Tag Archives: habitat

Det tabte paradis: Europas sidste naturskov Bialowieza ødelægges (Lost paradise)

Före (before):

bialowieza forest

Efter (after):

bialowieza.jpg

(Toke F. Nyborg 26 June 2017)

Intens træfældning i Bialowieza-skoven i Polen er ved at tilintetgøre Europas bedst bevarede og sidste stykke urskov

Under trækronernes beskyttende baldakin i Bialowieza-skoven i Polen finder man det bedst bevarede skov-økosystem og sidste stykke løvfældende urskov i hele Europa.

Skoven er udpeget som UNESCO verdensarv og Natura 2000 område.

Nu er intens afskovning ved at tilintetgøre Europas ‘Yellowstone’. Det beretter Jaroslaw Krogulec, leder af BirdLife Polens naturfaglige afdeling:

”Så langt øjet rækker har træfældning efterladt et spor af ødelæggelse. Bialowieza-skoven er et paradis for biodiversitet uden sidestykke på dette kontinent, som byder på et rigt dyre- og planteliv blandt andet Europas største bestand af bisoner”.

Intet undslipper skovarbejdernes motorsave
Godt en tredjedel af Bialowieza-skoven er under officiel beskyttelse som nationalpark, mens de resterende to tredjedele er underlagt skovforvaltning og i stigende grad dårlig forvaltning. I store områder er det kun stubbene efter 150 år gamle træer, som vidner om skovens majestætisk fortid.

Statsstøttet hærværk
BirdLife Polen gør hvad de kan, for at stoppe, hvad de kalder ”statsstøttet hærværk”:

”I løbet af de seneste uger vi (red. BirdLife Polen) sammen med andre miljøorganisationer holdt UNESCO underrettet om ødelæggelserne, og opfordrer indtrængende EU-Kommissionen til at skride ind overfor den polske regerings overtrædelse af habitatdirektiverne,” forklarer Jaroslaw Krogulec.

DOF til Polens premierminister
Sammen med andre BidLife-organisationer støtter DOF de polske organisationers kamp for bevarelse af Europas sidste urskov, og har blandt skrevet direkte til den polske premierminister, Beata Szydlo, med en kraftig opfordring til at stoppe den ødelæggende skovhugst og respektere EU’s naturbeskyttelsesdirektiver.

Læs DOF brev til Polens premierminister

Den store britiske avis The Guardian har også fokus på sagen

Read more about Bialowieza in The Guardian

War-torn Kabul becomes a protected site for migratory birds

(Anne Chaon 13 June 2017)

A rare Afghan marsh that was once a royal hunting ground is set to come under the official protection of the UN environment agency, with the aim of saving hundreds of migratory bird species.

On the long, arid journey to the Caucasus and Siberia, across the Hindu Kush massif, the Kol-e-Hashmat Khan wetlands outside Kabul provide sanctuary for the thousands of storks, egrets, pelicans and flamingos that head north every spring from southern India.

But after 40 years of conflict and neglect, their habitat is being threatened by the growth in new homes, irrigation systems, rubbish and global warming which is gradually changing the local environment.

Now the UN has designated the wetlands a conservation site, the Afghan government said on Sunday, as it also looks to help preserve the water supply of the capital.

“There are probably more than 300 or 400 species that pass through, though without an accurate count it is hard to be sure,” says Andrew Scanlon, head of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) in Afghanistan.

They are migratory birds and “tourists” who stay for a very short period of time to find food, he adds.

At daybreak, the marsh comes alive with the morning chatter of the birds hungry for breakfast.

Binoculars in hand, Scanlon stands atop a tower that dominates the landscape.

In the distance is the silhouette of Bala Hissar, an ancient fortress that defended the city for centuries. Opposite, mud houses and sturdier dwellings made from bricks seem to spring up at random, hurrily erected during wars for tides of refugees and displaced people.

It was once a favoured place for royals to go hunting, though Scanlon stresses any activity would have been carried out “in a sustainable way”.

But with the invasion of the Soviet army in 1979 and the succession of conflicts afterwards, including the civil war in the early 1990s, Afghans were preoccupied by their own survival and the environment suffered.

War saw the marshes more or less abandoned until 2005, Scanlon explains.

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Kan åkerriksas nedadgående kurve snu på ny?

Åkerrikse

(Oddvar Heggøy 31 may 2017)

To hekkesesonger på rad med et nedslående antall syngende åkerrikser i Norge kan i 2017 følges av en tredje. Forhåpentligvis går det ikke slik. En av våre aller sjeldneste hekkefugler har møtt mer motgang enn de fleste andre. Kanskje kan nettopp du bidra til å gi den litt etterlengtet hjelp?

Går vi 150 år tilbake i tid fantes trolig titusenvis av åkerrikser i Norge. I dag er arten er en av våre aller sjeldneste hekkefugler. Som en av seks fuglearter i Norge er den kategorisert som kritisk truet (CR) på den norske rødlista, og har dermed en svært stor risiko for å dø ut hos oss. Hvordan har den så kommet i denne situasjonen?

Industrijordbruk og åkerrikse går ikke hånd i hånd

Moderne intensivjordbruk og en solid hekkebestand av åkerrikse går dessverre ikke hånd i hånd. Den sky men høylytte fuglens forkjærlighet for åpne landskap med høyt gress ble også dens svøpe over store deler av Vest- og Nord-Europa på slutten av 1800- og starten av 1900-tallet, da slåmaskinen for alvor gjorde sitt inntog i det alminnelige jordbruket. Åkerriksa legger nemlig reiret sitt på bakken, og da helst i gress som er høyt nok til å gi den skjul i det åpne landskapet som den foretrekker i sine hekkeområder. I løpet av det siste århundret har dette stadig oftere vært snakk om intensivt drevet kulturmark. Dermed havner fort både egg og unger i slåmaskina. Fra å være en folkekjær lyd gjenkjent av de fleste, forsvant åkerriksas kreksing fullstendig fra det meste av vårt langstrakte land fram mot midten av 1900-tallet, da bestanden sannsynligvis nådde et historisk lavmål.

Tilførsel fra øst?

Helt siden 1995 har NOF fulgt utviklingen i den norske åkerriksebestanden gjennom årlige tellinger. Fra bunnivået på midten av 1990-tallet økte antallet syngende åkerrikser ganske markant fram mot slutten av tiåret og utover 2000-tallet. I flere hekkesesonger ble mellom 150 og 250 syngende individer påvist, fra rundt 50 individer i året på midten av 1990-tallet. Tilsvarende økninger i forekomstene ble påvist i flere av våre naboland, og skyldtes etter alt å dømme innvandring fra en økende østeuropeisk hekkebestand. Man regner denne økningen som et resultat av nedleggelsen av de store kollektivjordbrukene etter Sovjetunionens fall i 1992, og påfølgende brakklegging av dyrka mark eller omlegging mer ekstensiv drift. Dette var til stor fordel for åkerriksa. Man har hele tiden regnet med at den positive utviklingen i øst vil være av forbigående art, etter hvert som de brakklagte områdene gror til med busker og trær, eller dyrkes opp igjen for mer intensiv drift. De siste to årene har antallet syngende åkerrikser påvist i Norge vært temmelig lavt, med rundt 100 syngende individer påvist. Kan dette være starten på nok en nedgang for arten? Skulle det være tilfellet begynner det virkelig å haste om man skal bevare arten som norsk hekkefugl.

Hjelp NOF med å redde åkerriksa!

For å sikre åkerriksa en framtid i Norge er vi nødt til å reetablere en selvrekrutterende hekkebestand hos oss som i minst mulig grad er avhengig av innvandring utenfra for å opprettholdes. Derfor må vi forsøke å verne om artens hekkeområder.

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Spotted Owls Benefit from Forest Fire Mosaic

Spotted Owl from the study . Photo by S. Eyes.

(AOS 31 may 2017; Photo: Stephanie Eyes)

Fire is a crucial part of the forest ecosystem on which threatened Spotted Owls rely, but climate change and decades of fire suppression are changing the dynamics of these forests. A new study from The Condor: Ornithological Applications examines California Spotted Owl habitat use in Yosemite National Park and shows that while owls avoid the badly burned areas left behind by massive stand-replacing fires, they benefit from habitat that includes a mosaic of burned patches of different sizes and degrees of severity.

The National Park Service’s Stephanie Eyes (formerly of Humboldt State University) and her colleagues wanted to know how Spotted Owl foraging patterns are influenced by fire severity and fire-created edges, with the goal of informing future fuels reduction efforts and prescribed burning programs. They used radio-transmitters to track movements of 13 owls on eight territories in Yosemite National Park between 2010 and 2012 and found that overall, owls foraged near their roosts and along the edges of patches of burned forest, preferring these edge habitats. Owls selected larger burned patches than the average available size but avoided the interiors of severely burned patches.

“Maintaining a complex mosaic of forest patches with smaller patches of high severity fire can help sustain California Spotted Owls in the greater landscape,” says Eyes. “What’s unique about our study is that we investigated fires that burned within the natural range of variation, so it paints a picture of how owls used a burned landscape before the onset of today’s large stand-replacing fires.” Despite the owls’ preference for edges, there may be a threshold over which edges have a negative effect on habitat quality, and more research is needed to find the right balance between beneficial edge habitat and potentially harmful habitat fragmentation.

“This paper provides new radio telemetry data on how owls use home ranges that have had recent wildfires,” according to the University of Minnesota’s R.J. Gutiérrez, an expert on Spotted Owl habitat use. “Eyes and her colleagues provide a new piece of the puzzle about how owls respond, and they show that this response can be complex. More importantly, because their work occurred within a national park, it will serve as a ‘natural control’ that can be compared with other owl–fire studies occurring on managed forests.”

Land around powerlines could be boon to birds

(Michael Casey 21 May 2017)

Transmission lines may be eyesores for most people but for songbirds, the forest around them might just be critical habitat.

A team of researchers want to see if these birds are populating land cleared along the route of a powerline—as well as areas that have been recently logged—in New Hampshire and Maine.

In other parts of the country, the shrubby habitat of these younger forests have been found to offer much-needed protection for the birds from predators, as well as a steady diet of insects and fruit.

One of the researchers says these habitats are “incredibly important” for the songbirds in those parts of northern New England.

“Our goal is to get a better understanding for how these habitats function in our landscape,” said Matt Tarr, a wildlife specialist at the University of New Hampshire Cooperative Extension.

Tarr and his colleagues will catch the songbirds in mist nests starting later this month, band them and then track them over the next two years. They will be focused on 24 transmission line rights of way and 12 areas that been logged in southeastern New Hampshire and southern Maine.

Tarr said there are as many as 40 species of songbirds that nest in young forests and another group that nest in mature forests.

“However, there is growing evidence suggesting that after their birds finish their nesting and the young leave the nest, they leave mature forests and come into the young forest to complete their development.”

The nearly $250,000 study is being funded by the federal Natural Resources Conservation Service as well as the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation’s New England Forests and Rivers Fund. A contributor to the New England fund is the utility Eversource, which has proposed the Northern Pass energy transmission project that has sparked criticism from property owners, tourism officials and others.

Northern Pass entails building a 192-mile electricity transmission line from Pittsburg to Deerfield, New Hampshire, carrying enough Hydro-Quebec energy to southern New England markets to power about a 1.1 million homes.

Tarr said the study isn’t about finding an upside to transmission lines but rather trying to determine how birds use the forests that emerge after a project is built.

“It helps us understand how transmission lines function in providing that habitat on the landscape,” he said.

The information they get could be critical to policymakers as they work to create more young forests for birds as well as other species like cottontail rabbits in New England.

“Do they have positive effects or do they have negative effects?” he said. “We might find these rights of way aren’t used as we think they are for mature forest birds. That would be important for us to know.”

Wild geese in China are ‘prisoners’ in their own wetlands

(Physorg 22 May 2017)
In many places in the world, goose populations are booming as the birds have moved out of their wetland habitats to exploit an abundance of food on farmland. But, new evidence reported in Current Biology on May 22 confirms, that’s not working so well for migratory waterbirds that overwinter in China.
The findings help to explain why China’s waterbirds are in decline, researchers say.

“We can now show what we suspected all along, namely that geese do not sneak off the wetlands to feed on farmland at night, but rather remain within the wetlands close to where they feed and roost both by day and night,” says Lei Cao of the Chinese Academy of Sciences. “Whilst this saves them energy and the risk of death from the hunters and poachers they encounter on dry land, it does constrain them to the wetlands and the quality of the food that they can find there.”

The waterbirds that spend their winters in China’s Yangtze River wetlands travel a long way to get there, migrating from Russia, Mongolia, and other parts of China to avoid the icy northern winters.

“These birds have nowhere else to go; farther north everything is frozen, and to the south there are no vast river systems or freshwater wetlands,” Cao says.

Cao and her colleagues have been concerned about geese and other waterbirds in China since surveys they conducted in the early 2000s showed that the birds were in decline. In the new study, they wanted to learn more about where the birds spend their time.

The researchers attached GPS tracking devices to 67 wintering wild geese representing five different species at three important wetlands in China’s Yangtze River Floodplain and followed the animals throughout the winter.

The tracking data showed that 50 of the birds representing species known to be in decline never left degraded natural wetlands where they’ve spent their winters for generations. Another 17 individuals from two species that show more stable population trends used wetlands the vast majority of the time. However, they did occasionally venture into neighboring rice paddies.

“This is a vital piece of evidence to support our hypothesis that, because Chinese geese are clearly ‘prisoners’ of their wetland habitats, their recent declines relate to reductions in the quality and extent of these wintering habitats upon which they rely,” Cao says.

The results help to confirm earlier studies linking declines among Chinese wintering geese to habitat loss and a degraded food supply. But what keeps geese in China from taking advantage of neighboring rice paddies and other agricultural lands in the way geese do in other places?

Cao and colleagues speculate that it’s because of greater human activity in cereal and rice fields in China. Chinese farmers also raise domestic ducks and geese in the stubble fields, leaving little food behind for their wild counterparts. Wintering geese are also a popular target of hunters who use shotguns, nets, traps, and poison to kill thousands upon thousands of birds every year. As a result, they conclude, the geese are effectively imprisoned in increasingly degraded wetland habitats.

The researchers say they’ll continue to explore the unique threats faced by these birds in China. They’re also building international collaborations and partnerships throughout East Asia to study and identify trouble spots for the birds all along their long-distance migratory routes.

Ravaged by deforestation – but a new refuge brings hope for the Cherry-throated Tanager

cherry_throated_tanager.jpg

(Alice Reisfeld 17 May 2017; Photo: Ciro Albino)

Over 85% of Brazil’s Atlantic Forest has been felled over the last few hundred years – but life continues to cling to the fragments that remain. A newly-created reserve will ensure that one of these fragments, along with the six globally-threatened birds it harbours, will endure for the foreseeable future

Just five hundred years ago, the Atlantic Forest formed a thick green blanket across the east coast of Brazil. Then settlers arrived from Europe, sparking one of the most terrifying rates of deforestation the world has ever seen.

Today, plantations and quarries stand where 88% of the Atlantic Forest once proudly stood. All that remains of this vital ecosystem today are scattered patches of degraded, fragmented forest.

The decimation of the Atlantic Forest is an ongoing tragedy for biodiversity. Despite only being a fraction of its former glory, the Atlantic Forest is still home to a huge number of plants and animals – enough, in fact, to rival the more famous Amazon. Even in its current state, new species are being discovered all the time in the fragments that remain – or in the case of the Critically Endangered (CR) Cherry-throated Tanager Nemosia rourei, rediscovered.

This colourful tanager was known only from a single shot specimen in 1870 for many decades, before its dramatic rediscovery in the 1990s. However, the species remains staggeringly rare, with an estimated global population of less than 200 adult birds. It may be that there are further populations out there skulking in as-yet unexplored fragments, but for now all we can do is protect the habitats that host the populations we do know about.

And this week, there was a major advancement on this front – the establishment of a 1,688 hectare refuge protecting one of the last strongholds of this beleaguered species. The newly-created Águia Branca Private Reserve now represents the second largest private protected area in the Brazillian state of Espírito Santo.

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