Seeking Solutions: E-Butterfly

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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

Hello Neighbor

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A recent report published in Science Daily describes the results of a recent research study published in the journal Current Biology supporting the hypothesis that when under attack from insect herbivores plants indeed communicate with each other.1

No, they don’t scream, but use chemicals called Volatile Organic Compounds and release them into the atmosphere and are detected by their neighbors.

One of the major findings from the study is that when plants are under attack the compounds released become more similar between species suggesting a type of cross species communication.

The Author of the study Andre Kessler describes the results of the study as follows:

“What we very often see when plants get attacked by pathogens or herbivores is, they change their metabolism,” Kessler said. “But it’s not a random change — in fact, those chemical and metabolic changes are also helping them cope with those attackers. It’s very much like our immune system: though plants don’t have antibodies like we have, they can fight back with pretty nasty chemistry.” 2

Interesting stuff.

The article in Science Daily is an easy read and a little splash of color to beat back a dull January day might be just what the doctor ordered.

Courtesy of none other than….Plants!

References:
1. Aino Kalske, Kaori Shiojiri, Akane Uesugi, Yuzu Sakata, Kimberly Morrell, André Kessler. Insect Herbivory Selects for Volatile-Mediated Plant-Plant Communication. Current Biology, 2019; 29 (18): 3128 DOI: 10.1016/j.cub.2019.08.011

2.Cornell University. “Plants alert neighbors to threats using common ‘language’.” ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 3 October 2019. .

Seeking Solutions: A global deal for nature

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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.

 

 

The Fungus Among Us

I have always found mushrooms fascinating life forms. Not plant, not animal yet vitally important for the health of both plants and animals. However, they are a bugger to photograph yet I never stop trying.

Paul Stamets wrote a great book on Fungus call “Mycellium Running” and delivered a very interesting TED talk several years ago:

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