A Pikas Song

One of my favorite animals to inhabit the alpine tundra and one I always think of as summer turns to fall is the American Pika. Scurrying about above the tree-line diligently gathering vegetation to stock their winter larder. The Pika is adapted to live year-round in the harsh alpine environment. However tough they may be climate change poses a significant danger to the continued existence of the Pika and in the lower regions of North America have already lost up to 1/3 of their previous habitat to climate change.

It would be a sad day indeed if a hike through the alpine tundra was devoid of a pikas song.

what’s lost

Reflecting on a summer that seemed to come and go and somehow felt like it did not exist. There were photos taken that prove it real but even these feel like a dream.

Walks were walked and thoroughly enjoyed yet a nagging voice walked the trail with us. Silent at times and other times loud. A whisper at time and other a shout…..What’s lost may never be found.

Yes, much can be lost in a very short time and now nowhere to run.

Seeking Solutions: E-Butterfly

Summers_work_is_done
Yes it’s winter and for most of us in the Northern Hemisphere butterflies are few and far between this time of year. However summer will arrive soon enough and the skies will  once again graced with these butterflies large and small.

Butterflies are vital pollinators and their populations strongly affected by climate change. Research funding to study how climate change amongst other things effects butterflies is in short supply so researchers have created an online platform called E-Butterfly which allow individuals to log their butterfly sightings and photos into a database much like the platform E-Bird used by many in the birding community.

A recent interview with entomologist Kathleen Prudic the co-director of E-Butterfly was published in the Conversation. The data entered into E-Butterfly is used for numerous research projects including butterfly conservation and much like the data used on E-Bird can be used to visualize the migration of several butterfly species. E-Butterfly also contains informative articles any butterfly enthusiast would find interesting to read. It is a great way for us all to get involved in conservation and another addition to the ever expanding role of citizen science in conservation research.

Browsing the site is a fine way to spend a minute or two on a dreary winter day.

And for more information on Citizen Science visit Citizen Science. org

This year: One book at a time.


We don’t know about you but we tend to get over ambitious at times with books, especially reading them. Five or six books sitting proudly on the coffee table in living room each with a bookmark placed about 1/3 into the book. Each book calling your name when you plop down on the sofa to relax. You sit and stare back at them silently wondering how you will finish them all before they are due at the library. You get through one or two wonderful books but always feel like your not reading enough as you solemnly remove the bookmarks form the remaining three and whisk them off and into the return slot at the library. So this year it’s only one book at a time- from front to back- all the way though.

We recently came across a wonderful four part series on the best nature books of 2019 written by the Chicago Review of Books

. It is a very diverse list of nature books that will provide us some guidance in choosing and reading our one-book-at-a time in 2020.

Here are links to each of the four posts. The author of the articles Amy Brady stated in the part four of this series that this year has been the best in recent memory for nature writing. Looking though the lists is almost as fun as reading the books listed.
Part Four
Part Three
Part Two
Part One

Anything catch your eye as a first read from these lists. Maybe because it’s winter and darkness comes early the book Dark Skies: a journey into the wild night By Tiffany Francis-Baker sounds like it might be first up this year.

Statistic of the decade

Rare_6
As this decade comes to a close we ran across an interesting statistic produced by the Royal Statistical Society in the UK. In fact it was the societies statistic of the decade and one that is nothing to write home about-deforestation of the Amazon rainforest.
Rare_10

The estimated accumulated deforestation of the Amazon being equivalent to around 8.4 million football pitches or about 24,000 square miles. In a decade!

A recent article in the Conversation provides further insight into this statistic describing some of the more obvious consequences of this deforestation and rebutting arguments that conversion of the rainforest to ranching, resource extraction and farming is required for economic benefits of nations and the people within those nations. In fact there is data to suggest that if left alone the economic benefits of the amazon rainforest outweigh its destruction for short-term profits. However, another recent article suggests the worst is yet to come in the deforestation of the Amazon. With the cost of  reforestation at over $2,000 an acre cost alone, not to mention political forces, make restoration less likely day by day.rae_8

The amazon rainforest has been called the lungs of the earth breathing in carbon dioxide and stabilizing the earth’s climate and exhaling oxygen-oxygen that fuels life animal life in all its myriad forms.

  • One in ten known species on our planet including over 2,000 species of animals and probably more plant species than can be counted.
  • Half of the earths remaining tropical rain forests.
  • Over 4,000 river
  • Over 2.6 million square miles.

A grim statistic to have won the honor of statistic of the decade but one we ought to heed as we move forward into the next.

It is hard to appreciate this fact for us living far from the Amazon in places already striped of natural landscapes.  However, when we drive past a once fertile farm field just down the road now being plowed over for a new round of strip malls we get an inkling of what the future holds. A planet impoverished for the enrichment of a few, until it all falls apart.

Perhaps the statistic of the next decade in 2030 will something like this “the decade humanity work together to solve the climate crisis for the good of all”.I know it’s not really a statistic but we will be able to quantify the results and turn that into the next statistic of the decade.

THe_bully_1

Success stories: Audubon Society

While this past year has felt like one negative story after another with respect to environmental and conservation news there are successes to be recognized and accomplishments lauded.

The national Audubon Society recently published a list of their success stories for this year that will bring a little cheer to a birders holiday season.

Successes occurred on numerous fronts including clean energy projects, local conservation measures, increasing awareness for endangered bird species, protection of habitats and several others all of which are detailed here.

For me the Audubon report entitled “Survival by Degrees” will stand out as a crowning accomplishment. It is bringing widespread awareness to how climate change will endanger up to 389 bird species in North America and was widely reported on in the media.

Yes, there is good news to be found and reading it felt like a much needed gift from Santa himself.

Wishing you all a very Happy Holidays.

Rare is common?

Rare is common?

A recent report published in Science Advances suggests that up to 40% of plant species are actually very rare and these rare species are extremely vulnerable to extinction via climate change as well as destruction of native ecosystems for human land use.

In the introduction to the paper the authors state:

“Why some species are common and others are rare has intrigued ecologists at least, since Darwin. Rare species are orders of magnitude more likely to go extinct, making it puzzling how so many rare species can be maintained.”

To make their conclusions thirty-five research teams form over 20 institutions complied 20 million observational records of plants from around the globe. Their analysis revealed over 435,00 plant species with about 36.5% being classified are rare.

The rare species were clustered in regions around the globe that through time have had more stable climates especially during the planets last ice-age. These rare plant hotspots included regions of the Northern Andes, Costa Rica, Madagascar and regions of Southeast Asia. However as the planet warms and the ever present march of human conversion of land for agriculture, housing and tourism continues these rare plant regions are threatened.

The authors state that:

“If nothing is done, this all indicates that there will be a significant reduction in diversity — mainly in rare species — because their low numbers make them more prone to extinction.”

A very interesting report and a short summary can be found at Science Daily.

 

While none of these photos depict rare plants, or so I think, these are the types of places rare plants might live.

What will be lost when we only have the common left?

Click Image for slide show

References:

  1. Brian J. Enquist, Xiao Feng, Brad Boyle, Brian Maitner, Erica A. Newman, Peter Møller Jørgensen, Patrick R. Roehrdanz, Barbara M. Thiers, Joseph R. Burger, Richard T. Corlett, Thomas L. P. Couvreur, Gilles Dauby, John C. Donoghue, Wendy Foden, Jon C. Lovett, Pablo A. Marquet, Cory Merow, Guy Midgley, Naia Morueta-Holme, Danilo M. Neves, Ary T. Oliveira-Filho, Nathan J. B. Kraft, Daniel S. Park, Robert K. Peet, Michiel Pillet, Josep M. Serra-Diaz, Brody Sandel, Mark Schildhauer, Irena Šímová, Cyrille Violle, Jan J. Wieringa, Susan K. Wiser, Lee Hannah, Jens-Christian Svenning, Brian J. McGill.The commonness of rarity: Global and future distribution of rarity across land plantsScience Advances, 2019; 5 (11): eaaz0414 DOI: 1126/sciadv.aaz0414
  2. University of Arizona. “Nearly 40% of plant species are very rare and are vulnerable to climate change.” ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 27 November 2019. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2019/11/191127161235.htm>.

 

 

 

 

Seeking Solutions: A global deal for nature

Wet_23

As humanity marches on seemingly ignorant, yet keenly aware, the earths climate continues to warm faster than predicted and the sixth-extinction event picks up momentum like a snowball rolling down hill one group of scientists recently published a paper titled “A Global Deal For Nature: Guiding principles, milestones, and targets” in the journal Science Advances proposing a solution to put a halt to our global crises.  In this paper the authors make the case that:

 “the most logical path to avoid the approaching crisis is maintaining and restoring at least 50% of the Earth’s land area as intact natural ecosystems, in combination with energy transition measures.”

The authors clearly state that measures to protect ecosystems, biodiversity and any aversion or mitigation of anthropogenic climate change is a time bound matter and action must come sooner than later.

The paper lists five major goals of the project:

(1) represent all native ecosystem types and successional stages across their natural range of variation—or “representation”

(2) maintain viable populations of all native species in natural patterns of abundance and distribution—or “saving species”

(3) maintain ecological function and ecosystem services

(4) maximize carbon sequestration by natural ecosystems

(5) address environmental change to maintain evolutionary processes and adapt to the impacts of climate change 

In addition the paper gives clear scientific evidence for their proposal and priorities that include: protecting biodiversity, mitigating climate change and reducing future threats. This is a well presented paper and one clearly worth reading.

A short article summarizing the project can be found here and is a good jumping off point prior to reading the whole study. It’s a beautiful world and diverse world and something too important to loose.

Click image to view slideshow.

References:
1) A Global Deal For Nature: Guiding principles, milestones, and targets.

 

 

Male Ruffed Grouse: Bonasa umbellus

Male_ruffed_grouse_12094

We caught each other by surprise this afternoon. Both walking quietly through the woods me on the trail he through the brush. Once we eyed each other I reached for the camera and got a quick photo. Head held high gave me the once over before quickly flying off into the woods. A quick and satisfying encounter for me and given I was not a hunter for him as well.

According to the climate change model used by the Audubon Society this species is projected to shift mostly out of the conterminous 48 states if temperatures rise 3 degrees C.

Urge congress to take action on climate change.

At what cost?

A recent article presented on CNN titled “The insect apocalypse is coming: Here’s what you can do about it.” reports that up to 41% of insect species may face extinction in the coming decades. A major source for this article was a study authored by Dave Goulson at the University of Sussex in the UK. His report is titled “Insect Declines and Why They Matter.
Dr Goulsons report begins with a statement which will likely hit home to many of you

“In the last fty years, we have reduced the abundance of wildlife on Earth dramatically. Many species that were once common are now scarce. Much attention focusses on declines of large, charismatic animals, but recent evidence suggests that abundance of insects may have fallen by 50% or more since 1970. This is troubling, because insects are vitally important, as food, pollinators and recyclers amongst other things. Perhaps more frightening, most of us have not noticed that anything has changed. Even those of us who can remember the 1970s, and who are interested in nature, can’t accurately remember how many butterflies or bumblebees there were when we were children.”

We all know that insects, like em or leave em, are responsible for pollination of three quarters of our food crops. Thus we can expect to pay dearly if insect populations decline as predicted.

Dr Goulson is not alone in his assessment of the rate of potential insect decline. A review published by Francisco Sánchez-Bayo and Kris A.G.Wyckhuys titled “Worldwide decline of the entomofauna: A review of its drivers” reaches similar conclusions citing habitat loss, pesticide use, invasive species and climate change as primary drives of insect loss.1

Both studies suggest we can do a few things to stem the decline in insect populations like:

1 Plant a garden using plants that attract pollinators like bees and butterflies.

2.Create more insect habitat like a log or brush pile. These attract humble insects and invertebrates like woodlice, which recycle nutrients and act as food for birds and small mammals.

3.Voice your opinion to your local authorities. Push for planting native trees that flower on streets and parks and plant wildflowers in road medians.

4. Avoid using pesticides and encourage your friends, family and local government to do the same.

Besides their role in a functional ecosystem insects are darn cool to observe and photograph as well. At what cost we will begin see the beauty of life on earth.

Click on any photo to play slide show.

Reference:
1.https://doi.org/10.1016/j.biocon.2019.01.020

A few links on creating a pollinator friendly garden. Yes we are going into winter but it’s never too early to think about next years garden.

https://www.fws.gov/midwest/news/PollinatorGarden.html
https://www.fs.fed.us/wildflowers/pollinators/gardening.shtml