News Article | July 11, 2017
As we hike through the cool, low-canopied forest along a levada – a centuries-old water canal carved out of the mountainside – our guide talks effusively of a pigeon. It’s the “guardian of the forest” the guide with MB Tours tells me and the other hikers. Known as the Trocaz pigeon, or alternatively the laurel pigeon or the long-toed pigeon, it’s only found here: on the Portuguese island of Madeira. We halt under an ancient laurel tree and the guide explains that the endemic pigeon is vital to Madeira because it disperses many of the plants found in this unique forest ecosystem: the laurisilva. A UNESCO World Heritage Site, the laurisilva – a name that sounds like it was invented by Tolkien – is a relic ecosystem found only in a few places on our planet: the Azores, the Canary Islands, and the largest remnant here in Madeira. Made up largely of laurel trees, it’s an ecosystem that once covered much of southern Europe, some 15-40 million years ago. And it’s home to many species found no-where, including the Trocaz pigeon with its unmistakably silver strips crisscrossing the nape of its neck. “[The Trocaz pigeon] play[s] a determinant role for [the laurisilva’s] balance and expansion,” Catia Gouveia, with the Portuguese Society for the Study of Birds (SPEA) in Madeira, writes to me later. And yet since 2012 the pigeon has been routinely culled on the island by the Forestry Police due to its propensity to raid agricultural fields, especially cabbage plantations and fruit orchards, important crops to the small island. On its website, the government claims the pigeon has “disastrous socio-economic consequences for farmers and, consequently, for the family economy.” This guardian of the forest is seen by many in Madeira as a pest, despite being a species found nowhere else and playing a vital role in keeping the laurisilva vibrant. Madeira in Portuguese means ‘wood.’ When the Portuguese first settled in the 1420s they found an island blanketed in lush forest, specifically, the laurisilva. There were no natives living on Madeira – allowing the Portuguese to settle it without enslaving or exploiting indigenous people as they did in Brazil, Angola, Mozambique and East Timor. Not only was Madeira free of people, but, like a mini-New Zealand, the island also held zero land mammals – no rats, mice, cats, monkeys, dogs, or rabbits – just a few bats (the Azores was the same). Lying over 500 kilometers from the African coast, Madeira – about half the size of Hertfordshire – was simply too far over rough seas for land animals to make the crossing, even haphazardly. The total absence of land mammals allowed the Trocaz pigeon to become the royalty of Madeira. Believed to be descended from common wood pigeons, the Trocaz pigeon found a niche on the island with few predators, no humans and little direct competition. When people arrived, of course, things changed. Most of the forests were chopped down, some replaced with villages and towns, others with crops like cabbage, fruit and vineyards, others with exotic forests like eucalyptus. Today, only about 20 percent of the island remains covered in the laurisilva. In the 1980s the Trocaz pigeon almost went extinct as hunting pushed the population to less than 3,000 animals. Only when hunting was outlawed and the pigeon was added to the Europe-wide Birds Directive in 1986 did the species began to recover. Today its population has reached about 10,000-14,000 individuals. The story was a conservation success – and then some flocks started feasting on crops. When it comes to food, the Trocaz pigeon is an unfussy opportunist. Research has shown that they eat at least 33 plants from the laurel forests. But pigeon colonies living near agricultural areas have also taken a liking to locals’ fruit trees and crops, especially cabbage. When a farmer reports they have problem pigeons, the government urges them to purchase various tools to force the birds away including petrol-fueled ‘bird scares’ that cause loud noises periodically, nets to keep the birds out of certain areas, and holographic tape that scares them off. But where such measure haven’t succeeded, a spokesperson from the government’s Institute of Forests and Nature Conservation said the government was allowed to perform a “correction of the population” by the Forestry Police. In others words, government officials come in and shoot the cabbage-devouring pigeons. The government did not respond to several queries asking how many pigeons have been shot. Gouveia with SEPA said that culling birds protected under the EU Birds Directive should only be allowed in “exceptional cases.” She added that SEPA has not seen “sufficiently detailed studies to date” on what crops are being eaten and “above all” how much farmers are actually losing in economic terms. “This information is important in order to take decisions on other possible measures, including compensation to farmers,” Gouveia said. She said she does not believe that the government has “exhausted” all alternatives before turning to shooting. Nor does SEPA have information on how many farmers have actually tried all the other options before they turn to the government to deal with the problem pigeons. While the Trocaz pigeon is currently listed as least concern that doesn’t mean it is at zero risk of extinction. Already, humans have eradicated a population that once lived on the neighboring island of Porto Santo. Now, it is a bird surviving on a single island with a population that, while stable, isn’t especially large. There are more people living in the village of Louth than all the Trocaz pigeons in Madeira – and therefore the world. An epidemic could hypothetically wipe out such a population quickly. For example, disease is believed to have killed off two native rodents on Christmas Island within a decade of the arrival of black rats and their contagions. The best safeguard against a similar fate is a robust, genetically diverse population. Still, there is no question that the species is a nuisance to many – and arguably an economic problem on Madeira. It is a conflict species: farmers have been known to illegally shoot and poison the pigeons. But Manuel J. Nogales Hidalgo, a reseacher with the Spanish National Research Council, said the government’s decision to cull the pigeons was “difficult to understand” given that usually endemic island species are suffering from far too few individuals – rarely too many. In some ways, the plight of the Trocaz pigeon is a microcosm for our global wildlife crisis. Around the world, wildlife populations have plunged by approximately 58 percent in just the last forty years, according to WWF and the Zoological Society of London, which are tracking 3,700 vertebrate species worldwide. As the human population has grown – seven billion plus – the world’s other life-forms have less and less habitat in which to make their homes and fewer resources to keep them alive. And whenever any of these non-human species – whether it is wolves, bears, elephants, rabbits, lions, spiders, snakes, leopards, deer, crows, coyotes, or Trocaz pigeons – dare to bother us in our space it rarely ends well for them. Sure, we’re fine with wild species – but only so long as they stay where they belong: in national parks and other protected areas (about 14 percent of land and 3 percent of the oceans). The human species is evolutionary covetous for the most part, unwilling to share, unwilling to live and let live, unwilling to sacrifice even just a little for another species’ well-being. Our lawns are manicured into grassy deserts, our lakes stocked with the fish we want to catch, our oceans blanketed by nets and lines, even our national parks are invaded by oil, gas, mining, and logging industries. It’s difficult enough for humans to share with other humans – let alone other animals. Still, as the Earth undergoes a potential mass extinction, it remains to be seen whether we humans are capable of viewing the natural world a little differently. Are we able to see our earth as something no longer limitless and no longer abundant, as something that is being displaced and wrung out? Something that’s maybe even worth sacrificing a little for? We don’t see any Trocaz pigeons on my hike through the laurisilva. But one afternoon I find them with my binoculars cooing on the sea cliffs. Large and heavy-set, the flashing stripes on their neck gives them an unexpected beauty. And I realize: this is the only place on our planet where one can do this - watch the light glint off a Trocaz pigeon’s silver feathers. Chilling out in the noon sun, the birds look as inoffensive as any life form could be – but then again they aren’t eating my garden. As I watch the pairs, I find myself trying to solve the puzzle: how do we keep the people happy and the pigeons alive? Should farmers be asked to give up on some of their crops? Should pigeons be moved out of agricultural areas? Should we just keep shooting? My mind wanders: why not stop the culling? But will farmers simply retaliate with illegal shooting and poisoning? Why not sell wildlife-friendly cabbage at a premium? Maybe the Maderian hipsters will love it – but most would still buy the cheap stuff. Or why not pay farmers for every lost cabbage? Why not ask tourists to donate to the ‘save the pigeons’ fund? Hey, we could rewild the island of Porto Santo with Trocaz pigeons – then we’d have an insurance population! I soon realise I don’t have an easy answer. But that’s the luxury of being a journalist: I don’t need one. I just need to tell the story and hope someone cleverer figures it out.
News Article | May 31, 2017
BLOOMINGTON, Ind. -- New Indiana University research shows many Americans don't know how clean water gets to their homes and especially what happens after wastewater is flushed away, knowledge that is vital in confronting challenges including droughts and failing infrastructure that can lead to contamination. The researchers asked about 500 university students to draw diagrams illustrating how water reaches the sink and how it is returned to the natural environment. Twenty-nine percent of the participants didn't draw a water treatment plant and 64 percent did not draw a wastewater treatment plan. "Climate change will increase the competition for water and the risks to the supply," said Shahzeen Attari of IU's School of Public and Environmental Affairs. "Water infrastructure is increasingly fragile. It's going to take political will and public support to respond to new and old risks, and we may not support the adaptation strategies we need if we take our water systems for granted. Whether it's in schools or through other means, public environmental education must address these gaps." Attari and former SPEA graduate students Kelsey Poinsatte-Jones and Kelsey Hinton conducted the project in two stages. First, they asked experts to draw a model of a water system. A simplified version of that model is shown in Figure 1. Then, the researchers asked the students this question: "Please draw a diagram illustrating your understanding of the processes by which clean water reaches the tap in the average home in the United States. Please draw how water reaches the home from its original source(s) and is then returned to the natural environment. Show all the processes that the water goes through." Only 7 percent of the participants had a nearly accurate understanding, but the "magic" vision illustrated in Figure 2 was also common. The lack of knowledge isn't an indication the students don't care. More than one in three said they think of water quantity at least daily or weekly. Their top three concerns are cleanliness, a limited supply or infrastructure failures that contaminate the water. "Drinking water is the most essential among all resources," Poinsatte-Jones said. "Most people expect to have immediate access to safe water, but the complex system that makes that possible is hidden from view." "Given all the risks now that are related to water, it's critically important that Americans can make informed decisions about water supplies, policies and management," Hinton said. "Our study suggests we're not ready to do that." An article summarizing the research and the findings, "Perceptions of water systems,"was published in May 2017 edition of the peer-reviewed journal Judgment and Decision Making.
News Article | May 31, 2017
New Indiana University research shows many Americans don't know how clean water gets to their homes and especially what happens after wastewater is flushed away, knowledge that is vital in confronting challenges including droughts and failing infrastructure that can lead to contamination. The researchers asked about 500 university students to draw diagrams illustrating how water reaches the sink and how it is returned to the natural environment. Twenty-nine percent of the participants didn't draw a water treatment plant and 64 percent did not draw a wastewater treatment plan. "Climate change will increase the competition for water and the risks to the supply," said Shahzeen Attari of IU's School of Public and Environmental Affairs. "Water infrastructure is increasingly fragile. It's going to take political will and public support to respond to new and old risks, and we may not support the adaptation strategies we need if we take our water systems for granted. Whether it's in schools or through other means, public environmental education must address these gaps." Attari and former SPEA graduate students Kelsey Poinsatte-Jones and Kelsey Hinton conducted the project in two stages. First, they asked experts to draw a model of a water system. Then, the researchers asked the students this question: "Please draw a diagram illustrating your understanding of the processes by which clean water reaches the tap in the average home in the United States. Please draw how water reaches the home from its original source(s) and is then returned to the natural environment. Show all the processes that the water goes through." Only 7 percent of the participants had a nearly accurate understanding, but the "magic" vision was also common. The lack of knowledge isn't an indication the students don't care. More than one in three said they think of water quantity at least daily or weekly. Their top three concerns are cleanliness, a limited supply or infrastructure failures that contaminate the water. "Drinking water is the most essential among all resources," Poinsatte-Jones said. "Most people expect to have immediate access to safe water, but the complex system that makes that possible is hidden from view." "Given all the risks now that are related to water, it's critically important that Americans can make informed decisions about water supplies, policies and management," Hinton said. "Our study suggests we're not ready to do that."
Oliveira N.,SPEA |
Henriques A.,Sociedade Portuguesa de Vida Selvagem |
Miodonski J.,Sociedade Portuguesa de Vida Selvagem |
Pereira J.,SPEA |
And 13 more authors.
Global Ecology and Conservation | Year: 2015
Competition with fisheries and incidental capture in fishing gear are the major current threats for seabirds at sea. Fishing is a traditional activity in Portugal and is mainly composed of a great number of small vessels. Given the lack of knowledge on effects of the Portuguese fishing fleet on seabird populations, bycatch was assessed in mainland coastal waters for 2010-2012. Interviews and on-board data were divided into 5 strata, according to fishing gear: Bottom trawling, Bottom longline, Purse seine, Beach seine, Polyvalent (≥12 m) and Polyvalent (<12m). Polyvalent included Setnets, Traps and Demersal longlines. Overall, 68 birds were recorded to be bycaught. The average catch per unit effort (CPUE) was 0.05 birds per fishing event. Polyvalent (<12m), Polyvalent (≥12 m) and Purse seiners had the biggest seabird bycatch rates, with 0.5 (CPUE=0.1), 0.11 (CPUE=0.05) and 0.2 (CPUE=0.11) birds per trip, respectively. Within Polyvalent gear, Setnets captured the largest diversity of seabird species (CPUE=0.06), while Demersal longline had the highest CPUE (0.86). Northern gannet was the most common bycaught species. Although more observation effort is required, our results suggest that substantial numbers of Balearic shearwater might be bycaught annually, mainly in Purse seine and Setnets. © 2014 The Authors.
Giacomini F.,Buro fur Ingenieurgeologie AG |
Boerio V.,SPEA |
Polattini S.,SPEA |
Tiepolo M.,CNR Institute of Geosciences and Earth Resources |
And 2 more authors.
Environmental Earth Sciences | Year: 2010
This work is part of the project study for a road tunnel bypassing the town of Genova and was aimed at evaluating the amount of asbestos fibres in the metaophiolites belonging to the Voltri Group and the Sestri-Voltaggio Zone (Liguria, Northern Italy). The 85 studied rock samples (mainly mafic and ultramafic rocks) derive from exposed outcrops and prospecting boreholes. The study of field relations and petrographic/microtextural investigations under the optical microscope allowed for the identification and characterisation of asbestos-bearing settings and lithotypes. Mineralogy and concentration of asbestos fibres in powdered specimens were determined by means of a scanning electron microscope equipped with an energy-dispersive X-ray spectroscopy device. These investigations were combined with petrography on thin-section, X-ray diffraction analysis and phase contrast optical microscopy on rock powders. Mafic and ultramafic rocks commonly contain asbestos in concentrations below 1,000 mg/kg (considered as the contamination threshold under Italian law). However, the fibre concentration rises abruptly within localised zones, where the metaophiolite sequences were involved into late ductile to brittle tectono-metamorphic events. Two groups of asbestos-bearing settings have been so far identified in the area: (a) fracture networks within serpentinites (dominated by fibrous chrysotile), and (b) boudins of chlorite-tremolite schists, likely deriving from dynamic recrystallisation of mafic rocks under greenschist facies conditions (dominated by fibrous amphibole). Even considering the low volumetric incidence of these settings (metres to few tens of metres), their high asbestos content locally controls the total fibre amount in the excavation products, thus requiring special prevention measures during excavation, management and final storage of the contaminated debris. © 2010 Springer-Verlag.
Cruz A.,SPEA |
Benedicto J.,Brunel University |
Gil A.,University of The Azores
Journal of Coastal Research | Year: 2011
This paper intends to evaluate the socio-economic benefits and assess the ecosystem services associated with the creation and existence of a Protected Area, but also with the development of a conservation project: LIFE-Priolo (2003-2008). Methods used ranged from qualitative ones to monetary valuation and valuation methods were defined for each service. The most important services in the SPA are those related to water provision, quality and regulation. Regulation provides a reduction in the occurrence of floods and landslides (29 deaths and around €20,000,000 in damages, in 1997, in a village close to the SPA). This regulation of the water cycle also provides water worth more than €600,000. Other important services were: Genetic/species diversity maintenance; Carbon storage estimated at around 465,000 tC plus 223,667,84 tC/year sequestered in the peat area; Ecotourism and Recreation estimated at around € 60,000/year plus € 16,500/year expenses on active tourism activities and Landscape and amenity values estimated at €3,000,000 for the Povoação region alone. Management of the SPA, had also an important socioeconomic impact by the creation of an average of 21.6 Full Time Jobs directly and support of another 4 Full Time Jobs every year, but this project also had impacts in terms of infrastructures and training of specialized workers. The results obtained by this study show that nature conservation and biodiversity protection support policies are fundamental for the sustainable development of these areas and can drastically improve quality of life and economic self-sufficiency of local populations by the diversification and creation of new skills, products and business opportunities.
Cooper R.,BirdLife Tasmania |
Clemens R.,University of Queensland |
Oliveira N.,SPEA |
Chase A.,BirdLife Australia
Stilt | Year: 2012
Evidence of long-term declines in migratory shorebird populations is reported at two areas in north-east Tasmania. In north-east Tasmania, both George Town Reserve and Cape Portland have featured in National Wader Counts since 1981, although observations go back to the early 1970's. Compared with the extreme north-west of Tasmania and with many mainland study sites, wader numbers in north-east Tasmania are never large, which makes for relatively easier counting. At George Town, count data indicate long-term population declines from 1974 to 2011 in Eastern Curlew, (Numenius madagascariensis), Ruddy Turnstone (Arenaria interpres), Curlew Sandpiper (Calidris ferruginea), and Bar-tailed Godwit (Limosa lapponica). George Town has also seen a decrease in the number of migratory shorebird species recorded each year, a drop on average from nine to seven, while Cape Portland has seen a larger drop in migratory shorebird species richness from eleven to six. Cape Portland has also experienced long-term declines from 1981 to 2011 in Ruddy Turnstone and Curlew Sandpiper. The reduction in species richness in both areas relates to historically uncommon species no longer being recorded such as Red Knot (Calidris canutus), Lesser Sand Plover (Charadrius mongolus), Greater Sand Plover (Charadrius leschenaultia), Grey-tailed Tattler (Tringa brevipes), Terek Sandpiper (Xenus cinereus) and Grey Plover (Pluvialis squatarola). Trends derived from these two north-east Tasmanian areas are similar to those being reported more widely in Australia, with growing numbers of migratory shorebirds showing evidence of long-term population declines. Threats to the foraging areas of both study sites, which have the potential to compromise their viability, are outlined. The volume of data available from these areas will allow for more detailed analyses in future.
News Article | February 21, 2017
BLOOMINGTON, Ind. -- Hiring more black police officers is not a viable strategy for reducing police-involved homicides of black citizens in most cities, according to new Indiana University research that is the first in-depth study of this increasingly urgent public policy question. IU researchers tested a potential solution that emerged following the police shooting of an unarmed black citizen in Ferguson, Missouri, as well as similar homicides in more than a dozen other cities. The shootings triggered nationwide "Black Lives Matter" protests and heated political debates. The study finds that, for many cities, it would take a massive increase in the percentage of black police officers to reduce the number of police-involved shootings of black citizens. Adding just a few black officers, the researchers say, won't help and might make matters worse. "More black officers are seen as a way to directly reduce unnecessary violence between police and citizens," said study co-author Sean Nicholson-Crotty. "We found that, for the vast majority of cities, simply increasing the percentage of black officers is not an effective solution. "There may be other good reasons to have a police force that is more representative," he said, "but there is little evidence that more black cops will result in fewer homicides of black citizens." The full analysis by IU researchers is presented in the article, "Will More Black Cops Matter? Officer Race and Police-Involved Homicides of Black Citizens." It will appear in the March/April issue of Public Administration Review as part of a symposium on policing and race. Until recently, no data existed that allowed a study of police homicides, according to the authors. Local law enforcement agencies have not been compelled to report deaths in custody by race, and there was no federal source for the information. To produce the first peer-reviewed study of its type, Nicholson-Crotty and co-researchers Jill Nicholson-Crotty and Sergio Fernandez, all from IU's School of Public and Environmental Affairs, used new data from two sources: Previous studies have examined the effect of hiring more black officers on policing outcomes such as arrests, citizen complaints and traffic stops. Findings were mixed. The studies found that greater representation reduces discrimination in some cases, has no effect in others and leads to more discrimination against black citizens in yet other situations. Furthermore, the IU researchers argue, the studies do not tell us much about the likely impact on police-involved homicides. "Because of these inconsistent conclusions, we want to find out if there's a critical mass, a point at which the impact of more black officers on police-involved homicides changes from positive or neutral to negative," Jill Nicholson-Crotty said. The authors found that, until the number of black officers reached between 35 percent and 40 percent of the police force, adding black officers had no effect on the number of police-involved shootings of black citizens or was associated with a higher number of such shootings. After the number of black officers surpassed between 35 percent and 40 percent, they found, adding black officers had no effect and, in some cases, may have been associated with a lower number of police-involved shootings of black citizens. "At that point [35 to 40 percent] and higher, individual officers may become less likely to discriminate against black citizens and more inclined to assume a minority advocacy role," Fernandez said. The sticking point is that in Ferguson and most other places, even doubling or tripling the number of black officers won't result in a percentage as high as 35 percent to 40 percent. The authors also caution that: "In most cities, a critical mass of black officers on the police force can be achieved only by over-representing blacks and making bureaucracy even less representative of the community it serves." They say more investigation is needed to find solutions and fully understand how questions of race affect protection of peace and administration of justice. Reporters may request a copy of the paper from SPEA communications director Jim Hanchett at 812-856-5490 or firstname.lastname@example.org. The paper may also be downloaded from the journal's website.
News Article | November 22, 2016
BLOOMINGTON, Ind. -- Americans believe endangered species are best protected when their habitats are protected and not when animal predators are killed, according to new Indiana University research. With the exception of one case involving spiders and frogs, a scientific survey with more than 1,000 participants found overwhelming support for policies that protect habitats and little acceptance of either lethal control or no government action at all. Professor Shahzeen Attari of the Indiana University School of Public and Environmental Affairs said the study sought to understand evolving public preferences for conservation by answering these questions: "How do we want to intervene to protect endangered species when faced with biological invasions or declining populations? Should we protect habitats, or lethally control predatory species that threaten the endangered species? Should we just step aside and let nature take its course?" To measure support for various strategies, the researchers pitted one species against another in simplified but realistic scenarios. The cases, drawn from real debates about conservation policy, pit a rare or economically valued species against its more common competitor or predator species: Overwhelmingly, survey participants preferred habitat protection over lethal control, both lethal control and habitat protection, or no action. Of all the demographic groups, only older, conservative men were more likely to endorse no action. "The results suggest broad support for holistic nature conservation that benefits both people and nature and highlights areas where current lethal management practices conflict with public preferences," said researcher Michelle Lute of the Montana-based WildEarth Guardians organization. Lute is a former SPEA postdoctoral fellow. The survey section that pitted frogs versus spiders was the notable exception to the pattern of respondents favoring habitat protection. An unusually high number of survey-takers supported no action to protect the spiders. Lute and Attari note that this was the only case involving amphibian and invertebrate species. Of all the species studied, those are the most genetically distant from humans. "People may care less about spiders or consider it a lost cause to try eradicating the non-native but prevalent frogs," Lute said. "We can't say whether we're less motivated to protect animals that are very different from us but that's certainly a possibility." Lute and Attari authored an article about their research, "Public preferences for species conservation: Choosing between lethal control, habitat protection, and no action." It was published in the journal Environmental Conservation.