Ships Hit Smaller Sea Animals More Often than Researchers Thought

Ships Hit Smaller Sea Animals More Often than Researchers Thought

SOURCE: Scientific American DATE: July 9, 2020 SNIP: The danger to whales and other large marine mammals from oceangoing vessels’ propellers and bows has long been recognized. And efforts are in place to track and curb such ship strikes. But a new study published in Frontiers in Marine Science finds that ships are also hitting large numbers of smaller marine animals—which are suffering severe injuries or dying at higher rates than previously thought. The researchers sifted through necropsy results, eyewitness reports, and other anecdotal data from around the world and found that ships and smaller craft hit at least 75 species—including dolphins, sharks, sea otters, seals, penguins and sea turtles. Among them are vulnerable species such as the critically endangered Kemp’s ridley sea turtle and the endangered Hector’s dolphin. Younger animals are particularly at risk, because they are more playful and less experienced and might be left alone while a parent forages for food. Species that spend a lot of time sleeping at the surface, such as otters, also face a higher level of hazard. “When we started looking into this, I was quite surprised that all these other species are also being affected,” says Stephanie Plön, senior author of the study and now a cetacean biologist at the Bayworld Center for Research and Education, a South African nonprofit. Strikes involving smaller species may be missed because crews are less likely to notice them than they would a collision with a massive whale, says Plön, who was at Nelson Mandela University in South Africa when she conducted the research. The bodies of such creatures might also sink or be...
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...
Wildlife Collapse From Climate Change Is Predicted to Hit Suddenly and Sooner

Wildlife Collapse From Climate Change Is Predicted to Hit Suddenly and Sooner

SOURCE: New York Times DATE: April 15, 2020 SNIP: Climate change could result in a more abrupt collapse of many animal species than previously thought, starting in the next decade if greenhouse gas emissions are not reduced, according to a study published this month in Nature. The study predicted that large swaths of ecosystems would falter in waves, creating sudden die-offs that would be catastrophic not only for wildlife, but for the humans who depend on it. “For a long time things can seem OK and then suddenly they’re not,” said Alex L. Pigot, a scientist at University College London and one of the study’s authors. “Then, it’s too late to do anything about it because you’ve already fallen over this cliff edge.” The latest research adds to an already bleak picture for the world’s wildlife unless urgent action is taken to preserve habitats and limit climate change. More than a million plant and animal species are at risk of extinction because of the myriad ways humans are changing the earth by farming, fishing, logging, mining, poaching and burning fossil fuels. When they examined the projections, the researchers were surprised that sudden collapses appeared across almost all species — fish, reptiles, amphibians, birds and mammals — and across almost all regions. If greenhouse gas emissions remain on current trajectories, the research showed that abrupt collapses in tropical oceans could begin in the next decade. Coral bleaching events over the last several years suggest that these losses have already started, the scientists said. Collapse in tropical forests, home to some of the most diverse ecosystems on earth, could follow by...
Chinese authorities’ latest wildlife trade outrage is mindbogglingly reckless

Chinese authorities’ latest wildlife trade outrage is mindbogglingly reckless

SOURCE: The Sydney Morning Herald DATE: April 14, 2020 SNIP: The Chinese Communist Party is making a great show of its humanitarian help to countries suffering from the new coronavirus. “China selflessly extends helping hand to countries around the world in global battle against COVID-19,” said a March 25 headline in the English language version of the party’s official mouthpiece, People’s Daily. By the end of last week, Beijing had dispatched medical teams to advise 10 nations. Poor countries in Asia including Cambodia, Laos, the Philippines, Myanmar and Pakistan. And countries further afield including Iran, Iraq and Venezuela. And it has sent supplies of medical equipment and money to a much larger group – 82 countries altogether, according to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Beijing. But nowhere has its aid diplomacy been more gratefully received than in Rome. And while the governor of New York has been furious at Washington for the botched supply of vital equipment, Andrew Cuomo last week thanked Beijing for agreeing to send 1000 ventilators to his state. Of course, all of this is valuable assistance that will help save lives around the world. It is also a political and propaganda masterstroke by the Chinese Communist Party. “China is trying to bury the embarrassment of the COVID-19 cover-up in a happy story of triumph over the virus,” observes American sinologist Andrew Nathan of Columbia University. Naturally. So it’s probably pretty important to note something else that the Chinese Communist Party is supplying to the rest of the world at this moment – wild animals. That’s right, the same sort of wild animals that are...
Border wall construction expands, despite pandemic, imperiling jaguars and other animals

Border wall construction expands, despite pandemic, imperiling jaguars and other animals

SOURCE: National Geographic DATE: March 30, 2020 SNIP: The Sky Island region of southern Arizona and New Mexico is a natural wonderland, one of the most biologically diverse parts of North America, where thousands of animal species live and roam across the U.S.-Mexico border. A patchwork of valleys, hills, and mountain ranges act as corridors to allow creatures such as jaguars, ocelots, black bears, bighorn sheep, and coati to move about the region. Hundreds of species are found here and nowhere else in the U.S., including jaguars, colorful birds called elegant trogons, lowland burrowing tree frogs, and brown vine snakes. But while the nation is focused on fighting the coronavirus pandemic, the Trump administration is working to expand the border wall through the region, cutting off critical animal migration corridors. The Department of Homeland Security this month paved the way to build more than 175 miles of new walls, much of it in remote, mountainous terrain. To start building the new sections, potentially within weeks or months, the Department granted waivers on March 16 to allow construction crews to not comply with 37 different laws, including the Endangered Species Act. Even as businesses have closed and workers told to stay home, wall construction continues, and review periods for environmentally sensitive projects, including oil leases on federal property, are not being postponed or extended. Besides the newly approved sections, more than 100 miles of wall are actively under construction elsewhere in Arizona, including in natural areas like Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument. It’s “an ecological disaster in the making” for jaguars and other species that need to cross the border...