Portland, OR, United States
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Decourtye A.,ACTA | Mader E.,Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation | Mader E.,University of Minnesota | Desneux N.,French National Institute for Agricultural Research
Apidologie | Year: 2010

Honey bee populations have experienced serious losses in Europe and North America. These losses highlight the potential risk to our agricultural systems that could result from loss of pollination. These losses include direct economic repercussions to multiple industries (beekeeping, fruit, vegetable, forage seed, oil seed and biofuel crops), and corresponding threats to human nutrition. Reasons for the losses are varied but include a lack of diverse nectar and pollen resources within intensively farmed agricultural landscapes. Focusing primarily on Europe and the USA, we review the potential approaches to provide and maintain diverse floral resources for honey bees, giving particular consideration to herbaceous plants ("forbs"). These approaches include the cultivation and maintenance of "bee pastures", consisting of diverse native or non-native flower-rich plantings maintained in fallow areas, field margins, and conservation buffer strips to sustain bee populations, support honey bee health, and aid beekeeping activities. Within this review we examine specific governmental policy initiatives to support these efforts in the USA and Europe. © 2010 INRA/DIB-AGIB/EDP Sciences.

Kremen C.,University of California at Berkeley | Ullman K.S.,Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation | Ullman K.S.,University of California at Davis | Thorp R.W.,University of California at Davis
Conservation Biology | Year: 2011

Concerns about pollinator declines have grown in recent years, yet the ability to detect changes in abundance, taxonomic richness, and composition of pollinator communities is hampered severely by the lack of data over space and time. Citizen scientists may be able to extend the spatial and temporal extent of pollinator monitoring programs. We developed a citizen-science monitoring protocol in which we trained 13 citizen scientists to observe and classify floral visitors at the resolution of orders or super families (e.g., bee, wasp, fly) and at finer resolution within bees (superfamily Apoidea) only. We evaluated the protocol by comparing data collected simultaneously at 17 sites by citizen scientists (observational data set) and by professionals (specimen-based data set). The sites differed with respect to the presence and age of hedgerows planted to improve habitat quality for pollinators. We found significant, positive correlations among the two data sets for higher level taxonomic composition, honey bee (Apis mellifera) abundance, non-Apis bee abundance, bee richness, and bee community similarity. Results for both data sets also showed similar trends (or lack thereof) in these metrics among sites differing in the presence and age of hedgerows. Nevertheless, citizen scientists did not observe approximately half of the bee groups collected by professional scientists at the same sites. Thus, the utility of citizen-science observational data may be restricted to detection of community-level changes in abundance, richness, or similarity over space and time, and citizen-science observations may not reliably reflect the abundance or frequency of occurrence of specific pollinator species or groups. ©2011 Society for Conservation Biology.

Spivak M.,University of Minnesota | Mader E.,Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation | Vaughan M.,Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation | Euliss N.H.,U.S. Geological Survey
Environmental Science and Technology | Year: 2011

The loss of biodiversity is a trend that is garnering much concern. As organisms have evolved mutualistic and synergistic relationships, the loss of one or a few species can have a much wider environmental impact. Since much pollination is facilitated by bees, the reported colony collapse disorder has many worried of widespread agricultural fallout and thus deleterious impact on human foodstocks. In this Feature, Spivak et al. review what is known of the present state of bee populations and provide information on how to mitigate and reverse the trend. © 2010 American Chemical Society.

Black S.H.,Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation | Kulakowski D.,Clark University | Noon B.R.,Colorado State University | Dellasala D.A.,Geos Institute
Natural Areas Journal | Year: 2013

Appropriate response to recent, widespread bark beetle (Dendroctonus spp.) outbreaks in the western United States has been the subject of much debate in scientific and policy circles. Among the proposed responses have been landscape-level mechanical treatments to prevent the further spread of outbreaks and to reduce the fire risk that is believed to be associated with insect-killed trees. We review the literature on the efficacy of silvicutural practices to control outbreaks and on fire risk following bark beetle outbreaks in several forest types. While research is ongoing and important questions remain unresolved, to date most available evidence indicates that bark beetle outbreaks do not substantially increase the risk of active crown fire in lodgepole pine (Pinus contorta) and spruce (Picea engelmannii)-fir (Abies spp.) forests under most conditions. Instead, active crown fires in these forest types are primarily contingent on dry conditions rather than variations in stand structure, such as those brought about by outbreaks. Preemptive thinning may reduce susceptibility to small outbreaks but is unlikely to reduce susceptibility to large, landscape-scale epidemics. Once beetle populations reach widespread epidemic levels, silvicultural strategies aimed at stopping them are not likely to reduce forest susceptibility to outbreaks. Furthermore, such silvicultural treatments could have substantial, unintended short- and long-term ecological costs associated with road access and an overall degradation of natural areas.

Fowler J.,Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation
Northeastern Naturalist | Year: 2016

Habitat conservation is performed in North America to support populations of managed and wild pollinators. The current recommended plant selections for northeastern pollinator habitats primarily provide resources for common or generalist pollinators. However, such plants may not benefit uncommon or rare northeastern specialist pollinators, whose populations are susceptible to harm from anthropogenic threats. This manuscript presents the first catalog of native specialist bees and associated host plants for the Northeast. Approximately 15% of northeastern native bee species are pollen specialists, represented by 6 families, 15 genera, and 61 species of bees that restrict pollen foraging to 23 families, 33 genera, and 201 possible species of native host plants. Specialist bees are associated with non-graminoid forbs and non-coniferous woody plants in nearly all major northeastern terrestrial and wetland habitats. Herein, I identify and discuss vulnerable bee-plant associations and suggest greater emphasis on research and restoration efforts. I recommend that northeastern pollinator-conservation practice specifically target specialist bees.

Gilgert W.,U.S. Department of Agriculture | Vaughan M.,Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation
Rangelands | Year: 2011

Wendell Gilgert and Mace Vaughan examine the value of pollinators and pollinator habitat to rangelands, focusing on connections among pollinators, insects, plant communities, fish, and wildlife. Native pollinating bees are a vital component of the biologically diverse plant and animal community which is critical to healthy, ecologically functional range landscapes. Managing rangelands to enhance life requisites for native pollinators likely will require adjusting current practices. Many bumble bee species also nest under or on the ground, but instead of digging narrow underground tunnels, they utilize existing cavities, such as those left behind by burrowing mammals. A diversity and abundance of plants that produce nectar and pollen used by insects, combined with a variety of standing or downed dead wood, bare ground, and overgrown vegetation, are the hallmarks of rich heterogeneous pollinator habitat. Similarly, diverse rangeland plant communities support diverse assemblages of grasshoppers, crickets, and other orthopterans, with the interesting side effect of mitigating or preventing outbreaks.

News Article | November 25, 2015
Site: www.techtimes.com

Gardeners don’t have to shift to a beekeeping career to help the world’s bee population. The trick: plant more flowers and establish a better plant-honeybee relationship. Plants rich in pollen and nectar need bees’ buzzing action, too. Although bees tend to target a single flower species during a foraging session, they do promote cross-pollination by moving from one plant to another. Cross-pollination translates to greater genetic variation, according to the fact sheet of the Missouri Botanical Garden, and so one can expect stronger and more vigorous plants in return. Master beekeeper Jim Tunnell said that while not all gardeners are cut out to be beekeepers, the long-term wellness of bees along with other pollinators are everyone’s concern. "I think it's always a good thing to keep the pollinators in mind when we plant our gardens," he urged. Here is how it works: bees gather nectar, pollen and water for making honey and survival in general. Pollen feeds them, water is tasked to cool the hives and dilute the honey for bee feeding and the nectar is stocked for overwintering – a time when they are faced with dormant flowering plants. White, yellow, blue and violet flowers tend to get honeybees’ attention, while more open flowers such as cosmos and sunflowers make syrup and pollen easier to collect. Tunnell reminded, however, that a beehive’s foraging spot can span a number of miles in different directions. "If you define 'surrounded by pollinator-friendly perennials' as a yard filled with such plants, that is woefully inadequate for a single beehive,” he explained. Here’s a tip for gardeners: focus on planting for availability and not just mere quantity. Implement what is known as succession planting using species blooming from early springtime to late autumn, as pollinators’ food supply is specifically scarce in the early and latter parts of the year. Mace Vaughan, spokesperson for Oregon-based Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation, considers this move critically important. Honeybee hives delivering greater pollen diversity, he said, are more vigorous and better cope with forces such as pests, disease and even pesticides. Vaughan added that since bees are active all year, natural nectar or pollen supply can run low at certain times. To help honeybee hives better thrive, gardeners should work to have blooms consistently available during the entire growing season. Native plants emerge as the best option at times – they create plenty of nectar and pollen and are low-maintenance. But give chance to non-native ones as well, added Vaughan. "Lawns full of clover or crop fields full of buckwheat or phacelia can be very valuable and inexpensive to establish," he said.

News Article | April 19, 2016
Site: phys.org

"But the situation isn't hopeless," says Scott Hoffman Black, executive director of the Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation, in Portland, Oregon. "Anybody—gardeners or butterfly lovers—can make an oasis in their landscape for these important animals. It doesn't matter if you have a tiny lot or a farmyard. A little effort can help a lot." Besides their beauty, butterflies and moths play a significant role in the pollination of flowering plants, 80 percent of which rely on animals—mostly insects—to move their pollen from plant to plant, the Xerces Society says. Butterflies and moths also serve as an important food source for other animals. Yet in the United States alone, at least five butterfly species have gone extinct since 1950; an additional 25 are listed as endangered nationwide, and four are listed as threatened, according to Xerces in its new guide, "Gardening for Butterflies" (Timber Press, 2016). Federal protection is being sought for the monarch butterfly population, which has plunged 90 percent in North America in less than 20 years. "During the same period, it is estimated that these once-common, iconic orange and black butterflies may have lost more than 165 million acres of habitat—an area about the size of Texas—including nearly a third of their summer breeding grounds," the Center for Biological Diversity says. Just as significant has been the near elimination in farm fields of milkweed, the exclusive food of monarch caterpillars. Donald Lewis, a professor and extension entomologist with Iowa State University, cites a 2012 study that documented an 81 percent decline in milkweeds in agricultural fields from 1999 to 2010. "The cure for butterfly and pollinator preservation, conservation and improvement is to create biodiversity, which, of course, is at odds with most farming, urban sprawl and commercial development," Lewis said. "But it is our goal." Nurture, enrich and diversify your home habitat, entomologists say. Planting pollinator gardens that emphasize nectar plants that bloom year-round for bees, wasps and other wildlife is a good first step. Butterfly gardens take that a stage further by adding host plants suitable for hungry caterpillars. "Since butterfly larvae are picky eaters, it takes a variety of food plants," Lewis said. Butterfly gardens should be located where they'll get at least six hours of sun per day. They should contain at least four annual, biennial or perennial nectar plant species, and at least 10 milkweed plants of two or more types. Ironically, beware the invasive butterfly bush, which has been listed as a noxious weed in several states. And think twice about the mass release of butterflies. "Xerces is taking a stand that we should not be moving or releasing butterflies for such things as weddings, out of a concern for possible diseases," Black said. "We have a sense that the same issues that are happening with bees are happening with butterflies." More information: For more about creating butterfly gardens, see this University of Kentucky fact sheet: entomology.ca.uky.edu/ef006

News Article | October 27, 2015
Site: www.reuters.com

Monarch butterflies rest on a tree at the El Rosario butterfly sanctuary on a mountain in the Mexican state of Michoacan November 27, 2013. A Monarch butterfly rests on moss at the El Rosario butterfly sanctuary on a mountain in the Mexican state of Michoacan November 27, 2013. A Monarch butterfly flies at the El Rosario butterfly sanctuary on a mountain in the Mexican state of Michoacan November 27, 2013. As a result, the monarchs, unique among butterflies for the regularity and breadth of their annual migration, diverted from their usual route and found refuge in ravines in Nuevo Leon state in northern Mexico, conservation authorities said on Monday. Patricia, one of the most powerful storms on record packing 165 mph (266 kph) winds, carved a swathe through relatively remote parts of rural Mexico last week. "When they started to feel the humidity from the west, the push from the Pacific with the wind and humidity from Patricia, the Monarchs moved their route east," Gloria Tavera, a regional head of the National Commission for Natural Protected Areas (Conanp), said. Tavera added that the butterflies, which migrate thousands of miles from Mexico, across the United States to Canada, and then back again, will take up their usual route again when the climate returns to normal. Monarch populations are estimated to have fallen by as much as 80 percent in the past two decades because of destruction of milkweed plants they depend on to lay their eggs and nourish hatching larvae, according to the Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation.

News Article | December 20, 2016
Site: www.scientificamerican.com

The news about endangered species tends to be pretty bleak. That definitely proved true in 2016, but the past year also saw quite a few successes. Here are some of the best news stories from 2016, as chosen from the “Extinction Countdown” archives and by experts and conservation groups around the globe. The illegal wildlife trade affects hundreds of species around the world and has put quite a few on the fast track toward extinction. Luckily, several of them received important support at this fall’s meeting of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species, which banned or limited international trade for several imperiled species, including pangolins, the African grey parrot, and several kinds of sharks. “Almost all of the decisions were really based on science,” says Susan Lieberman, vice president for international policy for the Wildlife Conservation Society. “You have to celebrate when that happens.” Of course, what makes the CITES action good news is that we’re stepping up to help species that have become critically imperiled. “It’s good news that governments are recognizing the risks these species are in,” Lieberman says. “It’s bad news because the situation for these species is really horrible.” Outside of CITES, elephants also got a boost when the U.S. adopted tighter regulations in the trade of ivory. “The new regulations will make it much harder for criminals to use the United States as a staging ground for illegal ivory trade,” Ginette Hemley, senior vice president of wildlife conservation at WWF, said this past June. “They also send a strong signal to the international community that the U.S. is committed to doing its part to save elephants in the wild.” The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service had a number of Endangered Species Act success stories this year, but the best was probably April's announcement that three subspecies of island fox native to California's Channel Islands had recovered and are now no longer considered to be at risk. This marked the fasted recovery under the ESA to date and reflects 12 years of intense conservation efforts by several dedicated partners on the federal, state and local level. Some of the biggest species and most recognizable species on the planet had a few minor victories in 2016. Most recently, the recognition that giraffes are an endangered species made news around the world. That might seem like bad news, but the public outcry may be what we need to finally get conservation efforts moving in the right direction. Zhou Fei, Head of TRAFFIC’s China Office in Beijing, says one of the best stories of the year is that giant panda populations improved enough that the IUCN Red List now considers the iconic animals to be no longer endangered. (They’re now listed as vulnerable to extinction.) Others have expressed worry that this categorization change will lessen our ability to protect pandas moving forward, but it’s still pretty good news. Orangutans had a bad year (more on that in our “worst of 2016” article), but there were bright spots. “The best orangutan conservation story of 2016 is the successful continuation of the Borneo Orangutan Survival Foundation's release program,” says Richard Zimmerman, executive director of Orangutan Outreach. “They've now released 250 orangutans into safe, secure forests. The majority of these orangutans were rescued orphans who were rehabilitated over many years. Due to a lack of available forest they were forced to remain in cages and wait to be released.” Several other rescue and release expeditions in other locations helped even more of these imperiled apes, although Zimmerman noted that “there are still hundreds of orangutans waiting to be released and we expect the expeditions to continue in coming years. These releases are quite expensive and require a lot of coordination on the ground.” Finally, experts from the NRDC pointed to a “decades-in-the-making breakthrough agreement on sonar safeguards for whales and our oceans.” With so many cetacean species in decline, this easing of at least one of the pressures affecting them can only help. Our feathered friends got several bits of good news this year. Most notably, five captive-born Hawaiian crows—a species that went extinct in the wild decades ago—made their triumphant return to a protected Hawaiian park a few days ago. Expect to hear a lot more about this story in the coming year. Another Hawaiian species, the Akikiki, has been immortalized in space, with an asteroid permanently named after the tiny endangered birds. That may not have directly helped efforts to conserve the species, but it did bring them international (if not interstellar) recognition. Meanwhile, in New Zealand, every single kakapo (a large, flightless, critically endangered parrot) has had its genome sequenced, an effort that will help to increase the species’ population in the coming decades. (This year’s record breeding season also gave kakapo numbers a much-needed boost.) A few smaller creatures belong on our list, as well. “This year, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service finally took bees seriously,” says Scott Hoffman Black, executive director of the Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation. Seven species of Hawaiian yellow-faced bees received endangered species status, and similar protection has been proposed for the rusty-patched bumblebee. “That’s pretty big,” Black says. “We’ve never had a bee listed before.” Amphibians, many of which are being wiped out by the deadly chytrid fungus, had at least one success story this year. “I was really heartened by the study that Sierra Nevada yellow-legged frogs are holding their own against the chytrid fungus,” says Noah Greenwald, endangered species director for the Center for Biological Diversity. Meanwhile, desert tortoises and other species benefitted from the Desert Renewable Energy Conservation Plan, which promoted clean energy development in the California desert while protecting local wildlife. “This plan will enable us to combat climate change, which is a threat to wildlife, habitat and landscapes worldwide, while preserving important habitats,” said Kim Delfino, California program director for Defenders of Wildlife. “This is a blueprint for other states, the nation and the world to consider as we all work together to fight climate change and race against extinction.” On a broader level, many species benefitted from efforts to preserve entire ecosystems. “Globally, protected areas continue to expand, both on land and especially in the ocean,” says Stuart Pimm, Doris Duke Professor of Conservation at Duke University and president of Saving Species. “There is widespread agreement that these are the best solution to protect biodiversity.” Pimm reports that his own team’s efforts are paying off. “We don’t help our donors buy a lot of land, but we help them buy land strategically.  We are now connecting formerly isolated fragments of habitat to create large, continuous habitats in Colombia, Ecuador, Brazil, India, and Sumatra.” Obviously there were other endangered species successes over the course of 2016. What would you add to this list? Add your comments below, or discuss things on Twitter under the hashtag #extinction2016.

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