Biodiversity & Conservation

How much plastic have humans made?

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(Credit: UC Santa Barbara)

Humans have created more than 8 billion metric tons of plastic since the large-scale production of synthetic materials began in the early 1950s, a new study suggests.

The study provides the first global analysis of the production, use, and fate of all plastics ever made, including synthetic fibers. Read more »

Leaf beetles: Even a tiny dose of pesticide will impair reproduction

Dr. Thorben Müller is studying how pesticides affect leaf beetles. This research was supported by Bielefeld University’s Young Researchers’ Fund. Photo: Bielefeld University

The number of insects in Germany is declining rapidly – in the state of North Rhine-Westphalia alone, it has dropped by three-quarters within only 25 years. In a new study, biologists at Bielefeld University show the effects of pesticides and how even slight traces lead to long-term damage to beetles. One finding is that leaf beetles lay roughly 35 per cent fewer eggs after coming into contact with traces of a frequently used pesticide – a pyrethroid. The researchers also showed that female offspring develop malformations through the poison. Read more »

‘Omnipresent’ effects of human impact on England’s landscape revealed by University of Leicester geologists

Junkin’s Quarry, Nuneaton, representing an example of Worked Ground that was active from the 1840s to the 1980s.

‘Omnipresent’ signs demonstrating the effects of human impact on England’s landscape have been revealed by researchers from the University of Leicester.

Concrete structures forming a new, human-made rock type; ash particles in the landscape; and plastic debris are just a few of the new materials irreversibly changing England’s landscape and providing evidence of the effects of the Anthropocene, the research suggests. Read more »

Plastics leave permanent indestructible legacy

Stomach contents of an albatross chick photographed in the Pacific in 2009. Image: By Chris Jordan (via US Fish & Wildlife Service HQ)

By Tim Radford, Climate News Network
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Henderson Island: the remote paradise with the world's biggest plastic problem

In the middle of the South Pacific Ocean, far from the urban, developed world, there is a small, lush, green island with white sand beaches. However, this uninhabited, remote corner of the tropics—Henderson Island—also has a trash problem. Read more »

Aquaculture is main driver of mangrove losses

Mangroves provide coastal protection and habitat for several species. Shahnoor Habib Munmun | Wikimedia Commons

By Dyna Rochmyaningsih

Expanding aquaculture in South-East Asia over the last two decades has been the main driver of mangrove loss in the world, says a study published in PLOS One this month (June 2017).
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Neonicotinoid insecticides linked to wild bee decline across England

English oil seed rape field (© Heather Lowther / Centre for Ecology & Hydrology)

Exposure to neonicotinoid seed treated oilseed rape crops has been linked to long-term population decline of wild bee species across the English countryside, according to research published in Nature Communications. Read more »

Greater biodiversity in grasslands leads to higher levels of ecosystem services

A meadow in Thuringia: one of the 150 grasslands where research was carried out. (credit: WWU/Klaus Vakentin)

The more it swarms, crawls and flies the better for humans, who benefit from the varied services provided for free by nature. This is the finding of a study by more than 60 researchers from a number of universities, including the Institute of Plant Sciences at the University of Bern, Switzerland, and the Senckenberg Biodiversity and Climate Research Centre, in Germany. Read more »

‘Ecosystem canaries’ provide early warning signs of catastrophic changes to ecosystems

Study co-author Enlou Zhang collecting a sediment core in Lake Erhai for analysis of midges

New research, led by the University of Southampton, demonstrates that ‘ecosystem canaries’ can provide early warning signals of large, potentially catastrophic, changes or tipping points in ecosystems.

Like canaries that coal miners used to check for poisonous gasses deep underground, ‘ecosystem canaries’ are species that are often the first to disappear from a stressed ecosystem. Their vanishing can be linked to changes in the functioning of ecosystems, which can serve as a warning that a tipping point is approaching. Read more »

Unexpected Complexity in Coral

Underwater photo of the coral Acropora tenuis

Coral reefs are delicate ecosystems, which are endangered by climate change and human activities. The restoration of these underwater environments is typically carried out by transplanting corals from healthy reefs to compromised ones. This practice can be problematic, as it overlooks the local characteristics of each reef, and may reduce genetic diversity. Read more »

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