrocarbon industry, military, and research vessels used by other industries. The report concluded: "The potential for behavioral responses and indirect injury or mortality from the use of similar MBES [multi-beam echosounder systems] should be considered in future environmental assessments, operational planning and regulatory decisions."
Monarch butterfly numbers drop to new lows
Monarch butterflies appear headed for a perhaps unprecedented population crash, according to scientists and monarch watchers who have been keeping tabs on the species in their main summer home in Eastern and Central North America. There had been hope that on their journey north from their overwintering zone in Mexico, the insects' numbers would build through the generations, but there's no indication that happened. Only a small number of monarchs did make it to Canada this summer to propagate the generation that has now begun its southern migration to Mexico, and early indications are that the past year's record lows will be followed by even lower numbers this fall.... "Based on what I saw this year, I'm very concerned they're not going to bounce back that well, and my fear is I'm going to see them extinct within my lifetime," Burkhard said.... Taylor says that "in the Midwest, we're seeing a tremendous loss of habitat due to the type of agriculture that been adopted here, Roundup-ready corn and soybeans, which has taken the milkweeds out of those row crops, and we're seeing overzealous management of roadside marshes, excessive use of herbicides here and there."
from Washington Post:
Bats and snakes are the latest victims of mass killers in the wild
...The mass killer of bats under Coleman's microscope, Pseudogymnoascus destructans, has a lot in common with Chytridiomycosis, a mass killer of frogs and other amphibians. The culprits resemble a third killer, Ophidiomyces, which kills and disfigures snakes. They are fungi, and they arrived in the United States from overseas with an assist from humans -- through travel and trade. They prefer cold conditions and kill with precision, so efficiently that they're creating a crisis in the wild. The death toll among amphibians, bats and snakes from fungi represents "potential extinction events," said Coleman, a U.S. Fish and Wildlife research biologist...
Study shows that 60 percent of plantlife can be saved
In partnership with Duke University and North Carolina State University, Microsoft researchers used computer algorithms to identify the smallest set of regions worldwide that could contain the largest numbers of plant species. The result, they say, is a model showing how putting just 17 percent of the planet's land surface off limits to human contamination could save a huge number of important plant species.
from Vancouver Sun:
Pine beetle epidemic may be to blame for drop in moose numbers
The "most-plausible"ť explanation for a serious decline in moose populations in the Cariboo is the mountain pine beetle epidemic, especially the large-scale salvage logging that followed, a report for the B.C. government finds. The consultant's report said the "vulnerability of moose could have increased due either to the change in habitat (dead trees) or to increased salvage logging removal of cover) or to the change in access associated with salvage logging (more roads)." In other words, vast clearcuts left moose exposed on the landscape -- to human and wild predators -- and a proliferation of logging roads made it easier for hunters on motorized vehicles to get at them.
from Mother Jones:
The Mystery of Bee Colony Collapse
... But according to a new peer-reviewed paper, neonicotinoids aren't the only pesticides that might be undermining bee health. The study, published in PLOS One and co-authored by a team including US Department of Agriculture bee scientist Jeff Pettis and University of Maryland entomologist Dennis vanEngelsdorp, found that a pair of widely used fungicides are showing up prominently in bee pollen--and appear to be making bees significantly more likely to succumb to a fungal pathogen, called Nosema ceranae, that has been closely linked to CCD. The finding is notable, the authors state, because fungicides have so far been "typically seen as fairly safe for honey bees."... Overall, study co-author vanEngelsdorp told me in a phone interview, bees fed with fungicide-laced pollen were "two times more likely to come down with an infection" than control bees. One particular fungicide, pyraclostrobin, was found to make bees three times as susceptible to Nosema.
from BirdLife International:
New report: State of the World's Birds
Declines in birds across the globe are providing evidence of a rapid deterioration in the global environment that is affecting all life on earth - including people. However, birds also tell us that saving the planet comes at a relatively small price - an investment that's vital to secure our own future. These are some of the messages in a new report State of the world's birds: indicators for our changing world by the world's largest Partnership of conservation organisations, BirdLife International, who have gathered in Ottawa, Canada to launch the report and unveil their vision for a world rich in biodiversity, where people and nature live in harmony.... "Birds provide an accurate and easy to read environmental barometer that allows us to see clearly the pressures our current way of life are putting on the world's biodiversity", said Dr Leon Bennun, BirdLife's Director of Science, Information and Policy....
from Science Daily:
Predators Affect the Carbon Cycle, Study Shows
A new study shows that the predator-prey relationship can affect the flow of carbon through an ecosystem. This previously unmeasured influence on the environment may offer a new way of looking at biodiversity management and carbon storage for climate change.... The study found that the presence of spiders drove up the rate of carbon uptake by the plants by about 1.4 times more than when just grasshoppers were present and by 1.2 more times than when no animals were present. It was also revealed that the pattern of carbon storage in the plants changed when both herbivores and carnivores were present. The grasshoppers apparently were afraid of being eaten by the spiders and consumed less plant matter when the predators were around.... Appreciating the role of predators is also important currently, given that top predators are declining at rates faster than that of many other species in global trends of biodiversity loss.
Honeybee food may contribute to U.S. colony collapse - study
Bee keepers' use of corn syrup and other honey substitutes as bee feed may be contributing to colony collapse by depriving the insects of compounds that strengthen their immune systems, according to a study released on Monday.... A bee's natural food is its own honey, which contains compounds like p-coumaric acid that appear to help detoxify and strengthen a bee's immunity to disease, according to a study by scientists at the University of Illinois. Bee keepers, however, typically harvest and sell the honey produced by the bees and use substitutes like sugar or high-fructose corn syrup to feed them.
from Montreal Gazette:
US Atlantic puffin population in peril as fish stocks shift, ocean waters heat up
The Atlantic puffin population is at risk in the United States, and there are signs the seabirds are in distress in other parts of the world. In the Gulf of Maine, the comical-looking seabirds have been dying of starvation and losing body weight, possibly because of shifting fish populations as ocean temperatures rise, according to scientists.
'Dramatic decline' warning for plants and animals
More than half of common plant species and a third of animals could see a serious decline in their habitat range because of climate change. New research suggests that biodiversity around the globe will be significantly impacted if temperatures rise more than 2C. But the scientists say that the losses can be reduced if rapid action is taken to curb greenhouse gases.... The scientists projected that if no significant efforts were made to limit greenhouse gas emissions, 2100 global temperatures would be 4C above pre-industrial levels. In this model, some 34 percent of animal species and 57 percent of plants would lose more than half of their current habitat ranges.
from Agence France-Press:
Hong Kong risks losing its pink dolphins
Conservationists warned on Monday that Hong Kong may lose its rare Chinese white dolphins, also known as pink dolphins for their unique colour, unless it takes urgent action against pollution and other threats. Their numbers in Hong Kong waters have fallen from an estimated 158 in 2003 to just 78 in 2011, with a further decline expected when figures for 2012 are released next month, said the Hong Kong Dolphin Conservation Society.
EU to ban pesticides blamed for harming bees
The European Union will ban three of the world's most widely-used pesticides for two years because of fears they are linked to a plunge in the population of bees critical to the production of crops. The executive European Commission said on Monday it would press ahead with the ban on a class of pesticides known as neonicotinoids, produced mainly by Germany's Bayer and Switzerland's Syngenta, despite the EU's 27-member states failing to reach an agreement on the matter.
No trace left of three types of butterflies native to south Florida
After six years of searching, an entomologist has concluded that three varieties of butterflies native to south Florida have become extinct, nearly doubling the number of North American butterflies known to be gone....Besides the three varieties which Minno concluded are extinct, two more native butterflies no longer exist in Florida but are living in the Caribbean, and two more are heading toward extinction, he said.
from Sydney Morning Herald:
Indonesian forest open for mining, logging
A mining company has boasted of an Indonesian government decision to free up 1.2 million hectares of virgin forest in Aceh for commercial exploitation. The announcement to the Canadian stock exchange late on Tuesday was met with disbelief by environmental groups worried about endangered orang-utans, Sumatran tigers, rhinos and elephants across the heavily forested region. But Ed Rochette, chief executive of Canadian mining company East Asia Minerals, celebrated the ''good progress and positive news for mineral extraction in the area''. The company's announcement quotes Anwar, chairman of the Aceh government's spatial planning committee, as saying the Indonesian forestry ministry had accepted ''almost 100 per cent of the province's new spatial plan'' that would ''zone large blocks of previously protected forest for mineral extraction, timber concessions and oil palm plantations''.
from Canadian Press, via HuffingtonPost:
Canada Overfishing: Cod Stock, Other Species May Never Bounce Back, Study Says
The recovery of overexploited fish populations such as cod has been slower than expected and many depleted stocks may never be able to bounce back, a new study says. The study, to be published Friday in the journal Science, was compiled by researchers who examined 153 fish and invertebrate stocks from around the world. Most fish species are resilient enough to recover within a decade if swift action is taken to reduce pressure on depleted stocks, the researchers say. "But when you don't take action rapidly ... not only does it result in a much longer potential recovery time, but the uncertainty as to whether recovery will happen at all increases exponentially," said Jeff Hutchings, a professor of biology at Dalhousie University and one of the authors of the study.... "Our study really suggests that recovery is quite unlikely now for cod because of our failure to act when we could have."
Color-Changing Hare Can't Keep Up With Climate Change
For hares, fashion is a life or death proposition. Whereas Peter Rabbit could always jump down his hole to escape a fox, his cousin, the hare, has to rely on blending in with his environment to avoid detection. But as the climate warms, hares may no longer be able to stay in sync with their environment, according to a new study. The animals will be switching from earthy brown to snowy white or vice versa at the wrong time and becoming targets for hungry predators.... With the initiation dates for molting fixed, that shift would result in hares being mismatched for as much as 36 days by 2050 and for double that amount of time by the end of the century.
from Mother Jones:
The Worst Wildlife Disease Outbreak Ever in North America Just Got Way Worse
The US Fish and Wildlife Service confirms white-nose syndrome (WNS) is present at Fern Cave National Wildlife Refuge in Alabama. This cave provides winter hibernation space for several bat species, including the largest documented wintering colony of endangered gray bats. More than a million individuals of this federally listed and IUCN listed species nest at Fern Cave. White-nose syndrome--a fungal disease possibly imported from Europe on the boots of spelunkers (cave explorers)--hits bats at their winter hibernation roosts. It was first identified in North America in New York in 2006/2007 and has since spread to 22 states (more on that here) and five Canadian provinces. WNS has decimated bat populations with mortality rates reaching 100 percent at some sites. In the northeastern US, bat numbers have plummeted by at least 80 percent, says the USGS, with ~6.7 million bats killed continent wide. The Center for Biological Diversity reports that biologists consider this the worst wildlife disease outbreak ever in North America.
from New York Times:
Quest for Illegal Sea Cucumbers at the Sea Bottom Divides Fishing Communities
Whispers of high-speed boat chases, harpoon battles on the open sea and divers who dived deep and never re-emerged come and go around here like an afternoon gale. The fishermen eye strangers -- and one another -- with deep suspicion. "We'll tear them apart," said one, Jorge Luis Palma, squinting into the horizon at a boat he did not recognize. What has wrapped this village in such hostility? Sea cucumbers. The spiky, sluglike marine animals are bottom feeders that are not even consumed in Mexico, but they are a highly prized delicacy half a world away, in China, setting off a maritime gold rush up and down the Yucatan Peninsula.... With a growing Chinese middle class, demand for sea cucumbers has soared, depleting populations in Asian and Pacific waters because of overfishing. "Sea cucumber fever," as residents call it, has taken a toll here, too. Of the estimated 20,000 tons available in 2009, only 1,900 tons are left, according to Felipe Cervera, secretary of rural development in Quintana Roo State.
from Scientific American:
Bat-killing Fungus Reaches South Carolina; Now Found in 21 States and 5 Provinces
A dead tri-colored bat (Perimyotis subflavus) found at Table Rock State Park in South Carolina has tested positive for Geomyces destructans, the deadly and mysterious fungus that has killed millions of bats since it was first observed in February 2006. The fungus has now been found in 21 U.S. states and five Canadian provinces. When visible, G. destructans manifests as a fuzzy white patch on bats' noses, wings and other hairless parts of their body, a condition that yielded the name white-nose syndrome (WNS). Scientists do not yet know if the fungus itself is killing the bats or if it is just a symptom of whatever else is causing the deaths. What we do know is that bat populations that contract the fungus have a 70 to 100 percent mortality rate. There is no known cure or treatment. The fungus thrives only in cold conditions, so WNS appears to threaten only hibernating bats at this time....
from KIRO TV, through DesdemonaDespair:
Eagle heads, bear penises, cougar meat part of local wildlife black market
An exclusive KIRO 7 Investigation uncovers stunning proof of animals being killed illegally to sell their parts for profit.... He found bald eagle heads turned into rattles. Bear gall bladders sold for medicine. And even an entire cougar delivered right to the back door of a restaurant. There are criminals in Washington illegally killing animals every day and selling their meat and body parts on the black market. It could threaten entire species.... Undercover detectives say people contacted them wanting to illegally buy and sell everything from bears, cougars, elk and eagles, with no concern about wiping out the animals. "For them, it's not a living animal, it's a way to make a buck," said Hobbs.
from Center for Public Integrity:
U.S. report urges deeper look into breast cancer's environmental links
A new federal advisory panel report makes a forceful case for more research into environmental causes of breast cancer, which was diagnosed in 227,000 women, killed 40,000 and cost more than $17 billion to treat in the United States last year. Compiled by the congressionally mandated Interagency Breast Cancer and Environmental Research Coordinating Committee, the report notes that most cases of breast cancer "occur in people with no family history," suggesting that "environmental factors -- broadly defined -- must play a major role in the etiology of the disease." Yet only a fraction of federal research funding has gone toward examining links between breast cancer and ubiquitous chemicals such as the plastic hardening agent bisphenol A; the herbicide atrazine; and dioxin, a byproduct of plastics manufacturing and burning...
New group seeks to save near-lawless oceans from over-fishing
The high seas that cover almost half the Earth's surface are a treasure trove with little legal protection from growing threats such as over-fishing and climate change, according to a new international group of politicians. "High levels of pillage are going on," David Miliband, a former British foreign secretary, told Reuters. He will co-chair the Global Ocean Commission, which will start work this week and give advice to the United Nations on fixing the problems. Over-fishing and environmental mismanagement cost the world economy $50 billion a year and about three-quarters of world fish stocks are over-fished or fished to the maximum, according to World Bank and U.N. data.
from Wildlife Conservation Society:
11,000 Elephants Slaughtered in National Park Once Home to Africa's Largest Forest Elephant Population
The Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) announced February 6 that a national park, once home to Africa's largest forest elephant population, has lost a staggering 11,100 individuals due to poaching for the ivory trade. The shocking figures come from Gabon's Minkebe Park, where recent surveys of areas within the park revealed that two thirds of its elephants have vanished since 2004. The majority of these losses have probably taken place in the last five years. Gabon contains over half of Africa's forest elephants, with a population estimated at over 40,000.
from Cornell University :
Klondike, Puppy Born from a Frozen Embryo, Fetches Good News for Endangered Animals
Meet Klondike, the western hemisphere's first puppy born from a frozen embryo. He's a beagle-Labrador retriever mix, and although neither of those breeds are endangered, Klondike's very existence is exciting news for endangered canids, like the red wolf.... This frozen embryo technique is one of many reproductive technologies that can be used to conserve endangered species such as wild canids.
Terrestrial pesticide exposure of amphibians: An underestimated cause of global decline?
Amphibians, a class of animals in global decline, are present in agricultural landscapes characterized by agrochemical inputs. Effects of pesticides on terrestrial life stages of amphibians such as juvenile and adult frogs, toads and newts are little understood and a specific risk assessment for pesticide exposure, mandatory for other vertebrate groups, is currently not conducted. We studied the effects of seven pesticide products on juvenile European common frogs (Rana temporaria) in an agricultural overspray scenario. Mortality ranged from 100 percent after one hour to 40 percent after seven days at the recommended label rate of currently registered products. The demonstrated toxicity is alarming and a large-scale negative effect of terrestrial pesticide exposure on amphibian populations seems likely. Terrestrial pesticide exposure might be underestimated as a driver of their decline calling for more attention in conservation efforts and the risk assessment procedures in place do not protect this vanishing animal group.
from USDA Forest Service â€‘ Southern Research Station:
Climate Change Projected to Alter Indiana Bat Maternity Range
...Due to conservation efforts, researchers saw an increase in Indiana bat populations in 2000 to 2005, but with the onset of white-nose syndrome populations are declining again, with the number of Indiana bats reported hibernating in the northeastern United States down by 72 percent in 2011. The study predicts even more declines due to temperature rises from climate change, with much of the western portion of the current range forecast to be unsuitable for maternity habitat by 2060.
from Washington Post:
Erratic bat behavior at Great Smoky park may be linked to lethal syndrome
In the dead of winter, bats should be in a deep sleep. But at Great Smoky Mountains National Park, they're out and about, flying erratically in many cases, acting crazy. Out of nowhere, they've launched their mouse-sized bodies at unsuspecting visitors, forcing people to shoo them off with fishing poles, walking sticks and their bare hands. At least one bat flew smack into a trail walker's forehead.
from New York Times:
Bat Fungus Spreads in Kentucky
Officials have confirmed the presence of a deadly bat fungus in Mammoth Cave National Park in Kentucky. The fungus has already killed millions of bats across the Northeast and in the Midwest.... Sarah Craighead, the park superintendent, said that on Jan. 4, a biologist harvested a bat near the entrance to Long Cave with the telltale symptoms. "I am incredibly sad to report that the bat was infected with white nose syndrome," she said. "And that this is a condition that is deadly to bats." First discovered in an upstate New York cave in 2006, white nose syndrome has killed 5.5 million bats across 19 eastern states and four Canadian provinces, scientists say.
from American Bird Conservancy, via YubaNet:
Wading Bird Nesting in Key U.S. Area Plummets 39 Percent Below 10-Year Average
One of the nation's largest and most important wading bird breeding areas - south Florida, which includes the Everglades National Park - has seen wading bird nesting plummet to levels 39 percent below ten-year averages, according to a new report by the South Florida Water Management District. This weather-induced decline bucks a trend dating to 1985 of growing bird populations in South Florida as a result of restoration of water flows in the Everglades, and reaffirms the need for speeding completion of the project.... "These numbers are alarming because we are talking about extremely important bird breeding grounds on a national level and we're looking at three years of poor breeding success," said Kacy Ray, Beach Nesting Bird Conservation Officer for American Bird Conservancy, one of the nation's leading bird conservation organizations.
from Washington Post:
Scientists try to save the frogs as time runs out
In moist, mossy rooms, rows of glass aquariums bathed in eerie light shelter the last of the last of the frogs. It is a secure facility, for here reside the sole survivors of their species, rescued from the wild before a modern plague swept through their forests and streams in a ferocious doomsday event that threatens the planet's amphibians with extinction. The lab smells like a junior-high locker room where the bleach is losing. Perhaps it is all the crickets, larvae, flies -- the food that is keeping the frogs alive. They are safe, at least for now, in what scientists are calling an "amphibian ark." ...The villain is a rather extraordinary fungus, an amphibian version of a case of athlete's foot from hell, with an impossible name, Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis, which scientists call "Bd," a virulent, lethal fungus that has spread around the globe.
from National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration:
NOAA Lists Ringed and Bearded Ice Seal Populations Under the Endangered Species Act
NOAA Fisheries announced on December 21, in compliance with a court ordered deadline, its final listing decision for four subspecies of ringed seals and two distinct population segments (DPSs) of bearded seals under the Endangered Species Act. Specifically, in line with the proposal, NOAA will list as threatened the Beringia and Okhotsk DPSs of bearded seals and the Arctic, Okhotsk, and Baltic subspecies of ringed seals. The Ladoga subspecies of ringed seals will be listed as endangered.
from Agence France-Press:
China's boom savages coral reefs: study
China's economic boom has seen its coral reefs shrink by at least 80 percent over the past 30 years, a joint Australian study found Thursday ... Scientists from the Australian Research Council Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies and the South China Sea Institute of Oceanology said their survey of mainland China and South China Sea reefs showed alarming degradation... Coastal development, pollution and overfishing linked to the Asian giant's aggressive economic expansion were the major drivers, the authors said, describing a "grim picture of decline, degradation and destruction".
from University of Texas at Austin:
Bumblebees Do Best Where There Is Less Pavement and More Floral Diversity
andscapes with large amounts of paved roads and impervious construction have lower numbers of ground-nesting bumblebees, which are important native pollinators, a study from The University of Texas at Austin and the University of California, Berkeley shows. The study suggests that management strategies that reduce the local use of pavement and increase natural habitat within the landscape could improve nesting opportunities for wild bees and help protect food supplies around the word.
from Milwaukee Journal Sentinel:
Deadly fungus outlives bats, Wisconsin study finds
The deadly fungus decimating bat populations across a growing swath of North America appears to be a more hardy foe than previously thought, able to live in the soil of caves long after all of the bats have died, according to a new study by Wisconsin researchers. The disease caused by the fungus, white-nose syndrome, has killed an estimated 5.5 million bats in the eastern United States since it was identified in the winter of 2006-'07... The new research, published last week in the journal Applied and Environmental Microbiology, deals a blow to the theory that after the disease has killed off its hosts, bats might be able to recolonize the same caves and rebuild their populations.
from Associated Press:
Judge tosses Asian carp suit; states can amend it
A federal judge Monday threw out a lawsuit filed by five states that want barriers placed in Chicago-area waterways to prevent Asian carp from invading the Great Lakes, but said he would consider new arguments if the case were filed again ... U.S. District Judge John Tharp ... said he was "mindful of, and alarmed by, the potentially devastating ecological, environmental, and economic consequences that may result from the establishment of an Asian carp population in the Great Lakes." But he said the proper way for the states to win approval of separating the waterways is through Congress.
Cornstalks Everywhere But Nothing Else, Not Even A Bee
from Discovery Channel:
Pandas Threatened by Climate Change
Climate change is likely to decimate bamboo populations in an isolated region of China that serves as home for nearly 20 percent of the world's wild giant pandas. As a result, according to new projections, between 80 and 100 percent of livable panda habitat will disappear from the region in China's Qinling Mountains by the end of the 21st century. With fewer than 1,600 individuals left living in the wild, giant pandas are one of the most endangered species in the world.
from Yale Environment 300:
How Fishing Gear is Killing Whales in the North Atlantic
In early August, a small minke whale washed up on a beach in Chatham, Massachusetts. It was less than nine months old, not even weaned, and the cause of death soon became clear to Michael Moore, a veterinarian and biologist with Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, who came to perform a necropsy. Fishing line snarled the whale's snout, threading in and out of its baleen. Skull-bone fractures indicated that it had struggled in the rope underwater.... Entanglement has become a fact of life for large whales. Scientists examining scars on whale skin estimate that 82 percent of North Atlantic right whales and about half of endangered humpbacks between Cape Cod and Nova Scotia have become entangled at least once. Each year an unknown number die. Many of them manage to free themselves.
from New York Times:
Honey Producers Lament a Bad Season for Bees
Both excess rainfall and drought in various parts of Europe have reduced honey production by as much as 90 percent, according to some producers, while the erratic course of America's parasite-afflicted "zombie beesâ€ť this week reached as far north as Washington State.... Climate change, disease and increased use of pesticides have been blamed as factors in dramatic declines in numbers of bee colonies worldwide -- by more than half in 20 years in the case of Britain, according to a recent study by Friends of the Earth, the environmental lobby organization.
from London Guardian:
US polar bear researcher cleared of scientific misconduct
The Obama administration has wound up its controversial investigation of a government polar bear researcher without finding any evidence of scientific wrongdoing, campaign groups said late Friday... The investigation was launched in March 2010 just as Obama announced he would open up the Arctic to offshore drilling and expand oil exploration in the Gulf of Mexico.
Swift action needed to save world's declining fisheries-study
Swift action is required to save many of the world's fisheries that are declining faster than expected, a study in a leading scientific journal shows ... "Small-scale unassessed fisheries are in substantially worse shape than was previously thought," Christopher Costello, lead author of the study at the University of California, Santa Barbara, told a telephone news conference. "The good news here is that it's not too late," he said. "These fisheries can rebound. But the longer we wait, the harder and more costly it will be ... In another ten years, the window of opportunity may have closed."
from New York Times:
U.S. Declares a Disaster for Fishery in Northeast
The Commerce Department on Thursday issued a formal disaster declaration for the Northeastern commercial groundfish fishery, paving the way for financial relief for the battered industry and the communities that depend on it.... [NOAA] found that the population of Gulf of Maine cod -- a critical commercial species here -- was about 20 percent of its rebuilding target.... "This year has been the worst I've ever seen it," said John Our, who has caught only 500 of the 180,000 pounds of cod he was allotted this year and has shifted his focus to dogfish instead. "It is a disaster, I'll give them that. I just don't see any fish being landed."
from London Guardian:
Caribbean coral reefs face collapse
Caribbean coral reefs -- which make up one of the world's most colourful, vivid and productive ecosystems -- are on the verge of collapse, with less than 10 percent of the reef area showing live coral cover. With so little growth left, the reefs are in danger of utter devastation unless urgent action is taken, conservationists warned. They said the drastic loss was the result of severe environmental problems, including over-exploitation, pollution from agricultural run-off and other sources, and climate change. The decline of the reefs has been rapid: in the 1970s, more than 50 percent showed live coral cover, compared with 8 percent in the newly completed survey.
from AP, hosted on Google:
Report: 'Time is running out' for Caribbean coral
An international conservation organization is painting a grim picture of the Caribbean's iconic coral reefs. The International Union for Conservation of Nature says the Caribbean's reefs are in sharp decline, with live coral coverage down to an average of just 8 percent. That's down from 50 percent in the 1970s. The non-governmental organization released a report Friday at an international environmental conference in Korea. The causes include overfishing, pollution, disease and bleaching caused by rising global temperatures. The group says the situation is somewhat better in some places, including the Dutch islands of the southern Caribbean and the British territory of the Cayman Islands, with up to 30 percent cover in places. But the union concludes that "time is running out" and new safeguards are urgently needed.
Loss of Predators in Northern Hemisphere Affecting Ecosystem Health
A survey on the loss in the Northern Hemisphere of large predators, particularly wolves, concludes that current populations of moose, deer, and other large herbivores far exceed their historic levels and are contributing to disrupted ecosystems.... It found that the loss of major predators in forest ecosystems has allowed game animal populations to greatly increase, crippling the growth of young trees and reducing biodiversity. This also contributes to deforestation and results in less carbon sequestration, a potential concern with climate change.... Densities of large mammalian herbivores were six times greater in areas without wolves, compared to those in which wolves were present, the researchers concluded. They also found that combinations of predators, such as wolves and bears, can create an important synergy for moderating the size of large herbivore populations.
The spiralling cost of invasive species
"Invasive species have a huge impact worldwide. In some countries, the cost is astronomical," says Dave Richardson, director of the Centre of Excellence for Invasion Biology at South Africa's University of Stellenbosch.... Invasive species inflict more than $1.4 trillion (1.12 trillion euros) in damage each year, or five percent of global GDP, according to an estimate made 11 years ago.... "It's the globalisation of nature, and we're going to have a hard time stopping it," he said.
from Charlotte Observer:
Father's occupation can affect health of newborn
It has long been known that the behavior and environment of the mother during pregnancy can affect a newborn's health. But new research suggests that a father's behavior is important, too. Scientists at UNC Chapel Hill have found that different parental occupations may bring increased risk of birth defects. For example, photographers seem to have a greater risk of having a child with eye defects. The children of landscapers have a greater risk for gastrointestinal defects.
from Los Angeles Times:
U.S. asked to list great white sharks as endangered
Environmental groups have petitioned the federal government to list the declining population of great white sharks off the coast of California as an endangered species. The northeastern Pacific Ocean population of great whites is genetically distinct and in danger of extinction, according to the petition. Researchers have estimated that there are about 340 individuals in the group that are mature or nearly so. "There could be fewer than 100 breeding females left," said Geoff Shester, the California program director of Oceana, an international group focused on protecting the world's oceans. "Numbers in this range are lower than most species currently listed as endangered."
from Queen's University:
Situation Dire for Threatened Rhino Species, Researcher Finds
Peter de Groot (Biology) hopes his recent finding confirming the extinction of the Javan rhinoceros in Vietnam pushes the public to protect the last remaining group of these prehistoric creatures living in Indonesia... Dr. de Groot, Peter Boag (Biology) and colleagues confirmed the demise of the Javan rhinoceros population living in Vietnam by analyzing animal dung collected with the assistance of special dung detection dogs. Using genetic tools developed at Queens and Cornell, they determined only one Javan rhinoceros was living in Vietnam in 2009. That rhinoceros was found dead the following year.
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