Bzzzkill for North American bumblebees.
You’ve probably heard about the plight of bees over the past few years and what this could mean for several food crops we enjoy. Sadly, there’s more bad news. According to a new study, several previously widespread bumblebee populations have been in rapid decline -- four of the eight most common bumblebee species have experienced a 96 percent drop in numbers. It seems that disease, pesticides and inbreeding are most likely behind the vanishing bumblebee.
So what’s the big deal? Bumblebees are responsible for a whole lot of pollinating power, and it’s believed that the disappearance of these North American bees signals a significant threat to the production of countless food sources. In the U.S. alone, busy bees pollinate up to 15% of our crops; around the world, bees are responsible for pollinating 90 percent of the world's commercial plants. How do you feel about a world without watermelon or strawberries? It’s likely some of your favorite foods are on the list of bumblebee-pollinated produce – including tomatoes, strawberries, peppers, cranberries, squash, watermelon and blueberries.
The good news is that there are things you can do to help prevent the loss of native bumblebee species. New EarthShare member charity, Xerces Society, has compiled detailed advice for helping out pollinators in their soon to be released guide, Attracting Native Pollinators: Protecting North America’s Bees and Butterflies. Find out how to help pollinators by creating nest sites and safe foraging areas in gardens, on farms and recreational land, even on urban ecoroofs! Can’t wait for the print guide? Check out their online Pollinator Conservation Resource Center to find information for your region, then download and share their bumblebee fact sheet.
I would swim 5,000 miles...if I were a leatherback.
For the first time, scientists have tracked the epic 10,000 mile round trip journey of leatherback turtles traveling across the Atlantic Ocean. The study took five years to complete and relied on advanced satellite tracking of 25 female turtles as they migrated from Central Africa to the food rich coasts of the south Atlantic. From the animals studied, three distinct routes were identified, including a 4,699 mile nearly perfect straight line across the South Atlantic. This is the first time the leatherback’s impressive migration routes have been studied and mapped in detail.
While scientists remain unsure of the population status of Atlantic leatherbacks, it is well known that Pacific populations are suffering due to over fishing, egg harvesting, plastics refuse and fishing net accidents. The newly mapped routes for the Atlantic turtles revealed areas at high risk from fisheries, so attention can now be focused on their safety during migrations and the conservation community can better work toward protecting leatherbacks at sea. Based on findings from this study, scientists have now pinpointed 11 nations to be included in new conservation strategies. The Eastern Pacific leatherback has also been the subject of extensive migratory research. Check out this recap from Conservation International to learn about their efforts to protect the critically endangered turtles and to study the Pacific leatherback’s own unique migration patterns.
Learn more about the legendary leatherback! Check out this quick fact sheet from The Nature Conservancy and World Wildlife Fund’s report, Leatherback Turtle – Underwater Giant on the Brink. And for your young turtle enthusiasts, be sure to download the Ocean Conservancy’s sea turtle coloring book, full of fun facts and detailed illustrations.
Top ten endangered ecosystems identified.
The Endangered Species Coalition, a network of hundreds of conservation and scientific groups, released a new report outlining the top 10 places to save that are at high risk from the effects of climate change. The bad news: these sites are home to some of our most critically threatened and endangered species, and are highly vulnerable to climate change. The good news: the report notes the high capacity of these areas to get back on track with the right conservation measures and action.
Some of the ecosystems highlighted include the Hawaiian Islands, the Greater Yellowstone ecosystem, the Arctic Sea Ice, and the Greater Everglades. According to the Endangered Species Coalition, climate change is no longer a distant threat in these areas. Case in point: the report stresses the importance of the whitebark pine tree in maintaining stability and balance in the greater Yellowstone region. As temperatures rise due to climate change, the mountain pine beetle is quickly taking over and leaving decimated whitebark forests behind. A recent study by the NRDC concluded that an alarming 82 percent of the whitebark pine forests in the Yellowstone region showed a medium to high mortality, leaving scientists to predict a grim five to seven year timeline for whitebark extinction.
Partnering with EarthShare member, Defenders of Wildlife, the Endangered Species Coalition also reported on the fragile state of America’s Greater Everglades. This region alone contains 67 species listed as threatened or endangered, including the iconic carnivore: the Florida panther. Climate change is projected to bring dramatic rises in sea level, stronger storms, beach erosion, and higher water temperatures to the Everglades.
To learn more about the Endangered Species Coalition and their work in compiling this report, visit ItsGettingHotOutThere.org. They also give you Ten Things You Can Do To Help Imperiled Wildlife Survive Climate Change tips!