Wildlife in ‘catastrophic decline’ due to human destruction, scientists warn

Wildlife in ‘catastrophic decline’ due to human destruction, scientists warn

SOURCE: BBC and The Guardian DATE: September 10, 2020 SNIP: Wildlife populations have fallen by more than two-thirds in less than 50 years, according to a major report by the conservation group WWF. The report says this “catastrophic decline” shows no sign of slowing. And it warns that nature is being destroyed by humans at a rate never seen before. Wildlife is “in freefall” as we burn forests, over-fish our seas and destroy wild areas, says Tanya Steele, chief executive at WWF. “We are wrecking our world – the one place we call home – risking our health, security and survival here on Earth. Now nature is sending us a desperate SOS and time is running out.” The report looked at thousands of different wildlife species monitored by conservation scientists in habitats across the world. They recorded an average 68% fall in more than 20,000 populations of mammals, birds, amphibians, reptiles and fish since 1970. The decline was clear evidence of the damage human activity is doing to the natural world, said Dr Andrew Terry, director of conservation at the Zoological Society of London (ZSL), which provides the data. “If nothing changes, populations will undoubtedly continue to fall, driving wildlife to extinction and threatening the integrity of the ecosystems on which we depend,” he added. Taken together, they provide evidence that biodiversity is being destroyed at a rate unprecedented in human history. This particular report uses an index of whether populations of wildlife are going up or down. It does not tell us the number of species lost, or extinctions. The largest declines are in tropical areas. The drop...
British Columbia’s looming extinction crisis

British Columbia’s looming extinction crisis

SOURCE: The Narwhal DATE: August 8, 2020 SNIP: For years, Canada’s most western province has marketed itself as “Super, Natural, B.C.” But the B.C. government is failing to protect the myriad species that inhabit the province’s many ecosystems, from the coast to the mountain tops and from grasslands to old-growth forests, with worrisome consequences for biodiversity. Last year, a landmark UN report found that nature is declining at an unprecedented rate and extinctions are accelerating, with almost one million species at risk of disappearing globally. Almost 1,340 species are now on B.C.’s red and blue lists of species at risk of extinction. Another 1,037 species meet the provincial status requirements for red and blue listings but have not yet been added, in part because more information is needed. The Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada has found that additional B.C. species, including more than one dozen unique salmon populations, are experiencing alarming declines. Yet those species, too, have no provincial at-risk status. Unlike six other provinces and the United States, which shares transboundary and migratory species with B.C. — including caribou, songbirds and spotted owls — British Columbia has no stand-alone endangered species law. Instead, it relies on an uncoordinated mish mash of legislation to conserve plants and animals, including the Forests and Range Practices Act, the Oil and Gas Activities Act, and the Environment and Land Use Act. Although the governing NDP made an election promise to enact endangered species legislation — a pledge upheld in Premier John Horgan’s mandate letter for Environment Minister George Heyman — it subsequently reneged on its commitment. That leaves...
Sharks ‘functionally extinct’ at 20% of world’s coral reefs as fishing drives global decline

Sharks ‘functionally extinct’ at 20% of world’s coral reefs as fishing drives global decline

SOURCE: The Guardian DATE: July 22, 2020 SNIP: Destructive and unsustainable fishing has caused a crash in shark numbers across many of the world’s coral reefs, upsetting the ecological balance of the critical marine ecosystems, a major study has found. A network of remote underwater cameras across 58 countries found sharks were “functionally extinct” at almost one in five of the 371 reefs studied over four years. The loss of sharks was putting further pressure on coral reefs around the world that were already under threat from global heating, scientists said. Shark numbers were lowest on 69 reefs surveyed in the Dominican Republic, the French West Indies, Kenya, Vietnam, the Windward Dutch Antilles and Qatar, where just three sharks were seen during 800 hours of footage. The Australian Institute of Marine Science (AIMS), a partner in the research published in Nature, said the study revealed a previously undocumented global decline in sharks on reefs. Reefs close to human populations in countries with poor governance were the worst affected. Sharks did best in places where the use of longlines and gillnets were controlled, catch limits on sharks were in place and marine sanctuaries had been created. Sharks play a critical role on coral reefs, keeping the balance of species across the marine habitats in check, he said. Losing sharks was impacting the health of coral reefs that many millions of people relied on for food. Some 34 out of 58 nations had shark numbers that were half what was expected, “suggesting that loss of reef sharks is pervasive among reefs globally”, the study...
North Atlantic right whales nearing extinction, international nature body says

North Atlantic right whales nearing extinction, international nature body says

SOURCE: The Province DATE: July 9, 2020 SNIP: North Atlantic right whales are now considered one step away from complete eradication. The International Union for Conservation of Nature is moving the whales from “endangered” to “critically endangered” on its red list of global species facing threats to their survival. The only step beyond “critically endangered” is extinction. Fewer than 250 mature whales were known to exist at the end of 2018, in a total population of only about 400. More than 30 whales have been killed by ships or fishing gear entanglements in the last three years, two-thirds of them in Canadian waters. The conservation group classified right whales as endangered in 2008, and since then the population has declined more than 15 per cent. Sean Brillant, a senior conservation biologist with the Canadian Wildlife Federation in Halifax, says the change in status is not surprising and should put even more pressure on governments in Canada and the United States to do more to stop these whales from being wiped out. “We are an affluent country with an incredible amount of knowledge and resources, we have good controls over our oceans industry,” he said. “And we can’t figure this out? How embarrassing. We need to step up and solve this problem.” The whales, which migrate along the eastern coast of North America, spend winters off Florida and Georgia before migrating north to New England and Atlantic Canada in the summer. The whales are threatened by a combination of factors, including climate change, which appears to be driving them further north in the summer months to find food. Brillant said...
Climate change will make world too hot for 60 per cent of fish species

Climate change will make world too hot for 60 per cent of fish species

SOURCE: New Scientist DATE: July 2, 2020 SNIP: Fish are at a far greater risk from climate change than previously thought, as researchers have shown that embryos and spawning adults are more susceptible to warming oceans. In a worst-case scenario of 5°C of global warming, up to 60 per cent of fish species around the world would be unable to cope with temperatures in their geographical range by 2100, when different stages of their lives are taken into consideration. Even if humanity meets the Paris deal’s tough goal of holding warming to 1.5°C, it would be too hot for 10 per cent of fish. Previously, we thought that just 5 per cent of fish species would struggle to cope with 5°C of global warming, but that was based on analysis of adult fish alone. Previous analysis has focused very little on life stages, but the team took into account differences between spawning and non-spawning adults, larvae and embryos. Spawners and embryos were found to cope with a much smaller gap between minimum and maximum temperatures, on average 7.2°C and 8.4°C respectively, than the 27.5°C range for adults. The greater vulnerability for embryos and reproductive adults is a “major cause for concern”, said Jennifer Sunday at McGill University in Montreal, Canada, who wasn’t involved the study, in a commentary in the journal Science. The main reason why embryos and spawners are less tolerant of warming oceans is down to their greater oxygen needs. Oxygen is more soluble in colder waters and less so in warmer ones. Unfortunately, seas are expected to warm too quickly for evolutionary adaptation. While fish can...