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Are the Florida Everglades Sick? Wading Birds In Steep Decline

A decline in small herons and egrets that nest and forage among the Everglades wetlands and tree islands could mean work to restore the troubled ecosystem is not moving fast enough. An annual survey by the South Florida Water Management District released Thursday found that in 2014 the overall number of nests in and around refuges, wildlife sanctuaries and water conservation areas was down by 60 percent — 28 percent lower than in 2013. The drop in Everglades nests for little blue herons (Egretta caerulea), tricolored herons (Egretta tricolor) and snowy egrets (Egretta thula) was particularly troubling: nests that numbered over 1,000 a decade ago were down to about 130 last year. Biologists monitor the birds because their health is so closely tied to Everglades hydrology. When the birds do well, the ecosystem is in good shape.

British garden bird numbers in decline

On 24th and 25th of January this year, the RSPB are asking everyone to join them in their Big Garden Bird Watch, a nationwide count of the different species in our gardens. After the RSPB have collated the information, they will then publish the results about which birds we are seeing and where. As always, it is hoped results will show healthy numbers of birds across Britain and Ireland, however a report from the British Trust for Ornithology indicates the results will say otherwise. The Birdtrends report, published in December 2014, surveys 120 species of birds in the UK and the results are extremely worrying. 28 species of birds appear to have suffered a decline of over 50% in the last 45 years. It seems that it is more common species which have suffered a decline. Senior Research Fellow Dr Stephen Baillie, whom led the research, said “National declines in farmland birds are well-documented and these latest figures show that this decrease is continuing. The results of BTO surveys show that many familiar garden birds are experiencing problems. House Sparrow numbers have dropped by almost 70% since the 1960s and the data suggest that sparrows occupying urban and suburban habitats are faring worst.”

Turtle dove numbers in Britain have dropped by a whopping 93% since 1970, the fastest decline of a bird towards extinction in British history

Turtle dove (Streptopelia turtur) populations in Britain are declining so rapidly that they may be entirely gone from the country in a eight years’ time, scientists from the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds have warned. A paper in the British journal Bird Study, by two RSPB research scientists Jenny Dunn and Antony Morris said that: “at the current rate of decline, turtle doves may be lost as a UK breeding bird by 2021.” Turtle dove numbers in Britain have dropped by a whopping 93% since 1970, the fastest decline of a bird towards extinction in British history.
Moreover, scientists warned that turtle doves are simply the worst affected of the migratory birds that spend the winter in Africa and fly to Britain in the springtime to breed. Eight out of Britain’s twelve most threatened bird species are African migratory birds.

Ireland's favourite garden birds on danger list

Our beloved robins are falling on hard times - and they are not the only ones. According to the RSPB, the popular garden bird has been reclassified from green (least conservation concern) to amber (medium concern), following data from the most recent Birds of Conservation Concern in Ireland list. And the species isn't alone - of the top 10 species counted in last January's Big Garden Birdwatch survey, nine had declined from the previous year. Meanwhile, greenfinch (Chloris chloris), mistle thrush (Turdus viscivorus), stonechat (Saxicola rubicola) and goldcrest (Regulus regulus) in Ireland have also been reclassified from green to amber for the same reason as the robin (Erithacus rubecula) - a decline of more than 25% in breeding populations over 15 years.

Animas River trout in decline. Fewer young browns particularly worrisome

The number of brown and rainbow trout in the Animas River swimming through Durango has declined, according to an ongoing study.In particular, a decline has been noted in fish from 32nd Street to the Lightner Creek confluence with the Animas, said Jim White an aquatic biologist with Colorado Parks and Wildlife, who worked on the fish survey. This is the first time the area hasn’t met the Gold Medal standard for large fish since 1996, White said. Colorado Parks and Wildlife stocks the Animas with both kinds of trout, and the stocking practices have not changed in about 20 years. However, the most recent survey in September revealed a worrisome decline in both young and large brown trout compared with prior years, White said. “We’re concerned over the absence of these young brown trout,” he said.

The Steep Decline of Atlantic Coast Swallows

There are four species of swallows found in Maritime Canada: bank swallow (Riparia riparia), barn swallow (Hirundo rustica), cliff swallow (Petrochelidon pyrrhonota) and tree swallow (Tachycineta bicolor). Population trends for these species and other aerial insectivores (birds that feed almost exclusively on flying insects while in flight) show rapid declines in the last 40 years. These declines are greater than any other group of birds in North America and are particularly severe in northeastern North America.The total population size of each species is unknown, but over the last 40 years there have been significant population declines and these declines are greatest in the Maritimes. It is estimated that bank swallow population in Canada has declined by 98%, with 31% lost in the last 10 years. The rate of decline is similar for the barn swallow, with a loss of 75% of the population, including 30% in just the last 10 years.

Reflections on Christmas Day - The Vital Legacy of John Muir (1838-1914)

Humanity is the product of the same processes as all other species that have dwelt on Earth, with our well-being inextricably tied to the health of the biosphere. Contemporary science has confirmed nature’s myriad links, but as early as 1911 John Muir poetically expressed ecology’s central insight. “When we try to pick out anything by itself,” Muir wrote in My First Summer in the Sierra, “we find it hitched to everything else in the Universe.” The twin ideas of evolutionary kinship and ecological connectivity are profoundly disruptive to the delusion of human exceptionalism, that somehow the rules don’t apply to us, that our cleverness is boundless, even to the point of transcending biological limits. One hundred years after his death, John Muir’s legacy could not be more vital. Inspired by the love he felt for the wild world, today’s vision for the future of conservation—and the future of the Earth—is one of planetary rewilding, where a scaled-back human civilization is embedded in a matrix of wildness, and where at least half of the globe is left to nature. It is a vision both idealistic and achievable: Broad swaths of green and blue— beautiful, untrammeled, evolution-supporting lands and waters encircling the Earth, where wild life and people flourish together.

Another insectivorous bird facing extinction in the US

When they’re not dining on the population explosions of caterpillars, they eat other insects, frogs, lizards, crickets, cicadas and other streamside dwellers. They’ve almost vanished from the Southwest — including Arizona. So the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service wants to list the wide-ranging, quickly-disappearing, stream-loving western yellow-billed cuckcoo (Coccyzus americanus) as an endangered species — likely adding one more layer of protection for — and restrictions on — streams in Rim Country. The federal government has proposed listing 80 protected streamside areas as critical habitat for the robin-sized bird, including Tonto Creek, the Verde River and other small streams like the East Verde, Fossil Creek and other Rim Country streams. Population surveys suggest the Western Cuckcoo continues to decline by about 1.5 percent annually. The estimated 15,000 breeding pairs in California in the late 19th century had declined to about 30 pairs by 1986. The thousands of pairs in Arizona had declined to 200 pairs in the same period. Biologists aren’t sure how many pairs remain in the southwest now.

Impact of a widely used insecticide on soil microorganisms - nitrifying and N2-fixing bacteria are sensitive to imidacloprid

Imidacloprid is one of the most commonly used insecticides in agricultural practice, and its application poses a potential risk for soil microorganisms. The objective of this study was to assess whether changes in the structure of the soil microbial community after imidacloprid application at the field rate (FR, 1 mg/kg soil) and 10 times the FR (10 × FR, 10 mg/kg soil) may also have an impact on biochemical and microbial soil functioning. The obtained data showed a negative effect by imidacloprid applied at the FR dosage for substrate-induced respiration (SIR), the number of total bacteria, dehydrogenase (DHA), both phosphatases (PHOS-H and PHOS-OH), and urease (URE) at the beginning of the experiment. In 10 × FR treated soil, decreased activity of SIR, DHA, PHOS-OH and PHOS-H was observed over the experimental period. Nitrifying and N2-fixing bacteria were the most sensitive to imidacloprid. The concentration of NO3− decreased in both imidacloprid-treated soils, whereas the concentration of NH4+ in soil with 10 × FR was higher than in the control. Analysis of the bacterial growth strategy revealed that imidacloprid affected the r- or K-type bacterial classes as indicated also by the decreased eco-physiological (EP) index. Imidacloprid affected the physiological state of culturable bacteria and caused a reduction in the rate of colony formation as well as a prolonged time for growth. Principal component analysis showed that imidacloprid application significantly shifted the measured parameters, and the application of imidacloprid may pose a potential risk to the biochemical and microbial activity of soils.

How pesticides (neonicotinoids) change navigation, recruitment, and learning behavior of bees

Navigation in honeybees is studied with the help of a special radar that allows to trace the flights of individual bees over kilometers. In a typical experiment, the bees were trained to a feeder or they follow a dancing bee. Then we equipped one bee with a radar transponder and released it at a site within the range of the explored area. First, the animal performs a straight flight that would have brought it back from the feeder to the hive (vector flight) would it not have been transported to a different site. In the case of the dance follower, the bee performs the vector information transmitted in the dance, as described by Karl von Frisch and followers. Then the bee loops around (search flight), followed by a straight return flight to the hive (homing flight). We carried out the experiments in an area where the skyline of the horizon or a beacon at the hive did not guide the bees’ navigation. Thus, the bees referred only to the pattern of landmarks on the ground. We show that the memory structure used by the bees can be best conceptualized as a cognitive map storing the geometric relations of landmarks and important locations. Sublethal doses of neonicotinoids interfere selectively with the homing flight component based on this cognitive map memory, reducing the probability of successful returns to the hive. Chronic exposure to the neonicotinoid Thiacloprid reduces the attractiveness of a feeding site and the rate of recruitment.

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