60% of Adélie Penguins Could Disappear This Century

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New research shows that climate change may vastly devastate Adélie penguin colonies by 2099. Nearly two-thirds of the penguins, which live only in Antarctica, could be gone within this century due to warming sea surfaces not conducive for penguin chicks. In a Scientific Reports study, researchers warned that the excessive warmth linked with climate change is extremely harmful to the species. “It is only in recent decades that we know Adélie penguins population declines are associated with warming, which suggests that many regions of Antarctica have warmed too much and that further warming is no longer positive for the species,” lead author Dr. Megan Cimino said.

Adélie penguin colonies are centralized across the West Antarctic Peninsula (WAP), among the fastest-warming places on Earth, and populations have already shown declines in response. More than any other region, WAP has faced warmer than normal sea surface temperature in recent years, a condition known as “novel climate”. According to Cimino, penguin numbers have decreased by around 80% since significantly higher temperatures were noted. “These two things seem to be happening in the WAP at a higher rate than in other areas during the same time period,” Cimino noted.

Climate projections reveal that this region will continue to experience increasingly frequent years of novel climate this century, presenting a threat that could ravage already-fragile penguin populations. Researchers examined a wide range of global climate models and satellite data, as penguin colonies can now be seen and studied from space. Based on their findings, 30% of current Adélie penguins could disappear by 2060, and 60% could be gone by 2099.

Intriguingly, researchers found that in areas where climate change is slow, Adélie numbers are “steady or increasing”, further strengthening the link between climate change and Adélie decline. Scientists hope that these slow-to-warm spots will become refugia, or places for once widespread but now isolated animal populations to survive, even if that survival remains tenuous. East Antarctic peninsula Cape Adare, is one such spot where climate changes have been less extreme. Said Cimino, “The Cape Adare region of the Ross Sea is home to the earliest known penguin occupation and has the largest known Adélie penguin rookery in the world. Though the climate there is expected to warm a bit, it looks like it could be a refugium in the future, and if you look back over geologic time it was likely one in the past.”

Extrapolating on current climate change patterns, these scientists predicted surviving Antarctic penguins will concentrate in southern Antarctica over the next century.

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Source: Worley, Will. “Climate change ‘to devastate penguin populations in Antarctica by up to 60 per cent by the end of the century’.” Independent. 29 June 2016

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British Town Recruits Dedicated “Hedgehog Officer” to Protect Local ‘Hog Population

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The Suffolk Wildlife Trust was recently flooded with applications after posting a two-year position for Ipswich Hedgehog Officer, salaried at £24,000 annually. This role comes on the heels of Suffolk’s year-long “Going the Whole Hog” campaign, intended to reverse a decline in these shy, nocturnal creatures. The Heritage Lottery Fund and British Hedgehog Preservation Society provided funds to create the role.

The position drew international interest from countries as diverse as Russia, Taiwan, Poland, Spain, Germany, and Hungary, and a trust spokeswoman said they were “overwhelmed” by the global attention. “We thought we would get a good response, but we were overwhelmed by the numbers who responded and the international reach. Applications have closed now and we’re really excited to go through them, and to start the interview process next week. The person we’re looking for will have an inspirational, and quite unique mix of skills, which will make the face of hedgehog conservation in Ipswich.”

The role was created after a Suffolk Wildlife Trust survey revealed hundreds of Ipswich locals had seen hedgehogs, both dead and alive, in their area. Conservationists feel that having an officer dedicated entirely to preserving these tiny, spiny mammals will maintain the town’s standing as a hedgehog hotspot. “The response to our hedgehog survey was fantastic,” said Simone Bullion from the trust. “What was particularly evident is that our urban areas are very important. Hedgehogs still look to be hanging on in our towns, so it is imperative we do all we can to keep them there and make conditions even more hedgehog friendly.”

In the past two years, nearly 12,000 hedgehogs have been spotted in the county, with about 2,500 in Ipswich alone. The trust notes there is a “rich natural network” for hedgehogs across Ipswich, “including its beautiful parks as well as the cemetery, allotments and churches”. However, more measures must be taken to ensure that hedgehog numbers remain stable. Once hired, the new officer will raise community awareness of how individuals can make their yards and gardens into hedgehog havens. Simple actions such as leaving gaps in fences, preserving areas of garden “litter” like dead leaves, and putting out fresh water and food (pet food, minced meat, and boiled eggs are favorites) will encourage hedgehogs to feel at home. Even small efforts can have a big impact in helping these adorable creatures to thrive in urban spaces, allowing Ipswich to safeguard their well-loved ‘hogs for years to come.

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Sources: “Ipswich hedgehog officer post gains worldwide interest.” BBC News. 16 July 2016. “Ipswich proves to be a hotspot for hedgehogs.” BBC News. 5 March 2016.

 

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First Marine Protected Area in Cambodia Announced

schooling-fish-801x600M’Pai Bai jetty with school of fish. Photo by Paul Colley / Fauna & Flora International.

Cambodia’s Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries recently declared a 156-square mile region of the Koh Rong Archipelago the nation’s first marine protected area. The Marine Fisheries Management Area (MFMA), located by the islands of Koh Rong and Koh Rong Sanloem, houses diverse species of sea turtles and seahorses and protects their fragile nursery and breeding sites.

In addition to preserving wildlife, the plan still allows for human activities in the area: “The MFMA will help to drive sustainable fishing activities of the community, protect biodiversity and promote ecotourism, all of which contribute to achieving the goal of the fisheries sector,” said Ouk Vibol, director of Cambodia’s Department of Fisheries Conservation, who pushed for creation of the protected area. “This is a good management model, as many stakeholders — including development partners, the private sector, local authorities and the local community — are working together to manage the fisheries resource for sustainable use.”

Blue-spotted-rays-902x600Blue-spotted ray. Photo by Paul Colley / Fauna & Flora International.

For the past five years, local groups such as the Song Saa Foundation and Save Cambodian Marine Life have worked alongside non-profit Fauna & Flora International (FFI) and Cambodia’s Fisheries Administration to help the MFMA come to fruition. FFI’s Coastal and Marine Project Manager Kate West said that between 60 and 80% of local communities around the archipelago rely on fishing and tourism, making it critical that the new MFMA ensured “that the waters around Koh Rong can continue to support not only marine life but also local livelihoods long into the future.”

The Song Saa Foundation has further pushed the initiative forward by providing baseline research on the health of local coral reefs, mangroves, and seagrasses. “The establishment of this MFMA is a major step towards protecting biodiversity of key marine fauna and habitats in the archipelago, as well as the communities that rely upon them for their well being,” noted Ben Thorne, a Song Saa Foundation project director. “We are hugely proud of our collaborative efforts over the past five years to establish this protected area, ensuring successful conservation of fisheries resources, whilst supporting local communities, for many years to come.”

Source: Gaworecki, Mike. “Cambodia declares first-ever marine protected area.” Mongabay. 24 June 2016.

Flabellina-nudibranchFlabellina nudibranch, a colorful sea slug. Photo by Paul Colley / Fauna & Flora International.

 

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A High Price to Pay: Are Queen’s Guard Bearskin Caps Worth the Toll on Wildlife and Taxpayers?

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Thousands of Britain’s traditional Queen’s Guard soldiers have been laid off in the past several years, yet spending on the soldiers’ expensive bearskin Busby hats has soared 500% since 2008. That year, animal activists met with Labour Defence Minister Baroness Taylor to review new designs for the age-old caps, including the possibility of creating them from synthetic materials. However, the government recently revealed that real bearskin is still being used and that the cost to taxpayers has ballooned from £31,000 in 2008 for 35 new hats to £149,379 in 2015 for 122 hats, which each cost around £1,224.

The announcement sparked triggered fresh outrage and calls for the hats to be phased out. Shadow Environment Minister Alex Cunningham, who investigated the caps’ cost, said: “The British public will be horrified that Canadian black bears are being slaughtered, often indiscriminately, to provide fur headgear for British soldiers. The Government have admitted spending hundreds of thousands of pounds on fur headgear over the last few years but despite escalating costs, and evident animal welfare issues, have no plans to research alternatives. With leaders in the British fashion industry prepared to develop alternatives, it’s time to think again.”

Unbeknownst to them, British taxpayers have footed the bill for the 925 caps purchased over the last decade, with a total cost around £880,000, an average of £951.53 per cap. In 2009, the 195 hats bought cost £148,891, averaging £763.54 each. Then in 2010, Tories gained power and cut 20,000 soldiers from the army, nevertheless increasing new hat spending, with 695 purchased since 2010.

PETA UK director Mimi Bekhechi said: “Fur farming has been banned in the UK for more than a decade and PETA has shown how shooting bears in the Canadian forest, often orphaning their cubs, is even more cruel than farming, so it’s an outrage for the Ministry of Defence to source real fur for ceremonial attire. For each of The Queen’s Guards’ caps , a bear is cruelly killed either by being shot or ensnared, possibly for days, in a painful trap. British taxpayers – a good 95% of whom object to killing animals for fur – are unwittingly paying for it. With the resources, science and technology at the MoD’s disposal, it’s inexcusable that the same Army which is capable of building some of the most sophisticated equipment and machinery in the world claims that it’s unable to find a cruelty-free replacement.”

The Ministry of Defence also admitted that 55 coney skin Busby hats (made from rabbit fur) were purchased between 2005 and 2015, at a total greater than £25,000, and six fox fur caps were bought at a total cost of £5,499. In a statement, Defence Minister Philip Dunne responded: “The Ministry of Defence does not buy bear pelts; it buys ceremonial caps direct from suppliers who source pelts from animals culled as part of a programme to manage the wild population licensed by the Canadian government. Animal welfare standards relating to the bear cull are a matter for the Canadian government. The MoD also purchases coney skin (rabbit fur) for the Royal Engineers’ and Royal Signals’ Busby and fox fur for the Royal Horse Artillery, Kings Troop Officers’ Busby. The current contract requires a commitment to sustainable procurement. Depending on usage and maintenance, bearskin Busbys can last for up to 50 years. The coney skin and fox fur Busbys have indefinite life spans if properly maintained.”

Looks like animal activists and British taxpayers will have to continue to fight to end the unnecessary and exorbitant sourcing of Queen’s Guard caps from bears, rabbits, and foxes, defending wildlife as well as protesting profligate government spending.

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Source: Glaze, Ben. “Spending on British Army’s bearskin hats soars by 500% in seven years.” Mirror. 14 January 2016.

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GOOD NEWS, OUR OZONE LAYER IS ON THE MEND!

The hole in our ozone layer over Antarctica caused major concern for the future of our planet when it was first discovered in 1984. This discovery lead to the 1987 Montreal Protocol, a treaty signed by almost every nation that focused on eliminating the use of chlorofluorocarbon (CFCs) chemicals in an attempt to save the planet’s protective layer.

Today, over three decades after the discovery of the shrinking ozone layer, we are seeing improvements to the ozone layer proving the success of the treaty. Although these improvements are minimal considering the 1.5 million square miles of ozone that shrunk between 2000 and 2015, the hopes of saving our planet are looking more like possibilities.

EnvironmentTypical_Crowded_Beachalists and scientists from around the world were majorly concerned with the effects that the shrinking ozone could have on our planet. The ozone layer, high in the stratosphere, protects Earth’s life from absorbing the Sun’s damaging ultraviolet rays. With the depletion of ozone, mostly caused by the release of CFCs and other chemicals from refrigerants and propellants, the UV radiation was predicted to cause major health issues to humans. Skin cancer, cataracts, and eye damage were just some of the health concerns.

NASA analyzed the situation in 2009 and simulated the result of a continuously shrinking ozone layer had the Montreal Protocol not been signed. Their simulation showed that by mid-century, the ozone layer would be completely depleted from Earth, and at noon on a summer day the UV index would be so damaging that visible sunburn could be seen on skin within just 10 minutes.

Thankfully, this is no longer a concern. Improvements to the ozone layer are just one example of the success from society’s joint efforts and mutual concerns to directly target an issue. The Montreal Protocol’s accomplishments should engage society to take a harder look at how the issue of Global Warming can best be solved. While the shrinking ozone layer triggered a ban to the use of CFCs, the focus for Global Warming needs to be on the release of carbon into the atmosphere from coal, gas, and oil burning. This shows the success of collective efforts and treaties like the Montreal Protocol to generate change and give us all hope of living in a cleaner and healthier planet.

Source: “Ozone Hole Shows Signs of Shrinking, Scientists Say.” Henry Fountain. NY Times. June 30, 2016.

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