Hundreds of elephants dead in mysterious mass die-off

Hundreds of elephants dead in mysterious mass die-off

SOURCE: The Guardian DATE: July 1, 2020 SNIP: More than 350 elephants have died in northern Botswana in a mysterious mass die-off described by scientists as a “conservation disaster”. A cluster of elephant deaths was first reported in the Okavango Delta in early May, with 169 individuals dead by the end of the month. By mid June, the number had more than doubled, with 70% of the deaths clustered around waterholes, according to local sources who wish to remain anonymous. “This is a mass die-off on a level that hasn’t been seen in a very, very long time. Outside of drought, I don’t know of a die-off that has been this significant,” said Dr Niall McCann, the director of conservation at UK-based charity National Park Rescue. The Botswana government has not yet tested samples so there is no information on what is causing the deaths or whether they could pose a risk to human health. The two main possibilities are poisoning or an unknown pathogen. Anthrax – initially considered the most likely cause – has been ruled out. McCann said: “When we’ve got a mass die-off of elephants near human habitation at a time when wildlife disease is very much at the forefront of everyone’s minds, it seems extraordinary that the government has not sent the samples to a reputable lab.” Local witnesses say some elephants were seen walking around in circles, which is an indication of neurological impairment. “If you look at the carcasses, some of them have fallen straight on their face, indicating they died very quickly. Others are obviously dying more slowly, like the ones that...
Global warming will cause ecosystems to produce more methane than first predicted

Global warming will cause ecosystems to produce more methane than first predicted

SOURCE: University of London, Nature Climate Change DATE: June 29, 2020 SNIP: New research suggests that as the Earth warms natural ecosystems will release more of the greenhouse gas methane than expected from predictions based on temperature increases alone. The study, published today in Nature Climate Change, attributes this difference to changes in the balance of microbial communities within ecosystems that regulate methane emissions. The production and removal of methane from ecosystems is regulated by two types of microorganisms, methanogens – which naturally produce methane – and methanotrophs that remove methane by converting it into carbon dioxide. Previous research has suggested that these two natural processes show different sensitivities to temperature and could therefore be affected differently by global warming. Research led by Queen Mary University of London and the University of Warwick studied the impact of global warming on freshwater microbial communities and methane emissions by observing the effect of experimental warming of artificial ponds over 11 years. They found that warming produced a disproportionate increase in methane production over methane removal, resulting in increased methane emissions that exceeded temperature-based predictions. Professor Mark Trimmer, Professor of Biogeochemistry at Queen Mary, said: “Our observations show that the increase in methane emissions we see is beyond what you could predict based on a simple physiological response to the temperature increase.” Dr Kevin Purdy, Associate Professor of Microbial Ecology at Warwick, added: “Our studies have led to a better understanding of how global warming can affect methane emissions from freshwaters. This means that future predictions of methane emissions need to take into account how ecosystems and their resident microbial communities will...
Russian mining giant admits pumping wastewater into Arctic tundra

Russian mining giant admits pumping wastewater into Arctic tundra

SOURCE: The Guardian DATE: June 28, 2020 SNIP: A Russian mining giant said on Sunday it had suspended workers at a metals plant who were responsible for pumping wastewater into nearby Arctic tundra. Independent newspaper Novaya Gazeta published videos from the scene showing large metal pipes carrying wastewater from the reservoir and dumping foaming liquid among nearby trees. A source told Interfax news agency on Sunday that about 6,000 cubic metres of liquid used to process minerals at the facility had been dumped, and that the discharge had lasted “several hours”. It was impossible to determine how far the wastewater had dispersed, the source said. Norilsk Nickel cited a “flagrant violation of operating rules” in a statement announcing it had suspended employees responsible for dumping wastewater from a dangerously full reservoir into the natural environment. The incident occurred at the Talnakh enrichment plant near the Arctic city of Norilsk, the company said. It comes a month an unprecedented fuel leak at one of the company’s subsidiary plants near Norilsk saw President Vladimir Putin declare a state of emergency. More than 21,000 tonnes of diesel leaked from a fuel storage tank, with the fuel seeping into the soil and dying nearby waterways bright red. The Novaya Gazeta journalists reported the factory funnelled the wastewater into wildlife areas and hastily removed their pipes when investigators and emergency services arrived on the...
Trump Plan Would Open Huge Area of Alaska’s National Petroleum Reserve to Drilling

Trump Plan Would Open Huge Area of Alaska’s National Petroleum Reserve to Drilling

SOURCE: Inside Climate News DATE: June 26, 2020 SNIP: Along the northern edge of Alaska, millions of square miles of land are home to countless animal species—hundreds of thousands of caribou, scores of threatened bird species, polar bears and more. This isn’t the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, although the same is true there. It’s the National Petroleum Reserve-Alaska, a few hundred miles west of the refuge, and some of its most ecologically sensitive lands may soon be open for business to the oil industry. Since early in the Trump administration, the U.S. Interior Department has sought to open new areas of the NPR-A to drilling, including the area around Teshekpuk Lake, a region that has long been considered too ecologically sensitive for drilling. “Teshekpuk Lake is the feeding and calving grounds of our caribou, geese, fish we depend on for survival,” said Martha Itta, the tribal administrator of the Native Village of Nuiqsut, which is adjacent to the reserve. “Drilling in the Teshekpuk area would be devastating to our people. We will no longer be able to hunt being surrounded by industry. We will go hungry.” Earlier this year, the Trump administration released a plan for drilling in part of the Alaskan Arctic that provided a range of options. A few of them expanded the area allowed for drilling, but only slightly. One, called Alternative D, opened up almost all of the region—including Teshekpuk Lake. On Thursday, the Bureau of Land Management released its final environmental review and announced which option it preferred: Alternative D, plus 300,000 acres. The plan would make a total of roughly 6.8 million acres...
China’s Three Gorges Dam, Largest in World, In Danger of Collapse After Worst Floods in 70 Years

China’s Three Gorges Dam, Largest in World, In Danger of Collapse After Worst Floods in 70 Years

SOURCE: Breaking Israel News DATE: June 26, 2020 SNIP: Weeks of heavy rain have put the Three Gorges Dam, the largest hydropower project in the world, in danger of collapse putting 400 million people at risk. The flooding has been described as the worst since 1949 with natural disasters being declared in 24 provinces and municipalities in the southwest and central China, especially in areas near the upper reaches of the Yangtze River and the Three Gorges Dam, causing the reservoir’s water level to exceed the flood control line. The water level in China’s massive Three Gorges Reservoir reached 147 meters on Saturday, two meters above the flood warning line. Meanwhile, the inflow increased to 26,500 cubic meters per second from 20,500 cubic meters per second on the previous day. An estimated 400 million people live downstream of the Three Gorges Dam. The Ministry of Water Resources said that 148 rivers had exceeded warning levels. For the first time in history the Chongqing section of the Qijiang River Basin issued a red warning, signifying a flood of more than 10 meters. More than 40,000 people have so far been evacuated. Made of concrete and steel, the dam is 7,661 feet long and the concrete dam wall is 594 feet high above the rock basis. The dam caused considerable controversy when it was built, displacing over a million people and submerging large areas of the Qutang, Wu and Xiling gorges for about 600km. The dam flooded archaeological and cultural sites and caused significant ecological changes including an increased risk of landslides. The dam has been controversial both domestically and abroad...
B.C. First Nations say sea lice spreading from fish farms to wild salmon

B.C. First Nations say sea lice spreading from fish farms to wild salmon

SOURCE: CTV News DATE: June 26, 2020 SNIP: The First Nations Leadership Council (FNLC), which represents First Nations from across the province, is calling for an end to open net-pen salmon farming in B.C. The FNLC says that among its chief concerns is that farmed salmon may be spreading sea lice to salmon stocks throughout B.C.’s waters, which is lethal to juvenile wild salmon. While the leadership council acknowledges that there are other contributing factors to a decline in salmon stocks over the past several years, the FNLC cites a study conducted by the Cohen Commission which recommends shutting down net-pen fish farms in the Discovery Islands if they pose a health risk to wild salmon. The DFO says that if net-pen salmon farms in the Discovery Islands are scientifically proven to “pose more than a minimal risk of serious harm” to wild fish stocks, then fish farms in the area will be required to close. The FNLC says that now is the time for the DFO to take action, as a recent report published by fish farm companies Mowi, Cermaq and Grieg suggest that sea lice is now appearing in farmed salmon at rates that exceed limits imposed by the government. “We have known for years that open net-pen salmon farming is one of the main contributors to the massive decline in wild salmon stocks in this province,” said BC Assembly of First Nations Regional Chief Terry Teegee. “The federal and provincial governments have been taking a piecemeal approach to this problem, with long timeframes for transition to closed containment pens, and only in a few places. We...