every autumn, tens of millions of monarch butterflies travel to their ancestral winter roosts in mexico’s mountain fir forests, coating the trunks of the trees in the orange of their wings, and causing the branches to droop under their collective weight.
surfing winds from southern canada and the northern united states, and taking directional cues from the sun and magnetic poles, they travel 4,500 kilometres over two months to reach their hibernation grounds — a feat that still remains a bit of a mystery, but which has been going on for millions of years.
interestingly, the autumn migration south is accomplished in one generation, which lives for about seven months, while the spring migration north is done over three generations, each living about six weeks.
last year’s migration, however, was the lowest on record, as excessive herbicide usage has reduced the supply of the milkweed plant which the monarch larvae rely on to feed, and which makes the monarch caterpillars toxic to predators. but the plant is now being destroyed from heavy use of roundup ready pesticides used in soy and corn crop production.
further complicating matters for the monarch is climate change, as drought along their migratory route has exacerbated milkweed decline, and colder spring temperatures has meant the temperature-sensitive cold-blooded butterflies are unable to begin their journey north.
and once they reach their hibernation sites in mexico, the butterflies, which rely on a thick forest canopy for protection from the cold and rain, encounter deteriorating forests from illegal logging.
experts, however, are hopeful that this year’s migration will double or triple, thanks in large part to the conservation efforts of the mexican government. nevertheless, this increase would still put monarch numbers at one tenth of their record high of one billion.
A rare northern white rhino has died in Kenya, a wildlife conservancy said on Saturday, leaving just six of the animals left alive and bringing the famed African species one step closer to extinction.
While there are thousands of southern white rhinos still roaming the plains of sub-Saharan Africa, decades of rampant poaching have drastically cut northern white rhino numbers.
Suni, a 34-year-old who was the first northern white rhino to be born in captivity, was found dead on Friday by rangers at the Ol Pejeta Conservancy, about 250 km north of Nairobi.
The conservancy said Suni was not poached, but the cause of his death was unclear. It added that he was one of the last two breeding males in the world as no northern white rhinos are believed to have survived in the wild.
"Consequently the species now stands at the brink of complete extinction, a sorry testament to the greed of the human race," the conservancy said in a statement.
California’s rapidily disappearing groundwater was tracked by NASA and its partners over a period of 12 years. Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/University of California, Irvine
Article in EcoWatch entitled, "NASA Satellite Images Reveal Shocking Groundwater Loss in Drought-Striken California," can be read here.
Excerpt from the article, explaining the images:
“This trio of images depicts satellite observations of declining water storage in California as seen by NASA’s Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment satellites,” says NASA. “Colors progressing from green to orange to red represent greater accumulated water loss between April 2002 and June 2014.”
The EPA just approved the use of a new herbicide, called Enlist Duo, manufactured by Dow. It can now be used in Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Ohio, South Dakota and Wisconsin. A decision is pending for 10 other states. Here’s what it does:
The herbicide, designed to control weeds in fields of soybeans and corn genetically modified to resist it, combines two other herbicides, 2, 4-D and glyphosate. Dow produced the new combo herbicide in response to the growing resistance of weeds aka “superweeds” to commonly used glyphosate herbicides such as Monsanto’s Roundup.
So, we get a double whammy. GMO crops (corn, soybean) plus the herbicide. And what about the herbicide? It includes 2,4-D. What’s that? It was one of the chemicals used in Agent Orange. As in Vietnam. As in poisoning our soldiers and the Vietnamese people.
The EPA put some restrictions on use and limited the approval to six years. Fucking band-aid approach.
Oregon Congressman Peter DeFazio, one of 60 members of Congress to sign a letter opposing Enlist Duo’s approval, said, “Today, EPA shunned its duties to protect the environment and safeguard public health by bowing to corporate interests instead of relying on science. For years, the scientific community has been sounding the alarm about the increased use of herbicides and the link to a multitude of health problems. It’s shocking that EPA thinks it’s a good idea to allow the widespread use of a toxic chemical once found in Agent Orange on this nation’s farm fields. EPA should be working to reverse the trend of chemicals that poison our food supply, water and soil. It will be just a matter of time before weeds develop a resistance to 2,4-D, and the chemical industry comes up with an even more dangerous and potent product.”
I’m sorry, but I really hate when politicians try and “debate” science, like its something that will just change if they throw enough of a fuss. Hate to break it to them, but that’s not the way the world works. Most politicians don’t even have a foundation outside of some 101 class (if even that), so what makes them think they know better than the people who have spent their entire lives immersed in the principles of the scientific method?
Over the past decade, numerous metrics for biodiversity—including species abundance, extinction risk, distribution, genetic variability, species turnover, and trait diversity—have been used to create indicators to track how biodiversity has changed (1–3). These indicators have made it clear that biodiversity loss, however it is measured, is showing little sign of abatement (1, 4) and that humans must respond to safeguard the provision of natural services on which we all rely (5, 6). But which metrics provide the most informative indicators under which circumstances? And how can the growing list of indicators best serve conservation policy decisions?