Tag Archives: threatened

Tiny songbird won’t be silenced

(Joann Adkins 14 July 2017)

On a quiet, 30-acre property near West Palm Beach, Fla., 19 Florida grasshopper sparrows are starting to sing.

These tiny songbirds bask in the breezes that flow through their custom enclosure. They know the nesting season is near. Named for their song, which resembles the sounds of grasshoppers, the sparrows are blissfully unaware that they are among the last of their kind. These birds share the property with a motley crew of endangered wildlife. There are the east African bongo antelopes, living far from the poachers and habitat destruction that have pushed their species to the brink of extinction. Golden lion tamarins can be seen across the way, part of a 40-year breeding program that has helped restore the species in the forests of Brazil. Large birds and tiny primates make up the rest of the residents of the property. They are part of a broad initiative in the Tropical Conservation Institute (TCI), a collaboration between FIU and the Rare Species Conservatory Foundation (RSCF).

The Florida grasshopper sparrows are the newest addition to the RSCF property. Less than 60 breeding pairs remain in the wild today, according to Karl Miller with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. Some say it could be fewer than 25. At about an ounce, the bird’s tiny size makes it difficult to find. Their cryptic coloring of brown feathers with flecks of gray works like camouflage. They’re also very elusive, so keeping tabs on them is difficult. Yet, scientists know it is one of the most imperiled birds on the planet. FIU conservationist Paul Reillo is more blunt.

“This bird is going to go extinct in the wild. There’s no question about that.”

Reillo is the director of TCI and founder of RSCF. For 35 years, the biologist has fought to save species through field-based conservation and, when necessary, captive-breeding programs. The team of researchers that make up TCI is working across the world to protect and restore populations of birds, land animals and marine species. The institute has received core funding support from the Batchelor Foundation to help sustain its programs. Nearly every species the researchers are working with are fighting for survival. Many are winning.

In the 1980s, populations of the red-browed Amazon parrot were falling to desperately low numbers. The species, with its distinctive green feathers and striking red crown, appeared to be headed for extinction, nothing more than a footnote in the history of the planet’s biodiversity. Reillo and the RSCF team gave captive breeding a try.

They started with 11 birds. Today, nearly 30 years later, the red-brow’s numbers have grown to nearly 100 in captivity, and are making a comeback in the wild. Reillo thinks the same could happen for the Florida grasshopper sparrow.

“It’s a species on life support,” he said. “We need to pull out all the stops this year. There is definitely optimism around here, but this bird is facing its end. It’s scary.”

The Florida grasshopper sparrow has been listed as an endangered species since 1986. It is not a migratory bird and historically was only known to nest in the dry prairie grasses of central and southern Florida. As much as 90 percent of the sparrow’s natural habitat has been developed, and today there is only one area left in the wild where the sparrows are known to reside—a swath of land not far from Walt Disney World. The sparrow population in that area has experienced a brutal decline in the past five years.

In 2015, seven young hatchlings, some abandoned and the rest from nests expected to fail, were put into the care of Reillo and his team—the first time the species was brought into captivity. Reillo was expecting a slow start, but the captive clutch shocked everyone when two birds mated and produced four hatchlings in the first year. The team had little time to celebrate because, soon after, heavy rains flooded the prairie. State and federal wildlife officials recovered as many eggs as they could and brought those to Reillo for incubation and rearing.

“This little bird is doing everything to stay on planet Earth, but the odds are against it,” Reillo said. “We have problems on every front. Financial. Disease. Habitat.”

When asked if the Florida grasshopper sparrow can elude extinction, Reillo doesn’t have an answer. But with so few left on the planet, he says captive breeding is the difference between this bird being here and not.

Sandra Sneckenberger, an endangered species recovery biologist with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, says the Florida grasshopper sparrow is a tough species to take on. Few were willing to be involved in a captive breeding program, she said, but federal officials knew Reillo and his team could give the sparrow a fighting chance.

The species presents unique challenges for scientists. The bird’s size makes it difficult to handle and nearly impossible to examine. No long-term captive-breeding program exists for similar sparrow species, so the team has no template to follow. Little is known about their immunity or to what diseases they are susceptible. Scientists often recover remains of animals to investigate cause of death and determine if populations suffer from parasitic diseases, bacterial infections or other illnesses. But just as their size and secretive nature make them difficult to locate while alive, it’s nearly impossible to find the bodies of Florida grasshopper sparrows when they die. Since first being placed into captivity, a few were discovered to be carriers of a disease from the wild population.

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Waterbirds threatened by invasive carp

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(Physorg 10 July 2017)

The presence of the carp, a freshwater invasive species spread worldwide, is alarmingly reducing the populations of diving ducks and waterbirds, according to a study published in the journal Biological Conservation by Alberto Maceda Veiga from the University of Barcelona and Raquel López and Andy J. Green from the Doñana Biological Station (EBD-CSIC).

This is the first study which clearly shows the ecological impact of the carp on water birds in Mediterranean shallow lakes, and it warns about the dramatic effect of this invasive species on other species such as the white-headed duck (Oxyura leucocephala) and the red-crested pochard (Aythya farina), classified as endangered species by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (UICN).

The carp (Cyprinius carpio) is considered one of the most threatening alien exotic species worldwide, according to the UICN. This species, from the European and Asian continents, is included in the Spanish Catalog of Exotic Invasive Species and can live in a wide range of habitats, even the most degraded ones. Quite valued in sport fishing and aquaculture, the carp causes well-known ecological impacts in several countries, but there is a lack of studies on the effects on some organisms such as water birds.

The authors have studied the natural reserves in the lakes of Medina (Cadiz) and Zoñar (Cordoba) in Andalusia. These shallow depths are quite emblematic in the south of the Iberian Peninsula and are areas where many water birds hibernate—one of the reasons why the Board of Andalusia tried to eradicate the carp.

According to first author Alberto Maceda Veiga, member of IRBio and expert in the Doñana Biological Station (EBD-CSIC), “Fishermen value the carp, and since it has been found around the peninsula for a while, some people think it is an indigenous species. Therefore, studies like this one are important, because they clearly show the ecological impact in our ecosystems to raise awareness among people regarding the ecological problems caused by the invasion of the carp.”

“The shallow lakes such as the ones in Medina and Zoñar are important lacustrine systems for the preservation of aquatic biodiversity in semi-arid regions such as the Mediterranean. Our scientific study concludes that there would be a severe impact on many water bird populations if all lakes were invaded by this exotic species,” says Maceda.

An exotic species that alters aquatic habitats

This exotic invasive species is likely to live in calm waters rich in natural nutrients or which are derived from polluted waters (for example, fertilisers from agriculture). However, the nutrition of the carp alters the natural dynamics of these lakes to such an extent that it can eradicate the carpet plants, traits of these lacustrine environments.

For the first time, the new study describes in detail the biological impacts on birds that use the water, including omnivorous species (such as diving ducks) and vegetarians (coots). Since the carp eradicates aquatic plants, it also ends with many invertebrates that use those as shelter and which are food for the birds. Also, the carp is a predator of marine invertebrates. The ecological impact is lower for species such as the mallard. On the other hand, piscivorous species are organisms that can benefit from the invasion of the carp.

“The carp excavates and breaks aquatic plants while eating. Also, the sand it has moved during this process ends up on the plants and kills them. Directly or indirectly, as a final result, the plant carpet disappears,” says Alberto Maceda.

“In this context, it is expected that short and soft winters such as the ones in the south of the peninsula and the effects that come from the climate change strengthen the ecological impact of the carp, which will be active during a longer time over the year.”

How to avoid the ecological impact of the carp?

The new article, published in the journal Biological Conservation, reviews a wide period of time that includes two invasion cycles of the carp in the lake of Medina—the widest in the province of Cadis and second in Andalusia, counting with all the present birds. Including a long temporary margin that includes two invasion cycles prevents the bias caused by yearly demographical changes or late responses from the community of unnoticed organisms.

“The carp is an ecological problem for our territory and its populations should be controlled. Manipulating environmental conditions which make it easier for the carp to spread is a possibility to reduce the grouping and dispersal of this invasive species. However, when the invasion is not localized, the most efficient protocol is to use fishnets or electrofishing. The population of carps should certainly be controlled using ethical protocols of animal welfare and of management of the corresponding biological waste,” conclude the authors.

Nytt åtgärdsprogram för att rädda en av landets mest hotade fågelarter

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(Erik Hansson 14 juni 2017)

Den vitryggiga hackspetten är en av landets mest hotade fågelarter med enbart ungefär 20 vilda individer. Nu gör Naturvårdsverket och Skogsstyrelsen en gemensam mångmiljonsatsning på ett nytt åtgärdsprogram som sträcker sig fram till år 2021.

Den vitryggiga hackspetten är beroende av livsmiljöer som det numera finns väldigt få av i Sverige – lövrika skogar med stor mängd död lövved. I åtgärdsprogrammet ingår det att återskapa sådana miljöer bland annat genom att hugga ner granar, göra naturvårdsbränningar, skapa död lövved och återställa vattenmiljöer.

– Det är framför allt storleken på områdena som är kritiskt för den vitryggiga hackspetten, berättade Kristoffer Stighäll, projektledare för Projekt vitryggig hackspett i en intervju med Natursidan i höstas. Nya studier visar att det nog inte ens räcker med en kvadratkilometer gammal lövskog utan att det snarare behövs två kvadratkilometer. Studier från Finland visar också att skogar som innehåller minst 75 procent gran är olämpliga för arten. Granen gör att det blir skuggigt, fuktigt och därmed inte så mycket vedinsekter i lövträden som vitryggig hackspett behöver.

De nya insatserna kommer att fokuseras till fem områden: Forsmark, Dalälven, Fagersta, Klarälven och Sydvästra Dalsland–Östra Värmland. I dessa områden ska förutom åtgärder i naturen även utplacering av uppfödda vitryggiga hackspettar ske.

– Förr fanns den i successioner efter skogsbränder eller i tidvis översvämmade skogar, miljöer som är nästan helt borta i Sverige. Idag finns de bästa miljöerna ofta i igenväxande före detta betes- och slåttermarker och i kantzonen mellan skogs- och jordbrukslandskap. Det finns ett stort restaureringsbehov av den typen av skogar, som ofta hyser många andra rödlistade arter, skriver Naturvårdsverket i sin rapport.

Förutom arbete med de fem fokusområdena ska rådgivning och dialog med skogsbruket ske inom ytterligare åtta områden. Dessa platser har också stora möjligheter att hysa häckande vitryggig hackspett på sikt.

– En förutsättning för åtgärdsprogrammet är också åtgärder av skogsbrukets aktörer, till exempel frivilliga avsättningar, naturvårdande skötsel och hänsyn vid skogsbruksåtgärder, avslutas rapportens sammanfattning.

Sammanlagt har åtgärdsprogrammet en budget på över 33 miljoner kronor fram till år 2021.

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Sandeels and seabirds: Protecting our seas in post-Brexit waters

kittiwakers.jpg(RSPB 14 June 2017; Photo: Andy Hay)

New research led by the RSPB shows that UK seabird populations could be affected by the amount of a critical fish species caught in the North Sea by an industrial fishery, highlighting the importance of continuing to work with other countries on fisheries management after leaving the European Union.

The study suggests a link between the amount of sandeels caught by fishermen and the breeding success of kittiwakes (a small species of gull, currently red-listed in the UK), with higher intensity fishing leading to lower numbers of chicks being produced.

In the North Sea, sandeels provide a vital food source for breeding seabirds but are also the target of an industrial fishery conducted mainly by Denmark. Tracking data of individual breeding kittiwakes by RSPB scientists indicates that the most productive sandeel fishing grounds, an area known as the Dogger Bank, overlap with foraging areas of kittiwakes from eastern English colonies, raising the prospect that the fishery could adversely affect the birds’ populations.

The Dogger Bank is the largest sandbank in the North Sea, straddling the waters of the UK (about 100 miles off the Yorkshire coast), Netherlands and Germany, and supporting a high density of sandeels.

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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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Showing only “doom and gloom” would cripple conservation action

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(Mercy Waithira and Jude Fuhnwi 2 June 2017; Photo: Rachid El Khalmichi)

Studies show that people can be overwhelmed by information depicting the magnitude of damage on wildlife and their habitats, causing the perception of an irreversible and helpless situation.

Prolonged and worsening habitat loss and the species extinction crisis are some of the main environmental headlines dominating conservation news today.

Vulture declines in Africa are a serious and growing issue that some experts believe, requires a positive mobilising approach to fully recover the populations on the continent. Despite the seemingly grim outlook for the vultures, BirdLife International and partners across Africa are taking the approach to show that the fight to protect vultures is not a lost battle and that there is hope to turn the situation around, if we work together.

“People are motivated to participate where they feel the outcomes are positive,” said Dr Niki Harré, Psychologist from the University of Auckland in New Zealand.

Dr Harré was speaking at the first-ever global Conservation Optimism Summit, which was held at the Dulwich College in London with support from the University of Oxford, the Interdisciplinary Centre for Conservation Science (ICCS), the Zoological Society of London and the Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust.

The summit brought together individuals from diverse professional backgrounds from across the world.  Scientists, psychologists, artists, journalists and students all linked with marine or terrestrial conservation in some way attended the event to celebrate success stories in conservation and inspire positivity.

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Framgång i rödspovsprojekt som ska rädda beståndet i Storbritannien (Project saving Black-tailed Godwit in Great Britain)

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(Erik Hansson 21 maj 2017; Foto Daniel Pettersson)

I Storbritannien har det för första gången nyligen kläckts 26 rödspovsägg i fångenskap. Målet är att hjälpa arten på traven för att den inte ska utrotas.

Den här delen av ”Projekt rödspov” innebär att ägg samlas in från bon i det vilda för att sedan under kontrollerade former kläckas i fångenskap där även ungarna föds upp och tränas till ett liv i frihet innan de släpps ut. På detta sätt överlever betydligt fler av ungarna än om äggen hade lämnats i bona. Dessutom leder ”äggstölden” till att rödspovarna oftast lägger en till kull i det vilda.

För första gången har nu 26 ungar kläckts i projektet och målet är att fler av dem ska klara sig i Storbritanniens två viktigaste häckningsplatser. Med tanke på att det finns färre än 60 par rödspovar kvar i Storbritannien och att arten listas som ”nära hotad” i världen anses det vara en viktig insats för att rödspovarna ska räddas.

– Artens framtid i Storbritannien och globalt är för närvarande väldigt osäker. Rödspoven häckar på marken så de är väldigt känsliga för översvämning och rovdjur, säger Hannah Ward på Storbritanniens fågelförening RSPB.

”Projekt rödspov” ska pågå i minst fem år och finansieras av EU LIFE Nature-programmet.

– Att ”snabbstarta” unga fåglar är ett stort ingrepp och det har redan visat sig vara en enorm hjälp för att rädda en annan art från att utrotas – skedsnäppan. Det ökar antalet unga fåglar som tar till vingarna och det ger oss också möjlighet att kunna märka fåglarna så att vi kan följa dem genom livet och samla in fakta om deras beteende, säger Rebecca Lee, chef för projektet hos Wildfowl & Wetlands Trust (WWT).

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