As more researchers begin studying butterflies, the links to other species and whole ecosystems will become clearer and will help guide nature conservation plans and policies.
Natural history news and information for animals, plants, and nature. See more at http://garryrogers.com.
Curated by Garry Rogers
GR: The materialism that is dominating world governments is destroying the health of Earth ecosystems. I believe this is because Human limitations make it impossible for members of our species to see beyond our fears and appetites. A close inspection of all the political candidates for whom I can vote in the next election shows that they will all continue the same blind materialism. Of personal concern to me, none of them is interested in protecting natural landscapes and wildlife. Others are reaching the same conclusion. Why vote we say when no group we can elect will improve our government. Even those who are not yet concerned about wild plants and animals are feeling the loss of the natural world, and they are realizing that the quality of their and their children's lives is fading. It is gratifying and evokes a glimmer of hope to learn about responses such as the one described in this post.
The following is from truth-out.org.
In Oregon, the capture of local government by the timber industry results in the destruction of the natural world and the poisoning of the populace, but a Josephine County ballot initiative would ban tree spraying by corporations and government entities.
GR: Will the Puerto Rican parrot survive? It is the only remaining native parrot in Puerto Rico. Parrots of the region began disappearing in the 1700's due to logging, farming, and pet collecting. The species' prospects have improved, but the World Conservation Union still lists it as critically endangered. In 2012, there were only 58–80 individuals in the wild and 300 individuals in captivity. Considering the numbers that persist, I wondered if conservation efforts over the past 40 years have done enough.
This blog post describes the history of the species' step back from the brink of extinction.
"Most children’s books are full of animals — as protagonists, as pets, as age-old standbys in fairy tales and alphabet primers alike. But, as Jon Mooallem poignantly observed in his bittersweet love letter to wildlife, by the time each generation of children grows up, countless species of animals that roamed Earth during their childhood have gone extinct — today, scientists estimate that one species ceases to exist every twenty minutes. Perhaps whatever chance we have of reversing this tragedy lies in translating our children’s inherent love of animal characters into a tangible grown-up love of animal species, the kind of love that protects them from growing extinct, preserves their natural habitat, and honors the complex dynamics of ecosystems."
Federal agencies are launching an ambitious $17 million pilot project to monitor ocean biodiversity, recognizing that fragile coastal and marine ecosystems face increasing threats, including climate change.
GR: We should be monitoring the species that define biodiversity in all habitats. It seems foolish for our government to ignore the drastic declines being reported for most animal groups. You can help identify and understand the nature and causes of the declines. Join one of the Citizen Naturalist projects (http://garryrogers.com/2014/10/08/citizen-naturalists/). Learn more about the issues by following the Nature Conservation News (http://natconnews.com).
The California Department of Food and Agriculture is preparing an Environmental Impact Report (EIR) for a Statewide Plant Pest Prevention and Management Program.
GR: The EIR considers approaches and alternatives and describes an "Environmentally Superior Alternative" that seems more destructive than beneficial. The Alternative does not appear to me to be prudent in light of recent determinations of the harmful consequences of pesticide use.
A "No Pesticide Alternative," is included, but its description criticizes the alternative in the first sentence. The Department says, "It could cause other adverse environmental impacts because alternative management methods are not anticipated to be as effective in controlling or managing pests."
There are guidelines for the safe use of pesticides, but the guidelines are incomplete. As native species and ecosystems are damaged, invasive species spread even more quickly. Moreover, invasive species evolve pesticide resistance. The continued use of pesticides-while ecosystems decline and super bugs form is a short-term (rape and pillage) strategy.
Throughout the report, the Department fails to consider recommending changing crops and practices to avoid pest impacts. Of course, we might have passed the point where we can feed our growing population without pesticides. In this case, we can look forward to a time of forced population decline. When our ecosystems fail to moderate storms and floods, and they stop absorbing toxic wastes from the farms, food production will fall.
GR: The title is just a bit misleading. Unlike most animals, plants can lose parts with minimal harm. I doubt if a Bermuda grass clone is too concerned when my friend Moe eats a few leaves. The plant simply grows new ones. Moreover, many plants drop fruit in hopes that a consumer will distribute the seeds. Since most seeds fail to reach safe germination sites, plants always produce extra. It's okay to eat some. If all the seeds germinated, the originating species might drive its neighbors extinct.
But here's the hard part: We have to know a lot about plants if we want to consume them safely. We need to know how many leaves and seeds should go to our animal friends, and we have to know how many leaves should become soil mulch, and how many seeds need to germinate to maintain a healthy parent plant population. We don't know much of this stuff.
The critically endangered Regent Honeyeater could be at risk of extinction if plans to develop an industrial estate in New South Wales in Australia goes ahead, experts have found.
The bird is endemic to South Eastern Australia and this site contains one of the most important breeding habitats for this extremely rare bird, whose population has declined by more than 80 percent over the last 24 years.
“We are now certain that Regent Honeyeaters rely on this site for food and to breed,” said Samantha Vine, Head of Conservation at BirdLife Australia. “Development of this site will be catastrophic for this imperilled species.”
GR: Not another extinction in Australia; right?
PYEONGCHANG, Gangwon Province ― The 12th meeting of members of the Convention of Biological Diversity closed Friday with the global community showing its commitment to increasing funding significantly to achieve conservation targets.The members...
Around 25,000 participants and observers from 164 countries agreed to ask the UN to emphasize biodiversity as an essential component of sustainable development. Then everyone shut their eyes, patted herself or himself on the back, and went home to continue business as usual: Growth. Half a century ago, Garrett Hardin commented that "sustainable growth" is an oxymoron. The participants in the CBD should be reading Hardin. Here's a quote from a tribute to Hardin by John Cairns (2004: http://bit.ly/1wfC8Ii) that relates to one of the CBD's recommendations (the biobridge). The quote should encourage reading Hardin.
"He (Hardin) was a strong supporter of and commentator on Kenneth Boulding's dismal and utterly dismal theories of economics. The dismal theory states that, if the only check on the growth of population is starvation and misery, then no matter how favorable the environment or how advanced the technology, the population will grow until it is miserable and starves. The utterly dismal theory states that, if the only check on population growth is starvation and misery, then any technological improvement will have the ultimate effect of increasing the sum of human misery since it permits a larger population to live in precisely the same state of misery and starvation as before the change. Although Boulding first proposed both these theories in 1956 and Hardin reinforced them in 1968, the dangerous expectation still exists that a technological solution can be found to every problem."
"Road-killed tapir in Peninsular Malaysia (photo © WWF-Malaysia/Lau Ching Fong). Located in the wrong places, roads can open a Pandora’s Box of problems, says William F. Laurance.
"In a recent Opinion in National Geographic News (“Want to make a dent in world hunger? Build better roads”, 14 October 2014), U.S. Ambassador Kenneth M. Quinn makes a compelling case that roads can have major benefits for rural people—improving access to modern farming technologies, education, and healthcare, and even limiting the influence of extremist groups that prey on isolated communities.
However, Ambassador Quinn tells only half of the story. Yes, many roads or road improvements can yield major economic and social benefits. But other roads become environmental disasters—opening a Pandora’s Box of problems such as illegal logging, poaching, wildfires, and land speculation."
GR: Roads open areas to invasive species; they raise wildlife-disturbing noise levels, and they block wildlife movements. In some areas, roads lead to ecosystem disruption by encouraging tourism, recreational travel, and hunting. According to RoadFree.org, keeping wild areas free of roads is a remarkably cost-efficient way of preventing deforestation and protecting biodiversity.
It may not have been love as we know it, but around 385 million years ago, our very distant ancestors—armoured fish called placoderms—developed the art of intercourse.
GR: Hmm, so sex came long after sentience. After 385 million years we still haven't advanced to sapience.
There is no greater example of inequality than the question of animal rights and our diet choices. When will we stop eating animals?
GR: Human concerns for animal rights are steadily increasing. Once, the only argument against raising animals for food was that eating plants instead of animals was the most economical and efficient means to feed the growing human population. Developing respect for other species has much broader significance than that. As Aldo Leopold and others have said, we can only fulfill our role as ethical beings if we learn to respect other species. I believe that such respect is a sign of sapience.
Australia's Environment Minister Greg Hunt has pledged to end the extinction of native mammal species by 2020, with a focus on culprits such as feral cats.
Invasive species, including feral species, are the second greatest short-term reasons for extinction. Even if we removed them all, extinctions would still occur. Habitat loss to human development is the greatest short-term reason. Development in the form of construction and resource harvest (agriculture, grazing, logging, and mining) is steadily eliminating the natural habitats required by native mammals.
It makes sense to begin repairing our conservation efforts by controlling short-term reasons for extinction. However, we must also control the long-term human impacts (climate change, toxic wastes, and more) if we seriously intend to stop extinction.
"On the heels of a report showing that the world is far behind on targets to halve habitat loss, cut pollution, and reduce overfishing, delegates meeting at a United Nations conference in Pyeongchang, South Korea have agreed to increase efforts to conserve biodiversity in developing nations.
"After nearly two weeks of discussions, governments pledged to double average annual biodiversity funding relative to the level spent between 2006-2010. "Small island developing states" and "least developed countries" are the primary targets for funding."
GR: The UN appears to have the correct sentiment, but the increased funding for conservation is too small. The fundamental fuel for environmental decline, human population growth, remains uncontrolled. Scientists are telling us that the growing human population has exceeded the Earth's carrying capacity. What motivates our leaders to continue with development and "progress" when they surely know what is happening? Governments should budget an amount equal to the increased funding for conservation to reversing population growth.
The NatCon News' global coverage includes information and issues for animals, plants, soils, and ecosystems.
GR: Subscription to this daily news service is free.
Even species as small and relatively uncharismatic as beavers produce dramatic changes in the environment, to the benefit of many species and the detriment of others. This press release caught my eye partly because of the debate over how reintroduction of wolves has changed Yellowstone National Park. It’s also of interest because the British, who seem t0 suffer from a profound fear of their native wildlife (wolves, bears, badgers), are currently debating reintroduction of beavers (with much “we shall fight in the fields and in the streets” rhetoric):
GR: Flood damage by natural streams used to be controlled by beaver dams. We removed beaver, and flood control became expensive. This story discusses other natural beaver benefits.
The Department [of Defense] is responding to climate change in two ways: adaptation, or efforts to plan for the changes that are occurring or expected to occur; and mitigation, or efforts that reduce greenhouse gas emissions. ...
GR: The U. S. military is taking climate change seriously. A new report released yesterday by the Department of Defense describes military preparations for the expected changes and efforts to reduce greenhouse gasses responsible for the changes.
Two recent pieces of scientific evidence really hammer home the predicament of modern industrial civilization, and they have to do with the fact that our globalized, just-in-time economic model is hopelessly wed to carbon-based energy. Once one understands this, then there can be no delusions about why we are on such a catastrophic trajectory of greenhouse gas emissions. As was explained in a previous post, GDP is fundamentally and directly linked to CO2 emissions. Below, two graphs illustrate this fact:
More than just the likely collapse of human civilization, our power dash toward a warmer world has already wiped out more than half our wildlife. Most will die if we keep it up.
(NASA satellite shot of Antarctica on October 13 of 2014. Recent scientific papers point toward a vicious cycle of Antarctic glacial melt. Expanding sea ice results from increased cold, fresh water outflows from melting land-anchored glaciers spreading out along the ocean surface and protecting the floating ice. Meanwhile, rapidly warming waters concentrate in a layer beneath the ice to further accelerate melting of the giant glaciers’ bases. Image source: LANCE-MODIS.)
GR: Clearly, we are changing Earth’s climate at an unprecedented rate. It’s hard to predict how this will change human society. The possibilities are discussed in the next post from xraymike79. Important reading.
It’s unbelievable to me that in the year 2014—going on ’15—the media still does hyperbolic backflips every time some celebrity gets pregnant or decides it might be fun to become a daddy, as if huma...
GR: I have to repeat the author's closing statement: "Across the land you can hear the battle cry: Out of the way, animals, we’ve got diapers and baby carriages to buy.”
Melissa Cronin: "There are an estimated 1,600 pandas left in the wild in China, and thanks to new legislation, that number may change very soon — for the worse.
"The Chinese government is currently in the midst of introducing its "forest tenure reform" legislation in several provinces. Originally introduced in 2008, the new reforms were meant to stimulate local economic benefits reaped by people living in forest communities.
But in effect, the reforms could allow for the sale of some 694,884 square miles of critical old-growth forest for commercial logging, firewood collection and development. The area, currently owned collectively by villagers, represents 15 percent of China’s panda forests, according to a new study published in the journal Conservation Letters."
GR: Fifteen percent doesn't seem to severe, but relinquishing habitat at this rate would lead to loss of protection for all Panda habitat in seven years. Land-use planning must always take a long-term view. Some planners recommend 200-year projections to allow estimates of the effects of small changes.
This is a story that we should follow. The habitat involved supports many more species than just Pandas.
While independent research shows that Chlorpyrifos, a Dow Chemical insecticide used in Kaua‘i’s GMO fields, can cause significant harm to children nearby, Dow is intent on convincing the EPA otherwise.
GR: Of course, other species are harmed as well, making it unacceptable to use these pesticides and the GMOs bred for compatibility. About 40 years ago, we switched our course from controlling population to supporting its continued growth. Thus, we encouraged the research that has produced the GMOs. By following this path, we abandoned any hope of preserving healthy ecosystems. Now over half of our wild animals are gone, and we continue along on the road to massive extinctions and destruction of Earth ecosystems.
Turns out melting ice isn't the only thing the walruses have to worry about.
Shell Oil ships and drilling will descend on prime Walrus habitat next summer.
Only nine others have plans in the works, according to a new study.
It must feel so awkward to deny climate change. It must feel so insane to defend the oil and coal industry while watching your state hopelessly prepare for a disaster of biblical proportions.
A new study suggests that some parts of the world are evolutionary incubators, producing superior competitors primed to thrive in other environments.
GR: The research described in this article is a fine confirmation of familiar ideas. I was gobsmacked by the implication that it contained new ideas. Invasions occur when species with well-developed ruderal traits are treated to human dispersal, disturbed ecosystems, few direct competitors, and no disease organisms. Perhaps the editor of Global Ecology and Biogeography needs to ask if the reviewers were qualified.
Overall, we found that federal departments have made unsatisfactory progress in each of the four areas examined. Despite some advances since our 2012 audit, timelines for putting measures in place to reduce greenhouse gas emissions have not been met and departments are not yet able to assess whether measures in place are reducing emissions as expected.
GR: So, the 15th largest world economy has succumbed to greed and has placed profit above the health of the land.