The relationship between the decline of common and widespread British butterflies and the increasing use of neonicotinoid pesticides on arable crops

There has been widespread concern that neonicotinoid pesticides may be adversely impacting wild and managed bees for some years, but recently attention has shifted to examining broader effects they may be having on biodiversity. For example in the Netherlands, declines in insectivorous birds are positively associated with levels of neonicotinoid pollution in surface water. In England, the total abundance of widespread butterfly species declined by 58% on farmed land between 2000 and 2009 despite both a doubling in conservation spending in the UK, and predictions that climate change should benefit most species. Here we build models of the UK population indices from 1985 to 2012 for 17 widespread butterfly species that commonly occur at farmland sites. Of the factors we tested, three correlated significantly with butterfly populations. Summer temperature and the index for a species the previous year are both positively associated with butterfly indices.

Native wild bees are being exposed to neonicotinoid insecticides and other pesticides

The first-ever study of pesticide residues on field-caught bees in the USA, finds native wild bees are being exposed to neonicotinoid insecticides and other pesticides. The research, conducted by the U.S. Geological Survey and published in the journal Science of the Total Environment, focused on native bees, because there is limited information on their exposure to pesticides. It did not look at pesticide exposure to honey bees. The researchers say little is known about how toxic these pesticides are to native bee species at the levels detected in the environment. “We found that the presence and proximity of nearby agricultural fields was an important factor resulting in the exposure of native bees to pesticides,” said USGS scientist Michelle Hladik, the report’s lead author. “Pesticides were detected in the bees caught in grasslands with no known direct pesticide applications.”

China's domestic population of reptiles and amphibians has dropped by a staggering 97% in the past four decades

China’s wildlife is vanishing at an alarming clip, a new report has found. The Middle Kingdom’s population of terrestrial vertebrates – including mammals, amphibians, birds, reptiles – has fallen by nearly one half over the past four decades, according to the World Wildlife Fund. That gloomy stat is in keeping with trends around the globe, which saw the number of vertebrates drop by 52% between 1970 and 2010, WWF said. Reptiles and amphibians took the biggest hit during the 1970-2010 period, with their numbers dropping by a staggering 97%. Likewise, numbers of forest mammals—such as musk deer and snub-nosed monkeys—fell by 78%.

Glyphosate, the active ingredient of Roundup herbicide, is a renal carcinogen

The EPA document attached shows how Monsanto tried to convince the EPA to ‘disappear’ toxicology data, which confirmed that 18 out of 100 test-mice developed a rare form of kidney tumour when fed glyphosate. EPA scientists were concerned that when 18% of mice developed ‘rare’ kidney tumours when fed glyphosate; moreover, this was not a case of ‘false positives’ as Monsanto was claiming. The tumors in question were real and also rare. The EPA refused to allow Monsanto to argue that ‘false positives’ argument should be used to ‘dilute’ the findings. The EPA regulators in question fought back - to protect the Public Health; evidently the EPA still had a sense of ethics and public service at that time. Since glyphosate is the most widely used pesticide in the world today it is clear that Monsanto ‘persuaded’ the EPA to suppress its concerns and give Glyphosate an unconditional license. Glyphosate was found in Warburtons Bread and Jordans Muesli in the UK in 2014.

Wildflowers serve as reservoir for controversial pesticides

A team from Sussex University in the UK found that the pollen of wildflowers, such as hogweed and poppies, within one to two metres of an oilseed rape crop, contained neonicotinoid concentrations up to 86 parts per billion (ppb) in pollen. The maximum pesticide residue recorded in crop pollen was 11.1 ppb. The use of neonicotinoids has become controversial in recent years and has been blamed for a decline in pollinators and contributing to honeybee colony losses. In 2013, the European Union restricted the use of these insecticides. ‘The hogweed [pollen] was 86 ppb, which is over 10 times what is normally found in the crop, so it may be that different plant species differ in their propensity to suck up neonicotinoids from the soil,’ says senior study author Dave Goulson. ‘The concentrations in the wildflowers were very variable, much higher than in the crop.’ Neonicotinoids were consistently found in the soil at field margins and this was deemed the most likely source of wildflower contamination. They are persistent in soil, says Goulson, and soil samples commonly came up positive for imidacloprid, even when farmers had not used them for at least three years.

Red-headed woodpecker spectacular to see, but having problems

The red-headed woodpecker (Melanerpes erythrocephalus) is a “WOW” bird. True to its name, the entire head is fire-engine red from crown to throat. The showy dome contrasts with a black back and tail, black wings with large white patches and a white belly. These woodpeckers are omnivorous, eating a wide variety of insects, fruit and seeds. Occasionally, they grab mice, raid nests for eggs and chicks, and pounce on smaller birds. They often act like flycatchers, flying out from a perch to grab a bug and then returning. During winter, when the insect supply is limited, they turn to acorns, beechnuts and pecans. Unfortunately, the red-headed woodpecker population has declined by an estimated 70 percent in the last 50 years. Once common throughout the eastern United States, in the Triad it has become a rare treat seen occasionally during non-breeding season and almost never in summer.

World-wide decline in amphibian populations perceived as one of the most critical threats to global biodiversity

In the past three decades, declines in populations of amphibians (the class of organisms that includes frogs, toads, salamanders, newts, and caecilians) have occurred worldwide. In 2004, the results were published of the first worldwide assessment of amphibian populations, the Global Amphibian Assessment. This found that 32% of species were globally threatened, at least 43% were experiencing some form of population decrease, and that between 9 and 122 species have become extinct since 1980. As of 2010, the IUCN Red List, which incorporates the Global Amphibian Assessment and subsequent updates, lists 486 amphibian species as "Critically Endangered". Experimental studies have shown that exposure to commonly used herbicides such as glyphosate (Tradename Roundup) or insecticides such as malathion or carbaryl greatly increase mortality of tadpoles. Additional studies have indicated that terrestrial adult stages of amphibians are also susceptible to non-active ingredients in Roundup, particularly POEA, which is a surfactant. Atrazine has been shown to cause male tadpoles of African clawed frogs to become hermaphroditic with development of both male and female organs. Such feminization has been reported in many parts of the world. While most pesticide effects are likely to be local and restricted to areas near agriculture, there is evidence from the Sierra Nevada mountains of the western United States that pesticides are traveling long distances into pristine areas, including Yosemite National Park in California.

Lethal and immunesuppressive effects of pesticides on amphibians

Amphibians are sensitive to most classes of pesticides including insecticides, fungicides, and herbicides. Adult and juvenile amphibians are exposed to pesticides on land through aerial sprays for mosquitoes, forestry and agricultural pests, drift, and dermal absorption from soil and plants. Because the EPA does not require amphibian toxicity tests for pesticide registration, there are large data gaps. These data gaps are being closed by independent scientists. One experiment tested label spray rates of 7 pesticides on adults of the common frog species, Rana temporaria. Mortality ranged from 40-100%. Perhaps most surprising was the lethal effects of fungicides. Two fungicides caused 100% mortality within one hour, others showed 40-60% mortality. Three products caused 40% mortality after 7 days after 10% label rate exposure (Bruhl et al. 2013). Direct oversprayingof terrestrial life stages of several frog species with Roundup at label rates resulted in an average 79% mortality. Van Meter et al. (2014) tested pesticide absorption from soil with 5 pesticides and 7 adult frog species. Atrazine showed highest absorption and bioaccumulation, although skins were generally more permeable to fipronil. Water solubility and soil partition coefficients were good predictors of dermal absorption. Maximum label rates were applied to soil, and resulting tissue concentrations ranged from 0.019 to 14.6 µg/g (ppm) over an 8 hour period. Immune suppression can occur at tissue concentrations 300-7300 times lower.

Numbers of breeding woodcock in the UK are in decline

The survey, carried out by the BTO and the Game and Wildlife Conservation Trust (GWCT) covered the decade to 2013. It shows the woodcock’s breeding population was estimated at 55,241 males – a 29 % decline since 2003. The percentage of wooded survey squares occupied by the species decreased from 47 %in 2003 to 37% in 2013. Annual counts from occupied sites monitored between 2003 and 2013 also indicate a decrease in abundance of 40 % during the 10-year period. As their common name implies, the woodcocks Scolopax rusticola are woodland birds. They feed at night or in the evenings, searching for invertebrates in soft ground with their long bills.

European turtle dove, Slavonian grebe, Pochard, Atlantic puffin, Balearic shearwater, Aquatic warbler, Long-tailed duck, and the Velvet scoter are critically endangered in the UK

Four new UK species of bird are now at a risk of extinction; Atlantic puffins, European turtle doves, Slavonian grebes and pochards have been recently added to the International Union of Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List of Threatened Species for birds. This comes as devastating news for conservationists as it means that the number of UK species on the critical list has doubled to eight. Puffins are vulnerable to pollution and a declining food sources, ecologists say. The Joint Nature Committee reports that this includes a recent decline in sand eels, one of the puffin’s main source of prey, and the bird’s overall vulnerability to oil spills. Meanwhile, an unexplained decline in turtle dove numbers across Europe of more than 30 percent in the past 16 years have made the breed susceptible to extinction. Conservationists believe that it is linked to an apparent lack of breeding pairs. A similar case has been made for the decline of Slavonian grebes in the UK; there has been a reduction in successful breeding pairs, the cause of which is still unknown. Additionally, 14 other UK species are considered to be “near threatened.”

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