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Dutch documentary investigates the link between the use of a new insecticide, Imidacloprid, and the rise of bee mortality

Of all European countries, the Netherlands has the greatest bee mortality. Conservationists are very concerned about the impact this has on our food chain. Most independent scientists and beekeepers from all over the world regard pesticides as the main cause of bee-mortality. But the pesticide companies deny any causal link. In the Netherlands, the government's chief advisers in this field, from Wageningen University and Research Centre (WUR), deny absolutely that pesticides are a major cause of bee mortality.
This film reveals that their judgement is affected by the massive funding that the University receives from pesticide manufacturers. Because of the vast financial interests at stake, the connection between the death of the bees and the use of pesticides is a very sensitive political issue at The Hague. Can the honeybees be saved? This video documentary by Holland's famous Zembla TV Channel explores the murky world of pesticide politics. http://omroep.vara.nl/media/175032

Bats recovering from white-nose syndrome (WNS) show evidence of IRIS, a condition that is experienced by HIV-AIDS patients

According to a hypothesis proposed by the U.S. Geological Survey and collaborators at National Institutes of Health, bats recovering from white-nose syndrome show evidence of immune reconstitution inflammatory syndrome (IRIS), a condition that was first described in HIV-AIDS patients. IRIS is a syndrome in which an organism's immune system, which has been suppressed, reactivates and, perceiving a serious infection around it, goes into overdrive resulting in severe inflammation and tissue damage in infected areas. In both human patients with HIV-AIDS and bats with WNS, the functioning of the immune system is severely reduced. For humans, this occurs when the HIV virus attacks the patient's white blood cells. In bats, this occurs during normal hibernation. IRIS can be fatal to both humans and bats.
"The potential discovery of IRIS in bats infected with white-nose syndrome is incredibly significant in terms of understanding both the reasons for bat mortality and basic immune response," said USGS Director Marcia McNutt. "This discovery could also prove significant for studies on treatment for AIDS."

Bees and butterflies in mysterious decline

It's not just domesticated bees that are in trouble. Many wild pollinators -- from the rusty patch bumblebee to the Karner blue butterfly -- are also declining in number, and some are in far worse shape. In a recent study of Midwest cornfields, University of Minnesota entomologist Karen Oberhauser linked the widespread use of Roundup and the disappearance of milkweed to an 81 percent drop in eggs of the monarch butterfly, the gaudy insect in mysterious decline across the country. The threats to these species are numerous and complicated, but biologists say the encroachment of chemical-intensive agriculture on the native prairie is certainly one of them.

Small doses of neurotoxins can drastically impair the learning process in children

Children are far more susceptible to chemicals and pollutants than adults and the increased rate of childhood illnesses is cause for alarm. Children are exposed to a variety of environmental hazards, including indoor and outdoor air pollution, solvents, pesticides, lead, mercury, and other heavy metals. These contribute to certain childhood diseases, such as asthma and leukemia, and to some learning disabilities. For the past 15 years, an epidemic of childhood asthma has been occurring in the United States. Asthma, leading chronic illness in children of the United States, rates have increased 160% in the past 15 years in children under 5 years of age. The impact of increased exposure to adverse environmental factors must be considered as a contributor to the observed increase in chronic diseases and health problems.

A link between the pesticides, rotenone and paraquat, and Parkinson’s disease

The study, “Traumatic brain injury, paraquat exposure, and their relationship to Parkinson disease,” published in the journal Neurology surveyed more than 1,000 adults ages 35 and older who lived in central California. Some 357 of the participants were diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease. Participants with the disease were nearly twice as likely as those without the disease to report having had a head injury in which they lost consciousness for more than five minutes. Forty-two Parkinson’s patients, or 12 percent of that group, reported receiving a head injury that knocked them unconscious for five or more minutes, as compared to 50 people in the non-Parkinson’s group, or seven percent. The Parkinson’s patients are nearly twice as likely to have had such injuries. Using a geographical tracking system, the researchers also found that those with Parkinson’s disease were also more likely to live within 500 meters of a spot where the herbicide paraquat was used.

Florida grasshopper sparrow might go extinct in as little as two years

Fearing that the Florida grasshopper sparrow (Ammodramus savannarum floridanus) might go extinct in as little as two years, wildlife advocates have begun pressing federal officials to approve an emergency effort to capture some of the birds and breed them in captivity.The Central Florida bird is a subspecies of the grasshopper sparrow found only in vast, treeless prairies south of the Orlando area, including the Three Lakes Wildlife Management Area in Osceola County, where the largest group of the sparrows clings to survival. "We consider this the most endangered bird in the continental United States," warns a letter sent last week to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service by Audubon of Florida; Archbold Biological Station; and a University of Central Florida ecologist, Reed Noss. "In light of population levels possibly below 200 individuals and very rapid recent declines of [the sparrow], … we conclude that the risk of delay exceeds the risk of mistakes," the letter states. The bird is small, elusive and hard to study. One of the things it is well known for is being closely related to the dusky seaside sparrow (Ammodramus maritimus nigrescens) of east Central Florida. That bird suffered a sharp decline in numbers because of mosquito-control projects decades ago that wrecked the ecological health of the marshes where it lived.

Experts have expressed concern about the dramatic decline of birds in Lancashire

New figures show that the number of house sparrows (Passer domesticus) in the region has fallen by 50 per cent while starlings (Sturnus vulgaris) have declined by 30 per cent and the song thrush (Turdus philomelos) by 55 per cent, in the past two decades. The figures from The Wildlife Trust of Lancashire, Manchester and North Merseyside come on the back of a report called ‘State of the UK's Birds 2012’ carried out by the RSPB which showed that nationally the bird population in the UK had declined by 44 million since 1966.

A virus that can kill great tits was brought into the UK by insects, scientists believe

The disease was first found in south-east England in 2006, but has spread rapidly around the country. It causes large growths on birds' beaks and eyes. A new study shows the strain originated in Scandinavia or Central Europe and was probably carried across the Channel by biting insects, such as mosquitoes. The findings have been published in three papers in the journal Plos One. "The lesions can be very severe," said Dr Becki Lawson, a veterinarian from the Zoological Society of London (ZSL). "There is a very significant adverse impact on the individual bird's survival." The virus is a form of avian pox, which is a skin disease. Avian pox usually infects birds such as house sparrows, dunnocks and starlings. But genetic analysis revealed that the strain hitting great tits in the UK is a different form of the virus, which originated in Europe. Although the disease can pass from bird to bird, scientists do not think that great tits carried it into the country because the birds do not migrate across the English Channel. Dr Lawson said: "It is more likely to be an insect vector, such as a mosquito, either moved by man or by wind-borne spread."

Since 1966, the UK has been losing individual birds at a rate of one million birds every year, according to a report published 19 Nov 2012

These shocking statistics are contained in the State of UK’s Birds 2012. Published by a coalition of conservation organisations, it charts the ups and downs of the nation’s bird populations over recent decades. This year’s report has raised fresh concerns for the fate of two wintering seaducks, whose range in winter is strongly associated with Scotland, the velvet scoter (Melanitta fusca) and the long tailed duck (Clangula hyemalis). Both have suffered massive declines in the Baltic Sea, which have been mirrored in Scotland, where the bulk of the UK population are found. Numbers have fallen so sharply (65% and 60% respectively since the first Baltic Sea survey in 1992) that both species are now considered threatened with extinction globally. Another suite of species to have suffered particularly significant declines are seabirds, of which Scotland holds 45% of Europe’s breeding population.

Defra is coming under increasing criticism for not adopting a precautionary approach towards neonicotinoid insecticides

The Environment Secretary Owen Paterson is examining the possibility of banning the controversial nerve-agent pesticides increasingly implicated in the decline of bees and other pollinating insects. Mr Paterson has asked officials of his Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) to examine the practical consequences of restricting the use of neonicotinoids, which are now widely deployed across British agriculture, The Independent has learnt. He wants to know about the likely effects on farming of a ban, and what alternatives might be available. This is the first sign that the Government may shift its stance on neonicotinoids, which, it was disclosed yesterday, have been implicated in problems with bee health in more than 30 scientific research papers in the last three years alone. Mr Paterson’s action will send shockwaves through the immensely profitable agro-chemical industry.