. Protecting species often requires cross-border co-operation, and the law has been credited with helping to save many species from extinction — including the bald eagle, the grey whale and the grizzly bear. But conservationists say the rollbacks announced this week will put industry interests like oil and real estate before species recovery. "It was [the U.S.] law that was protecting species ... not us," says Andrea Olive, a University of Toronto associate professor.
#ConservationOfBiodiversity; #AssociationforTropical BiologyandConservation
Sri Lanka, Aug 11 (Canadian-Media): Promotion of scientific activities and providing training to address region-specific issues about conservation of biodiversity in the region is greatly assisted by the Asia-Pacific Chapter of The Association for Tropical Biology and Conservation (ATBC), media reports said.
Founded in 1963, ATBC is the world’s oldest and largest academic society partners with over 65 countries for conservation of tropical ecosystems.
This year's Asia-Pacific Chapter Conference (ATBC-AP 2019) scheduled for September 10-13, hosted by Sri Lanka will be held at MAS Athena, Thulhiriya.
In addition to plenary talks, technical sessions and discussions, the program will include field and laboratory workshops led by local and international experts to discuss saving, using and studying biodiversity. A majority of the workshops will be at the conference venue in Thulhiriya.
The program includes:
1. Introduction to Biogeography and Biogeographical Analysis
2. An Introduction to Molecular Phylogenetics and Its Applications
3. Spatial Analysis of Ecological Data in R
4. Identification of Non-lichenized Fungi and Mushrooms
5. Lichens in the Asia Pacific Region – Their Components, Diversity and Conservation
6. Tell Your Story Right: DOs, Don’ts and (FREE) Tools in Science Communication for Researchers
7. Boot Camp on Ecological Data Analysis
8. Plastic Debris and Marine Fauna: Media, Education and Social Change in Coastal Communities
9. Economics of Ecosystem Services and Biodiversity: Valuing, Protecting, and Restoring Nature
Vancouver (B.C.), Aug 8 (Canadian-Media): Three southern resident killer whales declared dead by the Center for Whale Research, which studies conservation of the Southern Resident Killer Whale population in the pacific northwest, has brought the population down to 73, media reports said.
Martin Haulena, head veterinarian at the Vancouver Aquarium Marine Science Centre, said the death of three orcas is bad news but is hopeful that some of the measures put into place recently by the federal government can help turn things around for the animals.
"I think we're at a critical point for sure," he said Tuesday. "I think that the population can't afford to lose too many more and really things need to turn around soon."
A number of rules had been announced by the Department of Fisheries and Oceans to protect these whales off British Columbia's coast, including implementing initiatives to support habitat protection and restoration of chinook salmon.
(Reporting by Asha Bajaj)
Saskatoon (SK), Jul 10 (Canadian-Media): Ontario Premier Doug Ford released today the following statement about the wildfire situation in Northern Ontario:
"Ontario is currently battling many active fires in Northern Ontario affecting over 20 communities. This includes First Nations communities who have declared emergencies due to risk to public health and wellness. Emergency response personnel are working closely with the Ontario Provincial Police, federal partners, community leaders, and other agencies to fight the fires in Northwestern Ontario and ensure people can evacuate safely.
Today, I raised the issue directly with Premier Scott Moe and he agreed to help. Saskatchewan has offered to host up to 2,000 evacuees. I want to thank Premier Moe and the good people of Saskatchewan for their generosity in helping us to move our people out of harm's way and ensure they are safely housed during this extremely difficult time.
I would also like to thank our provincial partners, including Alberta, British Columbia, New Brunswick, Northwest Territories, Nova Scotia, and Quebec for providing crews and equipment to assist with our evacuation efforts. Ontario is further receiving help from federal, First Nations, U.S. state and other partners. We are grateful for the generous support from all of our partners.
Extensive outreach has happened to our municipal partners and many have agreed to step up and help evacuees. Our government is asking them to move quickly to formalize their agreements to assist with housing evacuees. We are committed to addressing any questions or concerns municipalities may have, but we urge them to move quickly to help those affected.
We know first responders from Canada and beyond have been working around the clock over the past few days. I want to thank every single one of our frontline personnel for what they are doing to help people get to safety and protect the communities most at risk. Our government will continue to closely monitor weather and fire conditions and provide updates.
The safety and well-being of the people in the affected areas is our top priority as we continue to respond to this emergency."
#UnitedNations; #poaching; #AfricanElephantThreatened; #CITES; #MIKE
United Nations, May 10 (Canadian-Media/UN): An updated assessment by a United Nations (UN) Environment Programme-administered treaty has confirmed that poaching continues to threaten the long-term survival of the African elephant, UN reports said.
Image credit: CITES: Elephant poaching and ivory smuggling levels remain alarmingly high in Africa.
Based on the Proportion of Illegally Killed Elephants data, or PIKE, the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) has evaluated the levels of illegal killing through MIKE, the acronym for the Monitoring of Illegal Killing of Elephants programme.
MIKE has calculated that illegal killing is the chief cause of death for elephants.
Evidence reveals that PIKE levels peaked in 2011 when an alarming 10 per cent of African elephants were poached, before steadily declining through 2017. That level has remained relatively unchanged throughout 2018.
Such high PIKE levels are of concern because even in well-established and protected elephant populations, the annual losses to illegal killing and other mortalities are not being compensated by birth rates.
"We must continue to reduce poaching and illegal trade in ivory", said CITES chief Ivonne Higuero.
Many African elephant populations are small and fragmented and not well-protected, making them even more vulnerable to poaching. As PIKE levels remain above 0.5 in Africa, the number of elephants in some countries continues to decline.
African elephant populations have fallen from an estimated 12 million a century ago, to some 400,000, according to the most recent estimations contained in the 2016 African Elephant Status Report.
“Illegal killing of African elephants for ivory remains a significant threat to elephant populations in most of the range States”, said CITES Secretary-General Ivonne Higuero. “At the same time, the human population of Africa has grown tenfold, from 125 million to 1,225 million, creating competition for land with elephants”.
While international trade in elephant ivory has been banned by CITES since 1990, opinions differ between countries about whether it should continue or not.
The African elephant and the debate over the ivory trade will be a major item on the agenda of the next triennial CITES Conference of the Parties, originally planned for May in Colombo, Sri Lanka, but now to be rescheduled for a later date.
“We must continue to reduce poaching and illegal trade in ivory and find solutions to ensure the coexistence of elephants with local people”, stressed Mr. Higuero. “The international community should further expand its work with the African range States to find solutions that work both for the elephants and for local communities”.
#climatechange; #warmingoceans; #NationalCentersforCoastalOceanScience;
The pattern of tropical and subtropical fish are taking up residence on shipwrecks and other sunken structures off the North Carolina coast may continue or even accelerate in coming years given predictions of warming oceans under climate change, a new study co-led by Duke University scientists suggests, Science X Newsletter reports said.
Image Credit: John McCord, Coastal Studies Institute: Artificial reefs off North Carolina may act as havens for tropical fish searching for favorable habitats at or beyond the edge of their range, a study co-led by Duke scientists finds.
"The artificial reefs created by these structures may be acting as stepping stones for fish that are moving northward and living at the edge of their geographic range, or beyond it, in search of suitable habitat," said Avery B. Paxton, a visiting scholar at the Duke University Marine Laboratory, who was lead author of the study.
"Globally, there is broad evidence that many tropical fish species are shifting their ranges poleward and to deeper waters in response to changing ocean conditions, and what we see on these reefs seems to fit that pattern," she said.
One of the most surprising findings of the study is that the tropical and subtropical fish observed off North Carolina exhibit a strong preference for hanging out on human-made structures versus natural rocky reefs found nearby, noted J. Christopher Taylor, a research ecologist at NOAA's National Centers for Coastal Ocean Science and a co-author of the study.
"It could be that the zooplankton and smaller fish these species eat are more plentiful on artificial reefs. Or it could be that human-made reefs' complex structures give the fish more nooks and crannies where they can evade predators. We're still trying to figure it out," Taylor said.
The fishes' preference for artificial habitats suggests networks of the human-made structures—which are already commonly found up and down the East Coast and in other waters worldwide—could act as underwater corridors the fish use to reach the habitats they need to survive, said Paxton, who also works with CSS Inc. under contract to NOAA's National Centers for Coastal Ocean Science.
Image Credit: John McCord, Coastal Studies Institute: Artificial reefs off North Carolina may act as havens for tropical fish searching for favorable habitats at or beyond the edge of their range, a study co-led by Duke scientists finds.
Paxton, Taylor and their colleagues published their peer-reviewed paper May 6 in Nature Communications Biology.
To do the study, teams of scuba-diving scientists conducted population and species counts at 30 artificial and natural reefs off the N.C. coast between 2013 and 2015. To track seasonal differences in fish populations, most of the reefs were visited four times a year.
Analysis of the data confirmed that the number and diversity of tropical and subtropical fish on deep artificial reefs was far greater than on nearby natural reefs.
Common tropical species spotted on the artificial reefs included blue chromis, purple reef fish and bluehead wrasse. Common subtropical species spotted there included vermilion snapper, greater amberjack and bar jack.
Temperate fish species such as black sea bass and tautog, on the other hand, were far more prevalent on the area's natural rocky reefs.
The depth of the artificial reef mattered hugely, Paxton noted.
"We didn't see these patterns on artificial reefs at shallow or intermediate depths, we only saw them on deep reefs, located between 80 to 115 feet below the surface, where water temperatures often experience less seasonal change," she said.
#UNESCO; #GlobalAssessmentStudy; #biodiversity; #climatechange; #IPBES; #SDGs; #ParisAgreement; #Cropsecuritythreatened; #Marinepollution; #2019GlobalAssessmentReportonBiodiversityandEcosystemServices
United Nations, May 6 (Canadian-Media/UN): A hard-hitting report into the impact of humans on nature shows that nearly one million species risk becoming extinct within decades, while current efforts to conserve the earth’s resources will likely fail without radical action, UN biodiversity experts said today.
Image Credit: UNDP Ecuador: Splendid Leaf Frog, Ecuador. (19 January 2015)
Speaking in Paris at the launch of the Global Assessment study – the first such report since 2005 – UNESCO Director-General Audrey Azoulay said that its findings put the world “on notice”.
“Following the adoption of this historic report, no one will be able to claim that they did not know,” the head of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) said. “We can no longer continue to destroy the diversity of life. This is our responsibility towards future generations.”
Highlighting the universal importance of biodiversity – the diversity within species, between species and of ecosystems – Ms. Azoulay said that protecting it “is as vital as fighting climate change”.
Presented to more than 130 government delegations for their approval at UNESCO headquarters, the report features the work of 400 experts from at least 50 countries, coordinated by the Bonn-based Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES).
In addition to providing exhaustive insights on the state of nature, ecosystems and how nature underpins all human activity, the study also discusses progress on key international goals, such as the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), the Aichi Biodiversity Targets and the Paris Agreement on climate change.
The report also examines five main drivers of “unprecedented” biodiversity and ecosystem change over the past 50 years, identifying them as: changes in land and sea use; direct exploitation of organisms; climate change, pollution, and invasion of alien species.
One in four species at risk of extinction
On at-risk fauna and flora, the study asserts that human activities “threaten more species now than ever before” – a finding based on the fact that around 25 per cent of species in plant and animal groups are vulnerable.
This suggests that around one million species “already face extinction, many within decades, unless action is taken to reduce the intensity of drivers of biodiversity loss”.
Without such measures there will be a “further acceleration” in the global rate of species extinction, which is already “at least tens to hundreds of times higher, than it has averaged over the past 10 million years”, the report states.
It notes that despite many local efforts, including by indigenous peoples and local communities, by 2016, 559 of the 6,190 domesticated breeds of mammals used for food and agriculture were extinct – around nine per cent of the total - and at least 1,000 more are threatened.
Crop security threatened long-term
In addition, many crop wild relatives that are needed for long-term food security “lack effective protection”, the report insists, while the status of wild relatives of domesticated mammals and birds “is worsening”.
At the same time, reductions in the diversity of cultivated crops, crop wild relatives and domesticated breeds mean that farming will likely be less resilient against future climate change, pests and pathogens.
“While more food, energy and materials than ever before are now being supplied to people in most places, this is increasingly at the expense of nature’s ability to provide such contributions in the future,” the report states, before adding that “the biosphere, upon which humanity as a whole depends…is declining faster than at any time in human history”.
Marine pollution ‘has increased tenfold since 1980’
On the issue of pollution, although global trends are mixed, air, water and soil pollution have continued to increase in some areas, the report insists. “Marine plastic pollution in particular has increased tenfold since 1980, affecting at least 267 species”, it says, including 86 per cent of marine turtles, 44 per cent of seabirds and 43 per cent of marine mammals.
The 2019 Global Assessment Report on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services is also the first of its kind to examine and include indigenous and local knowledge, issues and priorities, IPBES said in a statement, noting that its mission is to strengthen policy-making for the sustainable use of biodiversity, long-term human well-being and sustainable development.
“The loss of species, ecosystems and genetic diversity is already a global and generational threat to human well-being,” insisted Sir Robert Watson, IPBES Chair. “Protecting the invaluable contributions of nature to people will be the defining challenge of decades to come. Policies, efforts and actions - at every level - will only succeed, however, when based on the best knowledge and evidence.”
StudyingOcenAroundAntarctica; #Jabba; #SO-MEMO; #CNRS; #universityOfWesternBrittany; #UniversityOfWesternAustralia; #SouthernElephantSeals
France, May 5 (Canadian-Media): A study published this month in the journal Scientific reported in which Scientist Lia Siegelman is using a surprising data source to study the ocean around Antarctica—one that has flippers and bears a passing resemblance to Jabba the Hut, Science X Newsletter reports said.
Image Credit: Sorbonne University/Etienne Pauthenet: Female elephant seals basking, with a tagged seal in the background.
Siegelman is using data from a single tagged southern elephant seal to study small-scale ocean features in a little-known part of the ocean around Antarctica. She is a visiting research student from the University of Western Brittany in Brest, France, at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California.
Weighing as much as a midsize pickup truck, southern elephant seals may look sluggish on land, but in the water they're endurance athletes. They spend 9-10 months of each year at sea, swimming thousands of miles and continually diving to depths as great as 3,300 feet (1,000 meters). "Even when they sleep, they dive—they float down like a leaf," Siegelman said. They average about 80 dives a day, spaced less than half a mile apart (700 meters), returning to the surface briefly for air but staying underwater up to two hours at a time.
With all this diving, a tagged elephant seal collects data from the entire top layer of the Southern Ocean. Some seals even forage under Antarctic sea ice, where conventional ocean instruments can't go. As global warming changes important ocean currents in ways that affect Antarctic melt rates, any additional data from these dangerous, remote seas is likely to be valuable. That's why Siegelman and her colleagues explore using seal data to better understand the ocean environment.
Image Credit: Sorbonne University/Etienne Pauthenet: Siegelman gluing a tag to a seal on Kerguelen Island. Scientists tag seals in molting season (when they return to land to shed fur and dead skin) and remove the tags in breeding season. If they can't locate a seal and retrieve the tag, the tag falls off with the fur and skin in the next molting season.
For more than two decades, scientists have been tagging seals on the Kerguelen Islands, a French territory in the Antarctic, to study the animals' behavior. In 2014, the researchers began using a new type of sensor that records every dive, providing an oceanographic data set with very high resolution.
The animals are tagged in a French research program called SO-MEMO (Observing System—Mammals as Samplers of the Ocean Environment), operated by the French National Center for Scientific Research (CNRS). The tag—actually, sensors with antennas—are glued to the seals' heads in accordance with established ethical standards when the animals come ashore either to breed or to molt (shed dead skin). The researchers remove the tags to retrieve their data when the seals return to land. If they miss a tag, it drops off with the dead skin in the next molting season.
Siegelman and her co-authors analyzed a three-month foraging voyage by a female seal, during which the animal logged an impressive 3,520 miles (5,665 kilometers) and dove 6,942 times. Most seals from the Kerguelen Islands forage to the east, but this particular seal made a beeline to the west to an area in the Antarctic Circumpolar Current where there's a standing meander—a place where the topography of the ocean floor creates a permanent bend in the path of the current.
The seal spent about a third of her entire voyage zigzagging in the meander, providing a wealth of data from a region where few direct oceanographic measurements have been made. The researchers used the data to identify the location of sudden changes in water density called fronts, like the cold and warm fronts in the atmosphere. These oceanic features have a width of only 3-12 miles (5-20 kilometers). The sharp dividing lines between denser and lighter waters pull nutrients up from the depths, fertilizing microscopic ocean plants called phytoplankton. The increased food supply works its way up the food chain into a lavish buffet for elephant seals. The researchers saw the effects of this bounty in the short lunges the seal made during her dives, as if after nearby prey.
"I hope this [result] will encourage physicists and biologists to use those very rich data from seals," Siegelman said. A paper on the research, titled "Submesoscale ocean fronts act as biological hotspot for southern elephant seal," was published this month in the journal Scientific Reports. Co-authors are from Caltech in Pasadena, the University of Western Brittany and the University of Western Australia in Crawley.
#research; #genderlifespandifferences; #journalScienceAdvances
United States, Apr 26 (Canadian-Media): A team of researchers with members from Taiwan, the U.S., China and the U.K. has found evidence that suggests the reason females of most species live longer than males is because of male aggressive tendencies, published in the journal Science Advances, Science X Newsletter reports said.
The group describes their study of a species of turtle where the females are the aggressors and what they found.
Image Credit: Wen-San Huang: An injured kukri snake.
Scientists have been theorizing about the reason for females of most species living longer than males for many years. Some have suggested it has something to do with the differences in hormones, others that it has to do with deleterious mutations in mtDNA passed down from mothers. But the strongest argument has been that it comes down to aggression in males—mostly due to competing for a mate. In many species, fighting for a mate results in both injuries and high stress levels.
In this new effort, the researchers came upon an opportunity to test this last theory quite by accident. They were studying kukri snakes living on Orchid Island, which is just off the coast of Taiwan. The snakes live on the beach, and prior research has shown that the females become territorial because of a major food supply—sea turtle eggs. They actually fight one another while trying to protect their turf. Prior research had also shown that the female snakes tended to have shorter lifespans than the males. Logic had suggested the reason for that was their aggressive behavior—males did not fight each other for eggs, or for a mate.
As the researchers were studying the snakes at two beach locations, one of the beaches was hammered by a large storm—it inflicted so much damage that the sea turtles could not use the beach to lay their eggs. That led to an ideal test environment. The researchers continued to monitor the behavior and lifespan of the snakes living on both beaches and after enough time had passed, compared them. They report that without any eggs to fight over, the females became less aggressive, and unsurprisingly, their average lifespan grew longer.
The researchers suggest their study adds more credence to the theory that it is differences in aggressiveness between genders in most species that lead to females generally living longer.
#Johannesburg; #KrugerNationalPark; #SouthAfrica; #lion; #SouthAfricaPoacherKilled
Johannesburg, Apr 8 Canadian-Media): A suspected poacher was trampled to death by an elephant and then eaten by a pride of lions in South Africa's Kruger National Park, media reports said on Monday.
As per a releases issued by the police: "A human skull found in the Kruger National Park (KNP) is believed to be that of a man reportedly killed by an elephant while poaching with his accomplices. The police received information that some men had gone poaching in the KNP on 01 April 2019, when suddenly an elephant attacked and killed one of them. His accomplices claimed to have carried his body to the road so that passers-by could find it in the morning. They the vanished from the Park."
"Once outside, they reportedly informed a relative of the dead man about their ordeal and police were alerted regarding the incident. A search operation was launched by police and Rangers in the mentioned area, whereupon the human skull and pieces of clothing were found," read the statement.
Police said it launched a joint intelligence driven operation in search of the dead poacher's accomplices, resulting in the arrest of three men aged between 26 and 35, within KaMhlushwa and Komatipoort precincts.
"During the operation, two .375 hunting rifles and ammunition were seized," it said.
"The suspects appeared yesterday, 05 April 2019, at the Komatipoort Magistrate's Court facing charges of possession of firearms and ammunition without a licence, conspiracy to poach as well as trespassing. Upon their appearance, the court remanded them in custody and will reappear at the same court on 12 April 2019, pending a formal bail application. An inquest was opened in connection with the dead suspect," read the statement.