Subscribe to our free daily newsletters
. Earth Science News .

Subscribe to our free daily newsletters

Is It Too Late To Save The Great Migrations

Saiga numbers have dropped more than 95%, from greater than 1,000,000 to less than 50,000 in the past 20 years, with just two subpopulations, totaling approximately 5,000 individuals.
by Staff Writers
Washington DC (SPX) Jul 31, 2008
Long gone are the days when hundreds of thousands of bison grazed the Great Plains, millions of passenger pigeons darkened the skies while migrating to and from their breeding grounds, and some 12.5 trillion Rocky Mountain locusts crowded an area exceeding the size of California.

The subject of great migrations-lost and still to be saved-is explored in two new articles published online in the open-access journal PLoS Biology.

In the first article, "Going, Going, Gone: Is Animal Migration Disappearing?" David S. Wilcove and Martin Wikelski describe the threats facing "one of nature's most visible and widespread phenomena," a behavior found in animals as diverse as whales and warblers, dragonflies and salamanders.

Many of the most spectacular migrations have disappeared or experienced steep declines due to human behavior, the authors lament.

With so much left to learn about the biological mechanisms underlying the world's migrations, Wilcove, author of "No Way Home: The Decline of the World's Great Animal Migrations," argues that conserving this spectacular phenomenon is critical to efforts to understand it.

What is being lost with the disappearance of these great migrations? We are left only to wonder what early explorers experienced as they watched "infinite multitudes" of birds soar overhead, but the authors make the case that even more important, we stand to lose the ecological properties and services associated with animals that migrate in huge numbers.

"Protecting the abundance of migrants is the key to protecting the ecological importance of migration," they argue.

Consider that prior to European settlement, 160-226 million kilograms of salmon migrated each year up the rivers of Washington, Idaho, Oregon, and California.

Today, after decades of dam construction, overfishing, water withdrawals for irrigation, logging, and streamside grazing by livestock, the total biomass of spawning salmon in the Pacific Northwest is now estimated to be only 12-14 million kilograms. How does this shortfall affect the ecology of the surrounding landscape? No one knows.

In the second article, "Protecting Migration Corridors: Challenges and Optimism for Mongolian Saiga," Joel Berger, Julie Young, and Kim Murray Berger highlight the challenges of protecting a population of migratory saiga-a critically endangered antelope-in western Mongolia.

Saiga numbers have dropped more than 95%, from greater than 1,000,000 to less than 50,000 in the past 20 years, with just two subpopulations, totaling approximately 5,000 individuals.

To piece together the saiga's migratory route, the authors outfitted females with global positioning system collars. They identified three key bottlenecks along the migratory corridor, created by natural (e.g., a lake) and anthropogenic (e.g., a town) barriers.

Berger et al. predict that the antelopes face an increasingly difficult and dangerous journey ahead, as the region's human population increases in size and affluence-leading to increased vehicle traffic-a trend that will surely place additional pressure on these endangered animals.

Efforts are under way to expand the boundaries of the Sharga Nature Reserve, where one of the subpopulations live, to protect the migratory corridor. The scientific community has an important role to play by providing data to identify potential threats, Berger et al. argue.

"Ultimately, however, it is only through dialogue with vested interests that recommendations to reduce threats can be implemented. Protecting corridors will necessitate addressing difficult issues, but baseline data provide opportunities to engage in these discussions before situations become dire."

Whether we can preserve the awe-inspiring beauty and wonder of great migrations ultimately depends on us, Wilcove and Wikelski argue.

"If we are successful, it will be because governments and individuals have learned to act proactively and cooperatively to address environmental problems, and because we have created an international network of protected areas that is capable of sustaining much of the planet's natural diversity."

Email This Article
Comment On This Article

Share This Article With Planet Earth DiggDigg RedditReddit
YahooMyWebYahooMyWeb GoogleGoogle FacebookFacebook

Related Links
Going, going, gone: Is animal migration disappearing?
Public Library of Science
Darwin Today At

Memory Foam Mattress Review
Newsletters :: SpaceDaily :: SpaceWar :: TerraDaily :: Energy Daily
XML Feeds :: Space News :: Earth News :: War News :: Solar Energy News

Rosella Research Could Re-Write Ring Theory
Canberra, Australia (SPX) Jul 30, 2008
Published in the prestigious journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B, the research investigates the genetic and geographical relationships between different forms of crimson rosellas and the possible ways that these forms may have arisen.

  • Teacher sent to labour camp for China quake photos
  • Over 600,000 evacuated as tropical storm hits China: reports
  • China insurers expect 1.5 bln dlrs in snow, quake claims: officials
  • Japanese say careful preparations saved them from quake

  • Japan adopts action plan against global warming
  • Climate Change In The USA To Cost Billions
  • Greenhouse Gases May Be Released As Destruction Of Wetlands Worsens
  • Limes May Help Cut CO2 Levels Back To Pre-Industrial Levels

  • GOCE Begins Its Journey To Launch Site
  • GOCE Prepares For Shipment To Russia
  • NASA Works To Improve Short-Term Weather Forecasts
  • ESA To Consult The Science Community On Earth Explorer Selection

  • Niger campaigners call for more details on oil deal with China
  • Turkey Hit By Higher Energy Prices
  • Innovative Cellulosic Ethanol Pilot Facility
  • Untapped Ocean Currents Show Great Energy Potential

  • US triples AIDS, malaria, TB funds for poorest countries
  • Eighty percent of HIV-positive Kenyans unaware of status: survey
  • New Evidence Of Battle Between Humans And Ancient Virus
  • Dengue cases in Philippines rise by 43 percent: government

  • Is It Too Late To Save The Great Migrations
  • Bacteria Reveal Secret Of Adaptation At Evolution Canyon
  • Newly Discovered Monkey Is Threatened With Extinction
  • Piecing Together An Extinct Baboon-Sized Lemur

  • Japanese plan world's largest cleanup
  • Air Quality Forecasts For China
  • Air Pollution Is Causing Widespread And Serious Impacts To Ecosystems
  • Study: Early Los Alamos toxin leaks higher

  • Chicken And Chips Theory of Pacific Migration
  • China allows quake-hit families to have more children
  • Outdoor Enthusiasts Scaring Off Native Carnivores In Parks
  • Archaeologists Trace Early Irrigation Farming In Ancient Yemen

  • The content herein, unless otherwise known to be public domain, are Copyright 1995-2007 - SpaceDaily.AFP and UPI Wire Stories are copyright Agence France-Presse and United Press International. ESA Portal Reports are copyright European Space Agency. All NASA sourced material is public domain. Additional copyrights may apply in whole or part to other bona fide parties. Advertising does not imply endorsement,agreement or approval of any opinions, statements or information provided by SpaceDaily on any Web page published or hosted by SpaceDaily. Privacy Statement