Insect ‘apocalypse’ in U.S. driven by 50x increase in toxic pesticides

Insect ‘apocalypse’ in U.S. driven by 50x increase in toxic pesticides

SOURCE: National Geographic and PLOS One DATE: August 6, 2019 SNIP: America’s agricultural landscape is now 48 times more toxic to honeybees, and likely other insects, than it was 25 years ago, almost entirely due to widespread use of so-called neonicotinoid pesticides, according to a new study published today in the journal PLOS One. This enormous rise in toxicity matches the sharp declines in bees, butterflies, and other pollinators as well as birds, says co-author Kendra Klein, senior staff scientist at Friends of the Earth US. “This is the second Silent Spring. Neonics are like a new DDT, except they are a thousand times more toxic to bees than DDT was,” Klein says in an interview. The study found that neonics accounted for 92 percent of this increased toxicity. Neonics are not only incredibly toxic to honeybees, they can remain toxic for more than 1,000 days in the environment, said Klein. “The good news is that we don’t need neonics,” she says. “We have four decades of research and evidence that agroecological farming methods can grow our food without decimating pollinators.” “It’s stunning. This study reveals the buildup of toxic neonics in the environment, which can explain why insect populations have declined,” says Steve Holmer of American Bird Conservancy. As insects have declined, the numbers of insect-eating birds have plummeted in recent decades. There’s also been a widespread decline in nearly all bird species, Holmer said. “Every bird needs to eat insects at some point in their life cycle.” Neonic insecticides, also known as neonicotinoids, are used on over 140 different agricultural crops in more than 120 countries. They...
Two Percent of All North Atlantic Right Whales Have Died in The Last Two Months

Two Percent of All North Atlantic Right Whales Have Died in The Last Two Months

SOURCE: Science Alert DATE: August 2, 2019 SNIP: A Canadian surveillance plane was scanning the waters of Gulf of St. Lawrence when it made a grisly discovery: The carcass of a North Atlantic right whale, one of some 400 remaining in the world, was drifting in the current, much of its skin sloughed off. From there, the news would only get worse. The next day, another dead right whale was spotted in the same body of water. And an 18-year-old right whale was entangled in fishing gear near Quebec, with a rope cutting into its head and over its blowhole. It’s been a devastating summer for the endangered marine mammal. Since the start of June, eight North Atlantic right whales — or 2 percent of the global population — have been found dead in Canadian waters, alarming scientists, conservationists and government officials who had believed they had begun to make progress in protecting the imperiled species. Necropsy results are still pending for most of the whales, but preliminary findings for three of them suggest ship strikes. Particularly troubling about this year’s deaths is that four of the whales were breeding females, of which fewer than 100 remain. Calving rates have dropped 40 percent since 2010, according to scientists at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, making the deaths of the females a major blow. Many say the decline is linked to a change in the whales’ migratory pattern, possibly as a result of warming waters. They’ve been showing up in unanticipated areas, where there are few regulatory protections for them. This has made them susceptible to fatal blows from fast-moving...
Global Warming Is Pushing Pacific Salmon to the Brink, Federal Scientists Warn

Global Warming Is Pushing Pacific Salmon to the Brink, Federal Scientists Warn

SOURCE: Inside Climate News DATE: July 29, 2019 SNIP: Pacific salmon that spawn in Western streams and rivers have been struggling for decades to survive water diversions, dams and logging. Now, global warming is pushing four important populations in California, Oregon and Idaho toward extinction, federal scientists warn in a new study. The new research shows that several of the region’s salmon populations are now bumping into temperature limits, with those that spawn far inland after lengthy summer stream migrations and those that spend a lot of time in coastal habitats like river estuaries among the most at risk. That includes Chinook salmon in California’s Central Valley and in the Columbia and Willamette River basins; coho salmon in parts of Northern California and Oregon; and sockeye salmon that reach the Snake River Basin in Idaho, all of which are already on the federal endangered species list. The salmon live much of their lives in the ocean, but they swim far upstream to spawn. In the process, they’re a key part of the food chain, including for bears and whales, and they are important to indigenous groups and fisheries along the U.S. West Coast. Human infrastructure, including dams and water diversions, were already affecting their streams, reducing the flow and reducing access to the coldest habitats that can serve as a hiding place for salmon during heat waves or drought. Global warming is now intensifying those impacts. Global warming is already disrupting those cycles for some salmon populations, including sockeye that swim 900 miles to spawn in streams high in the mountains of Idaho. To spawn successfully, they need exactly...
‘The Numbers Are Just Horrendous.’ Almost 30,000 Species Face Extinction Because of Human Activity

‘The Numbers Are Just Horrendous.’ Almost 30,000 Species Face Extinction Because of Human Activity

SOURCE: Time DATE: July 18, 2019 SNIP: Overfishing, hunting and land development have pushed more species closer to extinction, according to a new report. The Red List report by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) found that 27% of the more than 105,000 species the organization has analyzed are at risk of extinction, a total of 28,338 different species. IUCN also found that no species on its list have shown any sign of improvement since it was last updated in December 2018. “Things are not getting better, they are getting worse,” Craig Hilton-Taylor, head of the IUCN Red List unit, tells TIME. The endangerment of species is not only a critical issue for animal and plant life but can also have a detrimental impact for humans. “The future of humanity — food, fresh water, drinking water, clean air — is all dependent on maintaining the biodiversity around us,” Hilton-Taylor says. “We can’t afford to lose any of these species.” “The numbers are just horrendous, that’s totally frightening,” Lee Hannah, a climate change biologist at Conservation International, tells TIME. “We’ve had a lot of great progress, we’ve got national parks, community conservancies, a lot of great conservation going on around the world, and these numbers tell us that it’s just not...
Breaching a ‘carbon threshold’ could lead to mass extinction

Breaching a ‘carbon threshold’ could lead to mass extinction

SOURCE: Phys.org and MIT DATE: July 8, 2019 SNIP: Daniel Rothman, professor of geophysics and co-director of the Lorenz Center in MIT’s Department of Earth, Atmospheric and Planetary Sciences, has found that when the rate at which carbon dioxide enters the oceans pushes past a certain threshold—whether as the result of a sudden burst or a slow, steady influx—the Earth may respond with a runaway cascade of chemical feedbacks, leading to extreme ocean acidification that dramatically amplifies the effects of the original trigger. This global reflex causes huge changes in the amount of carbon contained in the Earth’s oceans, and geologists can see evidence of these changes in layers of sediments preserved over hundreds of millions of years. Rothman looked through these geologic records and observed that over the last 540 million years, the ocean’s store of carbon changed abruptly, then recovered, dozens of times in a fashion similar to the abrupt nature of a neuron spike. This “excitation” of the carbon cycle occurred most dramatically near the time of four of the five great mass extinctions in Earth’s history. Scientists have attributed various triggers to these events, and they have assumed that the changes in ocean carbon that followed were proportional to the initial trigger—for instance, the smaller the trigger, the smaller the environmental fallout. But Rothman says that’s not the case. It didn’t matter what initially caused the events; for roughly half the disruptions in his database, once they were set in motion, the rate at which carbon increased was essentially the same. Their characteristic rate is likely a property of the carbon cycle itself—not the triggers,...