“ExxonMobil, the world’s biggest oil company, knew as early as 1981 of climate change – seven years before it became a public issue, according to a newly discovered email from one of the firm’s own scientists. Despite this the firm spent millions over the next 27 years to promote climate denial.”
Tag Archives: Science
Ocean Life Faces Mass Extinction
“A team of scientists, in a groundbreaking analysis of data from hundreds of sources, has concluded that humans are on the verge of causing unprecedented damage to the oceans and the animals living in them.”
Europe Takes Action on Bee Decline While US Does Little
It’s a familiar, yet still maddening scenario.
The public, as well as scientists, express legitimate concern about something. The US government reacts more or less by explaining that it will deliberate on potential courses of action once all the facts are responsibly gathered by experts from government-run agencies. Then and only then, will something possibly be done.
It seems Europe often does things a bit differently. The recent collapse of bee populations world-wide, and the question of what to do about it, offers a fresh example of this. In a May 28 online article, The Guardian (a UK newspaper) published this:
“The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) was asked to perform a risk assessment of the insecticide fipronil [by the European Commission], paying particular regard to the acute and chronic effects on colony survival and development and the effects of sub-lethal doses on bee mortality and behavior.”
The EFSA’s official statement about the result of the study was this:
“The insecticide fipronil poses a high acute risk to honeybees when used as a seed treatment for maize.”
What’s particularly interesting is that Europe has acknowledged for years the scientific evidence which shows that pesticides are causing damage to bees and have acted swiftly and decisively on the matter. Science, plus huge public protests, ultimately culminated in the European Commission (EC) imposing a ban recently on three neonicotinoids, chemicals similar to fipronil. The assumption is that the EC will ban fipronil as well.
While it is obviously a good thing that Europe is taking steps to address the problem, Marco Contiero, Greenpeace EU agriculture policy director, thinks even more should be done. According to The Guardian, Contiero said:
“These pesticides have been building up in our environment for a decade, so limited, temporary bans won’t be enough to give bees a breather. The commission should develop a comprehensive plan for the protection of insect pollinators, starting with a solid ban on fipronil and other bee-harming substances.”
So what sweeping, vigorous action has the US government taken? In the words of The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), as reported by Food Safety News online, this is it:
“The forces impacting honeybee health are complex, and the USDA, our research partners, and key stakeholders will be engaged in addressing this challenge.”
They’ll be engaged in addressing this challenge. Which is to say that there will be no bans.
The Pesticide Action Network of North America, and the Center for Food Safety have both petitioned the EPA to place bans on these dangerous chemicals. Lawsuits against the EPA are pending, as well. Unfortunately, the odds are against the bees.
Dog Feeding an Orphaned Lamb
I found this video on YouTube and just HAD to share it!
I love animals and love learning about animal behavior. So for me, not only is this video adorable, it also raises some fascinating questions. How aware is the dog of what it’s doing- does he understand the concept of feeding, or is he simply copying behavior his owner taught him? Did the owner show the dog how to feed the lamb? It looks to me like the answer is probably a combination of being taught a specific behavior, as well as at least partially understanding what the behavior is for.
I know that animals can make friends with other animals, even of a different species. So does the dog see the lamb as a friend? Or has he “adopted” the orphaned lamb, which has been documented in several cases among various species in zoos and animal shelters. I’d say that the dog probably sees the lamb as a friend/playmate.
Post a comment if you’d like to share your thoughts and theories! I hope this video made you smile!
Endangered Parakeet Population Grows on Predator-Free Island Reserve
“Malherbe’s parakeets are one of the world’s rarest and least-studied birds, with fewer than 300 wild individuals on Earth and a total population of maybe 1,000. Endemic to New Zealand, the birds were only recognized as their own species in 2000 after many decades of being considered a colorful variant of the orange-fronted parakeet (C. auriceps). Unfortunately, the 10 years leading up to that new taxonomic declaration were devastating to Malherbe’s parakeets, as an invasion of rats and stoats took their toll on the tiny (23-centimeter) birds.
Early this century the New Zealand Department of Conservation brought most of the remaining Malherbe’s parakeets into a captive breeding program. Then, in 2007 they started moving some captive-bred birds to Maud Island, a predator-free 320-hectare island that also serves as a nature reserve for other endemic species.”
For more, go to ScientificAmerican.com
Amphibians in U.S. Declining at ‘Alarming and Rapid Rate’
“Why the drop in amphibian species matters: Amphibians control pests, inspire new medicines, feed other animals and help make ecosystems work. They are inherently valued by people of all ages—watching tadpoles and listening to frog calls are some of the most accessible interactions we have with the natural world.”
For more, go to ScientificAmerican.com
Federal Plan Aims to Help Wildlife Adapt to Climate Change
This is just another example of how those who wish to believe that global climate change isn’t happening will keep being proven WRONG. Even the Obama Administration is on board, creating a bold new program to address climate change and its inevitable effects on wildlife. In fact, they’ve been documenting how it’s already happening. Although this article is a few months old, I think it’s still really important to share here.
WASHINGTON, March 27, 2013 — The Obama administration Tuesday announced a nationwide plan to help wildlife adapt to threats from climate change.
Developed along with state and tribal authorities, the strategy seeks to preserve species as global warming alters their historical habitats and, in many cases, forces them to migrate across state and tribal borders.
Over the next five years, the plan establishes priorities for what will probably be a decades-long effort. One key proposal is to create wildlife “corridors” that would let animals and plants move to new habitats. U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Director Daniel M. Ashe said such routes could be made through easements and could total “much more than 1 million acres.” The plan does not provide an estimate of the cost.
The effects of climate change are already apparent, the plan notes. Oyster larvae are struggling off the Northwest coast. In the Atlantic, fish are migrating north and into deeper waters. Geese and ducks do not fly as far south. In the West, bark beetles destroy pines because winters are not cold enough to kill infestations.
The plan, called the National Fish, Wildlife and Plants Climate Adaptation Strategy, does not prioritize species to target, although “the polar bear is the poster child” of wildlife threatened by global warming, Ashe said.
But efforts have already begun to protect wildlife. The lesser prairie chicken in the Great Plains, for instance, also faces threats from mining, oil production, farming and ranching. Climate change models estimate that the chicken’s habitat could undergo a 5-degree Fahrenheit rise in temperature and a drop in precipitation by 2060.
The federal government already pays ranchers and farmers to remove land from production to create wildlife refuges. If native prairie were restored to 10% of that land, according to one analysis, that could offset the prairie chicken’s projected population decline.
Recently, some state-level efforts to adapt to global warming have been stymied by politicians who reject climate science. In North Carolina, for instance, planning to build infrastructure along the coast that could withstand storm surges worsened by sea-level rise has been delayed. State politicians dismissed scientific models that predicted the rise by the end of the century.
But efforts to help wildlife adapt have not provoked a backlash so far, state and administration officials said in a conference call.
“With coastal communities, there are challenges with coral populations, with changing dynamics in fish population,” said Eric Schwaab, assistant administrator for fisheries at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. “So people are less focused on why and more focused on what’s next.”
Truly Amazing Animal Camouflages
The Tawny Frogmouth (Podargus Strigoides) is a type of owl (in case you’ve been trying to spot a frog for a few minutes) native to Australia. Although they are, unsurprisingly, nocturnal, they have developed a sophisticated method of daytime camouflage: they sit still, close their eyes, stretch their neck and compact their feathers, making them look like a broken tree branch. This is used as a defense mechanism, not for hunting, like some of the other entries. Ironically, the biggest threat to the Tawny Frogmouth is their method of hunting. They mainly eat insects, and since they are nocturnal, insects are most visible in lit up areas. Unfortunately, the most lit up area is often directly in front of a moving car, where many of these birds will probably wish they were easier for us to spot.
See this animal and 9 others who almost disappear into their environments using natural camouflage.
Fracking Has Caused Earthquakes
Earthquakes triggered by fluids injected deep underground, such as during the controversial practice of fracking, may be more common than previously thought, a new study suggests.
EXTINCT: Three South Florida Butterfly Species
By Barbara Liston (Reuters) – After six years of searching, an entomologist has concluded that three varieties of butterflies native to south Florida have become extinct, nearly doubling the number of North American butterflies known to be gone.
“These are unique butterflies to Florida. This is our biological treasure. Each unique species that we lose, we won’t ever get that back again,” Marc Minno, who conducted the survey for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the Florida Keys Mosquito Control District, told Reuters on Monday.
The disappearance of butterflies should serve as a warning about the degradation of south Florida’s environment, he said.
“It’s indicating there are major problems, environmental harm to Florida. And this is an indication that quality for people is also degrading and people should be worried about that,” Minno said.
Before Minno’s survey, only four varieties of North American butterflies, all from California, were presumed to be extinct, and the last one added to the list was 55 years ago. Besides the three varieties which Minno concluded are extinct, two more native butterflies no longer exist in Florida but are living in the Caribbean, and two more are heading toward extinction, he said.
What is happening to the Florida butterflies remains an unanswered question. The Schaus’ Swallowtail, found only in the upper Florida Keys, became in 1976 one of the first insects ever given legal protection under the federal Endangered Species Act. Minno said only six of the swallowtails were sighted in 2012.
Scientists began noticing a general decline in the butterfly populations in the 1980s, and Minno, like many scientists, assumed the spraying of pesticides to kill mosquitoes might be at fault. But his survey suggested otherwise.
In urban areas, such as Key West which has little natural habitat remaining and is routinely sprayed, Minno said, “There are so many butterflies flying you can hardly keep track of them all. There are just swarms of butterflies sometimes. You just wonder what the heck is going on. It’s just the opposite of what you would think.”
By contrast, Minno said he found few butterflies in vast conservations lands without mosquito control, such as the million-acre Everglades National Park and Biscayne National Park.
One of his theories is that mosquito spraying might bolster butterfly populations by killing off native and non-native parasitic wasps which feast on butterfly larvae and caterpillars. Another theory is that invasive predatory ants, such as the Mexican twig ant and fire ants, which were introduced to the area in the 1970s and are unrestrained by pesticides in conservation areas, might be overwhelming butterfly populations there.
Minno said the three butterflies that were found only in southern Florida and are now extinct are the Florida Zestos Skipper, the Rockland Meske’s Skipper, and the Keys Zarucco Skipper. In addition, the Bahamian Swallowtails and the Nickerbean Blues are gone from Florida but alive in the Caribbean. Minno also expects the Schaus’ Swallowtail and the Miami Blue, both of which continue to decline despite formal recovery plans, to become extinct soon. Of 120 varieties of butterflies documented in the Keys, Minno said 18 have become imperiled since the 1970s.
Minno said no state, federal or private agency has funded research to find out what is causing the decline. (Editing by Tom Brown and Phil Berlowitz)