Pesticide threat to biodiversity underestimated

Pesticides may kill off water insects and other small aquatic life by as much as 42%, according to an analysis of German, French and Australian rivers and streams published on Monday.

Dragonflies are particularly vulnerable to pesticides

Dragonflies are particularly vulnerable to pesticides

The study in US journal the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences is the first to compare regional biodiversity in polluted versus less polluted water, said scientists at the Helmholtz Association of German Research Centres.

Freshwater invertebrates and aquatic insects were 42% less common in strongly contaminated areas in Europe compared to less polluted areas; and in Australia, a difference of 27% was found across regions.

The analysis included measurements of insecticides and fungicides, which are used often in agriculture and are typically well studied and heavily regulated.

However, the researchers said little examination has been done to gauge their effect on the streams and rivers they end up in after it rains and the chemicals are washed off farmland and into watercourses.

“The current practice of risk assessment is like driving blind on the motorway,” said ecotoxicologist Matthias Liess, a study co-author.

Species that were particularly vulnerable to pesticides included dragonflies, stoneflies, mayflies and caddis flies.

The researchers warned that the threat pesticides pose to biodiversity has been underestimated, since experimental lab work and studies on artificial ecosystems often precede a pesticide’s market approval.

“The effects in Europe were detected at concentrations that current legislation considers environmentally protective,” said the study, calling for new approaches to better assess the ecological risks of pesticides.

A better practice would be to assess the ecological impact of chemicals by investigating real environments on a larger scale, the authors said.

The findings show that UN goals to slow down the decline in biodiversity by 2020 are “jeopardised,” it said.

Source: AFP

Climate Change is Real

Thanks to extensive research and noticeable changes in weather and storm prevalence, it’s getting harder to turn a blind eye to the reality of climate change. Since the Industrial Age spurred the increasing usage of fossil fuels for energy production, the weather has been warming slowly. In fact, since 1880, the temperature of the earth has increased by 1 degree Celsius.

climate_changeAlthough 72% of media outlets report on global warming with a skeptical air, the overwhelming majority of scientists believe that the extreme weather of the last decade is at least partially caused by global warming. Some examples of climate calamities caused partly by global warming include:

  • Hurricane Katrina
  • Drought in desert countries
  • Hurricane Sandy
  • Tornadoes in the Midwest

These storms, droughts, and floods are causing death and economic issues for people all over the world – many of whom cannot afford to rebuild their lives from the ground up after being wiped out by a tsunami or other disaster.

Evidence also indicates that the face of the Earth is changing because of warming trends. The ice caps of the Arctic are noticeably shrinking, the ice cap of Mt. Kilimanjaro alone has shrunk by 85% in the last hundred years, and the sea levels are rising at the rate of about 3 millimeters per year because of all the melting ice. Climate change is also affecting wildlife – for instance, Arctic polar bears are at risk of losing their environment; the Golden Toad has gone extinct; and the most adaptable species are evolving into new versions capable of withstanding warmer water.

Despite some naysayers with alternative theories about why global temperatures are rising – including the idea that the earth goes through natural temperature cycles every few millennia – the dramatic changes in the earth’s atmospheric makeup suggests humans are to blame. In fact, 97% of scientists agree humans are responsible for climate change. Since the Industrial Revolution, carbon dioxide levels increased 38% because of humans, methane levels have increased 148%, nitrous oxide is up 15% – and the list goes on and on, all because of human-instigated production, manufacturing, and organizations and individuals work hard to promote an Earth-friendly existence, resistance to change is rampant and actions are slow. For instance, while the US Environmental Protection Agency is still working on collecting data to support development of greenhouse gas reduction expectations for businesses, most of their efforts feel more like pre-research than actual change. Other countries have made efforts – such as signing to Kyoto Protocol to reduce their 1990 emission levels by 18% by 2020 – but the only solution will require the whole world band together.

Steps anyone can take to reduce global warming include:

  • Driving a car with good gas mileage, or investing in a hybrid or electric car
  • Switching from incandescent light bulbs to CFL or LED
  • Insulating your home and stocking it with energy efficient appliances
  • Recycling
  • Using green power available in your area

Check out the infographic here to see what else the changing climate is affecting http://www.learnstuff.com/climate-change/

Humans most likely to have caused extreme weather

Extreme weather events over the past decade have increased and were “very likely” caused by manmade global warming, a study in the journal Nature Climate Change said on Sunday.

The high amount of extremes is not normal

Scientists at Germany’s Potsdam Institute for Climate Research used physics, statistical analysis and computer simulations to link extreme rainfall and heat waves to global warming. The link between warming and storms was less clear.

“It is very likely that several of the unprecedented extremes of the past decade would not have occurred without anthropogenic global warming,” said the study.

The past decade was probably the warmest globally for at least a millennium. Last year was the eleventh hottest on record, the World Meteorological Organization said on Friday.

Extreme weather events were devastating in their impacts and affected nearly all regions of the globe.

They included severe floods and record hot summers in Europe; a record number of tropical storms and hurricanes in the Atlantic in 2005; the hottest Russian summer since 1500 in 2010 and the worst flooding in Pakistan’s history.

Last year alone, the United States suffered 14 weather events which caused losses of over $1 billion each. Continue reading

Africa’s water could rescue the continent from climate change

Posted by: Saving Water SA (Cape Town, South Africa) – partnered with Water Rhapsody conservation systems – 28 Nov 2011

The African continent is the most vulnerable to the effects of climate change due to its dependence on rain-fed agriculture but can harness the potential for hydropower, said Minister of Environmental Affairs Edna Molewa on Monday.

Africa currently uses only 10% of its hydropower potential

“The challenge for Africa is to decouple economic and social development from the burning of fossil fuels and deforestation to an extent which has no precedent in the developed world,” said Molewa, who is leading the SA’s negotiation team at COP17 in Durban.

Water shortages caused by climate change threaten agriculture and human health in Africa, she said. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change predicted yields from rain-fed agriculture to shrink by half by 2020.

“This will spell famine for many,” she said.

Water shortages have already affected the agriculture and livestock industries in Kenya, she said, and African nations that currently have water surpluses will shift to water scarcity before 2025.

But Africa’s water resources could also rescue the continent from the effects of climate change in the form of renewable energy, she said. The continent currently uses only 10% of its hydropower potential.

“A national, regional and international effort towards unlocking this potential is an example of how African societies could go from being amongst the most vulnerable to become climate resilient,” she said.

Molewa repeated the SA government’s support of the “polluter pays principle”, imploring developed nations to fund green projects in developing nations, since they are responsible for the majority of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. Africa contributes only 4% of global GHG emissions, but SA is responsible for almost half of that.

Molewa also highlighted the Africa Pavilion at COP17, which presents opportunities for green-development projects on the continent.

The effects of climate change on Africa are “unacceptable” and climate-change talks must “produce a credible, fair, equitable and balanced outcome” in the coming weeks.

Source: Business Live

More than half of SA ecosystems are threatened

Posted by: Saving Water SA (Cape Town, South Africa) – partnered with Water Rhapsody conservation systems – 21 Nov 2011

South Africa’s water resources and adjacent ecosystems are in a terrible state, with only 35% of the total length of the country’s mainstream rivers still in good condition.

The high levels of threat results particularly from intense land pressures.

The recently released Atlas of Freshwater Ecosystem Priority Areas reveals that 57% of river ecosystems and 65% of wetland ecosystems are threatened.

Mandy Driver, the SA National Biodiversity Institute’s manager of biodiversity policy, said the Biodiversity Assessment published seven years ago highlighted the poor state of many river ecosystems, with the majority of the country’s large rivers rated “critically endangered, endangered or vulnerable.

“We needed a strategic intervention to help sustain and conserve freshwater ecosystems, and the Atlas is the result.”

The team, who spent three years researching and compiling the Atlas, found tributaries overall were in a “far better state” than mainstream rivers.

“They also support the sustainability of hard-working rivers further downstream by diluting poor quality water and flushing pollutants. Only 35% of the length of mainstream rivers is in good condition, compared to 57% of tributaries. Continue reading