Dear Members and Friends of Biodiversity,
Please find the 15th editon of our Newsletter. We hope that you will take as much interest to read it as we had to write it.
Our subjects are as follows : Biodiversity, a key issue ? Phytoplankton needs whales’ poo ; Space pollution.
Concerning the programmes supported by TENDUA : some update on the HURO programme with the release into the wild of a young male gibbon called Boopy ; update of the Desert Lion Conservation programme led by TOSCO, and also the 2018 report’s extract of CAP LOUP in France.
Then, a few words about the 2018 volunteering season with the cetaceans on Reunion Island, and about the “shark business” on Reunion Island too. We received an email about a dugong that has to cope with kitesurfers near Marsa Alam, Egypt.
As nature is still surprising us, scientists reveal how wombats are able to produce cubic poo! Finally, your Agenda with the Walk for the climate on Dec, 8th,2018.
Enjoy your reading!
Biodiversity, phytoplankton & Spatial pollution
Biodiversity is the variety of life on Earth, in all its forms and all its interactions. At different levels, it is the variety of ecosystems, the variety of communities and species (specific diversity), and the genetics variety (within the same species). Biodiversity is the set of all the relations that all the living beings establish between them and with their environment. The diversity of the life is studied by scientists for a long time and it is also a source of philosophic debates. The term was coined in 1986 – a contraction of “biological diversity”. And despite of all the works dedicated to biodiversity, that have been undertaken since then, the understanding of what is biodiversity, and more recently the supposed policies to help its conservation, leave most questions about it globally not solved, in spite of interesting local initiatives.
One species is disappearing every twenty minutes, at a rythm of 100 to 1000 times higher than before humans dominated the planet, i.e. the rythm admitted for periods preceding the Homo sapiens’ advent. “The number of animals living on the Earth has plunged by half since 1970. The number of tigers has plunged by 97% in the last century. More than half the ocean is now industrially fished.” Life on Earth has suffered five mass extinctions of biodiversity in its long history, caused by massive volcanic eruptions, deep ice ages, meteorite impacts and clashing continents, that is to say evolutionary processes. But the 6th mass extinction of biodiversity has now begun. This one is very different, caused not by geology or natural climate change, but by a single species – us. The planet’s balance is heavily threatened by our human activities.
To protect biodiversity, scientists consider that it is necessary to understand its fundamental ecological principles. After more than a century of researches, scientists still do not totally understand how work interactions between the different forms of life within a given ecosystem, and how biodiversity manages to maintain itself. What we know is that the more there is biodiversity in an ecosystem, the more it is capable to adapt itself to the changes, which could occur (such as diseases, climat changes, ...). We call it resilience.
Theory of ecological niches
Since Darwin’s theory of evolution by natural selection(1859) favoring the most adapted species to a given environment, the theory of ecological niches has gained the preference of the scientists. This theory explained the uneven distribution of species in a given ecosystem. Indeed, according to this hypothesis, if a species has a specific ecological niche, in which it dominates, it means that it occupies an habitat and performs a function on the trophic web, (i.e. “prey / predator”), determined within the given ecosystem.
According to this theory, two species of identical niches can not coexist. Only species that are different enough for the use of the resources in order to avoid competition, can share the same habitat. Yet, in the wild, in an healthy ecosystem, we can observe two, three, even more competive species that are coexisting.
Neutral theory : the perfect harmony
To explain how an ecosystem can maintain its richness, researchers then suggested a totally different approach : the “neutral theory”. According to this hypothesis, if all the species, put in the same conditions, perform to the same extent in terms of birth rate, dead rate, dispersion rate, speciation rate, regulation rate, that means that no species is dominating over another species. No competition, no interspecific exclusion. Only the “chance”, by the processes of colonization-extinction, would be at the origin of the observed differences.
Is biodiversity “working” as our synapses do ?
Biodiversity is more complex than its scientific attempts of modelisation are. All the « inter and intra-specific » relations are not yet understood. When scientists explore each ecosystem, they find countless such interactions, all honed by millions of years of evolution. Could these interactions be compared to our brain’s synapses ? We know that they exist, create, evolve, adapt themselves, die. We don’t really know yet how and why ?
From an aesthetic point of view, every one of the millions of species is unique, a natural work of art that cannot be recreated once lost. “Each higher organism is richer in information than a Caravaggio painting, a Bach fugue, or any other great work,” wrote Prof Edward O Wilson, often called the “father of biodiversity”. Moreover, “Without biodiversity, there is no future for humanity,” says Prof David Macdonald, at Oxford University.
Indeed, we lose sight of an obvious fact: the human being belongs profoundly and intimately to nature : in every human body, there is a small ocean, three times less salted than oceans of the planet. There is not a human being on one hand, and a nature on the other hand. We are an integral part of nature, whether we like it or not. Biodiversity provides all what we need. The air we breathe, the water we drink and the food we eat all ultimately rely on biodiversity, but right now it is in danger – because of us (i.e.Ecosystem services). We destroy forests and wild places, we polluate waters and grounds, we spread around plastics and GMO, we over-exploit the planet, we over-fish all the oceans, we poison ourselves. Starving, migrations, diseases, pandemics, wars...are the consequences of the loss of biodiversity. Is this the future we want ?
What can be done?
Giving nature the space and protection it needs is the only answer. Wildlife reserves are THE ONLY solution,. The world currently protects only 15% of land and 7% of the oceans. But some argue that half the land surface must be set aside for nature. Moreover, we can all help. Most wildlife is destroyed by land being cleared for cattle, soy, palm oil, timber and leather. Most of us consume these products every day, with palm oil being found in many foods and toiletries. We have to deeply modify our way of consumption and production. Choosing only sustainable options helps, as does eating less meat, particularly beef, which has an outsized environmental hoofprint. To have more ideas, see our article : How can I help to protect biodiversity ?.
Another approach is to highlight the value of biodiversity by estimating the financial value of the ecosystem services provided as “natural capital”. It is a touchy point as how can we estimate a value to something that is more than life ? But sometimes this can lead to real savings as per exemple, New York that has spent, over the last 20 years, $2bn protecting the natural watershed that supplies the city with clean water. It has worked so well that 90% of the water needs no further filtering: building a water treatment plant instead would have cost $10bn. But all over the world, unfortunately, the missing ingredient is political will.
Sources : IRD-Nouvelle Calédonie Fiche 333 ; Gilles Bœuf (MOOC Biodiversité & Changements globaux) ;
Definition and cycle
Phytoplankton are microscopic organisms that live in watery environments, both salty and fresh. Some phytoplankton are bacteria, some are protists, and most are single-celled plants. Among the common kinds are cyanobacteria, silica-encased diatoms, dinoflagellates, green algae, and chalk-coated coccolithophores. An yet, we share with it one-third of our genes ...
Like land plants, phytoplankton have chlorophyll to capture sunlight, and they use photosynthesis to turn it into chemical energy. They consume carbon dioxide (CO2) and nutrients, and release oxygen. All phytoplankton photosynthesize, but some get additional energy by consuming other organisms.
Phytoplankton growth depends on the availability of carbon dioxide, sunlight, and nutrients. Phytoplankton, like land plants, require nutrients such as nitrate, phosphate, silicate, and calcium at various levels depending on the species.They also require trace amounts of iron which limits phytoplankton growth in large areas of the ocean because iron concentrations are very low. These nutrients are found in organic substances, such as dead animals and excrements of living bodies, that released minerals. Nutrients are very quickly consumed in the photic zone. More deeply - deeper than the photic zone - nutrients accumulate because some organic substances sink (and also because of thermocline).
Then, it is necessary to drive these “deep nutrients” back to the surface to feed phytoplankton. - As the ocean has warmed since the 1950s, it has become increasingly stratified, which cuts off nutrient recycling. There is less vertical mixing to recycle nutrients from deep waters back to the surface. Many models of ocean chemistry and biology predict that as the ocean surface warms in response to increasing atmospheric greenhouse gases, phytoplankton productivity will decline.- One of the means nature has found are the «upwellings» : process in which deep, cold water rises toward the surface. Upwelling is not the only “way up” for nutrients : scientists consider that marine animals that make regular vertical migrations, as cetaceans, participate to the ocean surface’s fertilisation. As they swim down to the deepth and up to the surface, they “agitate” the water. Spermwhales, for instance, dive very deep to feed : the registered record - up to now - for a spermwhale is a dive to 3000m (10000ft) deep -. And they “poo” near the surface, producing necessary nutrients for phytoplankton. “Because everything comes down to poo!” That is why all the whales, other cetaceans and marine animals are so important for healthy oceans! To know more about the “whale ’ poo”: Our Blue Planet: Whale Poo
Microscopic BUT indispensable
Other factors influence phytoplankton growth rates, including water temperature and salinity, water depth, wind, and what kinds of predators are grazing on them. Indeed, phytoplankton is indispensable to marine life as Phytoplankton are the foundation of the aquatic food web. In a balanced ecosystem, these primary producers provide food for a wide range of sea creatures including whales, shrimp, snails, jellyfish and zooplankton.
« If pelagic fish disappear (i.e. overfished), zooplankton explose as it isn’t eaten anymore. It will then feed on all phytoplankton, and these phytoplankton, as we know, are playing a major role in fixing the carbon dioxide. If oceans die, they stop playing the role we know on the climate regulation», Gilles Bœuf.
Through photosynthesis, phytoplankton consume carbon dioxide on a scale equivalent to forests and other land plants. Worldwide, this “biological carbon pump” transfers about 10 gigatonnes of carbon from the atmosphere to the deep ocean each year. Even small changes in the growth of phytoplankton may affect atmospheric carbon dioxide concentrations, which would feed back to global surface temperatures.
Phytoplankton produce also more than 50% of the terrestrial oxygen diffused on the ocean surface...while phytoplankton represent only 1% of the biomass of photosynthetic organisms !
In other words, if phytoplankton disappear - what could happen if big marine animals disappear - the current rate of oxygen in the air - which is stabilized at roughly 21% of the air for the past 1,5 billion years - could drop down....But, first, we will have to cope with a dead ocean and all its consequences ...
According to the NASA report of 2009, there were more than 300 000 space debris in orbit around the planet, from the tiny metallic debris to the desactivated satellite. Space debris encompasses both natural (meteoroid) and artificial (man-made) particles such as non-functional spacecraft, mission-related and fragmentation debris. In 2017, these debris in orbit were estimated to more than 8000 tonns. The countries that participate to the space conquest are very carefully tracking the 29 000 biggest space debris - those, which are bigger than 10 cm- ; concerning smaller debris, there are more than dozens of millions. More and more satellites are launched into space. There should be more than 2000 active satellites currently, in orbit about the Earth or a little farther, on geostationary positions.
Once obsolete, these satellites become debris. The risk of chain collisions is increasing proportionnally to the debris density ; collisions generate more debris, making some zones of space totally out of use.
"What we need to understand, is that even a small debris – due to its speed in the space – can make an active satellite explose, and this explosion will generate a new cloud of debris. All debris are potential threats”, explains Luisa Innocenti, team leader of the Clean Space programme at the European Sapce Agency.
Collision risks are divided into, at least, two categories.
On one hand, the collision risk which is of adventitious origin : a screw of 1 cm in orbit near the Earth can reach a speed of 28 000 km/h and have the effect of a grenade on a debris it will enter into contact. That is why the owners of satellites are warned by space agencies approximately three days before a possible collision, so that they can move some meters their device. Almost every week, satellites see their position modified. As the International Space Station is concerned, as soon as the collision risk is higher than 0,001%, the ISS is moved away. According to experts, at the current rate, we could move from a collision every 5 years to a collision a year from here 50 - 100 years.
On the other hand, there could be a risk of deliberate collision resulting in a political crisis, even an armed conflict. It is currently difficult to analyze these collisions and to rule between accidents and deliberated attacks of a State towards an other one. As far as a collision with few-centimeters fragments can pull the destruction of the most sophisticated of the military satellites, we understand what could repercussions and tensions generated by the situation.
Some solutions have been thought out to try to clean space. Engineers from the European Space Agency are working on “harvesting techniques” for space debris, particularly in the frame ofthe cleaning mission e.Deorbit, such as the use of of a robotics arm, of harpoons, of fishing nets ... but these “ideas” do not benefit yet from any financing. Another focus of development is the construction of new generation satellites that would self-destruct during their atmospheric comeback. Solar panels are easily reduced to dust, it remains to find a solution to destroy the more resistant components, in titanium or steel, before they collide the Earth.
Anyway, it is not enough that we polluate the Earth, we polluate also Space. Experts agree on the fact that some parts of space are now out of use. That mean’s that space is a “limited resource”, as planet is, and the water we need, or the air we breathe...Is it so surprising ?! For space too, the « zero waste » is the best solution :
"To solve the space debris question, we need to act on two levels : first, we have to stop pollution, and then we have to collect space debris”, adds Luisa Innocenti.
Actions supported by TENDUA
HURO chose to try to release a lone male in the area in an attempt to create a couple rehabilitated/wild Gibbons. At the beginning of November 2018, SVAA’s team released into the wild for the 3rd time, a young lone adult male, named Boopy, who was kept at the Sonja Wildlife Rescue Centre since its rescue on 19 November 2012.
“Boopy-the-lonely” was transferred in first hand in the temporary enclosure in the “Forest x” on 28th September 2018 and then placed in the reintroduction enclosure. Immediately, the wild female - at least 30 years old lady - started calling and Boopy answering. The following days, the wild female and Boopy kept on exchanging regular calls (answers) that soon developed in what was more and more sounding like a duet call. During these first days, the wild female didn’t leave the release site, and stayed near Boopy’s enclosure without coming to the contact at the net, but with numerous eyes-sights. On October 28th, exactly one month after his transfer on the release site and as the wild female was away, Boopy was left free by our team during the day with very encouraging results. Brachiation and locomotion were perfect, his position high on trees too, as well as his abilities to recognize the leaves and fruits (ficus) in the trees. Soon, he was only coming back in the evening in his enclosure where he was fed by our team and kept for the night. Boopy and the Lady were vocalising together. Everything went well until the 6th day when Boopy managed to escape, confronting the wild female directly. Despite no aggressive sign from her, Boopy got scared and took the direction of the border of the CFR, later crossing the rice-field on the ground (bipedal work...) and took shelter in the village. Though, one much greater danger was waiting for him at the end of the rice-field: The powerline. Well trained to this kind of situation, the power was cut by our team with the help of villagers within five minutes, and two minutes later Boopy was hanging on the line, fortunately neutralised... Following this major incident, Boopy was put asleep safely, thoroughly examined on the spot, found absolutely fine (...) and immediately taken back to the rescue centre. End of the wild journey for him, for the moment.
SVAA’s team thinks that Boopy’s release will only take place along with a mate. To do so, they have the possibility to pair him at the centre. Luna, right now in company of a young teenager, Sasha, would be the ideal candidate to try to pair him at Sonja Wildlife Rescue Centre. This pairing could be conducted early next year (2019).
Another male gibbon named Kalsin could be a good candidat for the next release in this forest. Being older and stronger, Kalsin reaction to the wild female is likely to be more positive, but it is still hypothetical. According Florian Magne, the president of SVAA :“What we learnt, is that the wild female is not reluctant to the idea of being introduced to males, and that she is not aggressive. We have also confirmed that Boopy could fear his own shadow : all gibbons have their own characters, their strengths and their weakness, their smartness and idiocies... They are all so different, and amazingly diverse, always surprising in good or bad... Every piece of work with them is a new chapter”.
Since 2017, progress was made with the development, approval and implementation of an action plan to systematically address incidents of human-lion conflict in the northwest of Namibia. The Ministry of Environment and Tourism took the lead on these developments. A Rapid Response Team was established with the acquisition of an equipped vehicle and the appointment of Cliff Tjikundi. Since April 2018, the first Logger Early-warning systems was erected at Driefontein in the Torra Conservancy. Driefontein, in accordance to the NW Human-lion Conflict Management Plan, was identified as one of the conflict “hot-spots” where problems with lions have occurred repeatedly over the past 20 years. In addition to the Logger Early-warning system at Driefontein, a “Satellite Logger Unit” was erected along the Uniab River. This unit will monitor lion movements, download GPS data stored on lion collars, and relay the information via satellite to the Central Server.
- On 23 Jul 2018, the male lion Xpl-110 was immobilised in the marsh 3km west of the White Lady Lodge
- © TOSCO
Finally, the follow-up and translocation of animals in case of human/lion conflicts is the last development focus. At the end od May, 2018, a young male lion causing problems in the Purros Region was translocated to 35 km West, and fitted with a satellite collar. He was tracked North, but his collar stopped sending datas for unknow reasons : what happened to the lion ? maybe the collar got loose or just stopped transmitting ?
Another case : the adult male, Xpl-110 who was involved in the killing of 172 sheep in Jan 2018, entered the White Lady Lodge perimeter on several occasions, killed livestock and moved through the campsites. On 23 Jul 2018, the male lion Xpl-110 was immobilised in the marsh 3km west of the White Lady Lodge. The lion was loaded in the Desert Lion research vehicle and the long trip to the ocean began. But, the Ugab male, Xpl-110 who was translocated to the mouth of the Ugab River, has returned to the White Lady Lodge. The lion has unfortunately become a risk to public safety. The Ministry of Environment & Tourism has been informed of the situation.
TENDUA is a membre of the CAP LOUP collective, to act for the protection of wolves in France. Currently 41 associations have joined the collective.
The French government has decided to kill 40 wolves during the 2017-2018 season (official “arrêté” that was co- signed by Ministers Nicolas Hulot, in charge of ecology, and Stéphane Travers, in charge of agriculture). So far then, nothing has changed, as the former government had already organised such a slaughter in 2016-2017 (40 authorised kills, 50 wolves killed by humans). These kills, undertaken because of the pressure of agricultural and hunting lobbies on the government, put in danger the population of wolves and do not stop predation on domestic livestock that are not enough - or not at all - protected.
- André-Joseph Bouglione & the president of TENDUA at the walk to « STOP the wolves’ slaughter »
- © TENDUA
The number of wolves which can be killed, that is the “ceiling” fixed by the Government over 2017-2018 was 40, then 43 and finally 51 wolves. On the ground, the stock is as follows : in fact, we know that 74 wolves died (probably more with the poaching), amount them, 45 wolves were “legally” killed “(they are deducted of the”ceiling»), 4 wolves were poached (and deducted), 25 wolves were killed but with no evidence it was poaching (not deducted).
Last year, more than 1000 citizens contributed to our action «#Stop au tirs des loups » (I.e. stop killing wolves) : they took a picture of themselves with a placard «#Stop au tirs des loups , and send it to CAP LOUP that made a mosaïc with all that picture.
On 17/03/2018, TENDUA was present with some representatives of CAP LOUP (i.e. ASPAS, Association Green, EVI, La Trace du Loup...) to protest against the wolves’ slaughter in France.
Actions of TENDUA
Together with the diving center "le Dodo Palmé », we went 75 times out on the sea with people between July, 17 and October, 14, 2018, that is to say 10 more than in 2017. We did our sensibilisation work about environment (cetaceans, marine pollution, threats on oceans...) with about 650 people. Thank you so much to our eco-volunteers, especially Morgane who did a very good job this year! An exceptionnel year with a lot of humpback whales.
Unfortunately, at the end of October, 2018, a two-years-old female (20 tonns, 10 m long) has stranded several times on the shore, at the level of the civil works for the new Coastline Road (NRL) in a place called la Grande Chaloupe. Despite the attempts to save her and bring her back to the sea, the humpback whale died. An autopsy was done. For the moment, no results have been published. The observations made by the vets who have practiced the autopsy mention the presence of numerous parasites, particularly in one of the kidneys. But this is not enough to explain what happened to the whale.
We wish there will be more transparency on this case than on the one of the baby dolphin that was found in the Ermitage lagoon with a broken jaw last March and who has died from its injuries. We are still waiting for the publishing of the analyses’ results. We have some doubts about the fact they will ever be public, as the baby dolphin could have been a “bycatch” of the sharks’ killing current program.
On the pretext of the coastline’s securisation, the sharks’ killing programme is still on-going since 6 years. In 2018, the programme, formerly called CAP REQUIN, has changed its name and a new organisation is now in charge : it used to be the Regional Fishery Comity. Nevertheless the reality is the same : a non-selective fishing, which is insane both economically and ecologically. It is a pity that with the huge financial means that the new organisation called CRA (Centre de Ressources et d’Appui) is receiving, there is no recent update on the website. On Nov, 24th, 2018, zero info about sharks that have been killed since last June! And as usual, false info or inexact information about bycatch that represent 60 to 80% of captures....
According to the CRA, «the shark risk reduction needs a global approach implementing various solutions: it is the concept of the complementary barriers of securisation that comes through several operational measures (human and technological observation, targeted captures, protection of swimming areas and nautical activities zones)."
That is all bla-bla-bla.
The truth of the ground is :
For human and technological observation -> members of the so-called « sharks’ watchers team» (vigies requins) are not very busy all the day long : they chat noisily - you can hear them easily everyday ; they are paid for doing practically nothing ; when they are going out to the sea on their sea-scooter, they are driving them so fast that they are putting scuba-divers in danger! ;
- Protection of swimming areas and nautical activities zones -> fishing gears are put near the diving sites ; moreover, the sharks’ protection net of the Saint-Gilles’ beach has been vandalized repeatedly ;
- Observations and targeted captures -> observers, “picked out of some hat”, as the NGO for the environment protection were not “qualified” to participate to the tender ; the observers’ reports mentioning only one single bycatch for the 2nd quarter of 2018 (one barracuda !!), but no mention of the observers coordinates...
For the CRA, the conclusion is : « The concentration of all or part of these measures, in a space and at a moment given, allows to act positively on the level of the risk shark.» Totally, utterly and completely wrong!!, one more time ! Recent scientific studies establish that the non-selective fishing of the sharks is useless to lower the risk and dangerous for the environment ; this is what we repeat for so many years.
To know more about these studies, read the article on our blog “protection-requins.org”.
Finally, between January 2014 to November 2018, 282 bullsharks and tiger sharks were killed (not taking into account the babies sharks killed together with their pregnant mothers). That is far too many. These numbers are not considering the “Sunday fishing”. But for such a cost (“so called”the fishing effort"), and so weak results over a 5-years period, no one private fishery could have survived, economically speaking !
It shows also that sharks are not “pullulating” in the water of Reunion Island.
That should also stop revendications of some associations that ask for the authorisation of the trade of shark meat that has been prohibited to avoid sanitary risks such as contamination with the ciguatera toxine. With so few sharks, no reason to develop an economic sector based on the trade of shark meat, which would - one more time - highly benefit from government subsidies.
We were sad to learn that there were only 7 dugongs remaining on the very small dugong population, which was estimated in 2009 to 12 animals, and in 2002 to 17. The Egyptian Red sea coastline is knowing an important real estate and touristic development since the 10 past years, at the cost of environment (i.e. our article). We have been informed that a lonely dugong is living near Marsa Alam, in the Al Nabaa Bay, now renamed “the Kitesurfers’ Bay », a paradise for kitesurfers. They regularly see a dugong, and some marine turtles, coming up to the surface for taking their breath. A kitesurfer has even confessed that he “unfortunately beheaded a turtle by mistake”!!!
Then, one question : why is kitesurfing authorised in the Al Nabaa Bay, neighbouring the protected Abu Dabbab Bay, as being an habitat for the dugong ? Why this bay hasn’t been protected yet ? We have sent these questions to HEPCA* and are waiting for an answer (*Hurghada Environmental Protection & Conservation Association).
We wonder if the owners of the « Three Corner Resorts » are sensible to the presence of a rare animal as the dugong, or if they prefer money from kitesurfing ? Up to now, the answer seems obvious.
On November, 18th, 2018 in Atlanta, at the 71st Annual Meeting of the APS Division of Fluid Dynamics, an international team lead by the Georgian Institute of Technology, USA, has published results of its works on the unique wombat’s cubic scat formation. Wombat is an Australian marsupial producing cubic faeces, which is unique in the animal kingdom. In the built world, cubic structures are created by extrusion or injection molding, but there are few examples of this feat in nature. In the final 8 percent of the wombat’s intestine, faeces changed from a liquid-like state into a solid state composed of separated cubes of length 2 cm. This shape change was due to the azimuthally varying elastic properties of the intestinal wall. The wombat’s intestine stretches preferentially at the walls to facilitate cube formation. The wombat uses its faeces to mark its territory.
From December, the 3rd to th 14th, the Annual Conference for the climate COP 24 will take place in Katowice in Poland.To walk again for the climate, meet in Paris as well as in several cities across the world on Saturday December 8, 2018.It is time to act!!: IL EST TEMPS d’AGIR !
At la Porte de Versailles in Paris ; One-Day ticket : 13€ ; 2-Days ticket : 23€ ; 3-days ticket: 29€.