Haida Gwaii’s northern goshawks in danger


This video from Canada is called Rare goshawk chick in the old growth forests of Haida Gwaii – August 2009

From the University of British Columbia in Canada:

Genomic study finds Haida Gwaii’s northern goshawks are highly distinct and at-risk

January 15, 2019

Haida Gwaii’s small population of northern goshawks — already of great concern to conservationists — are the last remnant of a highly distinct genetic cluster of the birds, according to a new genomic analysis by University of British Columbia researchers.

Goshawks across the British Columbia Coast appear to be declining, however, the distinct Haida Gwaii population is at a particularly high risk of extinction with such a small population size,” says Kenneth Askelson, a researcher with the UBC Department of Zoology and Biodiversity Research Centre, who co-led the study.

Latest counts puts the population on the archipelago at roughly 50. The genomic findings add new context and impetus to efforts to save this vulnerable pocket of goshawks, which are one of BC’s most iconic birds of prey.

“Accurate knowledge of geographic ranges and genetic relationships among populations is important when managing a species or population of conservation concern,” said Darren Irwin, senior author on the paper. “This is a major step in drawing those boundaries for one iconic species.”

The diminishing population of northern goshawks across British Columbia’s Coast (estimated at roughly 1,200 within B.C.), and continued habitat loss, have led to the laingi subspecies being listed as threatened under the Canadian Species at Risk Act.

But debate over which individual northern goshawks should be considered part of the threatened laingi subspecies — and the crucial question of what geographic areas should be considered within their range — has complicated conservation efforts.

The paper, published today in Evolutionary Applications, is one of the first to use genomics to inspect biodiversity on Haida Gwaii.

“This underscores the importance of conservation-related studies of genetic variation — too often, biodiversity vanishes invisibly,” says Armando Geraldes, who co-led the study with Askelson.

The researchers estimate the distinct population of birds may have been evolving separately on Haida Gwaii for 20,000 years. Percy Algernon Taverner (a prominent Canadian ornithologist) was the first to describe the laingi goshawk on Haida Gwaii in 1940 — identifying them as darker than other examples of the bird.

“There may be many unique subspecies that occur only on Haida Gwaii — an indication that the area is a very unique biogeographic region with many distinct lineages of species that have been poorly studied,” says Askelson.

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Rosa Luxemburg, Karl Liebknecht murdered, 100 years ago


This video from Germany says about itself (translated):

Active leftists of various groups demonstrated peacefully against fascism, exploitation, imperialism and war on January 13, 2019 in Berlin. 100 years ago, Rosa Luxemburg and Karl Liebknecht fought this fight and died. A big thank you to all active leftists who continue this fight.

This video is the sequel.

By Peter Schwarz in Germany:

One hundred years since the murder of Rosa Luxemburg and Karl Liebknecht

15 January 2019

Today marks the centenary of one of the most horrific and consequential crimes in world history. In Berlin on 15 January, 1919, Freikorps soldiers of the Garde-Kavallerie-Schützen Division arrested Rosa Luxemburg and Karl Liebknecht, the two leaders of the German Communist Party (KPD), which had been founded just two weeks earlier. Soldiers transported them to the Hotel Eden, where they were tortured before being taken away and murdered.

The 48-year-old Rosa Luxemburg was among the most outstanding Marxist revolutionaries of her epoch. She gained notoriety for her sharp polemics against Eduard Bernstein’s revisionism and the Social Democrats’ pro-war policies in the First World War, and was the undisputed theoretical leader of the SPD’s revolutionary wing and later of the Spartacus League.

Karl Liebknecht, who was the son of SPD founder Wilhelm Liebknecht and the same age as Luxemburg, embodied irreconcilable opposition to militarism and war. The bravery and determination with which he rebelled as an SPD parliamentary deputy against his own party, rejected war credits, and, despite persecution and suppression, fought and agitated against the war, won him the respect of millions of workers. In the November Revolution of 1918, he fought for the overthrow of capitalism. At a mass rally on 9 November he proclaimed the Free Socialist Republic of Germany.

The frail Rosa Luxemburg was struck down with the butt of a rifle in the Hotel Eden foyer and brought to a car where she was shot. Her body was thrown into the Landwehr canal, where it was recovered only months later. Karl Liebknecht was executed by three shots from close range in the Tiergarten. The press subsequently reported that Liebknecht was shot while trying to flee and that Luxemburg was lynched by an outraged mob.

The brutal murder of Luxemburg and Liebknecht marked a new stage of counter-revolutionary violence. Prior to this, the bourgeois state had ruthlessly cracked down on socialist opponents, and, as in the aftermath of the suppression of the Paris Commune in 1871 in France, took bloody revenge against revolutionary workers with mass executions. But the murder of the leaders of a revolutionary party by state organs without a trial or court judgment was a new phenomenon and set a precedent followed by others. Even the autocratic Tsarist regime generally banished socialist opponents to Siberia.

The German ruling class thereby drew the lessons from the Russian Revolution, where the subjective factor, the role of Lenin, Trotsky and the Bolshevik party, was decisive in leading the proletarian revolution to victory. In the days prior to the murders, leaflets were distributed in Berlin with the slogan “Kill their leaders!” The murders proceeded with the approval of the highest levels of the state.

Gustav Noske, the minister responsible for the Reichswehr and a leading SPD member, had ordered the Garde-Kavallerie-Schützen Division, which was notorious for its ruthless violence, to Berlin to be deployed against revolutionary workers. During the Bloody Christmas of 1918, they fired artillery at sailors in revolt who had occupied the Berlin castle and brutally suppressed the Spartacus uprising.

When a court martial acquitted those officers directly involved in Luxemburg and Liebknecht’s murder in May 1919, Noske personally signed the acquittal. Waldemar Pabst, who as head of the Garde-Kavallerie-Schützen Division issued the order to murder Luxemburg and Liebknecht, was never charged. He was able to continue his career under the Nazis and in the post-war Federal Republic and died a wealthy arms trader in 1970.

To this day, the SPD disputes its responsibility for Luxemburg and Liebknecht’s murder. But it is certain that Pabst spoke with Noske by telephone immediately prior to the killings. Pabst later confirmed on several occasions that he received the go-ahead from Noske. As he wrote in a 1969 letter which was found after his death, “It is obvious that there was no way I could have carried out the action without Noske’s support—with Ebert in the background—and that I had to protect my officers. But very few people have understood why I was never called to testify or charged with an offence. As a cavalier, I acknowledged the SPD’s behaviour at the time by keeping my mouth shut for fifty years about our cooperation.”

The ruling class had to kill Luxemburg and Liebknecht to prevent the revolution, which spread like wildfire throughout Germany during November, from overthrowing capitalism as it had done in Russia. The Hohenzollern regime, which capitulated in the first days of the revolution, could not be saved. But this only made its base of support—industrial and finance capital, the big landowners, the military caste, and the reactionary judiciary, police, and administrative apparatus—all the more determined to defend their social position.

To this end they called upon Friedrich Ebert, the leader of the SPD, to form a new government on 9 November, 1918. Over the preceding four years, the SPD had demonstrated its unconditional loyalty to bourgeois rule with its support for the First World War. Ebert immediately aligned himself with the general staff of the army to suppress the revolution.

Thus, the first revolutionary wave was bloodily suppressed, but this by no means resolved the question of which class would rule. …

In addition, with the founding of the KPD at the turn of the year 1918-19, a crucial step forward in overcoming the SPD’s betrayal and the Independent Social Democrats’ (USPD) centrist policies was taken. The USPD had been founded at the beginning of 1917 by deputies expelled by the SPD for their refusal to back war credits. Nonetheless, the USPD entered Ebert’s government in 1918 and served as a left fig leaf.

The KPD’s founding programme, authored by Rosa Luxemburg, made unmistakably clear that the KPD was not striving to replace the Hohenzollern regime with a bourgeois parliamentary democracy but to overthrow bourgeois rule.

On 9 November the Hohenzollern regime had been driven out of power and workers’ and soldiers’ councils had been elected, the programme stated. “But the Hohenzollerns were no more than the front men of the imperialist bourgeoisie and of the Junkers. The class rule of the bourgeoisie is the real criminal responsible for the World War, in Germany as in France, in Russia as in England, in Europe as in America. The capitalists of all nations are the real instigators of the mass murder. International capital is the insatiable god Baal, into whose bloody maw millions upon millions of steaming human sacrifices are thrown.”

The programme stressed that the alternatives were not reform or revolution, but socialism or barbarism. “The World War confronts society with the choice: either continuation of capitalism, new wars, and imminent decline into chaos and anarchy, or abolition of capitalist exploitation. … The words of the Communist Manifesto are the fiery writing on the wall above the crumbling bastions of capitalist society: Socialism or barbarism.”

Luxemburg’s warning was to be confirmed fourteen years later. The Weimar Republic was not the product of a victorious democratic revolution, but of counter-revolutionary violence. The murder of Luxemburg and Liebknecht set into motion a development that ultimately led to the coming to power of the Nazis. They rested on the same social forces that the Ebert regime had rescued and strengthened. Hitler’s paramilitary SA emerged out of the Freikorps.

Part of the tragedy of Luxemburg and Liebknecht is that they underestimated the counter-revolutionary determination of their opponents. Otherwise they would have adopted better procedures and security measures to avoid falling into the hands of their captors.

The death of its two most important leaders was a disastrous blow to the KPD. …

Had Luxemburg and Liebknecht survived in 1919, not only German history, but also world history would have turned out differently. A victorious socialist revolution in Germany would have freed the Soviet Union from its isolation and thereby removed the most important factor for the growth of the bureaucracy and the rise of Stalin.

It is also inconceivable that the KPD, under the leadership of the uncompromising internationalist Rosa Luxemburg, would have bowed to Stalin’s nationalist course, or supported his policy of [depicting the SPD as] social fascism, which paved the way for Hitler to come to power in 1933. The refusal of Stalin, and his German proxy Thälmann, to fight for a united front with the “social fascist” SPD against the Nazis divided and paralysed the working class. Based on a correct policy by the KPD, which had hundreds of thousands of members and millions of voters, the working class could have prevented Hitler from coming to power. …

For Luxemburg, the overcoming of all forms of oppression was inseparably bound up with the overthrow of the capitalist system.

One hundred years after Luxemburg’s death, all of the contradictions of the capitalist system that made the period 1914-45 the most violent in human history are erupting once again. Nationalism, trade war and war dominate international relations. Far-right and fascist forces are on the offensive in many countries, with the explicit or concealed support of the state. In Germany, refugee policy is being dictated by the far-right AfD, in whose ranks Waldemar Pabst would feel at home. In the army, the police and intelligence agencies, right-wing extremist networks are active and are being supported and trivialised by the highest echelons of the state.

This gives to the legacy of Liebknecht and Luxemburg a burning actuality. As Luxemburg formulated it in 1918, society once again confronts “either continuation of capitalism, new wars, and imminent decline into chaos and anarchy, or abolition of capitalist exploitation.”

Flowers at 2019 Berlin Luxemburg-Liebknecht commemoration

Texas salamanders, new species discovered, threats


This 2012 video from the USA says about itself:

Texas Blind Salamander in the Edwards Aquifer

The first ever video of the rare Texas Blind Salamander in the wild.

From the University of Texas at Austin in the USA:

Central Texas salamanders, including newly identified species, at risk of extinction

January 14, 2019

Biologists at The University of Texas at Austin have discovered three new species of groundwater salamander in Central Texas, including one living west of Austin that they say is critically endangered. They also determined that an already known salamander species near Georgetown is much more endangered than previously thought.

Writing today in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, the team, which includes one of the scientists who identified the endangered Barton Springs salamander, warns that more severe droughts caused by climate change and increasing water use in Central Texas have left groundwater salamanders “highly vulnerable to extinction.”

The groundwater salamanders of Central Texas — just 2 to 3 inches long — swim in springs, underwater caves and channels deep within limestone rock and are keystone species in the local Edwards and Trinity aquifers. As top predators, they help maintain the health of aquifer ecosystems, meaning they are key for preserving water quality in the aquifers that local residents depend on for nearly all the fresh water supplying nearby cities, industries and agriculture. The loss of these salamanders would compromise the delicate aquifer systems of which they are a critical part, the biologists said.

“Even if people do not care about salamanders, they care about maintaining the quality of the aquifer systems that provide most of Texas with its fresh water”, said David Hillis, professor of integrative biology and senior author of the paper. “Fortunately, what’s good for the salamanders is also really good for the people. What we need to do to protect these salamanders also happens to be the exact same things we need to do to protect the water resources that ranchers, cities, homeowners and everybody else depend upon.”

For years, Central Texans have worked toward preserving several threatened or endangered salamanders, many of them discovered because of research by Hillis and his colleagues. The new paper adds to this body of work, which has led to protections for the Barton Springs salamander, the Austin blind salamander, the San Marcos salamander and the Georgetown salamander through entities such as the Edwards Aquifer Authority, which addresses an aquifer segment that supplies water to San Antonio.

One of three newly identified species, which is yet to be named, is critically endangered: a tiny, golden-colored salamander that lives only in a small area near the Pedernales River west of Austin. The scientists also discovered that the Georgetown salamander, which lives in springs near Lake Georgetown and already has federal protection as a threatened species, has a much smaller range than previously thought and, thus, is far more endangered.

“I think the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service should review the status of all these salamanders in light of the new evidence,” Hillis said, referring to the process for assessing the conservation status of species under the Endangered Species Act. “They are part of the rich biological heritage of Texas, and losing these groundwater salamanders would be a huge loss for our state’s biodiversity. Importantly, protecting these salamanders also means protecting the quality and quantity of fresh water that Texans rely upon.”

For the new study, Hillis and other researchers delineated the geographic ranges of more than a dozen Central Texas groundwater salamander species by studying the genetics of preserved specimens, collected over several decades and stored in the University of Texas Biodiversity Collections. First author Tom Devitt, currently an environmental scientist with the City of Austin’s Watershed Protection Department, carried out the genetic analyses while still a postdoctoral researcher at UT Austin working with Hillis, helping to identify the three species previously unknown to science.

Found nowhere else in the world and difficult to study due to the inaccessibility of their underground habitats, these salamanders, Devitt explained, represent a kind of mystery and rare beauty, a legacy of wildness that lives on despite a rapidly changing landscape.

“There’s a whole underground ecosystem all the way from Salado to West Texas that many people don’t even know about,” Devitt said. “Within it are these endemic species that are found nowhere else on Earth.”

South American bears need water


This 2016 video says about itself:

The Andean bear, also known as the spectacled bear, is sometimes called the Paddington bear, after the fictional bear in children’s books written by Michael Bond. The spectacled bear is the only bear species in South America, and its numbers are dwindling. In Peru, the Inkaterra Machu Picchu Pueblo Hotel, a National Geographic Unique Lodge of the World, has set aside land as a rescue center for the bears.

From San Diego Zoo Global in the USA:

Bear necessities: New study highlights importance of water resources for Andean bears

January 15, 2019

A new study is shedding light on the importance of one critical resource for Andean bears living in the dry mountain forests of Peru: water. The study — a collaboration between the Norwegian University of Life Sciences and San Diego Zoo Global, with assistance from the Spectacled Bear Conservation Society-Peru — found that Andean bears focus much of their tree-rubbing behavior on shrubs and trees that are located on trails near water holes. Bears typically bite, claw and rub their body parts on trees, which is believed to be an important form of communication with other bears in the region. The discovery that this behavior occurs near water holes could have implications for future conservation programs.

“It may seem obvious that water holes would be an important resource for Andean bears living in tropical dry forests — however, these results suggest that water holes are significant not just as sources of drinking water, but also as important sites where bears communicate with one another,” said Russ Van Horn, Ph.D., San Diego Zoo Global scientist. “Because water holes are often the focus of activity by humans and their livestock, conservation planners will need to balance the interests of people and Andean bears in future programs.”

A paper detailing results of the study, recently published in the journal Ursus, reported that while Andean bears didn’t show a particular preference for tree-rubbing species, the locations of rubbed trees and shrubs were concentrated on trails near water holes. In the tropical dry forests of Peru, water is a relatively rare, albeit critical resource. Consequently, since livestock in the area also make use of water resources, conflicts may result between humans and bears.

This study is part of a larger effort by San Diego Zoo Global researchers and local partners to better understand Andean bear behavior and ecology. Andean bears are considered an umbrella species in the region, meaning that conservation programs aimed at protecting Andean bears will indirectly benefit other species in the Andes Mountains.

Andean bears are listed as Vulnerable on the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s (IUCN) Red List of Threatened Species. They are native to the Andean countries of South America, and are sometimes known as spectacled bears because of white or light fur around their eyes. San Diego Zoo Global has been working with local partners to research and protect Andean bears in Peru. Andean bear habitat is being lost at a rate of about 2 to 4 percent per year as it is destroyed for mining operations, farming and timber harvest. The construction of new roads also fragments bear habitat. In addition, climate change is altering the bear’s habitat in unpredictable ways. Andean bears now primarily live in dense mountain forests, making the species difficult to study. The dry tropical forest where this study occurred is more open than other kinds of Peruvian forests, making field research easier.