Panda conservation efforts lead to unexpected losses

August 5, 2020 by  
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Roughly three decades ago, the International Union for Conservation of Nature classified giant pandas as an endangered species. In 2016, giant pandas moved from endangered species to “vulnerable” on the official extinction list. Many conservationists cite successful panda conservation efforts to show that protection measures work. That said, protecting pandas may come at a higher price than expected.  According to a  new study  published in Nature Ecology & Evolution, panda protection efforts may have put other animals at risk, some of which face possible extinction. Created ecosystems that cater to pandas do not provide room for other animals such as leopards, snow leopards, wolves and Asian wild dogs. Consequently, most of these animals have nearly disappeared from protected areas. The lack of predators negatively affects the ecosystem by allowing prey animals to proliferate and damage habitats. The study attributes the animal disappearances to ecosystem shifts influenced by humans’ attempts to create proper homes for pandas. Panda conservation efforts focused on designating areas where pandas and other animals could thrive. Although many species benefited from the initiative, some lost out. The new study proposes enacting measures to ensure a more inclusive ecosystem. Dr. Sheng Li of Peking University, co-author of the study, calls for a holistic approach to wildlife protection. Such efforts will help protect all animals, not just a few species. Li explains that this is “critically needed to better increase the resilience and sustainability of the ecosystems not only for giant pandas but also for other wild species.” The study states that leopards have disappeared from 81% of panda reserves since the panda habitats were established. Meanwhile, snow leopards have disappeared from 38%, wild dogs from 95% and wolves from 77% of the protected areas. Reintroducing these animals is key to keeping the ecosystem balanced. Otherwise, some species may go extinct during attempts to protect others. + Nature Ecology & Evolution Via BBC Image via Pixabay

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Panda conservation efforts lead to unexpected losses

Over 500 new dams planned for protected areas worldwide

August 5, 2020 by  
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A new study published in the journal Conservation Letters has revealed that over 500 new dams are currently being constructed or are planned to be constructed within protected areas. More than 1,200 dams already exist in such areas. In the first global report on dam construction areas, it has been revealed that most governments are bypassing or rolling back laws in order to construct dams in these protected areas. The main concern being raised by the authors of the study is that the people who are mandated with protecting riparian areas are also the ones responsible for invading them. In the EU alone, about 33% of all the proposed dams lie within protected areas. For example, two hydropower projects in Romania pose a danger to Natura 2000 sites. If such constructions are not stopped, the reserved areas, rivers and natural resources around them are at risk. Michele Thieme, lead author of the study and freshwater scientist at World Wildlife Fund (WWF), said, “Rivers are the lifeblood of ecosystems. Any policy that aims to conserve nature must prioritize the free flow of rivers.” Related: Hydropower demand is damaging Indigenous lands The study has established that many governments are redefining boundaries of protected lands to create room for construction . The study points out that if legislation continues being loosened in this manner, it will not be long before the delicate ecosystems in these areas are irreversibly damaged. “The sheer number of dams that are planned within protected areas is alarming,” Thieme warned. “Government and industry policies must prevent the development of dams planned within these areas. The dams that already exist within protected areas should be prioritized for possible removal and the surrounding river systems should be restored.” This study follows another paper that highlighted the impact of dams on ecosystems. A 2019 paper published in Nature revealed that over 65% of long rivers across the world are impeded with dams and other structures. Worse yet, the report established that the construction of dams across major rivers is to blame for a 76% reduction in freshwater migratory fish populations since 1970. Because dams impede the movement of fish upstream for breeding, they have led to a decline in freshwater fish populations significantly. The report is now calling on governments and other stakeholders to stop bypassing and changing laws for short-term gains. Those in authority must protect these areas at all costs to avoid further harm to ecosystems. + Conservation Letters + WWF Image via Hans Linde

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Over 500 new dams planned for protected areas worldwide

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