Seeking Solutions: Half-Earth Project

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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.

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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.

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Under a full moon

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The moon was bright and full last night brightening the sky and even making the snow sparkle with color. Seeing the bright moonlight got us to wondering how moonlight nights might effect animal behavior.

There have been many studies effects so we thought it might be interesting to pass along just a few more recent observations we are aware of.

Several phenomenon related to animal behavior have been attributed to the full moon including increased spawning of corals and other reproductive behavior.

The Barau’s petrel, a tropical seabird species, uses the lunar cycle., unlike many other birds with use the sun or length of day, to time mating.

A recent study by Norevik et al. describes how the full moon synchronizes the initiation of the fall migration in the European Nightjar. The abstracts states:

We found that the daily foraging activity more than doubled during moonlit nights, likely driven by an increase in light-dependent fuelling opportunities. This resulted in a clear cyclicity also in the intensity of migratory movements, with occasionally up to 100% of the birds migrating simultaneously following periods of full moon. We conclude that cyclic influences on migrants can act as an important regulator of the progression of individuals and synchronize pulses of migratory populations, with possible downstream effects on associated communities and ecosystems.1

So as we enjoy another night of moonlight skies we can all ponder what other effects the lunar cycles have on the other inhabitants we share the planet with. So much to study and so much still unknown. Do we need to expand our ecosystem to include the moon? the show universe?

1) Norevik G, Åkesson S, Andersson A, Bäckman J, Hedenström A (2019) The lunar cycle drives migration of a nocturnal bird. PLoS Biol 17(10): e3000456. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pbio.3000456

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