(Beyond Pesticides, July 31, 2014) Scientific researchers on opposite sides of the globe are coming to the same startling conclusion concerning very different species: what was once abundant is no longer and slipping away at drastic rates.
In the Pacific Northwest, a partnership of government scientists and environmental organizations have taken to the water to collect data on populations of certain species of marine birds. Unlike most research thatÂ focuses on threatened or endangered species, however, this census targets birds like marbled murrelets, common murres, and long-tailed ducks â€”thought to be commonplace and abundant.
Thoughts have changed. Population counts from 2014 show these â€ścommonâ€ť species are in decline, and in several cases, steep decline. For example, population counts for the common loon have decreased from 1978/1979 by 64 percent, scoters by 77 percent, long-tailed ducks by 94 percent and western grebes by a scary 99 percent. Other species in general decline include the marbled murrelet, common murre, and glaucous-winged gull.
On a different continent, the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) conducted a wide swath of international scientific research and advocacy efforts targeting environmental and species monitoring and conservation. And much like the Pacific Northwest, recent studies assessing different categories of invertebrates â€”animals without backbones like insects, spiders, crustaceans, snails, and wormsâ€” are showing steep declines.
â€śGlobally, long-term monitoring data on a sample of 452 invertebrate species indicate that there has been an overall decline in abundance of individuals since 1970,â€ť the scientists told The Independent. These findings echo other studies, based on numbers of individuals, thatÂ found invertebrates overall had declined by 45 percent since the 1970s.
â€śWe were shocked to find similar losses in invertebrates as with larger animals, as we previously thought invertebrates to be more resilient,â€ť said Ben Collen, PhDÂ of University College London, a co-author of the study published in Science.
Common Concerns and Causes
In both instances, concerns and questions over the ecosystem impacts and potential causes abound. While both reports emphasize a need to continue research to determine causes, scientists also note that the cause may not be any one activity or problem, but a global system shift and failure.
For example, in the Pacific Northwest, researchers suspect that reduced levels of herring â€”a main source of food for marine ecosystemsâ€” in the Puget Sound have caused the migration and population declines of many of the marine birds studied. Yet, much like the birds, causes for declines in herring populations are difficult to pinpoint and run the gamut from industrial fishing to toxic contamination of waters.
Evidence surrounding the individual species decline of honey bees would support the systems failure theory. Extensive research to determine the cause of Colony Collapse Disorder points not only to toxic contamination through a broad spectrum of pesticides and toxins, but also habitat destruction through development and industrial agriculture practices.
Although global systems failures impacting ecosystems big and small may seem insurmountable, there are many things that can be done to take steps toward a solution. Eating organic is one. Because organic standards require a systems approach that takes into consideration both health and ecosystem impacts, every time you buy and eat organic, you are supporting a move away from toxic and destructive industrial agricultural practices that improve environmental and habitat conditions everywhere. Supporting efforts to protect bees is another step. Visit our BEE Protective webpage to learn how you can write to your government representatives or establish a pesticide free zone. Every little bit counts and can help to curb the decline of species and ecosystems across the globe.
All unattributed positions and opinions in this piece are those of Beyond Pesticides.
Photo Source: U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service