Global Warming

Migrating birds winter in Israel as climate change makes desert too dangerous

Climate change is turning Israel into a permanent wintering ground for some of the 500 million migrating birds that used to stop over briefly before flying on to the warm plains of Africa, Israeli experts say.

The birds now prefer to stay longer in cooler areas rather than cross into Africa, where encroaching deserts and frequent droughts have made food more scarce.

Cranes are one of the most abundant species to visit the Hula wetlands and Agmon said that the number that prefer to stay in Israel until the end of March has risen from less than 1,000 in the 1950s to some 45,000 currently.

Although migrating birds are a welcome attraction for ornithologists and tourists, their hunger for food from crop fields makes them a menace to farmers.

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Climate change threatens olive trees across Mediterranean

Environmental groups have warned that the olive oil industry across the Mediterranean, worth billions of dollars, is under threat due to climate change.

From Italy to Tunisia, and Lebanon to Greece, increasingly hot summers and unpredictable winters have seen yields decline by as much as 20 percent.

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Wildlife

Global Warming Affecting Migratory Birds

The arrival of migratory birds at northern breeding grounds typically coincides with the growth of spring plants. A team of researchers from several universities studied data collected by citizen scientists and satellites between 2001 to 2012 in an attempt to see how climate change is affecting the birds’ ability to accurately time their arrival at these breeding grounds. Their research has been published in Scientific Reports.

Of the 48 North American songbird species that migrate north, the researchers found that nine — almost 20 percent — didn’t reach the grounds by the deadline critical for mating and breeding the next generation of birds. On average, the gap stretched by more than half a day each year across all species, for a total of five days per decade. However, the change for some species was far more drastic — double or triple that pace.

This delay was due to the effect of warmer temperatures on the growth cycles of plants. The birds leave their southern homes at the same time every year, basing their departure on the amount of daylight, which remains unaffected by climate change. However, climate change is altering when plants put out new leaves, with plants in eastern North America “greening up” sooner than normal, while plants in the western part of the continent are undergoing the process later.

This means birds are arriving either too soon and being met with frigid temperatures or too late and missing out on the insect boom that coincides with the new plant growth. Either condition means the birds have a much lower chance of surviving and reproducing, so the nine species identified in the study are therefore in danger of dwindling numbers.5

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Global Warming

Climate change is wreaking havoc on indigenous people in Alaska

The extreme warmth of 2016 has changed so much for the people of the Arctic that even their language is becoming unmoored from the conditions in which they now live.

The Yupik, an indigenous people of western Alaska, have dozens of words for the vagaries of sea ice, which is not surprising given the crucial role it plays in subsistence hunting and transportation. But researchers have noted that some of these words, such as “tagneghneq” (thick, dark, weathered ice), are becoming obsolete.

After thousands of years of use, words are vanishing as quickly as the ice they describe due to climate change. The native inhabitants are also in peril – there are 31 Alaskan towns and cities at imminent risk from the melting ice and coastal erosion. Many will have to relocate or somehow adapt.

In remote Alaskan communities, the stores sell goods priced to reflect their journey – $20 for a pizza, $15 for a gallon of milk. If you can’t butcher a 1,000-pound walrus because there is no sea ice to support both of you, then you might well be left hungry.

The window of opportunity for hunting continues to shrink. The communities are worried about this because food insecurity is something we are now having to tackle every single day.

St Lawrence island, a far-flung piece of the US that sits just 36 miles from Russia in the Bering Sea. The island is thought to be one of the last exposed fragments of a land bridge that connected North America to Asia during the last ice age.

In 2013, the island’s two main communities managed to catch just a third of the walruses they normally do. Last year, Gambell, the largest settlement, snared just 36 – down from the 600 it could expect just a few years ago.

Sea ice is further out from land than it once was and is becoming treacherously thin for hunters to traverse. Walruses, which require sea ice for resting and giving birth, often have to resort to heaving themselves on to crowded strips of land. These grand tusked beasts can trample each other to death in such conditions.

Frost locked deep in the soils is melting, causing buildings to subside. Communities are seeing their coastlines erode and are increasingly exposed to lashing storms without the protective barrier of sea ice.

Several Alaskan towns and villages are wrestling over whether to fight these changes or retreat to relative safety. Two coastal villages, Shishmaref and Kivalina, have voted to relocate while a third, Newtok, has taken the first tentative steps to do so.

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Arctic lakes melting earlier each year

Arctic lakes, covered with ice during the winter months, are melting one day earlier each year, according to researchers, including one of Indian origin, who monitored 13,300 lakes using satellite imagery.

Scientists from the University of Southampton in the UK showed that due to warming temperatures ice is breaking earlier each spring, based on a 14-year period between 2000 and 2013.

Researchers discovered that all five study areas in the Arctic — Alaska, Northeast Siberia, Central Siberia, Northeast Canada and Northern Europe – showed significant trends of early ice break-up in the spring, but to varying degrees.

Central Siberia demonstrated the strongest trend, with ice starting to break-up an average of 1.4 days earlier each year.

Northern Europe showed the lowest change of ice break-up at 0.84 days earlier per year. They found a strong relationship between decreasing ice cover and an increasingly early spring temperature rise.

Less ice means a longer season for lake biology, which together with warmer temperatures will affect processes such as Carbon dioxide (CO2) and Methane (CH4) emissions.

Wildlife

Coast of Antarctica Will Host World’s Largest Marine Reserve

The world’s biggest marine reserve, almost as large as Alaska, will be established in the Ross Sea in Antarctica under an agreement reached by representatives of 24 nations and the European Union in Australia on Friday.

The policy makers and scientists agreed unanimously to create a zone that will encompass 600,000 square miles of ocean. Commercial fishing will be banned from the entire area, but 28 percent of it will be designated as research zones, where scientists can catch limited amounts of fish and krill, tiny invertebrates that provide food for whales, penguins, seals and other animals.

The area, which is mostly contiguous and hugs the coast off the Ross Sea ice shelf, will come under protection on Dec. 1, 2017, and remain a reserve for 35 years. The agreement was reached in Hobart, Tasmania, at the Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources.

The reserve includes the Ross Sea shelf and slope, the Balleny Islands and the ocean around two seamounts, one known as the Scott seamount. Seamounts, or underwater mountains, are habitats and foraging areas for mammals, birds and fish, including Weddell seals, killer whales and emperor penguins.

This Bird Can Remain Airborne For 10 Months Straight

Scientists have long suspected that the common swift remains airborne for extraordinary amounts of time during its annual migration.

Now, a team of scientists in Sweden has proved that these birds fly for tremendously long periods of time. They affixed data loggers onto a total of 19 of the master fliers in 2013 and 2014, and recaptured the birds months or years later. Researchers found that the birds can spend almost their entire 10-month nonbreeding period on the wing.

The data loggers gathered information on acceleration and flight activity, and those installed in 2014 also included light trackers for geolocation.

The results were astonishing. For example, according to research published in Current Biology, one of the birds stopped for just four nights in February in 2014 — and the next year it stopped for only two hours. Other birds stopped for longer periods of time. But “even when swifts settle to roost,” the researchers say, “the amount of time not flying is very small.”

The birds are known to travel from Europe to sub-Saharan Africa — but they apparently don’t touch down there, as National Geographic reports. Researchers say they have never found roosting sites in sub-Saharan Africa.

The scientists say that the rarity of the stops during nonbreeding season suggests that the bird may only take a pause because of bad weather. The fact that some birds fly continuously during nonbreeding periods indicates that the species may not actually need to land for sleep. In fact, it’s unclear “when and to what extent swifts need to sleep,” the paper states.

“They feed in the air, they mate in the air, they get nest material in the air,” researcher Susanne Åkesson from Lund University in Sweden tells National Geographic. “They can land on nest boxes, branches, or houses, but they can’t really land on the ground.”

The birds’ shape contributes to this finding; their “wings are too long and their legs are too short to take off from a flat surface,” the magazine reports.

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Global Warming

Northward Migrating Terns

American researchers were startled this past summer to find a pair of Caspian terns nesting 1,000 miles farther north than the species had ever before been seen.

Typically not found north of Washington state, the birds successfully bred in Alaska’s Cape Krusenstern National Monument.

“[For these birds] to be 1,000 miles further north attests to how much the globe has warmed,” Stanford University biologist Terry Root told The Guardian.

Wildlife

Arctic Eviction

Migratory birds that have throughout the ages spent the summer in the Arctic may soon find their breeding grounds there too warm and unsuitable because of climate change.

The Arctic is now warming faster than most other places on the planet, especially areas that are home to the most visiting bird species — western Alaska and eastern Russia.

Scientists from the University of Queensland say that climate change in those areas is already causing the “shrubification” of the tundra and creating an environment that invites such predators as red foxes to move northward.

Researcher Hannah Wauchope predicts most Arctic shorebirds won’t be able to breed in the Arctic by 2070.

Wildlife

The bodies of these shorebirds are actually shrinking, and global warming is the cause

For red knot shorebirds that nest in the Arctic and fly across the globe every year, timing is everything — a matter of life and death.

They nest in the coldest place in the world, feeding bugs to chicks to nourish them for a marathon flight to the tropics when winter approaches. Historically, their departure to tropical beaches and their arrival back to the Arctic after the cold relents were perfectly timed, when plenty of food was available in both areas.

But a new study published Thursday in Science says global warming has changed that. Warming has caused Arctic snow to retreat earlier, causing insect populations that peak as the snow melts to rise and fall before chicks can eat as many as they need to grow and power the grueling flights to come.

As a result, red knots are physically shrinking. And because the smaller birds are weaker, they’re dying off and causing the population to shrink as well.

“Juvenile red knots that we caught along the Baltic Coast while on their way to West Africa were smaller and had shorter bills after warm Arctic summers,” said Jan van Gils, a researcher at the NIOZ Royal Netherlands Institute for Sea Research, who was the study’s lead author.

According to estimates calculated at the turn of the century, red knot numbers have fallen by nearly 60,000, and the threat of extinction is more than real as they continue to drop.

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Viral Carpageddon

Australian officials plan to release a carp-specific herpes virus into the country’s waterways in an attempt to wipe out their most troublesome invasive fish.

European carp have ravaged native fish populations since they were introduced by misguided early settlers in 1859.

Because the Cyprinid herpesvirus 3 hasn’t shown any adverse effects in carp-farming countries like China and Vietnam since it first appeared in the late 1990s, officials are confident it will pose no threat to the Australian environment. But they concede that a massive cleanup will be needed when untold millions of fish suddenly die and begin to rot.

The virus kills between 70 and 80 percent of exposed carp within a few weeks.

Global Warming

Heat Exodus

Parts of the Middle East and North Africa could become so hot later this century that it would prompt a mass migration of people fleeing the unbearable new climate, according to a new study.

Scientists say that the number of extremely hot days in the region has already doubled since 1970.

“In future, the climate in large parts of the Middle East and North Africa could change in such a manner that the very existence of its inhabitants is in jeopardy,” said Jos Lelieveld of the Max Planck Institute.

Recent research suggests that heat waves in the arid region will be 10 times more frequent than today, and that their duration will be much longer.

Wildlife

Airspace ‘Reserves’ Proposed to Protect Flying Wildlife

Human influence in the lowest levels of Earth’s atmosphere has become so pervasive during the past century that it is now a major hazard to flying wildlife, according to scientists from Argentina and Wales.

Writing in the journal Science, the researchers say that the growing numbers of skyscrapers, wind turbines, power lines, planes and even drones are adversely affecting the other creatures that share the atmosphere with us from the surface to an altitude of about 300 feet.

Sergio Lambertucci, from the University of Comahue, says that millions of airborne creatures are killed each year by collisions with ground-based structures as well as aircraft.

He suggests that areas of “pristine airspace” be created to allow for the safe migrations of birds. Lambertucci also proposes that impact studies take into account influences on flying wildlife.

An illustration of some of the interactions between manmade structures and flying animals.

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Wildlife

Wildebeest migration starts very early

Safari experts were astounded by the start of the wildebeest migration in the central areas of the Serengeti last week – three months ahead of schedule.

Usually the migration begins around June or July, but experts believe that unusually dry conditions in the south of the Serengeti has led to the migration starting much earlier than usual.

“It’s one of the earliest sightings on record,” Bradley Murray, general manager of Singita Faru Faru Lodge on the Grumeti River in Tanzania told The Telegraph.

“They started passing through the reserve unexpectedly on May 1 last year and we thought that was a big deal – but this is incredible.”

Murray said that he thought the first wildebeest spotted were just some strays which had broken away from the main herd, but he was astounded when tens of thousands of wildebeest started appearing.

“All you can see is wildebeest at the moment. It is always an awe-inspiring sight but especially as it is so early this year,” he said.

The wildebeest migration sees 1.5 million wildebeest and 200 000 zebras making the almost 2000-kilometre journey from the southern Serengeti to Kenya’s Maasai Mara Game Reserve.

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Wildlife

Thousands of Snow Geese Die in Migration Over Idaho

About 2,000 snow geese fell dead from the sky in southeastern Idaho from an outbreak of what officials say was probably avian cholera.

The Idaho Department of Fish and Game told reporters that the bacterial infection can cause convulsions and erratic flight among infected birds.

The geese were en route from their winter homes in the southwestern U.S. or Mexico to their summer breeding grounds in Alaska or Canada.

It’s unclear where they picked up the bacteria, which poses only a small risk to humans but can quickly spread through bird populations.

“The important thing is to quickly collect as many of the carcasses as possible, to prevent other birds from feeding on the infected birds,” said Steve Schmidt, a regional Idaho Fish and Game supervisor.

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Wildlife

Do Birds Migrate North-to-South or South-to-North?

Some might think it’s an issue akin to asking, “Which came first, the chicken or the egg?”

It was earlier thought that birds split their time between North America and the tropics of South America to avoid competition for food and mating partners while in warmer climates.

But new research points to the birds moving from the northern climates to avoid harsh winters.

Writing in the journal PNAS, lead author Ben Winger of the University of Chicago says his colleagues studied the evolutionary history and family trees of 823 types of American songbirds.

They found that most migrating species come from ancestors that originated in a temperate climate rather than in the tropics.

This indicates their migratory patterns began as a way to avoid winter’s chill.

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Wildlife

Zebras make ‘longest trek in Africa’

At a time when mankind’s encroachment on habitats is increasingly leading species to extinction, scientists have discovered a mass migration of animals in Africa that reaches farther than any other documented on the continent.

The journey made by about 2 000 zebra who travelled between Namibia and Botswana, two countries in a sparsely populated part of southern Africa, was discovered by wildlife experts only after some of the zebras were collared with tracking devices.

The newfound migration is a rare bright spot at a time when mass movements of wildlife are disappearing because of fencing, land occupation and other human pressures.

The previously unheralded trek occurs within the Kavango-Zambezi Transfrontier Conservation Area, which is the size of Sweden and encompasses national parks in Namibia, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Zambia and Angola.

The zebra odyssey encompasses a roundtrip journey of 500 kilometres, starting in floodplains near the Namibia-Botswana border at the beginning of the wet season. It follows a route across the Chobe River and ends at the seasonally full waterholes and nutritional grass of Nxai Pan National Park in Botswana. The zebras spend about 10 weeks there before heading back.

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Wildlife

Whales Moving Into Thawed Arctic Ocean

Microphones submerged in the waters of the Bering Strait recorded an increasing number of whale calls from 2009 to 2012, including some from whales that normally live further south. The whales may have expanded north as the Arctic warmed and the animals’ populations recovered from hunting.

The increase in whale numbers coincided with more ship traffic in the region. More shipping could lead to whales being injured or killed in collisions and interfere with whale communications.

Along with native Arctic whales including belugas and bowheads, the microphones recorded the songs of sub-Arctic whales, such as humpbacks, minkes, fins and orcas.

The microphones recorded humpbacks’ melodious songs into late autumn. And oceanographers observed fin and minke whales from July to September, and their vocalizations were recorded into early November.

The northern seas provide more hospitable habitat for southern species, as the far north warms quicker than the rest of the planet and sea ice retreats.

4 000 penguins threatened after diesel spill – South Africa

A fishing trawler that spilled 10 000 liters of diesel fuel after it collided with rocks near the Stony Point Penguin colony has placed the lives of 4 000 penguins in jeopardy.

The collision occurred 5km away from the colony and resulted in the death of one crew member.

CapeNature’s seabird and animal rescue team has been stationed near the accident epicentre to determine the extent of the diesel contamination on the wildlife.

Conservationists are trying to rescue as many penguins and seabirds as possible by creating a perimeter around the colony, in the hopes of isolating the birds away from the spill site.

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Drought

Drought – USA

California’s drought is the worst since 2007 – In the Drought Monitor map released on Nov. 21, one-third of the nation is in moderate or worse drought, with the worst of the drought in the west. Plagued for years with a lack of water, growers across California are now facing a new kind of drought – a labor shortage in the fields

Drought likely to persist or develop in the Southwest, Southeastern U. S. – Winter is likely to offer little relief to the drought-stricken U.S. Southwest, and drought is likely to develop across parts of the Southeast.

Drought in Tanzania

Hundreds of thousands of wildebeest that migrated to the Serengeti plains in Tanzania from Maasai Mara Game Reserve two months ago have returned.

The abnormal occurrence, ecologists say, has been necessitated by a drought that has affected many parts of Tanzania including the Serengeti National Park.

“The drought has forced them to return to Mara where there is enough pasture for them. The grass, which was depleted when they were in the reserve, regenerated after the short rains set in,” said Nick Murero, the Mara-Serengeti Ecosystem Co-ordinator for the Lake Victoria Basin.