Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Germany loses 22% of large butterfly species since 1989

Hasn't Germany portrayed itself as an environmentally conscious country for several decades?

There were years when plans separation of household waste for recycling were invariably accompanied by noting that Germany had an intricate system of separation in place. Even before Germans implemented trash separation, there were grand pioneers who blazed ahead.

Like one military installation where all trash was separated into three bins - only to be put into the same garbage truck by the waste management company on collection day.*

Germany's Green party not only governed in various coalitions at the state level but was also the junior partner in a federal government at the start of the century.

Yet, the country has lost 22% of its large butterfly species since 1989, according to testimony in a hearing in the federal parliament in January 2016. On top of the species loss, the numbers of butterflies of the remaining species fell by 56%, according to the same testimony.

The country's federal environmental protection agency gave more figures in its first ever annual report of May 2015.

Yes, first ever annual report in 2015. The effort to list the country's threatened and endangered species looked at 11 000 species of plants, animals, and fungi and found 30% were endangered, and 5% were already extinct.
Of 6 057 currently studied species of invertebrates (mainly insects), a stunning 45.6% were classified as threatened, extremely endangered, or extinct.

More figures?

In the twelve years prior to the 2015 report, 34% of bird species breeding in Germany experienced a decline in population. More than 23% of migratory bird species are listed as threatened or endangered.

The biggest problem regarding insect species and populations is not mentioned on the parliament web site: Nobody knows how many insect species live in Germany because no nation wide effort to catalog them has ever been undertaken.
Volunteers and charities are the only ones who do surveys, and these are limited to regional efforts.

The causes for the steep decline in the past 20 or so years read like a list of the usual suspects, such as destruction or fragmentation of habitats, "potentially" neonicotinoid pesticides, more intensive use of land, and so on. It is well known but not much reported that wind turbines kill birds and insects. And the "environmental compensation" wind turbine companies are required by law to make are - pardon us - a joke.
The blogster has seen them. For each turbine in a forest, the builders fence in a patch of forest the size of the turbine footprint and stick a sign on it that tells you it is a protected area. Which no animal larger than a rabbit can access anyway: the mesh fence is some six feet tall.

There have been some positive developments regarding what the blogster calls "prestige" species. For example, stork populations are up, as are the numbers of wild cats, even wolves.

Land use in Germany, as small as it is with 80 million people on a surface smaller than the size of Montana, is still expanding. Out in what they euphemistically call rural parts like where the blogster lives, cities continue to add commercial spaces on prime former farm lands. "Our" county achieved nominal electricity independence a few years ago when the windmills throughout forests and farm land began to "export" power to other counties.
Not far from here, the night time skyline looks like a red lights-only techno music festival installation all year round.

So, it is probably not going to get better soon, but the blogster will continue to rescue hedgehogs and put up a donated "insect hotel" in a couple of weeks.

Since a pair of mockingbirds moved in under the eves of the house, we might even put up a web cam. Maybe.

* We told the story before, based on OMG (Old Mustached German) and several people who witnessed the PR stunt.

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