September 6, 2019
An economic approach to saving the ocean’s fish
By Jackie Snow/Hakai
Photo by John Piekos/flickr
There are approximately 88,000 artisanal fishers working in the Gulf of California’s productive fisheries, who together catch a third of Mexico’s seafood. Many of these fishers, and the 2,400 communities they help feed, are aware of the stresses this puts on the environment. Like many coastal ecosystems, the gulf is overfished— only seven percent of fish species have populations at sustainable levels . Many of these same fishers would rather retire or fish more sustainably, but don’t feel like they have a choice.
In Mexico, a person’s employer pays a portion of their social security payments, which cover things such as healthcare and pensions. But for self-employed people, contributions are optional. Almost 80 percent of local fishers work in the informal economy and many are unable to pay into the country’s social security services. Even if they are part of a cooperative, which can make payments for its members, few are profitable enough to cover the costs. Unable to rely on old-age pensions or medical coverage, many fishers are forced to catch more fish and stick at the job longer, amplifying the pressure on the ecosystem.
The Mexico branch of the Nature Conservancy, a charitable organization, is working on an ingenious way to address these challenges. The group is exploring using a financial tool called a  debt-for-nature swap  that would pay off fishers’ social security debts if older fishers agree to retire, and younger fishers agree to fish more sustainably.

Where our water supply is under
the most stress
The Washington Post
Photo by Chris Happel/flickr
The United States has enough water to satisfy the demand, but newly released data from the World Resources Institute shows some areas are out of balance.
The WRI’s Aqueduct Water Risk Atlas researchers used hydrological models and more than 50 years of data to estimate the typical water supply of 189 countries compared to their demand. The result was a scale of “water stress” — how close a country comes to draining its annual water stores in a typical year.
Of course, many years are not typical, and unpredictable weather patterns of a changing climate can have drastic consequences. In areas of high or extremely high water stress, said Betsy Otto, director of WRI’s Global Water Program, "if you then hit a drought ... you’re really in trouble, because you’re already using most of what you have.”

How invasive grasses squeeze out key habitat
By Jennifer Bjorhus/Star Tribune
Photo by born1945/flickr
For decades, the cottonwood, silver maple and white swamp oak that long reigned along the Mississippi River have been struggling to regenerate, stifled by disease, rising waters that drown the seedlings and other forces. As the mature trees die out, so does critical forest habitat in one of the country’s largest, most critical migration highways for North American birds.
Hundreds of bird species are affected, conservationist Andy Beebe says. “They’ve been hit pretty hard.”
When the forest canopy gaps and shrinks, an aggressive, sun-loving invasive plant called reed canary grass takes hold, a species that thrives in areas disturbed by fluctuating water.

Fighting CWD on
its front lines
Photo by Colby Stopa/flickr
Doug Duren has some stories, and you may have even heard a few. He’s a MeatEater podcast regular, but he’s also a lifelong conservationist who has lived closer to the land than many of us can say. In his neck of the woods, chronic wasting disease prevalence has been growing steadily, and Duren is concerned about the role that hunters are playing in the spread of this always-fatal deer disease.

That’s why he spearheaded a project with Hunt to Eat to raise enough funding to place six deer carcass disposal dumpsters across the region for the duration of the 2018 hunting season. (The brain, eyes, spinal cord, lymph nodes, tonsils, and spleen of a deer are the parts most likely to hold the prions responsible for CWD, and bringing carcasses home, to a deer processor, or left in a traditional gut pile could pass the disease on.)

We’re proud to showcase Duren’s incredible work and conservation ethos. Here’s his story.

11-year-old warbler is rare bird indeed
Photo by Andrew Weitzel/flickr
Biologists at the Wehle Land Conservation Center in Midway, Alabama have recaptured a male Kentucky Warbler that they originally captured and banded in the summer of 2010.
When the bird was first captured nine years ago, biologists determined that it was at least two years old, so its survival through the summer of 2019 makes it at least 11 years old. The bird was banded as part of the Monitoring Avian Productivity and Survivorship (MAPS) program, a continent-wide collaborative bird monitoring program coordinated by The Institute for Bird Populations.
Eric Soehren, a biologist with the State of Alabama, who founded and operates the MAPS banding station at Wehle, was the scientist who originally banded the warbler in 2010. He was also lucky enough to be the one to recapture it this year.
Soehren knew right away that he had an interesting bird in his hand because he recognized part of the number on the leg band as being from a series of bands he used in 2010. "I looked at the number and I saw how tarnished the band was and I thought 'I think we have something special here'," says Soehren.
“Any patch of sunlight in a wood will show you something about the sun which you could never get from reading books on astronomy.”

 - C.S. Lewis
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