Charlie Cooper was formerly Media Relations Manager at Fauna & Flora International
We start this week’s Nature News Round-up with an all-too-familiar story of environmental destruction in the Amazon, unabated it seems by last year’s headline-grabbing international pledges to halt deforestation once and for all within just eight years’ time. Also in the news this week, worrying signs from a warming Antarctic, some positive pledges emerging from France’s oceans summit… and a reflection on mankind’s somewhat confused relationship with eagles.
The first month of 2022 saw 166 square miles of Amazon rainforest destroyed, the BBC reports, citing data from Brazil’s space agency Inpe. This the highest January total since records began in 2015, and is all the more striking because the rainy season typically prevents loggers reaching dense parts of the forest early in the year. In his analysis, the BBC’s environment correspondent Matt McGrath says a number of factors lie behind the high figures including strong global demand for beef and soya – and the likelihood of new laws soon to be passed in Brazil that will make life easier for land grabbers. “At the COP26 climate summit in Glasgow last year, [Brazilian President] Bolsonaro was one of the world leaders who promised to halt and reverse deforestation by the end of this decade,” McGrath notes. “Political observers argue that despite this change in tone, the policies on the ground remain the same.”
The area of Brazilian Amazon destroyed in January was five times greater than in January 2021. Credit: Jeremy Holden/FFI
Antarctica is changing. New research, covered by Alex Wilkins in New Scientist, has shown that plants on the continent are growing more quickly as a result of climate change, with unpredictable consequences for Antarctica’s ecology. Scientists, led by Nicoletta Cannone of the University of Insubria, measured the growth of the Antarctic’s only two native flowering plants, Deschampsia antarctica and Colobanthus quitensis from 2009 to 2019 and compared their findings to observations from the previous 50 years. Sites studied had become more densely covered by the plants – which appeared to grow faster each year as the climate warmed.
French President Emmanuel Macron’s ‘One Ocean Summit’ wrapped up on Friday in Brest, with announcements including new public finance commitments for ocean conservation (an initiative led by the European Investment Bank, France’s development agency and Germany’s development bank, which will see existing €2 billion commitments doubled by 2025). Plastic pollution was high on the agenda, as was the question of how to protect the high seas, beyond national jurisdictions. On the latter point, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen launched a coalition of the EU and 16 non-EU countries committed to concluding a treaty on the sustainable use of the high seas and protection of their biodiversity. Davide Basso has more for Euractiv and edie’s newsroom also covered the summit.
€4 billion will be allocated to fighting plastic pollution in our oceans. Credit: Ed Marshall
“It’s mellow, nutty and bit gamey.” That’s the verdict of Scottish chef Paul Wedgwood on grey squirrel meat, in this interesting piece by the Guardian’s Patrick Greenfield on the pros and cons of ‘invasivorism’: the unorthodox conservation approach that involves the encouragement of people seeking out invasive species as a food source. As Greenfield notes, the simple idea is not without its detractors and cites a 2014 US review of its effectiveness which produced an 11-point best-practice approach.
Another interesting long-read from the Atlantic, this time by Nathaniel Rich on America’s longstanding love-hate relationship with the bald eagle: “revered as a national symbol, reviled as an actual bird.” It’s especially pertinent from a UK point of view this week after Conservative MP Chris Loder for West Dorset attracted the dismay of conservationists by urging police not to “spend time and resources” investigating the deaths of two white-tailed eagles from the population reintroduced to the Isle of Wight, one of which was found in Dorset. Dominic Couzens covered the story for Countryfile magazine.
Eagles continue to be simultaneously revered and persecuted by humans worldwide. Credit: Juan Pablo Moreiras/FFI
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