Global Warming

Mass Extinction Alert: Global Warming Pushes Tropical Fish Away

If what happened 252 million years ago is anything to go by, then we can expect a mass extinction very soon.

Scientists in Australia and New Zealand discovered a current trend of tropical fish and marine life fleeing their home in the equator to relocate to cooler waters. These tropical waters have become too hot for some species to survive, caused largely by global warming, forcing them to move further afield.

The implications of such a change on marine ecosystems, and human livelihoods are monumental, explain the scientists in their study, and could trigger a mass extinction — something that happened at the end of the Permian Period, 252 million years ago, when, as a 2020 study discovered, around 90 percent of all marine species died.


Quietly Disappearing

An Australian songbird is slowly fading into extinction as it loses its mating song crucial for its survival.

Scientists at the Australian National University say the young regent honeyeaters are struggling to learn mating calls because the adult birds are disappearing and not passing on the tunes. “This lack of ability to communicate with their own species is unprecedented in a wild animal,” said researcher Dejan Stojanovic. He adds that the honeyeaters are now so rare that some younger birds never find an adult male to teach them their love song.



Black Summer Wildfires Burned 100 Plant Species

More than 100 plant species had their entire populations burned in the Black Summer bushfires, according to the most detailed study yet of the impact on Australia’s plants.

An estimated 816 species had at least half the areas they grow burned, according to estimates in the study, and some ecosystems are now at risk of “regeneration failure”.

While many of the species studied are adapted to recover from fire – either by reshooting or growing from seeds waiting dormant in nearby soils – there are fears that the loss of mature plants has left some species and entire ecosystems vulnerable.


Plants in Peril

Almost 40% of Earth’s plant species are now at risk of extinction due to human activities, according to Britain’s Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew. Its latest annual report on the state of the world’s plants and fungi says more than twice as many plants are at risk than previously thought. It points to agriculture and aquaculture threatening a third of the plants at risk, while climate change appears to threaten only about 4%. The Kew researchers say some of the plants in danger hold great promise for medicine, fuel and food.


Elephant-shrew Rediscovered After 50 Years

Conservation group World wide Wildlife Conservation (GWC) announced the rediscovery of the “romantically monogamous” Somali sengi on Tuesday. The elephant-shrew was on the organization’s 25 Most Preferred Lost Species record.

GWC introduced the 1st scientific documentation of a single Somali sengi in a variety of photographs showing the mouse-like animal standing on some rocks. The insect-eater has a trunk-like nose and is more closely linked to elephants than ordinary shrews.

The study group caught an elusive Somali sengi in a lure baited with peanut butter, oatmeal and yeast.

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Great Barrier Reef Suffers Most Severe Bleaching to Date

February 2020 was the hottest month on record since records began in 1900, Terry Hughes, Director of the ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies at James Cook University, told Reuters.

“We saw record-breaking temperatures all along the length of the Great Barrier Reef, there wasn’t a cool portion in the north, or a cool portion in the south this time around,” Hughes said.

“The whole Barrier Reef was hot so the bleaching we have seen this year is the most extensive so far.”

Hughes added that he is now almost certain that the Reef is not going to recover to what it looked like even five years ago, not to mention thirty years ago. If the global warming trends continue the Great Barrier Reef will be destroyed, he said.

“We will have some sort of tropical ecosystem, but it won’t look like coral reef, there might be more seaweed, more sponges, a lot less coral, but it will be a very different ecosystem.”

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Verge of Extinction

More than 500 species of land animals could be lost within 20 years as Earth’s sixth mass extinction of wildlife accelerates, scientists warn. They say that such losses could pass the tipping point for the collapse of civilization as we know it.

“When humanity exterminates other creatures, it is sawing off the limb on which it is sitting, destroying working parts of our own life-support system,” said Stanford University’s Paul Ehrlich.

An international research team writes in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences: “Extinction breeds extinctions.” They say that wildlife trade and other activities have already wiped out hundreds of species.


World Wildlife Fund Warning

The World Wildlife Fund estimates that 60 percent of the world’s wildlife has been killed by human activity since 1970. This is an alarming statistic, and the Fund warns that urgent action is required to reverse the devastation. The Fund says the greatest cause of wildlife loss is the destruction of natural habitats to create farmland. The next greatest threat to wildlife is animal species, about 300 of them, that are being hunted or fished into extinction by an expanding human population. Pollution is yet another major killer of wildlife. Tanya Steele, head of the World Wildlife Fund, says, “We are the first generation to know we are destroying our planet and the last one that can do anything about it.”


Australia’s Bushfires Brought 113 Species Closer to Extinction

On Tuesday, the Australian Department of Agriculture, Water, and the Environment released a list of 113 species with the highest urgent need for conservation action due to the damage they’ve suffered from this tragic situation. The list includes species such as the Kangaroo Island dunnart and Pugh’s frog, both of which are “at imminent risk of extinction,” per the report, because of how much habitat the fires destroyed.

These species were endangered before this year’s bushfire season kicked off. Now, things have gotten worse when they need to be getting better. Most have lost at least 30 percent of their range, but many have lost even more. The endemic red browed treecreeper, for instance, saw almost half of its range burn. This priority list features animals such as the golden-tipped bat, which likes to dwell in the forests and caves of the fire-stricken eastern coast of Australia, is among those included. This list is focusing on species with key functions in the ecosystem.

Many of the other species on the list—13 birds, 19 mammals, 20 reptiles, 17 frogs, five invertebrae, 22 crayfish, and 17 freshwater fish—also face severe habitat disruption.

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Missing Monarchs 2020

The number of wintering monarch butterflies along the coast of California has not recovered significantly from last year’s record low.

While about 4.5 million of the colourful monarchs fluttered through forest groves there in the 1980s, that number had plunged to about 27,000 last year and has risen by only 2,000 since.

The disappearance is being blamed on destruction of the milkweed they feed on along their migratory route, as well as agricultural use of pesticides and herbicides.

The western monarchs migrate from areas west of the Rockies to winter at more than 200 sites in coastal California each year.

Their eastern counterparts migrate to Mexico from summer habitats in eastern Canada and the northeastern United States.

Desert Survivous

Scientists are scrambling to save a species of critically endangered frog that lives in a tiny oasis of water and reeds in Chile’s otherwise parched Atacama Desert, the world’s driest.

Because pollution, habitat loss and an expanding nearby mining city threaten what few of the tiny, dark-spotted amphibians that have survived, 14 of the last remaining Lao River water frogs were airlifted to Santiago’s Metropolitan Zoo. Only one failed to survive the move.

Osvaldo Cabeza, the zoo’s herpetology supervisor, says a team will work to encourage the survivors to feed and reproduce in captivity as the species’ only chance of survival.

The range of Telmatobius dankoi is now limited to just 4 square miles of dried-up riverbed outside of the city of Calama.

Unique pink slug feared wiped out by Australia’s bushfires found alive and well

A bright pink slug species, found only on one mountain in Australia, has survived the devastating bushfires that ripped through much of its habitat. The unique, eye-catching creature only lives on the slopes of an isolated inactive volcano in New South Wales, Mount Kaputar, from which they take their name.

After recent rainfall, rangers from New South Wales National Parks and Wildlife Service found “about 60” Mount Kaputar slugs alive.

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Human Footprint

Around 85% of Earth’s wildlife is now being trampled by intense human pressure, which researchers say is putting some of those species into an extinction crisis.

Scientists from the University of Queensland, the Wildlife Conservation Society and other groups point to land species with small ranges as being disproportionately exposed to human competition from factors such as grazing livestock, agriculture and urban sprawl.

The study’s “Human Footprint” report also lists other influences, such as population density, transportation networks, and mining and utility corridors, for their impacts on wildlife.


Koalas ‘Functionally Extinct’ After Australia Bushfires

As Australia experiences record-breaking drought and bushfires, koala populations have dwindled along with their habitat, leaving them “functionally extinct.”

The chairman of the Australian Koala Foundation, Deborah Tabart, estimates that over 1,000 koalas have been killed from the fires and that 80 percent of their habitat has been destroyed.

Recent bushfires, along with prolonged drought and deforestation has led to koalas becoming “functionally extinct” according to experts.

Functional extinction is when a population becomes so limited that they no longer play a significant role in their ecosystem and the population becomes no longer viable. While some individuals could produce, the limited number of koalas makes the long-term viability of the species unlikely and highly susceptible to disease.



Insect Apocalypse Warning

A new report suggests that half of all insects on the planet have been lost since 1970 from a combination of habitat destruction, climate change and the increased use of pesticides.

Published in the journal Biological Conservation, the report warns that 40% of the 1 million insect species known to science are facing extinction.

But conservationists say many of those insects can be rescued by slashing pesticide use and making areas around our global communities more wildlife friendly.

“If we don’t stop the decline of our insects, there will be profound consequences for all life on Earth [and] for human well-being,” said Dave Goulson of Britain’s University of Sussex.

Amazon Losses – Update

Deforestation of Brazil’s Amazon region soared to its highest level in a decade as agribusiness, miners, loggers and developers felled portions of the world’s largest rainforest.

Brazil’s National Institute for Space Research announced that 3,769 square miles of forest were lost during the 12-month period ending in July, or about a 30% spike from the previous 12 months.

Environmental advocates blame the increase on Brazil’s president, who has slashed the budgets and staff of the agencies in charge of preventing such illegal activities in the Amazon.

Global Warming

Global Warming Affecting UK Butterfies

Scientists have discovered in a new study that many butterflies, sensing warmer temperatures, are emerging earlier than they’re supposed to. This is causing their numbers to decline considerably.

The study conducted by York University involved collecting data on butterflies and moths by citizen scientists over a 20-year period from 1995 to 2014, when Britain experienced an increase of 0.5 degrees in temperature on average during spring.

The study revealed that species which are known to have multiple and rapid breeding cycles every year with flexible habitat can be benefited, like Speckled Wood species which are able to spend more time in increasing their numbers before winter.

However, the early emergence of species that are specific to certain habitats, and are known to have only one life per cycle in a year are shrinking in population and vanishing from the northern parts of UK — a place that they once inhabited. Species affected with this include the High Brown Fritillary butterfly which are the most vulnerable to climate change. Not only doesn’t extra breeding time benefit them in any way, they also emerge early from their cocoon where they don’t find food pertaining to their restricted diet and thus suffer, being driven gradually towards extinction.

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World’s nations gather to tackle wildlife extinction crisis

From giraffes to sharks, the world’s endangered species could gain better protection at an international wildlife conference.

The triennial summit of Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (Cites), that began on Saturday, will tackle disputes over the conservation of great beasts such as elephants and rhinos, as well as cracking down on the exploitation of unheralded but vital species such as sea cucumbers, which clean ocean floors.

Extraordinary creatures being driven to extinction by the exotic pet trade, from glass frogs to star tortoises, may win extra protection from the 183-country conference. It may even see an extinct animal, the woolly mammoth, get safeguards, on the grounds that illegal elephant ivory is sometimes laundered by being labelled as antique mammoth tusks.

The destruction of nature has reduced wildlife populations by 60% since 1970 and plant extinctions are running at a “frightening” rate, according to scientists. In May, the world’s leading researchers warned that humanity was in jeopardy from the accelerating decline of the planet’s natural life-support systems, which provide the food, clean air and water on which society ultimately depends.

South Africa pushes for trade in endangered wildlife

The South African government, together with those of the DRC, Namibia and Zimbabwe, is proposing measures which, if enacted, could open the door to the international trade in elephant ivory, rhino horn and other endangered species.

In a submission to the eighteenth conference of the parties (CoP18) to CITES (the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora) to be held in Switzerland in September 2019, the countries argue for a major overhaul in the way in which the organisation operates.

They believe they should be allowed to sell threatened wildlife species anywhere in the world in the same way that mineral resources and mass-produced plastic trinkets are traded on global commercial markets.

In essence, the countries proposing these changes to CITES are upset that current rules prohibit them from deriving profits from wild animals which they consider to be valuable products that they should be entitled to harvest and sell as they see fit.

South Africa is one of the best examples of this philosophy in action. Over the past decade or so, the government, guided by economists promoting extreme free-market policies and the unrestricted commodification and commercialisation of nature, has succeeded in crafting laws and regulations that explicitly lay out this interpretation of sustainable use, for instance in the case of lions and rhinos.

The government-supported industry of breeding lions in captivity in South Africa provides an illustration of the outcomes of this philosophy. Supposedly proud of its global wildlife conservation status, the country now hosts more of these caged and commodified lions than live in its national parks and nature reserves.

The problem is that wild animals are not the same as commercial goods and lions bred in captivity for the sole purpose of becoming targets for wealthy trophy hunters and a ready supply of bones for the market in traditional Chinese medicine, are neither capable of surviving in the wild nor have any conservation value whatsoever. In fact, one could argue that they are no longer truly lions in an ecological sense.

Given the current extinction crisis, we should do everything to protect endangered species, not expand ways to exploit them to their greatest commercial potential and it is extremely short-sighted and irresponsible for South Africa and other countries to make proposals that would diminish CITES’ effectiveness.

Global Warming

Global Warming Is Pushing Pacific Salmon to the Brink

Pacific salmon that spawn in Western streams and rivers have been struggling for decades to survive water diversions, dams and logging. Now, global warming is pushing four important populations in California, Oregon and Idaho toward extinction, federal scientists warn in a new study.

The new research shows that several of the region’s salmon populations are now bumping into temperature limits, with those that spawn far inland after lengthy summer stream migrations and those that spend a lot of time in coastal habitats like river estuaries among the most at risk.

That includes Chinook salmon in California’s Central Valley and in the Columbia and Willamette River basins in Oregon; coho salmon in parts of Northern California and Oregon; and sockeye salmon that reach the Snake River Basin in Idaho, all of which are already on the federal endangered species list.

The salmon live much of their lives in the ocean, but they swim far upstream to spawn. In the process, they’re a key part of the food chain, including for bears and whales, and they are important to indigenous groups and fisheries along the U.S. West Coast.

The research spells out several ways that global warming endangers the fish. Among them:

– Young salmon die when the water warms above a certain threshold, and droughts can leave salmon stranded or exposed to predators by low water levels.

– Flooding can also flush eggs and young fish from their nests, so the scientists included projections of how global warming will affect extreme atmospheric river rain storms in California as one of the ways to measure the growing threat.

– Warmer stream temperatures have also increased outbreaks of fish disease that can affect salmon, including pathogenic parasites. In May, a toxic algae bloom along the coast of Norway killed 8 million farmed salmon at an estimated cost of about $82 million. In Alaska’s Yukon River, a parasite linked with global warming has taken a big toll on the salmon fishery. And in recent weeks, local indigenous observers in Alaska have posted numerous reports of dead salmon in rivers in the western part of the state, as water temperatures reached record highs during Alaska’s record-setting heat wave.

– Salmon are also sensitive to changes in ocean currents that carry nutrients, as well as sea level rise, which affects the physical connection between ocean and stream ecosystems, like coastal wetlands in California. Some salmon populations living near the edge of the range of suitable conditions will start to cluster in rivers near the coast, unable to reach their historic spawning grounds unless “access to higher-elevation habitats is restored and habitat quality in rearing areas and migration corridors is improved,” the scientists wrote.

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