Wildlife on the decline – They might be shy but they could do with the attention
They’re omni-present but not as popular as their counter-parts. They’re also not as pretty to look at, which is partly why they may not be getting the attention they so rightly deserve when it comes to their contribution to the eco-system.
Bee’s and butterflies were in the spotlight not too long ago, so let’s take a look at some other creatures who need a bit of attention but are too shy to admit.
Bats have always been wrapped in mythology, given a perception that they’re a lot scarier than in reality. Some of the main causes of their declining population has been due to destructive farming practices, road development and light-pollution.
A new worry on the minds of bat and bird lovers has been the rapid increase in wind turbine production. They’ve seen a fast growth, but there has been little in the way of study to see how they impact the surrounding wildlife.
Scientists from Stirling University suggest a new set of national guidelines to help consider more protection of bats and birds when it comes to the development of domestic wind turbines because in some council areas, not even an ecological survey is required before starting construction.
Beetles are dwindling, and this could end up being just as problematic as the better-publicised problems of bees and butterflies. Recent studies into the ground beetle show great discrepancy in their population when it comes to the different habitats they have to thrive within.
Looking at their varying habitats over the last ten years, mountain-dwelling beetles suffered a massive 52% decline, while those in moorland and pasture sites declined by 31%. Interestingly, their habitats in more upland pasture sites had a more balanced change across different species, while expectedly, the populations in woodland based areas remained mostly stable.
The importance of the beetles survival isn’t immediately obvious, but they are vital to farmers because they are the some of the most popular predators to a lot of pests such as slugs, plant flies and weed seeds, which help to reduce the amount of unwanted plants growing. This benefit is obviously substantial but not so easy to quantify.
As with the eco-system and all the building blocks involved to maintain its life-cycle, the beetles themselves are a pertinent source of food to bigger creatures such as birds and small mammals. Two of the likely problems for a beetle is climate change, which affects the severity of changing weather conditions and how much moisture is in the soil. The other is general land management
undertaken in ways that are destructive to their familiar conditions.
It has only been recently possible to draw firm conclusions from the Environmental Change Network because it is difficult to pick out trends from periods that are less than 10-15 years long, many of the ECN studies into beetles started in the early 90’s.
Most of us have heard a grasshopper sing their song, be it in a wooded area or even just some tall grass.
They do this by rubbing the jagged edge of their hind legs against a vein of their front wings. Like most creatures who like to hold a note, they do this to attract potential mating partners.
Leading on from this, research published by the British Ecological Society’s journal, called Functional Ecology, recently did a lab study into 188 male bow-winged grasshoppers to see how their song differs if their habitat was of the more natural, quiet surroundings or beside a busy road.
All grasshoppers produce a song that consist of high and low frequencies, but as expected, evidence showed that grasshoppers that lived in nosier environments would produce the lower frequencies with more volume, essentially singing louder.
Generally ecologists are worried that this adaptation to their environment may have unintended consequences that will prevent them from breeding.
Wrapping it up
As with any creature great or small, many make up an important part of the eco-system and its food-chain, with their potential demise having a knock-on effect for many other species, habitats and future agricultural activity.
The RSPB highlighted that with potential cuts to the CAP (Common Agricultural Policy) budget, it is important that the UK supports a compulsory minimum spend on agri-environment schemes. It also highlighted that a ComRes survey it had commissioned suggests that 90% of the public believe that the condition of the natural environment should be improved for future generations.
Guest post written by Ross on behalf of http://www.totalecology.com/.