European wild bee species threatened


This video says about itself:

Olivia’s Wild Bees

21 August 2007

A young American biologist studies wild bees on the island of Lesvos, Greece. She explains her work and the bees’ role in nature.

From Wildlife Extra:

One in 10 bee species faces extinction

The first-ever assessment of all European wild bee species shows that 9.2% are threatened with extinction, while 5.2% are considered likely to be threatened in the near future.

A total of 56.7% of the species are classified as Data Deficient, as lack of experts, data and funding has made it impossible to evaluate their extinction risk.

The assessment was published as part of The IUCN European Red List of Bees and the Status and Trends of European Pollinators (STEP) project, both funded by the European Commission.

It provides – for the first time – information on all 1,965 wild bee species in Europe, including their status, distribution, population trends and threats.

“This assessment is the best understanding we have had so far on wild bees in Europe,” says Jean-Christophe Vié, Deputy Director, IUCN Global Species Programme. “However, our knowledge about them is incomplete as we are faced with an alarming lack of expertise and resources.

“Bees play an essential role in the pollination of our crops. We must urgently invest in further research in order to provide the best possible recommendations on how to reverse their decline.”

The report shows that 7.7% of the species have declining populations, 12.6% are stable and 0.7% are increasing. Population trends for the remaining 79% of bee species are unknown.

Changing agricultural practices and increased farming intensification have led to large-scale losses and degradation of bee habitats – one of the main threats to their survival.

For instance, intensive silage production – at the expense of hay-cropping – causes losses of herb-rich grasslands and season-long flowering, which constitute important sources of forage for pollinators.

The widespread use of insecticides also harms wild bees and herbicides reduce the availability of flowers on which they depend. The use of fertilisers promotes rank grassland, which is low in flowering plants and legume species – the preferred food resources for many bee species.

Intensive agriculture and farming practices have caused a sharp decline in the surface area of dry steppes, which house the Vulnerable Andrena transitoria bee – a formerly common eastern Mediterranean species that spreads from Sicily to Ukraine and into Central Asia.

Ploughing, mowing or grazing of flowering plants, as well as the use of insecticides have led to a 30% population decline of the species over the last decade, and its extinction in certain countries.

Climate change is another important driver of extinction risk for most species of bees, and particularly bumblebees.

Heavy rainfalls, droughts, heat waves and increased temperatures can alter the habitats that individual species are adapted to and are expected to dramatically reduce the area of its habitat, leading to population decline.

A total of 25.8% of Europe’s bumblebee species are threatened with extinction, according to the assessment.

Urban development and the increased frequency of fires also threaten the survival of wild bee species in Europe, according to the experts.

The report also includes an assessment of the Western Honeybee (Apis mellifera) – the most well-known pollinator. The Western Honeybee has a native distribution through much of Europe but it is uncertain whether it currently occurs as a truly wild, rather than domesticated species.

As the Red List only covers wild – not domesticated – species, it has been assessed as Data Deficient. Further research is needed to distinguish between wild and non-wild colonies, and to better understand the impacts of malnutrition, pesticides and pathogens on honeybee colonies, according to IUCN.

“Public and scientific attention tends to focus on Western Honeybee as the key pollinator, but we must not forget that most of our wild flowers and crops are pollinated by a whole range of different bee species,” says Simon Potts, STEP project Coordinator.

“We need far-reaching actions to help boost both wild and domesticated pollinator populations. Achieving this will bring huge benefits to wildlife, the countryside and food production.”

Swifts on their way to Europe


This video from the Netherlands says about itself:

One of the birds of a pair of Swifts breeding on three eggs in one of my nest boxes just entered with some nesting material. Recorded May 28th 2012.

The British Trust for Ornithology reports, on Twitter today, about Morocco:

European Swifts flying high over Marrakech. They are on their way!!!!

Israel’s Netanyahu’s unholy alliance with European anti-Semites


This video from France says about itself:

Le Pen’s National Front accused of backing Holocaust denier for office in Paris

15 March 2014

France’s far-right National Front party has placed a Holocaust denier on its list of candidates for the municipal elections in Paris. The candidate, Pierre Panet, has said he “shares the analysis” of Roger Garaudy, a convicted Holocaust denier but that he doesn’t elaborate on his views because it is illegal in France.

Not only in the USA are there anti-Semitic preachers like John Hagee who pretend to be friends of Israel. Not only is there anti-Semitic warmonger and phone hacker Rupert Murdoch from Australia, pretending to be a friend of Israel.

There are anti-Semitic European fascists like that as well.

From Newsweek in the USA:

Netanyahu’s Unholy Alliance With Europe’s ‘Anti-Semitic’ Far Right

By Charles Hawley / March 24, 2015 11:32 AM EDT

“Fear has won the election,” wrote the Spanish paper El País last Wednesday after Israeli voters once again made the right-wing Likud the country’s strongest political party. “In Israel, fear is king and the one occupying the throne is called Netanyahu.” Other papers across the continent were equally disheartened. “Netanyahu’s victory pushes a dignified settlement of the Palestinian conflict far into the future,” wrote Le Monde. In Germany, Tagesspiegel wrote: “At the end of the tunnel, only a tunnel can be seen.”

But one growing faction in Europe is welcoming Benjamin Netanyahu and his re-election with open arms. On the ultra-conservative periphery, among the xenophobic, nativist fringe, right-wing populists are unabashedly rejoicing. For them, Europe is engaged in a battle against encroaching Islam – and the hardliner Netanyahu, they believe, is doing yeoman’s work on the front lines. “Benjamin Netanyahu’s victory is a good thing for several reasons,” Geert Wilders, the vociferous anti-Islam incendiary from the Netherlands, said in an emailed statement. “We share his criticism of Iran . . . and his opposition to a Palestinian state in Judea and Samaria.”

“We are very happy,” agrees Filip Dewinter, a leading member of Belgian right-wing party Vlaams Belang. “It is a good thing for Israel, but also good for right-wing parties in Europe because he understands that the first danger for Europe is Islamisation.” David Lasar, a foreign policy co-ordinator for the Austrian Freedom Party, echoed that sentiment. “For sure, I am very happy,” says Lasar, who has worked hard in recent years to develop ties with staunchly conservative parties overseas. “It is a very important step that Netanyahu has won the election.”

From the perspective of a European chauvinistic periphery that has increasingly been striving for mainstream legitimacy in the recent past, the enthusiasm is understandable. As groups like the Austrian Freedom Party, France’s Front National and the Swedish Democrats have long histories of anti-Semitism, recent years have seen them attempting to refocus their enmity on Islam and Islamists. With that shift has come a recognition that Israeli conservatives, with their rejection of a Palestinian state and hardline approach to Islamism, are their natural allies.

The Likud party has been cautiously returning the admiration. …

Sentiments like that are music to the ears of European right-wing parties. “For me, Netanyahu is quite a positive choice,” says Aymeric Chauprade, a member of European Parliament for Front National. “He is very strong against terror and against Islamists.” Kent Ekeroth, a Swedish parliamentarian with the right-wing Swedish Democrats, agrees: “It is far better that Likud won,” he says. “The Left doesn’t take the security situation seriously and, because of that, they are far more likely to appease the Arabs.”

Ekeroth was careful to insist that he wasn’t speaking on behalf of his party. But his message chimes with the increasing number of right-wing populist pilgrims heading to Israel for talks with West Bank settlers, Likud parliamentarians and other conservative leaders. Ekeroth, Dewinter and Lasar have all made the trip, as have Austrian Freedom Party leader Heinz-Christian Strache and Wilders. Even Front National leader Marine Le Pen, whose father and party founder Jean-Marie was considered vehemently anti-Semitic, has expressed interest in visiting the country. …

The Swedish Democrats and the Austrian Freedom Party have very questionable pasts. They are still perceived as racists and anti-Semitic by many,” says Yehuda Ben-Hur Levy, a visiting fellow at the Centre for European Reform and a long-time observer of the European far Right. “This is to some extent a way to legitimate themselves – saying, ‘If we go to Israel, you can’t really claim that we are anti-Semitic’.”

Thus far, the right wingers’ visits to Israel have not been given the official stamp of approval. While delegates have often been received by parliamentarians acting independently, they have never been received by a Foreign Ministry delegation or given an official government welcome. But there is some hope on the right that Netanyahu’s re-election may change that. “The understanding between right-wing parties and Israel can only get better under Netanyahu,” says Dewinter of Vlaams Belang. The Austrian press even speculated in December that Strache might soon receive an official invitation.

Israeli daily Haaretz wrote about Herr Strache:

The honor of lighting the torch goes to the brightest jewel in this racist crown – Heinz-Christian Strache, leader of Austria’s Freedom Party. If Jorg Haider was “Hitler’s spiritual grandson,” then Strache is his extremely illegitimate great-grandson. His grandfather was in the Waffen-SS, and his father served in the Wehrmacht. As a university student, Strache belonged to an extremist organization from which Jews were banned, hung out with neo-Nazis and participated in paramilitary exercises with them. Commentators in Austria say that Strache is trying to copy Haider but that he is less sophisticated and ultimately more extreme than his role model. (A selection of Strache’s brilliant comments were published in his interview with Haaretz in March.)

The Newsweek article continues:

Such optimism may not be misplaced. Many conservatives in Israel now see the European right wing as being the only reliable partner on a continent where, they say, anti-Semitism has become rooted in the political mainstream. Right-wing parties, says Kleiner of Likud, “are better at recognising the real danger that Europe is facing from the Muslims . . . . They are less naive than the Left.”

Traditionally, Israeli governments (often secular, or at least not fanatically religious) used to define the Israeli-Palestinian conflict as a political conflict about land; not as a religious conflict. When a fanatical Islamophobic Australian Christian tried to burn down the Al-Aqsa mosque in Jerusalem in 1969, Israeli police stopped that terrorist. As recently as 2014, Israeli police stopped a Christian fundamentalist terrorist from Texas from blowing up Islamic holy sites in Jerusalem. Defining the Israeli-Palestinian issue as political made that conflict difficult to resolve, but not insoluble.

However, defining the Israeli-Palestinian conflict as a religious conflict, as Netanyahu’s Likud party tends to do, pro-or anti-Islam, leads to a conflict where each side claims to have ‘God on its side'; to an insoluble conflict, where Israeli and Palestinian civilians are doomed to live in permanent war. European fascists, hating both Jews and Arabs, love to see both killing each other endlessly.

Such comments endear Netanyahu to the Right. “I am quite happy,” says Fiorello Provera, a senior member of the Italian right-wing party Lega Nord and a former European parliamentarian. “I think that Netanyahu is the right man for the difficult situation.”

Uri Avnery: The Israeli Salvation Front. The huge and growing gap between the very rich and the very poor, which largely parallels the gap between the ethnic communities, is a disaster for all of us: here.

Smew helped by conservation


This video is called Smew (Mergellus albellus).

From Wildlife Extra:

Rare duck thrives in EU protected areas

The Smew, a duck that is a rare visitor to the UK in winter, is doing twice as well as two decades ago within areas protected by EU wildlife laws, reports the Wildfowl and Wetland Trust (WWT) and British Trust for Ornithology (BTO).

Scientists studied data from wetlands throughout Europe and found that as a result of climate change nearly a third of these ducks now spend winter in north-eastern Europe, compared to just 6 per cent 20 years ago.

And in that region, numbers of Smew within Special Protection Areas designated by the EU Birds Directive have grown twice as fast as those on unprotected sites.

WWT’s Head of Species Monitoring, Richard Hearn, says: “The EU’s network of protected areas is obviously helping Smew adapt to climate change.

“Most Special Protection Areas were designated around 20 years ago using the data that we had then. Things have changed dramatically in the natural world since then and we need to respond to help ensure that Smew and other waterbirds remain well protected.”

The National Organiser of the BTO’s Wetland Bird Survey, Chas Holt says: “The UK data that contributed to this study were collected by the dedicated volunteers of the UK’s Wetland Bird Survey.

“The published results are an excellent example of how collaboration across a species’ range can generate outputs that are of direct relevance to conservation.”

In Latvia and Sweden, however, the protected area network supports fewer than one in five Smew and in Finland that proportion drops to just one in 50.

Hearn says: “In this newly occupied region there aren’t enough protected areas and that could constrict the population as they spread north.”

The authors emphasise that protected areas also need to be maintained at the southern end of the birds’ range, in western Europe, so that they have somewhere to retreat during particularly harsh winters, such as during December 2010.

In the UK, a small population typically of fewer than 200 Smew can be found in winter at favoured gravel pits and reservoirs in lowland England. This UK population has approximately halved since the late 1990s.

These results are based on data from the International Waterbird Census, coordinated by Wetlands International, from 16 countries since 1990 and the findings were published in the scientific journal Diversity and Distributions.

Alpine long-eared bats, new study


This video says about itself:

The Brown long-eared bat (Plecotus auritus)

A relatively large European bat, the most impressive and distinctive feature of the brown long-eared bat is its large ears. Like most insectivorous bats, it uses echolocation to locate its prey, at frequencies between 27-56 kHz, with a Fmax of 45kHz and an average duration of 2.5ms. Brown long-eared bats also use prey generated sounds and vision to locate prey.

Flying slowly through cluttered habitats, preferably woodlands, it often gleans prey from the surface of vegetation. Found throughout Northern Europe, this is a fairly common bat, but nonetheless one of the more interesting European species.

From Earth Times:

Bats fly high and DNA techniques are classy

By Paul Robinson Paul Robinson – 12 Jan 2015 19:51:1 GMT

We owe the bats a favour as they have previously starred for us in several accounts of communication and evolution. Before, we have noted effects such as social networking and flight changes on the life of bats. This time, a paper on a relatively new species, the alpine long-eared bat, Plecotus macrobullaris explores its diverse habitat. Its discovery in 2002 was followed by surprising sightings far away around the Mediterranean coasts, where the climate is far from alpine.

This species is the only bat to feed above the tree line, but it uses its foraging ability there at lower altitude too. Any animal has to shelter in crevices or among rocks if there are no trees. The bat follows suit with its feeding discovered by using novel molecular techniques of analysis using DNA barcodes, found in the bat faeces. For the first time the prey are identified in this paper down to species level, which is great news for ecologists. The authors, Antton Alberdi, Inazio Garin, Ostaizka Aizpurua, Joxerra Aihartza of the University of the Basque Country publish in Plos One

The hunting strategy of the animal as it flies the alpine meadows is known now to involve 44 moth species that hide in narrow spaces, particularly in 6 named types of habitat. They were mainly noctuids but light relief for the researchers was provided by daddy-long-legs (tipulids) and the small elephant hawk moth. These occurred at many heights, indicating a broad range of elevations for their habitat (in 42.8% of the bats.)

Most of the moths inhabited subalpine meadows and the habitats bordering those, all of them open in character. The plants hosts for moths were grassland species while the wingspan of those caught averaged 3.8cm (almost 1.5”.) Obviously this is a moth specialist, as recorded from Turkey to Spain and Austria. Other long-ears (genus Plecotus) eat a greater variety of moths, probably because of the limited high-mountain environment. Techniques could affect results by missing less abundant moths however.

So how alpine is the bat? In summer, they can be found between 1500 and 2500m. Half of the samples reflected this, showing that meadows in flower enable the alpine bat to exploit a different food source from those hunting lower down the mountain. Great scientific interest lies in the co-evolution of moth ears to hear the bat and the bats echolocation to combat this. Plecotus spp. use low-intensity calls to avoid detection while hawking. — until it is too late!

As the first use of a highly-advanced technique this study advertises the utility of DNA bar coding. More species need to be added, especially as 4.3% of samples failed to match any known bar code. New species anybody? (This is unlikely as many species are still to be coded.) Also, the bat only visits the high pastures in June, so assumptions about spring habitat are on hold. The rest of the bat’s life history are due to be worked out, now we know what happens during the feeding and breeding season.