A B.C. dairy farmer is charged with killing four grizzly bears after a sow with cubs was allegedly shot.
As longtime readers of this blog may remember, I’ve quoted from Richard Leakey and Roger Lewin’s 1996 book, The Sixth Extinction; Patterns of Life and the Future of Mankind. Now there’s another book titled The Sixth Extinction (subtitled An Unnatural Order) by Elizabeth Kolbert (sorry, no relation to Steven Colbert…).
Are humans the reason that this wonderful Earth and her inhabitants are all here? Are Homo sapiens the pinnacle of evolution? That and other questions of our evolution are discussed in the chapter “Human Impacts of the Past” in Leakey’s book. Here is a series of excerpts from that original book:
…“For instance, Alfred Russel Wallace, the co-inventor of the theory of natural selection, believed that evolution had been working ‘for untold millions of years…slowly developing forms of life and beauty to culminate in man.’
“Until about a decade ago, most biologists did not feel uncomfortable with speaking of an increase in complexity as an outcome of evolution and using the term progress interchangeably with complexity. Recently, however, a certain nervousness has crept in, so it is now acceptable to talk about complexity, but not about progress. Progress, is it’s argued, implies some kind of mysterious innate tendency for improvement, and that is considered too mystical. …
“Gould was one of the most outspoken in denying progress, asserting that it is ‘a noxious, culturally imbedded, untestable, nonoperational idea that must be replaced if we wish to understand the patterns of history.’
“The ability of the human species to inflict devastation on the natural world at the level of significant extinctions was for a long time thought to be a relatively recent phenomenon in human history. In Wallace’s time, biologists recognized that the swaths of European colonizations of the globe from the seventeenth century onward had left a trail of havoc in nature’s perceived harmony. Many held earlier colonizers, such as the Polynesians throughout the Pacific, to be blameless in this respect, and to have been part of that harmony. (Western sentiments toward technologically primitive societies had in fact swung dramatically, from their being crude and barbaric beasts to being Rousseauean noble savages.) But as Jared Diamond, a biologist at the University of California at Los Angeles, had pointed out, many pre-European societies felt the same about their own forbearers.
“Homo sapiens has become the most dominant species on Earth. Unfortunately, our impact is devastating, and if we continue to destroy the environment as we do today, half the world’s species will become extinct early in the next century.
[Again, this was written at the end of the twentieth century.]
“Even though Homo sapiens is destined for extinction, just like other species in history, we have an ethical imperative to protect nature’s diversity, not destroy it.
“Many people find it impossible to contemplate a time when Home sapiens would no longer exist, so they like to assume that we will break the biological rule and continue forever, or at least until our planet ceases to exist, billions of years from now, when its atmosphere is burned off by an expanding sun.
“The sixth extinction is similar to previous biological catastrophes in many ways. For instance, the most vulnerable species are those whose geographical distribution is limited, those in and near the tropics, and those with large body size. It is unusual in several ways, too, most particularly in that large numbers of plant species are being wiped out, which is unprecedented compared with past crises. But in the end, with passage of five, ten, or twenty million years, despite this and other distortions of the biota that will remain, rebound will occur. ‘On geologic scales, our planet will take care of itself and let time clear the impact of any human malfeasance,’ as Gould has put it. Why, then, if it matters not at all in the long run what we do while we are here, should we concern ourselves with the survival of species that, like us, will eventually be no more?
“We should be concerned because, special though we are in many ways, we are merely an accident of history. We did not arrive on Earth as if from outer space, set down amid a wondrous diversity of life, blessed with a right to do with it what we please. We, like every species with which we share the world, are products of many chance events, leading back to that amazing explosion of life forms half a billion years ago, and beyond that to the origin of life itself. When we understand this intimate connection with the rest of nature in terms of our origins, an ethical imperative follows: it is our duty to protect, not harm them. It is our duty, not because we are the one sentient creature on Earth, which bestows some kind of benevolent superiority on us, but because in a fundamental sense Homo sapiens is on an equal footing with each and every other species here on Earth. And when we understand the Earth’s biota in holistic terms—that is, operating in an interactive whole that produces a healthy and stable living world—we come to see ourselves as part of that whole, not as a privileged species that can exploit with impunity. The recognition that we are rooted in life itself and its well-being demands that we respect other species, not trample them in a blind pursuit of our own ends. And, by the same ethical principle, the fact that one day Homo sapiens will have disappeared from the face of the Earth does not give us license to do whatever we choose while we are here.”
And in Elizabeth Kolbert’s Sixth Extinction, from the prologue:
[Human expansion] “…continues, in fits and starts, for thousands of years, until the species, no longer new, has spread to practically every corner of the globe. At this point, several things happen more or less at once that allow Homo sapiens, as it has come to call itself, to reproduce at an unprecedented rate. In a single century the population doubles; then it doubles again, and then again. Vast forests are razed. Humans do this deliberately, in order to feed themselves. Less deliberately, they shift organisms from one continent to another, reassembling the biosphere.
“Meanwhile, an even stranger and more radical transformation is underway. Having discovered subterranean reserves of energy, humans begin to change the composition of the atmosphere. This in turn, alters the climate and chemistry of the oceans… Some plants and animals adjust by moving. They climb mountains and migrate toward the poles. But a great many—at first hundreds, then thousands, and finally perhaps millions—find themselves marooned. Extinction rates soar, and the texture of life changes.
“No creature has ever altered the life on the planet in this way before, and yet other, comparable events have occurred. Very, very occasionally in the distant past, the planet has undergone change so wrenching that the diversity of life has plummeted. Five of these ancient events were catastrophic enough that they’re put in their own category: the so-called Big Five. In what seems like a fantastic coincidence, but is probably no coincidence at all, the history of these events is recovered just as people come to realize that they are causing another one…”
And speaking of oceans, an article in today’s Washington Post, “What the ‘sixth extinction’ will look like in the oceans: The largest species die off first,” cites a new study of the current mass extinction event and how it is currently affecting marine life.
— from the blog of Guy McPherson, Nature Bats Last
…22. Drought-induced mortality of trees contributes to increased decomposition of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere and decreased sequestration of atmospheric carbon dioxide. Such mortality has been documented throughout the world since at least November 2000 in Nature, with recent summaries in the February 2013 issue of Nature for the tropics, the August 2013 issue of Frontiers in Plant Science for temperate North America, and the 21 August 2015 issue of Science for boreal forests. The situation is exacerbated by pests and disease, as trees stressed by altered environmental conditions become increasingly susceptible to agents such as bark beetles andmistletoe (additional examples abound).
One extremely important example of this phenomenon is occurring in the Amazon, where drought in 2010 led to the release of more carbon than the United States that year (Science, February 2011). The calculation badly underestimates the carbon release. In addition, ongoing deforestation in the region is driving declines in precipitation at a rate much faster than long thought, as reported in the 19 July 2013 issue of Geophysical Research Letters. An overview of the phenomenon, focused on the Amazon, was provided by Climate News Network on 5 March 2014. “The observed decline of the Amazon sink diverges markedly from the recent increase in terrestrial carbon uptake at the global scale, and is contrary to expectations based on models,” according to a paper in the 19 March 2015 issue of Nature. ** Finally, according to a paper in the 1 July 2016 issue of Global Biogeochemical Cycles, the 2010 drought completely shut down the Amazon Basin’s carbon sink, by killing trees and slowing their growth. **
Tropical rain forests, long believed to represent the primary driver of atmospheric carbon dioxide, are on the verge of giving up that role. According to a 21 May 2014 paper published in Nature, “the higher turnover rates of carbon pools in semi-arid biomes are an increasingly important driver of global carbon cycle inter-annual variability,” indicating the emerging role of drylands in controlling environmental conditions. “Because of the deforestation of tropical rainforests in Brazil, significantly more carbon has been lost than was previously assumed.” In fact, “forest fragmentation results in up to a fifth more carbon dioxide being emitted by the vegetation.” These results come from the 7 October 2014 issue of Nature Communications. A paper in the 28 December 2015 online issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences indicates Amazon forest could transition to savanna-like states in response to climate change. Savannas are simply described as grasslands with scattered trees or shrubs. The abstract of the paper suggests that, “in contrast to existing predictions of either stability or catastrophic biomass loss, the Amazon forest’s response to a drying regional climate is likely to be an immediate, graded, heterogeneous transition from high-biomass moist forests to transitional dry forests and woody savannah-like states.”
The boreal forest wraps around the globe at the top of the Northern Hemisphere. It is the planet’s single largest biome and makes up 30 percent of the globe’s forest cover. Moose are the largest ungulate in the boreal forest and their numbers have plummeted. The reason is unknown.
Dennis Murray, a professor of ecology at Trent University in Peterborough, Ontario, thinks the dying moose of Minnesota and New Hampshire and elsewhere are one symptom of something far bigger – a giant forest ecosystem that is rapidly shrinking, dying, and otherwise changing. “The boreal forest is breaking apart,” he says. “The question is what will replace it?”
Increasing drought threatens almost all forests in the United States, according to a paper in the 21 February 2016 online issue of Global Change Biology. According to the paper’s abstract, “diebacks, changes in composition and structure, and shifting range limits are widely observed.”
For the first time scientists have investigated the net balance of the three major greenhouse gases — carbon dioxide, methane, and nitrous oxide — for every region of Earth’s land masses. The results were published in the 10 March 2016 issue of Nature. The surprising result: Human-induced emissions of methane and nitrous oxide from ecosystems overwhelmingly surpass the ability of the land to soak up carbon dioxide emissions, which makes the terrestrial biosphere a contributor to climate change.
An abstract of a paper to be published in the April 2016 issue of Biogeochemistry includes these sentences: “Rising temperatures and nitrogen (N) deposition, both aspects of global environmental change, are proposed to alter soil organic matter (SOM) biogeochemistry. … Overall, this study shows that the decomposition and accumulation of molecularly distinct SOM components occurs with soil warming and N amendment and may subsequently alter soil biogeochemical cycling.” In other words, as global temperatures rise, the organic matter in forests appears to break down more quickly, thereby accelerating the release of carbon into the atmosphere.
23. Ocean acidification leads to release of less dimethyl sulphide (DMS) by plankton. DMS shields Earth from radiation. (Nature Climate Change, online 25 August 2013). Plankton form the base of the marine food web, some populations have declined 40% since 1950 (e.g., article in the 29 July 2010 issue of Nature), and they are on the verge of disappearing completely, according to a paperin the 18 October 2013 issue of Global Change Biology. As with carbon dioxide, ocean acidification is occurring rapidly, according to a paper in the 26 March 2014 issue of Global Biogeochemical Cycles. Acidification is proceeding at a pace unparalleled during the last 300 million years, according to research published in the 2 March 2012 issue of Science. Over the past 10 years, the Atlantic Ocean has soaked up 50 percent more carbon dioxide than it did the decade before, measurably speeding up the acidification of the ocean, according to a paper published in the 30 January 2016 issue of Global Biogeochemical Cycles. Not surprisingly, the degradation of the base of the marine food web is reducing the ability of fish populations to reproduce and replenish themselves across the globe, as reported in the 14 December 2015 online edition of theProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
Diatoms, one of the major groups of plankton, is declining globally at the rate of about one percent per year, according to a paper in the 23 September 2015 issue of Global Biogeochemical Cycles.
The Southern Ocean is acidifying at such a rate because of rising carbon dioxide emissions that large regions may be inhospitable for key organisms in the food chain to survive as soon as 2030,according to a paper in the 2 November 2015 online issue of Nature Climate Change.
A paper in the 26 November 2015 issue of Science Express indicates millennial-scale shifts in plankton in the subtropical North Pacific Ocean that are “unprecedented in the last millennium.” The ongoing shift “began in the industrial era and is supported by increasing N2-fixing cyanobacterial production. This picoplankton community shift may provide a negative feedback to rising atmospheric CO2.” One of the authors of the papers is quoted during an interview: “This picoplankton community shift may have provided a negative feedback to rising atmospheric carbon dioxide, during the last 100 years. However, we cannot expect this to be the case in the future.”
Further research on primary productivity in the ocean was published in paper in the 19 January 2016 issue of Geophysical Research Letters. Referring to the Indian Ocean, the abstract concludes, “future climate projections suggest that the Indian Ocean will continue to warm, driving this productive region into an ecological desert.”
For the first time, researchers have documented algae-related toxins in Arctic sea mammals. Specifically, toxins produced by harmful algal blooms are showing up in Alaska marine mammals as far north as the Arctic Ocean — much farther north than ever reported previously, according to apaper in the 11 February 2016 issue of Harmful Algae. The abstract indicates, “In this study, 905 marine mammals from 13 species were sampled including; humpback whales, bowhead whales, beluga whales, harbor porpoises, northern fur seals, Steller sea lions, harbor seals, ringed seals, bearded seals, spotted seals, ribbon seals, Pacific walruses, and northern sea otters. Domoic acid was detected in all 13 species examined and had the greatest prevalence in bowhead whales (68%) and harbor seals (67%). Saxitoxin was detected in 10 of the 13 species … These results provide evidence that … toxins are present throughout Alaska waters at levels high enough to be detected in marine mammals and have the potential to impact marine mammal health in the Arctic marine environment.”
24. Jellyfish have assumed a primary role in the oceans of the world (26 September 2013 issue of the New York Times Review of Books, in a review of Lisa-ann Gershwin’s book, Stung! On Jellyfish Blooms and the Future of the Ocean): “We are creating a world more like the late Precambrian than the late 1800s — a world where jellyfish ruled the seas and organisms with shells didn’t exist. We are creating a world where we humans may soon be unable to survive, or want to.” Jellyfish contribute to climate change via (1) release of carbon-rich feces and mucus used by bacteria for respiration, thereby converting bacteria into carbon dioxide factories and (2) consumption of vast numbers of copepods and other plankton.
25. Sea-level rise causes slope collapse, tsunamis, and release of methane, as reported in the September 2013 issue of Geology. In eastern Siberia, the speed of coastal erosion has nearly doubled during the last four decades as the permafrost melts. And it appears sea-level rise has gone exponential, judging from Scribbler’s 4 May 2015 analysis. Considering only data through 2005, according to a paper published 28 September 2015 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, the 500-year return time of floods in New York City has been reduced to 24.4 years.
26. Rising ocean temperatures will upset natural cycles of carbon dioxide, nitrogen and phosphorus, hence reducing plankton (Nature Climate Change, September 2013). Ocean warming has been profoundly underestimated since the 1970s according to a paper published in the online version ofNature Climate Change on 5 October 2014. Specifically, the upper 2,300 feet of the Southern Hemisphere’s oceans may have warmed twice as quickly after 1970 than had previously been thought. According to a 22 January 2015 article in The Guardian, “the oceans are warming so fast, they keep breaking scientists’ charts.”
Another indication of a warming ocean is coral bleaching. The third global coral bleaching event since 1998, and also the third in evidence, ever, is underway on Australia’s Great Barrier Reef. According to Australia National News on 28 March 2016, a survey of the Great Barrier Reef reports 95% of the northern reefs were rated as severely bleached, and only 4 of 520 reefs surveyed were found to be unaffected by bleaching.
27. Earthquakes trigger methane release, and consequent warming of the planet triggers earthquakes, as reported by Sam Carana at the Arctic Methane Emergency Group (October 2013)…
Government creates marine protected areas around four islands in the Pacific and Atlantic, with commercial fishing banned in some areas
One of the world’s biggest marine protected ares will be created around the Pitcairn Islands
Thursday 15 September 2016 06.
In total, the government is creating marine protected areas around four islands in the Pacific and Atlantic, including the designation this week of one of the world’s biggest around the Pitcairn Islands.
A 840,000 sq km (320,000 sq mile) area around Pitcairn, where the mutineers of the Bounty settled, becomes a no-take zone for any fishing from this week. St Helena, around 445,000 sq km of the south Atlantic ocean and home to whale sharks and humpbacks, is now also designated as a protected area.
The foreign office said it would designate two further marine protection zones, one each around two south Altantic islands – Ascension by 2019 and Tristan da Cunha by 2020.
The stories you need to read, in one handy email
Sir Alan Duncan, minister of state for Europe and the Americas, said: “Protecting 4m sq km of ocean is a fantastic achievement, converting our historic legacy into modern environmental success.”
Commercial fishing will be banned in all of Pitcairn’s zone – excepting ‘sustainable’ local fishing – and half of the 445,390 sq km Ascension protected area. Fishing will be allowed in the other areas, but activities such as oil drilling will be prohibited.
Conservationists welcomed the new protections. “By protecting the vast array of marine life within these rich waters, the United Kingdom has solidified its position as a leader in ocean conservation,” said Joshua S Reichert, of the Pew Charitable Trusts, which is working with the UK on technology to monitor the Pitcairn area.
Jonathan Hall, the RSPB’s head of UK Overseas Territories, said: “This is simply enormous and shows world-leading vision.”
The UK announcement, at the Our Oceans summit in Washington, came as the White House said the US would ban fishing in a 5,000 sq km area in the Altantic, known as the Northeast Canyons and Seamounts marine national monument. That followed Barack Obama’s expansion last month of the Papahānaumokuākea monument off Hawaii.
In his speech at the Washington conference, Duncan quipped: “this was going to have been my big moment, because until last week the Pitcairn MPA would have been the largest in the world. But President Obama sort of rather blew that out of the water by announcing an even bigger MPA in Hawaii – trust the Yanks to indulge in a bit of one-upmanship over us poor Brits.
“But we’re happy as our loss is the world’s gain and we congratulate the United States.”
This week, scientists warned that humanity is driving an unprecedented extinction of the largest marine creatures that could affect ocean ecology for millions of years. Experts said the large range required for such creatures meant large-scale marine protected areas would be a key part of addressing the problem.
Warning: Some of the images in this story are graphic.
Rescuers have come to the aid of yet another humpback whale entangled in debris left in B.C. water, and photos show it’s one of the most severe cases yet.
Photos taken by a wildlife tour guide show the humpback completely wrapped up in ropes and in need of desperate assistance.
“This animal was definitely in major distress, and just with the ropes, the tight tension, that were wrapping around the animal and seeing the skin and the abrasions and the bleedings, it was awful to see,” said Paul Cottrell of the Department of Fisheries and Oceans.
“This animal definitely couldn’t have survived too long under that kind of tension.”
Experts say the whale may have already been entangled in debris when it got snagged on an anchor line at an empty Marine Harvest fish farm near Bella Bella.
“There was a rope through the animal’s mouth and wrapped around the head,” said Cottrell.
The whale was tangled up at the farm for hours when help finally arrived and freed it. Photos show multiple bloody abrasions on its body and a thick rope wrapped around its head.
Photos show the damage done to a humpback whale that became entangled in debris off the Bella Bella coast. Sept. 12, 2016. (Photo courtesy Philip Charles)
“This if the first time this has ever happened to us,” said Marine Harvest spokesman Ian Roberts. “So we’ll review the situation and see how our anchor lines may have contributed to this event, and if we need to make changes to our farms, we’ll make them across all our farms if that’s needed.”
Marine educators say it appears a staggering 47 per cent of humpbacks in B.C. waters have been entangled at one time or another.
They also say the two most important messages to get out after the most recent incident is making sure the public knows to report entanglements to the marine mammal hotline – and to not attempt a rescue themselves.
“If we get the call and we can get there, our success rate is huge,” said Cottrell. “It’s all about the 1-800 number, and not having people engage with the animal and trying to cut gear off, because that’s made situations worse in the past.”
The DFO believes the freed whale will stay in the general area for the foreseeable future and said staff will monitor the animal’s recovery and health over the next several weeks.
In June following another whale entanglement, Cottrell said he’s seen an increase in entanglements in recent months, but that could be because of increased reporting.
Anyone who sees an entangled marine mammal is asked to report it to the 24/7 hotline at 1-800-465-4336.
An anchor line became wrapped around the head of a humpback whale off the Bella Bella coast. Sept. 12, 2016. (Photo courtesy Philip Charles)
Two [climate change] effects [of Arctic warming] are identified … : 1) weakened zonal winds, and 2) increased [Rossby] wave amplitude. These effects are particularly evident in autumn and winter consistent with sea-ice loss… Slower progression of upper-level waves would cause associated weather patterns in mid-latitudes to be more persistent, which may lead to an increased probability of extreme weather events … — Evidence linking Arctic amplification to extreme weather in mid-latitudes, Dr. Jennifer Francis and Dr. Stephen Vavrus, Geophysical Research Letters (emphasis added)
The recent disruption in the quasi-biennial oscillation was not predicted, not even one month ahead. — Dr. Scott Osprey
This unexpected disruption to the climate system switches the cycling of the quasi-biennial oscillation forever. — Professor Adam Scaife
…scientists believe that the quasi-biennial oscillation could become more susceptible to similar disruptions as the climate warms. — Physics.org (emphasis added)
View original post 1,104 more words
Many conservation groups have expressed outrage over the decision to cull more than two-thirds of the remaining wolves. The number of wolves to be culled is the highest in a year since 1911. Nina Jensen, the head of the Norwegian branch of the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) said:
This is mass slaughter. We have not seen anything like this in a hundred years, back when the policy was that all large carnivores were to be eradicated. Shooting 70 percent of the wolf population is not worthy of a nation claiming to be championing environmental causes. People all over the country, and outside its borders, are now reacting.
Farmers have welcomed the hunting of wolves as they are considered a threat to their sheep. Erling Aas-Eng, a regional official for a farming association said:
We find the reason (for the killing) justified and intelligent, especially the potential damage that these wolf packs represent to farming.
Norway’s annual wolf hunting begins on October 1 and ends on March 31. Last year, a whopping 11,571 people signed up for licenses to kill 16 wolves.
COURTESY OF BING IMAGES
“(T)he highest role of the law is the protection of human and natural communities, rather than protection of the ruling elite.” ~ Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund, Breaking the Planet.
Wisconsin’s Fellow Mortals Wildlife Hospital describes the work it does with wildlife as “ethical, compassionate, and professional rehabilitation.”
“Fellow Mortals Wildlife Hospital was created as a special place for injured and orphaned wildlife to heal and be acclimated for return to the wild. 40,000 animals and over 100,000 people have received help — at no charge — over the last 30 years,” according to the organization, which is located near Lake Geneva.
American Transmission Company had scheduled a June 20 clear-cut of an easement near the sanctuary, 84 feet from the center of an adjacent highway. The proposed cut included a 100-year-old spruce tree that has been trimmed for 50 years to facilitate the easement.
View original post 472 more words
“In many ways the performances of Donald Trump remind me of male chimpanzees and their dominance rituals,” Goodall told The Atlantic. “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 added, “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.”
To date, we’ve not seen Trump drag branches or throw rocks, although anything is possible. Instead of physical displays, the Republican presidential nominee has stuck to verbal ones ― bragging about his penis, launching personal attacks and resorting to racist and sexist insults.
Trump is set to debate his Democratic opponent, Hillary Clinton, on Sept. 26. When it happens, Goodall told The Atlantic she’ll be thinking of “Mike,” a chimpanzee she studied that displayed dominance by kicking kerosene cans, creating a racket that sent would-be challengers fleeing.
Unsurprisingly, Trump has already boasted that he will come out on top, telling The New York Times “I know how to handle Hillary.”
Whether his strategy includes childish tidbits has yet to be seen. Tony Schwartz, co-author of Trump’s book The Art of the Deal, however, bets it will.
“Trump has severe attention problems and simply cannot take in complex information — he will be unable to practice for these debates,” Schwartz told the Times. “Trump will bring nothing but his bluster to the debates. He’ll use sixth-grade language, he will repeat himself many times, he won’t complete sentences, and he won’t say anything of substance.”