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This Week in Biodiversity News – 14th November 2022

Luanne Wilkes
Luanne Wilkes
Conservation

Between 2003 and 2019, almost a quarter of Sweden’s remaining unprotected old-growth forest was logged. These rare and ecologically valuable forests are rich in biodiversity and are some of the last remaining areas where we can see how northern landscapes may have looked before humans began altering them. If logging continues at the same rate, all of these old-growth forests will be lost within the next 50 years.

Pollinators, such as bumblebees, are much less likely to land on flowers that have been sprayed with fertilisers and pesticides, as they can detect changes in the electric field around the flower. It was previously thought that the chemicals may affect the insects’ vision and sense of smell, but recent research has now proven that this is not the case. Spraying the plants with chemicals significantly reduces the amount of feeding that the bees undertake.

New discoveries

A tiny species of clam has been found at Naples Point, in southern California, that has never before been encountered in the wild. Prior to this discovery, our only knowledge of this species was from fossil records, and it was presumed to be extinct. This diminutive mollusc, described in 1937 from fossil remains as Bornia cooki, has a shell which is only 10mm wide and a bright, white-striped foot which is used for burrowing.

Climate change

A new review, published in Ecological Monographs, has warned that the effects of climate change on insects is likely to ‘drastically reduce our ability to build a sustainable future based on healthy-functional ecosystems’. Compiled by a team of 70 scientists from 19 countries, the report describes both the short- and long-term prognosis for insects as bleak, and stresses that urgent action at both a personal and policy level is required.

A new analysis from the groups Global Witness, Corporate Europe Observatory and Corporate Accountability reported that 636 fossil fuel lobbyists are registered to attend the COP27 climate talks – a figure that is up 25% from last year. This shows a worrying rise in the influence of the fossil fuel industry at these critical climate talks.

There is increasing concern that the Arctic ocean is becoming warmer and saltier due to climate change. Referred to by oceanographers as ‘spicy’ water, these increases in temperature and salinity are a problem, as they create a layer of water that tends to sit on the surface and not mix with the cooler, less salty (or ‘minty’) water below. This then impacts the formation and maintenance of sea ice.

Citizen science

Keen citizen scientists in the UK are being asked to contribute to a huge study looking at changes in mammal activity in response to climate change. The MammalWeb network, which was founded in 2013 at Durham University, will utilise images from camera traps deployed by members of the public around the country to build a comprehensive picture of the UK’s mammal populations. In doing so they hope to gain better insights into the policies and interventions that are needed the most to conserve these populations.

Research

A new technique developed at the Université de Montréal (UdeM) and the University of Minnesota will allow scientists to gain insights into how species of plant that have been preserved as dried specimens in herbaria interacted with their environment when they were living. By learning more about traits such as leaf structure, chemical composition and water content, it is hoped that more information can be gained about how plant communities have changed over time, and how we might help them to thrive in the future.