Rainforest birds and other wildlife, video


This March 2020 video says about itself:

(4K) Breathtaking Colorful Birds of the Rainforest – 1 Hour Wildlife Nature Film + Jungle Sounds in UHD

A new video that bird lovers and cats will equally love, “Birds of the Rainforest” presents viewers with a stunning mix of birds and other wildlife from the rainforests of the world, paired with the relaxing sounds of birds – no music. A collaboration between Nature Relaxation Films and collaborator John of Light, it’s a great way to see the wonders of the rainforest from the comfort of your home. Viewers will enjoy Macaws, Parrots, Toucans, Hummingbirds, and many other exotic species – even some cute lizards, insects and flowers.

Saving lions in Kenya, video


This 1 July 2020 video says about itself:

Humans, Climate, and Lions – Oh My: Climate and weather have vast implications for almost all forms of life. Join “Warrior Watch” as Jeneria Lekilelei, a warrior from the Samburu fights to protect lions under the harsh conditions of extreme drought.

Big Oil gets billions of taxpayers’ money


This 2017 video from the USA says about itself:

The Cost of Fossil Fuel Subsidies

Understanding how subsidies affect fossil fuel production is crucial to tackling climate change.

This video looks at the latest research into the impact subsidies and support have on the fossil fuel industry, the effect on oil prices and how things may change going forward.

The latest data on US fossil fuel subsidies along with the cost of subsidies and the impact of fossil fuel subsidies are examined and reported. Whilst much discussion on the impact of fossil fuel support and subsidies recently has been on the coal market, the oil and gas subsidies are equally as important. Total US fossil fuel subsidies matter as they are crucially important for climate change. The most recent numbers for fossil fuel subsidies 2016 show that over $300bn is spent annually.

Translated from Daphné Dupont-Nivet and Belia Heilbron in Dutch weekly De Groene, 1 July 2020:

European Union countries support the fossil fuel sector with 137 billion a year …

Henk Kamp is sure: “Fossil fuels are not subsidized in the Netherlands, not even through fiscal measures,” the then Minister of Economic Affairs told the House of Representatives five years ago. The reason was a report by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) that showed that worldwide $ 5300 billion is involved in fossil subsidies. Not from the Netherlands, he thought. His successor Eric Wiebes said it just as clearly in the summer of 2017: “There is no policy to support the fossil sector in particular.” …

The Netherlands has a hodgepodge of tax measures that favour the fossil fuel sector.

For example, the tax exemption on kerosene in aviation and shipping accounts for about 3.5 billion subsidies per year. In addition, there are tax advantages for energy use in greenhouse horticulture and big consumers such as the fossil fuel industry themselves have to pay less energy tax than households. It is less known that the Dutch government provides insurance with which oil refineries are constructed in Kuwait and Oman. …

While parliament is waiting for the inventory, support for fossil fuels is being expanded. Eg, Wiebes has now prepared a bill to expand and increase the investment deduction for the extraction of gas in the North Sea, from 25 to 40 percent. In this way, the Netherlands must be able to compete again with the United Kingdom and Norway, which previously implemented the increase. …

In addition to its activities in Kuwait, the Netherlands supports the installation of oil platforms for the Mexican state oil company Pemex with nearly two hundred million euros, and more than 250 million guarantees for the construction of a new bulk terminal for oil on the coast of Oman, in a nature reserve with protected animal species including four species of sea turtles and the Arabian humpback whale. …

Of all [Dutch taxpayer subsidized] energy projects, 98 percent of the money went to fossil fuel and only two to renewable. …

That does not fit with the climate goal of “Paris” [climate agreement], the Advisory Council on International Affairs, the independent advisory body for government and parliament on international issues, said in July last year. The Council emphasizes that “subsidies, export credits and tax money are currently used for international trade and investment in fossil fuels” …

However, with 1.5 billion euros a year, the Netherlands provides more aid to the fossil fuel industry through export credit insurance than France, Germany or Russia.

Greenham Common, from nuclear weapons to wildlife


Peace campaigners protest against nuclear weapons being stored at Greenham Common

By Peter Frost in Britain, 26 June 2020:

From bombs to vipers on Greenham Common

Twenty years ago Greenham Common ceased to be a cold-war bomber base — but it’s now returned to nature. PETER FROST goes snake hunting on the site

NOW, this is an interesting story. If I was a hippie (my wife Ann says “if you were still a hippie”), I might see a strange mystical connection between Greenham Common, once home of deadly nuclear weapons now being one of the best places to see Britain’s only venomous snake — the adder (Vipera berus).

The words Greenham Common hold all kinds of meanings — not least to readers of the Morning Star.

For much of the last half-century, Greenham Common was the home of nuclear weapons on an airbase shared by British and US forces.

This 2018 video is called Adder – the UK’s only VENOMOUS snake.

Global warming benefits Greenland wolf spiders


This 2019 video says about itself:

Arctic Wolf Spiders‘ Changing Diet May Help Keep Arctic Cool & Lessen Some Impacts of Global Warming

Ecologist Amanda Koltz has a special interest in climate change and spiders. Koltz said she chose to study Arctic wolf spiders because they’re fierce hunters and abundant, making them one of the most important predators in the tundra. Leaving her biology lab at Washington University in St. Louis, Koltz conducts her field research in Northern Alaska. Koltz and her team discovered that Arctic wolf spiders may buffer some of the effects of global warming by helping to ‘keep it cool’. Wolf spiders may play a role decreasing decomposition rates in a warming climate. As the Arctic warms, research shows wolf spiders may dine differently initiating a cascade of food web interactions that could potentially alleviate some impacts of global warming.

From Aarhus University in Denmark:

Spider baby boom in a warmer Arctic

June 25, 2020

Climate change leads to longer growing seasons in the Arctic. A new study, which has just been published in Proceedings of the Royal Society B, show that predators like wolf spiders respond to the changing conditions and have been able to produce two clutches of offspring during the short Arctic summer.

Arctic spiders are at the top of the food chain among invertebrates and are numerous on the Arctic tundra. They typically take several years to become adults, and only produce offspring [once].

But something is happening in the high north in these years. A lot, actually.

Climate change is more dramatic here than in no other place on Earth. The average temperature is increasing significantly and this affects the ecosystems.

Researchers have previously reported how plants bloom earlier and earlier in the season. There are also signs that species move farther north and up into the mountains.

A team of researchers led by senior researcher Toke T. Høye from the Arctic Research Centre and Department of Bioscience at Aarhus University has now shown that changes are also occurring in the reproduction of invertebrates.

For almost 20 years, researchers at the Zackenberg Research Station in north-eastern Greenland have caught wolf spiders as part of the monitoring programme Greenland Ecosystem Monitoring. The spiders were caught in small pitfall traps set up in different vegetation types.

Wolf spiders carry their eggs in a so-called egg sac. The researchers counted the number of eggs in the individual spiders’ egg sacs and compared this information with the time of the season that the animal was caught. By looking at the distribution of the number of eggs in the egg sacs throughout the season, it became clear that in some summers the spiders produced two egg sacs — a phenomenon that is known from warmer latitudes, but which has not previously been observed in the Arctic.

Arctic ecosystems are changing

“We now have the longest time series of spiders collected the Arctic. The large amount of data allows us to show how small animals in the Arctic change their life history in response to climate change,” says Toke T. Høye.

The long time series tells the researchers that the earlier the snow disappears from the ground, the greater the proportion of spiders that can produce a second clutch of offspring.

“These changes in the life history have not been seen earlier and evidence suggests that the phenomenon plays an important role for Arctic insects and spiders,” Toke T. Høye says.

The researchers see the spiders’ response to climate change as an ability to adapt to the new conditions.

Wolf spiders feed on small organisms such as springtails in the soil. If there are more spiders — or insects — in the future Arctic, it can have an influence on the food chains on land.

“We can only speculate about how the ecosystems change, but we can now ascertain that changes in the reproduction of species are an important factor to include when we try to understand how Arctic ecosystems react to the rising temperatures on the planet,” Toke T. Høye says.

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.

Shorebird conservation, new research


This 2016 video says about itself:

Migratory Shorebirds Depend on the Yellow Sea

This marvelously photographed video produced by the Cornell Laboratory of Ornithology in the USA documents the amazing journeys of migratory shorebirds in the East Asian–Australasian Flyway, focusing on such charismatic species as Spoon-billed Sandpiper, Red Knot and Bar-tailed Godwit, showing their dependence on the food-rich mudflats of the Yellow Sea to be able to undertake their annual migration.

EAAFP Partners and collaborators have helped translate the video into Chinese, Japanese, Korean and Russian. We hope that the video can raise awareness of the importance of the Yellow Sea to these birds and help save these critical mudflat habitats to allow the birds to continue these journeys and for people to be able to wonder at the amazing spectacle of shorebird migration for generations to come.

From Princeton University in the USA:

Study on shorebirds suggests that when conserving species, not all land is equal

June 9, 2020

Summary: Researchers may have solved the long-standing puzzle of why migratory shorebirds around the world are plummeting several times faster than coastal ecosystems are being developed. They discovered that shorebirds overwhelmingly rely on tidal zones closest to dry land, which are most often lost to development. The findings suggest that protecting species requires a detailed understanding of how animals interact with the landscape so that preserved habitats best serve endangered species’ needs.

Princeton University researchers may have solved a long-standing mystery in conservation that could influence how natural lands are designated for the preservation of endangered species.

Around the world, the migratory shorebirds that are a conspicuous feature of coastal habitats are losing access to the tidal flats — the areas between dry land and the sea — they rely on for food as they travel and prepare to breed. But a major puzzle has been that species’ populations are plummeting several times faster than the rate at which coastal ecosystems are lost to development.

Nowhere is the loss of tidal flats and shorebird species more acute than along the East Asia-Australasian Flyway (EAAF). An estimated 5 million migratory birds from 55 species use the flyway to travel from southern Australia to northern Siberia along the rapidly developing coast of China — where tidal flats can be more than 6 miles wide — at which birds stop to rest and refuel.

Since the 1980s, the loss of tidal flats around the Yellow Sea has averaged 1.2% per year. Yet, the annual loss of the most endangered bird species has averaged between 5.1 and 7.5%, with populations of species such as the critically endangered spoon-billed sandpipers (Calidris pygmaea) climbing as high as 26% each year.

In exploring this disparity, Princeton researchers Tong Mu and David Wilcove found a possible answer — the birds don’t use all parts of the tidal flat equally. They discovered that migratory shorebirds overwhelmingly rely on the upper tidal flats closest to dry land, which are the exact locations most often lost to development.

They report in the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B that China’s upper tidal flats provided more than 70% of the cumulative foraging time for the species they studied at two Yellow Sea sites along the EAAF. The middle and lower flats that birds are increasingly pushed toward by human activity were less frequently foraged upon due to the tide cycle, which may be impacting species health and breeding success.

The findings stress the need for integrating upper tidal flats into conservation plans focused on migratory shorebirds, the authors reported.

“This is a new insight into Asian shorebirds, but I suspect that the upper intertidal is disproportionately important to shorebirds in other places, too, such as the East and West coasts of North America,” said Wilcove, who is a professor of ecology and evolutionary biology and public affairs and the Princeton Environmental Institute (PEI).

“People start at the upper zone and work their way outward, so the best spots for the birds are the first to go,” he said. “It would probably be best to extend current developments farther into the intertidal zone rather than keep building parallel to the coast, which consumes more of the upper intertidal.

“Think of it as advocating for a rectangle with the long side pointing into the sea versus a rectangle with the long side hugging the shore,” Wilcove said.

The study results also suggest that protecting species and their habitats may mean more than designating land for wildlife — it may require identifying the right land to set aside by gaining a detailed understanding of exactly how animals interact with the landscape.

“Recognizing the importance of a kind of habitat to specific species or groups of species takes time, effort and thought,” said Mu, who is the paper’s first author and a Ph.D. candidate in ecology and evolutionary biology.

“Sometimes we just don’t know what to look for, or looking requires challenging some prevalent and maybe false perceptions,” he said. “But the situation is getting better and better. People are paying more attention to environmental issues, and the advances in technology are helping us gain more and newer insight into these questions.”

Mu conducted fieldwork between September 2016 and May 2017 at two well-known stopover sites — one outside of Beijing, the other near Shanghai — for migratory shorebirds in the Yellow Sea region. He focused on 17 species of birds, noting where along the tidal flat the animals preferred to feed.

A key difference to his approach, Mu said, is that most previous research focused on the low-tide period when all the tidal flats are exposed and the full range of intertidal species can be observed.

“It makes sense from an ecological point of view. During the high tides when only a portion of the tidal flats is accessible, the relationship usually still holds for the exposed area,” Mu said. “So, there’s little incentive to look at the periods other than low tide when researchers can get a more complete picture.”

What Mu thinks was missed, however, was that the upper tidal flats provide the most amount of foraging time for birds that have places to be. Even if the lower half of a 6-mile wide mudflat is set aside for migratory birds, they’re not getting the energy they need for the trip ahead during the high tide, he said.

“The value of the tidal flats comes from not only their size, but also how much foraging time they can provide,” Mu said. “The upper tidal area is exposed for a longer period during tidal cycles, compared to the middle and lower areas, which I think permits shorebirds to forage for a longer time and thus get more energy.”

The preservation of shorebirds should be driven by how integral the animals are to the health of intertidal zones, Mu and Wilcove said. In turn, tidal flats are not only vital to other marine life, but also provide people with seafood such as clams and crabs and protection from storms and storm surges that cause coastal flooding.

“Shorebirds facilitate the energy and nutrient exchanges between land and sea,” Mu said. “Because a lot of them are long-distance migrants, they also facilitate the energy and nutrient exchanges across different ecosystems and continents, something that is usually overlooked and underappreciated.”

Wilcove and Mu cited recent research showing that more than 15%, or more than 12,000 square miles, of the world’s natural tidal flats were lost between 1984-2016.

“Some of the greatest travelers on Earth are the shorebirds that migrate from Siberia to Southeast Asia and Australia,” Wilcove said. “Now, they’re declining in response to the loss of the tidal areas, and the full range of benefits those tidal flats provide are in some way being diminished.”

Pesticides threaten monarch butterflies


This 2014 video from the USA says about itself:

Researchers Suggest Monsanto Behind 90 Percent Drop in Monarch Butterfly Population

The monarch butterfly population has been reduced by ninety percent over the past twenty years. In terms related to the human population that’s the equivalent of losing every human in the United States except for those in Florida and Ohio.

Monsanto is now Bayer. Different name, same pesticides.

From the University of Nevada, Reno in the USA:

Milkweed, only food source for monarch caterpillars, ubiquitously contaminated

Harmful pesticides found in Western Monarch breeding ground

June 8, 2020

New evidence identifies 64 pesticide residues in milkweed, the main food for monarch butterflies in the west. Milkweed samples from all of the locations studied in California’s Central Valley were contaminated with pesticides, sometimes at levels harmful to monarchs and other insects.

The study raises alarms for remaining western monarchs, a population already at a precariously small size. Over the last few decades their overwintering numbers have plummeted to less than 1% of the population size than in the 1980s — which is a critically low level.

Monarch toxicity data is only available for four of the 64 pesticides found, and even with this limited data, 32% of the samples contained pesticide levels known to be lethal to monarchs, according to a study released today in Frontiers in Ecology and Evolution.

“We expected to find some pesticides in these plants, but we were rather surprised by the depth and extent of the contamination,” said Matt Forister, a butterfly expert, biology professor at the University of Nevada, Reno and co-author of the paper. “From roadsides, from yards, from wildlife refuges, even from plants bought at stores — doesn’t matter from where — it’s all loaded with chemicals. We have previously suggested that pesticides are involved in the decline of low elevation butterflies in California, but the ubiquity and diversity of pesticides we found in these milkweeds was a surprise.”

Milkweed was chosen as the focus of this study because it the only food source for larval monarch butterflies in the West, and thus critical for their survival.

“We collected leaf samples from milkweed plants throughout the Central Valley and sent them to be screened for pesticides,” Chris Halsch, lead author of the paper and a doctoral student in the University’s Ecology, Evolution, and Conservation Biology program, said. “This study is the first necessary step for understanding what butterflies are actually encountering. Now we can use these data to design experiments to test hypotheses about the relative importance of pesticide use and other stressors such as climate change on local butterflies.”

While this is only a first look at the possible risks these pesticides pose to western monarchs, the findings indicate the troubling reality that key breeding grounds for western monarchs are contaminated with pesticides at harmful levels.

“One might expect to see sad looking, droopy plants that are full of pesticides, but they are all big beautiful looking plants, with the pesticides hiding in plain sight,” Forister, who has been a professor int he University’s College of Science since 2008, said.

Western monarchs are celebrated throughout the western states and especially along the California coast where large congregations overwinter in groves of trees. Population declines also have been documented in the breeding grounds. Areas of inland California, including the Central Valley, offer important monarch breeding habitat throughout the spring and summer, including being the home to the very first spring generation which will continue the migration inland to eventually populate all western states and even southern British Columbia.

Declines in the population of western monarch butterflies have been linked with various stressors, including habitat loss and degradation, pesticide use, and climate change, among others. While pesticide use has been associated with declines, previous studies had not attempted to quantify the residues that butterflies can encounter on the western landscape.

The study’s findings paint a harsh picture for western monarchs, with the 64 different pesticides identified in milkweed. Out of a possible 262 chemicals screened, there was an average of nine types of individual pesticides per sample and as many as 25. Agricultural and retail samples generally had more residues than wildlife refuges and urban areas, but no area was entirely free from contamination. Certain pesticides were present across all landscapes, with five pesticides appearing more than 80% of the time. Chlorantraniliprole, the second most abundant compound, was found at lethal concentrations to Monarchs in 25% of all samples.

Understanding of pesticide toxicity to the monarch is limited, and is based on previously reported lab experiments. Thus we have much to learn about the concentrations encountered in field, but these new results raise concerns nonetheless. While this research focused on monarch toxicity, other pollinators and beneficial insects are also at risk from pesticide contamination throughout the landscape.

“We can all play a role in restoring habitat for monarchs,” said Sarah Hoyle, Pesticide Program Specialist at the Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation and coauthor of the paper. “But it is imperative that farmers, land managers and gardeners protect habitat from pesticides if we hope to recover populations of this iconic animal.”

Field work, gathering plant samples, was completed last spring and summer. The lab work was completed by Nicolas Baert from the Department of Entomology and manager of the Chemical Ecology Core Facility at Cornell University. Statistical computations were completed this winter by Forister and colleague James Fordyce from the Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville.

Restoring wildlife in Ohio, USA


This 25 April 2020 video from the USA says about itself:

The Cleveland Museum of Natural History preserves and protects over 10,000 acres of native habitats in Northeast Ohio. One of the most important parcels of land in this collection is Mentor Marsh. The once-thriving wetland habitat was destroyed in the 1970s by industrial salt-mine tailings, which allowed the invasive reed grass Phragmites australis to take over.

After years of painstaking work, the Museum’s expert naturalists have begun to win the battle against Phragmites as native wildlife makes its comeback. Learn more about this conservation success from the Museum’s Restoration Ecologist, Dr. David Kriska.

Superworms help fighting plastic pollution


This 17 March 2018 video is called Mealworms & Superworms Can Digest Styrofoam? with Eddy Garcia.

From the American Chemical Society in the USA:

Superworms digest plastic, with help from their bacterial sidekicks

May 27, 2020

Resembling giant mealworms, superworms (Zophobas atratus) are beetle larvae that are often sold in pet stores as feed for reptiles, fish and birds. In addition to their relatively large size (about 2 inches long), these worms have another superpower: They can degrade polystyrene plastic. Now, researchers reporting in ACS’ Environmental Science & Technology have linked this ability to a strain of bacteria that lives in the larvae’s gut.

Polystyrene is used in packaging containers, disposable cups and insulating materials. When thrown in landfills or littered in the environment, the plastic takes several hundred years to completely break down. Recently, several studies have found that mealworms and superworms can ingest and degrade polystyrene within a few weeks. In mealworms, this ability was linked to a certain strain of polystyrene-degrading bacteria in the worms’ gut. Jiaojie Li, Dae-Hwan Kim and colleagues wanted to search for similar bacteria in superworms.

The team placed 50 superworms in a chamber with polystyrene as their only carbon source, and after 21 days, the worms had consumed about 70% of the plastic. The researchers then isolated a strain of Pseudomonas aeruginosa bacteria from the gut of the worms and showed that it could grow directly on the surface of polystyrene and break it down. Finally, they identified an enzyme from the bacteria, called serine hydrolase, that appeared to be responsible for most of the biodegradation. This enzyme, or the bacteria that produce it, could someday be used to help break down waste polystyrene, the researchers say.