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This Week in Biodiversity News – 17th January 2022

Hana Ketley
Hana Ketley

Loss of animal biodiversity is impacting the survivability of some plants. Species that rely on animal-facilitated dispersal are unable to keep up with climate change as they cannot disperse their seeds far enough to shift their geographic ranges, due to the decline in biodiversity of birds and mammals. Published in Science, a new study has shown that 60% fewer seeds are being dispersed far enough to reach newly suitable habitats, with North America, Europe, South America and Australia the most affected.

A number of environmental organisations, including Wildlife Trust and the RSPB are warning that permitted use of the banned pesticide thiamethoxam by sugar beet farmers threatens bees. The Government has announced that it will permit the use of thiamethoxam on sugar beet in England in 2022, because of the threat posed by a virus, transmitted by aphids. Neonicotinoids are banned within the UK and the EU, as even small traces of these chemicals can reduce bees’ ability to forage and navigate, threatening whole colonies.

Norway has blown up a dam that blocked the Tromsa River for more than 100 years to free up migratory routes for fish. The dam has not been used for over 50 years and the river, which feeds into Norway’s biggest lake, will allow fish in the area to thrive, including grayling, Alpine bullhead and common minnows. Prior to this, the fish were only able to live and spawn in 950 metres of the river. Now that the dam has been removed, these species will be able to swim 10km upriver.

A new study suggests that the sixth mass extinction is currently underway.  The planet has undergone five major extinction events but, according to the study published in Biological Reviews, the current one is entirely caused by human activities. Since the year 1500, between 7.5% and 13% of 2 million known species could have already been lost, with drastically increasing rates of species extinctions and declining abundances. However, a bias towards evaluating birds and mammals and an under-reporting of other fauna such as invertebrates may be leading to many denials that the current rate of species die-offs amounts to a mass extinction.