Showing posts with label Conservation. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Conservation. Show all posts

Tuesday, March 8, 2022

Vanishing goats? Not on the watch of the Kitasoo Xai’xais Nation!

 Kitasoo Xai’xais Nation (KXN) 

the Raincoast Conservation Foundation, 

and the University of Victoria.

Mountain Goat - Oreamnos americanus

Wildlife populations can too often decline before wildlife managers notice. Although counting animals is one of the most fundamental activities biologists do, it is also the most difficult. Newly published research by the Kitasoo Xai’xais Nation (KXN), the Raincoast Conservation Foundation, and the University of Victoria shows the importance of listening to those that have lived near wildlife for millennia. Their findings, published in the open-access peer-reviewed journal, Conservation Science and Practice, show that mountain goats in KXN territory and beyond in British Columbia are of conservation concern. First to detect the changes, the KXN will be the first to address them with conservation management.
Photos by Connor Stefanison

The first signs happened decades ago. KXN community members began to report a decline in sightings of goats once frequently seen from river valleys and the ocean. These patterns were alarming, given the immense cultural value of goats to the Kitasoo Xai’xais people.

“Historically, access to goats influenced the location of village sites and camps. Alarmingly, we don't see goats in these locations anymore, a dramatic decline from several decades ago” Douglas Neasloss, Chief Councillor of the KXN.

Motivated by these early alarm bells from the community, the KXN compiled multiple independent, but complementary, data sources. First, they conducted comprehensive interviews with knowledge holders who collectively had centuries of knowledge and experience in goat country in Kitasoo Xai’xais territory. Participants were asked how frequently they saw mountain goats from 1980 to the present day. The result was a striking decline in the number of goats observed over this time. In 2019, when the interviews were conducted, no one had even seen a goat that year.

Secondly, the KXN led helicopter surveys across more than 500 km2 of KXN territory in the summers of 2019 and 2020 to better understand contemporary mountain goat density. Building upon their own wildlife research program, the KXN collaborated with a team of wildlife scientists, led by Tyler Jessen, PhD student at UVic and scholar with the Raincoast Conservation Foundation, to analyze the data. Results show that KX goats occur in low density, especially when compared to interior populations, such as those that inhabit the Rocky Mountains.

Finally, wanting broader context and yet another independent source of information, the research team also examined hunting records that stretched across BC and back to 1980. They found that the success of BC hunters (unaccompanied by professional guides) has declined over the past four decades. All else being equal, if a hunter has to spend more days looking for a goat to kill than they did in the past, then there may be less goats than there were before. This pattern occurs well beyond KXN territory.

Collectively, these information sources all pointed to the same reality: that mountain goats are of conservation concern in KXN territory; either the abundance or distribution of goats has changed – possibly both. There are either less of these creatures, or they spend more time at high altitudes where they cannot be seen or hunted easily. If they are at higher elevations, this means that something is driving them upwards, such as warming alpine temperatures, which can cause heat stress. Additionally, mountain goat food quality and quality are often reduced at higher elevations. Combined, both of these factors can ultimately lead to population decline.

Either way the Kitasoo Xai’xais, having first detected these patterns, are not going to let these goats slip away. Their thick white coats are adapted to the chilly mountaintops, but as alpine temperatures rise, goats might have less habitat left to escape the heat. Against this climate change background and towards a precautionary approach to reflect the uncertainty around population abundance, the KXN will look to adopting management measures to safeguard these precious and culturally important animals from other harms. Specifically, the KXN are exploring tightening up restrictions within their territory including high-elevation logging, air traffic access, and hunting. Indeed, KXN members voluntarily stopped goat hunting decades ago in response to reduced sightings.

Shedding light on an elusive mountain animal would not have been possible without early insight from KXN. As Jessen explains, “A broader takeaway from this study is that Indigenous peoples commonly detect changes that go undetected by western scientists and managers.”

This study highlights a growing resurgence of Indigenous research and management and shows how pairing Local Ecological Knowledge with scientific information can enhance our collective understanding of ecosystems.

Sunday, January 3, 2021

Alaska oil bid alarms scientists

Science Magazine

Alaska's Arctic National Wildlife Refuge - Canning River/ by Jan Reurink. 
View map here.

Mapping plan for Arctic refuge ignores risks, critics say. Story here.

Monday, December 21, 2020

Agricultural expansion could cause widespread biodiversity declines by 2050

                              Journal: Nature Sustainability

A Colombian farmer working on his "finca". These patches of forest are given away at a low price by the government to farmers who then clear them up to grow crops. Photo by LAIF.

Almost 90% of terrestrial vertebrate species around the world might lose some of their habitat by 2050 as land is cleared to meet the future demand for food. However, according to a modelling study published in Nature Sustainabilityproactive policies focusing on how, where and what food is produced could reduce these threats while also supporting human well-being.

Slashing is a common site on the Canadian prairies. Farmers cut and burn trees and shrubs to make way for more farmland. In this case, it's along the fringes of the Boreal forest in west-central Manitoba. A PinP photo.

Habitat loss driven by agricultural expansion is a major threat to terrestrial vertebrates. Projections based on human population growth and dietary needs estimate that we will need 2–10 million km2 of new agricultural land to be cleared at the expense of natural habitats. 

Conventional conservation approaches — which often focus on a small number of species and/or a specific landscape — may be insufficient to fight these trends. Adequately responding to the impending biodiversity crisis requires location- and species-specific assessments of many thousands of species to identify the species and landscapes most at risk.

David Williams, Michael Clark and colleagues developed a model that increases both the breadth and specificity of current conservation analyses. The authors examined the impacts of likely agricultural expansion on almost 20,000 species. 

Moose in Manitoba, Canada are being described as "imperilled."
The Canadian Parks & Wilderness Society (CPAWS) says they 
need "large, protected areas with healthy forests & wetlands."
Photo Credit - CPAWS.

They found that under current trajectories, 87.7% (17,409) of the terrestrial bird, amphibian, and mammal species in the analysis might lose some habitat by 2050, including around 1,200 species projected to lose more than 25% of their remaining habitat. Projected mean habitat losses were greatest in sub-Saharan Africa with large losses also projected in the Atlantic forest of Brazil, in eastern Argentina and in parts of South and Southeast Asia.

However, the authors also show that proactive policies, such as increasing agricultural yields, transitioning to healthier diets and reducing food waste, may have considerable benefits, with different approaches having bigger impacts in different regions.

Friday, November 27, 2020

As giant ice shelves collapse amid global warming in the Arctic, experts call for more protection for the "Last Ice Area" (LIA). The vast communities of plants and animals living there could be lost, they warn, before we even get to understand them!

    by Larry Powell 
                                The vast Milne Ice Shelf broke up this summer. Animals found 
living within its ice cavity (red box), are shown on the right. 
Photo credits: Left: Joseph Mascaro, Planet Labs Inc. 
Right: Water and Ice Laboratory, Carleton University.

Using tools which included video taken by a robot submarine, a Canadian research team recently discovered an amazing array of plants and animals, living in the heart of Milne, the very ice shelf which broke apart just this summer north of Ellesmere Island (above), losing almost half of its mass.

Dr. Derek Mueller, Professor of Geography and Environment Science at Ottawa's Carleton University, is a team member who's worked in the area for decades. In an email to PinP, he can barely disguise his excitement over what they found.

"There are really neat microbial mats (communities of micro-organisms including cyanobacteria, green algae, diatoms, heterotrophic bacteria, and viruses) that live on the surface of the ice shelves. Similar microbial mats can be found in ponds on the bottom of shallow lakes... Inside the sea ice and clinging to its underside are communities of algae and lots of kinds of phytoplankton in the ocean as well." 
Small animals from marine waters under the sea ice in Tuvaijuittuq, a Marine Protected Area in the region. Photo credit: P. Coupel and P. Tremblay, Fisheries and Oceans Canada.
So what might the world lose if these organisms disappear with the ice?

"This Last Ice Area will hopefully serve as a refuge for ice-dependent species," Dr. Mueller explains, "both on land and in the marine environment.  We know relatively little about these organisms - how they are adapted to their surroundings, how unique they are (or perhaps how similar they are to their cousins in analogous environments in the Antarctic) and many more questions!  We won't get to ask these questions if global temperatures rise unabated and this ice melts away."

The images above come from just a tiny part of the vastness Mueller refers to, called the "Last Ice Area." And, in the face of a rapidly-warming Arctic, events involving the break-up of sea ice are all too common there.
What's left of the Ward Hunt Ice Shelf in the Last Ice Area 
after breaking apart in 2011Credit: CEN, Laval University.

Here's how Dr. Mueller describes the LIA. 

"'The Last Ice Area' means the region in the Arctic Ocean where sea ice is most likely to survive in a warming world." 

It sprawls for up to 25 hundred kilometres along the coastlines of northern Canada and Greenland and well out to sea. It's there that the thickest sea-ice in the entire Arctic can be found. Because of its importance as a home for ice-dependant marine life and its cultural significance to the Inuit people living there, they and the World Wildlife Fund have long promoted it as worthy of conservation. (Local Inuit elders call it “Similijuaq - place of the big ice.”) 

Dr. Mueller and a colleague, Dr. Warwick Vincent of Laval University in Quebec City, are now sounding the latest alarm bells over why additional measures are needed to protect the area from increased human activity.

While Dr. Mueller remains optimistic for the future, he suggests, further steps need to be taken to expand those existing, protected areas. 

"The good news is, we do still have a window to make a difference. We can augment the existing conservation areas - the marine one, Tuvaijuittuq MPA and the terrestrial one - Quttinirpaaq National Park,  with more optimal coverage of the LIA - from Greenland in the east to the NWT in the west and perhaps there could be more protection by expanding across the coastal region reaching both inland and offshore." 

The Government of Canada announced the creation of Tuvaijuittuq Marine Protected Area a year ago, aimed at protecting a large part of the LIA.
 It's not just marine life that will be vulnerable to melting ice. So, too will terrestrial (land) animals 
such as the Peary caribou, known to migrate across the sea ice. 
Photo by Paul Gierszewski - Nunavut.

"This would recognize the important interconnection between the terrestrial and marine environments. With vulnerable ice-dependent ecosystems protected from human activity, this will guarantee the removal of multiple environmental stressors.  The big stressor is, of course, climate change. But, if we can make good on our Paris commitments to reduce greenhouse gas emissions globally, then the chances of the LIA remaining, increase dramatically."   

The team's findings were published recently in Science Magazine.

Friday, June 5, 2020

New research suggests, zoos and aquariums in Canada do little to protect endangered creatures in the wild.

by Larry Powell

A Bengal, the commonest tiger species (but still endangered)
paces in its cage at Winnipeg's Assiniboine Park zoo. 

A PinP photo.
A study just published in the journal, Facets, begins positively enough. It acknowledges that members of Canada's Accredited Zoos and Aquariums (CAZA - the private, non-profit charity representing thirty such institutions), do try to be leaders in researching this field and, that they do take part in programs aimed at species survival by breeding animals in captivity, then re-introducing them into the wild.

And on its own website,  CAZA claims, "We are behind some of the most remarkable conservation success stories. This includes, bringing species such as the Black Footed Ferret and the Vancouver Island Marmot back from the brink of extinction,” for example. 

However, in some key areas, the researchers (a team of two biologists from Laurentian University in Sudbury) suggest, CAZA and its members are falling short. 
Zoos and aquariums could be "important resources in mitigating biodiversity loss. And the credibility of zoos as conservation organizations can only be enhanced by the production of peer-reviewed science in this field."
Yet, while CAZA members are turning out more such research (still significantly less than their US counterparts and most in "zoo-centric" journals), most are not on the topic of biodiversity conservation at all, but on veterinary science, instead. 
"Few studies have explored their contribution to biodiversity conservation efforts and research productivity in general." 
Increasing collaboration with academic institutions would be one way for CAZA to overcome that shortcoming. So, “It is puzzling that collaborations between these groups are rare. Academics can use the unique environment zoos and aquariums provide for studying species, whereas academic research based on field observations may increase the success of reintroduction efforts led by zoos and aquariums.”

This new research comes to light against the backdrop of extinctions hanging over tens of thousands of Earth's wild species, “ due to widespread degradation of global ecosystems caused by humans.”


Sunday, November 17, 2019

It's big. It's risky. It's unacceptable!

Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society

In the northeast corner of Alberta lies Wood Buffalo National Park. Known for its sheer size and biodiversity, it is Canada’s largest national park and World Heritage Site. Its size and remote location have led many to believe it is untouched by human impacts, but it has sadly been affected by upstream industrial development outside of the Park. It is now additionally threatened by a proposed open-pit oil sands mine just 30-km south of its borders.

If approved, the Teck Frontier oil sands mine would be the largest open-pit mine in North America, with a massive 290 sq-km footprint. This mine would pose serious environmental risks to the approximately 1 million migratory birds that fly over the region, species at risk that depend on the intact boreal habitat, and negatively influence downstream waters on the Athabasca River. 

The federal government has a public comment period open until November 24, 2019 to hear what people think of the proposed environmental assessment conditions that Teck would need to meet.
How strong are these conditions? The proposed mitigation measures do very little to address the startling list of impacts from the mine. It is clear that the conditions are inconsistent with a healthy future for our boreal and the communities that depend on the biodiversity of the region.

Want to speak up but unsure about what you will say? Use our public comment guide as a blueprint to your comment. We provide our key concerns about the mine and the proposed conditions to kickstart your comment. 
Now is our chance to let the federal government know that this project is a serious danger to our boreal forest and poses risks that cannot be ignored. 
Yours in Conservation, 
Gillian Chow-Fraser
Boreal Program Manager
CPAWS Northern Alberta

Friday, November 15, 2019

Brazil supports sugarcane growing in Amazon

"Harvesting" by Beegee49 
Brazil has reopened the door to expanding sugarcane plantations in the Amazon, even though it is difficult to grow the crop there. Scientists worry the move will increase deforestation and harm biodiversity and carbon sequestration in the jungle. President Jair Bolsonaro, who has pushed for more economic development in the Amazon, on 5 November revoked a 2009 agricultural zoning plan that prohibited public funding for sugarcane production within the Amazon region, where low yields increase risk for private investors. But Bolsonaro's administration says the ban is unnecessary because other laws require that the cultivation be environmentally sustainable. Brazil is already the world's largest producer of sugarcane, with approximately 10 million hectares of cane fields—only 1.5% of which are now in the Amazon. The region's extremely humid weather and poor soils are not ideal for popular cane varieties, and studies indicate that Brazil has plenty of room to expand sugarcane production elsewhere without competing with other types of food production or conservation. Japan and European countries import Brazilian ethanol, a fuel produced from sugarcane, on the condition that the cane is grown in an environmentally sustainable way.

Friday, May 31, 2019

Conservationists find protected areas worldwide are shrinking

Grasslands National Park, Saskatchewan, Canada.
A PinP photo.
A large international team of researchers reports that the amount of land designated as protected around the globe is shrinking. Story here.

Thursday, May 2, 2019

New research finds that “marine reserves” – tracts of ocean where fishing is banned – are protecting fish, the coral reefs where they live and vast undersea "gardens," a lot more than once thought.

Large-scale commercial fishing has, for years, been depleting fish-stocks in many places around the world - especially in coral reefs in the tropics. In response, several countries have designated certain areas of the sea as "marine reserves," where neither fishing nor other development is allowed. Now, a team of scientists from US and Australian universities has produced compelling new evidence. It shows these reserves have not only been helping stocks rebound, but are also protecting massive coral "food webs" - beds of sea-grasses and algae - important reservoirs for carbon storage. 
by Larry Powell
In this satellite photo, "halos" appear as pale blue circular bands 
surrounding tiny dark spots.The spots are likely small patch reefs 
or other shelter for small fish and invertebrates that protect them 
from predators. Each halo is probably about 10 meters wide. 
The more there are, the healthier marine life there is likely to be.
Using hi-rez images from both satellites and underwater cameras, the researchers studied hundreds of small, tropical reefs in the huge Great Barrier Reef complex off Australia. 

Those images detected about two-&-a-half times more halos within the reserves than elsewhere. The more halos, the healthier the reef is considered to be as a home for both fish and invertebrates. 

These pale blue, circular bands surrounding the small dark spots, are where herbivorous, or plant-eating fish and some marine mammals, venture out to graze on surrounding vegetation such as algae or seagrass. Then, they dart back in, using the reefs as protection from the predators. 

The scientists refer to the halos as "seascape-scale footprints" of healthy, increased activity in aquatic life.
Elizabeth M.P. Madin, Ph.D.
Assistant Research Professor
Hawaii Institute of Marin Biology
University of Hawaii at Manoa, USA.
The spokesperson for the study, Dr. Elizabeth Madin (above), tells PinP, "What the halos are telling us is that marine reserves - especially older ones - where predator and herbivore populations have had sufficient time to recover from previous fishing - are protecting key species and their resulting interactions.

"Specifically," she adds, "we’re more likely to see halos in especially older reserves (40 years old or so), which suggests that predators and prey are in sufficient numbers there to interact and cause these halo patterns." 

Since halos can also be found in some ares unprotected from fishing, the team calls for more research to further confirm the connection.

Among groups funding the research were the World Wildlife Fund and the US National Science Foundation.

The findings were published recently in the proceedings of The Royal Society in the UK and in Frontiers in Ecology and Evolution.  

But the benefits of marine reserves, don't stop here.

"Importantly," Dr. Madin goes on, "we know from another of our studies, that halos affect carbon storage. So, not only are marine reserves re-shaping coral reef landscapes on very large scales in ways we didn’t know about before, but they’re also affecting a key ecosystem service - carbon storage."

She's referring to a truly fascinating undersea scenario in which predator fish actually play a beneficial - albeit indirect - role in carbon sequestration. A healthy habitat means more predators. Their prey, often herbivorous fish or marine mammals, cling to the relative safety of their home reefs and don't venture too far afield to find plants to eat. 

Dugongs, a type of marine mammal, are
known to be capable of decimating sea-grass beds
as they graze. Photo taken in an oceanarium in Jakarta.

This spares massive sea-scapes of algae and sea-grasses nearby, which would otherwise be stripped by the plant-eaters. Instead, the vegetation grows taller and denser, greatly increasing its capacity to store carbon, thus providing a significant buffer against climate change.

Not only are the number of marine reserves growing, worldwide, they're getting bigger, too (some more than 100 thousand km2). Nineteen of these "mega-reserves" have been established since 2009. And happily for the sea-life living there, the research finds, the bigger the reserves, the more protection they offer!

Sunday, April 21, 2019

A Federal Judge Just Nixed Trump’s Attempt to Drill the Arctic and Atlantic

The Tetlin National Wildlife Refuge, Alaska. Photo by Diego Delso.

In a ruling issued from Alaska, a U.S. District Court has determined that President Trump overstepped his constitutional authority and violated federal law. More here.

Wednesday, March 20, 2019

When development and conservation clash in the Serengeti

University of Copenhagen - SCIENCE NEWS
A proposed new road could disrupt the migration of animals like this in the Serengeti.
Photo by eismcsquare.
New or upgraded roads in the Greater Serengeti Ecosystem around Serengeti National Park will not reduce growing pressure on the ecosystem, a study shows. Story here.

Saturday, June 17, 2017

Help preserve land – our 'home and future' – UN urges on World Day to Combat Desertification

The UN News Centre

With hundreds of millions of people around the globe directly affected by desertification – the degradation of land ecosystems due to unsustainable farming or mining practices, or climate change – United Nations agencies have called for better management of land so that it can provide a place where individuals and communities “can build a future.” Story here.

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Conservationists Announce New Protected Areas For Great Bear Rainforest

PinP photo
Four private parcels of land have been added to protected zones in the largest coastal temperate rainforest left on Earth, ensuring their permanent protection from commercial logging, conservationists announced Thursday. Story here.

Saturday, September 17, 2016

Technoparc: A Unique Wetland Area of Montreal - Home to Over 80 Nesting Species of Birds Faces an Uncertain Future

Sierra Club Canada
Wildlife similar to this Great Blue Heron inhabit "Technoparc." 
PinP photo
Imagine a wetland area that is home to over 80 nesting species including herons, raptors, songbirds and ducks. Then imagine it in the middle of a Technoparc on the Island of Montreal, a few miles west of downtown and just east of the Trudeau Airport. Story here.

Saturday, September 3, 2016

Friday, July 1, 2016

Wild Creatures and Places in and Near Grasslands National Park, Saskatchewan, Canada.

by Larry Powell
Some of the wildlife and terrain we saw and photographed in and near the park. Enjoy!

A lone member of the park's herd of prairie bison.

A shy (and rare) burrowing owl.

Ringneck pheasant

Black-tailed prairie dogs

"Seventy-Mile Butte"

A sweep of rare, wild prairie, preserved for posterity in the park. (All photos by PinP.)

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Wild Critters of the Grasslands (A picture story)

The beginning of the "70-Mile Butte" trail.

by Larry Powell

Row & I are visiting a special place right now. It's Grasslands National Park in SW Saskatchewan. I can swear the animals, birds and even plants are saying "thank you" for not huntinig or spraying us, or plowing us down! Enjoy the photos. 
Yours in Nature.

Friday, June 10, 2016

Norway Becomes the First Country to Ban Deforestation

Nation of Change
A clearcut in BC. Wikimedia Commons.
The Norwegian Parliament has pledged to be deforestation-free. They are the first country in history to ban deforestation. Story here.

Diesel vehicles in oil sands operations contribute to regional pollution

EurekAlert Wildfires, cigarette smoking and vehicles all emit a potentially harmful compound called isocyanic acid. The substance has been l...