Seeking Solutions: Half-Earth Project

Golden_mantled_2314

In recent posts we have highlighted findings from a couple of recent studies describing the dramatic decline in avian populations in North America over the last  last 30-40 years. Like many of you, we see the decrease in avian population as a harbinger for the rest of life on earth predicting  a massive decline in biodiversity resulting from the mass extinction of species of all kinds. Protecting  ecosystems and thus the species that inhabit them will be no small task and indeed feels overwhelming.

IMG_6541

One group that is attempting to protect and preserve biodiversity is The Half Earth project founded by Edward O Wilson. Their stated mission is to:

“conserve half the land and sea in order to safeguard the bulk of biodiversity and ensure the long-term health of our planet.”

Half-Earth recently held their annual conference and have posted videos of the lectures on their website. We are working our way through the lectures and hope you can find the time to view a couple that interest you. Be it large or small we need to find time to seek solutions even though we may feel overwhelmed.

YRW_34567

 

The importance of wilderness

“Wilderness areas act as a buffer against species loss, as the extinction risk for species within wilderness communities is—on average—less than half that of species in non-wilderness communities.” 1

A recent study published in the Journal Nature titled “Wilderness Areas Half The Extinction Risk of Terrestrial Biodiversity” mapped several locations around the world where maintaining wilderness areas should be a priority. The first statement the authors make in the abstract in this paper really hit the nail on the head for me.

“Reducing the rate of global biodiversity loss is a major challenge facing humanity, as the consequences of biological annihilation would be irreversible for humankind. 1

In this single sentence the authors make clear that the steady march of human activity, as currently, conducted could potential be catastrophic to all life on earth.

“Wilderness areas act as a buffer against species loss, as the extinction risk for species within wilderness communities is—on average—less than half that of species in non-wilderness communities.” 1

The paper points to several locations on the plant especially important to protect yet the authors also state that all wilderness areas have intrinsic conservation value thus we can all play a role by supporting local conservation efforts of wilderness area near to each of us. Below we showcase a few wilderness area we have recently spent time in. They are both beautiful as well as safe havens for biodiversity.

Click any photo for slide show.

Absoroka-Beartooh and Lee Metcalf wilderness areas.

References:

1. Reference: Di Marco, M., Ferrier, S., Harwood, T.D. et al. Wilderness areas halve the extinction risk of terrestrial biodiversity. Nature 573, 582–585 (2019) doi:10.1038/s41586-019-1567-7

For a short summary of the article visit Science daily.

A couple of groups that support the missions of wilderness as a buffer for biological diversity are:
The Wilderness Society
The Half-Earth Project

On the talus slope

Pika_201934

I never get disappointed when I hear the little chirp of a Pika moving about on the talus slopes. Always spotting us before we spot them. usually sitting still and looking out into their environment then scurrying off to collect plants for winter larder. The Pika is yet another species threaten by climate change and the focus of this short video in Smithsonian Magazine.

It is encouraging that some Pika may be showing behavior adaptation to a loss of habitat resulting from climate change but as the authors of a recent study concludes “while many species have a clear capacity to modulate behavior in relation to variations in climate parameters,much remains to be learned about the trade-offs, fitness implications, and limitations of behavioral flexibility in the context of novel climate dynamics.”

I sure hope these little guys are able to adapt to the new reality imposed upon them by our species. A walk on the talus slopes without them would be a lonely walk indeed.

Swimming through air

An interesting new study by V. B. Baliga, I. Szabo, D. L. Altshuler entitled Range of motion in the avian wing is strongly associated with flight behavior and body mass suggests that rather than the shape of a birds wing per se it is the range of motion in the elbow and wrist joints that determine how a bird swims though the air. Some birds glide smoothly like a bald eagle while other can hover like a hummingbird and this paper suggest range of motion in the joint is the key. A interesting read for those who are interested both in biomechanics and evolutionary biology.

You can find a short summary in Science Daily here.