Georgia, USA police kills unarmed African American


This 13 June 2020 video from Georgia in the USA says about itself:

‘I thought this city was better than that’

A cousin of Rayshard Brooks spoke Saturday about the Atlanta police shooting at a University Ave. Wendy’s that took his cousin’s life Friday night.

Coronavirus lockdown, good for Amsterdam underwater wildlife


This video from the Netherlands says about itself:

Great Crested Grebe with chicks

Some urban birding…

Podiceps cristatus with 2 little ones in the centre of the city…

Amsterdam, Holland 05-06-2015

Translated from Dutch NOS radio today:

Twelve divers have today dived into the canals of Amsterdam to investigate underwater life. They investigated how nature developed during the lockdown. During those few months there was much less boat traffic on the water of the capital.

In the Amstel river near the Carré theater, the divers saw far more small crayfish than usual. And a school of small perch was found in the former harbour of the Marineterrein. More plants also grew. In the ring canal in the Watergraafsmeer district, the divers encountered the most diverse underwater life. They found zander, eels and whole schools of small fish there.

To the surprise of the divers, there were also water plants in the water of the Keizersgracht canal. That is special, because the canals normally function as “a closed container”, says ecologist and initiator Jeroen van Herk. “If aquatic plants grow in the canals, then that will affect the entire ecosystem. The water will be purified, which will be followed by crayfish, insects and fish.”

In an article published in Nature Ecology & Evolution today (22 June 2020), the leaders of a new global initiative explain how research during this devastating health crisis can inspire innovative strategies for sharing space on this increasingly crowded planet, with benefits for both wildlife and humans. Many countries around the world went into lockdown to control the spread of Covid-19. Brought about by the most tragic circumstances, this period of unusually reduced human mobility, which the article’s authors coined “anthropause,” can provide invaluable insights into human-wildlife interactions: here.

German neo-nazi murder attempt on anti-fascist woman


This 14 September 2019 German video is about a big anti-fascist demonstration in Einbeck town.

Translated from Dutch daily Algemeen Dagblad today:

Two neo-Nazis detained after attack on home of activist woman in Germany

The German police have arrested two men suspected of carrying out an attack on the home of a 41-year-old woman near Göttingen (Lower Saxony). These are right-wing extremists aged 23 and 26. The latter was seriously injured because the explosive that he wanted to throw into the house exploded prematurely, German media report.

According to the state minister of the interior, the woman is known for her fight against the right in the region. The two suspects belong to the extreme right-wing scene in the city, said Minister Boris Pistorius (SPD).

The duo blew up the letterbox in the front door of the activist’s home in Einbeck yesterday morning. Although the explosive went off prematurely, fragments of the letterbox on the inside flew many meters into the living area due to the force. There were no injuries.

A witness saw two suspects run away after the bang and called the police. Shortly later, they were able to find the men in an apartment where the blood trail of one of them led to. The 26-year-old is known to the public prosecution service. He was charged with sedition late last year. Weapons were seized in the apartment of the two.

The 26-year-old visited the concentration camp monument in nearby Moringen with two other right-wing extremists in November. They downplayed the imprisonment of men, women and young people in the SS-led camp against employees. The trio also posed in right-wing extremist T-shirts in front of the gates of the former concentration camp.

Series of attacks on anti-fascists

The extent of the damage proves the strength of the explosive, according to the 41-year-old woman’s lawyer. “You shouldn’t think about what could have happened if someone had been near the door”, he told public broadcaster NDR. According to him, his client was “already a target of threats from members of the neo-Nazi scene in Einbeck” in the past. The attack, he said, had a new, more dangerous dimension. In the south of the state of Lower Saxony, according to the lawyer, “a series of attacks by neo-Nazis against committed anti-fascists” has been going on for some time.

Coot chooses bad nest location


This 12 June 2020 video from the Netherlands says about itself, translated:

This coot thought she was smart and built her nest well hidden among the hanging willow branches. She probably hadn’t taken the wind into account … Filmed by Yvonne Vermazen.

Anti-racism news update


This 13 June 2020 video from the USA says about itself:

George Floyd: Pressure mounts to remove police from US schools

In the wake of nationwide protests in the US, many districts are under pressure to remove police from schools.

School boards in Minneapolis, Portland, Denver and Oakland are just a few that have decided to end or phase out their contracts with police departments.

Al Jazeera’s Rob Reynolds brings us this report.

USA: I’m a black rabbi. I’ve never been in a Jewish space where I wasn’t questioned.

A prayer for George Floyd: ‘We take this pledge’, by Rabbi Naomi Levy.

Translated from daily De Stem in the Netherlands today:

BREDA – An anti-racism manifestation took place on the Breda Chasséveld on Saturday afternoon. According to the organization, about 1,500 demonstrators were present. They showed they were determined. Several speakers made statements against unequal treatment and discrimination.

That happened in the context of the Black Lives Matter movement that takes place in many places around the world. Initially, about 500 people were expected, that number was amply exceeded. There were no problems, because everyone adhered to the anti-coronavirus rules. …

“Everyone has had enough”

Philip Oronsaye says, “I am flabbergasted with this turnout. I have been living in Breda for 30 years. Where have you been all this time? But I’m glad you’re here now. Everyone has had enough. Not only black people, also white people.”

Today, there was a demonstration in Den Bosch city with thousands of participants as well.

From daily The Morning Star in Britain, 12 June 2020:

Columbus statues removed as debate triggered over symbols of racism and oppression

STATUES of Christopher Columbus are being taken down in a number of US cities with one in Boston decapitated as protesters demand the removal of symbols of racism and oppression.

The city of Camden, close to Philadelphia, released a statement late on Thursday explaining that they had taken down the statue in Farnham Park calling it a “controversial symbol” that has “long pained residents of the community.”

It comes after similar statues have been pulled down or damaged in cities including Miami, Richmond and St Paul in Minnesota by protesters in the wake of the killing of unarmed black man George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis police.

It has triggered global protests, with statues torn down in cities around the world, including King Leopold II in Belgium whom many historians hold responsible for the deaths of 10 million people at the hands of colonial authorities in the Belgian Congo.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi urged Congress earlier this week to remove 11 statues from the US Capitol representing Confederate leaders and soldiers from the civil war.

“Their statues pay homage to hate, not heritage. They must be removed,” she said.

From daily The Morning Star in Britain, 12 June 2020:

UNITED STATES: Protesters have pulled down a century-old statue of Confederate president Jefferson Davis in the former capital of the Confederacy, adding it to the list of Old South monuments removed or damaged in the wake of George Floyd’s death.

The bronze statue on Richmond’s Monument Avenue had been all-but marked for removal by city leaders in a matter of weeks, but demonstrators took matters into their own hands on Wednesday night, tying ropes around its legs and toppling it onto the pavement.

Jurassic marine crocodiles, video


This 11 June 2020 video says about itself:

When Crocodiles Swam The Oceans

Crocodiles are good swimmers and often live near river mouths near the ocean and some of them even make brief excursions into the ocean. This means they are always at a tipping point of becoming marine animals. This is known because it has happened on several occasions throughout prehistory, but in the Jurassic, one group of crocs called the thalattosuchians would take this a step further in following whales and other marine reptiles in becoming fish-like.

Three years after Grenfell, still dangerous cladding


 The burned-out remains of the Grenfell Tower block in London, England

From daily The Morning Star in Britain, 12 June 2020:

Fire chiefs condemn failure to replace cladding three years on from Grenfell

IT IS “wholly unacceptable” that buildings are still covered in unsafe cladding three years after the Grenfell Tower disaster, fire chiefs have said.

The National Fire Chiefs Council called for “a fundamental reform of building safety” ahead of Sunday’s third anniversary of the fire that killed 72 people.

Council chairman Roy Wilsher said: “Everyone has a right to feel safe in their homes” and called on ministers to speed up changes.

“In many cases, building owners are not doing enough to support residents. Some leaseholders are paying unacceptable fees to maintain safety measures which were meant to be temporary,” Mr Wilsher said.

His comments came after a parliamentary committee warned that fixing all serious fire-safety defects in high-risk residential buildings could cost up to £15 billion.

Some 2,000 residential buildings are still wrapped in dangerous cladding, meaning that thousands of homeowners sleep in potential fire traps every night, according to the report by the housing, communities and local government committee.

Grenfell campaigners, firefighters and Labour blast government’s inaction for justice and fire safety over last three years: here.

Film on north Norwegian fjord wildlife


This February 2020 video says about itself, translated:

Fjord (Norway’s Magical Fjords) – trailer

The Norwegian fjords are one of the most impressive regions in Europe. A surprisingly rich underwater world lurks in the deep, cold waters: from vast coral reefs full of luminescent sea creatures to herring-hunting killer whales and humpback whales. Award-winning nature filmmaker Jan Haft reveals the special diversity hidden in the dark water and shows underwater behaviour that has never been seen before. Fjord is an intimate portrait of a unique wilderness.

On 13 June 2020, I went to see this film about northern Norway. Most chairs in the cinema were kept empty, to make spatial distancing against the coronavirus possible.

This beautiful film shows the importance of the billions of herring wintering in the fjords for the food chain. Killer whales attack them: then, dead herring drift upwards as food for herring gulls. Other dead herring sink to the bottom, as food for seastars, crabs, lantern shanks and flatfish.

Apart from humpbacks and orcas, the film mentions a third cetacean species: harbour porpoises. Unfortunately and unnecessarily, the film says, each year 10,000 porpoises die as bycatch in fishing nets in Norway.

In winter, the fjords are mostly frozen, stopping much sunlight from shining underwater. That attracts a deep-sea species which cannot stand much light: Periphylla periphylla, the helmet jellyfish.

The film also pays attention to wildlife in the mountains around the fjords. Like Megabunus diadema, a harvestman species. And bird species: capercaillie, bluethroat and ruff.

Dutch anti-racist art, and demonstrations today


This 13 June 2020 video from Amsterdam in the Netherlands says about itself, translated:

On a wall near the Tolhuistuin in Amsterdam Noord are five portraits of victims from the Netherlands and the United States, who died from racist violence. …

Mitch Henriquez, Kerwin Duinmeijer, George Floyd, Tomy Holten and Sandra Bland have been depicted from left to right so far. …

“On the right, I’m now working on Breonna Taylor and Philando Castile. We are going to discuss which people we are going to place on the right, ‘says the illustrator. ….

Illustration designer Tijn plans to expand the painting even further in the near future. Although, according to her, the wall is actually not big enough to depict everyone who should be on it.

This 10 June 2020 video is about the demonstration of over 11,500 people in Amsterdam, the Netherlands against the police murder of George Floyd in the USA and other racism. Anti-racist slogans were also projected on Amsterdam buildings.

This 11 June 2020 video is from Bergen op Zoom town. These two people have a Black Lives Matter demonstration there day after day.

Today, there will be at least four more demonstrations in the Netherlands. One again in Amsterdam. The other three are in Den Bosch, Breda and Leeuwarden.

The Den Bosch demonstration will be at the Pettelaarse Schans, 14.00-16.00.

This is a 7 June 2020 video by a church in Breda, supportive of the Black Lives Matter movement.

This 12 June 2020 Frisian language video says about itself, translated:

Marrigt van der Valk lives in Leeuwarden, is a volunteer at conservation organisation Natuurmonumenten and is originally from Indonesia. “I have been dealing with racism from an early age. I am from De Westereen and in the time of Marianne Vaatstra,

The rape and murder of teenage girl Marianne Vaatstra was falsely blamed by right-wingers on refugees. First, they blamed a refugee from Yugoslavia, on which NATO waged war. Then, they blamed a refugee from Iraq, on which NATO waged war. Then, they blamed a refugee from Afghanistan, on which NATO waged war. At last, years later, a white farmer confessed being the murderer and rapist, and was convicted for it.

I was really spat upon and scolded. There was really a fear of dark-skinned people. It is not as bad now as in that time. But enough things are still being said to me.”

The demonstration in Leeuwarden will be 18:00-19:00, de Bult, Rengerslaan.

Tomorrow, a demonstration in Leiden: Lammermarkt, near De Valk windmill.

Eel conservation helps other biodiversity


This 2011 video from New Zealand says about itself:

Stephanie Bowman feeding eels at Pukaha

Stephanie Bowman is an artist who fell in love with the longfin eel when she visited NZ a few years ago. She then painted some beautiful but informative pictures and put them together with some text to tell the story of Velvet and Elvis – a longfin eel who makes her way back to the Tongan trenches and her elver who comes back to NZ. It is a children’s book which Stephanie hopes will be published before the end of the year.

From Kobe University in Japan:

Protecting eels protects freshwater biodiversity

Eels serve as a surrogate species for the conservation of biodiversity in freshwater ecosystems

June 11, 2020

An international research team has conducted a field survey on two species of eel native to Japan and other organisms that share the same habitat, revealing for the first time in the world that these eels can act as comprehensive surrogate species for biodiversity conservation in freshwater rivers. It is hoped that conducting activities to restore and protect eel populations will contribute greatly to the recovery and conservation of freshwater ecosystems that have suffered a significant loss of biodiversity.

The team consisted of Researcher ITAKURA Hikaru (of Kobe University’s Graduate School of Science, and a JSPS Overseas Research Fellow at the University of Maryland), Specially Appointed Researcher WAKIYA Ryoshiro (of The University of Tokyo), Dr. Matthew Gollock (of The Zoological Society of London) and Associate Professor KAIFU Kenzo (Chuo University).

The results of this research were published in the British scientific journal Scientific Reports on May 29.

Main Points:

  • In a world-first, this research demonstrated that eels have the potential to be a comprehensive surrogate species for freshwater diversity conservation.
  • It is thought that efforts to restore eel populations through river environment restoration and conservation would be beneficial not only for the protection of eels but also for freshwater species as a whole.
  • Showed that two kinds of eel, the Japanese eel (Anguilla japonica) and the giant mottled eel (A. marmorata), can serve as all three categories of surrogate species: umbrella, indicator and flagship (*1).
  • It was revealed that these two species of eel were found in all parts of rivers, from the upper to the lower reaches, making them the most widely distributed among freshwater organisms. In addition, stable isotope analysis (*2) indicated that these eel species are higher-order predators in freshwater ecosystems.
  • The researchers investigated the quantitative relationship between the eels and other diadromous migratory species (indicative of biodiversity), revealing that the presence of eels is a good sign of river-ocean connectivity, and consequently an indicator of freshwater biodiversity.

Research Background

Although freshwater covers only 2.3% of the Earth’s surface, it provides diverse habitats that support a far greater number of species per area than terrestrial or marine ecosystems. However, at the same time, freshwater ecosystems have suffered significant deterioration and loss of biodiversity due to the human populations concentrated around them. As a result far more freshwater species are in danger of extinction than species belonging to other ecosystems. One-third of freshwater species have been classified as ‘Endangered’ in the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN)’s Red List of Threatened Species.

It is challenging to monitor and manage all the species that make up these ecosystems in order to protect biodiversity. For this reason, it is thought that by focusing conservation efforts on one or a few species, we can understand the functions, resource dynamics and structures of the biological communities to which they belong. This knowledge can be used to manage and conserve biodiversity. These surrogate species are classified as umbrella, indicator or flagship species according to conservation goals. So far some large mammal and bird species have been proposed as surrogate species.

The two kinds of eel that were the subject of this study are catadromous, meaning that they are migratory species that spawn in the ocean and grow in rivers and coastal waters. Anguillid eels can be found almost worldwide (except for the polar areas); in the varied aquatic environments of 150 countries, including inner bays, and all parts of rivers from the source to mouth.

In this study, the researchers focused on the eels’ unique life cycle and confirmed that they can serve as umbrella, indicator and flagship species. They propose that eels are a comprehensive surrogate species for the conservation of freshwater biodiversity.

Research Methodology

Eel and other freshwater organisms (fish and large crustaceans such as crab and shrimp) were collected from 78 sites spanning upstream to downstream regions in six rivers in Japan using an electric shocker (three mainland rivers in Kyushu and Honshu, and three rivers on Amami-Oshima island). The Japanese eel is mostly found in the mainland rivers, whereas the giant mottled eel largely inhabits Amami-Oshima’s rivers. In order to determine these two species’ suitability as indicator and umbrella species for biodiversity conservation, the distribution of the sampled eels and freshwater organisms in the rivers was analyzed and their trophic levels in the food web were researched. Furthermore, the researchers also investigated the quantitative relationship between the number of eels and the number of other migratory diadromous species (biodiversity), and the environmental factors affecting this. Japan is a mountainous country and there are many small, fast-flowing rivers. It was predicted that the migratory species that travel between the sea and the rivers during their life cycles would be predominant in freshwater rivers’ ecosystems. Therefore, a large number of migratory species was interpreted as an indicator of biodiversity.

The results from each of the field studies on Japanese eels and giant mottled eels showed that they were the most widely distributed of all freshwater species in river habitats. Japanese eels covered 87% of the study rivers in mainland Japan, whereas the giant mottled eel was found in 94% of the Amami Oshima rivers used in this study. Stable isotope analyses of the muscle tissue of eel and other freshwater organisms were carried out to estimate their trophic levels. The results showed that the mean trophic levels of eel species were greater than three which indicates that they are higher-order predators, and these values were significantly higher than those for other freshwater organisms. These results support the eels’ potential as umbrella species and show that they require a diverse range of lower trophic level animals for food.

This study confirmed the presence of 48 species of freshwater organisms, including fish and crustaceans. As predicted, a total of 80% of these were migratory species (78% in Honshu/Kyushu and 91% on Amami Oshima island). Furthermore, there was a positive correlation between the number of Japanese eels or giant mottled eels and the number of other migratory species. A statistical model was used to investigate various environmental factors that may have an impact on both of these groups. The researchers found a strong negative correlation between the number of eels and other migratory species and the following two points; ‘the distance of the study site from the sea’ and the ‘cumulative height of trans-river structures, such as dams or weirs, that species have to pass in order to get from the sea to the study site’. These factors have an impact on river-ocean connectivity for migratory species. In other words, these results imply that the positive correlation found between the number of eels and the number of other migratory species is probably an indirect relationship through river-ocean connectivity. In areas where river-ocean connectivity is high (i.e., it’s easy for them to swim upstream), there will be greater numbers of eels and other migratory species. Conversely, if river-ocean connectivity is low, there will be fewer of these species. These results show that eels are an indicator of good river-ocean connectivity, and through this they are an indicator of biodiversity.

This research showed that trans-river structures have a negative impact on eels and other migratory species. It has been indicated that eels can climb such structures vertically, if the structures are wet. However, trans-river structures inhibit eel movement, moreover, they have been shown to cause a decline in the numbers of many eel species. In this study, it was shown that even barriers under 1m high could have a negative impact on eel distribution. Previous studies have indicated that the habitat loss caused by these trans-river structures is a leading factor in the decline in eel numbers. Many other studies have reported that the distribution of other migratory species is limited by these structures in a similar way to eels. Eels are an indicator of river-ocean connectivity. It is hoped that improving and maintaining this connectivity for eels will greatly boost the biodiversity of freshwater ecosystems.

In 2016, IUCN decided upon the ‘Promotion of Anguillid eels as flagship species for aquatic conservation’. This designation was based on the widespread decline of eel numbers, the effects of habitat deterioration and destruction, as well as eels’ global distribution and their unique catadromous migration. As shown in this study, eels have the following important aspects that make them suitable as a flagship species; they are widely distributed, higher-order predators that are generally larger than other freshwater organisms, and are easily identifiable.

Looking at eels in terms of their importance ecologically, commercially and culturally, we can conclude that they have provided a diverse ecological service worldwide since ancient times. Eels are found almost all over the world, and have served as a source of food in various lands and eras. They have played roles in food cultures, in literature and art, in legends and belief systems. Therefore, the researchers concluded that eels have the ability to stir up great public awareness worldwide about environmental issues, which is connected to their value as a flagship species.

In conclusion, eels can serve as indicator, umbrella and flagship species, making them a comprehensive surrogate for the conservation of freshwater biodiversity.

Further Developments

This study confirmed the possibility that eels could be used as a surrogate species by using Japanese rivers as a model. These results could be applied to regions where, like in Japan, migratory species dominate freshwater ecosystems, such as islands that are relatively new geologically. On the other hand, continental freshwater ecosystems, for example, have a higher diversity of primary freshwater species that spend their entire lives in freshwater compared to Japan, therefore it is predicted that the impact of river-ocean connectivity on biodiversity would be lower than in the results of this study. However, trans-river structures also inhibit the mobility of primary freshwater species, such as upriver migrations for egg-laying.

Sixteen species of eel have been discovered so far and they are globally distributed. Consequently, eels have the potential to be a surrogate species for freshwater biodiversity conservation worldwide, due to their importance in ecosystems as widely distributed higher-order predators, in addition to their commercial and cultural importance. It is hoped that further research could investigate this possibility in continental rivers and elsewhere.

Glossary

*1. Umbrella, indicator and flagship species:

Umbrella species: Conserving an umbrella species enables the conservation of many other species in that biological community. This method is often applied to species that are widely distributed or are higher-order predators.

Indicator Species: A species that enables factors such as human impact, habitat changes, biodiversity and the resource dynamics of other species to be evaluated.

Flagship species: A species that is used to promote conservation planning and cooperation in the face of environmental issues in a particular area, country or on a global scale, with the aim of achieving successful results. Popular, appealing and familiar species are often chosen for these measures; they are usually higher-order predators (for example, large mammal or bird species) that are in danger of becoming extinct.

*2. Stable isotope analysis:

Isotopes of a chemical element have the same number of protons but a different number of neutrons in each atom. Isotopes that remain unchanged are called stable isotopes. Of the elements in organisms’ compositions, the stable isotopes of nitrogen and carbon are often used when researching food-web structure. Since stable nitrogen isotopes vary depending on the consumed and the consumer, they show the target organism’s trophic level in the food web.

Acknowledgements

This study was conducted with support from the Environmental Research Fund by the Japanese Ministry of the Environment, and the Japanese eel research project by the Fisheries Agency of Japan.