Two years of working in southern Chile taught me just enough about the complexity of this particular issue (among the many complex issues in our practice)to appreciate the article below by Emma Marris, who we already knew to be provocative, enough that she could challenge Bill McKibben two minutes into her TED talk, and does so convincingly. The primary reason I appreciate this article, is the same reason this platform has showcased the best of this genre of writers over the years. Scientists, translated into regular language we non-scientists can understand:
Invasive species are sometimes trapped, poisoned, and shot in large numbers to save native species from extinction. Some scientists say the bloodshed isn’t worth it.
The desert of south-central Australia is crenellated with sandstone hills in shades of ivory, crimson, and apricot. The ground is littered with dead trees and tree limbs, big hunks of transparent mica, dried cow dung, and thousands of stone spearheads and blades made by the Aboriginal people who lived here for tens of thousands of years—and live here still. Around the few water holes are the doglike tracks of dingoes, wild canines that were brought to Australia thousands of years ago and are now the country’s top predators.
I have come to the Evelyn Downs ranch, on the famously remote highway between Adelaide and Alice Springs, to meet Arian Wallach, a conservationist who thinks there is too much killing in conservation. Wallach has come to this massive 888-square-mile ranch because it is one of the few places in Australia where people aren’t actively killing wild animals. Tough, outback Herefords share the landscape with kangaroos, wild horses, wild donkeys, camels, emus, cats, foxes, native rodents, dingoes, and very large antediluvian-looking reptiles called perenties. Of the animals on this list, dingoes, cats, foxes, horses, camels, and donkeys are all killed in large numbers throughout Australia—but not here. Wallach has convinced the owners to experiment with a more hands-off approach. Continue reading
Jane Tansell, one of the two handlers responsible for the rodent detection dogs, looks on from the background as a seal stares down the camera on South Georgia Island earlier this year.
Oliver Prince/Courtesy of South Georgia Heritage Trust
These three pairs of words in the post title, placed together in this order in a search engine, produce some interesting results from around the world. And today we find one more to add to the database. Thanks to National Public Radio (USA)’s Colin Dwyer for sharing this story:
The South Georgia pipit, seen posing for a glamour shot earlier this year, had been among the species hardest hit by the island’s invasive rodents.
Ingo Arndt/Courtesy of South Georgia Heritage Trust
There are no other birds quite like them in the world. The South Georgia pipit and pintail are so distinctive in the grand pantheon of ornithology, in fact, they draw their names from the one place they’ve made their home: South Georgia Island, sitting lonely in the forbidding South Atlantic not far from Antarctica.
Yet even in such a remote location, surrounded by penguins, fur seals and seemingly endless ocean, the birds have long been besieged by tiny alien invaders: rodents. Since the first European ships arrived in the late 18th century bearing rodents as stowaways, the voracious predators have devastated the South Georgia birds — which, with no trees to nest in, must make their vulnerable homes on the ground or in burrows.
Now, after more than two centuries, those invaders have been rebuffed. Continue reading
The four Colombian exchange delegates with Phil Karp and Jen Chapman, Blue Ventures’ Country Coordinator in Belize.
As in other fields of capacity building for development there is a growing recognition within the marine conservation community of the power of practitioner–practitioner exchange. Whether they take the form of ‘barefoot’ exchanges between fishers, or more formal exchanges involving Marina Protected Area (MPA) managers and policymakers, such exchanges are emerging as an extremely effective way of sharing, replicating, adapting and scaling up successful solutions to the challenges of marine protection and avoiding repetition of unsuccessful approaches. Practitioner exchanges are particularly effective for sharing ‘how to’ or tacit knowledge about solutions, as such tips and tricks tend not be fully recorded in written descriptions or case studies.
Practitioner exchange as a form of capacity building represents a departure from more traditional approaches such as technical assistance or deployment of expert advisors. In the latter case, external experts are relied on to share successful solutions with which they are familiar only through research, and may therefore lack a complete understanding of the full range of factors and potential pitfalls that could influence the successful implementation of an approach elsewhere.
Blue Ventures has been very active in practitioner exchanges for some time, focused on sharing its pioneering work on the use of periodic, short-term fishery closures as an effective solution to balancing species conservation and livelihoods. Continue reading
The short-tailed weasel, or stoat, decimated native bird populations after it was introduced to New Zealand. Altering the genes of invasive animals might save threatened species, scientists said, but could also have devastating consequences. Credit DeAgostini, via Getty Images
Two days ago we were intrigued by the notion; today, not so much. Is it a cat fight between two of the science writers most often linked to in these pages? Or perhaps it is an example of how scientific consensus is built:
In 2013, scientists discovered a new way to precisely edit genes — technology called Crispr that raised all sorts of enticing possibilities. Scientists wondered if it might be used to fix hereditary diseases, for example, or to develop new crops.
One of the more intriguing ideas came from Kevin M. Esvelt and his colleagues at Harvard University: Crispr, they suggested, could be used to save endangered wildlife from extinction by implanting a fertility-reducing gene in invasive animals — a so-called gene drive. Continue reading
Thanks to Ed Yong and his editors at The Atlantic for this story on one country’s approach to rats:
The nation wants to eradicate all invasive mammal predators by 2050. Gene-editing technology could help—or it could trigger an ecological disaster of global proportions.
The first thing that hit me about Zealandia was the noise.
I was a 15-minute drive from the center of Wellington, New Zealand’s capital city, but instead of the honks of horns or the bustle of passersby, all I could hear was birdsong. It came in every flavor—resonant coos, high-pitched cheeps, and alien notes that seemed to come from otherworldly instruments. Continue reading
Kyren Zimmerman and Tobias — a Labrador retriever who specializes in sniffing out the invasive Argentine ant — on Santa Cruz Island, in the Channel Islands National Park. Credit Gary Andrew/The Nature Conservancy
Ants are the masters of the planet we live on. There is no escaping that. But if these dogs can protect us from some of the more sinister ants, we have these trainers to thank:
Tobias is a Labrador retriever with one job: sniffing out invasive Argentine ants wherever they hide. He’s really good at it, and with his help, a fragile island ecosystem may be spared a repeat inundation with the pests.
Santa Cruz Island is 25 miles off the coast of Southern California, part of Channel Islands National Park. The island’s rich, rugged environment — which includes more than 1,000 kinds of plants and animals, including the bald eagle and the island fox — is threatened by Argentine ants, one of the world’s most successful and wily invasive species. Continue reading
Richard Coy inspects one of his hives near Burdette, Ark. Honey production at this location fell by almost half this year — which he attributes to the drifting of weedkiller dicamba to nearby flowering plants. Dan Charles/NPR
By coincidence two days in a row we have encountered important stories related to bees–yesterday’s more inspirational and this one more troubling:
There is one small field on Michael Sullivan’s farm, near the town of Burdette, Ark., that he wishes he could hide from public view.
The field is a disaster. There are soybeans in there, but you could easily overlook them. The field has been overrun by monsters: ferocious-looking plants called pigweeds, as tall as people and bursting with seeds that will come back to haunt any crops that Sullivan tries to grow here for years to come.
“I’m embarrassed to say that we farm that field,” Sullivan says. “We sprayed it numerous times, and it didn’t kill it.”
Pigweeds, which have become resistant to some well-known herbicides, infest a soybean field in northwestern Arkansas. Dan Charles/NPR
These weeds have become resistant to Sullivan’s favorite herbicides, including glyphosate, which goes by the trade name Roundup.
Yet the rest of Sullivan’s farm is beautiful. As farmers like to say, the fields are “clean.” There is not a weed to be seen. Continue reading
Lummi Nation fishermen work to capture Atlantic salmon that escaped an aquaculture pen near Cypress Island, in Washington State. Photograph by Brandon Sawaya / SOULCRAFT ALLSTARS
With big weather news recently holding our attention, it is easy to miss smaller scale natural disasters, so thanks to E. Tammy Kim for ensuring this story made it to our pages:
Just after the thrill of the total solar eclipse, a troubling nature story emerged from northwestern Washington State. On August 22nd, Cooke Aquaculture, a multibillion-dollar seafood company, reported that, three days earlier, extreme tides coinciding with the eclipse had torn apart its enormous salmon farm off Cypress Island, a teal idyll near the college town of Bellingham. Continue reading
People come up with different strategies to remove as many weeds as they can. One of those is to stand in line and push segments of weeds together. Maheder Haileselassie Tadese/Mongabay
This isn’t the first time the subject of water hyacinth has shown up on this site – it would be impossible to spend seven years in Kerala without coming into contact with the invasive weed.
Innovative solutions abound to harvest the fast growing plant for the labor intensive creation of consumer goods, or creative farming techniques, but in cases such as Ethiopia’s Lake Tana, communities unite to attempt manual eradication.
Last week thousands of people in northwest Ethiopia marched to Abay River and Lake Tana as part of the “Save Lake Tana” movement to remove invasive water hyacinth by hand. The free-floating, water-thirsty perennial can grow up to three feet tall and is swallowing the northeast shores of Lake Tana, impacting both aquatic habitat health and local fishermen.
Lake Tana is the source of the Blue Nile and the largest lake in Ethiopia. The lake is frequently used for transport, tourism, hydroelectric power generation, ecological conservation and fishery operations. It is home to 28 fish species, out of which 16 are endemic.
A team of university researchers discovered in 2012 that 20,000 hectares of the lake’s body was covered by invasive water hyacinth (Eichhornia Crassipes). Since then, it’s gone to a peak infestation of 40,000 hectares. At first, the hyacinth was mainly found in an area with three tributaries to Lake Tana. Continue reading
I’ve posted previously about the lionfish invasion that is threatening coral reef and other marine ecosystems throughout the Caribbean, Gulf of Mexico, and Southern Atlantic Seaboard of the United States.
Much has been made of the spectacular invasive success of the two species of Indo-Pacific lionfish that have established themselves throughout the Wider Caribbean. Not only are the invaders being found at population densities more than ten times those typical in their native range, but they also have been found to grow more rapidly, reaching sexual maturity more quickly, and growing to greater size than do their Indo-Pacific cousins.
Several studies have looked at the genetic make-up of invasive lionfish and have concluded that the populations found in the Gulf of Mexico, Caribbean, and Southeastern seaboard of the United States are all closely related, stemming back to fewer than ten females. Continue reading
Photograph by Balarama Heller
Thanks to José Ginarte, a digital photo editor at The New Yorker, for this unusual reminder of the python invasion in the Everglades:
Two and a half years ago, the photographer Balarama Heller began venturing into the Florida Everglades at night, shining his flashlight and pushing through underbrush, in the hope of photographing an invasive predator that has disrupted the local ecology: the Burmese python. Continue reading
Texas officials release reed-eating Arundo wasps into a thicket of the invasive weed Arundo donaxa, also called carrizo cane, in an effort to weaken or eradicate the plant.Photograph by Victor J. Blue/Bloomberg via Getty
With all the talk about building a wall along the US/Mexico border, it’s rather refreshing to read about this joint program between the U.S.D.A. and Customs and Border Protection to attempt to tear one down.
The problem is a fast growing invasive grass that sucks up water resources, crowds out native plants, and can grow as tall as a 2-story building, . The elegant solution of using stingless wasps whose larvae happily munch on the vigorous plant is elegant compared to options such as bulldozing or aerial spraying of herbicides.
Someone wandering along the banks of the Rio Grande, on the American side, in the summer of 2009 might have been startled by a small cardboard box plummeting to the ground. Neatly sealed with blue packing tape, its paper wrapping crisp and clean, the box would have felt light, even empty. But then, on further inspection, an observer would have noticed the platoon of tiny black insects exiting a slit on one end. Slightly larger than a gnat, the insects would have buzzed off, one by one, into the South Texas heat. Continue reading
Market-based approaches to controlling invasive lionfish populations were highlighted at a recent GEF event in Grenada.
La Paz Group contributor Phil Karp has long been our guide into marine ecosystems, with both citizen science and social entrepreneurship posts on his work with groups in Belize and other parts of the Caribbean focused on these goals.
This collaboration with Sarah Wyatt, a colleague from the Global Environment Facility, illustrates the on-going market-based approaches to managing the invasive species while creating new cottage industry opportunities.
Seeing a lionfish while diving in the Caribbean is a cause for mixed emotions. On the one hand, one marvels at the exquisite beauty of the fishes’ flowery fins and its amazing adaptability to a range of habitats, from shallow estuaries with low salinity to deep reef environments. But then you remember that these fish don’t belong in the Caribbean, and that the very versatility noted above makes them an invasive menace. Indeed, if the fish you are looking at is a female, she may be carrying up to 30,000 eggs, and may have thirty or more native fish or crustaceans in her stomach.
One of the many impacts of the Anthropocene era on global biodiversity is the increased spread of invasive species, like the lionfish, due to rapid globalization. With the United Nations Ocean Conference taking place in New York next week, the conservation and sustainable use of the oceans and marine resources is high on the international agenda. While long recognized as an environmental and biodiversity threat, invasive species also pose a threat to livelihoods, particularly in developing countries where incomes may be heavily dependent upon a single sector or product.
Traditionally, efforts to eradicate or control invasive species have been focused on public sector interventions. But control efforts are often expensive and are either out of reach, or pose severe strains on limited budgets of developing countries. Hence there has been growing attention to identification of market-based control approaches which create commercial incentives for removing the invaders, providing a financially sustainable means of control… Continue reading
Cool video from the Red Sea of a moray eel (Gymnothorax javanicus) preying on a lionfish (Pterois miles).
Morays are quick to chow down on lionfish carcasses in the Caribbean and will readily accept (or steal) lionfish off of a spear (although such feeding is a BAD idea as it causes them to associate divers with food).
Let’s hope they will begin to hunt lionfish o their own in the Caribbean as well.
Thanks to Anthropocene for providing a summary of recent science on a topic of concern in these pages from time to time in the last few years: