Friday 4 December 2009

Fighting the loss of Biodiversity - the UK way

We all know that apart from climate change and the continued production and consumption of butterfinger chocolate bars, the loss of biodiversity is one of the most severe crises the world is facing at the moment.
Luckily, this is not the age of leaning back passively in a wing chair, eating butterfinger and watching things go to waste - this is the age of fighting back, right?



Of course the main mode of countering species loss is to save species from extinction, but at the current rate bird populations are dropping all around us, that sure ain't enough. More needs to be done to supplement our conservation efforts:
If we lose species after species yet want to maintain our current species diversity, heck , we just need to make new species.
And - as so often when it comes to bird conservation or new music genres - the UK has taken a lead in creating new species, with a simple means:


Here are the links, with a tip of the hat to Laurent:

LiveScience Article

Not Rocket Science Blog post

The LiveScience article features an interview with Martin Schaefer who participated in the research that is due to be published soon (see publications list on his site).

Now, on a personal note it might be nice for you to know - it sure feels nice for me to tell you, so there you have it - that Martin Schaefer is a very good old friend of mine and an amazing birder as well. He is one of those friends I haven't really seen in many, many years as we both traveled around the globe far too frequently to stay in constant contact and news exchange, but of all the people I have met in my life, he is amongst the ones I felt closest to.
Okay, sentimental off for now, normal blogging continues.

So apparently the providing of winter food has split the Blackcap in half.
Martin - being the thorough scientist he is - maintains doubts whether the two populations will evolve into different species:
He says human habits of feeding birds will likely change over the time that would be necessary, and we are still talking about quite some 1,000+ years, so the migration routes and segregating behaviour of the UK winter birds might come to an end sometime.

I say that he is generally right, but this is a problem that can be fixed easily. Nature conservation bodies simply have to promote the development of feeders that - once filled - will supply Blackcaps for the next few millennia to come, independent of changes in human attitudes.
I am hopeful that very soon, feeding wintering Blackcaps in the UK won't look like this anymore but more like this, and it will be a visible token of today's society's commitment to fight biodiversity loss and take a pro-active approach towards evolution.

And that sure is good to know.


Laurent said...

thanks for the credit!

Remember that evolution does not exist in the US, so no hopes for us american birders.

Jochen said...

that is true, you'll just have to keep your fingers crossed birds like the eskimo curlew will be re-created...
I wonder if this way of splitting the Blackcap will be as controversial as genetically manipulated crops are.

Anonymous said...

This is the kind of proactive, out-of-the-box thinking we need in times like this, for sure.

Jochen said...

Yes, I know, it is a grand scheme.

I am considering to split the Bearded Vulture but German authorities still make it difficult to put cattle skeletons on our rooftops.

Laurent said...

an interview of the author is available at