I used to think the top global environmental problems were biodiversity loss, ecosystem collapse and climate change. I thought with 30 years of good science we could address those problems, but I was wrong. The top environmental problems are selfishness, greed and apathy - and to deal with these we need a spiritual and cultural transformation and we scientists don’t know how to do that.
Limiting climate change requires stabilizing greenhouse gas concentrations. It implies the evolution of a society that becomes carbon-neutral on a global scale in this century. This would mean phasing out all fossil fuel-burning vehicles, aircraft, and electricity generating facilities or implementing permanent carbon sequestration–probably underground…. While these may sound like science fiction scenarios…, if the alternative is the inexorable and unmanageable loss of biodiversity, biologists have a strong reason to advocate exactly these changes.
Hannah, L., T.E. Lovejoy, T.E., and S.H. Schneider. 2005. Page 12 in T.E. Lovejoy and L. Hannah, editors. Climate Change and Biodiversity. Yale University Press.
In the last 50 years, a staggering 140 million hectares - the size of almost all the farmland in India - has been taken over by four industrial crops: soya bean, oil palm, rapeseed and sugar cane. And this trend is accelerating.
“Of all the myriad species of plants or animals whose products are useful to people, agriculture directly uses only a few hundred. Some twelve plant species provide approximately 75% of our total food supply, and only fifteen mammal and bird species make up more than 90% of global domestic livestock production.”
If all mankind were to disappear, the world would regenerate back to the rich state of equilibrium that existed ten thousand years ago. If insects were to vanish, the environment would collapse into chaos
This World Biodiversity Day (May 22), Worldwatch Institute is raising awareness of biodiversity losses worldwide and what individuals and institutions can do to confront these trends. The current rate of species extinction is up to 1,000 times above the Earth’s normal extinction rate, a level of loss that has not occurred since the extinction of the dinosaurs 65 million years ago.
“The cost of living is going up and the chance of living is going down. “ –Flip Wilson
A new publication issued by the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA) in the journal “Nature” has reported that the chances of keeping temperatures below a 2 degree rise is now largely in the hands of policy makers.
The challenge of a changing climate can now only be fought with the backing of political agenda – and as most people will agree, this seems bleak.
Of all the uncertainties with regard the effects of climate change, including geophysical and social uncertainties; political uncertainty ranked as the number 1 factor in determining the fate of our species and our planet.
even in a place as beautiful as the Little Qualicum River estuary, his office for 30 years as a biologist for the Canadian Wildlife Service, he sees the unravelling of “the web of life.”
“It’s happening very quickly,” he says.
A recent news report focussed on the precipitous decline of barn swallows on Vancouver Island.
That is certainly true, says Dawe, who starting in 1978 worked on the Royal BC Museum’s four-volume Birds of British Columbia project, but it doesn’t tell the whole story.
People will focus on the extinction of a species but not “the overall impact,” he says. When habitat diversity is lost, “it changes the whole dynamic.” In 1975, when Dawe was assigned to study the newly created Marshall-Stevenson Unit of the Qualicum National Wildlife Area, which is part of the Little Qualicum River estuary, there were 24 nesting pairs of blue-and-rust barn swallows in an old barn that still stands to this day after 125 years.
However, their numbers began to decline as the area was developed. The trees were logged and milled, parts of the estuary were mined for gravel, rock walls were built to stop erosion, and a straight channel, in use to this day, was dug so the river no longer wound through the estuary, shifting course with the seasons.
All that meant fewer insects and that meant weak and hungry barn swallows, now susceptible to the larvae of the blowfly.
One by one, the nesting pairs slipped away over decades, Dawe says. “When I left there were none.”
There are still barn swallows in the area but there aren’t as many: between 1966 and 2011, barn swallows in B.C. have declined at a rate of 4.96% a year.
They’re among more 30 B.C. birds known to be in decline, including the iconic Great Blue Heron (1.7% per year), the Rufous Hummingbird (1.91%), the beautiful killdeer (3.8%), the American Goldfinch (4.85%) and so on. Forty-five of the 57 coastal waterbirds using the Strait of Georgia were in decline between 1999 and 2011, including the Brant sea goose (4.7% per year), Greater Yellowlegs (10.5%) and Western Grebe (16.4%).
But it isn’t just birds. The inconspicuous Pacific crabapple, once a mainstay of the estuary, is all but gone. Dawe points to a scrawny metre-high specimen near a road. “I’d guess it’s a hundred years old,” he says.
The Douglas fir and Sitka spruce are all but gone. The life-giving grassy carex, as Dawe and fellow biologist Andy Stewart reported in 2010, is being stripped from the estuary by resident Canada geese at a rate of 15-18 metric tonnes a year.
“Most of these plants here now are invasive species,” he says.
Indeed, in his 35 years of studying what is supposed to be a wildlife sanctuary, it has almost all changed, and it no longer supports the life it once did.
if you’re idea of a “successful” economic system yields massive ecosystem destruction, loss of biodiversity, acidifying oceans full of mercury and plastic, antibiotic-resistant bacterial outbreaks from factory farm runoff, soil degradation and topsoil erosion through industrial agriculture and monoculture, mass honeybee die-offs, contamination of groundwater from fracking/chemical spills/oil spills, and unfathomable amounts of waste, please fuck off
Biodiversity loss is a well-established consequence of climate change. In a number of infectious disease systems, such as Lyme disease and West Nile virus, biodiversity loss is tied to greater pathogen transmission and increased human risk.
Just days before Myanmar, also known as Burma, implements a ban on exporting raw logs, the Environmental Investigative Agency (EIA) has released a new report that captures the sheer scale of the country’s illegal logging crisis. According to the EIA, new data shows that 72 percent of logs exported from Myanmar between 2000-2013 were illegally harvested.
“The forestry sector is in crisis [in Myanmar]. Logging is rampant, transparency non-existent. Drivers include consumers’ need for cheap raw materials in the form of logs and in particular Myanmar’s precious hardwoods,” EIA Forest Campaign Leader, Faith Doherty, told mongabay.com, adding “this situation is acknowledged by the government and we hope that support for reform in the forestry sector from the international community becomes a reality.”
Analyzing new figures released by Myanmar’s Ministry of Environmental Conservation and Forestry and published by the country’s Eleven Media group, the EIA found that official export data accounted for only 28 percent of logs imported into other countries. This means, the rest—over three-fourths of the total—was likely illegally logged and exported. In all, 22.8 million cubic meters of logs were imported to various countries around the world from Myanmar during the period in question.
Illegal logging is a global scourge, accounting for some 15-30 percent of deforestation in the tropics and worth an estimated $30-$100 billion in ill-gotten gains annually. Not only does the practice devastate forests, harm biodiversity, and emit carbon, but it also imperils forest communities and robs developing countries of revenue. In Myanmar’s case, the EIA estimates that the country lost out on $6 billion in revenue over the 14 year period, four times the country’s health and education budget during 2013-2014.
Towards the end of the Devonian period around 370 million years ago, a pair of major events known as the Kellwasser Event and the Hangenberg Event combined to cause an enormous loss in biodiversity.
Given that it took place over a huge span of time—estimates range from 500,000 to 25 million years—it isn’t possible to point to a single cause for the Devonian extinction, though some suggest that the amazing spread of plant life on land during this time may have changed the environment in ways that made life harder, and eventually impossible, for the species that died out.
Pictured is a tiktaalik, considered a transitional species between fishes and the first legged animals, that developed during the Devonian Period.
(mongabay.com) – Tropical tree communities are moving up mountainsides to cooler habitats as temperatures rise, a new study in Global Change Biology has found. By examining the tree species present in ten one-hectare plots at various intervals over a decade, researchers found that the proportion of lowland species increased in the plots at higher elevations. The study, which was undertaken in Volcán Barva, Costa Rica, adds to a growing body of evidence that climate change is having an impact on species range distributions.
As climate change leads to warmer temperatures, species must respond if they are to survive. One way to do this is to migrate to new habitats that become suitable (and away from old ones that become unsuitable); another way is to adapt to hotter temperatures, but the speed of climate change may be too fast for some species to evolve to keep up. In some cases, if their physiology permits it, species may be capable of tolerating increases in temperature, but the likelihood of this is unknown.
The researchers first turned to herbarium records to calculate the preferred temperature of thousands of tree species, by looking at the geographic location of sampling locations and the temperature ranges they encompassed. With the temperature preferences for each species known, it was then possible to calculate a ‘community temperature score’ for each of the ten study plots, by averaging the preferred temperatures of all species present. A high community temperature score indicated an abundance of species found in the hot lowlands, whereas a low community temperature score reflected the presence of high altitude species from cooler habitats.
Plots were monitored over the course of a decade, and in nine of the ten plots the community temperature score increased. This indicates a shift in species composition, with the relative abundance of lowland species increasing over time “exactly as predicted under climate-driven upward species migrations,” Kenneth Feeley, lead author of the study with Florida International University and Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden,