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Neonics May Be Killing Birds in Addition to Bees, Groundbreaking Study Finds
By Julia Conley
In addition to devastating effects on bee populations and the pollination needed to feed humans and other species, widely-used pesticides chemically related to nicotine may be deadly to birds and linked to some species' declines, according to a new study.
Researchers at the University of Saskatchewan studied the pesticide imidacloprid, in the nicotine-linked class of chemicals called neonicotinoids, or neonics, and found that the pesticide had effects on migrating birds' health and ability to reproduce.
We've heard a lot about neonics & bees—but they're hurting birds too.— EHN (@EnvirHealthNews) September 12, 2019
A first-of-its-kind study on wild birds shows the pesticides make them lose weight and delays migration.https://t.co/LDep60W0ay
The scientists gave small amounts of the pesticide to white-crowned sparrows and found that the limited consumption caused the birds to lose weight and delay their migration.
Within hours of being given the neonics, the birds stopped eating and lost an average of six percent of their body weight and about 17 percent of their fat stores, making it impossible for them to complete their long flights south. The birds took at least an extra 3.5 days to recover and migrate.
"It's just a few days, but we know that just a few days can have significant consequences for survival and reproduction," Margaret Eng, an ecotoxicologist who led the study told Science magazine, where the research was published Friday.
The disruption of the species' normal migration led to decreased ability to reproduce and survive, the researchers found.
The study "causatively links a pesticide to something that is really, tangibly negative to birds that is causing their population declines," study author Christy Morrissey told the Associated Press. "It's clear evidence these chemicals can affect populations."
More than 70 percent of North American farmland bird species are currently experiencing population declines.
The research shows for the first time "behavioral effects in free-living birds as result of neonicotinoid intoxication," Caspar Hallmann, an ecologist at Radboud University in the Netherlands, told National Geographic after reviewing Eng's study.
Scientists in Europe revealed in 2017 that neonicotinoids can decimate honey bee populations, threatening food sources for humans and other species.
The European Union banned the use of neonics in 2018 due to their effects on pollinators.
The EPA announced in May it would cancel the registrations of 12 neonicotinoid pesticides, but in July, the Trump administration removed restrictions on sulfoxaflor, a neonic that's been found to kill bees in low doses.
"Agricultural pesticides, especially bee-killing neonics, have no place on our national wildlife refuges," senior Center for Biological Diversity attorney Hannah Connor said. https://t.co/3MsMEC46BW— Center for Bio Div (@CenterForBioDiv) August 9, 2018
Reposted with permission from our media associate Common Dreams.
EcoWatch Daily Newsletter
By Dr. Brian R. Shmaefsky
One year after the Flint Water Crisis I was invited to participate in a water rights session at a conference hosted by the US Human Rights Network in Austin, Texas in 2015. The reason I was at the conference was to promote efforts by the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) to encourage scientists to shine a light on how science intersects with human rights, in the U.S. as well as in the context of international development. My plan was to sit at an information booth and share my stories about water quality projects I spearheaded in communities in Bangladesh, Colombia, and the Philippines. I did not expect to be thrown into conversations that made me reexamine how scientists use their knowledge as a public good.
The shipping industry is coming to grips with its egregious carbon footprint, as it has an outsized contribution to greenhouse gas emissions and to the dumping of chemicals into open seas. Already, the global shipping industry contributes about 2 percent of global carbon emissions, about the same as Germany, as the BBC reported.
The Jefferson Memorial in Washington, DC overlooks the Tidal Basin, a man-made body of water surrounded by cherry trees. Visitors can stroll along the water's edge, gazing up at the stately monument.
But at high tide, people are forced off parts of the path. Twice a day, the Tidal Basin floods and water spills onto the walkway.