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Posts Tagged ‘conservation

“If we pollute the air, water and soil that keep us alive and well, and destroy the biodiversity that allows natural systems to function, no amount of money will save us”*…

Countries around the world depend on a range of vital natural services to help maintain the health and stability of their communities and economies. Better known as biodiversity and ecosystem services, these include food provision, water security and regulation of local air quality among others.

These services underpin all economic activity in our societies globally. Assessing biodiversity risks is complex, however, as there is a massive underlying collection of risks. To build understanding of this global issue and foster dialogue around biodiversity, Swiss Re Institute has developed a new Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (BES) Index.

Swiss Re Institute’s BES Index reveals that over half (55%) of global GDP is dependent on biodiversity and ecosystem services. It also shows that in a fifth of all countries, ecosystems are in a fragile state for more than 30% of the entire country area…

From SwissRe (the second-largest reinsurance company in the world): “Habitat, water security and air quality: New index reveals which sectors and countries are at risk from biodiversity loss.”

Pair with “The Library at the End of the World,” a bracing and important essay from Australia, one of the “front lines” in the fight against the devastating effects of climate change.

* David Suzuki

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As we recall that this is the only earth we get, we might spare a thought for Margaret Thomas “Mardy” Murie; she died on this date in 2003. Called the “Grandmother of the Conservation Movement” by both the Sierra Club and the Wilderness Society, she helped in the passage of the Wilderness Act, and was instrumental in creating the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. She was the recipient of the Audubon Medal, the John Muir Award, and the Presidential Medal of Freedom—the highest civilian honor awarded by the United States.

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“Round and round they went with their snakes, snakily”*…

 

Python

 

If pythons are the snake that ate the Everglades, the apocryphal legend of their takeover begins with an appropriately cinematic opening scene. In 1992, Hurricane Andrew plowed into the state, killing 65 people and leveling thousands of homes, as well as—so the story goes—a Burmese python breeding facility.

The reality of their introduction to the area may be less exciting. “The scientific thinking, I believe, is that they were probably animals that were discarded by pet owners deep down into the Everglades,” said Steve Johnson, an associate professor of wildlife ecology and conservation at the University of Florida.

The population of Burmese pythons in the Everglades is impossible to measure with much accuracy. Since the first reported sighting of one in the wild in Florida in 1979, their numbers have exploded. Estimates from the USGS indicate there could be tens of thousands to hundreds of thousands of them in South Florida. Regardless of their actual population size, their impact is clear: pythons have decimated biodiversity in the area. The hungry snakes will consume almost any animal in their path. They seize their prey using sharp, rear-facing fangs that are long enough to pierce a hunter’s arm. Then the snake coils around its victim, constricting the animal until it’s dead. Some hunters, to protect their lower legs from bites, wear camouflage-patterned snake gaiters, light armor that’s similar to shin guards worn by soccer players. But most go without, preferring intuition and quick reflexes over adding another layer of clothing to sweat through in the muggy glades.

To stem the tide of invasive species from the exotic-pet trade, the FWC holds amnesty days that allow pet owners to surrender animals to the agency without penalty. Although most pets that get released into the glades don’t survive, some outlier species like the Burmese python become established in their new ecosystems.

In this case, “established” sounds like an understatement. Pythons have taken over. Everything else has become prey. Since 2003, rabbit populations have disappeared from USGS study areas. Foxes, raccoons, possums, bobcats, and other species are all but gone. Pythons devoured the mammals and have moved on to birds, other reptiles, and possibly fish. The snakes can bring down animals as large as deer—which can either struggle and tear themselves away or become dinner—and even alligators.

Scientists have long suspected that pythons were consuming whole populations of small mammals in the Everglades and have made efforts at estimating the impacts. But exact population counts are impossible in such a vast wilderness. In a 2015 study led by Robert McCleery at the University of Florida, researchers translocated marsh rabbits into an area of the Everglades inhabited by a large number of pythons. At first the rabbits survived. Then temperatures began to rise, and with the warming weather, pythons slithered out of hiding and began to feast. In one year, they had eaten 77 percent of the rabbits…

Pythons are devouring native animal life in the unique ecosystem of South Florida. To help solve the problem, Florida Fish and Wildlife officials have turned to amateur and professional hunters to round up the reptiles in a wild competition called the Python Bowl: “The Misunderstood Python Hunters Saving the Everglades.”

* Aldous Huxley, Brave New World

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As we ruminate on reptiles, we might recall that it was on this date in 1780 that a combination of thick smoke, fog, and heavy cloud cover caused so complete a darkness to fall on Eastern Canada and the New England area of the United States that candles were needed at noon.  The drear, known as “New England’s Dark Day,” did not disburse until the following evening.

Dark-Day-Full-Image source

 

Written by LW

May 19, 2020 at 1:01 am

“The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The second best time is now.”*…

 

tree

The Treeographer [is] a collection of the true histories of significant or symbolic trees from around the world. The stories cover a wide variety of topics, including culture, history, science, religion, and more… All of the stories to date are organized geographically in the Archive. If you aren’t sure where to start, try Ogawa’s Sacred Cedar – A 780 Million Yen Rescue Mission

Nick Rowan shares his passion: The Treeographer.

* Chinese proverb

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As we take the shade, we might spare a thought for Gerald “Gerry” Malcolm Durrell; he died on this date in 1995.  A British naturalist, zookeeper, conservationist, author, and television presenter, most of his work was rooted in his life as an animal collector and enthusiast… though he is probably most widely known for his autobiographical book My Family and Other Animals and its successors, Birds, Beasts, and Relatives and The Garden of the Gods... which have been made into television and radio mini-series many times, most recently as ITV’s/PBS’s The Durrells.

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“The first problem for all of us, men and women, is not to learn, but to unlearn”*…

 

In February of 1966, Bobbi Gibb received a letter in her mailbox from the organizers of the Boston Marathon. She expected to find her competition number inside the package. Instead she found herself reading a disqualifying letter. It stated that women are “not physiologically able to run a marathon.” The Amateur Athletics Union prohibited women from running farther than 1.5 miles, and the organizers just couldn’t “take the liability” of having her compete.

Refusing to take no for an answer, two months later the 23-year-old hid in a forsythia bush near the marathon start line. Disguising herself in a hoodie and her brother’s Bermuda shorts, she joined the throng once half the men had already started running. Her identity was soon obvious, but she only received encouragement, spectators yelling, “Way to go, girlie!”

Three hours, 21 minutes, and 40 seconds later, Gibb tore through the finish line ahead of two-thirds of the male competitors…

The remarkable tale in toto at “The Woman Who Crashed the Boston Marathon.”

* Gloria Steinem

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As we cheer her on, we might send similarly admiring birthday greetings to Jane Morris Goodall; she was born on this date in 1934.   A primatologist and anthropologist, her (over 55-year) study of the social and family interactions of wild chimpanzees in Tanzania have made her the world’s foremost expert on chimpanzees.

Born and raised in Kenya, she reached out to the archaeologist and palaeontologist Louis Leakey, who was coincidentally looking for someone to study primate behavior.  With his support, she became the eighth person to be allowed to study for a PhD at Cambridge University without first having obtained a BA or BSc– after which, she returned to Africa and her life’s work.

She is the founder of the Jane Goodall Institute and the Roots & Shoots program, and has worked extensively on conservation and animal welfare issues.  She has served on the board of the Nonhuman Rights Project since its founding in 1996.  In April 2002, she was named a UN Messenger of Peace.

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“We should preserve every scrap of biodiversity as priceless while we learn to use it and come to understand what it means to humanity”*…

 

According to Bioversity International, an international research and policy organization, just three crops — rice, wheat and maize — provide more than half of plant-derived calories consumed worldwide. This is a problem because our diets are heavy in calories, sugar and saturated fat and low in fruits and vegetables…

Generally, agrobiodiversity is significantly lower in wealthy nations, where the industrial food system pushes toward genetic uniformity. For example, federal agriculture policy in the United States tends to favor raising large crops of corn and soybeans, which are big business. Crop subsidiesfederal renewable fuel targets and many other factors reinforce this focus on a few commodity crops.

In turn, this system drives production and consumption of inexpensive, low-quality food based on a simplified diet. The lack of diversity of fruit and vegetables in the American diet has contributed to a national public health crisis that is concentrated among socioeconomically disadvantaged groups. Low agrobiodiversity also makes U.S. agriculture more vulnerable to pests, diseases, and climate change.

To connect these conditions to agrobiodiversity, consider potatoes. Although the United States has 10 times more people than Peru, only about 150 varieties of potato are sold here. Six varieties account for three-quarters of our national potato harvest. They dominate because they produce high yields under optimal conditions and are easy to store, transport and process — especially into french fries and potato chips. Federal policies have helped these varieties become established by reducing the cost of irrigation…

Global shifts of urbanization, migration, markets, and climate can be compatible with agrobiodiversity, but other powerful forces are undermining it: “Agrobiodiversity Is Disappearing at a Time When We Need It Most.”

To put all of this in (very) deep historical perspective, see also: “Why Did We Start Farming.”

* E. O. Wilson

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As we value variety, we might spare a thought for Benton MacKaye; he died on this date in 1975.  A forester, planner, professor, and conservationist, he wrote widely on land preservation and on the need to balance human needs and those of nature, and he co-founded The Wilderness Society.  But he is best known as the originator of the Appalachian Trail— a 2,000-mile footpath from Maine to Georgia– an idea he presented in his 1921 article titled An Appalachian Trail: A Project in Regional Planning.  The Benton MacKaye Trail, some portions of which coincide with the Appalachian Trail, is named for him.

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