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Cara J

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Posts posted by Cara J

  1. A warming climate is pushing organisms towards the circumpolar areas and mountain peaks. A recently conducted Finnish study on changes in bird populations reveals that protected areas slow down the north-bound retreat of species.

    As the climate warms up, the belts of current climate conditions move further north, forcing species to follow the climate suited to them. At the same time, environmental transformation by humans is causing problems. Species are experiencing great difficulties in adapting simultaneously to a decrease in the quality of their habitat and the pressure brought on by climate change.

    The study, published in Global Change Biology, investigated changes in the abundance of bird species inside and outside of conservation areas over five decades. According to observations made by the researchers, conservation areas are excellent habitats for many species. These areas help northern bird species maintain their abundances on the southern boundary of their current area of distribution, while helping certain southern bird species spread to new territories on the northern boundary of their distribution area.

    “Finnish conservation areas are mainly comprised of old-growth forest and peatlands, which prevent the retreat of northern species. It is the impact of climate change on northern species that is causing particular concern. These species are also threatened by deteriorating habitats, such as through forestry and the drying-up of peatlands,” explains Petteri Lehikoinen, a researcher at Luomus, the Finnish Museum of Natural History at the University of Helsinki.

    Northern bird species live under the strain of a warming climate and dispersion barriers, since their spread is restricted by the Arctic Ocean and the Scandinavian Mountains. When species are unable to head further north, their risk of extinction grows. Protected areas are safe havens for such northern birds, accommodating species whose abundance remains high compared to regions outside the conservation areas.

    Conservation areas helped certain southern species move up north. The abundance of southern species dependent on conservation areas in their core regions, such as the red-breasted flycatcher and the lesser spotted woodpecker, increased significantly more inside than outside conservation areas while spreading northwards. For these species, conservation areas are kinds of stepping stones by which to spread, as the climate changes, to regions previously unpopulated by them.

    “This observation emphasises the importance of a geographically unbroken and comprehensive network of conservation areas, while at the same time posing a challenge for the planning of conservation. When establishing conservation areas in the future, attention should also be paid to the needs of those species currently only beginning to spread to the area from the south,” said Petteri Lehikoinen.

    Climate change and the deterioration of habitats are the top causes of diminishing biodiversity. Protected areas not only mitigate climate change itself, since old forests and peatlands in their natural state serve as carbon sinks, they also curb the loss of biodiversity as the climate changes, as the results of the study indicate.

    Co-author Aleksi Lehikoinen says: “By slowing down the harm caused by climate change, conservation areas provide us with a grace period for tackling the causes and consequences of climate change. The findings encourage us to increase the number of conservation areas, which is also what the international goal of protecting 17% of all land area does.”

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  2. Protected areas with more biodiversity tend to have more tourists, according to new research. That popularity can mean more money for conservation and help bolster human interest in wildlife, but it can also raise other concerns. “The balancing between protecting biodiversity and fostering ecotourism is a global challenge,” said Min Gon Chung, a PhD candidate in Michigan State University’s Center for Systems Integration and Sustainability and lead author of the study published in Ecosystem Services. “However, there was little quantitative research to examine the relationship between biodiversity and ecotourism worldwide.” In the study, Chung and his colleagues collected visitor numbers in 929 protected areas around the world. They also took note of the biodiversity in those areas, the age of each area, its elevation and other factors. The team found that with each 1 percent increase in biodiversity in protected areas, nature-based tourism rose 0.87 percent. Researchers also found that people tend to visit areas that are older, larger, more accessible from urban areas and at higher elevations. These conditions “make for more comfortable climates that can be a relief from hot cities in the summer,” Chung said. They also looked at socioeconomic factors and found protected areas surround by [...]

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  3. Santa Rosa, California is well known for vineyards, arts and culture. But the locals know that one of the many benefits the city has to offer is outdoor recreation. Trione-Annadel State Park is among the area’s most popular parks, with 5,500 acres of rolling hills, streams, meadows and woodlands. The Ledson Marsh area of the park started out as a reservoir to water eucalyptus trees, but it is now home to cattails, tules, native grasses, and a variety of critters, including salamanders, snakes, lizards, rabbits, turtles, scorpions, and frogs. The marsh’s most prized species is the threatened California red-legged frog (Rana draytonii). In October 2017, the Nuns wildfire ripped through Ledson Marsh leaving charred vegetation and wildlife behind. While prescribed burns are an important land management tool that can benefit an ecosystem and provide a measure of safety for surrounding communities and firefighters, severe wildfires can damage soil, watersheds and water quality — affecting people and wildlife. Prescribed burns are controlled, researched and planned. They are slow-moving ground fires that allow area wildlife time to relocate. Although there could be loss of individuals, it does not negatively impact wildlife populations. Wildfires, on the other hand, are often so fast moving [...]

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  4. The Bureau of Land Management has released the final environmental impact statement and proposed plan amendments for greater sage-grouse (Centrocercus urophasianus) conservation on public land in Colorado, Idaho, Oregon, Nevada, Utah and Wyoming. The recent revisions, which came as a result of a secretarial order from Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke last year, allow for more energy development and mineral extraction and remove restrictions from hundreds of thousands of acres of identified sage-grouse priority habitat areas. In 2010, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service determined that the greater sage-grouse warranted protections under the Endangered Species Act, but over the next several years, federal agencies, states and nonprofits worked together to developed protections to conserve the species without listing it under the ESA. As a result, Interior announced in 2015 that the sage-grouse would not require listing. That year, the BLM and U.S. Forest Service also finalized their sage-grouse conservation plans. The BLM’s 2015 plan, which covered over 70 million acres in 11 states, identified 10 million acres of “sagebrush focal areas” — habitats deemed critical to the bird’s survival — and placed restrictions on the activities that could occur in these areas. The revisions would remove the protections from most of these [...]

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  5. Donald Trump has a moth named after him. Barack Obama can claim a spider. It’s not unusual for newly discovered species to be given unlikely scientific names, but usually those names are bestowed by the discoverers. Should they go to the top bidder instead? Last Saturday, the Rainforest Trust celebrated its 30th anniversary with what it called “the largest species-naming auction in history.” Naming rights for 12 species were auctioned off, raising $182,500 to fund the organization’s conservation work. On the auction block were four frogs, four orchids, a forest mouse, a trap-jaw ant, a salamander and a legless amphibian known as a caecilian. “All Proceeds will be matched and will go directly towards protecting the ecologically rich homes of the flora and fauna being named, areas where there are likely other unknown species that enrich our planet and could have immense benefits to mankind,” the Rainforest Trust announced. But the practice has its critics. “There are so many possible ways that it can go badly,” entomologist and taxonomist Douglas Yanega told the New York Times. Click here for more from the Rainforest Trust and here for the New York Times article.

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  6. Ontario’s Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry has proposed a hunting season for double-crested cormorants (Phalacrocorax auratus). Provincial management of cormorants varies, with some allowing hunting and other managing the populations through depredation permits or culling. Double-crested cormorants are native to the Great Lakes region. Populations declined significantly throughout the 1900s due to both unregulated harvesting by humans and environmental contaminants. In the 1970s, with pollution controls and other laws protecting the birds in place, populations rebounded. Recent estimates indicate the current population of double-created cormorants in the United States and Canada is about 730,000 birds. Cormorants are opportunistic and generalist feeders that consume a great deal of fish, often causing conflict with the fishing industry, recreational anglers and the aquaculture industry. The birds nest in colonies along waterways, where their high densities can have adverse effects on vegetation, stripping trees of leaves and covering surfaces with guano. Under the ministry’s proposal, the double-crested cormorant would be listed as a game bird and an open season would be established across the province from March 15 to Dec. 31 each year. Hunters would need an outdoors card and small game license to hunt double-crested cormorants. The proposal would also establish a [...]

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  7. Northern bobwhites (Colinus virginianus) have been declining mysteriously throughout their range. In Texas, biologists have watched their numbers fall for three decades, but they’ve been unable to determine why. In an effort to see if pesticides could be contributing, researchers looked at specimens collected in three areas in Texas and found evidence of neonicotinoid insecticide exposure. “That confirms what we think we know: that neonicotinoid exposure is one of the factors that contributes to bobwhite declines in the state and very likely other places,” said TWS member Miguel Mora, a professor at Texas A&M University and a co-author on the study published in the Journal of Wildlife Management. “That cannot be taken away.” The research was a follow-up to a previous study in which Mora and other biologists concluded that “neonicotinoid use was significantly negatively associated with bobwhite abundance” in five areas in Texas where farmers commonly use the pesticides. Looking at the high plains, rolling plains, Gulf Coast prairies and marshes, Edwards Plateau and the South Texas plains, the researchers found the birds’ abundance dropped in the time after the pesticides were introduced. “These pesticides were first used in Texas in the mid-’90s, and that’s when a sharp decline [...]

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  8. Bustling cities like Chicago are not usually known for their wildlife, but Cooper’s (Accipiter cooperii) and sharp-shinned hawks (Accipiter striatus) have been establishing populations in the city. In Chicago, researchers say, they’re drawn to backyard bird feeders — or at least, they’re drawn to prey on the birds that feed at them. “People have seen hawks in urban areas a lot for the last 20 to 30 years,” said Jennifer McCabe, a postdoctoral research associate at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and lead author of the recent study published in Proceedings of the Royal Society B. “People haven’t looked at what’s allowing them to colonize or stay there.” In the study, a research team took advantage of a citizen science dataset, Cornell Lab of Ornithology’s Project FeederWatch, to determine the extent to which hawks were flocking to feeders and their reasons for doing so, including food availability. The citizen scientists who were involved followed a protocol, recording birds that showed up at their feeders and taking note of how long they were watching. McCabe and her colleagues originally thought the hawks would be driven by tree cover in urban and suburban areas. In past research in Europe, afforestation in suburban and [...]

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  9. The presence of humans on trails — not the trails themselves — cause the most disturbance to forest birds, according to recent research. In a study published in Frontiers in Ecology and Evolution, a research team looked at the effects on bird species of both forest trails and the amount of human recreation on those trails. They wanted to see if it was the trails themselves or the people on them that were disturbing the birds the most. “While looking at articles investigating trail or road effects on birds, contradicting results have been found, and we thought that the effect of a trail might heavily depend on the human use intensity,” said Yves Bötsch, a postdoctoral researcher at the Swiss Ornithological Institute and lead author of the study. To conduct the study, the team assumed that birds farther away from trails were less affected by the trail itself and by humans on the trail. They surveyed breeding birds at two different distances from trails, recording every bird they heard or saw. To look at the effects of different human trail use, they looked at four different forests in Switzerland and France, which all had trails for recreation. Two had higher [...]

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  10. New research has discovered that the combined impact of deforestation and wildlife exploitation on bird numbers is severely underestimated and could lead to some species becoming extinct.

    Scientists from the University of Sheffield and the National University of Singapore focused on Sundaland, a hotspot of biodiversity in Southeast Asia where habitat loss, and hunting and wildlife trades are particularly intense. When loss of forest habitat and bird trapping in the region were examined together, 308 forest-dependent bird species showed a much higher than average population loss than when the threats were accounted for separately.

    The research, conducted between 2016 and 2017 and published recently in Nature Communications, also suggests that about 50 to 90 of forest-dependent species in the region, such as the ruby-throated bulbul and white-crowned hornbill, will be extinct by 2100. The study calls for the threats to biodiversity to be considered in combination with each other in order to implement effective conservation measures.

    While the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) has been tracking the different forms of threats to wildlife, the assessments tend to look at each form of threat separately. However, these threats are interconnected and the combined impact could be more severe than currently estimated.

    Dr William Symes, from the National University of Singapore, says: “Recent extinctions like the passenger pigeon and the dodo present common traits like the simultaneous combination of habitat loss and active hunting. This fatal combination of ingredients is present for dozens of unique bird species in Sundaland. At current rates, vanishing forests and enormous trapping pressures are likely to drive many of them to extinction in the near future.”

    Their evaluation revealed that 89% of the 308 forest-dependent bird species studied had experienced an average habitat loss of 16% due to deforestation. They also estimated that wildlife exploitation had led to a 37% decline in mean population on average.

    Among the bird species studied, the researchers also identified 77 ‘commercially traded’ species that are exploited more frequently. They found that the estimated average decline for these exploited species was 15.3% from deforestation alone, but when combined with the effects of exploitation, the estimated average decline was drastically increased to 51.9%.

    In addition, the assessment of the combined impact of deforestation and exploitation in the study suggests that a total of 51 species should be listed as critically endangered, endangered or vulnerable – nearly doubling the number currently listed by IUCN.

    “Our study highlights the importance of considering the impact of major conservation threats in combination,” said Dr David Edwards from the University of Sheffield. “Recent habitat loss and exploitation combine to drive dramatic extinction risks to the forest specialist species of Sundaland. Without urgent policy intervention to curb deforestation and slow the quantities of birds entering the cage bird trade, many species are likely to be lost. Failing to account for these combined threats can lead to a major underestimation of threats in the IUCN Red List assessments.”

    Co-author Assistant Professor Roman Carrasco from the National University of Singapore adds: “Our technique of evaluating the combined threats can be applied to other tropical forests facing similar threats, to facilitate the development of effective conservation policies. Co-ordinated efforts to curb commercial exploitation and slow deforestation, for instance, can limit the extinction of bird species.”

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  11. A team of international scientists has discovered why brown tree snakes have become one of the most successful invasive species.

    The research team, led by University of Queensland scientists, has been studying why this species, a type of cat-eyed snake, has been so effective at devastating native bird populations on the island of Guam. Their results were published in the Journal of Molecular Evolution.

    The brown tree snake is native to eastern and northern coastal Australia, eastern Indonesia, Papua New Guinea, and a large number of islands in northwestern Melanesia. This one species has caused the local extinction of most of the Guam’s native bird and lizard species. It also caused ‘cascading’ ecological effects by removing native pollinators, causing the subsequent decline of native plant species.

    Associate Professor Bryan Fry from the university’s School of Biological Sciences said the takeover of Guam began when the brown tree snake was introduced on the Pacific island during World War II.

    “The snake hitchhiked on troop carriers from the Australian region and has since driven multiple native bird species into extinction, with only three species now found on the island,” he said. “The snakes’ impact was so devastating, it now ranks among the worst pests of all time.”

    In Guam’s forests, 10 out of 12 original forest bird species have been lost. The remaining two are considered functionally extinct. The team, including University of Queensland PhD students Daniel Dashevsky and Jordan Debono as well as researchers from Florida State University, investigated the species’ toxin, which is particularly venomous to birds.

    “The brown tree snake’s venom, while not dangerous to humans, is 100 times more toxic to birds than to mammals. It contains a toxin that’s made up of two smaller toxins joined together, a feature that was believed to be unique to brown tree snakes. Daniel and Jordan’s research has revealed that this is not the case and that any cat-eyed snakes belonging to the genus Boiga would have caused similar devastation. It’s just that this particular species was transported to Guam by accident,” Dr Fry said.

    Cat-eyed snakes evolved in Africa and rapidly spread across the Indian subcontinent, throughout South-East Asia and to Australia. The team discovered that the snake’s toxin type was responsible for its explosive natural spread.

    Dr Fry continues: “For the last 80 years or so, for the brown tree snake at least, this biological advantage has been aided by the introduction of air travel. The United States government is still flying military planes from Guam to Hawaii, and there is therefore the potential for the snakes to hitchhike. They have been intercepted in airports in Hawaii airports in the past, so if these direct flights are allowed to continue, there’s a possibility they could get to Hawaii and wipe out the birds like they did on Guam. Now we know more about the snake’s basic biology, we can help in developing a smart approach to preventing and managing this and other invasive species.”

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  12. What would a barn swallow be without barns? According to recent research, maybe nothing at all. After studying the birds’ DNA, researchers believe it may be impossible to separate barn swallows’ evolution from the human landscape in which they evolved. “It’s an example of humans really profoundly affecting nature and wild populations,” said Chris Smith, lead author of the study in Molecular Biology. After studying the birds’ genome, researchers at the University of Colorado, Boulder believe that the barn swallows’ evolution is tied to human presence. “We probably indirectly affect all species on earth, but this is a drastic example of humans shaping biodiversity on earth,” said Smith, a graduate student in ecology and evolutionary biology and the Interdisciplinary Quantitative Biology program at the University of Colorado. Barn swallows (Hirundo rustica) exist across the Northern Hemisphere. Their characteristic mud cup nests are not just a common sight on the sides of buildings and bridges — they’re rarely found on anything but human structures. That had researchers wondering how much of a role humans and their buildings may have played in the birds’ evolution. “Barn swallows nest on human structures almost exclusively,” Smith said. “We know their ecology is tied to [...]

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  13. An analysis of Google searches suggests public interest in conservation is on the rise. Using an adapted version of Google Trends, Princeton University researchers found online interest in conservation topics, like “biodiversity” and “environmental protection,” was similar to interest in poverty. Overall, they found, the number of Google searches for conservation-related topics has increased since 2004 and continues to rise, and interest in conservation isn’t being displaced by interest in climate change. “The public pays attention to both topics at the same time,” researchers wrote. “Conservation scientists should nurture this growing interest and transform it into actual support for conservation by redoubling efforts to present objective, evidence‐based findings about conservation in an accessible, engaging, and relatable way. Such efforts are crucial in a time of increasing political polarization, reduced funding, and deliberate misinformation campaigns.” Read more on Mongabay here, and read the study in Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment here.

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  14. Each spring, an estimated 52 million blackbirds migrate north into the northern Great Plains of the United States. In the fall these birds and their offspring, totaling 75 million, drift southward feeding on sunflower, corn, rice and other grain crops, costing farmers millions of dollars. Scientists at the USDA-Wildlife Services’ National Wildlife Research Center have long-standing partnerships with private companies and industry groups to investigate nonlethal bird and rodent repellent compounds, formulations, and application strategies for reducing wildlife damage. One such partnership with Arkion Life Sciences has resulted in a new repellent strategy and a suite of nonlethal repellent products that use a naturally-occurring compound called anthraquinone, or AQ. AQ was first patented as a bird repellent in 1944 to reduce bird damage to agricultural crops. At that time, the assumed mode of action was post-ingestive stress (an unpleasant sickness in the birds that eat it). Recent NWRC-Arkion research has shown that AQ can also cause avoidance behaviors in birds through visual cues related to the compound’s absorption of the ultraviolet (UV) spectrum. “Birds don’t always like what they see,” states NWRC research wildlife biologist Dr. Scott Werner. “Our studies with captive blackbirds have shown that the birds rely on [...]

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  15. A study of Carolina chickadees (Poecile carolinensis) in the Washington, D.C., metro area found that even a few nonnative plants can make it hard for native birds to survive. The study in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences looked at interactions between plants, arthropods and insectivorous birds in the backyards of citizen scientists. Researchers found that in areas where the native plant biomass was less than 70 percent, the chickadees failed to produce enough young to sustain their populations. The solution, researchers said, is to plant native. “We hear a lot in conservation that things are in trouble, and they are,” lead author Desirée Narango, told Smithsonian.com. “So I think this study is a nice example of something that we can actually do at home to make some positive ecological change.” Read more from the Smithsonian here, or read the study here.

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  16. The journal Nature is voicing support for a massive project to sequence the DNA of every plant and animal on earth. The Earth BioGenome Project launched earlier this month with the goal using the data to slow the decline of biodiversity. “Earth’s sixth great extinction event is firmly under way,” Nature wrote ,“and ending this crisis will take much more than DNA sequences. But the Earth BioGenome Project can play a part, and early signs are that it might work.” Read the editorial in Nature here and our past coverage here.

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  17. Climate change may be the main reason behind a great decline in shorebird populations around the world, researchers found. After looking at 38,191 nests of 111 species across the world, the team found that rates of daily nest predation in the Arctic in particular have increased threefold in the last 70 years. Usually, the tropics see more nest predation because of a greater variety of predators, prompting many shorebirds to migrate to colder regions. But the Arctic is proving to not be so safe, researchers found, and nest predation is also rising in more temperate zones in Europe, Asia and North America. The authors point to climate change, which is leading predators to search for alternative prey as altered snow cover causes declines in their traditional prey. Read more in the Yorkshire Post or check out the study in Science.

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  18. For over 20 years, the movements of the critically endangered swift parrot (Lathamus discolor) have largely remained a mystery given the small size and highly variable annual movements of these migratory birds. “In the past, researchers have attempted to manually track swift parrots by attaching VHF radio transmitters to the birds, since GPS and satellite tags that provide data remotely are too large for this small migratory bird,” said Debbie Saunders, a conservation ecologist with Australia National University and founder of the company Wildlife Drones. “They then had to walk around for hours and days on end holding up a heavy antenna in the air in an attempt to pick up their signals.” Lightweight, flying robots can help track hard to track species such as the swift parrot. ©ANU Media But it was very time consuming and labor intensive to find even one swift parrot using this technique, she said, since the birds can move over large distances very quickly. Researchers were constantly searching for high ground to increase their chances of picking up a “ping” from a distant radio tag. “We needed to find a better way to efficiently find tagged animals across broad landscapes so that we could [...]

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  19. Once found on six islands of the Hawaiian archipelago, the Hawaiian hawk (Buteo solitarius), or ‘io in Hawaiian, now lives only on the Big Island. Its population was estimated at 3,000 in 2014, exceeding the recovery plan goal of 1,500 to 2,500 birds in the wild and is thought to have been stable since the late 1990s. The only hawk species native to Hawaii, the Hawaiian hawk was first listed as endangered in 1967, when its population dropped to just a few hundred birds. In 1997, a petition was submitted to have the Hawaiian hawk removed from the endangered species list. That proposal was not immediately acted upon due to other listing and delisting priorities, but in 2008 the Service proposed removing the hawk from ESA protections. Over 80 public comments were submitted during that comment period. USFWS then reopened the comment period in 2009, garnering just a handful of new comments, and again in 2014, when over 50 additional comments were submitted. The most recent call for public comments is not the result of new population data, but the Service does note that several recent restoration efforts have benefitted the hawks, such as the Hawaiian Legacy Reforestation Initiative and the [...]

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  20. While wildlife refuges and other natural areas are important for conservation, recent research shows biodiversity on working lands — places where people raise food, forests, products or livestock — are important for wildlife and plants as well. “It’s really important that we think about sustainability in working landscapes,” said Claire Kremen, a professor in the Department of Environmental Sciences, Policy and Management at the University of California, Berkeley and lead author of the recent paper published in Science. “I think it’s really important we don’t restrict our efforts of conserving wildlife just to protected areas or just working landscapes — they complement each other.” In the review article, Kremen and her colleagues looked at a vision of earth in the future and what would be needed to conserve biodiversity. After reviewing the literature, they determined that working landscapes must be used and managed in a way that’s friendly to wildlife. “We feel this will be the way to conserve biodiversity,” she said. Kremen said working lands are especially important for certain species. While some might need virtually pristine managed ecosystems, many species can coexist with human activity, she said. Supporting these animals in working landscapes can give them more area [...]

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  21. President Trump has nominated Aurelia Skipwith to be director of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, hoping to fill a position that has been vacant since the start of his administration. In the same week, Margaret Everson was named the next principal deputy director for the agency. Skipwith is currently the Interior Department’s deputy assistant secretary for fish, wildlife and parks. She has a law degree from the University of Kentucky, as well as an undergraduate degree in biology from Howard University and a master’s degree in animal science from Purdue University. Before her position at Interior, Skipwith was co-founder and general counsel for AVC Global, which described itself as an “agricultural value chain platform that unites smallholder farmers with multinational buyers, and agronomy, business training, financial and input service providers to meet the growing demand for food.” Prior to that position, Skipwith worked at Monsanto as molecular analyst and sustainable agriculture partnership manager. “If confirmed, I look forward to the opportunity to lead the Service in achieving a conservation legacy second only to President Teddy Roosevelt,” Skipwith said in a statement released by Interior. Skipwith would be the third female Service director and the first African American to hold [...]

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  22. The World Wildlife Fund’s 2018 Living Planet report demonstrates a global wildlife population loss of 60 percent between 1970 and 2014. The report, which tracks over 4,000 species of mammals, birds, fish, reptiles and amphibians, is published every two years. “Earth is losing biodiversity at a rate seen only during mass extinctions,” the report says. These declines are steepest in the tropics, including regions in Central and South America, with almost a 90 percent decrease in wildlife populations. Freshwater species also faced the brunt of the losses with an 83 percent decline, which the report said is likely due to overfishing, pollution and climate change. Other findings show that only about a quarter of the world’s land is untouched by humans, and the United States is among the countries consuming the most natural resources. Read more in USA Today or check out the report here.

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  23. A hurricane appears to have wiped out a remote Hawaiian island that served as important nesting grounds for threatened green sea turtles (Chelonia mydas) and pupping grounds for endangered Hawaiian monk seals (Monachus schauinslandi). Satellite images showed East Island to be under water in the wake of Hurricane Walaka, which passed over the region, known as Frigate Shoals, in early October. Nearby Tern Island also appeared to be altered by the storm. Frigate Shoals are part of Papahanaumokuakea Marine National Monument in the northwestern Hawaiian islands. “The take-home message is climate is real and climate change is happening now,” Randy Kosaki, NOAA’s deputy superintendent of research and field operations for the monument, told The Washington Post. “It seems to be happening faster than any of us expected.” Read the story in the Washington Post here.

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  24. On the British overseas territory of Gough Island in the South Atlantic, albatross numbers are plummeting, and researchers say the reason is introduced house mice. The researchers discovered that the island had 2 million fewer seabird eggs and chicks each year, suggesting possible extinctions in the near future. They say the number of surviving chicks and eggs would be much higher without mice around. Without action, species such as the Tristan albatross (Diomedea dabbenena) will likely become globally extinct, they said. In 2020, there are plans to eradicate the mice, which have inhabited the island since the 19th century when sailors introduced them. Now, the mice have evolved to be 50 percent larger than the average house mouse, the researchers said, and they have learned to feed on albatross eggs and chicks. Read more about the study in the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds.

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  25. As researchers noticed changes of bobcat (Lynx rufus) harvest over time in Wisconsin, they wondered if population models for bobcats based on harvest data were still accurate. In a study published in Royal Society Open Science, a team of researchers looked at changing trends in bobcat harvest in Wisconsin in the last 30 years. Hunters and Department and Natural Resources staff in the field reported seeing growing numbers of bobcats, but the model wasn’t showing an increasing population, said Max Allen, lead author of the study and assistant professor at the University of Illinois. Reviewing harvest data collected from the Wisconsin DNR over 30 years, the team looked at type of harvest — trapping and hunting with hounds — as well as sex, weight and age at harvest. They noted that the number of tags issued each year had dropped substantially since the 1980s compared to neighboring states, but the bobcats harvested in Wisconsin remained the same. Allen and his colleagues found that overall, more bobcats had been hunted by hounds compared with trapping, and animals harvested by hound hunters are more likely to be larger, older males. “We’re seeing hound hunters selecting for large males,” he said. “Hound hunters [...]

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