1

Indian Wolf is One of World’s Most Endangered Wolves

Indian wolves.
Mihir Godbole / The Grasslands Trust

Very little is known about the Indian wolf. A medium-sized, light-colored subspecies of the gray wolf, the animal looks different from its relatives because it has less of a shaggy coat.1

Researchers sequenced the genome of the Indian wolf for the first time and uncovered more about this enigmatic canine.2

Results showed the Indian wolf (Canis lupus pallipes) is genetically distinct from other neighboring gray wolves.3 The Indian wolf is also one of the world’s most endangered gray wolf populations and could represent the most ancient surviving lineage of wolves.2

The findings were published in the journal Molecular Ecology.

Lead author Lauren Hennelly, a doctoral student with the UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine’s Mammalian Ecology Conservation Unit, first learned about the species while on her first trip to India in 2013. That sparked her interest in Indian wolves.4

“Early genetic research based on mitochondrial DNA also suggested that Indian wolves may be evolutionarily distinct, which I grew more and more interested in studying these little-known wolves,” Hennelly tells Treehugger.

“In 2014 to 2015, I conducted fieldwork in Maharashtra to study Indian wolf behavior and saw first-hand the many challenges these wolves face in their shrinking habitats. Being able to observe these wild Indian wolves during this fieldwork was inspiring and provided me with a strong motivation that propelled me throughout the ups and downs of research.”

Studying DNA

Indian wolf howling
Indian wolf howling. Mihir Godbole / The Grasslands Trust

To take a closer look, Hennelly and her colleagues sequenced the genomes of four Indian and two Tibetan wolves and compared those to 31 other canid genomes.3

They found that Indian and Tibetan wolves are distinct from each other and from other gray wolf populations.3

“Early research on the mitochondrial DNA hinted that Indian wolves were somewhat distinct within gray wolves. However, the mitochondrial DNA suggested Indian wolves were not as evolutionarily distinct as Tibetan wolves,” Hennelly says.

“So I was very surprised that our research using the entire genome showed that Indian wolves are the most evolutionarily distinct gray wolf population.”

The researchers are recommending that the populations be recognized as evolutionarily significant units (ESUs). That’s an interim designation until more research can be done and scientists can discuss whether the species should be classified separately.3

The temporary designation would help with conservation measures in the meantime.4

“These findings will have taxonomic-level changes to the Indian wolf and will strengthen on-the-ground efforts towards their conservation. Currently, all wolves spanning India to Turkey are considered as the same population. Our study highlights a need to reassess taxonomic designations of the Indian wolf, which will significantly affect their conservation priority,” Hennelly says.

“This change in taxonomy and greater recognition of their endangered status will strengthen the on-the-ground efforts led by NGOs, universities, and governmental agencies to help protect these wolves. Hopefully, Indian wolves can serve as a flagship species for conserving the remaining grassland ecosystems in India and Pakistan.”

Ancient and Endangered

gray wolf distribution
Gray wolf distribution. Lauren Hennelly, UC Davis

The findings indicate Indian wolves are only found in India and Pakistan, where their habitat is threatened by land-use changes and human population shifts.2

“Our study suggests that Indian wolves represent the world’s most evolutionarily divergent wolf lineage. Additionally, our study highlights that this evolutionarily distinct Indian wolf lineage is potentially only found within the Indian subcontinent,” Hennelly says.

“Currently, there is no population estimate for Indian wolves in Pakistan. In India, the last population estimate for the Indian wolf was done almost 20 years ago, and it estimated around 2,000-3,000 individuals. That means there are likely more tigers in India than there are Indian wolves—highlighting how endangered the Indian wolf populations are.”

Both Indian and Tibetan wolves come from an ancient lineage that is older than Holarctic wolves, which are found in North America and Eurasia. The researchers say their findings suggest that Indian wolves could represent the most ancient surviving lineage2

“This paper may be a game-changer for the species to persist in these landscapes,” co-author Bilal Habib, a conservation biologist with the Wildlife Institute of India, said in a statement. “People may realize that the species with whom we have been sharing the landscape is the most distantly divergent wolf alive today.”2

By Mary Jo DiLonardo | Treehugger

Mary Jo DiLonardo is a senior writer and editor at MNN. She has covered health, education, parenting, pets, and more for media outlets such as WebMD and Atlanta magazine, and has contributed to CNN.com, Ladies Home Journal, Parents and Family Fun magazines. She wrote a family travel book for Random House and worked on several national radio shows.

Twitter

Muckrack




‘Momentous’ Moratorium on Deep Sea Mining Adopted at Global Biodiversity Summit

A pair of fish swim near the ocean floor off the coast of Mauritius. A motion calling for an end to deep-sea mining of minerals was adopted at the world congress of the International Union for the Conservation of Nature this week. (Photo: Roman Furrer/Flickr/cc)

By Julia Conley | Common Dreams

A vote overwhelmingly in favor of placing a moratorium on deep-sea mineral mining at a global biodiversity summit this week has put urgent pressure on the International Seabed Authority to strictly regulate the practice.

The vast majority of governments, NGOs, and civil society groups voted in favor of the moratorium at the world congress of the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) on Wednesday, after several conservation groups lobbied in favor of the measure.

“Member countries of the ISA, including France which hosted this Congress, need to wake up and act on behalf of civil society and the environment now, and take action in support of a moratorium.” —Matthew Gianni, Deep Sea Conservation Coalition

Eighty-one government and government agencies voted for the moratorium, while 18 opposed it and 28, including the United Kingdom, abstained from voting. Among NGOs and other organizations, 577 supported the motion while fewer than three dozen opposed it or abstained.

Deep-sea mining for deposits of copper, nickel, lithium, and other metals can lead to the swift loss of entire species that live only on the ocean floor, as well as disturbing ecosystems and food sources and putting marine life at risk for toxic spills and leaks.

Fauna and Flora International, which sponsored the moratorium along with other groups including the Natural Resources Defense Council and Synchronicity Earth, called the vote “a momentous outcome for ocean conservation.”

The motion called for a moratorium on mining for minerals and metals near the ocean floor until environmental impact assessments are completed and stakeholders can ensure the protection of marine life, as well as calling for reforms to the International Seabed Authority (ISA)—the regulatory body made up of 167 nations and the European Union, tasked with overseeing “all mineral-related activities in the international seabed area for the benefit of mankind as a whole.”

In June, a two-year deadline was set for the ISA to begin licensing commercial deep-sea mining and to finalize regulations for the industry by 2023.

“Member countries of the ISA, including France which hosted this Congress, need to wake up and act on behalf of civil society and the environment now, and take action in support of a moratorium,” said Matthew Gianni, co-founder of the Deep Sea Conservation Coalition, in a statement.

The World Wide Fund for Nature, another co-sponsor of the motion, called on the ISA to reject the deep-sea mining industry’s claims that mining for metals on the ocean floor is a partial solution to the climate crisis.

“The pro-deep seabed mining lobby is… selling a story that companies need deep seabed minerals in order to produce electric cars, batteries, and other items that reduce carbon emissions,” said Jessica Battle, a senior expert on global ocean policy and governance at the organization. “Deep seabed mining is an avoidable environmental disaster. We can decarbonize through innovation, redesigning, reducing, reusing, and recycling.”

Pippa Howard of Fauna and Flora International wrote ahead of the IUCN summit that “we need to shatter the myth that deep seabed mining is the solution to the climate crisis.”

“Far from being the answer to our dreams, deep seabed mining could well turn out to be the stuff of nightmares,” she wrote. “Deep seabed mining—at least as it is currently conceived—would be an utterly irresponsible and short-sighted idea. In the absence of any suitable mitigation techniques… deep-sea mining should be avoided entirely until that situation changes.”

Our work is licensed under Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0). Feel free to republish and share widely.



Blue Whales Return to Spain’s Coast After Disappearing for 40 Years

By | The Mind Unreleased

Blue whales have been returning to the Atlantic coast of Spain after an absence of over 40 years in the region when whaling industries drove the species to the brink of extinction.

Blue whales, which are the world’s largest mammals, had long disappeared from the region until the recent sightings.

The first was spotted off the coast of Galicia near Ons Island by marine biologist Bruno Díaz, who heads the Bottlenose Dolphin Research.

Another one of the majestic creatures was spotted the following year in 2018 and yet another in 2019. In 2020, two whales again made their return to the area.

It remains unclear as of yet as to why the creatures have returned to the area, but controls on local whaling industries are believed to play a role.

I believe the moratorium on whaling has been a key factor,” Díaz remarked, according to the Guardian. “In the 1970s, just before the ban was introduced, an entire generation of blue whales disappeared. Now, more than 40 years later, we’re seeing the return of the descendants of the few that survived.”

Whaling had been a traditional industry in Galicia for hundreds of years before Spain finally acted to ban whaling in 1986, long after the blue whale’s presence in the region had faded away.

I’m pessimistic because there’s a high possibility that climate change is having a major impact on the blue whale’s habitat,” said marine biologist Alfredo López in comments to La Voz de Galicia.

“Firstly, because they never venture south of the equator, and if global warming pushes this line north, their habitat will be reduced,” he continued “And secondly, if it means the food they normally eat is disappearing, then what we’re seeing is dramatic and not something to celebrate.”

Díaz said that while the data certainly supports this theory, it is too early to determine climate as the precise cause.

“It is true that the data we have pointed to this trend [climate change] but it is not enough yet,” he told Público news.

Another possibility is that the ancestral memory of the old creatures or even a longing for their home may offer an explanation, according to Díaz.

In recent years it’s been discovered that the blue whale’s migration is driven by memory, not by environmental conditions,” he said. “This year there hasn’t been a notable increase in plankton, but here they are. Experiences are retained in the collective memory and drive the species to return.”

In recent years, researchers have found that migratory patterns are also driven by the cultural knowledge existing in many groups of species.

Researchers believe this type of folk memory, or cultural knowledge, exists in many species and is key to their survival.

A typical blue whale is 20-24 meters long and weighs 120 tonnes – equivalent to 16 elephants – but specimens of up to 30 meters and 170 tonnes have been found.




Yellowstone is Losing Its Snow as the Climate Warms, and that Means Widespread Problems for Water and Wildlife

When you picture Yellowstone National Park and its neighbor, Grand Teton, the snowcapped peaks and Old Faithful Geyser almost certainly come to mind. Climate change threatens all of these iconic scenes, and its impact reaches far beyond the parks’ borders.

A new assessment of climate change in the two national parks and surrounding forests and ranchland warns of the potential for significant changes as the region continues to heat up.

Map showing the parks and forest land within the Greater Yellowstone Area

The Greater Yellowstone Area includes both Yellowstone and Grand Teton national parks, as well as surrounding national forests and federal land. National Park Service

Since 1950, average temperatures in the Greater Yellowstone Area have risen 2.3 degrees Fahrenheit (1.3 C), and potentially more importantly, the region has lost a quarter of its annual snowfall. With the region projected to warm 5-6 F by 2061-2080, compared with the average from 1986-2005, and by as much as 10-11 F by the end of the century, the high country around Yellowstone is poised to lose its snow altogether.

The loss of snow there has repercussions for a vast range of ecosystems and wildlife, as well as cities and farms downstream that rely on rivers that start in these mountains.

Broad impact on wildlife and ecosystems

The Greater Yellowstone Area comprises 22 million acres in northwest Wyoming and portions of Montana and Idaho. In addition to geysers and hot springs, it’s home to the southernmost range of grizzly bear populations in North America and some of the longest intact wildlife migrations, including the seasonal traverses of elk, pronghorn, mule deer and bison.

The area also represents the one point where the three major river basins of the western U.S. converge. The rivers of the Snake-Columbia basin, Green-Colorado basin, and Missouri River Basin all begin as snow on the Continental Divide as it weaves across Yellowstone’s peaks and plateaus.

How climate change alters the Greater Yellowstone Area is, therefore, a question with implications far beyond the impact on Yellowstone’s declining cutthroat trout population and disruptions to the food supplies critical for the region’s recovering grizzly population. By altering the water supply, it also shapes the fate of major Western reservoirs and their dependent cities and farms hundreds of miles downstream.

Rising temperatures also increase the risk of large forest fires like those that scarred Yellowstone in 1988 and broke records across Colorado in 2020. And the effects on the national parks could harm the region’s nearly US$800 billion in annual tourism activity across the three states.

A group of scientists led by Cathy Whitlock from Montana State University, Steve Hostetler of the U.S. Geological Survey and myself at the University of Wyoming partnered with local organizations, including the Greater Yellowstone Coalition, to launch the climate assessment.

We wanted to create a common baseline for discussion among the region’s many voices, from the Indigenous nations who have lived in these landscapes for over 10,000 years to the federal agencies mandated to care for the region’s public lands. What information would ranchers and outfitters, skiers and energy producers need to know to begin planning for the future?

Shifting from snow to rain

Standing at the University of Wyoming-National Park Service Research Station and looking up at the snow on the Grand Teton, over 13,000 feet above sea level, I cannot help but think that the transition away from snow is the most striking outcome that the assessment anticipates – and the most dire.

Today the average winter snowline – the level where almost all winter precipitation falls as snow – is at an elevation of about 6,000 feet. By the end of the century, warming is forecast to raise it to at least 10,000 feet, the top of Jackson Hole’s famous ski areas.

The climate assessment uses projections of future climates based on a scenario that assumes countries substantially reduce their greenhouse gas emissions. When we looked at scenarios in which global emissions continue at a high rate instead, the differences by the end of century compared with today became stark. Not even the highest peaks would regularly receive snow.

In interviews with people across the region, nearly everyone agreed that the challenge ahead is directly connected to water. As a member of one of the regional tribes noted, “Water is a big concern for everybody.”

As temperature has risen over the past seven decades, snowfall has declined, and peak streamflow shifted earlier in the year across the Greater Yellowstone Area. 2021 Greater Yellowstone Climate Assessment, CC BY-ND

Precipitation may increase slightly as the region warms, but less of it will fall as snow. More of it will fall in spring and autumn, while summers will become drier than they have been, our assessment found.

The timing of the spring runoff, when winter snow melts and feeds into streams and rivers, has already shifted ahead by about eight days since 1950. The shift means a longer, drier late summer when drought can turn the landscape brown – or black as the wildfire season becomes longer and hotter.

The outcomes will affect wildlife migrations dependent on the “green wave” of new leaves that rises up the mountain slopes each spring. Low streamflow and warm water in late summer will threaten the survival of coldwater fisheries, like the Yellowstone cutthroat trout, and Yellowstone’s unique species like the western glacier stonefly, which depends on the meltwater from mountain glaciers.

Temperatures are projected to rise in the Greater Yellowstone Area in the coming decades. The chart shows two potential scenarios, based on different projections of what global warming might look like in the future – RCP 8.5, if greenhouse gas emissions continue at a high rate; and RCP 4.5, if countries take substantial steps to slow climate change. The temperatures are compared with the 1900-2005 average. 2021 Greater Yellowstone Climate Assessment

Preparing for a warming future

These outcomes will vary somewhat from location to location, but no area will be untouched.

We hope the climate assessment will help communities anticipate the complex impacts ahead and start planning for the future.

As the report indicates, that future will depend on choices made now and in the coming years. Federal and state policy choices will determine whether the world will see optimistic scenarios or scenarios where adaption becomes more difficult. The Yellowstone region, one of the coldest parts of the U.S., will face changes, but actions now can help avoid the worst. High-elevation mountain towns like Jackson, Wyoming, which today rarely experience 90 F, may face a couple of weeks of such heat by the end of the century – or they may face two months of it, depending in large part on those decisions.

The assessment underscores the need for discussion. What choices do we want to make?

Bryan Shuman, Professor of Paleoclimatology and Paleoecology, University of Wyoming

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.




EPA Inaction Blamed as US Bees Suffer Second Highest Colony Losses on Record

By Andrea Germanos | Common Dreams

Beekeepers this year in the United States reported the second-highest annual loss of managed honey bee colonies since records began in 2006, according to results of a nationwide survey released Wednesday.

The non-profit Bee Informed Partnership (BIP) said in its preliminary analysis that beekeepers—ranging from small backyard keepers to commercial operations—lost 45.5% of their colonies between April 2020 and April 2021. The results are based on a survey of over 3,300 U.S. beekeepers managing a combined 192,384 colonies.

“The worrisome part is we see no progress towards a reduction of losses.”

“This year’s survey results show that colony losses are still high,” said Nathalie Steinhauer, BIP’s science coordinator and a post-doctoral researcher in the University of Maryland Department of Entomology, in a statement.

The annual loss is 6.1 percentage points higher than the average loss rate of 39.4% over the last 10 years, the researchers said.

“Though we see fluctuations from year to year,” said Steinhauer, “the worrisome part is we see no progress towards a reduction of losses.”

During winter beekeepers reported losses of 32.2%—9.6 percentage points higher than last year and 3.9 points higher than the 15-year average. Summer losses came in at 31.1%. While that figure is 0.9 percentage points lower than last year, it’s 8.6 points higher than the survey average.

The beekeepers attributed the losses this year to a number of factors, with the parasitic Varroa destructor mite being cited most frequently for winter losses and queen issues most frequent for summer losses. Other causes of colony loss beekeepers cited included starvation, weather, and pesticides.

Continued losses are bad news for food security, as agricultural crops like blueberries and almonds rely on the bees for pollination.

“Beekeepers of all types consistently lose a high number of colonies each year, which puts a heavy burden on many of them to recoup those losses in time for major pollination events like California almonds,” said survey co-author Geoffrey Williams, an assistant professor of entomology at Auburn University.

“Colony losses remain elevated,” he said, “and this year’s annual and summer loss rates are among the highest recorded.”

For Jason Davidson, senior food and agriculture campaigner with Friends of the Earth, the survey results were a damning indictment of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) failure to act on what conservation advocates call an “insect apocalypse” that was furthered by the Trump administration’s pro-pesticide industry decisions.

“These bee losses highlight the disturbing lack of progress from the EPA in the fight to protect pollinators from toxic pesticides,” said Davidson, urging the EPA not to “sit on the sidelines while beekeepers experience horrific losses year after year.”

“It will take meaningful policy protection and rapid market change to reverse these unsustainable declines in honey bees and to protect the future of our food supply,” he added.

BIP’s findings were delivered during National Pollinator Week and as Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore.) reintroduced (pdf) the Saving America’s Pollinators Act.

Pollinators, Blumenauer said Wednesday, are “critically important to the food we eat and the environment that sustains us. Unfortunately, our pollinators weren’t immune from [former President Donald] Trump’s war on science and the environment. In fact, they were a target, as the previous administration actually fought to allow more bee-killing pesticides back on the market.”

“Now, it’s up to us to work overtime to protect them, which is why I’ve reintroduced Saving America’s Pollinators Act,” he said.

According to Emily Knobbe, policy manager at the Center for Food Safety, which endorsed the legislation, “National Pollinator Week is the perfect time for Rep. Blumenauer to reintroduce his progressive pollinator protection bill—and a perfect time to ask legislators to support this continued dedication to pollinators.”

She said the latest version of the bill rightly responds to the decline in pollinator health, pointing to the 80% decline in 20 years of the Eastern Monarch butterfly populations as one example. She also pointed to a group of pesticides called neonicotinoids, or neonics, as key to pollinator recovery, given their links to pollinator harm.

“Rep. Blumenauer’s bill would require not a suspension, but a ban on all neonicotinoid pesticides,” wrote Knobbe. “This change to the proposed legislation reflects that the time for requesting incremental action from the EPA has passed.”

“Pollinators need swift action in order to survive—banning neonicotinoids would provide a lifeline for these essential species,” she said.


Our work is licensed under Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0). Feel free to republish and share widely.



Climate Crisis and Negligent Policymakers Blamed for ‘Record Sickening Levels’ of Manatee Deaths in Florida

By Julia Conley | Common Dreams

Conservation advocates in Florida are warning that 1,000 manatees in the state’s water could die this year—hundreds more than in recent years—due to starvation drove by water pollution, the climate crisis, and other man-made harms to the mammals’ ecosystem.

As The Guardian reported Monday, 749 manatees died between January 1 and May 21, compared with 637 deaths in all of 2020, qualifying as an “unusual mortality event” according to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC).

“Manatees are literally that sentinel species. They’re warning us of what else is going to come if we don’t do a better job while there’s still time to do something about it. If we don’t, our own lives will suffer.”
—Patrick Rose, Save the Manatee Club

Experts in the state point to the death of seagrass, manatees’ primary food source, including the majority of 80,000 acres of the plants in the Indian River Lagoon due to blue-green algae blooms—”which have themselves been caused by decades of human nutrient pollution from wastewater and runoff that continues unabated to this day,” Bob Graham, a former Democratic Florida governor and co-founder of Save the Manatee, wrote in the Tampa Bay Times last month.

Runoff containing fertilizers, microplastics, and other chemicals has been linked to the growth of blooms.

Warmer water temperatures linked to the climate crisis have also been known to foster the growth of algae, which cover the water’s surface and deprive seagrasses of sunlight. In response, manatees overgraze the remaining seagrass.

As The Guardian reported, toxic wastewater leaks into Tampa Bay from the Piney Point fertilizer plant in Manatee County, Florida has led to water-poisoning red tide algae blooms, with the FWC linking at least 12 manatee deaths to the algae.

A study by the Center for Biological Diversity (CBD) in March also found traces of pesticides in more than 55% of the manatees the group tested.

“Our beloved chubby sea cows are dodging boat strikes, reeling from red tide and starving in the Indian River Lagoon because of water pollution,” Jaclyn Lopez, Florida director for the CBD, told The Guardian. “It’s heartbreaking to add chronic glyphosate exposure to the list of factors threatening manatee survival.”

With just 7,500 manatees remaining, the unabated threats could mean the species is wiped out within a few years, as well as killing off other marine species and causing disaster for Florida’s beaches and tourism industry.

“Manatees are literally that sentinel species,” Patrick Rose, executive director of the Save the Manatee Club, told CNN. “They’re warning us of what else is going to come if we don’t do a better job while there’s still time to do something about it. If we don’t, our own lives will suffer.”

Rose’s warning was echoed on social media.

The Orlando Sentinel editorial board published a scathing editorial earlier this month, slamming policymakers for allowing manatees to die “at record sickening levels” this year.

“Our careless contempt for keeping Florida’s waters clean now has caught up with these gentle creatures. This isn’t just a coincidence,” the editors wrote, condemning state lawmakers as woefully out of touch with residents who want to save the state’s manatees and marine life:

The average Floridian has always respected wild surroundings and wants to protect the fragile parts, including its crystalline freshwater springs, its moss-draped woodlands and its rare animals.

The average state legislator, on the other hand, has always respected campaign contributions from wealthy polluters like phosphate mines and from developers whose goal is to cover sensitive land with subdivisions and golf courses that spew killing fertilizer into waterways.

Voters have said over and over again—loudly and unambiguously—that they want state money spent on the environment. Consider the 75% voter support for Amendment 1 in 2014.

The constitutional amendment ordered the state to use 33% of the proceeds—that was $750 million in 2015—of an already-existing real-estate tax called documentary stamps to improve and protect water resources and to buy preservation land.

Instead, then-state Sen. Alan Hays, R-Umatilla, now the Supervisor of Elections in Lake County, chaired a committee that hijacked all but $37 million to feed bloated state bureaucracy, pay off state debt and keep the corporate welfare flowing. That’s disgusting on two levels—the damage to the environment and the disrespect to the voters.

The editors also denounced former Gov. Rick Scott for “mercilessly slashing employees” from the Department of Environmental Protection, calling on the agency to loosen water quality rules, and barring local governments from regulating the use of harmful fertilizers.

“The reason sensitive manatees are dying is no big mystery,” they wrote. “Environmentalists heralded this foul die-off. Politicians were deaf to the warning. Florida has at least some rules for protecting land and animals but has had almost no enforcement in the past decade. Dead manatees are just the beginning.”

Graham called on the Biden administration to “demand that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) and other federal agencies make protecting manatees and recovering seagrasses and other submerged aquatic vegetation a top priority in ensuring that our aquatic ecosystems are nursed back to health,” following a 2019 decision by FWS to change manatees’ status from “endangered” to “threatened.”

Duane De Freese, executive director of the Indian River Lagoon Council, called on policymakers to recognize the threats facing manatees as endangering entire ecosystems.

“This is about more than just the environment,” De Freese told CNN. “It’s about human health, it’s about quality of life, it’s about the economic vitality of our coastal communities. And if we fail to act in a science-driven way to solve these problems, as the population grows, these problems will grow with it.”

Our work is licensed under Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0). Feel free to republish and share widely.




Do Marine Protected Areas Work?

Watered-down management plans limit the effectiveness of MPAs.

MPAs aim to protect marine life, such as the Hawksbill turtle, which is critically endangered.

In the field of marine conservation, a marine protected area (MPA) is an expanse of sea, ocean, estuaries, coastal waters, and in the United States, the U.S. Great Lakes, where fishing, mining, drilling, and other extractive human activity is restricted in an effort to protect the waters’ natural resources and marine life.

Deep-sea corals, for example, which can be up to 4,000 years old, can be damaged by fishing trawls that drag along the ocean floor, scooping up bottom-dwelling fish and crustaceans. By not allowing humans to deplete, disturb, or pollute waterways at will, MPAs discourage such damage and disregard for sea life. But while MPAs provide a framework for us to sustainably interact with Earth’s waters, weak enforcement of their rules and regulations means they’re not always as effective as they aim to be.

The Evolution of Marine Protected Areas

A sign marker for a marine protected area
An MPA sign in the Cook Islands. The island’s Indigenous Peoples call the concept of conservation “ra’ui”.Patrick Nunn / Wikimedia Commons / CC BY-SA 4.0

The idea of restricting access to marine areas as a way to revitalize them has existed for centuries. The Indigenous Peoples of the Cook Islands, for example, practice the “ra’ui” system, a tradition enacted by the Koutu Nui (traditional leaders) which temporarily prohibits fishing and foraging whenever a food source is in low supply.1

Modern-day MPAs, however, evolved over a period of decades from the 1960s onward, as myriad global conferences and conventions increased awareness of threats to our oceans. Some of the events that helped propel global MPAs forward include the 1962 First World Conference on National Parks, which explored the idea of creating marine parks and reserves to defend marine areas from human interference; and the International Union of Conservation of Nature’s (IUCN’s) 1973 critical marine habitats project, which developed criteria for selecting and managing MPA sites. Also helping to shape global MPAs was the 1982 United Nations (UN) Convention on the Law of the Sea—a collection of treaties and international agreements, which established that nations “have the sovereign right to exploit their natural resources,” but that they should do so “in accordance with their duty to protect and serve the marine environment.”

Meanwhile, the Marine Protection, Research, and Sanctuaries Act of 1972, which prohibited ocean dumping, was largely responsible for kicking off the MPA movement in the United States. That same year, the U.S. Congress established an MPA program managed by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).

Today, more than 15,000 MPAs cover roughly 7% of the world’s marine environment. Nearly 1,000 of that number are in the United States.2

Are Marine Protected Areas Effective?

MPAs provide a multitude of conservation and climate benefits, including improving water quality, protecting species during spawning periods, and promoting greater biodiversity (variation of marine flora and fauna). A study in Science Magazine found that coral reefs that faceless fishing pressure and that are located away from human populations see the greatest chance at recovery, whereas those facing intense human impacts rebound more slowly.

The potential benefits of MPAs are so bountiful that in 2004, and again in 2010, the United Nations (UN) Convention on Biological Diversity set a target of converting 10% of the world’s marine areas into MPAs by 2020. While nations missed this international target, about 8.5% of oceans, or an area the size of North America, is now covered by MPAs, according to the Marine Conservation Institute’s marine protection atlas.3 Zoom in on the United States, and that number increases to 26%, says the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).2

However, recent research suggests that the aerial coverage of MPAs may not be as important to marine safeguarding as two other factors: the type of MPA—”no-take” or partially-protected—that is implemented, and how closely an MPA site’s rules and regulations are followed.

“No-Take” Marine Reserves Offer the Greatest Benefits

No-take MPAs, which are also known as “marine reserves,” ban all activities that remove or harm marine life, whereas partially protected MPAs allow some degree of human activity, such as fishing, boating, swimming, snorkeling, kayaking, or more, within its borders.

Because of this, some scientists, including social ecologist John Turnbull and his colleagues at the University of New South Wales in Australia, say partially protected MPAs merely “create an illusion of protection.” Conservationist and National Geographic Explorer-in-Residence, Enric Sala, also recognizes the benefit of no-take over partially-protected MPAs. According to his analysis published in the ICES Journal of Marine Science, fish biomass (the weight used to interpret health) in marine reserves is over three times greater than that in partially-protected MPAs.

Only 3% of global ocean areas and 3% of U.S. waters are in highly protected no-take zones.3

Stricter Regulation and Enforcement Is Needed

Of course, even if no-take MPAs are in place, there’s no guarantee that people will abide by their rules and regulations. Despite the fact that MPA zones and boundaries are mapped by NOAA, and are physically marked with buoys and signs, many are located in remote parts of the world and aren’t routinely policed, meaning the honor code system is largely in effect.

Divers survey the waters in a marine sanctuary
A diver maintains a mooring buoy in the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary.NOAA National Marine Sanctuaries / Flickr / Public Domain

Sadly, visitors don’t always act in a trustworthy manner when no one is looking. In the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary, for example, mooring buoys are installed so that visitors, who are allowed to boat, fish, and dive in the partially-protected MPA, may do so without damaging the reef with boat anchors. (Mooring buoys give boats a place to tie up to, and thereby avoid the need to drop anchor.) However, over 500 vessel groundings, on average, occur within the sanctuary every year.

Such violations occur within international MPAs, too. A 2020 study conducted by Oceana, a nonprofit organization that works to influence policy decisions to preserve and restore the world’s oceans, revealed that 96% of the nearly 3,500 European MPAs surveyed, including the Natura 2000 MPAs, allowed at least one extractive or industrial activity, or infrastructural development (such as an oil/gas rig) within their boundaries. Oceana also found that 53% of MPA sites reported no active management. And where management plans did exist, 80% of those plans were incomplete or failed to address major threats affecting the sites.

One remedy to the problem of ineffective MPA management is stricter oversight. Perhaps as the global community works toward the international goal of protecting 30% of the world’s oceans by 2030, it can also take the opportunity to improve the effectiveness of MPAs by adopting innovative surveillance tools, such as drones, satellite-tracking systems for vessels, and passive acoustics systems which use sound to detect when a vessel is nearby, into its MPA management plans.

For the rest of this article please go to the source link below.

By Tiffany Means | Treehugger 

Expertise

Weather, Climate, Environment, Science

Education

The University of North Carolina at Asheville, Johns Hopkins University

Introduction

Tiffany Means is a meteorologist-turned-science-writer who has been writing articles about weather and climate since 2012. Her work has been featured in publications including Yale Climate Connections, Live Science, and The Farmers’ Almanac.

Means has experienced such weather greats as the 1993 Storm of the Century. She is also a budding nature photographer and has an insatiable interest in Disney Parks, history, and nostalgia.

Experience

Means joined Treehugger in 2021, but she isn’t exactly new to the Dotdash family — she was an About.com and ThoughtCo. contributor from 2012 to 2017.

Before fully transitioning to a career in science writing, Means worked for CNN and NOAA’s National Centers for Environmental Information. In 2018, she helped edit and publish the Fourth National Climate Assessment.

Means is a member of the American Meteorological Society and the National Association of Science Writers.

Education

Means holds a Bachelor of Science in atmospheric science (with a weather forecasting concentration) from the University of North Carolina at Asheville. After discovering a passion for science communication, she transitioned into science journalism and is currently earning a Masters of Arts in science writing from Johns Hopkins University.




Sharks Use Earth’s Magnetic Fields to Guide Them Like a Map

Bonnethead shark.
Credit: © Wrangel / 123RF.com

By Cell Press | Science Daily

Sea turtles are known for relying on magnetic signatures to find their way across thousands of miles to the very beaches where they hatched. Now, researchers reporting in the journal Current Biology on May 6 have some of the first solid evidence that sharks also rely on magnetic fields for their long-distance forays across the sea.

“It had been unresolved how sharks managed to successfully navigate during migration to targeted locations,” said Save Our Seas Foundation project leader Bryan Keller, also of Florida State University Coastal and Marine Laboratory. “This research supports the theory that they use the earth’s magnetic field to help them find their way; it’s nature’s GPS.”

Researchers had known that some species of sharks travel over long distances to reach very specific locations year after year. They also knew that sharks are sensitive to electromagnetic fields. As a result, scientists had long speculated that sharks were using magnetic fields to navigate. But the challenge was finding a way to test this in sharks.

“To be honest, I am surprised it worked,” Keller said. “The reason this question has been withstanding for 50 years is that sharks are difficult to study.”

Keller realized the needed studies would be easier to do in smaller sharks. They also needed a species known for returning each year to specific locations. He and his colleagues settled on bonnetheads (Sphyrna tiburo).

“The bonnethead returns to the same estuaries each year,” Keller said. “This demonstrates that the sharks know where ‘home’ is and can navigate back to it from a distant location.”

The question then was whether bonnetheads managed those return trips by relying on a magnetic map. To find out, the researchers used magnetic displacement experiments to test 20 juvenile, wild-caught bonnetheads. In their studies, they exposed sharks to magnetic conditions representing locations hundreds of kilometers away from where the sharks were actually caught. Such studies allow for straightforward predictions about how the sharks should subsequently orient themselves if they were indeed relying on magnetic cues.

If sharks derive positional information from the geomagnetic field, the researchers predicted northward orientation in the southern magnetic field and southward orientation in the northern magnetic field, as the sharks attempted to compensate for their perceived displacement. They predicted no orientation preference when sharks were exposed to the magnetic field that matched their capture site. And, it turned out, the sharks acted as they’d predicted when exposed to fields within their natural range.

The researchers suggest that this ability to navigate based on magnetic fields may also contribute to the population structure of sharks. The findings in bonnetheads also likely help to explain impressive feats by other shark species. For instance, one great white shark was documented to migrate between South Africa and Australia, returning to the same exact location the following year.

“How cool is it that a shark can swim 20,000 kilometers round trip in a three-dimensional ocean and get back to the same site?” Keller asked. “It really is mind-blowing. In a world where people use GPS to navigate almost everywhere, this ability is truly remarkable.”

In future studies, Keller says he’d like to explore the effects of magnetic fields from anthropogenic sources such as submarine cables on sharks. They’d also like to study whether and how sharks rely on magnetic cues not just during long-distance migration but also during their everyday behavior.

This work was supported by the Save Our Seas Foundation and the Florida State University Coastal and Marine Laboratory.


Story Source:

Materials provided by Cell Press.


Journal Reference:

  1. Bryan A. Keller, Nathan F. Putman, R. Dean Grubbs, David S. Portnoy, Timothy P. Murphy. Map-like use of Earth’s magnetic field in sharksCurrent Biology, 2021; DOI: 10.1016/j.cub.2021.03.103



Scientists: As Marine Life Flees the Equator, Global Mass Extinction is Imminent

By   | TheMindUnleshed.com

The waters surrounding the equator are one of the most biodiverse areas in the globe, with the tropical area rich in marine life including rare sea turtles, whale sharks, manta rays, and other creatures.

However, rampant rises in temperate have led to a mass exodus of marine species from the sensitive region – with grave implications for life on earth.

While ecologists have long seen the thriving biodiversity of equatorial species holding constant in the past few centuries, a new study by Australian researchers published in The Conversation has found that warming global temperatures are now hitting the equator hard, potentially leading to an unprecedented mass extinction event.

The researchers from the Universities of Auckland, Queensland, and the Sunshine Coast found that as waters surrounding the equator continue to heat up, the ecosystem is being disrupted and forcing species to flee toward the cooler water of the South and the North Pole.

The massive changes in marine ecosystems that this entails will have a grave impact not only on ocean life – essentially becoming invasive species in their new homes –  but also on the human livelihoods that depend on it.

When the same thing happened 252 million years ago, 90 percent of all marine species died,” the researchers wrote.

To see where marine life is headed, the researchers tracked the distribution of about 49,000 different species to see what their trajectory was. The global distribution of ocean life typically resembles a bell curve, with far fewer species near the poles and more near the equator.

However, the vast alteration of the curve is already in motion as creatures flee to the poles, according to a study they published in the journal PNAS.

These changes augur major disruptions to the global ecosystem as marine life scrambles in a chaotic fight for food, space, and resources – with a mass die-off and extinction of creatures likely resulting.

The research underscores the dire need for human societies to control rampant climate change before the biodiversity and ecological health of the planet is pushed past the point of no return.




What Types of Freshwater Tropical Fish Can Live Together?

One of the beautiful additions you can have in your home is a red sea aquarium. If you have an active ecosystem that has different fish swimming together, you will find that it doesn’t just improve the beauty of your home, but also serves as a source of entertainment.

One of the important considerations in setting up an aquarium is the size of the fish. If the smaller ones are not separated from the larger ones, they are likely to fight and kill each other. This situation also prevents the smaller ones from exploring the environment.

If you are looking to fill your aquarium with fish, you can check out “Splashy Fish Store – live freshwater fish for sale online“ for more information on where you can get species that thrive in diverse conditions. After buying the fish, the next important step is to create a conducive environment to enable them to live together. Species that eat similar foods are good to keep together as feeding them will be much easier.

In this article, we will discuss how to maintain a conducive community fish tank and also outline fish that can live together. Please read on as we explain more.

How to Maintain a Conducive Community Tank

The following are some tips to guide you:

Aquarium Size

Fish need adequate space as it aids them in getting along. When the aquarium is crowded, you will find that they will become agitated and quarrel regularly. The acceptable procedure in stocking the tank is 1’’ (inch) of adult fish per gallon of the aquarium’s capacity. However, territorial ones demand more space.

A good point to note is that they grow fast and this means that the space provided may not be enough after a short while especially when you consider gravel, internal dimensions, and decorations. Furthermore, what is considered to be a big aquarium is only a portion of what fish are familiar with naturally.

Aquarium Dimension

One of the important considerations in setting up an aquarium is the dimension. Fish have their preferences in swimming spaces and shapes and you have to consider this factor when buying an aquarium. Aquariums that have wider shapes give breeds like barbs and danios the needed space to spread out and this helps them in getting along well.

On the other hand, narrow, tall aquariums are attractive to look at and they can easily fit into small spaces. However, they do not offer adequate swimming space like a wide aquarium.

Plants and Decorations

Aquarium decorations aid with freshwater and saltwater compatibility. Most fish want a territory to call theirs and they also define this space with physical boundaries. Additionally, not being able to see one another makes them mind their business. Caves, rocks, driftwood as well as other decorations aid in defining boundaries for cichlids.

Bushy plants give species such as barbs, rasboras, tetras, danios territories to occupy. If you are introducing fresh cichlids to an existing population, include some new rocks to rearrange the existing decoration. This is done to destroy territories that are controlled by dominant species.

Species

Fish have different ways of communication and most times the signals they give can be misunderstood since different breeds from across the globe have different communication patterns. You need to research the respective species before you buy. It is also recommended that you fill your tank with species from one region. And feed them accordingly. For example, only buy koi fish food for a koi pond.

Cichlids, loaches, mormyrids, and some shark species don’t share their space with related breeds. Large aquariums that have enough cover are a great option but most of these species thrive better when they are kept alone or they have tank mates that are not closely related.

Age

Young species are naturally easygoing. Regardless of how aggressive they turn out as adults, they are usually free when they are young and this makes them mix freely with tank mates. There are reports of predatory fish mixed with feeder goldfish which they can easily feed on but they don’t because they were all purchased at the same size/age.

Fish Size

Most species eat others if they feel they can. The knowledge of this should make you go for species that are of the same size. When combining territorial species, new ones should be the same size as the most aggressive species in the aquarium.

Gender

Male species are more aggressive and territorial especially when mating. You should avoid having two males of the same species if there are females in the same tank. A good ratio will be two to three females for each male to prevent mating-related problems among the males.

Territory Hierarchy

It is natural to find pecking orders especially in communities where there are cichlid species. If the submissive ones are constantly harassed, you may have to remove them. Another option you can consider is to remove the aggressor but the next in line in terms of size may just dominate the community and thus continue the cycle.

Close monitoring of the aquarium will allow you to know the appropriate step to take at any given time. This will prevent any case of continued dominance by an aggressor.

Freshwater Tropical Fish that Can Live Together

The following are some species that can live together:

  • Bettas
  • Rainbowfish
  • Goldfish
  • Guppies
  • Mollies
  • Swordtail fish
  • Platies

Another group of species that can live together includes:

  • Zebra Danios
  • Tetras
  • Barbs
  • Gouramis
  • Swordfish
  • Killifish
  • Corydoras
  • Angelfish

These species are quite easy to keep and maintain and are known to cohabit peacefully. However, do not be quick to add a new species and always carry out a background study to see how it can cope with the already existing ones. If you need tips on how to maintain fish in your aquarium, you can check here: https://www.petmd.com/fish/care/evr_fi_how-to-care-of-fish

Conclusion

Keeping an aquarium improves the aesthetic value of an apartment. It is also a good way to keep yourself entertained especially if you are a lover of nature. We have outlined some species that you can put together in your aquarium. Feel free to check them out.




Penguin Escapes Killer Whales By Jumping Into Tourist Boat in Antarctica

Video Source: Daily Mail

A gentoo penguin in Antarctica escaped a pod of chasing killer whales by leaping into a dinghy full of tourists after flinging itself headfirst into the side of the boat. The penguin repeatedly jumped out of the water in a dramatic chase that circled the tour boat before it leaped aboard.



What Is the Commons — and Why Should We Reclaim It?

In the commons, we are conscious of nature’s ecological limits, aware that all humans have a right to air, water, and food, and we accept responsibility for the rights of future generations.

By Vandana Shiva | Yes!

The path to an ecological civilization is paved by reclaiming the commons — our common home, the Earth, and the commons of the Earth family, of which we are a part. Through reclaiming the commons, we can imagine possibility for our common future, and we can sow the seeds of abundance through “commoning.”

In the commons, we care and share — for the Earth and each other. We are conscious of nature’s ecological limits, which ensure her share of the gifts she creates goes back to her to sustain biodiversity and ecosystems. We are aware that all humans have a right to air, water, and food, and we feel responsible for the rights of future generations.

Enclosures of the commons, in contrast, are the root cause of the ecological crisis and the crises of poverty and hunger, dispossession and displacement. Extractivism commodifies for profit what is held in common for the sustenance of all life.

The commons, defined

Air is a commons.

We share the air we breathe with all species, including plants and trees. Through photosynthesis, plants convert the carbon dioxide in the atmosphere and give us oxygen. “I can’t breathe” is the cry of the enclosure of the commons of air through the mining and burning of 600 million years’ worth of fossilized carbon.

Water is a commons.

The planet is 70% water. Our bodies are 70% water. Water is the ecological basis of all life, and in the commons, conservation creates abundance. The plastic water bottle is a symbol of the enclosures of the commons — first by privatizing water for extractivism, and then by destroying the land and oceans through the resulting plastic pollution.

Food is a commons.

Food is the currency of life, from the soil food web, to the biodiversity of plants and animals, insects and microbes, to the trillions of organisms in our gut microbiomes. Hunger is a result of the enclosure of the food commons through fossil fuel-based, chemically intensive industrial agriculture.

A history of enclosure

The enclosure transformation began in earnest in the 16th century. The rich and powerful privateer-landlords, supported by industrialists, merchants and bankers, had a limitless hunger for profits. Their hunger fueled industrialism as a process of extraction of value from the land and peasants.

Colonialism was the enclosure of the commons on a global scale.

When the British East India Company began its de facto rule of India in the mid-1700s, it enclosed our land and forests, our food and water, even our salt from the sea. Over the course of 200 years, the British extracted an estimated $45 trillion from India through the colonial enclosures of our agrarian economies, pushing tens of millions of peasants into famine and starvation.

Our freedom movement, from the mid-1800s to the mid-1900s, was in fact a movement for reclaiming the commons. When the British established a salt monopoly through the salt laws in 1930, making it illegal for Indians to make salt, Gandhi started the Salt Satyagraha — the civil disobedience movement against the salt laws. He walked to the sea with thousands of people and harvested the salt from the sea, saying: Nature gives it for free; we need it for our survival; we will continue to make salt; we will not obey your laws.

Expanding enclosures

While the enclosures began with the land, in our times, enclosures have expanded to cover lifeforms and biodiversity, our shared knowledge, and even relationships. The commons that are being enclosed today are our seeds and biodiversity, our information, our health and education, our energy, society and community and the Earth herself.

The chemical industry is enclosing the commons of our seeds and biodiversity through “intellectual property rights.” Led by Monsanto (now Bayer) in the 1980s, our biodiversity was declared “raw material” for the biotechnology industry to create “intellectual property” — to own our seeds through patents, and to collect rents and royalties from the peasants who maintained the seed commons.

Reclaiming the commons of our seeds has been my life’s work since 1987. Inspired by Gandhi, we started the Navdanya movement with a Seed Satyagraha. We declared, “Our seeds, our biodiversity, our indigenous knowledge is our common heritage. We receive our seeds from nature and our ancestors. We have a duty to save and share them, and hand them over to future generations in their richness, integrity, and diversity. Therefore we have a duty to disobey any law that makes it illegal for us to save and share our seeds.”

I worked with our parliament to introduce Article 3(j) into India’s Patent Law in 2005, which recognizes that plants, animals, and seeds are not human inventions, and therefore cannot be patented. Navdanya has since created 150 community seed banks in our movement to reclaim the commons of seed. And our legal challenges to the biopiracy of neem, wheat, and basmati have been important contributions to reclaiming the commons of biodiversity and indigenous knowledge.

Partnership, not property

So, too, with water. When French water and waste management company Suez tried to privatize the Ganga River in 2002, we built a water democracy movement to reclaim the Ganga as our commons. Through a Satyagraha against Coca-Cola in 2001, my sisters in Plachimada, Kerala, shut down the Coca-Cola plant and reclaimed water as a commons.

Ecological civilization is based on the consciousness that we are part of the Earth, not her masters, conquerors, or owners. That we are connected to all life, and that our life is dependent on others — from the air we breathe to the water we drink and the food we eat.

All beings have a right to live; that is why I have participated in preparing the draft “Declaration of the Rights of Mother Earth.” The right to life of all beings is based on interconnectedness. The interconnectedness of life and the rights of Mother Earth, of all beings, including all human beings, is the ecological basis of the commons and economies based on caring and sharing.

Reclaiming the commons and creating an ecological civilization go hand in hand.

Originally published by YES!




Scientists are Rethinking Animal Cognition as More Evolutionary Behaviors Emerge

By Alex PietrowskiWaking Times

Humans have always considered ourselves many different animals, and we look at our apparent superior intellect, analytical mind, self-awareness, and expanded consciousness as the dividing line between us and them. Primates, for example, have always been considered our closest cousins, and while we do credit them with being intelligent, our understanding of how they experience the world has never included the notion that they may be just as conscious as we are.

Orangutans, after all, will even fight for their land, just as we would, when threatened with total destruction.

Scientists today are re-thinking all of this, however, in light of some interesting behaviors we’ve seen in the animal kingdom, which suggest an evolutionary process of increasing mental faculties or expanding consciousness, may be taking place. Either that or human consciousness is evolving to include greater possible realities in which animals play a role. Or perhaps, both.

“This idea that animals are conscious was long unpopular in the West, but it has lately found favor among scientists who study animal cognition. And not just the obvious cases—primates, dogs, elephants, whales, and others. Scientists are now finding evidence of an inner life in alien-seeming creatures that evolved on ever-more-distant limbs of life’s tree. In recent years, it has become common to flip through a magazine like this one and read about an octopus using its tentacles to twist off a jar’s lid or squirt aquarium water into a postdoc’s face. For many scientists, the resonant mystery is no longer which animals are conscious, but which are not.” [Source]

Indeed, many stories follow this greater trend. As we reported in 2017, a number of remarkable new behaviors have been documented, and studies are also revealing that fish feel pain and even capable of deception, perhaps even faking orgasms.

“Researchers at Lund University in Sweden have caught New Calendonian crows carrying two items at once using a stick – a feat normally only seen in the human race. First one crow slipped a wooden stick into a metal nut and flew away, and just a few days later another crow conducted a similar behavior, carrying a large wooden ball with a stick.

Octopuses exhibit amazing abilities, including short and long-term memory. They’ve even been known to sneak aboard fishing vessels and pry open crabs caught be fishermen – no tools needed. They are also such great escape artists, they can squeeze through openings no bigger than their eyeballs.

Scientists also have documented monkeys called Serra da Capivara capuchins making stone “tools” that bear a striking resemblance to early human implementations for digging, cutting meat, or opening nuts. The sharp rock “tools” made when the moneys bang one rock on top of another are so similar to ancient tools made by early humans, that archeologists are having to rethink giving credit to previous human civilizations.

Chimps in Bakoun, Guinea recently stunned scientists when they were found using long twigs like fishing poles, dragging the rods in water to scoop up algae that they could then eat. The footage is an affront to the notion that people are the only intelligent creatures with an ability to consciously evolve.

Even bees are exhibiting more complex behaviors. Researchers at Queen Mary University of London (QMUL) have discovered that bumblebees can learn how to carry out complex instructions, and then pass that knowledge along to other bees in the hive.

Scientists set up an experiment with three artificial flowers containing sugar-water and attached pieces of string to each flower. They were then placed inside a clear, Plexiglas panel with just the strings poking out. Researchers were curious to see if the bees could problem-solve and get the ‘nectar’ from the fake flowers.

Out of a control group of 110 bees, only two figured out how to pull the strings to get to the nectar. They did this with no training. A second group was then ‘trained’ by gradually moving the flowers out of reach gradually. This group did much better. 23 out of 40 learned to pull the strings to get the reward.

Amazingly, when a new group of bees was introduced to the problem, 60 percent were able to pick up the new skill simply by observing the other ‘trained’ bees access the reward.” ~Christina Sarich

Since then, we’ve seen primates use a ladder to escape a zoo enclosure, Crows are particularly interesting in this regard…

“Crows are among the most sophisticated avian technologists. They have long been known to shape sticks into hooks, and just last year, members of one crow species were observed constructing tools out of three separate sticklike parts. In Japan, one crow population has figured out how to use traffic to crack open walnuts: The crows drop a nut in front of cars at intersections, and then when the light turns red, they swoop in to scoop up the exposed flesh.”

Crows recognize individual human faces. They are known to blare vicious caws at people they dislike, but for favored humans, they sometimes leave gifts—buttons or shiny bits of glass—where the person will be sure to notice, like votive offerings. [Source]

An interesting experiment in Seattle sheds light on the social nature of crows and how they share information among themselves to warn each other of danger and hostile actors.

Final Thoughts

You have to wonder, though, if this process could in some way be a natural survival mechanism kicking in as animals across the globe are facing new threats of extinction due to poaching, industry, and environmental disaster. The following thoughts from Christina Sarich speak to the heart of what this all means to us as human beings on a planet shared with literally trillions of other conscious creatures.

“As we move through these challenging times, we can lose sight of the fact that an ever-increasing level of energetic momentum is supporting our own movement out of lower-level consciousness. While those on the political stage continue to war, collaboration is a new norm. We are becoming more compassionate.

As we outgrow old relationships, new ones emerge to support us at a higher level of consciousness. Imagine poor Rocky trying to converse with the other apes after learning multiple human languages. We, too will learn new ways to communicate with others.

Even our modes of transportation are dying, but we can celebrate the uncoupling of the US dollar to the petro-banking, usury-based system, and embrace new technologies that will give us clean fuels and what before would have seemed to be outrageous ways to move both here on earth and in the skies above.

Soon, we’ll be talking to the animals, and sharing tool-building skills with the birds. All of us are in it together, growing toward a more expanded understanding of what it means to be alive.”~Christina Sarich

About the Author

Alex Pietrowski is an artist and writer concerned with preserving good health and the basic freedom to enjoy a healthy lifestyle. He is a staff writer for WakingTimes.com. Alex is an avid student of Yoga and life.

This article (Scientists are Rethinking Animal Cognition as More Evolutionary Behaviors Emergeoriginally created and published by Waking Times and is published here under a Creative Commons license with attribution to Alex Pietrowski and WakingTimes.com




Mysterious Blue: Nature’s Rare Flower Color Exists Thanks To Bee Vision

Along with the question, “Where do babies come from?” perhaps one of the most common questions children ask is “Why is the sky blue?” When you consider that blue is one of the rarest colors found in nature, it’s interesting that the sky, the most prominent natural expanse in the world just happens to be blue. And why is it that blue is so rare? According to scientists, it’s because blue is the hardest color to produce for plants. And yet, apparently, when bees look at flowers, they see a lot more blue than we do. (1)

Nature’s Rare Color And Ancient Civilizations

In ancient Egypt, they found blue flowers like the lotus fascinating. Blue was a favorite color in Egyptian decorating, using a synthetic pigment to add this entrancing color to everything from vases to jewelry. Now known as Egyptian blue, it also adorned the famous mask of Tutankhamun. (1)

While blue is now common, the origins of the blue dye we use today originated in another ancient civilization, Peru. Indigoid dye was first used as far back as 6000 years ago, and in the 16th, century appeared in Europe via India. This created an important commodity in the plants used for the dyes as everyone wanted to be seen in this highly fashionable color. So why do we love blue? (1)

Nature’s Rare Color Indicates Calm Weather

Some say it’s for the very fact I brought up earlier. Blue skies along with clear blue waters loom large in our lives and represent calm and peace in nature. However, scientists say it is rare to find blue in flowering plants comparatively speaking. In fact, only plants that depend on bees and insects for pollination produce blue flowers. While pollinating plants produce many different flower colors, there isn’t a single non-pollinating plant that produces blue flowers. (1)

Nature’s Rare Color Assists Pollinators

According to scientists, blue flowers developed to improve pollination efficiency.  While humans perceive color using their eyes and brain, bees see things differently. Their photoreceptors are sensitive to ultraviolet, blue, and green wavelengths, with a partiality to blues. While scientists aren’t sure why this is, nature has taken advantage of the fact and produced blue flowers in areas where competition for bees is tough. (1)

Nature’s Rare Color In Remote Areas

Blues don’t like stressful environments but thrive in isolated areas like the Himalayas. It could be because it is so remote, the flowers need to up their game to attract the few bees and insects that make it up that high. Since bees are attracted to blue, it makes sense plants use blue flowers to increase their success for pollination. (1)

Add More Of Nature’s Rare Color

When looking at urban environments, we can take the time to create bee-friendly gardens to assist bees and pollinating insects in their work. By using more blue flowers, we can enjoy the pleasant color while helping make the job of pollination easier. The more we can attract and keep bees and other insects in the pollinating business, the better off the planet. We help create a more sustainable city and in turn a more sustainable society and world. So this year aim to plant more blue flowers in your gardens and pots and provide a friendly place for pollinating insects to flourish. (1)

By Amanda Walsh | Healthy Holistic Living 

Amanda has been a freelance writer for over 15 years. She has worked with countless alternative health care providers, holistic clinics, natural healers, and alternative supplement companies in North America, the U.K., and Australia. She endeavors to share engaging, often humorous content that will empower readers to find effective, natural methods to improve their health and well-being.




Why Sea Turtles Are Endangered and What We Can Do

An endangered green sea turtle off the coast of Mexico.

Three out of seven global sea turtle species are endangered

Seven species of sea turtles call our world’s oceans home, three of which are endangered: Kemp’s ridley sea turtle, the hawksbill turtle, and the green sea turtle. Of these seven types of sea turtles, six are found in the United States and protected under the Endangered Species Act (ESA). The International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) estimates that there are just over 22,000 mature Kemp’s ridley turtles, primarily found in the Gulf of Mexico, left in the wild. Population numbers or trends are unknown for the hawksbill turtle, which jumped from endangered to critically endangered in 1996, though the IUCN predicts an 80% decrease over three generations due to habitat degradation. Populations of green turtles, endangered since 1982, are unfortunately decreasing as well.

Threats

Approximately 61% of worldwide turtle species are either threatened or already extinct, and the sea turtle is no exception. The Caribbean Sea alone was home to tens of millions of sea turtles just two centuries ago, but numbers are estimated closer to the tens of thousands these days. Like many other marine vertebrates, sea turtles are threatened by bycatch, illegal poaching, habitat loss, climate change, and pollution. Sea turtles are especially susceptible to light pollution and degradation of nesting habitats, which can interfere with egg-laying.

Bycatch

Sea turtles are accidentally caught in fishing or shrimping nets, and even on longline hooks, on a regular basis. This is typically a death sentence unless the fishery makes a substantial effort to release them. Even then, since sea turtles need to breathe oxygen regularly, it is often too late to save an animal that becomes entangled. In 2007, fishing bycatch accounted for about 4,600 annual sea turtle deaths in the United States, with a massive 98% occurring in the southeast Gulf of Mexico.

Illegal Trade

All around the world, sea turtles are overharvested and illegally poached for their meat and eggs as sources of food and income. Although the international trade of all species of sea turtles and their parts is banned under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), illegal poaching is not uncommon.

Researchers from Current Biology developed and field-tested 3D printed decoy sea turtle eggs to uncover trade trafficking routes using a GPS transmitter that emitted one signal per hour. Decoys were placed in 101 turtle nests on four beaches throughout Costa Rica, and a whopping 25% were illegally taken. They were able to trace five eggs — two from green sea turtle nests and three from vulnerable (but formerly endangered) olive ridley nests — to just outside of a residential property and 1.24 miles to a local bar. The farthest decoy traveled a total of 85 miles over two days from the beach to a supermarket, assumed to be a handover point between trafficker and seller.

To get a better idea of what drives illegal turtle hunting, researchers conducted interviews with eight sea turtle poachers from five different communities in Baja California Sur, Mexico, from June 2007 to April 2008. They found the biggest drivers influencing their behavior to be economic benefits, lack of law enforcement (combined with corrupt law enforcement easing escape or bribery if caught), and family tradition.

Coastal Development

Unsustainable coastal development, whether for hotels or residential high rises, can disturb or destroy sea turtle nesting habitats. Some threats are obvious, like increased boat traffic, dredging, or sand filling, but other lesser-known complications can arise from issues like vehicle traffic on the beach itself, which can compact sand and make it difficult for females to dig nests.

Setback regulations, which prohibit construction within a certain distance from the ocean, are often not enough to mitigate nesting beach loss. In a study of 11 popular sea turtle nesting sites in Barbados, researchers modeled sea-level rise scenarios under five setback regulations, finding that sea turtles preferred nesting within the lowest regulation distances of 10 and 30 meters. Under all three scenarios, the beach area was lost from models with a 10- and 30-meter setback, and some with even a 50- or 70-meter setback.

Did you know that egg temperature can determine the sex of a sea turtle’s offspring during incubation? Warmer air and sand temperature can easily result in fewer male hatchings, thus disrupting efficient reproductive patterns. A recent study of loggerhead turtles (listed as vulnerable by the IUCN) predicted sex ratios under anticipated global warming scenarios, finding that populations of turtles in the United States would become ultra female-biased with a 1 C increase in air temperature. Warmer sea temperatures can also lead to increasingly severe storms, which can destroy nesting beaches or the reefs where turtles like to forage.

Pollution

It is no secret that plastic waste often finds its way to the ocean. Some species of sea turtles have highly specialized diets, like the vulnerable leatherback sea turtle, which feeds almost entirely on jellyfish, or the hawksbill turtle, whose diet consists primarily of sea sponges. Sea turtles can mistake plastic bags for jellyfish or smaller debris for fish, algae, or other food sources.

Based on models off the east coasts of the U.S., Australia, and South Africa, and the East Indian Ocean and Southeast Asia, it’s estimated that up to 52% of sea turtles have ingested trash. In Brazil, a study of 50 dead stranded sea turtles found that plastic ingestion was the cause of death for 13.6% of the green sea turtles examined. A similar survey of loggerheads in the Adriatic Sea found marine debris inside the intestinal tracts of 35% of turtles, 68% of which were soft plastics.

An increase in artificial light pollution from coastal infrastructure is another severe threat to nesting sea turtles, accounting for the loss of close to 1,800 sea turtles in the Caribbean over the last two decades. Lights from hotels and other buildings can discourage females from nesting or cause hatchlings to become disoriented and wander in the opposite direction of the ocean.

What We Can Do

Beloved sea turtle species have received a lot of attention, but there is still plenty of work to do. Protection from the ESA has been essential in sea turtle conservation, as at least six sea turtle populations have significantly increased following measures triggered by ESA listing (such as tailored species management and fishery regulations). Organizations like the World Wildlife Fund help raise awareness for sea turtles and work with local communities to work on ways to develop alternative economic opportunities so communities don’t need to rely on turtle harvesting. They have also collaborated with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration to reduce turtle bycatch in gillnets by developing special fishery lights, which has shown to reduce bycatch by 60% to 80%.

An amendment to the Marine Mammal Protection Act in 1994 made several changes to how bycatch of sea turtles was regulated. These included the authority to place observers on vessels in fisheries with frequent or occasional sea turtle mortality and requirements to report when a turtle has been killed or injured during commercial fishing operations. A study conducted by the Biological Conservation peer-reviewed journal found an annual mean of 346,500 turtle bycatch interactions, resulting in an estimated 71,000 yearly deaths before establishing these bycatch mitigation measures. After mitigation measures, sea turtle bycatch and bycatch-caused mortality decreased by 60% and 94%, respectively.

Individuals can help sea turtles by learning about smarter seafood choices through organizations like the Marine Stewardship Council and teaching their friends and families about the impact of sustainable fishing. They can also protect sea turtle habitat by supporting turtle-friendly tourism and choosing vacation establishments that take steps to keep nests safe on their beaches, turn lights off at night, implement beach monitoring programs, and properly inform guests. Lastly, do your part to reduce pollution by limiting plastic use, restricting single-use plastics (especially plastic bags!), and participating in beach cleanups.

By Katherine Gallagher | Treehugger

Expertise

Sustainability, Nature, Food, Travel

Education

Chapman University

Introduction

Katherine Gallagher has written for Treehugger since 2020. She covers sustainable living with an emphasis on travel, nature, and food.

Experience

Katherine has been a part of the Dotdash family since 2018 as a regular contributor to Tripsavvy specializing in Hawaii and California travel. She also contributes to Inhabitat, a sustainable design and lifestyle site with 500,000 readers per month, exploring topics like current environmental events and sustainable travel. Her work has been featured in Fodor’s, Far & Wide Travel, Borgen Magazine, and Wasabi Magazine.

She has also been active in the non-profit community for over 15 years, focusing mainly on animal welfare and the environment. She interned as a writer for the Borgen Project, a non-profit publication fighting global poverty, in 2017, covering education and agriculture in developing countries. In 2013, she spent a month living in a small village in Surin, Thailand, working with the Save Elephant Foundation.

Education

Katherine received a Bachelor of Arts in English Literature from Chapman University, where she was also a member of the Sigma Tau Delta English Honor Society. She also holds a certificate in Sustainable Tourism from the Global Sustainable Tourism Council (GSTC).