Friday, December 31, 2021

Decoding the migration of the peregrine falcon

A Satellite-tagged peregrine at its nest site in the Lena Delta, Russia. Peregrines 
were tracked from six separate breeding areas across Arctic Eurasia. 
Genome re-sequencing identified differences among these populations. 
Variations in their numbers were linked to changes in 
glacial conditions over time. Credit: Andrew Dixon.

The migratory routes used by the peregrine falcon have been shaped by environmental changes since the last Ice Age, reports a study published in Nature. The paper also presents evidence that the distance travelled during migration is influenced by a genetic factor.

Satellite-tagged peregrine in Taimyr, Russia. Satellite tracking revealed a 
high degree of fidelity to nesting sites, wintering ranges and 
to the migratory routes connecting them.  
Credit: Andrew Dixon.

Millions of migratory birds have seasonally favourable breeding grounds in the Arctic, but spend their winters in different locations across Eurasia. However, little is known about the formation, maintenance and future of their migration routes or the genetic determinants of migratory distance.

Xiangjiang Zhan and colleagues combined satellite-tracking data from 56 peregrine falcons from Eurasian Arctic populations with genome data from 35 peregrines to study the migrations of this species. The authors found that five migratory routes were used across Eurasia, which have been shaped by environmental changes since the Last Glacial Maximum (around 20,000–30,000 years ago). Peregrines that migrated longer distances were also found to have a dominant genotype of the gene ADCY8 that — the authors suggest — may be associated with the development of long-term memory.

The authors propose that, in a changing global climate, peregrines in western Eurasia may suffer the highest probability of population declines, move to new wintering areas or perhaps stop migrating altogether. They conclude that using ecological interactions and evolutionary processes to study climate-driven changes in migration could help to facilitate the conservation of migratory birds.

Tuesday, December 21, 2021

Long-distance movement of microplastics

Nature Communications

Microplastic pollution collected at a Key largo,
Florida beach State Park. An Ocean Blue Project photo.

Microplastics, detected in southern France, could have been transported over 4,500 km from their source, including over continents and oceans, suggests a study published in Nature Communications. The findings suggest that microplastic pollution can spread globally from its sources to remote regions.

Plastic pollution has been documented at high elevations and latitudes, and in regions with little local plastic use. The transportation of microplastics through the atmosphere has been suggested as occurring on regional scales. However, it is unclear how widespread this phenomenon is and, if like mercury and other pollutants, there is free transport of microplastics through the atmosphere that enables trans-continental movement.

Steve Allen and colleagues collected atmospheric microplastics at the high-elevation Pic du Midi Observatory in the French Pyrenees, southern France, and used atmospheric transport modelling to understand the potential sources and paths of these particles. Air masses containing microplastic' particles were found to have moved around 4,550 km on average in the week before arriving at the observatory, and were projected to mainly have arrived from the west and south, over the Atlantic Ocean and Mediterranean Sea. The authors suggest that the potential sources of the microplastics may include North America, western Europe and North Africa, indicating trans-continental and trans-oceanic transport through the free troposphere (the layer of atmosphere above the clouds).

The findings suggest that regions with little local plastic usage could be impacted by microplastic source regions located far away

Thursday, December 16, 2021

Record profits for foreign-owned pig conglomerate, recently "gifted" with major grant from Canadian taxpayers to help with its Manitoba operations.


Below is a financial statement posted on the company website.

It was recently announced that the governments of Canada and Manitoba were "investing" $2.2 million in three agricultural research projects, to be conducted by the Dutch-based conglomerate, Topigs Norsvin Canada (TN), that will "enhance the competitiveness of Manitoba pork producers."
(And TN, too, no doubt!)

The announcement came despite opposition to a recently approved TN project to build major pig barns near the southern Manitoba community of Plumas. It drew the outrage of many of those residents, along with the citizen group, Hogwatch Manitoba. 

Thursday, December 9, 2021

Flooding caused by rapidly expanding hydroelectric dams in the tropics is pushing many jaguars and tigers to the brink of extinction

by Larry Powell

Balbina Dam flooded 3,129 square kilometers of tropical rainforest in the Brazilian Amazon. This hydroelectric reservoir is located in the core of the distribution of jaguars. Credit: E. M. Venticinque.

New research just published, finds hydropower development to satisfy the growing human demand for energy has become one of the major drivers of habitat loss, fragmentation, and degradation everywhere. The dams create massive reservoirs, which drown out the homes of many creatures, including these top predators.

A jaguar in the Brazilian Pantanal, the largest tropical wetland habitat in the world. Credit: Steve Winter/National Geographic.

The scientists found no less than 164 dams intruding on more than 25 thousand square kilometres of jaguar range in Latin America. Sadly, plans show that number could well triple into the future.

Tigers in Sumatra are a critically endangered subspecies, which face additional threats from two hydropower dams planned to be constructed within their habitat. Credit: Pete Morris.

Four hundred and twenty-one dams we’re found to be ruining or damaging almost 14 thousand square kilometres of tiger habitat in Asia.

While only forty-one dams are planned in the territorial range of tigers, they will still infringe on conservation areas considered important for their conservation.

 Chiew Larn reservoir flooded 165 square kilometers of tropical forests in southern Thailand. Shortly after the inundation of this hydroelectric reservoir, tigers disappeared from the landscape. Credit: Nick Grady-Grot.

Researchers conclude that, even though the risks such projects pose to both land habitat and freshwater biodiversity are already known, they’re rarely taken into account.

As a result of their findings, just published in the journal “Communications Biology,” they call for “a more cautious pursuit of hydropower in topographically flat regions, to avoid extensive habitat loss and degradation.”

RELATED: Hydropower dams threaten fish habitats worldwide

Tuesday, December 7, 2021

Melting glaciers could create new habitats for Pacific salmon

Nature Communications

US Fish & Wildlife Service`

Melting glaciers in western North America could create new habitats for Pacific salmon over the next century, a modelling study in Nature Communications suggests. 

Migratory Pacific salmon are one group of species whose abundances have dramatically shifted in response to changing climate patterns, however, the warming of Arctic and subarctic streams, in combination with glacier retreat, could create potential new habitats for salmon. Previous work has observed the colonization of newly de-glaciated streams by salmon, but predicting future shifts in salmon habitat across regions has been difficult. 

Kara Pitman and colleagues modelled glacier retreat under different climate change scenarios for a 623,000 km2 region of western North America. They quantified emerging streams created by glacier retreat, which they combined with stream gradient-based salmon habitat models. 

By 2100, the authors project that approximately 6,000 km of new streams will be accessible to Pacific salmon and, of this newly accessible habitat, nearly 2,000 km will be suitable for spawning and juvenile rearing. 

The authors note that glacier retreat is only one consequence of climate change and other climate-induced effects such as ocean heat waves, sea-level rise and extreme flood events could all cause widespread declines in salmon abundance. 

Glacier retreat also creates new prospects for industries such as mining, which can degrade salmon habitat. Understanding the timing and location of emerging salmon habitat is critical to informing conservation planning and to avoid degradation of future salmon habitat, the authors conclude.

Thursday, December 2, 2021

Hog Watch Manitoba decries $2.2 million government subsidies to Topigs Norsvin - a foreign company, despite community concerns and opposition.

Winnipeg (December 2, 2021) – Hog Watch Manitoba shares the anger and frustration felt by many Plumas area residents who fought the approval of two large hog facilities in their municipality this past summer. Not only are they angered by the decision to go ahead with these two huge barns in the face of so much local opposition but now to find that their tax dollars are going to pay for it, is outrageous.  

They dispute the company’s claim this is being built in an isolated area as there are 8 homes in less than a 3 km circumference of one barn and the other is in close range to the Big Grass River and marshland, environmentally sensitive areas. 

There were 52 letters of opposition to the proposal and numerous presentations made expressing legitimate concerns about health impacts from toxic emissions from barns and open manure lagoons, and water consumption of 44,000 gallons a day depleting local water resources.

Hog Watch Manitoba is calling on both the provincial and federal governments to review their decision and if it cannot be reversed, provide local residents with assurances that toxic odour problems and water shortages will not be allowed. Mitigation such as air scrubbers on barns and water rights being enshrined should be imposed.


The Arctic may be sea-ice-free in summer by the 2030s

  Nature Communications                                                 Photo by Patrick Kelley   The Arctic could be sea-ice-free during th...