New findings published in the journal Environmental Science & Technology investigate the use of insecticides--specifically neonicotinoids--and their effects on the decline of the honey bee population. Although sunlight plays an important role in degrading pollutants, its effects on neonicotinoids may diminish, particularly when exposed to water. In order to protect crops from pests, including whiteflies, beetles and termites, neonicotinoids are often used as a popular protection tool among farmers. However, they end up washing into the surface waters and soil. For the study, researchers looked to investigate the sunlight's effects on these insecticides in the water. They tested five neonicotinoids in water under simulated sunny conditions and within minutes, three degraded considerably, according to researchers. And while two took a few days to break down, a depth of just 3 inches of water was enough to shield at least one, thiamethoxam, from the sun. The researchers noted that at a persistent rate with shallow depth, this could increase insecticide exposure to both aquatic life and other wildlife exposure.
It is a good question, and many local people are wondering about the answer. Biologists confirm that swallow numbers have dropped precipitously in the past 50 years, by up to 90 per cent. Researchers describe the decline as “shocking.” The numbers of barn swallows, trees swallows and purple martins have collapsed especially rapidly. “Maybe (the time) when insects are abundant is no longer when swallows are breeding,” suggested Tara Imlay of Dalhousie University. It is as if the peak breeding period, and peak food supply, are no longer in sync. In Ontario, the barn swallow population has fallen by close to 70 per cent since 1966. “The decline is especially alarming because swallows used to be so abundant and widespread,” said expert Bridget Stutchbury. Biologists estimate that in North America about 50 per cent of all songbirds have vanished in the past 50 years.
One of the most vivid memories Jeff Gordon had growing up in Delaware was the sight of moths at night. “When I was just a kid in the mid to late 60s,” said Gordon, “my grandparents bought a place on Rehoboth Bay, at that time, it was really out in the woods. And I remember one of the magical things as a kid, in the evenings, we had a screen porch and the lights there would attract, just this carpet of moths, and not just tiny little brown moths, there were luna moths, and rosy maple moths and prometheus and polyphemus and big, spectacular, intricately colored moths. It’s really one of the things I feel most strongly awakened an interest in nature in me, it set me on a path that I followed to the rest of my life.” Jeff Gordon is now the president of the American Birding Association, a national birdwatching organization that’s headquartered in Delaware City. These days, he doesn’t see as many moths as he used to when he was a kid. “It’s just so radically different now, the numbers and diversity,” said Gordon. “I think most of those species are still present, but it used to be like a blizzard. Now, it’s a few flurries. I hate to say this but unfortunately, one of the recent encounters I had with the silk moths in that area was finding one flopping around under a 24-hour gas station.”
Wildlife experts in the United Kingdom report that the population of large puffins (Fratercula arctica) living on a Scottish has significantly dropped in the last three decades, from 20,000 individuals birds down to around 10,000 in recent years. In a long-term study featured in the PLOS ONE journal, scientists from the Fair Isle Bird Observatory noted that the dramatic reduction in the number of puffins on the island began during the 1980s. They believe that the failure of young birds to return to the island could likely be the cause of the decline. The researchers said that the puffins could be suffering from the lack of enough fish to feed on in the area.
More than 70% of pollen and honey samples collected from foraging bees in Massachusetts contain at least one neonicotinoid, a class of pesticide that has been implicated in Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD), in which adult bees abandon their hives during winter, according to a new study from Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. The study will be published online July 23, 2015 in the Journal of Environmental Chemistry. "Data from this study clearly demonstrated the ubiquity of neonicotinoids in pollen and honey samples that bees are exposed to during the seasons when they are actively foraging across Massachusetts. Levels of neonicotinoids that we found in this study fall into ranges that could lead to detrimental health effects in bees, including CCD," said Chensheng (Alex) Lu, associate professor of environmental exposure biology in the Department of Environmental Health at Harvard Chan School and lead author of the study.
Some of Australia’s best-known birds, including the magpie, the kookaburra and the willie wagtail, are in decline in parts of the country, a major government-funded survey has found. The State of Australia’s Birds report found common birds, as well as lesser-known species, have suffered surprising drops in their numbers, in what has been described as a “wake-up call” for bird conservation. The data, gathered from sightings by birdwatchers, show that the magpie, a familiar sight to many Australians – and occasional dive bomber of human craniums – has been in a consistent decline on the east coast since 1999. The laughing kookaburra (Dacelo novaeguineae) is in decline in south-eastern Australia, as is the willie wagtail (Rhipidura leucophrys). Meanwhile, birds of prey in Australia’s arid outback – including falcons, owls and eagles – are in “significant decline”, the report finds, while 22 of the 39 species found in the Mallee woodland region, which covers much of southern Australia, are also losing numbers. The rainbow bee-eater (Merops ornatus), an agile insect-devouring bird, is on a downward trajectory on the east coast, while hollow-nesting parrots such as lorikeets are disappearing from areas around Melbourne, Adelaide and Canberra. Some species are in decline almost across the board, with the Boobook owl suffering declines in every region of Australia bar one. Bird Life Australia, which compiled the data with federal government funding, said the results were concerning.
Anthropogenic declines of animal pollinators and the associated effects on human nutrition are of growing concern. We quantified the nutritional and health outcomes associated with decreased intake of pollinator-dependent foods for populations around the world. We assembled a database of supplies of 224 types of food in 156 countries. We quantified nutrient composition and pollinator dependence of foods to estimate the size of possible reductions in micronutrient and food intakes for different national populations, while keeping calorie intake constant with replacement by staple foods. We estimated pollinator-decline-dependent changes in micronutrient-deficient populations using population-weighted estimated average requirements and the cutpoint method. We estimated disease burdens of non-communicable, communicable, and malnutrition-related diseases with the Global Burden of Disease 2010 comparative risk assessment framework. Assuming complete removal of pollinators, 71 million (95% uncertainty interval 41–262) people in low-income countries could become newly deficient in vitamin A, and an additional 2·2 billion (1·2–2·5) already consuming below the average requirement would have further declines in vitamin A supplies. Corresponding estimates for folate were 173 million (134–225) and 1·23 billion (1·12–1·33). A 100% decline in pollinator services could reduce global fruit supplies by 22·9% (19·5–26·1), vegetables by 16·3% (15·1–17·7), and nuts and seeds by 22·1% (17·7–26·4), with significant heterogeneity by country. In sum, these dietary changes could increase global deaths yearly from non-communicable and malnutrition-related diseases by 1·42 million (1·38–1·48) and disability-adjusted life-years (DALYs) by 27·0 million (25·8–29·1), an increase of 2·7% for deaths and 1·1% for DALYs. A 50% loss of pollination services would be associated with 700 000 additional annual deaths and 13·2 million DALYs. Declines in animal pollinators could cause significant global health burdens from both non-communicable diseases and micronutrient deficiencies.