PINEDALE, Wyo. (Reuters) – Hotter, drier conditions have led to more severe wildfires in Yellowstone National Park, while growing numbers of visitors have harmed everything from prized hydrothermal features to its famed grizzly bears, the park said in a report on Monday.
FILE PHOTO: A bison walks in Yellowstone National Park in Wyoming, U.S. on August 10, 2011. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson/File Photo
Average temperatures in Yellowstone, which has been designated as both World Heritage and Biosphere Reserve sites by a United Nations panel, are exceeding historical norms even as climate change is blamed for a string of fires that have increased in size and which last longer, according to the study.
The 60-page “The state of Yellowstone vital signs and select park resources, 2017” report is one of just four compiled in the past decade. They are designed to track one of the largest, nearly intact temperate ecosystems in the world.
Yellowstone is celebrated for geothermal areas that contain about half the world’s active geysers, as well as forests, mountains, meadows, rivers and lakes considered a crucial sanctuary for the largest concentration of diverse wildlife in the Lower 48 states. The report shows it has seen warmer summers with less moisture and shorter winters in recent years.
At Mammoth Hot Springs in the northwest of the park, for example, the average annual daily minimum temperature has increased by 3.9 degrees Fahrenheit from 1941 to 2016 even as total annual precipitation has for the most part been below the long-term mean of 15.3 inches and snowpack has generally declined, scientists found.
Researchers noted an increase in the size of wildfires that impact vegetation and degrade air quality and said the future holds more of the same.
“If climate trends continue along their current trajectory, fires within the park will continue to be larger (and) burn for longer durations,” according to the report.
The millions of visitors who flock to Yellowstone each year from around the globe are behind a trend that includes vandalism to unique thermal features.
The thermal features have been subjected to everything from a drone crashing into one of them to crowds surging onto fragile grounds surrounding the features.
And while the grizzly population in the Yellowstone area is considered stable at roughly 700 bears, humans engaged in such pastimes as driving, hiking, camping and cycling can disrupt bear activities and even contribute to their deaths.
Yellowstone, most of whose 2.2 million acres sit in Wyoming but which also encompasses portions of Idaho and Montana, saw a record 4.2 million visits in 2016 and recorded its second busiest year in history in 2017.
Depending on whom you believe, Anthony Kennedy’s retirement either means that Roe v. Wade will definitely be overturned — or else that it will probably be overturned (but definitely chipped away at).
Regardless, one thing is certain: If the Supreme Court’s new conservative majority takes the right to reproductive autonomy away from the American (female) people, the vast majority of the U.S. electorate will be displeased. A new poll from the Kaiser Family Foundation finds that 67 percent of voters do not want Roe v. Wadeoverturned. Opposition is overwhelming among Democrats and independents. But, in another sign that the congressional Republicans do not actually represent the consensus views of their constituents, some 43 percent of GOP voters want Roe upheld (the percentage of Republican Congress members who’d be willing to espouse that position in public is in the single digits).
What’s more, an analysis of Cooperative Congressional Elections Study data by the progressive think tank Data For Progress recently found that there is no state in the country where banning abortion in all circumstances has the support of even one-quarter of voters.
In the run-up to the 2016 election, polls showed that nearly half of Trump voters approved of Planned Parenthood. Shortly after Trump’s victory, that organization convened a series of focus groups with such voters, to understand how they could square their support for reproductive health care with voting Republican. Michelle Goldberg reported on the results on Slate:
In several focus groups, the moderator asked if people expected Trump to veto a defunding bill, and most hands went up. The new mother in Harrisburg pointed out that Trump avoided social issues in the campaign: “That was never Donald Trump’s platform.” Said a Phoenix man in his 30s: “I think this is coming from the bible-thumper mentality. I don’t see Trump having that mentality, but [Mike] Pence, Paul Ryan, those guys, it’s like they call up God from their cellphone. They’re so out of touch with reality.”
Conventional wisdom holds that this Supreme Court opening will help Republicans in November midterms by energizing religious voters. And there’s likely some amount of truth to that. But it’s worth remembering that these religious voters want things that the vast majority of Americans — and a significant number of Republicans — do not.
Our planet is sick–you can call it a biodiversity crisis, the Sixth Mass Extinction, or the un-weaving of the great web of life–and its getting sicker by the minute. That’s why a holistic approach to healing this once vibrant and thriving heavenly body is the only sure way to save her.
While environmentalism usually addresses stand-alone issues (like what color to paint the town so the bats aren’t kept awake), it seems “conservation” isn’t called into play these days until a species of plant or animal is on its last legs.
For example, the re-introduction of locally nearly extinct grizzly bears to Washington’s North Cascades—hailed by the Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke as a “conservation success story”—is practically a too-little-too-late band-aid sort of tactic employed long after destructive human activities like hunting, trapping and even poisoning have pretty much wiped them out, and subsequent human expansion has gobbled up their habitat.
I hate to tell Secretary Zinke, but “conservation” is something you should do before a species is down to its last estimated or imagined 10 individuals. Admittedly, I did come across some enormous tracks and scat in an avalanche chute in a trail-less valley within the heart of the North Cascades that, having not seen its maker, I attributed to either Bigfoot or a grizzly bear. But that was over 35 years ago, and I haven’t heard of too many sightings of either of them since then.
Single-issue actions and single-species, feel-good fixes only address small parts of the much bigger picture—first we need to curb the expansion of the one species at the root of all the Earth’s most pressing problems—namely, us.
Undeniably, Homo sapiens would have to go by the way-side for all the other life here on this planet to once again flourish, but that seems a small price to pay for finally putting things right and atoning for the many trespasses of the past. If humans are anywhere near as smart as they see themselves (or make themselves out to be), they’ll act now to right these countless wrongs and simply decline to reproduce, thereby eventually eliminating the one species that currently has this place so off-kilter and out of whack. With our species bowing out of the competitive breeding picture, it will take only a few lifetimes before the Earth is back on track to claim once again her living crown of glory.
Oh, I know it ain’t gonna happen, since humans will never willingly relinquish the Earth to its rightful owners. You’re more likely to see Bigfoot and a grizzly bear on unicycles juggling leprechauns, but we can always have pipe-dreams, can’t we?
Enjoy your ignorance people, because when we finally snap out of it, it’s going to be a rude awakening.
More than 41 million Americans find themselves at risk of going hungry at some point during the year, the U.S. Department of Agriculture says.
But it doesn’t have to be this way. New research suggests the country could feed all 327 million Americans — plus roughly 390 million more — by focusing on plants.
If U.S. farmers took all the land currently devoted to raising cattle, pigs and chickens and used it to grow plants instead, they could sustain more than twice as many people as they do now, according to a report published Monday in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
Set aside your cravings for cheeseburgers, bacon and chicken wings for a moment and consider the argument made by Ron Milo, a systems biology and sustainability researcher at the Weizmann Institute of Science in Israel, and his coauthors.
The researchers examined Americans’ eating habits and agricultural production in the years 2000 to 2010. For their calculations, they used a U.S. population of 300 million (in reality, it grew from 282 million to 309 million during that period, according to the Census Bureau).
With the help of computers, they figured out how to remove beef, pork, chicken, dairy and eggs from the American diet and replace them with plant-based foods that were “nutritionally comparable.” That means the replacement foods had to provide the same amount of calories, protein, fiber, vitamins and minerals without increasing fat or cholesterol — and they had to do it using the smallest amount of land possible.
Here’s what they found:
Imagine an area of land that can produce 100 grams of edible protein from plants. If you take that same amount of land and use it to produce eggs instead, you would end up with only 60 grams of edible protein — an “opportunity food loss” of 40%, the study authors found.
And that was the best-case scenario.
If that land were used to raise chickens, it would produce 50 grams of protein in the form of poultry. If it were devoted to dairy cows, it would provide 25 grams of protein in the form of milk products. If that land became a home for pigs, they would provide 10 grams of protein in the form of pork. And if you put cattle there, you’d get just 4 grams of protein in the form of beef.
Milo and his colleagues then scaled up their results to see how many more Americans could be fed by making each of those changes.
Eliminating eggs and replacing them with plants that offer the same nutrients would make it possible to feed 1 million additional people.
At the other end of the spectrum, swapping plants for beef would result in enough food to “meet the full dietary needs” of 163 million extra people.
In the middle were dairy (getting rid of it would result in food for 25 million more people), pigs (cutting them out would feed 19 million more people) and poultry chickens (without them, farmers could feed 12 million more people).
If beef, pork, chicken, dairy and eggs all were replaced by a nutritionally equivalent combination of potatoes, peanuts, soybeans and other plants, the total amount of food available to be eaten would increase by 120%, the researchers calculated.
To put that in perspective, the amount of food that’s currently wasted due to things such as spoilage and inefficient production methods is between 30% and 40% of what U.S. farmers produce.
“The effect of recovering the opportunity food loss,” the authors wrote, “is larger than completely eliminating all conventional food losses in the United States.”
That’s not to say there wouldn’t be a few downsides. Although a completely plant-based diet would provide more nutrients overall, consumption of vitamin B12 and a few other micronutrients would decline, the study authors noted.
The economic effects of eliminating all livestock-based agriculture are also unknown, they added. But two of the plusses include better health (which should reduce medical costs) and fewer greenhouse gas emissions, they wrote.
Even if you’re not ready to go vegan, Milo and his colleagues have certainly served up some food for thought…
[I have a thought, how about we go vegan AND REDUCE our population.]
Valentine’s Day is just a few weeks away and soon people will be busy thinking about romance, fancy dinners and, well, getting busy. The world could use a little more love right now, but as our human population grows, there’s less room and fewer resources for wildlife.
Help us give away free Endangered Species Condoms on Valentine’s Day. They’re a fun, unique way to break through the taboo and get people talking about how human population growth affects wildlife.
The good news is that safe sex saves wildlife — so this Valentine’s Day show wildlife some love by helping hand out free Endangered Species Condoms.
Be a part of the Center for Biological Diversity’s Endangered Species Condom project, and distribute free condoms featuring six endangered species threatened by unsustainable human population growth.
SIGN UP NOW USING THIS FORM to join our volunteer distributor network. And note that Valentine’s Day requests must be submitted by Jan. 18 for consideration.
The Center distributes thousands of condoms every year as a part of our Population and Sustainability Program to spotlight the toll human population growth and overconsumption have on our planet. Sign up to receive condoms and help educate people across the country about how endangered species — from Ozark hellbenders to monarch butterflies — are affected by our rapidly growing numbers.
Here’s how it works:
The condoms are distributed for free through the Center’s volunteer network nationwide and at specific times of the year — particularly around certain holidays and, of course, Earth Day.
Due to the high volume of requests, we’re not able to send condoms to everyone who signs up. So the more you tell us about your ideas for cool events and opportunities to engage people in conversation about human population and endangered species, the easier it is for us to make sure the condoms are sent where they can have the greatest impact. Submissions are reviewed on the 1st of every month, so if your request is urgent, please let us know. Unfortunately we’re unable to ship condoms anywhere outside of the United States.
Large-scale hunting is leading to a decline in the diversity of waterbirds in the state, say researchers.
Spotting a bar-headed goose, a Eurasian spoonbill or a painted stork in the wetlands of Tamil Nadu is becoming increasingly difficult because of the rampant illegal hunting of waterbirds. The hunting, at scales not mapped before, is triggered by demand from the market for wild meat and not subsistence hunting by a few, a new study by researchers at the Nature Conservation Foundation in Mysuru has found.
The researchers studied 27 wetlands in Tamil Nadu’s Kancheepuram district and interviewed 272 hunters over six months. Recording around 53 waterbird species across the wetlands during eight months of fieldwork in 2013 and 2014, they found that 47 species were being hunted, especially large and medium-sized birds. They also held that the hunting had contributed to a decline in the diversity of species found in the region, especially medium-sized insectivorous birds.
The study, based on a survey of hunters, concluded that the illegal hunting of waterbirds was market-driven and had grown in scale in the last 10 years. This contradicts previous findings by researchers that hunting is usually taken up by certain communities on a small scale purely for subsistence. Around 73.5% of the respondents reported monetary gain as the primary motive for hunting, sport and subsistence being the other reasons.
“The conclusions were in contrast to what we expected,” said Ramesh Ramachandran, an MSc student in wildlife biology and conservation at the National Centre for Biological Sciences in Bengaluru, who undertook this study as part of his dissertation. “We thought this was a traditional practice that had been there for hundreds of years. But it is a total commercialised mafia.”
The hunting of wild animals driven by a demand for wild meat, which is seen as exotic by some in the richer strata of society, is documented in some other parts of the country, particularly the tribal belts of Central India and the North East, but this research shows the same trend prevailing in Tamil Nadu as well.
Policeman to conservationist
Before taking up wildlife conservation studies, Ramachandran was a policeman in Karnataka and a member of a special cell tracking wildlife crime. “Because of his background, he brings an interesting viewpoint to conservation,” said KS Gopi Sundar, his mentor and scientist at the Cranes and Wetlands Programme of the Nature Conservation Foundation.
Ramachandran narrowed down his area of study to Kancheepuram, which has a large number of lakes and waterbodies, including two protected bird sanctuaries – Vedanthangal and Karikili.
His police training helped him track down communities that hunted wild birds and traded in their meat. He said he worked at winning their trust before presenting them with the questionnaire for the study. With a team of wildlife enthusiasts and informants, he visited them several times to get them to participate in the study.
At the end of their research, the team found that 92% of the hunting was done using locally crafted single-barrel muzzle-loading guns. A hunter on average went out four or five times a month and each trip yielded around 21 birds, which earned him an average monthly income of around Rs 13,000. The most commonly traded meat was that of the pond heron.
Around 71% of the respondents reported an increase in the demand for waterbird meat for consumption over the past decade. And the study found two distinct markets existing for the wild meat. It was sold at a fixed time slot, between 6 pm and 8 pm, to buyers who specifically sought it out. The remaining meat then made its way to restaurants and roadside food stalls near liquor shops where it was sold at much lower rates.
Around 75% of the hunters interviewed reported that they supplied birds to 426 eateries in the area. However, out of the 681 eateries surveyed, only eight acknowledged serving wild waterbird meat.
“It is significant that there is a market at work which sustains this trade and it stays under the radar,” said Ravinder Singh Bhalla of the Foundation for Ecological Research, Advocacy and Learning in Tamil Nadu. He added that hunting as a paid hobby was more prevalent than documentation suggested, since it was usually kept under wraps.
“What is remarkable is how this practice has stayed undocumented for what appears to be decades,” said Bhalla. “It would be too simplistic to attribute this to collusion by authorities alone. Social exclusion and lack of economic opportunities combined with cultural practices clearly have a role to play in this choice of livelihood by the hunters.”
Among the waterbirds that are being hunted are many migratory species, which India is bound to protect under the international Convention on Migratory Species. “Yet these are being sold on national highways,” said Ajith Kumar of the Wildlife Conservation Society. “A suitable method should be devised for controlling this, not just by forest officials harassing these communities and putting a few of them behind bars.”
Neglected field of study
The study has also brought to light the lack of research on wetland ecology, which Gopi Sundar claims is an extremely nascent science.
“Serious work that asks important questions has been largely missing,” the Nature Conservation Foundation scientist said. He pointed out that the majority of large waterbirds are found outside protected areas whereas much of ecological research is focused on protected forest areas.
So far, studies in the area of wetland ecology have dealt with ecological parameters such as the size of water bodies and vegetation, and their relationship with the populations and diversity of birds. This study is the first to have gathered information on hunting practices and factored these into trends of community structures and counts of bird species in each wetland, the researchers said. “This kind of analysis has never been done anywhere in the world,” said Gopi Sundar.
CORVALLIS, ORE. — In November of 1992, more than 1,500 scientists put their signatures on an extraordinary document titled “World Scientists’ Warning to Humanity,” imploring global leaders to save the planet from environmental disaster.
Now, 25 years later, more than 15,000 scientists have signed an updated version of that historic plea, saying “time is running out.”
“World Scientists’ Warning to Humanity: A Second Notice,” published Monday in the international journal BioScience, charts the progress — or lack thereof — on the issues highlighted in the original document and renews the call for urgent action.
Lead author William J. Ripple, a distinguished professor of ecology at Oregon State University, said he was astounded by the level of support he and his seven co-authors received for their manuscript.
“I initially sent it out to 40 of my colleagues,” he recalled. “After 24 hours there were 600 scientists who signed it. Within two days, there were 1,200. . There were so many people signing that our website crashed a couple of times.”
By the time the paper was ready for publication, the authors had received the endorsement of 15,364 fellow scientists from 184 countries.
The original “Warning,” published by the Union of Concerned Scientists, was a sort of environmental distress signal that began with this chilling statement: “Human beings and the natural world are on a collision course.”
It went on to lay out a number of alarming trends, including a growing hole in the atmospheric ozone layer, depletion and pollution of freshwater resources, overfishing in the ocean, widespread deforestation, crashing wildlife populations, increasing greenhouse gas emissions, rising global temperatures and soaring human population levels.
“A great change in our stewardship of the earth and the life on it is required,” the authors declared, “if vast human misery is to be avoided and our global home on this planet is not to be irretrievably mutilated.”
As the manifesto’s 25th anniversary approached, Ripple and his co-authors examined the available data to determine whether any progress had been made on key global environmental issues since 1992. By most measures, they concluded, humanity gets a failing grade.
“Especially troubling is the current trajectory of potentially catastrophic climate change” from burning fossil fuels and other human-caused factors, the article states. It also calls attention to a drastic loss of biodiversity that the authors call a “mass extinction event.”
Charts included with the paper chronicle a number of other disturbing developments over the past quarter-century, including a 28.9 percent reduction in the abundance of all vertebrate wildlife, a 62.1 percent increase in carbon dioxide emissions, a 167.6 percent increase in global average temperatures and a 35.5 percent rise in the global population — an increase of 2 billion people.
On the plus side, the researchers note a number of positive trends.
Perhaps the biggest environmental success story of the past 25 years has been the significant recovery of the ozone layer since the 1987 Montreal Protocol sharply curtailed the use of damaging chlorofluorocarbons, or CFCs, in aerosol sprays and other applications.
Other encouraging signs include reductions in extreme poverty and hunger, a slowdown in deforestation in some parts of the world, the rapid growth of the renewable energy sector and a sharp drop in birth rates in certain regions as women and girls obtain greater access to education.
Nevertheless, the authors conclude, urgent measures are required to avert disaster. They call on the scientific community, the media and ordinary citizens to pressure their governments to “take immediate action as a moral imperative to current and future generations of human and other life.”
They also call for change at the individual level, asking people to voluntarily have fewer children and consume fewer resources, from fossil fuels to meat.
“Humanity is now being given a second notice, as illustrated by these alarming trends,” the scientists warn. “We are jeopardizing our future by not reining in our intense but geographically and demographically uneven material consumption and by not perceiving continued rapid population growth as a primary driver behind many ecological and even societal threats.”
While it’s unusual for academics to speak out so strongly, Ripple said he and his colleagues couldn’t stand idly by while cascading global environmental crises continued to worsen.
“I’m feeling more concerned all the time. I wanted to write this because I think it’s important for scientists to reach out and show some leadership on global issues,” he said.
“If we don’t take an active part, who will? Should we just rely on the politicians to do it?”
[No, the articles’ title doesn’t mean they think enough hunters will shoot themselves or each other in accidents during their newly proposed crane hunt that it will impact the out of control human population in the slightest bit. Unfortunately they meant that hunting canes them might keep their numbers down where humans want them.]
Michigan Rep. Jim Lower calls for Sandhill crane hunting
“I’m hopeful that the Natural Resources Commission will move forward with the idea and create a Sandhill crane hunt,” Lower said. “The establishment of a hunting season will help control the population and limit damage to local farms, where corn and wheat plants serve as a food source for the birds.”
Michigan is home to an increasing population of Sandhill cranes, with an estimated 23,082 reported in Michigan’s 2015 population survey, officials said.
Over the past 10 years, the population has grown an average of 9.4 percent annually, officials said.
While Michigan farmers are allowed to obtain nuisance permits to kill Sandhill cranes causing crop damage on their farms, Lower said the permits do not provide a solution to the overpopulation problem.
Lower said birds killed with nuisance permits are a wasted resource, as their meat cannot be harvested.
Sixteen states currently allow Sandhill crane hunting during certain seasons.
“A number of states already hunt Sandhill cranes, and their population continues to climb, along with reports of crop damage caused by cranes,” Lower said. “Still, hunting is the best tool we have to manage the population as a whole, and it’s time to utilize it in Michigan.”