A new book, Novel Ecosystems, edited by Richard Hobbs of the University of Western Australia and others, shows how many superficially natural ecosystems are heavily influenced by the introduction of alien species. Whether intentional or accidental, most introductions seem to have human origins.
This is disconcerting. “Over large parts of the globe, the ‘wilderness’ that people refer back to never existed,” says one of the book’s authors, Michael Perring, also of the University of Western Australia.
Nature has always had open borders for alien species on the move. Those itinerants may have been a driving force of evolution. But human activity has dramatically increased their travel options. We move many deliberately, as commercial crops or domesticated animals, for instance. Today, others can hitch a ride on ship hulls or in ballast tanks, aboard planes or on the wheels of trucks or the backs of domesticated animals. This phenomenon seems to have been going on for much longer than we sometimes imagine.
Posts tagged endangered species.
“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.”
Climate change leaves the animals at risk of drought, disease and death as the heat causes freshwater supplies to dwindle, infectious diseases to spread faster and brings with it one of the biggest killers of elephants in Myanmar - heat stroke.
The study found that elephants thrive at an optimum temperature of 23°C (74°F), and deviations from this leave them more vulnerable. The Myanmar region is predicted to experience a rise of 0.1 to 3°C, over the next 30 to 40 years – a seemingly small change, but one that could wipe out the entire elephant population.
‘We think of elephants as very resilient animals, very robust, but then we see at the same time there is a very narrow range at which they are at their optimal survival. If the climate changes by even a few degrees it can substantially reduce survival,’ says Hannah Mumby from the University of Sheffield.
The discovery that calves are particularly threatened by rising temperatures is important, since these offspring are integral for the survival of the species. Elephants, like humans, reproduce later in life and if the calves die before they can mate then the species will be unable to survive.
The variations in temperature between seasons in Myanmar are already large, but the climate projections show that not only will temperatures rise but there will be fewer monsoon months. The higher the rainfall, the better the chance of survival is for the elephants; dryer hotter months could prove to be fatal.
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.
Biologists take note.
This Article examines the challenges global climate change presents for the Endangered Species Act (ESA) and its primary administrative agency, the U.S. Fish an
Great read. JB Ruhl is one of the best writers on climate law in the US.
Chinese ship runs into protected UNESCO reef in Philippines — while transporting 11 tons of illegal Pangolin meat
A Chinese vessel that ran into a protected coral reef in the southwestern Philippines held evidence of even more environmental destruction inside: more than 22,000 pounds of meat from a protected species, the pangolin or scaly anteater.
The steel-hulled vessel hit an atoll on April 8 at the Tubbataha National Marine Park, a UNESCO-designated World Heritage Site on Palawan island.
Coast guard spokesman Lt. Cmdr. Armand Balilo said Monday that 400 boxes, each containing 25 to 30 kilograms of frozen pangolins, were discovered during a second inspection of the boat Saturday.
The World Wide Fund for Nature Philippines said the Chinese vessel F/N Min Long Yu could have been carrying up to 2,000 of the toothless, insect-eating animals rolled up in the boxes, with their scales already removed.
The boat’s 12 Chinese crewmen are being detained on charges of poaching and attempted bribery, said Adelina Villena, the marine park’s lawyer. She said more charges are being prepared against them, including damaging the corals and violating the country’s wildlife law for being found in possession of the pangolin meat.
Here’s a NatGeo video of the endangered pangolin.
Rare Chinese Porpoises Dive Toward Extinction. Above, A Carcass of a Rare Yangtze Finless Porpoise.
“There are just 1,000 individual Yangtze finless porpoises left in the wild, according to a new report. That’s less than half of what a similar survey of the porpoises found six years ago.
The rapidly dwindling numbers have conservationists worried that the species could vanish from the wild as early as 2025.
“The species is moving fast toward its extinction,” said Wang Ding, head of the expedition to count the porpoises and a professor at the Institute of Hydrobiology at the Chinese Academy of Sciences.
Yangtze finless porpoises, the only freshwater finless porpoise in the world, live mainly in the Yangtze River and China’s Dongting and Poyang lakes. They are threatened by shrinking food resources and man-made disturbances like shipping traffic.
The expedition, which took place over 44 days last fall, comes after a similar trek along the Yangtze in 2007 failed to find any surviving Baiji dolphins, a close relative of the finless porpoise that was subsequently declared functionally extinct.
The new report showed that some finless porpoises are splintering off into relatively isolated groups, which could hurt their ability to reproduce. The scientists also noted that more of the animals seemed to be flocking to wharf and port areas, perhaps to look for food. ”
In addition to the earlier polar bear fail: Efforts to curb the sale of ivory and rhino horns were voted down on Thursday at an international wildlife summit in Bangkok. ›
“At the 178-nation Convention in Trade in Endangered Species (Cites) meeting, Burkina Faso and Kenya cited the “merciless slaughter of elephants” in their attempt to extend to a wider group of nations a pledge from some countries not to sell ivory stockpiles before 2016.
But the proposal was seen as legally flawed by many delegates and failed to get support.
But Tom Milliken, head of the elephant and rhino team at wildlife trade monitoring network Traffic, said he was more optimistic than ever that tough action would still be taken. “This time people are listening because everything is pointing in the same direction: poaching is up to a record high, as is illegal ivory trading and elephants seem to be down,” he said. About 25,000 elephants were killed by poachers in 2012.
At the Cites talks, 19 nations face bans on all wildlife trade unless they crack down on the poaching, smuggling or sale of illegal ivory. The summit is also considering compulsory forensic testing of seized tusks, so the criminal chain can be traced and compulsory reporting of stockpiles of ivory, to prevent corruption or thefts.
Separately, Kenya attempted to prevent the export of trophy-hunted rhino horns from South Africa. Vietnamese and east European gangs use the practice as a cover to feed the illegal Vietnamese market with the 1,000 horns a year it is demanding. But Milliken said that South Africa had already put an end to the “pseudo-hunting”. There are 20,000 white rhinos at present, he said, and despite more than 600 being poached in 2012, the population is rising.
Milliken said: “It is probably a good idea to keep these [trophy-hunting] incentives for private wildlife reserve owners at a time when they are having to spend more on protection from poachers.” He said, in contrast, Vietnam was doing extremely little to tackle rhino sales.
The Cites meeting did, however, unanimously raise the protection of the west African manatee to the highest level, overriding advice from officials that “scant” scientific data did not support the move.
The slow-moving creature, which can measure up to 4.5m long and weigh 350kg, is found in the coastal lagoons and rivers of 21 states, and can reach as far inland as Mali, Niger and Chad.
Illegal kills can raise $4,500 per animal and less than 10,000 remain. They are hunted for meat and oil, killed as by bycatch by fishermen and also suffer as their habitat is destroyed by mangrove harvesting, pollution and dams. The Cites conference also bid farewell to a series of extinct animals by removing them from protection lists, including Australia’s dusky flying fox, crescent nail-tail wallaby, buff-nosed rat-kangaroo and the pig-footed- and rabbit-eared bandicoots.”
Via The Guardian
Bid to ban international trade of Polar Bear parts fails
Today delegates at the CITES meeting in Thailand rejected the proposal to protect polar bears from the commercial trade of their body parts. The proposal was put forward by the US with support from Russia but was opposed by Canada, the only country to allow the exporting of polar bear parts.
Unfortunately the proposal failed to win the two-thirds needed to pass. The results ended with 38 countries voting in favour of the US proposal, 42 against and 46 refrained.
“Limiting commercial trade in this species would have addressed a source of non-climate stress to polar bear populations and contributed to long-term recovery,” said the statement from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. “Each year, an average of 3,200 items made from polar bears - including skins, claws and teeth - are reported to be exported or re-exported from a range of countries. Polar bear hides sell for an average of $2,000 to $5,000, while maximum hide prices have topped $12,000.”
The rejection of the proposal means that the export of polar bear skins, teeth and paws from Canada will continue.
[Photo credit: Martin Lopatka]
Proceeds from the sale of the app go to protect marine environments in the Philippines. Thank you WWF for your good work!
EnviroPop is the first game application from WWF-Philippines. The app aims to educate people about sea creatures, and the need to address the marine pollutants that harm them.
EnviroPop is a puzzle game that allows users to clear marine threats such as PET plastic bottles, fish trawl nets, cyanide bottles, and oil drums.
The objective of the game is for players to eliminate these hazards and save the WWF marine characters like Clara the clownfish, Pattie the Green Sea Turtle, Bobby the whale shark, and Gary the grouper.
The app serves as one of WWF-Philippines’ alruist weapon to arm people with the knowledge of their marine programs and and their aim to fortify the marine biodiversity.
The full version of the app costs $0.99. For every download of the app, proceeds will go directly to WWF-Philippines’ marine conservation program.
As WWF-Philippines Individual Donor Program Officer Honey Carmona explains, Philippines is nestled at the apex of the Coral Triangle making the island the geographic point of marine life. This concludes the call to prioritize marine conservation as most Filipinos depend on the sea for sustenance and ecotourism.
Why Do Venomous Animals Live In Warm Climates?
1. The majority of venomous species are ectotherms, cold-blooded creatures whose internal temperatures are governed by their surroundings.
2. This means they have limited periods of activity - mainly while it’s warm out, and can only exert short bursts of energy, so they are generally “sit and wait” predators. This may explain why they, more than mammals or birds, evolved venom.
3. It also explains why there are more of these species in warm climates. There are more of all species in warm climates, but this trend is especially pronounced for ectotherms.
4. So there are a greater number of venomous species in warm places, simply because there are more species in warm places. Cold climates still have venomous creatures, like the rattlesnakes of Canada and European vipers.
5. But history also has a role to play. In Australia, there were no snakes until 20 million years ago when a venomous sea snake from Asia encountered the land, sending venomous species to all corners of the continent. Later non-venomous arrivals have done well in the tropics but not as well in Australia’s colder climates, so venomous types still dominate there. Hawaii has no venomous land snakes and nor does Jamaica.
6. The recent ice age also would have driven ectotherms from the northern parts of the Northern Hemisphere. This is why there are no snakes in Ireland, for example.
This should go over well with politicians.
“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.
Under a 2011 settlement of two lawsuits by conservation activists, the wildlife service has pledged to decide the fates of all the backlogged species by 2018. A schedule issued by the service on Feb. 8 promised to decide by September whether to add 97 species to the endangered list, including 70 covered by the lawsuit settlement.
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.”
Polar bears remain a threatened species
The U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals decided to keep polar bears protected by broad federal measures Friday,
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.”
Read more about the court’s decision here, via Nation Now.
Photos: Jeon Heon-Kyun, Koen Van Weel / EPA, Sven Hoppe / Associated Press