Fishery collapse ‘confirms Silent Spring pesticide prophecy’

Fishery collapse ‘confirms Silent Spring pesticide prophecy’

SOURCE: The Guardian DATE: October 31, 2019 SNIP: The Silent Spring prophecy that pesticides could “still the leaping of fish” has been confirmed, according to scientists investigating the collapse of fisheries in Japan. They say similar impacts are likely to have occurred around the world. The long-term study showed an immediate plunge in insect and plankton numbers in a large lake after the introduction of neonicotinoid pesticides to rice paddies. This was rapidly followed by the collapse of smelt and eel populations, which had been stable for decades but rely on the tiny creatures for food. The analysis shows a strong correlation but cannot prove a causal link between the insecticides and the collapse. However, independent scientists said other possibilities had been ruled out and that the work provided “compelling evidence”. The research is the first to reveal the knock-on effects of insecticides on fish. Harm to bees is well known, but previous studies in Europe have linked neonicotinoids to die-offs in other freshwater species including mayflies, dragonflies and snails and also to falling populations of farmland bird that feed on insects, including starlings and swallows. The insecticide has also been shown to make migrating songbirds lose their way. Rachel Carson wrote Silent Spring, her seminal book on the dangers of pesticides in 1962. In their report, the Japanese researchers said: “She wrote: ‘These sprays, dusts and aerosols are now applied almost universally to farms, gardens, forests and homes – nonselective chemicals that have the power to kill every insect, the ‘good’ and the ‘bad’, to still the song of birds and the leaping of fish in the streams.’...
‘Alarming’ loss of insects and spiders recorded

‘Alarming’ loss of insects and spiders recorded

SOURCE: BBC DATE: October 30, 2019 SNIP: Insects and spiders are declining in forests and grasslands across Germany, according to new research. Scientists have described the findings as “alarming”, saying the losses are driven by intensive agriculture. They are calling for a “paradigm shift” in land-use policy to preserve habitat for the likes of butterflies, bugs and flying insects. Recent studies have reported widespread declines in insect populations around the world. The latest analysis, published in the journal, Nature, confirms that some insect species are being pushed down the path to extinction. It is becoming clearer and clearer that the drivers of insect decline are related to farming practices, said Dr Sebastian Seibold of the Technical University of Munich in Freising, Germany. “Our study confirms that insect decline is real – it might be even more widespread then previously thought considering, for example, that also forests are experiencing declines in insect populations,” he told BBC News. “I think it’s alarming to see that such a decline happens not only in intensively-managed areas but also in protected areas – so the sites that we think are safeguarding our biodiversity are not really working anymore.” The general insect decline is linked to intensive agriculture, pesticides and climate change. The loss of insects has far-reaching consequences for entire ecosystems. Insects provide a food source for many birds, amphibians, bats and reptiles, while plants rely on insects for...
Birdwatchers concerned by delayed arrival of migratory short-tailed shearwaters in Victoria

Birdwatchers concerned by delayed arrival of migratory short-tailed shearwaters in Victoria

SOURCE: ABC News (Australia) DATE: October 4, 2019 SNIP: Birdwatchers fear for the fate of thousands of short-tailed shearwaters, also known as mutton birds, which failed to arrive in south-west Victoria at the usual time after their annual migration from the northern hemisphere. Each year, hundreds of thousands of short-tailed shearwaters descend on Victoria’s coastline to breed following a mammoth journey which takes two months to complete. The birds spend the northern summer around Alaska, before travelling 15,000 kilometres to Australia where they arrive with precision. For the past 30 years, the south-west Victorian population has arrived at Griffiths Island, near Port Fairy, a day either side of September 22. But this year, the date came and went without the usual flurry of activity. Peter Barrand, president of Birdlife Warrnambool, said he had basically set his watch by the shearwaters’ arrival for the past three decades. “We couldn’t find any at first, but further investigation found there were small numbers coming in. “For a colony that’s something like 40,000 strong — a handful of birds is a significant decline. A spokesperson for Victoria’s Environment Department said short-tailed shearwaters typically returned to colonies at Port Fairy and Port Campbell in late September to early October, but so far, only small numbers of birds had been sighted at either location. It said the possible causes were unknown, but there were several factors that could have delayed the birds’ arrival, such as climate variability and food availability in the northern hemisphere. “Something’s obviously gone drastically wrong in the arctic — whatever the shearwaters have been feeding on has failed to appear,” Mr...
We’re Just Starting to Learn How Fracking Harms Wildlife

We’re Just Starting to Learn How Fracking Harms Wildlife

SOURCE: The Revelator DATE: October 2, 2019 SNIP: In January 2015 North Dakota experienced one of the worst environmental disasters in its history: A pipeline burst, spilling nearly 3 million gallons of briny, saltwater waste from nearby oil-drilling operations into two creek beds. The wastewater, which flowed all the way to the Missouri River, contained chloride concentrations high enough to kill any wildlife that encountered it. It wasn’t the first such disaster in the state. In 2006 a spill of close to 1 million gallons of fracking wastewater into the Yellowstone River resulted in a mass die-off of fish and plants. Cleanup of that spill was still ongoing at the time of the 2015 spill, nearly a decade later. Spills like these highlight the dangers that come with unconventional fossil-fuel extraction techniques that go after hard-to-reach pockets of oil and gas using practices like horizontal drilling and high-volume hydraulic fracturing (otherwise known as fracking). But events like these massive spills are just the tip of the iceberg. Other risks to wildlife can be more contained, subtle or hidden. And while many of the after-effects of fracking have grabbed headlines for years — such as contaminated drinking water, earthquakes and even flammable faucets — the consequences for wildlife have so far been left out of the national conversation. But those consequences are very real for a vast suite of animals including mussels, birds, fish, caribou and even fleas, and they’re as varied as the species themselves. In some places wildlife pays the price when habitat is destroyed. Elsewhere the damage occurs when water is sucked away or polluted. Still other...
Out in the wild, our impacts are real

Out in the wild, our impacts are real

SOURCE: Jackson Hole News & Guide DATE: September 23, 2019 SNIP: On the tail end of an intensive effort to research how recreating people affect wildlife, Bruce Thompson threw himself into a funk. “I was blown away,” Thompson said, “and I had to do some soul searching.” Digging into around 25 peer-reviewed studies, one conclusion that Thompson found is that no one type of recreation is blameless. “All human activity, no matter what it is, impacts wildlife,” he said. “That’s the nature of the beast.” Trying to create a hierarchy of the worst recreation types is a fool’s errand, he said, but there were some common findings. Traveling off trail, for one, expands a person’s “area of influence” that causes wildlife to flee by two to three times compared to moving along a trail that animals are used to seeing people on. And when those animals are influenced, they get more freaked out. “It’s partly because they’re more surprised,” Thompson said. “The degree of fear that they experience compels them to move at a faster pace, burn more energy and not stop for a longer period of time. It’s terror, rather than modest fright.” Traveling with a dog was another factor that moves the needle toward increased impact on wild environments, Thompson said. On-trail hiking without a canine companion causes responses from wildlife within around 150 feet, but the reach of disturbance about doubles when there’s a dog accompanying on a leash. Free roaming dogs increase the influence more yet. Writing for High Country News, journalist Christine Peterson recently documented the sorry state of the resident elk herd nearest...