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...
Meat eaters are destroying the planet, says report

Meat eaters are destroying the planet, says report

SOURCE: The Independent DATE: October 5, 2017 SNIP: Meat consumption is devastating some of the world’s most valuable and vulnerable regions, due to the vast amount of land needed to produce animal feed, a report has warned. The growing popularity of a Western diet, which contains high levels of meat and dairy, means an area 1.5 times the size of the European Union would be saved if global consumption of animal products was reduced to meet nutritional requirements, according to the WWF. The new report, Appetite for Destruction, launched at the Extinction and Livestock Conference, says the consumption of animal products is leading to a vast and increasing amount of land being used for crops. This is threatening areas including the Amazon, Congo Basin and the Himalayas, where water and land resources are already under significant pressure, the report warned. Excessive animal product consumption is responsible for 60 per cent of all biodiversity loss, according to...
Carbon calculations say sixth mass extinction looms

Carbon calculations say sixth mass extinction looms

SOURCE: Cosmos Magazine DATE: September 21, 2017 SNIP: The numbers don’t lie: the world is heading for a sixth mass extinction event, and the point of no return lies just 80 years ahead. That’s the conclusion of geophysicist and mathematician Daniel Rothman from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in a paper published in the journal Science Advances. Rothman, who has previously been awarded for his mathematical analysis of the carbon cycle, set out to analyse available data relating to the five previous mass extinctions – including the Permian event, which saw the end of 95% of all marine species – and see what, if any, conclusions could be drawn in relation to today’s climate modelling. Crunching all the numbers, Rothman concluded that in the current circumstances the threshold will be crossed when the amount of carbon pumped into the ocean – above the sequestered leakage amount – hits 310 gigatonnes. Best-case scenario modelling by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change predicts that that by 2100 the actual added ocean carbon load will just scrape under that target, at 300 gigatonnes. Every other scenario lands substantially above...