Third of Wales’ birds are in decline

Third of Wales’ birds are in decline

SOURCE: Bird Guides

DATE: December 30, 2018

SNIP: A major report has found that one in three species of bird is in significant decline in Wales. The State of Birds in Wales study found farmland and woodland species were especially vulnerable, with the researchers identifying loss of habitat and climate change while urging urgent conservation action.

Patrick Lindley, Senior Ornithologist at Natural Resources Wales (NRW), said: “When we look at conservation urgency, we’ve probably never seen the like of this before in terms of what we need to do. It’s startling.”

Notable declines in the report included the extinction of breeding populations of Common Nightingale, Corn Bunting and Eurasian Dotterel. Common Starling declined by a massive 72 per cent between 1995 and 2016. Many threatened species that rely on farmland and moor habitat have also seen numbers crash: Black Grouse declined by 68 per cent, Red Grouse by 45 per cent, Northern Lapwing 46 per cent and Eurasian Curlew 39 per cent.

Neil Lambert, Head of Conservation Management for RSPB Cymru said: “With 90 per cent of Wales farmed, agricultural practices have a huge impact on birds and other wildlife.”

The Trump Administration’s War on Wildlife Should Be a Scandal

The Trump Administration’s War on Wildlife Should Be a Scandal

SOURCE: NY Intelligencer

DATE: December 29, 2018

SNIP: The Trump administration’s policies are leading to wholesale destruction of certain birds and other wildlife. This fact has escaped most public notice amid the broader damage the Cabinet is causing to the environment. Among other measures, the regulatory agencies have been working to lift protections on endangered animals, open up vast animal habitats for drilling, encourage more trophy-hunting, and repress treatment standards for farm animals.

Read the article for a long list of the egregious ways the administration is killing wildlife. Just one of many examples:

To Greenberger and other bird-rights advocates, the most galling development is the dropping of penalties for recklessly endangering birds out in the wild. Greenberger said the Migratory Bird Treaty Act, on the books since 1918, is responsible for all kinds of protective measures at sites around the country. It’s a reason companies often put blinking lights on their towers, or place nets over oil pits: so that birds won’t fly into them and die, triggering corporate fines. But in the spring, Interior announced companies won’t be held responsible anymore, so long as killing birds isn’t the culprit’s primary goal.

To clarify, the department sent around a memo with some rather grotesque examples. Say, for instance, someone wants to burn down a barn that happens to be full of owls. So long as the deaths of the owls are merely collateral damage and not the purpose of setting the farm on fire, they won’t be subject to fines. “All that is relevant,” the memo reads, “is that the landowner undertook an action that did not have the killing of barn owls as its purpose” — a startling conclusion from the standpoint of legal theory alone.

Pinal County is about to use a lot more groundwater. And, yes, that’s as bad as it sounds

Pinal County is about to use a lot more groundwater. And, yes, that’s as bad as it sounds

SOURCE: AZ Central

DATE: December 28, 2018

SNIP: Farmers agreed in 2004 to give up their Ag Pool allotment by 2030. They began formulating a plan to use more groundwater but thought they’d still be able to supplement what they pump with other pools of Colorado River water. This water would become more expensive, the thinking went, but it would still be available.

That reality has changed – and rapidly so.

The Ag Pool water – and other sources farmers had hoped would lessen their reliance on groundwater – will evaporate under the proposed Lower Basin Drought Contingency Plan (DCP) once a shortage is declared on Lake Mead, likely in 2020.

That’s a decade earlier than farmers had expected.

There are demands for water that didn’t exist in the 1980s and a sole pot to fill them all.

Conflicts are sure to arise.

What’s more, farmers in the major irrigation districts say they are planning to fallow about 40 percent of their land in the short term to handle these sudden water cuts. The dust is sure to cause air-quality issues, though no one is sure to what extent.

It’s also likely that Pinal County will take a revenue hit, because unused land has less value than what’s farmed (and therefore would pay less in taxes). It would be even worse if fallowed land ends up in foreclosure, because then no taxes would be collected.

[It’s well worth reading the whole article. This is just a hint at the water wars in our future we are rapidly heading towards.]

Seabirds Abandon Eggs After Winter Without Ice

Seabirds Abandon Eggs After Winter Without Ice

SOURCE: Inside Science

DATE: December 28, 2019

SNIP: Each winter, sleek seabirds known as Mandt’s black guillemots descend on the ice that forms over the Bering Sea between Alaska and Russia. They spend the season diving under the ice to catch Arctic cod and resting on the frozen surface. But last winter, ice in the Bering sea was at record lows, forming later and melting far sooner than usual.

According to ornithologist George Divoky, this loss of winter sea ice could be “the final nail in the coffin” for a colony of birds already struggling with other aspects of climate change.

The breeding colony in question is located on Cooper Island off the north coast of Alaska, and Divoky has been studying it for 44 years. Twenty-eight percent of the birds that left in the fall of 2017 never returned to the island — the highest apparent overwinter mortality ever documented for the colony, up from around 10 percent in a typical year. And while hundreds of guillemots raised chicks on the island in past decades, only 50 pairs laid eggs this year. Half of those clutches were never incubated.

“I would see a pair on the nest site, and I would go, ‘wait a minute, you guys have eggs.’ And I’d open the [nest box], and the eggs would be cold,” said Divoky. He described it as a “mass egg abandonment” — something he had never seen before. He presented the findings earlier this month at the American Geophysical Union meeting in Washington.

Majority of glaciers in Western Canada will likely disappear in next 50 years

Majority of glaciers in Western Canada will likely disappear in next 50 years

SOURCE: CTV News

DATE: December 27, 2018

SNIP: Climate change is prompting glaciers in British Columbia, Yukon and Alberta to retreat faster than at any time in history, threatening to raise water levels and create deserts, scientists say.

David Hik, an ecology professor at Simon Fraser University, said the region is one of the hotspots for warming and the magnitude of change in the glaciers is dramatic.

Probably 80 per cent of the mountain glaciers in Alberta and B.C. will disappear in the next 50 years,” he said.

The Peyto Glacier in the Rocky Mountains and part of Banff National Park has lost about 70 per cent of its mass in the last 50 years, Hik said.

While the melt increases water levels and sets off coastal erosion and flooding, it also causes dry areas and dust bowls.

As glaciers recede, more water flows downhill, but the further the ice sheets retreat, the less water there is to go down stream and soon the area begins to dry.

The melt also changes the way water flows and where it accumulates, creating lakes, wetlands or desert-like conditions.

Outside of the ice sheets of Antarctica and Greenland, Canada has more glacier cover than any other nation.

Australia’s extreme heatwave spans five states with high of 49C forecast

Australia’s extreme heatwave spans five states with high of 49C forecast

SOURCE: The Guardian

DATE: December 26, 2018

SNIP: Australia’s post-Christmas heatwave continues to sweep across the country, with a near record-breaking 49C forecast for Western Australia, and fire danger, health and air quality warnings issued across the nation.

On Thursday morning, the bureau of meteorology forecast a scorching 49C maximum for Marble Bar and Pannawonica in the Pilbara region of WA – only 2 degrees below the highest temperature ever recorded in Australia, which is 50.7C at South Australia’s Oodnadatta airport in 1960.

The extreme heat is stretching across WA, SA, Victoria, New South Wales and parts of central Queensland. Temperatures in the south are 10C to 14C higher than average, the bureau said on Wednesday.

A ‘Gold Rush’ at The Bottom of The Ocean Could Be The Final Straw For Ecosystems

A ‘Gold Rush’ at The Bottom of The Ocean Could Be The Final Straw For Ecosystems

SOURCE: Science Alert and Frontiers in Marine Science

DATE: December 22, 2018

SNIP: As the world’s population scales to ever-greater heights, a growing demand for resources is driving humans to new lows.

Commercial seabed mining seems imminent, highlighting the urgent need for coherent, effective policy to safeguard the marine environment.

The three main seabed mineral resources of interest are cobalt-rich crusts, manganese nodules and seafloor massive sulfides. Within continental shelf areas, additional resources include phosphorites, ironsands and diamonds. No commercial deep seabed mining has yet taken place, but Nautilus Minerals and Diamond Fields International have obtained permits to extract minerals in the Bismarck Sea and Red Sea, respectively.

Researchers at the University of Exeter and Greenpeace are now warning that a deep sea “gold rush” for minerals and metals could wind up causing irreversible damage to what are already fragile ocean ecosystems.

“Many marine scientists are concerned that, once the first commercial contract for mining is issued, there will be no going back,” says co-author Kathryn Miller, a researcher at Greenpeace International.

The losses, the authors say, will be on a scale so great that much of this will be practically irreversible. Even if we wanted to, it would be expensive and extremely difficult, if not impossible, for these fragile areas to fully recover.

Melting Arctic ice is now pouring 14,000 tons of water per second into the ocean, scientists find

Melting Arctic ice is now pouring 14,000 tons of water per second into the ocean, scientists find

SOURCE: The Washington Post

DATE: December 21, 2018

SNIP: A new scientific survey has found that the glaciers of the Arctic are the world’s biggest contributors to rising seas, shedding ice at an accelerating rate that now adds well over a millimeter to the level of the ocean every year.

That is considerably more ice melt than Antarctica is contributing, even though the Antarctic contains far more ice. Still, driven by glacier clusters in Alaska, Canada and Russia and the vast ice sheet of Greenland, the fast-warming Arctic is outstripping the entire ice continent to the south — for now.

However, the biggest problem is that both ice regions appear to be accelerating their losses simultaneously — suggesting that we could be in for an even faster rate of sea-level rise in future decades.

For Arctic ice loss, “the rate has tripled since 1986,” said Jason Box, first author of the new study and a scientist at the Geological Survey of Denmark and Greenland. “So it clearly shows an acceleration of the sea-level contribution.”

The total Arctic loss at present is 447 billion tons of ice per year — which Box calculated is about 14,000 tons of water per second. That’s for the period between 2005 and 2015. Between 1986 and 2005, the loss is calculated at around 5,000 tons per second — therefore, the rate has almost tripled.

An unexpected side effect of drought: Higher carbon emissions

An unexpected side effect of drought: Higher carbon emissions

SOURCE: National Geographic

DATE: December 21, 2018

SNIP: During the darkest days of the drought that has gripped the western U.S. since the early 2000s, fires raged and crops withered. Dust storms rolled across plains and valleys. And rivers shriveled from north to south.

But the drought had less obvious effects on climate and the environment, too: Low river flows drastically hampered the amount of carbon-free electricity [sic] that could be produced by the thousands of hydroelectric power plants dotted along rivers and reservoirs across the West.

If energy utilities can’t get the power they need from hydroelectric sources, they have to fill that gap with something else. Most of the time, the researchers found, the utilities fell back on carbon-emitting sources like natural gas and coal to fill their power needs.

Now, a group of researchers has done the carbon math to see how big that effect was. They figured out that an extra 100 megatons of carbon ended up in the atmosphere because utilities had to use carbon-emitting power sources instead of hydroelectric power during drought, added up over the 15 years they studied. That’s the equivalent of adding about 1.4 million cars to the road for every one of those years.

“Droughts are going to get worse, and that could mean more natural gas and coal being burned,” says Peter Gleick, a water expert at the Pacific Institute, a research organization in Oakland.

Related: Hydroelectric dams emit a billion tonnes of greenhouse gases a year, study finds

Marine life worse off inside ‘protected’ areas, analysis reveals

Marine life worse off inside ‘protected’ areas, analysis reveals

SOURCE: The Guardian

DATE: December 20, 2018

SNIP: Destructive trawling is more intense inside official marine sanctuaries, while endangered fish are more common outside them, a startling analysis of Europe’s seas has revealed.

It shows that far from conserving sealife, many legal marine protected areas (MPAs) are being damaged by industrial fishing. The work has exposed “the big lie” behind European marine conservation, experts say, with most MPAs completely open to trawling.

The researchers were able to assess the activity of fishing vessels in great detail thanks to satellite tracking equipment that is now compulsory on ships.

This revealed that commercial trawling activity was on average almost 40% higher inside MPAs than in unprotected areas. Furthermore, endangered and critically endangered fish species such as sharks and rays were five times more abundant outside the MPAs.

Prof Callum Roberts, at the University of York, UK, who was not part of the research, said: “This compelling study reveals the big lie behind European marine conservation. To be effective, all MPAs should be protected from trawling and dredging at a minimum, and many of them should prohibit all fishing.”

The reason for MPAs being worse at conserving marine life than unprotected areas may be because the MPAs cover those parts of the sea that are richest in fish, which are the same places that fishing vessels target with little if any restriction.

A quarter of the UK’s waters are covered by 300 MPAs, but Roberts said just 1% of the area was protected from the most destructive fishing methods – bottom trawling and dredging, in which gear is dragged across the seabed.