Where are the flying insects?

This is not a question without dramatic consequences for us. For the past 25 years there has been a dramatic decline in flying insects according to a new study. At least in Germany. The drama in this is that no one knows if this applies to the rest of the world. I for one, as an amateur photographer can vouch that insects of all kinds this year were not plentiful and that birds were also in decline, at least in my neck of the woods.

Insects are important, both as pollinators and as prey for other wildlife. Our human societies could be seriously impacted by this. We depend on flying insects for pollination.

Even if this new data was done in reserves in Germany it has implications for all landscapes that are dominated by agriculture. The reason is simple; it is more than probable that pesticides play a role in the decline as well as the destruction of wild areas. At least it seems that climate change is not a reason for the decline.

What is even more worrying is that this study was done in protected areas in Germany, where one would think that things would be better than in areas not under protection. It is probable that when the insects leave the reserves they die due to lack of food and maybe the pesticides that are used in the surrounding areas. Studies will now be done elsewhere to see if this is really a worldwide phenomena or something that is localized and unique to Germany.



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A scary volcano!

Yellowstone National Park in the United States is home to a very large and famous volcano. If it ever woke up it would simply plunge earth into a volcanic winter, creating serious consequences for humanity. And now it seems that scientist have discovered that the forces that drive these events can move more rapidly than previously anticipated. Bad news for us.

Previously it was assumed that new magma entering the system would take milleniums to provoke an eruption, but in fact it could take only decades. A big time difference.

Scientists analyzed crystals that were left in the volcanic leftovers from the last eruption. Each crystal was once inside the magma underground and as they grow layers outwards they record changes in water content, temperature and pressure similar to tree rings. And the crystals recorded a clear up tick in temperature and a change in composition on a rapid time scale. I’m crossing my fingers and hope nothing happens as I type this….


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Flooding in Tokyo.

Because of global warming the city is more vulnerable than ever to flooding, and this despite spending billions of dollars on an underground system supposed to control those flood waters.

In the past three decades rainfall that measures more than two inches an hour has increased 30%. It seems that global warming is to blame for these intense rains in a country that is already among one of the wettest in the world.

On top of this, rising oceans makes the Tokyo area vunerable to storm surges and yet people and industries still want to settle near the waterfront. Pumping groundwater as also led parts of the city to sink by almost 15 feet in the past 100 years, thereby increasing the risk of these storm surges.

If one adds increased rainfall with the potential for destructive earthquakes and tsunamis, Tokyo is one of the riskiest city to live in. And the risk will not diminish in the future. Add to these woes the fact that the government is now heavily in debt and has an aging population one can see the financial challenges in making Tokyo secure, now and in the future.


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Pandas no longer in danger.

This is the good news according to Chinese scientists, that the panda is not in danger anymore. However, the natural habitat in China is in serious danger. According to researchers panda habitats have seriously declined since 1990.

The habitat of the panda has been divided into tiny sections by logging, human encroachment, road construction and agriculture. This process called fragmentation can and will have an effect on the future of the panda.

Once again, only the Chinese government can help the panda survive on a longterm basis. The government helped in the past by restoring bamboo forests and established national habitat reserves. By building corridors between panda populations and reducing the fragmentation of the habitat the government can ensure the survival of the panda, despite climate change.

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Turtles are coming back!

With all the bad news about the extinction of species here is one piece of good news; turtles are bouncing back after historical declines. Scientists have studied this through experiments and even small population of turtles are coming back.

And yet, not all of them. The leatherbacks in the Eastern and Western Pacific are still declining. In fact, six of the seven species are either vulnerable, endangered or critically endangered. It seems that the bounce back is due to strong efforts since the 1950’s as beaches were protected and fishing was regulated. Establishing marine areas as well helped.

It is only on a longterm basis that scientists can say if a species is bouncing back. For turtles, they have to be followed for long periods of time, 10 to 30 years. Results from studies show that even small population of turtles can return with adequate protection. In Hawaii, green sea turtles increased their nest numbers from 200 in 1973 to 2000 in 2012. This species is now considered to be of least concern for its survival.

More research will be needed as there are still too many unknowns, such as what are the male to female ratios. Shrinking maritime protected areas as is projected in Australia will not help in collecting data on flatback turtles in the area. In other words, scientists are expressing cautious optimism for the survival of turtles.


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Climate change affecting parasites.

We all know about animals that might face extinction due to climate change, but now scientists have discovered that even parasites could disappear, and that is not good. It is possible that in the next century 33% of them could be extinct.

Scientists know that parasites are not sexy and thus people will not miss them, but they are important to the world’s ecosystem. Entire food webs could be affected and this might even harm human health.

Even if some parasites are adversely affected by climate change scientists know that other will thrive. Some might move into new territory recently vacated by another. Deer ticks for example have a rosy future as many climate change models show them expanding northward.

Here is the scary part for humans; it is possible that some parasites are keeping down other parasites that could have more harmful effects on humans. New diseases could spring up threatening us. And all this from having more heat in the atmosphere than we should have…..

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Of trolls and photography.

Trolls are people who specialize in aggravating other people, for often no reason at all. They sometimes do it to provoke a reaction from other people. I often wonder if these people are sick and do not know it.

Of course most people are familiar with trolls on the net. In any forum one can read their posts which are often aimed at some people or other, hoping for a strong reaction. I had my run-ins with them too, but rarely in the real world. Until last Sunday.

I was taking pictures in the botanical garden with a friend when suddenly we saw a heron land on a wood box near the pond. These boxes are used by birds for nesting purposes. The heron was not far from the shore of the pond but as we approached I saw a woman taking two chairs, one for her head and the other for her legs. The nerve she had.

We rapidly approached and prepared to shoot the heron when the women left rapidly, coming back less than 5 seconds later. She then asked us if we had taken her picture. My friend replied that since it was a public space we could but that we did not. I chimed in, asking her tongue-in-cheek if she was famous. She replied that I was presumptuous to ask such a question. I replied that if she were famous then I would take her picture and ask for her autograph. My friend listening to me was smiling broadly. She left and I thought that it was the end of it, but no, like a bad dream she returned.

She said to me that we had really disturbed her, really. I turned around and said she could easily take two chairs and she could install herself a few feet away from us as there was plenty of space. I then told her that if she was so unhappy she could call security or launch an official complaint about us. I was hoping that she would see how ridiculous she was.

She replied that no after all, she would not lodge a complaint. I felt better. But again she said we had disturbed her. At that point I thought that perhaps she was not quite right, especially after she left and returned 10 seconds later with the same lament, that we had disturbed her. And what about us being disturbed by her?

I finally lost it, cursed her and shouted at her and reminded her again that we were in a public space, not in her living room after all. After my outburst she finally left and I hope I never see her again. My friend was laughing at all this, remarking that he had never seen me so angry.

I realized much later what she was, a troll. I should have ignored her instead of trying to reason with her. Something like that happens to me once or twice a year. For some reason taking pictures is not seen as a nice activity by trolls who love to comment on how we “harass” wildlife. I think that from now on I will harass trolls!

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