Écologie en France

27 07 2015

DCOUVRI2This is just a quick post to update ConservationBytes.com followers about a few things I’ll be up to over the next 5 months. While I can guarantee that the posts will be more or less as frequent, some of the subject material might shift slightly given my new geographic focus.

I’m most fortunate to have been invited to spend the rest of 2015 in Franck Courchamp‘s Systematic Ecology & Evolution lab at Université Paris-Sud (also check out Franck’s blog here), and I’ll be leaving for France tomorrow. Franck is a long-time mate and colleague, who has not only previously hosted me briefly in his home in France, he and his family also put me up in Los Angeles earlier this year (where both he and his partner Muriel are on sabbatical themselves at UCLA until the end of August 2015). Franck was also kind enough to visit Adelaide last year where he gave some rather kick-arse seminars.

So what will I be doing during my mini-‘sabbatical’ with Franck? Franck is known for many things, not least of which is his reputation for being ‘King Allee Effect‘, but the main focus of my work there will be on the economic impacts of invasive insects in Europe as the climate continues to warm over the coming century. The project is financed by a large French bank (BNP-Paribas) and is known as InvaCost:

InvaCost will look at the impact on invasive insects, when climate change allows them to invade regions that are now too cold for them, but that will warm up in the coming decades. These include the red imported fire ant, the predatory Asian wasp, the disease-carrying tiger mosquito, and many others that are among the worst invaders worldwide.

Of course, that’s just the main topic. Franck is a little like me in that he’s a jack of many ecological trades, so we also plan to work on a few things like the global impacts of feral cats, some more conservation-based things, and perhaps a review or two. Lots planned for five months! Read the rest of this entry »





Ice Age? No. Abrupt warmings and hunting together polished off Holarctic megafauna

24 07 2015
Oh shit oh shit oh shit ...

Oh shit oh shit oh shit …

Did ice ages cause the Pleistocene megafauna to go extinct? Contrary to popular opinion, no, they didn’t. But climate change did have something to do with them, only it was global warming events instead.

Just out today in Science, our long-time-coming (9 years in total if you count the time from the original idea to today) paper ‘Abrupt warmings drove Late Pleistocene Holarctic megafaunal turnover‘ demonstrates for the first time that abrupt warming periods over the last 60,000 years were at least partially responsible for the collapse of the megafauna in Eurasia and North America.

You might recall that I’ve been a bit sceptical of claims that climate changes had much to do with megafauna extinctions during the Late Pleistocene and early Holocene, mainly because of the overwhelming evidence that humans had a big part to play in their demise (surprise, surprise). What I’ve rejected though isn’t so much that climate had nothing to do with the extinctions; rather, I took issue with claims that climate change was the dominant driver. I’ve also had problems with blanket claims that it was ‘always this’ or ‘always that’, when the complexity of biogeography and community dynamics means that it was most assuredly more complicated than most people think.

I’m happy to say that our latest paper indeed demonstrates the complexity of megafauna extinctions, and that it took a heap of fairly complex datasets and analyses to demonstrate. Not only were the data varied – the combination of scientists involved was just as eclectic, with ancient DNA specialists, palaeo-climatologists and ecological modellers (including yours truly) assembled to make sense of the complicated story that the data ultimately revealed. Read the rest of this entry »





Can we save biodiversity? Not as long as ‘democracy’ is for sale

16 07 2015
© Bill Day

© Bill Day

Like you, I’m tired of the constant battle with ill-informed politicians who claim all sorts of nonsense reasons for the bad environmental decisions they make in the name of so-called ‘democracy’. The flesh of my right hand is sore from the constant fist-bashing of tables as I let loose yet another diatribe concerning why our politicians are corrupt whores for sale to the highest bidder. My teeth are becoming worn from the nights of grinding as I lay awake contemplating why we as a society are taking more steps backward than forward.

Yes, we have politicians today claiming that “coal is good for humanity” and that climate change is a “hoax” designed by communists to disrupt society. They spew all sorts of nonsense in public about how they are making their decisions to approve yet another coal mine, limit renewable energy investments or allow continued deforestation because “it’s good for the economy”. All these despite the overwhelming evidence to the contrary.

I used to invoke the comforting feeling of intellectual superiority that these (mostly male) politicians were merely stupid, and that as a democracy, we cater to the lowest intelligence denominator of civil society (i.e., we get the politicians we deserve). However, that excuse is about as stupid as the label we give politicians who make decisions that fly in the face of all evidence. Yes, there are stupid people that have been elected to represent us, but I submit that truly stupid politicians are probably quite rare.

No. Ironically, stupidity cannot explain these moronic and generationally bankrupt decisions. Only money can. Read the rest of this entry »





Cartoon guide to biodiversity loss XXXI

9 07 2015

Fourth batch of six biodiversity cartoons for 2015, because I’m travelling and haven’t had a lot of time for a more detailed post (see full stock of previous ‘Cartoon guide to biodiversity loss’ compendia here).

Read the rest of this entry »