The Insect Apocalypse Is Here

The Insect Apocalypse Is Here

SOURCE: The New York Times DATE: November 27, 2018 SNIP: By one measure, bugs are the wildlife we know best, the nondomesticated animals whose lives intersect most intimately with our own: spiders in the shower, ants at the picnic, ticks buried in the skin. We sometimes feel that we know them rather too well. In another sense, though, they are one of our planet’s greatest mysteries, a reminder of how little we know about what’s happening in the world around us. We’ve named and described a million species of insects, a stupefying array of thrips and firebrats and antlions and caddis flies and froghoppers and other enormous families of bugs that most of us can’t even name. And yet entomologists estimate that all this amazing, absurd and understudied variety represents perhaps only 20 percent of the actual diversity of insects on our planet — that there are millions and millions of species that are entirely unknown to science. But extinction is not the only tragedy through which we’re living. What about the species that still exist, but as a shadow of what they once were? In “The Once and Future World,” the journalist J.B. MacKinnon cites records from recent centuries that hint at what has only just been lost: “In the North Atlantic, a school of cod stalls a tall ship in midocean; off Sydney, Australia, a ship’s captain sails from noon until sunset through pods of sperm whales as far as the eye can see. … Pacific pioneers complain to the authorities that splashing salmon threaten to swamp their canoes.” There were reports of lions in the south...
Climate change is ‘escalator to extinction’ for mountain birds

Climate change is ‘escalator to extinction’ for mountain birds

SOURCE: BBC News DATE: October 29, 2018 SNIP: Researchers have long predicted many creatures will seek to escape a warmer world by moving towards higher ground. However, those living at the highest levels cannot go any higher, and have been forecast to decline. This study found that eight bird species that once lived near a Peruvian mountain peak have now disappeared. Researchers are particularly concerned about tropical mountain ranges and the impacts of climate change. The species that live in these regions are also hugely vulnerable because the difference in temperatures between lower and higher elevations in tropical regions is not as great as it is in other parts of the world. This means that moving up the slopes may not be as much of a solution for species in the tropics as it is elsewhere. The researchers say that recent warming constitutes an “escalator to extinction” for some of these species with temperatures in the area increasing by almost half a degree Celsius between the two surveys. Of 16 species that were restricted to the very top of the ridge, eight had disappeared completely in the most recent survey. The authors warn that rising temperatures will continue to drive widespread “extirpations and extinctions” of high-elevation animals and plants across the tropical Andes...
Humanity has wiped out 60% of animal populations since 1970, report finds

Humanity has wiped out 60% of animal populations since 1970, report finds

SOURCE: The Guardian DATE: October 29, 2018 SNIP: Humanity has wiped out 60% of mammals, birds, fish and reptiles since 1970, leading the world’s foremost experts to warn that the annihilation of wildlife is now an emergency that threatens civilisation. The new estimate of the massacre of wildlife is made in a major report produced by WWF and involving 59 scientists from across the globe. It finds that the vast and growing consumption of food and resources by the global population is destroying the web of life, billions of years in the making, upon which human society ultimately depends for clean air, water and everything else. “We are sleepwalking towards the edge of a cliff” said Mike Barrett, executive director of science and conservation at WWF. “If there was a 60% decline in the human population, that would be equivalent to emptying North America, South America, Africa, Europe, China and Oceania. That is the scale of what we have done.” The Living Planet Index, produced for WWF by the Zoological Society of London, uses data on 16,704 populations of mammals, birds, fish, reptiles and amphibians, representing more than 4,000 species, to track the decline of wildlife. Between 1970 and 2014, the latest data available, populations fell by an average of 60%. Four years ago, the decline was 52%. The “shocking truth”, said Barrett, is that the wildlife crash is continuing unabated. “We are rapidly running out of time,” said Prof Johan Rockström, a global sustainability expert at the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research in Germany. “Only by addressing both ecosystems and climate do we stand a chance of...
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...