The Chinese paddlefish, one of world’s largest fish, has gone extinct

The Chinese paddlefish, one of world’s largest fish, has gone extinct

SOURCE: National Geographic DATE: January 8, 2020 SNIP: The Chinese paddlefish and its close relatives have been around for at least 200 million years. The species, reaching up to 23 feet in length, survived unimaginable changes and upheavals, such as the mass extinction that killed the dinosaurs and marine reptiles like plesiosaurs that it swam alongside. In its time, flowering plants evolved, and came to populate the shores of its ancestral home, the Yangtze River, in modern-day China. Much later, bamboo came on the scene, and well after that, giant pandas. In the last few thousand years, a blink in evolutionary time, the land filled with people, and China became the most populous country on Earth. In the muddy waters of the Yangtze, the paddlefish lived as it had for eons, using its special sword-like snout to sense electrical activity to find prey, such as crustaceans and fish. But there’s one phenomenon this ancient species, sometimes called the “panda of the Yangtze,” could not survive—humans. A new paper published in the Science of the Total Environment concludes that the species has gone extinct, mainly due to overfishing and dam construction. It’s “a reprehensible and an irreparable loss,” says study leader Qiwei Wei of the Chinese Academy of Fishery Sciences, who’s been looking for the animal for decades. “It’s very sad,” adds Zeb Hogan, a fish biologist at the University of Nevada, Reno, and a National Geographic Explorer who wasn’t involved in the study. “It’s the definitive loss of a very unique and extraordinary animal, with no hope of recovery.” Hogan says the paddlefish’s extinction should serve as a wake-up...
World Gone Wrong: an Environmental Diary of 2019

World Gone Wrong: an Environmental Diary of 2019

SOURCE: CounterPunch DATE: January 3, 2020 The ultimate Faster Than Expected (or perhaps Worse Than You Can Possibly Imagine) list to sum up the awfulness of 2019. READ IT! A sampler: + There are fewer North Atlantic Right Whales left in the world than sitting members of Congress. They may well go extinct in our lifetimes. + The Arctic is now warming so quickly that 14,000 tons of melted ice is gushing into the oceans every second. + At least 305 wolves were killed in Montana in 2017-18, nearly 36% of the entire population. Now a pair of bills offering bounties to encourage people to kill even more wolves. + In 2018, USDA’s Wildlife “Services,” mercenaries for Big Ag, killed 22,000 beavers, 515,000 red-winged black birds, 19,000 mourning doves, 17,000 black tailed prairie dogs, 552 great blue herons, 357 wolves, scores of owls and much more. + At least 500,000 Texans live in communities with contaminated ground water. + 45 million gallons: the amount of water Nestle takes each from the San Bernardino National Forest. + $0: the amount of money Nestle pays for taking 45 million gallons of water each year from the San Bernardino National Forest. + By 2070, Joshua Tree National Park won’t have any Joshua trees and Glacier National Park won’t have any glaciers. But there’ll still be cannonballs and headstones at Gettysburg–if they don’t build condos over them + The loss of the reflective cover provided by Arctic Sea will accelerate the pace of global warming by at least 25 years: “Losing the remaining Arctic sea ice and its ability to reflect incoming solar...
‘Silent death’: Australia’s bushfires push countless species to extinction

‘Silent death’: Australia’s bushfires push countless species to extinction

SOURCE: The Guardian DATE: January 3, 2020 SNIP: Close to the Western River on Kangaroo Island, Pat Hodgens had set up cameras to snap the island’s rare dunnart – a tiny mouse-like marsupial that exists nowhere else on the planet. Now, after two fires ripped through the site a few days ago, those cameras – and likely many of the Kangaroo Island dunnarts – are just charred hulks. “It’s gone right through the under storey and that’s where these species live,” said Hodgens, an ecologist at Kangaroo Island Land for Wildlife, a not-for-profit conservation group. “The habitat is decimated.” On Friday afternoon word came through that three other Land for Wildlife sites protecting dunnarts and other endangered species, including the southern brown bandicoot, had also been consumed by fire on the island off the South Australian coast. Prof Sarah Legge, of the Australian National University, said the prognosis for the Kangaroo Island dunnart was “not good” and its plight was symbolic of what was happening all across the east coast of Australia. “Many dozens” of threatened species had been hit hard by the fires, she said. In some cases “almost their entire distribution has been burnt”. So far, the Australian bushfire season has burned through about 5.8m hectares of bush, known across the world for its unique flora and fauna. Ecologists say the months of intense and unprecedented fires will almost certainly push several species to extinction. The fires have pushed back conservation efforts by decades, they say, and, as climate heating grips, some species may never recover. Climate scientists have long warned that rising greenhouse gases will spark...
Water-guzzling demands of Trump’s border wall threaten fish species

Water-guzzling demands of Trump’s border wall threaten fish species

SOURCE: The Guardian DATE: December 29, 2019 SNIP: The survival of eight endangered and threatened species, including four kinds of endemic fish, is in doubt in Arizona, as massive quantities of groundwater are extracted to construct Donald Trump’s border wall. The 30ft-high barrier is under construction on the edge of the San Bernardino national wildlife refuge in south-eastern Arizona, where rare desert springs and crystalline streams provide the only US habitat for the endangered freshwater Río Yaqui fish. The region’s water reserves are already depleted due to prolonged drought and record high temperatures linked to the climate crisis. The expansion of water-intensive crops such as alfalfa and pecan farms is also draining aquifers in the arid region. Now, experts fear that construction of this 20-mile stretch of Trump’s wall, which began in October, has reduced spring flow and groundwater levels in San Bernardino which provide scarce habitat for the Yaqui topminnow, chub, beautiful shiner and the most vulnerable, the Yaqui catfish. “There’s good reason to believe that the Yaqui fish’s only US habitat is drying up as a result of tens or hundreds of thousands of gallons of groundwater being pumped to build the border wall,” said Laiken Jordahl, a borderlands campaigner with the Center for Biological Diversity who recently visited the area. In September, the Trump administration pledged to erect 450 to 500 miles of the wall by the end of 2020, an ambitious undertaking to be partially funded by $6bn previously earmarked for defense and counter-drug programmes. Construction in Arizona and New Mexico is under way, despite multiple ongoing lawsuits challenging the constitutional basis of Trump’s executive...
500 million animals lost in Australian bushfires in 2019

500 million animals lost in Australian bushfires in 2019

SOURCE: Sydney News & Life DATE: December 28, 2019 SNIP: The true cost of the bushfires on the Australian environment and ecology is only just coming to light. Ecologists from the University of Sydney now estimate some 480 million mammals, birds & reptiles have been lost by the devastating bushfires in 2019. There are now fears entire species of animals and plant life may be lost forever, with scientists moving to understand the full scope of destruction. The estimates include some 8,000 koalas lost in the flames. About 30% of the entire koala population of NSW’s mid-north coast region has perished. There were only 28,000 koalas in the entire region before the fires began. The mortality rate of koalas from these fires has been particularly high. According to Mark Graham, an ecologist with the Nature Conservation Council, koalas “have no capacity to move fast enough to get away” from fires that spread from treetop to treetop. “The fires have burnt so hot and so fast that there has been significant mortality of animals in the trees, but there is such a big area now that is still on fire and still burning that we will probably never find the bodies,” Mr Graham told a New South Wales parliamentary inquiry earlier this month. Large areas of bush land surrounding Sydney, including beloved national parks and areas containing rare and endangered species, have also been lost. In the Blue Mountains, 50% of heritage reserves have been lost in November and December alone. The UNESCO World Heritage Listed region is home to highly endangered species, including a shrub called the Kowmung hakea,...