This Week in Biodiversity News – 19th October

Hidden camera’s hugging tiger wins the Wildlife Photographer of the Year 2020 competition. Sergey Gorshkov captured a rare, stunning photo of a Siberian, or Amur tiger, deep in the forest of far Eastern Russia. You can explore more images here

Rewild to mitigate the climate crisis, urge leading scientists. According to research recently published in the journal Nature, restoring natural landscapes damaged by human exploitation can be one of the most effective and cheapest ways to combat the climate crisis while also boosting dwindling wildlife populations.

Environmental groups push to protect vast swathes of Antarctic seas. A coalition of conservation groups is advocating for the establishment of three new marine protected areas (MPAs) in East Antarctica, the Antarctic Peninsula and the Weddell Sea, which would encompass 4 million square kilometers (1.5 million square miles) of the Southern Ocean, or 1% of the global ocean.

Researcher Jacob Kamminga of the University of Twente developed a motion sensor with built-in intelligence for recognizing motion patterns of a wide range of animals. Kamminga’s research on the sensor has found that by recognizing the movements of animals in the wild using attached sensors, it may well be possible to detect if poachers are nearby. 

This Week in Biodiversity News – 5th October

Big Butterfly Count 2020 sees lowest numbers of butterflies recorded in 11 years. The average number of butterflies logged per count was down 34% in comparison with 2019, and the lowest average number of butterflies logged overall since the event began eleven years ago.

In this Philippine community, women guard a marine protected area. Women in the central Philippines have banded together to protect their marine sanctuaries from poachers and illegal fishers. Armed with only paddles and kayaks, these women willingly risk their lives to manage their marine protected area.

Plastic-eating enzyme ‘cocktail’ heralds new hope for plastic waste. The same team who re-engineered the plastic-eating enzyme PETase have now created an enzyme ‘cocktail’ which can digest plastic up to six times faster.

A “nationally scarce” species of bee has been found in Newport for the first time, conservationists say. Buglife Cymru said it discovered a “strong population” of small scabious mining bees at St Julian’s Park local nature reserve last week.

This Week in Biodiversity News – 14th September

On 9th September the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) published the 2020 Living Planet Report which warns of drastic declines in mammals, birds, amphibians and reptiles. The report also suggests ways in which we might curb biodiversity loss and begin recovery by 2050.

Loss of sea otters is proving to be devastating for the limestone reefs that underpin Alaskan kelp forest ecosystems. In a healthy, functional system, otters predate the sea urchins that graze on the reefs, but dwindling population sizes mean that reefs are likely to collapse within decades.

Despite the debate around the role and value of protected areas, recent research from the University of Queensland has shown that, when well-managed, they are incredibly effective. 80% of mammal species monitored doubled their coverage in protected areas over a period of 50 years, and 10% of the mammals studied survived solely on protected land.

This weekend, Sir David Attenborough returned to our screens in the UK with a new one-hour production titled Extinction: The Facts. In a departure from his usual style, the documentary depicts scenes of destruction, loss and crisis for many wild populations and ecosystems. His final line, however, is a call to arms: “What happens next, is up to every one of us”.

 

 

This Week in Biodiversity News – 31st August

‘We’ve covered huge swathes of the UK in tarmac’: how roads affect birds. Rarer birds suffer the most from the network that criss-crosses the country, finds a new study, published in Nature Communications, but kerbside life appears to suit some. 

Madagascar giant frog is a new species, but also a deep-fried delicacy. Two species of giant frog in the genus Mantidactylus from Madagascar have attracted researchers’ attention for their very large size. Now, genetic sequencing has enabled scientists to identify a new member of the giant frog genus Mantidactylus. 

Tiny elephant shrew rediscovered in Africa after 50 years. A little-known mammal related to an elephant but as small as a mouse has been rediscovered in Africa after 50 years of obscurity. The creature was found alive and well in Djibouti, a country in the Horn of Africa, during a scientific expedition.

Newly published research, carried out by staff at BTO Scotland, has investigated the response to wintering waterbirds to drones, and shown that they can be easily scared into flight by drone use. Findings show behavioural responses of non-breeding waterbirds to drone approach are associated with flock size and habitat. You can read the results here.

This Week in Biodiversity News – 17th August

The government announced it will allow England’s first wild breeding population of beavers to remain in Devon. After five years of groundbreaking work by Devon Wildlife Trust, they celebrate their success story. 

In an analysis for Mongabay, agroforestry expert Patrick Worms suggests that while news reports show forests burning in many places, trees are in fact retaking busily vast swaths of farmland globally through agroforestry. 

A butterfly once extinct in the UK has been reintroduced to another part of the Gloucestershire countryside. The successful breeding means it is the first time in 150 years the large blue butterfly – the largest and rarest of all nine British blue butterflies – has been recorded at Minchinhampton and Rodborough Commons.

Bird Photographer of the Year 2020 – in pictures. The Bird Photographer of the Year 2020 received more than 15,000 entries. Take a look at a selection of photos from the winners here. 

Experts and volunteers scramble to save Mauritius’s wildlife after oil spill. International experts and thousands of local volunteers were making frantic efforts on Sunday to protect Mauritius’s pristine beaches and rich marine wildlife after hundreds of tonnes of oil was dumped into the sea by a Japanese carrier in what some scientists called the country’s worst ecological disaster.

This Week in Biodiversity News – 3rd August

Small Crustacean can fragment microplastics in four days, study finds. Environmental scientists at University College Cork (UCC) Ireland studying the 2cm-long amphipod Grammarus duebeni unexpectedly found that microplastic beads are fragmented incredibly quickly into nanoplastics. The finding is significant as harmful effects of plastic might increase as particle size decreases. 

New native Hawaiian land snail species discovered, first in 60 years. Pacific island land snails are among the world’s most imperilled wildlife, with more recorded extinctions since 1600 than any other group of animals. Scientists  have now discovered a new native land snail species, sounding a rare, hopeful note in a story rife with extinction.

Quarter of UK mammals ‘under threat’ according to the first Red List of UK mammals – a comprehensive review of the status of species, including wildcats, red squirrels and hedgehogs. 

‘Plan bee’ for cities: new report sows seeds for insect-friendly urban areas. Research published by the scientific journal Plos One suggests that urban gardens, parks and roadside verges play a vital role in boosting bee and other pollinator numbers thanks to their diversity of blooming plants and absence of pesticides.

This Week in Biodiversity News – 13th July

First signs of success in bid to reintroduce pine martens to England. The first pine martens to be reintroduced to England have had kits, marking a milestone in efforts to boost their recovery, conservationists said. Conservationists say at least three females have produced offspring in the Forest of Dean. 

Growing evidence suggests that native bees are also facing a novel pandemic. Researchers at CU Boulder have found there is growing evidence that another “pandemic,” as they call it, has been infecting bees around the world for the past two decades and is spreading: a fungal pathogen known as Nosema.

Rare Gunther’s toad sighting highlights farms as biodiversity hotspots. The sighting of the rare Gunther’s toad in the rock pools of farmlands in Anantapur district in Andhra Pradesh puts the focus on the presence of diverse species in farmlands. Experts say it is time that these lands are seen as systems that contribute to ecology rather than just areas for food production.

Almost a third of lemurs and North Atlantic Right Whale now critically endangered – according to the most recent update of the IUCN’s Red List. This update completes a revision of all African primate assessments, concluding that over half of all primate species in the rest of Africa are under threat. This update also reveals that the North Atlantic Right Whale and the European Hamster are now both Critically Endangered.

This Week in Biodiversity News – June 29th

This Phillipine butterfly had a mistaken identity for years, until its ‘rediscovery’. A pair of scientists have discovered a new subspecies of butterfly whose only known habitat is at the peak of a potentially active volcano in the central Philippines.

Koala’s will be driven to extinction before 2050 in New South Wales, major inquiry finds. State parliamentary investigation finds the biggest threat to the species’ survival is habitat loss – but logging and clearing has continued.

Forest loss escalates biodiversity change. New international research focusing on biodiversity data spanning 150 years and over 6,000 locations, published in the journal Science, reveals that as tree cover is lost across the world’s forests, plants and animals are responding to the transformation of their natural habitats, revealing both losses and gains in species.

Dolphins learn how to use tools from peers, just like great apes. A new study upends the belief that only mothers teach hunting skills, adding to growing evidence of dolphin intelligence, experts say. It is the first known example of dolphins transmitting such knowledge within the same generation, rather than between generations.

This Week in Biodiversity News – 15th June

The UK’s barn owl is growing in numbers thanks to humans. Up to 80% of these distinctive birds now nest in man-made boxes, though encouraging them to set up home takes time. 

New research by an international research team at Kobe university finds eels can act as comprehensive surrogate species for biodiversity conservation in freshwater rivers. It is hoped that conducting activities to restore and protect eel populations will contribute greatly to the recovery and conservation of freshwater ecosystems.

Conservationists successfully track red pandas in the mountains of Nepal by satellite. The mammals are endangered, with numbers down to a few thousand in the eastern Himalayas and southwestern China, find out more here about the factors driving them towards extinction. 

Thousands of tons of microplastics are falling from the sky. New research helps unravel how vast amounts of plastic particles travel both regionally and globally by wind. 

Research finds hummingbirds can see diverse colours humans can only imagine. A research team trained wild hummingbirds to perform a series of experiments that revealed that the tiny birds also see combination colors like ultraviolet+green and ultraviolet+red.

This Week in Biodiversity News – June 1st

The discovery of a new breeding pair raises hope for the survival of the world’s rarest primate, the Hainan Gibbon. Ravaged by deforestation and poaching, the ape now lives only in a patch of forest on China’s Hainan island. A comprehensive rescue programme was put in place, including patrols and monitoring, research into the apes’ ecology and behaviour, and the planting of thousands of trees to provide food and shelter.

Scientists have discovered a new behaviour amongst bumblebees that tricks plants into flowering early. New research reveals that when pollen is in short supply, bumblebees damage plant leaves in a way that accelerates flower production.

Can video games make people care about wildlife conservation?  Eager to use his tech skills for wildlife conservation, Shah—a National Geographic explorer—founded a game company called Internet of Elephants in 2016. The Kenya-based start-up designs digital experiences to tell real conservation stories based on real data.

Rare UK wildlife thriving in lockdown, reveals National Trust. The National Trust is reporting that emboldened wildlife, from raptors and warblers to badgers, otters and even orcas, appear to be enjoying the disappearance of humans from its gardens, castles and waterways across the UK.

This week, the Wildlife Trusts launched their 30 day wild campaign, encouraging thousands to take part in daily “random acts of wildness”. Find out more and how to get involved here