Why delisting of grizzly bears is premature | The Extinction Chronicles

GR: As the world’s wildlife species fade out of existence, government agencies responsible for their protection push them back to allow tourists to cover the land and for-profit companies to fill their place with domestic livestock. The political pressure on heads of government agencies comes from companies that give money to our elected representatives. And of course, almost all of our representatives are there dancing up and down with their little hands stretched out like beggars in a Calcutta alley. Here’s an excellent article from George Wuerthner that exposes the government lies. (Link to more about grizzlies)

Yellowstone Grizzlies (Daisy Gilardini -Getty Images)

“The Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) has decided to delist the Yellowstone grizzly bears, removing them from the protection afforded by the Endangered Species Act (ESA). And state wildlife agencies in Wyoming and Montana are anxious to start sport hunting the bears.

“If you follow environmental politics, it is very clear why industries like the oil and gas industry, livestock industry and timber industry and the politicians they elect to represent their interests are anxious to see the bear delisted. Without ESA listing, environmentally destructive practices will have fewer restrictions, hence greater profits at the expense of the bear and its habitat.

“Delisting is opposed by a number of environmental groups, including Center for Biodiversity, Western Watersheds, WildEarth Guardians, Alliance for Wild Rockies, Humane Society, as well as more than 100 tribal people. Conspicuously absent from the list of organizations opposing delisting is the Greater Yellowstone Coalition.

“Proponents of delisting, including the FWS, argue that with as many as 700 grizzlies in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem, thus ensuring the bears are now safe from extinction. Seven hundred bears may sound like a big number. But this figure lacks context.

“Consider that the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem is nearly 28 million acres in total area. That is nearly the same acreage as the state of New York. Now ask yourself if 700 bears spread over an area the size of New York sounds like a lot of bears?

“Many population ecologists believe 700 bears is far too small a number of animals to ensure long-term population viability. Rather than hundreds, we need several thousand bears.

“Keep in mind that the Yellowstone Grizzlies went through a genetic bottleneck when their population was reduced to an estimated 136 animals. Indeed, the Yellowstone grizzlies have the lowest genetic diversity of any bear population.

“This lack of diversity is exacerbated because dominant male grizzlies tend to breed with multiple female partners, further reducing the genetic diversity in the population.

“Add to this biological limitation is the changing food structure for the bear. Major food resources from elk to whitebark pine to spawning trout in Yellowstone have all declined, challenging bears to find new food resources.

“Plus, state wildlife management agencies are generally hostile to predators, seeing them hindering production of elk, deer, moose, and other animals desired by hunters.

“Without the protection of the ESA, and the loosening of restrictions on the killing of bears, more grizzlies will be killed for livestock depredations, as well as potentially by trophy hunters.

“Most predator biologists recognize that killing dominant animals, whether it is bears, wolves or cougars disrupts the social ecology of these animals, leading to more livestock depredation.

“In ecology, there is the “precautionary principle” which admonishes all of us to err on the side of caution. Instead of using the minimum estimates of what constitutes a “recovered” population, we should be careful and not rush to eliminate protections for an animal whose biological potential is low and is slow to recover from any declines.” –George Wuerthner (Why delisting of grizzly bears is premature | The Extinction Chronicles)

George Wuerthner is an ecologist who has authored 38 books, including “Wildfire: A Century of Failed Forest Policy.” He divides his time between Bend, Oregon, and Livingston, Montana.

Proposed Seismic Blasting Would Devastate Ocean’s Most Vital Organisms

GR: Creatures of the oceans are no threat to us, but we readily injure and kill them in our search for a chance to acquire material wealth. We behave as if the Earth has infinite capacity to produce and support life. Of course, we know it does not. (Trump’s position on seismic airgun blasting.)

Krill represent a vital food source for many marine predators, including large whales. In the study, seismic blasts completely wiped out krill larvae. Wikimedia Commons (CC BY-SA 3.0)

Seismic airguns exploding in the ocean in search for oil and gas have devastating impacts on zooplankton, which are critical food sources for marine mammals, according to a new study in Nature. The blasting decimates one of the ocean’s most vital groups of organisms over huge areas and may disrupt entire ecosystems.

“And this devastating news comes on the heels of the National Marine Fisheries Service’s proposal to authorize more than 90,000 miles of active seismic blasting. Based on the results of this study, the affected area would be approximately 135,000 square miles.

“In the study, scientists found that the blasts from a single seismic airgun caused a statistically significant decrease in zooplankton 24 hours after exposure. Abundance fell by at least 50 percent in more than half (58 percent) of the species observed. The scientists also found two to three times more dead zooplankton following airgun exposure compared to controls and, shockingly, krill larvae were completely wiped out.

“Listen to the sound of a seismic airgun blast: seismic_blast.mp4

Audiogram of a single seismic airgun. Seismic vessels in the Atlantic will tow up to 40 airguns at a time, which will all blast simultaneously every 10 seconds for months on end.

NOAA Pacific Marine Environmental Laboratory VENTS Program

The scientists used sonar backscatter, a method that reveals where animals are in the water column using sound, to detect zooplankton. They describe witnessing a large “hole” opening up in the backscatter as zooplankton were killed. Food chains are surprisingly simple in the ocean and zooplankton help form the basis of them, underpinning the ocean’s productivity. Significant damage to zooplankton will have cascading effects on animals higher up. That includes fish and marine predators such as sharks, marine mammals and even seabirds. Adult krill provide an important food source for our largest marine animals: the great whales.

“These devastating impacts on zooplankton occurred up to three quarters of a mile from the airgun. This is more than two orders of magnitude higher than the expected range of impact based on the results of previous studies; laboratory experiments and modeling techniques have estimated that impacts would only occur up to 33 feet from the airgun. This new study demonstrates the importance of validating scientific findings in the field.

“However, these findings are based on the results from a single airgun with a volume of 150 cubic inches. The companies proposing to conduct blasting in the Atlantic will use vessels that will each tow an airgun ‘array’ comprising between 24-40 airguns, with a combined value of 4808-6420 cubic inches. The guns will all blast simultaneously, every 10 seconds, 24 hours a day, for months at a time. This means the proposed surveys could affect zooplankton over much larger areas.” –Francine Kershaw (Seismic Blasting Devastates Ocean’s Most Vital Organisms)

Wild Amazon Faces Destruction as Brazil’s Farmers and Loggers Target National Park

Cattle graze beside the tree stumps that are all that is left of cleared Amazon forest inside the Sierra Ricardo Franco state park. Photograph: Jonathan Watts for the Observer

GR:  A few years ago, Brazil finally realized that cutting down the Amazon rainforest was causing drought, an effect that Alexander Von Humboldt explained two centuries earlier. The country made an effort to preserve its forest. Then we saw oil prices fall, rampant corruption exposed, and the wealthy had to shift their hungry eyes. The oligarchs replaced conservation sentiments with the old standby, harvest and sell natural resources. In Brazil’s case, this has often been irreversible logging or simply clearing for pasture of the ancient rainforest. The loss of indigenous and migratory wildlife is a sad example of how human greed is destroying the natural world.

I used Google Earth’s history function to show the forest’s destruction in around the Serra Ricardo Franco state park. You can see that destruction accelerated after 1993. It slowed between 2003 and 2013, but that’s because not much was left. Nevertheless, efforts are underway today to harvest the remnants.

Google Earth 12-30-1984.

Google Earth 12-30-1993.

Google Earth 12-30-2003.

Google Earth 12-30-2013

The excellent article below describes what’s happening now to the Amazon Rainforest.

“Today, orange dirt roads, cut into the forest by illegal loggers, lead you to the north-western flank of the elevated hilltop. Now called the Serra Ricardo Franco state park, this is nominally a conservation area set up with support from the World Bank. Instead of forest, however, you find swaths of land invaded by farmers, stripped of trees, and turned over to pasture for 240,000 cows. There are even private airfields inside the park’s boundaries, which exist on maps only.

“Far from being an isolated area where a wanderer might starve, this is now – despite its dubious legal status – one of the world’s great centres of food production. In recent months, it has also emerged as a symbol of the resurgent influence of a landowning class in Brazil who, even more than in the US under Donald Trump, are cashing in on the destruction of the wild.

“Locals say a member of President Michel Temer’s cabinet – chief of staff Eliseu Padilha – owns ranches here on hillsides stripped of forest in a supposedly protected park. The municipal ombudsmen told the Observer the cattle raised here are then sold – in contravention of pledges to prosecutors and international consumers – to JBS, the world’s biggest meat-packing company, which is at the centre of a huge bribery scandal.

“These allegations are denied by farmers but there is no doubt the government is easing controls as it opens up more land for ranches, dams, roads and soy fields to meet the growing appetite of China. Last year, Brazil reported an alarming 29% increase of deforestation, raising doubts that the country will be able to meet its global commitments to reduce carbon emissions. Rather than an aberration, this appears to mark a return to historical norms for a country that has been built on 500 years of land seizures that were later legalised by the politicians who benefited from them.

“The concurrent erosion of legal authority and natural habitat can be seen in many Brazilian states: the newest soy frontiers of Maranhão, Tocantins and Bahia; the hydropower heartland of Pará and the wild west mining and logging regions of Rondônia and Acre. But it is in Mato Grosso that the political forces behind deforestation – associated with corruption, violence, weak regulation and deliberate obfuscation of land ownership – reveal themselves most clearly.” –Jonathan Watts (Continue: Wild Amazon faces destruction as Brazil’s farmers and loggers target national park | World news | The Guardian.)

The endangered Tatu-bola Armadillo, the mascot of the 2014 World Cup is disappearing along with many other inhabitants of the forest (belizar73/Getty Images/iStockphoto).

A Warming Planet Jolts the Iconic Creatures of the Galápagos

GR: This beautifully illustrated story gives details on a number of species being harmed by climate change. All animals must struggle to survive. Now, with human-caused global warming, their struggle is becoming more difficult. Deaths are increasing, and extinction has appeared on the horizon. Yay people!

A fascinating video and more photos accompany the original post. Click the “continue” link following the story.

National Geographic: “Jon Witman checks his air gauge, adjusts his flippers, and falls backward into the Pacific. Nearby, the ocean throws itself against Isla Beagle, one of a hundred-plus rocks, pinnacles, and islands that form the Galápagos archipelago, a province of Ecuador that straddles the Equator. Rebuffed, the sea retreats in a white flag of foam.

“On a shelf above the spray, blue-footed boobies dance with the awkwardness of teens at a junior high prom. Below them on the rocks, an argument breaks out between two Galápagos sea lions. The scene could have looked and sounded the same when Charles Darwin sailed here almost two centuries ago. These creatures, fine-tuned to life on harsh isles, seemingly can weather anything, even time itself.

“Suddenly Witman breaks the surface. “It’s beginning,” he tells me with a grimace.

“He grabs his video camera from the dive boat and disappears underwater again. I plunge in after him. At 15 feet below the surface, Witman points me to a lobe coral, Porites lobata. It should resemble a mustard green pagoda, but instead it glows white against the seafloor’s bubblegum pinks and AstroTurf greens. This coral is bleaching, a reaction to excessively warm water. Soon it will be dead.

“Two marine iguanas seem unfazed by the presence of one of their mummified brethren, dead likely from starvation, on Isla Fernandina. Endemic to the Galápagos, these raccoon-size lizards forage for algae along the shore; larger males dive into the ocean. The algae they eat die in warm water, rendering Darwin’s “imps of darkness” susceptible to climate change.”

“A scalloped hammerhead cruises past a school of steel pompano, endemic to islands in the eastern tropical Pacific. Fluctuations in water temperature increase the growth of barnacles on rocks and can also cause infections, visible as white patches on this shark.”

“After hunting, a Nazca booby returns to its nest near a thicket of prickly pear cacti on Isla Wolf. Scientists have been studying the birds elsewhere on the islands to gauge how long-term changes in their fish diet may hurt reproduction and depress populations.

“At spots such as Isla Beagle, Witman and his crew are on the lookout for change. They’ve had no trouble finding it. They’re taking the temperature of this seafloor community—literally and figuratively. During 2016’s El Niño, the most intense climatic event here in two decades, the temperatures at his dive spots reached a peak of 88°F. (Overall, water temperatures in the Galápagos region were more than 4°F above their long-term average.) Witman, who has explored nearshore ecosystems from Easter Island to the Gulf of Maine for 40 years, fears that this bleached coral could augur an explosion of bleaching—as well as other dramatic changes throughout the environment here—in the years to come.” –Christopher Solomon (Continue: A Warming Planet Jolts the Iconic Creatures of the Galápagos.)