The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency released multiple scientific assessments today that found commonly used neonicotinoid pesticides can kill and harm birds of all sizes. Separate analyses also found the pesticides pose significant danger to aquatic invertebrates, which play a crucial role in supporting larger ecosystems. The troubling assessments come on the heels of earlier EPA analyses and thousands of scientific studies that have identified substantial risks to pollinators and aquatic invertebrates from this class of pesticides.
Insects have been on Earth 1,000 times longer than humans have. In many ways, they created the world we live in. They helped call the universe of flowering plants into being. They are to terrestrial food chains what plankton is to oceanic ones. Without insects and other land-based arthropods, EO Wilson, the renowned Harvard entomologist, and inventor of sociobiology, estimates that humanity would last all of a few months. After that, most of the amphibians, reptiles, birds and mammals would go, along with the flowering plants.
A curious thing about H. sapiens is that we are clever enough to document — in exquisite detail — various trends that portend the collapse of modern civilization, yet not nearly smart enough to extricate ourselves from our self-induced predicament. This was underscored once again in October when scientists reported that flying insect populations in Germany have declined by an alarming 75 per cent in the past three decades accompanied, in the past dozen years, by a 15 per cent drop in bird populations. Trends are similar in other parts of Europe where data are available.
Hedgehogs used to be a familiar and well-loved visitor to British gardens, but their numbers have fallen by nearly a third since 2002 – they’re disappearing faster than tigers are worldwide. In 1950 the UK population was roughly 30 million, but fewer than one million hedgehogs are left and numbers continue to decline.
A "worrying" drop in the amount of hedgehogs being found in Kent gardens has baffled experts. There has been a decrease of nearly four per cent in the species, according to the latest conservation survey carried out by the Royal Society of the Protection of Birds (RSPB). It has been measuring the amount and types of wildlife found in people's back gardens for three years. Statistics show they have gone down continuously; with the sightings of hedgehogs dropping from 53.1 per cent in 2016 to 49.5 per cent this year.
A recent study published in Conservation Genetics by researchers from the Universidad de los Andes, Universidad Nacional de Colombia, WCS (Wildlife Conservation Society), and the Turtle Survival Alliance (TSA) shows that the Dahl's Toad-headed Turtle (Mesoclemmys dahli), a rare reptile found only in Colombia, is threatened with extinction. The Dahl's Toad-headed Turtle lives in small bodies of water, streams, and small aquifers.
There is some bad news coming out of Australia’s Christmas Island, as three native lizard species, Lister's gecko (Lepidodactylus listeri), the blue-tailed skink (Cryptoblepharus egeriae) and the Christmas Island forest-skink (Emoia nativitatis) have been downgraded by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature, from critically endangered, to extinct in the wild. The IUCN released its annual Red List of of endangered species December 5 in Tokyo.
New Zealand’s charismatic kea (Nestor notabilis) - and 2017‘s Bird of the Year - has just been reclassified to “endangered” by global conservation group BirdLife International. The alpine parrot was upgraded from “vulnerable” to “endangered” in BirdLife International’s reassessment of the threat status of birds for the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN).
Rivers in England are contaminated with powerful insecticides, new testing has revealed, increasing concerns over the impact of the toxic chemicals on fish and birds. Eight rivers in England are heavily contaminated with neonicotinoid pesticides. Two of the rivers, the Waveney on the border between Norfolk and Suffolk, and the Tame in the West Midlands, had an “acute level” of pollution, according to tests conducted by the Environment Agency last year.
Birds that are now globally threatened include the kittiwake (Rissa tridactyla) and the Atlantic puffin (Fratercula arctica), which breed on UK sea cliffs. Meanwhile, on land, the Snowy Owl is struggling to find prey as ice melts in the North American Arctic, say conservation groups. The iconic bird is listed as vulnerable to extinction for the first time. Worldwide, over a quarter of more than 200 bird species reassessed by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature have been moved to higher threat categories.