A parasitical disease normally found in domestic poultry is rapidly spreading to our native Red and Black Grouse populations. Cryptosporidia is a respiratory disease of farmed chickens and turkeys caused by a parasitic protozoan called Cryptosporidium baileyi, and was first discovered in 'wild' gamebirds in 2010, in an infected Red Grouse on the North Pennine Moors. Birds with symptoms had already been reported from the same area the previous year. Since then several other moors had reported the disease, prompting scientists from the Game and Wildfowl Conservation Trust (GWCT) to circulate a questionnaire, asking shooting estate whether any of their shot birds had exhibited the symptoms of the disease: swollen eyelids and a mucus discharge from the nostrils and eyes. Their results have just been published in the journal Veterinary Record. About 68 per cent of the 150 landowners questioned responded, reporting that 48 per cent of moors had found birds with these symptoms. Clearly the disease is spreading rapidly, and appears to be currently present in about 3.7 per cent of Red Grouse (Lagopus lagopus scoticus) examined.
The Mountain Chicken isn’t a fowl, as its name suggests, but a frog. Kimisha Thomas, hailing from the Caribbean island nation of Dominica, remembers a time when she could find these amphibians or ‘crapaud’ as locals call them “just in the backyard”. Known also as the Giant Ditch Frog, these creatures form a crucial part of Dominica’s national identity, with locals consuming them on special occasions like Independence Day. Today, hunting mountain chicken is banned, as the frogs are fighting for their survival. In fact, scientists estimate that their numbers have dwindled down to just 8,000 individuals. Locals first started noticing that the frogs were behaving abnormally about a decade ago, showing signs of lethargy as well as abrasions on their skin. “Then they began to die,” explained Thomas, an officer with Dominica’s environment ministry. “People also started to get scared, fearing that eating crapauds would make them ill,” she adds. In fact, this fear was not far from the truth; preliminary research has found that Chytridiomycosis, an infectious disease that affects amphibians, was the culprit for the wave of deaths. Besides the mountain chicken, there has been a sharp decline in the population of the sisserou parrot, which is found only in Dominica, primarily in the country’s mountainous rainforests. Thomas says large-scale destruction of the bird’s habitat is responsible for its gradual disappearance from the island. Dominica is not alone in grappling with such a rapid loss of species. According to the Red List of Threatened Species, one of the most comprehensive inventories on the conservation status of various creatures, some 2,599 of 71,576 species recently studied are thought to be endangered.
Birds that dive for fish while wintering in the Salish Sea, located between British Columbia and Washington, are more likely to be in decline than nondiving birds with less specialized diets, according to a study led by the School of Veterinary Medicine at the University of California, Davis. Diving birds were 11 times more likely to be in decline than nondiving birds, according to the study, published in the journal Conservation Biology. Also, populations of diving birds that rely on forage fish, such as Pacific herring, are 16 times more likely to decline than those with more varied diets. The study lends credence to what scientists have long suspected: “If you want to recover birds, you need to recover the food that they’re eating,” said co-author Joe Gaydos, a UC Davis wildlife veterinarian and director of the SeaDoc Society, a program of the UC Davis Karen C. Drayer Wildlife Health Center. “This could help puffins (Fratercula arctica), western grebes (Aechmophorus occidentalis), common murres (Uria aalge) and other diving species recover.”
The closer women live to areas of heavy agricultural pesticide use during pregnancy, the more likely that their children will have autism spectrum disorders, according to a study in Environmental Health Perspectives. The University of California researchers stated that this is the third study to find strong links between autism and proximity exposures to agricultural pesticides, particularly organophosphates, during pregnancy. The research was part of the population-based, case control Childhood Autism Risks from Genetics and Environment (CHARGE) study and involved 970 children. Commercial pesticide application data was mapped in relation to the mothers’ residential addresses during pregnancy, and the children were tested for Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD) and developmental disabilities. “Approximately one-third of CHARGE study mothers lived, during pregnancy, within 1.5 km (just under 1 mile) of an agricultural pesticide application,” wrote the researchers. “Proximity to organophosphates at some point during gestation was associated with a 60% increased risk for ASD.” The figures were even higher for third-trimester exposures and second-trimester chlorpyrifos applications.
Imidacloprid is a relatively new insecticide in the chloronicotinyl nitroguanidine class. Imidacloprid has a wide variety of uses; it is used on cotton and vegetable crops, turf grass and ornamental plant products, in indoor and outdoor cockroach control products and in termite control products. Imidacloprid acts as a competitive inhibitor at nicotinic acetylcholine receptors in the nervous system resulting in impairment of normal nerve function. Scientific literature on human imidacloprid poisoning has been relatively sparse. We report three subjects who presented with imidacloprid poisoning.
The metabolic degradation and persistence of imidacloprid in paddy field soil were investigated following two applications of imidacloprid at 20 and 80 g a.i. ha−1 at an interval of 10 days. The soil samples were collected at various time intervals. The limit of quantification for the analysis of imidacloprid and its metabolites was obtained at the concentration of 0.01 mg kg−1. The initial deposits of total imidacloprid were found to be 0.44 and 1.61 mg kg−1 following second applications. These residues could not be detected after 60 and 90 days following second applications of imidacloprid at lower and higher dosages, respectively. In soil, urea metabolite was found to be the maximum, followed by olefine, nitrosimine, 6-chloronicotinic acid, 5-hydroxy and nitroguanidine. The half-life values (t 1/2) of imidacloprid were worked out to be 12.04 and 11.14 days, respectively, when applied at lower and higher doses, respectively.
A leading zoologist has found evidence that genes used to modify crops can jump the species barrier and cause bacteria to mutate, prompting fears that GM technology could pose serious health risks. A four-year study by Professor Hans-Hinrich Kaatz, a respected German zoologist, found that the alien gene used to modify oilseed rape had transferred to bacteria living inside the guts of honey bees. The research - which has yet to be published and has not been reviewed by fellow scientists - is highly significant because it suggests that all types of bacteria could become contaminated by genes used in genetically modified technology, including those that live inside the human digestive system. If this happened, it could have an impact on the bacteria's vital role in helping the human body fight disease, aid digestion and facilitate blood clotting.
Herbicides are widely used pesticides that affect plants by changing their chemistry. In doing so, herbicides might also influence the quality of plants as food for herbivores. To study the effects of herbicides on host plant quality, 3 plant species (Plantago lanceolata L., P. major L., and Ranunculus acris L.) were treated with sublethal rates of either a sulfonylurea (Atlantis WG, Bayer CropScience) or a glyphosate (Roundup LB Plus, Monsanto) herbicide, and the development of caterpillars of the cabbage moth Mamestra brassicae L. that fed on these plants was observed.
Of the 6 tested plant–herbicide combinations, 1 combination (R. acris + sulfonylurea herbicide) resulted in significantly lower caterpillar weight, increased time to pupation, and increased overall development time compared with larvae that were fed unsprayed plants. These results might be caused by a lower nutritional value of these host plants or increased concentrations of secondary metabolites that are involved in plant defense. The results of the present and other studies suggest potential risks to herbivores that feed on host plants treated with sublethal rates of herbicides. However, as the effects of herbicides on host plant quality appear to be species-specific and as there are numerous plant–herbicide–herbivore relationships in agricultural landscapes, a general reduction in herbicide contamination of nontarget habitats (e.g., field margins) might mitigate the negative effects of herbicides on host plant quality.
The neonicotinoid insecticide imidacloprid is among the pesticides that most frequently exceed current water quality standards in Dutch surface waters. Recent research shows that effects of imidacloprid on water organisms occur at concentrations below these standards. Mayflies appear to be particularly sensitive with chronic No Observed Effect Concentrations in the nanogram per liter range. The aim of this study was to derive updated water quality standards in accordance with the methodology of the European Water Framework Directive by evaluating the available recent literature on acute and chronic ecotoxicity of imidacloprid to aquatic organisms in laboratory and semi-field experiments. It is concluded that the standard for longterm exposure should be lowered to 8.3 nanogram per liter, the standard for short-term concentration peaks can be maintained at the current value of 0.2 microgram per liter. The European Commission set restrictions to the use of imidacloprid-based products to reduce the risks for bees and the Dutch national authorities issued emission reduction measures to protect aquatic life. Future monitoring data will ultimately reveal if these measures are sufficient to meet the newly proposed standards.
A mysterious and deadly disease is appearing in Georgia’s bats, and a similar illness was diagnosed in July in a snake, according to state wildlife officials. Bats are dying from the white-nose disease, which has killed an estimated 5.7 million bats and driven one species found in Georgia to the brink of extinction. Now snakes are a concern. The first wild snake in Georgia to be diagnosed with snake fungal disease was found on the edge of a blackwater swamp near Statesboro, and the implication is the disease could be spreading. The fungus associated with white-nose disease shares similarities with the one connected to snake fungal disease, including that it occurs naturally in soil, according to a statement from the Georgia Department of Natural Resources.