Koalas ‘Functionally Extinct’ After Australia Bushfires Destroy 80% Of Their Habitat

Koalas ‘Functionally Extinct’ After Australia Bushfires Destroy 80% Of Their Habitat

SOURCE: Forbes DATE: November 23, 2019 SNIP: As Australia experiences record-breaking drought and bushfires, koala populations have dwindled along with their habitat, leaving them “functionally extinct.” The chairman of the Australian Koala Foundation, Deborah Tabart, estimates that over 1,000 koalas have been killed from the fires and that 80 percent of their habitat has been destroyed [Ed Note: after humans already destroyed much of it]. Recent bushfires, along with prolonged drought and deforestation has led to koalas becoming “functionally extinct” according to experts. Functional extinction is when a population becomes so limited that they no longer play a significant role in their ecosystem and the population becomes no longer viable. While some individuals could produce, the limited number of koalas makes the long-term viability of the species unlikely and highly susceptible to disease. Deforestation and bushfires destroy the main nutrient source of koalas, the eucalyptus tree. An adult koala will eat up to 2 pounds of eucalyptus leaves per day as it’s main staple of nutrients. While eucalyptus plants will grow back after a fire, it will take months, leaving no suitable food source for koalas and starvation a likely scenario for many. Many are urging the Australian government to enact the Koala Protection Act, written in 2016 but never passed into law and molded after the Bald Eagle Protection Act in the U.S. The Koala Protection Act would work to protect habitats and trees vital to koalas as well as protect koalas from...
Ocean acidification can cause mass extinctions, fossils reveal

Ocean acidification can cause mass extinctions, fossils reveal

SOURCE: The Guardian DATE: October 21, 2019 SNIP: Ocean acidification can cause the mass extinction of marine life, fossil evidence from 66m years ago has revealed. A key impact of today’s climate crisis is that seas are again getting more acidic, as they absorb carbon emissions from the burning of coal, oil and gas. Scientists said the latest research is a warning that humanity is risking potential “ecological collapse” in the oceans, which produce half the oxygen we breathe. The researchers analysed small seashells in sediment laid down shortly after a giant meteorite hit the Earth, wiping out the dinosaurs and three-quarters of marine species. Chemical analysis of the shells showed a sharp drop in the pH of the ocean in the century to the millennium after the strike. This spike demonstrated it was the meteorite impact that made the ocean more acidic, effectively dissolving the chalky shells of many species. Large-scale volcanic activity was also considered a possible culprit, but this occurred over a much longer period. The oceans acidified because the meteorite impact vaporised rocks containing sulphates and carbonates, causing sulphuric acid and carbonic acid to rain down. The mass die-off of plants on land after the strike also increased CO2 in the atmosphere. The researchers found that the pH dropped by 0.25 pH units in the 100-1,000 years after the strike. It is possible that there was an even bigger drop in pH in the decade or two after the strike and the scientists are examining other sediments in even finer detail. Michael Henehan at the GFZ German research centre for geosciences in Potsdam said: “If...
Climate Change Threatens Hundreds of North American Bird Species: “It’s a Bird Emergency”

Climate Change Threatens Hundreds of North American Bird Species: “It’s a Bird Emergency”

SOURCE: Yale e360 DATE: October 10, 2019 SNIP: Two-thirds of bird species in North America are at risk of extinction if global temperatures continue to rise, according to a new report from scientists at the Audubon Society. A total of 389 species, out of 604 studied, could experience declines in their populations as a result of warmer temperatures, higher seas, loss of habitat, and extreme weather, all driven by climate change. Among those birds most at-risk are the greater sage grouse, Baltimore oriole, common loon, and the wood thrush. The new study comes less than a month after research found the United States and Canada have lost 3 billion birds since 1970, equal to losing one out of every four birds. “Birds are important indicator species, because if an ecosystem is broken for birds, it is or soon will be for people too,” Brooke Bateman, the senior climate scientist for the National Audubon Society, said in a statement. Scientists analyzed 140 million bird records from more than 70 sources in Canada, the U.S., and Mexico, including field sightings from citizen science projects, to produce the report. They found that 64 percent of North American bird species are at risk of extinction if global temperatures increase 3 degrees Celsius. That dropped to 54 percent with 2 degrees C of warming, and 40 percent, or 241 species, if nations could hold global warming to 1.5 degrees C — the Paris Agreement target. “Keeping global temperatures down will help up to 76 percent of [species],” said David Yarnold, CEO and president of Audubon. “There’s hope in this report, but first, it’ll break...
Seven new species appear for first time on list of world’s 25 most endangered primates

Seven new species appear for first time on list of world’s 25 most endangered primates

SOURCE: The London Economic DATE: October 7, 2019 SNIP: SEVEN new species have appeared for the first time on the world’s 25 most endangered primates list – including western Chimpanzees and the super-rare Skywalker hoolock gibbon. The bleak report, named ‘Primates In Peril: The World’s 25 Most Endangered Primates 2018-2020’, warns that many of the world’s primates are on the brink of extinction and need urgent help. A shocking seven species have never before appeared on the list – but their rapidly dwindling numbers are as low as just a few hundred individuals in the wild. The small, black Skywalker hoolock gibbon – named after popular sci-fi film series Star Wars – numbers just 150 in the wild. And one of the most imperiled primates on the list is the Tapanuli orangutan from Sumatra, Indonesia – the first great ape identified since the bonobo from the D.R.C. in 1929. The endangered orangutan was only identified in 2017, but is one of the world’s most threatened primates, numbering less than 800 in the wild. The new research has been compiled by conservationists from Bristol Zoological Society. The Primate Specialist Group of the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), the International Primatological Society (IPS), and Global Wildlife Conservation (GWC) also partnered with the zoo for the report. Dr Russell Mittermeier, chief conservation officer of GWC, said: “If you took all the remaining individuals of the 25 Most Endangered Primates list, you wouldn’t fill the seating of a large football stadium.” Across the globe, 69 per cent of the total 704 primate species and subspecies are considered threatened, the report shows....
Birdwatchers concerned by delayed arrival of migratory short-tailed shearwaters in Victoria

Birdwatchers concerned by delayed arrival of migratory short-tailed shearwaters in Victoria

SOURCE: ABC News (Australia) DATE: October 4, 2019 SNIP: Birdwatchers fear for the fate of thousands of short-tailed shearwaters, also known as mutton birds, which failed to arrive in south-west Victoria at the usual time after their annual migration from the northern hemisphere. Each year, hundreds of thousands of short-tailed shearwaters descend on Victoria’s coastline to breed following a mammoth journey which takes two months to complete. The birds spend the northern summer around Alaska, before travelling 15,000 kilometres to Australia where they arrive with precision. For the past 30 years, the south-west Victorian population has arrived at Griffiths Island, near Port Fairy, a day either side of September 22. But this year, the date came and went without the usual flurry of activity. Peter Barrand, president of Birdlife Warrnambool, said he had basically set his watch by the shearwaters’ arrival for the past three decades. “We couldn’t find any at first, but further investigation found there were small numbers coming in. “For a colony that’s something like 40,000 strong — a handful of birds is a significant decline. A spokesperson for Victoria’s Environment Department said short-tailed shearwaters typically returned to colonies at Port Fairy and Port Campbell in late September to early October, but so far, only small numbers of birds had been sighted at either location. It said the possible causes were unknown, but there were several factors that could have delayed the birds’ arrival, such as climate variability and food availability in the northern hemisphere. “Something’s obviously gone drastically wrong in the arctic — whatever the shearwaters have been feeding on has failed to appear,” Mr...