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.’...
Climate havoc wipes out coastal kelp as S.F. Bay’s native fish species die off

Climate havoc wipes out coastal kelp as S.F. Bay’s native fish species die off

SOURCE: San Francisco Chronicle DATE: October 22, 2019 SNIP: A climate-related catastrophe off the California coast has resulted in the death of 90% of the kelp from San Francisco to Oregon as an explosion of ravenous urchins devours everything in sight. And it’s happening at the same time native fish in San Francisco Bay are dying out, two studies released Monday documented. The studies, by government, university and scientific institute researchers, offer a disturbing look at an underwater ecosystem suffering more than anyone previously suspected — along the coast, in San Francisco Bay and in the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta. “It’s very serious,” said Laura Rogers-Bennett, a Fish and Wildlife senior environmental scientist and a research associate with UC Davis’ Bodega Marine Laboratory who was lead author of the kelp study. “This is a huge environmental disaster underwater.” The kelp study, published Monday in the journal Scientific Reports, chronicles a dramatic decline in the ocean ecosystem that started in 2013 when millions of sea stars along the coast of California withered and died. Without their main predator, the native kelp-eating purple sea urchin population skyrocketed to 60 times its historic numbers. That was followed, from 2014 to 2017, by a marine heat wave and an El Niño weather event of unprecedented scale. The ocean heated as much as 6 degrees during that time, and toxic algae formed along the coast, killing many species. The warm water began killing off the lush forests of bull kelp, and then ravenous urchins finished them off, leaving a barren seascape. Only about 10% of the historic kelp population in a 217-mile-long swath along...
Billions face food, water shortages over next 30 years as nature fails

Billions face food, water shortages over next 30 years as nature fails

SOURCE: National Geographic DATE: October 10, 2019 SNIP: As many as five billion people, particularly in Africa and South Asia, are likely to face shortages of food and clean water in the coming decades as nature declines. Hundreds of millions more could be vulnerable to increased risks of severe coastal storms, according to the first-ever model examining how nature and humans can survive together. “I hope no one is shocked that billions of people could be impacted by 2050,” says Rebecca Chaplin-Kramer a landscape ecologist at Stanford University. “We know we are dependent on nature for many things,” says Chaplin-Kramer, lead author of the paper “Global Modeling Of Nature’s Contributions To People” published in Science. That nature is in sharp decline was made clear in the first-ever global assessment of biodiversity released earlier this year. Human activity has resulted in the severe alteration of more than 75 percent of Earth’s land areas and 66 percent of the oceans, putting a million species at risk of extinction, according to the Global Assessment Report on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services. Human well-being is dependent upon nature’s contributions. The new model looked at three of nature’s contributions or services: providing clean water; coastal protection, or crop pollination. The model reveals that the future declines in those services will hit people in Africa and South Asia hardest because they are more directly dependent on nature, says Chaplin-Kramer in an interview. People in wealthier countries can buffer the impacts though imports of food and infrastructure. To look at clean water, the model mapped plants that grow near lakes and rivers. Depending on topography, climate, runoff,...
Climate Change Threatens Hundreds of North American Bird Species: “It’s a Bird Emergency”

Climate Change Threatens Hundreds of North American Bird Species: “It’s a Bird Emergency”

SOURCE: Yale e360 DATE: October 10, 2019 SNIP: Two-thirds of bird species in North America are at risk of extinction if global temperatures continue to rise, according to a new report from scientists at the Audubon Society. A total of 389 species, out of 604 studied, could experience declines in their populations as a result of warmer temperatures, higher seas, loss of habitat, and extreme weather, all driven by climate change. Among those birds most at-risk are the greater sage grouse, Baltimore oriole, common loon, and the wood thrush. The new study comes less than a month after research found the United States and Canada have lost 3 billion birds since 1970, equal to losing one out of every four birds. “Birds are important indicator species, because if an ecosystem is broken for birds, it is or soon will be for people too,” Brooke Bateman, the senior climate scientist for the National Audubon Society, said in a statement. Scientists analyzed 140 million bird records from more than 70 sources in Canada, the U.S., and Mexico, including field sightings from citizen science projects, to produce the report. They found that 64 percent of North American bird species are at risk of extinction if global temperatures increase 3 degrees Celsius. That dropped to 54 percent with 2 degrees C of warming, and 40 percent, or 241 species, if nations could hold global warming to 1.5 degrees C — the Paris Agreement target. “Keeping global temperatures down will help up to 76 percent of [species],” said David Yarnold, CEO and president of Audubon. “There’s hope in this report, but first, it’ll break...
The sea is running out of fish, despite nations’ pledges to stop it

The sea is running out of fish, despite nations’ pledges to stop it

SOURCE: National Geographic DATE: October 8, 2019 SNIP: As global fish stocks that feed hundreds of millions of people dwindle, nations are scrambling to finalize by year’s end an international agreement to ban government subsidies that fuel overfishing. Yet as negotiations at the World Trade Organization resume this week in Geneva, Switzerland, new research shows that governments have actually increased financial support for fishing practices that decimate marine life, despite public pledges to curtail such handouts. In an exhaustive survey of 152 countries, scientists at the University of British Columbia found that ocean-faring nations spent $22 billion on harmful subsidies in 2018, or 63 percent of the total amount expended to support the global fishing industry. That’s a 6 percent rise since 2009. Harmful subsidies is a term that refers to those that promote overfishing and illegal fishing that would otherwise not be profitable, such as subsidies that underwrite fuel costs allowing industrial trawlers to sail to the farthest reaches of the planet. Fuel subsidies alone accounted for 22 percent of all fishing subsidies last year. China, which operates the world’s largest overseas fishing fleet, has increased harmful subsidies by 105 percent over the past decade, according to the study published in Marine Policy. The findings underscore the high stakes in Geneva as only three months remain to meet a deadline to hammer out an agreement on fisheries subsidies. Marine scientists and policy experts say a legally binding accord to ban destructive fishing subsidies is critical as climate change disrupts marine ecosystems. A landmark United Nations report issued in September found that the maximum catch from fisheries could decline...