Angelika Langen examines a black bear under her care at Northern Lights Wildlife Society in Smithers.NORTHERN LIGHTS WILDLIFE SOCIETY
A major wildlife rehabilitation facility is bracing for the devastating impact of the B.C. wildfires on birds and mammals.
“It’s going to be horrific,” Angelika Langen, co-founder of non-profit Northern Lights Wildlife Society in Smithers, said in an interview Wednesday.
“We’re expecting a storm in the aftermath of the fires. It’s pretty horrible for the wildlife with this huge area affected. It’s all over. It’s going to have an impact on numbers. At this large scale, it’s going to be devastating.”
The B.C. Wildfire Service reports that wildfires have consumed more than 700 square kilometres so far this year across the province, mostly in the Cariboo region.
Northern Lights accepts large and small mammals for rehabilitation and release, while typically sending birds south to facilities such as OWL (Orphaned Wildlife Rehabilitation Society) in Delta and Wildlife Rescue Association of B.C. in Burnaby.
Northern Lights has a mobile team that visits areas of the province in greatest need, and is licensed to use tranquilizers to capture wildlife. It also has catch poles, live traps, kennels and medical kits for injuries, including burns.
Langen said the full impact won’t be known until the wildfires are over and people get back into the areas currently closed off due to fire danger.
She is already preparing her facility to better handle the anticipated influx of wildlife, readying enclosures, including for possible enlargement with portable fencing for emergencies.
Based on her experience with past wildfires, Langen said smaller animals, including birds still in nests and other young of the year “won’t have a chance to get out” by outrunning the fire. The impact extends down the food chain to snakes and frogs.
Larger animals such as deer and bears stand the best chance of finding safe ground, but may leave behind young that cannot keep up.
“We expect a lot of displaced and orphaned animals that have lost or been separated from their parents,” Langen said. “It’s really hard to predict. It depends on how many people get into those areas after the fires and what will be found.”
The Northwest Territories government reports that fire “disturbance to the boreal forest is necessary for wildlife habitat and diversity. Excluding fire from the landscape causes an unnatural aging of the forest and loss of the habitat mosaic.”
Managed fires can actually improve or maintain wildlife habitat, and reduce the risk and intensity of future wildfires by removing some of the potential fuel, the government adds.
According to The Wildlife Society in the U.S., a study evaluated the effects of different conditions — unburned and prescribed and wildland fires — on populations and habitats of birds throughout the West.
In the northern sites, prescribed fire treatments resulted in increased occupancy rates for many bark-insectivore, cavity-nesting, aerial-insectivore and ground-insectivore species, whereas some foliage insectivores and seed specialists declined. In the Southwest, the impacts of prescribed fire treatment on breeding birds were minor. Overall, more species benefited than not two to three years after a prescribed fire.
The Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem is a complex region, encompassing approximately 58,000 square miles and 14 mountain ranges. Weather varies greatly across steep elevational changes, bringing snowfall to some areas, and warm, dry conditions to others. This dynamic system has provoked the curiosity of researchers for a long time.
Across Space and Time
Space and time are critical to the evaluation of real-world data, and every study defines their parameters differently. This can make it difficult to get a sense of what is actually occurring. Climate summaries over longer periods of time and across larger areas tend to mask local extremes. Conversely, a continuously changing set of short-term reference averages (weather “normals”) could unintentionally obscure the long-term magnitude of change. It is important to look at climate information across many scales and to use available data and models to arrive at reasonable answers to our questions about how climate has changed, how those changes will affect the park, and what impacts we may be able to anticipate in the future.
Analyzing smaller areas within the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem (GYE), say in Yellowstone National Park or on the Northern Range, poses specific challenges. Small regions have fewer actual monitoring stations to feed data to computer models and gridded weather data is often used to fill in the gaps. As a consequence, small-area analyses may not be as accurate. Local field observations from stream gauge and weather stations can be used to verify some of the observed trends, and to describe local conditions to which the ecological system may be responding. This “ground-truthing” allows researchers to arrive at reasonable conclusions about ecological activity.
Temperature and Precipitation
Global temperature is the master force affecting climate. Everything else that climate affects—sea level rise, growing season, drought, glacial melt, extreme storms—is driven by changes in temperature. Weather stations have been maintained within the GYE since 1894, resulting in some of the longest running records of temperature and precipitation anywhere in the United States. These days, increasingly sophisticated satellite technology as well as data sets yielded by the science of climate modeling, also help climate experts and park managers assess the current situation in the GYE across several scales.
There is evidence that climate has changed in the past century and will continue to change in the future. Researchers looking at annual average temperatures report an increase of 0.31°F/decade within the GYE, consistent with the continuing upward trend in global temperatures. Recent studies show mean annual minimum and maximum temperatures have been increasing at the same rate of 0.3°F/decade for the GYE. Conditions are becoming significantly drier at elevations below 6,500 ft. In fact, the rise in minimum temperatures in the last decade exceeds those of the 1930s Dust Bowl Era.
Future Temperature and Precipitation
All global climate models predict that temperatures in the GYE will continue to increase. Projections of future precipitation vary based on differing scenarios that account for future levels of greenhouse gas emissions, which depend upon economic, policy, and institutional improvements, or lack thereof. Any potential increases in precipitation that may or may not occur will be overwhelmed by temperature increases. Considering the most recent trends in which warmer temperatures have been exacerbating drought conditions during the summers, a warmer, drier future for the GYE appears likely in the coming decades. By the latter part of the 21st century, the hot, dry conditions that led to the fires of 1988 will likely be the norm, representing a significant shift from past norms in the GYE toward the type of climate conditions we currently see in the southwestern United States.
Snowpack and Snow Cover
Snowmelt in the alpine areas of the Rocky Mountains is critical to both the quality and quantity of water throughout the region, providing 60–80 percent of streamflow in the West. Throughout the GYE, snow often lingers into early summer at high elevations. Each year, a large spike in water flow occurs when snow starts to melt at lower elevations, usually in late February and early March. Peak flow is reached when the deep snow fields at mid- and high elevations begin to melt more quickly, typically in June. Minimum flow occurs during winter when all the previous year’s snow has melted, temperatures have dropped, and precipitation comes down as snow instead of rain so only water flowing from underground sources can supply the streams. By contrast, the proportion of stream flow due to rain storms is significantly lower than the contributions of snow melt.
Climate change is expected to affect both snow accumulation and rate of spring melt. In some places, warmer temperatures will mean more moisture falling as rain during the cooler months and the snowpack melting earlier in the year. The reduction in snowpack is most pronounced in spring and summer, with an overall continued decline in snowfall projected for Yellowstone over the coming decades. The Yellowstone, Snake, and Green rivers all have their headwaters in Yellowstone. As major tributaries for the Missouri, Columbia, and Colorado rivers, they are important sources of water for drinking, agriculture, recreation, and energy production throughout the region. A decrease in Yellowstone’s snow will affect millions of people beyond the boundaries of the GYE who depend this critical source of water.
Future Snowpack and Snow Cover
The interaction between snowpack, temperature, and precipitation involves a complex interchange between heat and light. Warming temperatures increase evaporation; increased moisture in the air could lead to more snowfall and cloud cover. The increased cloud cover could block additional heat from reaching the surface of the earth resulting in cooler temperatures below. However, increased temperature could possibly limit snowfall instead—by converting it to rain or by melting snow rapidly once it falls, thereby driving snowlines further up the mountains. Recently modeling work indicates that snowpack will almost certainly decline in the long-term.
Changes in the area covered by snow are especially important as snow reflects more solar radiation out to space (albedo) than bare ground and tends to keep the surface cool. When land is exposed, sunlight is absorbed by the surface of the earth. This raises the overall surface temperature, which leads to more melting and less snowcover.
Stream Flow and Water Temperature
Glaciers, snowpack, and rainfall produce water that flows through streams, lakes and rivers, and these waterways are critical to life. Analyses of streams during 1950–2010 in the Central Rocky Mountains, including those in the GYE, show an 89% decline in stream discharge. Reduced flows were most pronounced during the summer months, especially in the Yellowstone River. In addition, stream temperatures have changed across the range of the Yellowstone, with a warming of 1.8°F (1°C) over the past century. Continued warming could have major implications to the management and preservation of the many aquatic resources we have today. Changes in volume and timing of spring runoff may disrupt native fish spawning and increase nonnative aquatic species expansion.
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) predicts that overall forest growth in North America will likely increase 10–20% as a result of extended growing seasons and elevated CO2 during the next century but with important spatial and temporal variations. Forests in the Rocky Mountain/Columbia Basin region are expected to have less snow on the ground, a shorter snow season, a longer growing season due to an earlier spring start, earlier peak snowmelt, and about two months of additional drought. However, despite a longer growing season, Yellowstone forests will likely be less dense, more patchy, and have more diverse age structure. Experts project less tree cover in much of the park as well as potential migration of new species like Ponderosa pine. Complicating matters, increased drought stress and higher temperatures may increase the likelihood of widespread die-offs of some vegetation.
The integrated runoff response from the Yellowstone River has been toward earlier spring runoff peaks, which suggests that the majority of the park is experiencing shorter winters and longer summers as a result of snowpack changes. Changes in these seasonal patterns will likely disrupt vegetation growth and development, causing plants to bud, flower, fruit and die at different times of the year than they do now. Those changes, in turn, would alter or seriously disrupt wildlife migrations, one of the key resources for which Yellowstone National Park is globally treasured.
Extreme Events: Insect Activity
Although outbreak dynamics differ among species and forests, climate change appears to be driving current insect outbreaks. Western spruce budworm outbreaks were more widespread and lasted longer in the 20th century than in the 19th century primarily because of fire suppression and increasing fir populations. However, patterns of spruce budworm outbreaks have been tied to climate nationwide.
Summer and spring precipitation are positively correlated with increased frequency of outbreaks over regional scales and long time frames, but experimental evidence suggests that drought may promote infestations. Although bark beetle infestations are a force of natural change in forested ecosystems, several concurrent outbreaks across western North America are the largest and most severe in recorded history. From 2004 to 2008, the area of mountain pine beetle outbreaks increased across Wyoming from 1,000 to 100,000 acres. At the end of 2014, an estimated 30% of whitebark pine trees in the GYE had been killed as a result of mountain pine beetle, whitepine blister rust, wildland fire, and other factors. Since 1999, an eruption of mountain pine beetle events has been observed that exceed the frequencies, impacts, and ranges documented during the last 125 years. Aerial assessment of whitebark pine species populations within the GYE has indicated a 79% mortality rate of mature trees.
These changes may be early indicators of how GYE vegetation communities will shift due to climate change. These outbreaks of bark beetles in the West have coincided with increased temperatures and changes in precipitation patterns, suggesting a response to a changing climate. Warming temperatures and the loss of extreme cold days reduce winter overkills of insects, speed up life cycles, modify damage rates, and lead to range expansions, particularly in the north.
Future Insect Activity
Climate change, and particularly warming, will have a dramatic impact on pest insects, and the recent trends of increasing outbreaks are expected to worsen. The greatest increase in mountain pine beetle outbreaks is expected to occur at high elevations, where models predict warmer temperatures will increase winter survival. At low elevations, however, mountain pine beetle populations may decrease as warmer temperatures disrupt the insects’ seasonality. Climate change will also alter host susceptibility to infestation. Over the short-term, trees will likely increase in susceptibility to pests due to stress from fires, drought, and high temperatures; over the long-term, these stresses will cause tree ranges and distributions to change. Moreover, climate change and changes in CO2 and ozone may alter the conifers’ defensive mechanisms and susceptibility to beetles through their effects on the production of plant secondary compounds.
Insect infestations are damaging millions of acres of western forests and there is clear evidence that damage is increasing. Nonetheless, future predictions of the extent of infestations remain uncertain because our understanding of insect infestations is incomplete. Key uncertainties include the influence of drought and precipitation changes, how altered forest/host composition will alter outbreaks, the biochemical response of trees and evolution of defensive mechanisms, regional differences, and the interactive effects of fire, plant disease, and insect outbreaks.
Extreme Events: Fire Activity
The increasing frequency of warm spring and summer temperatures, reduced winter precipitation, and earlier snowmelt in the West during the last 20 years has led to an increase in the frequency of very large wildfires and total acres burned annually. The relative influence of climate on fire behavior varies regionally and by ecosystem type, but generally current-year drought, low winter precipitation, wind conditions, and high summer temperature are determining factors for area burned in the Rockies.
Fire dynamics have been altered by climate indirectly through its effects on insect infestations and forest health. By changing the forest environment, bark beetles can influence the probability, extent, and behavior of fire events, but despite the widely held belief that bark beetle outbreaks set the stage for severe wildfires, few scientifically and statistically sound studies have been published on this topic. That fire promotes beetle infestations is clearer; the fire-caused injury changes conifers’ volatile emissions, increasing their susceptibility to bark beetles.
Most evidence suggests that climate change will bring increases in the frequency, intensity, severity, and average annual extent of wildland fires. Models project that numerous aspects of fire behavior will change, including longer fire seasons, more days with high fire danger, increased natural ignition frequency and fire severity, more frequent large fires, and more episodes of extreme fire behavior. The best evidence is for increases in the average annual area burned. However, the charcoal in lake sediment cores is telling a different story in Yellowstone. These records extend back 17,000 years, and were taken from Cygnet Lake on the Central Plateau. Charcoal from 8,000 years ago, when temperature increases were equal to what we are now experiencing, shows more frequent but smaller fires than today.
Projecting the influences of climate change on future patterns of fire is extremely difficult. Fuels, along with fire weather, determine fire size and severity: the stand- replacing fires of today open up the forests where stands have been burned, limiting fuels for the next fire. As a result, areas with frequent fires also tend to have small fires. Other factors, such as increases in non-native, annual grass invasions, may alter fire dynamics, making predictions based on climate alone difficult.
Golden jackals, similar to small grey wolves, have been making their way across Europe into new territory. A German farmer is claiming compensation after the protected, wolf-like predator killed a sheep.
A golden jackal was photographed by a camera trap in Bavaria in 2012
For the first time, golden jackals have been detected in the northern German state of Schleswig-Holstein, which borders Denmark, authorities announced this week. The animals are originally native to the Balkans, but have slowly spread to areas they never previously settled, such as northern Italy, eastern Austria and Hungary.
After three sheep were attacked by an animal in the region of Dithmarschen on the North Sea coast this month, authorities first suspected a wolf. A DNA sample, however, revealed the culprit to be a golden jackal (Canis aureus), the state ministry for the environment announced.
The predators are smaller and more slender than gray wolves and normally weigh 8 to 10 kilograms (17 to 22 pounds), while especially large specimens can reach 15 kilograms, according to the ministry. They are protected by German federal regulations.
One of the sheep died following the incident, meaning the farmer can claim compensation. Authorities pay farmers damages when wolves, which are also protected in Germany, kill their livestock.
Despite the name, golden jackals are believed to be more closely related to gray wolves and coyotes than to the black-backed and side-striped jackal species native to Africa.
Golden jackals have been spreading through Europe to regions where they never previously lived
Individual specimens have been sporadically detected in Switzerland and Germany over the past few years, the ministry said. In the summer of 2000, evidence of their presence was first discovered in a southern part of Brandenburg state. Specimens popped up in Bavaria in 2012, in Hessen in 2013 and in Mecklenburg-Vorpommern and Lower Saxony in 2016, gradually moving north.
Europe’s northernmost population of golden jackals is in Denmark. The ministry said it could not accurately determine if the latest findings were evidence of Danish jackals colonizing Schleswig-Holstein.
The animals usually live in pairs and occupy fixed territories of about 3 square kilometers (1 square mile).
They tend to feed on insects, rodents, birds and amphibians but can also eat smaller mammals such as hares and rabbits, rare deer, and their offspring.
This week in southern Germany a golden jackal was struck on the highway near Freising, which is close to Munich airport.
Yellowstone National Park is an untamed wilderness area. Don’t pose too close to hazards… Ouch! Here are five bad locations to pose along with suggestions on how to take pain-free photos.
1. Right next to a geyser
Yes, Yellowstone’s most famous thermal features are amazing. Yes, a photo standing alongside one of the biggies—Grand Geyser, Steamboat Geyser, Old Faithful—would surely impress your friends back home. But when geysers erupt, superheated water powered by steam can blast hundreds of feet into the air, and there’s no telling exactly in which direction it will spray.
Better idea: Keep a safe distance from geysers by sticking to the boardwalks and trails. That way, your photo will capture a better sense of the geyser’s size and power.
2. In Yellowstone Lake
Those lapping waves, that deep blue water: North American’s largest highest-altitude lake definitely makes for a refreshing backdrop. But think twice before you dive into its depths for a photo: The water temperature usually hovers between 40°F and 50°F. That’s so cold that the survival time for someone immersed in the water is only about 20 minutes, and why many people have drowned in Yellowstone Lake.
Don’t even think about jumping into the deep water—if you can’t get back in your boat easily, your clock is ticking.
Better idea: Shoot from the shore, from the viewing platforms in front of Lake Hotel, or from the safety of a boat or kayak.
3. In a hot spring
Like the sound of a natural hot tub? What about a hot tub that exceeds 200°F? A dip in that kind of water can quickly scald a person to death; even if you’re pulled right back out, third-degree burns will likely finish the job.
All together now: Wildlife at Yellowstone is wild.
These large, unpredictable animals are not pets. They’re not domesticated. They can and will injure, maim, or kill you if you get too close. Sounds like common sense, but in just the summer of 2015, 5 different people were gored by bison—4 of them trying to take a selfie with one when the bison gave them its horns.
Better idea: You were lucky enough to spot one of Yellowstone’s incredible animals: Train your camera on it, not yourself! And know the rules about how far to stay away from wildlife.
Jane Goodall, the British anthropologist, poses for a portrait on April 7 in New York. (Victoria Will/Invision/AP)
In Ivanka Trump’s new book, “Women Who Work,” released Tuesday, the president’s daughter includes a quote from Jane Goodall, the renowned chimp researcher and crusader for conservation.
“What you do makes a difference,” the quote reads, “and you have to decide what kind of difference you want to make.”
It was one of several quotes in Trump’s book attributed to people who have criticized President Trump or voiced support for presidential nominee Hillary Clinton. The reference to Goodall, 83, was also particularly timely, considering the book dropped less than a week after scores marched in Washington to push for action on climate change, a movement Goodall has ardently supported.
So, as the conservationist has done before, Goodall took the opportunity to make a statement. And give the president’s daughter a bit of advice.
“I understand that Ms. Trump has used one of my quotes in her forthcoming book,” Goodall said in a statement provided to The Washington Post. “I was not aware of this, and have not spoken with her, but I sincerely hope she will take the full import of my words to heart.”
Goodall said legislation passed by previous governments to protect wildlife — such as the Endangered Species Act, efforts to create national monuments and other clean air and water legislation — “have all been jeopardized by this administration.”
“She is in a position to do much good or terrible harm,” Goodall said. “I hope that Ms. Trump will stand with us to value and cherish our natural world and protect this planet for future generations.”
At an event for youth in a school in Northern Virginia, Dr. Jane Goodall reflects on how young people inspire hope. (Daron Taylor/The Washington Post)
In a statement to CNNMoney on Tuesday, representatives for Ivanka Trump said “Women Who Work” is “not a political book,” and its manuscript was submitted months before the election.
“Ivanka has always believed that no one person or party has a monopoly on good ideas,” the statement said. “When she was writing this book, she included quotes from many different thought leaders who’ve inspired Ivanka and helped inform her viewpoints over the years.”
This is not the first time Goodall, a native of England, has spoken out critically about the Trump administration since the election.
Shortly after Trump won the presidency, Goodall wrote a lengthy post on her website called “Post Election 2016: What’s Next?”
“Will Donald Trump, the President of the United States, be a different person from Donald Trump, the presidential candidate? ” Goodall wrote. “We can only hope for the best, hope for a change of heart as he contemplates his tremendous power for helping to save our planet for the future — his youngest child is only 10 years old — and his equally tremendous power to inflict untold damage.”
In late March, after the president signed a sweeping executive order dismantling key rules curbing U.S. carbon emissions, Goodall told reporters she found the order “immensely depressing.”
“There’s no way we can say climate change isn’t happening: it’s happened,” Goodall said ahead of a speech at American University in Washington.
“There is definitely a feeling of gloom and doom among all the people I know,” she added in her first trip to the U.S. since the election. “If we allow this feeling of doom and gloom to continue then it will be very, very bad, but my job is to give people hope, and I think one of the main hopes is the fact that people have woken up: people who were apathetic before or didn’t seem to care.”
Goodall participated in the 2014 Peoples Climate March in NYC, and frequently voiced her support of Saturday’s march on social media. An artist included Goodall as one of several massive cardboard cutout signs of notable figures for the People’s Climate March in Washington on Saturday.
More than half a century ago, at the age of 26, Goodall immersed herself among wild chimpanzees is what is now Tanzania. Her observations that chimps had emotions and personalities, and could make and use tools, would revolutionize the way we think about animals and redefine what it means to be human.
Goodall now travels 300 days a year to share stories and lessons with audiences around the world. She frequently speaks about threats facing chimpanzees and environmental crises, urging people to take action to conserve wildlife.
Shortly before Trump won the Republican nomination for president, she told the Atlantic that in many ways, “the performances of Donald Trump remind me of male chimpanzees and their dominance rituals.”
“In order to impress rivals, males seeking to rise in the dominance hierarchy perform spectacular displays: stamping, slapping the ground, dragging branches, throwing rocks,” Goodall said. “The more vigorous and imaginative the display, the faster the individual is likely to rise in the hierarchy, and the longer he is likely to maintain that position.”
In Sudan’s Darfur region, brutal scorched-earth tactics by nomadic militias and government army units have killed at least 200,000 people and forced 2.5 million out of their homes since 2003. Stopping the mass violence has become a rallying cry for many who argue that there is a need for “humanitarian intervention.” The ENOUGH Project, for instance, calls for an approach that mixes peacemaking, protection, and punishment of perpetrators of mass violence. In contrast to such sweeping demands, however, negotiations have focused on shoring up a weak African Union mission by deploying a “hybrid” African Union/United Nations peacekeeping force.
While Darfur shows the limits of current peacekeeping and humanitarian policy, it is also becoming clear that the roots of conflict are not found in the often-repeated claim of simplistic “ethnic hatreds.” To a considerable extent, the conflict there is the result of a slow-onset disaster—creeping desertification and severe droughts that have led to food insecurity and sporadic famine, as well as growing competition for land and water. The “Sudan Post-Conflict Environmental Assessment”—a new report by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP)—argues that severe environmental degradation is among the root causes of the conflict. The 354–page study includes the following findings:
Deserts have spread southwards by an average of 100 kilometers over the past four decades.
Land degradation is linked with overgrazing of fragile soils. The number of livestock has exploded from close to 27 million animals to around 135 million.
A “deforestation crisis” has led to a loss of almost 12 percent of Sudan’s forest cover in just 15 years, and some areas may lose their remaining forest cover within the next decade.
Declining and highly irregular patterns of rainfall in parts of the country—particularly in Kordofan and Darfur states—provides mounting evidence of long-term regional climate change. In Northern Darfur, precipitation has fallen by a third in the past 80 years.
Achim Steiner, the agency’s Executive Director, warns that “Sudan’s tragedy is not just the tragedy of one country in Africa – it is a window to a wider world underlining how issues such as uncontrolled depletion of natural resources like soils and forests allied to impacts like climate change can destabilize communities, even entire nations.”
Along similar lines, the Sudan Environment Conservation Society says that average annual rainfall in El Fasher in northern Darfur has dropped nearly in half since data was first gathered in 1917. Meanwhile, Darfur’s population—and with its, pressure on the land—has grown six-fold over the past four decades, to about 6.5 million.
Resource challenges might have spurred cooperation between Darfurs’s farming and nomadic communities. The two populations have both a history of competing for scarce water and fertile land, but also a record of economic interdependence and a tradition of seeking negotiated solutions. But encroaching deserts have pushed nomads further south and into growing conflict with farming communities. Increasing scarcity has led to rising tribal antagonism over the past 20 years.
Darfur has also experienced increased banditry and lawlessness, and it has played involuntary host to insurgent groups from neighboring Chad. Decades of economic and political neglect by the central government in Khartoum finally led to rebellion in February 2003. The Sudanese government responded by playing up ethnic distinctions and arming the so-called Janjaweed nomadic militias.
Both environmental restoration and reconciliation between different communities are key. And those driven off their land by the conflict need to be either allowed back home or resettled in sustainable communities. Refugee camps in Sudan and neighboring Chad themselves are contributing to additional environmental degradation: the displaced have little choice but to cut down trees for firewood, or to deplete the little underground water there is.
Human conflict throughout the world can often result in wars that cause large-scale economic and social disruption, as well as immense suffering and loss of human life. But the impact is not limited to the effect on human populations living in the war-zone.
Its impact spreads broader, often impacting the natural environment and the wildlife that inhabits these areas, ultimately with dire consequences for wildlife conservation, biodiversity, and for the livelihoods of human communities that depend on these natural resources.
The negative impact that war has on the environment and wildlife is typically fuelled by a number of factors, including:
•A breakdown in law and order, together with disruption of agricultural production and economic trade leads to a lack of income opportunities as a result;•A growing dependence on natural resources and wildlife (eg. wood for cooking, wildlife for food) due to lack of other options;•An increase in human movement through natural protected areas as a result of a mass exodus of refugees fleeing war torn areas or an insurgency of militants, all of whom require food and shelter;•An abundance of trigger happy militia armed with high powered automatic weapons and firearms makes unarmed wildlife an easy target and that much more vulnerable.
War can impact wildlife in several ways:
1) by destroying vital habitat that wildlife needs to survive;
2) by over-exploiting natural resources, including wildlife; and
3) pollution can have both short-term and long-term impacts on the environment and wildlife.
Natural vegetation is often cleared to allow troops to either move through an area more easily or to improve visibility so that they are able to detect approaching enemy forces. Masses of displaced people living in temporary settlements can result in erosion and deforestation. Wildlife reserves and other natural protected areas are particularly vulnerable as they are very often situated on international borders and offer an abundance of natural resources and cover. Habitat destruction can threaten vulnerable species – especially those with limited ranges – and even cause them to become locally extinct.
Over-exploitation of natural resources can occur as a result of subsistence use of resources or commercial exploitation of resources. Wars typically leave countries in a state of upheaval and as a result, local rural communities are very often unable to cultivate food crops during wartime, having to turn to wild plant foods and bush meat as an alternative food source to meet their nutritional needs in order to survive. Displaced people often harvest wildlife while they are living away from home, but may continue to do so after they return to their communities, as other sources of food may still be non-existent for some time.
In combat areas hunting of wildlife generally occurs on a grand scale – with larger animals be targeted more frequently – in order to provide food for military troops. As many large animals, such as the critically endangered mountain gorilla, have complex social hierarchies and slow reproductive rates, when animals are killed at a rate that exceeds their ability to reproduce it can devastate wildlife populations.
Commercial exploitation and illegal trade of natural resources such as diamonds and timber, and poached ivory and rhino horn is often undertaken to fund military operations, weapons and ammunition. Exploiting commercially lucrative resources with a readily available source of weapons fuels a vicious cycle that allows armed militia to control the area, natural resources and their network of illegal trade operations. The proliferation in weapons, notably high-powered automatic rifles that are far more effective at killing larger game than traditional spears, often results in a rapid escalation in the slaughtering of wildlife for the bushmeat trade.
The environment can be polluted directly as a result of conflict, or may occur indirectly as a result of human activities in sensitive areas. The Persian Gulf War saw massive amounts of oil being deliberately dumped into Persian Gulf in efforts to prevent troops from coming ashore. As the war progressed, oil wells in Kuwait were set alight by fleeing Iraqi soldiers. The resulting oil pollution and atmospheric pollution had severe environmental consequences, severely impacting local wildlife, especially marine life and seabirds. Spraying of the herbicide Agent Orange in Indochina in efforts to defoliate vegetation during the Vietnam War resulted in toxic pollutants contaminating the vegetation, soil and water, with dire consequences for both the environment and the wildlife and human populations living in these areas.
Pollution can also occur indirectly as a result of war. For example, surface water and ground water sources may become contaminated when large groups of displaced people are forced to settle in temporary refugee camps that lack adequate sanitation and where waste is allowed to accumulate due to lack of services. This can result in nutrient enrichment of water bodies, leading to low oxygen levels and fish die-offs, and can also cause disease outbreaks to spread rapidly amongst humans living in cramped, unsanitary conditions, with little or no access to medical care or medicines. Some diseases can also be passed on to wildlife with devastating effects.
With so much news coming from Washington DC these days, it’s hard to keep up with everything. One story that caught my eye and disgusts me to no end is a bill Trump recently signed into law.
What happens now? Predators, mostly bears and wolves, living on federal lands in Alaska will be slaughtered.
The law this bill repealed is an Obama-era regulation that prevented the hunting of bears and wolves on Alaskan federal lands unless it was deemed necessary to preserve the land’s refuge status. With the passage of this new law, bears and wolves can be shot from planes. They can be baited and shot. Cubs and pups can be killed in their dens, and mothers and their kids can be targeted and killed any time, any place.
As the former director of US Fish & Wildlife Services wrote in August of 2016, laws like this one are “purportedly aimed at increasing populations of caribou and moose but defies modern science of predator-prey relationships.” He was in favor of the Obama-era regulations that sought to protect predators on federal refuge lands. He stated that we should “ensure that predator and prey alike can thrive on our refuges.”
Why are bills like this, that so unfairly target predators–– going so far as to allow cubs and pups to be shot in their dens–– so popular among Republicans? The answer is the NRA, which backed this resolution. On the opposing side of the battle was the Humane Society, which urged Congress not to adopt the resolution.
One line in the NRA’s article about the law struck me as not only odd, but as an outright lie. They state that the ads the Humane Society aired in regards to the law are “falsely claiming that its repeal would allow for inhumane forms of taking bears and wolves.”
Is shooting hibernating bears in their dens not inhumane? Is chasing down bears from planes not inhumane? Is pulling the trigger on wolf puppies point-blank not inhumane?
The answer is obvious.
Now not only are the unethical and brutal murders of countless Alaskan bears and wolves legal, but the passage of this law suggests that we as a nation are okay with such inhumane actions. It also messes with the already fragile ecosystem, and will lead to the deaths of animals on refuge lands.
It is wrong, and I am deeply ashamed that it is now the law.
Protecting our national parks requires the dedicated efforts of tens of thousands of Park Service employees, from rangers who protect wildlife to maintenance workers who repair buildings to interpretive staff who greet and educate visitors. But parks are understaffed, and a new order from President Trump could only make a bad situation worse.
The president has ordered a hiring freeze on federal workers, including staff at the National Park Service. Federal managers have less than 90 days to figure out how to reduce the size of their workforce. National parks are already operating with limited staff due to past budget reductions.
If parks are forced to further reduce their ranks, it would mean even fewer people to repair trails and visitor centers, study and protect park wildlife, and teach visitors about America’s history and culture.
National parks have welcomed record-setting numbers of visitors over the last several years. Our parks need more staff, not less, to handle this increased demand. The administration recently made an exception to the hiring freeze allowing for seasonal staff like park rangers. That helps, but it’s not enough — there needs to be a waiver for ALL park employees.
And parks don’t thrive without protections for the air, water and wildlife that are central to their well-being. The hiring freeze could also affect staff at other agencies like the Environmental Protection Agency that play a role in protecting park resources. We need these staff to remain on the job as well!
Take Action: Tell the Trump administration to exempt the Park Service and related agencies from the freeze so parks have the staff and resources they need to protect America’s favorite places.
Thanks for all you do to protect our national parks!
Charity Gala Dinner and Auction, 4th March 2017 – MORE INFO
If you have a fondness or a passion for wildlife, or simply vague feelings of guilt about the plight of our many UK species of wild fauna, please consider helping with a donation to Oak and Furrows.
We, the human species, have made life and reproduction difficult for our many indigenous animals through our creation of roads, railways and the encroachment of agriculture on the wild spaces of our countryside.
As a result many animals are found injured or lost by members of the public each year. With the help of and redirection by local vets, Oak and Furrows receives, cares for, nurtures and releases back into safer habitats, hundreds of creatures every year. The Centre with its small overworked team of dedicated professionals and volunteers relies on donations and the goodwill of you, the public.