Posts Tagged ‘China’

Make you Fink on Friday

China’s New Great Wall Threatens One Quarter of World’s Shorebirds

Human disregard for other species is disgusting.

The following by Richard Conniff.

Every spring, tens of thousands of plump, russet-breasted shorebirds drop down onto the wetlands of China’s Bohai Bay, ravenous after traveling 3,000 miles from Australia.

This Yellow Sea stopover point is crucial for the birds, called red knots, to rest and refuel for the second leg of their journey, which will take them another 2,000 miles up to the Arctic tundra.

Unfortunately for the red knots, the intertidal flats of Bohai Bay are rapidly disappearing, cut off from the ocean by new sea walls and filled in with silt and rock, to create buildable land for development.  In a society now relentlessly focused on short-term profit that seems like a wonderful bargain, and the collateral loss of vast areas of shorebird habitat merely an incidental detail. As a result, China’s seawall mileage has more than tripled over the past two decades, and now covers 60 percent of the mainland coastline. This “new Great Wall” is already longer than the celebrated Great Wall of China, according to an article published Thursday in Science, and it’s just getting bigger every year—with catastrophic consequences for wildlife and people.

Source: GarryRoberts.com Read more

Nature Ramble

Yet another species nearly extinct.

Man does it again!

Ancient sturgeon in China’s Yangtze ‘nearly extinct’

Chinese scientists released artificially-bred sturgeons into the Yangtze river in April

The Chinese sturgeon, thought to have existed for more than 140 million years, is now on the brink of extinction, according to local media.

Xinhua reported that no wild sturgeon reproduced naturally last year in the Yangtze river.

It was the first time since researchers began recording levels 32 years ago.

Chinese researches say the fall is due to rising levels of pollution in the Yangtze river and the construction of dozens of dams.

Researchers from the Chinese Academy of Fishery Sciences also found that no young sturgeons were found swimming along the Yangtze toward the sea during the period they usually do so.

A researcher told Xinhua that in the 1980s, at least several thousand sturgeon could be found in the river. It is estimated only around 100 fish remain.

“Without natural reproduction, the fish population cannot replenish itself. If there are no further steps taken to strengthen conservation, the wild sturgeon faces the danger of extinction,” he said.

Several sturgeon fish are housed in the Beijing aquarium

In recent decades the Chinese authorities have built numerous dams along the 6,300km-long Yangtze river to boost the country’s electricity supply. Such moves have drawn criticism of environmental degradation and displacement of villagers.

The WWF says that one of two species of dolphins native to the Yangtze river, the Baiji dolphin, went extinct in 2006 because of declining fish stocks.

The other species, the finless porpoise, is said to be at risk from illegal and intensive fishing practices and pollution. About 1,200 to 1,800 finless porpoises remain in the entire 1.8 million sq km Yangtze basin.

Source: BBCNews

Make you Fink on Friday

We often hear only part of the story. Sometimes because we want to, other times because the truth has never been told.

GM Salmon have made a big splash, But what about GM Grouper…

Never heard about it!

Why we should be worried about ‘Frankenfish’ in south-east Asia

Unlike GM salmon, hybrid grouper gets little attention but they potentially pose a greater threat to marine ecosystems

The market for grouper is huge – in Hong Kong alone, an estimated 3.6 million grouper are consumed each year. Photograph: ALEX OGLE/AFP/Getty Images

The fast-growing super salmon produced by American biotech company Aquabounty Technologies are poised to become the first genetically modified animals to hit food markets in the US, with approval from authorities widely expected later this year. But AquAdvantage® salmon has made headlines because of the potential risks to wild stocks in the Atlantic should they escape and breed.

Hybrid grouper, on the other hand, gets almost no media attention, yet they potentially pose a greater threat to marine ecosystems because they’re farmed at sea, not inland like salmon. Hybridisation through in-vitro fertilisation is big in south east Asia, where aquaculture businesses are interbreeding valuable grouper species in a bid to create a fast-growing super fish.

Live grouper and other reef predators are highly-prized food in Hong Kong, Mainland China, Taiwan and other parts of south-east Asia. They crowd tanks in seafood restaurants and are ubiquitous at Chinese wedding banquets and other formal occasions, where tradition demands they are served. Grouper can sell for well over US$100 (£59) a kilo, with very large or rare specimens selling for much more.

The market is huge. In Hong Kong alone, an estimated 3.6 million grouper are consumed each year. Demand has led to rampant overfishing across South East Asia’s Coral Triangle, a million square kilometre bioregion that’s home to more marine species than anywhere else on earth. Fishermen often use cyanide to stun grouper, destroying coral reefs in the process. According to a recent University of Hong Kong study, one in ten grouper species face extinction if current trends aren’t arrested.

In theory, advanced aquaculture techniques offer a way of fulfilling demand while reducing the pressure on wild populations. In reality, aquaculture has simply added a new market, with additional sealife being taken from the ocean to feed farmed fish in Malaysia, China and Taiwan.

Grouper are nurtured first in hatcheries from cultivated eggs and then in coastal cages or factories. Hybridisation aims to achieve the holy trinity of rapid growth rates, resilience and superior taste.

“Hybridisation of grouper isn’t new,” says Dr. Geoffrey Muldoon, a fisheries economist with the World Wildlife Fund (WWF). “As far back as 1996 the University of Malaysia produced a giant grouper/tiger grouper hybrid, dubbed the Sabah Grouper specifically for live reef fish food markets in Hong Kong,” he explains. The hybrid was popular with consumers and a boom followed. “Two decades on and the science of grouper hybridisation has exploded,” says Muldoon.

In the early days, scientists only experimented with cross breeding natural grouper species. But then researchers in Taiwan began breeding hybrids with naturals and then different hybrids with each other. According to Irwin Wong, a live fish trader in Sabah, at last count, there were at least 12 new hybrid grouper variants and research is continuing in what has become a race to create a super grouper. But what if they escape?

“The fact is, hybrids have already escaped,” says Wong. “If there’s a storm, fish often get free from coastal cages.”

His fear is that two hybrids will breed in the wild. “If that happened, the effects on the ecosystem could be severe.” Because captive hybrids are fed a mix of protein rich pellets and fish, they need to consume less than their wild counterparts to add weight, according to Muldoon. If they escaped and proliferated, there could be a dramatic knock on effect in terms of demand for prey species.

Grouper are hermaphrodites – or monandric protogynous hermaphrodites to give them their full title. Early in their growth cycle they are females, but in adulthood they can change into males. No one knows the precise trigger for this transformation, though size, age and environmental factors all play a part. Hybrid groupers in captivity are all female – but in the wild they could easily change sex, according to Wong. Which brings up the possibility of a sort of “X-Grouper” wreaking havoc with the food chain.

Source: The Guardian Read more

Opinion:

Once again man is meddling with nature, and we don’t have any idea what we are doing.

Nature Ramble

A very rare species seen.

Rare blackthroated blue robins spotted in China

A female blackthroat; the first ever sighted

Crucial new discoveries about one of the world’s least-known and rarest birds have been made by scientists.

The blackthroat, or blackthroated blue robin (Calliope obscura) is one of the world’s rarest “robins”, being known from only a handful of records since it was first described in the 1890s.

In 2011, experts resighted a small number of male blackthroats in China.

But now they have sighted a female and a breeding pair, learning more about the robin’s behaviour.

Details of the discovery are published in the Journal of Ornithology.

The species was first observed in 1886 in Gansu province, north west China.

In the late 19th and early 20th Centuries, about 10 individuals were collected at two locations in Shaanxi and Gansu provinces between May and August, during what was thought to the bird’s breeding season.

Since then, there have been very few records of the species, the bird being occasionally sighted in China and Thailand, with a few specimens appearing in markets that trade birds.

The blackthroat is listed as Vulnerable by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) and almost nothing was known about its behaviour or breeding.

In a bid to relocate the bird, a team of scientists based at the Institute of Zoology at the Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing, visited six national parks in central China, targeting habitats they thought it might frequent.

In 2011, they documented 14 males, recording the bird’s distinctive song.

Since then, they have managed to spot blackthroats, including a breeding female, on numerous occasions within three locations, as well as a nest with two chicks.

Many of the birds were found living in forests inundated with bamboo.

In total, 58 adult blackthroats have now been observed since the species was first discovered in 1886.

Male blackthroats can mimic other birds

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Nature Ramble

New bird family discovered in Asia

The spotted wren-babbler has a new title

A unique family of birds containing just one species has been discovered by researchers.

Scientists investigating families within the Passerida group of perching birds identified 10 separate branches in their tree of life.

The analysis also revealed that the spotted wren-babbler sat on its own branch and was not related to either wrens or wren-babblers.

Experts recommend the distinctive bird should now be referred to as Elachura.

The discovery is published in the Royal Society journal Biology Letters.

“This single species is the only living representative of one of the earliest off-shoots within the largest group of [perching birds], which comprises [around] 36% of the world’s 10,500 bird species,” said Prof Per Alstrom from the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, Uppsala, who undertook the study alongside researchers from the Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing.

Elachura formosa is a small perching bird – or passerine – that is found from the eastern Himalayas to southeast China.

Prof Alstrom describes it as “extremely secretive and difficult to observe, as it usually hides in very dense tangled undergrowth in the subtropical mountain forests.”

“However, during the breeding season, when the males sing their characteristic, high-pitched song, which doesn’t resemble any other continental Asian bird song, it can sometimes be seen sitting on a branch inside a bush.”

He suggests the bird had previously been overlooked because it looks “strikingly similar” to wrens and wren-babblers.

“This similarity is apparently either due to pure chance or to convergent evolution, which may result in similar appearances in unrelated species that live in similar environments – some wren-babblers can be neighbours to the Elachura,” Prof Alstrom explained.

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Nature Ramble

A little different this week. Looking at extinction. It has been going on for millions of years, Mother Nature herself has been doing it.

‘Animal Pompeii’ wiped out China’s ancient creatures

The fossils of a dinosaur (l) and two primitive birds (m,r) show the creatures locked in their death throes

The puzzle of how a 120-million-year-old animal graveyard in China formed may have been solved.

Scientists believe that the creatures from the lower Cretaceous era were instantly killed by volcanic eruptions similar to the violent blast that hit the Roman city of Pompeii.

Much like the residents of the city, the animals were entombed in ash and frozen in their death throes.

The study is published in the journal Nature Communications.

Lead researcher Baoyu Jiang, from Nanjing University in China, said: “Scientists have been curious for a long time in how these animals were killed and became exceptionally preserved.”

The blast of hot gas, dust and ash from volcanic eruptions would have killed the animals instantly

The fossil beds of Liaoning province in north-east China, which date to 120-130 million years ago, have long baffled scientists.

An eclectic array of animals – known as the Jehol Biota – have been unearthed there: they include the first-known feathered dinosaurs, early mammals, birds, fish and insects.

The site is so rich in fossils and well preserved that it has transformed palaeontologists’ understanding of this ancient era, shedding light on evolution and the diversity of life at this time.

Buried together, they are remarkably well preserved – and the apparent victims of major deadly events.

Now scientists say eruptions were responsible.

The conifer forests and lakes where these animals once lived were surrounded by volcanoes, and the researchers believe deadly blasts would have sent a surge of incredibly hot gas, ash and rock – known as pyroclastic flow – across the landscape.

The team says this would have been similar to the eruption of Mount Vesuvius in 79 AD, which wiped out Pompeii.

Like the people who lived in the city, the ancient animals would have been killed in an instant, and then buried under a dense layers of ash.

The creatures are captured mid-movement, with their limbs flexed and spines extended.

 

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Global threat to food supply

…as water wells dry up, warns top environment expert

Lester Brown says grain harvests are already shrinking as US, India and China come close to ‘peak water’

Iraq is among the countries in the Middle East facing severe water shortages. Photograph: Ali al-Saadi/AFP

Wells are drying up and underwater tables falling so fast in the Middle East and parts of India, China and the US that food supplies are seriously threatened, one of the world’s leading resource analysts has warned.

In a major new essay Lester Brown, head of the Earth Policy Institute in Washington, claims that 18 countries, together containing half the world’s people, are now overpumping their underground water tables to the point – known as “peak water” – where they are not replenishing and where harvests are getting smaller each year.

The situation is most serious in the Middle East. According to Brown: “Among the countries whose water supply has peaked and begun to decline are Saudi Arabia, Syria, Iraq and Yemen. By 2016 Saudi Arabia projects it will be importing some 15m tonnes of wheat, rice, corn and barley to feed its population of 30 million people. It is the first country to publicly project how aquifer depletion will shrink its grain harvest.

“The world is seeing the collision between population growth and water supply at the regional level. For the first time in history, grain production is dropping in a geographic region with nothing in sight to arrest the decline. Because of the failure of governments in the region to mesh population and water policies, each day now brings 10,000 more people to feed and less irrigation water with which to feed them.”

Brown warns that Syria’s grain production peaked in 2002 and since then has dropped 30%; Iraq has dropped its grain production 33% since 2004; and production in Iran dropped 10% between 2007 and 2012 as its irrigation wells started to go dry.

“Iran is already in deep trouble. It is feeling the effects of shrinking water supplies from overpumping. Yemen is fast becoming a hydrological basket case. Grain production has fallen there by half over the last 35 years. By 2015 irrigated fields will be a rarity and the country will be importing virtually all of its grain.”

Running LowThere is also concern about falling water tables in China, India and the US, the world’s three largest food-producing countries. “In India, 175 million people are being fed with grain produced by overpumping, in China 130 million. In the United States the irrigated area is shrinking in leading farm states with rapid population growth, such as California and Texas, as aquifers are depleted and irrigation water is diverted to cities.”

Falling water tables are already adversely affecting harvest prospects in China, which rivals the US as the world’s largest grain producer, says Brown. “The water table under the North China Plain, an area that produces more than half of the country’s wheat and a third of its maize is falling fast. Overpumping has largely depleted the shallow aquifer, forcing well drillers to turn to the region’s deep aquifer, which is not replenishable.”

The situation in India may be even worse, given that well drillers are now using modified oil-drilling technology to reach water half a mile or more deep. “The harvest has been expanding rapidly in recent years, but only because of massive overpumping from the water table. The margin between food consumption and survival is precarious in India, whose population is growing by 18 million per year and where irrigation depends almost entirely on underground water. Farmers have drilled some 21m irrigation wells and are pumping vast amounts of underground water, and water tables are declining at an accelerating rate in Punjab, Haryana, Rajasthan, Gujarat and Tamil Nadu.”

In the US, farmers are overpumping in the Western Great Plains, including in several leading grain-producing states such as Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas and Nebraska. Irrigated agriculture has thrived in these states, but the water is drawn from the Ogallala aquifer, a huge underground water body that stretches from Nebraska southwards to the Texas Panhandle. “It is, unfortunately, a fossil aquifer, one that does not recharge. Once it is depleted, the wells go dry and farmers either go back to dryland farming or abandon farming altogether, depending on local conditions,” says Brown.

“In Texas, located on the shallow end of the aquifer, the irrigated area peaked in 1975 and has dropped 37% since then. In Oklahoma irrigation peaked in 1982 and has dropped by 25%. In Kansas the peak did not come until 2009, but during the three years since then it has dropped precipitously, falling nearly 30%. Nebraska saw its irrigated area peak in 2007. Since then its grain harvest has shrunk by 15%.”

Brown warned that many other countries may be on the verge of declining harvests. “With less water for irrigation, Mexico may be on the verge of a downturn in its grain harvest. Pakistan may also have reached peak water. If so, peak grain may not be far behind.”

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Opinion:

Just another example of, ‘we’re in the poo!

Oh, and the same thing is happening here in Brazil…

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