e360 digest

25 Sep 2013: More Than 80 Elephants Dead
From Cyanide Poisoning in Zimbabwe Park

Poachers poisoned watering holes with cyanide in Zimbabwe's Hwange National Park, killing 81 elephants in the latest wave of slayings to supply the trade in illegal ivory. The cyanide, poured into remote watering
Hwange National Park
Hwange National Park
holes in the park, also killed smaller animals and vultures that ate the poisoned carcasses. Park rangers arrested nine alleged poachers after following them to a cache of ivory tusks hidden in the park. The elephant death toll of 81 includes 41 carcasses found earlier this month following another cyanide poisoning incident in Hwange park. Zimbabwe's new environment minister, Saviour Kasukuwere, has pledged to make jail penalties for poachers harsher. Elephant and rhino poaching in Africa has accelerated in recent years due to increasing Asian demand for ivory and rhino horn, which is used in traditional medicines, even though it has no proven medicinal properties. Officials estimate tens of thousands of elephants are being slaughtered each year in the worst wave of poaching in decades.


12 Sep 2013: Migration of Trees Is
Not Keeping Pace with Warming

Most tree species in the U.S. aren't migrating northward as rapidly as predicted in response to climate change, a new study says. Looking at 65 species across
Kilmer Memorial Forest, NC
Brian Stansberry
Kilmer Forest, North Carolina
31 eastern states, the team found no consistent, northward migration of tree species, as many other climate studies have predicted. Rather than shifting northward by dispersing seeds to cooler climates, the researchers found, tree species are responding by speeding up their life cycles. "Most trees are responding through faster turnover," says lead scientist James Clark of Duke University, "meaning they are staying in place but speeding up their life cycles in response to longer growing seasons and higher temperatures." The results appear in Global Change Biology.


Counterpoint: Two Scientists Offer
A Dissenting View on Ascension Island

Ecologists Daniel Simberloff, of the University of Tennessee, and Donald Strong, of the University of California, Davis, have written a critical appraisal of a recent Yale Environment 360 article by Fred Pearce about Ascension Island. In their critique, the two scientists contend that Pearce failed to accurately describe what has occurred on the island and misrepresented the science of restoration ecology.
Read more.


03 Sep 2013: Crop Pests Migrate Poleward
Due to Global Warming, Study Says

Global warming has been driving crop pests toward the North and South poles at a rate of 1.7 miles per year, according to new research from the U.K. Looking at the
Stem rust crop pest
Stem rust (Puccinia graminis fungus)
distribution of 612 crop pests over the past 50 years, the researchers found a strong correlation between warming global temperatures and increased ranges for the pests. “If crop pests continue to march polewards as the Earth warms, the combined effects of a growing world population and the increased loss of crops to pests will pose a serious threat to global food security,” said Daniel Bebber, a biologist at the University of Exeter who led the study published in Nature Climate Change. Crop pests — which include insects as well as bacteria, fungi, viruses, and nematodes — destroy 10 to 16 percent of the world's crops each year, or enough food to feed nine percent of the population, scientists estimate.


27 Aug 2013: Mexican Gray Wolves
Granted Increased Protection in the U.S.

The U.S. government has agreed to expand the territory where a small population of Mexican gray wolves in the southwestern U.S. can be protected and reintroduced.
Mexican Gray Wolf
Mexican gray wolf
Under a pair of agreements with the non-profit Center for Biological Diversity, the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service also has consented to a plan under which Mexican gray wolves that cross the U.S.-Mexico border and establish territories in Arizona and New Mexico will no longer be captured by U.S. authorities. The agency will also start releasing captive Mexican gray wolves into Gila National Forest and allow them to establish territories throughout much of New Mexico and Arizona. That rule, set to be finalized by January 2015, significantly expands the habitat for a beleaguered population of about 75 Mexican gray wolves in those states. Wildlife ecologists have been advocating for such measures, saying increased protections and expanded territories are essential to the recovery of the Mexican wolf population, but states in the region have strongly opposed such an expansion.


21 Aug 2013: Thai Monkeys May Abandon
Stone Tools Due to Human Disruptions

Human disturbances in Thailand’s Laem Son National Park may be causing Burmese long-tailed macaques to abandon their use of stone tools, say researchers studying the primates. The only monkeys in Asia to use

Click to enlarge
Burmese macaque stone tools

Burmese macaque cracks shells with a stone.
stone tools — and one of only three non-human primates worldwide to do so — these Burmese macaques have learned to use coastal rocks to crack the hard-shelled crabs, snails, and oysters that make up their diet. Habitat loss to rubber and oil palm farming, competition with humans for food sources, and threats from domestic dogs are forcing the macaques to change their foraging habits, researchers from Singapore’s Nanyang Technological University report. The monkeys are also showing signs of acclimating to humans and becoming dependent on human food sources.


20 Aug 2013: Google ‘Street View’ Will
Document Changes to World's Coral Reefs

Marine biologists are teaming up with Google to photograph detailed 360-degree panoramas of coral reefs around the globe. Using technology similar to

Click to enlarge
Google coral reef street view

Google takes Street View to coral reefs.
Google’s Street View feature, users will be able to survey coral reefs much like they might scope out a city block. The project, Google Street View Oceans, has already surveyed a 150-kilometer stretch of the Great Barrier Reef and is now working on reefs in the Caribbean. "Only 1 percent of humanity has ever dived on a coral reef, and by making the experience easily accessible the survey will help alert millions of people around the world to the plight of coral reefs," said Ove Hoegh-Guldberg, a marine biologist at the University of Queensland in Australia who is leading the survey. Image recognition software will log the distribution and abundance of marine organisms, and the researchers hope "citizen scientists" viewing the reefs will help assess other key measures of reef health.


15 Aug 2013: Plants in U.S. Southwest
Moving Higher as the Climate Warms

Numerous plant species on a mountain in the southwestern U.S. are migrating to higher elevationsas the climate gets warmer and drier, according to a new
Alligator Juniper on Mount Lemmon University of Arizona
University of Arizona
An alligator juniper on Mount Lemmon
study. After comparing the results of a recent survey of 27 plants found on Mount Lemmon, a 9,157-foot peak near Tucson, Ariz., with a similar survey conducted in 1963, researchers at the University of Arizona found that three-quarters of the plants have shifted their range “significantly” upslope in the last five decades. In some cases, researchers found that the plants had moved upward by as much as 1,000 feet, into a much narrower elevation range than where the plants existed in the early 1960s. Writing in the journal Ecology and Evolution, the researchers note that the lowermost boundary for 15 of the species has shifted upslope.


14 Aug 2013: Bears Using Wildlife Corridors
In Canadian Park, Genetic Tests Show

Genetic testing has revealed that bears in Canada’s Banff National Park routinely cross the bridges and underpasses along the Trans-Canada Highway, evidence that the ecological corridors provide safe
Bears Using Ecological Corridors at Banff Canada
A grizzly passes through a Banff underpass
passage along a busy roadway that otherwise threatens to fragment wildlife habitat. Using 420 wire snag “hair traps” and 497 rub trees at 20 crossings to collect hair from passing bears, researchers from Montana State University determined that 15 individual grizzly bears and 17 individual black bears used the passages over a three-year period. According to researchers, those accounted for about 20 percent of the park’s bear populations, suggesting the passageways are providing enough connectivity to maintain a healthy ecosystem for bears and other large mammals. Twenty-five passages were installed in the 1990s when the government widened a highway that includes a 100-mile stretch bisecting Banff.


13 Aug 2013: Too Many Urban Beehives
May Do More Harm Than Good, Experts Say

A surge in urban beekeeping may be doing more harm than good to honeybee populations, according to UK scientists. As the number of rooftop hives increases in cities worldwide— including London, where there are
city beekeeping impacts
Matthias Walendy
A Berlin beekeeper
now 10 hives per square kilometer — two researchers from the University of Sussex warn that too many hives can be detrimental. Writing in The Biologist, the magazine of the Society of Biology, they suggest that inexperienced beekeepers can create conditions in which there isn’t enough food for their insects. “If there are too many colonies in an area, then the food supply will be insufficient,” Francis Ratnieks, a professor at the university’s Laboratory of Apiculture and Social Insects, told the BBC. “This will mean that colonies do not thrive, and may also affect other species that also visit flowers.”


09 Aug 2013: Mapping of Monarch Butterfly
Migration Yields Clues About Decline

A comprehensive mapping of the North American migration patterns of the iconic monarch butterfly could help preserve a species threatened by loss of habitat and food sources, a team of international
monarch butterfly
Wikimedia Commons
A monarch butterfly
researchers says. In a study conducted across 17 U.S. states and two Canadian provinces, from southern Texas to Alberta, biologists from Canada, the U.S., and Australia tracked the northward migration of the monarchs, documenting five generations in a single breeding season. By analyzing a chemical signature found on the adult butterflies’ wings that reveals their specific birthplace, scientists were able to track the different generations of butterflies as they migrated north to the U.S. Midwest, from which many butterflies then traveled to Alberta. According to Tyler Flockhart, a Ph. D. student at the University of Guelph in Canada and lead author of the study published in the Proceedings of the Royal Society B, the decline in milkweed and a surge in genetically modified crops might be affecting monarch survival.


05 Aug 2013: New Deep-Rooted Rice
Shows Greater Resistance to Drought

Japanese scientists say they have developed a rice plant with deeper roots that could yield a more drought-resistant variety of rice. Writing in the journal Nature Genetics, a team of scientists describes the discovery of gene that causes a rice strain known as Kinandang Patong, grown in the dry upland of the Philippines, to send longer roots into the soil, allowing the plant to extract water from deeper soil layers. After splicing the gene with a commonly grown rice strain, called IR64, the scientists found that the maximum root depths were more than twice those of the typical plants. After exposing both strains to moderate and severe drought conditions, the researchers found that yields of the standard variety fell significantly in moderate drought conditions and collapsed altogether in severe drought, while the modified strains were not affected by moderate drought and yields declined only 30 percent in severe drought.


01 Aug 2013: Whales Shown to Flee
From Mid-Frequency Military Sonar

Two new studies show that the use of military sonar can provoke whales to flee, providing evidence that the naval operations may be a factor in mass strandings of whales and dolphins worldwide. According to one study,
Blue whale sonar study
Wikimedia Commons
A blue whale
most marine mammal strandings related to naval sonar exercises involve beaked whales, a notoriously shy species that responds to noise levels well below those used by the U.S. Navy. Scientists believe the beaked whales may interpret the sonar noises as the sounds of killer whales. A separate study found that even mid-frequency sonar affected the behavior of blue whales, the largest animals on earth, especially during feeding. After exposing tagged blue whales to simulated military sonar and other mid-frequency sounds, the animals often ceased feeding, increased swimming speeds, and traveled away from the sound. “Noise pollution threatens vulnerable populations, driving them away from areas important to their survival, and at worst injuring or even causing the deaths of some whales and dolphins,” Sarah Dolman of the non-profit group Whale and Dolphin Conservation told the Guardian.


30 Jul 2013: Return of Yellowstone Wolves
Triggers Surge in Grizzly's Prized Berries

The reintroduction of wolves at Yellowstone National Park has caused a cascade of ecological effects that has led to the regrowth of berries, an important food source for the park’s grizzly bears, scientists say. Writing in the
Grizzly Bear Yellowstone
Yellowstone National Park
Grizzly bear at Yellowstone Park
Journal of Animal Ecology, scientists from Oregon State University and the University of Washington report that the percentage of fruit found in bear scat has nearly doubled during the month of August in recent years. According to researchers, this reflects a recovery of berry bushes triggered in large part by the wolves, which have reduced overbrowsing by the park’s elk herds. The removal of wolves for most of the 20th century triggered the demise of the park’s young aspen and willow trees, as well as berry-producing shrubs, scientists say. According to the report, berries may be so important to the health of bear populations that their recovery could mean a lifting of the species’ “threatened” status under the Endangered Species Act.


29 Jul 2013: Wired Honeybees Show
Harmful Impacts of Pesticides on Navigation

Using tiny radar antennae glued to the backs of honeybees, European scientists have found that bees exposed to neonicotinoid pesticides were more likely to become disoriented and separated from their hives.
Honeybee Radar Study
Honeybee wired with radar antennae
After attaching the small transponders to 200 bees, including some that were fed pesticide-laced syrup, scientists discovered that the exposed bees had difficulty navigating and were unable to retrace the path back to their hives. “We find the control bees are just fantastic — they use their landscape and their vector memory and they do fine,” Randolf Menzel, an insect neurobiologist at the Free University in Berlin, told the London Telegraph. “The treated bees, depending on the doses of the substance, are more confused.” The findings appear to support a theory that neonicotinoids make bees more vulnerable to pathogens and could be a factor in so-called “colony collapse disorder,” a phenomenon that has decimated honeybee populations in recent years.


23 Jul 2013: Booming Cashmere Market
Is Threatening Snow Leopards, Study Says

A surging global market for cashmere is pushing several iconic species, including the snow leopard and wild yak, toward the margins of survival in remote regions where wool-producing goats are raised, according to a new
Snow Leopard
Anna Yu
A snow leopard in the mountains of Central Asia
study. Demand for the luxurious wool, which has spurred a multibillion-dollar industry, has encouraged herders in Asia to drastically increase their livestock, which are devouring a growing share of the grass that had previously been eaten by antelope, wild asses, and their predators. In an analysis conducted in Mongolia, India, and China’s Tibetan Plateau, a team of researchers concluded that 95 percent of forage is now consumed by domestic animals, leaving just 5 percent for wild species, the Guardian reports. In addition, the researchers noted a rise in the killing of leopards and wolves by herders following predator attacks on livestock, as well as the transfer of disease from livestock to wild animals. “Rather than serving as symbols of success, these species will become victims of fashion,” the researchers write in the journal Conservation Biology.


19 Jul 2013: European Fish Stocks
Show Signs of Recovery, Study Says

A major assessment of fish stocks in the northeast Atlantic Ocean shows that many species are recovering and are now being fished sustainably. The surprising findings, reported in the journal Current Biology, are based on data from government research institutes that collected millions of measurements of fish, both at sea and in markets. The study showed that for the first time in decades the majority of fish stocks in the northeast Atlantic are recovering, thanks to reforms instituted by individual nations and the European Union in 2002. This good news comes amid widespread criticism of EU fisheries policies, which recently have undergone further reform. “We should be aware that low fishing pressure needs to be maintained until stocks recover,” said researcher Robin Cook of the University of Strathclyde in Scotland. “This is only the first step. Now we need to see numbers increase as a result of continued low fishing pressure.”


18 Jul 2013: Malaysian Borneo Plundered
As 80 Percent of Rainforests Are Logged

The first comprehensive, satellite-based assessment of industrial logging practices in Malaysian Borneo has shown that more than 80 percent of the region’s forests have been heavily impacted by logging. Reporting in the journal PLOS One, researchers from Australia, New Guinea, and the U.S. say that Malaysian Borneo — which just 30 years ago was considered one of the wildest places on Earth — now has been eaten away by 226,000 miles of roads that have enabled companies to legally and illegally log most of the territory, which consists of the Malaysian states of Sabah and Sarawak. At best, only 17,500 square miles of forest ecosystems remain intact, the study said. “The extent of logging in Sabah and Sarawak documented in our work is breathtaking,” said study co-author Phil Shearman of the University of Papua New Guinea.


17 Jul 2013: New App Identifies Species
By Recordings of Their Vocalizations

A new app is enabling scientists and the public to automatically identify frogs, birds, insects, monkeys, and other animals by recording their vocalizations. Scientists at the University of Puerto Rico have created a system called the Automated Remote Biodiversity Monitoring Network (ARBIMON) that enables them to place inexpensive, solar-powered technology in the field and record the sounds of creatures that are often difficult to see or locate in their natural environment. The devices, which include I-Pods, can make 144 one-minute recordings per day and transmit them to a base station miles away. Using the ARBIMON system, scientists have already made more than 1 million recordings in Puerto Rico, Hawaii, Arizona, Costa Rica, and Brazil that can be listened to online. Researchers say the new system will greatly enhance their ability to do field research and to monitor the presence and activity patterns of species.


28 Jun 2013: Global Biodiversity Maps
Show Species Health Down to Local Level

U.S. researchers have published a series of data-rich maps that identify the world’s conservation priority

View gallery
Global biodiversity map

Saving Species/Globaïa
Density of biodiversity, South America
hotspots with a level of detail they say is 100 times finer than previous assessments. Using the latest data on more than 21,000 species of mammals, amphibians, and birds, the maps produced by North Carolina State University researchers provide a snapshot of biodiversity health at a 10-kilometer-by-10-kilometer scale, comparable to the geographic scale at which critical conservation decisions are made. The color-coded maps reveal patterns of biodiversity for the different types of species. Researchers hope the information will help policymakers make best use of scarce conservation resources to protect the world’s most vulnerable species. The paper was published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.


27 Jun 2013: New Bird Species Identified
In Crowded Outskirts of Phnom Penh

A team of scientists in Cambodia has identified a new species of lowland tailorbird recently captured in the densely populated outskirts of Phnom Penh. Originally
Cambodia tailorbird
J.A. Eaton/WCS
An adult male Cambodia tailorbird
caught and photographed in 2009 during a routine sampling for avian influenza, the small wren-sized bird was initially misidentified as a known type of tailorbird until the photographs caught the attention of scientist Simon Mahood of the Wildlife Conservation Society. Following genetic analysis of other individuals collected in the region, scientists confirmed that the bird — which has white cheeks, a rich cinnamon-colored crown, and distinct vocal characters — was indeed a new species. According to an article co-authored by Mahood in Forktail, a journal of the Oriental Bird Club, the so-called Cambodia tailorbird (Orthotomus chaktomuk) is known to exist only in a dense, lowland scrub ecosystem that is declining in size and quality.


20 Jun 2013: Global Reports Underline
Threats to Planet’s Bird Species

New global research underlines the rising threats facing the world’s bird species, with three reports providing evidence that climate change, overfishing, and unsustainable agriculture are taking a heavy toll on
Maine puffins
Puffins along the Maine coast.
avian populations worldwide. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) reports that numbers of some migratory bird populations in Maine — including Arctic terns and puffins — have plummeted in recent years because their food supplies are disappearing as a result of commercial fishing and the shifting of fish to cooler waters, which is making it more difficult for some birds to feed their young. In a separate study, scientists predict that rising sea levels will devastate habitat for some migratory shore birds in the coming decades. Higher sea levels, the study predicts, will flood 23 percent to 40 percent of the intertidal habitats for several shorebird species, triggering population declines of as much as 70 percent. Overall, one in eight bird species globally is at risk of extinction, according to a new report by BirdLife International.


19 Jun 2013: Study Maps Likely Wildlife
Migration Corridors as Climate Warms

The southeastern U.S., eastern Canada, and the Amazon Basin could become three of the more heavily used wildlife thoroughfares as species are forced to relocate

Click to enlarge
Wildlife Corridors University of Washington

University of Washington
Wildlife corridors in the southeastern U.S.
in response to warming temperatures in the future, according to a new study. In an analysis of how nearly 3,000 species of mammals, birds, and amphibians in the Western Hemisphere will have to travel to find more hospitable climes — and the human-built barriers, such as cities and agricultural land, that could stand in their way — scientists from the University of Washington found that some regions will see far more animal movement than others. In the southeastern U.S., the Appalachian Mountains are expected to provide a conduit for species movement, as are northern regions of the eastern U.S., including the area around the Great Lakes, the study found. According to the study, published in Ecology Letters, the findings can help guide conservation and land use planning along these critical migration corridors.


12 Jun 2013: Bird-Mimicking Mobile Apps
Harmful to Species, UK Groups Say

Wildlife officials in the UK are urging people not to use mobile phone apps that mimic bird songs in nature reserves, warning that the devices can harm some sensitive species, particularly during breeding season.
Chirp Bird Song App
Icon for Chirp! app
The increasingly popular apps, which use recordings of bird calls to lure the birds closer for photographs or better viewing, can distract birds from critical tasks, such as feeding their young, according to the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds. The Dorset Wildlife Trust (DWT), a conservation group that oversees 42 reserves, is discouraging the use of the mobile apps at its reserves, calling it an intentional disturbance of sensitive species such as the Nightjar, a nocturnal bird that has experienced a recent recovery in the area. “I’m sure visitors would be devastated if they realized the possible disturbance they were causing to wildlife,” said Chris Thain, a manager at DWT’s Brownsea Island reserve.


11 Jun 2013: Growing Number of Pests
Developing Resistance to GM Crops

An increasing number of pest species are developing resistance to crops genetically engineered to be toxic to insects, according to new research. In an analysis of 77 studies conducted in eight countries, a team of U.S. and French scientists found that five of 13 major pest species had become resistant to so-called Bt cotton or corn plants, which are genetically modified to exude a bacterium, Bacillus thuringiensis, that is toxic to insects. While researchers say all insects inevitably adapt to threats such as pesticides, the study found that farmers who planted non-Bt crops in nearby “refuges” were more likely to slow that resistance. “Either take more stringent measures to delay resistance, such as requiring larger refuges, or this pest will probably evolve resistance quickly,” said Bruce Tabashnik, a professor at the University of Arizona and lead author of the study published in the journal Nature Biotechnology. The total land area planted annually with Bt crops has increased from 1.1 million hectares in 1996 to more than 66 million hectares in 2011.


05 Jun 2013: First Amphibian Declared Extinct
‘Rediscovered’ in Israel’s Hula Valley

A team of scientists says it has “rediscovered” in northern Israel the first amphibian declared extinct by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), a species of frog that turns out to be the only

Click to enlarge
Hula painted frog

Sarig Gafny
A Hula painted frog
surviving member of an extinct genus of frogs. First discovered in Israel’s Hula Valley in the 1940s, the Hula painted frog was presumed gone when Hula Lake dried up in the late 1950s, and it was declared extinct in 1996. But since an individual frog was discovered during a patrol in Hula Nature Reserve in 2011, an additional 10 specimens have been found, according to a study published in the journal Nature Communications. And while the frog had originally been categorized as a member of the Discoglossus group of painted frogs, which are found across northern and western Africa, genetic analysis has revealed that the Hula frog is more closely related to a genus of frogs, Latonia, that were common across Europe during prehistoric periods but considered extinct for a million years. “In other words,” the study says, “the Hula painted frog is a living fossil.”


29 May 2013: Genetically Modified Salmon
Can Breed with Wild Fish and Thrive

Fast-growing, genetically modified salmon can interbreed with wild brown trout and produce offspring that grow rapidly and out-compete other wild salmon in streams, according to a new study. Researchers from Memorial University in Newfoundland, Canada, found that so-called “Frankenfish” — which are close to being approved for sale in the United States — can easily interbreed with brown trout in the wild, creating offspring that aggressively compete for food with salmon. In settings that simulated real streams, the offspring of the genetically modified (GM) salmon and brown trout were so aggressive that they suppressed the growth of GM salmon by 82 percent and wild salmon by 54 percent. “These findings suggest that complex competitive interactions associated with transgenesis and hybridization could have substantial ecological consequences for wild Atlantic salmon should they ever come into contact [with GM salmon] in nature,” the researchers wrote in the Proceedings of the Royal Society B. The creator of the GM salmon, Aqua Bounty, said the risks were minimal since all the GM salmon will be female, sterile, and produced in tanks on land.


Interview: Pollan Explores Links
Between Biodiversity and Health

In his new book, Cooked, author Michael Pollan once again delves into issues relating to the connections
Michael Pollan
Photo by Fran Collin
Michael Pollan
between the environment and what we eat, and, more broadly, to humanity’s relationship to the natural world. Taking control of cooking, he argues, may be the single most important step an individual can take to help make the food system healthier and more sustainable. In an interview with Yale Environment 360, Pollan talks about how his research led him on a journey that ranged from the monoculture fields of U.S. commodity agriculture to the bacterial world inside the human body. And he notes the fundamental importance of biodiversity — in the landscape and the farm field, as well as in people’s diets. “This may prove to be the key legacy of ecology — what it teaches us about health,” Pollan says. “Who would have thought?”
Read the interview


22 May 2013: Whale’s Battle with Nets
Is Revealed Through Monitoring Device

A small monitoring tag attached to an entangled North Atlantic right whale revealed just how much fishing gear impairs a whale’s ability to swim, dive, and feed, scientists say. After locating a two-year-old whale,
Entangled Right Whale EcoHealth Alliance
EcoHealth Alliance, under permit number 594-1759
The entangled whale
dubbed Eg 3911, with fishing gear entangled around her mouth and pectoral fins, a team of scientists was able to attach a so-called Dtag in January 2011 that recorded her movements before, during, and after the team removed the nets. The whale “altered its behavior immediately following the disentanglement,” according to the study published in the journal Marine Mammal Science. She swam faster, dove twice as deep, and stayed underwater for longer periods. Scientists say the added buoyancy, increased drag and reduced speed caused by such gear may overwhelm an animal's ability to forage for preferred prey, delay its arrival to feeding or breeding grounds, and ultimately drain its energy. Indeed, two weeks after disentangling Eg 3911 from the nets, an aerial survey spotted her dead at sea.


14 May 2013: Shifting Petrel Diets Suggest
Effect of Humans on Ocean Food Web

An analysis of the bones of ancient and modern Hawaiian petrels has revealed that modern petrels, which forage in the open ocean, are eating prey lower on the food chain than in centuries past, a dramatic shift
Hawaiian Petrel
that coincides with the rise of industrial fishing. In tests conducted on petrel bones collected over three decades in the Hawaiian islands, a team of scientists found that the bones from 4,000 to 100 years ago contained higher ratios of nitrogen-15 and nitrogen-14 isotopes than the more recent bones, suggesting that the earlier birds ate bigger prey before changes in the food web composition of the Northeast Pacific. According to the scientists, the nitrogen ratio started to decline in the decades after the early 1950s, when industrial fishing started to extend beyond the continental shelves. “Our bone record is alarming because it suggests that open-ocean food webs are changing on a large scale due to human influence,” said Peggy Ostrom, a zoologist at Michigan State University and co-author of the study, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.




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