The UN Decade on Biodiversity 2019

Written by  //  July 4, 2019  //  Biodiversity  //  No comments

IPBES Global Assessment Preview
African elephants are migrating to safety—and telling each other how to get there

The Law of Unintended Consequences strikes again, albeit in a positive way? – On the 27th of this month it will be 66 years since the 2½ mile wide 388 square mile DMZ (that stretches 155 miles from coast to coast across the Korean Peninsula) was created. In the years since it has become a major nature preserve in which over 5,000 species of plants & animals have been identified, incl. over 100 that are protected because they are vulnerable-, near-threatened-, and/or endangered, incl. the Siberian musk deer, white caped-, & red-crowned-, cranes, Asiatic black bears, cinerous vultures & long-tailed gorals (a goat species).  And, with the political justification for its existence likely to diminish over time, the South Korean government is making moves, with some input from the North, to have UNESCO name the entire DMZ a “Biosphere Reserve”.  — Nick Rost van Tonningen Gleanings 815

27 May
The butterfly effect: what one species’ miraculous comeback can teach us
(The Guardian) The Duke of Burgundy is back from the brink – and the work to conserve it has helped other declining species. Does this mean there is hope in the face of Insectageddon?
“This is a species that has come back from the brink,” says Dan Hoare of Butterfly Conservation. “We’ve halted the slide towards extinction and in some landscapes it is genuinely marching back across the landscape. That’s a real cause for celebration.” Hoare, the director of UK conservation at this small charity, headed a programme to halt the species’ extinction in Britain. The duke’s caterpillars eat common wildflowers, cowslips or primroses, but the butterfly is oddly fussy: it doesn’t like the open downs favoured by most warmth-loving butterflies, nor does it thrive in dense woodland. It requires lightly grazed grassland and scrub, or coppiced woodland.

14 May
Koalas Are Now “Functionally Extinct”
The Australian Koala Foundation announces Koalas are now functionally extinct due to deforestation
A report released by the Australian Koala Foundation says koala bears are now “functionally extinct,” which means their population has fallen below the point at which they can produce another generation of viable offspring.
There are no more than 80,000 of them left in the wild, according to the organization.
That’s down from 330,000 just three years ago.
The sharp decline is in most part due to habitat loss (deforestation of eucalyptus trees) and climate change (severe droughts and heat waves in recent years).
Koalas are are “highly vulnerable to threats including deforestation, disease and the effects of climate change,”

13 May
Schaefer: Solving the biodiversity crisis means changing our short-term psychology
“Curbing extinction is a long-term enterprise. Success is typically measured in decades, often beyond individual human careers and lifetimes. And therein lies the problem.”
(Montreal Gazette) The disappearance of species, we know, is the only human impact that is truly irreversible. Extinction is eternal.
And there’s the clue to the crisis: Time. In our hurried society, what often passes as success are short-term achievements — higher yields and higher profits, with a focus on the next quarter, next year, or next election. Eternity, you might say, requires a longer view. Curbing extinction is a long-term enterprise. Success is typically measured in decades, often beyond individual careers and lifetimes.

6 May
One million species face extinction, U.N. report says. And humans will suffer as a result.
In a prepared statement, Robert Watson, a British chemist who served as the panel’s chairman, said the decline in biodiversity is eroding “the foundations of our economies, livelihoods, food security, health and quality of life worldwide.”
Up to 1 million plant and animal species are on the verge of extinction, with alarming implications for human survival, according to a United Nations report released Monday.
The report’s findings underscore the conclusions of previous scientific studies that say human activity is wreaking havoc on the wild kingdom, threatening the existence of living things ranging from giant whales to small flowers and insects that are almost impossible to see with the naked eye.
But the global report by the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services goes a step further than previous studies by linking the loss of species to humans and analyzing its effect on food and water security, farming and economies.
Highlights on UN IPBES report on species loss: Damage isn’t permanent, as long as we remedy it soon, dramatically

Photographer And His Wife Plant 2 Million Trees In 20 Years To Restore A Destroyed Forest And Even The Animals Have Returned

(Bored Panda) According to the United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization, 129 million hectares of forest, an area almost equivalent in size to South Africa, have been lost from the Earth forever since 1990. An area roughly the size of the country of Panama is being lost each and every year.
With some 15 percent of all greenhouse gas emissions come from deforestation, and countless species of plants and animals losing their habitats every single day, these are absolutely devastating figures for the health of our planet, and it simply cannot be allowed to continue.
But what to do in the face of such massive environmental carnage? It can make the individual feel small and helpless, as we ponder the impact that we can actually make. Will anything that we do make the slightest bit of difference? Brazilian photographer Sebastião Salgado and his wife Lélia Deluiz Wanick Salgado decided to show what a small group of passionate, dedicated people can do by turning deforestation on its head, and begin the process of reforestation.

20 April
Harrison Ford Calls For Environmental Action At First-Ever Nature Champions Summit In Montreal
Harrison Ford was among the speakers at the first-ever Nature Champions Summit in Montreal on Thursday.
Sponsored by Environment and Climate Change Canada, the event aims to “bring together major philanthropists, business leaders, non-governmental organizations, United Nations agencies, Indigenous leaders and environment ministers from around the world to build a high-ambition coalition and drive global nature protection forward.”
20 April
The Earth Is Just as Alive as You Are
(NYT) Scientists once ridiculed the idea of a living planet. Not anymore.
Every year the nearly 400 billion trees in the Amazon rain forest and all the creatures that depend on them are drenched in seven feet of rain — four times the annual rainfall in London. This deluge is partly due to geographical serendipity. Intense equatorial sunlight speeds the evaporation of water from sea and land to sky, trade winds bring moisture from the ocean, and bordering mountains force incoming air to rise, cool and condense. Rain forests happen where it happens to rain.
But that’s only half the story. Life in the Amazon does not simply receive rain — it summons it. All of that lush vegetation releases 20 billion tons of water vapor into the sky every day. Trees saturate the air with gaseous compounds and salts. Fungi exhale plumes of spores. The wind sweeps bacteria, pollen, leaf fragments and bits of insect shells into the atmosphere. The wet breath of the forest, peppered with microbes and organic residues, creates ideal conditions for rain. With so much water in the air and so many minute particles on which the water can condense, rain clouds quickly form.
The Amazon sustains much more than itself, however. Forests are vital pumps of Earth’s circulatory system. All of the water that gushes upward from the Amazon forms an enormous flying river, which brings precipitation to farms and cities throughout South America. Some scientists have concluded that through long-range atmospheric ripple effects the Amazon contributes to rainfall in places as far away as Canada.

15 March
The Rapid Decline Of The Natural World Is A Crisis Even Bigger Than Climate Change
A three-year UN-backed study from the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform On Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services has grim implications for the future of humanity.
(HuffPost) Nature is in freefall and the planet’s support systems are so stretched that we face widespread species extinctions and mass human migration unless urgent action is taken. That’s the warning hundreds of scientists are preparing to give, and it’s stark.
The last year has seen a slew of brutal and terrifying warnings about the threat climate change poses to life. Far less talked about but just as dangerous, if not more so, is the rapid decline of the natural world. The felling of forests, the over-exploitation of seas and soils, and the pollution of air and water are together driving the living world to the brink, according to a huge three-year, U.N.-backed landmark study to be published in May. The study from the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform On Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES), expected to run to over 8,000 pages, is being compiled by more than 500 experts in 50 countries. It is the greatest attempt yet to assess the state of life on Earth and will show how tens of thousands of species are at high risk of extinction, how countries are using nature at a rate that far exceeds its ability to renew itself, and how nature’s ability to contribute food and fresh water to a growing human population is being compromised in every region on earth.
“There are no magic bullets or one-size-fits-all answers. The best options are found in better governance, putting biodiversity concerns into the heart of farming and energy policies, the application of scientific knowledge and technology, and increased awareness and behavioral changes,” [Sir Robert Watson, overall chair of the study] said. “The evidence shows that we do know how to protect and at least partially restore our vital natural assets. We know what we have to do.”
IPBES to Launch First Global Assessment Report on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services Since 2005: A Primer
In May 2019, representatives of 130Governments will be presented, for discussion and possible approval,with a definitive new global synthesisof the state of nature, ecosystems and nature’s contributions to people–the first such report since the landmark Millennium Ecosystem Assessment was published in 2005, and the first ever that is intergovernmental.Prepared by 150 leading international experts from 50countries,balancing representation from the natural and social sciences, with additional contributions from a further 250 experts, workingwiththe Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES), the Global Assessment of Biodiversity and Ecosystem Serviceswillinform better policies and actions in the coming decade.

8 March
Butterflies were symbols of rebirth. Then they started disappearing.
For thousands of years, humans have looked to butterflies as a reassuring symbol in times of change. The Earth now is changing, and butterflies have become a symbol of something else: loss
(WaPost) The climate had brought humans and butterflies into coexistence in the Western Hemisphere, but it was not done changing, because neither were humans.
Recently, they began to notice something happening with butterflies: They seemed to be disappearing.
Insects are the linchpin of ecosystems, and 40 percent of insect species are in dramatic decline, according to study publishing next month in the journal Biological Conservation. Butterflies are among the most imperiled, and monarchs are the butterfly that people most recognize. The eastern population of monarchs — the one that winters in Mexico and summers across the United States — rebounded this year, but it is a third the size of the 1996 count. The overall trend is downward.
Each day there are fewer butterflies in the United States than the day before, says the molecular biologist Jeffrey Glassberg, founder of the North American Butterfly Association. That’s hyperbole, some say, but Glassberg is trying to make a point. He’s a man who speaks with stern confidence about what butterflies mean to the environment, about how their health relates to the overall health of the planet.

5 March
Mega-experiment shows species interactions stronger towards tropics and lowlands
Huge field experiment is providing the best evidence yet in support of a key Darwinian theory — that interactions between species are stronger toward the tropics and lower elevations.
(McGill Reporter) An international research team led by a McGill researcher used a simple experiment that mimics how plants and animals interact with each other – leaving seeds out for 24 hours to see how many get eaten. Seven thousand seed beds were deployed across a huge geographic scale, with 70 sites cutting across 18 mountains from Alaska to the equator.
“Theory predicts that interactions among species – like predation and competition – will be strongest in the warm, productive, biodiverse ecosystems of the tropics and low elevations,” says lead author Anna Hargreaves, an evolutionary ecologist in the Department of Biology. “For example, the spectacular diversity of tropical trees is thought to result partly from stronger interactions between plants and the animals that prey on their seeds, which shapes how and where plants grow and adapt,” adds Hargreaves, who launched the project while at the University of British Columbia’s (UBC) Biodiversity Research Centre.
Until recently, however, evidence for this key ecological theory was inconclusive and came from small-scale studies that used different methods.
Using consistent methods and seeds from the Arctic to equator, this new study shows that seed predation increased by 17 per cent from the Arctic to the Equator and by 17 per cent from 4,000 metres high in the Andes down to sea level. The research team replicated the 24-hour experiment several times during each latitude’s natural seed-producing period.

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