Penguin Disovery

There are now 20% more known colonies of emperor penguins around Antarctica, thanks to satellite images that revealed more of the imperiled birds to scientists. Emperors are the only penguin species that breed on sea ice instead of on land, making them highly vulnerable to climate change. “Whilst this is good news, the colonies are small and so only take the overall population count up to … just over half a million penguins,” said lead researcher Peter Fretwell at the British Antarctic Survey. He made the discovery by examining images from Europe’s Sentinel-2 spacecraft. Fretwell says there still may be one or two other very small colonies yet to be discovered.


Low fish catch – India

Maharashtra witnessed lowest fish catch in 45 years in 2019. Fishers have also reported a 50% decline in their annual fish catch, attributing recurring cyclones for reducing their fishing window. Fish migrate from warm waters to cool waters, a phenomenon that has already begun as the Indian ocean is warming up is one of the reasons for lower fish catch. The marine algae that is the base of aquatic food web has been disappearing in the western Indian Ocean owing to rising sea temperatures.


Florida wildlife officials remove 5,000 pythons from the Everglades

Wildlife officials removed 5,000 from the Everglades, according to a statement from the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.

Burmese pythons are not naturally found in Florida. But the nonnative pests reproduce — and kill other species — so frequently that the state takes extraordinary measures to combat them. Each invasive python eliminated represents hundreds of native Florida wildlife saved. The invasive pythons became established as a result of escaped or released pets.

Amazon Deforestations at Record High

The first six months of 2020 were the worst on record for deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon, with 3,069 square kilometres (1,185 square miles) cleared, according to INPE data, an area bigger than the nation of Luxembourg.

The number of forest fires in the Brazilian Amazon has risen by 28 percent from July 2019, satellite data showed on Saturday, fuelling fears the world’s biggest rainforest will again be devastated by fires this year.

Brazil’s national space agency, INPE, identified 6,803 fires in the Amazon region in July 2020, up from 5,318 the year before.

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Soil animals are getting smaller with climate change

The biomass of small animals that decompose plants in the soil and thus maintain its fertility is declining both as a result of climate change and over-intensive cultivation. To their surprise, however, scientists have discovered that this effect occurs in two different ways: while the changing climate reduces the body size of the organisms, cultivation reduces their frequency. Even by farming organically, it is not possible to counteract all negative consequences of climate change.

Largely unnoticed and in secret, an army of tiny service providers works below our feet. Countless small insects, arachnids and other soil dwellers are indefatigably busy decomposing dead plants and other organic material, and recycling the nutrients they contain. However, experts have long feared that these organisms, which are so important for soil fertility and the functioning of ecosystems, are increasingly coming under stress.

On the one hand, they are confronted with the consequences of climate change, which challenges them with high temperatures and unusual precipitation conditions with more frequent droughts. On the other hand, they also suffer from over-intensive land use.


Vietnam Bans Wildlife Imports, Bans Illegal Wildlife Markets

Vietnam Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc has signed a new directive that bans wildlife imports and closes illegal wildlife markets, a move applauded by Humane Society International/Vietnam. This directive provides clear instructions to relevant enforcement agencies and authorities to take immediate actions to better control wildlife trade as part of the global response to the threat of zoonotic diseases such as COVID-19 posed by wildlife consumption and trade.

Australian Wildfire – Among Worst Wildlife Disasters

Nearly 3 billion animals were affected by Australia’s worst wildfire season that burned from last July through March this year, scientists announced Tuesday — a figure almost three times higher than original estimates.

The report released Tuesday and commissioned by the World Wide Fund for Nature Australia said more than 46 million acres were scorched. An estimate in January said 1.25 billion animals were affected.

“This ranks as one of the worst wildlife disasters in modern history,” said Dermot O’Gorman, the organization’s chief executive officer in a statement.

Ten researchers from Australian universities and wildlife groups involved in the report have been looking at both the impact of the fires and possible ways to protect ecosystems in the future.

The affected wildlife includes 143 million mammals, 2.46 billion reptiles, 180 million birds and 51 million frogs.

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Spectacular Hives of Stingless Bees

Some species of stingless bees make stunning honeycomb which resembles the molecular structure of crystals, scientists have discovered. The same mathematical blueprint is followed by a colony of bees and also by the laws of physics, resulting in strikingly similar layouts.

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Global warming shrinks bird breeding windows

For breeding birds, timing is everything. Most species have just a narrow window to get the food they need to feed their brood—after spring’s bounty has sprung, but before other bird species swoop in to compete. Now, a new study suggests that as the climate warms, birds are not only breeding earlier, but their breeding windows are also shrinking—some by as many as 4 to 5 days. This could lead to increased competition for food that might threaten many bird populations.

Birds typically time their breeding to cues signaling the start of spring, so that their chicks hatch when food like plants and insects is most abundant. But global warming has pushed many species to breed earlier in the year; that effect is especially prominent at higher latitudes, where temperatures are rising faster than near the equator. Few studies, however, have examined how climate change affects the duration of breeding windows, which closely track the number of chicks born each year as well as overall population trends.

To find out how the length of breeding periods has changed over time, a team examined a data set spaning from 1975 to 2017 which includes the nesting records of 73 species and more than 820,000 birds from a 1000-square-kilometer area in Finland’s boreal forests. Each year, trained volunteers placed uniquely numbered rings around the legs of newly hatched chicks to track their movements and survival. Because chicks had to be a certain size to get a ring, the researchers were able to use the timing of the tagging to work out when each chick had hatched—and therefore when breeding had occurred.

On average, the beginnings and ends of the breeding periods are occurring earlier in the year. However, the ends are shifting back faster than the beginnings, resulting in an average breeding window that is 1.7 days shorter in 2017 than it was in 1975. During that same period, Finland’s average temperature rose by 0.8oC, suggesting many bird species are actively responding to changing temperatures.

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Disco Defense

Farmers in northern Botswana may soon be protected from elephant raids on their crops by a novel technique that also keeps humans dancing around the world.

Researchers near Chobe National Park installed lines of solar-powered, multi-colored strobe lights around crops and found they repelled elephant incursions by 75% compared to areas without the lights. The disco-themed LEDs were placed on poles every 33 feet and constantly flashed a different color — red, green, amber, white, blue or yellow. The color patterns were changed every week to prevent the pachyderms from getting used to them.


Invasive alien species may soon cause dramatic global biodiversity loss

An increase of 20 to 30 per cent of invasive non-native (alien) species would lead to dramatic future biodiversity loss worldwide. This is the conclusion of a study by the University of Vienna.

Human activities intentionally and unintentionally introduce more and more plant and animal species to new regions of the world—for example, via commodity transport or tourism.

Some of these alien species have negative consequences for biodiversity and humans well-being, for example by displacing native species or transmitting diseases.

The study shows that an increase of 20 to 30 per cent in the number of newly introduced alien species is considered sufficient to cause massive global biodiversity loss—a value that is likely to be reached soon, as the number of introduced species is constantly increasing.

Furthermore, humans are the main driver of the future spread of alien species. The experts identify three main reasons, primarily the increasing global transport of goods, followed by climate change and then the impacts of economic development such as energy consumption and land use. The study also shows that the spread of alien species can be greatly slowed down by ambitious countermeasures.


Local Rangers Interfere with Migration

The famed wildebeest migration in parts of East Africa was brought to a halt by huge wildfires that raged along the route. More than 2 million of the migratory grazers cross from Tanzania’s Serengeti National Park to Kenya’s Maasai Mara Game Reserve each year at this time.

But rangers set fire to some of the overgrown grasslands in their path to help what they describe as pasture regeneration. The smoke and fires have spooked the wildebeest, causing them to stop short of the Sand River, along the Kenya and Tanzania border.


Spider Boom in Arctic

A new study published in Royal Society Open Science reveals Arctic wolf spiders (pardosa glacialis) are experiencing a baby population boom due to the impact of climate change in the Arctic.

The scientists observed wolf spider populations in the area between 1996 and 2014 and noticed the arachnids were laying many more eggs as the Arctic experienced warmer weather. Female wolf spiders weave their eggs into an egg sac, with each egg sac regarded as a single clutch. The researchers discovered wolf spiders in the Arctic used to lay one clutch of eggs, but laid two clutches a year as the region began to have longer stretches of warmer weather.

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Bee Recovery

Beekeepers across the U.S. report that their colonies have rebounded from the losses suffered last year.

While the deadly 2018-2019 winter season saw a record 37.7% of the colonies die off, there was only a 22.2% loss last winter, the smallest in the last 14 years. But losses had continued through the summer of 2019, when beekeepers reported a 32% death rate — much higher than the average for summer losses.

Honeybees are threatened by mites, diseases, pesticides and climate change, which experts say are part of the new normal the bee industry must cope with.

More Locusts

Swarms of desert locusts have invaded a suburb of New Delhi for the first time in recorded history, prompting residents to bang pots and pans to ward off the insects.

Neighboring Pakistan has battled infestations for weeks. But since the insects arrived between the last harvest and the next planting season, there have so far not been any reports of significant crop losses.

A new generation of the ravenous insects is now devastating crops that are emerging in East Africa.

Global Warming

Warming Waters Inhibit Fish from Reproducing

As many as 60 percent of the world’s fish species could struggle to breed and reproduce if climate change causes the Earth to warm by 5 degrees Celsius over the next 80 years, the current projection for what will happen if greenhouse gas emissions continue unchecked, according to a new study.

A study released Thursday in the journal Science that examined nearly 700 species of freshwater and saltwater fish found that 6 in 10 species would be affected if bodies of water around the world continue to warm. If global warming was limited to 1.5 degrees Celsius, the study’s authors added, that number falls as low as 1 in 10 species.

Species unable to reproduce in traditional habitats may either move to deeper water or further north and would result in local extinctions.


Over 400 Botswana elephants killed in mystery mass die-off

The carcasses of more than 400 elephants have been discovered north of the Okavango Delta and nobody yet knows what’s killing them. The government appears to be dragging its heels in pursuit of answers.From the air, a dead elephant torn into by scavengers is a grisly sight. In north-east Botswana the presence of at least 400 must have been overwhelming.

The first carcass was found near Seronga on May 11 by researchers in a helicopter trying to discover why an elephant with a satellite tracker hadn’t moved for some time. What they found was shocking.

The dead elephants were dotted near natural waterholes in mopane woodland and along trails. They had collapsed on their chests, almost in mid-step, suggesting sudden death — almost what a chemical nerve poison would do.

A further eight elephants in the area appeared to be weak and lethargic, some walking with difficulty or in circles, suggesting neurological impairment. Puzzlingly, no young elephants appear to have died.

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Antarctic Penguin Boom

Antarctic penguins could experience a ‘population boom’ due to global warming as melting sea ice means they have to spend less time foraging for food. Japanese scientists describe the Adélie species of penguin, which is native to Antarctica, as a ‘rare global warming winner’ thanks to melting ice.

In low-ice conditions, penguins are able travel more by swimming than by walking, which increases their access to foods such as fish and krill. For Adélies, swimming is four times faster than walking, meaning faster access to food and, in turn, healthier offspring and longer lifespans.