Dbytes #454 (2 December 2020)

Info, news & views for anyone interested in biodiversity conservation and good environmental decision making


“Carbon dioxide remains in the atmosphere for centuries and in the ocean for even longer. The last time the Earth experienced a comparable concentration of CO2 was 3-5 million years ago, when the temperature was 2-3°C warmer and sea level was 10-20 meters higher than now. But there weren’t 7.7 billion inhabitants,” said WMO Secretary-General Professor Petteri Taalas. [see item 2]


In this issue of Dbytes

1. Coextinction of Pseudococcus markharveyi (Hemiptera: Pseudococcidae): a case study in the modern insect extinction crisis
2. Carbon dioxide levels continue at record levels, despite COVID-19 lockdown
3. 2020 hindsight
4. Native species under threat as new research finds platypus populations could disappear ‘without ever returning’
5. Conservation in heavily urbanized biodiverse regions requires urgent management action and attention to governanc
e
6. New study shows bushfires hit platypus numbers hard
7. International lawyers draft plan to criminalise ecosystem destruction

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1. Coextinction of Pseudococcus markharveyi (Hemiptera: Pseudococcidae): a case study in the modern insect extinction crisis

The majority of modern insect extinctions are likely unrecorded, despite increasing concern for this hyperdiverse group. This is because they are either yet to be discovered and described, their distributions and host associations are poorly known, or data are too sparse to detect declines in populations. Here, I outline the likely extinction of an Australian mealybug, Pseudococcus markharveyi Gullan 2013, which was discovered and described less than 15 years ago but was highlighted recently as one of five most threatened invertebrates in Australia from recent bushfires. The synergistic threats of dieback disease (Phytophthora cinnamomi Rands 1922) and inappropriate fire regime as a consequence of climate change have decimated host plant populations of the critically endangered Banksia montana (George 1996) Mast & Thiele 2007 and the montane habitat of both organisms, thereby leading to the coextinction of the mealybug. Its loss occurred despite attempts at conservation management and illustrates the general insect extinction crisis that Australia, and the world, is facing. The majority of Australian mealybugs are not receiving the same attention as P. markharveyi. Many poorly known species either remain undetected, without formal names, or data on their distribution, abundance and critical habitat are too scant to assess their conservation status. I also discuss the diversity of Australian mealybugs more generally and their need for conservation.

https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/aen.12506

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2. Carbon dioxide levels continue at record levels, despite COVID-19 lockdown

Geneva, 23 November 2020 (WMO) – The industrial slowdown due to the COVID-19 pandemic has not curbed record levels of greenhouse gases which are trapping heat in the atmosphere, increasing temperatures and driving more extreme weather, ice melt, sea-level rise and ocean acidification, according to the World Meteorological Organization (WMO).

The lockdown has cut emissions of many pollutants and greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide. But any impact on CO2 concentrations – the result of cumulative past and current emissions – is in fact no bigger than the normal year to year fluctuations in the carbon cycle and the high natural variability in carbon sinks like vegetation.

Carbon dioxide levels saw another growth spurt in 2019 and the annual global average breached the significant threshold of 410 parts per million, according to the WMO Greenhouse Gas Bulletin. The rise has continued in 2020. Since 1990, there has been a 45% increase in total radiative forcing – the warming effect on the climate – by long-lived greenhouse gases, with CO2 accounting for four fifths of this.

Carbon dioxide levels continue at record levels, despite COVID-19 lockdown | World Meteorological Organization (wmo.int)

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3. 2020 hindsight

Earth, fire and water; and a deep foreboding on opportunities lost
But think where things were only 20 years ago. Imagine what we might have achieved if we had been honestly thinking about the costs we (and our children) would be paying in a couple of decades.

https://sustainabilitybites.home.blog/

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4. Native species under threat as new research finds platypus populations could disappear ‘without ever returning’

Dams, land clearing and introduced predators are among the biggest threats. One of the lead authors of the study says platypuses may disappear from rivers “without ever returning”. The news comes as the Federal Government commits $18 million to koala conservation.

Native species under threat as new research finds platypus populations could disappear ‘without ever returning’ – ABC News

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5. Conservation in heavily urbanized biodiverse regions requires urgent management action and attention to governance

The study applies a Priority Threat Management decision framework to identify the management actions needed to recover 102 species in the Fraser River estuary (Vancouver and surrounds, Canada) – from orca and salmon to migratory birds, western toad and pink fawn lily. We estimate the cost of these actions, their benefit to species recovery and their feasibility. In doing so, we provide a costed prospectus for action to save these species.

“Our study reveals that it is not too late to save species from extinction in the Fraser River Estuary. But to do so, an investment of $381M over 25 years is required along with a co-governance structure to ensure successful implementation of priority management strategies. This is equivalent to 1 frosty beverage per person/ year in Vancouver.

“The plan includes the implementation of an environmental co-governance body that sees First Nation, federal and provincial governments working together with municipalities, NGOs and industry to implement these strategies. The research finds that co-governance underpins conservation success in urban areas, by increasing the feasibility of management strategies.”

“The good news, we can save all of these species, if we act now.  The bad news, many are expected to become functionally extinct in the next 25 years, if we continue ‘business as usual’.”

http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/csp2.310
And check out the short video on the work here https://vimeo.com/477338437

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6. New study shows bushfires hit platypus numbers hard

The first landscape-scale study of the impact of bushfires on platypuses estimates a 14 to 18% decline in populations of the iconic species in fire affected areas in the nine months following last summer’s devastating fires. The study by Cesar Australia for the Australian Conservation Foundation found the fires burnt a large area of the best remaining platypus habitat in south-eastern Australia, affecting 13.6% of the species’ total range. The analysis estimates that 2% of the total population of the species could have been killed as a result of the catastrophic bushfires of 2019/20.

New study shows bushfires hit platypus numbers hard – Australian Conservation Foundation (acf.org.au)

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7. International lawyers draft plan to criminalise ecosystem destruction

Plan to draw up legal definition of ‘ecocide’ attracts support from European countries and small island nation.

International lawyers draft plan to criminalise ecosystem destruction | International criminal justice | The Guardian

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About Dbytes

Dbytes is a weekly eNewsletter presenting news and views on biodiversity conservation and environmental decision science. From 2007-2018 Dbytes was supported by a variety of research networks and primarily the Centre of Excellence for Environmental Decisions (CEED). From 2019 Dbytes is being produced by David Salt (Ywords).

If you have any contributions to Dbytes (ie, opportunities and resources that you think might think be of value to other Dbyte readers) please send them to David.Salt@anu.edu.au. Please keep them short and provide a link for more info.

Anyone is welcome to receive Dbytes. If you would like to receive it, send me an email and I’ll add you to the list.

David


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