#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.
Northern lapwings are breeding earlier and over a shorter period of time than 40 years ago. Image credit: MIKE LANE/MINDEN PICTURES
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.