145 Whales Dead After Mass Stranding on New Zealand Beach
As many as 145 pilot whales are dead after beaching themselves on a remote beach in Rakiura, or Stewart Island, in southern New Zealand.
A "heartbreaking decision" was made to put down half of the animals due to their poor condition and the difficult-to-access location, a Department of Conservation (DOC) official said Monday in a media release.
"Sadly, the likelihood of being able to successfully re-float the remaining whales was extremely low," DOC Rakiura Operations Manager Ren Leppens said in the media release. "The remote location, lack of nearby personnel and the whales' deteriorating condition meant the most humane thing to do was to euthanize."
Two pods stranded at the southern end of Mason Bay, approximately 1.2 miles apart.
Mass pilot whale stranding at Rakiura/Stewart Island www.youtube.com
The whales were discovered on Saturday afternoon by a hiker, The New York Times reported.
Leppens told the Times that the whales might have stranded as early as Friday. He said they "started to get covered in sand" by the time they were found on late Saturday.
Poor weather also meant that experts could not be flown in to assess the situation, so conservation workers had no choice but to euthanize the animals, he added to the newspaper.
This is the country's largest mass stranding event since 250 to 300 pilot whales were found dead last year in Golden Bay.
Hundreds of Pilot Whales Die in Devastating Mass Stranding in New Zealand https://t.co/qagvHbvfHQ @1World1Ocean @Oceanwire— EcoWatch (@EcoWatch)1486770004.0
Marine mammal strandings are a "relatively common occurrence" in New Zealand, the DOC said, adding that it responds to roughly 85 incidents a year, mostly of single animals.
It's not clear why marine mammals such as dolphins and whales strand, but factors can include sickness, navigational error, geographical features, a rapidly falling tide, and being chased by a predator or extreme weather, the agency said.
Map and factfile on pilot whale stranding in New Zealand https://t.co/yMaNMv0dcr— AFP news agency (@AFP news agency)1543239000.0
Other strandings occurred on New Zealand shores over the weekend. Ten pygmy killer whales also stranded at 90 Mile Beach on Sunday. Two have since died and re-float attempts will be made Tuesday. A sperm whale beached in Doubtful Bay on Karikari Peninsula in Northland on Friday and died Saturday. Finally, a dead female pygmy sperm whale also washed up at Ohiwa over the weekend.
These events are unlikely to be related, the DOC said.
13 Pounds of #Plastic Found in Dead #SpermWhale https://t.co/B0FsymQk8c @PlasticPollutes @PlasticOceans— EcoWatch (@EcoWatch)1543096814.0
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By Katherine Kornei
Clear-cutting a forest is relatively easy—just pick a tree and start chopping. But there are benefits to more sophisticated forest management. One technique—which involves repeatedly harvesting smaller trees every 30 or so years but leaving an upper story of larger trees for longer periods (60, 90, or 120 years)—ensures a steady supply of both firewood and construction timber.
A Pattern in the Rings<p>The <a href="https://www.encyclopedia.com/science/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/coppice-standards-0" target="_blank">coppice-with-standards</a> management practice produces a two-story forest, said <a href="https://www.researchgate.net/profile/Bernhard_Muigg" target="_blank">Bernhard Muigg</a>, a dendrochronologist at the University of Freiburg in Germany. "You have an upper story of single trees that are allowed to grow for several understory generations."</p><p>That arrangement imprints a characteristic tree ring pattern in a forest's upper story trees (the "standards"): thick rings indicative of heavy growth, which show up at regular intervals as the surrounding smaller trees are cut down. "The trees are growing faster," said Muigg. "You can really see it with your naked eye."</p><p>Muigg and his collaborators characterized that <a href="https://ltrr.arizona.edu/about/treerings" target="_blank">dendrochronological pattern</a> in 161 oak trees growing in central Germany, one of the few remaining sites in Europe with actively managed coppice-with-standards forests. They found up to nine cycles of heavy growth in the trees, the oldest of which was planted in 1761. The researchers then turned to a historical data set — more than 2,000 oak <a href="https://eos.org/articles/podcast-discovering-europes-history-through-its-timbers" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">timbers from buildings and archaeological sites</a> in Germany and France dating from between 300 and 2015 — to look for a similar pattern.</p>
A Gap of 500 Years<p>The team found wood with the characteristic coppice-with-standards tree ring pattern dating to as early as the 6th century. That was a surprise, Muigg and his colleagues concluded, because the first mention of this forest management practice in historical documents occurred only roughly 500 years later, in the 13th century.</p><p>It's probable that forest management practices were not well documented prior to the High Middle Ages (1000–1250), the researchers suggested. "Forests are mainly mentioned in the context of royal hunting interests or donations," said Muigg. Dendrochronological studies are particularly important because they can reveal information not captured by a sparse historical record, he added.</p><p>These results were <a href="https://www.nature.com/articles/s41598-020-78933-8" target="_blank">published in December in <em>Scientific Reports</em></a>.</p><p>"It's nice to see the longevity and the history of coppice-with-standards," said <a href="https://www.teagasc.ie/contact/staff-directory/s/ian-short/" target="_blank">Ian Short</a>, a forestry researcher at Teagasc, the Agriculture and Food Development Authority in Ireland, not involved in the research. This technique is valuable because it promotes conservation and habitat biodiversity, Short said. "In the next 10 or 20 years, I think we'll see more coppice-with-standards coming back into production."</p><p>In the future, Muigg and his collaborators hope to analyze a larger sample of historic timbers to trace how the coppice-with-standards practice spread throughout Europe. It will be interesting to understand where this technique originated and how it propagated, said Muigg, and there are plenty of old pieces of wood waiting to be analyzed. "There [are] tons of dendrochronological data."</p><p><em><a href="mailto:email@example.com" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Katherine Kornei</a> is a freelance science journalist covering Earth and space science. Her bylines frequently appear in Eos, Science, and The New York Times. Katherine holds a Ph.D. in astronomy from the University of California, Los Angeles.</em></p><p><em>This story originally appeared in <a href="https://eos.org/articles/tree-rings-reveal-how-ancient-forests-were-managed" target="_blank">Eos</a></em> <em>and is republished here as part of Covering Climate Now, a global journalism collaboration strengthening coverage of the climate story.</em></p>
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