The Ultimate Apex Predators

shodou-calligraphy.gifHumans are the ultimate apex predator — we eat anything that moves and hardly anything wants to eat us.

Sharks got nothing on us.

So what does it mean in ecological terms when there are six billion+ apex predators roaming the planet?

Massive extinctions of other species for one thing as we munch our way down the food chain. As species decline, ecosystems unravel leading to more declines and maybe some blooms of things like weeds and jellyfish. And eventually (perhaps sooner than later) we run out of food and lose ecosystem services, both of which will contribute greatly to rapid increases in disease and death in humans.

That seems to be the logical and grim ecological prognosis.

However, like a car hurtling towards the edge of the cliff, we’re arguing about what CD to listen too instead of applying the brakes. [Or more likely, each of us is plugged into our own IPOD and oblivious to each other and anything else.]

I admit that writing about environmental issues can be depressing. I’m actually an optimist and believe we will jump on those brakes at the last minute.

Overfishing Sharks Leading to Ecological Collapse

As Sharks Vanish, Chaotic New Order EmergesWhite Shark courtesy of TOPP
By Stephen Leahy

Mar 29 (IPS) – Major declines in large sharks along the U.S. coast have in turn triggered declines in shellfish and reduced water quality, proof that the ocean’s food web is collapsing, a groundbreaking new study reveals.

With the virtual elimination of large sharks along the U.S. east coast, such as black tip and tiger sharks, the species they used to eat — small sharks, rays and skates – have boomed in numbers. Cownose ray populations increased 20-fold since 1970 and as a direct consequence, shellfish like scallops that the cownose ray eats have been nearly wiped out despite major conservation efforts.

The cascade of impacts resulting from overfishing large sharks goes further still, marine scientist Ransom Myers and coauthors document in a paper published Thursday in Science. The loss of scallops has reduced water quality because scallops and other shellfish filtre sea water. And the cownose ray is now feeding voraciously on other shellfish, like oysters and clams.
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Plagiarism plague

What would you do?shodou-calligraphy.gif

A commercial trade magazine ($32/yr) took one of my stories, acknowledged me as the original author, rewrote portions but added no new material and put it in their magazine and on their website. I did several interviews with experts who were hard to find and wrote a pretty good story on a new discovery that would benefit farmers. I own the copyright to the story and they didn’t ask and they didn’t pay me to use it.

It is tempting to either use someone else’s writing or make some cosmetic revisions and feel free to profit from it. But its wrong, illegal and adds nothing. Better by far to express your thoughts and research — even if poorly written.

Any ways I asked this publication (which may or may not make this theft a habit) to take the story off their site and compensate me for the use of my material.

So far I’ve been ignored.

What would you do?

Biofuels and Carbon Credits Behind Global Deforestation

Biofuels Boom Spurring Deforestation
By Stephen Leahy

Mar 21 (IPS/IFEJ) – Nearly 40,000 hectares of forest vanish every day, driven by the world’s growing hunger for timber, pulp and paper, and ironically, new biofuels and carbon credits designed to protect the environment.

Sugarcane field Queensland Australia Copyright Renate Leahy 2004The irony here is that the growing eagerness to slow climate change by using biofuels and planting millions of trees for carbon credits has resulted in new major causes of deforestation, say activists. And that is making climate change worse because deforestation puts far more greenhouse gases into the atmosphere than the entire world’s fleet of cars, trucks, planes, trains and ships combined.

“Biofuels are rapidly becoming the main cause of deforestation in countries like Indonesia, Malaysia and Brazil,” said Simone Lovera, managing coordinator of the Global Forest Coalition, an environmental NGO based in Asunción, Paraguay. Continue reading

Iraq’s Environmental Nightmare

Bee Eaters in Iraq Copyright 2006 Laurie Haak IRAQ: Environmental Nightmare Drags On

“We inherited a terrible situation when it comes to the environment,” Narmin Othman, Iraq’s environment minister.

By Stephen Leahy

Mar 21 (Tierramérica) – Four years after the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq and despite 22 billion dollars spent on recovery and reconstruction, Iraq’s environment remains in disastrous shape.

“The Tigris and Euphrates rivers are essentially open sewers,” Azzam Alwash, head of Nature Iraq, a conservation group based in Baghdad, told Tierramérica.
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Pacific Islanders Preyed on by Bio-Pirates

By Stephen LeahyCopyright 2004 Renate Leahy

Mar 20 (IPS) – The Pacific region has long been a favourite target of gene hunters, unethical bio-researchers and “patent bottom trawlers” looking to profit from its unique flora, fauna — and human beings.

Pacific Islanders have had their genes patented against their will. T-cells from the Hagahai tribe in Papua New Guinea can be purchased today on the internet for 216 dollars.
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Good News For A Change?

shodou-calligraphy.gifLast night a bunch of folks were berating me for my depressing tales about species extinction, deforestation, climate change, toxic pollution etc. Depressing yeah but it is what it is.

Who wants the weather guy to tell you its sunny outside when its raining?

As a species we seem to need constant reminding of things going wrong before we take action or change what we’re doing.

That said I hope to do more stories about solutions to environmental issues and problems.

Ideas are always welcome.


Abrupt Environmental Change Sparks Violent Conflicts

Thirstier World Likely to See More Violence
By Stephen Leahy

Mar 16 (IPS) – A strong link between droughts and violent civil conflicts in the developing world bodes ill for an increasingly thirsty world, say scientists, who warn that drought-related conflicts are expected to multiply with advancing climate change.

“Severe, prolonged droughts are the strongest indicator of high-intensity conflicts,” said Marc Levy of the Centre for International Earth Science Information Network at Columbia University’s Earth Institute in New York.

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