Fukushima news update


This video from Japan about Fukushima says about itself:

March 11, 2013 2 year anniversary of man-made nuclear accident and tsunami

Hiroaki Koide, Master of Science in Nuclear Engineering, Assistant Professor at the Kyoto University Research Institute, Nuclear Waste Management & Safety Expert:

The cesium-137 that was released into the atmosphere by Units 1 through 3 was 168 times that of the Hiroshima bomb, according to the Japanese government report to the IAEA, an international organization which promotes nuclear power.

Very high levels of accumulated radioactive cesium have been detected in the mud of hundreds of reservoirs used to irrigate farmland in Fukushima Prefecture, where agriculture is a key industry: here.

”As if the hazards at Japan’s crippled Fukushima Daichi nuclear plant needed to worsen, more highly radioactive water has leaked in one of the reactors. Wayne looks at growing international unease in the aftermath of the meltdown and the surrounding political winds. Colin follows up with Arnie Gundersen, a former nuclear industry executive and now chief engineer at the Fairewinds organization“: here.

Fukushima disaster, USS Ronald Reagan sailors, and Alaskan ringed seals: here.

As the third anniversary of the Great East Japan Earthquake approaches, new studies of the ongoing effects of the triple disaster of earthquake, tsunami and nuclear meltdown show that the disaster is far from over: here.

Illegal nuclear dumping in Shiga raises alarms: Culprits not ID’d; 8,700 tons of cesium-tainted chips missing — The Japan Times: here.

U.S. Military personnel sickened after Fukushima face long recovery: here.

Three years after the Fukushima nuclear disaster, the Japanese government is moving to restart the country’s nuclear plants, all of which remain shut down. A draft energy plan released late last month officially designates nuclear power as a long-term base power source, setting the stage for the resumption of nuclear plant operations: here.

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Smith’s longspurs, world’s most loving birds?


This video from Alaska says about itself:

5 Sep 2013

© 2013 Jared Hughey
All Rights Reserved

The Smith’s Longspur (Calcarius pictus), one of the least studied songbirds in North America, breeds on the arctic tundra and has become a species of conservation concern. I spent the summer working as a field technician for Heather Craig, a Master’s student at University of Alaska Fairbanks who is studying the breeding ecology of this polygynandrous species in the foothills of the Brooks Range in northern Alaska.

From eNature blog in the USA:

The Smith’s Longspur May Be Nature’s Champion Lover

Posted on Wednesday, February 12, 2014 by eNature

Are you the type that has an insatiable appetite for lusty affairs?

Do you seek the same qualities in a partner?

Then you’ll probably enjoy the story of the Smith’s Longspur. This bird’s 70’s swinging style is enough to make even Hugh Hefner blush.

Small like a sparrow, the Smith’s Longspur spends its summers in Alaska and Canada and its winters in the Midwest and the South, often congregating in open fields.

In terms of range, then, it’s a lot like some other species. What sets the Smith’s Longspur apart is its astonishing libido.

At the peak of the spring mating season, the typical Smith’s Longspur copulates more than 350 times a week. The females solicit these encounters, and the males cooperate roughly half the time. Otherwise the creatures are resting and refueling.

You can always plan eNature’s Mating Game to find what creature you most resemble in love.

John James Audubon named the Smith’s Longspur after his friend Gideon B. Smith.

More about the Smith’s Longspur is here.

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North American polar vortex disturbs Scandinavian bears’ hibernation


This video from Alaska is called Katmai National Park Bears: Brown Bear Hibernation.

From daily The Guardian in Britain:

Polar vortex over US brings abnormally mild weather to Scandinavia

Weather system disrupts flora and fauna in Nordic countries, with bears reportedly emerging from hibernation

Jessica Aldred

Friday 10 January 2014 17.11 GMT

The freezing polar vortex that has gripped the US has extended an abnormally mild winter in Scandinavia and disrupted the seasonal patterns of flora and fauna.

The weather system that brought snow, ice and record low temperatures to many parts of the United States this week left Iceland, Greenland and Scandinavia much warmer than normal.

On the back of a generally mild winter, there have been reports of bears emerging early from hibernation in Finland, changes in the behaviour of migratory birds off the coast of Sweden and plants appearing earlier than normal in Norway.

Scandinavia and Russia’s cold weather during the winter comes from a high-pressure system that keeps warmer, more humid air and low-pressure systems with wind and rain from coming up from the Atlantic Ocean.

The weakening of the jetstream that holds this in place has allowed cold air to spill further south into much of the United States and Canada, while bringing above-average temperatures to parts of Europe.

The knock-on effects of the vortex follow one of the mildest Decembers in a century in Nordic countries. Ketil Isaksen, a scientist at the Norwegian Meteorological Institute, said the country had been 4.2C above the mean temperature for December with parts of Oslo and south-eastern Norway experiencing the third warmest December on record. “It was very unusual to see no snow in large areas where it is normal in December. Only in the mountains and certain parts of Norway could you find snow.”

Much of the precipitation in lowland and populated areas had fallen as rain instead of snow, he said. “In general it was a very wet December. Large parts of Norway had up to three times as much rain as normal and the country as a whole had 180% more than average.”

Finland too has seen heavy rain, with flooding in western coastal areas and the majority of Finland’s lakes containing record volumes of water. Temperatures exceeded their normal seasonal average by 4-5C nationwide, with Helsinki and southern Finland recording the mildest second half of December in 30 years.

Temperatures in parts of Sweden have fluctuated greatly, at Nikkaluokta falling from 4.7C on 3 December to -40.8C on 9 December, then rising two days later to 7.7C. Many locations measured their warmest December temperatures on record. “In the north, winter has arrived, but in the south it’s autumn according to the meteorological definition,” the Swedish Meteorological and Hydrological Institute said.

The rainy weather in Finland has reportedly disrupted the winter slumbers of many bears, bringing them out of hibernation early. Heavy rains and high waters may have invaded some dens, forcing the animals to seek new shelter.

Prof Jon Swenson of the Norwegian University of Life Sciences, leader of the Scandinavian bear project, said he was worried about the indirect effects of the warmer weather. “If you go down into southern Europe, it’s warmer, and there are some bears that don’t hibernate.

“It doesn’t seem to be harmful not to hibernate,” he said. “What we are afraid of is that it means there will be more thawing periods … this really stresses the berry-producing plants. This can cause some mortality, and can have a very adverse effect on berry production. And that’s what the bears survive on in the autumn, and what they use to get them through the winter. So the results of this mild weather won’t be seen for some time.”

Last week, the local Norwegian newspaper Sunnmørsposten published reader photographs of daffodils emerging as early as 14 December as well as crocuses, daisies, dandelions and honeysuckle.

The World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) Norway chief executive, Nina Jensen, said she was “cautious about drawing conclusions from one mild winter into specific changes in nature”, but there were signals that changes were happening.

“We are definitely seeing plants like bluebells flowering that wouldn’t come out until spring, and birds singing that wouldn’t normally be at this time of year. There are quite obvious changes in the growth season, plant growth and migratory bird routes and timing. The flip side of this warmer winter is that we will also have an increasing threat of harmful introduced organisms, such as the wild boar or ticks that thrive in warmer temperatures.”

Pål Hermansen, a wildlife photographer based in Oslo, said: “It’s the smaller things where you see it most, especially butterflies and other insects. The combination of ‘proper winters’ with lots of snow, alternating with winters like this one, makes everything very unstable. In the 30 years I’ve been working we’ve seen butterfly populations reduce by 80-90%. We’re now seeing mosquitos and ticks during the winter, which is unheard of. Ticks are spreading much further north than they ever were before.”

Stephen Menzie, an ornithologist working at Falsterbo Bird Observatory – a migration point in south-west Sweden – said it was “certainly true” that milder weather this year had played a part in delaying the southbound migration of many species.

“We had one day in November when we ringed over 800 birds, compared to the same period last year when we struggled to catch double figures on most days.”

Additional reporting by Ben McPherson in Oslo

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Alaska’s Rat Island, a bird island again


This video from California in the USA says about itself:

Achieving Balance: Anacapa Island Ten Years After the Removal of the Black Rat

6 March 2013

Ten years after removing nonnative rats the ecosystem on Anacapa Island, including rare seabirds, is showing profound results of recovery.

Ashy storm-petrels are nesting on the island for the first time ever recorded and Cassin’s auklets have expanded their territories in the absence of rats as predators. Significantly, the number of Scripps’s murrelets nests has quadrupled with a 50 percent increase of eggs hatched.

Rats are known to have negative impacts to island ecosystems. Rats are the most significant cause of bird extinctions on islands and are estimated to be responsible for half of bird and reptile extinctions worldwide.

Nonnative black rats, which were first reported on Anacapa Island in the early 1900s, threatened critical breeding habitat for these rare seabirds. They were eating approximately 70 percent of the eggs of the once common Scripps’s murrelet, a state-listed threatened species. They also preyed upon native deer mice, reptiles, insects, intertidal invertebrates, and plants.

From Wildlife Extra:

Rat Island cleared of rats after 230 year infestation

Rat Island is officially rat free

October 2013. Biologists have confirmed that Rat Island, a remote island in the Alaska Maritime National Wildlife Refuge, is now rat-free for the first time for 230 years. The report comes after two years of careful field monitoring at Rat Island, where the invasive predator caused major declines on native bird populations by preying on eggs and chicks and altered the native ecosystem in numerous ways.

Largest rat eradication in Northern Hemisphere

Restoring habitat on Rat Island to benefit native wildlife is the largest rat eradication ever undertaken in the Northern Hemisphere and the first in Alaska. The eradication of the non-native rats took place in September of 2008 after four years of planning. The restoration of the 10-square-mile island was accomplished by Island Conservation, The Nature Conservancy and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

7,000 acres reclaimed for wildlife

“Rat Island is the most ambitious restoration effort we’ve undertaken on a refuge island, and we couldn’t have done it without our partners,” said Geoff Haskett, regional director of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. “Nearly 7,000 acres of wildlife refuge habitat has been reclaimed for native wildlife and that is an exciting result.

Giant song sparrow increases

Biologists have confirmed increased numbers of at least one native bird after just two rat-free nesting seasons on the island. The giant song sparrow, found only in the central and western Aleutian Islands, is now commonly occurring on Rat Island. Song sparrows were only rarely seen on the island prior to the restoration. Other species confirmed nesting on the island and expected to benefit from rat removal include black oystercatchers, glaucous-winged gulls, pigeon guillemots, rock sandpipers, common eiders, red faced cormorants and gray-crowned rosy finches. Over the long term, burrow nesting seabirds, driven from the island by rats, are expected to return and re-colonize the island.

“The presence of nesting birds is deeply gratifying,” says Bill Waldman, executive director of the non-profit Island Conservation. “Our field team was overjoyed to see so many song sparrows this year after working on the island for several years with only an occasional glimpse of one.”

Arrived in 1780

Though Rat Island is a remote island in the Aleutian chain about 1,300 miles west of Anchorage, invasive Norway rats arrived via a 1780′s shipwreck preying on native birds and altering the native vegetation during the ensuing 220 years. The Rat Island restoration is the most recent project in a long campaign to restore otherwise healthy seabird habitat in the Aleutians.

“We’re incredibly pleased to see this fresh new start for Rat Island,” said Randy Hagenstein, director of The Nature Conservancy in Alaska. “In the Aleutians, great clouds of seabirds normally fill the skies over islands teeming with life. The rats’ devastation had turned Rat Island into an eerily quiet place.”

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has been at work in the Aleutian Islands, most of which lies within the Alaska Maritime National Wildlife Refuge, restoring seabird habitat by eradicating non-native species for more than four decades. Non-native foxes have been taken off over 40 islands in the refuge including Rat Island but this was the first rat eradication for the refuge.

Stop Rats!

To ensure that invasive rats don’t spread to other globally significant seabird habitats in Alaska, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service leads the ongoing Stop Rats! campaign to help ships, harbours, and towns to prevent the spread of rats.

“The history of Rat Island shows we need to prevent future disasters caused by invasive species. Alaska is almost entirely rat-free, and it’s absolutely vital we work together to keep it this way. Birds that build nests on the ground – such as ducks, seabirds and songbirds – simply can’t defend their eggs and chicks from non-native predators such as rats,” said Haskett, Alaska Regional Director of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

300 successful rat eradication programmes

Island habitat restorations are occurring across the globe. Worldwide, there have been more than 300 successful eradications involving invasive rodents. Rats are responsible for about half of all bird and reptile extinctions on island habitats.

In 2008, the Rat Island Wildlife Habitat Restoration team spread grain-based bait pellets across the island from helicopters flying a GPS-guided flight path.

Two years of monitoring following international standards revealed no sign of rats. Although initial non-target mortality was higher than expected, no sign of any additional bird mortality was observed in 2010 and populations of affected bird species are already recovering on Rat Island.

With the rats gone, restoration partners and the Aleutian Pribilof Island Association agree that an Aleut (Unangan), name would be a fitting tribute to the restored island. APIA is now taking steps to enact a name change. Once a name is selected, it will await approval from the U.S. Board on Geographic Names.

New snow scorpionfly dicovered in Alaska


This is a Scanning Electron Micrograph of a male Caurinus tlagu, lateral view. (Credit: Jill Stockbridge)

From ScienceDaily:

Discovery of a Strange New Snow Scorpionfly Species in Alaska Helped by Facebook

July 11, 2013 — Researchers from the University of Alaska Fairbanks (Derek Sikes and Jill Stockbridge) discovered a strange new insect on Prince of Wales Island, Alaska. It belongs to an enigmatic group that might help scientists understand the evolutionary origin of the Fleas. The new species belongs to the insect order Mecoptera which includes the scorpionflies, hangingflies, and snow scorpionflies.

The description has been published recently in the open access journal ZooKeys.

“We process thousands of Alaskan insects specimens into our collections at the University of Alaska Museum every year so it’s rare that we see something that throws us for a loop. I called Derek, the Curator of Insects for the museum, into the lab and asked him what kind of insect this was and he didn’t even know the order!,” said co-author Jill Stockbridge.

With a digital photo in hand they posted the image on Facebook so their entomologist friends could offer their opinions. It’s such a strange insect that, not surprisingly, most suggestions were wrong. One entomologist, Michael Ivie, of Montana State University, recognized it as the genus Caurinus of which only one species, from Washington and Oregon, was previously known.

“In addition to being the second known species of such an usual group of insects, we were excited to learn from fossil evidence that these two species belong to a group that probably dates back over 145 million years, to the Jurassic!” said the lead author Derek Sikes.

These tiny (2 mm) flea-like animals feed on a leafy liverwort that grows in coastal forests. A video in which Loren Russell, the author of the first species and who joined the authors during a May 2013 expedition in Alaska, shows how to collect this new species is online at: https://vimeo.com/68819818 and a video showing this new species hopping is online at: https://vimeo.com/68819819.

Here are these two videos.

Alaska birds, video


This video says about itself:

Alaska‘s Yukon Delta National Wildlife Refuge

June 11, 2013

Every year birds from around the world migrate to the Yukon Delta to nest and raise their young. The number of birds and diversity of species that annually visit the refuge is without equal elsewhere on the globe. It is truly one of the world’s most important sites for migratory birds.