Category Archives: Biodiversity and Species Preservation
From the coffee and birds file: Juan Medrano et al. at the University of California, Davis have published the genome of Coffea arabica.
- A stunning 30-minute video documenting the end of Linotyping at the New York Times in 1978.
- Gabrielle Emmanuel’s series, “Unlocking Dyslexia,” begins with its definition.
- A lovely 5-minute video visit by Amanda Rodewald and Nick Bayly to a coffee finca: what’s the connection between shade-grown coffee and our neotropical migrants?
Gustave Axelson reminds us of the shade coffee-and-birds connection. His visit to a farm owned by Veronica Sanchez and her family is particularly heartening.
Why?, I ask Sanchez. Why do all this, preserving and planting trees and messing with plastic bottle traps, and forgo the money in the here-and-now that her neighbor is getting?
“We use good practices and we have a peace of mind knowing we are producing something of organic quality,” if not certified organic, she said.
“If we apply poisons to the coffee, we also poison the animals from the land and sky, such as insects and birds, and in turn we pollute the water.” And that affects everything from her family to the people who drink her coffee, she said.
“Por eso son malas prácticas,” she said. These are malpractices.
Species preservation and coffee agriculture meet: Ed Yong explains the conservation prospects for the Red Siskin (Spinus cucullata).
Emily Graslie talks to Robb Telfer about his work to conserve Illinois’s only endemic flowering plant, Kankakee Mallow (Iliamna remota), to Langham Island in the Kankakee River.1
1 USDA PLANTS lists I. remota as a synonym for the more widely distributed Iliamna rivularis var. rivularis.
Duarte S. Viana et al. have published research on the importance of migratory birds as a long-distance seed dispersal mechanism.
By sampling birds caught while in migratory flight by GPS-tracked wild falcons, we show that migratory birds transport seeds over hundreds of kilometres and mediate dispersal from mainland to oceanic islands.
A mini-roundup of bird-related links:
- Alan Neuhauser reports estimates of avian mortality attributable to various energy sources. Although wind takes a toll, the big killer, on an absolute basis, is coal. It would be interesting to see this data on a per-kWh basis.
- GrrlScientist summarizes recent research that indicates certain bird species do better in areas under more intensive agriculture that leaves some patches undisturbed (so-called “land-sparing farming”) while others to better under “land-sharing” (e.g., intercropping in a shade-grown coffee plantation).
People of a certain age tend to look back elegiacally at the things that have gone: the store you used as a kid that closed, the room that became a memory. But those small, personal disappearances, however poignant, are not the same as losing biodiversity. Brands are not butterflies. Changes to city skylines are not the same as acres of beetle-blasted trees: Though they are caught up in stories about ourselves, trees are not ever just about us.
… one small, one large.
Since I’ve started serving with Friends of the Migratory Bird/Duck Stamp, I am more attentive to equivalent efforts at the state level. The state of Ohio promotes a Wildlife Legacy Stamp. I bought one when I was in the Toledo area for the Biggest Week in American Birding. For $15, you get a stamp, of course, but you also get package of collateral: stickers, a thank you card, and a very fine pin that you can attach to the back of your favorite birding cap. Funds are collected by the Department of Natural Resources and support
- habitat restoration, land purchases and conservation easements
- keeping common species common
- endangered & threatened native species
- educational products for students and wildlife enthusiasts
- wildlife and habitat research projects
“Keeping common species common:” I like that.
Last year, when I was working onsite, I got a message from my colleague Erin, who was prepping a move to the Pacific Northwest. She wrote something to the effect of “I have this book about birds that’s too big for me to pack; would you like it?” Figuring it was some inconsequential coffee table book but to be gracious about a gift, I replied, “sure, thanks.” It turns out that the volume in question was a copy of the National Audubon Society/Peterson and Peterson reprint of John James Audubon’s Birds of America. This book is gorgeous. It’s also huge: it weighs 18 pounds. It’s a good thing that my own coffee table has a top made of two inches of solid walnut. Thank you, Erin!
Many conservation-oriented links piling up on my virtual desk, unremarked—so this needs must be a roundup post.
- Sharman Apt Russell describes her experiences collecting phenology data for Nature’s Notebook.
- Caren Cooper summarizes the findings in her recent paper in the Journal of Wildlife Management: birders and hunters alike are more likely to engage in conservation-supporting actitivies. Cooper’s “conservation superstars” are birders who are also hunters: these people are even more likely to donate money for conservation and do other things to preserve our legacy.
- Jason Goldman sings the praises of shade-grown coffee from an unexpected part of the world: Ethiopia, the land where Coffea was first domesticated.
- And Goldman summarizes a paper by A.M.I. Roberts et al., working with 222 years of phenology data collected by Robert Marsham and his descendants from the family estate in Norfolk, UK. For certain tree species, “winter chilling” turns out to be a more important factor determining leaf out than the warmth of “spring forcing.”
I posted some notes on Perfecto, Vandemeer, and Wright, Nature’s Matrix: Linking Agriculture, Conservation, and Food Sovereignty (2009) to my Goodreads account.
Brandon Keim explores vacant lots and bits of waste ground in New York, and likes what he sees (even the non-natives), ruderal plants bursting with life.
… verdancy is not the result of careful management, but life’s inexorable course, present wherever we don’t suffocate it.
A recent paper by Jason M. Gleditsch and Tomás A. Carlo explores the impact on nesting success of Gray Catbirds (Dumetella carolinensis) breeding in Pennsylvania landscapes dominated by invasive Asian honeysuckles (Lonicera sp.). It turns out that they found little evidence to support the claim that honeysuckle represents an “ecological trap” of increased predation risk and poor nutritive value from fruits, contrary to the results of other researchers. Adult birds may have made more trips to the nest, bearing what some have called “junk food,” but body mass measurements of the nestlings, in this study, show that they grow up just fine.
Our results show that relationships between introduced fleshy-fruited plants and native birds are complex and not easily characterized as purely harmful or beneficial because they can include negative, neutral, or positive outcomes.
Sometimes, in the authors’ view, using an alien species is the best the birds can do, under the circumstances.
… the traditional and widespread categorical approach to invasive species management should be revised to prevent harming certain communities and ecosystems, especially areas in a process of self-recovery from heavy human disturbances.
Richard Conniff is tired of apologizing for protecting wildlife because it’s economically valuable:
Wildlife is and should be useless in the same way art, music, poetry and even sports are useless. They are useless in the sense that they do nothing more than raise our spirits, make us laugh or cry, frighten, disturb and delight us. They connect us not just to what’s weird, different, other, but to a world where we humans do not matter nearly as much as we like to think.
Rick Wright isn’t so sure that blame for the swarms of Sturnus vulgaris that plague the New World can be laid at the feet of a well-meaning 19th-century drug magnate:
Is there any documentation, from [Eugene] Schieffelin or his contemporaries, that the release of starlings in Central Park in 1890 was inspired by a line in Henry IV? I’d be happy to know about it.