exlegelibertas asked: I read another article this morning about hive disruption syndrome and about bee-dieoffs in general. The article framed the issue in a wider context of a 'sixth extinction.' As a layman I'm generally sold on these theories, despite their grim outlook. Assuming (as I do) that they're probably the result of anthropogenic climate change, what do you think the proper adaptation methods will be, considering the necessity of honeybees in pollinating most crops around the world?
Great question and I did a little research for you (learned a lot, so thanks!).
The so-called “sixth extinction” theory has been around for a while. I’d avoid reading about it, since it’s all doom. Still, adaptation strategies for bees and other pollinators are only now being taken seriously.
Keep in mind that environmentalism is ‘stewardship’ - it requires long-term thinking, far beyond your life-time. Solutions take time and decades of research and testing. So, managing impacts are part of a long transition…
Most adaptation strategies and responses are part of bigger plans that deal with ecosystems and agriculture, so they’re more likely to be a chapter in larger documents. Here a few resources:
NASA (yes, NASA) has HoneyBeeNet, a project on climate change impacts on honeybees and ag. Excellent overview of the issue, but short on strategies. Well worth a skim (and fun to see the connection between NASA science, climate, and bees!).
A new report says that much of the world’s plant and animal life could be decimated by the effects of climate change over the next century. Worldwide levels of carbon dioxide are the highest they’ve been in almost two million years.
Sub-Saharan Africa, Central America, Amazonia and Australia would lose the most species of plants and animals. And a major loss of plant species is projected in North Africa, Central Asia and South-eastern Europe.
“The United States Geological Society (USGS) has launched an online database and map that keeps track of more than 100 million different species and where they live within the United States,
Biodiversity Serving Our Nation (BISON)contains location-specific records of where living species are within the US. Its data comes from hundreds of different organizations and thousands of scientists, making it the most comprehensive map of American biodiversity ever made.
Anyone can search by scientific or common name of any living species (plant or animal), and can look to see what lives within any specific geographic area they want by drawing a perimeter—so, for example, searching to see exactly which forests in Virginia have been infected with a tree fungus.”
Scientists estimate that the average acidity of surface ocean waters worldwide is now about 30% higher than before the Industrial Revolution.
The researchers say there is likely to be major change to the Arctic marine ecosystem as a result. Some key prey species like sea butterflies may be harmed. Other species may thrive. Adult fish look likely to be fairly resilient but the development of fish eggs might be harmed.
Anonymous asked: I saw the HarvardX free course you posted and i was wondering if you are familiar with any other free courses like this on the subject of ecology. I am studying biology currently so background knowledge wouldnt be a problem. Thanks in advance.
Males don’t stand a chance in a warmer world, if they happen to be painted turtles. A temperature rise of around 1 °C is all it would take for the species to become 100 per cent female and earmarked for extinction.
Painted turtles (Chrysemys picta), found in lakes and streams across North America, are one of many reptile species whose sex is determined by temperature. Eggs in warm nests are likely to hatch as females, while males hatch in cooler nests, although no one is sure why.
In recent years, many researchers have raised concerns that global warming could skew the sex ratios of these reptiles. Rory Telemeco and his colleagues at Iowa State University developed a mathematical model to predict whether the painted turtles might be affected.
For over 25 years, Telemeco’s colleague, Fredric Janzen, documented the nesting times and sex ratio of painted turtle hatchlings on a small island in the Mississippi river in Carroll County, Illinois. He found that females can shift their nesting dates by about 10 days to ensure their eggs develop at temperatures that produce an even mix of males and females.
The team used this finding, along with historical records of soil and air temperatures, to create a mathematical model that predicts the sex ratio of eggs laid at different temperatures. In a preliminary test of the model, the group correctly predicted the sexes of 40 out of 46 hatchlings born in the wild.
Telemeco’s team then used the same model to predict what might happen to the sex ratio of future hatchlings. Conservative climate models predict that average temperatures in the US Midwest will rise by 4 °C over the next century. The group’s model suggests that this temperature hike would result in nests of all-female hatchlings, even if the turtles nest earlier, when temperatures are cooler. In fact, average temperatures only need to rise by 1.1 °C to have this effect, the team found. “It’s ultimately extinction,” says Telemeco.
Richard Shine, an evolutionary biologist at the University of Sydney in Australia, who was not involved in the study, says the findings are likely to apply to many species where sex is dependent on temperature. “All crocodilians, a smattering of turtles and lizards, plus some fishes”, will be affected, he says. “Just laying your eggs a few weeks earlier won’t be enough to cancel the effects of warming,” he says.
What is Resilience? is a nifty, free, 20page, visual ebook overview defining resilience. It’s free, and published by the researchers at the Stockholm Resilience Centre. (Free ebook is free.)
Resilience is the capacity of a system, be it an individual, a forest, a city or an economy, to deal with change and continue to develop. It is about the capacity to use shocks and disturbances like a financial crisis or climate change to spur renewal and innovative thinking.
This publication presents the major strands within resilience thinking and social-ecological research. It describes the profound imprint we humans have had on nature and ideas on how to deal with the resulting challenges.
The publication is based on three scientific articles that were prepared for the 3rd Nobel Laureate Symposium on global sustainability, which took place in Stockholm in May 2011. The articles were later published in the scientific journal Ambio. They represent a mix of necessary actions and exciting planetary opportunities. They also illustrate how we can use the growing insights into the many challenges we are facing by starting to work with the processes of the biosphere instead of against them.
Chapter One describes in detail the complex interdependencies between people and ecosystems. It highlights the fact that there are virtually no ecosystems that are not shaped by people and no people without the need for ecosystems and the services they provide. Too many of us seem to have disconnected ourselves from Nature. A shift in thinking will create exciting opportunities for us to continue to develop and thrive for generations to come.
Chapter Two takes us through the tremendous acceleration of human enterprise, especially since World War II. This acceleration is pushing the Earth dangerously close to its boundaries, to the extent that abrupt environmental change cannot be excluded. Furthermore, it has led scientists to argue that the current geological period should be labelled the ‘Antropocene’ – the Age of Man.
Chapter Three highlights the fascinating paradox that the innovative capacity that has put us in the current environmental predicament can also be used to push us out of it. It introduces the term social-ecological innovation, which essentially strives to find innovative ways to reconnect with the biosphere and stay within planetary boundaries.
Bucks County’s largest bat population has met a grim fate. Scientists have confirmed that nearly all of the 10,000 bats that have hibernated in an abandoned iron ore mine in Upper Bucks for generations have died. When Pennsylvania Game Commission Biologist Greg Turner recently visited the Durham mine for the first time in two years, he found total devastation.
The Durham bat mine was once the second largest known bat habitat in Pennsylvania, but this winter only 23 were found alive. Of those, half had clear signs of infection.
Bucks County’s bats were wiped out by a disease that has been killing bat colonies across the Northeast at an alarming rate in the past four years. White nose syndrome causes a white fungus to form around the nose of infected bats. They lose the body fat needed to survive hibernation and ultimately the mammals starve to death during the winter months.
During his visit to Durham’s mine on Feb. 21, Turner found three different species of cave bats. Eighteen of the 23 bats were little brown bats. Of those, half of them were crowding at the entrance to the cave or had fungus on their muzzles; both are tell-tale signs of the fatal infection….
In Pennsylvania, 98 percent of cave-hibernating bats have died, said Turner.
Terrible. White nose syndrome has wiped out populations across the northeast, too. Since bats regulate populations, expect an explosion of bugs in the coming years. And with rising temperatures from climate change, more bugs will be moving north, and their natural seasonal cycles will last longer.
Using drones to track whales. Civilian drones are being used to investigate environmental harm. I am incredibly tempted to start my own firm to use these beasties to identify pollution spills around Western Massachusetts…
Meet a One-Eyed, Six-Legged, Flying Whale Chaser
biologists are turning to less obtrusive unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) to spot species including whales, dolphins, sea lions and penguins. From small helicopters to planes with a 10-foot (3 meters) wingspan, the battery-powered craft could become a popular new tool.
“What makes these things so effective is they capture a tremendous amount of information,” said NOAA marine biologist Wayne Perryman, based at the Southwest Fisheries Science Center in La Jolla, Calif.
For years, Perryman has experimented with military reconnaissance techniques to track marine life. He collaborates with former Navy officer Don LeRoi of Aerial Imaging Solutions in Connecticut.
Their latest device is a hexacopter. With six quiet engines, internal gyroscopes, an accelerometer and a GPS, the mechanical bird has great maneuverability, Perryman said. For the past two years, Perryman has snapped shots of penguin and seal colonies in Antarctica with the hexacopter. Future trips include a jaunt to Alaska to survey stellar sea lions.
“When you get into aggregations of thousands of animals, humans are lousy at determining how many animals there are,” Perryman told OurAmazingPlanet. “With photography, you can go back in time and see something you maybe wouldn’t have noticed,” he adds.
Sperm whale spotting
In February and March, Perryman and LeRoi helped an international science team track sperm whales near New Zealand by capturing whale photos with the copter. The scientists attached tracking tags to the whales, and knowing their size and shape from the photos improves understanding of how the whales dive underwater, Perryman said. It was the first ship-based test for the ‘copter, named Archie by the scientists onboard.
Stewart Brand talks about reviving the passenger pigeon at TED2013
Bringing back extinct species — this Friday, TEDxDeExtinction discusses how we’ll do it and whether we should
An endangered species is like a very sick person: It needs help, desperately. An extinct species is like a dead person: beyond help, beyond hope
Or at least it has been, until now. For the first time, our own species—the one that has done so much to condemn those other 795 to oblivion—may be poised to bring at least some of them back.
—National Geographic, “Species Revival: Should We Bring Back Extinct Animals?”
This process, the process of bringing an extinct species back from once-certain oblivion, is called de-extinction.As reported on the TED Blog,“The first de-extinction happened on the bucardo, a type of wild mountain goat. The last bucardo died out in 2000, but its ear was preserved, and in 2009 DNA from the ear was planted in a mother goat. The engineered bucardo died after 10 minutes due to a defect in its lungs.”
This month, along with his foundation Revive & Restore, with the support of TED and TEDster Ryan Phelan, and in partnership with National Geographic Society, Brand is convening a day-long conference — called TEDxDeExtinction — to showcase the prospects of bringing extinct species back to life, along with a discussion of the ethical issues involved.
On Friday, March 15, 2013, TEDxDeExtinction will bring 25 renowned experts together at National Geographic headquarters to contribute ideas to these four sessions:
WHO: Who among extinct species should be revived first?
HOW: How can extinct species be revived?
WHY AND WHY NOT: Should we bring back extinct species?
WILD AGAIN: Could resurrected species ever be wild again?
George Church,professor of genetics at Harvard Medical School and director of PersonalGenomes.org, the world’s only open-access information source for the human genome .
President of the American Ornithologists’ Union Susan Haig, whose specialization is working with species facing the brink of extinction.
Director of Genetics at the San Diego Zoo Institute for Conservation and Research Oliver Ryder, who oversees research efforts in cell culture and cryobanking, cytogenetics, population genetics, conservation breeding, evolution and systematics, and applications of genomics technologies to conservation efforts for managed and wild populations of threatened and endangered species.
New York Times, National Geographic, and winner of the American Association for the Advancement of Science Journalism Award journalist Carl Zimmer.
“Coming Soon: Long-Delayed Decisions on Endangered Species
The Oregon spotted frog, a four-inch-long amphibian that prefers the Pacific Northwest’s dwindling marshy spots, is to be considered this year for federal protection as an endangered species.
It has been languishing for 22 years — since 1991 — awaiting its day in the bureaucratic sun.
The eastern massasauga rattlesnake has been a candidate for protection since 1982, a legless bridesmaid, never a bride. Ditto the elfin-woods warbler. Like them, the Dakota skipper butterfly, a cucumber-bodied flier that zips unusually fast (for a butterfly) over the Minnesota and Dakota prairies, is dying out as development shrinks its habitat. It nevertheless has hung on, its candidacy deferred since 1975.
Belatedly, the Interior Department’s Fish and Wildlife Service is giving them all — and 258 more — a thumbs up or down for protection under the Endangered Species Act, the 1973 law that was among the early triumphs of the environmental movement.
It is evidence of the law’s travails that it took a federal judge to get them to this point.
Moreover, the service has finished preliminary work on more than 550 other potential candidates for the endangered-species list, almost all of which will be further evaluated after the backlog is erased.
“They’ve dramatically increased the number of decisions they’re making — both positive and negative decisions, but the vast majority of decisions are positive,” said Kierán Suckling, the executive director of the Center for Biological Diversity, an Arizona conservation organization that is a party to the settlement.
It is the most feverish activity on imperiled wildlife in two decades, an improbable feat amid ferocious attacks from conservative critics and in an economy with little money to spare for environmental frivolities.”
The court rejected the argument that the 25,000 remaining polar bears, most of which live in relatively stable populations, were perfectly fine without “threatened species” status. But many scientists worry that the effects of climate change on the Arctic climate could prove dangerous for the remaining bears.
And it looks like polar bears may remain on that list for the foreseeable future, according to Kassie Siegel of the Center for Biological Diversity.
“So for practical purposes, the listing of the polar bear is final, and really no longer under any serious threat from these challenges.”
A pizzly bear is a cross between a polar bear and a grizzly bear. Apparently, grizzlies are migrating north as they adapt to warmer temperatures. They expose a strange loophole in conservation and animal law, where governments protect habitat of vulnerable species. Pizzlies are not categorized as endangered or protected, thus making them prime targets for hunters.
You may have heard of ligers and labradoodles, but have you ever heard of a pizzly? A pizzly is a hybrid animal, meaning that both parents are of different species. As the name sounds, a pizzly is the inbred product of polar bears and grizzly bears. (Sometimes they are known as grolar bears.) These unique hybrids were spotted April 23, 2012 by two biologists from the University of Alberta.
Jodie Pongracz and Evan Richardson were on a trip in Viscount Melville Sound in the High Arctic of Canada with expectations to satellite-collar polar bears (Struzik, 2012). What they spotted in Wynniatt Bay was a pizzly! This hybrid is unusual because it has occurred in nature. Labradoodles and other dog hybrids are bred through artificial selection. The pizzly exists today because grizzly bears have been venturing up to the Northern Arctic due to climate change.
Grizzly bears are not the only animals moving north. Several other species have been spotted including fish species, caribou, and red foxes! (Erica and I spotted both red and arctic foxes in Churchill!) Some people think that pizzlies/grolar bears are a good solution for climate change. Pennsylvania State and University of Buffalo have sequenced polar bear genomes and found that brown bears helped create polar bears to begin with. They predict that the inbreeding occurring now is caused due to the polar bear’s shrinking habitat. The unfortunate people who find climate change undisturbing are thankful to hear this news and deem it the perfect solution. However, polar bear experts see problems facing the new hybrids.
Ed Struzik in Yale’s Environment 360 Digest quoted Andrew Derocher, one of the top polar bear researchers. Derocher mentioned in the article the diversity between grizzly bears and polar bears in terms of ecology and physiology. He stated that, “ While they may closely resemble each other physically and genetically, they have evolved in very different ways. Grizzlies, for example, have learned to live off a variety of foods such as caribou, berries, roots, and even seals. The polar bear, on the other hand, is almost exclusively a hunter of seals” (Struzik, 2012). Not a lot of research has been conducted on these new species and there is no knowing if they are the saviors of the polar bear species. What is known is that they can’t be relied upon. In addition, there are currently no regulations or restrictions on the hunting of pizzlies. Derocher mentions, “…Bear hunters would pay dearly for the chance to shoot (hybrid polar/grizzly bears). That could mean that hybrids - not subject to the strict hunting quotas governing the threatened polar bear - could face heavy hunting pressure” (Struzik, 2012).
The polar bear’s sea ice habitat is diminishing with the warming climate. Scientists now know that polar bears are taking drastic measures to keep their species alive by mating with grizzly bears and producing offspring. In a presentation given by Dr. Evan Richardson, a wildlife biologist from the Canadian Wildlife Service, he mentioned that a female polar bear mated with a male grizzly and produced a female pizzly. That female pizzly mated with a male polar bear and produced a cub. This data shows that these hybrids are not sterile. This gives some hope on the genetics side of things; however hybrids are not the solution to climate change, nor will they ever be as breathtaking as the 100% pure bred polar bear.