Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type bool in /var/www/wp-content/plugins/convertplug/convertplug.php on line 220

Deprecated: Function get_magic_quotes_gpc() is deprecated in /var/www/wp-content/plugins/convertplug/convertplug.php on line 1470

Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type bool in /var/www/wp-content/themes/Divi/includes/builder/functions.php on line 2421
Our Daily Planet: Celebrating Earth Day With Biodiverstity
View this email in your browser
By: Monica Medina and Miro Korenha

Sign Up for Our Daily Planet 
Friday, April 20th, 2018

Forward ODP to a friend!
To celebrate Earth Day, we are bringing you a series of special articles that we hope will be timely, informative and inspirational.  Today's edition is dedicated to issues related to biodiversity.


"We should preserve every scrap of biodiversity as priceless while we learn to use it and come to understand what it means to humanity."
E. O. Wilson

Into the Okavango:  Making the Case for Conserving Biodiversity

This weekend, at the Tribeca Film Festival, a new documentary on saving biodiversity will have its world premiereEntitled "Into the Okavango," the film follows National Geographic Explorer Steve Boyes and a team of scientists from the region on a stunning expedition down the Okavango River to discover why the river — which is Africa's wildlife lifeline — is drying up.

The Okavango River Basin is one of the last remaining truly wild places on the planet. It is the largest freshwater wetland in southern Africa, and one of the largest in the world that is still intact. Its river delta, located in northern Botswana, is one of Africa’s richest places for biodiversity, and home to the world’s largest remaining elephant population as well as lions, cheetahs, wild dogs, and hundreds of species of birds.

But the delta’s future is in jeopardy because its vitality is linked to that of rivers that originate in war-torn Angola, and then converge and flow through Namibia into Botswana. These rivers are vital to the region’s future but are only protected in Botswana.  The National Geographic Society is supporting the team in using science and exploration to build connections among governments, non-governmental organizations, and local communities to help establish sustainable management of the Okavango watershed’s source rivers so as to protect them and all the wildlife they contain forever.

Why This Matters:  Saving biodiverse wildlife is absolutely dependent upon conservation of appropriate habitat, but that habitat is shrinking fast.  According to the most authoritative scientist on this subject, E.O. Wilson, the rate of extinction today is at least 1,000 higher than at any time in Earth’s history.  We know that elephants, rhinos, tigers, and many other species are on the brink of extinction.  And new species slide closer to extinction all the time -- most recently giraffesIf we do not take action now, irreplaceable species, habitat and entire ecosystems will be lost forever.  We hope this new film shines a bright light on this urgent problem and galvanizes global support to conserve the Okavango and similar biodiversity hotspots before it's too late.
Trailer for the new National Geographic documentary "Into the Okavango."


Black-footed ferret Photo: Kimberly Fraser/USFWS
Bipartisan Call to Protect America's Endangered Species

A coalition of conservation groups and scientists have joined forces to raise awareness on Capitol Hill about the dire status of many of America's wildlife species. 

From the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel's coverage: The National Wildlife Federation, The Wildlife Society and the American Fisheries Society recently banned in a push of support for the Recovering America’s Wildlife Act. The bill, H.R. 4647, was introduced last December by Rep. Jeff Fortenberry (R-NE) and Rep. Debbie Dingell (D-MI) and would provide $1.3 billion annually to state wildlife plans, with a focus on non-game species. The funding would come from the $7-12.3 billion in annual royalties the federal government takes in from mineral and oil and gas development and would provide a significant boost to state wildlife action plans that are critically low on financial support.

Supporters hail the bill as having a shot at success because it doesn't create a new tax and it has bipartisan support. As of April 11, the bill had 45 co-sponsors, including 27 Democrats and 18 Republicans.

Why This Matters: The sobering status of America’s wildlife includes: one-third of America’s wildlife species are at increased risk of extinction; more than 150 U.S. species already have gone extinct; nearly 500 additional species have not been seen in recent decades and are regarded as possibly extinct; pollinator populations are dwindling, including a 90% decline over the last two decades of monarch butterfly populations in the eastern U.S.; 30% of bat species have seen significant declines over the past two decades; and amphibians are disappearing from their known habitats at an annual rate of 4%. It's going to take a bipartisan effort to make sure we don't lose America's iconic and incredibly important species. 

Go Deeper: A provision in the 2018 farm bill that passed out of the House Agriculture Committee this week would allow the EPA to approve the use of pesticides without reviewing the Endangered Species Act and the animals that might be harmed. Committee chairman Mike Conway (R-TX) said this was a means to streamline processes for farmers. Yet if the bill passes with provision intact, it would be a big victory for ag trade groups that have lobbied hard for the provision to be included in the language of the farm bill--like Michigan-based Dow Chemical Co. that has long petitioned for less-stringent pesticide regulations. 



Earth Day 2018: Conservation Leaders Speak Up

Today, we are honored to bring you our interview with the "father of biodiversity," Edward O. Wilson.  E.O. Wilson is a Professor Emeritus and Honorary Curator in Entomology at Harvard University, where he taught from 1956-96.  He then founded the E.O. Wilson Biodiversity Foundation, where he continues his work. He has won two Pulitzer Prizes in non-fiction for his1978 book On Human Nature, which dealt with the role of biology in the evolution of human culture, and for his 1990 book  The Ants, co-written with Bert Hölldobler.  His most recent book is Half-Earth: Our Planet's Fight for Life, published in 2016.   
ODP:   You have warned that threats to the natural world are multiplying and species are going extinct at an alarming rate. You also have a very specific idea of what we can do about it. What do you propose?

EOW: The most important cause of extinction is habitat destruction. The only solution is to preserve a larger area of habitat. If half the land and half the sea are kept for nature, an estimated 85 percent of the species will survive. This can be done; it is not too late.
ODP:  You have studied the role of biology in the evolution of human culture. When you began your career could you imagine that humans would be so destructive of the natural world? Will biology cause our culture of consumption to change?

EOW: Humanity lived with a wholly different worldview. Even as a graduate student at Harvard, in the 1950s, I thought of Earth’s tropical forests as endless. Now they are more accurately seen as shrinking islands.
ODP: How serious is the threat of the loss of biodiversity when compared to other threats that people greatly fear -- like terrorism and global pandemics?

EOW: Terrorism and pandemics are short-termed and fixable. The loss of biodiversity is irreversible and cannot be fixed.
ODP: President Trump does not believe we need a strong law protecting endangered species - he wants to weaken it. If you could walk into the Oval Office and tell him one thing, what would it be?

EOW: The simple horrific facts, which can be cited in less than five minutes.
ODP:  What’s the most important thing individuals can do to fight the loss of biodiversity? Are you optimistic that we can turn things around?

EOW: Support the mapping of biodiversity. Join others in demanding strong environmental laws, for the sake of all future generations.
ODP:  You have won two Pulitzer Prizes -- what is that like? And what are you writing about now?

EOW: Nice. No, it was thrilling. Current project: Genesis, a book on the biological origins of societies throughout the history of life.

To Go Deeper Into Half-Earth:  PBS did a great interview with Professor Wilson, and you can watch it below.

What You Can Do: Take the Half-Earth Pledge and then live by it!  And read his Half-Earth book!
PBS News Hour Interview with Ed Wilson on his book Half Earth.


Photo: Arc Centre of Excellence via CNN
Great Barrier Reef Roasted

The Great Barrier Reef of Australia has historically been seen as one of the most vibrant and biodiverse coral reef ecosystems in the world.  But in the last three years, due to warming ocean temperatures, more than two-thirds of the reef is suffering shocking levels of coral bleaching, according to a new study released this week.  The scientists concluded that back-to-back bleaching events in 2016 and 2017 have devastated a 1,500 km (900 miles) stretch of the UNESCO World Heritage Site.  

Why This Matters:  The Great Barrier Reef is an irreplaceable biodiversity hotspot.  It is home to the world's largest collection of coral reefs, with around 400 types of coral and 1,500 species of fish. It also provides critical habitat for a number of endangered species, including the large green turtle and the dugong.  But it is significant for another reason -- it is worth an estimated $3.7 billion annually to the Australian economy through fishing and tourism.  Unfortunately, scientists now say that due to ocean warming caused by climate change, the Great Barrier Reef has likely been altered forever.


Photo: Vince Cavalieri/USFWS
Endangered Species Act Success Story 

As Mother Nature Network reported: The United States has watched some iconic native birds disappear during the past 100 years or so, including the passenger pigeon, the Carolina parakeet, the heath hen, the dusky seaside sparrow and possibly the ivory-billed woodpecker. The Kirtland's warbler almost joined them, driven to the brink of extinction last century by habitat loss and nest parasites. Its decline was so dramatic that it became one of the original species listed under the U.S. Endangered Species Act (ESA) in 1967. But now, thanks to that protection and decades of work by conservationists, this tiny warbler is no longer in crisis. It's still on the endangered species list, but the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) has formally proposed "delisting" the species due to its recovery.

The Kirtland's warbler is a 6-inch bird with a very specific habitat which results in one of the smallest breeding ranges of any North American migratory songbird. It nests only on the ground during spring, near low-hanging branches in large stands of young jack pine trees, which must be 5 to 20 feet tall and 6 to 22 years old--otherwise, the pines won't conceal the warbler nests. Jack pine cones need wildfire to fully release their seeds and in the 20th-century humans have suppressed natural wildfires which hindered the pines on which the warblers rely on for habitat. Through a management plan to protect young pines and capture the brown-headed cowbirds to prey on warbler eggs, state and federal authorities were able to bring the warbler back from the brink of extinction.

Why This Matters:  This comeback is being widely hailed as yet another triumph of wildlife conservation under the ESA. Noah Greenwald, from the Center for Biological Diversity, put it best, "This pretty little songbird's amazing comeback from the brink of extinction is a testament to the success of the Endangered Species Act." 

Go Deeper: In addition to the warblers, the lesser long-nosed bat is no longer endangered—the first U.S. bat species to officially recover from the imminent threat of extinction. Thanks ESA! 
Yay warblers! 


Ikea Gets Into Teaching Kids About Endangered Species

Ikea is known for its functional and inexpensive kids furniture and textiles (and also for its detailed assembly instructions).  But this week, they launched two new product lines for kids that feature some of the world’s most beloved beasts — lions, tigers, pandas, orangutans, and elephants.  The products are more than just cute -- Ikea hopes that they will raise awareness about the plight of emblematic wild animals under threat. 

"We started the project from the perspective 'How can we engage children in sustainability topics?'" Nina Hughes, range manager for Children's Ikea, tells Mother Nature Network. "We always start from the child’s perspective and we know that wild animals fascinate them. Children also have a great sense of fairness and equality, so the direction of endangered animals became obvious early on."  Best of all -- these products are made of polyester that is derived from recycled plastic water bottles.  

Why This Matters:  Earth Day this year is organized around the theme of ending plastic pollution.  Toys and textiles like these are important because they are sustainable, and because they teach the next generation about the importance of sustaining biodiversity. That's a win-win.  


Hero of the Week: Dame Daphne Sheldrick (1934-2018)

Dame Daphne Sheldrick, a Kenyan wildlife conservationist who helped nurse, bathe and (and as the Post noted) occasionally apply sunscreen to more than 230 orphaned elephants, and whose decades of work on their behalf made her one of the world’s foremost champions of a creature she described as a “human animal,” died April 12 in Nairobi. She was 83.

In 1977 after the death of her husband (the founding warden of Tsavo, Kenya's largest National Park) she created the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust to promote conservation and protection of wildlife in Kenya. Today the Trust operates as the most successful orphan-elephant rescue and rehabilitation program in the world.

Dame Daphne dedicated her life to protecting and nurturing elephants and raising awareness about the dangers they face. She warned in 2016 that if the rate of ivory poaching continued, African forest elephants - the smallest of the three elephant species - could be extinct as early as 2025. In 2006, Queen Elizabeth made her a dame. She will forever stand as an example of the compassion we should have for all creatures who call our planet home. 

H/t to Monica's mom (and loyal reader) Jeanne for sending us this story. 

Happy Earth Day!   We are glad to bring you our special coverage, and we will be back with more on Monday. We have extra special interviews on tap for next week. Thanks for reading!  Please keep sharing.  And don't forget that National Park Week begins tomorrow so get out this weekend and #FindYourPark!  
Copyright © Our Daily Planet 2018, All rights reserved.

We're committed to bringing you the best stories about people and planet, have a tip or feedback? Send it our way! 

Like what you see? Make ODP part of your morning and sign up.

Want to change how you receive these emails?
You can update your preferences or unsubscribe from this list.