Pollution helps United States COVID-19 pandemic


This 24 November 2029 video says about itself:

Has capitalism turned the COVID-19 emergency into a disaster? | All Hail The Lockdown

We were in a crisis before COVID-19 – a crisis of capitalism. Join Ali Rae in this first episode of “All Hail The Lockdown” – a 5 part series exploring the complexities of our global response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

In this episode, Ali speaks with filmmaker and activist Astra Taylor, economist Aditya Chakrabortty and economic sociologist Linsey McGoey about disaster capitalism, philanthrocapitalism and how the structures of capitalism have left us ill-equipped to deal with the fallout of COVID-19.

From Washington University in St. Louis in the USA:

Pollution and pandemics: A dangerous mix

Research finds that as one goes, so goes the other — to a point

November 12, 2020

The United States may have set itself up for the spread of a pandemic without even knowing it.

According to new research from the McKelvey School of Engineering at Washington University in St. Louis, pollution may bear part of the blame for the rapid proliferation in the United States of SARS-CoV-2, the virus responsible for the spread of COVID-19.

The research, from the lab of Rajan Chakrabarty, associate professor in the Department of Energy, Environmental & Chemical Engineering, was published online ahead of print in the journal Science of The Total Environment.

When it comes to how ill someone gets after contracting COVID-19, medical professionals believe that a person’s health — having certain medical conditions, for example — can play a vital role. When it comes to how fast the virus can spread through the community, it turns out the health of the environment is directly correlated to the basic reproduction ratio R0, which denotes the expected number of people each sick person can infect.

The reproduction ratio R0 of COVID-19 associates directly with the long-term ambient PM2.5 exposure levels. And the presence of secondary inorganic components in PM2.5 only makes things worse, according to Chakrabarty.

“We checked for more than 40 confounding factors,” Chakrabarty said. Of all of those factors, “There was a strong, linear association between long-term PM2.5 exposure and R0.”

PM2.5 refers to ambient particles with a diameter of 2.5 micrometers or less; at that size, they can enter a person’s lungs and cause damage. For this reason, PM2.5 can be detrimental to respiratory health. But how this relates to the spread of COVID-19 through a population had yet to be explored.

Chakrabarty and his graduate student Payton Beeler, both aerosol researchers who have done previous coronavirus modeling, became interested in the relationship after two papers were published in quick succession. First, a July paper in the journal Science found that levels of susceptibility to COVID-19 is a driving factor for the pandemic; it is more important than temperature, which researchers initially thought might play an outsized role.

Cougars and foxes in Chile, new research


This 2017 video from Ecuador is called Andean Fox (Culpeo)!

From Virginia Tech university in the USA:

What does the fox say to a puma?

Predators form an unusual coexistence in the central Chilean Andes

November 13, 2020

Summary: Researchers have found that in the Chilean Andes, two predator species — the puma and the culpeo fox — can successfully share a landscape and hunt for food over the same nighttime hours because they are, in essence, ordering from different menus.

In the high plains of the central Chilean Andes, an ecosystem consisting of only a few animal species is providing researchers with new insights into how predators coexist in the wild.

“The puma and the culpeo fox are the only top predators on the landscape in the Chilean Andes,” said Professor Marcella Kelly, of the College of Natural Resources and Environment. “And there isn’t a wide range of prey species, in part because the guanacos [closely related to llamas] aren’t typically found in these areas anymore due to over-hunting. With such a simplified ecosystem, we thought we could really nail down how two rival predators interact.”

Kelly worked with Christian Osorio, a doctoral student in the Department of Fish and Wildlife Conservation, and researchers from the Pontifical Catholic University of Chile to chart the locations of and potential interactions between pumas and foxes in central Chile. They focused on three axes of interaction: spatial (where the animals are on the landscape), temporal (the timing of specific activities on a given landscape), and dietary (what each species is eating).

To understand the interplay between pumas and foxes, researchers deployed 50 camera stations across two sites in central Chile, one in the Rio Los Cipreses National Reserve and another on private land where cattle and horses are raised. They also collected scat samples at both locations to analyze the diets of pumas and foxes.

The team’s findings, published in the journal Diversity, showed that while pumas and foxes overlapped significantly where they lived and what time they were active, there was little overlap in what they were eating, with the puma diet consisting primarily of a large hare species introduced from Europe, while the culpeo foxes favored smaller rabbits, rodents, and seeds. The two predator species can successfully share a landscape and hunt for food over the same nighttime hours because they are, in essence, ordering from different menus.

“It is likely that foxes have realized that when they try to hunt hares, they might run into trouble with pumas,” Osorio explained. “If they are hunting smaller mammals, the pumas don’t care, but if the foxes start targeting larger prey, the pumas will react.”

How predator species interact is a crucial question for ecologists trying to understand the dynamics that inform ecosystem balances. And while the puma has been designated a species of least concern, the animal’s populations are declining and continue to be monitored by conservationists.

“Least concern does not mean no concern,” Osorio noted. “We have laws in Chile that protect the species, but the data we have to make a conservation designation are very scattered. As we accumulate more consistent and reliable data, the puma may be reclassified as vulnerable or even endangered.”

The hares that comprise approximately 70 percent of the biomass in the puma’s diet are a nonnative species, introduced to the area by European settlers. With guanacos absent from the landscape, the puma has had to adapt its diet to survive.

With some land managers and conservationists campaigning for the removal of the introduced hare species as a way to restore the area’s native ecosystem, Kelly and Osorio note that it is important to understand that pumas would be significantly impacted by a reduction in their primary food source.

A further concern, which the two are currently researching, is the interplay between wildlife and humans. The national reserve increasingly sees visitors eager to witness big cats and foxes in their natural environment, while the sheep and cattle industries are increasingly using remote terrain for livestock cultivation.

“Pumas do occasionally kill livestock, which is a challenge we’re looking into right now,” said Kelly, an affiliate of Virginia Tech’s Fralin Life Sciences Institute. “The government would like to preserve the puma, but there are competing challenges of what kind of threat they pose to livestock and what kind of threat cattle or sheep farming poses to them.”

Understanding how two predatory species can come to coexist has the potential to provide conservationists and ecologists with better ideas for how humans and wild animals can share a landscape.