The Battle To Save The World’s Rarest Species From Extinction Following Mauritius Oil Spill

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On Monday September 24, at a virtual meeting hosted by the UN Headquarters in New York, 60 world leaders signed a ‘Leaders Pledge for Nature’ to stop the loss of biodiversity. Heads of State from France, Germany, UK, Netherlands, Panama signed.

Noticeably, the embattled political leaders from Japan and Mauritius were not signatories.

The Leaders Pledge in New York was part of an important UN Summit to avoid the world heading into a major period of biodiversity collapse, as planet Earth grapples with the highest extinction rates since homo sapiens became a distinct species, in what has been called the Sixth Mass Extinction. Rather than being caused by colliding asteroids or other natural phenomenon, this new age of extinction is being caused by man.

The front lines of this extinction battle is happening live on the Indian Ocean island of Mauritius, which is still battling the effects of a major oil spill.

Effects of oil spill disrupting entire island nation

Two months on from the major shipping incident in the Indian Ocean, islanders on Mauritius are still reeling from its effects.  Life is far from returning to normal.

The large Japanese bulk carrier, the Wakashio, hit an important barrier coral reef in the South East of the country, and started spilling heavy ship engine fuel into the pristine coral lagoon and into a network of historic and unique biodiversity sites.


Alien species to increase by 36 percent globally by 2050

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Oct. 1 (UPI) — The number alien species is projected to increase by 36 percent by 2050, according to a new study published Thursday in the journal Global Change Biology.

Species are classified as alien when they colonize habitat outside their native ranges.

To predict how many new species will become aliens in the decades ahead, researchers relied on a mathematical model to analyze current rates of invasion, consider the source pool of possible invaders and produce simulations based on a ‘business-as-usual’ scenario.

The model predicted that by the middle of the century, there will be 36 percent more alien plant and animal species than there were in 2005.

If current invasion rates continue apace, the data suggests Europe will fare particularly poorly, with the continent expected to welcome 2,500 new alien species over the next 45 years — a 64 percent increase, double the projected global increase.

“Our study predicts that alien species will continue to be added to ecosystems at high rates through the next few decades, which is concerning as this could contribute to harmful biodiversity change and extinction,” study co-author Tim Blackburn said in a news release.

“But we are not helpless bystanders: with a concerted global effort to combat this, it should be possible to slow down or reverse this trend,” said Blackburn, a professor of invasion biology at the University College London.

Besides Europe, the new simulations showed temperate latitudes in Asia, North America and South America are also likely to welcome a pronounced uptick in alien invaders. Conversely, Australia is expected to see a relatively small number of new alien species.

In Europe, the invaders won’t always be obvious.

“These will primarily include rather inconspicuous new arrivals such as insects, molluscs and crustaceans,” said lead study author Hanno Seebens.

“In contrast, there will


Artificial intelligence can help protect orchids and other species

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Artificial intelligence can help protect orchids and other species
Calypso Bulbosa is classified as threatened or endangered in Europa and in several US states. It is found in undisturbed northern and montane forests, floodplains and swamps. Credit: Pati Vitt

Many orchid species are threatened by land conversion and illegal harvesting. However, only a fraction of those species is included in the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species, because assessments require a lot of time, resources and expertise. A new approach, an automated assessment developed under the lead of biodiversity researchers from Central Germany, now shows that almost 30% of all orchid species are possibly threatened. The new approach could speed up conservation assessments of all species on Earth.

Orchids are more than just decorative—they are also economically important in horticulture, in the pharmaceutical industry and even in the food industry. For example, vanilla orchids are grown commercially for their seed pods, and the economy on the northeast of Madagascar centers around the vanilla trade. But many of the approximately 29,000 orchid species face immediate threats by land conversion and illegal harvesting, resulting in an urgent need to identify the most endangered species and protect them from extinction. The global Red List of the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) is the most widely used scheme to evaluate species’ risk of extinction. The assessments are based on rigorous criteria and the best available scientific information, making them resource-intensive and, therefore, only available for a fraction of the species worldwide. To date, only about 1,400 of all orchid species have IUCN Red List assessments.

An international team led by researchers from the German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv), Leipzig University (UL), Martin Luther University Halle-Wittenberg (MLU) and the Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research (UFZ) addressed this issue with the help of an automated assessment approach including the use


New species of cockroach-killing wasps discovered in 25-million-year-old amber

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This ensign wasp was trapped in amber 25 million years ago.

George Poinar Jr./Oregon State University

If you hate cockroaches, then you might find some satisfaction in a fascinating piece of ancient insect history that recently came to light. 

Oregon State University entomologist George Poinar Jr. discovered four new species of ensign wasps in 25-million-year-old amber found in the Dominican Republic and Mexico. These cockroach-killing wasps are still around today, and the amber finds offer an intriguing glimpse into their past.

Poinar is the author of a study on the amber-encased wasps published in the paleobiology journal Historical Biology this month.

This is one of four new species of ensign wasp found trapped in 25-million-year-old amber.

George Poinar Jr./Oregon State University

Ensign wasps let their young handle the cockroach-killing duties. Female wasps lay eggs in or on a cockroach egg case. 

“When the wasp egg hatches, the larva eats the cockroach egg where it was laid,” said Oregon State University. The larva uses the egg case as a shelter as it grows toward adulthood.

“Our study shows these wasps were around some 20 or 30 million years ago, with probably the same behavioral patterns regarding cockroaches,” said Poinar in an OSU statement Friday.

The wasps fit right in with some of Poinar’s other amber discoveries, which include a fascinating flea, a microinvertebrate “mold pig” and an alien-looking “E.T.” insect.     

Poinar didn’t find any cockroaches in the fossilized tree resin along with the wasp remains, but he did spot some flying termites, which may have been sharing space with cockroaches. 

And if you see an ensign wasp today, it’s a friend,