Interview: The Need to Think Big
In Global Conservation Efforts
Steven E. Sanderson, who stepped down as president and CEO of the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) this summer, has seen the good, the bad, and the ugly in his 12 years as head of one of the world’s largest
conservation groups. Although global emissions have soared and deforestation has intensified, the WCS has savored some victories, including helping set aside 10 percent of Gabon in a system of national parks, acquiring key habitat in Chile, and carrying out successful conservation projects in strife-torn nations such as South Sudan, Afghanistan, and the Republic of Congo. In an interview with Yale Environment
360, Sanderson discusses the importance of not just creating protected areas but actively managing them; the need for conservation groups to coordinate their efforts across regions facing intense development pressure, such as the western Amazon; and the importance of enlisting zoos, such as WCS’s Bronx Zoo, to help protect endangered species and reintroduce them into the wild. Read the interview
07 Aug 2012:
New Bird Species Discovered
In Cloud Forest of Eastern Andes
A team of researchers says it has identified a new bird species
, a barbet marked by its colorful scarlet breast and black mask, in the eastern Andes of Peru. The bird, which scientists named the Sira barbet (Capito fitzpatricki
), was discovered during a 2008 expedition,
led by recent Cornell University graduates, to a remote ridge in the Cerros del Sira range. Although scientists recognized that the bird was closely related to the scarlet-banded barbet, subsequent genetic tests confirmed that it is a distinct species within the barbet family, distinguishable by the differences in color on its flanks, lower back and thighs, and its dark scarlet breast band. The researchers believe the bird may only be found in a 30-kilometer region of montane cloud forest within the range, located on an outlying ridge of the Andes. The scientific name, Capito fitzpatricki
, was selected to honor John W. Fitzpatrick, a former executive director of the Cornell Lab of Ornithology who named seven bird species in Peru during the 1970s and 1980s. The bird is described in the July 2012 issue of The Auk
, a publication of the American Ornithologists’ Union.
Interview: Dreaming of a Place
Where the Buffalo Roam
Sean Gerrity, president of the American Prairie Reserve
, has been working for more than a decade to turn a 5,000-square-mile swath of Montana prairie into an American Serengeti of rolling grasslands teeming with
bison, wolves, elk, and bighorn sheep. Using a combination of private, federal, and state lands, Gerrity’s goal is to recreate a northern Great Plains ecosystem like the one that existed two centuries ago. “I want to restart the golden age of conservation,” says Gerrity, whose organization has so far assembled 250 genetically pure bison on about 60,000 acres of land. But the Montana native and former Silicon Valley entrepreneur faces a major challenge persuading skeptical ranchers and farmers that bison and wolves roaming in their backyard is a good thing. In an interview with Yale Environment 360
, Gerrity discusses his vision, the future of large-scale conservation in the U.S., and the rationale for restoring part of the prairie to a Lewis-and-Clark incarnation. Read the interview
01 Aug 2012:
New Whale Recordings Hint
at Bowhead Recovery off Greenland
A wide array of whale songs recorded in the icy waters off Greenland indicates that populations of the endangered bowhead whale, nearly hunted to extinction in the last two centuries, may be experiencing a rebound
A bowhead whale
collecting 2,144 hours of audio recordings in the waters between Greenland and Norway from September 2008 to July 2009, an international team of scientists detected a surprising variety and duration of whale songs. Not only did the recordings yield roughly five months of near-continuous singing, but they revealed more than 60 unique “songs,” most likely belonging to individual whales, according a study published in the journal Endangered Species Research
. Since scientists believe male bowheads sing during mating season — and because most whale species are believed to sing the same song throughout their lives — the findings could suggest that bowhead populations in that area exceed 100 whales, far more than previously believed; only 40 bowhead sightings have been reported in that area since the 1970s, according to the researchers.
Listen to the bowheads’ song
Unusual Number of Grizzly and
Hybrid Bears Spotted in High Arctic
Two Canadian biologists have reported sighting a handful of grizzly bears and hybrid grizzly/polar bears at unusually high latitudes in the Arctic, indicating that the interbreeding of the two bear species is becoming more common as the climate warms and grizzlies venture
Photo courtesy of Jodie Pongracz
A hybrid polar/grizzly bear in the Canadian Arctic
farther north. The sightings of three grizzly bears and two hybrid bears, made in late April and May by biologists from the University of Alberta, represent an unprecedented cluster of these animals at such high latitudes. The biologists even took DNA samples from a grizzly bear at 74 degrees North latitude. Scientists suggested that some grizzly bears may be leaving the Canadian Arctic mainland and traveling roughly 400 miles over sea ice as they pursue a caribou herd that annually migrates over ice from the mainland to Victoria Island in the High Arctic. Unable to get back because of rapidly melting ice, some of these grizzly bears have evidently managed to adapt to life in the polar bear’s world, eating seals as they overwinter and mating with polar bears.
Maya Lin’s Memorial to
a Vanishing Natural World
The woman who designed the Vietnam Veterans Memorial is now focused on the mass extinction of
Photo by Walter Smith
species, a threat she is highlighting on a dynamic interactive Web site. In an interview with Yale Environment 360
, Maya Lin talks about the origins of her What is Missing? project, the media techniques she and her collaborators are using to draw attention to the biodiversity crisis, and the actions that give her hope we can reverse the tide of nature’s destruction. “I am going to try to wake you up to things that are missing that you are not even aware are disappearing,” Lin said. Read the interview and listen to an audio podcast
24 Jul 2012:
Conservation Efforts Spur
Comeback of Pakistan’s Iconic Markhor
Conservation efforts in Pakistan have helped foster the resurgence of the markhor
, a species of large wild goat found along cliff faces in the western Himalayas and
©Grahm Jones/Columbus Zoo and Aquarium
A male markhor
known for its iconic corkscrew horns. According to the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS), roughly 300 markhors were found during a survey of the Kargah region in northern Pakistan’s Gilgit Baltistan territory, up from just 40 to 50 goats two decades ago. Across the entire Gilgit Baltistan territory, rangers counted more than 1,500 individuals, compared with fewer than 1,000 in a 1991 survey. Officials attribute the recovery to a series of conservation programs that include stricter enforcement of hunting and logging laws and efforts to monitor and protect the animals while they move between ranges. The WCS Pakistan program covers four districts and includes participation of 53 conservation committees.
24 Jul 2012:
Evolution of Polar Bear
Followed Changes in Climate, Study Says
An analysis of sequenced polar bear genomes provides new insights into how climate change and interbreeding with brown bears led to the evolution of the modern-day polar bear
. In an analysis of the nuclear genomes of 28
Photo courtesy of Andrew Derocher
brown, black, and polar bears, an international team of researchers found evidence that polar bear populations fluctuated with climate shifts over the last million years, with populations increasing during cooler periods and declining during periods of warmer temperatures. Their findings also suggest that during periods of glacial retreat, polar bears came into greater contact with brown bears as their ranges overlapped. “Maybe we’re seeing a hint that in really warm times, polar bears changed their life style and came into contact, and indeed interbred, with brown bears,” said Stephan Schuster, a scientist at Pennsylvania State University and co-lead author of the study, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences
. While earlier research indicated that polar bears have only existed for about 600,000 years, the new research suggests that the polar bear may have evolved into a distinct species 4 to 5 million years ago.
16 Jul 2012:
Beetle's Rapid Evolution
Helps Control Invasive Shrub, Study Says
Scientists say that a species of beetle has rapidly altered its life cycle
to more efficiently devour the invasive tamarisk tree in the southern United States.
Tamarisk leaf beetle
In a decade-long study, researchers from the University of California, Santa Barbara (UCSB) found that the tamarisk leaf beetle — itself an invasive species from Eurasia — was able to quickly establish itself in northern regions of the U.S., where the day lengths matched those in its native home of Kazakhstan and western China. But in the southern U.S., where day lengths in summer are shorter than in northern latitudes, the beetles initially took the reduced hours of daylight as a cue to enter hibernation. This premature hibernation used up the beetles' metabolic reserves, leading to their deaths. But within seven years of their introduction to the U.S. south, scientists say, the beetles evolved to adapt to their new environment, delaying hibernation by two weeks or more and enabling the beetles to survive and consume the leaves of the tamarisk, also known as salt cedar. That evolutionary adjustment has helped boost efforts to control the shrub in region's like Colorado's Arkansas River valley. “This is one of the clearest cases of rapid evolution,” said Tom Dudley, a UCSB scientist and co-author of the study published in the journal Evolutionary Applications
12 Jul 2012:
Urban Noise May Increase
Mortality of Songbirds, Study Finds
A new study says that urban noise may cause an increase in mortality among young sparrows
, suggesting that adult birds are less able to hear their hungry offspring above the clamor of their surrounding environment. In a long-term study conducted on a small, remote island off the UK coast, scientists from the University of Sheffield found that birds nesting in noisy areas were less effective at feeding their chicks than those living in quiet areas, and actually produced fewer offspring. Chicks that were reared in a loud barn, for instance, were lighter when they were ready for flight, a factor that could affect a young bird’s chances for survival, said Julia Schroeder, co-author of the study published in the journal PLoS ONE
. “There are lots of studies on great tits and urban noise, but these tend to focus around mate choice, where the male advertises its quality to the female,” Schroeder told BBC News. “But the idea that the communication between parents and offspring could be affected in cities is fairly new.”
10 Jul 2012:
Corals Facing Open Ocean
More Vulnerable to Warming, Study Finds
U.S. scientists say coral reef systems exposed to the open ocean are most vulnerable to warming ocean temperatures
. In a new study, researchers at the University of North Carolina write that three distinct coral zones located within the Mesoamerican Barrier Reef System in Central America — including the foreef (closest to the ocean), the nearshore (closest to the shore), and the backreef (directly behind the reef crest) — saw an increase in average summer sea surface temperatures from 1982 to 2008. But while they observed a decline in skeletal growth in corals facing the ocean during that period, coral growth rates in the other two zones remained relatively stable. According to their findings, published in the journal Nature Climate Change
, the ocean-facing corals were more vulnerable to warming conditions because historically they had experienced cooler and more stable seawater. “However, because backreef and nearshore coral colonies have historically been exposed to warmer and more variable seawater temperatures, they seem to be less affected,” said Karl Castillo, a postdoctoral researcher at UNC and lead author of the study.
10 Jul 2012:
Salmon More Susceptible to
Predators After Copper Exposure
Exposure to even tiny amounts of copper can impair a salmon’s ability to detect and evade predator species
, a new study has found. While salmon typically become still and alert after they smell a compound called Schreckstoff, which is released when a fish is damaged nearby, Washington State University (WSU) researchers say fish exposed to just five parts of copper per billion are unable to detect the substance, making them more vulnerable to attack. In a series of tests conducted in a four-foot diameter tank, salmon that weren’t exposed to copper would freeze after smelling the Scheckstoff, delaying by 30 seconds, on average, attack from cutthroat trout also swimming in the tank. Fish swimming in tanks containing copper, however, continued to swim, and were attacked by predators in about five seconds. “A copper-exposed fish is not getting the information it needs to make good decisions,” said Jenifer McIntyre, a WSU researcher and lead author of the study, published in the journal Ecological Applications
. These findings could mean that fish could face greater risk in the wild after exposure to copper from stormwater runoff or mining operations.
06 Jul 2012:
Coral Reef Systems Collapsed
During Earlier Changes to Climate
An increase in ocean temperatures that occurred 4,000 years ago triggered a collapse of coral reef systems in the eastern Pacific
that lasted for about 2,500 years, according to a new study. In an analysis of 17-foot core samples taken from the frameworks of coral reefs off the Panama coast, scientists from the Florida Institute of
Technology found that the reefs stopped growing during a period that coincided with the start of a period of dramatic swings in the El Nino-Southern Oscillation, including periods when ocean temperatures elevated significantly. They say this gap in growth also occurred in reef systems as far away as Japan and Australia. “For Pacific reefs to have collapsed for such a long time and over such a large geographic scale, they must have experienced a major climatic disturbance,” said Lauren Toth, a co-author of the study published in the journal Science
. While the scientists said the results may foretell similar catastrophic events for reef systems worldwide as ocean temperatures rise as a consequence of climate change, they noted that it also suggests that coral systems may have the resilience to rebound if climate change is mitigated or reversed.
02 Jul 2012:
Leatherback Turtle Declines
Will Escalate As Climate Warms, Study Finds
A warming climate could exacerbate threats facing leatherback turtle populations in the eastern Pacific Ocean, creating conditions that could trigger a 75 percent reduction in turtle numbers by the end of the century
, a new study says. Even under existing
conditions, turtle births ebb and flow each year, researchers say, with eggs and hatchlings more likely to survive in cooler, rainier seasons, and a greater number of male hatchlings occurring in predominantly female leatherback populations in these conditions. After modeling these population dynamics in light of projected changes in temperature and precipitation in the turtles’ critical nesting areas, particularly the beaches of Costa Rica, researchers from Drexel and Princeton universities projected an increase in egg and hatchling mortality. According to their findings, leatherback populations could decline 7 percent per decade through 2100. A key in preserving turtle populations in the future will be manipulating beach conditions to encourage as many good hatchlings as possible, the researchers say.
29 Jun 2012:
Recent Policies May Undermine
Brazil’s Green Progress, Scientists Say
Recent policies enacted by the Brazilian government — including changes to its Forest Code and a push to build 30 new dams in the Amazon region — threaten to undermine critical environmental progress made by the nation over the last two decades, scientists say. In a declaration
published after its annual meeting in Bonito, Brazil, the Association for Tropical Biology and Conservation
(ATBC) stated that government policies to reduce deforestation and protect indigenous lands had made Brazil a global conservation model over the last two decades. “But recent developments raise concerns,” said John Kress, a botanist at the Smithsonian Institution who is executive director of the ATBC. The group cited recent changes to Brazil’s forest protection laws that they say favor agribusiness and will likely increase deforestation in the Amazon, as well as numerous large-scale dam projects
that will interfere with critical fish migration routes and flood vast areas of rainforest and indigenous communities.
27 Jun 2012:
BP Oil Spill Accelerated
Erosion of Louisiana Marshlands
The 2010 BP oil spill hastened the loss of Louisiana’s already fragile salt marshlands
, a new study says. In a comparison of erosion rates at three healthy marsh sites and three areas affected by the oil spill, University of Florida scientists found
that oil from the spill coated thick grasses on the outer edge of some wetlands, killing off salt marsh plants 15 to 30 feet from the shoreline. When those grasses died, the deep roots that held the soil sediment died as well, causing the rate of erosion on shore banks to more than double. In Louisiana’s Barataria Bay, for instance, oiled marshes have receded nearly 10 feet per year after the spill — about twice the normal rate of erosion in a region already losing huge areas of marshland as a result of channelization of the Mississippi River and rising sea levels. “We already knew that erosion leads to permanent marsh loss, and now we know that oil can exacerbate it,” said Brian Silliman, a University of Florida biologist and lead author of the study, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences
26 Jun 2012:
Forests in Southwest U.S.
Fail to Regenerate After Fires, Study Says
Mountain forests scorched by wildfires in the southwestern U.S. in recent years have failed to regenerate as forest ecosystems because of rising temperatures, decreased precipitation, and human intervention, according to a U.S. researcher
. Speaking at an environmental conference this week in Colorado, Craig Allen, a research ecologist with the U.S. Geological Survey, described how since the mid-1990s the Southwest’s alpine forests have increasingly been replaced by grasslands and shrublands following fires, The New York Times
reports. While southwestern fires in the distant past typically remained close to the forest floor — a natural cycle that prevented the overcrowding of trees — a combination of cattle devouring grassy surface vegetation, new government policies to prevent fires, and a drier climate have significantly altered this ecosystem. As a result, Allen said, forest fires now climb to the top of the canopy and the species that live in mountainous areas, including ponderosa pines and juniper, cannot regenerate as temperatures climb and precipitation decreases. “These forests did not evolve with this type of fire,” Allen said.
25 Jun 2012:
Birth of Sumatran Rhino
Offers Hope for Endangered Species
Conservationists in Indonesia say a female Sumatran rhino gave birth to a healthy male calf at Way Kambas National Park
in Sumatra over the weekend, offering
International Rhino Foundation
new hope for one of the world’s most endangered mammal species. Following two miscarriages and a closely watched 15-month pregnancy, the rhino, named Ratu, delivered the calf at 12:45 a.m. Saturday, employees of the sanctuary said. According to conservationists, it is the first captive birth of a Sumatran rhino (Dicerorhinus sumatrensis
) in Indonesia’s history and just the fourth captive birth of a rhino globally in the last century. The birth also marked the first time that a wild rhino (Ratu) was successfully bred with a captive rhino — in this case a male raised at the Cincinnati Zoo. The male rhino, Andalas, had been flown to Sumatra in 2007 in hopes that it would breed with one of the sanctuary’s three female rhinos. Scientists say that fewer than 275 Sumatran rhinos exist in the wild, and some experts place the species’ likelihood for survival at less than 50 percent
22 Jun 2012:
Rio+20 Summit Ends, With
Little Faith Seen in Government Solutions
Twenty years after the Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro promised an era of aggressive action on biodiversity loss and global warming, the United Nations Rio+20 sustainability summit ended Friday with recriminations and a growing sense that international institutions will play an increasingly diminished role in solving environmental problems.
World leaders — with the notable absence of the heads of the U.S., U.K, Germany, and Russia — approved an agreement that lacked specifics, commitments, and measurable targets on how to promote sustainable economic development. Numerous conservationists and officials said that cities, local governments, the private sector, and environmental groups will now have to play the key role in fostering sustainable economic growth, slowing climate change, and preserving biodiversity. “The greening of our economies will have to happen without the blessing of world leaders,” said Lasse Gustavson, executive director of the World Wildlife Fund.
21 Jun 2012:
Drones to Be Used to Prevent
Poaching Of Endangered Species in Nepal
In Nepal, conservationists will soon begin launching low-cost, remote-controlled drones to prevent the poaching of endangered species
. Developed by the
WWF Nepal staff with the drone
, the technology is seen as an inexpensive way to monitor the protection of species, including rhinos and tigers, which are being slaughtered even within national park boundaries. While the drones are still being refined, current models are light enough to be launched by hand and can travel programmed routes greater than 12 miles, collecting video and photographs from the ground below. “We hope these drones will be useful in detecting poachers as they enter the parks,” Serge Wich, a University of Zurich biologist who helped develop the project, told the BBC. “If they see poachers in the area, they can send out a team to catch them.” According to the BBC, the lightweight drones, which cost about $2,500 each, have been used to track poachers in Indonesia and could soon be deployed in other developing nations, including Tanzania and Malaysia.
Interview: Looking for Solutions
In the Fight to Preserve Biodiversity
For decades, conservation biologist Thomas Lovejoy has repeatedly warned — sometimes in dire terms — about the loss of biodiversity. But Lovejoy, who last month was awarded the prestigious Blue Planet Prize
, remains an
optimist. “There is no point in being unduly pessimistic, because that just guarantees all the bad things will happen,” says Lovejoy, who received the environmental prize at the Rio+20 summit. Credited with introducing the term “biological diversity” to the scientific community, Lovejoy has spent his career promoting it, with stints at the Smithsonian Institution and the World Wildlife Fund. In an interview with Yale Environment 360
, Lovejoy, who now teaches at George Mason University, talked about the multi-pronged threats to biodiversity, from habitat loss to climate change; the potential impact of major dam projects and other development on the Amazon; and why he supports market-based conservation schemes that benefit local residents. Read the interview
15 Jun 2012:
As U.S. Cougars Rebound,
More of the Large Cats Are Heading East
A robust recovery of cougar, or mountain lion, populations in the American West is leading an increasing number of the large predators to recolonize former territory in the Midwest
, according to a comprehensive new study. Relying on confirmed sightings from wildlife professionals, tracks, photos and video, DNA evidence, and attacks on livestock, scientists from two Midwestern universities determined that there have been 178 confirmations of the presence of cougars in states such as South Dakota, Arkansas, and Nebraska, as well as in the Canadian provinces of Ontario and Manitoba. In one well-publicized case, a male cougar traveled 1,800 miles through a handful of Midwestern states before winding up in Connecticut. Cougars were virtually extirpated from Eastern and Midwestern states in the 19th and early 20th centuries, but in the past few decades they have been migrating from their more rugged habitats in the West. The study was published in The Journal of Wildlife Management.
14 Jun 2012:
Australia to Create
World’s Largest Marine Reserve
Australia has announced that it will create the world’s largest marine reserve,
a network of protected areas that will cover 1.2 million square miles, more than one-third of the country’s waters. Environment Minister Tony Burke, making the announcement in advance of the Rio+20 sustainability summit, said the action will expand the number of Australia’s marine reserves from 27 to 60 and will protect waters of the Coral Sea and other key ocean habitats. “It’ time for the world to turn a corner on protection of our oceans, and Australia today is leading that next step,” said Burke. “What we’ve done is effectively create a national parks estate in the ocean.” Limited fishing and oil drilling will be allowed in some areas, and the fishing industry will receive hundreds of millions of dollars in compensation for reducing or eliminating commercial fishing in numerous tracts of ocean.
13 Jun 2012:
Ban on Fish Discards
Is Approved by the European Union
The European Union has decided to end the controversial practice of allowing fishermen to select high-value species from their nets and then discard the remainder of dead fish, a practice that leads to the destruction of an estimated 1 million tons of edible fish a year
in EU waters. The EU Council announced its intention to implement a discard ban, but did not set a firm date, saying discard bans for some species could be phased in as late as 2020. Although some environmental groups praised the ban, others said that allowing the practice of fish discards to continue for another eight years could be too late to save some severely overfished species, such as plaice and sole. EU officials hailed the long-sought ban, with the president of Denmark calling it “a very important step in the direction of a radical new fisheries policy — a sustainable fisheries policy.” Conservationists say the policy of allowing fishermen to meet their quotas by selecting only certain species and tossing away the rest is one of the main reasons for the precipitous decline in European fish stocks.
08 Jun 2012:
Parasitic Mite Found to Play
Key Role in Collapse of Bee Populations
Extensive research in Hawaii has shown that a major cause of so-called colony-collapse disorder, which has sharply reduced bee populations in many parts of the world, is related to the spread of the parasitic varroa mite.
Scientists at the University of Sheffield in England were able to track the arrival and spread of the varroa mite, Varroa destructor
, on Oahu Island in Hawaii. Within a year of the blood-sucking mite’s arrival in 2007, 65 percent of the 419 bee colonies on Oahu were wiped out, according to the research, published in the journal Science
. The following year the mites reached the big island of Hawaii and devastated bee colonies there, the study said. The Sheffield scientists said the mites spread a devastating ailment called deformed wing virus, which rapidly spread through bee colonies, killing nearly all the bees. The scientists said other factors also may be playing a role in the collapse of bee colonies worldwide, including the use of pesticides and the loss of flowering plants.
07 Jun 2012:
Environmental Tipping Point
Is Nearing, International Study Says
The rapid warming of the planet, a soaring human population, the steady loss of biodiversity, over-exploitation of energy resources, and the degradation of the world’s oceans are driving the world toward an ecological tipping point,
according to a new study in Nature
. Twenty-two scientists from five nations compared the major changes taking place today with previous ecological shifts — such as the end of the last Ice Age 14,000 to 18,000 years ago — that triggered mass extinctions of some species, expansions of others, and the creation of new global ecosystems. The paper said that while there is still considerable uncertainty as to whether the world is now approaching such a “state shift,” many signs point to a future of ecological upheaval. “Given all the pressures we are putting on the world, if we do nothing different, I believe we are looking at a time scale of a century or even a few decades for a tipping point to arrive,” lead author Anthony Barnosky
, a biologist at the University of California, Berkeley, said in an interview.
01 Jun 2012:
France to Ban Pesticide
Possibly Linked to Decline of Bees
French authorities plan to ban a pesticide made by the Swiss company, Syngenta, after scientists said the pesticide’s use could be linked to a sharp decline in bee populations
known as colony collapse disorder. France says it plans to withdraw the permit for farmers to spray Cruiser OSR, a pesticide used to protect rape seeds. The government took the action after the French Health and Safety Agency, ANSES, agreed with a recent scientific study suggesting that a low dose of thiamethoxam, a molecule contained in Cruiser, made bees more likely to lose their way and die. Other studies worldwide also have linked colony collapse disorder to increased pesticide use in agriculture. Syngenta has disputed the study involving thiamethoxam, saying the amounts of pesticide used in the research were far higher than the quantities used by farmers. The company has two weeks to submit its own evidence contradicting the government’s findings.
29 May 2012:
Wind Farms Consider
Radar Systems to Prevent Bird Deaths
The operators of large California wind farms are considering the use of advanced radar and telemetry systems to reduce the number of birds killed
by spinning turbines located in critical migration pathways. The so-called avian radar systems, which
American Bird Conservancy
have been deployed at wind farms in Texas and Europe, would be able to identify birds early enough to shut down the turbines, at least briefly, to prevent collisions. Advocates say the systems could prevent large-scale killings of many migratory songbird species, as well as the critically endangered California condor and the federally protected golden eagle. According to the Los Angeles Times
, one possible customer for the radar systems is the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power, which operates a wind farm that is under federal investigation following the discovery of several dead golden eagles at the site. “Renewable energy operators are coming around to the view that they have to do something,” said Gary Andrews, chief executive of De Tect Inc., a manufacturer of such systems. The systems, however, are expensive, at $500,000 per unit, and existing technologies typically have difficulty differentiating among bird species.
25 May 2012:
Marine Reserves Replenish
Commercial Fisheries, DNA Tests Show
DNA testing has shown that the creation of marine reserves where no fishing is allowed helps to replenish fish stocks outside the reserve boundaries
. In a study conducted at Australia’s Great Barrier Reef, researchers collected tissue samples from two species of commercially popular fish — including 466 samples of adult coral trout and 1,154 samples from stripey snapper — located within three reserve areas. After collecting juveniles of both species in protected and unprotected areas over the next 15 months, the researchers found that about half of the juveniles were offspring of fish found in the reserve areas, even though the reserves accounted for just 28 percent of the study area. In other words, fish found in the reserves “punch above their weight in replenishing fishery stocks
,” said Garry Russ, a researcher from James Cook University and one of the authors of the study, published online in the journal Current Biology
23 May 2012:
Street Lights Can Cause
Long-Term Ecological Changes, Study Says
The presence of artificial street lights can alter the behavior of ground-dwelling invertebrates and insects
and ultimately change the structure and function of some ecosystems, according to a new study. In a series of tests in Cornwall in western England, researchers from the University of Exeter used 28 traps to capture 1,200 animals on the ground beneath street lights and in darker areas between the lights. According to their findings, published in the journal Biology Letters
, invertebrate predators and scavengers were more common underneath the lights, even during the daylight hours. Thomas Davies, a researcher at the University of Exeter and lead author of the study, said these findings suggest that nocturnal behavior is affecting habitat preference overall, and could have implications for critical ecosystem services, including pollination and the breakdown of organic matter. “It’s amazing how long we’ve been using street lighting and artificial lighting, and how little research has been done on the impact of those lights on the environment,” he told BBC News