Friday, October 16, 2020

Loose Feathers #771

Northern Harrier / Photo: Tom Koerner/USFWS

Birds and birding news

Science and nature blogging

Biodiversity and conservation

  • Climate change is turning Central Asian steppes into desert, and there was a similar change 34 million years ago.
  • The smalltail shark population has dropped by 90% since the 1980s, going from being one of the most common shark species in Brazil to being critically endangered. Their decline has been driven by overfishing, in which many young sharks end up as bycatch.
  • Governments are not protecting enough land and ocean to stop the biodiversity crisis. The Convention on Biological Diversity recommends protecting 17% of land area and 10% of the oceans.
  • A North Atlantic Right Whale, a critically endangered species, was tangled in fishing gear off the New Jersey coast. Abandoned fishing gear is one of the biggest contributors to plastic in the ocean.

Climate change and environmental politics

  • The Earth just had its hottest September on record, and 2020 has the potential to break or tie the record for hottest year set in 2016. This extraordinary heat comes in spite of La Niña, which usually produces cooler ocean temperatures around the tropics. In addition, Arctic sea ice reached its second-lowest extent this September.
  • Supreme Court nominee Amy Coney Barrett refused to answer questions on climate change (or even acknowledge that it is real) on the grounds that it is too controversial.
  • Despite bragging about cleaning up Superfund sites, the Trump administration has cut funding for the program and reversed climate change policies.
  • Sudden intensification of hurricanes shortly before landfall has been linked to ocean heat waves.
  • Some Republicans are realizing that they need to do something (or at least look like they are doing something) about climate change. It remains to be seen if this realization will lead to concrete action.
  • The Border Patrol tear gassed Native American protests on Indigenous Peoples Day as they protested militarization of the border, which divides the homelands of several tribes.