By Elizabeth Claire AlbertsThe Mexican government will no longer protect the habitat of the critically endangered vaquita in the Upper Gulf of California, but has opened the area up to fishing, according to a news report.
It's estimated that there are only about nine vaquitas left in the world.The vaquita (Phocoena sinus), a bathtub-sized porpoise endemic to the Sea of Cortez in Mexico's Upper Gulf of California, has experienced a sharp population decline in the two past two decades, mainly due to illegal gillnet fishing for the critically endangered totoaba (Totoaba macdonaldi).
In 2017, the Mexican government established a "no tolerance" zone to protect the vaquita from illegal fishing, and even expanded the area last September. But now the government has given fishers open access to the refuge, the only enforcement being a "sliding scale of sanctions if more than 60 boats are repeatedly seen in the area," according to Mexico News Daily.
"I fear this might be the death knell for the vaquita, as the plan that has been proposed by Mexico will convert what should be a straightforward 'no go' zone into a complex enforcement area with varying levels of monitoring and deterrence depending on the amount of illegal fishing taking place in the area," Kate O'Connell, marine consultant at the Washington, DC-based Animal Welfare Institute, told Mongabay. "The vaquita are being mismanaged to death."
Two vaquitas in the Sea of Cortez. Sea Shepherd
O'Connell said gillnet fishing is technically still banned in the Upper Gulf of California, but will likely take place in the former "no tolerance" zone without proper monitoring and enforcement.
"Mexico's fisheries authorities are indicating that they are either unable or unwilling to do all that is necessary to save the vaquita and are willing to accept a certain level of gillnet fishing activity," she said. "One hundred percent monitoring and enforcement of the fishing ban only kicks in once more than 50 illegal vessels are seen, or more than 200 meters [660 feet] of illegal gillnets are found in the area."
Andrea Crosta, executive director of Earth League International (ELI), an NGO that has been actively investigating totoaba trafficking in the region, said this move will likely seal the fate of the critically endangered species.
"It means the extinction of the vaquita and in general an increase of illegal gillnets that will have a significant impact on the marine life in the Sea of Cortez," Crosta told Mongabay. "It's like saying to illegal fishermen and totoaba traffickers, do what you want from now on."
Crosta said he thinks that abolishment of the "no tolerance" zone is a political move on behalf of the current Mexican government.
"I think that the current populist administration in Mexico is concerned only about voters, certainly not about environmental protection and endangered species, if this gets in the way of political gain," he said. "And if the vaquita will go extinct I am sure the current administration in Mexico will blame the administration before."
A vaquita swims near a fishing boat using gillnets. CONANP / Museo de la Ballena / SEA SHEPHERD
While this move could be advantageous to local fishers, Crosta said it will be the international totoaba traders, most of whom are Chinese nationals, who will reap the most benefits. "[They] will make a ton of money with even less risks than before," he said.
There have been multiple efforts and hundreds of thousands dollars spent to save the vaquita over the years, ranging from seafood sanctions to gillnet removal programs to illegal fishing patrols. In 2017, there was even an attempt to take the remaining vaquitas into captivity until illegal fishing ceased in the Upper Gulf of California. However, the plan was abandoned when the first captured vaquita died from the stress of capture.
The Sea Shepherd Conservation Society, an international NGO that has been patrolling the Sea of Cortez since 2015, told Mongabay that it "remains committed to preventing the extinction of the vaquita" and that there are plans to return to the Upper Gulf of California as soon as possible to resume its gillnet retrieval efforts.
O'Connell said that AWI, along with the Center for Biological Diversity, the Environmental Investigation Agency and the Natural Resources Defense Council, have made urgent pleas to the international community to "both provide logistical and financial support to Mexico and to put pressure on the government by means of trade sanctions and other actions to ensure that the vaquita is saved."
"Despite their low numbers, there is still a slight glimmer of hope for the vaquita, if an actual complete shutdown of gillnet activity in the area can be achieved," O'Connell said. "The few remaining vaquita appear healthy and a number of calves have been spotted in recent years by researchers."
But Crosta said that unless the Mexican government works to dispel the totoaba cartels, he doesn't see "any hope for the vaquita."
"This is what happens when you focus only on anti-poaching and local communities, and not also on the trafficking networks and organized crime that run the whole show," he said. "This is what happens when there is a lot of indifference and incompetence."
Reposted with permission from Mongabay.
By Carla B. Possamai and Sarisha Trindade
As the rainforests of Brazil disappear, so do their unique inhabitants. A tiny monkey represents the dangers faced by much of Brazil's biodiversity but also illustrates the opportunity we have to save them.
The buffy-headed marmoset (Callithrix flaviceps)
This miniscule marmoset is a small, neotropical primate that weighs just 1 pound (460g) on average. It's endemic to the Atlantic forests of the southeastern region of Brazil, where it has the smallest distribution of any species in the Callithrix genus.
Courtesy Mountain Marmosets Conservation Program
Buffy-headed marmosets have a light, gray-brownish coat, with a cream-colored face, a yellowish-beige head and neck, and short, yellowish ear tufts. One endearing characteristic is the grayish shade of the fur above their eyes, which gives their faces a clownish appearance.
Where it's found:
These marmosets live mainly in the Atlantic forest fragments in the states of Espírito Santo and Minas Gerais, in southeastern Brazil. They range from south of the Rio Doce in Minas Gerais into the mountainous region of Espírito Santo state. The southernmost part of the species' range extends west into eastern Minas Gerais, where it's found in scattered localities in the Rio Manhuaçu basin as far as the Manhuaçu municipality.
The range of the species distribution overlaps with that of buffy tufted-ear marmoset (C. aurita), where a natural hybridization zone occurs.
The species inhabits areas that have suffered the effects of numerous anthropogenic pressures through extensive fragmentation and deforestation of forests due to expansion of urban areas, mining and agricultural activities. This has led to the replacement of native flora by pastures, coffee and eucalyptus plantations, as well as harmful activities like burning that are associated with agricultural expansion.
Peter Schoen (CC BY-SA 2.0)
In addition to these threats, the introduction of invasive primate species such as the common marmoset (C. jacchus) and black-eared marmoset (C. pencillata) precipitated a serious increase in competition and hybridization with the buffy-headed marmoset. Hybridization is particularly concerning as it leads to the loss of the genetic characteristics and could ultimately be a cause of extinction if the current scenario persists.
Another serious threat to the species comes from emerging diseases such as yellow fever, which since the last epidemic outbreak in 2016 has eliminated countless individuals of the species in the wild. We estimate that this has led to a sharp drop in C. flaviceps in some regions.
IUCN Red List status:
The buffy-headed marmoset status has only recently been updated to critically endangered by the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species due to a drastic population reduction. This decline is in large part the consequence of habitat destruction, the effects of hybridization and competition with invasive marmoset species, and the yellow fever epidemic that has reduced at least one of the more significant subpopulations by 90%.
Notable conservation programs or legal protections:
The Brazilian Ministry of Environment, through the ICMBio (Chico Mendes Institute for Biodiversity Conservation), has created National Action Plans that aim to prioritize conservation actions to support endangered species. The National Action Plan for the Conservation of the Atlantic Forest Primates and the Maned Sloth (PAN PPMA), created in 2018, covers 13 native species, including the buffy-headed marmoset and the closely related buffy-tufted marmoset, also an endangered species.
There are also initiatives for the conservation of marmosets, such as the Mountain Marmosets Conservation Program, which has been working in collaboration with several researchers and national and international institutions to put into practice the actions established by the PPMA PAN.
Through this program a series of guides, protocols and decision keys are currently being developed to conduct studies and research with C. flaviceps. and C. aurita. One of the actions originated from this international project was the creation of the Mountain Marmosets Conservation Center at the Federal University of Viçosa, which is the first center of primatology in the world focused exclusively on both mountain marmosets, and in developing conservation activities in situ and ex situ.
Our favorite experiences:
Carla: My favorite experience with this species came at a moment of great stress and concern.
I was conducting a primate community assessment at my study site, at the Private Protected Reserve of Natural Heritage — Feliciano Miguel Abdala in Caratinga, Minas Gerais, following the yellow fever outbreak that hit the southeastern region of the Atlantic forest late in 2016.
This site was once known for having one of the most important subpopulations of the species. However, the forest had become eerily quiet, and after several months of intense field work there were no signs of the groups that used to range this 4 square mile (1,000-hectare) forest fragment. I began to suspect the worse and to fear that the marmosets had been decimated and perhaps become locally extinct.
Fortunately, while I was conducting this monitoring, I finally managed to locate a couple of groups. It was a tremendous relief to me to see these animals and to know that they had not become locally extinct. Since that time I have been keeping track of these primates and I hope that our work will lead us to new findings and benefit their conservation in the wild.
Sarisha: I'm currently studying the buffy-headed marmoset at Macedônia Farm, a private natural reserve in Ipaba, a small town located in central Minas Gerais. Here I lead a population survey to contribute knowledge about the species locally and to develop conservation strategies.
There hadn't been any previous studies focusing on the species in this region, and we only had a few reports of their historic presence. Nevertheless, we managed to discover a few healthy and large groups, bringing a positive perspective for the species in the area.
For me, my favorite experience with this species has been observing these animals in the wild, in what remains of their natural habitat. The buffy-headed marmoset is a remarkable little primate, so for me it is these moments during fieldwork where I can appreciate their beauty and witness their dexterity in the trees.
What else do we need to understand or do to protect this species?
To effectively conserve this marmoset we need urgent studies concerning the occurrence of hybridization, interaction with the invasive species and the impacts of deforestation and yellow fever.
On top of that, there are significant knowledge gaps regarding their general behavior and ecology that we would like to fill by conducting further research.
- Ferrari, S. F. (1988). The behaviour and ecology of the buffy-headed marmoset, Callithrix flaviceps (O. Thomas, 1903) (Vol. 1988). University College London.
- Ferrari, S. F. (2009). Social Hierarchy and Dispersal in Free-Ranging Buffy-Headed Marmosets (Callithrix flaviceps). The Smallest Anthropoids, 155–165. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-1-4419-0293-1
- Hilário, R. R. (2003). Padão de Atividades, Dieta e Uso do Habitat por Callithrix flaviceps na Reserva Biológica Augusto Ruschi, Santa Teresa, ES. Ecologia, May 2009, 1–115.
- Malukiewicz, J. (2019). A Review of Experimental, Natural, and Anthropogenic Hybridization in Callithrix Marmosets. International Journal of Primatology, 40(1), 72–98. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10764-018-0068-0
Carla B. Possamai is a biologist/primatologist researcher affiliated with the Brazilian ONG Muriqui Institute of Biodiversity. Possamai is the coordinator of the Primate Community of Caratinga project in Caratinga, Minas Gerais, which has been focusing on the studies and conservation actions regarding the buffy-headed marmosets amongst other critically endangered primate species. This project is currently funded by the Margot Marsh Biodiversity Foundation through Global Wildlife Conservation. Carla is also a long-term collaborator with Dr. Karen Strier at the Muriqui Project of Caratinga.
Sarisha Trindade is a veterinary/master's student at the Department of Animal Biology at Federal University of Viçosa, Brazil. Her research focuses on the ecology and conservation of Callithrix flaviceps in a natural private reserve and surrounding forests located in Ipaba, a small city in central Minas Gerais. This research is financed by the cellulose company Cenibra in partnership with the Department of Forest Engineering of Federal University of Viçosa. She also works in the Mountain Marmosets Conservation Center at the Federal University of Viçosa.
Reposted with permission from The Revelator.
The cost of solar panels has declined roughly 80% in the last decade, bolstering the technology's reputation as an affordable energy source like never before. Now that solar power has reached this cost-effective price point, customers and businesses looking to capitalize on the benefits of solar energy are flooding the market looking for cheap solar panels.
In this article, we'll discuss the most affordable solar panels available and whether it's better to save money upfront or invest in high-quality models. We'll also give recommendations for solar panels at the crossroads of affordability and efficiency, providing the best bang for your buck.
If you're looking for cheap solar panels, one way to find them is to get free quotes from multiple installation companies. By comparing pricing from a few local installers, you can make sure you're getting the best deal. To get started, fill out the simple form below.
Are Cheap Solar Panels Any Good?
The cheapest panels are typically manufactured in China (with the U.S. and Germany close behind), and some are cheap for a reason. They can come with underlying issues, most concerningly in the form of environmental and workers' rights violations in their production process.
Cheap solar panels also tend to be less durable and will likely come with a shorter lifespan. In fact, the cheapest upfront options sometimes end up being the most expensive in the long run. A good comparison is buying a car. Though the cheap initial cost of a beater may be the most tempting, frequent repairs, poor gas mileage and checkups can outweigh the initial savings within a few short years.
However, for those whose most important consideration is price, there are still some good options for cheap solar panels on the market today to turn your home into a renewable energy source.
Top 5 Cheap Solar Panels
Below are the five of the cheapest photovoltaic solar panels (that are rated at least 100W) on the market. Bear in mind that the current industry minimum for solar panels capable of powering a home is around 300W. Panels between 100W and 300W may be suitable for DIY solar projects, off-grid systems and charging things like portable generators or small appliances.
Note that prices and availability fluctuate with inventory, demand and supply chain issues. Prices change often when vendors have surplus supply, so sales are frequent. Customers will not be able to purchase some brands' panels directly, as they must be ordered from a distributor.
|Cheap Solar Panel||Price Per Panel||Power Rating||Price Per Watt||Efficiency Rating||Warranty|
100W 12 Volt
|$125||100W||$1.25||21%||1-year materials warranty|
|$225||350W||$0.60||20.3%||Limited 25-year warranty|
|$225||315W||$0.71||18.68%||25-year output warranty|
- SIL-330 NL
|$250||330W||$0.76||17.3%||12-year module warranty|
|$260||360W||$0.72||19.8%||25-year output warranty|
Cheap Vs. Affordable Solar Panels
There's a key distinction between cheap solar panels and the most affordable solar panels. Cheap considers only the price tag. Affordability involves factors beyond initial price, such as price per watt (aka bang for your buck), efficiency of the panel and warranty. A cheap solar panel isn't worth anything if it breaks without a warranty to replace it.
The cost of a solar panel is set by the manufacturer and involves a variety of factors, from cost of production to expected lifetime. Let's break down the factors that go into solar panel costs.
Solar Panel Efficiency
The greater a panel's efficiency, the more energy each solar cell's power output will be. Efficiency matters, as a homeowner will have to buy far fewer panels to meet their energy needs with higher-efficiency panels. The most solar efficient panels usually cost more to manufacture, raising their price point and total installed cost.
Solar Panel Power
The power, or wattage, of a solar panel reflects how many watts (W) of energy the panel is capable of generating when producing at maximum capacity. Most modern residential solar panels have power factors between 300 and 350W. As is true with high-efficiency panels, a customer needs to purchase fewer panels overall if they have a higher power output. While they'll typically have a greater upfront cost, high-output panels will provide better value over time.
Solar Panel Warranty
A warranty is simple to understand, yet no less important to consider. Bearing in mind that the average lifetime of a solar panel system is about 25 years, warranties are essential in ensuring reliable energy output. Though solar panels are very durable, a lot can happen over 25 years. Falling tree branches can crack a panel, rooftop critters can chew up wiring and untreated water damage can corrode a system. Some of the cheapest panels will come with the worst warranties, and costs can add up quickly if a solar power system runs into trouble.
Solar Panel Quality
Similar to solar panel efficiency and power, the cost of a solar panel has much to do with its quality. The cheapest solar panels on the market will be of the poorest quality, making them far more prone to breaks, issues and quick aging. The higher the quality of the parts in a solar panel, the more expensive it becomes. However, this is just another time when "cheap" panels are far from the most affordable solar panels in the long run.
5 Best Value Solar Panels
With all this in mind, below are our recommendations for the most affordable home solar panels on the market in 2021.
|Price Per Panel||Power Rating||Price Per Watt||Efficiency Rating||Warranty|
|$225||350W||$0.60||20.3%||Limited 25-year warranty|
Hanwha Q Cell
340W Q.PEAK DUO
|$225||315W||$0.71||18.68%||25-year output warranty|
|$260||360W||$0.72||19.8%||25-year output warranty|
JA Solar Technology
|$240||330W||$0.73||20.2%||25-year output warranty|
LONGi and Q Cell are two of the most affordable solar brands that maintain reputations for good quality at a low price. As you can see, they both provide exceptional price per watt and efficiency without sacrificing warranty.
A solar installation with low price per watt and high efficiency provides a number of benefits for a solar customer. With more power and efficiency per panel, a homeowner won't need to purchase as many panels to meet their household energy needs.
FAQ: Cheap Solar Panels
What kind of solar panels are the cheapest?
Polycrystalline solar panels tend to be cheaper (and lower quality) than monocrystalline panels. You can read more about the difference between these types of panels in our monocrystalline vs. polycrystalline solar panel review.
What is the cheapest way to get solar panels?
The cheapest way to acquire solar panels is to purchase them through a distributor in bulk. Though one can save a significant amount of money purchasing and installing solar panels on their own, solar companies can access a wider range of products and get them for lower prices than what's available to the general public.
Should I buy cheap solar panels?
There are many excellent affordable options for solar panels due to the rapid advancement of the technology and industry behind them. There are also a great number of cheap panels that are unreliable, break easily and are likely produced unethically. The best solar panels balance quality and price.
What are the best brands of cheap solar panels?
For DIY installations of off-grid uses, Renogy produces and sells excellent solar panels that are around 100 watts. For residential applications, LONGi and Q Cell have the best reputation for affordable, high-quality solar panels.
Karsten Neumeister is a writer and renewable energy specialist with a background in writing and the humanities. Before joining EcoWatch, Karsten worked in the energy sector of New Orleans, focusing on renewable energy policy and technology. A lover of music and the outdoors, Karsten might be found rock climbing, canoeing or writing songs when away from the workplace.
"The EPA doesn't need any more proof," said one expert after agency analyses detailed threat to endangered species.
By Andrea Germanos
Environmental and food safety advocates highlighted Thursday the decline in iconic pollinators following new analyses released by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency showing three widely used neonicotinoid insecticides are "likely to adversely affect" the majority of the endangered plants and animals the agency assessed.
"Now the EPA can't ignore the fact that these popular insecticides are wiping out our country's most endangered plants and animals," Lori Ann Burd, environmental health director at the Center for Biological Diversity, said in a statement.
"Neonicotinoids are used so widely, and in such large quantities," she said, "that even the EPA's industry-friendly pesticide office had to conclude that few endangered species can escape their toxic effects."
Burd's comments came in response to draft biological evaluations for three neonicotinoids, or "neonics," which are: clothianidin, imidacloprid and thiamethoxam. The evaluations, which now face a 60-day public comment period, were required by settlements the agency reached earlier this year with NRDC and the Center for Food Safety (CFS).
Neonics have come under the repeated scrutiny of environmental watchdogs and scientists, with previous studies linking their use to harm to insects, including bees and butterflies, as well as birds and freshwater marine species.
In its Thursday statement, the Center for Biologicical Diversity summarized the EPA's damning findings on the neonics' adverse impacts to threatened species and their habitats :
Nearly 80% of all endangered species—1,445 different kinds of plants and animals—are likely to be "adversely affected" by imidacloprid, and the pesticide will adversely modify the designated critical habitats of 658 species.
For thiamethoxam, 1,396 (77% of all) endangered species are likely to be adversely affected, and the pesticide will adversely modify the designated critical habitats of 644 species. About two thirds of all endangered species, 1,225, are likely to be adversely affected by clothianidin, and the pesticide will adversely modify the designated critical habitats of 644 species.
CFS also noted the "remarkable levels of harm" the evaluations found with regards to the neonics.
According to George Kimbrell, legal director of the group, the analyses "confirm what scientists have told EPA and industry for over a decade: These extremely toxic pesticides are causing drastic ecological harm, both the collapse of bee populations as well as putting literally hundreds of endangered species at extinction risk across the country."
In light of that confirmation, Kimbrell urged the Biden administration "to complete its process with all due speed in order to start protecting these iconic species."
Burd, in her comments, stressed that there's simply no reason for the EPA to further drag its feet on taking neonics off the shelves.
"The EPA doesn't need any more proof. It should ban neonicotinoids right now," she said, pointing to "a heartbreaking extinction crisis" in which neonics "are playing an outsized role."
"Pollinator populations are declining nationwide," Burd said, citing as evidence the decline in the American bumblebee. "Once the most common bumblebee in the country, [it] has declined by an estimated 89% in just the past 20 years. There are more Starbucks stores than monarch butterflies in California."
"What will it take," she asked, "for the EPA to act on this information and ban these deadly chemicals?"
Reposted with permission from Common Dreams.
In an attempt to protect the dwindling numbers of Tasmanian devils, an "insurance population" was shipped to Maria Island causing "catastrophic" damage to the native birdlife, including the elimination of little penguins on the small Australian island.
"Every time humans have deliberately or accidentally introduced mammals to oceanic islands, there's always been the same outcome … a catastrophic impact on one or more bird species," Dr. Eric Woehler, the convener of BirdLife Tasmania said to The Guardian.
The population of little penguins has declined since the Tasmanian devils were introduced in 2012, but according to a report by BirdLife Tasmania, the most recent survey showed that the penguins were completely gone from the island, according to The Guardian.
The Tasmanian devils were moved to the island because of the threat of the highly contagious and deadly devil facial tumor disease.
Just a decade ago, the 45 square mile island was the home to around 3,000 breeding pairs of little penguins.
Little penguins are the smallest of all the penguin species.BirdLife Tasmania / Eric Woehler
"Losing 3,000 pairs of penguins from an island that is a national park that should be a refuge for this species basically is a major blow," Woehler said to The Guardian.
Before the species were introduced to the island, a 2011 report by the Tasmanian Department of Primary Industries, Parks, and Environment predicted that introducing the carnivorous species would have "a negative impact on little penguin and shearwater colonies on Maria Island through devil predation," according to The Guardian.
In addition to little penguins, researchers also found that Tasmanian devils had also destroyed colonies of short-tailed shearwaters on the Australian island. Wombats and possums are also prey to the devils, according to The Hill.
"Because of their larger size and ability to dig, devils had greater impacts on nesting shearwaters than either cats or possums [which also prey on the birds]," the study found.
Woehler noted that the devils impacted another bird species on the island: Cape Barren geese. The species are ground-nesting birds, but they've been nesting in trees to avoid the Tasmanian devils, he said.
The decision to bring the Tasmanian devils to the island a decade ago was sound according to Woehler because, at that time, the facial tumor disease was not well understood, according to The Guardian.
However, in 2020, researchers found that the facial tumor disease was unlikely to wipe out the population of Tasmanian devils.
The Save the Tasmanian Devil program's government spokesperson said that the program is continually monitored, according to The Independent.
"All effective conservation programs are adaptive and the STDP will continue to evolve in line with new knowledge in science and emerging priorities," the spokesperson said to The Guardian. "This also applies to Maria Island, where active monitoring and management occurs, and Maria Island remains an important part of the broader devil program to help restore and maintain an enduring and resilient wild devil population in Tasmania."
Woehler said, "it's rather hard to justify" keeping the Tasmanian devils on the island because of the new research on the facial disease. He said that it's likely the penguins will return once the devils are removed from the island, according to RT News.
Audrey Nakagawa is the content creator intern at EcoWatch. She is a senior at James Madison University studying Media, Art, and Design, with a concentration in journalism. She's a reporter for The Breeze in the culture section and writes features on Harrisonburg artists, album reviews, and topics related to mental health and the environment. She was also a contributor for Virginia Reports where she reported on the impact that COVID-19 had on college students.
- 32 Brown Pelicans Found Intentionally Mutilated in California Since ... ›
- Species Spotlight: The Buffy-Headed Marmoset Is Menaced on ... ›
By Minh Minh Nguyen
First recognized as a new species in 1993, the large-antlered muntjac is already critically endangered and heading fast toward extinction. As muntjac go, the large-antlered is the largest species, but muntjac in general are small members of the deer family Cervidae. The species is facing a "quiet extinction," hidden away in a miniscule global range in the Annamite Mountains of Laos and Vietnam.
Large-antlered muntjac, also known as the giant muntjac (Muntiacus vuquangensis)
Large-antlered muntjac are a rich, dark brown overall and stand approximately 2 feet (60 cm) high at the shoulder. In common with many deer, they have a white underside to the tail, which is typically raised when alarmed. Like other muntjac they have simple, two-tined antlers, long pedicels and unique paired frontal glands on the rostrum between their eyes. Males, like other male muntjac, have long, sharp canine teeth they use in fighting.
Female large-antlered muntjac. Minh Nguyen / Association Anoulak and Nakai-Nam Theun National Park Authority
Where It's Found:
Annamite Mountain forests of Laos and Vietnam
IUCN Red List Status:
Widespread intensive snaring throughout their small range is the number-one problem. This snaring is driven by a booming wildlife trade that encompasses the derivatives of many species — from well-known products of tigers and pangolins to gelatin derived from primate bones, turtle shells and medicinal plants. The large-antlered muntjac isn't a particular focus of the trade, but snares are indiscriminate. Trade is booming because of the economic and population growth of East Asian countries. Roads, dams, mines and other infrastructure investments make things worse, and because of sustained economic growth these are on the rise.
Illegal wildlife snares in Laos. Bill Robichaud / Global Wildlife Conservation / CC BY 2.0
Notable Conservation Programs or Legal Protections:
NGOs are trying but have no concrete success yet. Foundation Anoulak and Asian Arks are potentially poised to make a difference, but unfortunately even the species' legal protection does little to help.
My Favorite Experience:
In 2015 I saw my first wild muntjac. I was so enthralled by its cautious yet gracious movements and the delicacy of its existence that I immediately knew I wanted to do all I could to save the species from extinction. Going to the forest in Vietnam had always been sad, knowing of the challenges facing distinctive wildlife from rampant poaching. So seeing an animal, especially a large mammal, is always an exhilarating experience when, for a moment at least, I can forget about life's problems.
I love observing animal behavior, but seeing it in the wild, from a muntjac, is almost an impossibility. More often I get a sense of joy looking through camera-trap photos thinking about the behavior I might be observing in a series of photos — perhaps a fawn chasing back and forth around its mom. These are the moments that I'm hoping to see more often in my camera-trap photos; hopefully, when their population has recovered, I can see them in real life.
What else do we need to understand or do to protect this species?
Following the advice of leading conservationists in Southeast Asia, I've been pursuing research to better understand the dynamics of the snaring and the impact it has on the large-antlered muntjac. Currently there's no data on how parameters such as snare density or spatial distribution affect population viability for any Annamite species. So, questions like "how large an area can a patrol team effectively cover?" simply can't be answered.
Better informed, strategic in situ conservation management is needed to save the species. The species has been disappearing so fast, however, that "just in case" ex situ conservation breeding has been recommended.
Minh Minh Nguyen is working to conserve the large-antlered muntjac amongst the brilliant diversity of the Annamite region. Minh and her team's work is supported by the Conservation Leadership Programme (CLP) and the Saola Working Group, and is conducted using permits granted through a collaboration between Nong Lam University and the Chu Yang Sin National Park. Minh is currently a Ph.D. student at Colorado State University, supported by scholarships from the AAUW – International Fellowship, the Wildlife Conservation Network and Colorado State University, where she hopes to gather as much support as she can to change the fate of the species she loves. She's also passionate about education, particularly empowering new generations of conservationists, and continues to mentor undergraduate students back home in Vietnam. When networking with conservation colleagues, she always tries to find opportunities for people new to conservation to get involved.
Reposted with permission from The Revelator.
As ecologists meet to discuss the threat to global biodiversity, some believe that accepting chaos is the best approach.
By Alistair Walsh
Henrique Miguel Pereira likes to tell the story of a grandmother in the northern mountains of Portugal who had never in her life seen a wild boar. She had spent her life in the village of Castro Laboreiro, nestled in the remote peaks of what is now Peneda-Geres National Park.
It should have been prime boar territory, but after centuries of farming and human influence, large mammals had all but disappeared from the area.
It was social and economic upheaval in the 20th century that accidentally transformed the area into a cradle of what is known as passive rewilding — and ecologists have been watching. These days it is almost impossible to avoid seeing wild boar in the region, and even the ibex, which had been regionally extinct for 90 years, has returned.
Passive rewilding is an approach to restoration that allows natural processes to restore themselves. It accepts a certain level of chaos as forests reclaim territory, species return and natural disturbances such as fires, pests and floods kick in.
With global biodiversity being discussed at the United Nations COP15 this week, passive rewilding is one approach that could help reverse catastrophic species loss.
There are three key components to passive rewilding, according to Pereira, a professor of biodiversity conservation at the German Center for Integrative Biodiversity Research at the University of Leipzig. The first is restoring trophic complexity, or biodiversity, by allowing wildlife to return. This usually means restricting hunting, but in rare cases it does involve some relocation.
The second component is allowing landscapes to reconnect so that plants and animals can move around.
The third — and most crucial step — is allowing for unpredictable disturbances such as fires, pests and floods.
But letting things run wild is anathema to the traditional approaches to restoration and can be very difficult to accept for Europeans.
Pereira's thinking is, "if you love it, set it free."
The Problem With Letting Go
One of the strongest arguments in favor of passive rewilding is the low cost compared to more hands-on approaches, especially on a large scale. But widespread forest expansion can turn into a homogenous landscape. And biodiversity tends to hate homogeneity.
Scientists like Pereira, however, maintain that if nature is left to take its course for long enough, unpredictable natural processes will lead to the diversity needed. Large grazers such as bison can clear areas of land and create open patches where biodiversity can thrive, while wild boar disturb soil as they root around for food.
Though much harder to promote, particularly in the era of climate change, another natural disturbance that can lead to transformation and greater species diversity is wildfires.
"We have to embrace the unpredictable. We don't even know how these landscapes may end up. We want to have these ecosystem functions restored and let nature play its role. But this is hard for many people," Pereira said.
A Model for the Rest of Europe?
The patterns seen in the area around Castro Laboreiro aren't unique, with European farmland being abandoned at a rapid pace.
In the first half of the 20th century, Europe was gripped by rapid urbanization, as shifts in agriculture and globalization made many rural lifestyles unsustainable. Remote, mountainous areas were particularly hard-hit, but it affected any areas with natural and physical limits to agricultural production.
Some estimates say farmland totaling twice the size of Hungary will have been abandoned by 2030, and studies show that 30% of all agricultural land in the EU is at least at risk of abandonment. Climate change and globalization will increase this.
Is Letting Go Always the Answer?
Rewilding is a relatively recent field of study, and ecologists in other parts of the world have taken a different approach.
Henrike Schulte to Bühne — a Ph.D. student at the Institute of Zoology and Imperial College London — said scientists in North America are much more focused on bringing back large herbivores and large carnivores.
"Europe has focused more on the passive approach," she said. "And then in Australia, there's this kind of unique situation where there is quite a lot of native flora and fauna left. But you also have all these invasive species so a passive approach would be quite dangerous in a lot of places."
In Britain, Alastair Driver takes a more active approach to rewilding than in Portugal. He is the former head of conservation for the UK government's Environment Agency for England and Wales, and has spent decades working as a conservationist. He is now the director of Rewilding Britain, a small charity that hopes to turn 5% of British land into areas with no measurable human impact.
"You can't suddenly jump to having huge areas where nature is totally taking care of itself, especially in Britain, where you haven't got apex predators and you haven't got a lot of the large herbivores," he said.
"We don't have wolves and bears moving in, we don't have bison and elk, and we have very few wild boar and beaver. So we're missing a whole trophic layer and a half at the top of the ecosystem."
This lack of species means that, in Britain at least, rewilding efforts require a kick-start. It also allows them to act faster.
"We haven't got time to wait 100 years as things slowly start to come back and natural regeneration starts," he said. "I describe it as a marathon, with a sprint start."
Different Journey, Same Destination
One of the first steps in rewilding at Driver's organization is removing sheep. Unlike other grazers, they are very particular about what they eat and can wipe out wildflowers and other important species.
And in the absence of bison, his organization encourages landowners to let rare cattle breeds roam over large areas, leading to a mosaic effect. Similarly, they use old breeds of pigs as a proxy for wild boar, and even ponies in place of the now-extinct tarpan, also known as the Eurasian wild horse.
And if there is a shortage of local trees and scrubs, his group replants these to encourage their spread. Otherwise, they remove fences, allow rivers to find natural paths, create wetlands and remove non-native species.
And while Driver and Pereira differ in their methods, their end goal is the same.
"Rewilding is about not having a preconceived idea about what is going to appear where and which species you're going to have," said Driver.
You may lose some species from a region, but you'll get lots of winners.
Reposted with permission from Deutsch Welle.
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The birds were found dead Friday morning on a beach outside of Cape Town, South Africa, according to AFP and a South African National Parks (SANParks) Table Mountain National Park Facebook Post.
"After tests, we found bee stings around the penguins' eyes," Southern African Foundation for the Conservation of Coastal Birds (SANCCOB) clinical veterinarian David Roberts told AFP Sunday. "This is a very rare occurrence. We do not expect it to happen often, it's a fluke."
SANCCOB was responsible for investigating the deaths, along with SANParks and the City of Cape Town, SANParks said. The birds lived in the Boulders African penguin colony in Simonstown.
"The deaths occurred suddenly some time between Thursday afternoon and Friday morning," SANParks wrote.
Preliminary investigations revealed that the birds had multiple bee stings, and dead bees were also found on the site of the incident. The stings were largely around the birds' eyes and on their flippers, which are the parts of their body not protected by feathers, SANCCOB's Dr. Katta Ludynia told BBC News. One of the penguins was stung 27 times.
"Seeing the number of stings in individual birds, it would have probably been deadly for any animal of that size," Ludynia said.
SANParks marine biologist Dr. Alison Kock further told BBC News that the deaths were not typical of bee and penguin interactions.
"Usually the penguins and bees co-exist," she said. "The bees don't sting unless provoked — we are working on the assumption that a nest or hive in the area was disturbed and caused a mass of bees to flee the nest, swarm and became aggressive. Unfortunately the bees encountered a group of penguins on their flight path."
The incident is concerning because African penguins are considered endangered by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN).
"The penguins... must not die just like that as they are already in danger of extinction. They are a protected species," Roberts told AFP.
African penguins are uniquely small and live on the coasts and islands of South Africa and Namibia, according to BBC News. There are 41,700 mature adults left in the wild, IUCN said, and their population is declining, mostly due to food shortages because of changing environmental conditions and competition with commercial fisheries.
Officials have also sent biological samples to test the newly dead birds for disease and toxins, SANParks said.
"[W]e are grateful to all our conservation partners, especially SANCCOB and the City of Cape Town, for assisting us in investigating this unusual event," Kock wrote on Facebook Saturday. "No more dead African penguins were found on site today, and we will continue to monitor the situation."
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By Charles Emogor
The white-bellied pangolin is one of eight evolutionary distinct pangolin species split equally between Africa and Asia. They're among the very few mammals with scales and have a tongue that, when pulled out of its cavity, is longer than their entire body, which measures about 30 inches. These gentle and somewhat quirky animals should be celebrated, but instead they're often killed for their unique scales, believed in some cultures to harbor medicinal properties.
White-bellied pangolin, also known as the tree or three-cusped pangolin (Phataginus tricuspis)
White-bellied pangolins look like armadillos, except that they have scales, not rings. They get their name from the white patch on their bellies, one of the few areas not covered in scales. These scales are made of keratin and overlap each other, acting as the animals' main defense against predation. With the help of their long tongues, these toothless mammals feed almost exclusively on ants and termites and roll into a ball when threatened. Adults usually grow to about 3-4 pounds.
Where It's Found:
Tropical lowland forests and secondary forests in 23 west, central and east African countries make good habitat. These pangolins also live in savanna-forest mosaic and dense woodlands.
IUCN Red List Status:
Although no formal population estimate exists for white-bellied pangolins across their range, the species was recently reclassified from vulnerable to endangered to reflect the increasing magnitude of threats to their survival.
Like all pangolin species, white-bellied pangolins are threatened by overexploitation for their meat and scales, which are consumed as food and in traditional medicine, respectively. However, the growing demand from Asia for the scales of African pangolins is disproportionately affecting white-bellied pangolins, since they're the most common African pangolin species. In addition to poaching, white-bellied pangolins are threatened by habitat loss.
Notable Conservation Programs or Legal Protections:
The Convention on the International on the Trade of Endangered Species of Wild Flora and Fauna (CITES) restricts the international commercial trade in all pangolin species, including their derivatives. National laws in many white-bellied range countries also prohibit their killing, with anti-poaching patrols conducted in their habitats to deter poachers and enforce these laws.
My Favorite Experience:
Seeing my first living white-bellied pangolin after more than a decade of being a pangolin enthusiast filled me with excitement and hope. My challenging 11-hour hike into the heart of Nigeria's Cross River National Park to monitor these mammals was a success, as I found and tagged about five of them. Seeing these animals in their natural environment was even more exciting, as I had only ever seen their carcasses and scales on display in wild meat markets.
What Else Do We Need to Understand or Do to Protect This Species?
While scientists are working to further understand the ecology and dynamics of the illegal pangolin trade to inform science-based conservation actions, governments of countries where pangolins exist and those involved in their trafficking should establish laws protecting pangolins (where they do not already exist) and uphold already-enacted laws. Governments and the public can also support pangolin conservation through increased anti-poaching patrols and the arrest and prosecution of poachers and traffickers, as well as campaigns to increase awareness of their plight.
Charles Emogor is a National Geographic explorer studying the ecology of the white-bellied pangolin for his Ph.D. at the University of Cambridge. Charles is from Nigeria and has been fascinated by pangolins from a very early age. He recently founded Pangolino, which uses art to communicate the science of pangolin conservation and raise awareness of these scaly anteaters.
Reposted with permission from The Revelator.
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"Save the bees!"
You've heard this call to action before, but what's the buzz really about? Turns out, bees are incredibly important in nature and in human food production.
According to an EarthDay.Org report, there are more than 20,000 distinct bee species worldwide. In the U.S., there are native bees (more than 4,000 species) and commercially managed bees (mostly imported European honeybees). Both are vital for different reasons. The former are wild and keep our forests and meadow ecosystems functioning; the latter are managed by big agriculture to pollinate crops that feed the world.
Unfortunately, most bees are in trouble. Colonies around the world are collapsing and many species are edging towards extinction. Their plight has been described as the death of a thousand cuts, and the causes range from widespread pesticide use to disease to climate change.
So, what can we do? How can we save the bees? Here's everything you need to know.
Why Are Bees Important?
Westend61 / Getty Images
In short, bees matter because they're pollinators.
"Pollinators are small but mighty parts of the natural mechanism that sustains us and our world," Midwest Regional Director Tom Melius said in a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services (FWS) statement that accompanied the agency's listing of the rusty patched bumblebee as endangered. "Without them, our forests, parks, meadows and shrublands, and the abundant, vibrant life they support, cannot survive, and our crops require laborious, costly pollination by hand."
In the wild, many plants rely on pollinators to reproduce and continue growing. Additionally, various animals depend on these plants for their survival. That's why, according to the EarthDay.Org report, bees are a "keystone species" — they pollinate the food sources of so many other organisms.
In creating floral growth, pollination also provides habitat for insects and birds, the report noted.
Greenpeace described bees as prolific in their work: a single colony can pollinate 300 million flowers each day.
Moreover, bees themselves and the honey they produce are good food sources for many animals.
"Take bees out of the equation, and the effects can be felt all the way up the food chain," explained another EarthDay.Org article. Bees and other insects keep the food chain working.
This is especially true of native bees.
"Native plants attract native bees," explained Krystle Hickman, a bee photographer and community scientist. These plants rely on their bees for pollination. Honeybees, which were imported to North America, prefer to pollinate non-native species, she added.
In a commentary piece for Mongabay, Hickman explained how native bees evolved alongside native plants, to which they are adapted. Over millions of years, these plants and their pollinators adjusted to the same changes in climate and habitat. So, saving native bees also means saving native plants and therefore native ecosystems, she said.
Bees Feed the World
Bees similarly pollinate the majority of human food. According to Greenpeace, bees pollinate a "staggering" 70% of crops that feed people, including our fruits, nuts and vegetables.
Greenpeace also reported that honeybees, both wild and domestic, perform roughly 80% of all pollination activities worldwide. This includes everything from asparagus to broccoli, cotton to coffee, noted Heifer.org. Certain crops rely almost entirely on honeybee pollination. Cherries and blueberries, for example, are 90% dependant, and almonds are 100% reliant on honeybees, reported the American Beekeeping Federation. Importantly, honeybees also pollinate alfalfa, an important grass feed for beef and dairy cows.
In the future, "pollination shortfalls" for fruits and vegetables could trigger "nutritional deficits" in diets as fresh foods are replaced by wild-pollinated grains, rice and corn, The Guardian warned.
The pollination services that bees provide confer a huge economic benefit to the world. The EarthDay.Org report valued bee-pollinated crops worldwide to be worth $577 billion annually. In the U.S. alone, pollinators contribute $24 billion to the agricultural industry every year through pollination, the report said.
Beyond agriculture, entire industries are also based around bee-derived products like beeswax and honey. If these multibillion-dollar industries collapse, it could put tens of thousands out of work and harm the economy.
Food Security Concerns
Bees, generally, but honeybees, in particular, are "essential to healthy crops, and their rapid decline threatens global food security," reported Heifer.org.
Scientists forecast that as bee populations continue to decline, the production of food crops will also decrease. Unfortunately, this is directly opposite what the world needs.
Crop yields for key crops like apples, cherries and blueberries are already down across the U.S. because of a lack of bees in agricultural areas, a 2020 Rutgers study found. Because the U.S. is the largest food exporter in the world, the downstream effect of a crop shortage would be massive and global.
As the global population continues to grow — up to 10 billion by 2050, scientists estimate — we will need more food to feed everyone. Without bees, what or who will pollinate the crops?
What's Happening to the Bees?
Liam Hirst-Graves / EyeEm / Getty Images
So, why are bees dying?
"Habitat loss, acute and chronic pesticide poisoning, diseases and parasites, increasing intensification of conventional farming, and even the impacts of climate change are all taking their toll on bee health," noted SaveBees.Org. "Many of our bees are sick, stressed, and undernourished."
U.S. National Agricultural Statistics reported a 60% honeybee hive decline from 1947 (~6 million hives) to 2008 (~2.4 million hives). The Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) found an alarming 40% collapse of honeybee colonies from spring 2017 to 2018.
Unfortunately, it's not just managed bees that are in trouble. In 2017, the Center for Biological Diversity reported that one in four native bee species is at risk of extinction.
"[Certain native] populations are now very small and extremely vulnerable to slight habitat changes," Mongabay reported.
In 2017, the rusty patched bumblebee became the first wild bee to be listed as endangered in the continental U.S. Once "common" and "abundant," the species experienced a "swift and dramatic decline" of 87% in the late 1990s and continuing to the present, Mongabay also reported. Only small, scattered populations remain.
Because native bees pollinate native plants, if the bees go extinct, it could also wipe out endangered plant species and disrupt entire ecosystems, the report added.
A 'Perfect Storm'
Bees are facing a "perfect storm" that threatens their future survival. Who and/or what is to blame for this bee apocalypse?
Human activity is the primary driver, with habitat loss, pesticide use, monoculture farming and climate change wreaking havoc on bees and other insects.
Habitat loss, particularly of flowering meadows and fields, is devastating bee populations. As humans industrialize and urbanize, there are fewer places for bees to nest or forage. Less greenery and less diversity of plants in and around suburbs and cities mean bee habitats have become fragmented. What's left are "pollinator deserts" that have replaced once abundant wildflower meadows, SaveBees.Org reported.
Pesticides vs. Pollinators
The rise of commercial agriculture brought about increased pesticide use. These chemicals, especially those in the neonicotinoid family, have decimated bee populations.
Pesticides kill bees or weaken bee immune systems, leaving them more prone to diseases and parasites, SaveBees.Org reported. Still, the toxins are widely used both commercially and in homes. For example, undisclosed "inert" ingredients in Roundup are lethal to bumblebees, but the product remains on shelves.
A 2019 study found that agriculture became 48 times more toxic to insects in the U.S. between 1992 and 2014, largely because of neonicotinoid use.
"While climate change, habitat loss, and disease all play a role in the rate of colony collapse, mounting scientific evidence links the recent dramatic spike in bee deaths to the rise of neonic (short for neonicotinoid) pesticides — now the most heavily used insecticides in the United States," reported the NRDC.
Daniel Raichel, who is the NRDC's acting director of their pollinator initiative, called neonicotinoids "phenomenally toxic" to bees and other animals. These chemicals easily spread through soil and water, getting absorbed by wild plants. The pesticides are designed to be absorbed by every part of a plant, to "make the plant itself the pesticide," Raichel explained to EcoWatch. Thus, pollen and nectar from crops treated with nicotinoids become poisonous to bees and other pollinators.
"One neonic-treated corn seed can have enough active ingredient to kill a quarter-million bees or more and one square foot of neonic-treated lawn, at the EPA approved label rate, can have enough active ingredient to kill a million bees," Raichel explained.
Companies are aware of the devastating effect of pesticides on pollinators, but continue to evade and market around such facts because the chemical business is big money. How much? A 2020 report from Unearthed showed that the world's top five pesticide makers are making billions from chemicals that have been proven hazardous to humans, the environment and bee populations.
Monoculture, Multiple Problems
Habitat loss and pesticide use correlate with the rise in farming to meet food demands from a growing global population. As industrial agribusiness converted grasslands and forests — wild bee habitat — into monoculture farms overridden with chemicals, bee populations plummeted, Greenpeace reported.
Monoculture farming involves planting only one crop over a large area over and over. Rather than rotating crops to naturally restore soil nutrients and vitamins, monoculture farming depletes soils and invites weed and pest invasions, One Green Planet explained. That's why this type of farming often requires heavy pesticide, fertilizer and fossil fuel use to ensure maximum yield, Down to Earth reported. In the U.S., this is now the dominant farming practice.
To pollinate massive fields of monocrops, farmers often employ migratory bees. These are trucked-in European honeybees that are shipped across the U.S. to pollinate crops like avocados and almonds. U.S. farming couldn't function without this practice, but critics warn against its use.
The practice could stress, injure or kill bees, CNN reported. Also, forcing bees to gather pollen and nectar from a single, monoculture crop — the one they've been recruited to pollinate — means they receive fewer nutrients than they would with a natural, varied diet, Scientific American reported.
Finally, the report added, the shuttling of bees from area to area guarantees the spread of viruses, mites and fungi between the managed bees themselves and with native bees and other insects.
Climate Crisis and Environmental Threats to Bees
If the deadly combination of habitat loss, toxic pesticides and industrial agriculture wasn't enough, there are also environmental threats to bees.
For instance, research has found that pollutants linger on the bodies of honeybees in areas with high levels of air pollution, exposure to diesel exhaust interferes with their foraging ability and air pollution may affect the heart and immune systems of wild honeybees.
Climate change is also complicating things. A Feb. 2020 study found that bee populations experienced the largest decline in places that have warmed at a faster rate than the rest of the planet. The result, scientists warned, could be the extinction of the bumblebee due to the climate crisis.
"Our results show that we face a future with many less bumblebees and much less diversity, both in the outdoors and on our plates," said Peter Soroye, lead author of the study.
Different species of bees have also evolved to feast on certain blooms and during certain times of the year. As global temperatures shift, flowers could bloom earlier or later in the season, reducing the time that bees have to feed on them, the EarthDay.Org report said. Additionally, climate change could cause species of plants that bees rely on to go extinct, and conditions for life could otherwise become inhospitable for bees.
Disease, Mites and Parasites
These multiple, overlapping factors continue to affect bee populations negatively and make them more susceptible to diseases and pests.
For example, in late 2020, a single-celled fungal pathogen called Nosema emerged as the latest threat to bees. Nosema reproduces in a bee's gut, where it ruptures, spreads and infects the rest of the digestive tract. It leads to lethargy, reduced foraging ability and directional sense, and, often, death. Once one bee in a colony is affected, the fungus spreads quickly because hives are crowded. This can lead to total colony collapse.
Also, when infected bees visit flowers, they can leave the pathogen on surfaces that other wild pollinators land on. This "community spread" of insect diseases has been called a "pandemic" in its own right.
Finally, the Varroa mite is harming many bees. This parasite attaches to the bodies of honey bees and sucks their fat tissues, a PNAS report found. This weakens adults and can kill juvenile bees. Unfortunately, the mite is also a vector for at least five debilitating bee viruses. A significant mite infestation can kill an entire honey bee colony.
How Can We Save the Bees?
That brings us to how we can save the bees. Just like there are multiple threats endangering bee populations, so too there are numerous actions one can take to help. We can start by reversing the major threats to bees we've already covered.
"Reversal" as Solution
Monoculture Farming and Migratory Beekeeping
Climate Change and Air Pollution
Diseases, Mites, and Parasites
Keep a Bee Garden & Hotel
The most accessible solution is to give bees more food, water and shelter.
Plant native wildflowers and flowering shrubs at home and in community plots. Ideally, you'll choose native flowers that bloom at different times of the year to nourish as many different species of bees as possible. Fruit trees such as apples, pears, plums and cherries are also excellent pollinator food sources, SaveBees.Org recommended, as are vegetable and herb plots. Even small balcony gardens help passing pollinators rest up and rejuvenate.
Or, dig up a part of your lawn and convert it to meadow — prime native bee habitat — by replacing grass with native wildflowers and no-mow areas. Dandelions, in particular, are pollen-rich and last very long in the year. They feed a great variety of bee species.
Germany has taken this solution to a national scale, with a country-wide project to plant urban wildflower meadows. As of June 2021, more than 100 flower and wild grass beds have been planted in Germany's largest cities to aid their 580 species of native bees. The meadows include endangered native plants as well as annual blooms selected to bloom year-round.
Next, provide water for bees and other insects to drink. With fragmented habitats, bees can get dehydrated searching for nectar. Help by creating a shallow water bath with sticks or stones for bees to land on. Replace standing water weekly to prevent mosquitoes from developing.
You can also create simple bee "hotels" out of scrap wood and packing materials for native bees. Most native species nest in wood, dried stems or in the ground, SaveBees.Org reported. Providing similar materials nearby to flowers and water can allow these bees to get through their winter season. Experts recommend sanitizing the "hotels" between seasons to avoid pests, diseases and cross-contamination.
MaYcaL / iStock / Getty Images Plus
In the U.S., you can also support the Biden administration's infrastructure agenda, which includes funding for pollinator-friendly roadsides and the removal of invasive species alongside traditional infrastructures such as roads and bridges.
Ban or Reduce Pesticide Use — Especially Neonicotinoids
Mounting evidence shows that we must address our overuse of pesticides if we are to save the bees. Several government bodies are doing so. For example, the nation of Bhutan has adopted a 100% organic farming policy, Greenpeace reported. Also, the European Union voted to ban outdoor use of three major neonics, and Canada is moving towards curtailing its use of chemicals, the NRDC reported.
The U.S. has thus far failed to take significant federal action.
"...The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has so far failed to act. That's why NRDC is putting pressure on the EPA, both in and out of court," the organization said.
Meanwhile, some states are taking up the fight: Connecticut, Maryland and Vermont have banned the sale of bee-killing pesticides to consumers, Environment America reported. The NRDC is simultaneously working with other states to promote smart pesticide policies and to build pollinator habitats while pushing major retailers to take neonic products and neonic-treated plants off their shelves.
As an individual, you can urge Congress to ban Neonicotinoids right now and to pass the Saving America's Pollinators Act, EarthDay.Org recommended. The organization also asks individuals to sign their Earth Day Network's Pesticide Pledge to reduce pesticide use.
As a consumer, you can also reach out to large companies to demand they stop selling bee-killing products. The power of social movements should not be underestimated.
Swap Monoculture for Ecological Farming
Monoculture is not the way to go if we are to protect the future of bees. Alongside diversifying crops, Futurity also recommended increasing the diversity of managed pollinators and investing in honeybee colonies. This can help avoid diseases and colony collapse within current agricultural systems.
Greenpeace called these "big agriculture" systems, with their monoculture farms and widespread pesticide use, "dysfunctional and destructive." The organization instead advocates for "ecological farming" as a way to stabilize human food production, preserve wild habitats and protect the bees.
Going organic like Bhutan is a great first step. Avoiding genetically modified crops is another. Mexico and eight European countries have banned certain genetically modified foods in order to protect native varieties, Greenpeace reported.
"Ecological, organic farming is nothing new," the organization shared. "It is the way most farming has been done throughout human history. Ecological farming resists insect damage by avoiding large monocrops and preserving ecosystem diversity. Ecological farming restores soil nutrients with natural composting systems, avoids soil loss from wind and water erosion, and avoids pesticides and chemical fertilizers."
These actions restore bee populations and health, which in turn improves pollination rates, which boosts crop yields — all without harmful pesticides.
Mongabay recommended a middle-ground solution: planting native plants alongside crop fields to encourage diversity amongst bees and pollinators. Farming alongside a native ecosystem allows for pollination without the use of commercial honeybees. Importantly, many smaller farms already employing such crop management practices have achieved seed and fruit set "on par" with that achieved by honeybees.
Address Climate Change
As with many things, lessening the severity of the climate crisis and other environmental stresses will solve a lot of other problems. For example, less fossil fuel use lessens air pollution, which has been shown to coat bees. Preventing further extreme warming of the planet will also ensure more habitat remains liveable for bees in the future and will protect more native plants.
What Else Can You Do?
Dirk Hoffmann / EyeEm / Getty Images
In addition to the tips above to reverse the most severe threats bees are facing, you can shop responsibly.
When you buy fruits, vegetables and honey from local farmers or in a CSA (community-supported agriculture) box, you support earth-friendly, organic agriculture. Even if you don't have access to these products, "...eating organic goes a long way to help the bees!" added Heifer.Org.
Responsible consumption for the bees goes beyond food. According to SaveBees.Org, buying and wearing only certified organic cotton is a major step because cotton ranks "among the highest" in terms of pesticide use on crops.
To contribute more, you can also participate in citizen-science pollinator projects to plant flowers and look for bees, SaveBees.Org recommended.
The site also advised supporting pollinator-friendly bills and initiatives and speaking with elected representatives about the importance of bees.
Finally, continue learning and sharing about bees and the challenges they're facing. There are many sources, movements, organizations and initiatives out there. Here are some of our favorite:
- National Pollinator Week bringing attention to the plight of bees and other pollinators
- 15 Organizations and Initiatives to Follow working to save bees around the world
- Citizen-Science Pollinator Projects ways to get involved further in helping pollinators
- Burt's Bees bee conservation partnership with E.O. Wilson planning to map 6,000 different bee species
- Xerces Society works with scientists, land managers, educators, policymakers, farmers and citizens to create science-based change, especially concerning protecting pollinators from habitat loss and pesticides
- Bee Mission bee-inspired products that fund conservation efforts
Tiffany Duong is a writer, explorer and motivational speaker. She holds degrees from UCLA and the University of Pennsylvania Carey Law School. As a contributing reporter at EcoWatch, she gives voice to what's happening in the natural world. Her mission is to inspire meaningful action and lasting change. Follow her on Twitter/Instagram @tiffmakeswaves.
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"These organisms make the earth habitable." Peter de Menocal, WHOI director
This week, in honor of UN Climate Week, a Danish arts collective projected a siphonophore onto the UN Secretariat building in New York.
Starting Sept. 21 and continuing through the 24, the light projection danced more than 500 feet above the ground on the entire northern facade of the building to remind delegates and viewers of the many species on the planet that impact and are impacted by the climate crisis.
So, what is a siphonophore? Similar to a colony of coral polyps, siphonophores are also marine animals comprised of individual parts, called zooids, which function together and are genetically identical. The majority of siphonophores are long, thin and clear. In Apr. 2020, scientists in Australia discovered what they believe to be the longest animal in the world, a siphonophore potentially more than 390 feet long. The individual zooids work together as one, and these colonies are usually "gelatinous" and fragile, breaking under even the slightest force.
Most of these animals live in the twilight zone of the sea — deep, dark waters 200 to 1000 meters below the surface.
This little-known deep-sea creature is also a "critical agent of carbon removal from the atmosphere," The New York Times reported. Siphonophores come up to the surface at night to feed when it is easier to hide from predators. They eat carbon-rich organisms before migrating down to hide when the sun comes up. In doing so, they sequester carbon that would otherwise be released into the atmosphere, the news report explained.
Every day, through this vertical migration, siphonophores bring carbon — in the form of their food — from the surface down to the twilight zone. According to Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute (WHOI), which partnered with the arts collective to produce the UN projection, this biological pump prevents carbon from returning to the air as a heat-trapping greenhouse gas. Instead, it is sequestered in biological material that can sink to the ocean's depths. In the deep, as long as earthquakes and human activities like deep-sea mining or dredging don't disturb it, this carbon can remain stored for thousands of years.
Just how much carbon can these little, clear animals help us store? The Times estimated that siphonophores sequester between two to six billion tons of carbon each year into the twilight zone. This is several times the amount of carbon emitted by all the world's cars. WHOI estimated that roughly 90% of the carbon that gets into the twilight zone remains there, so siphonophores serve as a critical planetary carbon sink.
"The carbon pump that we're talking about is tremendously important," said Peter de Menocal, WHOI director. "If this disappeared, the atmospheric carbon dioxide would go up more than 50 percent. These organisms make the earth habitable."
Vertical Migration, the actual piece projected onto the UN, focuses on the siphonophore as "a symbol of the many working as one," a WHOI press release said.
"Unsettling our perceptions of scale and otherness, Vertical Migration is an intimate encounter with a life form that bears no resemblance to human beings, though we share a planet, an ecosystem, and a future, said SUPERFLEX in the release, the artists collective behind the illuminating work. "Because of sea-level rise, humans will also be migrating vertically in the coming centuries, to higher elevations and raised buildings. The siphonophore's story is our story."
Superflex also set up a ground-level installation of pink marble at Central Park called "Interspecies Assembly." The 46-foot circle of seven large marble slabs has the words of a contract carved into them, the Times reported.
"By entering the circle of stones, you accept the contract to stay idle for at least five minutes," Superflex co-founder Jakob Fenger told the Times. "To understand other creatures on the planet, you have to be quiet and listen."
The pink marble is a nod towards the coralline algae that coral polyps eat and which tint coral reefs. The objective is to bolster awareness of all forms of life to protect biodiversity and boost climate action, the WHOI release said.
The installation, intentionally set up in Manhattan's largest green space, requires humans to "temporarily slow down and actively listen to their co-species," reported Resnicow and Associates. The park space is home to a rich array of flora and fauna, further emphasizing the organizers' point.
Together, Vertical Migration and Interspecies Assembly represent something much bigger.
Markus Reymann, co-founder and director of TBA21 — Academy, who commissioned the works, told Resnicow that the piece represents an expression of hope in the face of the climate crisis — created not by people, but by nature itself." He added, "By bringing this monumental SUPERFLEX piece to the iconic UN building during Climate Week NYC, we are demonstrating how artists and scientists can work together to spark awe and imagination as well as bringing greater awareness and conversation to trigger necessary collective action around urgent climate issues."
By John R. Platt
We've had a particularly brutal summer — not to mention spring and winter — so now that autumn has arrived, let's take a break from all the awful environmental news to focus on a few good-news items you may have missed. These aren't necessarily resounding successes — we still have a long way to go on all fronts — but they illustrate that hard work and persistence can pull us back from the brink just as greed and indifference can push us toward it.
1. Bandicoot Crash Reversed
This month the eastern barred bandicoot (Perameles gunnii) achieved an all-too-rare conservation milestone when Australia declared the species is no longer considered "extinct in the wild." That's a big change from 30 years ago, when invasive foxes and cats had eaten up nearly all these rabbit-sized marsupials. Since then captive-breeding programs and reintroduction efforts on predator-free islands have helped the species recover. The population hit 1,500 this year, enough to upgrade the bandicoots to merely "endangered" status. They have a long way to go to bounce back to their pre-fox levels, but we'll still call this the best news of the month.
(PS: Hey, Australia, now do the same thing with your endangered frogs.)
2. Mercury Falling
We've known for a long time that burning coal harms human health — and now a new study shows that the cardiovascular benefits of reducing mercury emissions are at least 100 times more than previous estimates. The EPA has long pegged the annual value of mercury reductions at about $6 million in reduced societal and healthcare costs, but the new study ups that to "several billion dollars per year."
Why is this dangerous revelation good news? It always helps to find out how things are harming us so we can make a change. This research has enormous potential to improve human health, and the researchers say it should offer further incentives for decarbonizing our economy.
Despite these conclusions, the study generated almost no media coverage outside the subscription-only E&E News. That's a shame, so let's hope the right people see it moving forward and the results are incorporated into plans for a just energy transition. They should also play a role in the EPA's promise to revisit the Mercury and Air Toxics Standards weakened by the Trump administration.
3. Howling Good News
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced a status review of the gray wolf (Canis lupus) in the western United States, which the Trump administration removed from the protection of the Endangered Species Act two days before the insurrection. This move — which, full disclosure, stems from petitions by several conservation groups, including our publisher, the Center for Biological Diversity — comes just as Idaho and Montana plan massive wolf hunts. Tragically, the Fish and Wildlife Service has taken no action to stop those slaughters (which have already started), but it's still welcome news that could eventually restore the species' protection.
(As long as we're talking about it, this on-again, off-again protection for wolves has grown expensive in both blood and treasure — for U.S. taxpayers and most of all for the hundreds of wolves that have been shot and trapped over the past few years. Maybe, if they get protected again, we can just keep it that way?)
4. Kākāpō Code
In good news for one of the world's rarest parrots (and one of my favorite species), new research finds that the last 201 kākāpō (Strigops habroptila) remain genetically healthy despite centuries of inbreeding. All of today's remaining kākāpō have descended from just 50 birds rescued from extinction in 1995 and placed into a conservation breeding program, but the inbreeding started long before that — as much as 10,000 years ago, due to the island-loving, flightless birds' extreme isolation.
This inbreeding, as odd as it may seem, could be one reason why the species has survived: It's basically already bred mutations out of the system.
The other reason kākāpō have survived? People. Not only do the birds have a dedicated crew of New Zealand conservationists working to help them, they're also beloved by the general public. This genetic work got its start with a crowdfunding campaign back in 2016, when there were only 125 kākāpō alive. The fact that the population has grown so much in the past five years while we continued to expand our conservation knowledge is a testament to both these groups.
5. Pahk the Electric Cah in Hahvahd Yahd
After years of activism by students and alumni, mega-rich Harvard University finally announced it has divested its $40 billion endowment from fossil fuels, except for a few "legacy" funds that will soon be liquidated. Harvard all but laughed at activists when they first brought up this issue a decade ago. Now it's set the stage for other universities to follow.
BREAKING: After a decade of constant pressure by students, faculty, and alums, @HARVARD IS FINALLY DIVESTING FROM F… https://t.co/kGwkeTlHZk— Fossil Fuel Divest Harvard 🔶 (@Fossil Fuel Divest Harvard 🔶) 1631229599.0
6. Coal's Continued Decline
A report from a trio of climate groups finds that more than 75% of the world's planned new coal plants have been abandoned since the 2015 Paris climate accord — a number that's probably already even higher, since just a few days after the report came out China pledged that it would stop building new coal plants abroad.
Obviously, China itself remains a major consumer of coal within its borders, and critics say this pledge came with precious few details, but we'll take what victories we can get.
(Let's not forget the counterpoint to this story, though: U.S. coal production is up 8.4% this year, according to data released by the U.S. Energy Information Administration on Sept. 23. Sigh…)
7. Billions for Biodiversity
A group of deep-pocketed philanthropists this month pledged a collective $5 billion over the next 10 years to protect the world's wildlife — undoubtedly the largest-ever charitable pledge to save biodiversity. They've tied this "Protecting Our Planet Challenge" to the 30×30 initiative, which aims to set aside 30% of the globe for preservation by the year 2030.
No grantees have been announced yet, so it will be interesting to see how this develops and how the charities distribute their funds. One participant, the Bezos Earth Fund, drew criticism for ignoring grassroots organizations in its first round of funding late last year but promised to prioritize "the voices of Indigenous Peoples and frontline communities" with this effort.
8. Cool News
The EPA this month finalized new rules to reduce the production and use of super-polluting hydrofluorocarbons by 85% over the next 15 years — a huge win for both the Biden administration and the climate. HFC chemicals, used in refrigeration and air conditioning, are extremely potent greenhouse gases that the international community has agreed to regulate but which got a big boost from the Trump administration (yeah, them again).
Next step: President Biden needs to make sure the United States finally ratifies the Kigali Amendment to the Montreal Protocol, which aims to reduce worldwide HFC use enough to avoid about 0.5 degrees Celsius of global warming by century's end. (And FYI, the Senate could ratify a few other environmental treaties while they're at it.)
RIP to a Giant: This month scientists reported the death of Okefenokee Joe, an 11-and-a-half-foot alligator believed to have died of old age after a lifetime of swimming through Georgia's swamps — since World War II.
Wait, why is the death of this massive beast in a list of good news? Easy: because he lived so long in the first place! It's painfully rare for a megafauna predator in this country to achieve old age — let alone die of natural causes. Joe served to remind us what's possible when we protect our habitats and the wildlife that live within them.
What's Next? Will we see much more good news in October? Sure, but we may need to go digging to find it, as topics like the infrastructure debate will continue to dominate the beltway press in the month(s) ahead. Meanwhile we're still in the middle of hurricane season, so we expect plenty of news about extreme weather events. We'll also see a lot of buildup for the upcoming United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP26) in Glasgow, which starts Oct. 31. We hope that won't be a disaster, too.
On a more celebratory note, next month will bring World Migratory Bird Day, California Clean Air Day and the simply named Wombat Day, among other occasions and events.
John R. Platt is the editor of The Revelator. An award-winning environmental journalist, his work has appeared in Scientific American, Audubon, Motherboard, and numerous other magazines and publications. His "Extinction Countdown" column has run continuously since 2004 and has covered news and science related to more than 1,000 endangered species. He is a member of the Society of Environmental Journalists and the National Association of Science Writers. John lives on the outskirts of Portland, Ore., where he finds himself surrounded by animals and cartoonists.
Reposted with permission from The Revelator.
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More than a third of shark and ray species are directly threatened by extinction, the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) warned on Saturday.
The revelation came in the IUCN's updated Red List assessment on endangered wildlife, which was released at the body's World Conservation Congress in Marseilles, France.
The most comprehensive survey ever undertaken of sharks and rays found that 37% of 1,200 species evaluated now fall into one of three categories: "vulnerable," "endangered," or "critically endangered."
The IUCN blamed overfishing for the threat — roughly 800,000 tons of shark is caught each year — intentionally or opportunistically, according to the UN's Food and Agriculture Organization. Other research suggests the true figure is up to four times greater.
Komodo Dragon Under Threat
Meanwhile, the Komodo dragon — the world's largest living lizards — was also moved into the IUCN's endangered category.
The Komodo is found only in the World Heritage-listed Komodo National Park and neighboring Flores, in Indonesia.
The species "is increasingly threatened by the impacts of climate change" said the IUCN: rising sea levels are expected to shrink its already tiny habitat at least 30 percent over the next 45 years.
"The idea that these prehistoric animals have moved one step closer to extinction due in part to climate change is terrifying," Andrew Terry, conservation director at the Zoological Society of London, said, calling for action to protect nature at the Glasgow climate conference in November.
Survival Watchlist Growing Fast
Nearly a third of the 138,000 plant, animal and fungi species assessed by IUCN for its survival watchlist are now at risk of vanishing in the wild forever.
The findings chime with a 2019 warning from the UN's biodiversity experts that a million species are on the brink of extinction.
The IUCN said it was also stepping up monitoring of marine species such as coral and deep-sea snails to see how they are impacted by climate change and threats including deep-sea mining.
In more positive news, the conservation body said catch quotas and efforts to target illegal fishing have shown positive signs, adding that the outlook for tuna appears to be improving.
Atlantic bluefin tuna, which is prized for sushi and can be sold for thousands of dollars, jumped three categories from "endangered" to "least concern" on the list, although some regional stocks remained severely depleted.
The southern bluefin also improved from "critically endangered" to "endangered" while albacore and yellowfin tuna were classified as "least concern" in the latest report.
Reposted with permission from Deutsch Welle.