Archive for ‘Species Extinction’

Over 25% of flowers face extinction – many before they are even discovered

Wednesday, July 7th, 2010

The giant carnivorous plant, Nepenthes attenboroughii, is under threat of extinction - along with 25% of all others on earth

The giant carnivorous plant, Nepenthes attenboroughii, is under threat of extinction - along with 25% of all others on earth

Scientists say human activity could spell end for a quarter of all flowering plants, with huge impact on food chain

More than one-in-four of all flowering plants are under threat of extinction according to the latest report to confirm the ongoing destruction of much of the natural world by human activity.

As a result, many of nature’s most colourful specimens could be lost to the world before scientists even discover them.

One-in-five of all mammals, nearly one-in-three amphibians and one-in-eight birds are vulnerable to being wiped out completely.

The researchers started by carrying out an independent review of how many flowering plants – which make up most of the plant kingdom – exist. The team calculated that there is another 10-20%, which has still to be officially discovered.

The second stage was to assess the level of threats from habitat loss due to clearing land for planting crops or trees, development, or indirect causes such as falling groundwater levels and pollution.

A study published in the journal Endangered Species Research in 2008, which estimated that one-in-five known species were vulnerable to extinction.

The warning comes as there is growing international recognition of the value of the natural world to humans in providing ecosystem services, from flood protection and medicines to spiritual spaces and enjoyment.

“Plants are the basis for much of life on earth with virtually all other species depending on them; if you get rid of those you get rid of a lot of the things above them,” David Roberts, at the University of Kent added.

Source: Over 25% of flowers face extinction – many before they are even discovered - guardian.co.uk

Date: 07 July 2010

Environmentalists to set up trust fund to save dolphins

Wednesday, July 7th, 2010

Eight wildlife conservation and environmental protection organizations from central Changhua County announced yesterday the establishment of an environmental trust fund to purchase a vast wetland to save the Taiwan Sousa, also known as the Indo-Pacific humpback dolphin (Sousa chinesis), living along Taiwan’s west coast.

This is the first ever campaign in Taiwan launched by environmentalists to purchase state land to be reserved for the endangered animals in the form of an environmental trust, with signatures from more than 30,000 people supporting the cause.

The organizers also held a rally in front of the Presidential Office in Taipei to urge the government to respect the people’s wish to safeguard the rare dolphins, commonly known as “white dolphins” or “Mother Sea-Goddess (Matsu) Fish” for local people.

The environmentalists are concerned that the government’s possible approval for constructing a giant petrochemical complex in southwestern Taiwan will cause extensive pollution to farmland and agricultural crops while hampering animal conservation in the area.

Officials at the Environmental Protection Administration said there is no need to purchase the wetland since a panel conducting the environmental impact evaluation project has included a proposal to leave a safe swimming corridor with a width of 800 meters for the dolphins.

Source: Environmentalists to set up trust fund to save dolphins – chinapost.com.tw

Date: 07 July 2010

Malians mobilise to protect dwindling elephants

Monday, July 5th, 2010
A desert elephant walks in the north of Mali, known as the Gourma area. Inhabitants of the Gourma region of Mali have organized vigilante brigades, and even attached global positioning systems (GPS) on the pachyderms to protect them from poachers in the region.

A desert elephant walks in the north of Mali, known as the Gourma area. Inhabitants of the Gourma region of Mali have organized vigilante brigades, and even attached global positioning systems (GPS) on the pachyderms to protect them from poachers in the region.

Ali Ag Rhissa, a young Touareg nomad, sits in his tent, his gun ready, on the frontline of one of Mali’s battles — protecting its majestic but dwindling herds of desert elephants.

Faced with the dual threat of drought and poachers, the elephant population has almost halved in recent decades.

But help is at hand from local people in northern Mali, who have started to form conservation brigades to ward off poachers and protect the animal from extinction.

Between 1972 and 1974 there were 550 elephants in the Gourma region, now there are no more than 354. In June alone, severe drought killed 21 of the animals.

The elephants of the Gourma are the biggest in Africa and are tempting quarry for poachers, both for their ivory tusks and their meat, which is popular in neighbouring countries.

“When we hear the sound of a vehicle, we get ready to make sure the poachers can’t settle here and kill our elephants,”

said Rhissa, who lives in a tent with his wife and three children in Banzena, near Timbuktu.

“We take precautionary measures. In this no elephants have been victims of poaching since we organised our protection brigades,”

said Bakary Kame, a water and forestry ranger.

“But you can never be too careful,”

added Kame, who had a rifle slung across his back.

According to official statistics, 50 percent of the elephants in the Gourma are adult females, with 11 per cent male adults, 26 percent young and 11 percent “very old”.

Gourma elephants are the only nomadic elephants in the world and the only ones that live in the desert apart from a group in Namibia.

Every year, they migrate hundreds of kilometres (miles) along the southern edge of the Sahara towards the border with Burkina Faso and back again in search of food and water.

Each one consumes up to 250 kilograms (500 pounds) of vegetation per day, and can suck up 10 litres in every trunkful of water.

They leave huge footprints close to a metre (three feet) deep when they trek across the barren landscape.

“To protect them from poachers, we have placed GPS chips in collars around the necks of some of the elephants. This way, we know where they are all the time,”

said Biramou Sissoko, the national coordinator for the government programme to conserve the elephants and biodiversity in the Gourma.

The government of Mali is taking steps to protect the elephants. Efforts are being made to educate local people about the plight of the animals, while legislation is also being drawn up to combat poaching.

The conservation action plan has been launched to protect the elephants’ ecosystem, and “biodiversity co-ordinators” are being appointed under Sissoko.

“Our role is to educate, and raise awareness of the damage done by poachers and the destruction of the environment,”

said Amadou Bore, one of the co-ordinators.

“Whoever comes here to take the tusks of elephants will find instead our own tusks — our rifles,” he said.

Source: Malians mobilise to protect dwindling elephants – france24

Date: 05 July 2010

Dorset landmark to raise awareness of at-risk species

Sunday, July 4th, 2010
The landmark is to be based in Portland, Dorset

The landmark is to be based in Portland, Dorset

Plans for a “living monument” are under way to raise awareness of 17,000 global species under threat from extinction.

The Mass Extinction Memorial Observatory will be built on the World Heritage Jurassic Coast in Dorset, famous for fossils of extinct species.

The landmark, in Portland, will be made of white Portland stone blocks, each carved to depict 850 species lost since 1662, when the last dodo was seen.

Dorset County Council’s cabinet approved the project last week.

A council spokesperson said the plans should bring millions of pounds into the local economy, create jobs and attract an extra 100,000 visitors each year.

The total cost is expected to be in the region of £3m to £5m, which the council says will come from donations, corporate sponsorship and charitable grants.

The council will make a one-off grant towards the project of £30,000, with private donations making up the rest of the £150,000 initial planning costs.

The council said:

“A circular enclosure open to the sky, it would act as an ‘observatory’ to ongoing extinction, with each new extinct species requiring a new block and carving.”

The project director, sculptor Sebastian Brooke, a former Weymouth College student, has the backing of the Royal Society, the World Wildlife Fund UK, novelist Philip Pullman and the co-founder of the Eden Project, Tim Smit.

‘Fragility of life’

Mr Smit, who is the principal advisor to the project, said:

“MEMO is an extraordinary project to create a truly global monument to the species being lost, now and ongoing, in the Earth’s sixth mass extinction.

“We are seeking to build something that is a living monument to the fragility of life.

“A monument for our times, it will undoubtedly attract many visitors. It could and should become Europe’s finest.”

The council aims for the landmark to be completed by 2012, when Portland is hosting the Olympic sailing events with neighbouring Weymouth.

Two sites in Portland are being considered for the landmark, which have been offered at no cost, the council said.

They are New Ground – which overlooks Fortuneswell, Portland Harbour and Chesil Beach – or a site overlooking the East Weares.

Source: Dorset landmark to raise awareness of at-risk species – news.bbc.co.uk

Date: 04 July 2010

Starvation, thirst kill many antelope in Jodhpur

Sunday, July 4th, 2010

The antelope, including chinkaras and black bucks, continue to die at regular intervals in the arid region of Jodhpur and Barmer. This has been primarily attributed to starvation and thirst, say sources On Saturday, the members of the Bishnoi Tiger Vanya Evam Paryavaran Sanstha, brought the carcasses of 25 chinkaras from Dhawa village at the office of deputy forest conservator (wildlife).

According to the general secretary of the organization, Ram NiwasBudhnagar, some 60-70 antelope, the major portion of which are theblack bucks, have died in the past 5-6 days due to acute shortage of water and fodder. He claimed they kept drinking the brackish water due to which their stomach got swollen as they could not digest their food and died a slow and painful death.

He blamed the forest department for this situation for it had “brazenly relied upon the monsoon rains.”

Budhnagar said, “We have demanded the present DFO be removed from office for failing to bring relief to the antelope.”

All these antelope were found dead in such villages like Bhawanda, Dhawa, Satlana, Dhundhara and Bhacharan etc. A medical team had visited a village and conducted post-mortem of six black bucks which confirmed their death from starvation and thirst.

According to experts, these animals are very shy in nature and due to the presence of stray dogs in the vicinity of water holes they fear to go there and prefer to remain thirsty, which lead to death.

Source: Starvation, thirst kill many antelope in Jodhpur - timesofindia.indiatimes

Date: 04 July 2010

Conservationists warn of hay meadow decline

Monday, June 28th, 2010

“Constable? Turner? Give me a hay meadow any day,” says Tony Bullough as we get our first glimpse of New House Farm.

And the National Trust warden has a point – the fields surrounding this small farm are a glorious sight.

Perched in a small valley near the village of Malham, in the Yorkshire Dales, the meadows provide a blaze of colour in the more typical green of the rural landscape.

Yellow buttercups mingle with pink clover and red sorrel flowers, all scattered in amongst a seemingly endless number of grass species.

Pollen-laden bumblebees buzz from flower to flower, dodging fluttering butterflies; curlews and lapwings soar overhead.

Traditional hay meadows like this one used to be the mainstay of rural Britain.

The grass and flower-packed fields were set aside and left to grow from spring to mid-summer, before being cropped and then dried out to provide fodder for livestock during the harsh winter months.

But as farming methods have changed and intensified, these pretty meadows have all but vanished from the face of the countryside.

Ecologist Professor John Rodwell says: “Over England and Wales, the last reliable overall survey showed us that in the last century we have lost about 97% of the hay meadows that we had.”

This study was carried out in the 1980s, and more recent surveys have revealed that the decline has been continuing around the whole of the UK, he explains.

“We’ve only got a tiny fraction left now – agriculture is a different sort of operation now,” he adds.

We head next door to Lee Gate Farm to meet Frank Carr.

This farm has been in his family since 1927.

“When I was a boy, all our meadows were the same as those that you’ve seen,” he says. “But as time has gone on, progress and lack of staff has meant that we have had to move with the times.”

Green silage fields have replaced the traditional hay meadows.

These fields contain just a few grass species, such as sturdy rye, which is grown, then cut and fermented to provide a wet feed for livestock.

Silage fields like these are a more economically viable option for modern farmers, says Mr Carr.

“Hay time involves much more manual work and a lot more people,” he explains. “With silage making, you can use much bigger machinery and do a lot in a little time.”

The success of the crop is also less dependent on weather.

“Hay time depends on a good five days of good weather, whereas with silage, if you have 24 hours of good weather you can get a good crop in,” he adds.

Wildlife losses

But the loss of hay meadows is having a worrying impact on biodiversity, says Professor Rodwell.

“When you shift to a more intensive form of agriculture, first of all the diversity drops. Then the differences from field to field – the particularity of the place – is lost, every field looks like every other.

“And then all of the other associated organisms – the butterflies, the bees, birds – they seem to decline too.”

It is also extremely difficult to “turn back the clock” once a hay meadow has been transformed into a more uniform pasture.

“Once a hay meadow is gone, it’s gone,” he says.

Organisations like the National Trust and Natural England want to safeguard the last few remaining hay meadows.

Pete Brash, an ecologist from the National Trust, says: “We want to keep the last few in as good a condition as possible – it is really important to conserve them as they are incredibly important for wildlife and they also have a huge cultural significance.”

The National Trust has been purchasing farms and hay meadows, such as New House Farm, through auctions to maintain and protect them where possible.

Farmers throughout the UK are also offered incentives to protect their hay meadows.

Dr Richard Jefferson, a senior specialist from Natural England, said: “We have been notifying the best ones as Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) through the Countryside and Wildlife Act (in Northern Ireland they are designated as Areas of Special Scientific Interest). “And that actually gives them statutory protection, allowing us to control what actually happens on the site.”

Outside of this other hay meadows are also eligible for the environmental stewardship scheme.

“We are very dependent on these agri-evironment payments to provide this incentive, because [traditional hay meadows] have relatively low productivity compared with silage fields or other hay fields which receive artificial fertilizers.”

With schemes like these in place, conservation organisations hope the decline in hay meadows is slowing.

But they warn that we cannot be complacent, or hay meadows like those at New House Farm could risk becoming a hazy memory of rural summers past.

Source: Conservationists warn of hay meadow decline – BBC

Date: 28 June 2010

Endangered cockatoo numbers down by half

Wednesday, June 23rd, 2010
Survey finds half as many red-tailed black cockatoos this year (ABC News: Bob McPherson)

Survey finds half as many red-tailed black cockatoos this year (ABC News: Bob McPherson)

Sightings of the endangered red-tailed black cockatoo have dropped by more than half in the south-east of South Australia and western Victoria.

Annual research on the numbers has just ended and this year’s sightings have dipped to 680 birds from about 1,400 last year.

The decline has the volunteers from the south-east cockatoo recovery project scratching their heads.

One of the group Bronwyn Perryman says 159 volunteers checked 2,800 square kilometres.

“This year we’ve only had two reasonable size flocks located up in western Victoria, so most of the other birds counted were in pretty small numbers,” she said.

Source: Endangered cockatoo numbers down by half - abc.net.au

Date: 23 June 2010

Disappearance of rare wetland bird could herald the beginning of Earth’s ‘sixth great extinction’

Wednesday, May 26th, 2010

A rare Madagascan wetland bird has been declared extinct in what scientists believe may herald the beginning of a global catastrophe only recorded five times in Earth’s history.

The dying out of the Alaotra grebe, found only in Madagascar and not seen for 25 years, has led biologists to claim we are on the verge of the ‘sixth great extinction’.

The previous five cataclysmic events during Earth’s prehistory, such as the extinction of dinosaurs 65 million years ago possibly caused by a meteorite hitting Earth, were naturally caused. This is the first time humans have been implicated in causing mass global extinction.

The Alaotra grebe has been declared extinct due to the introduction of carnivorous fish into its habitat and the use of fishing nets that caught and drowned the bird.

The disappearance of yet another type of bird has led scientists to believe that the rate at which species are vanishing from the planet could point to a period of mass global extinction.

Scientists now claim we could be on the verge of the next great extinction.

The RSPB’s international director Dr Tim Stowe said:

‘The confirmation of the extinction of yet another bird species is further evidence that we are not doing enough in the fight to protect the world’s wildlife. ‘Although there are some key successes, overall the trend is downward, bringing more species year on year to the brink of extinction and beyond.’

The inclusion of the Alaotra grebe on the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List, which is the most comprehensive inventory of extinct species, comes as experts warned an eighth of bird species now faced extinction.

Bird species alone seem to be disappearing at the rate of one per decade.

The wetland bird was last seen in 1985 and its disappearance comes as experts warned an eighth of bird species now faced extinction.

The number of birds threatened with global extinction now stands at 1,240 species, according to the latest assessment.

The IUCN Red List’s update for birds, carried out by Birdlife International, said 25 species had been added to the list of those at risk.

Other wetland birds are under increasing pressure from the introduction of invasive species, as well as from drainage and pollution of their habitats, the conservationists warned.

Dr Stuart Butchart, Birdlife’s global species programme officer, said:

‘Wetlands are fragile environments, easily disturbed or polluted, but essential not only for birds and other biodiversity but also for millions of people around the world as a source of water and food.’

Along with the Azores bullfinch, the yellow-eared parrot from Colombia and the Chatham albatross have been downlisted from critically endangered to endangered.

Dr Butchart said:

‘These successes show what is possible, and they point the way forward to what needs to be done by the global community. 2010 is the International Year of Biodiversity; world leaders failed to stem the decline of biodiversity. We cannot fail again.’

EARTH’S FIVE GREAT EXTINCTIONS

  • 65 million years ago: Cretaceous-Tertiary (K-T extinction). About 75% of species became extinct, possibly caused by a meteorite hitting the earth. Wiped out dinosaurs.
  • 205 million years ago: Triassic-Jurassic extinction. Most non-dinosaurs were eliminated, leaving dinosaurs with little terrestrial competition.
  • 440-450 million years ago: Ordovidician-Silurian. Two linked events that are considered together to have been the second worst extinction on the list.
  • 360-375 million years ago: Late Devonian. A prologued series of extinctions that may have lasted 20 million years.
  • 251 million years ago: Permian-Triassic. Known as ‘The Great Dying’ after about 96% of marine species and 70% of land species disappeared.

Source: Disappearance of rare wetland bird could herald the beginning of Earth’s ‘sixth great extinction’ - Mail Online

Date: 26 May 2010

Global warming striking polar bears

Wednesday, May 26th, 2010

polar bear

The number of polar bears is expected to decline suddenly and dramatically as their sea ice habitat thins and shrinks due to climate change.

Climate change and global warming will trigger a drop in the polar bear population whose survival is inextricably linked to sea ice, stresses a new study by Canadian scientists.

The study notes a strong correlation between the health and physical conditions of the bears and the state of the sea ice.

Published in the journal Biological Conservation, the study anticipates the population of the polar bears will not decrease gradually nor will it follow a predictable trend.

As Arctic sea ice declines in extent and thickness, the species’ ongoing viability will be cut dramatically and suddenly.

Source: Global warming striking polar bears - Press TV

Date: 26 May 2010

Infections link to bees decline

Wednesday, May 26th, 2010

US researchers claim to have identified a new potential cause for Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD) in honeybees.

The disease is responsible for wiping out many beekeepers’ entire colonies over the past few years.

Scientists from the US Department of Agriculture say the pathogens to blame are a fungus and a family of viruses.

The results of the study were presented at the 110th General Meeting of the American Society for Microbiology in San Diego, California.

Jay Evans of the USDA Agricultural Research Service, a researcher on the study, says that when these two very different pathogens show up together, “there is a significant correlation with colony decline”.

Daniel Weaver, a commercial beekeeper from Texas and head of the BeeWeaver Apiaries Inc, remembers the shock he experienced when he opened his hives in the early spring of 2007 – only to find them empty.

Source: Infections link to bees decline - BBC

Date: 26 May 2010

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