Saturday, April 23, 2016

This week in birds - #203

A roundup of the week's news of birds and the environment:

Pied-billed Grebe, one of the very common water birds of this area.

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Diplomats gathered in New York on Friday, Earth Day, to sign the climate accord that was reached in Paris last year. Whether the goals set by the accord will be achieved depends primarily upon the actions of the world's biggest polluters, namely China and the United States.

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One of the shortcomings of the climate accord that has been pointed out by some is a failure to adequately address the air pollution that is the single biggest cause of disease and death in the world today.

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Meanwhile, back in our real world, 2016 is already the hottest year on record through March. Each of the first three months passed the records for those months that had been set only a year ago.

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The oldest known living tree in the world is a bristlecone pine named Methusaleh by its protectors at the Inyo National Forest in Central California. The Forest Service will not publish the location of the tree or even show a picture of it for fear that it would be overwhelmed by visitors or be the victim of idiots who might harm it as has happened with other similar trees. The tree is estimated to be 4,847 years old.

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Although Methusaleh is not likely to become a tour destination, ecotourism does hold promise for protecting some areas. In Colombia, conservationists are hoping that increased ecotourism will encourage more protection of birding sites. Colombia has more bird species than any other country on Earth.

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Dan Tallman's Bird Blog stalks the wild ephemerals, early-blooming spring flowers in Minnesota, and he gives us pictures.

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A lack of genetic diversity is generally a recipe for disaster and possible extinction in a species, but scientists have discovered a species that contradicts that formula: the island fox, a small canine that has lived in isolation on the Channel Islands of California for thousands of years. Genetically, the foxes are nearly identical to each other and yet they seem to be thriving.

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Hunting is usually the preferred method for controlling populations of white-tailed deer, but some suburban communities are trying something different: birth control for Bambi

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The labor and environmentalist movements are sometimes thought to be inimical, but, in fact, they have common enemies and could band together against them, making a more potent force. 

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Wildfires, once largely confined to a single season, have become a continual threat in some places, burning earlier and later in the year, in the United States and abroad. They have ignited in the West during the winter and well into the fall, have arrived earlier than ever in Canada and have burned without interruption in Australia for almost 12 months. The cause of all this seems to be the warming climate.

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We are now witnessing the fastest growth rates ever recorded of CO2 measurements. This record-breaking growth is an expected consequence of the near record-breaking fossil fuel usage combined with the largest El NiƱo event in several decades.

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We heard last week about the disastrous bleaching of the Great Barrier Reef off Australia, but here is some good news about coral reefs. Scientists have discovered a new sponge and coral reef some 600 miles long at the mouth of the Amazon River.

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Why did many of the bird-like dinosaurs survive when most of their cousins became extinct? Scientist suggest that it may have been because they were able to eat seeds.

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There has been some very hopeful news on many fronts out of our neighbor to the east, Louisiana, recently. An Audubon report details efforts to rebuild the barrier islands which help to protect the coast from storms and provide bases for important ecosystems. For one thing, the islands are providing new nesting areas for seabirds. Good for you, Louisiana! 

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