Global wildlife halved in 40 years, reveals WWF

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Pic: WWF

Global wildlife populations have halved in just 40 years, according to new research by scientists at the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) and the Zoological Society of London (ZSL).

Creatures across land, rivers and the seas are being decimated as humans kill them for food in unsustainable numbers, while polluting or destroying their habitats, the WWF’s Living Planet Report 2014 found.

The key findings are:

  • Populations of mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians and fish have declined by an average of 52% since the 1970s.
  • Freshwater species populations have suffered a 76% decline, an average loss almost double that of land and marine species.
  • The worst declines have been observed in the Tropics.

The report draws upon the Living Planet Index, a database maintained by the Zoological Society of London, which monitors trends in over 10,000 populations of 3038 species since the 1970s. It also looks at how human consumption levels have increased in the same time period. It shows that the biggest recorded threat to biodiversity comes from the combined impacts of habitat loss and degradation, driven by unsustainable human consumption.

“If half the animals died in London zoo next week it would be front page news,” said Professor Ken Norris, ZSL’s director of science. “But that is happening in the great outdoors. This damage is not inevitable but a consequence of the way we choose to live.” He said nature, which provides food and clean water and air, was essential for human wellbeing.

“We have lost one half of the animal population and knowing this is driven by human consumption, this is clearly a call to arms and we must act now,” said Mike Barratt, director of science and policy at WWF. He said more of the Earth must be protected from development and deforestation, while food and energy had to be produced sustainably.

New book celebrates 50 years of wildlife photos

Cherry Alexander/NHM

Pic: Cherry Alexander/NHM

The Natural History Museum’s new book is a real treat. Entitled ’50 Years of Wildlife Photographer of the Year’, it features the most memorable pictures from 50 years of the prestigious competition, including this beautiful photo taken by Cherry Alexander of Antartica.

The book celebrates the art of wildlife photography by charting its development  from the first hand-held cameras and the colour film revolution of the 1960s, to the increasingly sophisticated photographs of wild animals and unexplored places taken today.

London march for global action on climate change

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Campaigners marched through central London on Sunday to demand global action on climate change, in one of thousands of events worldwide ahead of a UN climate summit.

Some 2,000 events took place in 150 countries, with more than 100,000 people taking to the streets of New York – where the summit is being held – to demand leaders take action to tackle rising temperatures. The summit has been convened by the UN secretary general, Ban Ki-moon, in a bid to drive action and momentum towards talks in Paris in 2015, where it is hoped a new global climate treaty can be agreed.

In London, campaigners were joined by celebrities, including actress Emma Thompson and musician Peter Gabriel, and church bells rang to mark the march through Westminster to Parliament, where speeches and a rally were held.

Thompson said: “There is little time left to prevent the worst excesses of climate change, yet our world leaders continue to stall. I’ve witnessed the impact climate change is already having on the melting Arctic and on poverty-stricken communities in the developing world. We can’t go on pretending nothing’s happening.”

In a statement on his website, Peter Gabriel said: “This big blue ball is the only possible home for humanity in the near future. If our family home was being destroyed and poisoned in the same way, we would do something immediately.

“This is not just a campaign for activists, but for everyone who wants to live on a planet capable of sustaining us. We will only achieve a sustainable future if global citizens demand global action.”

UK seabirds face triple threat

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UK breeding seabirds are under threat from a triple whammy of extreme weather, predators and human disturbance, the National Trust has revealed.

The conservation organisation has carried out an extensive study of seabird sites along its 742 miles of coastline to evaluate the importance of National Trust locations for seabirds and to recognise the issues that impact breeding success.

The new report calls for more regular monitoring to help detect any changes in seabird colonies and a greater awareness of human impact on breeding populations.

The biggest potential threat to seabirds was found to be the effect of extreme weather, such as in Blakeney, Norfolk, this winter when the severe tidal surges forced more than half of the little terns to nest in low areas. The high tides that followed in mid-June caused the nests to flood, resulting in a very poor breeding season.

Little terns at Long Nanny in Northumberland were also under threat and National Trust rangers spent three months, between May and August, providing a 24 hour watch on the nesting birds by camping next to their breeding site.

Predators, such as rats, foxes and mink, were also identified as a problem at nearly all sites. The managed removal of predators is now a priority for the Trust and more regular monitoring will help to detect any issues early on.

The third most common risk to breeding success was found to be human disturbance by walkers and their pets. If nests are disturbed it can displace seabirds, leaving the young vulnerable to predators. However, even if they are not displaced, seabirds can become stressed when disturbed which can greatly impact their wellbeing.

The National Trust is therefore encouraging walkers and visitors to the coast to be aware of the potential impact of disturbing nesting seabirds during the breeding season. Dr David Bullock, Head of Nature Conservation at the National Trust, said: “Seabirds are part of what makes out coastline so special.

“Our emotional connection with these birds, along with what they tell us about the health of our seas, means that it is vital for us to look after the places where they nest.”

Greenpeace — SAVE THE ARCTIC

Originally posted on PLANET EARTH NEWSLETTER blog:

A must see video about our PLANET EARTH.

The Arctic ice we all depend on is disappearing. Fast.

In the last 30 years, we’ve lost as much as three-quarters of the floating sea ice cover at the top of the world. The volume of that sea ice measured by satellites in the summer, when it reaches its smallest, has shrunk so fast that scientists say it’s now in a ‘death spiral’.

For over 800,000 years, ice has been a permanent feature of the Arctic ocean. It’s melting because of our use of dirty fossil fuel energy, and in the near future it could be ice free for the first time since humans walked the Earth. This would be not only devastating for the people, polar bears, narwhals, walruses and other species that live there – but for the rest of us too.

The ice at the top of the world…

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Big British Butterfly Count

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There’s four days left of the Big Butterfly Count 2014.

The charity Butterfly Conservation hopes that thousands of participants will spend 15 minutes to log 1m butterfly sightings – beating last year’s record of 800,000.

Nature lovers are being asked to count butterflies for 15 minutes during bright (preferably sunny) weather. Records are welcome from anywhere, including parks, school grounds, gardens, fields and forests.

If you are counting from a fixed position in your garden, count the maximum number of each species that you can see at a single time. For example, if you see three Red Admirals together on a buddleia bush then record it as 3, but if you only see one at a time then record it as 1 (even if you saw one on several occasions) – this is so that you don’t count the same butterfly more than once.

If you are doing your count on a walk, then simply total up the number of each butterfly species that you see during the 15 minutes.

The charity said: “Butterflies react very quickly to change in their environment which makes them excellent biodiversity indicators. Butterfly declines are an early warning for other wildlife losses.

“The count will also assist us in identifying trends in species that will help us plan how to protect butterflies from extinction, as well as understand the effect of climate change on wildlife.”

iOS Smartphone app

You can download a handy identification chart to help you work out which butterflies you have seen and submit separate records for different dates, and for different places that you visit. 

You can send in your sightings online at www.bigbutterflycount.org or by using a free smartphone apps available for iOS and Android.

Study advances ‘DNA revolution,’ tells butterflies’ evolutionary history

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Originally posted on Science Post:

By tracing nearly 3,000 genes to the earliest common ancestor of butterflies and moths, scientists have created an extensive “Tree of Lepidoptera” in the first study to use large-scale, next-generation DNA sequencing.
Butterflies. Credit: © andrey7777777

Butterflies.
Credit: © andrey7777777

Among the study’s more surprising findings: Butterflies are more closely related to small moths than to large ones, which completely changes scientists’ understanding of how butterflies evolved. The study also found that some insects once classified as moths are actually butterflies, increasing the number of butterfly species higher than previously thought.

“This project advances biodiversity research by providing an evolutionary foundation for a very diverse group of insects, with nearly 160,000 described species,” said Akito Kawahara, lead author and assistant curator of Lepidoptera at the Florida Museum of Natural History on the UF campus. “With a tree, we can now understand how the majority of butterfly and moth species evolved.”

Available online and to…

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