Humans Wiped Out Two-Thirds of the World’s Wildlife in 50 Years | Smart News | Smithsonian Magazine

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Threats to global biodiversity are also threats to humans, experts warn

A cloud of smoke rises on the right over a rainforest treetops, with one tall tree illuminated from behind by the sun, and smoke. Hints of blue sky to the left
Smoke rises from a fire in the Amazon rainforest, south of Novo Progresso in the Para state, Brazil. (Photo by CARL DE SOUZA / AFP / Getty Images)
SMITHSONIANMAG.COM
“Two major reports released this month paint a grim portrait of the future for our planet’s wildlife. First, the Living Planet Report from the World Wildlife Fund (WWF), published last week, found that in half a century, human activity has decimated global wildlife populations by an average of 68 percent.

The study analyzed population sizes of 4,392 monitored species of mammals, fish, birds, reptiles, and amphibians from 1970 to 2016, reports Karin Brulliard for the Washington Post. It found that populations in Latin America and the Caribbean fared the worst, with a staggering 94 percent decline in population. All told, the drastic species decline tracked in this study “signal a fundamentally broken relationship between humans and the natural world,” the WWF notes in a release.

Source: Humans Wiped Out Two-Thirds of the World’s Wildlife in 50 Years | Smart News | Smithsonian Magazine

Global Warming Is Driving Polar Bears Toward Extinction, Researchers Say – By Henry Fountain – The New York Times

“Polar bears could become nearly extinct by the end of the century as a result of shrinking sea ice in the Arctic if global warming continues unabated, scientists said Monday.

Nearly all of the 19 subpopulations of polar bears, from the Beaufort Sea off Alaska to the Siberian Arctic, would face being wiped out because the loss of sea ice would force the animals onto land and away from their food supplies for longer periods, the researchers said. Prolonged fasting, and reduced nursing of cubs by mothers, would lead to rapid declines in reproduction and survival.

“There is very little chance that polar bears would persist anywhere in the world, except perhaps in the very high Arctic in one small subpopulation” if greenhouse-gas emissions continue at so-called business-as-usual levels, said Peter K. Molnar, a researcher at the University of Toronto Scarborough and lead author of the study, which was published Monday in the journal Nature Climate Change.

Even if emissions were reduced to more moderate levels, “we still are unfortunately going to lose some, especially some of the southernmost populations, to sea-ice loss,” Dr. Molnar said.”

The Return of the Platypuses – The New York Times

Photographs by 

Text by 

“Sarah May, watching, marveled at its glossy coat and the smoothness of its movement. It was like a Slinky, she said: “It almost poured over the ground.” The platypus reached the still pond, slid in, and was gone. Dr. May had been anticipating this moment for months, but now that it had arrived, she found herself surprised at just how deeply moved she felt.

The glossy platypus, along with two others, arrived at Tidbinbilla Nature Reserve, a 45-minute drive from the Australian capital of Canberra, on April 30. They had been away for four months, sheltering at a zoo in Sydney. The cold, wet and windy day of their release could not have been more different from the day in late December when they had left the reserve.

Back then, Tidbinbilla was parched from extreme heat and drought and menaced by an approaching bush fire. Dr. May, the wildlife team leader for the reserve, and her crew were working long hours in thick smoke, trying to protect their lungs with face masks, their eyes red and burning. It was a grim and apocalyptic-feeling time, she said: “Fires had taken over everybody’s psyche.” But the team worried most about their animal charges, the rare, endangered and iconic wildlife that make the reserve their home.”

Opinion | America’s Killer Lawns – By Margaret Renkl – The New York Times

By 

Contributing Opinion Writer

Credit…William DeShazer for The New York Times

“NASHVILLE — One day last fall, deep in the middle of a devastating drought, I was walking the dog when a van bearing the logo of a mosquito-control company blew past me and parked in front of a neighbor’s house. The whole vehicle stank of chemicals, even going 40 miles an hour.

The man who emerged from the truck donned a massive backpack carrying a tank full of insecticide and proceeded to spray every bush and plant in the yard. Then he got in his truck, drove two doors down, and sprayed that yard, too, before continuing his route all around the block.

Here’s the most heartbreaking thing about the whole episode: He was spraying for mosquitoes that didn’t even exist: Last year’s extreme drought ended mosquito-breeding season long before the first freeze. Nevertheless, the mosquito vans arrived every three weeks, right on schedule, drenching the yards with poison for no reason but the schedule itself.

And spraying for mosquitoes isn’t the half of it, as any walk through the lawn-care department of a big-box store will attest. People want the outdoors to work like an extension of their homes — fashionable, tidy, predictable. Above all, comfortable. So weedy yards filled with tiny wildflowers get bulldozed end to end and replaced with sod cared for by homeowners spraying from a bottle marked “backyard bug control” or by lawn services that leave behind tiny signs warning, “Lawn care application; keep off the grass.” “

“No Mow May” Campaign Asks Us to Leave the Lawn Alone Until June to Help Save Bees – ReturnToNow.Net

Not mowing in May results in more flowers and nectar all summer long for struggling pollinators. Wildlife organization urges us to leave lawnmowers locked up until June.

April showers bring May flowers, and if you like food, you should leave those flowers alone.

Not mowing in May results in a greater diversity and number of flowers throughout the summer, a British wildlife organization called Plantlife claims.

The organization conducted an experiment in last year in which hundreds of homeowners agreed not to mow their lawns until June. Participants’ lawns produced a much wider variety of flower species and enough nectar to feed 10 times as many bees as normal lawns.

The longer your grass grows, the greater the diversity of flower species you get, Plantlife found.

Because of this, the organization recommends mowing only once a month at most all summer.

If you can’t wait that long – maybe you want a place to tan or for the kids to play – mow in sections or chunks. Make a cool pattern if you wish. Plantlife suggests a mohawk! Just leave plenty of long patches for the pollinators.”

Source: “No Mow May” Campaign Asks Us to Leave the Lawn Alone Until June to Help Save Bees

Opinion | The Earth Is Just as Alive as You Are – By Ferris Jabr – The New York Times

By 

Mr. Jabr is a science writer.

Credit…JooHee Yoon

“Every year the nearly 400 billion trees in the Amazon rain forest and all the creatures that depend on them are drenched in seven feet of rain — four times the annual rainfall in London. This deluge is partly due to geographical serendipity. Intense equatorial sunlight speeds the evaporation of water from sea and land to sky, trade winds bring moisture from the ocean, and bordering mountains force incoming air to rise, cool and condense. Rain forests happen where it happens to rain.

But that’s only half the story. Life in the Amazon does not simply receive rain — it summons it. All of that lush vegetation releases 20 billion tons of water vapor into the sky every day. Trees saturate the air with gaseous compounds and salts. Fungi exhale plumes of spores. The wind sweeps bacteria, pollen, leaf fragments and bits of insect shells into the atmosphere. The wet breath of the forest, peppered with microbes and organic residues, creates ideal conditions for rain. With so much water in the air and so many minute particles on which the water can condense, rain clouds quickly form.

The Amazon sustains much more than itself, however. Forests are vital pumps of Earth’s circulatory system. All of the water that gushes upward from the Amazon forms an enormous flying river, which brings precipitation to farms and cities throughout South America. Some scientists have concluded that through long-range atmospheric ripple effects the Amazon contributes to rainfall in places as far away as Canada.

The Amazon’s rain ritual is just one of the many astonishing ways in which living creatures transform their environments and the planet as a whole. Much of this ecology has only recently been discovered or understood. We now have compelling evidence that microbes are involved in numerous geological processes; some scientists think they played a role in forming the continents.”

David Lindsay: Amen. Go read the entire piece by Ferris Jabr.  Here are a few of the NYT comments I admired:

Socrates
Downtown Verona. NJ

Human ignorance and conceit are the enemies of the Earth, and those who stoke it and aid and abet such ignorance and conceit are effectively planetary assisted-suiciders. The solutions to preserving our environment are contraception, education, solar-wind-tidal-hydro-geothermal-alternative energies and human consciousness. One of the most prominent destructive mentalities today is Christian dominionism in which the God of Genesis grants humanity “dominion” over the Earth. “Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it: and have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moveth upon the earth.” More destructive words have never been written. We owe it to our fellow man, woman and child to wipe destructive religious, authoritarian, and environmental ignorance off the face of the political map and to do our human best to respect, cherish and honor Mother Earth. Anything less is conceding defeat to the plague of human Know-Nothingism and an authoritarian black hole of ignorance and destruction.

157 Recommended

 
Steves Weave – Green Classifieds commented April 21, 2019

Steves Weave – Green Classifieds

Right now, Gaia is talking. You don’t have to listen hard. And she is saying: Vote Democrat!

149 Recommended

 
joyce commented April 20, 2019

joyce

The earth is alive and it is our only home. Humans have evolved from the earth and the earth has formed us right down to the metabolic level. Most of the wildlife on the earth is still in balance with the earth, their lives are dependent upon finding everything they need on the earth using the gifts they have in their bodies. Their lives are tenuous, but they are not harming the earth in any large degree. Humans have learned to stabilize their lives by using their evolved technology as a protection. This has enabled them to grow out of balance with the earth and also enabled them to cause great harm in the process. Humans know the processes that cause global warming and understand what has to happen to reverse it,but politics and money and status quo interfere. We have gone so far away from the basic processes of the earth that we have a hard time thinking that we can go back. But we know what to do, we need to stop using fossil fuels. The oil industry needs to embrace renewable energy and the jobs that come with it. We all need to think about renewable energy, reusable technology, and a society that does not build things for the sole purpose of more money. As the climate becomes more unstable this earth is beginning to wipe us off the planet. We are not going to escape the natural law that everything that survives on earth remains in balance with the earth. The window is closing for us to help rebalance the earth we have vandalized. It is now or never.

132 Recommended

Climate Change: It’s a Buzzkill for Bumblebees, Study Finds – By Kendra Pierre-Louis and Nadja Popovich – The New York Times

A queen Bombus affinis, collected in Racine, Wis.All photos from the U.S.G.S. Bee Inventory and Monitoring Lab

“Behold the humble bumblebee.

Hot temperatures linked to climate change, especially extremes like heat waves, are contributing to the decline of these fuzzy and portly creatures, according to a study published Thursday in the journal Science.

Researchers found that bumblebee populations had recently declined by 46 percent in North America and by 17 percent across Europe when compared to a base period of 1901 to 1974. The biggest declines were in areas where temperatures spiked well beyond the historical range, which raises concerns that climate change could increase the risk of extinction for bees, which are already threatened by pesticide use and habitat loss.

“The scale of this decline is really worrying,” said Peter Soroye, a doctoral student in biology at the University of Ottawa and lead author of the study. “This group of organisms is such a critical pollinator in wild landscapes and agricultural regions.”

The common eastern bumblebee, or Bombus impatiens, shown below, is an important pollinator in eastern North America. It’s also the species you’re most likely to encounter in your garden.”

Grizzly Bear Death Rates Are Climbing – By Jim Robbins – The New York Times

ESSEX, Mont. — The long freight trains climb slowly over Marias Pass, through snow-draped mountains south of Glacier National Park and north of the Great Bear Wilderness, snaking through some of the wildest country in the Lower 48.

Some 25 trains a day, each a chain of 90 to 120 cars, make the journey over the Rocky Mountains in northern Montana at speeds up to 25 miles per hour. They have long been a threat to grizzly bears, and last year was the worst with eight of the bears — a federally protected species — run over by trains. On one day in June, a mother and her two cubs were killed by trains in two separate incidents. The long-term average for grizzly deaths by train is two a year.

“A train can sneak up on you,” said John Waller, the supervisory wildlife biologist for Glacier National Park, as he stopped to watch one chug through the forest. “They are amazingly quiet on the down grade and there are a lot of times the sound is blocked, coming in and out of the valleys.”

The death rate of grizzlies in this region has been rising, attributed not only to trains, but to poaching, cars and the removal of troublesome bears. In 2018, a record number — 51 — were killed in the Northern Continental Divide Ecosystem, millions of acres in and around Glacier Park. And last year, 51 bears were killed. In 2017, just 29 bears were killed or euthanized.

At the same time, though, the region’s population of grizzly bears has come roaring back to a high of 1,051 from a low of about 350 to 400, when they were listed in 1975 as a threatened species. Some experts say the increase in mortality is a reflection of the fact that more bears are roaming in far more places than they used to, and argue that, so far, these higher death rates are not a threat to the species.”

Fireflies are disappearing – CNN

This photo taken on August 18, 2015 shows fireflies kept in jars during in Guangzhou in China's southern Guangdong province.

(CNN)  “Around the world, fireflies light up the night with their shimmering bodies. But scientists say this magical display is under threat — with the loss of their natural habitats, pesticide use and artificial light putting some of the 2,000 or so species at risk of extinction.

Habitat loss is leading to the decline of many wildlife species, with some fireflies suffering because they need certain environmental conditions to complete their life cycle, said Sara Lewis, a professor of biology at Tufts University, who led the research published Monday in the journal Bioscience.
For example, she said, one Malaysian firefly (Pteroptyx tener), famous for its synchronized flashing displays, needs mangroves and the plants they contain to breed but across Malaysia mangrove swamps have been converted into palm oil plantations and aquaculture farms.
More surprisingly, the researchers found that the use of artificial light at night, something that has grown exponentially over the past century, was the second most serious threat to the creatures.”

Opinion | We Made the Coronavirus Epidemic – By David Quammen – The New York Times

By 

Mr. Quammen is the author of “Spillover: Animal Infections and the Next Human Pandemic.”

Credit…Kevin Frayer/Getty Images

“The latest scary new virus that has captured the world’s horrified attention, caused a lockdown of 56 million people in China, disrupted travel plans around the globe and sparked a run on medical masks from Wuhan, Hubei Province, to Bryan, Texas, is known provisionally as “nCoV-2019.” It’s a clunky moniker for a lurid threat.

The name, picked by the team of Chinese scientists who isolated and identified the virus, is short for “novel coronavirus of 2019.” It reflects the fact that the virus was first recognized to have infected humans late last year — in a seafood and live-animal market in Wuhan — and that it belongs to the coronavirus family, a notorious group. The SARS epidemic of 2002-3, which infected 8,098 people worldwide, killing 774 of them, was caused by a coronavirus, and so was the MERS outbreak that began on the Arabian Peninsula in 2012 and still lingers (2,494 people infected and 858 deaths as of November).

Despite the new virus’s name, though, and as the people who christened it well know, nCoV-2019 isn’t as novel as you might think.

Something very much like it was found several years ago in a cave in Yunnan, a province roughly a thousand miles southwest of Wuhan, by a team of perspicacious researchers, who noted its existence with concern. The fast spread of nCoV-2019 — more than 4,500 confirmed cases, including at least 106 deaths, as of Tuesday morning, and the figures will have risen by the time you read this — is startling but not unforeseeable. That the virus emerged from a nonhuman animal, probably a bat, and possibly after passing through another creature, may seem spooky, yet it is utterly unsurprising to scientists who study these things.”

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