Saturday, August 29, 2015
Sunday, February 22, 2015
From the Santa Cruz Sentinel:
Each day, dog crates with sick sea lions arrive here and at four other locations from San Luis Obispo to Fort Bragg in what’s alarmingly become a third year of massive sea lion pup dieoffs. And if the trend continues, marine biologists warn, it could deplete an entire generation of California sea lions. One desperate and hungry pup was found Wednesday beside busy Skyline Boulevard in San Francisco, more than 1,000 feet from the ocean.
Scientists say changes in the coastal California Current have pushed fish populations further from the sea lion rookeries in the Channel Islands, where the pups are born around June. And the diminishing number of sardines and anchovies have forced nursing mothers to switch to rockfish and squid. These changes are believed to have contributed to a lower quality of milk and higher number of malnourished pups.
“These pups should still be nursing. They don’t have the skills to catch food on their own,” said Shawn Johnson, director of the center’s veterinary science department....
Tuesday, November 04, 2014
Snips from an Article By Jonathan Franzen for National Geographic from July 2013
To a visitor from North America, where bird hunting is well regulated and only naughty farm boys shoot songbirds, the situation in the Mediterranean is appalling: Every year, from one end of it to the other, hundreds of millions of songbirds and larger migrants are killed for food, profit, sport, and general amusement. The killing is substantially indiscriminate, with heavy impact on species already battered by destruction or fragmentation of their breeding habitat. Mediterraneans shoot cranes, storks, and large raptors for which governments to the north have multimillion-euro conservation projects. All across Europe bird populations are in steep decline, and the slaughter in the Mediterranean is one of the causes.
Italian hunters and poachers are the most notorious; for much of the year, the woods and wetlands of rural Italy crackle with gunfire and songbird traps. The food-loving French continue to eat ortolan buntings illegally, and France’s singularly long list of huntable birds includes many struggling species of shorebirds. Songbird trapping is still widespread in parts of Spain; Maltese hunters, frustrated by a lack of native quarry, blast migrating raptors out of the sky; Cypriots harvest warblers on an industrial scale and consume them by the plateful, in defiance of the law.
In the European Union, however, there are at least theoretical constraints on the killing of migratory birds. Public opinion in the EU tends to favor conservation, and a variety of nature-protection groups are helping governments enforce the law. (In Sicily, formerly a hot spot for raptor killing, poaching has been all but eliminated, and some of the former poachers have even become bird-watchers.) Where the situation for migrants is not improving is in the non-EU Mediterranean. In fact, when I visited Albania and Egypt last year, I found that it’s becoming dramatically worse…
Under the 40-year Marxist dictatorship of Enver Hoxha, totalitarianism destroyed the fabric of Albanian society and tradition, and yet this was not a bad time for birds. Hoxha reserved the privileges of hunting and private gun ownership for himself and a few trusted cronies. (To this day the national Museum of Natural History displays bird trophies of Hoxha and other members of the politburo.) But a handful of hunters had minimal impact on the millions of migrants passing through, and the country’s command-economy backwardness, along with its repellence to foreign beach tourists, ensured that its wealth of coastal habitat remained intact.
Following Hoxha’s death, in 1985, the country underwent an uneasy transition to a market economy, including a period of near anarchy in which the country’s armories were broken open and the military’s guns were seized by ordinary citizens. Even after the rule of law was restored, Albanians kept their guns, and the country remained understandably averse to regulation of all kinds. The economy began to grow, and one of the ways in which a generation of younger men in Tirana expressed their new freedom and prosperity was to buy expensive shotguns, by the thousands, and use them to do what formerly only the elite could do: kill birds….
Unfortunately, the old communist joke still applies to forestry officials responsible for the protected areas: The government pretends to pay them, and they pretend to work. As a result, the laws are not enforced—a fact that Italian hunters, limited by EU regulations at home, were quick to recognize and exploit after Hoxha’s death. During my week in Albania I didn’t visit a protected area in which there were not Italian hunters, even though the hunting season had ended, even in unprotected areas. In every case the Italians were using illegal high-quality bird-sound playback equipment and shooting as much as they wanted of whatever they wanted.
Albania was once ruled by Italy, and many Albanians still view Italians as models of sophistication and modernity. Beyond the very considerable immediate damage that Italian tourist hunters do in Albania, they’ve introduced both an ethic of indiscriminate slaughter and new methods of accomplishing it—in particular the use of playback, which is catastrophically effective in attracting birds. Even in provincial villages, Albanian hunters now have MP3s of duck calls on their cell phones and iPods. Their new sophistication, coupled with an estimated 100,000 shotguns (in a country of three million) and a glut of other weapons that can be used opportunistically, has turned Albania into a giant sinkhole for eastern European migratory biomass: Millions of birds fly in and very few get out alive….
In northeastern Africa, unlike in the Balkans, there is also an ancient, rich, and continuous tradition of harvesting migratory birds of all sizes. (The miraculous provision of meat accompanying the manna from heaven that saved the Israelites in the Sinai is thought to have been migrating quail.) As long as the practice was pursued by traditional methods (handmade nets and lime sticks, small traps made of reeds, camels for transportation), the impact on Eurasian breeding bird populations was perhaps sustainable. The problem now is that new technology has vastly increased the harvest, while the tradition remains in place….
I visited Al Maghrah late in the season, but the oriole decoys (consisting typically of a dead male on a stick) were still attracting good numbers, and the hunters rarely missed with their shotguns. Given how many hunters there were, it seemed quite possible that 5,000 orioles were being taken annually at this one location. And given that there are scores of other desert hunting sites, and that the bird is a prized quarry along the Egyptian coast as well, the losses in Egypt represent a significant fraction of the species’ European population of two or three million breeding pairs. Enjoyment of a colorful species with a vast summer and winter range is thus being monopolized, every September, by a relatively tiny number of well-fed leisure hunters seeking natural Viagra. And while some of them may be using unlicensed weapons to kill orioles, the rest are breaking no Egyptian laws at all thereby.
At the oasis I also met a shepherd too poor to own a shotgun. He and his ten-year-old son instead relied on four nets, hung over trees, and they were mostly catching smaller birds like flycatchers, shrikes, and warblers. The son was therefore excited when he managed to corner a male oriole, splendidly gold and black, in a net. He came running back to his father with it—“An oriole!” he shouted proudly—and cut its throat with a knife. Moments later a female oriole flashed close to us, and I wondered if it might be the dead male’s distraught mate. The shepherd boy chased it toward a netted palm tree, but the bird avoided the tree at the last second and headed into the open desert, flying southward.
Most of the Bedouin I spoke to told me that they won’t kill resident species, such as hoopoes and laughing doves. Like other Mediterranean hunters, however, they consider all migratory species fair game; as the Albanians like to say, “They’re not our birds.” While every Egyptian hunter I met admitted that the number of migrants has been declining in recent years, only a few allowed that overharvesting might be a factor. Some hunters blame climate change; an especially popular theory is that the increasing number of electric lights at the coast is frightening the birds away. (In fact, lights are more likely to attract them.)…
The basic message of environmental “education” is, unavoidably, that Egyptians should stop doing what they’ve always done; and the concerns of a bird-smitten nation like England, whose colonization of Egypt is in any case still resented, seem as absurd and meddling as a Royal Society for the Protection of Catfish would seem to rural Mississippians.
Most Egyptian coastal towns have bird markets where a quail can be bought for two dollars, a turtledove for five, an oriole for three, and small birds for pennies. Outside one of these towns, El Daba, I toured the farm of a white-bearded man with a bird-trapping operation so large that, even after the families of his six sons had eaten their fill, he had a surplus to bring to market. Enormous nets were draped over eight tall tamarisk trees and many smaller bushes, encircling a grove of figs and olives; the nets were an inexpensive modern product, available in El Daba for only the past seven years. The sun was very hot, and migrant songbirds were arriving from the nearby coastline, seeking shelter. Repelled by the net on one tree, they simply flew to the next tree, until they found themselves caught. The farmer’s grandsons ran inside the nets and grabbed them, and one of his sons tore off their flight feathers and dropped them in a plastic grain sack. In 20 minutes I saw a red-backed shrike, a collared flycatcher, a spotted flycatcher, a male golden oriole, a chiffchaff, a blackcap, two wood warblers, two cisticolas, and many unidentified birds disappear into the sack. By the time we paused in the shade, amid the discarded heads and feathers of cuckoos and hoopoes and a sparrow hawk, the sack was bulging, the oriole crying out inside it.
Based on the farmer’s estimates of his daily take, I calculated that every year between August 25 and September 25, his operation removes 600 orioles, 250 turtledoves, 200 hoopoes, and 4,500 smaller birds from the air. The supplemental income is surely welcome, but the farm would clearly have thrived without it; the furnishings in the family’s spacious guest parlor, where I was treated with great Bedouin hospitality, were brand-new and of high quality.
Monday, September 29, 2014
Science Shows How Climate Change is Baking Australia from Climate Central
Wednesday, September 24, 2014
Article in the 'Daily Climate'
Scientists long expected climate change to harm human health. But one of the clearest signs of health risks in a warming world has emerged in one of the world’s most advanced economies, as Canada belatedly struggles to cope with Lyme disease's migration in North America.
Canada should have seen this coming. In the United States, reported cases of Lyme disease have increased from fewer than 10,000 reported cases in 1991 to more than 27,000 cases by 2013. Canada was well-positioned to be affected by the spread of the disease. As early as 2005, modeling published by researcher Nicholas Ogden, then at the University of Montreal, indicated that the geographic range of the Lyme-carrying tick could expand northward significantly due to climate change in this century.
Scientists long have anticipated that global warming would harm human health, and the most recent Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report highlights the risk for poor populations that don't have access to quality health care or other public services. For example, the risk of heat stroke is greatest in areas without access to power for air conditioning, and water-borne illnesses like cholera and intestinal viruses flourish in areas without safe drinking water.
But one of the clearest signs of the changing health risks in a warming world has emerged in two of the world's most advanced economies, the United States and Canada, as Lyme disease spreads in North America.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency this year added Lyme disease to its list of climate change indicators, a report meant to aid in public understanding of the effects of warming that scientists have been able to document....
'An emerging clinical problem'
The doctors presented their findings in April at an American College of Rheumatology symposium but declined to talk to The Daily Climate about their research until it is published in a medical journal. They are still working on finalizing their paper, an IWK Health Centre spokeswoman said. But in the abstract presented at that meeting, they called Lyme arthritis "an emerging clinical problem in Nova Scotia," with cases expected to continue to rise.
Untreated, Lyme disease can spread to joints, the nervous system, and even the heart. Heart block due to Lyme carditis can develop in minutes or hours, and is a rare but fatal complication. A more common problem that causes even greater concern in the health community: Lyme patients with symptoms persisting long after antibiotic treatment. There's great controversy over how long antibiotic treatment should be continued in such cases and who should bear the costs. The issue underscores the importance of early detection. "Almost always the persistent cases are in patients who were not treated early," said the CDC's Beard.
Robert Strang, Nova Scotia's chief public health officer, says one problem with diagnosis has been that Lyme involves "a lot of non-specific symptoms." Of the cluster of pediatric arthritis cases at IWK, he said, "that case series reminded us that there are joint and neurologic and cardiac ways that Lyme disease can present itself."...
Tuesday, September 23, 2014
On why people have to 'March' anyway (Republicans in the House of Representatives - Science, etc. Committee):
The Daily Show - Burn Notice
Excerpt from the 'hearing':
The Daily Show - Burn Notice
Excerpt from the 'hearing':
Saturday, July 19, 2014
From the Portland Press Herald:
As jellyfish come in waves off Maine coast, questions follow - The early summer invasion appears to be heavier than normal this year, surprising some and distressing others.
Or, the June bloom could be a random explosion of a species that goes as fast as it comes.
Although they move without intent, drifting on currents, jellies – the term scientists tend to use for the gelatinous zooplankton these days, rather than jellyfish – are opportunists. They take advantage of holes in the system, competing with fish for the same tiny nutrients.
The waters off Maine have three types – moon jellies, comb jellies and lion’s mane jellies. Only the lion’s mane has a sting harmful to humans.
“It is frustrating to not be able to say anything other than speculative things about why,” she said.
That’s because no one in Maine has made a study of them. Trying to get a jelly expert on the phone is like playing a game of hot potato where you’re the potato, but all roads seem to lead to Andrew Pershing, chief scientific officer and ecosystem modeler at the Gulf of Maine Research Institute in Portland. Even he demurs.
But at least one researcher, Nick Record of the Bigelow Laboratory for Ocean Sciences in East Boothbay, has decided after two seasons of a noted increase in jellies that it is high time to start tracking the species in Maine. This summer he began building a library of the species spotted here and hopes to create predictive models that might tell us when to expect jelly blooms like the one that began this June.
“Then hopefully, a field program,” Record said. That’s all contingent on getting funding, because as he points out, although the public is more aware than ever about what is happening on the Maine coast – and ready to send an email or make a phone call to report it – there is less funding for such studies because of federal cutbacks in research.
“We have had jellyfish before,” he said. “But we haven’t had jellyfish where you look off the dock and all you see is jellyfish.”
“This year it was scary,” said Anne Murphy, whose family has owned a summer place in Brigham’s Cove since the late 1970s. She opted not to swim in the jelly-thickened water.
“I looked down in the water and I was like, ‘What is that?’ I have never seen so many,” Murphy said.
For weeks, Maine’s marine research centers have been flooded with questions about a seeming jellyfish invasion in local waters, primarily Casco Bay. They’ve ranged from the urgent – should I let my kids go in the water, or are they going to get stung? – to expressions of longer-term fears, namely, is this the result of global warming? Ocean acidification in the warming Gulf of Maine? Proof of a hypothesis that we’re headed for an ocean ecosystem clogged by jellies, creatures that cause many beachgoers to shudder in revulsion?
Researchers across the board say they just don’t know what the cause is. It could be climate change, including warmer waters. It could be a depletion of oxygen in coastal waters because of runoff from the land, or some response to overfishing.
Cathy Ramsdell, executive director of the Friends of Casco Bay, said her group has been getting questions about the creatures “everywhere we go this summer.”
“I am the person willing to talk about jellyfish, but it is an interesting state of affairs where I am what passes for an expert on jellyfish,” Pershing said. “I can’t think of anyone who studies them (in Maine) and we don’t really have good data on the distribution of jellyfish.”
“It’s hard talking to scientists because none of them want to commit and none of them want to be wrong,” said Dan Devereaux, marine warden for the town of Brunswick. He believes it’s all about elevated ocean temperatures....
Wednesday, April 30, 2014
First, though, as I’ve reported, scientists a decade ago not only predicted the loss of Arctic ice would dry out California, they also precisely predicted the specific, unprecedented change in the jet stream that has in fact caused the unprecedented nature of the California drought. Study co-author, Prof. Lisa Sloan, told me last week that, “I think the actual situation in the next few decades could be even more dire that our study suggested.”
The San Jose Mercury News explained that “meteorologists have fixed their attention on the scientific phenomenon they say is to blame for the emerging drought: a vast zone of high pressure in the atmosphere off the West Coast, nearly four miles high and 2,000 miles long, so stubborn that one researcher has dubbed it the Ridiculously Resilient Ridge.” This high pressure ridge has been acting “like a brick wall” and forcing the jet stream along a much more northerly track, “blocking Pacific winter storms from coming ashore in California, deflecting them up into Alaska and British Columbia, even delivering rain and cold weather to the East Coast.