How much rainforest do African birds need?


This 2012 video from Ghana shows a Blue-headed Bee-eater, a native to African rainforests.

From the University of Göttingen in Germany:

How much rainforest do birds need?

January 22, 2019

Researchers of the Department of Conservation Biology at the University of Göttingen have carried out research in Southwest Cameroon to assess which proportion of forest would be necessary in order to provide sufficient habitat for rainforest bird species. The results of the study were published in the journal Biological Conservation.

The Göttingen team investigated relationships between forest cover and bird species richness using data from a 4,000 km2 large rainforest landscape. The study area contains protected areas as well as smallholder agroforestry systems and industrial oil palm plantations. The study documents minimum thresholds of forest cover in farmland below which original bird communities begin to change and where they are already dominated by species which don’t depend on forest. The data suggest that forest cover ought not to fall below 40 percent if drastic losses in original bird species are to be avoided. Importantly, the study also shows that highly specialised bird species already start to decline significantly when the percentage of forest dips to as much as 70 percent; at these forest cover levels, these birds are beginning to be replaced by “generalists”, ie birds that are at home in different habitats.

“The threshold values we are discussing here should play a role in defining strategies for conservation in tropical forest landscapes”, says Denis Kupsch, first author of the study. This is particularly important because the pressure to use agricultural land intensively is constantly increasing in tropical regions. “It would therefore make sense for land-use planning and legislation in the future to be geared more to such limits in order to achieve a sustainable coexistence of industrial agricultural production, smallholder agriculture and protected area management.” According to the authors, smallholder agricultural forest systems in particular, which represent a near-natural cultivated landscape and at the same time preserve a high proportion of natural forest, could play a significant role in this.

Advertisements

Being pro-peace, a crime in Turkey?


Chairwoman of the Turkish Labour Party (Emep) Selma Gurkan Photo: Evrensel

By Steve Sweeney in Britain, 22 January 2019:

LEADING communist Selma Gurkan faces a lengthy jail sentence for making anti-war statements as the Turkish state seeks to criminalise all forms of opposition to President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s authoritarian rule.

The Labour Party of Turkey (Emep) general secretary faces more than seven years in prison for “spreading terrorist propaganda” after speaking out against Operation Olive Branch, Turkey’s illegal invasion and occupation of the peaceful city of Afrin in northern Syria.

Ms Gurkan’s case was heard in an Istanbul court today. Prosecutor Hakan Ozer was seeking a jail sentence, alleging that her speech outside the hearing of two Emep members, Neslihan Karyemez and Bilal Karaman, in February 2018 created a “negative perception” of the Afrin operation.

The pair were among hundreds who were arrested for making statements opposing Turkey’s military offensive, which had started the previous month.

They were detained after handing out leaflets opposing Ankara’s war of aggression against a peaceful people. They were also charged with “spreading terrorist propaganda.”

In court today lawyers demanded time to respond to the charges made against Ms Gurkan and the trial was adjourned until April 24.

Emep insists that it is a legal political party that advocates peace and stands on the side of workers. It argues that criticism of government policy is part of the democratic life of the country.

But Turkey’s authoritarian president has moved to shut down all forms of democracy and opposition; journalists, academics and MPs are among those jailed for challenging his rule.

Despite its legal status as a political party under Turkey’s constitution, Emep was one of 13 organisations banned by the Turkey’s supreme election board the YSK from fielding candidates in March’s local elections, a decision Ms Gurkan branded “totally arbitrary and antidemocratic.”

And the Turkish state, which has shut hundreds of media organisations, including Hayat TV, moved against the party’s newspaper Evrensel last year, issuing a 100,000 lira (£14,470) fine for its criticism of the government’s economic policy.

The fine threatens the future of the newspaper, which has recently been forced to drop pages because high tariffs on imported newsprint has led to increased production costs.

Evrensel remains one of the only newspapers in Turkey reporting on the labour movement and workers’ struggles, and an international campaign been launched to raise funds for its survival.

Emep is one of Turkey’s largest left-wing parties and the attacks are seen as an attempt to silence freedom of speech and the workers’ movement.

Ancient baleen whale evolution, new research


This March 2014 video says about itself:

A prehistoric whale graveyard was discovered in a Chilean desert a few years ago, and no one could figure out how the whales all died together half a mile from the coast… until now. Anthony is here to tell you how something as small as algae might have killed dozens of whales at once.

From the University of Otago in New Zealand:

Piece to the puzzle of baleen whales’ evolution

January 22, 2019

An Otago researcher has added another piece to the puzzle of the evolution of modern baleen whales with a world-first study examining the teeth and enamel of baleen whales’ ancestors.

Modern baleen whales have no teeth when adults, instead they use large keratin plates called baleen to filter prey from large volumes of seawater. However, millions of years ago their ancestors had teeth as most mammals do.

Lead author of the research just published in the Journal of Mammalian Evolution, Dr Carolina Loch from the Faculty of Dentistry, explains scientists are still trying to understand how and why this process happened. The research she carried out together with colleagues from the National Scientific and Technical Research Council in Argentina, CONICET, and the Swedish Museum of Natural History has provided more information.

They studied details of the inside structure of the teeth of two fossil whales from around 35 million years ago. These teeth were collected in Antarctica by the Argentinian and Swedish study co-authors Monica Buono and Thomas Mörs. Because teeth are naturally heavily mineralised, they preserve well in the fossil record and can provide clues of how extinct animals lived.

“We looked at how the enamel — the hard outside cover of teeth — and dentine, the core ‘living’ part, were structured and how similar or different they were from teeth of living whales, other fossil whales and other mammals,” Dr Loch explains.

“Both fossil whales we analysed (basilosaurid and fossil mysticete) had a complex enamel layer with biomechanical structures that suggest they were capable of heavy shearing and processing of their prey”, she says.

The enamel layer of the fossil mysticete they studied was the thickest enamel layer ever observed among cetaceans, both extinct and living.

“This is quite puzzling; baleen whales’ ancestors had teeth with complex and thick enamel, but millions of years later the teeth were ‘lost’ and replaced with large keratin plates called baleen”, Dr Loch says.

Because of the rarity of the material examined, Dr Loch says it is quite significant that the researchers were able to study them.

“Scanning electron microscopy is considered a ‘destructive’ type of analysis because the specimens need to be cut, polished and gold coated. It is fantastic that some museum curators are open to facilitate this kind of research and allow us to unravel new and important information.”

The study of the structure of the enamel and dentine of animals, both fossil and living, is a strength of Dr Loch’s research programme. Last year, the University of Otago highlighted another of her projects examining bottlenose dolphin teeth to help understand coastal contamination.

She hopes to continue studying teeth to help learn about how past animals lived and interacted with the environment, showing the breadth of the multidisciplinary research carried out in the University’s Faculty of Dentistry.

“As more fossil whales and other mammals are discovered and described, there is more material to be studied. I will continue working in partnership with colleagues overseas and in New Zealand in order to add small pieces to this puzzle — one tooth at a time.”

Wren, jays and bramblings


This 2015 video from Britain says about itself:

BTO Bird ID – Chaffinch & Brambling

Chaffinch is one of our most common and familiar birds, but young birds and females are harder to identify than the stunning males. In winter, Chaffinches are joined by their northern cousins, Brambling. How can you pick them out in the midst of Chaffinches?

Still 22 January 2019 at Oude Buisse Heide nature reserve.

In the afternoon, we walked along a path with signs showing poems by, and information about, Dutch socialist poetess Henriette Roland Holst.

Unfortunately, I cannot show you pictures of these poems and of beautiful snowy landscapes today yet, as the photos still have to be sorted out.

We saw a wren. Heard jays calling. A mixed flock of chaffinches and bramblings on the forest floor. Birdwatching was not so easy today, as snow kept falling on the binoculars.

Spanish Francoist neofascists VOX and their opponents


This 4 December 2018 video from Spain says about itself:

Thousands of demonstrators swept through Seville on Monday night after the far-right Vox party won 12 seats in regional elections. Protesters forced their way inside the city’s university before marching on the official seat of the Andalusian government. A number of spontaneous demonstrations have been held in key cities across the region, including Granada and Malaga.

On 19 January 2019, Dutch daily NRC published a report by Koen Greven on Spanish extreme right party VOX. Its title is, translated, ‘Right-wing machos fight leftist achievements‘.

The article says VOX is based on nostalgia for the (Franco dictatorship) past. Translated:

A Spain where abortion was illegal, no gay marriages took place, bullfighting was not questioned, migrants played no significant role and the Catalans were oppressed.

Greven interviewed political science professor Fernando Vallespín of the Universidad Autónoma of Madrid. According to Vallespín, VOX differs from some xenophobic parties in other European countries as they are not anti-European Union at all.

VOX in Andalusia say they will continue to demand deportation of 50,000 immigrants from the region.

In recent weeks, the anti-immigration party, also opposed to feminism, has been massively protested against in virtually all major cities. The party refuses to endorse a widely supported pact on combating domestic violence and sexual aggression against women. In Seville, the capital of Andalusia, last Tuesday a crowd of angry women tried in vain to prevent the parliamentarians of Vox from being appointed. They waved banners and called for the departure of “the fascists of Vox“.

The women are afraid that the right to abortion or gay marriage will be threatened again. “We do not want those Vox fascists in our parliament. they want to take away the rights that we have fought for for years”, says Victoria Bautista from the coastal city Cádiz, in front of the parliament building. “LGBTQ people would no longer be able to marry. Migrants would be deported. Women will become outlawed. We live in the 21st century. We will not take a step back. I will always be a socialist and will keep fighting for a better Spain!”

A group of retired socialists, who play bowls in front of Sevilla’s Santa Justa station, attributes part of the rise of Vox to the socialist PSOE. “The last time I did not vote”, Francisco Ortiz admits. The man next to him nods. He did not either. Ortiz: “The socialists have ruled for forty years in Andalusia. That is not good. Then you will get used to power. … Do not get me wrong: Vox is nothing for us at all.”

“We are going to make Spain great again“, says the slogan of Vox party leader Abascal. In a campaign film he drives gallop across an empty prairie. Accompanying text: ‘The Reconquista starts in Andalusia’.

The Reconquista were medieval wars, resulting in the kiling or expulsion of all Muslims and Jews from Spain.

On Sunday, tens of thousands of people joined a protest called by Spain’s main right-wing parties in Madrid’s Plaza de Colon. The Popular Party (PP), Citizens, and the far-right Vox party had chartered hundreds of buses to bring right-wing supporters from across Spain, calling to “throw out” social-democratic Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez over his talks with the Catalan nationalists. Between 20,000 and 45,000 people attended the protest, listening to speeches from right-wing politicians. Also participating were groups like the neo-Nazi Hogar Social (Social Home); the Spanish Falange; España 2000; and Spain’s main police union, the United Police Union. The role of this last organisation underscores the critical role of the state machine in promoting the protest and the broader rise of neo-fascistic, anti-Catalan agitation: here.

Yesterday, after the show trial of Catalan nationalists began in Madrid, Catalan nationalist legislators declined to support the minority Spanish Socialist Party (PSOE) government’s budget. PSOE Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez’s budget failed by 191-158. After meeting with his council of ministers on Friday, he is expected to call elections this spring: here.