Silence of the birds

2 05 2011

Yet another contribution from my PhD student, Salvador Herrando-Pérez (see his previous ConservationBytes.com posts on micro-evolution and pollination).

In the 1960s, Rachel Carson preoccupied (to put it mildly) the political and economic powers of the United States with the publication of her book, Silent Spring, an overwhelming essay highlighting the environmental impacts caused by the pesticide industry. Half a century later, the metaphor of that book – a spring devoid of bird song – stands in force as farmland birds keep declining worldwide at the mercy of agricultural practices insensitive to the ecosystem services biodiversity procures. The problem has been best studied in Europe where non-government organisations, such as the British Trust for Ornithology or the Sociedad Española de Ornitología, have been monitoring bird populations for decades, and the European Union has sumptuously financed research and management actions.

Sparrows are the commonest among common birds. Worldwide we see them wherever humans live, travel and take leisure, from mountains and beaches to stadiums and underground trains. These feathery dwarfs snick even through security checks and sliding doors at airports and shopping malls, and it is no one’s surprise to be overflown by one of them carrying a chip from the leftovers of a nearby food court. However, the deterioration of their populations has sown alarm among European politicians, society, and the scientific community. Read the rest of this entry »





Conservation quotes: Attenborough to Irwin

6 08 2010

© smh.com.au

Over the years I’ve collected various conservation biology-related quotes that have caught my attention, for whatever reason. I thought that it would make an interesting blog post (although I agree that quotes are a very weak form of wit). Regardless of their import, I hope you enjoy them and perhaps at least find them interesting, if not wise.

It is that range of biodiversity that we must care for – the whole thing – rather than just one or two stars.

David Attenborough, BBC Interview

It’s a moral question about whether we have the right to exterminate species.

David Attenborough, BBC Interview

The only way to save a rhinoceros is to save the environment in which it lives, because there’s a mutual dependency between it and millions of other species of both animals and plants.

David Attenborough, BBC Interview

The ‘control of nature’ is a phrase conceived in arrogance, born of the Neanderthal age of biology and philosophy, when it was supposed that nature exists for the convenience of man.

Rachel Carson, Silent Spring

The more you know about a species, the more you understand about how better to help protect them.

Alan Clark

As we race toward the future, we must never forget the fundamental reality of our situation: we are flying blind.

Theo Colborn, Dianne Dumanoski & John Peterson Myers, Our Stolen Future

Just imagine the banner headlines if a marine biologist were to discover a species of dolphin that wove large, intricately meshed fishing nets, twenty dolphin-lengths in diameter! Yet we take a spider web for granted, as a nuisance in the house rather than as one of the wonders of the world. And think of the furore if Jane Goodall returned from Gombe stream with photographs of wild chimpanzees building their own houses, well roofed and insulated, of painstakingly selected stones neatly bonded and mortared! Yet caddis larvae, who do precisely that, command only passing interest.

Richard Dawkins, The Selfish Gene

Read the rest of this entry »