52 Percent of World’s Birds of Prey Populations in Decline

52 Percent of World’s Birds of Prey Populations in Decline

SOURCE: EcoWatch DATE: September 11, 2018 SNIP: Grim news for the world’s raptors—an iconic group of birds consisting of hawks, falcons, kites, eagles, vultures and owls. After analyzing the status of all 557 raptor species, biologists discovered that 18 percent of these birds are threatened with extinction and 52 percent have declining global populations, making them more threatened than all birds as a whole. Comparatively, 40 percent of the world’s 11,000 bird species are in decline, according to an April report from BirdLife International. Unfortunately, human activities are one of the main reasons behind the decline. Threats include habitat alteration or destruction, intentional killing, intentional and unintentional poisoning, electrocution and climate change, the research shows. Although raptors are at the top of the food chain, they reproduce slower than many other birds, meaning they are “more sensitive to threats caused by humans and are more likely to go extinct,” Sarah Schulwitz, director of the American Kestrel Partnership at The Peregrine Fund,...
Eight bird species are first confirmed avian extinctions this decade

Eight bird species are first confirmed avian extinctions this decade

SOURCE: The Guardian DATE: September 4, 2018 SNIP: Spix’s macaw, a brilliant blue species of Brazilian parrot that starred in the children’s animation Rio, has become extinct this century, according to a new assessment of endangered birds. The macaw is one of eight species, including the poo-uli, the Pernambuco pygmy-owl and the cryptic treehunter, that can be added to the growing list of confirmed or highly likely extinctions, according to a new statistical analysis by BirdLife International. Historically, most bird extinctions have been small-island species vulnerable to hunting or invasive species but five of these new extinctions have occurred in South America and are attributed by scientists to deforestation. Stuart Butchart, BirdLife International’s chief scientist, said the new study highlighted that an extinction crisis was now unfolding on large continents, driven by human habitat destruction. “Our evidence shows there is a growing wave of extinctions washing over the continent driven by habitat loss from unsustainable agriculture, drainage and logging.” More than 26,000 of the world’s species are now threatened, according to the latest “red list” assessment, with scientists warning that humans are driving a sixth great extinction...
North of Lake Tahoe, the pika has gone locally extinct

North of Lake Tahoe, the pika has gone locally extinct

SOURCE: Yale Climate Connections DATE: January 26, 2018 SNIP: The region north of Lake Tahoe, California used to provide the perfect habitat for a cute, rabbit-like critter called a pika. But not anymore. Stewart: “Pikas have gone locally extinct within that area.” That’s Joseph Stewart at the University of California-Santa Cruz. For the last several years, he’s searched a 64 square mile area, looking for signs of Pikas and finding none. Stewart: “It’s the largest area of pika extirpation documented in in the modern era.” He says global warming is to blame. Pikas are adapted for the cold, with high metabolisms and thick fur covering them from the bottoms of their feet to the insides of their ears. Stewart: “These same adaptations that allow them to survive during the wintertime also make them very vulnerable to overheating in the summertime.” So as summers get warmer, pikas spend more time hiding underground to escape the heat and less time foraging for the food that keeps them alive through the...
Strange Weather Triggered Bacteria That Killed 200,000 Endangered Antelope

Strange Weather Triggered Bacteria That Killed 200,000 Endangered Antelope

SOURCE: NPR DATE: January 17, 2018 SNIP: Over the span of three weeks in 2015, more than 200,000 saiga antelope suddenly died in central Kazakhstan. Scientists knew that bacteria called Pasteurella multocida type B caused the mass death. Now, new research suggests that the bacteria was already present in the animals; it was triggered and became harmful because of a period of unusual weather. Richard Kock, a professor of Wildlife Health and Emerging Diseases at The Royal Veterinary College, witnessed the “rapidly accelerating death.” “You went from one or two animals to within three or four days — thousands. And then they were all dead by the seventh day,” Kock tells NPR. “The animals were showing normal behavior, normal signs, normal grazing and then suddenly they’d start looking a little bit unhappy and stop feeding. Within about three hours they were dead.” But the bacteria alone were not enough to explain the mass fatalities, which only 30,000 of the area’s critically endangered saigas survived. In a paper published today in Science Advances, the scientists say that they believe “virtually 100 percent of adults” already had the organism present in their bodies. An environmental factor must have triggered the bacteria to proliferate and kill these animals at the same time. The culprit, Kock says, is a period of unusual heat and humidity in the ten days leading up to the mass death. And while they are now recovering and breed quickly, it’s not clear whether they could survive another event like this. “If we get a similar event, and all the animals are within a sort of weather envelope, it...
Victorian logging could trigger ecosystem collapse, researchers say

Victorian logging could trigger ecosystem collapse, researchers say

SOURCE: The Guardian DATE: November 30, 2017 SNIP: Decades of unsustainable logging has created an “extinction debt” in Victoria’s central highlands that will trigger an ecosystem-wide collapse within 50 years without urgent intervention from the state government, ecologists have warned. According to modelling produced by Australian National University researchers Dr Emma Burns and Prof David Lindenmayer, there is a 92% chance the mountain ash forests will not be able to support its current ecosystem of arboreal animals, like the critically endangered leadbeater’s possum, by 2067. If current logging practices continue, or if the forests experience another Black Saturday level bushfire, the likelihood of collapse approaches 100%. [T]he problem is the product of historical logging practices and that no amount of future logging is compatible with the ecosystem’s...