Japanese Fisheries Collapsed Due to Pesticides, New Research Says
The long-term study seems to have borne out the prophecy of Rachel Carson's seminal 1962 book Silent Spring, in which the author describes the nefarious trickle down effects of chemical pesticides that could "still the leaping of fish." While it is impossible to say that the use of pesticides caused the collapse of the fishery, the correlation is extremely strong.
The researchers looked at the degradation of the food chain around rice paddies after the introduction of the pesticide neonicotinoids in 1993 in Japan. The study showed an immediate decline in insect and plankton populations in Lake Shinji after the pesticide was sprayed in nearby rice fields, as The Guardian reported.
The decline in insects and plankton then led to the collapse of eel and smelt populations, which rely on the tiny insects for food. The scientists looked at other possible causes for the collapse of the smelt and eel fisheries, but those were all ruled out. The scientists say there is "compelling evidence" that neonicotinoids are the culprit, as The Guardian reported.
The pesticide has previously been linked to declines in pollinator populations. Researchers have found that it lowers the sperm count of bees and shortens their lifespan, as EcoWatch reported. Its role in colony collapse disorder and in declining butterfly populations caused the European Union to ban the world's most popular insecticide for all outdoor use in 2018, as Reuters reported.
Previous studies have also linked ripple effects of the pesticide's application to cause collapses of mayflies, dragonflies and snails. A Dutch study found that bird populations declined where the insecticide was sprayed. In that case, the absence of swallows, starlings and tree sparrows does not mean they were dying, but possibly moved to riper feeding grounds.
By contrast, the study is the first time a potential link has been shown between the insecticide and its effect on other animals, including vertebrates, according to a press release from the American Association for The Advancement of Science.
The year that the insecticide was first applied, 1993, coincided with an 83 percent decrease in the average amount of springtime plankton. A year later, the smelt harvest collapsed from 240 tons per year to just 22 tons in a single year, according to the study. Additionally, the midge, Chironomus plumosus, which smelt also feed on, was one of the worst affected bugs. It vanished completely from all 39 locations sampled in 2016, despite being abundant in 1982.
The researchers noted that Rachel Carson's book was prophetic. In their paper, The Guardian reported, the Japanese researchers said how "she wrote: 'These sprays, dusts and aerosols are now applied almost universally to farms, gardens, forests and homes – nonselective chemicals that have the power to kill every insect, the 'good' and the 'bad', to still the song of birds and the leaping of fish in the streams.' The ecological and economic impact of neonicotinoids on the inland waters of Japan confirms Carson's prophecy."
"This disruption likely also occurs elsewhere, as neonicotinoids are currently the most widely used class of insecticides globally," worth more than $3 billion per year, they said, as The Guardian reported.
The German company Bayer is the world's largest producer of neonicotinoids.
"The annihilation of humble flies and the knock on effects on fish serve as further testament to the dreadful folly of neonicotinoids," said Matt Shardlow, from the charity Buglife, to The Guardian. "Let's hope this is a wake-up call for Asian countries and they move to quickly ban the chemicals from paddyfields."
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EcoWatch Daily Newsletter
By Naomi Larsson
For centuries, the delicate silver dove has been a symbol of love and fidelity.
Biodiversity and Habitat Loss<p>Their near extinction is a symbol of the <a href="https://www.dw.com/en/global-biodiversity-outlook-targets-extinction-summit-new-york-pledge/a-54932895" target="_blank">biodiversity crisis</a> in the UK, largely driven by habitat destruction. Britain is now one of the countries with the most <a href="https://www.wwf.org.uk/future-of-UK-nature#:~:text=The%20UK%20is%20one%20of,than%20half%20are%20in%20decline" target="_blank">depleted nature</a> in the world according to the World Wildlife Fund. Half its plant and animal species are in decline and more than <a href="https://www.rspb.org.uk/about-the-rspb/about-us/media-centre/press-releases/let-nature-sing-wales/#:~:text=a%20natural%20tragedy.-,Over%2040%20million%20birds%20have%20vanished%20from%20UK%20skies%20in,unaware%20of%20the%20impending%20danger" target="_blank">40 million birds</a> have vanished in just half a century.</p><p>"[Turtle doves] are the canary in the [coal] mine because there are all these other species before it and after it," said Tree. "It's an umbrella for all the other species that are heading that way."</p><p>Turtle doves migrate south through Europe to sub-Saharan Africa between July and September, ending up in dry woodland and farmland areas of countries like Mali and Senegal for winter. </p><p>Droughts in West Africa and the Sahel region are believed to have contributed to the fall in turtle dove species recorded in northern Europe, with low rainfall reducing supplies of the seeds and insects the birds rely on for energy for the long journey home.</p>
Conservation and Farming<p><a href="https://www.operationturtledove.org/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Operation Turtle Dove,</a> a partnership project of charities including the Essex Wildlife trust, works with landowners and farmers to actively build turtle dove habitat.</p><p>Outten works with <a href="https://www.ebws.org.uk/birdsites/blue-house-farm-ewt-north-fambridge" target="_blank">Blue House Farm</a>, a 660-acre nature reserve in the UK county of Essex, where they have replicated weedy fallow plots. </p><p>"We work on it every year to make sure it's in the condition it needs to be with plants such as clovers and black medic," Outten said. "These plants are native to the landscape and produce the seed the birds feed on." </p><p>The birds eat a wide range of seeds from various plants that would have been abundant 50 or 100 years ago, added Guy Anderson, program manager for species recovery with The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB). </p><p>"But it's simply true that with the gradual process of <a href="https://www.dw.com/en/farming-without-pesticides-how-can-we-make-agriculture-greener/a-52216796" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">intensifying our agricultural production</a>, the availability of those seeds has dropped and dropped," said Anderson.</p><p>Part of the project includes supplementary feeding — providing sources of food in the form of seed or grain. Under the Countryside Stewardship Scheme in England, farmers can receive financial support to create a turtle dove habitat. </p><p>Though they haven't recorded an increase in doves across the sites in the four years of working on the project, Outten said they are seeing improvements in how landowners and farmers manage habitat for the birds. </p>
A Turtle Dove Haven<p>The 3,500-acre Knepp Estate in West Sussex is another project taking a different approach and one of the few places where turtle dove numbers are increasing.</p><p>Isabella Tree and her husband Charlie Burrell converted their intensively farmed land into a rewilding project almost 20 years ago. They have let the land return to nature.</p><p>Just one year after they'd finished <a href="https://www.dw.com/en/uks-most-talented-architects-are-not-human/a-35952128" target="_blank">rewilding</a> the southern part of their property, they heard turtle doves for the first time. It's now a breeding hotspot for the birds with an estimated 19 pairs. Knepp is also home to <a href="https://www.rewildingbritain.org.uk/rewilding/rewilding-projects/knepp-estate" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">2% of the UK's population</a> of nightingales. </p><p>Tree is critical of supplementary feeding schemes that, in her view, are short term. She questions the chances of turtle doves getting to feed on scattered seeds before other mammals eat them first.</p>
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By Jessica Corbett
Green groups applauded Sen. Jeff Merkley on Wednesday for introducing a pioneering pair of bills that aim to "protect the long-term health and well-being of the American people and their economy from the catastrophic effects of climate chaos" by preventing banks and international financial institutions from financing fossil fuels.