web analytics

The Birds.

Written By: - Date published: 10:41 am, March 24th, 2018 - 23 comments
Categories: capitalism, disaster, Environment, International, science, sustainability - Tags:

Birds are disappearing from the skies of France. Their numbers have dropped by 33% in the space of 15 years. That decline reflects observations made in other countries across Europe.

At first blush, the reasons given for the frightening decline in bird numbers seems quite reasonable. Both the spread of mono-culture and pesticide use are hammering insect numbers, and since many birds eat insects, then obviously those birds are losing their food sources. And well, of course, they’re dying.

But there’s a glitch in that explanation.

When studies found that insect numbers were falling off the cliff (75% loss), the same conclusions as above were put forward as reasons for the losses.  In light of the fact that insect numbers weren’t just dropping in areas of farmland or in areas where pesticides were being used, climate change got kind of thrown in as an afterthought

I did a post about this a while back.

When broad environmental factors are such that plant growth is accelerated, then the accelerated growth means plants contain more starch than they do protein. And studies have shown that to result in malnutrition, compromised immunity, starvation and death for organisms on the next step of the food chain. In the case of terrestrial life as opposed to submarine life, we’re talking insects.

Two broad environmental factors have been looked at in relation to accelerated plant growth and poorer nutritional value. In one study, extra light was provided to a marine environment to increase plankton growth. It worked. But the zoo-plankton that fed on the phyto-plankton tanked. And the reason it tanked was that although its food source had become abundant, it had also become crap – the zoo-plankton simply couldn’t consume enough of the nutritionally compromised phyto plankton to remain healthy.

And when parallel studies were carried out on land, but this time providing extra CO2 to the environment instead of light, the results were the same. Fantastic growth rates and junk food.

For those who are interested, all the links to studies and articles relating to what you’ve just read are in the original article I’ve linked to above.

But my question is this.

Given that these studies and their results are known, then why, when faced with evidence of rapidly declining populations of species at the lower levels of the food chain, do we tell ourselves somewhat comforting tales about pesticides and mono-cultures ? We know full well that atmospheric CO2 levels are through the roof, and we also know how that affects flora, and by extension, fauna.

I’ll leave you to decide why it might be we’d want to point the finger at secondary causes for life dying away while assiduously ignoring the likely principal cause.

23 comments on “The Birds. ”

  1. adam 1

    But, but, look trump….

    And other such arguments to ignore, or be distracted as to not engage with what is happening.

    Science has been saying that climate change is frightening for some time. But, money is to darn important, and how will the greedy ever satisfy their longings if we change our economic focus away from the focus on money and individual wealth?

  2. patricia bremner 2

    This is beyond sad. Wonder what Bridges thinks? (If he thinks.) We know Ardern recognises Climate Change, but can they change things?

    • Draco T Bastard 2.1

      We know Ardern recognises Climate Change, but can they change things?

      Are they even willing to try?
      Is it that such a fundamental and necessary change to the economic system will see any government booted out at the next election because of the massive loss many, especially the rich, will face?

    • AB 2.2

      “Wonder what Bridges thinks”
      How about:
      How do I enable my supporters to either protect their existing business models or pivot quickly to profit from this species dieback?

    • OncewasTim 2.3

      He does ekshully thunk (going forward)
      He’s UBERintellgunt and woud loik us ta thunk he hez a modest ego end is not ova-embushus (going forwatd) …. well that’s the spun anyway
      And there’s a deeply deeply loyal deputy dog that’s ih so wilung ta sing the praises to populist morning TV and torque -bek raid-yo.
      CHRIST WE HAVE A DYSFUNCTIONAL/NON-EXISYANT 4th Estate do we not
      The chances of leading a horse to water to drink compared with doing a ‘journalust……. enuff said

  3. cleangreen 3

    Yes Bill this is so true because we now live in a “all hands off” unregulated business world now so try this issue we as rural small block farmers are witnessing as we speak,

    When Labour signed that toxic TPPP agreement they signed your death warrant and mine as NZ will in time be hollowed out after the big corporate and rich take ‘cheap’ large tracks of low quality hill country land cheaply to carry out dirty “intensive farming using mostly barren land and to move large amounts of stock around all there holdings as ‘fattening – finishing units’ using cheap sourced overseas feed and local feed systems.

    If you think this is a fallacy just come to the hills of HB/Gisborne and see this for yourself as it is happening here right now, as hundreds of feed and stock trucks are now invading our dirt roads carrying stock around with trucks and trailers of feed such as hay, silage, and other products.

    Finishing blocks are now bought cheap and are utilised to make a profit using road freight of feed lots which is effectively subsidised by us all as road freight vehicles only pay 54% of their cost of wear of our roads say IPENZ and these large trucks rip our roads to bits while they get cheap freight.

    Don’t even think of the massive amounts of greenhouse emissions this dirty farm practice will bring as the mind boggles; -, even to think of the heavy road pollution these practices will into our drains that will send it to our water systems and aquifers..
    As I write this note we have counted forty two stock feed trucks pass our farm on our rural dirt road in the Gisborne Hills and that was in 6 hrs of today, so double it to about 80 trucks every day that they are moving around our valley as one of many.

    Council told us they have no money to seal our roads so we are stuffed.

    NZ in 10 yr will look like Nigeria with their land polluted by oil fields spilling into their rivers ours will be killed by “unregulated intensive farming practices”

  4. Keepcalmcarryon 4

    The New Zealand answer is to drop poison from helicopters.
    We are way ahead.

  5. Obtrectator 5

    Seems to tie in with my personal theory, which has no demonstrable scientific basis, only common-sense. Shoot it down by all means, but be prepared to use reason, not emotion or ad-hominem attacks.

    My theory is this: the planet can sustain only a finite amount of biomass (which includes ALL forms of life – plants, microbes, insects, aquatic organisms, all the way up to fish, birds and mammals).

    The more of that amount that’s tied up in units of humankind, the less there is for everything else. With an ever-increasing population, we are gradually hollowing out the food-chain from underneath us.

    “Mother Nature is the ultimate quartermaster, and she ain’t got any secret reserve stores.”

    “Better a tree-hugger than a planet-fucker.”

  6. Phil 6

    Bill I don’t know if it is intentional or not but your article reads to me that you are denying that industrial scale use of biocides could have any possible effect.

    Surely the ecosystem collapse we are seeing in Europe has multiple causes including: loss of habitat (hedgerows, small woodlands, scrubland and ponds on farms (which dont generate subsidies)); enormously excessive use of biocides by agriculture; polution of the environment (particularly of the air and fresh waterways, and including the impact of changing C02 levels on plant growth) by industrial society; climate change (temperatures, droughts, floods); and even direct disturbance as people use semi natural areas for recreation, exercise, and sport.

    The point being that all, or at least many, of the above would have to be seriously addressed to halt the collapse.

    • Bill 6.1

      You’re misreading the post if you think I’m denying impacts from biocides or any of the other things you mention.

      What I was pulling attention to was the fact that heightened CO2 levels are known to have very deleterious effects on eco-system viability, and yet when confronted with very strong evidence of compromised viability, no mention is made of CO2.

      I’d suggest the impact from insecticides could be gauged from looking at the different decline rates between woodland bird species numbers and farmland bird species numbers. Both broad categories have species in decline but farmland species are declining faster.

      So we have the impact on CO2 on plants rippling through to insect numbers affecting bird numbers. And in farmlands, there is the additional impact of insecticides.

      And the ecosystem collapse isn’t limited to Europe. The previous post that’s linked, references global studies on declining insect numbers.

      If insecticides were banned today, the decline in various populations might slow, but would continue.

      But if CO2 was taken out of the equation today, then with the resultant recovery at the base of the food pyramid, we might (best case scenario) discover that healthier and more robust insects were less susceptible to the impacts of insecticides, and that could lead to a recovery in bird numbers.

      • Matthew Whitehead 6.1.1

        To be fair I read your piece relatively closely and went “well, it’s not DENYING the impact of biocides and other agricultural chemicals, but it doesn’t really nod to them either,” so I can understand the confusion. Alas, these are the balancing acts of writing posts, no?

    • esoteric pineapples 6.2

      I don’t think Bill is denying the effect of other causes, but he is making a good point that we may be missing the biggest cause of all.

  7. patricia bremner 7

    It is no good saving a few species here and there, as the life web is world wide and precious.
    Perhaps it is the West’s turn to have one child? Just saying.

    • Robert Guyton 7.1

      One? Just one child!
      That’s a really significant fall in the birthrate; 2018, The West – 1.

  8. timeforacupoftea 8

    Bill –
    Back in the 50’s 60’s and 70’s here in NZ South Island we had thousands and thousands of British birds in towns as well as country.
    Black Birds, Thrush, Sparrows, Greenfinch, Chaffinch, Gold finch, Yellow Hammer and Redpolls by the hundreds of thousands.

    Back then councils did not keep the road sides trimmed or sprayed like they are today my dad would go out with a sack and collect seed for his aviary birds and you would not risk doing that today if seeds were available because of sprays.

    But the main reason is farming practices.
    Back in those early days when farmers put a winter crop of turnips / sweeds in for mainly sheep but also for cattle the crop came with incredible amount of weeds.
    One weed was fathen, the redpolls loved this particular weed seed and the male birds were much redder than they are today. When you walked into these paddocks the redpolls would rise in fright and almost blacken the sky.
    Not today though.

    The reason the British seed eating bird have declined in numbers is because of farmers making silage. When you make silage no seed is produced.

    Also weed sprays are pretty cheap compared to earlier times and very little ploughing is done now. They spray off the old pasture or crop and direct drill with no tillage at all.

    I you wonder why I have a interest in this my dad was a British bird fancier and we spent many weekends trapping hundreds of birds looking for odd colourings etc.

    I remember seeing the birds film when I was young I hid down behind the seat and peaking through my fingers to see as little a bit of the screen as I could.

    • Bill 8.1

      Sprays and farming practices definitely have an impact…in areas where farming is practiced and sprays are deployed.

      But (and it’s a very big but) even if all the spraying was to stop, and even if all farming practices were altered (as they should be, regardless) then insect numbers would continue to fall and species that rely on insects for food would continue to decline.

      The effects of heightened CO2 levels on plant life is ubiquitous and without precedent. The base of the terrestrial food pyramid is being laid to waste. That’s not hyperbole.

      • timeforacupoftea 8.1.1

        (The effects of heightened CO2 levels on plant life is ubiquitous and without precedent. The base of the terrestrial food pyramid is being laid to waste. That’s not hyperbole).

        So what you are saying the bugs and insects can’t tolerate the higher level of sugars in these plants due to 400ppm CO2.

        After CO2 being taken up by the plant, the CO2 is transformed into sugars used for plant growth. Ultimately, that carbon makes it possible for plants to grow new tissues and stay strong.
        If the CO2 levels in a growing environment get below about 250 ppm, the plants stop growing.
        Growers need to replace the carbon that they remove from the farm during harvest
        After the plant uses the carbon from CO2 to build plant tissues, the next step is harvesting. Every time you harvest, you’re taking carbon out of the farm, because you’re removing (carbon-rich) plant tissues. To maintain a high level of carbon on your farm, growers must replenish that carbon through CO2.

        One advantage of CO2 levels is the increase in grass and tree growth.
        In Glasshouse food production in Canterbury in the 1980’s some vegetable growers experimented with tomato and lettuce crops with CO2 levels up to 1000ppm they all increased yields by 30% but the expense doing so and increased staff levels for picking and packing meant very little extra income for the trouble.

        http://www.crophouse.co.nz/crophouse/pdf/CO2%20&%20Plant%20Growth%20-Nederhof-PH&G-may04-proofs.pdf

        https://university.upstartfarmers.com/blog/why-and-how-to-supplement-co2-in-indoor-farms

        • Drowsy M. Kram 8.1.1.1

          When the (%) sugar content of plant ‘parts’ increases in response to elevated atmospheric CO2, then other (non-sugar) components must decrease (as a % of the total weight.)

          The “I did a post about this a while back.” link:

          A Sugar Coated World

          in Bill’s post spells it out, but to reiterate…

          All the ‘parts’ of plants (leaves, wood/bark, seeds/grains, flowers, nectar, pollen) are composed of carbohydrate (CHO), protein (CHONS), oils/fats (mostly CH, with a little O and N) and minerals, in various ratios.

          Elevated atmospheric CO2 has a negative effect on the essential protein and mineral content (as a percentage of total weight) of plant parts, which are therefore less nutritious for leaf-eating insects, seed-eating bird species, and humans. [The bulk of the nitrogen (N) atoms in animals come (either directly, or indirectly) from plant proteins.]

          Much of the research to date has focused on cultivated crops, but most plants studied show similar responses to elevated atmospheric CO2, i.e. more biomass, and less protein/mineral content.

          Not only a major cause of ocean acidification, which is itself catastrophic to marine ecology, rising CO2 levels may also have drastic effects on land. According to an emerging body of scientific evidence, growing CO2 levels is not only increasing the amount of carbohydrates and sugars in many of our staple crops, but also decreasing their protein and mineral content.

          http://goodtimes.sc/columns/wellness/carbon-dioxide-depletes-nutrients-food-supply/

    • Glenn 8.2

      I planted a bed of cosmos at my mothers and after a brilliant show they all went to seed. For a couple of days a dozen or so chaffinches fed on them then suddenly left when the food ran out.
      Far more colourful than the usual sparrows and blackbirds and yet not seen very much in the city.

  9. Pat 9

    “Among the standout findings are that exploitable fisheries in the world’s most populous region – the Asia-Pacific – are on course to decline to zero by 2048; that freshwater availability in the Americas has halved since the 1950s and that 42% of land species in Europe have declined in the past decade.”

    https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2018/mar/23/destruction-of-nature-as-dangerous-as-climate-change-scientists-warn

    “Others have put the crisis in starker terms. Biologist Paul Ehrlich, has warned that civilisational collapse is a “near certainty” in the next few decades due to the destruction of the natural world.”

    not called the 6th great extinction for no reason

  10. ianmac 10

    Does feeding sugar water to tuis and bellbirds damage their health?

    • Robert Guyton 10.1

      Yes. Moulds and bacteria grow in sugared water left too long. I grow flowers (red-hot pokers etc.) and fruits (apples especially) and the birds feed from those.

  11. esoteric pineapples 11

    Thanks for making such a good point

Recent Comments

Recent Posts

  • Twenty highlights of 2020
    As we welcome in the new year, our focus is on continuing to keep New Zealanders safe and moving forward with our economic recovery. There’s a lot to get on with, but before we say a final goodbye to 2020, here’s a quick look back at some of the milestones ...
    3 weeks ago

  • Jobs for Nature funding will create training and employment opportunities
    A major investment to tackle wilding pines in Mt Richmond will create jobs and help protect the area’s unique ecosystems, Biosecurity Minister Damien O’Connor says. The Mt Richmond Forest Park has unique ecosystems developed on mineral-rich geology, including taonga plant species found nowhere else in the country. “These special plant ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    19 hours ago
  • Pre-departure testing extended to all passengers to New Zealand
    To further protect New Zealand from COVID-19, the Government is extending pre-departure testing to all passengers to New Zealand except from Australia, Antarctica and most Pacific Islands, COVID-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins said today. “The change will come into force for all flights arriving in New Zealand after 11:59pm (NZT) on Monday ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    24 hours ago
  • Bay Cadets learn skills to protect environment
    Bay Conservation Cadets launched with first intake Supported with $3.5 million grant Part of $1.245b Jobs for Nature programme to accelerate recover from Covid Cadets will learn skills to protect and enhance environment Environment Minister David Parker today welcomed the first intake of cadets at the launch of the Bay ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    2 days ago
  • Cook Islanders to resume travel to New Zealand
    The Prime Minister of New Zealand Jacinda Ardern and the Prime Minister of the Cook Islands Mark Brown have announced passengers from the Cook Islands can resume quarantine-free travel into New Zealand from 21 January, enabling access to essential services such as health. “Following confirmation of the Cook Islands’ COVID ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    5 days ago
  • Supporting communities and landowners to grow employment opportunities
    Jobs for Nature funding is being made available to conservation groups and landowners to employ staff and contractors in a move aimed at boosting local biodiversity-focused projects, Conservation Minister Kiritapu Allan has announced. It is estimated some 400-plus jobs will be created with employment opportunities in ecology, restoration, trapping, ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    6 days ago
  • Border exception for some returning international tertiary students
    The Government has approved an exception class for 1000 international tertiary students, degree level and above, who began their study in New Zealand but were caught offshore when border restrictions began. The exception will allow students to return to New Zealand in stages from April 2021. “Our top priority continues ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    6 days ago
  • Tiwai deal gives time for managed transition
    Today’s deal between Meridian and Rio Tinto for the Tiwai smelter to remain open another four years provides time for a managed transition for Southland. “The deal provides welcome certainty to the Southland community by protecting jobs and incomes as the region plans for the future. The Government is committed ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    6 days ago
  • New member for APEC Business Advisory Council
    Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has appointed Anna Curzon to the APEC Business Advisory Council (ABAC). The leader of each APEC economy appoints three private sector representatives to ABAC. ABAC provides advice to leaders annually on business priorities. “ABAC helps ensure that APEC’s work programme is informed by business community perspectives ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    7 days ago
  • Govt’s careful economic management recognised
    The Government’s prudent fiscal management and strong policy programme in the face of the COVID-19 global pandemic have been acknowledged by the credit rating agency Fitch. Fitch has today affirmed New Zealand’s local currency rating at AA+ with a stable outlook and foreign currency rating at AA with a positive ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    7 days ago
  • Additional actions to keep COVID-19 out of NZ
    The Government is putting in place a suite of additional actions to protect New Zealand from COVID-19, including new emerging variants, COVID-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins said today. “Given the high rates of infection in many countries and evidence of the global spread of more transmissible variants, it’s clear that ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    1 week ago
  • 19 projects will clean up and protect waterways
    $36 million of Government funding alongside councils and others for 19 projects Investment will clean up and protect waterways and create local jobs Boots on the ground expected in Q2 of 2021 Funding part of the Jobs for Nature policy package A package of 19 projects will help clean up ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    2 weeks ago
  • New Zealand Government acknowledges 175th anniversary of Battle of Ruapekapeka
    The commemoration of the 175th anniversary of the Battle of Ruapekapeka represents an opportunity for all New Zealanders to reflect on the role these conflicts have had in creating our modern nation, says Associate Minister for Arts, Culture and Heritage Kiri Allan. “The Battle at Te Ruapekapeka Pā, which took ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    2 weeks ago
  • Better care for babies with tongue-tie
    Babies born with tongue-tie will be assessed and treated consistently under new guidelines released by the Ministry of Health, Associate Minister of Health Dr Ayesha Verrall announced today. Around 5% to 10% of babies are born with a tongue-tie, or ankyloglossia, in New Zealand each year. At least half can ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    2 weeks ago
  • Prisoner disorder event at Waikeria Prison over
    The prisoner disorder event at Waikeria Prison is over, with all remaining prisoners now safely and securely detained, Corrections Minister Kelvin Davis says. The majority of those involved in the event are members of the Mongols and Comancheros. Five of the men are deportees from Australia, with three subject to ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    2 weeks ago
  • Pre-departure COVID-19 test for travellers from the UK and the US from 15 January
    Travellers from the United Kingdom or the United States bound for New Zealand will be required to get a negative test result for COVID-19 before departing, and work is underway to extend the requirement to other long haul flights to New Zealand, COVID-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins confirmed today. “The new PCR test requirement, foreshadowed last ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    2 weeks ago
  • PM congratulates New Year Honour recipients
    Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has added her warm congratulations to the New Zealanders recognised for their contributions to their communities and the country in the New Year 2021 Honours List. “The past year has been one that few of us could have imagined. In spite of all the things that ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    3 weeks ago
  • David Parker congratulates New Year 2021 Honours recipients
    Attorney-General and Minister for the Environment David Parker has congratulated two retired judges who have had their contributions to the country and their communities recognised in the New Year 2021 Honours list. The Hon Tony Randerson QC has been appointed a Companion of the New Zealand Order of Merit for ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    3 weeks ago