Marisha Cautilli, Penn State University
The Great Barrier Reef in Australia is home to one of the largest reefs in the world. It is known for its diversity of species of coral that reside there. As a reef that rests below the ocean’s surface, it is vulnerable to how climate change is affecting the oceans. Half of the reef was dead as of 2017. If the rest of the reef dies, it could have drastic repercussions, like the death of millions of fish and possible effects on the world’s oxygen. Sadly, these corals are slowly bleaching and being consumed by algae. Indeed, global warming plays a key role through three effects on the reef. First, temperatures are rising, causing the bleaching mentioned earlier; ocean acidification is changing ocean chemistry and species cannot keep up with the pH changes, which is causing the corals to not build the shells needed to protect itself; finally, weather events are getting more severe, causing further damage to the reef.
Of the three that I mentioned before, the most impactful of these threats is the acidification of the ocean. The ocean currently absorbs about a third of carbon dioxide emitted by humans, which slowly changes the ocean’s chemistry by lowering the pH. More acidic waters chip away at aragonite shells and slowly makes it tougher for those organisms to regenerate those shells. Coral is one of these organisms, and they line the reef. This combined with the increased severity of storms causes coral species to die quicker than they can regenerate.
The best solution seems to be up in the air. As far as current interventions go, Australia has created a comprehensive plan to reduce CO2 emissions and thus mitigate climate change. This includes the standard ways to net zero emissions, such as cutting down methane produced by the red meat industry. The Australia and Queensland governments have committed billions of dollars and laid out a comprehensive plan to reduce the impact of climate change on the reef. Finally, Australia has partnered up with other companies and has asked them to reduce their emissions, including Australian branches of Sony, Coca Cola, and Fisor. The Queensland province has also implemented strategies, including increasing the requirements needed to fish in the barrier reef. It is believed that overfishing has put stress on the reef and placed it at risk. Regulating fishing in the reef area will hopefully strengthen the reef and thus make it more resilient against climate-change-related problems. Whether that strategy will work is yet to be seen.
Strategies to manage the Reef. (n.d.). Australian Government: Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority. http://www.gbrmpa.gov.au/our-work/reef-strategies
Science for management. (n.d.). Australian Government: Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority. http://www.gbrmpa.gov.au/our-work/reef-strategies/science-for-management
Reef 2050 Plan. (n.d.). Australian Government: Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority. http://www.gbrmpa.gov.au/our-work/reef-strategies/reef-2050
Reef 2050 Long-Term Sustainability Plan. (2018). Australian Government. https://www.environment.gov.au/system/files/resources/35e55187-b76e-4aaf-a2fa-376a65c89810/files/reef-2050-long-term-sustainability-plan-2018.pdf
Loria, K. (2018, April 19). Half of the Great Barrier Reef has died since 2016 — here’s what happens if all coral reefs on Earth die off. Business Insider. https://www.businessinsider.com/coral-reefs-great-barrier-reef-dying-from-bleaching-warming-2018-4
Corinne Leigh, Criminal Justice, Penn State University
Deforestation is seriously affecting the Republic of Haiti. Haiti shares a border with the Dominican Republic and if you happen to visit either of these countries, you can see a distinct border from the air. The Haitian side looks barren and the Dominican side is densely forested. It has been said that Haiti is down to its last 1 percent of primary forest and is among the most deforested places in the world (Hedges et al., 2018). Wildlife is almost non-existent. Wood is their main fuel source and much of their deforestation is due to a lack of adequate infrastructure and alternative energy sources. This deforestation leads to massive soil erosion which in turn leads to depleted soils that cannot support plant-based agriculture. Animal agriculture also suffers due to the lack of grazing grasses. There is just not enough food being produced to feed the herds. There is also not enough food to feed the people. Cite-Sole, an area adjacent to Haiti’s capital, Port-au-Prince, has been deemed as one of the worst living conditions in the world. This designation came before a massive earthquake shook the capital in 2010. Since then, it can only be described as totally destitute. I have personally visited Haiti several times, the first being in 2001. I saw firsthand people making mud cakes because there is literally no food to eat and a tiny bit of nutrition can be derived from dirt. The mud cakes also help to curb hunger. It is absolutely mind-blowing that we have people in this world living in these conditions. They are also facing problems with increased coastal flooding due to stronger hurricanes, rising seas, and deforestation (Effects of…, n.d.). Fish is one of their only food sources, and the loss of coastal habitats would completely devastate this once flourishing Black Republic. There are many reasons Haiti is facing this current ecological and humanitarian crisis. International politics continue to hurt this island nation along with increased greenhouse gas emissions. It is becoming more and more unbearably hot there. Water is limited and shade is a thing of the past. A massive tree planting effort combined with more advanced infrastructure is imperative. I have always dreamed of starting a massive solar initiative there which would help cut back on deforestation. No matter what happens, a global reduction in greenhouse gas emissions is needed for every nation, including Haiti.
Hedges, S. B., Cohen, W, B., Timyan, J., & Yang, Z. (2018, November 13). Haiti’s biodiversity threatened by nearly complete loss of primary forest. PNAS, 115 (46), 11850-11855. https://www.pnas.org/content/115/46/11850
Effects of Deforestation. (2021). Pachamama Alliance. https://www.pachamama.org/effects-of-deforestation
Andasibe is a town in the district of Moranga, Madagascar; almost sixty percent of the town’s population are farmers. Industrial-scale mining also takes place in Andasibe town. Lemurs are one of Madagascar’s best known and most peculiar species, there are about 111 species and subspecies of lemurs in Madagascar. In Andasibe town alone, there are eleven different species, some of them are sleeping woolly lemurs, common brown lemurs, grey bamboo lemurs and so on. The Andasibe National Park is said to be where the largest lemur species can be found in Madagascar.
Andasibe faces the threat of its lemurs going into extinction. In 2014, it was reported that 90 of the 111 lemur species are threatened with extinction as a result of the danger these creatures are exposed to; recall that about 60 percent of the people in Andasibe are farmers, and that lemurs are unique to Madagascar only, these two facts make lemurs very vulnerable to extinction, especially because of the fact that people also feed on them. It is largely due to violent unrest, societal crimes, and poverty that the people hunt lemurs for meat and income sources by selling them to restaurants or other people who could afford to pay for them.
If lemurs become extinct in Andasibe, it would mean a huge problem for the town because lemurs help with forestation by dispersing seeds and pollen as they move from one tree to another tree; lemurs also provide food for other larger creatures and shelter for bugs in the forest. Economically, lemurs help the town to make money through ecotourism, and Andasibe National Park is believed to be the home of the largest lemur, tourists are always interested in visiting the Andasibe National Park, so the absence of lemur would also mean a threat to all of this.
This extinction threat is being tackled by restricting the people from engaging in illegal exploitation of lemurs in the forest. When poachers do not kill them, they will live and multiply. Researchers interested in lemurs all over the world help to educate the people in Andasibe about wildlife leadership roles, there are also non-governmental organizations that are focused on the existence of lemurs.
Austin, D. (2020, May 25). The Best Places To See Lemurs In Madagascar. BradtGUIDES. https://www.bradtguides.com/the-best-places-to-see-lemurs-in-madagascar/
Mittermeier, R. (2019, Feb. 21). Hope for Madagascar And Its Lemurs. CROSSROADS BLOG. https://www.iucn.org/crossroads-blog/201902/hope-madagascar-and-its-lemurs
Lindsey Anderson, Landscape Architecture, Penn State College of Arts and Architecture
Extinction of species is a natural process that has been happening since the dawn of time. When a species becomes too weak to roam this earth, their population begins to decline until they are no more. However, since the evolution of man, this process has become much less natural. Since the beginning of the industrial revolution, 83 species of mammals, 113 species of birds, 23 species of amphibians/reptiles, 23 species of fish, 100 species of invertebrates, and over 350 species of plants have gone extinct. But these were only classified species. It is estimated that in 1991, between 4000 and 50000 unclassified species went extinct. As we are all well aware, climate change rears its ugly head in many different shapes and forms, for the polar bear, it created a habitat and hunting crisis. Because the Arctic is warming about two times as quickly as the rest of the planet, polar bears are needing to find new means of survival in order to avoid the fate of the dodo. They have been forced to find refuge on land instead of out on the ice they used to live on and hunt from. Their migration toward solid land has created a problem for communities like the Inupiat people. Inupiat is a native group of Alaskans that live from the Norton Sound on the Bering Sea to the northern side of the US-Canadian border. This group consists of 34 villages of Alaskan natives that depend on that land for survival. Unfortunately, more recently, the refugee polar bears have been forced upon the Inupiat land. This makes the polar bears and the villagers competitors for hunting, fishing, and space. There doesn’t seem to be many apparent solutions to this issue, with the polar bears natural habitat destroyed, it is either to let the polar bear population dwindle out, or force out a community that has been there for centuries. The only real solution is to cut greenhouse gas emissions and hope that there is a way to restore the natural balance.
Abrantes, R. (2011, July 27). Planet Earth has no Immune Response to Viral Attack. Roger Abrantes WordPress. https://rogerabrantes.wordpress.com/tag/industrial-revolution/
Goode, E. (2016, December 18). Polar Bears’ Path to Decline Runs Through Alaskan Village. The New York Times. https://www.nytimes.com/2016/12/18/science/polar-bears-global-warming.html
Iñupiat. (2021). In Wikipedia. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/I%C3%B1upiat
Luke Cantrel, Mechanical Engineering, College of Engineering
The small town of Savè, located in eastern Benin, is a primarily agricultural community surrounded by massive swaths of rich forest land. Unfortunately, that forest and the benefits it provides to the people of Savè are being threatened by uncontrolled logging and deforestation. In the past, the locals have only taken what they needed from the forest, but recently, the profits of lumber have brought in numerous loggers who cut down and clear as much as they can. This mass deforestation has caused major issues for Savè. Soil erosion has led to more landslides and floods, the cleared land has made it easier for grazing animals to destroy the fields of small farms, and many of the resources the locals harvest from the forest, such as medical herbs and nuts, are becoming increasingly difficult to find (Okanla, 2021).
Savè is particularly vulnerable to the deforestation of the surrounding area because they are a relatively underdeveloped community. They are reliant on the land around them to meet their needs and do not have the wealth to import everything the town requires. Additionally, the town is vulnerable due to social and economic factors. The logging industry is much more profitable than farming, providing incentive for many to ignore the forest protection laws. This problem is exacerbated by the fact that said laws are hardly enforced (Okanla, 2021). As a result, many loggers are free to strip the forest bare and make a profit without concern for legal repercussions or long term environmental consequences.
If the extensive logging around Savè is not halted, the community and surrounding area will suffer greatly. Currently, many species of local plants, birds, and other animals are becoming increasingly rare, and their numbers will only decrease further if the logging is continued. Furthermore, continued deforestation will leave Savè without their own lumber resource for the construction of homes and furniture. Lastly, the disappearance of medical roots and herbs will place a great financial burden on the town, as they will have to spend more money importing expensive pharmaceuticals (Okanla, 2021).
In terms of a solution, Savè’s main goal is to increase awareness of the importance of the forest, as well as the long term environmental consequences for unrestrained logging. Local government organizations and radio stations have been trying to spread information and promote campaigns for halting deforestation. They have advocated for mass tree plantings to replenish the population, as well as increased training for National Forest Service workers (Okanla, 2021). The hope is that the increased training will lead to more stringent enforcement of the environmental protection laws, and thus put a stop to illegal logging. Ideally, these measures will allow Savè to recover the areas of the forest that are so crucial to their way of life.
Okanla, K. (2021, February 4). Deforestation Is Ravaging the Environment of Savè, a Small Town in Benin. Development and Cooperation. www.dandc.eu/en/article/deforestation-ravaging-environment-save-small-town-benin.
Shayleen Daley, International Relations, Penn State University
The city of Lijiang resides in the Northwestern part of Yunnan Province, China, which has some of the most concentrated biodiversity in China. Lijiang city at this time has a thriving ecotourism industry because of the vast amount of plant and wildlife that live in the surrounding mountains and natural forests.
In the 20th century, a significant portion of the forest was cut down for the timber industry as part of China’s industrialization strategy. The heavy forest loss has threatened this biodiversity, leading to strong protective conservation efforts that limited traditional industry for the city’s growing population. It also led to the endangerment of over half of the local wildlife, and many medicinal plants that grow naturally around the city are now endangered. The loss of plant life has had an immediate negative impact on the city, leading to increased damage from floods after heavy rainfall and mudslides as the mountain and hillsides lack the necessary root structures to secure the soil.
The local government, in coordination with the Beijing government, has attempted to address the biodiversity loss through conservation efforts and shifting local industry from timber to ecotourism. This has helped mitigate further species loss around Lijiang and the wider Yunnan Province, but has brought its own set of problems in terms of the increased human traffic through areas, which could harm efforts to increase biodiversity to pre-20th century levels, and impact the traditional cultural practices of the city.
A potential solution is to limit ecotourism and focus industry more towards sustainable practices and preservation of the natural landscape. This would include creating work in monitoring local habitats, research and preservation efforts, and stewardship of the land, in line with more traditional practices of the local population prior to industrialization. The solution I propose that would help create a more direct connection between Lijiang’s population and their natural surroundings is promoting more sustainable living, which would help engender a more protective outlook for future generations and mitigate illegal logging of the protected forests and poaching of local wildlife for profit.
Xu, J., & Wilkes, A. (2004). Biodiversity impact analysis in northwest Yunnan, southwest China. Biodiversity and Conservation, 13, 959-983. 10.1023/B:BIOC.0000014464.80847.02
Zhao, G. (2010). TOWARDS SUSTAINABLE TOURISM: A CASE STUDY OF LIJIANG, CHINA. Kansas State University. https://core.ac.uk/download/pdf/5170509.pdf
Zheng, H., & Cao, S. (2015). Threats to China’s Biodiversity by Contradictions Policy. Ambio, 44(1), 23-33. https://doi.org/10.1007/s13280-014-0526-7
Alexandra Diaz, Microbiology, Eberly College of Science Penn State University
Ladybugs were once synonymous with summer, however, in recent decades, their population has been in a rapid decline. With more than 5,000 species, the ladybug is a relatively common insect, but the same colorful beetle our parents saw outside as children is not the same beetle that seems to wreak havoc in the summer months today (Ladybugs, n.d.). This once common species of ladybug is the Coccinella novemnotata or the 9-spotted ladybug. The 9-spotted ladybug is characterized by the 9-spots on its shell (In Search…, n.d.). It is native to the Midwestern US and was considered to be beneficial to crops and other plant growth for its ability to control pest populations. The 9-spotted ladybug is a natural predator of pests like aphids, insect eggs, and mites, which can eat and destroy crops (Bessin, 2019). This makes the 9-spotted ladybug a welcome insect in the summer harvest months.
However, in recent years, the actual population of 9-spotted ladybugs has been on the decline despite once being the most common species in the US and Canada (In Search…, n.d.). The exact reasoning for the decline in the population is very much contested as there are a multitude of variables that could have caused it. One of the most discussed possible causes is the use of commercial pesticides (Flint, 2014). While the 9-spotted ladybug poses no harm to crops, insecticides used to kill other more harmful insects will kill the beetle as well. It is for this reason that the wide-spread spraying of insecticides used to kill pests may have in fact killed the natural predator of the intended target. Another possible cause for the population decline could be the invasive Asian Lady beetle. The multicolored Asian lady beetle or Harmonia axyridis was brought from Japan to the United States as a means to control pest insects (In Search…, n.d.). However, this particular ladybug is slightly larger than the native ladybugs and began to compete for the same prey, as well as feed on the 9-spotted ladybugs themselves. The Asian lady beetle’s population has since exploded and they have since overtaken the 9-spotted ladybugs place as the most common ladybug in the US (Moeller, 2017).
Looking to the future, the recovery of the 9-spotted ladybug population will require special practices. The first issue that must be mitigated is the insecticides sprayed on crops. To support the return of the 9-spotted ladybug, commercial pesticides that are proven harmful to the beetle should be removed from widespread use. In doing so, the aphid population will also expand momentarily, allowing for the rebound of the 9-spotted ladybug (Flint, 2014). Secondly, the invasive competition of the asian lady beetles must also be controlled. However, any methods of action taken against the asian lady beetles has the possibility of harming the 9-spotted ladybug as well (Moeller, 2017). Therefore, the issue of how to bring back the 9-spotted ladybug is ongoing for the time being.
Bessin, R. (2019). Ladybugs. Entomology at the University of Kentucky. https://entomology.ca.uky.edu/ef105
Flint, M. (2014). Ladybugs need special care to control aphids in the garden. Green Blog. https://ucanr.edu/blogs/blogcore/postdetail.cfm?postnum=13933
In Search of Ladybugs. (n.d.). Ladybug Project. http://www.lostladybug.org/files/080450LadybugsPP7.pdf
Ladybugs. (n.d.). National Geographic. https://www.nationalgeographic.com/animals/invertebrates/facts/ladybugs
Moeller, S. (2017). The annual return of the unwanted houseguests. Xerces Society. https://xerces.org/blog/annual-return-of-unwanted-houseguests
My final capstone assignment explores the city of Gold Coast, Australia and the impacts of species loss in the area.
The beautiful coastal city of Gold Coast is located in the state of Queensland, Australia, home to some of the worst species loss on the planet. Between 2000 and 2017, Gold Coast ranked in the top 5 worst urban areas for habitat and species loss in Australia, and Queensland had the most habitat destroyed. 1000 species were listed in Queensland in August 2020 as threatened and 150 of these were located in Gold Coast.
One of the main reasons that species loss has been so prevalent in the area is due to Australia’s weak environmental laws that do very little to protect habitat and species. The expansion of the city of Gold Coast is the main driver of species loss. Over half of vegetation in Gold Coast lies on private property that has been being aggressively developed, leading to a large amount of habitat loss. Another factor causing the high species loss in the area is due to environmental weeds that have been introduced into the area that take over native landscapes and lead to plant and animal extinctions. As one of the most biodiverse areas in Australia, with over 600 native species of animals and 1700 native plant species, Gold Coast is highly susceptible to species loss given the effects of climate change and urbanization.
The possible impacts of the widespread species loss in the area are wide and of grave concern. Some of the most threatened species include the Red goshawk, Grey-headed flying fox, Koala Australasian bittern, and the Regent honeyeater. The impacts of losing species such as these will have impacts across the entire ecosystem and food chain. For example, the grey-headed flying fox has a huge role in pollination of forests. Populations of Koala have declined in Queensland by 42% in recent decades.
So what can be done to help solve this problem of species loss? The Queensland Threatened Species Program is a great step in mitigating the issue. This program serves to protect and recover species that are in anger from species loss. It has 5 areas that are:
▪ Legislation, policy and governance
▪ Planning and management
▪ Science and knowledge
▪ Connect and communicate
▪ Monitoring, evaluation, reporting and improvement framework
A large overhaul of outdated laws in Australia and Gold Coast will need to be implemented to protect the threatened species in the area.
New Report Reveals Extinction Crisis in the Suburbs. (n.d.). Australian Conservation Foundation. www.acf.org.au/new_report_reveals_extinction_crisis_in_the_suburbs#:~:text=The%20five %20worst%20urban%20areas,Townsville%2C%20Sunshine%20Coast%20and%20Sydney
Planning and Environment City Development. (n.d.). Threatened Species. City of Gold Coast. www.goldcoast.qld.gov.au/environment/threatened/species540.html#:~:text=Loss%20of%20individuals%20%2D%20fatalities&text=Chlamydial%20disease%20has%20been%20the,introducing%20diseases%20(feral%20pigs)
The threat to the town of Gibsons, British Columbia is species loss. This community is specifically vulnerable to species loss due to the extremely variable climate that is conducive for the death of certain species. Furthermore, the climate of Gibsons is also likely to worsen the effects of disease within a variety of species. In addition, this area does not contain many predators to sea urchins, meaning the death of their main predator would be extremely detrimental to the ecosystem (Schultz et al., 2016). These vulnerabilities are seen in the widespread mortality of the Pycnopodia helianthoides, also known as the sunflower starfish. The sunflower starfish, along with many other species of starfish, experienced a wasting disease beginning in 2013 that largely decimated their populations and left a major missing piece in the food chain of Gibsons.
The forecasted impact of the species loss of the sunflower starfish within the community of Gibson are detrimental for many aspects of the ecosystem. For example, sea urchins are more likely to create urchin barons if their populations are not kept low by their main predator, the sunflower starfish (Schultz et al., 2016). Furthermore, the lack of presence of the ecosystem’s major predator is likely to contribute to a decreased amount of biodiversity within the community due to the imbalance of sea urchins. It is unlikely that the ecosystem will thrive without the presence of the sunflower starfish, as the lack of kelp forests due to the increasing sea urchin population will affect many other species in the Gibsons’ ecosystem (Schultz et al., 2016).
The solution to the threat of species loss in Gibsons is to closely monitor how the ecosystem responds to the changes in the food chain, as these populations are solving the threat independently. Using the example of the sunflower starfish loss, scientists closely monitored the starfishes that were surviving as opposed to those that were quickly dying after contracting the wasting disease. These researchers found that the genetic sequences of the survivors were fundamentally different from those who died due to the disease. Furthermore, it was discovered that the starfishes being born today are similar genetically to the survivors as opposed to the starfish that died (Greenwood, 2018). This has led scientists to hypothesize that the starfish are undergoing natural selection to better equip themselves against future disease and severe climates.
Greenwood, V. (2018, June 18). Sea Stars Started Dissolving. What Helped Some of Them Survive? The New York Times. https://www.nytimes.com/2018/06/18/science/sea-stars-genes.html
Schultz, J. A., Cloutier, R. N., & Côté, I. M. (2016). Evidence for a Trophic Cascade on Rocky Reefs Following Sea Star Mass Mortality in British Columbia. PeerJ, 4, e1980. https://doi.org/10.7717/peerj.1980.
C. M. Erikson, Earth Sciences, College of Earth and Mineral Sciences
Although the creatures have always been prized in the fishing villages of Hong Kong, sighting the Chinese white dolphin is more cherished than ever before. However, this is not because of greater care for the dolphins, but because of the scarcity of their presence. In the Pearl River Delta, where Tai O is situated, a high volume of traffic from oceanic vessels and development projects around Hong Kong have contributed to a steady decline in suitable habitat for the dolphins (Ramzy, 2021). Combined with pollution, it is estimated that these challenges have driven an eighty percent decrease in the dolphin populations in some areas (Ramzy, 2021).
Interestingly, a reduction in pandemic related boating traffic has allowed for a temporary reemergence of the dolphins in places where they had been absent for a long time. This serves to demonstrate the significant disturbance anthropogenic activities have on the dolphins, but it also offers insight into the effectiveness conservation efforts could have. One such effort has been the creation of marine sanctuaries designed to create an area where the dolphins, and other marine species, will not experience the same perturbations (Ramzy, 2021). However, reviews of this strategy have often found it to be inadequate (Liu & Hills, 1997). This is partially because of the failures in the parks themselves to provide sufficient space and to fully limit damaging activities such as certain forms of fishing, which reduce the food supply for the dolphins (Liu & Hills, 1997). It is also partially because of other factors which the marine parks cannot help with. Overfishing, pollution, and habitat loss from development projects and vessel traffic still pose large threats and their impacts cannot be isolated out of the parks (Jefferson & Smith, 2016).
The resurgence of the dolphins in Tai O will probably be brief, with the prospects of the species also bleak. Even in the marine parks, a yearly reduction of population size has been observed since their creation, and the new sightings near the village more likely reflect a movement of individuals into preferred areas rather than a population expansion (Jefferson & Smith, 2016; Ramzy, 2021). Despite this, the event does suggest that drastic measures could offer some hope. Otherwise, the ecosystem is expected to suffer future losses and the repercussions will be more dramatic than missing an icon of the region.
Jefferson, T. A., & Smith, B. D. (2016). Re-assessment of the conservation status of the Indo pacific humpback Dolphin (Sousa chinensis) using the IUCN Red List criteria. Advances in Marine Biology, 1-26. doi:10.1016/bs.amb.2015.04.002
Liu, J., & Hills, P. (1997). Environmental planning, biodiversity and the development process: The case of Hong Kong’s Chinese White Dolphins. Journal of Environmental Management, 50(4), 351-367. doi:10.1006/jema.1997.0130
Ramzy, A. (2021, April 5). Off Hong Kong’s Shores, Threatened Pink Dolphins Enjoy Brief Respite. The New York Times. https://www.nytimes.com/2021/04/05/world/asia/hong-kongs-pink-dolphins.html?searchResultPosition=5
Nicholas F. Frederick, Corporate Innovation and Entrepreneurship, Pennsylvania State University
It is clear that the oceans are warming across the globe, but some locations are being affected more significantly than others. This warming is impacting fisheries in towns across the globe. One town that has suffered greatly from this warming has been Tombwa, Angola, an area off the west coast of Africa. Due to the shift in high-pressure zones, winds have slowed, causing upwelling in the area to lessen, which means the waters are lacking the nutrients it once had.
Fisheries are an important part of life for the people of Tombwa. Now that the water off the coast is warming, many of the innate species that are vital to the town are vanishing. The blacktail seabream, a type of fish essential for Tombwa’s fisherman, is struggling to reproduce due to the rising water temperatures. According to the Washington Post, it is estimated that blacktail seabream’s procreation rate has declined 20% each decade within the past 30 years (Bearak, 2019). Other important species’ populations such as the dusky kob and the Cuene horse mackerel have also dropped a notable amount in the Tombwa area.
Since the community relies so much on fisheries, this change has Tombwa in peril. Many fishermen in Tombwa now have to travel extensive distances by boat in order to collect enough fish to make a living. Marine Biologist Warren Potts, who is studying the water off the coast of Tombwa, says that the vicious chain of circumstances that will continue to stem from this warming is difficult to foresee but is predestined to occur. Tombwa’s waters struggle to adjust to severe alterations in ocean temperature due to its magnitude.
To add to the troubles of warming waters, the oxygen levels off the coast of Tombwa are also declining. This phenomenon is known as hypoxia. This depletion of oxygen in the ocean is resulting in smaller fish. The younger and smaller the fish, the less oxygen it needs. Illegal fishing in Tombwa is also adding to the issue. A majority of the fishing in Tombwa is unregulated, which allows for massive trawls. Evidence suggests that much of the illegal fishing that takes place is performed by private vessels from China and South Korea. This has led to overfishing, which causes the fish populations to plummet. This impacts not only the marine-life in Tombwa, but the locals whose livelihoods depend on fishing.
The solution to this problem does not depend on Tombwa or Angola, whose carbon dioxide emissions are about 0.1% of the world’s (Bearak, 2019). Since the devastating change in water temperatures is due to wind circulation caused by climate change, Tombwa’s biggest hope is for a global effort to reduce greenhouse gases. As for the overfishing issue, the simplest solution is to allocate funding in order to enforce regulation. More funding would allow Tombwa to have more patrols on its coast to police the situation.
Bearak, M. & Mooney, C. (2019, November 27). A Crisis in the Water Is Decimating This Once-Booming Fishing Town. The Washington Post. www.washingtonpost.com/graphics/2019/world/climate-environment/angola-climate-change/.
Mikhail Galperin, Business Administration, Penn State World Campus
Red pandas are one of many species critically threatened by the effects of climate change. With less than 10,000 red pandas remaining in the world, the village of Sindrabong partnered with the World Wildlife Fund to build an action plan to combat the harsh conditions affecting their red panda species and ensure their survival.
Increasing temperatures in the Sindrabong region are the largest risk to red pandas today, with the species dependent on very specific temperatures for its home to be habitable. With the rising temperatures, the only recourse for the red panda is to climb to higher elevations in search of cooler weather. Unfortunately, most of the possible red panda habitats are unprotected by the government, and as a result, are subject to destructive man-made activities like deforestation that leave the pandas with no place to go.
Some of the proposed solutions from the World Wildlife Fund’s collaboration with the village of Sindrabong include human behavioral changes and preventative measures to protect the forests housing red pandas. An effort was made to reduce the rate of logging by introducing cookstoves that are more efficient on wood, the main source of fuel for homes in the area, while loggers were taught sustainable methods for collecting this wood. Strategies were proposed to curb the illegal reaping of medicinal plants located in the forests, as well as mitigation policies to prevent ravaging fires that pose a greater risk than ever before due to the rising temperatures and new rainfall patterns.
While these changes do not solve the main issue of rising temperatures, they can be effective at slowing down the rate of habitat loss for the endangered red pandas and are only the start of the World Wildlife Fund’s work with Sikkim’s Department of Forests, Environment, and Wildlife Management. With any luck, the red panda will one day no longer be considered endangered.
World Wildlife Fund. (n.d.). Red Pandas, Climate Change, and the Fight to Save Forests. World Wildlife Fund. https://www.worldwildlife.org/pages/red-pandas-climate-change-and-the-fight-to-save-forests
The Wyoming toad, also called the Baxter’s toad, was common near the town of Laramie in Albany County, Wyoming, in the middle of the twentieth century. By 1980, roughly 25 toads existed in the county, which was the only habitat of the species (Wyoming Toad, 2021). The toads disappeared largely due to pollution from pesticides and climate change (Wyoming Toad Facts, n.d.). Because of the toad’s frail skin, it is susceptible to the chytrid fungus, which decimated the poorly adaptable toad population in the region (Wyoming Toad, 2021). Being amphibians, the toads needed bodies of water for reproductive purposes. In Albany County, a number of streams and rivers provide ample habitat for amphibian reproduction, and also irrigation. In Wyoming, irrigation consumes 80-85% of water usage. The dominating crop is grass and alfalfa, which amount to 73% of planted acreage (Jacobs & Brosz, n.d.). Nearby Laramie County (in which Laramie is not located), is the neighboring county to Albany County, ranked eighth in the U.S. (by county) for sheep and goat production, among other things (Brandt, 2019). Heavily reliant on agriculture, it is imperative that Laramie and the greater state of Wyoming are able to maintain local ecosystems, so as to not upset the ecological balance that provides the area with such fertile farmland. However, species like the Baxter toad signal a dire warning: the ecosystem is fragile. For the people in and around Laramie, maintaining the local ecosystem is key to their own economic success. In 2017, average net income per Wyoming farm was $22,314 (Brandt, 2019). A predator of crickets (Wyoming Toad, 2021), the return of the Baxter toad could put a dent in the local cricket and insect populations near Laramie. So will the Baxter toad return from the dead? Actually, there is a good chance for the fortunate amphibian. Near Mortenson Lake, the frog population has been growing due to conservation efforts of the lake’s Wildlife Refuge (Clay, 2020). Thousands of toads have already been released into the wild, although calls have been made for more research into the primary killer of the toad, a fungus, and the hibernation habits of the toad (Clay, 2020). In addition, researchers have been seeking more promising locations at which to release captive toads, to give them a better chance of survival (Clay, 2020). Hopefully, the toad population will be reborn, and lessons will be taken from its near-extinction. Fortunately for the people of Laramie, the promise of the throaty roar of Baxter’s toad is once again on the horizon.
Brandt, R. (2019, July 12). Wyoming Agriculture: Growing for the Future. USDA. www.usda.gov/media/blog/2019/07/12/wyoming-agriculture-growing-future.
Jackson, C. (2020, June 3). Wyoming Toad Conservation And Rescue. Reptiles Magazine. www.reptilesmagazine.com/wyoming-toad-conservation-and-rescue/.
Jacobs, J. J., & Brosz, D. J. (n.d.). Wyoming’s Water Resources. library.wrds.uwyo.edu/wrp/93-12/93-12.html.
Wyoming Toad Facts. (n.d.). SoftSchools.com. www.softschools.com/facts/animals/wyoming_toad_facts/1683/.
Wyoming Toad. (2021). In Wikipedia. en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wyoming_toad.
Polar bears are especially prevalent on Svalbard, an archipelago between Norway and the North Pole. There are twenty different polar bear populations called the Barents Sea population, ranging from Spitsbergen to Novaya Zemlya. As a result of climate change and hunting practices, polar bears are considered at risk in Svalbard. Because of this, baiting and pursuing polar bears in Svalbard is highly illegal (Aars, Andersen & Kovacs, 2005).
The movement patterns of female polar bears are key to their survival rates. One group of female polar bears roams from Svalbard to Russia while others remain on Svalbard. The second group of polar bears has a reduced hunting season, making it more difficult for them to obtain food. Usually, polar bears hunt ringed and bearded seals. 50-75 seals satisfy an adult polar bear’s energy needs. Typically, polar bears wait beside a breathing hole in the ice to capture their prey. Therefore, with receding ice in areas such as Svalbard, polar bears have limited available food in the summertime, increasing their encounters with humans (Aars et al., 2005).
Humans who confront polar bears during their migration patterns must be prepared as they are potentially dangerous. Polar bears have killed multiple people in Svalbard. When sea ice recedes in the spring and summer, polar bears may become trapped on land and are more likely to hunt people. Alternatively, humans killed approximately 3 bears per year between the years 1993 and 2004. Svalbard officials suggest humans come prepared by bringing a scaring device or avoiding dangerous situations (Aars et al., 2005).
Two other major impacts on the number of polar bears are the short polar bear lifespan and reproduction rate patterns. Most polar bears only live until 30 years old. Female polar bears begin mating at the age of 5. After giving birth, they stay with their polar bears for two and a half years. Then, the female polar bear leaves the cubs to mate again. Coincidingly, many polar bear cubs die when they are young, reducing the population levels (Aars et al., 2005).
Hunting has had the most significant impact on the presence of polar bears in Svalbard. During the 1920s, humans killed over 900 polar bears. In 1970, only around 1000 polar bears existed on Svalbard. Humans typically hunted polar bears with guns, poison, and traps. Additionally, Svalbard people trapped cubs from Svalbard and placed them in European zoos. However, there have been restrictions in place in Svalbard since 1927. A critical hunting restriction to help polar bear extinction rates was when Svalbard prohibited the shooting of females and cubs in 1965. People still hunted polar bears until 1973, when Svalbard signed The International Agreement for the Conservation of Polar Bears and Their Habitat. These restrictions have allowed polar bears to recoup positively. The people of Svalbard continue to promote these practices to ensure the protection of polar bears today (Aars et al., 2005).
Aars, J., Andersen, M,. & Kovacs, K. M. (2005). Polar bears in Svalbard. Norwegian Polar Institute. https://brage.npolar.no/npolar-xmlui/bitstream/handle/11250/172904/PolarbearsFolder.pdf?sequence=1
Cassidy Hofbauer, Special Education, College of Education
The South West region of Western Australia is known for their wide range of species which reside there. Sadly, many species in the South West region of Western Australia are vulnerable to climate change, and if it continues to occur, they risk losing their entire species (Szczecinski, 2017). The town of Southern Cross lies within the Southwest Australia Ecoregion where a large amount of critically endangered species like the numbat, Gilbert’s potoroo, the Black-flanked Rock-wallaby, and the Northern Quoll reside (The Southwest Australia…, n.d.; Australia’s Endangered Animals, n.d.). These animals, along with other species, have been impacted by climate change through drought, bushfires, and deforestation, making them more susceptible to going extinct (What are the…, n.d.). The few endangered species left in this region have trouble or are completely unable to protect themselves from these dangerous conditions and circumstances (Szczecinski, 2017). They need all the help and support us humans are able to give, because their lives depend on it.
Saving these species may not seem very easy, but there are ways locals and everyone around the world are able to help. There are already some programs and projects created specifically to help the issue of species loss in South West Western Australia, but not many people are aware of them. By spreading awareness, these programs could get more supporters advocating and raising money to help protect these species and their habitats (A biodiversity hotspot, n.d.). Many zoos, like the Perth Zoo, have taken matters into their own hands and brought some endangered species into their protection to breed safely to help increase the species’ population (Szczecinski, 2017). There are other Australian programs that focus on creating safe homes for these species and making sure they are able to get resources like food and water, which they were stripped of before they were saved (Szczecinski, 2017; A biodiversity hotspot, n.d.). People around the world can help by donating, spreading the word, and by not buying habitat or animal harming products.
A biodiversity hotspot. (n.d.). WWF. https://wwf.panda.org/discover/knowledge_hub/where_we_work/southwest_australia/?
Australia’s Endangered Animals. (n.d.). The Nature Conservancy Australia. https://www.natureaustralia.org.au/what-we-do/our-priorities/wildlife/wildlife stories/australias-endangered-animals/
Szczecinski, S. (2017, February 7). Species teetering on the brink of extinction. The Western Australian. https://thewest.com.au/lifestyle/kids/species-teetering-on-the-brink-of extinction-ng-b88379246z
The Southwest Australia Ecoregion [PDF]. (n.d.). Southwest Australia Ecoregion Initiative. file:///C:/Users/CassidyHofbauer/Downloads/pub-western-australia-jewel-of-the australian-continent-1apr06.pdf
What are the impacts of climate change? (n.d.). Australian Academy of Science. https://www.science.org.au/learning/general-audience/science-climate-change/7-what are-impacts-of-climate-change
Claire Jablonski, Mathematics, Eberly College of Science
Bird populations are threatened by both climate change and the human destruction of forested landscapes. Humans are the biggest threat to birds because of the constant logging of forested habitats for agriculture and urbanization. In some states in the Pacific Northwest, the northern spotted owl is listed as either threatened or endangered. The northern spotted owl population located in the Pacific Northwest is an example of a threatened bird population. Forested areas in San Francisco like Muir Woods are being affected by the decreasing northern spotted owl population. The main threat to these birds continues to be logging and wildfires, but the invasion of the barred owl has also become a big threat. Barred owls compete with northern spotted owls for habitats and other resources. The northern spotted owls are very important for the forests they inhabit because they keep rodents and other small animal populations in check. Also, they are important indicators of the forests because they will only survive in healthy forested ecosystems. Precautions need to be taken seriously to help protect the northern spotted owls from becoming extinct in places like San Francisco.
Recently, recovery efforts have been put into place to protect the northern spotted owls population. In 1994, the Northwest Forest Plan was created to preserve the northern spotted owl’s habitats. These particular birds prefer living in old-growth forests. Because timber is still necessary for communities to survive, the Northwest Forest Plan became a compromise for log harvesting to happen in areas less preferred by northern spotted owls. A Revised Recovery Plan for the northern spotted owls was released in 2011 to include suggestions on managing the health of forests and the competition of the barred owl population. With new threats coming from climate change, newly updated plans should be set in place to continue to protect the endangered Northern Spotted Owl.
Addressing Owl Conservation. (2021). California Academy of Sciences. www.calacademy.org/explore-science/addressing-owl-conservation.
Genetic Mapping of Northern Spotted Owls. (2021). Golden Gate Audubon Society. goldengateaudubon.org/blog-posts/genetic-mapping-spotted owls/.
McClosk & Weinberg, J. (2013, August). Northern Spotted Owl Monitoring in the San Francisco Bay Area (U.S. National Park Service). National Parks Service, U.S. Department of the Interior. www.nps.gov/articles/northern-spotted-owl-monitoring.htm.
Northern Spotted Owl Species Profile. (2020, November 2). Official Web Page of the US Fish and Wildlife Service. www.fws.gov/arcata/es/birds/NSO/ns_owl.html.
WAFWO – Northern Spotted Owl. (2021). U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service. www.fws.gov/wafwo/articles.cfm?id=149489593.
The Noyo Harbor in Fort Bragg, California has faced the ultimate decimation of their kelp forests since 2008. Once flourishing along the coast of California, kelp forests have lost around 90% of their original areal coverage. Interestingly, these forests were not severely affected by events such as El Nino or heat waves that raise sea temperatures because of their rapid growth, but by the purple sea urchin. Sea urchin populations were kept in check by their main predator, the sunflower sea star, but after this species was almost completely eradicated in the Pacific due to sea star wasting disease, sea urchin numbers grew exponentially. The increase of sea urchin populations has even caused the collapse of several local fishing species, including abalone.
Purple sea urchins in the area feed on kelp forests that are ecologically important to the environment as they give shelter and food source to several oceanic species. Without kelp forests, Noyo Harbor and other cities along the coast of California may face more damaging waves and ocean currents, as kelp helps protect the coastline from these. These forests also have economic importance in Fort Bragg to local fishing and diving industries because a range of ocean species such as abalone depend on kelp forests to thrive and maintain homeostasis within their environment. They also use twenty times more carbon dioxide to grow than land forests, making kelp forests essential in the fight against climate change. If kelp forests are not protected by the California government and independent organizations, Fort Bragg and other coastal cities will see a decline in ocean health and ecosystem as well as in their local fishing and diving industries, causing a massive loss in livelihood for thousands of people.
Fortunately, kelp has rapid growth rates and can recover by themselves periodically. To help conserve kelp forests, Noyo Harbor divers teamed up with the conservationist organization Reef Check California to manually collect purple sea urchins and reduce their numbers in urchin-barren kelp forests. They plan to conduct this conservation method every year while simultaneously monitoring the project’s efficacy. These efforts also incentivize the divers, who are paid per day and extra costs such as fuel funded by the Ocean Protection Council, giving divers and fishermen back a source of income while kelp forests are being protected. Not only is Fort Bragg working to control sea urchin levels, but they are also working to reintroduce natural sea urchin predators into their waters, such as the sunflower sea star and sea otters. By controlling the population of sea urchins in Noyo Harbor and along the coast of California, as well as reintegrating natural predators for urchins in kelp forests, kelp forests may see a comeback in the coming years.
Blackwell, M. (2020, August 5). Purple Urchin Removal Program Begins After COVID Delay. Fort Bragg Advocate-News. https://www.advocate-news.com/2020/08/05/purple-urchin-removal-program-begins-after-covid-delay/.
Brissette, P. (2020, June 22). The Guardians of the Kelp Forests. Medium. https://perrybrissette.medium.com/the-guardians-of-the-kelp-forests-696217387ec2.
Cohen, L. (2020, August 12). Purple Urchin Has Overrun Kelp Forests, Commercial Divers And Conservationists Have Joined Forces To Restore The North Coast’s Marine Ecosystem. The Mendocino Voice. https://mendovoice.com/2020/08/commercial-divers-join-forces-with-conservation-groups-to-restore-the-north-coasts-kelp-ecosystem/.
Kelp Forest Habitat on the West Coast. (n.d.). NOAA Fisheries. https://www.fisheries.noaa.gov/west-coast/habitat-conservation/kelp-forest-habitat-west-coast.
Sommer, L. (2021, March 31). In Hotter Climate, ‘Zombie’ Urchins Are Winning And Kelp Forests Are Losing. National Public Radio. https://www.npr.org/2021/03/31/975800880/in-hotter-climate-zombie-urchins-are-winning-and-kelp-forests-are-losing.
Alyssa Martin, Advertising/Public Relations, Bellisario College of Communications
For this entry, we will be focusing on the city of Cairns, Australia. Cairns has a population of about 150,000 residents, and the community is experiencing species loss. Australia has been through a great deal in the past few years, and the environment is suffering. Species in Cairns are vulnerable and diminishing. They are greatly threatened due to wildfires, habitat loss, and invasive weeds and pests, all of which are results of climate change.
Although there are many species that are struggling in this area, we are going to discuss just one; the cassowary. The cassowary is a species of bird, and is vital to the biodiversity of Cairns and other rainforests. They are so important because they are one of the only species that are able to distribute large-seeded fruits over great distances, thus giving food sources to a variety of other species who rely on these seeds. Not only are the cassowaries threatened by the reasons listed before, but they endure other obstacles as well. Urban development and motor vehicles are also a huge problem for the cassowaries because they travel such great distances.
They often don’t make it to their destination due to urban development and are often hit by cars. The forecasted impacts of the community could be devastating. If the cassowaries continue to lower in numbers, many other species are going to suffer as well, and a domino effect of species loss would ensue. There are as few as 2000 cassowaries remaining, putting them on the verge of extinction. However, people are desperately trying to help. One solution that had been put into motion was to actually build a bridge specifically for cassowaries to find each other. The bridge connects one population of cassowaries to another, in hopes that they find each other and can continue to breed in greater numbers, with more genetic diversity, and with access to diverse resources. Other solutions involve informing a greater number of people of the threat that the animals are facing, and holding events and programs that are funded by the Australian Government. Hopefully, with the new bridge in place, information, and funding, the cassowaries can live a blissful life, and continue to distribute food to other species.
Symposium puts North Queensland’s Threatened Species in the spotlight. (2021, February 15). Threatened Species Recovery Hub. https://www.nespthreatenedspecies.edu.au/news-and-media/media-releases/symposium-puts-north-queensland-s-threatened-species-in-the-spotlight
Haylie McSwaney, Biology, Eberly College of Science
Between December 2018 and February 2019, more than 500 million bees were lost in four Brazilian states. Bees are one of the most threatened insects globally, which could have dangerous agricultural impacts. Known as Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD), these events render beehives unable to function, with few adult bees left. The rates of CCD have been increasing globally over the past decade, threatening food security worldwide.
CCD began in the US in 2006 and has been observed globally since. There are a variety of hypotheses as to the cause of CCD, although none have been strictly identified as the main source. However, in the instance of Rio Grande do Sol, the cause of these CCD events is strong pesticides. These pesticides, including neonicotinoids and fipronil, caused the death of a devastating number of bees in several Brazilian states. These chemicals have been banned in the European Union, but Brazilian president Jair Bolsonaro reinstated their use. Bolsonaro’s administration continues to authorize the use of more dangerous pesticides, predicting dangerous conditions for pollinators. Pesticides administered from airplanes in Cruz Alta, a municipality of Rio Grande do Sol, led to the loss of 20% of all beehives.
The continued use of harmful pesticides in Rio Grande do Sol will have severe implications for food security. 75% of global food consumption depends on bee pollination that will be reduced if these pesticides are continued to be allowed. Different bee species pollinate different plants, and if a certain species goes extinct, their plant will either become eradicated or extremely expensive. This pattern could reach irreversible levels as more species die off, affecting the entire food chain. The extreme CCD event observed in Rio Grande do Sol was monitored by beekeepers. Scientists have warned that if pesticide use is continued, CCD events will become even more disastrous for wild bees who are not accounted for.
Scientists in Rio Grande do Sol have emphasized the importance of monitoring farmers as they plant their crops. It is suggested that agronomists should observe the fields to ensure that instructions are carefully followed regarding pesticide use. Going forward, it will also be important to report instances at the municipal and state level of harmful pesticide use. Beekeepers and agricultural scientists are working together to ban the use of pesticides contributing to CCD events like in Rio Grande do Sol. Banning aerial use of these pesticides will be vital in preventing future CCD events in Cruz Alta and other Brazilian municipalities.
Grigori, P. (2019, August 23). Half a Billion Bees Dead as Brazil Approves Hundreds More Pesticides. Mongabay Environmental News. https://news.mongabay.com/2019/08/half-a-billion-bees-dead-as-brazil-approves-hundreds-more-pesticides/.
Hanson, T. (2019, August 29). Why Have 500 Million Bees Died in Brazil in the Past Three Months? The Guardian. www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2019/aug/29/500-million-bees-brazil-three-months.
Fisheries supply both profits to their community and food to feed them. In Tombwa, Angola, a town in Southern Africa, fishing was once the heart of the community. At one time, almost two dozen fishing factories stood thriving. Now, thirty years later, two factories are left with a population of roughly 50,000 people in economic instability (Bearak, 2019). The Tombwa fisheries have run dry, in part because of ocean warming and low oxygen levels, but also because of overfishing. The residents of Tombwa face depleted fishing waters as ocean temperatures rise. The temperature of the shores of Tombwa has risen much higher than the global average and has almost reached the critical tipping point of 2 degrees Celsius above the 1982 average. As hot waters are continually pushed towards Angola, fish migrate to cooler waters or they flee due to suffocating from low oxygen (Ocean deoxygenation, 2020).
The species that Tombwa fishermen capture and process are migrating to find more hospitable places. Tombwa is a rural town that relies on fisheries to generate income, with most residents participating in fishing as there is almost nothing else to be offered. For Tombwa citizens, inefficient resources and crippled fisheries have caused extreme financial distress. Most of the residents in Tombwa are migrants from other parts of the region, and many of them came from much poorer and resource-starved places in search of better living. Poverty in Tombwa has kept many of the residents from leaving. What is exaggerating the climate change problem is that Tombwa shores are not regulated, allowing trawlers from other countries to enter their waters. Oftentimes, illegal fishers come and exploit the already diminishing area, leaving Tombwa residents thwarted (Carosio, 2020). It is estimated that continual ocean warming off the Angola coast could result in the loss of 20% of fisheries in that region. Unforeseen consequences could have reactions all the way up the food chain, leaving Tombwa without enough marine life to sustain fishing efforts. With already high rates of poverty, Tombwa could cease to be a town in the future as residents go elsewhere to make a living (Raemaekers, 2015).
The entire country of Angola produces less than 1% of total global CO2 emissions. Fixing the ocean depletion caused by ocean warming must be a global effort. In that respect, the foreseeable future cannot be altered to improve the situation (Carosio, 2020). However, if a larger effort were made to patrol the waters off Angola, overfishing could be reduced. Enforcing fishing quotas and policing the shores could help to restore marine life and slowly bring back fisheries to a small degree. What is clear, however, is that the issues being faced in Tombwa are the beginning of a global threat to marine life. Widespread effort on part of all major CO2 contributors to drastically reduce emissions would help alleviate these problems for future generations. Though for now the shores of Tombwa will continue to warm, there is hope that the fish will adapt to warm temperatures, or perhaps warm water fish will be drawn towards Tombwa (Bearak, 2019). In the immediate present, enforcing marine policies, for now, will help to ensure populations are not diminished by overfishing, allowing the residents of Tombwa to at least supply their needs.
Carosio, D. (2020, October 06). Rapid warming is decimating the fishing industry in Angola, a country with low carbon emissions. Sustainable Value Investors. http://en.sustainablevalueinvestors.com/2019/11/27/rapid-warming-is-decimating-the-fishing-industry-in-angola-a-country-with-low-carbon-emissions/
Bearak, M. (2019, November 27). A crisis in the water is decimating this once-booming fishing town. Washington Post. https://www.washingtonpost.com/graphics/2019/world/climate-environment/angola-climate-c hange/
Ocean deoxygenation. (2020, April 02). ICUN. https://www.iucn.org/resources/issues-briefs/ocean-deoxygenation#:~:text=Consequences%20of%20ocean%20oxygen%20decline,ocean’s%20food%20provisioning%20ecosystem%20services.
Raemaekers, S. (2015). VULNERABILITY ASSESSMENTS. Food and Agriculture organization of the United Nations. http://www.fao.org/3/i5026e/i5026e.pdf
With the ongoing change in ocean temperate, pH levels, circulation patterns, and overall chemistry, our oceans are not the stable habitat they once were. We now see rising sea levels, changes in precipitation patterns, and an increase in the severity of storms. All these factors, coupled with overfishing, have dramatically affected the world’s largest fisheries. One such fishery is that of Chimbote, Peru. Peru contributes 10% of the world’s total fishing export. Perfect conditions of the Pacific Ocean along the coast of Peru have allowed high survival rates of larvae, primary producers, and efficient trophic transfer to top predators (Adaptation to…, n.d.).
Chimbote, Peru is in north-central Peru, north of Lima. Chimbote was established in 1822 as a small fishing village, but has since grown to one of the world’s largest fisheries, producing fishmeal, fish oil, bulk minerals, machine parts, and cast iron (The Editors of Encyclopedia Britannica, 2017). Chimbote is home to 400,000 people, many of which live in poverty and rely on fishing as a main source of food (About Chimbote…, n.d.). Although Chimbote has historically had perfect fishing conditions, climate change is hitting this fishing community hard. The coast of Peru is especially sensitive to El Niño Southern Oscillation (ENSO) cycles, seeing abnormally warm, nutrient-poor water during El Niño cycles. This warmth and nutrient-poor water decreases the food sources of the highly vulnerable anchovy population. This leads to a high mortality rate of anchovies which is one of the most fished species in Chimbote. During La Niña events, the opposite happens, making inconsistent economic factors for the fishing industry (Adaptation to…, n.d.).
Forecasted impacts shown by global models predict a moderate decline in catching potential by the year 2050 in Chile and Peru. Local Chimbote report that what once took 30 minutes to harvest now takes up to 6 hours to yield the same catch. As mentioned before, inconsistent yields directly affect the poor communities of Peru and specifically Chimbote (Fishing: Peru’s…, n.d.).
Unfortunately, the solution to this problem is not a simple or direct one. We cannot reverse the level of climate change, but we can slow it down by reducing our carbon footprint and reducing the number of greenhouse gases released into the atmosphere. As far as Chimbote, adaptation measures must occur to create a sustainable way of life. First and foremost, the fisheries of Peru must look to other forms of export and even other types of marine life than anchovy to sustain their economy. Education and awareness must be spread to the people of Chimbote to better prepare for the cycles of ENSO. Learning about the most vulnerable fish species and implementing strategies to preserve such species during times of El Niño cycle can reduce the mortality rate of fish such as anchovy. Management of food security, poverty reduction, and climate adaptation are the first steps in curbing the inconsistencies of fishing on the Peruvian coast (Coayla, 2020). Government assistance or loans to the fishing communities along the coast of Peru could prove beneficial in surviving periods of reduced production. Reducing toxic emissions by Chimbote fish factories can also play a pivotal part in reducing the effects of climate change on this community (Coayla, 2020).
Adaptation to the Impacts of Climate Change on Peru’s Coastal Marine Ecosystem and Fisheries. (n.d.). Adaptation Fund. https://www.adaptation-fund.org/project/adaptation-to-the-impacts-of-climate-change-on-perus-coastal-marine-ecosystem-and-fisheries-2/
The editors of Encyclopedia Britannica. (2017). Chimbote Peru. Britannica. https://www.britannica.com/place/Chimbote
Coayla, E. (2020). Artisanal Marine Fisheries and Climate Change in the Region of Lima, Peru. Journal of Ocean and Coastal Economics, 7.
Climate Change in Peru Seen Affecting the Fishing, High Andes’ Livestock and Agricultural Sectors the Most. (2014, December 10). ECLAC. https://www.cepal.org/en/comunicados/pesca-ganaderia-altoandina-y-agricultura-serian-los-sectores-mas-afectados-por-el-cambio
About Chimbote and Peru. (n.d.). Friends of Chimbote. https://friendsofchimbote.org/about-chimbote/
Fishing: Peru’s Challenge to Climate Change. (n.d.). IDB. https://www.iadb.org/en/improvinglives/fishing-perus-challenge-climate-change
The Asmat are an indigenous group located on the southern coast of West Papua (in Melanesia). While they are not organized into traditional ‘Western’ towns and cities, their communities usually consist of thirty-five to two thousand people (Caglayan, 2004). They are currently facing deforestation from excessive foreign logging. In the 1980s, much of the logging was illegal, and this still continues today. The Asmat were often “abused, unpaid for their work, and discouraged from celebrating their rituals” (Irwandi, 2017).
While the effects of deforestation often focus on topics like erosion, habitat loss, and increased greenhouse gasses, the threat of deforestation is primarily cultural for the small Asmat communities (Effects of…, n.d.). The importance of wood goes all the way back to the Asmat communities’ origin stories. “The cultural hero Fumeripits is considered to be the very first wood carver…” (Caglayan, 2004). Fumeripits lived by himself and was very lonely. So he carved wood statues and drummed them to life. This wood carving tradition is carried out in ceremonies honoring ancestors and tree spirits. Another important function of trees is making canoes. In the area where the Asmat live, the only way to get around is by traveling through the extensive river system (Profe Otte, 2014).
Cutting down an excessive amount of trees is causing the Asmat culture and way of life to be suppressed. Unlike Western cultures in North America and Europe, art is essential to everyday life. The art is more functional than aesthetic. If logging practices are not curbed soon, the Asmat culture will cease to exist.
The solution to this issue would be to replant trees and regulate foreign logging in Asmat communities. Sago trees and Mangrove trees are the most important to survival. The Sago trees are used as a food source. The insides are heavy in starch, and sago grubs, a type of bug, can often be found inside. The Mangrove tree, a harder and sturdier tree, is used to make canoes, cultural items, tools, and buildings (Profe Otte, 2014).
Caglayan, E. (2004, October). The Asmat. Metropolitan Museum of Art. www.metmuseum.org/toah/hd/asma/hd_asma.htm#:~:text=Located%20in%20southwestern%20New%20Guinea,from%2035%20to%202%2C000%20inhabitants.
Effects of Deforestation. (n.d.). The Pachamama Alliance. http://www.pachamama.org/effects-of-deforestation
Irwandi, J. (2017, February 3). Between Two Worlds: Struggles of the Asmat People – in Pictures. The Guardian. www.theguardian.com/global-development-professionals-network/gallery/2017/feb/03/asmat-tribe-indonesia-in-pictures.
Profe Otte. (2014, January 1). 14b The Asmat Case Study in Religion and Magic. [Video] YouTube. www.youtube.com/watch?v=EdVnMRT1vZY.
In the middle of the South Atlantic Ocean lies an island only accessible by boat. I’m referring to the Island of Tristan da Cunha. This active volcanic island is potentially the most remote location in the world. The nearest place to the island is Cape Town, South Africa. The distance between the two is 1750 miles and will normally take six days to make. Less than 300 islanders live there, and most of them live in Edinburgh of the Seven Seas, one of the British Overseas Territories. This island is uniquely vulnerable to climate change, the effects of which are compounded by its inaccessibility.
This island has a fairly undamaged marine ecosystem. This area is home to a range of birds, seals, and whales, some of which are exclusive to this area. The ocean surrounding Tristan da Cunha provides a feeding ground for critically endangered species. Some of which include the Atlantic yellow-nosed albatross, and the spectacled petrel. Additionally, the islands provide a breeding environment for over 80 percent of the world’s endangered northern rockhopper penguins and multiple colonies of subantarctic fur seals.
Climate change could change the physical elements of the island like seawater temperatures, current speeds, and their direction. This could result in large shifts in the marine ecosystems. The vulnerability of the island residents is their reliance on a fragile natural resource base and the ecosystem services it provides, including coastal protection, fisheries, and a water supply. More specifically, the lobster fishery in Tristan da Cunha accounts for 90% of the island’s revenue. Changes in the ecosystem could significantly decrease the island’s ability to thrive, both economically and environmentally.
Protecting the marine ecosystem will help mitigate the effects of climate change by incorporating durability into the ecosystem. Protecting this ecosystem will also increase the ability of the marine environment to adapt to the changing climate, helping decrease the impact that future uncertainty will have on the ecosystem. Levels of commercial fishing abuse and environmental changes will have a smaller impact, although efforts should be made in these areas as well. The locals have a plan to generate 30 to 40 percent of their own energy over the next few years; using things like wind farms, a waste-to-energy incinerator, and communal kitchen gardens.
Scott, S. (2017). A Biophysical Profile of the Tristan da Cunha Archipelago. Pew Trusts. https://www.pewtrusts.org/-/media/assets/2019/07/cp_on_a_remote_archipelago_rich_biodiversity_faces_threats.pdf
Wade, S., Leonard-Williams, A., & Salmon, K. (2015, October). Assessing climate change and its likely impact on selected UK Overseas Territories: Inception Report. https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/media/57a08979e5274a31e00000d2/Inception_2710_EOD_Final.pdf
Extinction is a major threat to communities today, and it has been for millions of years. The term “extinction” refers to the complete loss of a species, which disturbs the web of life that connects all of the species in an ecosystem. The extinction of one smaller, less prominent species can cause a domino effect and end up disturbing the entire ecosystem, weakening its functionality and possibly causing it to stop working. One community that is particularly at risk for this disturbance is the Cordillera de la Costa montane forests in Venezuela. The World Wildlife Fund has given this ecoregion the “vulnerable” status on the Red List system, meaning that species are facing a high risk of extinction in the wild. Tropical and subtropical regions in general are more threatened by human activities and are therefore recognized as hotspots, and this area is no exception. The forests have fallen victim to deforestation, destroying much of the land. The lower forests are being disturbed after the construction of a road through them. Fires lit in the surrounding areas during the dry season also affect the area. These factors are detrimental to the 45 endemic species in the ecoregion, which include 21 species of frogs and 11 species of reptiles. All of the endemic birds in the eastern region are considered threatened. The Veragua stubfoot toad, specifically, is critically endangered. Heavy rainfall in the area can cause the streams around which they reside to flood and carry them downstream away from their forest habitat. Action must be taken to avoid the Cordillera de la Costa montane forests moving from its current “vulnerable” state to “endangered”. Tighter regulations in Venezuela are critical for this, such as more enforcement and staffing of the national parks and surrounding areas, limiting construction and tourism, and allocating new areas of habitat for protection as national parks or community-managed sites. Just as human activity can worsen the state of the forests, it can also improve it if the correct actions are taken.
Cordillera De La Costa Montane Forests. (2021, March 3). In Wikipedia. en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cordillera_de_la_Costa_montane_forests#Conservation_and_threats.
Cho, R. (2019, March 26). Why Endangered Species Matter. State of the Planet: Columbia Climate School. news.climate.columbia.edu/2019/03/26/endangered-species-matter/.
Schipper, J. (n.d.). Cordillera De La Costa Montane Forests. One Earth. www.oneearth.org/ecoregions/cordillera-de-la-costa-montane-forests/.
The islands of Hawaii are covered in a beautiful lush of greenery with vibrant flowers, and birds. Kauai, Hawaii’s fourth largest island, is home to some of the most beautiful tropical rainforests, giving it the nickname “the Garden Isle.” Here the Hawaiian honeycreeper, Hawaii’s iconic bird that is native only to the Hawaiian land, lives in these luxurious rainforests providing they stay maintained and respected. Once thriving with over 56 different types of species of these birds, only 18 of them are now existing as a result of human impacts, including invasive species and climate change.
When settlers came to the islands, along with them came numerous new animals and insects not native to the land. Two of them became invasive species and have had a detrimental impact on the Hawaiian honeycreepers: rats and mosquitoes. Rats from ships came as accidental visitors and became an invasive species that hunted honeycreeper eggs and killed adult birds. As the birds were never hunted by predators, they do not know how to protect themselves and their nests. Efforts from conservationists have been put in place to protect the young. Another invasive species is the mosquito. Hawaii, again, does not have mosquitos native to the land and with these insects came mosquito-borne diseases like malaria, which infected countless numbers of birds and is fatal. The impact of these Hawaiian honeycreepers dying at rapid rates is a major concern for the island as they are one of the main pollinators and seed spreaders of many of the vibrant native plants of the islands. Additionally, these birds keep the insects of the tropical rainforest at bay.
The loss of these birds is only forecasted to get worse if changes are not made. With temperatures expected to rise continually, more mosquitoes will mate and reproduce in higher elevations where the birds have escaped to. Mosquitoes thrive in warm temperatures and the birds will eventually have nowhere to go as the mosquitos keep moving north; pushing the Hawaiian honeycreepers out. It has been predicted that by the end of the century, 60 to 90 percent of the disease-free range of the forest will disappear. Rodents, such as rats, will continue to hunt the birds and their nests and will adapt new approaches in finding them.
There have been many suggestions and ideas from conservationists regarding how to handle the Hawaiian honeycreeper crisis. The biggest challenge is ridding the island of species that are not native to the land and have caused harm rather than good. Temperatures will continue to rise and will only provide a breeding ground for mosquitoes. The best solution for this would be ridding the island of these species as much as possible as they provide no impact, positive or negative, to the food chain. Traps have been set up in the forests and arounds trees that harbor nests to kill the rats. There are also scientists that have collected these eggs from nests to bring them to a safe place where they will hatch safely. One goal is to start captive breeding of the birds and releasing mature birds back into their natural habitats. Sanctuaries for these birds will provide a home as well as safety. Planting and rehabilitation of trees that have been infected with fungi and are no longer hospitable for the birds will provide new homes to the birds and promote healthy reproduction and flourishment. Other conservationists have set up trails that will offer the public, both locals and tourists alike, a chance to see the birds and their habitats first-hand creating awareness. Once awareness is created, more impactful change can occur.
Becker, R. (2016, October 17). Rats, disease, and climate change are threatening Hawaii’s spectacular songbirds. The Verge. https://www.theverge.com/2016/9/7/12840046/hawaii-rare-birds-extinction-honeycreeper-climate-change
Fiorile, G. (2020, August 3). Can Genetic Engineering Save the Hawaiian Honeycreeper From a Changing Climate? USGS. https://www.usgs.gov/center-news/can-genetic-engineering-save-hawaiian-honeycreeper-a-changing-climate
Hawaiian honeycreepers and their tangled evolutionary tree. (n.d.). The Guardian. https://www.theguardian.com/science/punctuated-equilibrium/2011/nov/02/hawaiian-honeycreepers-tangled-evolutionary-tree
Kaiser, S. (2016, September 21). Birds at the Edge: The Plight of the Hawaiian Honeycreepers. Island Conservation. https://www.islandconservation.org/plight-of-the-hawaiian-honeycreepers/
KIWIKIU RECOVERY. (2018). Maui Forest Bird recovery Project. https://mauiforestbirds.org/kiwikiu-recovery/
McGlashen, A. (2017, September 20). The ‘I’iwi, a Besieged Hawaiian Forest Bird, Is Now Listed as Threatened. Audubon. https://www.audubon.org/news/the-iiwi-besieged-hawaiian-forest-bird-now-listed-threatened
Hannah Richardson, General Arts and Sciences, Penn State Behrend
The second largest barrier reef system, after Australia’s Great Barrier Reef, the Belize Barrier Reef, is home to around 1,400 different species. This makes this reef one of the most important and biodiverse ecosystems around, boasting animals like hawksbill and loggerhead sea turtles, parrot fish, sharks, manatees, and the foundation of all life in a reef: coral. The Belize Barrier Reef provides the livelihood of more than half the population of Belize; tourism, recreational activities, and commercial fishing are just some ways the reef provides opportunities for its community. Unfortunately, this section of the barrier reef is exceptionally vulnerable to climate change, and the species loss it brings with it.
Because of the reef’s popularity as a tourist attraction, more and more development has arisen along the coast, and with increased development comes increased human destruction. Pollution and insufficient means of waste disposal, and offshore coastal drilling have placed the Belize Barrier Reef in danger of losing its coral. Should the coral bleach and ultimately die, marine life will virtually vanish; the fisheries that locals rely on not only to feed themselves, but also to make money, will disappear along with the coral. There would also be lasting effects on the tourism industry since the reef draws in so many with its colorful and diverse landscape.
Luckily, because the Belize Barrier Reef is considered a world heritage site (and its economic force) Belize’s government enforced a moratorium on oil exploration and drilling. This has afforded marine biologists, climate activists, and volunteers alike the chance to work towards concrete solutions. There are biennial meetings of the Reef Restoration Network that works with three other countries (in addition to Belize, the reef extends to Guatemala, Mexico, and Honduras). People like Claudia Padilla from Mexico’s National Institute for Fisheries and Aquaculture (INAPESCA) are propagating coral via cloning and sexual reproduction. Others are creating a sort of seed bank for coral, preserving coral at risk of extinction through the creation of germplasm.
There is still much work to do concerning the preservation and continued advocacy of the Belize Barrier Reef. More legislation and governmental plans to switch away from fossil fuels and offshore drilling are indispensable to the reef’s survival. But while the process may be expensive, just like that on Jeju Island in South Korea, it will be invaluable to the communities that earn their livelihoods from them.
Chepkemoi, J (2017, April 25). Where Is The Mesoamerican Barrier Reef System Located? WorldAtlas. www.worldatlas.com/articles/where-is-the-mesoamerican barrier-reef-system-located.html.
Coral Tissue Loss Disease Threatens Belize’s Barrier Reef. (2019. October 10). The San Pedro Sun. www.sanpedrosun.com/environment/2019/10/10/coral-tissue-loss-disease-threatens belizes-barrier-reef/.
World Wildlife Fund. (2018, December 18). Belize’s Incredible Barrier Reef Recovers From ‘In Danger’ Status. EcoWatch. www.ecowatch.com/belize-barrier-reef 2581522144.html.
There is a current species extinction crisis worldwide due to a number of factors, including loss of habitat and the spread of invasive species. New York City’s Central Park, once a rich environment filled with a diversity of species, has been transformed into a tourist attraction and relaxing getaway for city dwellers. Many of the native plant and animal species that once resided in Central Park can no longer be found there. The biodiversity in the park is quickly diminishing due to habitat loss and invasive species. As of now, there is not a lot that can thrive in the soil of Central Park because of people constantly walking over the soil, causing it to become compact, and thus hindering plant growth. Furthermore, animals have been forced to move out of Central Park because of human interactions and loss of habitat.
Central Park is vulnerable to species loss because of the massive city that surrounds it. New York City is home to over eight million people. City dwellers may come to the park to relax from a stressful workday or to walk the trails within the park. Central Park is also a huge tourist attraction within the city, captivating travelers to visit it. The attractiveness of the park is not the only reason Central Park is susceptible to loss of species. The City produces lots of pollution, creating an atmosphere that is not ideal for plant growth and animal survival. Lastly, invasive species in Central Park has become a prevalent issue. These species present a dangerous threat for native species. New York City must be restored, or else Central Park will continue losing its native species.
With the loss of species, other species and the ecosystem itself will be affected. Every species has a part in the food chain, and if one species is gone, the food chain is then destabilized. If you think about it, the extinction of animals affects humans, including the residents of New York City, because we eat meat and other animal products on a daily basis. Additionally, the health and livelihoods of city dwellers are at risk if there is limited biodiversity. There is a close relationship between human health and biodiversity. Disease outbreaks are more likely to occur if nature is degraded. New York City may be at greater risk for a disease outbreak if species keep disappearing in Central Park. Although New York City may not be affected by loss of species in the park in the near future, it is critical to maintain a diversity of species to prevent the ecosystem from destabilizing.
One way to prevent species loss is to control invasive species. The native plants in Central Park are forced to compete with these invasive species and oftentimes do not survive. Controlling invasive species by manually removing them or spraying them with pesticides should be the first step in protecting the native species. Also, there should be certain parts of the park that are shut off to humans. This way, species have a specified area where they can thrive and not be disrupted by human interactions. Lastly, more people should be encouraged to protect the wildlife in Central Park by keeping it clean and making sure there is nothing in the park that could harm the species.
Cunneen, J. (2009, December 9). File:1916 Central Park.jpg. Macaulay. https://macaulay.cuny.edu/seminars/munshi-south-09/articles/c/e/n/Central_Park_8961.html#:~:text=Habitat%20loss%20and%20invasive%20species,this%20number%20is%20likely%20higher.
Katriel Simpson, Computer Engineering, College of Engineering
Bees have played a major role in agricultural pollination. Bees pollinate 90 different food crops and about 80% of our plants around the globe. These crops include almonds and apples, squash and sweet potatoes, and even spices like parsley. Almond growth and production takes place in California, the Central Valley, mainly in San Joaquin and the Sacramento Valley, and bees are the only pollinators of almonds. Without them, the almond industry would fail. From recent studies, that day could be approaching sooner rather than later as the bee population is in a serious decline. In the winter of 2013, some beekeepers were reporting losses of up to 50 of their hives and resulted in an extreme upsurge in beehive prices. The decline of the bee population is linked to a variety of causes but the biggest threat to bees are the pesticide, fungicides, and viral pathogens that lead to CCD (Colony Collapse Disorder), specifically neonicotinoids. Because of the bees’ rapid decline, San Joaquin’s economy could plummet as there will not be enough bees to pollinate Central California’s almond orchards. California farmers are already facing major water shortages, and with declining bee populations, producing crops will be a major obstacle. Many producers could go out of business and lose their farms from the lack of pollination. The FDA is working with agricultural manufacturers to reduce and diminish the release of neonicotinoid, which is currently used on a large number of fruits and vegetables, as well as 95 percent of corn crops. With further research, there is hope for less toxic pesticides to be produced and used, however, these insecticides grow with the crop and can still affect the bees by exposing them through nectar and pollen. With new technology and enhanced agricultural methods, there could be a way to save the bee population from pesticides and insecticides leading to CCD, and along with it, save the economy and residents of the San Joaquin Valley.
About the Bees. (2013). Honey Love Urban Beekeepers. http://honeylove.org/bees/
Grossman, E. (2013, April 30). Declining Bee Populations Pose a Threat to Global Agriculture. Yale Environment 360. https://e360.yale.edu/features/declining_bee_populations_pose_a_threat_to_global_agriculture.
Kasler, D. (2019, September 26). How the Central Valley Became the ‘Appalachia of the West.’ Now, New Threats Loom for the Economy. The Sacramento Bee. www.sacbee.com/news/california/big-valley/article233551287.html.
Sadler, A. (2016, October 19). Colony Collapse Disorder: The Economics of Decline. California Management Review. cmr.berkeley.edu/blog/2016/10/colony-collapse disorder/.
Lombok, Indonesia is one of the largest shark fisheries in the world. The fish market has over 40+ shark species that are brought in each day; the loss of sharks will become more detrimental to the city as time goes on. Many of the residents’ income is solely from the fish trade, but with overfishing, there is a cost, and the threat is becoming a reality. Sharks play a vital role in the ocean ecosystem. Lombok is 1 in 40 countries that still fishes for sharks, and the shark fin trade is still highly sought after (Shark Fishing…, 2020).
The vulnerabilities in Lombok lie in the potential loss of the shark species that are endemic to the area. In addition, without an income, the residents who are barely scraping by as is will be left with nothing. Sharks also provide the community with a food supply, but with the overfishing of sharks, the community will be lacking in food sources. As populations continue to increase, the strain on food sources becomes more drastic if no measures are taken. Sharks are being killed at such an alarmingly high rate that there may be no way to put measures into place.
The threats to the community are food and income shortages. Lombok relies heavily on the fishing industry for much of its cosmetics, vitamins, food sources, etc. If changes do not come soon, they will take an exponential blow to their way of life. The big issue these cities and countries face is where the line is drawn and who fixes the problem. Many of the fishermen do not want their kids to grow up doing the same work, and they understand there needs to be a change (Shark Fishing…, 2020). However, there is still a large reliance on this trade and Indonesia remains the number one shark fishery in the world.
The solution lies in the tourism industry, which accounted for $22 million per year just in shark expeditions (Shark Fishing…, 2020). There are organizations like Project Hiu that take on the challenge of educating and helping fishermen change over to the tourism industry. The large solution is to find an alternative income that will be less harmful to the shark populations. The overall goal is to save sharks before they are gone and especially the species that are endemic to Indonesian waters. Cities like Lombok are taking steps towards these changes, but they must act quickly before it is too late.
Shark Fishing in Indonesia & Why it’s a Complicated Topic. (2020, October 27). Ocean Mimic. https://ocean-mimic.com/ocean/shark-fishing-in-indonesia/
Liam Vaughan, Film/Video Production, Penn State Bellisario College of Communications
The coast just south of San Francisco provides a huge fishing market. While this area provides a great deal of fish for the surrounding communities, it is also a key area where overfishing is threatening the possibility of future fishing there. In specific, this situation is looking incredibly dire for the Red Abalone. The fisheries on the coast of San Francisco used to bring up millions of pounds of abalone, but as climate change and overfishing continues, the species just couldn’t hold up with being fished in that quantity.
To make matters worse, the fisheries of San Francisco aren’t dealing with the depletion of red abalone solely from overfishing; the main habitat of the species are the kelp forests, which are becoming exponentially destroyed in the area. 95% of the kelp forests off the coast of northern California in areas such as San Francisco have been destroyed. This is largely due to an abundance of purple sea urchins overtaking those areas. So, while overfishing is taking out large amounts of red abalone from the coast of San Francisco, urchins are also eating and destroying their habitat, making it harder for the abalones to survive and reproduce at a rate that can match the rate they are being fished at. If this were to continue, red abalone and other variations of the species that are centralized in the San Francisco and northern California area could go extinct. The black and the white abalone are already considered endangered, which could become the case for many of the other species.
Luckily, California’s government is taking notice of the problem and has established rules that will allow the abalone to once again populate the coast of San Francisco. The most effective of these was banning the use of San Francisco’s Red Abalone Fisheries. The commercial fishing of abalone was banned a few years ago, but recreational fishing of the red abalone remained open. However, as the situation for the red abalone became more dire over the years, the decision was made to ban the use of the fisheries until 2021. Now, that ban has been extended another 5 years as the improvement of the red abalone wasn’t at the point where they could safely be fished again.
Callahan, M. (2018, December 11). California extends ban on abalone fishing until 2021. The Press Democrat. https://www.pressdemocrat.com/article/news/california-extends-ban-on-abalone-fishing-until-2021/
Haliotis rufescens | MARINe. (n.d.). Multi-Agency Intertidal Network. https://marine.ucsc.edu/target/target-species-haliotis-rufescens.html
Northern California recreational red abalone fishery closed. (2021, March 22). AP News. https://apnews.com/article/wildlife-california-sea-urchins-7b249574eb1ec087d46f451fff5f4d61
NSF Public Affairs. (2021, March 17). Collapse of Northern California kelp forests will be hard to reverse. National Science Foundation. https://www.nsf.gov/discoveries/disc_summ.jsp?cntn_id=302320&org=NSF&from=news
Petsko, E. (2020, December 3). Devastated by overfishing and climate change, California’s abalone face a rocky road to recovery. Oceana.org. https://oceana.org/blog/devastated-overfishing-and-climate-change-california%E2%80%99s-abalone-face-rocky-road-recovery
Stella Wang, Accounting, Penn State University
Zamora is a city located in the southeastern part of Ecuador with a climate typical of a tropical rainforest. The region has incredible biodiversity and includes rainforests as well as grasslands. The city is threatened by species loss in its surrounding vegetation, most of which is caused by human interference. Deforestation is rampant in Zamora and several native plant species are at risk of extinction. Ecuador has the highest deforestation rate of any country in the Western hemisphere partly because of a lack of restrictions by the government. Forest fragmentation accelerates species loss in many instances because plants and animals are isolated in smaller areas. Many native organisms are dependent on the city’s vegetation for survival, and deforestation forces them to either move or adapt. The result is increased numbers of animal and plant species on the endangered list. It may seem that the impact of species loss on humans is negligible; however, species loss affects entire ecosystems especially if there are missing components from food chains. Without predators to eliminate fast producing prey, some species quickly become invasive and disrupt the foundations of an ecosystem. Zamora is increasingly vulnerable to these threats, as invasive insects and pests have negatively impacted crop yields. Increased mining near Zamora has also affected locals who need access to the same waterways for agriculture. It is forecasted that species loss will continue to occur at an exponential rate in the future if Zamora does not change its practices. Increased deforestation will also raise concerns about climate change as these plants are integral for absorbing atmospheric CO2. To stop species loss, potential solutions include stricter policies against logging as well as the implementation of more conservation areas. To protect wildlife, the Zamora Chinchipe Provincial Reserve has already stepped in to preserve the area from deforestation and mining and plans to expand its reserve.
Banks, M. (2019, January 4). Zamora Chinchipe Provincial Reserve Protects Nearly 1.1 Million Acres in Southern Ecuador. Nature and Culture International. https://natureandculture.org/zamora-chinchipe/
Cardona, A. (2020, February 5). For Ecuador, a litany of environmental challenges awaits in 2020. Mongabay Environmental News. https://news.mongabay.com/2020/02/for-ecuador-a-litany-of-environmental-challenges-awaits-in-2020/
Ian Brehm, Business, Penn State World Campus
Groton, population 2,209, is a small village in Tompkins County in the Finger Lakes region of New York. Almost 30 percent of land in Tompkins County – 91,277 acres – is devoted to agriculture and spread among 523 farms (NASS, 2017). As with farms across the U.S., bees are essential to pollination in Groton. One of these farms, Baker’s Acres, appeared in a case study of apple orchards by Park et al. that showed native bees provided 90 percent of the site’s pollination services (2010).
` The threat facing Groton is native bee species loss. Bees, indispensable in Groton and across the country, provide essential pollination services for almost all of the three-fourths of North American plant species requiring insect pollination (USGS, n.d.). Moreover, one-third of the entire U.S. food supply is reliant upon pollination by bees (Graham, 2018). Probably most familiar to Americans is the Western (European) honey bee, Apis mellifera. Honey bees are so important to agriculture that Apis mellifera hives are transported across the U.S. to satisfy agriculture needs. Yet honey bees are neither the only bee species nor the most important. There are at least 4,337 bees native to the U.S., most of which are solitary and ground-nesting (Kopec & Burd, 2017). In and around Tompkins County, a survey conducted between 2009 and 2014 identified 104 species of native bees (Danforth et al., 2015). And though they are less well known than honey bees, native bees are essential to agriculture. Native species are the primary pollinators or significant supplementary pollinators for almost all U.S. crops (USGS, n.d.). Even those crops not requiring native bee pollination services produce higher yields when visited by native bees. Overall, native bees provide at least $3 billion annually in fruit-pollination services in the U.S. alone (Kopec & Burd, 2017).
One reason for native bees’ importance is their efficiency. It takes 100 honey bees to match the pollination abilities of a single native mason bee, and one bumble bee is as effective as four honey bees at pollinating blueberry flowers (Rent Mason Bees, 2021; Graham, 2018). Much of their pollination prowess stems from their ability to buzz pollinate, or vibrate at specific frequencies to dislodge pollen from flowers. Honey bees are incapable of this technique. Additionally, one-third to one-half of all native bee species are specialists, meaning they have evolved to efficiently pollinate one or a few specific plants, including many common agricultural crops. As an analogy, if plant species were different shapes of locks, native bees would be a chain of keys that each opens exactly one specific lock while honey bees would be a lock pick that can open many locks, but not well. For bees, the removal of host plants can spell extinction; for their plant hosts, loss of effective pollinators means ineffective reproduction, reduced crop yields, and, without the ability to spread pollen, loss of genetic diversity.
A 2017 review from the Center for Biological Diversity found that among U.S. native bee species with sufficient data to analyze, over one-half are in decline and one-fourth are imperiled and at risk of extinction (Kopec & Burd). Considering that for every species evaluated in this review there are two lacking sufficient data, this number is assuredly an understatement. In fact, the USGS estimates that ten percent of U.S. native bee species have not yet been described or even named (n.d.). Yet declines are occurring even among common species. Take the American Bumble Bee, Bombus pensylvanicus; this well-known species has experienced 89 percent population loss over the last 20 years, and many are pushing for the species to be listed as endangered (Beyond Pesticides, 2021). The declines in native bee populations have two broad causes: changing landscapes and changing climate.
Agricultural intensification has created vast monoculture fields made possible through conventional pest management and the introduction of migrant honey bees for pollination (Graham, 2018). These land use changes threaten native bees in several ways: large, single-crop fields provide bees with few nutrients; the presence of pesticides in the air, on plants, and in nectar poisons bees; and the introduction of foreign honey bees can lead to competition and can introduce diseases picked up from previous jobs. Together, these land use changes contribute to the decline of native bees. However, a more significant cause, also anthropogenic in nature, is climate change.
Results from a January 2021 study led by researchers at The Pennsylvania State University found that climate factors are the main driver of native bee abundance and diversity (Kammerer, 2021). Specifically, temperature and precipitation were more important predictors of the success of bee species than the presence of specific land stressors. Warmer winters, increased winter and spring precipitation, longer growing season, and extreme temperatures caused drops in native bee populations. With climate change intensifying these climatic shifts in the Northeast region, native bees will become further stressed. This coincides with rising populations globally and expected increases in climate migration to the U.S. The food supply must grow to accommodate these changes, and agriculture with few wild bees would struggle to keep up.
Several approaches can address the land use threats facing native bees. Many techniques have been introduced to Tompkins County farmers through education and support from the Cornell Cooperative Extension program. For example, one simple step is leaving abandoned wood and stone walls to provide habitat (Danforth et al., 2015). Planting native species is also essential to providing food for native bees. This is something that can be done by both individuals and farms such as Baker’s Acres. Under the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Conservation Reserve Program, farmers may be paid to incorporate pollinator-friendly practices into their agriculture (Benjamin, 2020). This includes planting native flowers throughout farmland to support native bee populations. Another potential source of forage for bees is in powerline rights-of-way (Russell et al., 2018). Across the U.S., the area under powerline easements exceeds that of all the National Parks combined. This land has potential to support pollinators and is readily adapted to this end. On a similar path, the American Jobs Plan currently under debate includes a provision that would allocate $2 million for federal, state, and tribal governments to incorporate pollinator-friendly practices along roads and highways (Yarlagadda, 2021). An additional location for pollinator habitat is among solar installations, which are expected to total six million acres by 2050 (Helmer, 2019). Incorporating wildflowers into this land is ideal for native bee habitat, for weed control, and for garnering community support for solar projects. Another important step to protecting native bees is to eliminate the use of neonicotinoids and other pesticides that are toxic to all pollinators, including native species. Toward this goal, in June, the Saving America’s Pollinators Act (SAPA) was reintroduced to Congress (Beyond Pesticides, 2021). SAPA would protect bees and other pollinators and would support people who depend on pollinators for a living through the creation of a network to monitor native bee populations, banning of neonicotinoids and other highly toxic pesticides, and formation of an independent Pollinator Protection Board (PPB) to review applications for new pesticides.
Benjamin, J. (2020, June 24). Farmers are helping to protect working wings on working lands. United States Department of Agriculture. www.farmers.gov/blog/conservation/farmers are-helping-protect-working-wings-working-lands
Beyond Pesticides. (2021, June 24). Saving America’s pollinators act reintroduced, advocates urge congressional action to stop pollinator decline. beyondpesticides.org/ dailynewsblog/2021/06/saving-americas-pollinators-act-reintroduced-advocates-urge congressional-action-to-stop-pollinator-decline/
Danforth, B. N., Park, M., Blitzer, EJ., Gibbs, J., & Russo, L. (2015). Honeybees, CCD, and the importance of wild bees for orchard pollination. Tompkins County Library. tompkinscountyny.gov/files2/emc/presentations/Importance%20of%20native%20bees%2 0for%20crop%20pollination_1.pdf
Graham, K. K. (2018, May 22). Beyond honey bees: Wild bees are also key pollinators, and some species are disappearing. The Conversation. theconversation.com/beyond-honey bees-wild-bees-are-also-key-pollinators-and-some-species-are-disappearing-89214
Helmer, J. (2019, January 14). Solar farms shine a ray of hope on bees and butterflies. Scientific American. www.scientificamerican.com/article/solar-farms-shine-a-ray-of-hope-on-bees and-butterflies/
Kammerer, M., Goslee, S. C., Douglas, M. R., Tooker, J. F. & Grozinger, C. M. (2021, January 12). Wild bees as winners and losers: Relative impacts of landscape composition, quality, and climate. Global Change Biology, 27(6), 1250–1265. doi.org/10.1111/gcb.15485
Kopec, K., & Burd, L. A. (2017, February). Pollinators in peril: A systematic status review of North American and Hawaiian native bees. Center for Biological Diversity. www.biologicaldiversity.org/campaigns/native_pollinators/pdfs/Pollinators_in_Peril.pdf
National Agricultural Statistics Service [NASS]. (2017). Tompkins County, New York. www.nass.usda.gov/Publications/AgCensus/2017/Online_Resources/County_Profiles/New_York/cp36109.p df
Park, M., Orr, M., & Danforth, B. (2010, April). The Role of Native Bees in Apple Pollination. N.Y. Fruit Quarterly. 18. nyshs.org/wp-content/uploads/2010/04/the-role of-native-bees-in-apple-pollination.pdf
Rent Mason Bees. (2021). About mason bees. rentmasonbees.com/about-mason-bees/
Rosner, H. (2013, September 1). Return of the natives: How wild bees will save our agricultural system. Scientific American. www.scientificamerican.com/article/return-of-the-natives how-wild-bees-will-save-our-agricultural-system/
Russell, K. N., Russell, G. J., Kaplan, K. L., Mian, S., & Kornbluth, S. (2018, June 8). Increasing the conservation value of powerline corridors for wild bees through vegetation management: An experimental approach. Biodiversity and Conservation, 27, 2541–2565. doi.org/10.1007/s10531-018-1552-8
United States Geological Survey [USGS]. (n.d.). What is the role of native bees in the United States? www.usgs.gov/faqs/what-role-native-bees-united-states
Yarlagadda, T. (2021, August 3). Hidden in the infrastructure bill is a $2 million fight to save a vital creature. Inverse. www.inverse.com/science/infrastructure-bill-hidden-section
Aminata Donzo, Biobehavioral Health, Penn State University
The Tubbataha coral reefs are located in Bolinao, Philippines; it is the second largest coral reef in Southeast Asia. It is filled with hundreds of species of corals and marine life. The Tubbataha reefs have more than 75 percent of all coral species, and 35 percent of the world’s coral reefs (Overfishing and… n.d.). This part of the Philippines generates billions of revenue from fishing and tourism. The majority of the reef is classified as endangered, with more than half at high or very high risk (Taico, 2016). Blast fishing and cyanide are officially the number one causes of coral degradation. Blast fishing consist of using explosives to kill or shock fish, this method of fishing destroys coral colonies. Cyanide that is used on fishes is dumped on reefs (Overfishing and… n.d.). As fishermen attempt to extract fish from the area, they cause damage to the coral reef ecosystem. Climate change comes in a number two, causing high temperature and ocean acidity. Ocean warming increases coral bleaching, depriving corals of the ingredients needed for coral to survive (Taico, 2016). This could lead to coral not being able to build skeletons in the next century. Residents living in Bolinao are vulnerable to coral reef death, because they depend on its natural resources for their livelihood (Overfishing and… n.d.). The reefs provide fishing, tourism, and even storm protection. Fishermen are deprived of their main source of income without them, which forces residents to find other means of protein and cuts the value of the tourism industry (Taico, 2016). Healthy coral reefs act as a barrier against surging seas. Without healthy coral reefs there has been a number of floods, causing drowning and property loss.
The future of the reefs is dependent on slowing down the acidification and warming of the ocean. With more absorption of carbon from the atmosphere, the more of a danger it poses to marine life. Scientists have warned that there will be a point that the threshold of acid in the ocean would inhibit coral from building reefs (Stressed Coral..., 2011). The doubling of atmospheric carbon dioxide would slash coral calcification by 30 percent. As coral die off, the biodiversity of the reefs will deteriorate (Taico, 2016). To keep this from happening, coral restoration must take place. A restoration concept that has been studied is reef gardening. In reef gardening, coral nurseries and transplantation phases work to regrow colonies. Bolinao, Philippines is the best area to conduct this restoration (Stressed Coral…, 2011). This is due to the fact that Bolinao is a hotspot for typhoons, the restoration can be tested for depth-flexibility. Once large-scale nurseries and transplantations go into place, they are observed for management. The constantly changing environment and extensive reef degradation is closely analyzed, and levels of environmental pollution is also taken in as a factor controlling a successful restoration project.
Overfishing and Destructive Fishing Threats. (n.d.). Reef Resilience. reefresilience.org/stressors/local-stressors/overfishing-and-destructive-fishing-threats/.
Stressed Coral Reefs In Bolinao, Philippines: Global Warming Effects. (2011). Climate Hot Map. www.climatehotmap.org/globalwarming-locations/bolinao-philippines.html.
Taico, H. (2016). Coral Reefs in The Philippines ‘SLOWLY DYING.’ Renaissance Magazine. www.ru.org/index.php/ecology/313-coral-reefs-in-the-philippines-slowly-dying
Aminata Donzo, Biobehavioral Health, Penn State University
In a major city like Philadelphia, the income gap is obvious in ways that many may not realize. Walking down the 2100 block of Spruce Street, you’ll see multi-million dollar homes, luxury cars, and a full canopy of a dozen trees on each block. Once you travel a few city blocks over to South 24th street, the obvious poverty line of this neighborhood is shown through the un-kept buildings, unsafe sidewalks, and the limited or lack of trees. These observations are noticed, due to the fact that Philadelphia is not equally green. The poor have literally drawn the short end of the stick. Philadelphia’s tree canopy has seen a decline in the last decade, and many gains are happening in wealthier areas (Kondo, 2020). There has been over 3,000 acres of tree canopy lost, and this loss is not even (Briggs, 2019). Since 2008, the area with the most tree elimination has been in locations with low amounts of trees and social vulnerability. Due to the fact that the amount of trees was already inadequate, removing the remaining canopies takes the natural services they provide away from the community. Tree canopy reduces air pollution in cities, reduces the heat of summer temperatures, enhances property values, shields from heavy rain, and also beautifies the community (Briggs, 2019). Poor residents of Point Breeze have a median income of $25,000, 10 times lower than the city average, and have been subjected to sun scorching city blocks (Kondo, 2020). Neighborhoods like Point Breeze are 2.2 degrees Fahrenheit warmer than their wealthier counterparts that reside less than 20 minutes away (Briggs, 2019). The heat difference that comes with reducing tree canopies triggers heat related illnesses and can even cause death (Briggs, 2019). In the last year, there were three heat-related deaths. The elderly of these areas are at a higher risk of mortality due to excessive heat (Kondo, 2020). It is estimated that this issue can worsen; causing the heat index rise to over 100 degrees by 2036, over an average of 29 days a year (USDA Forest Service, 2020). This will cause an attendance issue for the Philadelphia school districts that lack central AC for over 70% of their academic facilities (USDA Forest Service, 2020).
The disparity of canopy loss is now being addressed by the city. Through non-profits like ‘tree tender,’ the city aims to increase tree percentage to 30% in all neighborhoods by 2025 (Making Philadelphia…, 2018). The city’s Water department has also stepped in, and has created a program called ‘Green city, Clean water’ that plants trees. The Philadelphia tree canopy assessment created a guideline to reaching the goal. The recommendations consist of maintaining existing tree canopy, planting trees with broad age and species distribution, and planting more trees in areas that are vulnerable to excessive loss (Making Philadelphia..., 2018). The city has organizations providing the funding, assessment, and education to do better for poor Philadelphians, but continues to fail them. The city is planting more trees in wealthier neighborhoods, leaving these programs useless in closing the canopy gap between rich and poor. Many residents in low income areas are not even aware of the free tree planting programs, and for those that do apply, their applications can take almost a year to be approved. The city has done a disservice to its low income communities, and doesn’t appear to want to make tangible change for a greener future.
Briggs, Ryan, and Catalina Jaramillo. (2019, July 24). Have You Ever Wondered Why Some Philly Blocks Are Absolutely Barren of Trees? WHYY. whyy.org/articles/phillys-lowincome-neighborhoods-have-fewer-trees-and-the-citys-free-tree-program-isnt-helping/.
USDA Forest Service – Northern Research Station. (2020, June 16). Study in Philadelphia links growth in tree canopy to decrease in human mortality. ScienceDaily. https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2020/06/200616135820.htm
Michelle, K. C. (2020, April). Health Impact Assessment of Philadelphia’s 2025 Tree Canopy Cover Goals. Thelancet.com www.thelancet.com/journals/lanplh/article/PIIS2542- 5196(20)30058-9/fulltext.
Making Philadelphia the City of ARBORLY LOVE. (2018, November 15). Treephilly. treephilly.org/.
Olivia Kulla, Psychology, Penn State University
Angangueo is a small town that lies in the mountains, about a two-hour drive from Mexico City. The community is known for its monarch butterfly sanctuary. Each year, millions of the Eastern population of monarchs migrate from the US and Canada to overwinter in the oyamel fir forest high up in the mountains. However, the population of monarchs has dropped more than 80% over the last 20 years (Center for Biological Diversity, 2021). They are now the third most endangered species due to climate change (OneKindPlanet, n.d.).
The reason Angangueo experiences such a drastic decline in the population of monarchs has to do with their unique habitat. The oyamel firs only thrive where the weather is cool and moist. Because of global warming, the trees have sought higher elevations further up the mountains (Journeynorth, n.d.). Another culprit is deforestation. Today there is only 2% of oyamel forest left, which is why the geographical range of the monarchs’ habitat has been reduced to just 5.2 acres and continues to decline. Due to climate change, more frequent winter storms have reached the Angangueo community killing millions of hibernating monarchs that do not tolerate freezing temperatures (Entomology Today, 2017).
The changes in their overwintering habitat in Angangueo are not the only reason the monarch population is endangered. The monarchs are also threatened by parasites, urbanization, herbicide, and pesticide spraying (Center for Biological Diversity, 2021). For instance, Glyphosate spraying has killed 99% of milkweed in the US – the only plant that monarch caterpillars feed on – and is a significant reason the population has declined (O’neill, 2021).
The prospects for the eastern monarchs in the Angangueo community are dire. In December last year, the US Fish and Wildlife Service estimated that there is an 80% chance that the population will collapse in the coming 50 years (Center for Biological Diversity, 2021). The monarchs are, together with other pollinators, important to human food systems. Moreover, the loss of the monarchs would be a significant cultural loss to the community. The monarchs arrive on the Day of the Dead (November 2nd) as a symbol of loved ones that come to comfort them through the winter months (Eurekalert!, 2021).
Both local communities and the World Wildlife Fund work to protect the habitat of the monarchs in the Angangueo forest (WWF, n.d.). However, help to save the monarchs also comes from communities throughout the US and Canada. People are asked to stop using herbicides, plant milkweed for the caterpillars, provide nectar for adult butterflies, and replace lawns with natural plants. Farmers are urged to increase biodiversity. The most effort is put into planting enough milkweed to ensure that the monarch caterpillars can survive, hoping that it will give the butterflies time to adapt to the changes caused by global warming.
Center for Biological Diversity. (2021, February 25). Eastern monarch butterfly population falls again. https://biologicaldiversity.org/w/news/press-releases/eastern-monarch-butterfly population-falls-again-2021-02-25/.
Entomology Today. (2017, September 18). More overwintering monarch BUTTERFLIES died in March 2016 snowstorm than first estimated. https://entomologytoday.org/2017/09/18/more-overwintering-monarch butterflies-died-in-march-2016-snowstorm-than-first-estimated/.
EurekAlert! (2021, May 18). Saving the eastern monarch butterfly: Sfu research. https://www.eurekalert.org/news-releases/885816.
Journeynorth. (n.d.). Monarch butterfly and Mexico’s Oyamel fir forest. https://journeynorth.org/tm/monarch/SanctuaryFactsOyamel.html.
OneKindPanet. (n.d.). Top 10 Animals endangered by climate change. https://onekindplanet.org/top-10/10-adorable-animals-threatened-by-climate change/.
O’Neill, M. (2021, July 23). Why is the eastern monarch butterfly disappearing? Is there something we can do about it? SciTechDaily. https://scitechdaily.com/why-is-the eastern-monarch-butterfly-disappearing-is-there-something-we-can-do-about-it/.
World Wildlife Fund. (n.d.). As monarch BUTTERFLIES lose ground in MEXICO, WWF seeks solutions in America’s heartland. WWF. https://www.worldwildlife.org/stories/as monarch-butterflies-lose-ground-in-mexico-wwf-seeks-solutions-in-america-s heartland.
Ryan Crinnigan, Digital Journalism and Media, World Campus
Cudjoe Key is an island among the Florida Keys. It is a census-designated place (a designation used by the U.S. Census Bureau for more statistical accuracy) and an unincorporated community of about 2,100. Like much of Florida, the Keys are at constant risk of damage by hurricanes. In 2017, the path of Hurricane Irma ran right through Cudjoe Key, ravaging the island and devastating the community. Somehow, the result of the storm would have been even worse were it not for the protection of the Florida Reef, a coral barrier reef that runs along the southeastern coast of Florida, around the Keys and extending directly west. Unfortunately, the effects of climate change risk extreme degradation of the reef system, weakening this natural hurricane defense and endangering the Keys further.
Cudjoe Key relies on the protection of the Florida Reef for a couple reasons. First, the key is at sea level, leaving no resistance to incoming flood waves. While some coastal homes may be built on stilts, that doesn’t protect roads, power lines, inland businesses, and more. Second, the Keys are situated in the natural path of many Atlantic hurricane systems. The coral serves as a buffer between flood waves and coastline, absorbing and diminishing the surging waters of major storms. Erich Bartels, a coral researcher at the Mote Marine Laboratory, estimated that waves as high as 20 feet would have battered the Keys during Irma without protection from coral reefs (Loria, 2018). Other estimates indicate that coral reefs in the Florida Keys absorb as much as 97% of wave energy from storm surges (Lindwall, 2021). So Cudjoe Key, along with the other Keys, are highly reliant on a healthy reef system for hurricane protection.
Despite the level of protection it provides now, coral along the coast of Florida is disappearing at a troubling rate. The current Florida Reef contains perhaps only 2% of its original coral cover according to scientist estimates, and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) is calling the outlook for Florida reef ecosystems ‘dire’ (Chinn, 2020). Warming ocean temperatures and acidification are noted as the greatest threat. Indeed, scientists were stunned in 2016 when they witnessed evidence that the limestone framework of the Florida Reef had begun to be eaten away by rising ocean acidification 40 years earlier than expected (Borenstein, 2016). If current trends continue, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has suggested that all—all!—of the world’s coral reefs will be destroyed when the world reaches the 2 degrees Celsius global warming benchmark (Lindwall, 2021).
Florida politicians are seeking legislative solutions. Florida House Representative Darren Soto introduced the Restoring Resilient Reefs Act of 2021 in January. This Act would direct funding from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration toward state reef management and restoration, establish coral reef stewardship standards, further empower the U.S. Coral Reef Task Force, and more. Local organizations are transplanting coral to other less stable areas and attempting coral propagation, which involves removing a portion of existing coral and attaching it to a new area or surface. They are using staghorn and elkhorn corals, which are quick to grow (Florida’s Spectacular…, n.d.). The fear is that coral reefs are still beholden to the multinational climate stressors such as excessive carbon dioxide that are slowly warming the oceans, making patchwork efforts to maintain coral difficult. As long was water continues to warm and acidify, coral remains at intense risk.
Loria, K. (2018, June 21). Coral reefs provide crucial protection for coastal cities – without them, flood damage could double, a new study finds. Business Insider. https://www.businessinsider.com/coral-reefs-coastal-protection flood-damage-2018-6.
Lindwall, C. (2021, Sptember 23). The Mission to Save Florida’s Reefs. Natural Resources Defense Council. https://www.nrdc.org/stories/mission-save-floridas-reefs.
Chinn, H. (2020, November 18). ’Dire outlook’: scientists say Florida reefs have lost nearly 98% of coral. The Guardian. https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2020/nov/18/coral-reefs-florida-dire-outlook.
Borenstein, S. (2016, May 3). More acidic seawater now dissolving bit of Florida Keys reef. AP News. https://apnews.com/article/674ee134881a4795aaaedc8b5c5af27a.
Florida’s Spectacular Coral Reef System. (n.d.). The Nature Conservancy. https://www.nature.org/en-us/about us/where-we-work/united-states/florida/stories-in-florida/floridas-spectacular-coral-reef-system/.
Marabelle DeLaurentis, Civil and Environmental Engineering, Penn State University
Oasis Valley is a valley located in western Nevada near Beatty in Nye County. The Amargosa River flows through the Oasis Valley and leads to the Amargosa Valley (Oasis Valley, 2020). In this Valley lives a small community of less than 60 people. The threat to this small community, as well as many other river valleys, is an invasive species. Specifically, the invasive weed species Saltcedar and Russian olive are the greatest threat to the Amargosa River (Invasive Weeds…, 2006). Saltcedar, while very pretty, releases high levels of salt onto the ground which affects native plants and the water supply nearby. It also increases wildfire because it drops a lot of dead and dry leaves which only fuel more Saltcedar to sprout (Lovich, n.d.) . Similarly, the Russian olive is a tree which kills native species and are very hard to get rid of due to its deep roots. Ironically, the Russian olive was introduces to north America in the 1900s because it was thought to be a soil stabilizer and habitat provider (Invasive to Avoid…, n.d.) .
The Oasis Valley community is very vulnerable to this threat because the community relies on a healthy river, is a small population with not much influence, and is home to the endemic Armargosa Toad. In fact, it was the dwindling population of Amargosa Toads that gave residents an indicator that something was wrong in their community. In 1994 this toad was nominated for the endangered species list (Invasive Weeds…, 2006). Another threat to these toads came in 2006 when the US Bureau of Land Management said they would auction 5,740 acres of land along the Amargosa River (Amargosa Toad, n.d.).
The forecasted impact on the community is still in question. The community has expressed desires to save the Amargosa Toad, however, the Oasis Valley has a long history of ranching and mining (Invasive Weeds…, 2006). Decisions based solely off protecting the native species could put the residents’ livelihoods at risk. Additionally, as mentioned, the increasing invasive species populations of weeds are threatening their water supply. If nothing is done soon, residents may lose more than just the Amargosa Toads.
Luckily, there is hope for the Oasis Valley residents. The Beatty Habitat Committee and the Southern Nye County Cooperative Weed Management Area groups are working to protect the Amargosa Toad and help the residents. The groups have received a grant from the National Association of Counties to implement a habitat restoration plan through education and targeting invasive species. This plan, targeting mainly saltcedar, has shown great improvements (Invasive Weeds…, 2006). The Oasis Valley region is being rid of invasive species and revegetated with native plants like willow trees. The next plan is to use aquatic herbicides to continue targeting invasive species. As a result of these efforts, the Amargosa Toad is no longer on the endangered species list and the residents of the Oasis Valley have new knowledge and awareness for how they can protect their homes (Invasive Weeds…, 2006).
Amargosa Toad. (n.d.). Center for Biological Diversity. https://www.biologicaldiversity.org/species/amphibians/Amargosa_toad/index.html
Invasive Weeds Threaten Rare Toad and a Small Town’s Economy. (2006). Invasive Weed Awareness Coalition. https://wssa.net/wp-content/uploads/NV-Invasive-weeds-threaten-rare-toad-and-a-small-towns-economy.pdf
Invasive to Avoid: Russian Olive. (n.d.). California Department of Fish and Wildlife. https://wildlife.ca.gov/Conservation/Plants/Dont-Plant-Me/Russian-Olive
Oasis Valley. (2020). In Wikipedia. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Oasis_Valley
Lovich, J. (n.d.). Saltcedar. Center for Invasive Species Research. https://cisr.ucr.edu/invasive-species/saltcedar
Images: https://www.basinandrangewatch.org/images/Oasis-map-nonumbers.jpg, https://pvtimes.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/08/10924627_web1_IMG_7041.jpg?crop=1, https://pvtimes.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/12/web1_0713-frog_6634676.jpg
Esteban Galindo-Carvajal, Architecture, Penn State University
Bananas are a commonplace food worldwide. One of the reasons for this is that most bananas consumed are the same species. The Cavendish banana is the primary commercial banana across the globe. This is due to its thicker skin, larger size, lack of seeds, and its ability to travel well. Due to this, the Cavendish banana soon became found in plantations worldwide to maximize economic gain. While local banana varieties exist in most places where bananas are grown, they are not as economically sustainable as the Cavendish. The problem however is the homogenization of banana consumption in relation to genetic variety.
Tully is a town found in the state of Queensland, Australia. This town provides nearly 95% of Australia’s banana demands. However, over the past few years a deadly fungus has been found in the banana plantations. This fungus known as fusarium wilt or Panama TR4 (a specific strain of the fungus), can wipe out the banana industry as it can target the Cavendish banana which makes up most of the industry. An earlier strain of the same fungus wiped out the Gros Michel banana in the 1950’s which was the dominant banana at the time. The Cavendish was resistant to the fungus and was thus able to replace the Gros Michel as plantations rapidly switched to the Cavendish. However, this resistance forced the fungus to adapt and 50+ years has allowed it to affect the cavendish now.
TR4 was first detected in Tully in the late 90’s and since there have been cyclical treatments and reappearances of the fungus since 2015. TR4 has significant impacts and threats to the community, not only because the community of Tully is based around banana production, but also because it’s Australia’s primary provider. When TR4 is detected in a plantation, it is forced to go into quarantine and seriously limit the amount of trade the plantation can undertake. For plantation owners who rely on trade, this is a significant economic loss. The fungus is typically transferred through infected dirt and water and thus any cargos (including the vehicles carrying them) must be disinfected before and after entering the plantation. In other villages around the world, some claim that these disinfectants and sprays are proving harmful to humans, but that’s beside the topic of Tully, Australia at hand. Another impact of TR4 is the quarantine itself. High stress levels induced by the spread of the fungus across plantations was recorded in plantation farmers. Additional stress caused by the isolation during the quarantines was also recorded along with evidence of stress related implications regarding social and psychological well-being among the farmers. The solution at the moment seems to be continued management of the crisis, or genetic splicing of the cavendish with some of the local species that show immunity to TR4.
Panama Disease Tropical Race 4 (TR4). (2021, September 9). Business Queensland: The State of Queensland. https://www.business.qld.gov.au/industries/farms-fishing-forestry/agriculture/crop growing/priority-pest-disease/panama-disease.
Mitchell-Whittington, A. (2015, December 7). What Panama Disease TR4 Means for Australia’s Bananas. Brisbane Times.
Nothling, L., Faa, M., & McKillop, C. (2020, February 4). Devastating Panama Disease Detected in Heart of Banana-Growing Region. ABC News. https://www.abc.net.au/news/2020-02- 05/panama-fungal-disease-detected-north-queensland-banana-farm/11932314.
Panama TR4 Back in Far North Qld. (2017, August 16). Vinehealth Australia. https://vinehealth.com.au/2017/08/panama-tr4-north-qld/.
Social and Psychological Impacts of the TR4 Incursion in Queensland, Australia : Mediawatch. (2015, November 5). Improving the Understanding of Banana.
Laura Guay, Biobehavioral Health, University Park
In order to again explore what is happening in other regions outside of the US, I chose to research Boulders Beach in Simon’s Town, South Africa. It is home to a population of African Penguins and presents an example of how climate change is contributing to species loss. This can mainly be attributed to the fact that their supply of a wide array of fish has drastically reduced to only species like jellyfish, which have much fewer calories. The increased ocean temperatures and changes in salinity have resulted in larger fish, such as anchovies, their preferred food source, leaving the waters in the area (McSweeney, 2017). Overfishing has also reduced the amount of available fish for them to eat (Greene, 2017). Both impacts result in much fewer penguins (only about 50%) making it to adulthood, decreasing the size of the population significantly (Greene, 2017).
This community of Simon’s Town is particularly vulnerable because Boulders Beach is where a large concentration of African Penguins go (UNEP, n.d.). This is due to the upwelling that occurs in that area, bringing food along with the cold water; however, again, there is less of this nutritious food now (UNEP, n.d.). Moreover, it is likely to hurt the economy in that community, given that this is the main tourist site in South Africa to see African Penguins. Therefore, one of the main forecasted impacts on the community includes a hard hit to their economy. Moreover, the African Penguins help serve as a control for population sizes of other species and are a good marker for the health of ecosystems, meaning there will likely be a decrease in the health of all life in the area (Zinke, 2017). Also, projected impacts include increased deaths of younger penguins and continued decreases in the population size, since they are starving and not living long enough to find solutions to this upwelling trap (McSweeney, 2017).
Some solutions that have been proposed include creating Marine Protected Areas, which prevent humans from interfering and disrupting the penguins and their environments, such as through fishing (Zinke, 2017). However, they must be pretty large to make an impact, and right now, they are not large enough. Moreover, even if these areas are set aside, climate change impacts, including increased water temperature and decreased salinity, remain (Zinke, 2017). Other solutions include conservation action and research, such as through work with the Southern African Foundation for the Conservation of Coastal Birds (SAFCCOB). SAFCCOB is involved with the rehabilitation of African Penguins that are starving, researching their migration patterns, and studying how they are broadly impacted and respond to climate change. They also are involved in lobbying the government and fishing industry to act (Warkentin, 2021). Overall, as we see with most climate change topics, the issue is systemic and needs to be addressed using a multi-stakeholder approach.
McSweeney, R. (2017, February 9). Climate change and fishing lay ‘ecological trap’ for African penguins. Carbon Brief. https://www.carbonbrief.org/climate-change-fishing-lay-ecological-trap-african-penguins.
UNEP. (n.d.). Fact sheet african penguin climate change – CMS. CMS. https://www.cms.int/sites/default/files/publication/fact_sheet_african_penguin_climate_change.pdf.
Greene, S. (2017, February 11). African penguins are being ‘trapped’ by climate change. Los Angeles Times.
Warkentin, E. (2021, October 21). The South African town where Penguins rule. Smithsonian.com. https://www.smithsonianmag.com/travel/the-south-african-town-where-penguins-rule-180978901/.
Zinke, L. (2017, March 13). It’s a trap! African penguins impacted by climate change. oceanbites. https://oceanbites.org/its-a-trap-african-penguins-impacted-by climate-change/.
Tommy Gutekunst, Computer Science, Penn State University
The community of concern is not one of humans, but it deserves the same care and awareness, just like humans, in order for this coral reef to thrive. The threat is ocean warming, and even though there are countless reefs to choose from that are affected by this, this reef, in particular, is in an area that is taking the hardest hit and could potentially see the greatest decline in healthy, vibrant coral. The number one reason this beautiful reef will likely be destroyed in the near future is coral bleaching. Although bleaching can occur without temperature change, ocean warming is the number 1 cause, and the two are often associated with each other. Bleaching occurs when the environment surrounding coral changes drastically, such light, nutrient, or temperature alteration. When this happens, the coral expel a symbiotic algae known as zooxanthellae from their tissues that leaves their exterior a bleached white. The coral needs this algae to live, and if the conditions fail to be remediated, the coral will die. Not only will the lack of live coral turn the once vibrant, active scene into a graveyard where very little life will prosper, but the excessive algae surrounding the graveyard will prevent most aquatic life from being sustained. If any coral reef is damaged by bleaching, not only the coral but the surrounding fish as well will either die or lose their haven. The Tubbataha Reefs, some of the most beautiful and bustling reefs in the world, will likely fall to this fate.
The main reason this reef is threatened by bleaching is its location in the Philippines. Southeast Asia is currently projected to have the worst coral bleaching in the world if nothing is done. Over 80% of coral reefs in Southeast Asia are projected to be massacred by coral bleaching. It is unfortunate because some of the most beautiful reefs in the world are there, such as Raja Ampat. Raja Ampat, however, is currently not-susceptible to bleaching. The reason is that it is farther away from the coast than most. Fisheries and coastal development of industry are the two main culprits of ocean warming, which is why reefs closer to the coasts and therefore Tubbataha are more susceptible to bleaching.
From May 26th-June 24th 2020, there were the first considerable signs of bleaching in the Tubbataha Reefs. The reef is very large so even though there is only a small percentage of bleached coral, there is still a noticeable amount, and that is where the concern. The reefs are surrounded by fellow reefs that either are already destroyed or are in the process of it. The Tubbataha reefs are still relatively early in terms of the stages of bleaching, but they resemble their brother and sister reefs that met cruel fates. However, because of the early stage they are in, there still is a chance to save them, though it likely will not happen.
There are no simple solutions to this threat. The reefs cannot be moved farther away, so the only real solutions would be to lessen coastal development, which is near impossible due to economic reasons, or to lessen the amount of nearby fisheries, which is also extremely difficult, but more feasible. It is extremely likely that this ecosystem will reach its demise, but the overall carbon reduction to reduce global warming would greatly benefit future reefs, but the grandeur of procedure and time necessary make this option unavailable for the Tubbataha Reefs.
Burke, L. & Bryant, D. (1998, January 6). Reefs at Risk. World Resources Institute. https://www.wri.org/research/reefs-risk.
Coral Bleaching in Tubbataha. (2020, July 21). Tubbataha Reefs Natural Park. http://tubbatahareefs.org/coral-bleaching-in-tubbataha/.
Everything You Need to Know about Coral Bleaching-and How We Can Stop It. (n.d.). WWF. https://www.worldwildlife.org/pages/everything-you-need-to-know-about-coral bleaching-and-how-we-can-stop-it.
Raja Ampat, Indonesia. (n.d.). WWF. https://wwf.panda.org/discover/knowledge_hub/where_we_work/coraltriangle/coraltrianglefacts/places/rajaampatindonesia/.
Adia Hartmann-Snyder, Biobehavioral Health, Health and Human Development (Alumna)
Species loss is an incredibly concerning threat today. With urbanization, overfishing and hunting, invasive species, and continued global climate change, it puts more and more strain on species populations (AMNH). Biodiversity is important because each species plays a very specific role in its community. If one species goes extinct, it can create a domino effect, and greatly impacts the other species in its ecosystem (Cho, 2019). Kauai is one of the communities that is particularly vulnerable to the threat of species loss.
Kauai is particularly vulnerable to species loss because, according to an article in the Honolulu Civil Beat, one-third of the Hawaii’s species are listed as endangered or threatened (Letman, 2021). This is a big deal because the majority of their species (90%) are found only in Hawaii and nowhere else (Letman, 2021). This means that if they go extinct in Hawaii, there is no chance of recovering them. The reason Kauai is specifically vulnerable is because the land area is shrinking, putting a greater strain on the ecosystem there (Sanders, 2017). They have already lost 12 different species of birds (Dickie, 2017). The akikiki, a bird that is found only in Kauai, is dangerously close to extinction, and scientists are working diligently to save it (Lyte, 2021). One of the reasons it is so close to extinction is avian malaria, which is spread by mosquitoes (Lyte, 2021). Another threat is a fungal disease attacking the trees that akikiki like to nest in (Dickie, 2017).
If the mosquito population isn’t controlled, the akikiki will go extinct (Dickie, 2017). If the fungal disease on the trees does not stay contained to the Big Island like it is currently, it could kill off the trees and lead akikiki to not be able to nest, and thus they will go extinct (Dickie, 2017).
There are a couple of possible solutions to the threat of the loss of the akikiki bird. The first is to inject mosquitoes with a bacteria that will leave them infertile, which in turn will prevent them from reproducing (Lyte, 2021). Another option, which scientists are currently doing, is to collect akikiki eggs from nests on the island and hatch them in a lab (Dickie, 2017). This way, they can control the environment that the birds live in until they are able to kill the mosquitoes that are the currently posing the greatest threat to them (Dickie, 2017).
Cho, R. (2019, April 3). Why Endangered Species Matter. State of the Planet. https://news.climate.columbia.edu/2019/03/26/endangered-species-matter/
Dickie, G. (2020, July 16). The Birds and the Bugs: Trying to Save Hawaii’s Akikiki and Akeke’e. The Revelator. https://therevelator.org/birds-bugs-hawaii-akikiki-akekee/
Letman, J. (2021, October 4). Preserving Hawaii’s Biodiversity Is Up To Us. Honolulu Civil Beat. https://www.civilbeat.org/2021/10/preserving-hawaiis-biodiversity-is-up-to-us/
Lyte, B. (2021, June 9). Scientists Are Running Out Of Time To Save This Critically Endangered Kauai Bird. Honolulu Civil Beat. https://www.civilbeat.org/2021/06/scientists-are-running-out-of-time to-save-this-critically-endangered-kauai-bird/
Sanders, R. (2017, March 21). Hawaiian biodiversity has been declining for millions of years. Berkeley News. https://news.berkeley.edu/2017/03/16/hawaiian-biodiversity-has-been-declining-for millions-of-years/
What Causes Extinction? (n.d.). American Museum of Natural History. https://www.amnh.org/explore/ology/biodiversity/going-going-gone/what-causes-extinction
Mike Johnson, Energy and Sustainability, World Campus
I, like many others, enjoy a good fish and chips. Unfortunately, overfishing has led to a dramatic reduction in cod fisheries in the North Atlantic, and Peterhead, the largest fishing port in the United Kingdom, is facing a dire problem with their cod fishery. Between 1970 (the peak of North Sea cod population), and the mid-2000s, the population of cod fell by nearly 80% due to massive overfishing (Sherwood, 2019). Efforts were made via quotas to rectify the issue, and a rebound effect took place until around 2015, but an easing of fishing restrictions and expansion of quotas has led to the population once again plummeting.
As the largest fishing port in the United Kingdom, Peterhead has a huge stake in the health of their cod fishery. Many fisherman, dock workers, and local businesses are supported by the fishery, so decreasing populations will impact their livelihoods. Many of the fishermen are multi-generational, and the legacy is a tough one to break. It appears as if the fishermen are unhappy with the quotas being imposed on them, but at the same time if they overfish the population, their quota will potentially become zero, which would be disastrous. This is a good example of examining an issue from a systems perspective, as just focusing in on the plight of the fishermen in the near future does not benefit the fishermen, or the community and ecosystem, in the long run.
The forecasted impacts on the community are tough to call, given the regulating bodies’ recommendations impact fishing restrictions and quotas on the region. While overfishing is the main issue for the North Sea cod fishery, changing ocean temperatures are driving the cod populations farther north, which is leading to underestimations of total population in some southern areas, and impacting the quotas for the more northern fisheries. Fishermen in Peterhead are unhappy that their livelihoods are being determined by decisions made by people who are unfamiliar with their area (Gerrard, 2021). Depletion of fisheries also has far reaching impacts for ecosystems, as the removal of an entire link in the food chain may lead to disastrous consequences, many of which may be unable to be predicted.
The easiest way to restore a fishery population is to cease fishing it. This of course isn’t feasible for a community that relies heavily on the cod catch, so a compromise will have to be made somewhere. While the fishermen argue against regulatory organizations such, claiming they are ignorantly interfering with their livelihoods erroneously, the intention of the organization is of course for the long-term health of the cod population. Sometimes it’s difficult to see that rules and regulations are for the long-term betterment of the community, as overfishing the cod to extinction will surely be worse for Peterhead, and indeed the world, than the reduced hauls from regulated quotas.
Gerrard, P. (2021, October 27). Why Peterhead Fishermen are sick of unsolicited climate advice ahead of COP26. Press and Journal. https://www.pressandjournal.co.uk/fp/news/3555675/sustainable-fishing-in-scotland/.
Sherwood, H. (2019, August 18). Where did all the cod go? fishing crisis in the North Sea. The Guardian.
Natasha Singh Katoch, Psychology and Life Sciences, Earth and Sustainability Minor, Penn State University
The Inuit of Northern Labrador are said to have a significant and profound relationship with the ocean. The Inuit believe that, besides being their main source of food and highways, oceans are their connection to nature (Oliver, 2019). The Labrador Inuit are habitants of most of the Atlantic coast of Northern Labrador in Canada. The community predominantly relies on the sea ice for travel and operating the coastal fishing industry that supports the community (Oliver, 2019).
However, climate change impacts their dependence on the ocean as marine heatwaves, as a result of ocean warming, wreak havoc on the marine ecosystem of the Atlantic coast. In his article, Eric Oliver, Assistant Professor of Physical Oceanography at Dalhousie University, Nova Scotia, Canada describes marine heatwaves as prolonged periods of abnormally warm ocean temperatures that are increasing in frequency (Oliver, 2019). These heatwaves, Oliver explains, can occur at any given time of the year, and most often, significantly impact the ocean’s marine ecology and fisheries during the already-warm summer (Oliver, 2019).
Marine heatwaves have cost the Inuit of Northern Labrador a concerning change in lifestyle as the sea ice has progressively become less predictable. The Inuit have interpreted this change in lifestyle as a cultural trauma that the community is struggling to recover from. In an article for the Guardian, Canadian journalist Greg Mercer expanded on this cultural trauma. Due to the repercussions of ocean warming, the Inuit are having to give up historical traditions and cultural practices related to the sea ice such as trapping (Mercer, 2018). Upon interviewing locals, Mercer gathered that older Inuit started to lead Labrador’s youngest Inuit as a community that would have to grow in a land that is changing all the time with ice that cannot be trusted (Mercer, 2018). Additionally, the Inuit continually reported their anxiety over not being able to travel to catch their food due to the ice becoming increasingly unreliable (Mercer, 2018).
In terms of solutions to the threat that the Inuit community faces, exchanging knowledge between the Inuit and scientists could be a starter. This proposes that the locals are a direct part of the solution as they assist the scientists to examine and study the impacts of marine heatwaves in the region, which is still regarded as understudied (Oliver, 2019). This association can help promote the use of community-based monitoring that has previously been cited as a useful method in research in ocean sciences (Oliver, 2019). The Canadian government should also support the Inuit communities with resources that raise the required awareness for their wellbeing during the climate crisis.
Mercer, G. (2018, May 30). ‘Sea, ice, snow … it’s all changing’: Inuit struggle with Warming World. The Guardian.
Oliver, E. (2019, September 12). Ocean warming is changing the relationship coastal communities have with the Ocean. Dalhousie News. https://www.dal.ca/news/2019/09/12/ocean-warming-is-changing-the-relationship-coastal-communities-h.html.
Madison Leugemors, Political Science, World Campus
The next community I am discussing is the Maro Reef, which faces the threat of coral bleaching. Overall, Maro Reef is vulnerable to coral bleaching because of climate change. Since 1950, climate change has caused an increase in water temperatures by several degrees, which goes down at least 600 feet into the water (What Climate…, 2016). Algae called Zooxanthellae live within the coral and are the reason behind the colorful coral we see. However, as the temperature of water increases, Zooxanthellae cannot tolerate the heat and leave the coral (Bralower, 2021). Back in 2002, water temperatures spiked in August in Hawaii to 85.46 degrees, and since then, we continue to face climate change. Water temperatures have only continued to increase (Leone, 2002).
The bleaching of coral has impacts on coral communities as well as fish and human communities. Bleached corals have lower growth rates, increased vulnerability to diseases, and a higher mortality rate (Bleaching Impacts, n.d.). And as more coral dies because of bleaching, the species and genetic diversity decrease exponentially. Additionally, when coral undergoes drastic changes, this can affect the species that depend on it. Many fish rely on coral for food or shelter so when coral is bleached, many reef fish could possibly die as a result or relocate. This ends up affecting humans in many ways too. Communities that rely on the fish in their economies will be devastated when coral bleaching leads to a large shift in fish communities. Also, coral reefs are a big tourist attraction, so the local community will continue to lose money in reef tourism. The last way the bleaching of coral can affect humans is that healthy coral serves as a source of pharmaceutical compounds. Bleached and degraded corals are not able to provide people with the compounds used in medicines, like those used to treat heart disease (Bleaching Impacts, n.d.).
There are many changes that can be made to help limit coral bleaching. The best thing to do would be to focus on climate change and the warming of the oceans. Beyond that, there are smaller things that can be and have been done to help stop bleaching events. The EPA has implemented the Clean Water Act to reduce pollution that degrades coral waters (What EPA…, 2021). With cleaner and healthier water comes a more resilient coral reef. Additionally, community members can be conscious of their everyday actions. By working to use environmentally friendly transportation, people can help limit the number of greenhouse gases in the air, which contribute to ocean acidification (What You…, 2021). People can also actively try to recycle and minimize how much fertilizer they use to avoid polluting the water.
Bralower, T. (2021). Coral Bleaching and Calcification [Slides]. Canvas.
Bleaching Impacts. (n.d.). Reef Resilience Network. https://reefresilience.org/stressors/bleaching/bleaching-impacts/
Leone, D. (2002, October 10). Global warming may have caused coral bleaching, scientists say. Honolulu Star-Bulletin Hawaii News. http://archives.starbulletin.com/2002/10/10/news/story9.html
What Climate Change Means for Hawaii. (2016). EPA.
What EPA is Doing to Protect Coral Reefs. (2021, September 30). US EPA. https://www.epa.gov/coral-reefs/what-epa-doing-protect-coral-reefs
What You Can Do to Help Protect Coral Reefs. (2021, August 2). US EPA. https://www.epa.gov/coral-reefs/what-you-can-do-help-protect-coral-reefs
Jenny MacDougall-Jeffery, Digital Multimedia Design, World Campus
This particular topic isn’t addressing a human-centered community, but rather the insect community, and it serves as a harbinger of global environmental change. This assignment will focus on the threats and concerns around the precipitous decline in monarch butterflies. For me personally, the monarch butterfly holds a special place in my heart, because like many kids growing up, I took part in a classroom activity involving the lifecycle of caterpillars, watching them evolve into monarchs and then setting them free. But it wasn’t until doing this research that I remembered that due to their inability to survive the cold winter months, they endure a two-way annual transcontinental migration. The monarchs that I will be discussing are the eastern migratory species that overwinter in the Sierra Madre Mountains of Mexico, specifically the oyamel forest, where 99% of the world’s monarchs migrate (Saving the…, n.d.).
Monarchs form dense clusters on the trees, up to 10 million at a time, seeking a cool and moist environment which shelters them from extreme temperatures and allows the butterflies maintain a steady warmth while passing through winter in a relatively dormant state (Monarch Butterfly…, n.d.). Like most butterflies, monarchs are threatened by both habitat degradation and extreme climate fluctuations. Monarchs require relatively intact forests to overwinter, and the degradation of the forests at the colony sites breaks down their protection, which leads to high mortality and greater vulnerability. Another complication is the local landowners (ejidatarios) view logging and cutting down the trees as a source of income. As for weather related threats, complete die-offs will occur when weather patterns are of unusual scope and severity (Taylor, 2002). The monarch butterfly is threatened by pesticides (specifically Monsanto’s toxic roundup), climate change, urban sprawl, and the loss of habitat. Monarchs have lost 165 million hectares of breeding habitat from herbicide spraying alone (Saving the…, n.d.). Caterpillars only eat milkweed, it’s especially important to their survival. Milkweed produces a toxic steroid that caterpillars have evolved to tolerate and it serves as a bitter-tasting deterrent to predators. But milkweed is a nuisance to crops. So there has been an increase in eradication techniques such as herbicides and the planting of high-tolerant, genetically engineered crops like corn and soybean. Caterpillars cannot survive on these crops or these chemicals (Saving the…, n.d.). A bizarre and unfortunate threat that has resulted from the decrease in milkweed, is the planting of invasive tropical milkweed. As soon as people started to learn that caterpillars need milkweed to survive, they reacted by growing a non-native form. The non-native form produces a steroid that is almost too toxic for the caterpillar to handle, and when coupled with warming temperatures the steroid is boosted to levels too toxic for the butterfly. Not only is this a threat, but it continues to make the species vulnerable.
The forecasted impacts on the monarch community almost seem irreversible at this point. Eastern monarchs have declined by more than 80% over the past two decades (Monarchs, n.d.). It’s been estimated that within 50 years, a 96-100% probability of population collapse for the western population, and 80% probability for the eastern population (Monarchs, n.d.). Monarchs are also showing an increase in wing size, a small but consistent 4.9 percent increase (Arnold, 2021). This is believed to be a result of warming temperatures pushing breeding grounds further North, which means a longer return trip home from Mexico.
Luckily, there are solutions to this threat, but they need to be enacted soon and not halfheartedly. It’s been estimated that nearly one billion milkweed stems are needed to reduce the carnage, and not just any milkweed, but “butterfly milkweed”. I know a billion is a big number, so even just planting a pot or two independently would help caterpillars eat and give a safe haven for the monarch’s future eggs. It would also help to find economic solutions for the ejidatarios, and deter them from illegally logging the oyamel fir trees. I believe researchers are also trying to relocate oyamel firs to higher elevation in order to adapt to warming temps. But one silver lining amongst all this information is that monarchs fit a pattern; they are responding quickly to selection pressure. They experience high death rates due to catastrophic mortality but also have high birth rates, which means they have the ability to recover their numbers when conditions, such as milkweed and weather, stabilize (Taylor, 2002).
Monarchs. (n.d.). U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. https://www.fws.gov/savethemonarch/
Arnold, C. (2021, May 3). We’re losing monarchs fast—here’s why. National Geographic. https://www.nationalgeographic.com/animals/article/monarch-butterflies-risk-extinction-climate-change
Monarch Butterfly Migration and Overwintering. (n.d.). U.S. Forest Service.
SAVING THE MONARCH BUTTERFLY. (n.d.). Center for Biological Diversity. https://www.biologicaldiversity.org/species/invertebrates/monarch_butterfly/
Taylor, O. R. (2002, February 11). Catastrophic Mortality at the Monarch Overwintering Sites in Mexico. Monarch Watch.
Michael Taradash, Supply Chain and Information Systems, Penn State University
The capital city of Jakarta, Indonesia is located on the northwest coast of Java and is home to around 11 million people, making it the city with the largest population in the entire country. Jakarta is Indonesia’s economic, cultural, and political hub. It sits at the mouth of the Ciliwung River in Jakarta Bay and many parts are below sea level, making it a victim of frequent flooding. Despite flooding not being the main focus of this entry, the frequency and severity of flooding will certainly increase as a result of the ongoing death of the surrounding coral reefs, sinking land, pollution, poor infrastructure, and climate change as a whole. Jakarta is an ideal location for studying the interaction between a major metropolitan area and a coral reef system because of their close proximity to each other. Over the past fifty years, the number of degraded coral reefs located near Jakarta and Indonesia increased from 10 to 50 percent (Global Database…, n.d.). The threat of a more widespread death of the surrounding coral reef system would have devastating effects on all facets of life for all 11 million people who call Jakarta home. Over time, rising sea temperatures have caused alarming levels of coral bleaching (Katyal & Arga, 2007). Up to as many as 6 million people earn a living off of coral reef fisheries globally, creating greater than $6 billion in revenue. It is important to be cognizant of how reef fisheries will change in the future from coral reef death (Hoegh-Guldberg, 2019). The death of the coral from rising global temperatures will lead to a decrease in ocean biodiversity, starving coastal cities like Jakarta of a valuable source of food, leaving many people hungry and unemployed. If it wasn’t bad enough that rising temperatures are killing the coral, Jakarta Bay has been measured as containing heavy metal pollution and plastics because of local industries (Baum et al., 2015). Pollutants in the ocean upset the nutrient balance in the water as well as block the sunlight that corals need to live. This excess nutrient balance fuels the growth of algae and seaweeds which are harmful to coral health. An unhealthy reef is less of a buffer between the coast and the turbulent Jakarta Bay, making Jakarta much more prone to flooding and storm surges than ever before. Jakarta has always struggled with flooding due to its low elevation, but since coral reefs can protect coastlines from the ocean’s erosive effects, reef health is of paramount importance. Jakarta and the metropolitan area produce more than 7,000 tons of garbage per day, coming mostly from households (Jakarta Bay…, 2018). In order to help mitigate the potential ramifications of a dying coral reef brought on by climate change and pollution, Jakarta’s individuals, more specifically, households, need to be more eco-friendly with their waste output. Jakarta Bay and some of the rivers that feed into it are some of the most polluted bodies of water in the world, and if nothing is done to lessen the pollution, the results will be shocking for Jakarta. Eco-friendly legislation that promotes recycling and waste reduction combined with voting for politicians who want to keep the global temperature increase below 2 degrees are some of the only viable ways to protect the community.
Baum, G., Januar, H. I., Ferse, S. C. A., & Kunzmann, A. (2015, September 17). Local and Regional Impacts of Pollution on Coral Reefs along the Thousand Islands North of the Megacity Jakarta, Indonesia. PLOS ONE 10(9): e0138271. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0138271.
Global Database : Threats – Reefs at Risk – Southeast Asia, Indonesia. (n.d.). ReefBase.
Hoegh-Guldberg, O., Pendleton, A., & Kaup, A. (2019, July). People and the Changing Nature of Coral Reefs. Regional Studies in Marine Science, 30. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S2352485518306637.
Jakarta Bay Pollution a Threat to Future`s Generation. (2018, March 12). ICEL.
Katyal, S., & Arga, A. (2007, November 28). Indonesia’s Corals Threatened by Climate Change.
Zac Vandevelde, Political Science, World Campus
While there are plenty of places in the U.S. that have their fair share of trouble from natural disasters, one of the places that is undoubtedly on the top of that list is the Outer Banks, located on the North Carolina coast. Rising sea levels combined with severe storms have caused some of the coastal forests in the Outer Banks, as well as other coastal forests on the East Coast, to slowly die off due to saltwater exposure. This slow dying of coastal trees is causing the formation of what is known as ghost forests.
Ocean waters have been rising for decades in the Outer Banks. Compounded with larger, more severe storms happening more often, ghost forests are getting larger faster. Interestingly, the number of dead trees and stumps, or “snags,” seems to expand faster after extreme weather events. For example, in the Alligator River Wildlife Refuge, just west of the Outer Banks, approximately 4,500 hectares of ghost forest were formed between 2011 and 2012, the year after Hurricane Irene. This was the proverbial “salt in the wound” in an area that was already suffering from drought. Also in the wildlife refuge, 1,151 hectares of forest have been lost to sea in the last 35 years, and 11% of the forest in the refuge has turned to ghost forest.
The trees on the Outer Banks and in the Alligator River Wildlife Refuge are mostly cypress and pine. Cypress is completely intolerant to saltwater. Death by saltwater is a slow one, with trees first suffering from a reduction in growth and sap flow, then slowly losing their leaves. Also, scientists believe that once ghost forests form, the dead snags act as a conduit for greenhouse gas emissions. Ghost forest expansion in the future will mean a continued negative impact on wildlife habitat, as well as less coastal protection from storms.
The good news is there are temporary and long-term solutions to the problem of ghost forest expansion. The temporary solution is to invest in bulkheads and sea walls to try and keep the water levels down. These pro-active steps would require approval for state and local funding, and they are only short-term solutions. The long-term solution is to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, therefore reducing global warming and reducing ocean temps. The latter is a pipe dream if we don’t make big, collective changes across the planet soon.
Beck, L. (2021, September 11). Study Finds Ghost Forest Expansion Rate Alarming. OBX TODAY. https://www.obxtoday.com/coastal-review-online-study-finds-ghost forest-expansion-rate-alarming/
Breisinger, H. (2021, June 3). North Carolina Shoreline Estuaries are Transforming into ‘Ghost Forests’, but Why. WHQR Public Media. https://www.whqr.org/local/2021-06-03/north-carolinas-shoreline-estuaries-are transforming-into-ghost-forests-but-why
Kirwan, M.L., & Gedan, K.B. (2019). Sea-level driven land conversion and the formation of ghost forest. Nature Climate Change 9, 450–457. https://doi.org.ezaccess.libraries.psu.edu/10.1038/s41558-019-0488-7
Lauren Waer, Psychology and Political Science, Penn State University
Across Florida there have been more and more manatees entering marine life rehabilitation centers and more and more deaths. Over 1,000 have died in 2021 alone, marking a record loss to the species, which is already exposed to the threat of extinction (Einhorn, 2021). After investigating areas across the state, officials pinpointed a potential cause of the species loss: the Indian River Lagoon, a large estuary where manatees retreat to for the winter due to the warmer water temperatures. However, recently, the Indian River Lagoon has seen a sharp decrease (almost 90 percent) in the amount of seagrass, one of the main food sources for manatees, that it houses (Einhorn, 2021). This is due to algal blooms created by aged wastewater facilities, leading to waste and fertilizer runoffs from nearby houses and farms (Einhorn, 2021). This wastewater issue for the estuary has been in the works for a while now: for decades, as the population bordering the estuary has continued to grow, the outdated waste treatment facilities have been unable to keep up. Additionally, other human activities, like boating, kill manatees. One proposed, experimental solution to the species loss of manatees is feeding them with leafy greens like lettuce and cabbage, which is normally what manatees are fed while in rehabilitation centers (Einhorn, 2021). This would be done by wildlife officials, who urged the public to not feed manatees, as they could habituate and increase their risk of boating accidents or other human-related accidents. Instead, the wildlife officials suggested to the public that the best things they can do to prevent the manatee species loss is to improve their community water quality by avoiding the use of fertilizer and other harmful chemicals like pesticides, and also by upgrading their wastewater facilities (Einhorn, 2021). However, feeding comes at a price: it can disrupt manatee migration, spread diseases, and increase algal blooms if the leafy green excess is not cleaned up (Einhorn, 2021).
Einhorn, C. (2021). Manatees, facing a crisis, will get a bit of help: extra feeding. The New York Times. https://www.nytimes.com/2021/12/07/climate/manatees-florida
Gabriel Wagner, Information Sciences and technology, Penn State University
In the small fishing town of San Felipe, Mexico, the most endangered mammal on Earth, the vaquita, swims in the surrounding waters (Jones, 2021). There are believed to only be a few left as the number of these vaquita’s still alive today has been steadily declining over the past years from being in caught in fishing nets. The declining rate of this species is raising alarm to not only the citizens of San Felipe and the surrounding area but also to conservation agencies that are trying to protect this endangered species. San Felipe is a small fishing town first and foremost so any changes to their way of life would be devastating and crumble their local economy.
“If the vaquita goes extinct, there’s going to be punishment,” said García Carrillo, who worries that the government or conservation organizations may take action against fishers. “It would be catastrophic. (Jones, 2021)” The number of living vaquita is vital for the community of San Felipe as a whole. As the number of living vaquita continues to diminish, conservation agencies are going to raise the pressure against the town. A small town such as San Felipe relies on fishing to survive. In San Felipe there just is not enough money or resources to fill in other industries (Jones, 2021). Those who work in San Felipe are fishers. The issue is that as these fishers continue to go about their craft the same ways, these vaquitas are going to be fully extinct. Once the vaquitas are fully extinct then San Felipe will be facing the consequences of killing an endangered species, which would crumble their local economy. Luckily for San Felipe, there is a group of local fisheries who have created a new, more sustainable net that makes it possible to continue fishing without capturing vaquitas and drowning them. These new nets have a metal grate inside them called excluders. When larger mammals or fish enter the net they run into the excluder and are then signaled to exit through a hole nearby (Jones, 2021). This new, more sustainable net is allowing local fishers to continue their daily operations while not posing any risk to the vaquitas or any other large mammal that gets caught in fishing nets. As the popularity of these fishing nets continues to rise and more fishers utilize them, the risk that large mammals face will decrease and the local economy will continue to move forward. It’s a win-win situation for all parties involved.
Jones, B. (2021, December 7). The Ocean’s rarest mammal has a few final lessons to teach us. Vox.
Jessica Barth, Philosophy & Biobehavioral Health, Schreyer’s Honors College, Penn State University
Noatak and Selawik, two small communities in northwestern Alaska comprised of the indigenous Iñupiaq Eskimos, are experiencing threats to their subsistence-based lifestyle due to climate-fueled temperature increases in the Arctic region. In recent decades, the average temperatures in this region of Alaska have risen by almost three degrees Celsius. This is nearly double the increase in temperatures that have occurred at lower latitudes, leaving these communities uniquely harmed by a warming climate. The projections also show that temperatures will continue to rise rapidly. The increasing temperatures and warming Arctic oceans threaten the subsistence-based lifestyle of the Iñupiaq people due to the loss of productivity in the fisheries they depend on. Such fisheries are at risk as the warming waters make the movement of fish less predictable and have lessened the availability of prominent fish species. Furthermore, the warmer and wetter weather has posed challenges to the traditional preservation methods of fish, such as drying or fermenting the seasonal harvests. As a result, these communities are slowly being forced to move away from the subsistence-based lifestyle that their cultural identity is built upon. Beyond their locality at high latitudes, these communities are uniquely vulnerable to the impacts of climate change due to their status as indigenous peoples. Such groups experience continuous political, cultural, economic, and social pressures that go against their beliefs and traditions. Without the political upper hand, outside forces have begun introducing Westernized practices in these regions, including industrialization and consumerism that have stripped these communities of land and natural resources. Paired with a warming climate, such groups are left vulnerable to the eradication of their culture and identity as Iñupiaq peoples. With temperatures only continuing to rise, the productivity and predictability of the fisheries in these regions will continue to decline, and with it—their lifestyle. As a result, the existence of the Iñupiaq people may even phase out, with their lifestyles being forcibly shifted away from subsistence living. The younger generations of Iñupiaq people are now showing less interest in continuing this lifestyle as the climate worsens and as their political and social spheres collapse in the face of bureaucratic pressures. Although this sad scenario is shared by many native Alaskans, solutions do exist to ameliorate this increasing threat. Of utmost importance, indigenous peoples and their land need to be respected and left alone. Such protection needs to be offered by legislative bodies and enforced so that the remaining land and resources can be protected while the climate still allows for subsistence-based lifestyles to remain. Short of stopping global warming altogether, resources must also be provided to these communities so that they can find ways to preserve the fish they are able to harvest and access other food options when these harvests run out. These solutions alone are not enough, as work must be done to ensure that they are culturally appropriate out of respect for the Iñupiaq tradition.
Moerlein, K. J., & Carothers, C. (2012). Total environment of change: impacts of climate change and social transitions on subsistence fisheries in northwest Alaska. Ecology and Society, 17(1).
Dalton Carey, Chemical Engineering, Penn State University
The threat that I will be writing about in this entry is overfishing. Overfishing occurs when fish are caught or farmed at a rate that is faster than they can reproduce, ultimately leading to the decay of fish populations over time. This can have several detrimental effects which I will go into more detail on later in this entry, but they include extinction of species of fish and dangers to the human population caused by overfishing.
The community that I will focus on in this entry is Tombo, Sierra Leone. This community is settled on the coast of Sierra Leone, and their major industry is fishing, which is the primary reason this community is susceptible to the consequences of overfishing. If overfishing continues to be a problem, then this community’s economy will lose the money that is brought in from exporting fish. The causes of the overfishing that affect this community is largely due to large commercial fishing boats that come from countries with the resources to charter ships to other regions. These ships are outfitted with large nets and a mechanical pulling mechanism that reduces the need for a lot of physical labor and thus increases the amount of fish that can be caught on these ships. Both of these factors in tandem can potentially wipe out entire schools of fish and, over time, will reduce the fish population.
Tombo will be impacted in two key ways if overfishing is not kept in check. As mentioned above, its economy will be hurt as fishing is the village’s major industry and export, and this will affect the kinds of infrastructure and agricultural investments that they can make in the future. In addition, there will be health effects to the townspeople as they will be without a key source of animal protein. This can lead to extreme levels of malnutrition and famine. In short, their entire livelihood depends on having fish available to catch, eat, and sell.
One of the main ways that officials are attempting to put an end to overfishing in this region is by monitoring and controlling the fishing operations that occur in Sierra Leonean waters. This immediately made a difference, as the neighboring country Liberia was able to collect $6.4MM in fines from illegal fishing boats and reduced the percentage of fishing boats that were illegal from 85% down to 30%.
Ighobor, K. (2017, May). Overfishing Destroying Livelihoods. United Nations. https://www.un.org/africarenewal/magazine/may-july 2017/overfishing-destroying-livelihoods.
Tombo, Sierra Leone. (2022, March 14). In Wikipedia. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tombo,_Sierra_Leone.
Sierra Chromiak, Human Development and Family Studies, Penn State Lehigh Valley
Climate change does not only have a negative impact on humans, but on animals as well. We are currently in a national biodiversity crisis, and climate change is partially to blame. One of the main species that are not surviving this crisis is birds. Birds are particularly vulnerable to both human causes of destruction and climate change effects. This is specifically the case in the Atlantic Forest in Brazil. Brazil is one of the top countries for the amount of threatened birds, and more than half of those birds are found in the Atlantic Forest (Develey & Phalan, 2021). The types of birds that have gone extinct due to a combination of human damage and climate change in the Atlantic Forest include the Red-and-green Macaw Ara chloropterus, Chestnut-fronted Macaw Ara severus, Red-throated Caracara Ibycter americanus and Great-billed Seed-finch Sporophila maximiliani, among many others that have been listed as endangered (Develey & Phalan, 2021). Though the endangered bird species are protected under Brazilian law, the efforts made have not been effective enough to solve the bird species loss issue.
The main threat birds face in this community is habitat loss due to clearing of land for agricultural purposes. They also suffer the effects of increases of forest fire frequency and intensity and degradation (Develey & Phalan, 2021). Given that this community has a dense forest landscape with many trees, it is a prime candidate for logging and humans looking to clear land for farming. This area also maintains a warm, dry climate, which fosters the ability for forest fires to spread quickly and cause major damage. The destruction of bird habitats has caused birds to become isolated, which increases their vulnerability and risk of extinction. Unfortunately, the future is bleak for birds in the Atlantic Forest. Considering the growing global population, agricultural needs will only increase, which will increase the amount of land needed and lead to destruction of more habitats. Also, with the predicted progression of global warming, drought will become a more prominent issue in this area and forest fires will increase in both frequency and intensity (Develey & Phalan, 2021). These climate change effects will lead to the continuation of habitat destruction and extinction for birds in the Atlantic Forest. Despite the threats to birds in this community, there are ways we as humans can take action against the situation. One way to act against bird extinction in this area is educating the world about the birds’ dire situation and how we can slow the effects of climate change. We can take a global initiative to use less fossil fuels in an attempt to reduce the effects of climate change on populations like birds. Humans can also compromise on the amount of land they use for agriculture and decrease logging, specifically in areas such as the Atlantic Forest that are very vulnerable to their negative effects. Though we may not be able to halt the extinction of birds, if we come together, we can make a difference in saving endangered birds.
Develey, P. F. & Phalan, B. T. (2021). Bird Extinctions in Brazil’s Atlantic Forest and How They Can Be Prevented. Frontiers in Ecology and Evolution. 9:624587. doi: 10.3389/fevo.2021.624587
Ava Drum, Industrial Engineering, Penn State University Class of 2022
It’s a well-known fact that climate change is severely affecting polar bear populations. Climate change has been most visible in the Arctic where ice is decreasing rapidly due to the warming globe. Polar bears are located in the Arctic region in areas of the United States, Russia, Greenland, Norway, and Canada (Tandon & Pidcock, 2022). Polar bears depend on sea ice to hunt seals, travel, and mate (Polar Bears…, n.d.). Areas of the Arctic’s sea ice naturally melt in the summer and re-freeze in the winter (Becker, 2015), and bears are able to hunt seals when sea ice is present (Polar Bears, n.d.). However, due to climate change, the ice is melting considerably more in the summer and is not freezing completely in some areas in the winter (Becker, 2015). Polar bears are being forced to spend more time on land to find food (Tandon & Pidcock, 2022). These factors have led to lower polar bear body weight, and as a result, reproductive and cub survival rates have suffered (Tandon & Pidcock, 2022).
Churchill, Manitoba, is located on the western area of the Hudson Bay, which is in the southern area of the Arctic (Dickie, 2021). During the summer, about 300 polar bears live in Churchill (Appelbaum, n.d.). Polar bears are a major tourism attraction and the town’s economy depends on polar bears. As of now, Churchill has not seen a large decline in polar bear populations, but they have seen some other effects of polar bears and climate change (Dickie, 2021). The tourism industry relies on predicting the movement and time-table of the polar bears on land, and climate change is making this prediction more difficult. The town has also seen bears spending more time on land and becoming more aggressive, and Churchill expects to see more human-bear conflicts (since ice sheets are forming later and access to food is becoming more difficult). The town has had to adapt and take extra precautionary measures, like conservation officers patrolling neighborhoods day and night to keep polar bears out of neighborhoods (Dickie, 2021). In an effort to protect more polar bears, aggressive bears are no longer shot but airlifted 70 km north (Appelbaum, n.d.).
Protecting polar bears will mean protecting their habitat, and reducing greenhouse gasses released into the atmosphere is imperative to this effort. Polar bear tourism companies are taking steps to educate tourists about this issue (Dickie, 2021). While a large decline is not seen in Churchill now, it is expected to decline in the future. By 2060, Hudson Bay area polar bears are predicted to experience reproductive failure, and by 2100 the polar bear population is predicted to collapse (Dickie, 2021). Churchill tourism companies are diversifying their offered experiences now, like offering dog sledding, a local trapping presentation, and searching expedition for other rare animals in the area (Dickie, 2021).
 Tandon, A. & Pidcock, R. (2022, December 7). Polar bears and climate change: What does the science say? Carbon Brief. https://www.carbonbrief.org/polar-bears-and-climate-change-what-does-the-science-say.
 Polar Bears and Climate Change. (n.d.). WWF.
 Becker, R. A. (2015, September 4). 4 Ways Polar Bears Are Dealing With Climate Change. National Geographic. https://www.nationalgeographic.com/animals/article/150904-polar-bears-dolphins-seals-climate-change.
 Polar Bear. (n.d.). National Wildlife Federation. https://www.nwf.org/Educational-Resources/Wildlife-Guide/Mammals/Polar-Bear.
 Dickie, G. (2021, December 8). How Churchill, Canada, the Polar Bear Capital of the World, Is Dealing With Climate Change. Condé Nast Traveler. https://www.cntraveler.com/story/how-the-polar-bear-capital-of-the-world-is-dealing-with-climate-change.
 Appelbaum, B. (n.d.). 3,000 Miles From Glasgow, a Town and Its Polar Bears Face the Future. The New York Times. https://www.nytimes.com/2021/11/04/opinion/arctic-climate-change-canada.html.
Sydney Dutton, Biology, Penn State University
Coral reefs are some of the most important ecosystems in the world. Together, all coral reefs in the ocean hold 25% of the Earth’s marine species, without even covering 1% of the ocean floor. Unfortunately, coral bleaching is becoming a growing issue to this ecosystem, and without the reefs, some communities that rely on coral reefs for part of their income could have lasting effects. Saint Barthélemy, a French territory located in the northeast Caribbean Sea, is one of these communities.
Coral bleaching is caused by the warming of the oceans, and the warming of the oceans is caused by global warming and climate change. Corals get their beautiful colors by living in symbiosis with Zooxanthellae, which is a type of dinoflagellate. The Zooxanthellae’s job is to remove carbon dioxide from the water and promotes calcification of the corals. However, when ocean temperatures start to rise and get too hot, Zooxanthellae cannot survive and leave the coral. This creates the bleached white color where coral bleaching gets its name. Bleaching is becoming all too common and can even occur when ocean temperatures rise just one degree Celsius. Since this usually occurs in the summer, coral bleaching has become an annual event, but a yearlong issue happening all over the world. Specifically, in Saint Barthélemy, there is low exposure to the conditions that cause coral bleaching, but when it does occur, the territory has extremely high vulnerability to the issues because they rely on economic income from reef tourism.
Without coral reefs, Saint Barthélemy could have an economic downfall on their hands. Bleached corals are more likely to die, and if they can stay alive, they have much slower growth rates than healthy coral. This leads to marine wildlife that rely on coral for food or shelter to slowly die off, leading to a top-down cascade erupting through the entire ecosystem. This then creates an issue of activities like scuba diving and snorkeling to become less common in this territory and fisheries being impacted, thus Saint Barthélemy losing revenue each year to less tourists coming to their territory.
Different steps can be taken to slow coral bleaching effects and impacts at a smaller island scale. Living more sustainably is always an option on lowering carbon emissions that are causing climate change and ocean temperature rise. Specifically, for smaller islands, creating fishing regulations so that specific species that are important to the reef ecosystem are protected. Another option would be to create laws and regulations for land use and water treatment so that overall water quality is better. It would also be helpful for Saint Barthélemy to work on economic variation so that they will not lose as much revenue each year if coral bleaching continues to happen. By implementing these actions and others, Saint Barthélemy can have some peace knowing their economy will not fall apart.
Bralower, T. & Bice, D. (n.d.). Coral Bleaching and Calcification. Earth in the Future. https://www.e-education.psu.edu/earth103/node/866
The variety of species living on a coral reef is greater than in any other shallow-water marine ecosystem, making reefs one of the most diverse ecosystems on the planet. (n.d.). Florida Keys National Marine Society. National Ocean Service. https://floridakeys.noaa.gov/corals/biodiversity.html
Bleaching Impacts. (n.d.). The Nature Conservancy. https://reefresilience.org/stressors/bleaching/bleaching-impacts/
University of California – Berkeley. (2019, February 21). How coral bleaching threatens Caribbean communities: Analysis reveals Caribbean communities that are most at risk from the social and ecological effects of coral bleaching. ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2019/02/190221110425.htm.
Tara Forde, Political Science, Penn State University
Species loss is becoming a problem across the world as the human population expands and continues to encroach on nature. One territory known as Pangasananan is occupied by the Manobo people. It is located in Bislig, a city of the Philippines. For the Manobo people, their territory is everything for them, it provides everything they need like food, shelter, medicines, water and identity (Jones, 2021). Species loss of animals and plants has greatly affected their day-to-day life. As humans begin to continue to expand and try to destroy the environment by building new cities and communities, indigenous people like the Manobo people are fighting to keep their natural territory. Their territory is home to many threatened and endemic species like the Philippine warty pig, duck and flame-breasted fruit dove (Miguel, 2021). The main threat within the community is if their territory is destroyed by development, they will be left without everything they hold dear and be forced to find territory somewhere else. The Manobo people are the reason the territory remains ecologically intact and is up to conservation tactics to continue to allow the people of Pangasananan to live in peace. In order to continue the efforts of the Indigenous people, we need to work towards conserving threatened lands, animals and plants. For the territory of Pangasananan the focus should be on conserving the territory so it cannot be sold to businesses or other places which may destroy the territory and wildlife there. After conserving the territory, we need to focus on sustainably managing the area in order to make sure it will be safe for future generations. For the territory, there have been some steps in the right direction as the department of environment and natural resources in the Philippines has designated the hectare forest located within the territory as a critical habitat which will preserve the forest from being destroyed (Miguel, 2021). This is a step in the right direction but in order to protect the area for future generations we need to focus on conservation so the Manobo people may live in peace with nature.
Jones, B. (2021, June 11). Indigenous people are the world’s biggest conservationists, but they rarely get credit for it. Vox. https://www.vox.com/22518592/indigenous-people-conserve-nature-icca
Miguel, M. (2021, February 18). DENR declares Pangasinan forest as Critical Habitat for wildlife species at risk of extinction. Republic of the Philippines. https://www.denr.gov.ph/index.php/news-events/press-releases/2226-denr-declares-pangasinan-forest-as-critical-habitat-for-wildlife-species-at-risk-of-extinction
Olivia Friend, Earth Science, Penn State University
Yellowstone National Park is full of aquatic, terrestrial, and microbial diversity, and it remains one of the largest nature preservatives within the temperate biome. Aspen Trees, which are native to the valleys of Yellowstone, Lamar, and Gardner water systems, have been decreasing in abundance for the past hundred years. The continuous loss of this species in the park has led to many questions as they are typically quick to sprout and grow after natural disturbances. Yet, it has turned out to be an ecological system failure.
Aspen trees are beneficial as they can grow through all seasons. During harsh winters, the thin photosynthetic layer underneath the bark that produces sugars provide nutrients for mammals such as deer and elk. Throughout the year, younger aspen trees can provide food for many animals in the park, such as moose, black bears, beavers, etc.
After scientists started to recognize a drastic decline in the species population within the park, they decided to closely study tree rings and tree size classes to help develop age structures for the trees throughout the years. It was found that the Aspen trees stopped regenerating in the 1920s. The only ecological change occurring at this time within the park was the elimination of the wolves.
Since the wolves were the main predators of the elks, the removal of wolves led to the overabundance of elks. This large quantity of elk allowed them to graze all over the park, resulting in the destruction of almost all of the young Aspen trees. The reduction of Aspen decreased bird species diversity, declined beaver populations as dam materials were gone, and lowered the rates of soil carbon sequestration. The solution recommended by many researchers and scientists was to reintroduce wolves into the park in hopes of fixing the trophic cascade. In 1995, the Endangered Species Act permitted the wolves to be placed back in the park. Almost immediately, the regrowth of Aspen began. It was prominent, as young Aspen trees grew taller during winter seasons, and other biodiversity began to come back. It is safe to say that wolves alone didn’t bring back the Aspen, but their comeback wouldn’t have happened without the reintroduction.
Branam, C. (2018, August 30). Aspen is making a comeback in and around Yellowstone National Park, because of predators. Life at OSU. https://today.oregonstate.edu/news/aspen-making-comeback-and-around-yellow-stone-national-park-because-predators
Klaptosky, J. (2016, May 16). The plight of aspen: Emerging as a beneficiary of wolf restoration on Yellowstone’s Northern Range. National Parks Service. https://www.nps.gov/articles/the-plight-of-aspen.htm
Wolves bring aspen trees back. (2014, February 19). Yellowstone National Park. https://www.yellowstonepark.com/things-to-do/wildlife/wolves-bring-yellowstone-back/
Nicholas Guzman, Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, Penn State Eberly College of Science
Nunatsiavut is an autonomous community that is inhabited by the Inuit and is located along a territory in Labrador, Canada (Nunatsiavut, 2022). As a community that stems from the cultures of the indigenous Inuit tribe there is a heavily cultural reliance on hunting, fishing, and gathering to collect food. Sources of meat include geese, seals, arctic hares, and moose (Food Services, n.d.). Specifically, caribou has been identified as one of the most important species for the survive of Inuit people in the region, but the population has been facing a steady decline (Borish et al., 2021). Caribou, as well as other species, are declining in population due to complex and multiple issues, with one of the most influential being changes in native environments from climate change, such as warming, as well as a decline in sources of food (Borish et al., 2021). Along the George River (which runs along the border of the community) it has been documented that the population has decreased by 99% from the original population of 800,000 in 1990, which is a major cause for concern in Nunatsiavut (Borish et al., 2021). In dealing with the issues of species loss and decrease in available meat, the community has adapted by introducing grocery stores that sell imported fruits, vegetables, and types of meats not available to hunt in the region (Food Services, n.d.). However, lack of infrastructure such as viable roads makes it difficult to import food and other necessities into the community (Nikigijavut Nunatsiavutinni…, n.d.). One roadblock in addressing issues of food security in the community is agreement between the government of Canada and the government of Nunatsiavut. Just this year, a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) was signed by both governments with the intent to establish an indigenous protected zone in areas surrounding the community. The intention of this is to protect areas that whales, seals, and different types of waterfowl reproduce and thrive in, which are critical to maintaining a healthy population of each species considering the large reliance on hunting (Parks Canada, 2022).
Nunatsiavut. (2022, April 3). In Wikipedia. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nunatsiavut
Food Services. (n.d.). Tourism nunatsiavut. https://www.tourismnunatsiavut.com/home/food_services.htm
Borish, D., Cunsolo, A., Snook, J., Shiwak, I., Wood, M., HERD Caribou Project Steering Committee, Mauro, I., Dewey, C., & Harper, S. L. (2021, April 17). “Caribou was the reason, and everything else happened after”: Effects of Caribou declines on Inuit in Labrador, Canada. Global Environmental Change, 68. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0959378021000479
Nikigijavut Nunatsiavutinni, Our Food NL: Nunatsiavut. (n.d.). Food First NL. https://www.foodfirstnl.ca/our-food-nl-nunatsiavut
Canada Post. (2022, February 23). The Governments of Canada and Nunatsiavut sign Memorandum of Understanding to assess feasibility of establishing a new protected area along northern Labrador coast. Canada.ca. https://www.canada.ca/en/parks-canada/news/2022/02/the governments-of-canada-and-nunatsiavut-sign-memorandum-of-understanding-to assess-feasibility-of-establishing-a-new-protected-area-along-norther.html
Katelynn MacPherson, Psychology, Penn State World Campus
The Swinomish Indian Tribal Community, also known as the “salmon people”, rely on fish as a staple of their community and culture. Occupying a coastal region in the Pacific Northwestern United States, the Swinomish have been experiencing historic lows in salmon yields from the Puget Sound the past 150 years (Sreenivasan, 2012). Salmon populations in this area have decreased by 80% over the past 20 years depleted through regular overfishing, habitat loss, and hydroelectric dams (Conner, 2021, Sreenivasan, 2012). Rising water temperatures further threaten the species, as salmon are especially sensitive to temperature change, and warmer waters in the summer of 2015 resulted in a record number of fish kills and destruction of multiple spawning areas (Fears, 2016). Not only utilized as a food source, salmon represents a way of life for the Swinomish people and traditionally is incorporated in ceremonies, weddings, and funerals (Fears, 2016). Additionally, sport fishing and tourism centered around salmon bring much needed jobs and revenue to the surrounding communities (Fears, 2016). The Swinomish reservation has already been forced to rely on state and tribal handouts in light of low salmon yields in recent years, demonstrating how the threat of species loss can severely impact communities abilities to sustain themselves (Fears, 2016). At this rate, the Swinomish and other tribal communities that rely on salmon are at risk of losing their main traditional food source. This situation illustrates how the loss of a species can be connected to the loss of heritage.
Indigenous communities resources are becoming increasingly threatened by large industrial fisheries, and the Swinomish are no exception. In other parts of the world, like Madagascar, commercial overfishing has led to a significant decrease in ocean stocks and the endangerment of many species of fish (Fears, 2016). The first step in addressing marine species loss is to address overfishing in these areas.
State officials in the Pacific Northwest region have begun to address the issue of species loss by closing many recreational and commercial fishing areas, and salmon from hatcheries have been introduced into cooler parts of the river to help replenish salmon stock downstream (Fears, 2016). Additionally, in 2021 the Swinomish Indian Tribal Community filed an intent to sue the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers for neglecting to follow through on the habitat restoration agreed to in the Endangered Species Act of 2010 (Conner, 2022). The tribe claims that the continued development around their protected lands and tide gates used to drain lands for agriculture have severely threatened salmon populations.
Conner, L. A. (2022, February 3). Swinomish tribal community provides notice of intent to Sue Corps of Engineers. Earthjustice. https://earthjustice.org/news/press/2021/swinomish-tribal-community-provides notice-of-intent-to-sue-corps-of-engineers
Fears, D. (2021, October 27). Indigenous peoples of the world’s coastlines are losing their fisheries – and their way of life. The Washington Post. https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/energy-environment/wp/2016/12/02/coastal native-people-who-need-fish-the-most-are-losing-them/
Sreenivasan, H. (2012) Public Broadcasting Service. Swinomish Tribe Works to Adapt to Shrinking Salmon Supply. PBS. https://www.pbs.org/newshour/show/swinomish-tribe-works-to-adapt-to-shrinking-salmon-supply
Forrest Steele, Electrical Engineering, Penn State University
Peru is home to one of the most important environments on our planet, the Amazon Rainforest. While being the home to thousands of different species of animals and plants, it also home to illegal mining and deforestation operations. Not only does that have horrible consequences for the local flora and fauna, but these operations also endanger the communities built around the rainforest. These communities include the indigenous peoples who have lived off this land for thousands of years, such as the indigenous tribe of the Loreto region of Peru, the Manco Cápac.
According to the World Wildlife Fund, Peru loses approximately 1,100 square miles of woods every year with the majority of this being from illegal operations. These operations often strip the land of natural resources. In return, the land is often left with pollution from these operations that runs off into freshwater sources and ends up poisoning local plants, animals, and people. Another source of this deforestation is illegal cocoa plant farms. Not only are these illegal drug operations stripping the forest to make room for their farms and airstrips, but they also very dangerous and can lead to violent conflict with local tribes.
The Manco Capac are such one people that are indigenous to the Loreto and have sustained their way of life by living off the land. As deforestation continues to reduce that amount of land, food becomes more scare. This is a result of the environment shrinking and not be able to sustain the large plethora of animals as it has done in the past. Climate change also plays role in these areas as they change in temperature affects what animals can survive in that climate and local tribes have reported a reduction in size of animals over the last twenty years.
Going forward, these illegal operations cover such a vast area in this region, that it makes it difficult for them to be shutdown. The government has also built infrastructure like highways that cut through the Amazon Forest. Not only does this led to more deforestation, but it also invites more foot traffic, often leading to pollution in these areas. The best solution so far to these situations is awareness. There are many funds around the world that are working to prevent deforestation in these areas. They are working with indigenous tribes in order to bring light and call for government intervention in these areas. The main focus of this intervention would be on cracking down on these illegal operations as they are the ones that make up the majority of deforestation. One technical solution was to use drones to spot airstrips and other operations that can survey a large area rather efficiently and very cost-effective.
Smith, J. & Schwartz, J. (2015). Deforestation In Peru. World Wildlife Fund www.worldwildlife.org/magazine/issues/fall-2015/articles/deforestation-in-peru.
Praeli, Y. S. (2021, November 6). In Peru’s Amazon, deforestation and crime sweep through Indigenous communities. Monogabay. news.mongabay.com/2021/11/in-perus-amazon-deforestation-and-crime sweep-through-indigenous-communities/. Accessed 5 Apr. 2022.
Lana, A. D. (2021, December 16). The Women Leading the Fight Against Land Expropriation in Latin America. Data-pop. datapopalliance.org/the-women-leading-the-fight-against-land-expropriation-in-latin-america/. Accessed 5 Apr. 2022.
Marley D. Turbett, Finance and Economics, Penn State University
It is easy to look at geographic groups of people that are affected by climate change and to forget how climate change will affect some people’s day to day jobs. Agriculture and other food production is extremely reliant on perfect temperatures for productive crops. One community that is especially vulnerable to warming temperatures are cranberry farmers in Massachusetts. Plymouth County, Massachusetts is home to the highest concentration of cranberry farms in the U.S. and climate change is hitting this county hard because the warmer waters are affecting the quality of yields (USDA, 2021; CCCGA, 2022). While cranberries are not an extremely vital agricultural item in the U.S., they are an easy way of understanding how changes in the Earth’s climate can take small delicacies out of our lives. Cranberries are threatened by climate change because they are not as resilient as other crops such as wheat and rice. This means that excess heat can change the quality of a harvest; the result is bitter fruit and smaller crops from diseases (USDA, 2021). If the cranberry business is severely hurt, farmers will be forced out of their jobs and the economy in the surrounding areas will likely deteriorate. The cranberry farming industry in Massachusetts is currently valued at over $1.00 billion and it helps employ about 7,000 people in the state (Schlossberg, 2020). Beyond the economic benefits of farming, cranberry bogs also play a vital role in the regulation of New England ecosystems. Like other marsh ecosystems, cranberry bogs help support the surrounding trees and vegetation that absorb carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere (Schlossberg, 2020). There are currently several experiments in relation to the gene pool of cranberries to help curb the effects of climate change in Massachusetts (USDA, 2021). Scientists have observed some wild cranberry species that are able to withstand disease and temperature stress to certain thresholds; this may lead to the genetic altering of farmed cranberries to allow for more resiliency to changes from climate change (USDA, 2021). The unfortunate reality of climate change is that it often has to affect something close to us to spur a change in habits, and this is exactly what is happening in cranberry farming communities. However, gene testing in cranberries is a reactive response to the changes around them, instead of encouraging a proactive approach to curb the effects of climate change.
CCCGA. (2022, February). How cranberries grow. Massachusetts Cranberries. https://www.cranberries.org/how-cranberries-grow
Schlossberg, T. (2020, November 18). How Climate Change is Complicating a Thanksgiving Staple. The New York Times. https://www.washingtonpost.com/climate-solutions/2020/11/18/climate-change cranberries-thanksgiving/
USDA. (2021, December 14). USDA Research Seeks to Strengthen Cranberry Resiliency as Climate Change Affects Production. Agriculture Research Center U.S. Department of Agriculture. https://www.ars.usda.gov/news-events/news/research news/2021/usda-research-seeks-to-strengthen-cranberry-resiliency-as-climate-change affects
Marley D. Turbett, Finance and Economics, Penn State University
In Ontario and the Great Lakes, many communities rely on the cold-water fish that live in the surrounding bodies of water (Ontario Ministry…, 2014). These diverse cold-water fish populations contain species such as brook trout, walleye, lake whitefish, and lake sturgeon (Matheny, 2019). Fish are extremely sensitive to temperature changes, and sadly, over the past decades, fresh waters in Canada and Northern America have been warming (Matheny, 2019). Changes in water temperature are now driving distribution patterns in the cold-water fish, resulting in bass and panfish taking over populations (Matheny, 2019). Ontario alone holds over 500 commercial fisheries, with about 100 of those belonging to the native people. In 2011, these fisheries contributed ~$33 million dollars to the local economy, while also supplying the region with healthy, wild fish (Ontario Ministry…, 2014). The fisheries that belong to native tribes also supply their main food source and allow for the continuation of cultural practices (Ontario Ministry…, 2014). Continued warming in these waters will kill off cold-water fish populations and destroy the fisheries that operate in fresh waters. Unfortunately, climate change is not the only thing threatening these communities. Infrastructure developments such as transmission lines, roads, and hydroelectric dams to support population growth also pressure the fishing communities (Perkel, 2018). Climate change, coupled with human development, can completely shut down fisheries all together and change the dynamic of fish populations. Additionally, lakes and streams are warming because of agricultural pollution. As a result of warming waters, smallmouth and largemouth bass are predicted to overtake the cold-water fish populations, decreasing supply of the area’s unique species (Perkel, 2018). The main focus right now is stopping human development from permanently changing the landscape, mainly focused on hydroelectric dams (Perkel, 2018). The provincial government is also attempting to curb negative effects by stocking fish populations and controlling algae blooms on the surface of lakes (Ontario Ministry…, 2014). The
remote regions of Ontario are relatively sheltered from pollution from agricultural waste, but management within the Great Lakes is mainly focused on farmers reducing their phosphorus run off into the lakes and surrounding streams (Ontario Ministry…, 2014).
Chung, E. (2021, July 23). Salmon are getting cooked by climate change. Here’s how they could be saved. CBC. https://www.cbc.ca/news/science/salmon-climate-change-1.6114328.
Matheny, K. (2019, September 16). Climate change transforming where fish in the Great Lakes region live. Detroit Free Press. https://www.freep.com/in depth/news/local/michigan/2019/09/16/climate-change-transforming-great-lakes-fish habitats/2223549001/
Perkel, C. (2018, February 13). Eco-warming called pervasive threat to key cold water fish in northern Ontario. National Post. https://nationalpost.com/pmn/news pmn/canada-news-pmn/eco-warming-called-pervasive-threat-to-key-cold-water-fish in-northern-ontario
Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources. (2014, January 10). Management of Fish in Ontario. https://ncd.fisheries.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/01/Ontario-2014-Management.pdf
Allison Welch, Earth Sciences, College of Earth and Mineral Science, Penn State University
Global warming and increased CO2 levels are increasing the ocean temperature and decreasing the ocean pH. This decreases calcite in the water, making it harder for corals to perform calcification (grow). Ocean acidification and increase in temperature also make it harder for zooxanthellae to survive. These organisms are in a symbiotic relationship with corals and are necessary for coral survival. These reefs house mollusks, rays, dolphins, tropical fish, birds, and reptiles and are necessary for the survival of humpback whales, sea cows, and the large green sea turtle (Coral destruction…, n.d.).
Bundaberg is a city in North-east Australia whose economy relies on tourism brought in by Great Barrier Reef, specifically the sea turtles. Right now, the Australian has valued the reefs at $56 billion from the Great Barrier Reef including the revenue and job availability. It brings in $6.4 billion and employs 64,000 Australians (The value…, n.d.).
The Great Barrier Reef corals have suffered eight mass bleaching events since 1979. With each of those comes a decrease in biodiversity and an economic burden. Within the decade, scientists project a 95 percent decrease in reef biodiversity (“Global Warming Effects,” n.d.). The reefs are declining and fast and the well being of people employed by the reefs are going with it.
The future for the Great Barrier Reef is dim. Annual bleaching is expected by 2030 and biodiversity of the ocean is going with it (Coral Destruction…, n.d.). The ocean is a lot harder to control than the air and getting the ocean temperature, pH, and CO2 levels back to a healthy place by then is nearly impossible.
The value of the reef. (n.d.). Great Barrier Reef Foundation. https://www.barrierreef.org/the-reef/the-value
Coral destruction to Great Barrier Reef, Australia: Global warming effects. (n.d.). Climate Hot Map. https://www.climatehotmap.org/global-warming-locations/great-barrier-reef australia.html
Yashvi Maniar, Business Management, Penn State University
Growing up, the only species I knew to be extinct or endangered was the Dodo Bird as it was commonly taught in science lessons. However, when I explored more, I learned that there were so many other species that were endangered, extinct or lost. Coming from India, the one species I always knew was endangered was the Bengal Tiger, yet it was funny how the local zoos would keep them caged for the purpose of entertaining humans rather than protecting and nurturing the scarce amount of their species. Wild pandas were also endangered a few years ago, but now they are finally rebounding and are classified as vulnerable due to efforts made to protect them.
Such is the case at the University of Texas Austin where you will find the last known specimen of the Blanco blind salamander species. It is an extremely rare, cave-dwelling, blind salamander which has no pigment. It is one of the collection’s most prized species as another one of its kind has not been spotted in the wild for more than 70 years. US Fish and Wildlife Services did not classify it as endangered, as they believed they were already extinct. This species is known to exist only in San Marcos, Texas. It was found in the longest known cave in Texas, Honey Creek Crave. It was discovered when researchers went cave snorkelling, and they were only to preserve one of its kind.
Lost species are a crucial part of a scientific mission to understand what exists in the Earth’s ecosystems and analyze biodiversity in different environments. The search, and study for new species could answer new questions about unique ecosystems. Scientists find missing species through environmental DNA. Recently, through this method a rare rabbit size deer was also discovered in Vietnam, and a program has been developed to conserve and protect it. The planet loses hundreds of animals to extinction each year; sometimes they are not extinct but just lost like the Blanco Blind salamander.
Jones, B. (2022, August 1). Why scientists are desperate to find a salamander that’s been missing for 71 years. Vox. https://www.vox.com/down-to-earth/23205853/lost-species-extinction-salamander
AmphibiaWeb. (2022). Eurycea robusta. https://amphibiaweb.org/species/4218
Kiersten Shreve, Psychology, Penn State World Campus
Manitoba, Canada is a province with a population of 1.3 million people that sits along the Hudson Bay coast. Within this province is a town called Churchill that is home to 870 people and 900 polar bears. Many tourists are driven to Churchill for an up-close sighting of these Arctic animals. However, the safety of tourism in this area has become increasingly harder to ensure. The geographic location of Churchill runs along the same path that polar bears use to migrate to the sea during migration seasons. Because of this, the residents of Churchill have developed systems to alert officials of a polar bear sighting, and to capture and relocate them. Due to climate change, these sightings are increasing as polar bears are migrating for longer periods of time as freezing temperatures come later in the year, and spring comes earlier. The longer the polar bears are migrating, the more risk for bear attacks residents and tourists face, but while human lives are at threatened, polar bears face a threat to their species entirely.
While Churchill has added a month more of shipping season because of a rise in global temperatures, bears have lost a month of freezing temperatures that are vital to their survival. This includes a loss of food resources, such as seals that live in dens and hunted by the bears along the Hudson Bay. With the continual melting of ice in this area, polar bears are facing dire levels of endangerment. The weight of the polar bear has declined to 15% below average and the population in the Hudson Bay, near Churchill, has decreased by 20%. Pregnant female polar bears are especially at risk. Female polar bears must maintain 490 pounds to get pregnant. If she cannot maintain this weight, then she may not become pregnant. Additionally, with the supply of food declining lower than the demand for it, pregnancy amongst the female polar bear is growing scarce. However, when and if she does become pregnant, the female will dig a den and stay there during gestation periods, which occur between October and December. Before and during the pregnancy, she fasts for up to 240 days. However, because of the rise in global temperatures, females are more vulnerable to not only carrying their babies to full term but also surviving the fast. Polar bears may reproduce every three years with a litter size between one and four cubs. Recently, the frequency of reproduction in the polar bear population has not been enough to increase the population all together. Overall, climate change is the cause for this species that face the endangerment of extinction.
The Canadian Government has placed the polar bear species on an endangerment list, as well as come up with a management plan to aid in conservation of the existing bears. Churchill, used to kill the bears after they’ve invaded the town three times, but they’ve ceased to do so and instead traps the bears for a month before relocating them by helicopter. Additionally, no one is allowed to hunt the animals. As for the tourism, the residents of Churchill continue to educate those who travel to the town when taking them on bus tours to see the bears, although the dynamic between humans and bears continues to be a threat.
Churchill, Manitoba. (2022, July 26). In Wikipedia. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Churchill,_Manitoba.
An Encounter with Polar Bears in Churchill, Manitoba. (2017, October 24). World Nomads. https://www.worldnomads.com/explore/north-america/canada/polar-bear encounters-churchill-manitoba.
Fish and Wildlife: Polar Bear. (n.d.). Province of Manitoba, https://www.manitoba.ca/fish-wildlife/polar_bears/index.html.
MacLean, C. (2017, July 8). Port on Hudson Bay Could Benefit from Warming Climate, but Rail Link Threatened by Thawing Permafrost. CBCnews. https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/manitoba/churchill-climate-change-port-railway 1.4193531.
Manitoba Declares Polar Bears ‘Threatened’. (2008 February 8). CBCnews. https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/manitoba/manitoba-declares-polar-bears threatened
Manitoba. (n.d.). Polar Bears in Canada, https://www.polarbearscanada.ca/en/manitoba.
Manitoba. (2022, July 30). In Wikipedia. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Manitoba.
Polar Bear. (n.d.). National Wildlife Federation. http://nwf.org/polarbear/.
Polar Bear Species at Risk Act (SARA) Management Plan Progress Report. (2021, December 21). Government of Canada. https://www.canada.ca/en/environment-climate change/services/species-risk-public-registry/report-progress-recovery-document/polar bear-december-2021.html.
Selden, S. (2011, December 27). Are Polar Bears Endangered by Humans…or Vice Versa? Churchill Polar Bears. https://churchillpolarbears.org/2011/12/are-polar-bears-endangered by-humans-or-vice-versa/.
Williams, A. (2020, November 10). Churchill: The Town That Lives with Polar Bears. A Dangerous Business Travel Blog. https://www.dangerous business.com/churchill-polar-bears/.
Casey Brennan, Penn State University
Since the rate at which human activity began disturbing the environment and those that live in it, there have been many cases of drastic species loss and at worst, extinction. Specifically, the Bornean Orangutan, native to the rain forests of the Southeast Asian islands of Borneo and Sumatra, has faced a dwindling in population. While the apes are only found in these regions, their conservation status sits at critically endangered with the population decreasing. This means that unless action is taken now to stop this, the distant future could see even more drastic loss or extinction of the species. The leading cause of their decline is both habitat destruction and illegal hunting as they are getting pushed out and the effects are very difficult to reverse. The indigenous peoples of Borneo, migrant loggers, and plantation workers who do not have dietary prohibitions for eating primate bushmeat, hunt these orangutans and cause the rate of decline to be greater than that of the reproduction rate (OFI). The apes are extremely slow breeders that produce once every six to eight years on average, meaning all factors against the species are accelerating its endangerment (Briteweb). Since 1950, their population has declined by 60% and future projections predict that it will fall another 22% by 2025, leaving a mere 47,000 apes (Platt). Possible solutions to the issue start at a high government level of strongly enforcing the laws on illegal deforestation and tightening those of legal palm oil and rubber plantation industries and additionally, creating spaces in the wild for these orangutans to live and thrive without disturbance or do not allow humans access to hunt and kill them. With the help of humanity, the Bornean Orangutan population can survive on the island of Borneo.
Briteweb. (2018, April 21). Bornean Orangutans Are Now Officially Critically Endangered. Wildlife Conservation Network. https://wildnet.org/bornean-orangutan s-are-now officially-critically
Orangutan Foundation International (OFI). (2016, July 12). Why Are Orangutans in Danger of Becoming Extinct? Orangutan Foundation International Australia.
Platt, J. R. (2016, July 11). Bornean Orangutan Now Critically Endangered. Scientific American Blog Network. https://blogs.scientificamerican.com/ extinction-countdown/bornean-orangutan-critically-endangered/.
Melanie Christine, Penn State University
The Galapagos has thousands of species of plants and animals that cannot be found anywhere else. However, although isolated for millions of years, there are now many threats due to climate change, human activities, and invasive species. Because of these, over 180 Galapagos species are now ranked endangered or critically endangered. Furthermore, the Galapagos’ unique ecosystems mean that the extinction of even one species can create a cascade effect that threatens all the other species.
The Galapagos is especially vulnerable because it lies between three ocean currents and El Niño’s path. In past El Niño events, nutrients have been blocked from rising to the surface, which caused starvation throughout the island, forcing plants and animals to adapt or die, most dying. During the 1998 event, marine iguanas saw a 90% population drop. El Niño’s storms also open the path for invasive species, as their flora is not used to storms. The Galapagos is a tiny, isolated community that’s economy relies 90% on tourism. Because of their limited resources and isolation, it is challenging for them to monitor external species.
Although researchers are still studying climate change’s effect on the island’s species, we know it will be dire. Animals have already started growing smaller and having fewer children. For example, the Nazca boobie’s reproductive success has dropped over 50% in the last decade because of food loss from the warming waters. The Galapagos Penguins’ population has decreased by 60% and is predicted to fall another 80% by 2100.
This loss of diversity will affect not only the ecosystem but also the economy and the stability of the people living in the Galapagos. Although multiple problems must be addressed to save these animals, the most significant issue is the invasive species. The government can strengthen quarantine systems to limit further invasive species introductions and can pursue the more problematic invasive species.
Adapting to Climate Change in the Galapagos Islands. (2011). Edited by Irma Larrea Oña, WWF, Conservation International.
Casey, N. & Haner, J. (2018, December 19). As Seas Warm, Galápagos Islands Face a Giant Evolutionary Test. The New York Times.
Climate Change. (2016, August 30). Discovering Galapagos.
Climate Change. (2021, September 2). Galapagos Conservation Trust.
Dueñas, A. (2021, September 11). The Effects of Climate Change on Wildlife Biodiversity of the Galapagos Islands. Climate Change Ecology, Elsevier.
Flisiuk, F. (2020, July 16). Climate Change Is Causing a ‘Catastrophic’ Shortage of Food for Birds in the Galápagos. The Revelator. https://therevelator.org/climate change-catastrophic-food-birds-galapagos/.
MiguelezI, C. S. (2023, February 3). Galapagos Penguins: Diet, Habitat, and Threats. Earth.Org. https://earth.org/endangered-species/galapagos-penguin-endangered-animals spotlight/.
Urgent Action Fund for Endangered Species. (2022, November 30). Galápagos Conservancy. https://www.galapagos.org/projects/saving-species/urgent-action-fund-for-endangered species/.
Yulsman, T. (2022, November 22). Climate Change Will Make El Niño and La Niña Stronger by 2030 – 40 Years Sooner than Previously Thought. Discover Magazine. https://www.discovermagazine.com/environment/climate-change-will-make-el-nino-and la-nina-stronger-by-2030-40-years.
Sean Ferguson, Penn State University
The Sunda Islands are home to a very biodiverse group of wildlife including rhinos, elephants, orangutans, and tigers. Each subspecies are some of the most critically endangered in the world, but the tigers are especially at risk for extinction given threats like poaching, habitat loss, and human-wildlife conflict.
Sumatran tigers’ population is declining at around 5% per year due to the many threats they face in the Sunda Islands. Poachers are a big problem for these beautiful creatures as their various body parts are harvested and sold to Chinese jewelers and doctors. Despite conservationists’ attempts to halt the illegal hunting of tigers, poaching remains one of the largest threats to this subspecies. Urbanization has also served as a major threat to the tigers. Over the past 40 years, the Sumatran forest’s acreage was cut in half, causing the tigers’ density to rise. As their habitats continue to decrease, tigers are forced into the areas occupied by humans, putting stress on the human-wildlife relationship. Farmers are especially affected by this, as the hungry tigers prey on livestock since their natural food source has been so depleted. In turn, the farmers kill the tiger to decrease the chances of that happening again. If these threats aren’t dealt with swiftly, the Sumatran tiger will go extinct in the near future.
Conservationists are still fighting, however. Research on the critically endangered species has been conducted to design strategies for keeping the tigers alive, as well as increase wildlife policing to keep the poachers away. Some ways we can help the Sumatran tiger population are by reducing our consumption of unsustainably harvested palm oils, supporting NGOs that are working to preserve the subspecies, as well as never buying any souvenirs and or products derived from tiger parts.
Gallagher, K. (2022, June 21). The World’s Smallest Tiger Is Inching Towards Extinction. Treehugger. https://www.treehugger.com/sumatran-tiger-endangered-5207981.
Mikada Green, Penn State University
Lobster fisheries in the small town of South Thomaston, Maine, are threatened by ocean temperatures increasing at a high rate and a projected continual increase if no changes are made (U.S. Climate Resilience Toolkit, 2021).
The South Thomaston, Maine community is vulnerable because the fishing industry, specifically lobstering, is a major part of the local economy, with $450 million made in 2014 alone (U.S. Climate Resilience Toolkit, 2020). A majority of these profits remain in the state of Maine, putting money back into the community. Warming temperatures in the region could impact lobsters’ growth rates and migration patterns and, in turn, collapse the economy. For example, when lobsters migrated south and reached demand levels prematurely in 2012, prices dropped as the market was oversupplied. Lobsters have also molted more than usual, decreasing the number of hard-shell lobsters available on the market (U.S. Climate Resilience Toolkit, 2020).
Farther south in the New England region by Massachusetts, Connecticut, and Rhode Island, researchers have observed the lobstering industry declining by over 70% due to climate change-related diseases and stress (U.S. Climate Resilience Toolkit, 2020). If the lobster industry in South Thomaston experiences the same decline, it could be catastrophic for the community.
Researchers at the University of Maine’s Cooperative Extension and Maine Sea Grant have created the Vulnerability, Consequences, and Adaptation Planning Scenarios (VCAPS) to combat climate threats in South Thomaston (U.S. Climate Resilience Toolkit, 2021). The goal is to create a resilient fishery industry that can withstand climate threats such as unusual heat during lobster seasons. A combination of data on the local economy, biology, and fishery habits was utilized to form a model that helps fisherpeople proactively respond to climate-related ocean changes (U.S. Climate Resilience Toolkit, 2021). Understanding the economics between the state of the climate and fishery habits is necessary as researchers project that ocean temperatures will continue rising.
Union of Concerned Scientists. (2019, February 6). CO2 and ocean acidification: Causes, impacts, solutions. Union of Concerned Scientists. https://www.ucsusa.org/resources/co2-and-ocean-acidification
U.S. Climate Resilience Toolkit. (2020, February 10). Maine’s Lobster Fishing Community Confronts Their Changing Climate.
U.S. Climate Resilience Toolkit. (2021, February 21). Fisheries and Coastal Communities. U.S. Climate Resilience Toolkit. https://toolkit.climate.gov/topics/marine/fisheries-and-coastal-communities
Isabelle Hoang, Penn State University
The threat to pandas comes from habitat destruction and fragmentation, climate change, and poaching. In China, where there are only around 1,800 pandas left in the wild, habitat loss is the biggest threat. As more and more land is developed for agriculture and urbanization, pandas are losing the bamboo forests they depend on for food and shelter. This loss of habitat puts them at risk of starvation, disease, and other factors that threaten their survival. Chengdu is particularly vulnerable to the loss of pandas because it is home to the Chengdu Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding, one of the largest and most important panda conservation centers in the world. The loss of pandas could have a significant impact on the
local economy, as the center is a major tourist attraction, drawing visitors from all over the world. The forecasted impacts of panda species loss on Chengdu are numerous. In addition to the economic impact on the city, there are also potential ecological consequences. Pandas play an important role in maintaining the balance of their ecosystem by spreading seeds and promoting growth in the bamboo forests they inhabit. Without pandas, there could be a loss of biodiversity and changes in the ecosystem that could have far-reaching consequences. In response to this, the organizations tasked with preserving and caring for captive giant pandas have a responsibility to educate visitors on various aspects of the animal, including their anatomy, physiology, ecology, and ethology, as well as their unique adaptability to their habitats. Zoos and breeding centers highlight the perilous situation faced by wild pandas and emphasize that captive management cannot replace conservation efforts aimed at preserving the species and their habitats.
GIANT PANDAS AND CLIMATE CHANGE. (n.d.). WWF. https://www.worldwildlife.org/pages/giant-pandas-and-climate.
Chengdu Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding. (n.d.). Panda.org. http://m.panda.org.cn/en/.
Grant Hoffer, Penn State University
Molino, Florida is a small town in the westernmost part of Florida’s panhandle and hosts a population of around 942 inhabitants (Census). Unfortunately, it is a community at risk of losing its natural biodiversity. Situated on the banks of the Escambia River, residents of Molino might have once been able to easily see native aquatic life, like the Escambia map turtle, narrow picture mussel, and the round ebonyshell mussel. However, in recent years, the population decline of these three animals has been concerning: Escambia map turtles are now classified as a threatened species, pigtoe mussels are an endangered species, and round ebonyshell mussels are also an endangered species (Endangered; Florida’s endangered; Oval Pigtoe). These aquatic species are at risk of extinction because of the fragile nature of the aquatic environment; infrastructure like dams and human activities that cause runoff or introduce pesticides into the water can threaten aquatic communities (Einhorn & Popovich 2022). Development of human homes in wetland areas, like that which might be found in Molino, is particularly problematic for aquatic communities as this development can cause habitat fragmentation or destruction (Virginia Extension). Solutions to this loss of biodiversity exist for communities like Molino. In particular, restricting urban development in wetland communities can help prevent habitat loss (Virginia Extension). Additionally, urban development should be carefully planned, executed, and maintained in such a way as to reduce the amount of pollution that could enter these delicate waterways like that of the Escambia River (Virginia Extension). Lastly, care should be taken to prohibit the introduction of invasive and non-native species into waterways; once introduced, they can displace native populations and cause massive amounts of damage to the native ecosystems and the natural biodiversity of an area (Virginia Extension).
Census profile: Molino, FL. Census Reporter. (n.d.). https://censusreporter.org/profiles/16000US1246225-molino-fl/
Einhorn, C., & Popovich, N. (2022, March 3). This map shows where biodiversity is most at risk in America. The New York Times. https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2022/03/03/climate/biodiversity-map.html
Endangered and threatened wildlife and plants; 12-month finding for Pascagoula map turtle; Threatened Species Status with section 4(d) rule for Pearl River map turtle; and threatened species status for Alabama map turtle, Barbour’s map turtle, Escambia M: U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service. FWS.gov. (n.d.).
Florida’s endangered and threatened species – Florida fish and … (n.d.). Retrieved April 19, 2023, from https://myfwc.com/media/1945/threatened-endangered-species.pdf
Oval Pigtoe. Florida Fish And Wildlife Conservation Commission. (n.d.). https://myfwc.com/wildlifehabitats/profiles/invertebrates/oval-pigtoe/
vcedigitalpubs – 420-521 (CNRE-78P)-Sustaining Americas Aquatic Biodiversity – Why Is Aquatic Biodiversity – page 2 (vt.edu)
Alexis Kennedy, Penn State University
Hawaii is known for its large biodiversity and rare flora and fauna. Many Hawaiian bird species live at high elevations with cooler temperatures, opposite to the warm environment where mosquitos tend to thrive. However, as temperatures continue to rise, invasive mosquitos have been expanding across the island and into high-elevation forests, threatening many native bird species. These mosquitos arrived in the 19th century and quickly spread across the island. Avian malaria is a disease transmitted by these nonnative mosquitoes and is causing the extinction of Hawaii’s forest birds due to its high mortality rate. Island birds are already extremely vulnerable to disease due to prolonged evolution in isolated areas. The four forest birds that are at immediate risk for extinction are ‘Akikiki, ‘Akeke’e, Kiwikiu, and ‘Ākohekohe. All four are expected to go extinct within the next 10 years if action is not taken to stop the spread of avian malaria. The extinction of this Hawaiian avifauna would disrupt the greater food chain of Hawaiian forests, leading to greater environmental impact and loss of life. Deforestation and increased population in Hawaii have also led to habitat destruction and degradation, contributing to the extinction of these native birds.
The State of Hawaii has been working to develop and implement a plan to introduce a naturally occurring bacteria called Wolbachia that prevents mosquitos from reproducing. There have also been plans to use captive care and translocate these bird species to help prevent extinction. Being able to identify locations where mosquito larvae thrive and remove them will also help reduce the mosquito population.
Bryce, E. (2023, February 23). How to Protect Hawaii’s Rarest Birds from Avian Malaria. Audubon. https://www.audubon.org/news/how-protect-hawaiis-rarest-birds-avian-malaria.
Saving Hawaii’s Forest Birds: U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service. (2022, December 15). U.S. Fish & Wildlife Services. https://www.fws.gov/project/saving-hawaiis-forest-birds.
Yan Lu, Penn State University
What is the threat?
Ocean warming is increasing in ocean temperatures due to the absorption of excess heat from human-induced global warming. This can have various negative impacts on marine ecosystems, such as changes in species distribution, coral bleaching, and intensified tropical storms.
Why is that community vulnerable?
Sanya is a coastal city located on the southern tip of Hainan Province in China. It is well-known for its beautiful beaches, coral reefs, and marine tourism industry. The local economy and the livelihoods of many in the community depend on the health of the marine ecosystem and the tourism sector. Due to its location and reliance on marine resources, Sanya is vulnerable to the impacts of ocean warming.
What are the forecasted impacts on the community?
As ocean warming continues, coral reefs in the Sanya region may experience more frequent and severe coral bleaching events, leading to the decline or even collapse of coral ecosystems. This can negatively impact marine biodiversity and the abundance of fish species that depend on coral reefs for habitat. In turn, this could lead to reduced catches for local fishermen and affect the tourism industry, as the appeal of Sanya’s coral reefs and marine life may decline. (Zhang Chun, 2021) Additionally, ocean warming can contribute to the intensification of tropical storms and typhoons, increasing the likelihood of storm surges and coastal flooding in Sanya. This can cause significant damage to local infrastructure.
What are the solutions to the threat?
The most important, reducing greenhouse gas emissions, primary CO2.
Protecting and restoring ecosystems: Coastal ecosystems, such as mangroves and seagrass beds, can provide natural barriers against storm surges and help absorb excess CO2. Protecting and restoring these ecosystems in the Sanya region can enhance their ability to provide these essential services.
(a coral reef in sanya after a bleeching event in the summer, 2020)( Lian Jiansheng, 2020)
Yan Lu, Penn State University
1. What is the threat?
Overfishing and unsustainable fishing practices pose a significant threat to marine ecosystems and the livelihoods of communities that depend on fisheries. These practices can lead to the depletion of fish stocks, reduced biodiversity, and degraded marine habitats.
2. Why is that community vulnerable?
Qingdao is a coastal city in Shandong Province, located on the east coast of China. The city has a long history of fishing and aquaculture, with a significant portion of its economy relying on seafood production and processing. As a result, the community is heavily dependent on the health of local fish stocks and the marine environment.
3. What are the forecasted impacts on the community?
If overfishing and unsustainable practices continue, fish stocks in the waters surrounding Qingdao could become depleted, reducing catches for local fishermen and threatening the livelihoods of those who rely on the fishing industry. Additionally, the decline in fish populations and the degradation of marine habitats could have negative impacts on the broader ecosystem and reduce the overall biodiversity in the region.
4. What are the solutions to the threat?
Raising public awareness: Increasing awareness of the importance of sustainable fishing practices and the consequences of overfishing can help to encourage responsible fishing and consumption.
Using aquaculture instead of traditional overfishing: Aquaculture can help meet the increasing demand for seafood without putting additional pressure on wild fish stocks. However, aquaculture may lead to issues like water pollution.
(From South China Moring Post, photo: AP)
(Aquaculture in China, Image by Han Han)
Yan Lu, Penn State University
Shennongjia, located in Hubei Province, China, faces the threat of species loss, which can directly impact local ecosystems and their services to humans [UNESCO. Shennongjia]. This biodiversity loss can be attributed to factors such as habitat loss, degradation, and climate change, which reduce or eliminate food resources and living spaces for various species.
Shennongjia is particularly vulnerable to species loss because it is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, famous for its rich biodiversity and unique flora and fauna, including endangered species like the golden snub-nosed monkey and the Chinese giant salamander [worldheritageoutlook,2017]. The region is also experiencing rapid development, leading to habitat loss and fragmentation, which can further endanger these species.
The forecasted impacts of species loss in Shennongjia include negative consequences for the local economy, as the ongoing loss of species can reduce the area’s appeal as a tourist destination. Moreover, the loss of biodiversity can disrupt ecosystem balance and functions, which can impact the local community’s livelihood and well-being.
To address the threat of species loss in Shennongjia, a combination of solutions can be implemented. First, promoting sustainable development practices and minimizing habitat destruction can help reduce habitat loss and fragmentation. Second, establishing and enforcing protected areas for endangered species can aid in their conservation. Third, raising awareness about the importance of biodiversity and the consequences of species loss can encourage community involvement in conservation efforts. By implementing these solutions, Shennongjia can mitigate the threat of species loss and preserve its unique biodiversity for future generations.
golden snub-nosed monkey. (China Daily, 2016)
the Chinese giant salamander, “living fossil” in the animal kingdom (CGTN animals, 2020)
Robert MacGurn III, Penn State University
The Galápagos Islands, a small archipelago off the coast of Ecuador in South America, are one example of a place experiencing species loss as a result of climate change. The Galápagos Islands are well-known for their distinctive and varied flora and fauna, which includes a large number of species that are unique only to those islands. Yet, the islands are under various dangers from climate change, including escalating temperatures, rising sea levels, and ocean acidification. The Galápagos penguin, the only species of penguin found north of the equator, is one of the species in the Galápagos Islands that is in danger of going extinct. The ocean currents are changing, which is probably due to climate change, and this is resulting in a drop in the food supplies for penguins. The growth and reproduction of the coral reefs on the islands, which are crucial homes for many species of fish and other marine animals are also being impacted by rising ocean acidity and temperatures.
Climate change is expected to result in the extinction of many of the rare and distinctive species that call the Galápagos Islands home, some of which are only found there. Some things being done to protect the biodiversity of the islands are as follows: The Galápagos National Park is putting adaptation plans into place to deal with the effects of climate change. Some of these preparations include preparing emergency response plans for natural catastrophes and creating new habitats for species that are threatened by increasing sea levels. On the Galápagos Islands, where tourism is a significant industry, efforts are being undertaken to encourage environmentally and wildlife-friendly tourism practices. This entails regulating tourists and tour groups strictly, restricting the number of visitors to sensitive places, and funding environmentally friendly infrastructure.
Aman Patel, Penn State University
Polyommatus golgus, Sierra Nevada blue is a butterfly species in the Lycaenidae family. It is an endangered species that lives in the Sierra Nevada of Andalusia, Spain. Unfortunately, habitat loss caused by human activity and climate change has caused damage to this species. The main habitat of the butterfly is alpine meadows and slopes, which are under growing threat from development and changes in precipitation patterns due to climate change. Because of its restricted range and habitat specialization, the Sierra Nevada blue butterfly is a very endangered community. The butterfly is dependent on host plants, which are similarly endangered by habitat loss. Furthermore, the butterfly’s small size and less mobility make migration to new environments problematic. The Sierra Nevada blue butterfly is expected to suffer major consequences due to climate change. With continuous habitat loss, this species’ population will most continue to drop, and the species may become extinct. Because the butterfly is a key pollinator, its extinction might have extreme consequences for the entire ecosystem. Conservation actions are urgently needed to mitigate the threat to the Sierra Nevada blue butterfly. The protection of surviving alpine meadows and slopes, as well as the restoration of damaged ecosystems, are critically important. The host plants of the butterfly must also be conserved and protected at any cost. Furthermore, studies are required to better understand the butterfly’s ecological requirements and to identify possible habitat restoration and protection sites. To summarize, the extinction of the Sierra Nevada blue butterfly poses a severe danger to its habitat. To maintain and restore its habitat, protect its host plants, and better understand its habitat requirements, fast and urgent action is required.
Warren, M. S., Maes, D., van Swaay, C. A. M., Goffart, P., Van Dyck, H., Bourn, N. A. D., Wynhoff, I., Hoare, D., & Ellis, S. (2021). The decline of butterflies in Europe: Problems, significance, and possible solutions. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, 118(2), e2002551117. https://doi.org/10.1073/pnas.2002551117
Dominic Prato, Penn State University
Gloucester, Massachusetts is a coastal town with a thriving fishing industry that is especially sensitive to the effects of ocean warming. Ocean warming is a major threat to marine ecosystems and the coastal communities that rely on them. As the Earth’s atmosphere warms, the ocean absorbs much of the excess heat, causing the average temperature of the ocean to rise. This warming can disrupt marine ecosystems, affecting the distribution and abundance of fish and other marine species. It can also lead to more frequent and severe weather events, such as hurricanes and storms, which can damage coastal infrastructure and threaten human safety.
This community is especially vulnerable as the Gulf of Maine, where Gloucester is located, has warmed faster than almost any other part of the ocean in recent years. This warming has caused changes in the distribution and abundance of fish and other marine species in the area. For example, the warming waters have caused cod populations to decline significantly, which has had a major impact on the local fishing industry.
As fish populations shift, fishermen may need to travel farther from shore or use different gear to catch the fish they rely on. This can be costly and time-consuming and could result in lower profits for the industry. Additionally, more frequent and severe storms due to climate change could damage fishing boats and other infrastructure, making it harder for fishermen to operate.
One solution is to diversify the types of fish caught so that the industry is less reliant on a single species. Another solution is to invest in more efficient fishing gear that can catch fish in different parts of the ocean, making it easier to adapt to changing conditions. Finally, reducing greenhouse gas emissions and slowing the pace of climate change could help to mitigate the effects of ocean warming over the long term.
Zhenye Sun, Penn State University
The main threat to the monarch butterfly population in Pacific Grove, California, is a combination of habitat loss, pesticides, and climate change. Because the monarch butterfly is an important cultural and biological resource in Pacific Grove, California, the community is sensitive to its population decline. Pacific Grove’s Monarch Grove Sanctuary is a major tourist destination as well as an essential educational resource, attracting visitors from all over the world. The monarch butterfly is also an important pollinator, and its extinction might have serious consequences for the local ecology, agriculture, and biodiversity. Furthermore, the reduction of the monarch butterfly population in Pacific Grove reflects the wider worldwide threat of species extinction caused by habitat destruction, pollution, climate change, and other human activities. This underscores the vulnerability of all communities to the loss of biodiversity and the need for collective action to address this critical global issue. The predicted implications of the monarch butterfly population fall on the Pacific Grove community include economic, cultural, and ecological effects. The Monarch Grove Sanctuary is a popular tourist destination, and the loss of the monarch butterfly population may reduce tourism earnings and job prospects in the area. The monarch butterfly is also a cultural symbol in Pacific Grove, and its extinction could have social and cultural consequences. Furthermore, the monarch butterfly is an important pollinator, and its extinction could have biological consequences for the surrounding ecology, such as a loss of plant diversity and a potential fall in agricultural output. Restoring and protecting milkweed habitats, reducing pesticide and herbicide use, taking climate action, educating the public about the importance of monarch butterfly conservation, collaborating with other organizations and communities engaged in conservation efforts, and supporting conservation organizations through research, education, and advocacy are some of the solutions to the threat of a decline in the monarch butterfly population in Pacific Grove, California.
Copitch, J. (2022, December 7). Butterfly population continues to grow at Monarch Sanctuary in Pacific Grove. KSBW. https://www.ksbw.com/article/pacific-grove-butterfly-population-count-pacific grove/42170574
Sophie Thompson, Penn State University
The Amazon is a big topic of conversation today when discussing big issues such as climate change and deforestation. Many species in the Amazon are affected by these issues, causing many of them to end up on the endangered species list. One important animal that has made the list is the Jaguar. Native to the Amazon, their habitat of tropical rainforest is quickly diminishing due to deforestation for logging and drier conditions due to climate change. According to an article on Earth.org titled “8 Amazon Rainforest Endangered Species In Need of Saving in 2023,” Jaguar habitat has decreased by over half, which further causes these animals to occupy the same area as humans on farms and ranches (Lai, 2023). The loss of the Jaguar’s habitat has caused many issues for the region. According to the same article, jaguars play an important role in population control of the species that they prey on. Without the jaguar being able to roam large rainforests, the species which jaguars prey on could overpopulate the area, causing even more problems. Most significant to humans is the overlap between human settlement and the Jaguar’s habitat. As humans encroach on areas of forest that have been cut down, jaguars and humans come in contact with one another, causing issues. The main effort to prevent jaguars from becoming endangered is finding alternatives to logging, and saving the remaining trees in the rainforest from deforestation, as mentioned in the Wildlife Conservation Society’s webpage titled “Jaguars” (WCS, n.d.). The Wildlife Conservation Society states in the same article that specifically in Amazonas, Brazil, they are working to aid in development projects to minimize the negative effects that it may have on Jaguar’s habitat (WCS, n.d.).
Lai, O. (2023, January 19). 8 Amazon Rainforest Endangered Species In Need of Saving in 2023. https://earth.org/amazon-rainforest-endangered-species/
WCS.org (n.d.). Jaguars. https://www.wcs.org/our work/species/jaguars
Sarah Holler, Penn State University
The Hawaii Volcanoes National Park on the big island of Hawaii is home to rich biodiversity with a unique ecosystem. They were known as home to animals like the Hawksbill Turtle, Hawaiian Honeycreeper, and the ‘I‘iwi . Many plants and animals there are only habitable in high elevations and specific temperatures. We learned that islands are great biodiversity hotspots and the same is true for Hawaii. However, because there is nowhere for the animals to relocate when their homes start to change it also creates a perfect place for species loss. Hawaii is known as the extinction capital of the world. With the addition of non-native species, animals have had a hard time adapting causing a large extinction of flightless birds and native plants. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has implemented new breeding resources for native animals to promote population growth in many bird species. Fenced areas have been installed in Hawaii Volcanoes National Park to protect plants and trees like Mauna Loa Silversword, Ōhelo, and Koa. Ōhelo are the food source for Hawaii’s state bird Nēnē which is also considered endangered. Climate change is also changing the seasonal weather patterns of the island, making it hard for species to continue breeding and eating in the same areas. Temperatures have been steadily increasing for the last 50 years negatively affecting the higher elevations of the national park. Along with droughts, scientists believe invasive species will continue to spread and conditions will no longer allow native species to exist. The United States Geological Survey has established areas on the Big Island where the effects will be less prominent and are encouraging species relocations. Therefore, Hawaii Volcanoes National Park is in a precarious situation as temperatures continue to rise invasive species spread the park’s ecosystem, and unique biodiversity is threatened with mass species extinction.
Ecology of Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park. (n.d.). Ecology of Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park | U.S. Geological Survey, https://www.usgs.gov/geology-and-ecology-of-national parks/ecology-hawaii-volcanoes-national-park.
Perry, T. (2016, April 25). Is Hawaii ‘the Extinction Capital of the World’? Exhibit A: The Alala Bird. The Washington Post. https://www.washingtonpost.com/national/health-science/is-hawaii-the-extinction-capital of-the-world-exhibit-a-the-alala-bird/2016/04/25/3f45c6ac-f210-11e5-89c3- a647fcce95e0_story.html.
Ryan Jashinski, Penn State University
This year marks the first year in Alaskan history that there is a ban on snow crab harvesting. Like many other complex ecosystems, just a little bit of global warming has found the snow crab population at a steep decline due to even more complex interactions. At Bristol Bay, where the vast majority of snow crab fisheries are located, there is a recorded decline in population from 8 to 1 billion crabs. This leads us to a perplexing question of where 7 billion crabs went.
Snow crabs, like all animals, exist and thrive under their own unique niche. In Alaska, there are many deposits of marine snow where these species propagate and lay their eggs. These deposits are invaluable to the crabs, providing secluded and highly salinated pools of water where baby crabs can hatch in peace. This peace, however, is being destroyed by the global temperature increase. Due to a combination of the increasing cod population (a potent predator to snow crabs) and the thawing marine snow directly caused by the warming ocean, newborn and unborn crabs are being killed off at an extreme rate. While this is likely not to be the only contributing factor to their declining population, it is a significant one.
There are many forecasted impacts on the communities that live off these crabs. Ignoring the billions of crab casualties, there are heavy financial losses for the fisheries. In recent years, the snow crab harvest has brought in a gross revenue of just under $300 million USD. This is not an insignificant amount of money, especially since the crab population dropped by over 80%. Other than oil, snow crab is the main export out of Bristol Bay and without it, the communities in the surrounding area cannot thrive.
Like many problems caused by global climate change, there is no clear or clean answer to rectify this issue. The snow crab population in Alaska has been decimated and there is no undoing that. All we can do now is mitigate the problem. Mitigation efforts have already been put forward in the form of a harvesting ban. With the crabs no longer being hunted by Alaskan fishers, there is one less threat to their population. The only other way to solve this issue is to correct climate change. This, however, will at best take many years, and at worst never be corrected.
Smith, H. (2022, October 24). The Mystery of the Missing. Sierra. https://www.sierraclub.org/sierra/mystery-missing-snow-crabs-alaska-climate
Ramirez, R. (2022, October 16). Billions of snow crabs have disappeared from the waters around Alaska. Scientists say overfishing is not the cause. CNN. https://www.cnn.com/2022/10/16/us/alaska-snow-crab-harvest-canceled-climate
Chris Konen, Penn State University
The destruction of mangrove forests along Paraíba do Sul River, which pours its water into the Atlantic Ocean, poses a significant threat to the community known as Atafona, located in the Coastal state of Rio de Janeiro. The threat faced by the community of Atafona is the possibility of their homes being swallowed up by the advancement from the Atlantic Ocean. Due to the destruction of forest cover upstream, the community has been experiencing an increase in seawater levels for the last five decades, which has forced some members of the Atafona community to move inland (Briso, 2021; Associated Press, 2021). Rising sea levels can potentially submerge residential areas in the community of Atafona.
The community is vulnerable because of the location. Atafona is located at the mouth of Paraíba do Sul River, which pours its waters into the Atlantic Ocean. Recent studies have shown that climate change is adversely impacting communities in Brazil, with deforestation of tropical river basins cited as one of the leading problems affecting communities (Chagas et al., 2021). In the case of Atafona, deforestation upstream and taking water from downstream to meet upstream needs have increased siltation and sedimentation, forcing the seas to push its waves through the mouth of the river (Associated Press, 2021). The rise in sea levels has ‘eaten up’ human settlements. The forecasted impact on the community is that the fishing community will be affected as boats cannot be driven through the river because of shallowness brought about by siltation and sedimentation. This is likely to impact the economic activities of some of the residents in Atafona. More importantly, the settlements in the town are likely to be covered as the ocean waters push their way up the river (Associated Press, 2021). As a result, many residents will be forced to relocate to other areas, dramatically impacting their lives.
The solution to the deforestation crisis is to engage in massive planting of trees along the Paraíba do Sul River basin. While there have been efforts to plant trees, further destruction of mangrove forests has worsened the crisis (Briso, 2021; Kumler & Lemos, 2008). Planting trees will reduce the amount of run-off into the river hence reducing the sedimentation problem that happens due to the dumping of soil from farms. However, this must be supported by finding alternative water sources for the cities that rely on the river because the depletion of water to meet the needs of cities like Rio de Janeiro has aggravated the problem of reduced forest cover (Briso, 2021; Associated Press, 2021). Thus, afforestation and other related interventions are the solutions.
Chagas, V. B., Chaffe, P. L., & Blöschl, G. (2022). Climate and land management accelerate the Brazilian water cycle. Nature Communications, 13(1). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41467- 022-32580-x
Briso, C. B. (2021, October 21). A rising sea is eating away this Brazilian town. National Geographic. https://www.nationalgeographic.com/environment/article/a-rising-sea-is eating-away-this-brazilian-town
Associated Press. (2021, August 26). Brazilian beach resort slipping under the water due to human action. euronews. https://www.euronews.com/green/2021/08/23/brazilian-beach resort-slipping-under-the-water-due-to-human-action
Alexandra Kwiatkowski, Penn State University
Ripon, California, located in the San Joaquin Valley, grows approximately 50 million pounds of almonds per year, earning it the title of the almond capital of the world (“California Almond Industry Facts”). The demand for pollinator-dependent crops such as almonds, blueberries, and apples has grown by over 300 percent, meaning that agricultural communities in the San Joaquin Valley, like Ripon, are expected to only increase their production of these crops (“California’s Almond Rely on Honey Bees”). However, a study on pollinators conducted by the University of Pittsburgh in conjunction with Penn State, found that areas in California like the town of Ripon that are the most reliant on pollinators also host the worst habitat conditions for insect pollinators, such as bees due to regular pesticide use and lack of diverse flowering species. In 2020, it was reported that California beekeepers lost about 45% of their managed colonies to Colony Collapse Disorder, while the decline of native bees is mainly attributed to habitat fragmentation and loss (“The Health of Honey Bee Colonies in California”). With this area profiting 3 billion dollars from agriculture, the community’s large agricultural sector could diminish due to the loss of bee populations (“San Joaquin Council of Governments”). As bee populations decline, the diversity and availability of fresh fruits and nuts will begin to suffer. Fruits grown in the region such as blueberries rely on bees for about 90 percent of their pollination (“What Would Happen If All the Bees Died”). This does not only harm the diets of Americans but also the livelihoods of many local Ripon farmers who depend on these crops. Although the problem of declining bee populations is complex, there are steps that communities and individuals can take to supplement their population growth. One of the major factors affecting bee populations is the use of heavy pesticides in the area, one way that individuals can help to combat this is by choosing to eat bee-friendly. Opting to eat organic foods that are grown without pesticides, ensures that bee populations are not being harmed by the production of crops. A direct step that both individuals and farms can use is to stop the use of insecticides on lawns and crop fields (“How You Can Keep Bees from Becoming Endangered”). California’s pesticide agency has proposed new limits to ban the use of a class of insecticides called neonicotinoids, which have been proven to harm bees and other pollinators. Although there is a proposed ban on these insecticides, California and the Federal government have not passed any laws to enforce it (“California to Restrict Bee-Killing Pesticides”). In this case, it is best to vote for local and state-wide politicians who support the environment and oppose the use of harmful toxins in our fields.
Becker, R. (2022, July 20). California Poised to Restrict Bee-Killing Pesticides. CalMatters. https://calmatters.org/environment/2022/07/california-pesticides-restrictions/.
Bush, G. (2020, March 23). How You Can Keep Bees from Becoming Endangered. Ohio State Impact, The Ohio State University. https://www.osu.edu/impact/research-and
Petruzzello, M. (n.d.). What Would Happen If All the Bees Died?” Encyclopædia Britannica. https://www.britannica.com/story/what-would-happen-if all-the-bees-died.
Stacker. (2022, August 31). The Health of Honey Bee Colonies in California. News Channel 3-12. https://keyt.com/stacker-california/2022/08/31/the-health-of-honey-bee-colonies-in-california/.
Weisbrod, K. (2021, June 3). California’s Almond Trees Rely on Honey Bees and Wild Pollinators, but a Lack of Good Habitat Is Making Their Job Harder. Inside Climate News. https://insideclimatenews.org/news/03062021/california-almond-tree-pollinators/.
California Almond Industry Facts. (2016, June). California Almonds. Almond Board of California. https://www.almonds.com/sites/default/files/2016_almond_industry_factsheet.pdf.
Sam Lee, Penn State University
For Capstone Assignment 5 I decided to take a look at how species loss is affecting an area in southern California, specifically in the city of Santee just outside of San Diego. Southern California is one of the most at-risk areas for species loss in the United States (Einhorn and Popovich). Much of the danger comes from urban sprawl as populations continue to increase and expand into habitats of other animals. One such example of a species affected by this is the Hermes copper butterfly, which was added to the list of threatened species at the beginning of 2022 (“The Federal Register”). This type of butterfly requires a fairly large area of undeveloped wilderness with ample plant and shrub growth, specifically a plant called the spiny redberry, to sustain its habitat. One of the main reasons this butterfly was added to the threatened species list this year is because of urban development in their habitat. The Federal Register, which put the Hermes copper butterfly on this list, found that nearly 38 percent of the loss of the butterfly in this region can be linked to a reduction in the habitat of the insect due to population development (“The Federal Register”).
As we learned in Module 11, the ecosystem is a balance of many species and the loss or severe reduction of one can have negative results on the rest of the system. The Hermes copper butterfly, for example, are very important pollinator in Santee. Without them, other plants and animals would be at risk as well.
Fortunately, there have been some efforts to help preserve both the habitat of the Hermes butterfly and the wilderness in the Santee area. One such preservation effort is called the Fanita Ranch Project. This project seemed interesting to me because it incorporates habitat preservation as well as still addressing the need for urban expansion, something other habitat preservation efforts don’t always address. This project would be more of a community with nearly three thousand homes of various types, commercial space, and, most importantly, a habitat preservation area (“Santee, CA”). While the reduction or loss of one species of butterfly may not seem like a lot in the grand scheme of things, it is good to know efforts are happening to protect both it and other at-risk species like it from extinction.
Einhorn, C. & Popovich, N. (2022, May 3). This Map Shows Where Biodiversity Is Most at Risk in America. The New York Times. https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2022/03/03/climate/biodiversity-map.html.
The Federal Register. (2021, December 21). Federal Register. https://www.federalregister.gov/documents/2021/12/21/2021-27157/endangered-and threatened-wildlife-and-plants-threatened-species-status-with-section-4d-rule-for.
Santee, CA. (n.d.). Fanita Ranch Project, https://www.cityofsanteeca.gov/our-city/fanita-ranch project.
Lauren Myers, Penn State University
Polar bears, tigers, lions, bald eagles, and the Alala bird might face extinction within the next fifty years. But, unfortunately, of this list of big cats, bears, and eagles, the Alala bird does not come to most minds when recognizing endangered species. As far as the Alala bird goes, it is only one of many near-extinct species in Hawaii. Because of this, Hawaii is the newest extinction capital of the world, with 481 out of 1,225 endangered species of plants and animals recognized by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service residing in Hawaii. To put this number in perspective, Hawaii has about 40% of all endangered species, yet represents only .007826% of Earth’s landmass.
Within the community of Keauhou, Hawaii, the Keauhou Bird Conservation Center has partnered with the San Diego Zoo to fund the Alala program and captive breed the last of the Alala birds. In the early 1990s, only 15 Alala birds existed. Since then, from the community of Keauhou’s efforts, the number has increased to 120 birds. The dream is that one day, the remaining Alala birds can continue to grow and relieve the bird of their extinction in the wild and reunite it with the land. The Alala are forest builders, intelligent creatures that revitalize and spread seeds across the land. They use sticks, or tool use, to fish in the ground for bugs, and are social creatures, despite their dark crow exterior. They also represent a more spiritual connection; the majestic creatures represent a shared ancestor between people and nature. In Hawaiian culture, the Alala bird is symbolic of a “family god” that protects and guides deceased loved ones in the afterlife. Essentially, the Alala embodies Hawaiian culture and hope for endangered species.
Furthermore, with all these efforts, the bird struggles to survive in the wild. Many of their nonnative predators, such as mongoose and feral cats, eat their eggs and deem it difficult for the Alala birds to survive. In 2016, the sanctuary released five Alala birds in the wild, yet three were found dead in the following two weeks. To better adapt the crows, the Alala program intends to introduce younger birds to other forest birds and watch them combat danger to be less domesticated upon release. As for the other endangered species, the natives of Keauhou developed the skill of head-starting, or taking eggs out of the targeted bird’s nests, then incubating, hatching, and releasing the birds back into the wild. Once the population continues to decline, conservation projects begin, much like the Alala bird. Regardless of the seemingly grim futures, as long as we acknowledge and protect our endangered animals, the Alala birds and other endangered animals can stay for generations to come.
Perry, T. (2016, April 25). Is Hawaii ‘the Extinction Capital of the World’? Exhibit A: The Alala Bird. The Washington Post. https://www.washingtonpost.com/national/health science/is-hawaii-the-extinction-capital-of-the-world-exhibit-a-the-alala-bird/2016/04/25/3f45c6ac f210-11e5-89c3-a647fcce95e0_story.html.
Stewart, D. (2018, April 30). The Native Hawaiian ‘Alalā Is in the Wild Once More. Something to Crow About. The University of Hawaii. https://hilo.hawaii.edu/news/kekalahea/something-to-crow about-2018.
Dekneef, M. (2021, July 1). Call of the Wild. FLUX. https://fluxhawaii.com/call of-the-wild/.
Irwin, J. (2022, April 10).ʻAlalā Project. Department of Land and Natural Resources. https://dlnr.hawaii.gov/alalaproject/.
Christine Penaloza, Penn State University
India is home to more than a thousand different species of orchids. Unfortunately, the orchids most known for their exquisite garnish and medicinal uses, face the greatest threat of extinction. Vanda coerulea or Blue vanda is a blue orchid also known as the Autumn Lady’s Tresses found on Gordonia Trees in the oak and pine forests of the Khasia Hills of Northeast India. British collectors discovered the orchids in the 1930s and were so taken by their beauty and rarity they decided to take many samples to England. However, the orchids were unfamiliar with the new environment and climate, and all the samples died in the non-native land. This is one of the main reasons why there are many endangered orchid species in Northeast India, home to about 500 taxa of orchids. Although these extraordinary, beautiful orchids should be enjoyed by the eyes of many they are not meant to be picked. Not only are the flowers dependent on their genetic makeup but it is also important for them to grow and nourish in their niche habitat and to keep their significant role in the ecosystem. Many of the orchids in the Khasia Hills are under serious threat due to the rapid destruction of natural habitat by deforestation, overgrazing, or the uncritical collections for the floral business. Orchid species with medicinal properties are becoming very rare to come by and are endangered because of over-exploitation. To preserve and keep the vast orchid diversity, in India, it is protected under the Schedule VI of the Wild (Life) Protection Act, 1972, where it is illegal to collect orchids from the wild. Orchid conservation areas and sanctuaries have been formed for the long-term survival of the orchids in their natural habitats with orchid seed banks and germplasm banks. By creating these conservation areas, tourists and locals can be aware of the importance and significance of these rare plants.
Gupta, A. (2020, March 14). Lasting Beauty? Orchids Face the Threat of Mass Extinction. Deccan Herald. https://www.deccanherald.com/science-and-environment/lasting-beauty orchids-face-the-threat-of-mass-extinction-813395.html.
Nazareth, Dr. M. de. (2022, September 10). At Last Wild Orchids Are Being Protected in India. Countercurrents. https://countercurrents.org/2022/09/at-last-wild-orchids-are-being-protected-in india/.
Platt, J. R. (2020, February 2). 32 Orchid Species Feared Extinct in Bangladesh. Scientific American Blog Network. https://blogs.scientificamerican.com/extinction-countdown/32- orchid-species-feared-extinct-in-bangladesh/.
Singh, S. S. (2019, July 14). India Is Home to 1,256 Species of Orchid, Says First Comprehensive Survey. Return to Frontpage. https://www.thehindu.com/sci-tech/energy-and-environment/india is-home-to-1256-species-of-orchid-says-first-comprehensive-survey/article28429797.ece.
Sundararaju, V. (2020, August 17). India Must Conserve Its Orchid Wealth. Down To Earth. https://www.downtoearth.org.in/blog/wildlife-biodiversity/india-must-conserve-its-orchid wealth-72884.
Christine Penaloza, Penn State University
The Masungi Georeserve is a 2,700-hectare conservation area with mountainous gardens tucked in the rainforests of Rizal, Philippines. In the Philippines, only about 3% of primary forests exist due to uncontrolled deforestation, mineral extraction, and poor environmental enforcement. The Masungi area and surrounding mountains were being destroyed by land trafficking, illegal logging, slash-and-burn farming, charcoal-making, and corrupt practices. After years of deforestation and overruling by an epidemic of land-grabbing activities destroying the land, in 1993 the Masungi area was declared a Strict Nature Reserve and Wildlife Sanctuary by the Department of Environmental and Natural Resources. Twenty years after dedicated conservation work, the Masungi Georeserve opened to the public in 2015 and set an example of mindful engineering. It was a model to build sustainable tourism practices and provide income for the management of the conservation area through innovative exploration. The forests are clearer and are a safe home to more than 400 species of plants and animals. The landscape serves as a natural filter for vital waterways and provides a clean water supply in the local communities, to about 40,000 people. In the sanctuary, guests can reconnect with nature as they wander through pathways, encountering countless native wildlife and plant species. There are many trails you can take in the Masungi Georeserve, and in the past summer of 2022, I was able to experience the Discovery Trail. We started early in the morning, watching the sunrise at the start of our trek coming across numerous rope walls and bridges overlooking bountiful forests – feeling almost like an adult jungle gym built coherently into the landscape. However, today the area still faces problems with the restoration and rebuilding of about 3,000 hectares of degraded land around Masungi limestone formations due to quarrying. But this recent project is largely led by people of the current generation with over 200 corporate partners in planting trees and at least 30 research and NGO partners for community development and monitoring. The name Masungi comes from the Tagalog word “masungki” meaning spiked- referring to the spread of the limestone landscape found within. I am very thankful to have experienced the Masungi Georeserve with my family as it opened my eyes to see the amount of hard work and effort the Foundation put into bringing the area “back to life.”
Dumaliang, B. (2020, October 5). The Georeserve Model: Mindful Engineering as a Means to Build Sustainable Tourism Value and Income in Conservation Areas. PANORAMA. https://panorama.solutions/en/solution/georeserve-model-mindful-engineering-means build-sustainable-tourism-value-and-income.
The Masungi Georeserve Story: Restoring Forgotten Watersheds through Youth-Led Movements. (n.d.). Global Water Partnership. https://www.gwp.org/en/waterchangemakers/change stories/564180/.
Masungi Georeserve. (n.d.). Award Winning Conservation Project. https://www.masungigeoreserve.com/.
Andrew Poole, Penn State University
The number of Florida Panthers in LaBelle City in Hendry County, Florida, is under great threat. The Florida Panther is a large, tawny-colored cat weighing up to 160 pounds and approximately 7 feet long from nose to tail (Nature Conservancy, 2019). Florida panthers once flourished at the top of the food chain but now face the greatest threat of loss due to an increasing human population and human development in their habitat.
The increase in population has resulted in increased human development activities in the Florida panther’s habitat. These activities range from developing roads, canals, homes, and other amenities (Bergman, 2022). The result of such activities has been reducing the size of the habitat fragmenting it further, and making it less suitable for Florida panthers. The habitat size is critical because male Florida panthers are estimated to defend territories of up to 200 square miles, and a single female can establish a home range of up to 75 square miles (Nature Conservancy, 2019). Car accidents have also significantly reduced the number of Florida panthers. In 2021, 21 out of 27 Florida panther deaths were attributed to fatal collisions in LaBelle (Associated Press, 2021). Without protection, the number of Florida panthers, estimated to be between 100 and 160, would not exist. Thus, a considerable effect is needed to protect the endangered species.
Protecting habitat from human encroachment is one way of preventing the loss of Florida panthers. One way to conserve Florida panthers’ habitat is by collaborating with private landowners and buying property development rights via conservation easements. The approach will ensure that essential lands are protected for the panther’s habitat. Currently, the Florida Forever program is collaborating with private landowners to buy land and conserve the habitat of endangered species (Nature Conservancy, 2019). However, more of these initiatives are needed to reduce the dwindling population of Florida Panthers. The population of Florida panthers can also be conserved through slow driving near Florida panther habitat, especially during dusk and dawn when they are more active.
Associated Press. (2021). Another Florida panther dies after being hit by a vehicle.
Bergman, M. (2022). We’re saving the last of the last’: what Florida’s endangered panthers need to survive. https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2022/mar/23/florida-panthers-endangered need-to-survive
Nature Conservancy. (2019). Help Save the Florida Panther. https://www.nature.org/en-us/about-us/where-we-work/united-states/florida/stories-in-florida/save-the-florida-panther/
Geomarie Ramos, Penn State Lehigh Valley
The threat is species loss and more specifically the loss of mountain gorillas. Mountain gorillas in Ruhengeri, Rwanda are considered to be endangered species. Mountain gorillas are illegally hunted, have limited space for their migration, and have a low reproductive rate limiting their population. (World Wildlife Fund, n.d). As well as having to rely on water in the environment, they rely on plants as a source of food. They’re able to deal with different levels of temperatures, but if temperatures impact the sources for their basic needs, they will become extinct.
The human population in Ruhengeri has migrated due to climate change events, such as increased temperatures, heavy rainfall, and dry spells. These have an impact on agriculture, especially on crops such as beans, potatoes, and rice, leading to humans being desperate to find a more stable environment. (Uwimbabazi, 2022). This has resulted in mountain gorillas being hunted and killed for the space that they’re in. As a domino effect, the resources are used by humans, leaving mountain gorillas vulnerable. While they appear as being a danger to humans due to their size and physical responses when angry, without them the food cycle would be interrupted.
If there are no efforts put towards helping the mountain gorillas, they will begin to search for resources even if that means disrupting the lives of humans that have migrated. Close contact with humans not only puts them in danger of being killed but also picking up diseases. Human diseases can be passed onto mountain gorillas, meaning colds can lead to pneumonia for them just as for humans. A study revealed that two gorillas that were in close contact with humans had a cough and discharge from their noses and eyes. (Wright, 2011). This aspect can also impact them as an endangered species.
One solution to the threat is the Volcanoes National Park located in Ruhengeri, Rwanda. It’s become a conservation for mountain gorillas and other mammals. The rainforests are at a high elevation and have lower temperatures, allowing the plants to thrive as a source of food. (Volcanoes National Park Rwanda, n.d.). They’re able to be in a habitat that allows them to thrive safely. Unfortunately, the national park allows people to tour and view the mountain gorillas. While this may be a positive due to the source of income helping the cause, there’s still the possibility of them getting sick from visitors. The national park may be a short-term resolution to the long-term issue of constant human migration.
Uwimbabazi, J., Jing, Y., Iyakaremye, V., Ullah, I., & Ayugi, B. (2022, January 28). Observed changes in meteorological drought events during 1981–2020 over Rwanda, East Africa. MDPI. https://www.mdpi.com/2071-1050/14/3/1519/htm
Volcanoes national park Rwanda. Volcanoes National Park Rwanda. (n.d.). https://www.volcanoesparkrwanda.org/
WebDev, I. E. T. (2022, July 19). Human virus linked to deaths of endangered mountain gorillas. UC Davis. https://www.ucdavis.edu/news/human-virus-linked deaths-endangered-mountain-gorillas
World Wildlife Fund. (n.d.). Mountain Gorillas and climate change. WWF. https://www.worldwildlife.org/pages/mountain-gorillas-and-climate-change