Thursday, 18 April 2019

Corn-farming fouls the air to fatal effect

Nature - Agriculture
Harvesting corn in Canada. A PinP photo.
The dominant US crop plant has a voracious appetite for fertilizer, which leads to air pollution and health problems. More here.

Tuesday, 16 April 2019

Climate change made the Arctic greener. Now parts of it are turning brown.

A green Arctic meadow - Baffin Island, CA.
Photo by Mike Beauregard.
Warming trends bring more insects, extreme weather and wildfires that wipe out plants. More here.

Monday, 15 April 2019

Yukon temperatures are the highest in 13,600 years

Photo by Diego Delso.
Warming of over 2 degrees Celsius is above the global average and well above the average of the rest of the Arctic region.More here.

Sunday, 14 April 2019

The Trump Administration Has Thrown Out Protections for Migratory Birds

A great egret. One of the many birds that migrate between Canada and the U.S.
A PinP photo.
Under Republican and Democratic presidents from Nixon through Obama, killing migratory birds, even inadvertently, was a crime, with fines for violations ranging from $250 to $100 million. The power to prosecute created a deterrent that protected birds and enabled government to hold companies to account for environmental disasters. But in part due to President Donald Trump’s interior secretary nominee…more here.

Saturday, 13 April 2019

Rising global shipping traffic could lead to surge in invasive species

Science Daily

Ship traffic in the Suez Canal - 1957. Photo by Buonasera
Maritime trade is likely to far outweigh climate change as the driver of bio-invasions over the next 30 years, study finds.

Wednesday, 10 April 2019

Even our national bird - the Canada jay - is not immune from the ravages of manmade climate change.

Decades of Canadian research, just released, finds "strong evidence" that increasing "freeze-thaw" cycles are destroying food the birds store away in the fall. This, in turn is damaging their ability to reproduce and likely playing a role in a severe population decline in at least one region.
by Larry Powell
 A Canada jay - aka - "Gray jay" or "Whiskey-Jack."
Photo by Steve Phillips, via Canadian Geographic magazine.

It's been known for some time that our changing climate is leading to reductions, even entire removal of many species from certain areas (a process called "extirpation"). This new research by the University of Guelph, sheds more light on just how that happens. 

Using 40 years of breeding data, scientists studied Canada jays (scientific name perisoreus canadensis) at the southern edge of their range in Algonquin Park, Ontario. (The birds can be found in all Canadian provinces and territories.) 

Like many species, they hide or "cache" significant amounts of food away which they'll need later on when it is more scarce - mainly the breeding season late in the following winter. In past years, when winters were more consistently cold, this would allow them to retrieve it, intact. But with "freeze-thaw" cycles becoming more frequent, that food is either rotting or greatly degrading in nutrient value. As a result, the jays are having fewer young and those young are less healthy than before. 
Alex Sutton, PhD candidate,
Dept. of Integrative Biology,
University of Guelph.
The spokesperson for the study, Alex Sutton (l.), tells PinP, "The population in Algonquin has declined by over 50% since the 1980s. So we do believe that climate change is currently affecting this population. While work is ongoing about the actual cause of the decline, it is likely that changes to reproductive performance do contribute to the decline."

The birds eat a variety of things, some which you might expect, like insects, berries and mushrooms, and some you might not - like nestling birds they catch themselves and game meat that has been shot or trapped by humans. (It's the meat, berries and fungi which are most vulnerable to spoilage.) The birds often hide it away in tree forks, behind flakes of bark or in conifer needles.  It is this instinctive practise that seems to be coming back to haunt them now.

To quote the study, "Our results suggest that freeze-thaw events have a significant detrimental impact on the quality and/or quantity of cached food available to Canada jays. Future increases in such events, caused by climate change, could pose a serious threat to Canada jays and other food-caching species that store perishable foods for long periods of time." 
    A woman feeds jays in Manning Park, B.C. 
                  Photo by Ronald Maas.
Anyone who has visited or camped in our boreal forests has likely seen them. They don't shy away from begging food from people, or stealing it from your picnic table when you're not watching!

 They've become an iconic and well-loved symbol in our country. 

The research findings have just been published in the proceedings of The Royal Society in the UK.


Sunday, 7 April 2019

The Insect Apocalypse Is Coming: Here are Five Lessons we Must Learn

A PinP photo.
In a new report, scientists warn of a precipitous drop in the world’s insect population. We need to pay close attention, as over time, this could be just as catastrophic to humans as it is to insects. Special attention must be paid to the principal drivers of this insect decline, because while climate change is adding to the problem, food production is a much larger contributor. Story here.

Does your place of residence make you immune from climate calamity? I think not! (Opinion)

by Larry Powell I wish I had a nickel for every time I heard one of my fellow "prairie dogs" remark, how "lucky" or...