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Women gather chestnuts in Spain's Genal Valley. Gary John Norman / Photodisc / Getty Images

How a Tiny Wasp With Invisible Eggs Is Wreaking Havoc on Spain's Chestnut Harvest

The Genal Valley in Southern Spain is famous for its sweet chestnuts, and that could give the economically struggling region a huge boost as vegans and vegetarians in Northern Europe develop a taste for Castanea sativa. But a new threat is putting the valley's reputation, and future, at risk, BBC News reported Tuesday.

"We've lost at least 30% of our usual production," farmer Julio Ruiz told BBC News. "It is all the fault of a small wasp."

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Animals
Swift parrot. Dejan Stojanovic / ANU

Love Triangles Kill, at Least for Swift Parrots

Tasmania's swift parrots can't catch a break. Logging has reduced their preferred blue gum breeding habitat by a third in the past 20 years. Sugar gliders, a kind of nocturnal possum introduced in the 1800s, are gobbling up female parrots at an alarming rate. And now, The Guardian reported Tuesday, scientists have found that the skewed male-to-female ratio is changing the mating habits of the endangered species in a way that puts its survival further at risk.

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Animals
Kyle Penniston with the 17.5-foot-long python. South Florida Water Management District / Kyle Penniston

Florida Man Kills 17.5-Foot Burmese Python in Everglades

Earlier this week, a Florida man caught and killed a 17-foot, 5-inch female Burmese python in the Miami-Dade County Everglades.

The South Florida Water Management District (SFWMD) praised Homestead-based hunter Kyle Penniston's record-setting catch for its Python Elimination Program. Weighing 120 pounds, she was certainly a big one and she even bit Penniston's hand before she was shot on Monday night, according to his Facebook post.

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Animals
A captured Burmese python in the Florida Everglades. Susan Jewell / USFWS

Surprise Python Hybrid Could Pose Greater Threat to Everglades Wildlife

Burmese pythons have long posed a threat to the indigenous wildlife in Everglades National Park since pet owners abandoned a few of them there in the 1980s, The Guardian reported.

They have displaced American alligators as the Everglades' top predators and have been found responsible for putting a dent in the populations of raccoons, opossums and bobcats, according to The National Parks Traveler.

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Oceans
A diver with Hawaii's Division of Aquatic Resources removes invasive algae from a reef using a "super sucker" vacuum. DAR

Researchers Use Technology and Nature to Save Hawaii’s Coral Reefs From Invasive Algae

Researchers at the University of Hawaii at Manoa and the state of Hawaii's Division of Aquatic Resources (DAR) have developed an innovative method of removing invasive macroalgae that can smother coral reefs, the University of Hawaii reported Aug. 9.

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The Asian long-horned tick. James Gathany / Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

New Tick Species Spreads in U.S. for First Time in 50 Years

An invasive tick species was found to have spread to an eighth state Tuesday, when the Maryland Department of Natural Resources announced one was found on a deer in Washington County, The Washington Post reported.

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Animals
Penguin colony, St. Andrews Bay, South Georgia. size4riggerboots / Flickr / CC BY-ND 2.0

One of World's Last Great Wildernesses Declared Free of Bird-Killing Rats

Following a £10 million ($13.5 million) eradication scheme and nearly a decade of work, South Georgia was officially declared rodent-free on Tuesday, the first time since humans arrived on the island more than 200 years ago.

The British territory is one of the world's last great wildlife areas. There you'll find 98 percent of the world's Antarctic fur seals, half the world's elephant seals and four species of penguins—including King Penguins with around 450,000 breeding pairs. The birdlife includes albatrosses, prions, skua, terns, sheathbills and petrels.

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15 Most Surprising Trends for 2017

By Mary Hoff

What should we be thinking about when we think about the future of biodiversity, conservation and the environment? An international team of experts in horizon scanning, science communication and conservation recently asked that question as participants in the eighth annual Horizon Scan of Emerging Issues for Global Conservation and Biological Diversity. The answers they came up, just published in the scientific journal Trends in Ecology & Evolution and summarized below, portend both risks and opportunities for species and ecosystems around the world.

"Our aim has been to focus attention and stimulate debate about these subjects, potentially leading to new research foci, policy developments or business innovations," the authors wrote in introducing their list of top trends to watch in 2017. "These responses should help facilitate better-informed forward-planning."

1. Altering Coral Bacteria

Around the world, coral reefs are bleaching and dying as ocean temperatures warm beyond those tolerated by bacteria that live in partnership with the corals. Scientists are eyeing the option of replacing bacteria forced out by heat with other strains more tolerant of the new temperatures—either naturally occurring or genetically engineered. Although the practice holds promise for rescuing or resurrecting damaged reefs, there are concerns about unintended consequences such as introduction of disease or disruption of ecosystems.

2. Underwater Robots Meet Invasive Species

If you think getting rid of invasive species on land is a challenge, you haven't tried doing it in the depths of the ocean. Robots that can crawl across the seafloor dispatching invaders with poisons or electric shock are being investigated as a potential tool for combating such species. The technology is now being tested to control crown-of-thorns starfish, which have devastated Great Barrier Reef corals in recent years and invasive lionfish, which are competing with native species in the Caribbean Sea.

3. Electronic Noses

The technology behind electronic sensors that detect odors has advanced markedly in recent years, leading biologists to ponder applications to conservation. Possibilities include using the devices to sniff out illegally traded wildlife at checkpoints along transportation routes and to detect the presence of DNA from rare species in the environment.

4. Blight of the Bumblebees

We tend to think of pollinating insects as our ecological friends, but in the wrong place nonnative bees can spell trouble instead by competing with native insects, promoting reproduction in nonnative plants and potentially spreading disease. And they're doing just that, thanks to people who transport them internationally for plant-pollination purposes. Out-of-place bumblebees are already spreading through New Zealand, Japan and southern South America, and there is concern they could do the same in Australia, Brazil, Uruguay, China, South Africa and Namibia.

5. Microbes Meet Agriculture

Select bacteria and fungi are emerging as potential agricultural allies for their ability to help kick back pests or stimulate growth in crops. As research advances in this area, questions are being raised about potential implications for nontarget species, ecosystems, soils and more.

Bumblebees imported to pollinate crops are a growing threat to native pollinators around the world. iStock

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