Sunday, April 29, 2012

Cetacean Conservation-challenges and solutions

Steering the right course for cetacean conservation
By Randall Reeves, Chair of IUCN’s Cetacean (dolphins whales and porpoises) Specialist Group and one of the recipients of the Species Survival Commitment  Chair's Citation of Excellence in recognition of his leadership of whale and dolphin conservation worldwide.

Sperm whale, photo by Imène MelianeOne of the greatest challenges facing cetacean conservation is to get a clear and conclusive diagnosis. By that I mean understanding, first, the true status of a species or population and second, the drivers that determine such status. Gone are the days when things seemed simple: stop the deliberate killing (or at least reduce and manage it rationally) and the animals will recover. Now there are so many other factors to consider that we are often in a state of decision paralysis, unable to move ahead with confidence that one particular fix, or even a particular suite of fixes, will turn things around.

Another challenge is to avoid being so distracted by crisis situations that we fail to pay attention to ‘non-crises’ – by that I mean populations that appear to be doing fine but rapidly and unexpectedly prove otherwise.
We need to avert more species extinctions, having recently lost the Yangtze river dolphin (baiji), and find more effective ways of using the ‘charisma’ of cetaceans – without in the process compromising scientific integrity – for ecosystem protection and restoration.
The best conservation success stories for cetaceans are those of the groups of people who have steered international bodies in certain directions. This includes the International Whaling Commission towards protection of species like right whales, gray whales and humpback whales that are now recovering in many parts of their range; the United Nations towards banning large-scale driftnets on the high seas which were killing huge numbers of dolphins and porpoises and the tuna industry in the Pacific towards ‘dolphin-friendly’ fishing practices which have dramatically reduced the mortality of dolphins.
Perhaps the most significant contribution of our Specialist Group has been to raise global awareness of freshwater cetaceans and provide support for conservation biologists and activists who are working in very difficult circumstances to improve the prospects of those species.
articles from: IUCN-

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Save The Frogs Day -28th April
Save The Frogs Day is the world's largest day of amphibian education and conservation action. Events are currently planned in Australia, Bangladesh, Belize, Bhutan, Brazil, Bolivia, Canada, Colombia, Czech Republic, Dominica, Ecuador, Germany, Ghana, Hungary, India, Italy, Kenya, Liberia, Madagascar, Malaysia, Mauritius, Mexico, New Zealand, Pakistan, Panama, Peru, Phillipines, Portugal, Romania, Sierra Leone, South Africa, Spain, Sweden, Taiwan, Turkey, Uganda, Ukraine and the United States. Help us reach our 2012 goal of 200 events in 30 countries: please organize an event in your community, and ask your local schools and environmental organizations to take part as well.

Visit SAVETHEFROGS! for more information!


 “When we save the frogs, we’re protecting all our wildlife, all our ecosystems and all humans.” -- Dr. Kerry Kriger, Founder & Executive Director of SAVE THE FROGS!, Washington DC, Save The Frogs Day, April 29 2011 

Frog populations have been declining worldwide at unprecedented rates, and nearly one-third of the world’s amphibian species are threatened with extinction. Up to 200 species have completely disappeared since 1980, and this is NOT normal: amphibians naturally go extinct at a rate of only about one species every 250 years!!! Amphibian populations are faced with an onslaught of environmental problems, including pollution, infectious diseases, habitat loss, invasive species, climate change, and over-harvesting for the pet and food trades. Unless we act quickly, amphibian species will continue to disappear, resulting in irreversible consequences to the planet’s ecosystems and to humans.

Frogs are an integral part of the food web 
Tadpoles keep waterways clean by feeding on algae. Adult frogs eat large quantities of insects, including disease vectors that can transmit fatal illnesses to humans (i.e. mosquitoes/malaria). Frogs also serve as an important food source to a diverse array of predators, including dragonflies, fish, snakes, birds, beetles, centipedes and even monkeys. Thus, the disappearance of frog populations disturbs an intricate food web, and results in negative impacts that cascade through the ecosystem. Photo courtesy David Dennis.

 "Insect masses like fireworks explode. 
Dengue, Malaria, West Nile Virus:
 Discomfort, despair will fill your abode.
 This is what your life will be without us." 
--Frog Poetry by Michael Dutton

Frogs are bioindicators 

Most frogs require suitable habitat in both the terrestrial and aquatic environments, and have permeable skin that can easily absorb toxic chemicals. These traits make frogs especially susceptible to environmental disturbances, and thus frogs are considered accurate indicators of environmental stress: the health of frogs is thought to be indicative of the health of the biosphere as a whole. Frogs have survived in more or less their current form for 250 million years, having survived countless ice ages, asteroid crashes, and other environmental disturbances, yet now one-third of amphibian species are on the verge of extinction. This should serve as an alarm call to humans that something is drastically wrong in the environment.

An ecological indicator they are 
The most accurate so far 
Pollution, destruction and disease 
We need to hear their pleas 
-- Frog Poetry by Shruti Sengupta, 25, India 

Frogs are important in medical research that benefits humans 
Frogs produce a wide array of skin secretions, many of which have significant potential to improve human health through their use as pharmaceuticals. Approximately 10% of Nobel Prizes in Physiology and Medicine have resulted from investigations that used frogs. When a frog species disappears, so does any promise it holds for improving human health.

"And what is there to life if a man cannot hear the lonely cry of a whippoorwill or the arguments of the frogs around a pond at night?" -- Chief Seattle, 1854

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

NEWS: More Emperor Penguins than Previously Thought

Scientists count penguins by satellite, find twice as many as expected (photos)
April 14, 2012

Satellite images show twice as many emperor penguins as previously thought

Emperor penguin populations in Antarctica
Map showing the locations of Emperor penguin colonies in Antarctica. Graphic courtesy of the British Antarctic Survey, whose scientists were involved in the research. Click image to enlarge.

The population of emperor penguins in Antarctica is nearly twice as high as previously estimated according to a new satellite-based assessment.

The census technique is based on detecting penguin colonies and then counting individual birds. Colonies are located by looking for large patches of ice discolored by penguin poop or guano.

This approach turned up 44 colonies across Antarctica — including seven that hadn't been detected previously — and 595,000 birds. The emperor population had previously been thought to range between 170,000-350,000.

“The methods we used are an enormous step forward in Antarctic ecology because we can conduct research safely and efficiently with little environmental impact, and determine estimates of an entire penguin population, said co-author Michelle LaRue from the University of Minnesota in a statement. “The implications of this study are far-reaching: we now have a cost-effective way to apply our methods to other poorly-understood species in the Antarctic, to strengthen on-going field research, and to provide accurate information for international conservation efforts.”

Emperor penguins on the sea ice close to Halley Research Station
Emperor penguins on the sea ice close to Halley Research Station. Photo courtesy of the British Antarctic Survey.

The findings are significant because they help scientists determine a baseline from which they can measure the impact of climate change on emperor penguin populations. Ecologists say many penguins may be vulnerable to shifts in prey distribution and density as well as changes in sea ice cover, which could increase mortality rates of fledgling penguins.

"Current research suggests that emperor penguin colonies will be seriously affected by climate change," said co-author Phil Trathan of the British Antarctic Survey. "An accurate continent-wide census that can be easily repeated on a regular basis will help us monitor more accurately the impacts of future change on this iconic species."

Aerial photograph of an emperor penguin colony
Aerial photograph of Halley Bay Emperor penguin colony. Photo courtesy of Digital Globe.

The research is published in this week's issue of PLoS ONE: An Emperor Penguin Population Estimate: The First Global, Synoptic Survey of a Species from Space.

CITATION: Fretwell PT, LaRue MA, Morin P, Kooyman GL, Wienecke B, et al. (2012) An Emperor Penguin Population Estimate: The First Global, Synoptic Survey of a Species from Space. PLoS ONE 7(4): e33751. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0033751

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