This is the season of songbirds – the nightingales and skylarks whose voices resonate in poetry and music as well as nature. But with their numbers in freefall, could we lose them for ever, asks Stephen Moss
TOKYO - The international court ruling against Japanese whaling last week may have given the government a convenient political out.
The Antarctic program was nearly bankrupt, but if the government had overhauled it on its own, it would have incurred the wrath of a strong anti-whaling lobby, and could have been criticized for caving in to foreign anti-whaling activists. Now officials can say the court forced their hand.
"It seemed to me they were anxious to lose," said Masayuki Komatsu, a former fisheries official known for his battles at the International Whaling Commission to defend Japanese hunts. He accused Japanese officials of losing "passion and love" for whaling and not fighting hard enough in court.
Fruit-eating bats play an important role in forest regeneration, collecting and spreading seeds far and wide. However, human development may be stymying bat-mediated dispersal. In a new study, researchers found that fruit bats avoid feeding in light-polluted areas, which may significantly affect forest growth.
National Trust responds to Environmental Audit Committee findings
On the day of an EU vote on new proposals to tackle the problem of invasive non-native species at a continent-wide level, the Environmental Audit Committee is calling on the Government to revamp the system for controlling invasive species in England and Wales.
Its key recommendations are to work together more effectively, to do more work in identifying invasive species which pose a threat to the UK more quickly; and to introduce an early surveillance system which would then trigger action which would result in eradication.
Responding to the report, David Bullock, Head of Nature Conservation at the National Trust said: "Tackling invasive non-native species needs public agencies and voluntary organisations to work more effectively together, so we're pleased this is a key recommendation from the Committee. But we also need agencies to be much more innovative in the way they detect and monitor threats.
“Better coordination and more effective detection will become even more important as climate change and globalisation add to the challenges the UK faces."
Beach closures to protect rare birds The Denver Post "These are little birds that are really good at blending into sandy shorelines," explained Mike Smith, Conservation Biologist for Colorado Parks and Wildlife in the Lamar area.
Climate change leaving seabirds with nowhere to tern
One of the UK’s rarest seabirds could become a victim of climate change as rising seas and increased coastal flooding squeezes the UK’s coastline.
Little terns, the UK’s smallest tern species, return each April to breed on beaches at fewer than sixty sites around the UK. Traditional colonies at South Gare on the Tees and Donna Nook in Lincolnshire have already been lost due to changes in our coastline and just one nesting site remains in Wales.
Predictions of increased coastal flooding and sea level rise caused by climate change could spell disaster for these elegant seabirds. This warning comes as the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) issue their latest reports on climate change [note 2].
Susan Rendell-Read is the RSPB’s little tern project manager “Little terns are very vulnerable to the impacts of climate change. They need undisturbed sand and shingle beaches to nest with a plentiful supply of small fish just offshore. These beaches can be quickly altered by rising seas and floods, making them unsuitable for terns to nest.”
“In the past, the areas lost to flooding or storms would be offset by new areas of sand or shingle thrown up by the sea. This is now being prevented by hard sea defences and other man made developments. The result, known as coastal squeeze, means beaches are getting narrower and the little terns are quickly running out of space.”
“As rising sea levels and storms change our coastline, little terns are forced into fewer and fewer colonies and have to share space with people on some of our most popular beaches, leading to significant problems with disturbance.”
A major new five-year partnership including the RSPB, Natural England and the National Trust [note 3] has been established to help little terns adapt to climate change and secure their future in the UK. This partnership, supported by the EU LIFE + programme will lay the foundations for the long-term recovery of the little tern in the UK by protecting and creating nest sites and increasing public awareness and support.
An important part of the recovery plan is ensuring that the few sites where little terns continue to breed are protected from disturbance [note 4]. The RSPB and its partners are keen to raise awareness amongst local communities and beachgoers to give little terns space to breed safely and in peace.
Victoria Egan manages little tern colonies for the National Trust at Blakeney National Nature Reserve in Norfolk said “local communities and beachgoers have a vital role to play in helping little terns cope with the increasing threat of climate change. These tiny seabirds need space to breed undisturbed so we are urging visitors to these beaches to follow any directions and advice given on local signs on the beach and avoid entering certain areas while the little terns are breeding”.
Susan added “These dainty little seabirds, no heavier than a tennis ball, have just started returning to our shores after travelling thousands of miles from their wintering sites off the south and west coasts of Africa. We need to make sure that they have the best chance of finding a suitable home when they arrive.”
Aside from reducing the populations of the species sought for capture, commercial fisheries are also killing thousands of nontarget creatures such as sharks, albatross, and sea turtles, collectively referred to as “bycatch.” However, the full extent of the problem is only beginning to be grasped.
Hidden in one of Australia's most developed and fastest growing areas lives one of the world's smallest freshwater crayfish species. Biologists described the new species belonging to the genus Gramastacus, after eight years of research in the swamps and creeks of coastal New South Wales, Australia.