I admit that I had not thought about this matter in a while and wasn’t planning to discuss it here on the seed. But when it came to my attention lately I recalled the problems we have had here in Florida with the sea turtles on the beach. It was a horrible thing that happened when people were leaving their lights on along the beach during the turtle hatches. The poor baby turtles were running backwards, up onto the sea oats, towards city lights instead of the light of the moon on the water, and getting lost in the sand rather than running towards the ocean. Since that time, years ago, it has been a common practice here to leave lights out along the beach during the hatches. I am not sure if it is a law, however I do know that everybody just does it.

Lately came this study from a group of ecologists, biologists and biophysicists that has since been published in the journal, “Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment”. In this study they came to the conclusion that manmade light sources alter the natural light cycle and can cause animals that rely on light cues to make dangerous mistakes when moving through their environment. Although I don’t think they really needed this study, seeing that we had come to this conclusion years back on the beaches as I just noted, but I am glad I saw it because it brought it back to my attention.

Also currently discovered is that, in addition to direct light sources, this same problem occurs with polarized light. In fact, polarized light can trigger animal behaviors that lead to injury and often death. What is commonly called “light pollution” is artificial light from whatever source that occurs at unnatural times or places. This can attract or repel animals, resulting in animals migrating in the wrong direction, choosing poorly placed nests, choosing the wrong mates, increasing predatory activity out of fear or disorientation. Also possible are collisions with structures as a result of light blindness and stopping the search for food in the belief that morning has come when it hasn’t. All of this confusion is deleterious to animal security and safety, making them vulnerable in places and under conditions where they normally would be safe.

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I am pleased to report that our Government is actually considering the environmental impact of it’s actions for the first time in our history. The building of the U.S.-Mexico border fence impacts a huge array of environmental factors and must be mitigated so that it can do the job it was meant to do and not undermine the area. This area of the country is environmentally sensitive, home to many species, including some endangered and exists on a delicate environmental balance, as does the entire planet. In particular, seventeen of the 21 fence sections in the Valley will affect wildlife management areas or national wildlife refuges, 14 of them directly.

Environmentalists have already made claims that summer flooding appears to have been caused by the border fence in southwestern Arizona and shows that the structure was being built too quickly and without regard for the environment. As a result of many considerations,those concerned about the environmental consequences have been part of the loudest opposition to building 670 miles of pedestrian fence and vehicle barriers along the U.S.-Mexico border. In response to these concerns, the Department of Homeland Security will allocate as much as $50 million to mitigate the environmental impact of the U.S.-Mexico border fence ordered by the Bush administration.

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Bluefin Tuna. You know what they are. They are delicious, they cherished, they are expensive. And in huge demand worldwide. The Japanese, in particular, prize them above all other fish for use in sushi and sashimi. But so great is the Japanese demand that it is driving fisherman to pursue catches that go well beyond what scientists consider to be safe limits. In this effort, they are also driving the Bluefin Tuna towards commercial extinction.

It is imperative that we make every effort to save this fish, however, a vital opportunity to pull the bluefin back from the brink was missed when the official body charged with preventing the stock from collapsing agreed to allow catch quotas for 2009 far higher than its own scientists recommended. Does this anger you? It should. Even with a chorus of protests and expressed dismay from conservationists, the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas ( ICCAT), meeting in Marrakech, Morocco, endorsed a total allowable catch (TAC) of 22,000 tonnes for next year – while ICCAT’s own scientists had recommended a TAC ranging from 8,500 to 15,000 tonnes per year, warning there were real risks of the fishery collapsing otherwise.

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In a report from Barcelona, Spain, the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) released the results of it’s study of Penguin colonies in the Antarctic. According to the study, 1/2 to 3/4 of major colonies could be damaged or wiped out if global temperatures are allowed to climb by more than 2C (3.6F). This hike in temperature would also threaten as much as 50% of breeding grounds of Emperor Penguins and as much as 75% of Adelie Penguin colonies. These results from their study were released at the World Conservation Congress, held this year in Spain.

Since the UN’s panel of climate change Scientists has already warned that the average temperature on Earth could increase even more than 2C by the end of the century, this threat to the Penguin population is serious and real. The UN claims this change will occur regardless of major efforts that may be made to curb greenhouse gases and would occur even faster if no changes were made. In other words, it’s way to late for the Penguins.

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The IUCN (The International Union for Conservation of Nature) is in the process of releasing the first of the 2008 assessments on how climate change is affecting species populations. The first results of that assessment have been published and these show that 35% of the worlds’ birds, 52% of amphibians and 71% of coral reefs in warm water areas are particularly susceptible to the vagaries of climate change.

The assessment is done every year and leads up to the yearly Review of the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species™, long considered the world’s most comprehensive information source on the global conservation status of plants and animals. This years publication, entitled a “Review of the 2008 IUCN Red List of Threatened Species”, was released this month in Barcelona, Spain.

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I saw an article on Reuters about how many of the world’s most common birds have suffered steep declines in their numbers over recent decades. This is considered to be a sign of a deteriorating global environment and a biodiversity crisis according to Birdlife International.

“Birds provide an accurate and easy-to-read environmental barometer, allowing us to see clearly the pressures our current way of life are putting on the world’s biodiversity,” said Mike Rands, chief executive of the alliance of conservation groups.

The intensified levels of industrial scale agriculture and equally large scale and effective fishing operations are only a part of the threats to birds. Logging and the replacement of natural forests with singular plantations dedicated to one crop are also destructive to birds. They have no where to nest, to fish or to feed. Still, according to Mr. Rands, the long term effects of climate change may be the most serious of all stress placed on birds.

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