Air pollution makes it tough for pollinators to stop and smell the flowers

Common air pollutants such as those found in car exhaust fumes react with floral scents, leading to reduced pollination by insects, according to new research. Researchers used a fumigation facility to control levels of pollution over an open field of mustard plants and observed the effects of these pollutants on pollination by local, free-flying insects. The presence of air pollution resulted in up to 90% fewer flower visits and one-third less pollination than in a smog-free field. The largest decrease in pollination came from bees, flies, moths and butterflies.

— source news.mongabay.com | Liz Kimbrough | 10 Feb 2022

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High levels of toxic pollutants in stranded dolphins and whales

A study led by researchers at Florida Atlantic University’s Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institute examined toxins in tissue concentrations and pathology data from 83 stranded dolphins and whales along the southeastern coast of the United States from 2012 to 2018. Researchers examined 11 different animal species to test for 17 different substances in animals found on the shores in North Carolina and Florida.

This is the first study to date to publish a report examining concentrations in blubber tissues of stranded cetaceans of atrazine, an herbicide, DEP, (a phthalate ester found in plastics), NPE or nonylphenol ethoxylate commonly used in food packing, and triclosan, an antibacterial and antifungal agent present in some consumer products, including toothpaste, soaps, detergents and toys.

They also analyzed liver samples for five non-essential elements (arsenic, cadmium, lead, mercury, thallium), six essential elements (cobalt, copper, manganese, iron, selenium, zinc) and one toxicant mixture class (Aroclor, a highly toxic industrial compound).

— source Florida Atlantic University | Aug 6, 2020

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Bats Are Not Our Enemies

Bats get a bad rap.

From horror films to tabloid pages to Halloween, media and cultural depictions of our planet’s only volant, or flying, mammals have long generated and reinforced unfounded fear. Their evident role as original source of the SARS-CoV-2 virus that produced the COVID-19 epidemic has exacerbated their unfortunate public image and even led to calls and active measures to cull or harass bat populations.

Such hostile attitudes make it harder to conserve bats and thereby safeguard the many critical benefits they provide us. What’s more, persecuting bats because of the diseases they harbor could easily backfire.

Before getting into that, let’s back up for a second.

— source scientificamerican.com | Timothy Treuer, Ricardo Rocha, Cara Brook | May 15, 2020

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The ocean is losing its breath — here’s the global scope

In the past 50 years, the amount of water in the open ocean with zero oxygen has gone up more than fourfold. In coastal water bodies, including estuaries and seas, low-oxygen sites have increased more than 10-fold since 1950. Scientists expect oxygen to continue dropping even outside these zones as Earth warms. To halt the decline, the world needs to rein in both climate change and nutrient pollution. Approximately half of the oxygen on Earth comes from the ocean. However, combined effects of nutrient loading and climate change are greatly increasing the number and size of ‘dead zones’ in the open ocean and coastal waters, where oxygen is too low to support most marine life.

In areas traditionally called “dead zones,” like those in Chesapeake Bay and the Gulf of Mexico, oxygen plummets to levels so low many animals suffocate and die. As fish avoid these zones, their habitats shrink and they become more vulnerable to predators or fishing. But the problem goes far beyond “dead zones,” the authors point out. Even smaller oxygen declines can stunt growth in animals, hinder reproduction and lead to disease or even death. It also can trigger the

— source University of California – San Diego | Jan 4, 2018

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Krill Are Disappearing from Antarctic Waters

Most Antarctic krill are found in an area from the Weddell Sea to the waters around the Antarctic Peninsula, the finger of land that juts up toward South America. They serve as an important source of food for various species of whales, seals and penguins. While those animals find other food sources during lean years, it is unclear if those alternate sources are sustainable long-term.

Over the past 40 years, populations of adult Antarctic krill have declined by 70 to 80 percent in those areas, though researchers debate whether that drop is due to the effects of climate change, a rebound in whale populations after the end of commercial whaling or some combination of those pressures.

In the new study published in the journal Geophysical Research Letters, Andrea Piñones and Alexey Fedorov examined how expected changes in ocean temperatures and sea ice coverage might affect krill during their earliest life stages when they are most vulnerable to environmental conditions.

— source scientificamerican.com | 2016

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Economics and value of pollination

The University of Maryland (UMD) co-published a new review paper in the Annual Review of Resource Economics to examine pollinators from both an economic and ecological perspective, providing much needed insight into the complexities of valuing pollination. Pollinators are not only a critical component of a healthy ecosystem, but they are also necessary to produce certain foods and boost crop yields. While native and wild pollinators (whether they be certain bee species, other insects and animals, or just the wind) still play an important role, managed honey bee colonies are commercially trucked around the U.S. to meet the need for pollination services in agricultural products. today, pollination services account for the largest share of commercial beekeeper income, with honey as a secondary product. Recent reports of parasites, disease, and other concerns in colonies call into question the resilience of the managed honey bee rental markets, as well as how those managed bees are interacting with native pollinators.

— source University of Maryland | May 20, 2021

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Birds on top of the world, with nowhere to go

Climate change could make much of the Arctic unsuitable for millions of migratory birds that travel north to breed each year, according to a new international study published today in Global Change Biology. The University of Queensland School of Biological Sciences’ researcher Hannah Wauchope said that suitable breeding conditions for Arctic shorebirds could collapse by 2070.

Arctic breeding shorebirds undertake some of the longest known migratory journeys in the animal kingdom, with many travelling more than 20,000 kilometres per year to escape the northern winter. The bar-tailed godwit flies from Alaska to New Zealand in a single flight of 12,000 kilometres without landing.

The study predicts that, in a warming world, migratory birds will become increasingly restricted to small islands in the Arctic Ocean as they retreat north. This could cause declines in hard-hit regions and some birds could even completely change migratory pathways to migrate closer to suitable habitat.

— source University of Queensland | 2016

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These Endangered Birds Are Forgetting Their Songs

honeyeater are medium-sized songbirds—with bright yellow tails and black-and-white chests. And though they once roamed Australia in flocks of hundreds, fewer than 300 remain in the wild today. Researchers found that a quarter of the birds sang variations of the traditional honeyeater song. And 12 percent of the birds weren’t singing honeyeater songs at all. They were parroting different species’ songs.

That could mean bad news for the birds’ future—because males singing those untraditional songs were also less likely to be paired up with a mate, compared to their counterparts who sang the standard tune.
The work appears in the Proceedings of the Royal Society B. It’s a complete sort of, you know, animal equivalent of the loss of Indigenous languages, whether that be Native American languages or Aboriginal Australian languages here. loss of songs like a loss of culture.

— source scientificamerican.com | Apr 16, 2021

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