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Unique field study shows that pesticide harms wild bees

For the first time, a research project has investigated how a neonicotinoid pesticide, clothianidin, affects both honeybees and wild bees under field conditions in agricultural landscapes. The study shows that honeybees can cope with exposure to the pesticide, but that it has a strong negative impact on wild bees. The researchers, from Lund University and Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, in collaboration with the Swedish Board of Agriculture, have investigated how the neonicotinoid clothianidin affects domesticated and wild bees under Swedish field conditions. The research findings have now been published in the scientific journal Nature, and they show that the insecticide has a negative impact on wild bees. This is severe, because wild bees play an important role in pollination of crops. Wild bees are in Sweden bumblebees and solitary bees. “We saw a clear negative impact on growth and reproduction in bumblebee colonies near treated oilseed rape fields”, said Maj Rundlöf from Lund University, the coordinator and principal investigator for the field study.

Northern Spotted Owl Continues to Decline

The status of the Northern Spotted Owl (Strix occidentalis caurina) will be reviewed under the Endangered Species Act, a decision which could lead to uplisting of the Threatened subspecies to Endangered, a change supported by American Bird Conservancy. “American Bird Conservancy appreciates that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is taking this action to help reverse the Northern Spotted Owl’s spiral toward extinction” said Steve Holmer, senior policy advisor for American Bird Conservancy. Long-term demography studies which make up the federal government’s monitoring program for the species show that in 2013 populations in all eight study areas were in decline and well below historic averages for both total numbers and breeding success. “In the Tyee demographic study area near Roseburg, Oregon, the population has seen a severe drop in the last five years; only 29 owl pairs were found in 2013 compared to 66 pairs ten years ago,” said Holmer. "The number of females nesting has decreased, as has the average number of offspring.” The Tyee researchers concluded that “the last three years of reproduction have been the lowest on record and resulted in the fewest number of young produced.”

U.S. Amphibian Populations Declining at Precipitous Rates

The first-ever estimate of how fast frogs, toads and salamanders in the United States are disappearing from their habitats reveals they are vanishing at an alarming and rapid rate. According to the study released today in the scientific journal PLOS ONE, even the species of amphibians presumed to be relatively stable and widespread are declining. And these declines are occurring in amphibian populations everywhere, from the swamps in Louisiana and Florida to the high mountains of the Sierras and the Rockies. The study by USGS scientists and collaborators concluded that U.S. amphibian declines may be more widespread and severe than previously realized, and that significant declines are notably occurring even in protected national parks and wildlife refuges." Amphibians have been a constant presence in our planet's ponds, streams, lakes and rivers for 350 million years or so, surviving countless changes that caused many other groups of animals to go extinct," said USGS Director Suzette Kimball. "This is why the findings of this study are so noteworthy; they demonstrate that the pressures amphibians now face exceed the ability of many of these survivors to cope." On average, populations of all amphibians examined vanished from habitats at a rate of 3.7 percent each year. If the rate observed is representative and remains unchanged, these species would disappear from half of the habitats they currently occupy in about 20 years.

Neonicotinoids exterminate the insectivores: almost one-third of the world’s amphibian species are threatened with extinction

With the world in the middle of what scientists are calling a sixth mass extinction, it appears that amphibians are being hit the hardest. Amphibian populations are declining at such an astonishing rate that a number of organizations are calling for immediate help. According to Save the Frogs, frog populations have been declining worldwide at unprecedented rates. Currently, almost one-third of the world’s amphibian species are threatened with extinction. The majority of the declines in population happening within the last 20 years. NZFrog, a frog conservation effort, notes that scientists have been studying the decline of amphibians over the years. However, instead of studying declines, scientists are now watching as these animals become extinct. “We have now moved into the phase of amphibian extinctions rather than studying amphibian declines and 32% of all amphibians are threatened with extinction. When a whole group of a particular type of animal starts to disappear then we need to worry. Amphibians play an essential part in the food web of life as top insectivores and prey to many other animals, and if you remove this important link then one can only guess about the ramifications, but there is no doubt that they will be serious.”

Insecticides Pose Alarming Threats to Biodiversity of Global Agricultural Surface Waters

A study performed at the Institute for Environmental Science of the University of Koblenz-Landau evaluated for the first time comprehensive global insecticide contamination data for agricultural surface waters using the legally-accepted regulatory threshold levels (RTLs) as defined during the official pesticide authorisation procedures. The results are alarming: more than 40% of the water-phase samples with a detection of an insecticide concentration, exceeded respective RTLs. Concerning the exposure of sediments (i.e., deposits at the bottom of the surface water bodies), more than 80% of the insecticide concentrations exceeded RTLs, which, however, often are less binding from a regulatory perspective. Overall, the results of this study indicate that insecticides pose substantial threats to the biodiversity of global agricultural surface waters and that the current regulatory risk assessment schemes and pesticide authorisation procedures fail to protect the aquatic environment.

Pesticides Linked to Honeybee Deaths Pose More Risks, European Group Says

An influential European scientific body said on Wednesday that a group of pesticides believed to contribute to mass deaths of honeybees is probably more damaging to ecosystems than previously thought and questioned whether the substances had a place in sustainable agriculture. The finding could have repercussions on both sides of the Atlantic for the companies that produce the chemicals, which are known as neonicotinoids because of their chemical similarity to nicotine. Global sales of the chemicals reach into the billions of dollars. Research has been directed largely at the effects of neonicotinoids on honeybees, but that focus “has distorted the debate,” according to the report released on Wednesday by the European Academies Science Advisory Council. The council is an independent body composed of representatives from the national science academies of European Union member states. The European ban is up for review this year, and the council’s report, based on the examination of more than 100 peer-reviewed papers that were published since the food safety agency’s finding, was prepared to provide officials with recommendations on how to proceed.

Tasmanian Swift Parrot is on Brink of Extinction, Finds Study

The critically endangered swift parrot (Lathamus discolor) could become extinct within less than two decades, says a new study published online in the journal Biological Conservation. The bird breeds only in Tasmania, and migrates to mainland Australia in autumn, undertaking the longest migration of any parrot species in the world. The breeding range is always within eight km of the coast, largely restricted to an area of less than 500 sq. km. During the breeding season, nectar from the flowers of Tasmanian blue gum is the principal food source. During the non-breeding period, swift parrots feed extensively on nectar and lerp and other items from eucalypt foliage. The bird also eats psyllid insects and lerps, seeds and fruit. The new five-year study discovered that swift parrots move between different areas of Tasmania each year to breed, depending on where food is available. “Swift parrots are in far worse trouble than anybody previously thought. Everyone, including foresters, environmentalists and members of the public will be severely affected if they go extinct,” said Prof Robert Heinsohn of the Australian National University, who is the lead author on the study. Prof Heinsohn and co-authors predicted that the population of the swift parrots will halve every four years, with a possible decline of 94.7 per cent over 16 years.

Herring decline threatens fragile seabird populations, biologist says

A seabird biologist says the sharp decline in Bay of Fundy herring stocks is affecting fragile bird breeds on Machias Seal Island and could threaten the populations. Tony Diamond, who has been researching birds there since 1995, is calling on the federal government to study what is happening to the herring. "If the reduction in the amount of herring in the Bay of Fundy continues, then the prediction is that the adult survival of [Atlantic] puffins will decline. And that will have a negative effect on the viability of the population," he said. The island, located about 20 kilometres southwest of Grand Manan, is an international attraction known for its breeding populations of Atlantic puffins, razorbill auks, Arctic terns, and common terms. Fifteen years ago, the diet puffins and razorbills were feeding their chicks was predominantly made up of juvenile herring, said Diamond. "Herring is the richest source of calories of any of the prey items. So the calories, the amount of energy per gram of prey, is greatest in herring. It's much greater than in hake, which is the alternative food item," he said. His observations coincide with a near total collapse in the herring weir fishery in the bay. Over the past three decades, annual herring weir catches averaged 20,000 tonnes in the Bay of Fundy, according to Grand Manan Fishermen's Association. But in 2013, the latest figures available, the total catch dropped to about 6,000 tonnes. In 2012, less than 500 tonnes was landed. Earlier this month, the fishermen's association called on the federal government to study what is causing the decline in herring stocks.

Concentrations of clothianidin as low as 1 part per billion are harmful to monarch butterfly caterpillars

New research has identified the neonicotinoid insecticide clothianidin as a likely contributor to monarch butterfly declines in North America. The research, published on April 3rd 2015, identifies concentrations of clothianidin as low as 1 part per billion as harmful to monarch butterfly caterpillars. These concentrations of clothianidin were found in the populations of milkweeds sampled by the researchers. Previously, no research had been done on neonicotinoids and butterflies and therefore this is the first report of neonicotinoids affecting monarchs or any other butterflies. The research was conducted in Brookings, South Dakota and is published in the journal Science and Nature (Springer).

The toxicological effects of thiamethoxam on Gammarus kischineffensis follow the Druckrey-Küpfmüller equation

Neonicotinoids are a new group of insecticides, and little is known about their toxicity to nontarget freshwater organisms an potential effects on freshwater ecosystems. The aim of this study is to establish the acute toxicity and histopathological effects of thiamethoxam-based pesticide on the gill tissue of Gammarus kischineffensis. In this study G. kischineffensis samples were exposed to 2.5, 5, 7.5, 10, 15, 20, 25, 30, 35, 40, 45, 50, 60, 70, 80, 90 and 100 mg/l of commercial grade thiamethoxam for 96 h. The 24, 48, 72 and 96 h LC50 values were determined as 75.619, 23.505, 8.048 and 3.751 mg/l respectively. In histopathological study the individuals were exposed to 0.004, 0.04 and 0.4 mg/l thiamethoxam concentrations for 14 days. The results showed that the most common changes at all doses of thiamethoxam were vacuolization and hemostatic infiltration in the gill tissue of G. kischineffensis.

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