Wednesday, 31 July 2019

The more we carve up natural landscapes with roads and fields, the closer we’re pushing large predators like lions and wolves, toward extinction. by Larry Powell


While the consequences of habitat loss have been known for some time, new research just published, underlines just how grave the situation has become. 
While this latest research is German, animals like the grey wolf
faces similar disruption in North America. 
It’s called “habitat fragmentation.” And, it’s been happening on such a large scale, it’s been hard to tell what aspects are the most destructive. That's because ecologists - at least 'til now - haven't been able to properly keep track of all wildlife within an entire eco-system when human developments confine them to smaller and more isolated patches of livable space. 
Seismic lines dissect the boreal forest in northern Alberta.
Photo by Roland Roesler.
Using a new computer modelling system, German scientists have concluded, such landscapes are a big problem for large predators such as lions and wolves. They're the ones who run out of food first as their prey diminishes. If these large predators disappear, entire wildlife "communities" suffer.


The study concludes, "Habitat isolation is the main driver causing species loss and diversity decline." This can include the collapse of entire, complex "food webs" and make these large "apex" predators the most vulnerable to outright extinctions.


The study was published yesterday in the proceedings of The Royal Society.

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Tuesday, 30 July 2019

Recent research contradicts a claim by the chemical giant, Bayer, that its newest bug-killer is safe for bees.

by Larry Powell

A honeybee colony in Manitoba. A PinP photo.
It's brand name is "Sivanto," (generic name - flupyradifurone). It's an insecticide designed to kill a wide range of bugs which eat food crops such as soybeans. Bayer is registering it in many jurisdictions around the world. 

After conducting various field studies, 
Bayer concludes, "Sivanto displayed a very promising safety profile." The company concedes, it works in ways similar to the neonicotinoids (a group of insecticides which has become notorious for its likely role in pollinator decline). Still, it finds, the product "can be considered safe to most beneficial insects, specifically pollinators." 
Image by Brian Robert Marshall.

But a team of scientists at the University of California, San Diego, reaches a different conclusion. In findings published earlier this year, the team gave a range of Sivanto doses to the bees, including ones they encounter in the field. By itself, the chemical did not appear to be harmful. But, when combined with the fungicide propiconazole (brand name "Banner Maxx"), widely-used by farmers, the harm was "greatly amplified." The bees either sickened or died, apparently because the fungicide weakened their ability to shake off the toxicity. It's not uncommon for pollinators to be subjected to a dizzying array of pesticides all at once, while foraging in the fields. It’s a process called "synergism," in which they can suffer harm they would not,  if  exposed to just a single one.

The spokesperson for the team, Dr. Simone Tosi, tells PinP, she does not believe that regulations in the US require manufacturers to test for synergistic effects when they apply to have their products approved. But neither does she think that such regulations prohibit such testing.


In a news release, her team says, "We believe this work is a step toward a better understanding of the risks that pesticides could pose to bees and the environment. Our results highlight the importance of assessing the effects pesticides have on the behaviour of animals, and demonstrate that synergism, seasonality and bee age are key factors that subtly change pesticide toxicity." They call for further studies to better assess the risks to pollinators.

But at least one of those other studies has already been done. It, too, comes up with similarly negative conclusions. A team from
 three German universities has found that flupyradifurone binds to the brain receptors of honeybees, damaging their motor skills.

Meanwhile, Bayer's marketing plans for its new product are ambitious. It promises to "develop, register and sell" Sivanto in many places across the world, including the US, Europe, Asia, Ghana and Brazil. While Canada isn't mentioned, specifically, there seems little doubt it will end up here, too. The company wants to see its product "in all major climatic zones allowing agriculture."

Last April, over three months ago, I e-mailed the federal Minister of Agriculture, Marie-Claude Bibeau, Canada's Pest Management Regulatory Agency, Manitoba's Minister of Health, Kelvin Goertzen and Manitoba’s Deputy Minister of Agriculture to ask them about this new research and whether Sivanto will be registered in Canada. 
Apart from a couple of automated responses, I have gotten no substantive answers. 

RELATED: 

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Saturday, 27 July 2019

Amazon deforestation accelerating towards unrecoverable 'tipping point'


The Guardian
Data confirms fears that Jair Bolsonaro’s policy encourages illegal logging in Brazil. 
Story here.
The Amazon rainforest near Manaus, capital of the
Brazilian state of Amazonas (largely untouched by human hands,
so far).Photo by Neil Palmer/CIAT.

Thursday, 25 July 2019

‘You can’t drink money’: Kootenay communities fight logging to protect their drinking water


The Narwhal
In Glade, BC, where clear-cutting could begin any day, determined residents are pulling out all the stops in an effort to protect their local creek — even though a judge ruled they have no right to clean water. Story here.
The south end of Kootenay Lk.
Photo by Shawn from Airdrie, Canada.

Wednesday, 24 July 2019

Modern Climate Change Is the Only Worldwide Warming Event of the Past 2,000 Years


Smithsonian.com
New research finds that previous periods of warming and cooling driven by natural causes were regional shifts in temperature rather than global events. Story here.
A grey heron suffers during a heatwave - 2013.
Photo by Gail Hampshire from Cradley, Malvern, U.K


The smell, the noise, the dust: my neighbour, the factory farm

The Guardian
Industrial farms are spreading across Europe. Greenpeace campaigners went to talk to the people who live close by.Warning: readers may find some of the images upsetting. Story here.
Dead hogs in a dumpster at a Manitoba factory barn,
awaiting removal to an unknown location. A PinP photo.
Please also read -"In Hogs We Trust."  
A critique of Manitoba’s runaway hog industry.





Thursday, 18 July 2019

Canada's high school curricula not giving students full picture of climate change


by University of British Columbia
A Pexels photo.
Canada's high school students may not be getting enough information on the negative impacts of climate change, scientific consensus behind human-caused warming or climate solutions, according to new research from the University of British Columbia and Lund University. Story here.

How Airplane Contrails Are Helping Make the Planet Warmer


Yale ENVIRONMENT 360


    New research shows that condensation trails from aircraft exhaust are playing a significant role in global warming. Experts are concerned that efforts to change aviation engine design to reduce CO2 emissions could actually create more contrails and raise daily temperatures even more. Story here.
Contrails over Manitoba. A PinP photo.

Wednesday, 17 July 2019

Canada needs to triple the amount of protected land and water to tackle 'nature emergency': report


CBC News
A Cape May warbler. So far, its populations are stable.
Photo by PinP.
Biodiversity is declining faster than at any other time in human history, study finds. Story here.

Tuesday, 16 July 2019

Thirty years of unique data reveal what's really killing coral reefs


Science News
Study is world's longest record of reactive nutrients, alga concentrations for coral reefs. Story here.
Bleached coral. Photo by NOAA.


The Uninhabitable Earth


New York Intelligencer. 
Famine, economic collapse, a sun that cooks us: 
What climate change could wreak — sooner than you think.  
Photo by Oxfam.

Saturday, 13 July 2019

The Guardian view on the climate emergency: a dangerous paralysis


The Guardian
The closer the prospect of disaster becomes, the less the government manages to do. 
 Story here.
A PinP photo.

Thursday, 11 July 2019

Don’t believe carbon pricing really works? Just ask B.C.


PEMBINA
institute
Carbon tax holds key to clean innovation. Story here. 

Wednesday, 10 July 2019

Seismic lines in Alberta's boreal forest boost methane emissions, according to UCalgary study


                                                                        UToday
Newly discovered emissions would increase Canada's national reporting of greenhouse gases. 
Story here.
Photo by Roland "Roly" Roesler.

Photographer's Note

This is an aerial view of the Northern Alberta landscape, somewhere between Athabasca and Swan Hills. It consists of numerous shallow lakes, muskeg, and the typical vegetation including spruce, willow and poplars. The typical patterns of the vegetation are determined by the consistence and composition of the semi-solid soil underneath. 
The parallel lines that scar the landscape are seismic lines used for oil and gas exploration, and they cover good part of the province. Seismic exploration is somewhat similar in principle to radar, and even more similar to the ultrasound used in medical facilities. Straight, parallel stripes up to 10 m wide are cleared with bulldozers, and drilling equipment follows these stripes sinking explosive charges in the soil. The sound of the explosions bounces back of rock layers, is collected by listening devices and used for mapping the geology and potential resources. The statistic says that in this oil rich province more ground is cleared for seismic lines than by forestry.

Tuesday, 9 July 2019

Uninhabitable Earth: Life After Warming


Alternatives Journal

Having an awareness of the worst possible climate change scenarios can be motivating rather than paralyzing, argues David Wallace-Wells. The climate crisis has the potential to bring people together in the massive efforts required to mitigate the disaster. Story here.

Sunday, 7 July 2019

CO2 emissions are on track to take us beyond 1.5 degrees of global warming


Science News
A fertilizer plant in Brandon, Manitoba, Can. A PinP photo.

Current and planned energy infrastructure could emit around 850 gigatons of the greenhouse gas. Story here.

Friday, 5 July 2019

Could our changing lifestyles and a changing climate spell a return of deadly diseases like malaria to Canada? A recent scientific study warns - it's possible!


by Larry Powell
A malaria mosquito, Anopheles albimanus.
Photo by CDC.
Mosquito-born diseases (MBDs) like dengue fever and malaria aren't currently established in Canada, partly due to our harsh climate. But global warming combined with increasing international travel, could change all that. 

New research by a Canadian team from the National Microbiology Lab, the Public Health Agency  of Canada (PHA) and two universities finds, given "an evolving situation" due to climate change, mosquitoes native to Canada "may become infected with new pathogens and move into new regions within Canada." But exotic species may move in, too, bringing diseases like malaria and dengue fever along with them, from afar, as well. 

And, "With high levels of international travel, including to locations where the diseases are present," states the report, "there will be more travel-acquired cases of MBDs."

As a result, the team stresses a need for active surveillance, a high level of awareness and mosquito-bite prevention to guard against a worst-case scenario.
Victoria Ng, PhD
Senior Scientific Evaluator, 
Infectious Disease Prevention & Control Branch
Public Health Agency of Canada / 
Government of Canada

A spokesperson for the study, Dr. Victoria Ng of the PHA (r), tells PinP in an e-mail, "I think one of the biggest impacts of climate change for exotic MBDs in Canada will be the increase in travel-acquired cases as well as the potential for limited autochthonous (local) transmission of diseases where there is climatic suitability for mosquito vectors and reservoirs." 


But these latest findings are not universally-accepted.  An expert who has contributed to other studies of malaria in Canada, Lea Berrang Ford (formerly with McGill University - now with the University of Leeds), is not too concerned. In an e-mail to PinP, Prof. Berrang Ford concedes, climate change could create more favourable conditions for the disease. But he beleieves there are factors other than temperature, such as a strong health care system that'll make a resurgence unlikely.

Dr. Ng agrees, other factors may make exotic diseases born by mosquitoes unlikely in Canada. But, she adds, "There's always the chance that, given a combination of suitable conditions occurring concurrently over time and space, that establishment could occur." She cites the introduction of West Nile virus in Canada some 20 years ago as a case in point. 

While Canada is considered, for all intents and purposes, malaria-free, readers might be surprised to learn, this has not always been the case. It ravaged the early European settlements of Niagara-on-the-Lake and Kingston. While rarely fatal, it also affected those working on the Rideau Canal in the 1830s to such a degree, construction was seriously impacted. Known then as "fever and ague," it was so widespread from 1780 to 1840,  few were spared.

Malaria - a grim reaper

Malaria is one of the deadliest diseases in human history. But, in the past couple of decades, gains in the fight against it have been so significant that. Collectively, they've been called "one of the biggest public health successes of the 21st century."   

However, the most recent figures from an international partnership, "The Global Fund (TGF)," suggest, there's still a long way to go. In 2017, malaria still sickened more than 200 million and claimed the lives of almost half-a-million more, mostly in sub-Saharan Africa. 

And TGF, which allocates public and private funds to combat the disease, believes it's still not certain what the future holds. In some of the almost 100 countries currently reporting the disease, "progress is being made towards its elimination." Others with a higher burden, are still "suffering setbacks in their response." And even more money, beyond the substantial amounts already spent, will be needed, just to make sure the gains stay ahead of the setbacks.

Secrets of malaria exposed. New research peels back the layers which mask our understanding of one of the deadliest diseases known to man. 

Findings just published by a research team from the US and UK reveal, parasites that carry malaria, can mature inside their mosquito hosts way faster, at lower temperatures, than earlier thought. 

Lab tests showed (at between 17 and 20 degrees C), it can take as little as 26 days from the time mosquitoes have had an infectious blood meal, to the time the parasites grow and becomes capable of transmitting the disease. For decades, it’s been assumed it would take about twice that long…some 56 days.
A malaria mosquito, the Anopheles stephensi. Source: CDC.

For more than 50 years, medical experts have been relying on a guide known as the Detinova model to try to map the future course of the disease.  But that model did not fully take into account just what implications those cooler temperatures could have. Neither did it fully explore the impacts of routine fluctuations in daytime temperatures, which can also play a role.


"Ring" stage (in blue & pink) of the malaria parasite, 
Plasmodium falciparum in human red blood cells. 
Microscopic image by Eric Hempelmann.
Unlike previous studies, described in this new paper as “poorly-controlled,” two major malaria mosquito species were tested this time (including Anopheles_stephensi, above). 
“These novel results challenge one of the longest-standing models in malaria biology," states the study, "and have potentially important implications for understanding the impacts of future climate change."
Study co-author Jessica Waite, Ph.D. 
Center for Infectious Disease Dynamics
The Pennsylvania State University.
The study's co-author, Dr. Jessica Waite, tells PinP, "What we hope is that our work will help make better predictions about where, when and possibly how much malaria to expect. We believe our work provides a much-improved estimate for models of malaria." She also believes it'll help governments better direct their financial resources to aid areas that  need it most.

Her team consisted of experts from the Universities of Pennsylvania State in the US and Exeter in England. It acknowledges, there's still a need for further lab and field tests.

The findings have just been published in the journal, Biology Letters by The Royal Society.


RELATED:

Due to extremely dry conditions, Manitoba livestock producers are being temporarily allowed to cut hay and graze animals on crown land.

  
Government of Manitoba

Cattle graze on a Manitoba pasture. A PinP photo.
Manitoba Agriculture advises that, due to dry conditions in parts of the province, livestock producers will temporarily be allowed to cut hay and allow animals to graze on Crown land not normally designated for agricultural use.

Under certain circumstances, Crown land can be made available for agricultural use.  The Agricultural Crown Lands Leasing program will administer the use of available land and provide necessary permits.  Livestock must be removed when the naturally existing forage is exhausted or by Oct. 31.  Baled hay must be removed by Nov. 15.

Producers with AgriInsurance contracts who intend to put their crop to alternate use are required to contact the Manitoba Agricultural Services Corporation office to arrange for a field appraisal prior to harvesting the crop.  Crop producers should also consider making crop residue available to livestock producers.

For more information, contact the Agricultural Crown Lands Leasing program at 1-204-867-6550 or a local Agricultural Crown Lands representative.