inbox and environment news: Issue 526
February 13 - 19, 2022: Issue 526
Koalas Now Listed As Endangered
February 11, 2022
The Federal Government is boosting the level of protection for Koalas under National Environmental law, and will this week seek agreement from Queensland, New South Wales and the Australian Capital Territory on the National Recovery plan.
Minister for the Environment Sussan Ley said “We are taking unprecedented action to protect the koala, working with scientists, medical researchers, veterinarians, communities, states, local governments and Traditional Owners,” Minister Ley said.
“As part of our $200 million bushfire response, I asked the Threatened Species Scientific Committee to consider the status of the Koala.
“Today I am increasing the protection for koalas in NSW, the ACT and Queensland listing them as endangered rather than their previous designation of vulnerable.
“The impact of prolonged drought, followed by the black summer bushfires, and the cumulative impacts of disease, urbanisation and habitat loss over the past twenty years have led to the advice.
“Together we can ensure a healthy future for the koala and this decision, along with the total $74 million we have committed to koalas since 2019 will play a key role in that process.
“The new listing highlights the challenges the species is facing and ensures that all assessments under the Act will be considered not only in terms of their local impacts, but with regard to the wider koala population.
“The National plan developed through scientific advice and public consultation will now go to the relevant states for their final adoption and will help guide state and local government strategies.”
The decision follows a joint nomination by the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW), Humane Society International (HSI) and WWF-Australia in April 2020 to Australia’s Threatened Species Scientific Committee.
Koalas in Queensland, New South Wales and the Australian Capital Territory will now be classified as Endangered under national legislation and will gain elevated protections. The decision also recognises the koala is one step further along the pathway to extinction.
“Koalas are an international and national icon, but they were living on a knife edge before the Black Summer bushfires with numbers in severe decline due to land-clearing, drought, disease, car strikes and dog attacks. The bushfires were the final straw, hitting at the heart of already struggling koala populations and critical habitat,” IFAW Oceania Regional Director Rebecca Keeble said.
“This decision is a double-edged sword. We should never have allowed things to get to the point where we are at risk of losing a national icon. It is a dark day for our nation. If we can’t protect an iconic species endemic to Australia, what chance do lesser known but no less important species have?
“This must be a wake-up call to Australia and the government to move much faster to protect critical habitat from development and land-clearing and seriously address the impacts of climate change.”
The nomination was submitted on the basis of two scientific reports which revealed Queensland’s koala population crashed by at least 50% since 2001 and up to 62% of the NSW koala population has been lost over the same period.
IFAW also welcomed the federal government’s recent $50AUD million pledge for koala recovery and habitat restoration.
“These actions are vital to ensure the survival of the species into the future, but without addressing the root cause of their decline which is habitat loss and climate change, we are just plugging holes in a sinking ship. We must do everything possible to implement the plan and save this iconic species,” Ms Keeble said.
In January 2022, the Australian Government announced an additional $50 million over 4 years to maintain and support the recovery and conservation of the Koala through monitoring, the protection of Koala habitats, and the improvement of Koala health and care in response to natural disasters such as bushfires and diseases including Chlamydia.
This funding injection builds upon the $18 million Koala conservation package announced in 2020, which includes $14 million in bushfire recovery funding, given the impact of the 2019-20 bushfires on the species and its habitats.
The additional $50 million Koala investment includes:
- $20 million in grants and procurements for larger projects led by Natural Resource Management groups, NGOs, and Indigenous groups, as well as state and territory governments to build on existing work, guided by the outcomes and findings of the National Koala Monitoring Program.
- $10 million to extend the National Koala Monitoring Program to fill critical knowledge gaps and increase the use of citizen scientists
- $10 million in grants for small-scale community projects and local activities such as habitat protection and restoration, managing threats, health and care facilities, and citizen science projects
- $2 million in grants to improve Koala health outcomes through applied research activities and the practical application of research outcomes to address fundamental health challenges such as Koala retrovirus, Koala herpes viruses and Chlamydia
- $1 million to expand the national training program in Koala care, treatment and triage
The $18 million Koala Conservation package (to June 2022) includes:
- $10 million to support habitat restoration and threat mitigation in bushfire-affected regions of New South Wales and south-east Queensland
- $2 million for Koala protection and recovery at additional sites identified from the Investment Framework for Environmental Resources (INFFER) workshops held in northern New South Wales (funded under the Environment Restoration Fund)
- $2 million for habitat restoration and threat mitigation in other non-bushfire affected regions of central and western New South Wales and central Queensland(funded under the Environment Restoration Fund)
- $2 million for a Koala Health Initiative to support coordination and delivery of more effective health research and to support Koala veterinary activities
- $2 million for a National Koala Monitoring Program to produce a robust estimate of the national Koala population and fill key data gaps identified through the Koala re-assessment and recovery plan development process.
In addition, Australian Government commitments to the Koala under the Environment Restoration Fund include:
- $3 million to support Koala hospitals in south east Queensland (announced in December 2019)
- $3 million to support habitat restoration in northern New South Wales and south east Queensland (announced in November 2019).
Long-Billed Corella: Birds In Your Backyard And Urban StreetThe long-billed Corella or slender-billed corella (Cacatua tenuirostris) is a cockatoo native to Australia, which is similar in appearance to the little corella. This species is mostly white, with a reddish-pink face and forehead, and has a long, pale beak, which is used to dig for roots and seeds. It has reddish-pink feathers on the breast and belly.
Long-billed corellas form monogamous pairs and both sexes share the task of building the nest, incubating the eggs, and caring for the young. Nests are made in decayed debris, the hollows of large old eucalypts, and occasionally in the cavities of loose gravely cliffs. Breeding generally takes place in Austral winter to spring (from July to November). 2–3 dull white, oval eggs are laid on a lining of decayed wood. The incubation period is around 24 days and chicks spend about 56 days in the nest.
The long-billed corella typically digs for roots, seeds, corms, and bulbs, especially from the weed onion grass. Native plants eaten include murnong Microseris lanceolata, but a substantial portion of the bird's diet now includes introduced plants.
The call of the long-billed corella is a quick, quavering, falsetto currup!, wulluk-wulluk, or cadillac-cadillac combined with harsh screeches.
The long-billed corella can be found in the wild in Victoria and south-eastern New South Wales. It has extended its range since the 1970s into Melbourne, Victoria and can now be found in Tasmania, South Australia and southeast Queensland.
Long-billed corellas are now popular as pets in many parts of Australia, although they were formerly uncommon, and their captive population has stabilised in the last decade. This may be due to their ability to mimic words and whole sentences to near perfection. The long-billed corella has been labelled the best "talker" of the Australian cockatoos, and possibly of all native Psittacines.
Photo: A J Guesdon
Sulphur-Crested Cockatoo (Cacatua Galerita) Swinging On Norfolk Pine Branch: Summer 'Larking' About
Like all parrots, cockatoos are zygodactyl (of a bird's feet; having two toes pointing forward and two backward). This, along with the use of their beak, gives them the ability to use their feet much like we use our hands and helps make them terrific climbers! Having the ability to climb is a necessity for birds that live and nest in thick forests. It’s hard to fly through dense, leafy branches, and even tougher to get to the fruit or nuts that are their primary foods, but because cockatoos can climb through tree branches so well, they can easily get to the treats they want. These birds are also able to hold their food in one foot while balancing on the other.
The Sulphur-crested Cockatoo's normal diet consists of berries, seeds, nuts and roots. It also takes handouts from humans. Feeding normally takes place in small to large groups, with one or more members of the group watching for danger from a nearby perch.
Cockatoos often “play” with each other, performing intricate aerial manoeuvres or crazy antics, such as hanging upside down while perched, just for the “fun” of it - as this one was this week! These activities serve as a form of exercise for the birds, and strengthen social bonds. - Info: BirdLife Astralia
When not feeding, these birds will bite off smaller branches and leaves from trees, an activity that may help to keep the bill trimmed and from growing too large. This one can also be seen cleaning out its toes after its 'swinging display':
Photos: A J Guesdon
Cicada 'Rain': Summer Of 2022
Although it's not as deafening under the Pittwater Spotted Gums in our yard in recent weeks, it has been VERY LOUD from early January as masses of Black Prince Cicadas (Psaltoda plaga) emerged to 'sing'. Only the male cicadas sing, gathering in large numbers in trees and make their calls using organs on either side of the body called tymbals, amplifying the sound by their hollow abdomen. Cicadas have been recorded 'singing at up to 96 decibels - 70 is around the noise made by your vacuum cleaner. There are two components of the call; a rhythmic revving, which is more prevalent when the weather is cooler, and a continuous call, more common in hot weather. They make this noise to attract females. When you hear an insect at night it's usually a cricket or katydid. Cicadas love the sun, so rain and cloudy skies will decrease the likelihood they will sing. Temperature also affects whether or not they will sing. If it is too cold they won't sing.
These cicadas have provided a feast for the birds that live here, including those born in this yard as shared so far this Summer; Summer Babies: Butcher Bird + A 1953 Insight On These By Bill Grayden and Summer Babies 2022: Channel-Billed Cuckoo Pair Being Fed By Currawong + Dollarbird Babies.
They are also food for noisy miners, blue-faced honeyeaters, little wattlebirds, grey and pied butcherbirds, magpie-larks, Torresian crows, white-faced herons and even the nocturnal tawny frogmouth, have all been reported as significant predators. At night we have had numerous flying foxes visiting to feed on them too.
Even our dog, Matilda Mae, has been feasting on them - going out to catch those that land before bringing them inside to eat them on the rug or chasing those that fly in at night, attracted by the lights on. She only eats the abdomen though, meaning we have to clean up the wings - a nice crunchy mess underfoot!
Cicadas constantly drink tree sap which makes for a 'cicada rain' as they urinate - when you have masses of cicadas in your trees you are likely to experience this. They drink tree fluid to cool down on warm days, which causes them to pee excessively. Cicada pee, like these insects, is harmless, and is even called 'honeydew' by some.
Some experts state they are peeing on you on purpose. Others say the cicadas squirt fluids at other males, animals and people as a defence mechanism.
We think they just have to urinate all that tree sap out as, as can be seen in this photo, they pee all day long even when no one and nothing else is around:
The cicada spends seven years underground in nymph form drinking sap from the roots of plants before emerging from the ground as an adult, although here we hear and see them every year. Species on which it feeds include weeping willow, river sheoak, rough-barked apple and various eucalypts. The adults, which live for four weeks, fly around, mate, and breed over the summer.
The colour of adult male black prince varies with age and locality. Around Sydney north to the Hunter River, it is very dark, predominantly black, with some brown markings; the abdomen black above and brown below. The eyes are brown. Further north from Brunswick Heads to Coolum Beach, the black prince exhibits more green markings instead of brown, and is lighter overall in coloration. The female is similar but slightly smaller than the male.
male and female inside at night at our place
The black prince was originally described by German naturalist Ernst Friedrich Germar in 1834 as Cicada argentata, the species name derived from the Latin argentum "silver". Swedish entomologist Carl Stål defined the new genus Psaltoda in 1861 with three species, including the black prince as Psaltoda argentata. Francis Walker described Cicada plaga in 1850 as well as querying further specimens as Cicada argentata. He noted in 1858 that the binomial Cicada argentata had been used by a European species, and declared that Germar's cicada needed a new name. The older combination was ruled invalid as the binomial Cicada argentata had been originally used for a European cicada now known as Cicadetta argentata, and the black prince became Psaltoda plaga. The name black prince was in popular use by 1923.
Photos: A J Guesdon
Asparagus Fern Flowering Now: Dispose Of This Weed To Stop The Spread
Ned Kelly sculpture at entrance to Kimbriki Resource Recovery Centre - made from discarded metals. Photo: A J Guesdon.
Friends Of Narrabeen Lagoon Catchment - Next Forum
Northern Beaches Clean Up Crew Next Clean Is At: Queenscliff: Sunday 27th Of February
Bushcare In Pittwater
Where we work Which day What time
Angophora Reserve 3rd Sunday 8:30 - 11:30am
Avalon Dunes 1st Sunday 8:30 - 11:30am
Avalon Golf Course 2nd Wednesday 3 - 5:30pm
Careel Creek 4th Saturday 8:30 - 11:30am
Toongari Reserve 3rd Saturday 9 - 12noon (8 - 11am in summer)
Bangalley Headland 2nd Sunday 9 to 12noon
Winnererremy Bay 4th Sunday 9 to 12noon
North Bilgola Beach 3rd Monday 9 - 12noon
Algona Reserve 1st Saturday 9 - 12noon
Plateau Park 1st Friday 8:30 - 11:30am
Browns Bay Reserve 1st Tuesday 9 - 12noon
McCarrs Creek Reserve Contact Bushcare Officer To be confirmed
Old Wharf Reserve 3rd Saturday 8 - 11am
Kundibah Reserve 4th Sunday 8:30 - 11:30am
Mona Vale Beach Basin 1st Saturday 8 - 11am
Mona Vale Dunes 2nd Saturday +3rd Thursday 8:30 - 11:30am
Bungan Beach 4th Sunday 9 - 12noon
Crescent Reserve 3rd Sunday 9 - 12noon
North Newport Beach 4th Saturday 8:30 - 11:30am
Porter Reserve 2nd Saturday 8 - 11am
Irrawong Reserve 2nd Saturday 2 - 5pm
North Palm Beach Dunes 3rd Saturday 9 - 12noon
Catherine Park 2nd Sunday 10 - 12:30pm
Elizabeth Park 1st Saturday 9 - 12noon
Pathilda Reserve 3rd Saturday 9 - 12noon
Warriewood Wetlands 1st Sunday 8:30 - 11:30am
Norma Park 1st Friday 9 - 12noon
Coopers Point, Elvina Bay 2nd Sunday 10 - 1pm
Rocky Point, Elvina Bay 1st Monday 9 - 12noon
Gardens And Environment Groups And Organisations In Pittwater
Sydney Wildlife Rescue: Helpers Needed
Back From The Brink: Bettongs, Numbats And Phascogales Flourish
February 9, 2022
A groundbreaking project helping mammals avoid extinction in NSW national parks is delivering great gains, with 150 animals since August released into a feral predator-free area.
On a visit to the Pilliga State Conservation Area site, Environment Minister James Griffin said the NSW Government-funded program removes feral cats and foxes from the landscape, creating safe refuges for endangered mammals.
The Pilliga and Mallee Cliffs National Park locations are just 2 of 7 feral-predator free areas already operational or being established, funded by the NSW Government and managed in partnership by the National Parks and Wildlife Service, Australian Wildlife Conservancy and Wild Deserts, led by UNSW.
'I can’t overstate how important this project is for protecting biodiversity – it’s one of the most ambitious mammal rewilding programs in Australia,' Mr Griffin said.
'Here at the Pilliga, we’ve seen the endangered bridled nailtail wallaby population double since it was reintroduced to this now feral-free area in August 2019, from 42 to about 90 at the latest estimate, including many females with joeys in pouches.
'This number is expected to eventually grow to more than 2000.'
In the Mallee Cliffs National Park, 60 vulnerable red-tailed phascogales were recently released back into the wild after an absence of almost 150 years.
red-tailed phascogale. Photo: Dr Laurence Berry / AWC
This population of tree-dwelling carnivores, which are related to the Tasmanian devil, is expected to grow to more than 1500 animals once established.
The phascogales were joined by 70 brush-tailed bettongs and another 20 numbats, the latter boosting a founding population established at Mallee Cliffs in 2020.
Numbat. Photo: Brad Leue / AWC;
Bettong. Photo: AWC
'The phascogale is the eighth mammal listed as extinct in New South Wales that has been returned to NSW national parks in the past 3 years,' Mr Griffin said.
'Within a few years, we hope to remove at least 10 mammals from the NSW extinct list – the first time that will have happened anywhere in the world.
'Many of these and other species already reintroduced to these feral-free areas have not been seen in our national parks for more than a century, largely because of foxes and feral cats. Feral cats kill over 1.5 billion native animals nationally every year.
'With these projects, we’re restoring ecosystems to health, giving locally extinct animals a second chance and, in time, offering the community the chance to see the bush at its best.'
Statewide there will soon be 65,000 hectares of feral predator-free areas on national park estate, including these 2 project sites. They’re being established as an essential part of the NSW Government’s conservation strategy, aiming to prevent extinction.
Photos: Red-tailed phascogale: Dr Laurence Berry / AWC; Numbat: Brad Leue / AWC; Bettong: AWC
Billagoe Listed On State Heritage Register
February 10, 2022
The Billagoe (Mount Drysdale) Cultural Landscape has been listed on the NSW State Heritage Register, recognising its long and diverse history.
Heritage Minister James Griffin said he was proud to action the recommendation to list Billagoe Cultural Landscape, which is an outstanding example of a spiritual and cultural landscape.
"Billagoe (Mount Drysdale) has rich cultural significance to the Indigenous people of the Ngemba-Ngiyampaa-Wangaaybuwan-Wayilwan and Baiame, the ancestral creator of landscapes and resources," Mr Griffin said.
"It's important that we recognise and preserve the deep history of this site and I am pleased that my first listing as Heritage Minister is one that celebrates NSW's rich Aboriginal heritage.
"The site forms part of the Baiame cycle of creation stories and is linked to other significant places such as Cobar, Gundabooka National Park, Byrock Rockholes Aboriginal Place and the nationally and state listed Ngunnhu (Brewarrina Fishtraps)."
Billagoe (Mount Drysdale) Cultural Landscape is of state significance for its rare Aboriginal archaeology linked to ceremony, axe manufacturing, trade and social sites.
The site also includes examples of 19th-early 20th century gold mining infrastructure and Chinese market gardens, and a rare surviving example of a government caretaker's cottage, built in circa 1895.
As a multi-layered cultural landscape with shared history, it also has the ability to demonstrate the technology of water storage in an arid landscape, a theme that links the Indigenous, pastoral, mining and Chinese history.
"The listing of Billagoe (Mount Drysdale) Cultural Landscape celebrates and helps to protect unique and culturally important aspects of the Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal history of NSW," Mr Griffin said.
COP26 Deal Sparks Hope For Positive Tipping Points
February 8, 2022
The Breakthrough Agenda agreed at COP26 could help trigger positive tipping points to tackle the climate crisis, researchers say. At the summit in Glasgow, leaders of countries covering 70% of world GDP pledged to "make clean technologies and sustainable solutions the most affordable, accessible and attractive option in each emitting sector globally before 2030."
This signals a key shift in thinking -- instead of focussing directly on emissions targets, it aims to tip economic sectors into a new state where the "green" option is cheapest and easiest.
A tipping point occurs when a small intervention sparks a rapid, often irreversible transformation -- and a new paper offers a "recipe" for finding and triggering positive tipping points.
"The only way we can get anywhere near our global targets on key issues like carbon emissions and biodiversity is through positive tipping points," said lead author Professor Tim Lenton, Director of the Global Systems Institute (GSI) at the University of Exeter.
"The challenges are enormous -- we need to cut greenhouse gas emissions in half by 2030, and reverse biodiversity loss to make our impact 'nature-positive'.
"The Breakthrough Agenda is the first time a large group of countries has agreed joint climate change goals in the form of economic tipping points.
"We argued for precisely this in a previous paper, and we are heartened to see world leaders adopting this approach.
"Our new paper shows a variety of ways that tipping points can be activated.
"Societies worldwide will need to put all of these into action to bring about low-carbon transitions at the pace and scale required to avoid dangerous climate change."
The paper examines the "enabling conditions" for a tipping point (such as the declining price of a green technology), and how the tipping point can be triggered (for example by coalitions of committed individuals).
Combinations of factors such as cost and public attitude have helped to trigger tipping points in electric vehicles and solar energy, and both are rapidly advancing around the world -- which in turn leads to feedbacks of technological improvements and lower costs.
Greta Thunberg's climate protest triggered a global surge of activism that continues to grow, with diverse impacts.
Asked about positive tipping points that could soon be triggered -- or might already be tipping -- Professor Lenton highlighted the growth and uptake of plant-based diets, including meat substitutes.
Co-author Scarlett Benson, from global sustainability consultancy SYSTEMIQ, said: "Policymakers have a critical role in triggering the shift away from meat-rich diets, for example by investing the trillions of dollars of public R&D spend into the development of plant-based and cell-based meat and dairy alternatives, and by directing the trillions of dollars of public procurement spend towards these products to stimulate demand and drive down costs."
Co-author Dr Tom Powell, from GSI, added: "In other cases, transformation can start with grassroots communities.
"For subsistence farmers facing land degradation and drought, regenerative farming methods can help rebuild the health of their soils and ecosystems, making them more resilient. A farmer-led scheme called TIST has spread to over 150,000 subsistence farmers in East Africa, because it supports farmers to share these practices and learn from one another.
"International voluntary carbon markets have enabled TIST members to collectively access payments for carbon sequestered in trees on their land, building in a further reinforcing feedback."
The researchers say positive tipping points can help to counter widespread feelings of disempowerment in the face of global challenges, and they stress that everyone can play a part in triggering positive tipping points.
"These changes often start with small groups of people with a big idea," said Professor Lenton.
"These can become networks of change that grow into large movements with a major impact.
"Public and private money is also important. Public money is often first, funding research and development, and private finance then comes to drive an idea at scale."
The paper notes the importance of equity when seeking to trigger tipping points. The authors write: "It is vital to consider what social safety nets can help ensure a just transformation."
The researchers say their framework for finding and triggering tipping points needs "testing and refining," adding: "There is no better way forward than to learn by doing.
"Continuing to delay action to accelerate a just transformation towards global sustainability will only accentuate the need to find and trigger even more dramatic positive tipping points in the future."
The paper, written by a team including researchers from Hamburg University and University College London and published in the journal Global Sustainability, is entitled: "Operationalising Positive Tipping Points towards Global Sustainability."
Timothy M. Lenton, Scarlett Benson, Talia Smith, Theodora Ewer, Victor Lanel, Elizabeth Petykowski, Thomas W. R. Powell, Jesse F. Abrams, Fenna Blomsma, Simon Sharpe. Operationalising positive tipping points towards global sustainability. Global Sustainability, 2022; 5 DOI: 10.1017/sus.2021.30
Lotus Effect: Self-Cleaning Bioplastics Repel Liquid And Dirt
Pacific Ocean As The Greatest Theatre Of Bird Migration
Pink Pumice Key To Revealing Explosive Power Of Underwater Volcanic Eruptions
Unique Seagrass Nursery Aims To Help Florida's Starving Manatees
Genome Of Steller’s Sea Cow Decoded
February 8, 2022
During the Ice Age, giant mammals such as mammoths, sabre-toothed cats and woolly rhinoceroses once roamed Northern Europe and America. The cold oceans of the northern hemisphere were also home to giants like Steller's sea cow, which grew up to eight meters long and weighed up to ten tons, and has been extinct for around 250 years. Now an international research team has succeeded in deciphering the genome of this ice-age species from fossil bones. They also found an answer to the question of what the genome of this extinct species of sea cow reveals about present-day skin diseases.
1898 illustration of a Steller's sea cow family
The giant sea cow from the Ice Age was discovered in 1741 by Georg Wilhelm Steller and later named after him. The 18th-century naturalist was interested not only in the enormous size of this animal species but also in its unusual, bark-like skin. He described it as "a skin so thick that it is more like the bark of old oaks than the skin of an animal."
Such a bark-like structure of the epidermis is not found in related sirenians, which today live exclusively in tropical waters. In scientific circles, it was previously assumed that the bark-like epidermis was the result of parasite feeding, but also insulated heat and thus protected the sea cow well from the cold during the Ice Age and from injuries in the polar seas.
In the current study, the scientists led by Dr Diana Le Duc and Professor Torsten Schöneberg from Leipzig University, Professor Michael Hofreiter from the University of Potsdam and Professor Beth Shapiro from the University of California, show that the palaeogenomes of Steller's sea cow reveal functional changes. These changes were responsible for the bark-like skin and the adaptation to cold.
To find this out, an international research team from Germany and the US reconstructed the genome of this extinct species from fossil bone remains of a total of twelve different individuals.
"The most spectacular result of our investigations is that we have clarified why this giant of the sea had bark-like skin," said Diana Le Duc from the Institute of Human Genetics at Leipzig University Hospital. The scientists found inactivations of genes in the sea cow genome that are necessary for the normal structure of the outermost layer of the epidermis. These genes are also used in human skin.
"Hereditary defects in these so-called lipoxygenase genes lead to what is known as ichthyosis in humans. This is characterised by a thickening and hardening of the top layer of skin with large scales, and is sometimes also known as 'fish scale disease'," said Schöneberg from the Rudolph Schönheimer Institute of Biochemistry.
"The results of our research thus also sharpen our view of this clinical picture," explained the biochemist, adding: "Here may lie the key to new therapeutic approaches."
The scientists pinpointed the genetic defect by comparing the genome with that of the closest relative, the dugong. The researchers received support with their investigations from the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig, which contributed its bioinformatics expertise in the analysis of ancient DNA. As a result, they identified important evidence of genetic changes that may have contributed to adaptation to the cool North Pacific habitat.
"This is an impressive example of how gene defects can not only cause disease, but also have advantages depending on the habitat," said Hofreiter from the University of Potsdam. Furthermore, the genome data revealed a dramatic reduction in population size. This began 500,000 years before the species was discovered and may have contributed to its extinction.
Hofreiter summed it up as follows: "With today's molecular genetic clarification, our study closes the circle of an exact observation by a German naturalist in the early 18th century."
Distribution of sea cow species in the world’s oceans. Image: Diana Le Duc
Diana Le Duc, Akhil Velluva, Molly Cassatt-Johnstone, Remi-Andre Olsen, Sina Baleka, Chen-Ching Lin, Johannes R. Lemke, John R. Southon, Alexander Burdin, Ming-Shan Wang, Sonja Grunewald, Wilfried Rosendahl, Ulrich Joger, Sereina Rutschmann, Thomas B. Hildebrandt, Guido Fritsch, James A. Estes, Janet Kelso, Love Dalén, Michael Hofreiter, Beth Shapiro, Torsten Schöneberg. Genomic basis for skin phenotype and cold adaptation in the extinct Steller’s sea cow. Science Advances, 2022; 8 (5) DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.abl6496
Gabon Provides Blueprint For Protecting Oceans
February 8, 2022
Gabon's network of Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) provides a blueprint that could be used in many other countries, experts say. Since announcing a new MPA network in 2014, Gabon has created 20 protected areas -- increasing protection of Gabonese waters from less than 1% to 26%.
The new paper -- by Gabonese policymakers, NGOs and researchers from the University of Exeter -- highlights the lessons from this work and its relevance elsewhere.
"A combination of factors made this MPA network possible, but a crucial first step was the creation by President Ali Bongo Ondimba of a government-led initiative called 'Gabon Bleu' in 2013," said Dr Kristian Metcalfe, of the Centre for Ecology and Conservation at Exeter's Penryn Campus in Cornwall.
"This sent out a clear signal that the Gabonese government wanted to develop an MPA network.
"That ensured all sectors -- from government agencies to ocean resource users -- were engaged in the planning process, and it gave confidence to external funders and the private sector to support the research that underpins the MPAs.
Dr Emma Stokes, Wildlife Conservation Society Regional Director for Central Africa & Gulf of Guinea, added: "This political will and long-term engagement was vital -- creating a 'tipping point' towards effective change.
"Collective action has accelerated progress, and the country has now committed to the 30x30 pledge to protect 30% of its oceans by 2030."
Global MPA coverage is still short of a 10% target set in 2010, partly due to limited progress in many low-income and middle-income countries.
However, a few of these countries -- including Gabon -- have met or exceeded international commitments on land and sea.
The MPAs are based on detailed evidence, resulting in an inter-connected network tailored to protect important habitats, as well as globally important populations of sea turtles and marine mammals, with protected zones extending from north to south, and from coastal waters to 200 nautical miles offshore.
The new paper argues that lessons from Gabon can be used to inform Post-2020 global biodiversity commitments and implementation.
It suggests a four-step approach for countries and donors:
- Governments must build and maintain their research and implementation capacity, ensuring scientific evidence underpins policy decisions.
- Countries should make public pledges on marine conservation targets, signalling their commitment to the international community and potential donors.
- The conservation community should respond by helping to create or strengthen the country's environmental agencies either directly or, if financial safeguards are weak, via international organisations.
- Each implementation agency should lead on developing national marine conservation frameworks, working with stakeholders and donors to produce plans that are ambitious but politically feasible, combining top-down initiatives with bottom-up approaches as much as possible.
In Gabon, crucial implementation work was led by the national parks agency, ANPN.
Professor Lee White, Gabon's Minister of Forests, Oceans, Environment and Climate Change and former Executive Secretary (head) of ANPN, said: "We learnt from the process that resulted in the creation of Gabon's terrestrial national parks by Omar Bongo in 2007 and were able to provide the scientific and legal framework to make President Ali Bongo Ondimba's vision for a sustainable blue economy a reality."
Professor Brendan Godley, of the University of Exeter, added: "By scaling conservation and fisheries management measures across the entirety of its EEZ, Gabon has made significant steps to ensure the long-term persistence of its marine biodiversity and fisheries resources, and should be celebrated as a global exemplar."
The University of Exeter's work was funded by the UK government's Darwin Initiative.
Fisheries bycatch in Gabonese waters. Credit Tim Collins WCS
Kristian Metcalfe, Lee White, Michelle E. Lee, J. Michael Fay, Gaspard Abitsi, Richard J. Parnell, Robert J. Smith, Pierre Didier Agamboue, Jean Pierre Bayet, Jean Hervé Mve Beh, Serge Bongo, Francois Boussamba, Godefroy De Bruyne, Floriane Cardiec, Emmanuel Chartrain, Tim Collins, Philip D. Doherty, Angela Formia, Mark Gately, Micheline Schummer Gnandji, Innocent Ikoubou, Judicael Régis Kema Kema, Koumba Kombila, Pavlick Etoughe Kongo, Jean Churley Manfoumbi, Sara M. Maxwell, Georges H. Mba Asseko, Catherine M. McClellan, Gianna Minton, Samyra Orianne Ndjimbou, Guylène Nkoane Ndoutoume, Jean Noel Bibang Bi Nguema, Teddy Nkizogho, Jacob Nzegoue, Carmen Karen Kouerey Oliwina, Franck Mbeme Otsagha, Diane Savarit, Stephen K. Pikesley, Philippe du Plessis, Hugo Rainey, Lucienne Ariane Diapoma Kingbell Rockombeny, Howard C. Rosenbaum, Dan Segan, Guy‐Philippe Sounguet, Emma J. Stokes, Dominic Tilley, Raul Vilela, Wynand Viljoen, Sam B. Weber, Matthew J. Witt, Brendan J. Godley. Fulfilling global marine commitments; lessons learned from Gabon. Conservation Letters, 2022; DOI: 10.1111/conl.12872
Arctic Winter Warming Causes Cold Damage In The Subtropics Of East Asia
February 8, 2022
Due to climate change, Arctic winters are getting warmer. An international study by UZH researchers shows that Arctic warming causes temperature anomalies and cold damage thousands of kilometres away in East Asia. This in turn leads to reduced vegetation growth, later blossoming, smaller harvests and reduced CO2 absorption by the forests in the region.
During the past few days, the east coast of the United States experienced heavy snowfall and low temperatures as far south as Florida. Warmer Arctic winters are now also triggering extreme winter weather of this kind in East Asia, an international team of researchers from Switzerland, Korea, China, Japan and the United Kingdom has found.
The cooler southern winters reduce vegetation activity in the evergreen subtropics, and continue to negatively affect ecosystems in the spring, for example due to branches broken under heavy snowfall or frost-damaged leaves.
First author Jin-Soo Kim of the Department of Evolutionary Biology and Environmental Studies at the University of Zurich says: "The cooler winters also reduce agricultural productivity of cereals, fruits, root vegetables, and legumes."
Melting ice on the islands of Severnaya Zemlya (Barents and Laptev Sea region). Image: Gabriela Schaepman-Strub, Arctic Century Expedition, 2021
Globally connected weather events
The scientists combined earth system modelling, satellite data and local observations for the study. They also analysed an index of sea surface temperatures from the Barents-Kara Sea and found that in years with higher than average Arctic temperatures, changes in atmospheric circulation resulted in an anomalous climate throughout East Asia.
In particularly cold years, the unfavourable conditions adversely affected vegetation growth and crop yields, and delayed blossoming. Moreover, the researchers estimated a decrease in carbon uptake capacity in the region of 65 megatons of carbon during winter and spring (by way of comparison, fossil fuel emissions in Switzerland are 8.8 megatons of carbon per year).
The reduction in carbon absorption capacity caused by climate change is thus another issue that must be taken into account when discussing carbon neutrality.
Climate change causes ecological and socioeconomic damage
The warming of the Arctic caused by human greenhouse gas emissions is causing social and economic harm to humans as far south as the subtropics.
Gabriela Schaepman-Strub, co-author of the study, says: "This study highlights how complex the effects of climate change are. While we observe strong warming in the Arctic system, especially over the Barents-Kara Sea, we have now discovered that this warming affects ecosystems thousands of kilometres away and over multiple weeks through climate teleconnections. Arctic warming is not only threatening the polar bear, but will affect us in many other ways."
The rapidly melting ice caps on the islands of Severnaya Zemlya leave behind landscapes like those on Mars. Image: Jón Björgvinsson © 2021 Swiss Polar Institute (CC BY 4.0), Arctic Century Expedition, 2021
Jin-Soo Kim, Jong-Seong Kug, Sujong Jeong, Jin-Ho Yoon, Ning Zeng, Jinkyu Hong, Jee-Hoon Jeong, Yuan Zhao, Xiaoqiu Chen, Mathew Williams, Kazuhito Ichii, Gabriela Schaepman-Strub. Arctic warming-induced cold damage to East Asian terrestrial ecosystems. Communications Earth & Environment, 2022; 3 (1) DOI: 10.1038/s43247-022-00343-7
Golfing Cockatoos Ability To Use Combined Tools
February 8, 2022
Cockatoos have shown an extraordinary ability to complete a task by combining simple tools, demonstrating that this cognitive ability is not found only in primates. According to researchers at the University of Veterinary Medicine, in Vienna, the University of Birmingham, and the University of Vienna, the findings could shed new light on how our ancestors evolved the ability to design and use tools.
The research, published in Scientific Reports, is also part of a wider international and interdisciplinary project comparing children's innovation and problem solving skills with those of cockatoos.
Tool use is rare in animals, and particularly compound tools where two elements are fixed together, such as a spear, or an axe, or composite tools, where two items -- for example a stick and a rock -- are used together. These types of tools have evolved into recreational activities, such as hockey, cricket or golf, and it was this that inspired the study design.
In their experiment, the team devised a game of golf for one species of bird, the Goffin's cockatoo, which is known for its problem solving skills and its ability to use single tools such as sticks to open up nut and seed shells.
Credit: Goffin Lab
The birds had to manipulate a ball through a hole into a closed box, and then use a stick to push the ball to one side of the box where it triggers a trapdoor mechanism. This in turn releases a cashew nut for the bird.
Three of the cockatoos figured out how to use the stick to manoeuvre the ball into the right position to release the treat -- showing a high level of tool innovation.
Lead researcher Dr Antonio Osuna-Mascaró, from the University of Veterinary Medicine, in Vienna, said:
"One of the most amazing aspect of the process was to observe how these animals each invented their own individual technique in how to grip the stick and hit the ball, sometimes with astonishing dexterity. One of the birds operated the stick while holding it between the mandibles, one between the beak tip and tongue and one with his claw, similar to a primate."
Sarah Beck, Professor of Cognitive Development in the School of Psychology at the University of Birmingham, is a co-author and collaborator on this work, focusing on the associations between children and birds in learning how to use tools.
Prof. Beack said:
"Although children are very good at using tools and technology in their lives (think spoons and ipads!), our research has shown that young children often find it hard to invent novel solutions to problems involving tool use. In fact, children under 8 can really struggle to solve problems that cockatoos can master.
"So while this study is the first to show that cockatoos can coordinate tools to solve a problem, it also feeds into our ongoing work with children. Tempting as it might be -- it's not simply a question of who is the cleverest: children or cockatoos -- instead comparing such different species helps us understand how humans and some other species develop impressive technological skills."
Professor Alice Auersperg, another author and head of the Goffin Lab at the Messerli Research Institute in Vienna's University of Veterinary Medicine, comments:
"I believe that studying which spatial relationships animals are attending to and how they are using them for enabling tool innovations will be key to getting us better insight into the evolution of technology. Enhancing our understanding of the onset of complex tool use in particular is thus currently a focus of our research team"
Antonio J. Osuna-Mascaró, Roger Mundry, Sabine Tebbich, Sarah R. Beck, Alice M. I. Auersperg. Innovative composite tool use by Goffin’s cockatoos (Cacatua goffiniana). Scientific Reports, 2022; 12 (1) DOI: 10.1038/s41598-022-05529-9
Avalon Golf Course Bushcare Needs You
Pittwater Reserves + Others
A History Of The Campaign For Preservation Of The Warriewood Escarpment by David Palmer OAM and Angus Gordon OAM
Angophora Reserve - Angophora Reserve Flowers
Annie Wyatt Reserve - A Pictorial
Avalon's Village Green: Avalon Park Becomes Dunbar Park - Some History + Toongari Reserve and Catalpa Reserve
Bairne Walking Track Ku-Ring-Gai Chase NP by Kevin Murray
Bangalley Headland Bangalley Mid Winter
Banksias of Pittwater
Barrenjoey Headland: Spring flowers Barrenjoey Headland after fire
Bungan Beach Bush Care
Careel Bay Saltmarsh plants
Careel Bay Birds
Careel Bay Clean Up day
Careel Bay Playing Fields History and Current
Careel Creek - If you rebuild it they will come
Centre trail in Ku-ring-gai Chase National Park
Chiltern Track- Ingleside by Marita Macrae
Clareville/Long Beach Reserve + some History
Coastal Stability Series: Cabbage Tree Bay To Barrenjoey To Observation Point by John Illingsworth, Pittwater Pathways, and Dr. Peter Mitchell OAM
Cowan Track by Kevin Murray
Curl Curl To Freshwater Walk: October 2021 by Kevin Murray and Joe Mills
Currawong and Palm Beach Views - Winter 2018
Currawong-Mackerel-The Basin A Stroll In Early November 2021 - photos by Selena Griffith
Currawong State Park Currawong Beach + Currawong Creek
Deep Creek To Warriewood Walk photos by Joe Mills
Drone Gives A New View On Coastal Stability; Bungan: Bungan Headland To Newport Beach + Bilgola: North Newport Beach To Avalon + Bangalley: Avalon Headland To Palm Beach
Dunbar Park - Some History + Toongari Reserve and Catalpa Reserve
Dundundra Falls Reserve: August 2020 photos by Selena Griffith - Listed in 1935
Elsie Track, Scotland Island
Elvina Track in Late Winter 2019 by Penny Gleen
Elvina Bay Walking Track: Spring 2020 photos by Joe Mills
Elvina Bay-Lovett Bay Loop Spring 2020 by Kevin Murray and Joe Mills
Fern Creek - Ingleside Escarpment To Warriewood Walk + Some History photos by Joe Mills
Ingleside Wildflowers August 2013
Irrawong - Ingleside Escarpment Trail Walk Spring 2020 photos by Joe Mills
Irrawong - Mullet Creek Restoration
Katandra Bushland Sanctuary - Ingleside
McCarr's Creek to Church Point to Bayview Waterfront Path
Mona Vale Beach - A Stroll Along, Spring 2021 by Kevin Murray
Mona Vale Headland, Basin and Beach Restoration
Mount Murray Anderson Walking Track by Kevin Murray and Joe Mills
Narrabeen Lagoon Catchment: Past Notes Present Photos by Margaret Woods
Narrabeen Lagoon State Park
Narrabeen Lagoon State Park Expansion
Narrabeen Rockshelf Aquatic Reserve
Nerang Track, Terrey Hills by Bea Pierce
Newport Bushlink - the Crown of the Hill Linked Reserves
Newport Community Garden - Woolcott Reserve
Newport to Bilgola Bushlink 'From The Crown To The Sea' Paths: Founded In 1956 - A Tip and Quarry Becomes Green Space For People and Wildlife
Pittwater spring: waterbirds return to Wetlands
Pittwater's Lone Rangers - 120 Years of Ku-Ring-Gai Chase and the Men of Flowers Inspired by Eccleston Du Faur
Pittwater's Parallel Estuary - The Cowan 'Creek
Riddle Reserve, Bayview
Salvation Loop Trail, Ku-Ring-Gai Chase National Park- Spring 2020 - by Selena Griffith
Stapleton Park Reserve In Spring 2020: An Urban Ark Of Plants Found Nowhere Else
The Chiltern Track
The Resolute Beach Loop Track At West Head In Ku-Ring-Gai Chase National Park by Kevin Murray
Towlers Bay Walking Track by Joe Mills
Trafalgar Square, Newport: A 'Commons' Park Dedicated By Private Landholders - The Green Heart Of This Community
Turimetta Beach Reserve by Joe Mills, Bea Pierce and Lesley
Turimetta Beach Reserve: Old & New Images (by Kevin Murray) + Some History
Warriewood Wetlands and Irrawong Reserve
Whale Beach Ocean Reserve: 'The Strand' - Some History On Another Great Protected Pittwater Reserve
Winji Jimmi - Water Maze
New Shorebirds WingThing For Youngsters Available To Download
A Shorebirds WingThing educational brochure for kids (A5) helps children learn about shorebirds, their life and journey. The 2021 revised brochure version was published in February 2021 and is available now. You can download a file copy here.
If you would like a free print copy of this brochure, please send a self-addressed envelope with A$1.10 postage (or larger if you would like it unfolded) affixed to: BirdLife Australia, Shorebird WingThing Request, 2-05Shorebird WingThing/60 Leicester St, Carlton VIC 3053.
Shorebird Identification Booklet
The Migratory Shorebird Program has just released the third edition of its hugely popular Shorebird Identification Booklet. The team has thoroughly revised and updated this pocket-sized companion for all shorebird counters and interested birders, with lots of useful information on our most common shorebirds, key identification features, sighting distribution maps and short articles on some of BirdLife’s shorebird activities.
The booklet can be downloaded here in PDF file format: http://www.birdlife.org.au/documents/Shorebird_ID_Booklet_V3.pdf
Paper copies can be ordered as well, see http://www.birdlife.org.au/projects/shorebirds-2020/counter-resources for details.
Download BirdLife Australia's children’s education kit to help them learn more about our wading birdlife
Shorebirds are a group of wading birds that can be found feeding on swamps, tidal mudflats, estuaries, beaches and open country. For many people, shorebirds are just those brown birds feeding a long way out on the mud but they are actually a remarkably diverse collection of birds including stilts, sandpipers, snipe, curlews, godwits, plovers and oystercatchers. Each species is superbly adapted to suit its preferred habitat. The Red-necked Stint is as small as a sparrow, with relatively short legs and bill that it pecks food from the surface of the mud with, whereas the Eastern Curlew is over two feet long with a exceptionally long legs and a massively curved beak that it thrusts deep down into the mud to pull out crabs, worms and other creatures hidden below the surface.
Some shorebirds are fairly drab in plumage, especially when they are visiting Australia in their non-breeding season, but when they migrate to their Arctic nesting grounds, they develop a vibrant flush of bright colours to attract a mate. We have 37 types of shorebirds that annually migrate to Australia on some of the most lengthy and arduous journeys in the animal kingdom, but there are also 18 shorebirds that call Australia home all year round.
What all our shorebirds have in common—be they large or small, seasoned traveller or homebody, brightly coloured or in muted tones—is that each species needs adequate safe areas where they can successfully feed and breed.
The National Shorebird Monitoring Program is managed and supported by BirdLife Australia.
This project is supported by Glenelg Hopkins Catchment Management Authority and Hunter Local Land Services through funding from the Australian Government’s National Landcare Program. Funding from Helen Macpherson Smith Trust and Port Phillip Bay Fund is acknowledged.
The National Shorebird Monitoring Program is made possible with the help of over 1,600 volunteers working in coastal and inland habitats all over Australia.
The National Shorebird Monitoring program (started as the Shorebirds 2020 project initiated to re-invigorate monitoring around Australia) is raising awareness of how incredible shorebirds are, and actively engaging the community to participate in gathering information needed to conserve shorebirds.
In the short term, the destruction of tidal ecosystems will need to be stopped, and our program is designed to strengthen the case for protecting these important habitats.
In the long term, there will be a need to mitigate against the likely effects of climate change on a species that travels across the entire range of latitudes where impacts are likely.
The identification and protection of critical areas for shorebirds will need to continue in order to guard against the potential threats associated with habitats in close proximity to nearly half the human population.
Here in Australia, the place where these birds grow up and spend most of their lives, continued monitoring is necessary to inform the best management practice to maintain shorebird populations.
BirdLife Australia believe that we can help secure a brighter future for these remarkable birds by educating stakeholders, gathering information on how and why shorebird populations are changing, and working to grow the community of people who care about shorebirds.
To find out more visit: http://www.birdlife.org.au/projects/shorebirds-2020/shorebirds-2020-program
Aussie Bread Tags Collection Points
Aged Care Industry Needs A Massive Shake-Up
Eligible Aged Care Residents Receive Boosters
Aged Care Quality And Safety Commissioner Reappointed
Meritorious Service Award – Peter Robson
IOC Honours Tracey Holmes For Her Journalism And Leadership
NSW Spectacles Program
- one pair of single vision glasses, or
- one pair of bifocal glasses.
- receive a full Centrelink pension/benefit
- have no other income other than the Centrelink payments
- have financial assets less than $500 (if single) or $1000 (if married/partnered or parent/guardian)
- are a low-wage earner who earns less than:
- the JobSeeker Payment if you're under 65, or
- the aged pension if you're over 65.
Pensioner Water Rebate
- Pensioner Concession Card from Centrelink or Department of Veterans' Affairs, or
- gold Health Card (also known as a gold card) that shows:
- war widow
- war widower
- extreme disablement adjustment (EDA)
- totally and temporarily incapacitated (TTI)
- totally and permanently incapacitated (TPI).
- single dwelling
- dual occupancy
- strata or company title unit
- unit in a retirement village with a life term lease.
Concession Car Parking At NSW Health Public Hospitals
- requiring treatment over an extended period
- attending hospital more than twice a week (including carers of long term patients who visit frequently).
- ongoing cancer treatment
- treatment more than twice weekly
- daily dressing changes
- cardiac rehabilitation or health promotion classes
- Transport for NSW Mobility Parking Scheme permit
- Pensioner Concession Card
- Department of Veterans' Affairs Gold Card
- Health Care Card.
- clearly displaying and publicising concessional rates
- streamlining the concession application process with designated points of access
- validating concessional parking for the duration of a course of treatment.
Showcase Season Puts HSC Creativity In The Spotlight: ArtExpress 2022
Express Yourself 2022
Friday, 25 March 2022 - 10:00am To Sunday, 1 May 2022 - 5:00pm
- Barrenjoey High School
- Covenant Christian School
- Davidson High School
- Forest High School
- Killarney Heights High School
- Mater Maria College
- Narrabeen Sports High School
- NBSC - Balgowlah Boys Campus
- NBSC - Cromer Campus
- NBSC - Freshwater Senior Campus
- NBSC - Mackellar Girls Campus
- NBSC - Manly Selective Campus
- Northern Beaches Christian School
- Oxford Falls Grammar School
- Pittwater High School
- St Augustine's College
- St Luke's Grammar School
- St Paul's Catholic College
- Stella Maris Catholic College
- The Pittwater House Schools
Lifeline’s Crisis Text Service Goes 24/7
Word Of The Week: Vociferous
Much Ado About Nothing On The Island This February
Applications Now Open For NSW Youth Advisory Council 2022
Morning Of The Earth: 50th Anniversary Screening At Cremorne
Morning of the Earth 50th Anniversary screening with director Q&A Wed March 9 at the Hayden Orpheum Picture Palace, Cremorne. Beautifully remastered in 4K. One show only! Tickets: http://ow.ly/Rkhc30s774W
The Living Years - Mike + The Mechanics
Researchers Confirm Newly Developed Inhaled Vaccine Delivers Broad Protection Against SARS-CoV-2 Variants Of Concern
Sewer Slime Can Hang On To SARS-CoV-2 RNA From Wastewater
Gut Bacteria Linked To Immune Suppression In Pancreatic Cancer
Root Symbiosis Is Regulated Through Nutrient Status Of Plants
Disclaimer: These articles are not intended to provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Views expressed here do not necessarily reflect those of Pittwater Online News or its staff.