Groundbreaking study confirms neonicotinoids are toxic to songbirds

November 10, 2017 by  
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The controversial insecticides known as neonicotinoids don’t just harm bees – according to new research conducted by the University of Saskatchewan , they are also toxic to songbirds. The study shows that the chemicals can directly skew songbird migration . The research was led by Margaret Eng, a post-doctoral fellow. She worked alongside Christy Morrissey, a professor at the University of Saskatchewan . Reportedly, this is the first study to show that imidacloprid ( neonicotinoid ) and chlorpyrifos (organophosphate) — which are two of the most widely-used insecticides — are toxic to seed-eating songbirds. Said Morrissey, “Studies on the risks of neonicotinoids have often focused on bees that have been experiencing population declines. However, it is not just bees that are being affected by these insecticides.” Eng added, “These chemicals are having a strong impact on songbirds. We are seeing significant weight loss and the birds’ migratory orientation being significantly altered. Effects were seen from eating the equivalent of just three to four imidacloprid treated canola seeds or eight chlorpyrifos granules a day for three days.” In the past, farmers sprayed their crops with neonicotinoids. Today, many seeds are already coated with the chemicals. Said Morrissey, “Birds that stop on migration are potentially eating these seeds , but can also mistakenly ingest the chlorpyrifos pellets for grit, something they normally eat to aid in the digestion of seeds.” For the study, Morrissey and Eng captured sparrows which were migrating during the spring. The birds were then fed daily for three days with either a low or a high dose of imidacloprid or chlorpyrifos. At the end of the experiment, they learned that neonicotinoids changed the birds’ migratory orientation and resulted in them losing up to 25 percent of their fat stores and body mass. Related: Neonicotinoid insecticides kill honeybee sperm York University biology researcher Bridget Stutchbury said, “Many small migratory songbirds use agricultural land as a stopover to refuel on long flights. These neurotoxic insecticides are widely used in North America but their effects on migratory ability in birds have not been tested before. Although neonicotinoids were thought to have a lower toxicity to vertebrates, it actually proved to be more harmful to these songbirds than the older organophosphate chemicals.” Following the cessation of dosing, most of the birds survived. But Eng is still concerned about their well-being. “The effects we saw were severe enough that the birds would likely experience migratory delays or changes in their flight routes that could reduce their chance of survival, or cause a missed breeding opportunity,” she said. Morrissey concluded that the research is likely to “have major implications for regulation decisions of these pesticides . Imidacloprid and chlorpyrifos are highly controversial for their safety to the environment or to humans and a decision on a proposed imidacloprid ban in Canada is being considered, with the federal government expected to make a decision on imidacloprid and its use in Canada sometime in December.” + University of Saskatchewan Via Phys Images via PxHere, Pixabay

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Groundbreaking study confirms neonicotinoids are toxic to songbirds

United Kingdom joins Europe in banning bee-killing pesticides

November 10, 2017 by  
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The United Kingdom is joining Europe on a key environmental issue by supporting a total ban on neonicotinoids, pesticides that have decimated bee populations across the world. According to British environment secretary Michael Gove, the United Kingdom has reversed its previous opposition to such a ban after new research has shown that neonicotinoids cause significant damage to bee colonies. Gove was also moved to adopt this new policy position after reading reports of 75% declines in insect populations in Germany . “The weight of evidence now shows the risks neonicotinoids pose to our environment, particularly to the bees and other pollinators which play such a key part in our £100bn food industry, is greater than previously understood,” said Gove, according to The Guardian . “I believe this justifies further restrictions on their use. We cannot afford to put our pollinator populations at risk.” Although neonicotenoids are the world’s most used insecticide, their use on flowering crops was banned by the European Union in 2013. The United Kingdom nonetheless opposed the ban, though the times have changed. As the EU moves towards a total ban on neonictenoids outside of greenhouses, the United Kingdom’s change in its policy position adds momentum to the European reform effort. Related: “Bee-friendly” plants sold in the UK are coated in harmful pesticides “As is always the case, a deteriorating environment is ultimately bad economic news as well,” said Gove, citing figures that pollinators boost the profitability of UK crops by £400m-£680m each year. Gove also pointed out that, in the face of declining pollinator populations, British gala apple growers are forced to spend £5.7m per year to compensate for the loss of the natural ecological services provided by pollinators. Environmental and science groups are applauding Gove’s decision. “We warmly welcome the UK’s change of position,” said Matt Shardlow, of the insect conservation group Buglife, according to The Guardian . “Brexit will give the UK more control over the health of our ecosystems and it is essential in doing so that we apply the highest standards of care.” Via The Guardian Images via Depositphotos (1)

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Crazy new building in China looks like a giant crab!

November 10, 2017 by  
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China may have decided to steer away from “weird architecture” , but bizarre new buildings continue to pop up throughout the country. The new Ecology Center in Kunshan is one of the strangest we’ve seen – it looks a giant crab, complete with hairy claws and white pincers! The building is located on Yangcheng Lake’s eastern shore and it references the area’s famous crab-based delicacy. The outer shell is crafted from dark stainless steel , with pincers and claws resting on the ground. The crab’s durable exterior can supposedly withstand strong winds and typhoons . Related: 21 of China’s Quirkiest, Craziest and Most Fantastical Buildings Work is still underway on the building’s interior, which is expected to open to visitors in 2018. Via Archdaily

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Crazy new building in China looks like a giant crab!

Hundreds of sea turtles found dead near El Salvador

November 9, 2017 by  
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Why did hundreds of sea turtles perish near El Salvador ? The country’s ministry of environment and natural resources found 300-400 dead turtles in Jiquilisco Bay, so they took samples to try and determine why the animals died. National Geographic floated fishing and algal blooms as two reasons for the sea turtle die-offs. Around 300 to 400 sea turtles died near El Salvador, according to MARN . Locals began seeing the turtles the end of October; MARN announced the die-off on Twitter in early November. Several turtle species reside in the area, but so far it looks like ridleys have been the species most hit. The International Union for the Conservation of Nature classifies ridleys as vulnerable. Related: Unusually high number of humpback whale deaths prompts NOAA inquiry A red tide , or harmful algal bloom, led to turtle deaths in El Salvador in 2006 and 2013. Turtles can die after ingesting the blooms. But it’s not yet clear if a red tide caused these deaths. On November 3, MARN said they collected samples from seawater and the turtles’ tissues, and also took blood samples from a living turtle. The fishing industry has been to blame for turtle deaths in the past during shrimp trawling, as turtles can get caught in the nets. But a month-long moratorium began October 17, so the Eastern Pacific Hawksbill Initiative ‘s Mike Liles said fishing probably didn’t cause the 300 to 400 turtles to perish. Liles did say the practice is still dangerous for the creatures. This recent event is one of the biggest turtle die-offs El Salvador has experienced. Liles said large-scale die-offs could just get more common as industrial agriculture runoff worsens red tides. Conservation Ecology Lab ecologist Alexander Gaos agreed and said more conservation programs are needed. Via National Geographic Images via MARN El Salvador on Twitter ( 1 , 2 )

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Luxury private-island resort in the Maldives aims for minimal site impact

November 2, 2017 by  
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A new paradise destination has surfaced on the waters of the jaw-droppingly beautiful Maldives . Singapore-based WOW Architects recently completed the St. Regis Maldives, a luxury hotel that extends out of a private island. In hopes of minimizing the resort’s impact on the landscape, WOW architects implemented prefabricated timber systems and uses local labor and materials whenever possible. Covering 16,000 square meters across land and water, the St. Regis Maldives comprises 77 villas divided into four experiential zones—lagoon, beach, coastal, and jungle—each defined by different anchoring activities connected via a meandering art trail. The hut-like building forms and spaces take inspiration from nature, with maximum use of cross-laminated wood and minimal use of concrete and steel. Landscaping focuses on conservation of existing island flora and fauna, as well as replacement of displaced plant material with native species. Related: World’s largest underwater restaurant installed in the Maldives “The local people live in a delicate balancing act with nature, and are totally dependent on trade, technology, and tourism to sustain themselves,” wrote the architects. “Thus, when we were given an opportunity to design a Maldivian resort hotel, we chose to delight the senses through education, creating awareness, and new paradigms of interacting with the physical environment. Here, paradise is emotionally and intellectually experienced and enjoyed, but with a profound awareness of the complex relationships of the eco systems being inhabited.” + WOW Architects Images 2018 copyright WOW Architects | Warner Wong Design

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Luxury private-island resort in the Maldives aims for minimal site impact

73 million trees to be planted in largest reforestation project ever

October 31, 2017 by  
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Conservation International aims to plant 73 million trees in the Brazilian Amazon as part of the largest ever undertaking of its kind. In what is being called the “arc of deforestation” in the Brazilian states of Amazonas, Acre, Pará, and Rondônia, as well as throughout the Xingu watershed, trees will be planted as part of a project that, in the short-term, aims to restore 70,000 acres of tropical forest. “If the world is to hit the 1.2°C or 2°C [degrees of warming] target that we all agreed to in Paris, then protecting tropical forests in particular has to be a big part of that,” said M. Sanjayan, CEO of Conservation International, in an interview with Fast Company . “It’s not just the trees that matter, but what kind of trees ,” said Sanjayan. “If you’re really thinking about getting carbon dioxide out of atmosphere, then tropical forests are the ones that end up mattering the most.” Ceasing deforestation would allow for the absorption of 37 percent of the world’s annual carbon emissions yet scientists worry that 20 percent of the Amazon may be deforested in the next two decades, in addition to the 20 percent that was deforested in the past 40 years. To combat this rapid pace of destruction, Conservation International is utilizing new, efficient planting techniques that could be applied worldwide. “This is not a stunt,” said Sanjayan. “It is a carefully controlled experiment to literally figure out how to do tropical restoration at scale, so that people can replicate it and we can drive the costs down dramatically.” Related: Hurricane Maria ravaged the only tropical rainforest in the United States The planting method used in the project is known as muvuca , which is a Portuguese word to describe many people in a small place. In  muvuca, hundreds of native tree seeds of various species are spread over every inch of deforested land. Natural selection then allows the most suited to survive and thrive. A 2014 study from the Food and Agriculture Organization and Biodiversity International found that more than 90 percent of native tree species planted using the  muvuca method germinate and are well suited to survive drought conditions for up to six months. “With plant-by-plant reforestation techniques, you get a typical density of about 160 plants per hectare,” said Rodrigo Medeiros, Conservation International’s vice president of the Brazil program and project lead, according to Fast Company . “With muvuca, the initial outcome is 2,500 species per hectare. And after 10 years, you can reach 5,000 trees per hectare. It’s much more diverse, much more dense, and less expensive than traditional techniques.” Via Fast Company Images via Depositphotos (1)

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73 million trees to be planted in largest reforestation project ever

The dark side of digitally tracking endangered species

October 11, 2017 by  
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The data could make it easier for poachers to find animals and plants that scientists are trying to protect.

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The dark side of digitally tracking endangered species

70-mile wide group of butterflies shows up on radar, confuses weather scientists

October 6, 2017 by  
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“It’s a bird, it’s a plane, it’s… a flock of migrating butterflies!” After spotting a colored mass flitting over Denver and nearby counties, weather scientists at the National Weather Service supposed the phenomenon was just a group of birds. With the help of social media users, however, they later realized that the group of loosely spaced insects with big wings comprised thousands of butterflies. It turns out, there are so many butterflies migrating across central U.S., they showed up on the radar . Look at what's flying into Denver! Radar from last hour showing what we believe to be birds. Any bird experts know what kind? #ornithology pic.twitter.com/EAqzdMwpFU — NWS Boulder (@NWSBoulder) October 3, 2017 Weather scientists at the Boulder meteorology office posted the images to social media with the caption, “Look at what’s flying into Denver! Radar from last hour showing what we believe to be birds. Any bird experts know what kind?” After confirming that avians “rarely produce such a coherent radar signature” and taking into account social media users’ answers, the Boulder meteorology office realized they were actually butterflies. Related: 8 Ways that you can help save monarch butterflies “Migrating butterflies in high quantities explains it,” the group posted afterward. The Denverite reports that it is presently migration season for the painted lady butterfly. Orange-and-black in color, the butterflies are making their way from north to south, in time with the changing seasons. According to The Prairie Ecologies , thousands of the painted ladies butterflies travel between the southwest part of the United States/northern Mexico and the central U.S. every year. Because butterflies migrate with the wind, they were able to cover an area about 70-miles-wide. Birds, on the other hand, fly straight toward their destination. This was a big clue in differentiating the mass of flying objects. Said Sarah Garrett, a lepidopterist at the Butterfly Pavilion in Westminster, Colorado , people as far away as North and South Dakota have spotted the butterflies , whose populations typically surge when flowers are abundant. Scientists believe the painted lady butterflies migrate to the southwestern United States and northern Mexico in the fall. Using radio tracking , studies have shown they also travel south from Europe to Africa in the fall, and return in the spring. Via Denverite Images via National Weather Service ,  Pixabay

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70-mile wide group of butterflies shows up on radar, confuses weather scientists

Mesmerizing white humpback whale spotted off the coast of Australia

October 4, 2017 by  
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Jump, Migaloo! In recent months, we’ve seen photographs of white giraffes and even a white moose . Now, footage has emerged of a rare white humpback whale, and nature enthusiasts can’t contain their excitement. The whale, named Migaloo (after the Aboriginal word meaning “white man”), was recently spotted off the coast of Sydney, Australia , – and he is just as majestic as you may expect. Migaloo was first spotted in 1990 and is believed to be around 30 years old. As National Geographic reports, it is unknown whether or not he has leucism (a condition which results in white or patchy skin, but the eyes remain dark) or is a true albino , meaning he doesn’t produce any pigment at all. According to Brian Clark Howard in National Geographic, three white males — including Migaloo — have been spotted off Australia in recent years. He wrote, “One has been dubbed Migaloo Junior’ or the ‘son of Migaloo’ – although no one knows whether this smaller whale is actually related to Migaloo. A third white humpback with black spots on its tail has also been spotted.” Related: Hundreds of people come together to save beached whale in Brazil Due to commercial whaling , humpback whales were once close to extinction . A mere 100 remained in the oceans. Since legal protections were put in place, however, their numbers have recovered. The International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) says there are approximately 20,000 humpback whales that migrate to Australia each year. Fortunately, Migaloo remains one of them. Via National Geographic Images via  Earth Touch News Network,   Australian Geographic

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Mesmerizing white humpback whale spotted off the coast of Australia

GM’s plans for "all-electric-future" spell doom for fossil fuel industry

October 3, 2017 by  
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General Motors , a symbol of 20th century automotive domination, has decided to embrace the “all-electric future” of the 21st century and beyond, declaring that someday in the near future, it will produce and sell only electric cars . “General Motors believes in an all-electric future,” said Mark Reuss, GM’s chief of global product development. “Although that future won’t happen overnight, GM is committed to driving increased usage and acceptance of electric vehicles.” To accelerate into this future, GM announced two new electric car models, scheduled to be released next year, followed by an additional 18 all-electric models by 2023. General Motors is riding high as it shifts gear into electric; the car company was the third-largest in the world in 2016. Because of its immense size, the company would not yet commit to a specific year in which it would make the transition away from combustion engine cars. However, its recent actions speak as loud as its words. At a press event on Monday, GM revealed several concept designs for upcoming electric vehicles, including an SUV, a crossover, a non-traditional model which resembled a small, boxy bus, and Surus, a heavy-duty truck with two electric motors, powered by fuel cells. Related: Renault’s Trezor is the electric car of the future Though renowned already as a pioneer in the field, thanks in part to its Chevy Bolt, GM will face heavy traffic on the road ahead. Tesla , Volvo, Nissan, Aston Martin and Jaguar Land Rover have all made various moves into the electric car industry, with more expected in the future. Ford, a fellow Big Three American automaker, announced on Monday, the same day as GM’s press event, that it will form an “Edison Group,” focused on the development of electric cars. “We see an inflection point in the major markets toward battery electric vehicles,” said Sherif Marakby, head of electrification and autonomous vehicles at Ford. “We feel it’s important to have a cross-functional team all the way from defining the strategy plans and implementation to advanced marketing.” Via Washington Post Images via Car and Driver  and Wikipedia

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