Wildlife

Dought-hit Zimbabwe readies mass wildlife migration

Zimbabwe is planning an enforced mass migration of wildlife away from a park in the country’s south, where thousands of animals are at risk of death due to drought-induced starvation. At least 200 elephants have already died at two other parks due to lack of food and water, along with scores of buffalo and antelope.

The animals will continue to die until the rains come. The biggest threat to the animals right now is loss of habitat. The El Nino-induced drought has also taken its toll on crops, leaving more than half of the population in need of food aid.

Zimparks plans move 600 elephants – as well as giraffe, lions, buffalo, antelope and spotted wild dogs – from Save Valley Conservancy in southern Zimbabwe to three other national parks.

This is the biggest translocation of animals in the history of wildlife movement in Zimbabwe across distances of more than 1,000 kilometers.

It will start once the summer rains come. Those are expected to start this week, which would offer major relief for the stricken animals and for farmers who are preparing for the 2019/20 planting season.

The migration will also help to save the conservancy’s ecosystem by depopulating it because the animals “are now becoming a threat to their own survival.Zimbabwe is home to some 80,000 elephants, around a fifth of Africa’s total, conservationists estimate. Overall numbers have declined sharply in recent years, mostly due to a combination of poaching, illegal hunting and drought.

Wildlife

Birds lose weight, migrate later after consuming insecticide

Birds that have ingested seeds treated with a common insecticide experience weight loss and delay their migrations — effects that could reduce their chances of surviving and reproducing, researchers found.

In a study of white-crowned sparrows (Zonotrichia leucophrys) in Canada, biologists documented the effects in birds that eat the equivalent of just a few seeds treated with the neonicotinoid pesticide imidacloprid — an amount they could be expected to consume in the wild from agricultural fields.

Researchers suspect these impacts could be related to a dramatic decline in some songbird populations.

Neonicotinoids are often applied as a seed coating to protect crops from harmful insects, but when the chemicals are exposed in the environment, studies have found they can affect pollinating insects as well as birds.

Researchers found that birds given a higher dose of the pesticide lost 6% of their body mass within six hours, causing the birds to stay an average of 3 ½ days longer than birds in a control group at the stopover site before resuming migration.

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Global Warming

Geese Change Migration Routes due to Global Warming

Geese which winter in Britain before flying to the Arctic to breed each summer are changing their migration route in response to climate change, researchers have found.

Scientists studying the habits of barnacle geese, which spend the winter months in large numbers on Britain’s coast, found that the birds were flying further north far into the Arctic Circle each spring to fatten up en route to their Norwegian summer breeding grounds.

The study is one of the first provide solid evidence that animals are adapting their long-established behaviour to cope with the effects of global warming.

Wildlife

Arctic Voyager

An Arctic fox was tracked by Norwegian researchers as it wandered on foot for 2,737 miles from northern Norway to northern Greenland, then finally into Canada’s far north. They say it is one of the longest treks ever recorded for an Arctic fox.

A tracking device put on the animal in July 2017 allowed a team from the Norwegian Polar Institute to follow the now 2-year-old female as it moved across vast stretches of sea ice and glaciers.

The animal traveled an average of about 29 miles each day for 76 days. But at times, she walked nearly 100 miles in a single day.

No other of the species tracked by the institute wandered beyond Norway.

Cat Killers

When cats roam free, small wild animals die. And the body count in Australia exceeds 2 billion native animals per year.

Environmental researchers in Australia compiled the alarming figure by combing through hundreds of studies on the predatory habits of Australia’s free-ranging pet cats as well as feral felines.

In just one day, Australia’s millions of cats kill approximately 1.3 million birds, 1.8 million reptiles and over 3.1 million mammals.

Cats were introduced to Australia in the 18th century by European colonizers, and a report in 2017 found that feral cats could be found in 99.8% of the continent, including on 80% of Australia’s islands.

Current estimates of the number of feral cats in Australia range from about 2 million to more than 6 million during years with a lot of rainfall, when prey is abundant. And every feral cat kills about 740 native animals annually

Wildlife

Early Migration

East Africa’s annual wildebeest migration began nearly a month early due to unusual weather patterns this season. The premature start in late May caught many safari resorts and tour operators off guard.

“Climate changes such as heavy rains in Tanzania as well as depletion of resources in one area are among the reasons we are having an early wildebeest migration,” said Shadrack Ngene of the Kenya Wildlife Service.

Kenyan weather experts say the rainy seasons have become unreliable and do not follow the schedules of just a few decades ago.

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Wildlife

Tiny Traveller

The epic migration of a tiny bird was tracked as it traveled 12,400 miles back and forth between Alaska and the Amazon.

Scientists from Canada’s University of Guelph say the 0.4-ounce blackpoll warbler is one of the fastest-declining songbirds in North America.

The record-holding bird was observed taking 18 days to fly from Nome, Alaska, to the Atlantic coast of the Carolinas, where it rested and fattened up for almost a month.

The bird then endured a nonstop 2.5-day flight across open water of the Atlantic toward its wintering grounds in South America.

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Wildlife

Massive Migrations

About 2 billion birds cross the Gulf of Mexico during the spring migration season, according to a new study that combined data from 11 weather radar stations and observations from citizen scientists.

Researcher Kyle Horton of Cornell University’s Lab of Ornithology said that before he and his colleagues looked at the data from 1995 to 2015, “we could only guess at the overall numbers from surveys done along small portions of the shoreline.”

Horton says that while climate change has caused the earliest seasonal migrations to begin 1.5 days earlier per decade, the peak has remained at the same period between April 19 and May 7.

Global Warming

Climate change swelling Central American migration to US

Deepening climate change is swelling Central American migration to the United States, the region’s environment ministers and experts warned on Tuesday (Oct 23) as a caravan of mostly Honduran migrants trekked towards the US border in defiance of President Donald Trump.

Climate change had caused prolonged periods of drought and rain in the region, damaging or destroying the crops of poorer subsistence farmers who are often forced to leave with their families to search for new opportunities. Central America has had recurrent losses in agriculture, with populations increasingly faced with fewer opportunities for work and development.

Five Central American countries – Honduras, Nicaragua, Guatemala, El Salvador and the Dominican Republic – are among the world’s 15 most vulnerable states in the face of extreme climate change events.

The impacts of climate change are part of the triggers of migration creating climate migrants.

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Wildlife

Geese Fly to Exhaustion in Race Against Climate Change

Every spring, thousands of barnacle geese make a grand migration from their temperate winter habitat in northern Europe and northwestern Russia to their summer nesting grounds in the Arctic. It’s a journey of more than 1,800 miles (3,000 kilometers) that usually takes about a month, but new research has found that rising temperatures in the Arctic are pressuring the geese to make the trip in a grueling one-week sprint.

Barnacle geese (Branta leucopsis) are medium-size water birds found in Europe, Russia, the United Kingdom, Wales and the Arctic. Until recent years, the timing of the birds’ spring migration meant they arrived in the Arctic right as the snowmelt exposed their nesting sites and initiated plant growth. The birds would almost immediately lay their eggs, which would then hatch 30 or so days later, right at the peak season for plant growth — perfect timing for hungry, growing goslings.

But in the past few decades, scientists noticed that things have changed. Temperatures in the Arctic have been getting warmer earlier and earlier in the season — by about a day per year — and this is putting significant pressure on the migrating barnacle geese.

The geese are trying to keep up with these environmental changes, but they’re struggling. Scientists have found that the geese still leave at about the same time every year, but the animals have shortened their travel time to the Arctic. A trip that used to take about a month now takes the geese only about a week, as the birds will spend less time at their stopover sites or will skip them altogether and just keep flying.

Instead of promptly laying their eggs as they usually do when they arrive at their Arctic nesting grounds, the exhausted geese need more than a week to recuperate and build up enough energy before they can start nesting. By the time the animals are ready to lay their eggs, the grasses and plants the birds feed on have been growing for a few weeks. As a result, goslings emerge from their eggs after the peak growing season rather than during it, and that’s causing the young birds’ survival rate to decline.

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Wildlife

Migrating Moose

A changing ecological landscape in western Canada is allowing some moose to lumber from their traditional forest and Rocky Mountain habitats into prairie farmland, where they have hardly been seen before in significant numbers.

Declining private homesteads on the prairie in recent decades, and the disappearance of predators such as grizzlies and wolves, appear to be convincing the antlered grazers that it’s safe to scavenge grain spilled during the harvest. The moose even sometimes wander into the suburbs of cities such as Calgary.

“For an animal that is used to eating splintered wood most of the winter, all this spilled grain and canola is … a great banquet for them,” said wildlife biologist and author Chris Fisher.

Global Warming

Climate Change Affecting Ocean Migration

Climate change has drastically reduced the number of blacktip sharks migrating down the Atlantic coast to South Florida, posing a threat to the environmental health of the region.

Researchers at Florida Atlantic University have been tracking what should be an enormous migration, during which sharks leave cooling waters up north and play an important role in the tropical ecosystem. Instead, researchers found a sharp decline in the migrating population.

According to the university, last year’s roving gang was about one-third of what it should have been, and this year’s numbers represent a big drop as well. In the past, shark counters may have caught sight of up to 15,000 sharks in a single day in southern Florida, but the group has not reached that bar in 2018.

Wildlife

Climate Change Affecting Bat Migrations

What started out as a simple study of how to safely monitor migrating bat colonies turned into a major discovery. Climate change is causing bats to migrate sooner, and in some cases, not migrate at all.

When they travel, bats usually do so in a swarm consisting of millions. When Mexican free-tailed bats bats migrate from Mexico to the Bracken Cave in San Antonio, Texas, the size of the swarm is so large it can be tracked using weather radar.

The researchers found that the bats are migrating to Texas roughly two weeks earlier than they were 22 years ago. They now arrive, on average, in mid March rather than late March.

Additionally, as of 2017, roughly 3.5 percent of the bat population is staying through the winter. Climate change is causing spring to begin sooner, in turn prompting insects to move to Texas sooner and giving the bats something to eat without having to migrate.

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Global Warming

Migrating birds winter in Israel as climate change makes desert too dangerous

Climate change is turning Israel into a permanent wintering ground for some of the 500 million migrating birds that used to stop over briefly before flying on to the warm plains of Africa, Israeli experts say.

The birds now prefer to stay longer in cooler areas rather than cross into Africa, where encroaching deserts and frequent droughts have made food more scarce.

Cranes are one of the most abundant species to visit the Hula wetlands and Agmon said that the number that prefer to stay in Israel until the end of March has risen from less than 1,000 in the 1950s to some 45,000 currently.

Although migrating birds are a welcome attraction for ornithologists and tourists, their hunger for food from crop fields makes them a menace to farmers.

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Climate change threatens olive trees across Mediterranean

Environmental groups have warned that the olive oil industry across the Mediterranean, worth billions of dollars, is under threat due to climate change.

From Italy to Tunisia, and Lebanon to Greece, increasingly hot summers and unpredictable winters have seen yields decline by as much as 20 percent.

Wildlife

Global Warming Affecting Migratory Birds

The arrival of migratory birds at northern breeding grounds typically coincides with the growth of spring plants. A team of researchers from several universities studied data collected by citizen scientists and satellites between 2001 to 2012 in an attempt to see how climate change is affecting the birds’ ability to accurately time their arrival at these breeding grounds. Their research has been published in Scientific Reports.

Of the 48 North American songbird species that migrate north, the researchers found that nine — almost 20 percent — didn’t reach the grounds by the deadline critical for mating and breeding the next generation of birds. On average, the gap stretched by more than half a day each year across all species, for a total of five days per decade. However, the change for some species was far more drastic — double or triple that pace.

This delay was due to the effect of warmer temperatures on the growth cycles of plants. The birds leave their southern homes at the same time every year, basing their departure on the amount of daylight, which remains unaffected by climate change. However, climate change is altering when plants put out new leaves, with plants in eastern North America “greening up” sooner than normal, while plants in the western part of the continent are undergoing the process later.

This means birds are arriving either too soon and being met with frigid temperatures or too late and missing out on the insect boom that coincides with the new plant growth. Either condition means the birds have a much lower chance of surviving and reproducing, so the nine species identified in the study are therefore in danger of dwindling numbers.5

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Global Warming

Climate change is wreaking havoc on indigenous people in Alaska

The extreme warmth of 2016 has changed so much for the people of the Arctic that even their language is becoming unmoored from the conditions in which they now live.

The Yupik, an indigenous people of western Alaska, have dozens of words for the vagaries of sea ice, which is not surprising given the crucial role it plays in subsistence hunting and transportation. But researchers have noted that some of these words, such as “tagneghneq” (thick, dark, weathered ice), are becoming obsolete.

After thousands of years of use, words are vanishing as quickly as the ice they describe due to climate change. The native inhabitants are also in peril – there are 31 Alaskan towns and cities at imminent risk from the melting ice and coastal erosion. Many will have to relocate or somehow adapt.

In remote Alaskan communities, the stores sell goods priced to reflect their journey – $20 for a pizza, $15 for a gallon of milk. If you can’t butcher a 1,000-pound walrus because there is no sea ice to support both of you, then you might well be left hungry.

The window of opportunity for hunting continues to shrink. The communities are worried about this because food insecurity is something we are now having to tackle every single day.

St Lawrence island, a far-flung piece of the US that sits just 36 miles from Russia in the Bering Sea. The island is thought to be one of the last exposed fragments of a land bridge that connected North America to Asia during the last ice age.

In 2013, the island’s two main communities managed to catch just a third of the walruses they normally do. Last year, Gambell, the largest settlement, snared just 36 – down from the 600 it could expect just a few years ago.

Sea ice is further out from land than it once was and is becoming treacherously thin for hunters to traverse. Walruses, which require sea ice for resting and giving birth, often have to resort to heaving themselves on to crowded strips of land. These grand tusked beasts can trample each other to death in such conditions.

Frost locked deep in the soils is melting, causing buildings to subside. Communities are seeing their coastlines erode and are increasingly exposed to lashing storms without the protective barrier of sea ice.

Several Alaskan towns and villages are wrestling over whether to fight these changes or retreat to relative safety. Two coastal villages, Shishmaref and Kivalina, have voted to relocate while a third, Newtok, has taken the first tentative steps to do so.

Undefined

Arctic lakes melting earlier each year

Arctic lakes, covered with ice during the winter months, are melting one day earlier each year, according to researchers, including one of Indian origin, who monitored 13,300 lakes using satellite imagery.

Scientists from the University of Southampton in the UK showed that due to warming temperatures ice is breaking earlier each spring, based on a 14-year period between 2000 and 2013.

Researchers discovered that all five study areas in the Arctic — Alaska, Northeast Siberia, Central Siberia, Northeast Canada and Northern Europe – showed significant trends of early ice break-up in the spring, but to varying degrees.

Central Siberia demonstrated the strongest trend, with ice starting to break-up an average of 1.4 days earlier each year.

Northern Europe showed the lowest change of ice break-up at 0.84 days earlier per year. They found a strong relationship between decreasing ice cover and an increasingly early spring temperature rise.

Less ice means a longer season for lake biology, which together with warmer temperatures will affect processes such as Carbon dioxide (CO2) and Methane (CH4) emissions.