Due to time constraints, his and the next newsletter will be a composite of blog posts. Firstly, the image above is from Cornel Lab’s brilliant interactive bird anatomy website.
Reactions to and new information on land use not available in 2013 when the Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment’s report Water quality in New Zealand: Land use change and nutrient pollution has just been released. Download a copy of the updated report.
The original report followed an investigation into the relationship between land use and two nutrient pollutants – nitrogen and phosphorus. The updates paint a less than optimistic picture:
Page 8 – “The biggest changes in land use between 2008 and 2012 have occurred in Waikato, Canterbury, Otago, and Southland… Nearly 70% of the increase in dairying land has taken place in the east of the South Island – in Canterbury, Otago, and Southland. That land planted in forest or left to revert to scrub has not increased in line with the predictions of the modelling is not good news for future water quality. Losses of both nitrogen and phosphorus are low from forested land. Unless there is a big increase in forestry in the next few years, the modelling is likely to have underpredicted nutrient loads on waterways in 2020 (emphasis mine).“
Recent research suggests that the commonly prescribed psychiatric drug, Prozac, occurs at environmentally relevant concentrations that can significantly alter behaviour and physiology in wild birds. And Prozac is not the only drug.
From The Guardian: “Many pharmaceuticals are only partially metabolised by the body into other compounds, some of which are still active. Although some of these metabolites remain in certain tissues, others are excreted and end up in wastewater treatment plants. Sewage treatment works cannot deactivate or remove all of these myriad compounds from water, nor from the sewage sludge that is used to fertilise farmed fields. Some of these pollutants are then taken up by invertebrates, which then are consumed by birds, bats and other wildlife. Thus, treated water and sewage sludge are typical vehicles whereby pharmaceutical contaminants enter the environment, where humans and wildlife encounter them … Fluoxetine (Prozac) is not the only pharmaceutical, nor is it the only antidepressant, that is present in the environment at detectable levels. Further, this gallimaufry of environmental pharmaceuticals and their active metabolites interact with each other in unknown ways, potentially creating a dangerous brew that is more potent than any individual contaminant due to additive or synergistic interactions. These interactions could lead to powerful or detrimental effects in wildlife – and indeed, in humans, too.
For these reasons, it is important that additional research be done to determine the identity and extent to which pharmaceuticals accumulate in the tissues of animals, how those animals fit into the food chain and how this bioaccumulation can impact behaviour and overall health in wildlife and people.”
This is certainly not the first time pharmaceuticals in wastewater have been directly linked to changed animal behaviours. Aberrant mating and nesting behaviour, birds abandoning chicks for no apparent reason, and a swathe of other issues have been documented for several decades (see for example Dumanoski et al‘s 1996 book, Our Stolen Future).
This beautifully presented first-ever global synthesis by the 119-nation BirdLife International Partnership (including Forest & Bird) draws on research from multiple disciplines and every continent to examine the impacts of climate change on bird species. Available as a 39 page 25Mb PDF from http://climatechange.birdlife.org, the infographics are as effective as the extraordinary images.
“Over time and across cultures, birds have sent us signals about the health of our environment. The canary in the coal mine offered that most precious resource, time – a small window in which humans could escape toxic gases. Miners no longer use song – birds as early warning systems, but birds are our closest connection to wildlife on the planet and they still tell us about the health of the places people and birds share. Never before has their message – climate change is here and a threat to the survival of birds and people – been as clear or as urgent.
This first-ever global synthesis by the 119-nation BirdLife International Partnership draws on research from multiple disciplines and every continent. The findings are consistent across both: climate change attacks the natural systems that birds and people rely upon. This synthesis emphasizes solutions to both buy us more time and to build natural resilience for generations of people to come.
This report highlights the cost efficiency, importance and practical benefits of nature-based solutions that can be implemented now, everywhere. While birds and other wildlife tell us compelling stories about the impacts of climate change, only people can act as nature’s negotiators. We can contribute to a set of solutions that humankind will need to employ if we are to avoid the worst impacts of climate change.
We decided to collect and share examples of such solutions now because we are at a critical juncture in the climate change conversation. The 21st Conference of the Parties COP for the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, to be held in Paris, shines a spotlight on how world leaders plan to help societies adapt to and limit future warming. Technologies to speed up the clean energy transition and policies to reduce carbon emissions will, of course, be critical parts of the response. But nature itself can contribute common sense, locally-appropriate solutions.
Right before this report went to press Paris was wounded by terrorists. For people like us, who strive to protect life in all its forms, the attack on human life is an atrocity that we condemn. The COP gathering, which aims to build a brighter and safer future for all, is a unique opportunity to emphasize our message: we cherish, nurture and protect life. Because this is our Nature.”
Patricia Zurita CEO
CEO National Audubon Society