first_imgSome common woodland songbirds go to great lengths to avoid crossing open spaces created by loggers and farmers. Instead, they stick to the trees that might hide them from a hungry hawk, even if it means flying roundabout routes. The finding, reported in this month’s issue of Conservation Biology, suggests that forest fragmentation contributes to songbird losses by forcing birds to waste precious energy. It also suggests that creating forested corridors between woodland patches might help some birds, although some biologists dispute that idea.Over the last few centuries, logging and land clearing have fragmented many of North America’s great forests into ragged patchworks of fields, clear-cuts, and disconnected woodlands. Many biologists believe this fragmentation has contributed to the dramatic declines in some forest-nesting birds. Some researchers, for example, have found evidence that birds nesting in smaller forest patches are more exposed to predators, such as house cats, than birds dwelling in larger forest reserves. But the elusive habits of many species have made it difficult for researchers to observe how birds actually behave when confronted with crossing a gap in the trees.Now, Andre Desroches of the Université Laval in Sainte-Foy in Canada, and Susan Hannon of the University of Alberta in Canada, have found a way to study how some birds react to forest gaps. In their study, conducted in southern Quebec, the researchers tried to coax five types of birds to cross 7- to 160-meter gaps by attracting them with taped birdcalls. Overall, the nuthatches, chickadees, warblers, kinglets, and vireos showed little reluctance to fly across gaps less than 30 meters wide to reach the tape recorder. As the gaps grew larger, however, the birds were increasingly likely to take longer, roundabout routes that didn’t require them to fly out into the open. For instance, they were eight times more likely to remain under cover than fly across a 100-meter gap. The researchers theorize that the energetic cost of a bird’s longer trip is worth the benefit of avoiding predators, such as bird-eating hawks, but could be stressful over the long run.Hannon says similar studies could eventually be of practical use to loggers and land managers by providing guidelines on how big forest gaps can be before they become an obstacle to birds. She also says the study suggests that preserving forested corridors could allow the birds to move unimpeded across the landscape.But several researchers, while lauding the study for its creative approach to studying bird behavior and highlighting one effect of fragmentation, do not believe its findings should be interpreted as proof that wildlife corridors will help birds. Carola Haas of Virginia Polytechnic University in Blacksburg and Dan Simberloff of the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, say that the benefits of corridors remain unproven. Says Simberloff: “Corridor advocates may say this otherwise interesting study shows the value of corridors, but it is an issue the authors didn’t really address.”last_img read more

first_imgA 100-person-strong scientific expedition, set to head off in the next few days for remote regions of northern Paraguay, Bolivia, and Argentina, is causing an uproar among some anthropologists and advocates of the indigenous people who live in that area. They fear that the exploring scientists could come into contact with the isolated indigenous groups, leading to violent exchanges or exposing the locals to dangerous infectious disease to which they have no immunity. The month long expedition, organized by the Natural History Museum in London, in collaboration with their partner organization the Natural History Museum in Asunción, Paraguay, is hoped to return with several hundred new species of plants and insects. In a description of the expedition, the U.K. Natural History Museum says that such “specimens will help scientists to understand for the first time the richness and diversity of the animals and plants in this remote region. The Governments and conservation groups are able to use such information to better understand how to manage fragile habitats and protect them for future generations”. The British and Paraguayan-led teams of scientists and research assistants, who will target two remote regions of an area of lowland, semiarid forest known as the Gran Chaco that stretches for 647,500 km2 on the eastern side of the Andes, will be traipsing through the homelands of groups of Ayoreo Indians who live in voluntary isolation and are rarely sighted. Some members of the Ayoreo tribes have fled the forest in recent years because of threats of bulldozed houses by a Brazilian company setting up a “nature reserve,” reports Survival International, a non-governmental organization that campaigns for the rights of tribal peoples. “Contact with isolated groups is invariably violent, sometimes fatal, and always disastrous,” said Jonathan Mazower, a spokesman for Survival International. “It is highly likely that there are small groups of isolated Indians scattered throughout the Chaco. The only sensible thing to do is err on the side of caution because any accidental contact can be disastrous. This has happened before [in the Chaco]. On two previous occasions, in 1979 and 1986, expeditions were sent in by U.S. missionaries to bring out Indians and people were killed on both occasions.” Sign up for our daily newsletterGet more great content like this delivered right to you!Country *AfghanistanAland IslandsAlbaniaAlgeriaAndorraAngolaAnguillaAntarcticaAntigua and BarbudaArgentinaArmeniaArubaAustraliaAustriaAzerbaijanBahamasBahrainBangladeshBarbadosBelarusBelgiumBelizeBeninBermudaBhutanBolivia, Plurinational State ofBonaire, Sint Eustatius and SabaBosnia and HerzegovinaBotswanaBouvet IslandBrazilBritish Indian Ocean TerritoryBrunei DarussalamBulgariaBurkina FasoBurundiCambodiaCameroonCanadaCape VerdeCayman IslandsCentral African RepublicChadChileChinaChristmas IslandCocos (Keeling) IslandsColombiaComorosCongoCongo, The Democratic Republic of theCook IslandsCosta RicaCote D’IvoireCroatiaCubaCuraçaoCyprusCzech RepublicDenmarkDjiboutiDominicaDominican RepublicEcuadorEgyptEl SalvadorEquatorial GuineaEritreaEstoniaEthiopiaFalkland Islands (Malvinas)Faroe IslandsFijiFinlandFranceFrench GuianaFrench PolynesiaFrench Southern TerritoriesGabonGambiaGeorgiaGermanyGhanaGibraltarGreeceGreenlandGrenadaGuadeloupeGuatemalaGuernseyGuineaGuinea-BissauGuyanaHaitiHeard Island and Mcdonald IslandsHoly See (Vatican City State)HondurasHong KongHungaryIcelandIndiaIndonesiaIran, Islamic Republic ofIraqIrelandIsle of ManIsraelItalyJamaicaJapanJerseyJordanKazakhstanKenyaKiribatiKorea, Democratic People’s Republic ofKorea, Republic ofKuwaitKyrgyzstanLao People’s Democratic RepublicLatviaLebanonLesothoLiberiaLibyan Arab JamahiriyaLiechtensteinLithuaniaLuxembourgMacaoMacedonia, The Former Yugoslav Republic ofMadagascarMalawiMalaysiaMaldivesMaliMaltaMartiniqueMauritaniaMauritiusMayotteMexicoMoldova, Republic ofMonacoMongoliaMontenegroMontserratMoroccoMozambiqueMyanmarNamibiaNauruNepalNetherlandsNew CaledoniaNew ZealandNicaraguaNigerNigeriaNiueNorfolk IslandNorwayOmanPakistanPalestinianPanamaPapua New GuineaParaguayPeruPhilippinesPitcairnPolandPortugalQatarReunionRomaniaRussian FederationRWANDASaint Barthélemy Saint Helena, Ascension and Tristan da CunhaSaint Kitts and NevisSaint LuciaSaint Martin (French part)Saint Pierre and MiquelonSaint Vincent and the GrenadinesSamoaSan MarinoSao Tome and PrincipeSaudi ArabiaSenegalSerbiaSeychellesSierra LeoneSingaporeSint Maarten (Dutch part)SlovakiaSloveniaSolomon IslandsSomaliaSouth AfricaSouth Georgia and the South Sandwich IslandsSouth SudanSpainSri LankaSudanSurinameSvalbard and Jan MayenSwazilandSwedenSwitzerlandSyrian Arab RepublicTaiwanTajikistanTanzania, United Republic ofThailandTimor-LesteTogoTokelauTongaTrinidad and TobagoTunisiaTurkeyTurkmenistanTurks and Caicos IslandsTuvaluUgandaUkraineUnited Arab EmiratesUnited KingdomUnited StatesUruguayUzbekistanVanuatuVenezuela, Bolivarian Republic ofVietnamVirgin Islands, BritishWallis and FutunaWestern SaharaYemenZambiaZimbabweI also wish to receive emails from AAAS/Science and Science advertisers, including information on products, services and special offers which may include but are not limited to news, careers information & upcoming events.Required fields are included by an asterisk(*) Benno Glauser, director of leading indigenous peoples’ protection group Iniciativa Amotocodie, a group who aims to protect the integrity and the physical, spiritual, and cultural survival and vitality of isolated groups, says in a letter to the museum: According to our data, the expedition you plan constitutes beyond any doubt an extremely high risk for the integrity, safety and legal rights of life and self-determination of the isolated Ayoreo, as well as for the integrity and stability of their territories . … There exists a considerable menace and risk also for the safety of the scientists taking part of the expedition, as well as the rest of expedition participants. In an online statement reported by the Guardian, the U.K. Natural History Museum said it worked with the Paraguayan government and Ayoreo Indians to plan the expedition: “We recognise the importance of the concerns which have been taken into account during the planning of the expedition. They form part of the ongoing consultations that are still taking place with the Paraguayan authorities.” The museum adds: “We are delighted to be working with representatives of the indigenous people. This gives us a wonderful opportunity to combine traditionally acquired knowledge with scientifically acquired knowledge to our mutual benefit. As with all expeditions, the team is continually reviewing the situation. Our primary concern is for the welfare of the members of the expedition team and the people of the Dry Chaco region.” *This item has been corrected, 11 November. Due to an editing error, the original title of this item referred to the Andes as the destination of the expedition.last_img read more

first_imgJust before Christmas, President Barack Obama celebrated a string of last-minute legislative accomplishments on tax cuts, gays in the military, the nuclear arms pact, the 9/11 responder bill, and food safety. But 2 weeks after saying that competition on innovation from overseas made this “our generation’s Sputnik moment,” the White House barely mentioned that key science legislation, the America COMPETES Act, which passed Congress last week amidst the flurry of lame-duck activity. COMPETES authorizes scientific education efforts, manufacturing research, and, crucially, spending for the National Science Foundation, the Department of Energy (including its ARPA-E high risk research program), and the National Institute of Standards and Technology. The nonprofit Science Coalition called the bill’s passage “vital” and Obama’s science advisor, John Holdren, called it “a major milestone” in one of two blog entries from White House aides on the bill. But with the spotlight on the president after the productive week, Obama made no mention of the bill in prepared statements, on the White House home page, or in a press conference. “He should have mentioned it,” Michael Lubell of the American Physical Society said of Obama’s silence on COMPETES. “I would have been happy if I had heard more from him on that,” said National Academy of Engineering President Charles Vest, who called the bill’s passage “a major deal.” Sign up for our daily newsletterGet more great content like this delivered right to you!Country *AfghanistanAland IslandsAlbaniaAlgeriaAndorraAngolaAnguillaAntarcticaAntigua and BarbudaArgentinaArmeniaArubaAustraliaAustriaAzerbaijanBahamasBahrainBangladeshBarbadosBelarusBelgiumBelizeBeninBermudaBhutanBolivia, Plurinational State ofBonaire, Sint Eustatius and SabaBosnia and HerzegovinaBotswanaBouvet IslandBrazilBritish Indian Ocean TerritoryBrunei DarussalamBulgariaBurkina FasoBurundiCambodiaCameroonCanadaCape VerdeCayman IslandsCentral African RepublicChadChileChinaChristmas IslandCocos (Keeling) IslandsColombiaComorosCongoCongo, The Democratic Republic of theCook IslandsCosta RicaCote D’IvoireCroatiaCubaCuraçaoCyprusCzech RepublicDenmarkDjiboutiDominicaDominican RepublicEcuadorEgyptEl SalvadorEquatorial GuineaEritreaEstoniaEthiopiaFalkland Islands (Malvinas)Faroe IslandsFijiFinlandFranceFrench GuianaFrench PolynesiaFrench Southern TerritoriesGabonGambiaGeorgiaGermanyGhanaGibraltarGreeceGreenlandGrenadaGuadeloupeGuatemalaGuernseyGuineaGuinea-BissauGuyanaHaitiHeard Island and Mcdonald IslandsHoly See (Vatican City State)HondurasHong KongHungaryIcelandIndiaIndonesiaIran, Islamic Republic ofIraqIrelandIsle of ManIsraelItalyJamaicaJapanJerseyJordanKazakhstanKenyaKiribatiKorea, Democratic People’s Republic ofKorea, Republic ofKuwaitKyrgyzstanLao People’s Democratic RepublicLatviaLebanonLesothoLiberiaLibyan Arab JamahiriyaLiechtensteinLithuaniaLuxembourgMacaoMacedonia, The Former Yugoslav Republic ofMadagascarMalawiMalaysiaMaldivesMaliMaltaMartiniqueMauritaniaMauritiusMayotteMexicoMoldova, Republic ofMonacoMongoliaMontenegroMontserratMoroccoMozambiqueMyanmarNamibiaNauruNepalNetherlandsNew CaledoniaNew ZealandNicaraguaNigerNigeriaNiueNorfolk IslandNorwayOmanPakistanPalestinianPanamaPapua New GuineaParaguayPeruPhilippinesPitcairnPolandPortugalQatarReunionRomaniaRussian FederationRWANDASaint Barthélemy Saint Helena, Ascension and Tristan da CunhaSaint Kitts and NevisSaint LuciaSaint Martin (French part)Saint Pierre and MiquelonSaint Vincent and the GrenadinesSamoaSan MarinoSao Tome and PrincipeSaudi ArabiaSenegalSerbiaSeychellesSierra LeoneSingaporeSint Maarten (Dutch part)SlovakiaSloveniaSolomon IslandsSomaliaSouth AfricaSouth Georgia and the South Sandwich IslandsSouth SudanSpainSri LankaSudanSurinameSvalbard and Jan MayenSwazilandSwedenSwitzerlandSyrian Arab RepublicTaiwanTajikistanTanzania, United Republic ofThailandTimor-LesteTogoTokelauTongaTrinidad and TobagoTunisiaTurkeyTurkmenistanTurks and Caicos IslandsTuvaluUgandaUkraineUnited Arab EmiratesUnited KingdomUnited StatesUruguayUzbekistanVanuatuVenezuela, Bolivarian Republic ofVietnamVirgin Islands, BritishWallis and FutunaWestern SaharaYemenZambiaZimbabweI also wish to receive emails from AAAS/Science and Science advertisers, including information on products, services and special offers which may include but are not limited to news, careers information & upcoming events.Required fields are included by an asterisk(*) Vest also said paltry press coverage of the bill’s passage was “very disappointing,” as COMPETES was left out of thousands of stories on the last-minute legislative successes. The New York Times, The Washington Post, and even prominent science bloggers including Chris Mooney and Phil Plait failed to mention the bill’s passing. What worries Lubell is that the low profile of science in the average American’s mind led the White House to emphasize the other accomplishments. “I hate to say this, but on the scale of things the public worries about, science is not one of the highest priorities for the average person. If you’re a politician, and especially if you’re president, you’re going to highlight other priorities.” Incoming House of Representatives science committee chair Ralph Hall (R-TX) complained last week about the cost of the programs that the bill authorizes, foreshadowing fights with fiscal conservatives on the federal science budget. Lubell worries that the low profile of science is “going to be a huge problem for us going forward. The real fight over science is going to be in appropriations, and that’s going to be very, very rough.” Holdren’s office declined to comment—though with many staff members on vacation this week it’s a tough time to get approval for statements. A bill-signing ceremony is expected for the legislation soon, so perhaps then COMPETES will get the attention advocates think it deserves.last_img read more