Some care so little for our planet they would allow big business unfettered access to our most precious parks and natural wildlife reserves.
Eventually people see these haters for what they are.
A person with love in their heart would never ever litter.
Microplastic particles have been revealed in the placentas of unborn babies for the first time, which the researchers said was “a matter of great concern”.
The health impact of microplastics in the body is as yet unknown. But the scientists said they could carry chemicals that could cause long-term damage or upset the foetus’s developing immune system. The particles are likely to have been consumed or breathed in by the mothers.
The particles were found in the placentas from four healthy women who had normal pregnancies and births. Microplastics were detected on both the foetal and maternal sides of the placenta and in the membrane within which the foetus develops.
A dozen plastic particles were found. Only about 4% of each placenta was analysed, however, suggesting the total number of microplastics was much higher. All the particles analysed were plastics that had been dyed blue, red, orange or pink and may have originally come from packaging, paints or cosmetics and personal care products.
The microplastics were mostly 10 microns in size (0.01mm), meaning they are small enough to be carried in the bloodstream. The particles may have entered the babies’ bodies, but the researchers were unable to assess this.
“It is like having a cyborg baby: no longer composed only of human cells, but a mixture of biological and inorganic entities,” said Antonio Ragusa, director of obstetrics and gynaecology at the San Giovanni Calibita Fatebenefratelli hospital in Rome, and who led the study. “The mothers were shocked.”
In the study, published in the journal Environment International, the researchers concluded: “Due to the crucial role of placenta in supporting the foetus’s development and in acting as an interface with the external environment, the presence of potentially harmful plastic particles is a matter of great concern. Further studies need to be performed to assess if the presence of microplastics may trigger immune responses or may lead to the release of toxic contaminants, resulting in harm.”
The potential effects of microplastics on foetuses include reduced foetal growth, they said. The particles were not found in placentas from two other women in the study, which may be the result of different physiology, diet or lifestyle, the scientists said.
Microplastics pollution has reached every part of the planet, from the summit of Mount Everest to the deepest oceans. People are already known to consume the tiny particles via food and water, and to breathe them in.
Their effect in the body is unknown but scientists say there is an urgent need to assess the issue, particularly for infants. In October, scientists revealed that babies fed formula milk in plastic bottles are swallowing millions of particles a day. In 2019, researchers reported the discovery of air pollution particles on the foetal side of placentas, indicating that unborn babies are also exposed to the dirty air produced by motor traffic and fossil fuel burning.
The Italian researchers used a plastic-free protocol to deliver the babies in order to prevent any contamination of the placentas. Obstetricians and midwives used cotton gloves to assist the women in labour and only cotton towels were used in the delivery room.
Andrew Shennan, professor of obstetrics at King’s College London, told the Daily Mail it was reassuring that the babies in the study had normal births but “it is obviously preferable not to have foreign bodies while the baby is developing”.
Elizabeth Salter Green, at the chemicals charity Chem Trust, said: “Babies are being born pre-polluted. The study was very small but nevertheless flags a very worrying concern.”
A separate recent study showed that nanoparticles of plastic inhaled by pregnant laboratory rats were detected in the liver, lungs, heart, kidney, and brain of their foetuses.
Insect populations are suffering “death by a thousand cuts”, with many falling at “frightening” rates that are “tearing apart the tapestry of life”, according to scientists behind a new volume of studies.
The insects face multiple, overlapping threats including the destruction of wild habitats for farming, urbanisation, pesticides and light pollution. Population collapses have been recorded in places where human activities dominate, such as in Germany, but there is little data from outside Europe and North America and in particular from wild, tropical regions where most insects live.
The scientists are especially concerned that the climate crisis may be causing serious damage in the tropics. But even though much more data is needed, the researchers say enough is already known for urgent action to be taken.
Insects are by far the most varied and abundant animals on Earth, with millions of species and outweighing humans by 17 times. They are essential to the ecosystems that humanity depends upon, pollinating plants, providing food for other creatures and recycling nature’s waste.
The studies show the situation is complex, with some insect populations increasing, such as those whose range is expanding as global heating curbs cold winter temperatures and others recovering from a low level as pollution in water bodies is reduced.
The good news is that the raised profile of insect declines in the past two years has prompted government action in some places, the scientists said, while a “phenomenal’’ number of citizen scientists are helping with the huge challenge of studying these tiny creatures.
The 12 new studies are published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. “Nature is under siege [and] most biologists agree that the world has entered its sixth mass extinction event,” concludes the lead analysis in the package. “Insects are suffering from ‘death by a thousand cuts’ [and] severe insect declines can potentially have global ecological and economic consequences.”
Prof David Wagner of the University of Connecticut in the US, the lead author of the analysis, said the abundance of many insect populations was falling by 1-2% a year, a rate that should not be seen as small: “You’re losing 10-20% of your animals over a single decade and that is just absolutely frightening. You’re tearing apart the tapestry of life.”
Wagner said most of the causes of insect declines were well known. “But there’s one really big unknown and that’s climate change – that’s the one that really scares me the most.” He said increased climate variability could be “driving [insect] extinctions at a rate that we haven’t seen before”.
“Insects are really susceptible to drought because they’re all surface area and no volume,” Wagner said. “Things like dragonflies and damselflies can desiccate to death in an hour with really low humidity.”
One of the studies identifies an increasingly erratic climate as the overarching reason for region-wide losses of moths and other insects in the forests of north-western Costa Rica since 1978. This could be a “harbinger of the broader fate of Earth’s tropical forests”, said Wagner.
However, another study contradicts a 2018 report of a 98% collapse in insects in a Puerto Rican forest. The new paper says “abundances are not generally declining” and that changes in populations are driven by the impacts of hurricanes and not climate change. Brad Lister, who led the 2018 study, said he was unconvinced by the work but would conduct his own analysis of the data used and submit the conclusion to the PNAS editors.
Wagner said increased public attention had spurred some action, such as an EU initiative to protect pollinators, a pledge of €118m (£106m) for insect conservation in Germany and $25m in Sweden.
Another of the papers sets out actions that can protect insects. Individuals can rewild their gardens, cut pesticide use and limit outdoor lighting, it said, while countries must reduce the impacts of farming. All groups can help change attitudes towards insects by conveying that they are crucial components of the living world.
The biggest systematic assessment of global insect abundances to date, published in April 2020, showed a drop of almost 25% in the last 30 years, with accelerating declines in Europe. It indicated terrestrial insects were declining at close to 1% a year. The previous largest assessment, based on 73 studies, led the researchers to warn of “catastrophic consequences for the survival of mankind” if insect losses were not halted. It estimated the rate of decline at 2.5% a year
Other PNAS papers found both declines and rises. Butterfly numbers have fallen by 50% since 1976 in the UK and by 50% since 1990 in the Netherlands, according to one. It also showed the ranges of butterflies began shrinking long ago, dropping by 80% between 1890 and 1940. However, a study of moths showed zero or only modest long-term decreases over the past two decades in Ecuador and Arizona, US.
“The most important thing we learn [from these new studies] is the complexity behind insect declines. No single quick fix is going to solve this problem,” said Roel van Klink of the German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research. “There are certainly places where insect abundances are dropping strongly, but not everywhere. This is a reason for hope, because it can help us understand what we can do to help them. They can bounce back really fast when the conditions improve.”
Wagner said: “We know nature is under siege and we know we are responsible – we don’t really need to have a lot more data to start changing what we do. It’s unconscionable what could happen if we don’t start paying attention and change our way of consumption.”
Another paper in the series, co-authored by Wagner, concluded: “To mitigate the effects of the sixth mass extinction event that we have caused, the following will be necessary: a stable (and almost certainly lower) human population, sustainable levels of consumption, and social justice, that empowers the less wealthy people and nations of the world, where the vast majority of us live.”
By 2050, more than half the global population will live downstream from tens of thousands of large dams near or past their intended lifespan, according to a UN report released Friday.
Most of the world's nearly 59,000 big dams—constructed between 1930 and 1970—were designed to last 50 to 100 years, according to research from the UN University's Institute for Water, Environment and Health.
"This is an emerging global risk that we are not yet paying attention to," co-author and Institute director Vladimir Smakhtin told AFP.
"In terms of dams at risk, the number is growing year by year, decade by decade."
A well-designed, constructed and maintained dam can easily remain functional for a century.
But many of the world's major dams fail on one or more of these criteria.
Dozens have suffered major damage or outright collapse over the last two decades in the United States, India, Brazil, Afghanistan and other countries, and the number of such failures could increase, the report warned.
Compounding the risk in ways that have yet to be fully measured is global warming.
"Because of climate change, extreme rainfall and flooding events are becoming more frequent," lead author Duminda Perera, a researcher at the University of Ottawa and McMaster University, said in an interview.
This not only increases the risk of reservoirs overflowing but also accelerates the build up of sediment, which affects dam safety, reduces water storage capacity, and lowers energy production in hydroelectric dams.
In February 2017, the spillways of California's Oroville Dam—the tallest in the US—were damaged during heavy rainfall, prompting the emergency evacuation of more than 180,000 people downstream.
In 2019, record flooding sparked concern that Mosul Dam, Iraq's largest, could fail.
Ageing dams not only pose a greater risk to downstream populations, but also become less efficient at generating electricity, and far more expensive to maintain.
Because the number of large dams under construction or planned has dropped sharply since the 1960s and 1970s, these problems will multiply in coming years, the report showed.
"There won't be another dam-building revolution, so the average age of dams is getting older," said Perera.
"Due to new energy sources coming online—solar, wind—a lot of planned hydroelectric dams will probably not ever be built."
A global fleet of nearly 60,000 ageing dams also highlights the challenge of dismantling—or "decommissioning"—those that are no longer safe or functional.
Dozens of large dams world wide have suffered major damage or outright collapse over the last two decades.
More than 150 years old
Several dozen have been torn down in the United States, but all of them small, Smakhtin said.
More than 90 percent of large dams—at least 15 metres from foundation to crest, or holding back no less than three million cubic metres of water—are located in only two dozen countries.
China alone is home to 40 percent of them, with another 15 percent in India, Japan and Korea combined. More than half will be older than 50 within a few years.
Another 16 percent of the world's dams are in the United States, more than 85 percent of them already operating at or past their life expectancy.
It would cost some $64 billion to refurbish them, according to one estimate.
In India, 64 big dams will be at least 150 years old by 2050. In North America and Asia, there are some 2,300 operational dams at least 100 years old.
Worldwide, there is about 7,500 cubic kilometres of water—enough to submerge most of Canada by a metre—stored behind large dams.
Three quarters of ocean shark and ray species face an elevated risk of extinction, according to new research.
The study reveals an alarming 71% decline in shark and ray populations over the last 50 years, primarily due to overfishing.
Since 1970, "relative fishing pressure" (exploitation of fish stocks relative to the number of fish left) has increased 18-fold – and the researchers say catch limits are now urgently needed to "avert population collapse".
The research team, led by Simon Fraser University (Canada) and including the University of Exeter, warn that extinctions among these species would jeopardise the health of ocean ecosystems and food security in many poor and developing nations.
"The species that we studied are some of the ocean’s apex predators," said Dr Richard Sherley, of the Centre for Ecology and Conservation on Exeter's Penryn Campus in Cornwall.
"They roam far from land and so might seem immune to the direct impacts of humans on our planet.
"Not so. Our global analysis points to some staggering declines.
"It highlights the very real risks these species face if we do not act now – and act decisively – to limit the pressures fishing exerts on their populations.
"But there is hope.
"A few bright spots in the data demonstrate that even these long-lived animals can recover when science-based fishing restrictions are enacted and enforced."
The research is based on two "biodiversity indicators": The Living Planet Index (LPI) on global population changes since 1970 and the Red List Index (RLI), which tracks changes in relative extinction risk.
The study finds:
All the oceanic shark and ray species, except for the Smooth Hammerhead, decreased in abundance over the last half-century.
24 of the world's 31 oceanic shark and ray species are now classified as vulnerable, endangered or critically endangered on the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List. These categories mean a "high", "very high" or "extremely high" risk of extinction in the wild. Some oceanic sharks and rays were moved last year to new categories based on the analysis carried out by this research team, published today in this paper.
Species in tropical areas are declining more steeply than those elsewhere. In the Indian Ocean, shark and ray abundance has declined continually since 1970 – falling by 84.7% in total.
The longest lived, late-maturing species initially declined faster than those with shorter generation times, but two of these species – including the "Great" White Shark – have shown signs of regional rebuilding since the early 2000s.
Some formerly abundant, wide-ranging sharks – including the Oceanic Whitetip and Great Hammerhead – have declined so steeply that they are now classified as critically endangered.
The paper highlights some positive changes, including the recovery of White Sharks in several regions, and signs of population growth among Northwest Atlantic Hammerheads.
These improvements appear to have been caused by strictly enforced fishing rules – and the researchers say further science-based catch limits and landing bans are needed immediately.
They conclude: "These steps are imperative for long-term sustainability, including potentially increased catch once populations are rebuilt, and a brighter future for some of the most iconic and functionally important animals in our oceans."
The study is a project of the Global Shark Trends Project (GSTP), a collaboration of the IUCN Shark Specialist Group, Simon Fraser University, James Cook University and the Georgia Aquarium, established with support from the Shark Conservation Fund to assess the extinction risk for chondrichthyan fishes (sharks, rays and chimaeras).
The paper, published in the journal Nature, is entitled: "Half a century of global decline in oceanic sharks and rays".