Friday 5th of June 2020

the butterfly in the coal mine?...


If you're old enough you may remember having to wipe the squished remains of moths, grasshoppers and other insects from your windscreen when driving through regional Australia.

Key points:
  • Scientists looked at 73 longitudinal studies of insect populations from around the world
  • On average, 41 per cent of known insect species in the studies were in population decline
  • Losses were reported across all insect groups, but some species were increasing in number

According to Francisco Sanchez-Bayo that's a great Australian tradition gone.

"When I started doing studies we had to stop every time we filled up petrol to clean the windscreen, because it was full of moths and crickets and insects of all kinds. And now there are none," he said.

It's anecdotal evidence, but it's backed up by the first global review of studies of insect decline across the world and the reasons for it, undertaken by Dr Sanchez-Bayo, an honorary associate at the University of Sydney and published recently in Biological Conservation.


"What we found is that 41 per cent on average of all insect species that we know are declining," said Dr Sanchez-Bayo.


"Among those, a third of all the species are going into extinction. They're in danger right now. The rate of extinction in insects is about eight times higher than the rate of extinction of vertebrates."

Dr Sanchez-Bayo and his colleague Kris Whyckhuys analysed all the long-term studies of insect populations they could find. The majority of the 73 studies were from Western Europe and the US, with only a handful of studies from other parts of the world and only one from Australia.

One study, in Germany, saw a 75 per cent decline in insect biomass over 27 years. Another study in Puerto Rico reported losses of between 78 and 98 per cent over 36 years.

The rates of decline are so dramatic — up to 2.5 per cent a year — that Dr Sanchez-Bayo claims that at current rates there may be no insects in those regions within 10 years.

Losses were reported across all insect groups, although some species were increasing in number, he said.

"The ones that are going extinct are the specialist species, which require very specific conditions to live on," Dr Sanchez-Bayo said.

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Picture at top by Gus Leonisky. This butterfly was either late or early in the year, but it was out of season, found yesterday (10/9/19) moribund in the garden. Despite the apparent cold in Sydney, the daily temperatures have been above average. The plants and the insects in Gus' garden are active more than ever. Trees that flower in November are starting to bloom. This could also be due to the lack of water though the mix of plant and weeds provide attractions to many insects, from bees to hoverflies. But this is not the same in the countryside. Lack of water, hotter weather and insecticides overusage (and this worldwide) reduce the number of insects. Will there be a collapse of the insect kingdom, leading to some birds, like swallows, having to switch diet?

We shall see...


running out of water...

Fighting bushfires is only going to get more difficult for country towns close to running out of water.

Key points:
  • With the water supply in many towns drying up, fire crews are relying on dry firefighting techniques
  • Fire retardants, barriers against organic materials and prevention methods are increasingly essential
  • A fire expert says climate change is creating a "nightmare scenario" for firefighters

Some of the worst drought-affected areas have been sacrificing the little water they have to fight blazes and are employing dry firefighting strategies because water sources are so scarce.

That has made fighting sometimes uncontrollable blazes these past few days extremely difficult and the precious water that remains has been sucked out to fight this fire.

"Nearly every dam is bone dry," said Queensland's Southern Downs Regional Council Mayor Tracy Dobie.


"There's no water in any creeks."

The towns of Stanthorpe and Warwick are in severe drought, with warnings the former could run out of water sooner than expected.


"There was three to four months water left in Stanthorpe's Storm King Dam (which supplies urban water) but I'm not concerned about using it, because the number one priority here has been to fight the fire," Cr Dobie said.

She said water may need to be trucked into Stanthorpe if dam levels are lowered significantly after the firefighting efforts.


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... הנעל על הרגל השנייה

clearing nature out of the way...

A highly secret government-commissioned review into skyrocketing rates of clearing of native vegetation for farming in New South Wales has been completed and is likely to add to simmering tensions between the Liberals and Nationals within cabinet.

The review, which was triggered when land clearing exceeded 20,000 hectares in less than a year, has been undertaken by the NSW Natural Resources Commission, an independent body, and is soon to be considered by cabinet.

It is investigating clearing rates since the new Biodiversity Conservation Act began in August 2017 and whether the Act is working to preserve biodiversity.

The NRC’s chief executive, Bryce Wilde, confirmed his agency had been asked by the premier to do the review on 14 January, just before the state election, and had handed the findings to the government six weeks ago.


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banning pesticides...

following some rural towns, Paris and four major cities banned the use of pesticides on their territory on 13 September. They want to hit the French government that denounces a "coup de com" (social media interference).

In the footsteps of the Mayor of Langouët (Ile-et-Vilaine), whose decree prohibiting the use of chemical pesticides within 150 meters of dwellings has been suspended by the courts, Paris, Lille, Nantes, Grenoble and Clermont-Ferrand have signed decrees prohibiting completely and immediately the use of these products in their commune.

"It is for us to engage a concerted approach to change the law and contribute to the safeguarding of the invaluable heritage of biodiversity in our territories and the health of our fellow citizens," wrote in a joint statement the officials who are all attached to the Socialist Party (PS) or to Europe Ecology - The Greens (EELV).

In the case of large cities and not rural communities designed for cultivation this action is largely symbolic. Since 2017, the law prohibits the use of chemical pesticides by communities to maintain green spaces and roads.

This ban was extended in January to individuals and home gardeners who can only use products of natural origin. All that remained was private green spaces not open to the public, such as condominiums and land managed by companies, including the SNCF, a major user of glyphosate to weed its rail tracks and their immediate surroundings.


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Translation by Jules Letambour


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not a bogong moth...


 I have been unable to trace the name of this moth... Anyone?