THE historic UN Summit on Biodiversity sets the stage for a global movement toward a green recovery from COVID-19
#UN; #Biodiversity; #GreenRecovery; #Covid19
New York, Oct 4 (Canadian-Media): Recognizing that the continued deterioration and degradation of the world’s natural ecosystems were having major impacts on the lives and livelihoods of people everywhere, world leaders called for increased resolve to protect biodiversity at the UN today.
Image credit: Pixaby
A record number of countries — nearly 150 countries and 72 Heads of State and Government -addressed the first-ever Summit held on biodiversity to build political momentum towards the post-2020 global biodiversity framework, to be adopted at COP15 in Kunming, China next year.
The Summit comes on the heels of the Leader’s Pledge on Monday, which saw 74 countries commit to preserving biodiversity, sending “a united signal to step up global ambition for biodiversity and to commit to matching our collective ambition for nature, climate, and people with the scale of the crisis at hand.”
“The degradation of local and regional ecosystems, unsustainable agricultural practices, and the exploitation of natural resources, are putting critical pressure on world ecosystems,” said President of the General Assembly Volkan Bozkir, who presided over the Summit. “Clearly, we must heed the lessons we have learned and respect the world in which we live.”
He added, “A green recovery, with an emphasis on protecting biodiversity, can address these concerns, mitigate risks, and build a more sustainable, resilient world. Doing so can help unlock an estimated US$10 trillion in business opportunities, create 395 million jobs by 2030, and encourage a greener economy.”
UN Secretary-General António Guterres said biodiversity and ecosystems are essential for human progress and prosperity. “By living in harmony with nature, we can avert the worst impacts of climate change and recharge biodiversity for the benefit of people and the planet.”
“Let me be clear,” he added. “Degradation of nature is not purely an environmental issue. It spans economics, health, social justice, and human rights. Neglecting our precious resources can exacerbate geopolitical tensions and conflicts. Yet, too often environmental health is overlooked or downplayed by other government sectors. This Summit is our opportunity to show the world that there is another way. We have to change course and transform our relationship with the natural world.”
In addition to leaders, the Summit heard from HRH Prince Charles, who called for a new “Marshall Plan” or a “blue-green recovery’ and indigenous leaders who, as defenders of biodiversity, spoke about the need to allow indigenous people to use their traditional knowledge to preserve, protect and manage nature.
UNEP Executive Director Inger Andersen said the Summit showed a greater willingness to act. “Today we have seen tremendous commitment to act, invest, and drive action for a nature-positive world. We are seeing a whole-of-government and whole-of-society approach to moving conversations on biodiversity, beyond the ecological corridors. We are seeing strong momentum towards sealing an ambitious and measurable agreement at the COP15 in Kunming. As we tackle three planetary crises — the nature crisis, the biodiversity crisis, and the pollution and waste crisis–such an Agreement is crucial to reversing the damage already done, and indeed to tackling the risks that lie ahead.”
UNDP Administrator Achim Steiner said: “This Summit has as much to do with people as it has to do with nature. It is about people’s dependence on nature, people’s inabilities to see the complexity of nature, and people’s blindness, sometimes greed and ignorance, and the blind spot of economies and economics for so long to recognize the value of ecosystem services. We are coming to a point in history where there is growing awareness that action on biodiversity is inextricably linked with broader human development through the Sustainable Development Goals and the 2030 Agenda.’’
#UN; #UNEP; #UNDP; #Biodiversity; #BiologicalDiversity, #ECOSOC
New York/UN, Sep 30 (Canadian-Media): Here's our special LIVE coverage of the UN Summit on Biodiversity, where activists and senior UN officials are calling for urgent action on biodiversity, to help ensure sustainable development for all.
The Summit has moved on to the plenary, featuring many Heads of State. You can follow the speeches on UN Web TV.
We’ll be back later to bring you the concluding remarks from the President of the General Assembly, and the UN Deputy Secretary-General, Amina Mohammed.
Until then, Here’s the perspective of Mohammed Alkhalid, from Saudi Arabia, a UNEP Young Champion of the Earth:
“Young people are the protectors and custodians of planet Earth.
The sustainability of the planet is our responsibility and that’s why I took part in the Young Champions of the Earth to work with experts, exchange ideas, gain experience, and engage with decision-makers to set up laws and incentives to plant trees, and to make Saudi Arabia greener.”
11:50Prince Charles, heir to the British throne, took part in today’s event, and announced, via a pre-recorded video, that he is working with a “coalition of the willing” to put nature, people and planet at the heart of the economy.
The Prince called for a new “Marshall Plan” for a “blue-green recovery’ rooted in a new circular economy, that has nature at its centre, and went on to list some ways to bring this about. These include implementing carbon pricing; accelerating carbon capture technology, including nature-based solutions; and ending “perverse” subsidies for fossil fuels.
“We know what we need to do, but we have to take bold steps now”, he concluded. “So let’s get on with it!”
Fernanda Samuel from Angola is another UN Environment Programme Young Champion of the Earth.
Speaking to UN News she said: “You cannot talk about fighting poverty and economic growth without a serious commitment to protect natural resources, flora and fauna, soil, rivers and oceans."
Time now below, to hear the views of a young environmentalist from Kenya...
Richard Kakunga Wambua, Director and CEO of the Kenya-based MeForest Initiative. , by Kalua Arts
Richard Wambua was chosen by the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) as a Young Champion of the Earth one of 35 people from around the world identified by UNEP as providing “an impressive array of scalable, innovative and potentially impactful solutions to some of the world’s most pressing environmental challenges”.
"Biodiversity loss is greatly threatening the tourism industry in Kenya which has also been hard hit by COVID-19, as fewer tourists are coming because there is less to see. Thousands of jobs are being affected.
Additionally, due to deforestation and higher than usual temperature levels on the Indian Ocean, there has been increased rainfall and flooding. Kenyans living around Lake Baringo and Lake Bogoria have witnessed a rapid rise in water levels. The two lakes used to be 20 kilometres apart but are now a few kilometres from each other.
When the two mix, they will contaminate each other since one is highly saline while the other is a fresh water lake, resulting in the death of biodiversity and a decrease in the food supply.
Developing countries are most vulnerable to climate change, which aggravates the effects of population growth, poverty and rapid urbanization, resulting in habitat fragmentation and the loss of biodiversity.
Thus, it is highly imperative that young people take charge, are on the forefront and exert the right amount of pressure which includes having a seat at the table. We can contribute towards the implementation of environmentally-conscious policies, hence further protecting our countries and our planet.
Take Africa for instance; 75 per cent of its population are youthful and highly reliant on biodiversity for food, clean water, medicines, and protection from extreme climatic events. Inculcating a mindset change that favors biodiversity protection would be a sure way to ensure forests don’t become deserts, reefs don’t become rocks.
The more young people are aware and involved, the better the planet’s biodiversity will be!"
The Secretary-General has clearly pointed out that, “Investing in nature would protect biodiversity & improve climate action, human health & food security”. What such investments would also lead to, is jobs, for many youth and citizens from developing countries.
The Summit has now moved on to the “Fireside Chat” segment, featuring Achim Steiner, the head of the UN Development Programme (UNDP), Inger Andersen, the head of the UN environment agency, UNEP, Elizabeth Mrema, the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) chief, and Ana Maria Hernandéz Salgar, who runs the Inter-governmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES).
On Monday, Ms. Andersen and Ms. Mrema were interviewed by our very own Paulina Greer, as part of the SDG Media Zone UNGA High-Level Week series, where they gave more detail about the Leaders’ Pledge for Nature.
Here’s how it went:
10:50‘Nature is fighting back’, UN economic chief
Munir Akram, the head of the UN Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) followed the Secretary-General, echoing many of the topics covered by Mr. Guterres and Mr. Bozkir.
Biodiversity, said Mr. Akram, allowed mankind to build great civilizations, providing nutrition, food, clean air and water, natural medicines and raw materials, and to survive, grow and prosper. However, demand for energy and raw materials has grown with the population, harming the environment, hewarned: “nature is fighting back”, and the impacts of biodiversity loss will be as devastating as climate change: masks could be a permanent aspect our existence. Political will is critical to achieve change, he concluded. It can be mobilized through events such as the Summit, which is of “existential importance”.
Mr. Akram added that it is time to discard economic models that are driving States to fight nature and each other, and transition to a new economic and social paradigm which values the preservation of nature, and enshrines sustainability as an integral part of development.
Delegates then watched pre-recorded speeches by the President of Egypt, Mohammed El-Sisi, and Xi Jinping of China. They were invited to speak because Egypt was the host of the 2018 COP (Conference of Parties) of the Convention on Biological Diversity, and China is scheduled to host the next one in 2021.
10:30‘Humanity is waging war on nature’, says Guterres
The UN chief, António Guterres, has just wrapped up his comments to the Summit, in which he accused humanity of “waging war on nature”.
Deforestation, climate change and the conversion of wilderness for human food production are, said the UN chief, destroying Earth’s web of life: “we are part of that fragile web -- and we need it to be healthy so we and future generations may thrive.”
One of the aims of this Summit is to secure increased ambition for biodiversity: the Secretary-General noted that, despite repeated commitments, efforts have not been sufficient to meet any of the global biodiversity targets set for this year.
By living in harmony with nature, he continued, the worst impacts of climate change can be avoided, for the benefit of people and the planet.
Mr. Guterres raised the encouraging prospects of nature-based solutions: forests, oceans and intact ecosystems are effective carbon sinks, for example, and healthy wetlands mitigate flooding.
Count natural resources as wealth
Economic systems, he continued, must account for and invest in nature which, currently, does not figure in countries’ calculations of wealth. The current system, he said, is weighted towards destruction, not preservation, but investing in nature would protect biodiversity and improve climate action, human health, and food security.
Protecting biodiversity and the environment can be a business opportunity: the Convention on Biological Diversity estimates that services from ecosystems make up between 50 and 90 per cent of the livelihoods of poor rural and forest-dwelling households, and poor communities can benefit from sustainable farming, eco-tourism and subsistence fishing.
The Secretary-General welcomed the commitments made in the Leader’s Pledge for Nature and coalitions such as the Campaign for Nature launched at the UN Climate Action Summit in 2019 which, he said, send a strong signal to raise political ambition in the run-up to COP15 of the Convention of Biological Diversity.
“Where effort has been made”, he declared “the benefits to our economies, human and planetary health are irrefutable.”
10:10'Our existence on this planet, depends entirely on our ability to protect the natural world' The UN Summit on Biodiversity began a few minutes ago, and was opened by the President of the General Assembly, Volkan Bozkir, who began by outlining the high stakes involved in the issue of biodiversity, stating that “our existence on this planet depends entirely on our ability to protect the natural world around us”.
Despite the importance of biodiversity, we are not doing a great job at protecting it: 13 million hectares of forest are lost every year, and one million species are at risk of extinction. We also risk, he said, jeopardizing food security, water supplies, livelihoods, and our ability to fight diseases and face extreme events.
Health and biodiversity
At a time when our collective health is top of mind, Mr. Bozkir noted the link between healthcare and biodiversity: four billion people depend upon natural medicines for their health, and 70 per cent of drugs used for cancer treatments are drawn from nature.
Poor stewardship of the environment is putting our health at risk, as the majority of infectious diseases, including COVID-19, originated from animal populations, a threat that scientists have been warning about for decades.
The GA President re-emphasized calls for a “green recovery’ that addresses these concerns, and leads to a more sustainable, resilient world which, he said, would help unlock an estimated $10 trillion in business opportunities, create 395 million jobs by 2030, and encourage a greener economy.
Wrapping up his opening remarks, Mr. Bozkir argued that biodiversity should be protected from a moral, economic and existential standpoint, an act that is “an investment in the health of our planet, is an investment in our future; one that we leave for future generations.”
09:40Here are two more preview videos released on Twitter, ahead of the Summit. The UN Development Programme (UNDP) and the Intergovernmental Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) have both focused on the Leaders’ Pledge for Nature, which has so far been endorsed by 72 countries.
The Pledge commits countries to ensuring that they are working in harmony with nature, and putting biodiversity, climate and the environment as a whole at the heart of their COVID-19 recovery strategies.
09:15It’s simple: when we help nature, we help ourselves. That’s the message from the UN’s environment agency, UNEP, in a video produced ahead of the Summit.
The video, like the Summit itself, calls attention for the need to work towards a “new normal”, where all people can live in harmony with nature.
09:00Good morning from UN News in New York! Today we’re continuing our live UNGA (that’s United Nations General Assembly) coverage, by following the UN Summit on Biodiversity. The Summit begins at 10:00 New York time, and promises to be very eventful. It will begin with statements from top UN officials, António Guterres, the Secretary-General; Munir Akram, the president of the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC); and Volkan Bozkir, the President of the 75th session of the General Assembly.
Look out for statements from two Heads of State: Mohammed El-Sisi of Egypt, and Xi Jinping of China: Egypt hosted the last COP (Conference of Parties) of the Convention on Biological Diversity in 2018, and China was due to host this year’s COP, which has now been postponed until 2021.
Prince Charles, heir to the British throne, who is billed as an “eminent speaker”, in recognition of the many pronouncements he has made on the environment over the years, will also deliver a message during the opening section of the Summit.
Many more Heads of State, UN officials and representatives of NGOs are due to speak throughout the event, which is due to end at six PM, New York time. We’ll do our best to share the highlights with you.
Alternatively you can watch the whole thing, thanks to our colleagues at UN Web TV, who have it covered.
#CoralReef; #Thailand; #environmentalChange; #Ecosystem
New York, Sep 28 (Canadian-Media):Increasing fishing too quickly can cause coral reef ecosystems to collapse, new University of Colorado Boulder-led
A parrotfish (Scarus rivulatus) and a pair of rabbitfish (Siganus virgatus) dine together on algae in a coral reef in Thailand. Image Credit: Mike Gil
The new study, to publish the week of September 28 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, provides the first evidence that these marine ecosystems are highly sensitive to how quickly a target fishing level is reached. Surprisingly, this pattern in the ecosystem is driven by the social behaviors of individual coral reef fish.
In many fisheries, target fishing levels are set with hopes to maximize harvest while keeping the fishery sustainable, year after year. Conventional wisdom suggests that target fishing levels should be approached as quickly as possible, to reap benefits immediately. However, researchers say that raising fishing to the same target level a bit more slowly could sustain both a fishery and an ecosystem that would otherwise collapse.
"The ecosystem depends on the pace at which the environment is changing, not just the magnitude," said Mike Gil, lead author and a Chancellor's Postdoctoral Fellow in the Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology.
The study incorporates the social nature of fish feeding habits into a mathematical simulation of a coral reef ecosystem under fishing pressure. Gil's previous research has found that even between species, fish look to each other to gauge whether it's safe to venture out to eat algae from a patch of reef. The more fish at a location, the safer it appears, and more fish are likely to join the feast. This phenomenon is known as a positive feedback.
However, this feedback also works the other way: If there are few or no fish at a location on the reef, then it does not seem inviting or safe. Other fish may also stay away.
"This feedback makes the ecosystem more prone to collapse under fishing pressure but also more prone to recovery as fishing is reduced. Social fish essentially cause the ecosystem to be much more sensitive, overall, and to be hypersensitive to exactly how quickly we remove fish," said Gil.
Fish are friends, looking for food
The study used extensive datasets on fish behavior from previous field experiments in coral reefs—even employing the help of artificial intelligence to track exactly what each fish did and saw each second. This rich dataset informed mathematical simulations of the populations of coral, fish and algae.
It's the first time the social component of individual fish has been included in models like these.
"We've shown that an animal that maybe a lot of folks would assume is kind of dumb is, in fact, embedded in a social network and is highly influenced by its neighbors, just like humans," said Gil.
The best patches of algae in reefs are often out in open spaces that get a lot of sunlight. But these same locations are where the fish have nowhere to hide if a predator, like a shark, was to come along. The fish are paying close attention to one another, even between species, looking for cues about when it's safe to enter into dangerous parts of the reef and get that satisfying meal.
The fish also stay longer, and each fish eats more in these exposed areas, when there are more fish around, known as positive density dependence. The same type of thing happens if you visit a haunted house: You stay longer and are more likely to make it through the whole experience if you go with a few friends.
An important ecosystem for all
Algae-eating fish provide an important service to the reef. If algae are not kept in check, they can kill coral and destroy the entire reef ecosystem. When there are suddenly fewer fish on the reef due to fishing pressure, the remaining fish venture out less often and eat less algae. This can cause the coral population to collapse, and the ecosystem with it.
Not only do other animals rely on coral reefs for food and shelter, humans also rely on coral reefs because they are nurseries and homes for hundreds of fish species that we harvest. Reefs also provide valuable ecotourism opportunities, buffer the intensity of hurricanes and typhoons before they reach the shoreline, and provide hundreds of billions of dollars annually to the global economy.
In addition to fishing, reefs also face other human-caused pressures like nutrient pollution and ocean warming, due to global climate change, which caused severe damage to reefs around the world in the last several years.
"Coral reefs are incredibly tough, resilient ecosystems," said Gil. "But they are not so tough in the face of many challenges happening simultaneously."
These new findings—on not only how many, but how fast fish can be sustainably harvested—can inform local and regional scale management decisions that deal with fishing quotas.
"As ecologists, we're trying to understand why we see what we see when we step into nature. And if we understand how these ecosystems function, we can effectively manage them and keep them around for future generations," Gil said.
#SouthAfrica; #UNEP; #Ecosystem; #Biodiversity; #GlobalEnvironmentFacility; #Forestry; #Fisheries
South Africa, Sep 5 (Canadian-Media): The coast of South Africa’s Kwazulu-Natal province looks like it was pulled from a postcard, with wide, sandy beaches stretching for some 600 kilometres, UNEP reports said.
Plastic clogs Cuttings Beach near Durban. Every year, up to 250,000 tonnes of litter is dumped into the oceans around South Africa. Image credit: Lisa Guastella
International and local tourists flock here in normal times, drawn to the warm Indian Ocean waters for surfing, relaxation, and glimpses of spectacular wildlife, like loggerhead turtles.
But heavy rains can transform this beautiful coast in a flash. Downpours accelerate the flow of polluted upstream rivers, sending their litter cascading into the sea, including around the city of Durban.
After a storm, heaps of plastic bags and bottles pile up on Durban’s shores with the current transporting some rubbish hundreds of kilometers down the coast.
What’s happening to Kwazulu-Natal’s beaches is part of a larger marine litter crisis in South Africa. Every year, between 90,000 and 250,000 tonnes of rubbish enter the oceans that surround the country. This marine litter can damage ship engines and propellers.
It becomes entangled in nets and other fishing equipment. It drives away tourists. It’s often ingested by birds, mammals, and fish, causing them to choke or become sick. And it can find its way into the human food chain.
But just where is all this waste coming from?
“Eighty per cent of marine litter originates on land, mediated through flash floods and river inputs,” said Jared Bosire, Project Manager with the United Nations Environment Programme’s (UNEP) Regional Seas Programme. “Therefore, if we want a clean ocean, we must change our behavior on shore and link the solution to the source, which is upstream.”
A new project driven by the South African Department of Environment, Forestry and Fisheries aims to do exactly that. The department is joining forces with local officials, non-profit groups, like Coastwatch and Durban Green Corridors, and Plastics SA, a privately-owned company, to stem the flow of marine litter in five river systems in Kwazulu-Natal. Through increased litter collection and community-led waste sorting and recycling, the department will reduce litter generation at its source, thereby lessening the amount of pollution that reaches the ocean.
Litter booms, barriers that collect floating debris, will be installed in the uMngeni, uMlazi, uMbilo, uMhlatuzana, and aManzimnyama rivers. Communities will help clean out the booms on a daily basis during the two-year project. The booms have the added benefit of trapping invasive species, like the exotic water hyacinth, before they take root in waterways.
“If we want a clean ocean, we must change our behavior on shore,” said Jared Bosire, UNEP project manager
The department will also implement a waste sorting and recycling programme in one community per river. One possibility being considered is the idea of “swop-shops” where community members can trade the recyclable litter for essentials, said Yazeed Petersen, a Project Manager from the South African Department of Environment, Forestry and Fisheries. “Integrating these shops into the project will further encourage communities to become involved in litter collection.”
Douw Steyn of Plastics SA agreed. “We need to ensure that value is given to waste plastic so that it can contribute to the circular economy. Recyclers cannot get enough material, so there is enormous potential for those willing to collect litter.”
The project is designed to help South Africa achieve its targets under Sustainable Development Goal 14.1, under which the country committed to preventing and reducing marine pollution by 2025, as well as Sustainable Development Goal 6.3 to improve water quality by 2030 through reducing pollution.
The initiative is being funded by the Global Environment Facility through the Implementation of the Strategic Action Programme for the Protection of the Western Indian Ocean from Land-Based Sources and Activities, executed by the Nairobi Convention. This project will reduce land-based stresses on this environment by protecting critical habitats, improving water quality, and managing river flows. The convention, part of UNEP’s Regional Seas Programme, serves as a platform for governments, civil society and the private sector to work together for the sustainable management and use of the Western Indian Ocean.
#US; #SmithsonianNationalZoo; #BirthOfGiantPanda; #Conservation
US, Aug 23 (Canadian-Media): A brand new giant panda cub is sparking pandemic-fueled panda-mania, and officials at the National Zoo said traffic on their livestream spiked 1,200% over the past week, https://phys.org/news/2020 news reports said.
"I'm pretty sure we broke the Internet last night," National Zoo Director Steve Monfort said Saturday.
In this image from video provided by the Smithsonian National Zoo, Mei Xiang is seen after giving birth to a Giant Panda cub Friday evening, Aug. 21, 2020, in Washington. The cub is Mei Xiang's fourth. Her first three offspring, Tai Shan, Bao Bao and Bei Bei, were transported to China at age 4 under an agreement with the Chinese government. (Smithsonian National Zoo via AP)
The Mei Xiang's pregnancy was announced this past week. When she actually gave birth Friday evening, zoo officials said they had a hard time getting into their own livestream, and they're now working to boost their capabilities.
"Everybody is getting bumped off," said Deputy Director Brandie Smith, a former curator of the zoo's giant pandas, who has overseen multiple births here. "When we have a giant panda baby, the whole world celebrates."
On camera, the actual moment of birth at around 6:35 p.m. is obscured, but the results become immediately obvious from the new cub's robust squealing. The massive mother immediately picks up and cradles the infant, which officials say is the size of a stick of butter.
"We can tell the cub is doing well from its vocalizations and the mother's behavior," Smith said. Zoo staff remain ready to intervene if something seems wrong, but Smith said Mei Xiang, who has reared three cubs to adulthood, "knows exactly what she is doing."
For now, zoo staff are letting the new pair share some private time. Mei Xiang will remain with her baby (gender still unknown) in a small indoor enclosure where she has built a modest nest.
For about a week, the new mother will not leave the baby's side even to eat or drink. The cub, who will not be named for its first hundred days in accordance with tradition, will remain in the den for its first few months of life. For now it is pink and hairless; the distinctive black and white fur markings come later.
Meanwhile father Tian Tian seems blissfully oblivious, rolling around his outdoor enclosure Saturday morning. Giant pandas are almost entirely solitary, and in the wild it would be normal for Tian Tian to never meet his offspring.
"There's no real role for the male to play in the baby's care," Monfort said. "He's probably more interested in what's for breakfast this morning."
Mei Xiang, was artificially inseminated in the spring shortly after the entire zoo shut down on March 14 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Normally they would have used a combination of frozen sperm and fresh semen extracted from Tian Tian. But in order to minimize the number of close-quarters medical procedures, zoo officials used only frozen semen.
It was the first successful procedure of its kind in the U.S. using only frozen sperm and Mei Xiang, at 22, is the oldest giant panda to successfully give birth in the United States. The oldest in the world gave birth in China at age 23.
Mei Xiang has three surviving offspring, Tai Shan, Bao Bao and Bei Bei, which were transported to China at age 4 under an agreement with the Chinese government.
With the indoor section of the panda house closed due to COVID-19 restrictions, the panda cam is really the only way to view the newborn. The zoo reopened on a limited basis July 24 with visitors needing timed passes to keep the crowds down.
For now, zoo officials are directing panda-maniacs to the live cam, and are expecting unprecedented interest from a global population sheltering under pandemic restrictions and desperate for a bit of good news.
"Something like this is kind of a miracle for us," Monfort said. "It lifts the spirits and of my team and the whole world."
Smith said it's also a fresh chance to direct those passions toward fundraising efforts that can help support global conservation initiatives.
"Conservation only happens when people care, and people really care about giant pandas" she said.
#UNEP; #MarineJourney; #digitalExperiences; #WildforLifeCampaign;
Geneva/UNEP, Jul 26 (Canadian-Media): UN Environment Programme has created immersive digital experiences for its #WildforLife campaign. These four ecosystem-based “journeys” show the magic of interconnected natural systems and inspire people to take action to protect these distinct ecosystems.
The first is Marine Journey. This aquatic adventure informs and inspires people to conserve coral reef, seagrass and mangrove ecosystems.
The upcoming digital journeys include savannahs, forests and peatlands.
Background to the campaign:
Nature sustains all life on earth, but nature is under threat. In May 2019, the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) report confirmed that the world’s biosphere, “upon which humanity as a whole depends,” is declining faster than at any time in human history.
One million wild plant and animal species are facing extinction – many within decades. Three-quarters of the land-based environment, eighty-five per cent of wetlands, and two-thirds of oceans have been significantly and negatively altered by human activity.
Further, the Illegal Trade in Wildlife is driving species to the brink of extinction while posing environmental, economic, development and security risks.
But we can reverse this trend.
Countries around the world, the United Nations, international and national organizations, businesses, governments and key opinion leaders are all working together to raise awareness, enact and enforce stronger laws, and step up support to local communities’ efforts to stop the illegal trade in wildlife.
#GlobalWarming; #BirdBreeding; #ClimateChange
New York, Jul 21 (Canadian-Media): A new study published in doi:10.1126/science.abd9186 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, https://www.sciencemag.org/news/2020 said.
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, 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 led by Maria Hällfors, an ecologist at the University of Helsinki, analyzed an extensive data set from amateur ornithologists coordinated by the Finnish Museum of Natural History. The data set spans from 1975 to 2017 and 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, Hällfors and colleagues report today in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. 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, Hällfors says.
“It’s good for the species if it’s able to follow the optimum conditions as the climate changes,” she says. However, the shorter breeding windows mean more birds are breeding earlier in the season—a risky time for chicks’ survival, especially if the weather turns suddenly cold. In addition, because many late-season species are shifting their breeding windows up, that could mean more competition for food and nesting sites early on, leaving some chicks to go hungry. Although the researchers were unable to tease out overall population trends from their data set, Hällfors expects these shifts will have a large impact on bird numbers, with some species outcompeting others.
Lucyna Halupka, an ecologist at the University of Wrocław, calls the study “a very important paper” because it’s one of the few to measure the breeding period duration. For 2 decades, she says, many scientists studying birds and climate change have looked only at the earliest, median, or mean laying dates for specific groups of birds. However, she cautions that because the study is limited to Finland, the findings may not apply universally; future studies should examine how breeding seasons move in other regions where the effect of climate change is different. They should also try to determine how shifting breeding windows affect population sizes, she says.
For Hällfors, the new findings illustrate the power of long-term data sets. “Imagine the bird-ringing ornithologists in the 1970s,” she says. “They probably couldn’t have imagined that their data would be used in 2020 to look at climate change.” It’s also a valuable addition to other ongoing climate change research, says conservation biologist Stuart Butchart of BirdLife International. “Many people still think of climate change as a problem that’s going to arise in the future,” he says. “This is another study showing that entire communities of species have already shown substantial responses to climate change over recent decades.”
#CoconutOil; #PalmOil; #Biodiversity
New York, Jul 18 (Canadian-Media): A new study argues coconut production poses a threat to biodiversity—including vertebrates, arthropods, mollusks, and plants—five times greater than palm oil, sciencemag.org (2020) reports said.
Coconut palm pictures. Image credit: Unsplash
But the paper, published on 6 July in Current Biology, has triggered a ferocious debate on social media, where critics have accused the authors of promoting dubious statistics and an attempt to whitewash palm oil.
“Dear logging companies, should you ever need to justify your destructive and extractive (illegal) activities in the Amazon + SE Asia, or protection against nature conservation NGO’s [nongovernmental organizations] or legal action, please refer to the following paper in @CurrentBiology,” primatologist Adriano Lameira of the University of Warwick wrote in one of several sarcastic tweets about the paper.
Some 12.3 million hectares of land are used to cultivate coconut palms, compared with 18.9 million for oil palm. But coconut oil—used in a range of foods and cosmetic products, and popular for its supposed health benefits—enjoys a much better reputation, says lead author Erik Meijaard, who directs Borneo Futures, a consulting company based in Brunei, and chairs the Palm Oil Task Force of the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). Consumers associate it more with tropical islands and white sandy beaches than with the deforestation linked to planting oil palm groves.
That isn’t deserved, Meijaard and others write in their two-page “correspondence.” The authors tallied the number of species under threat from the cultivation of seven vegetable oil crops—according to IUCN’s Red List of Threatened Species—and divided those by the global oil production for each crop. Coconut threatens 20.3 species for every 1 million tons of oil produced, they report. For olive oil and palm oil, those numbers are 4.1 and 3.8 species respectively; for sunflower oil, it’s 0.05.
According to the paper’s supplementary information, the number for coconut oil is actually 18.3, not 20.3; when Science asked about the discrepancy, co-author Jesse Abrams of the University of Exeter acknowledged that the calculation contains an error that the authors would ask the journal to correct.
But 18.3 is still a very high number. “The outcome of our study came as a surprise,” Meijaard says. The reason is that coconuts are primarily grown on tropical islands, “many of which possess remarkable numbers of species found nowhere else in the world,” he says. Indeed, some species have already become extinct because their habitat gave way to coconut palm, Meijaard points out, including the Marianne white-eye (Zosterops semiflavus), a bird in the Seychelles, and the Ontong Java flying fox (Pteropus howensis) of the Solomon Islands, which was last spotted in 1945. Today, coconut plantations threaten to the Balabac mousedeer (Tragulus nigricans), endemic to three small islands in the Philippines, and the Sangihe tarsier (Tarsius sangirensis), a small primate endemic to the Indonesian island of Sangihe, according to IUCN’s assessment.
The authors say perceptions of the environmental impacts of different oil crops “often appears to be impaired by shortsightedness and double standards.” There’s little attention for the millions of songbirds reportedly killed during olive oil harvests in Spain, for instance.
But others say the study paints a misleading picture. The vast majority of the species threatened by coconut palm live in small island nations that together produce only 8% of the global output of coconut oil, says Meine van Noordwijk, a senior research fellow at the World Agroforestry Center. Nearly 80% of coconut oil comes from Indonesia, the Philippines, and India. Excluding the small producers from the analysis would yield a very different number, Van Noordwijk says. He also notes that coconut palms are often planted together with other crops, so it’s hard to tease out the crop’s harm. Sheherazade, a field biologist who heads Tambora Muda Indonesia, an organization for Indonesian young conservationists, agrees. “We need a finer spatial analysis to discern which crop drives deforestation,” she says.
Sheherazade notes the picture is almost exactly the opposite judged by a different, more commonly used metric: Palm oil threatens 17 species per million hectares of cultivated crop, versus 5.3 for coconut oil. But Meijaard says quantifying species risk per million tons of oil is more relevant than per hectare, because consumer demand determines the business.
Other critics take issue with different aspects of the study: In absolute terms, palm oil threatens five times more species than coconut oil, according to IUCN (321 versus 66), and palm oil production is growing much faster. “At least in Kalimantan where gigantic palmoil plantations of 10,000 hectare are savagely carved out of virgin rainforest, coconut gardens tend to be mom & pop operations of 10-20 ha [hectares],” tweeted Biruté Galdikas, a primatologist at the Orangutan Foundation.
Some critics also pointed to a potential conflict of interest: Meijaard has received funding from an Indonesian palm oil company and from the Roundtable for Sustainable Palm Oil, a large multistakeholder group that seeks to make the industry more environmentally friendly.
Co-author Douglas Sheil, a professor of tropical conservation at the Norwegian University of Life Sciences, says the authors didn’t seek to vilify coconuts but instead want to enable consumers to make better judgments about which vegetable oils to buy. “Consumers lack objective guidance on the environmental impacts of crop production, undermining their ability to make informed decisions,” Sheil says. Coconut is seen as an innocent crop because “global consumers rely heavily on information that they receive from the media, which is often supplied by those with vested interests.” As to the authors’ own interests, Meijaard has been transparent about his funding, and “It is a lazy defense to say that anyone who works with a company is somehow unreliable forever after,” Sheil says.
The authors agree the data in the paper aren’t perfect. “We wanted to raise awareness with this piece and use it as a call for more data and research,” says Abrams, who notes there is a lack of data on the environmental impact of many vegetable crops. “We know a lot about oil palm. Why is there such a bias?” Meijaard asks.
But Sheherazade says she worries the paper will be used to undermine environmental activism against unsustainable oil palm practice in Indonesia, especially now that new plantations are springing up in pristine forests in Papua. “Oil palm is still a huge threat to biodiversity,” she says. “The palm debate is very polarized, extra care is needed to avoid creating new myths,” Van Noordwijk adds.
#Alberta; #Canada; #CraneHuntLaunch; #wildlifeManagement; #GameBirdLicense
Alberta, Jul 6 (Canadian-Media): Alberta is launching a sandhill crane hunt on Sept 1 in more than 50 wildlife management units in southern and east-central Alberta, providing new hunting opportunity to Alberta’s game bird hunters, media reports said.
Sandhill Cranes. Image credit: Image credit: Facebook page
Participating in the new sandhill crane hunt which will run concurrently with Alberta’s waterfowl season, and requires a provincial game bird licence and a federal migratory bird licence.
Organizations supporting Alberta’s new sandhill crane hunt are Alberta hunting stakeholders, Environment and Climate Change Canada, and the Central Flyway Council.
“It’s great to see widespread support for a sandhill crane season in Alberta, which will support the province’s wildlife management goals and boost local economies. Alberta hunters care deeply about the province’s environment, species and wild places, and providing another opportunity to engage in a pursuit that supports conservation as well as economic activity is a win-win,” Jason Nixon, Alberta's Minister of Environment and Parks said in a news release.
Jason Nixon. Image credit: Facebook page
With a steady increase in the number of sandhill cranes in the province in recent years due to exceptional survival rates for both young and adult birds, Alberta would be taking additional precautions and limit its hunting season to areas that arenot known to overlap with the whooping crane migration or breeding range.
“The Alberta Fish and Game Association is pleased...the multi-jurisdictional population and harvest monitoring undertaken by Environment and Climate Change Canada, and the support of this season by Alberta Environment and Parks, under the leadership of Minister Nixon, has made this opportunity possible, ” said Brian Dingreville, President, The Alberta Fish and Game Association in a news release.
Alberta Fish & Game Association. Image credit: Twitter handle
Sandhill crane hunting seasons have existed in both Saskatchewan and Manitoba for more than 50 years, with the sandhill crane population remaining healthy.
With sandhill cranes hunted and eaten throughout their range, Alberta hunt is expected to add only two percent to the number of sandhill cranes harvested across North America.
“This announcement opens up a great opportunity for Albertans to participate in the sustainable harvest of a waterfowl species that has been hunted for many years across the rest of its range. Sandhill crane makes excellent table fare and I am certain Alberta’s waterfowl hunters will find that putting in the effort to harvest a Sandhill crane for a family meal is well worth it," said Todd Zimmerling, President & CEO, Alberta Conservation Association in a news release.
During 2018, the latest year for which numbers are available, fishing, hunting, trapping, and sport-shooting activities contributed $1.8 billion to Alberta’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) supporting 11,700 jobs, and generating $875 million in labour income.
#TheNetherlands; #CullingOfMinks; #SARSCoV2; #TheDutch; #Feralcats; #Coronavirus
Lelystad (The Netherlands), Jun 10 (Canadian-Media): n a sad sideshow to the COVID-19 pandemic, authorities in the Netherlands began to gas tens of thousands of mink on 6 June, most of them pups born only weeks ago. SARS-CoV-2 has attacked farms that raise the animals for fur, and the Dutch government worries infected mink could become a viral reservoir that could cause new outbreaks in humans, a Netherlands study revealed in https://www.sciencemag.org/news/2020.
Mink: Image credit: Wikipedia
The mink outbreaks are “spillover” from the human pandemic—a zoonosis in reverse that has offered scientists in the Netherlands a unique chance to study how the virus jumps between species and burns through large animal populations.
But they’re also a public health problem. Genetic and epidemiological sleuthing has shown that at least two farm workers have caught the virus from mink—the only patients anywhere known to have become infected by animals. SARS-CoV-2 can infect other animals, including cats, dogs, tigers, hamsters, ferrets, and macaques, but there are no known cases of transmission from these species back into the human population. (The virus originally spread to humans from an as-yet-unidentified animal species.)
The first two mink outbreaks were reported at on 23 and 25 April at farms holding 12,000 and 7500 animals, respectively. More mink were dying than usual, and some had nasal discharge or difficulty breathing. In both cases, the virus was introduced by a farm worker who had COVID-19. Today, it has struck 12 of about 130 Dutch mink farms. Once COVID-19 reaches a farm, the virus appears to spread like wildfire, even though the animals are housed in separate cages. Scientists suspect it moves via infectious droplets, on feed or bedding, or in dust containing fecal matter.
That mink are susceptible wasn’t a surprise, because they are closely related to ferrets, says Wim van der Poel of Wageningen University & Research, which has an animal health laboratory here. (Both mink and ferrets can also contract human influenza viruses.) Like humans, infected mink can show no symptoms, or develop severe problems, including pneumonia. Mortality was negligible at one farm and almost 10% at another. “That’s strange—we don’t really understand it,” says virologist Marion Koopmans of Erasmus Medical Center in Rotterdam. Feral cats roaming the farms—and stealing the mink’s food—were found to be infected as well. The researchers published a preprint about their work on 18 May; a paper in Eurosurveillance may come out soon.
The Netherlands is the only country so far to have reported SARS-CoV-2 in mink. In Denmark, the world’s largest mink producer, “We have not recorded any similar disease or outbreaks,” says Anne Sofie Hammer, a veterinary scientist at the University of Copenhagen. Neither has China, the second largest producer, says virologist Chen Hualan of the Chinese Academy of Agricultural Sciences. (Hubei, the province hardest hit by COVID-19, does not have mink farms, she notes.)
The Dutch outbreaks are giving scientists a chance to study how the virus adapts as it spreads through a large, dense population. In some other animal viruses, such conditions trigger an evolution toward a more virulent form, because the virus isn’t penalized if it kills a host animal quickly as long as it can easily jump to the next one. (Avian influenza, for instance, usually spreads as a mild disease in wild birds but can become highly pathogenic when it lands in a poultry barn.) Although SARS-CoV-2 is undergoing plenty of mutations as it spreads through mink, its virulence shows no signs of increasing.
Even so, the Dutch outbreaks have alarmed people in North Brabant province, where mink farms are concentrated. The region’s burgeoning goat industry caused the world’s largest human epidemic of Q fever between 2007 and 2009. Anxious citizens feared a repeat with SARS-CoV-2 and mink. But Coxiella burnetii, the bacterium that causes Q fever, forms hardy spores that wafted out of barns and blew off fields fertilized with goat manure. SARS-CoV-2 is far more fragile; environmental sampling has not turned up any virus outside mink sheds, says veterinary epidemiologist Arjan Stegeman of Utrecht University, who leads the research on mink outbreaks. Whereas farm workers should wear protective equipment, the population at large is at very low risk, Stegeman says.
Eventually, the virus seems to burn itself out at every farm, once more than 90% of the animals have contracted it and developed antibodies. Combined with the low mortality rate, that means the outbreaks are far less devastating for farmers than, for instance, bird flu in poultry or foot-and-mouth disease in cattle.
Even though just two of the Netherlands’s nearly 50,000 confirmed human COVID-19 cases have been linked to the farms, the government decided to cull the animals because the problem could become bigger in the months ahead. Female mink give birth in April and May, leading to a sixfold increase in populations. Antibodies in their mother’s milk probably protect pups for a while, but they might become vulnerable later to any virus lingering at the farm. “That could mean there’s a second wave in minks in the fall,” Van der Poel says—raising the risk of more human cases. The mink are culled by gassing them with carbon monoxide; the Dutch government will compensate farmers.
In the long run, their businesses were doomed anyway: A law approved by the Dutch parliament in 2012 bans mink farming as of 2024 for ethical reasons. The affected farmers may be allowed to reopen their farms for another 3 years if tests conclusively show the virus is gone—or they can decide to throw in the towel now.