conservation biology

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Here’s an Otocolobus manulnature’s Grumpy Cat — discovering a camera trap outside it’s den. Camera traps are used by biologists to lean about rare animals’ behavior, abundance, and health — just by setting up a solar-powered camera with a motion trigger. No physical trapping necessary.

O. manul (also known as Pallas’s cat) is about the size of a house cat, but you’ll notice has round pupils instead of slits. It lives in western China and the steppes of Central Asia.

You’d think that Pallas’s cat would rule the internet by now - but there aren’t too many photos of them because they are both rare and shy. The IUCN lists them as near-threatened. Just another reason to support species conservation!

You can see the whole video — posted Scarce Worldwidehere.

The Last of its Kind
Sharks throughout the world are being destroyed at a devastating rate for shark fin soup and other human causes. This image of a lonely reef shark cruising over a desert of sand was captured to help portray the importance of conservation before we lose them FOREVER. Photo by Laz Ruda.

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Overfishing occurs when more fish are caught than the population can replace through natural reproduction. Gathering as many fish as possible may seem like a profitable practice, but overfishing has serious consequences. The results not only affect the balance of life in the oceans, but also the social and economic well-being of the coastal communities who depend on fish for their way of life.

Billions of people rely on fish for protein, and fishing is the principal livelihood for millions of people around the world. For centuries, our seas and oceans have been considered a limitless bounty of food. However, increasing fishing efforts over the last 50 years as well as unsustainable fishing practices are pushing many fish stocks to the point of collapse.

More than 85 percent of the world’s fisheries have been pushed to or beyond their biological limits and are in need of strict management plans to restore them. Several important commercial fish populations (such as Atlantic bluefin tuna) have declined to the point where their survival as a species is threatened. Target fishing of top predators, such as tuna and groupers, is changing marine communities, which lead to an abundance of smaller marine species, such as sardines and anchovies.

Many fishers are aware of the need to safeguard fish populations and the marine environment, however illegal fishing and other regulatory problems still exist. WWF works with stakeholders to reform fisheries management globally, focusing on sustainable practices that conserve ecosystems, but also sustain livelihoods and ensure food security.

CAUSES

OPEN ACCESS FISHERIES

A main problem of overfishing is the “open access” nature of fisheries. Because there are no or few property rights there is a lack of incentive for fishermen to leave fish in the water.

POOR FISHERIES MANAGEMENT

A lack of management oversight, government regulations, and traceability of fishing activities has long been a problem in the fishing industry. Current rules and regulations are not strong enough to limit fishing capacity to a sustainable level. This is particularly the case for the high seas, where there are few international fishing regulations, and those that exist are not always implemented or enforced. Many fisheries management bodies are not able to adequately incorporate scientific advice on fish quotas, and customs agencies and retailers cannot always ensure that the fish entering their country is caught legally and in a sustainable way.

ILLEGAL FISHING

One key dimension of the overfishing crisis is illegal, unregulated, and unreported fishing. It occurs across all types of fisheries, within national and international waters, and small scale to large industrialized operations. Illegal fishing accounts for an estimated 20% of the world’s catch and as much as 50% in some fisheries. The costs of illegal fishing are significant, with the value of pirate fish products estimated at between $10-23.5 billion annually.

SUBSIDIES

Many governments still continue to subsidize their fleets, allowing unprofitable operations to subsist, and overfishing to occur. Today’s worldwide fishing fleet is estimated to be up to two and a half times the capacity needed to catch what we actually need.

info and photos from WWF

Looks like a substantial course correction in climate change research. It seems species that were once thought “safe” from changes in climate are more vulnerable than expected. It also seems to add support for the controversial planetary boundaries theory. Reuters article below:

Many thriving species at risk from climate change-study

Many species of birds, amphibians and corals not currently under threat will be at risk from climate change and have been wrongly omitted from conservation planning, an international study said on Wednesday.

The Amazon rainforest was among the places where ever more types of birds and amphibians would be threatened as temperatures climbed, it said. Common corals off Indonesia would also be among the most vulnerable.

Overall, up to 41 percent of all bird species, 29 percent of amphibians and 22 percent of corals were “highly climate change vulnerable but are not currently threatened”, the team of scientists wrote in the journal PLOS ONE.

"It was a surprise," said Wendy Foden, of the global species program of the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) who led the study. Experts had expected far more overlap between species threatened now and those vulnerable to global warming.

Conservation priorities should be revised to take account of the emerging climate risks, for instance to decide where to locate protected areas for wildlife, the scientists wrote.

"Climate change is not the biggest threat, yet," Foden told Reuters in a telephone interview. Loss of habitats driven by a rising human population, over-exploitation and invasive species are now the main causes of extinctions, the study said.

The study drew on the work of more than 100 scientists. The IUCN groups governments, scientists and environmental groups.

Birds including the Emperor Penguin and the Little Owl and amphibians such as Rose’s rain frog or the Imitator Salamander - none of which are now threatened - were among those at risk as temperatures rose.

The study focused on birds, amphibians - which include frogs, newts and salamanders - and corals partly because the IUCN has recently published global assessments of each.

The scientists used a new scale to judge the vulnerability to climate change, based on each creature’s likely exposure to climate change, sensitivity to change and the ability to adapt.

Chris Thomas, a professor of biology at York University in England who was not involved in the study, welcomed the attempt to map climate risks, but said there were many uncertainties.

"The tragedy of this is that we need to make a lot of decisions about conservation … before we know what will happen," he said.

A U.N. panel of scientists has estimated that 20 to 30 percent of the world’s species are likely to be at increasing risk of extinction if temperatures rise more than two or three degrees Celsius (3.6-5.4F) above pre-industrial levels.

Almost 200 nations have set a goal of limiting warming to below 2C, a target set to be breached on current trends of rising greenhouse gases.

Source: reutersUK

via climateadaptation

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The UK Pavilion at the 2010 Shanghai World Expo: The Seed Cathedral

Theme - Better City, Better Life

"The UK pavilion at Expo 2010, colloquially known as the Seed Cathedral, was a sculpture structure built by a nine member conglomeration of British business and government resources directed by designer Thomas Heatherwick. It referenced the race to save seeds from round the world in banks, and housed 250,000 plant seeds at the end of 60,000 acrylic rods, held in place by geometrically-cut holes with the rods inserted therein.”

-Wikipedia

"The Seed Cathedral is 20 metres in height, formed from 60,000 slender transparent rods, each 7.5 metres long and each encasing one or more seeds at its tip. During the day, they act as optic fibres and draw daylight inwards to illuminate the interior. At night, light sources inside each rod allow the whole structure to glow. As the wind moves past, the building and its optic “hairs” gently move to create a dynamic effect.”

- Despoke.com

Images: Heatherwick Studio; REUTERS/Aly Song

#seed banks #art

The most depressing part about what we do to sharks is that they have been here for about 420 million years (200 times longer than the Homo genus, and 2,100 times longer than H. sapiens sapiens), and we have nearly eradicated 141 of the 465 species IUCN recognises (209 of which are considered ‘data deficient’) in the last 50 years.

Let that sink in.

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The Manatee Nebula

20,000 years ago in the constellation of Aquila, a giant star went supernova. It exploded gas out in an expanding bubble and then collapsed into a black hole, and began to feed on gas from another nearby star. This cannibalised blue-green gas swirls in a nebulous cloud around the black hole—which, interestingly, is also a microquasar. Quasars occur when a supermassive black hole—a huge black hole at the centre of a galaxy—pulls in a huge, seething whirlpool of matter, then spits back out jets of energy in the form of superheated gas or hot wind. A microquasar is just a small quasar, powered by a smaller, stellar-mass black hole. This particular microquasar and nebula system was once known as W50, but earlier this year it was renamed the Manatee Nebula because its shape bears an uncanny resemblance to the gentle, herbivorous giants. The name was suggested by Heidi Winter, Executive Assistant to the Director of the National Radio Astronomy Observatory, and picked up by Tania Burchell, Public Information Officer, who saw it as to bridge two different scientific worlds, biology and astronomy, helping explain an astrophysical phenomenon 18,000 light years away as well as raising awareness about manatees a bit closer to home. Manatees are classified as endangered because they are often injured or killed by boat propellers. These cut deep, curved scars in the huge mammals’ skin, which are uncannily similar to the twists and scars of the Manatee Nebula caused by high-energy microquasar jets forcing their way through the gas.

Read Tania Burchell’s thoughts on the nebula 

(Image Credit: NRAO)

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IF YOU BELIEVE SIZE MATTERS:  PALAU, A SMALL ISLAND IN PACIFIC IS ESTABLISHING A NON-FISHING ZONE THE SIZE OF FRANCE

In 2009, the island of Palau, located in the western Pacific Ocean just above New Guinea, established the first shark sanctuary in the world. Officials from the country say they’ve seen such success with the shark sanctuary as a buzzing tourist destination that they’ve launched plans to ban all commercial fishing in Palau’s large ocean territory by 2018.

The free fishing zone will span 630,000 square kilometres (240,000 square miles) - an area the size of France - and has been described as “unprecedented”.

The reason behind the no-fishing zone, according to the President of Palau Tommy Remengesau, was to allow the ocean to heal and replenish its populations of fish after decades of overfishing by commerical enterprises from around the world. 

Remengesau said Pacific island nations, which are also struggling to deal with climate change, were effectively “the conscience of the world" on environmental matters and had to lead by example because of their special connection with the ocean,” says Neil Sands for AFP.

The ocean is our way of life,” Remengesau told journalists. “It sustains and nurtures us, provides us with the basics of our Pacific island cultures, our very identities.”

Remengesau added that sharks offered more value to Palau as eco-tourism assets, saying that a 2011 study conducted by the Australian Institute of Marine Science concluded that a single reef shark could raise almost US$2 million for the local economy over 10 years thanks to the tourists that visit it. Figures put the tourism industry as being almost 30 times more lucrative to Palau than the commercial tuna industry. No attacks have ever occurred as the operators are careful to make sure everyone keeps a safe distance from the sharks.

We feel that a live shark is worth a thousand times more than a dead one,Remengesau said

In a major development, the world’s main consumer of shark fins, China, has announced that it will ban shark fin soup from all official banquets. The Government Offices Administration of the State Council announced that it will take up to three years to implement the ban, but given the right circumstances this could happen quicker. While bans on the sale and consumption of shark fins have been picking up momentum around the world recently, this is the first such legislation in China. Over 95 percent of the annual harvest of shark fin worldwide is consumed on the Chinese mainland, Hong Kong and Taiwan.

While cutting down on spending on lavish public banquets has been cited as a major reason for the ban, awareness in China about the negative effects of shark fin consumption on the global shark population has slowly been rising thanks in part to a WildAid ad campaign featuring Chinese basketball star Yao Ming, which Save Our Seas Foundation helped fund.

Nevertheless, enforcement of the ban may prove to be problematic in a vast country where Beijing’s directives often go unheeded by local officials.

As many as 73 million sharks are killed each year to supply the global shark fin trade, and of the shark and ray species assessed by scientists for the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), 30 percent are threatened or near-threatened with extinction.

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..And we are to blame.

1. Ocelots are wild cats that can be found in South America, Central America, and the U.S. After decades of habitat loss and vehicular deaths, only 50 of the cats are left in a corner of Texas.

2. The Sumatran rhinoceros, Due to Intensive poaching fewer than 200 remain in the wild.

3. blue-knobbed curassow is only found wild in Columbia.this species’ population is estimated at fewer than a thousand.

4. The golden-headed langur, is a critically endangered primate. Earth’s species are rapidly dwindling, due largely to habitat destruction and climate change.

5. One of the two known surviving Rabb’s fringe-limbed tree frogs, died in 2012. This critically endangered freshwater species from Panama may be already extinct in the wild.

6. The Island swallowtail, has fewer than a hundred of the insects left on a single island in the Florida Keys.

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DIVER SAVES SEA TURTLE AND RECEIVES ADORABLE THANK YOU

Not every story about sea life mistakenly caught in a net ends this beautifully, so it’s important to recognize when one does.

So watch the full video here and learn this turtles story.

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6 of the Worlds Most Beautiful Creatures that soon Won’t Exist:

(In no particular order)

  1. The Ivory-Billed Woodpecker is so endangered that it may already be extinct! .It was previously thought extinct until unconfirmed sightings of it in 2004 kept peoples hopes up.
  2. After the recent loss of block rhino’s, the javan rhino is the next closest to extinction with only around 40 individuals still living. 
  3. The leatherback sea turtle’s population has dropped roughly 80 to 90 thousand in the last 14 years, leaving about 20,000 alive and their population continues to plummet.
  4. The northern sportive lemur is currently the most endangered of all the lemurs, but virtually all of the 100 species of lemur (that all live on Madagascar) are at risk.
  5. The whaling of the 19th century left as little as 350 individuals of northern right whales left in the world.
  6. The amur leopard’s habitat used to range all across Russia, China, and Mongolia, how ever the 20 individuals still left alive live exclusively in a forest east of Russia’s Primorye region.

More beautiful animals that will soon be gone if nothing is done.

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Believe it or not, these enormous stingrays aren’t abnormally oversized. They’re Giant Freshwater Stingrays, native to large rivers and estuaries of Southeast Asia. As you may have guessed from the photos, they’re among the very largest freshwater fish in the world. These stingrays can grow to be over 16-feet-long and weigh up to 1,300 lbs. They sport 15-inch-long serrated, venomous stingers, but these creatures are gentle and inquisitive giants who only use their built-in weapon as a last resort for self-defense. They’re also extremely endangered.

Though this could be the largest freshwater fish on the planet, accounts of its existence only emerged in Thai newspapers in the early 1980s. It’s exceedingly rare to see one, in part because it destroys all but the strongest fishing rods and lines. Even if you have the right equipment, the giant freshwater stingray tends to take exception to being hunted and buries itself in the river bottom when hooked.

“They’re inquisitive, they’re not as shy as most other species of fish,” said Zeb Hogan, a conservation biologist with the University of Nevada, Reno. “There aren’t many fish out there that like to be approached, that will stay in one place if they’re close to humans, and the stingrays don’t seem to mind being in close proximity to humans. They don’t in some cases seem to even mind contact.”

Photos courtesy of Zeb Hogan, University of Nevada

Visit Wired to view more photos of and learn much more about the awesome Giant Freshwater Stingrays of Southeast Asia.

The Worst Seafood You Could Eat Is…. Shrimp.

Shrimp is the #1 seafood in the USA. It is tasty, usually quite inexpensive, and is easily cooked and eaten. Unfortunately, such a craze for shrimp has created an environmental nightmare. 

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Americans currently consume over one billion pounds of shrimp every year, and about 90% of that is imported from overseas. The primary producers of shrimp—namely China, Thailand, Vietnam, Brazil and Ecuador—provide mostly farm-raised shrimp. American shrimp is almost always caught in the wild. Nevertheless, neither options are ideal or sustainable, and both have horrific consequences on the sea.

  • Shrimp farming affects human health

The majority of shrimp farms is comprised of open ponds with a small amount of water exchange. Shrimp farming is usually based in coastal areas, and can be destructive to both the ecological and human communities with which it comes into contact. When multiple intensive farming operations are concentrated around the same river, estuary, or bay, as they often are, the waste, uneaten feed and bacteria produced by the farms pollutes the surrounding waters, overwhelming the environment and harming other species. This waste also creates conditions that breed infections among the shrimp themselves.

To protect from the shrimp pathogens that inevitably spread, some farmers feed their shrimp chloramphenicol, a carcinogenic antibiotic which may be unsafe for human consumption. Shrimp may also be treated with sodium triple phosphate, a neuro-toxicant, to prevent it from drying out during shipping, and borax to preserve its pink color.

Upon arrival in the U.S., few if any, are inspected by the FDA, and when researchers have examined imported ready-to-eat shrimp, they found 162 separate species of bacteria with resistance to 10 different antibiotics.

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(Shrimp farms in Borneo on the edge of mangroves. Photo by Marc Gunther)

  • Shrimp farming affects mangroves and local ecosystems

Scientists have found that shrimp farms have destroyed over 40% of the world’s mangroves, which are some of the most diverse, productive and necessary ecosystems on the planet. Mangroves indeed act as carbon sinks, and serve as valuable buffers against hurricanes and tsunamis, while also providing a safe nursery habitats for many invertebrate, fish, and shark species.

A shrimp farmer will clear a section of mangroves and close it off to ensure that the shrimp cannot escape. Then the farmer relies on the tides to refresh the water, carrying shrimp excrement and disease out to sea. In this scenario, the entire mangrove ecosystem is destroyed and turned into a small dead zone for short-term gain. Even after the shrimp farm leaves, the mangroves do not come back.

  • Wild-caught shrimps, bottom trawling, and bycatch

Farmed shrimp have their problems, but wild-caught shrimp aren’t always a much better alternative. Fisherman catch wild shrimp using fine-meshed trawl nets pulled through the water. Worldwide, for one pound of shrimp, there can be 5 pounds of bycatch—other species that become trapped in the nets. Scientists have found that up to 90% of marine life in the nets brought onboard during shrimp harvesting is actually not shrimp! On top of fish that ultimately end up being dead or dying from being in the net, nets routinely pull up 9,000 endangered or threatened sea turtles annually, in addition to sharks, red snappers, and other animals. 

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(Typical shrimp bycatch. Photo credit: Powered-by-produce.com)

The vast majority is caught using trawling, a highly destructive fishing method. Football field-sized nets are dragged along the ocean floor, scooping up and killing several pounds of marine life for every pound of shrimp they catch and demolishing the ocean floor ecosystem as they go. Where they don’t clear-cut coral reefs or other rich ocean floor habitats, they drag their nets through the mud, leaving plumes of sediment so large they are visible from outer space!

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While shrimp trawl fisheries only represent 2% of the global fish catch, they are responsible for over 1/3rd of the world’s bycatch. Trawling is comparable to bulldozing an entire section of rainforest in order to catch one species of bird.

The truth is, not everyone is willing to give up eating shrimp. And you don’t necessarily have to. New, more sustainable production practices are being developed, but it’s up to the consumer to ask for them in supermarkets and restaurants.

What You Can Do!

  • Eat less shrimp! The Worldwatch Institute estimates that for every 1,000 people who stop eating shrimp, we can save more than 5.4 tons of sea life per year.
  • Replace your industrial shrimp purchases with Henry & Lisa’s Natural Seafood (Ecofish’s retail brand) available at 3500 stores nationwide, including Whole Foods and Target Superstores.
  • Seek out the blue Marine Stewardship Council ecolabel, which indicates sustainable practices, when shopping or dining out. Here’s a list of stores and restaurants that stock MSC-certified products.
  • When buying wild-caught shrimp, look for varieties from the Pacific coast, particularly Oregon and British Columbia.
  • Ask your favorite restaurants and stores what kind of shrimp they are stocking, and if you’re not satisfied with their answer, let them know!
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LOOK AT MAUI’S DOLPHIN BEFORE EXTINCTION

Too late to save Maui’s dolphin, experts says

Marine experts say it is too late to stop the Maui’s dolphin becoming extinct and New Zealand sea lions will be next unless changes are made.

Despite mandatory monitoring and recent restrictions on fishing zones, the Maui’s dolphins days are numbered.

"[The] stand out amongst them is bycatch in the southern squid fisheries." (…)"It’s not the fishermen, it’s the Government. The Government is paid to keep the species such as the Maui dolphin safe, and they’re not doing it," Roger Payne said.

New devices within nets have heavily reduced the number sea lions accidentally caught in fishing nets, but their numbers are still falling.The only way to ensure marine mammals are safe is to change fishing methods.