Digest of Socio-Ecological Union International

January 15-17

SOES Digest
Taiga in winter. Photo by Victor Solodukhin

Welcome to the next issue of Positive News. Let you spread it among your friends and co-fighters in your countries and around the Earth.

Climate change

The world may be barreling towards climate disaster but rapidly eliminating planet-heating emissions means global temperatures could stabilize within just a couple of decades, scientists say. For many years it was assumed that further global heating would be locked in for generations even if emissions were rapidly cut. Climate models run by scientists on future temperatures were based on a certain carbon dioxide concentration in the atmosphere. If this remained at the current high level there would be runaway climate disaster, with temperatures continuing to rise even if emissions were reduced because of a lag time before greenhouse gases accumulate in the atmosphere. But more recent understanding of the implications of getting to net-zero emissions is giving hope that the warming could be more swiftly curtailed: http://www.envirolink.org/2021/01/10/global-heating-could-stabilize-if-countries-go-net-zero-emissions-scientists-say/.

Siberia

Hundreds of thousands of hectares of virgin forest have been saved in Yakutia, according to Alexander Zhurakovsky, co-chairman of the public environmental movement “Protect the Nature of Yakutia”. Two logging companies, LLC “Woodland24” and LLC “Angara”, decided to voluntarily abandon the land plots in the Aldan district that were leased following the auction. The companies filed claims to the Arbitration Court of the Republic of Sakha (Yakutia) for invalidation of past auctions for the right to conclude land lease agreements in the Aldan district and the application of the consequences of the invalidity of the transaction. They indicated quite a lot of reasons for termination of contracts. The companies also filed lawsuits against the Regional Ministry of Ecology, stating that “during the auction for the right to conclude a lease agreement, the defendant provided false information about the absence of encumbrance of the forest plot.” The termination of the lease agreements of Woodland24 LLC and Angara LLC was prompted by a wide public outcry.

Siberian Taiga in fall colors

In 2021, a reserve for the reproduction of wild reindeer will appear on the territory of Yakutia. This is reported by the Ministry of Ecology of the Republic. A specially protected natural area of regional significance will be created in the Bulunsky district of the republic. It will help to preserve the breeding stock of wild reindeer of the Leno-Olenek population. The total area of the reserve will be more than 64.1 thousand hectares. According to the Ministry of Ecology, it will be placed within the Chekanovsky ridge, where the main breeding stock is concentrated (about 90%). In addition, 64 species of birds live there, and 260-280 species of higher vascular plants grow there.

“Sakhalin Ecowatch ” finally won another court in the protection of nature and indigenous peoples! As a result, the huge burial ground of Rosneft’s oil waste near the village of Val in the north of Sakhalin is finally closed. The court’s decision finally came into force. It was hard work, it took five years, and there was a lot in it – representative round tables (organized jointly with the Public Chamber of the Sakhalin Region), rallies and public hearings in the village of Val, dozens of public raids and inspections, clashes with the security of the oil burial ground, another court won in 2017 and a war with bailiffs who sabotaged the execution of its decision, one court lost by us and another ongoing court case (the oil service company filed against us and www.sakhalin.info a lawsuit for the protection of business reputation) and many other things https://social.riafan.ru/1318648-putin-zayavil-o-neobkhodimosti-mosta-na-sakhalin.

Dear friends and co-fighters, 
Welcome to the next issue of Positive News. Let you spread it among your friends and co-fighters in your countries and around the Earth. 
I will be glad to receive and publish your positive news from the fields and offices. 
Sviatoslav Zabelin, SEU coordinator
Sakhalin Island, Photo by Sergei Lyakhovets

Reforestation

Indigenous agroforestry revives profitable palm trees and the Atlantic Forest. Highly popular in Brazil because of its delicious heart, the jussara palm was eaten nearly to the brink of extinction. The Indigenous Guarani people from the the São Paulo coast are traditional consumers of jussara palm hearts, and decided to reverse the loss by planting thousands of palm trees. With more than 100,000 jussara palms planted since 2008, the community now sells hearts and seedlings to tourists and beach house owners. The next step is to start extracting the pulp from jussara berries – similar to açaí berries, the popular superfood – which the group hopes will generate enough income to keep the palm trees standing. The palms grow among native trees in an ancient and increasingly popular agricultural technique called agroforestry, which combines woody trees with shrubs, vines, and annuals, in a system that benefits wildlife, builds water tables and soil, provides food, and sequesters carbon: https://news.mongabay.com/2021/01/indigenous-agroforestry-revives-profitable-palm-trees-and-the-atlantic-forest/. acai berries

New food for humans

Yellow mealworm finger foods, smoothies, biscuits, pasta and burgers could soon be mass produced across Europe after the insect became the first to be found safe for human consumption by the EU food safety agency. The delicacies may not be advisable for everyone, however. Those with prawn and dustmite allergies are likely to suffer a reaction to the Tenebrio molitor larvae, whether eaten in powder form as part of a recipe or as a crunchy snack, perhaps dipped in chocolate. The conclusion of scientists at the EU food safety agency, following an application by the French insect-for-food production company, Agronutris, is expected to lead to EU-wide approval within months of yellow mealworm as a product fit for supermarket shelves and kitchen pantries across the continent: https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2021/jan/13/yellow-mealworm-safe-for-humans-to-eat-says-eu-food-safety-agency.

“Time for Nature”- World Environmental Day in 2020

Red Marmot (Marmota caudata) in the mountains of Central Asia

The UN World Environmental Day is celebrated widely in more than 100 countries since 1974. This is an important day to encourage awareness and actions to protect our environment. The theme for World Environment Day 2020 is, “Time for Nature”, with a focus on its role in providing the essential infrastructure that supports life on Earth and human development.

We all as a part of environment and a biological species with ability to change the environment at the global scale are responsible to protect biodiversity as a base of our life and prosperity. What means biodiversity in our everyday life? For people leaving in rural or urban conditions of many “developing” and “developed” countries it is just a source of surviving, providing food, fiber and other needs of families and communities. Biodiversity is a source of inspiration and creativity, our art and literature reflect the vision of the world – the vision of environment and biodiversity.

Because our growing population and increasing consumption, our civilization takes more and more space from nature occupied for our needs. We use all possible resources destructing natural habitats and replacing them by rural and urban landscapes, managed for needs of our growing communities. We reduce space for other species, fragmenting habitats and transforming natural ecosystems. We pollute environment with many new substances changing landscapes and seascapes. We use too much resources that leads to declining of species and their extirpation in many areas. We introduce new species and diseases impacting native flora and fauna. We are changing climate that leads to biotic changes, impacting our lives and lives of all other creatures…

Only changing own behavior as individuals, communities, civil societies, countries and regions we can achieve the conservation goals and turn into the way of “sustainable development”. What we can do as individuals or community? We need to reduce own consumption. We need to aware other people. We need to help environmental organizations. We need to be more responsible and responsive and think about own role as a citizen to save the diversity of our green planet for future generations.

About bats and COVID-19 by Heliana Dundarova

Heliana Dundarova, PhD, an expert in bat studies; a scientist at IBER-BAS (Bulgaria) and a guest researcher at Osh State University (Kyrgyzstan) during field work

Bats (order Chiroptera) are the second largest order of mammals (1411 species). They are the only mammals capable of flying actively, which allowed them to be globally distributed. In general, flight has led to high refinement of order Chiroptera, and orientation through echolocation, which allows them navigate in reduced visibility environments. In-flight body temperature rises, which speeds up their metabolism and puts their bodies in a constant state of high fever. The temperature varies from 38 to 41 °C. This type of energy production and consumption is huge and intolerable for other mammals. High energy potential leads to the release of huge amount of free radicals, which damage DNA molecules and kill the cells of mammals. However, this does not happen to bats and scientists have found out why. They have a mutation which accelerates the cell’s ability to find and repair damaged DNA molecules. In addition, their cellular mechanism practically does not allow the damaged cells to multiply, as is the case with all other mammals, and cancer is rare.

The colony of Rhinolophus lepidus in the mine

In all mammals, the immune system triggers a group of signaling proteins called interferons. When a virus enters a cell, interferons produce signals to warn the other cells to activate their antiviral mechanism and prevent the virus from further multiplying. In bats, interferons are constantly activated and there is no mechanism to switch them off and thus they constantly control the viruses. Therefore, extreme energy production, high body temperature, mechanisms for the rapid recovery of damaged DNA, and the specific immune system make bats a suitable reservoir of different types of RNA viruses. These viruses are adapted to the dynamic cellular life of their hosts as well as to bats. RNA viruses from bats cannot be transmitted directly to humans because their fine-tuning requires other organisms (intermediate hosts) in which the cells viruses adapt to the final host. Similar examples from the recent past are SARS-CoV coronaviruses and the MERS-CoV virus. In 2002, SARS-CoV caused Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) and has affected about 30 countries, of which, for 800 people, the outcome was lethal. It is established that similar coronaviruses are carried from bats but the infection to people did not happen directly. The source of the infection is civets, a species of rare predator that is sold freely to markets in China. The virus has long been spread by the intermediate host in Chinese markets.

In 2012, the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) appeared. The intermediate hosts are camels, who have been carrying the coronavirus for about 30 years. MERS caused an epidemic in the Arabian Peninsula, about 2000 people were infected, and the death rate was 50%. The scenario for the SARS-CoV-2 virus, which causes the COVID-19 syndrome, is similar. The virus genome is most similar to the CoV RaTG13 coronavirus known from the intermediate horseshoe bat (Rhinolophus affinis), which inhabits the Yunnan province, China and Southeast Asia. The virus binding receptor at the intermediate horseshoe bat and other horseshoe bats cannot directly bind to the human ACE2 receptor located on the outside of the lung cells. There was a tuning time (mutation) period in the intermediate host that took years to separate SARS-CoV-2.

The Horseshoe Bat – Rhinolophus ferrumequinum

Globally, mammalian organisms, including humans, are full of different corona-viruses. They are divided into specific groups, and interspecific transmission is extremely rare, since the virus must adapt to the specific cellular receptor of the final host. Therefore, direct transmission from bat to human with SARS-CoV-2 is excluded.

Bats are the natural “biopesticides” on Earth. Globally, one bat consumes a huge amount of the known pests on forests and farmlands such as the insect pests on coniferous plantations, cereals and fruit orchards. Bats regulate the numbers of the Greater Wax Moth; whose larvae are parasites on beehives.

The Lesser Mouse-eared Bat – Myotis blythii – species widely distributed in Eurasia

Many bat species control the mosquito populations, which are the main reservoir and vector of Zika, Yellow fever and Dengue. One bat colony can eat about 100 tons of insects per night.

The danger does not come from bats or other animals, but from the human beings. People penetrate into previously virgin places, destroy natural habitats at unimaginable speeds, and move quickly from one to another point of the world. All this allows pathogens to overcome the interspecies barriers that previously prevented them from emerge and spill-over uncontrollably.

References:

Simmons N. B. 2005. Order Chiroptera. In: Wilson, D. E., Reeder, D. M., editors. Mammal species of the world: a taxonomic and geographic reference. 3rd ed. Baltimore (MD): The Johns Hopkins University Press. p. 312-52

Kristian G. Andersen, Andrew Rambaut, W. Ian Lipkin, Edward C. Holmes, Robert F. Garry. The proximal origin of SARS-CoV-2. Nature Medicine, 2020; https://doi.org/10.1038/s41591-020-0820-9

Zhou, P., Yang, X., Wang, X. et al. A pneumonia outbreak associated with a new coronavirus of probable bat origin. Nature, 2020; https://doi.org/10.1038/s41586-020-2012-7

Ji, W., Wang, W., Zhao, X., Za, J., Li, X. Cross-species transmission of the newly identified coronavirus 2019-nCoV. Journal of Medical Virology, 2020; https://doi.org/10.1002/jmv.25682

Mountains of Central Asia as a touristic destination by Sergey Toropov

Summer day in the mountains of Kyrgyzstan
Mountains around Chon-Kemin River, Kyrgyzstan

The majestic mountain systems of Dzhungar, Tien Shan and Pamir-Alai, ridges covered with dazzling white glaciers, and emerald meadows of mountain valleys with sapphire eyes of lakes, seething streams and waterfalls of fast mountain rivers carrying their crystal waters into deserts, languishing from the heat. All this diversity of ecological landscapes and climatic zones is the “Mecca” for tourists, scientists and travelers to Central Asia!

Issyk-Kul Lake is one of the largest mountain lakes in the world

Summer in mountains of Kyrgyzstan

Abandoned field before rain

Such a variety of natural landscapes creates unique conditions for the numerous representatives of the animal world, including many insects, the vivid representatives of which are butterflies – natural flowers of nature. More than 300 species of diurnal butterflies live in various ecosystems of Central Asia. Attracting magnets of this region are species such as swallowtails Parnassius loxias, an inhabitant of the rocky canyons of the Central Tien Shan in the Sary-Jaz river basin, and Parnassius autocrator, which is the dream of any lepidopterologist, the inhabitant of screes among the rocky massifs of the Pamirs. The habitats of these two species of Apollo butterflies are very local and almost inaccessible. In 2006, the entomological world was shocked by a sensation. In the unexplored places of the Inner Tien Shan, in the system of the Moldo-Too ridge, a new species of Apollo was described by the Russian entomologist S. Churkin. It was named as Parnassius davydovi. This is the first such discovery in a hundred years.

Papilio apollo merzbacheri, Kichi-Kemin, Kyrgyzstan

In addition to the 18 species of Apollos, occurring in this region, 14 species of “sulphurs” butterflies (Colias) are of particular interest to travelers – entomologists. Not one region of the world has such a diversity of species of this genus. Entomologists can find in the region the carrot-scarlet Colias draconis, an inhabitant of the steppe slopes of the Western Tien Shan, and the scarlet fiery red Colias regia, the endemic of Tien Shan. Other species include unusually painted in the ash-brown tones Colias christophi helialaica is an inhabitant of the Alai mountain range, persistently closed by fogs and the legendary, very rare Colias erschoffi, an inhabitant of the harsh middle mountains of the Dzhungar Range.

The fiery red blue-butterfly from Lycaenidae family –  Thersamonia solskyi attila – inhabits the mountain systems of eastern Alai. Endemic blues Plebejus lycaenidae with brilliant eyes on the lower wings inhabit buckthorn bushes along the banks of mountain rivers. Numerous species from satyr family – Hyponephele, Pseudochazara, Chazara, Karanasa and other satyrs inhabit dry foothills and high mountain steppes of various ranges.

All this sparkling and shimmering in the sun variety of diurnal butterflies cannot leave indifferent ecological tourists, entomologists and respectable scientists who are happy to plunge into the world of butterflies, during visits of Central Asia.

And when the daytime colors fade, the more modestly colored representatives of the night butterflies begin to dance near the daylight lamps. These are the nimble owlet moths (Noctuidae) with interesting genus Cuculia and swift hawk-moths with a rare species of Rhethera komarovi, and of course the peacock-eyed Neoris that amazes everyone with their large eye-spots on wings. Brightly colored tiger-moths inhabit high mountain valleys. Almost all species of this group of butterflies are endemic to Central Asia, including such genera and species as Oroncus, Acerbia, Arctia ruckbeili and numerous representatives of Palearctia genus.

This natural variety of mountain landscapes is inhabited by 318 breeding bird species. Besides, another 108 bird species appear in the region during migrations and wintering. Many birdwatchers have been attracted to the region by opportunity to observe such species as Ibisbill (Ibidorhyncha struthersii), an inhabitant of pebble floodplains of high mountain rivers. Other species of particular interest are a large Bearded Vulture or Lammergeier (Gypaetus barbatus hemachalanus), with a wingspan of about three meters, which makes nests in niches of inaccessible cliffs, and tiny White-browed Tit-warbler (Leptopoecile sophiae) with sapphire plumage, a small inhabitant of juniper dwarf. During trip to mountain valleys tourists will have chance to spot the cautious Pallas’s Sandgrouse (Syrrhaptes paradoxus), nesting in rocky deserts along the shores of the beautiful Issyk-Kul Lake, a rare high-altitude bird Lesser Sand Plover (Charadrius mongolus pamirensis), alpine White-winged Snowfinch (Montifringilla nivalis alpicola), flashing when flying with snow-white wings, and the legendary Blue Whistling Thrush (Myophonus caeruleus turcestanicus), with an amazing flute song, competing with the roar of the waterfall.

Posing rufous-naped tit
Rufous-naped Tit
Bright male of white-browed tit-warbler
White-browed Tit-warbler

Of the 86 species of mammals that live in Kyrgyzstan, the most famous is the fabulous Snow Leopard (Uncia uncia), a resident of rocky gorges. Snow leopards prey on unsurpassed mountain climbers – Ibexes (Capra sibirica), with horns reaches one-and-a-half-meter size. The Marco Polo Argali (Ovis ammon polii) also occur in high mountain valleys, whose horns are also not small. In older males, the length of the horn can reach 165 centimeters. A very beautiful and rare Pallas’s cat (Otocolobus manul) also lives on the alpine wet meadows (“syrts”).

Preparing to hunt...
Least Weasel (Mustela nivalis) in Kegety, Kyrgyzstan

UN Decade on Ecosystem Restoration (2021-2030)

Pandemics of Corona-virus showed the vulnerability of our human civilization to natural disasters and unpredictable events. Definitely, in the face of real danger, all of humanity has come together and is developing an ethics of communication both locally and internationally. We are all passengers on the same ship, called Earth, accelerating toward the future. We all understand that our future depends on mutual assistance and support.

The quarantine started in this uneasy time also gave opportunity to sort out urgent and not too much matters. Finally, we had chance to read and think about Decade on Ecosystem Restoration, proclaimed by the United Nations General Assembly for 2021-2030 in accordance with its Resolution A/RES/73/284. The resolution calls for support efforts to prevent, halt and reverse the degradation of ecosystems worldwide and raise awareness of the importance of ecosystem restoration.

Indeed, lack of awareness and understanding of biodiversity values for sustainable development have been recognized as a one of the main barriers on the way to restoration. The Strategy of UN Decade on Ecosystem Restoration is presented on the UN website, inviting all interesting stakeholders to take a part in discussion: https://www.decadeonrestoration.org/get-involved/strategy

Any organization or indifferent citizen may take part in the open consultation and review of the Strategy for the Decade and its Communication Strategy and provide feedback through the submission section below on the overall document or specific sections. The deadline for the submission of feedback is April 30, 2020.

Following to the instructions on the website you can provide your comments and suggestions to both documents or to be engaged in the consultation process.

The UN invite you to review The Decade’s Strategy “aims to foster a restoration culture in which restoration initiatives start and scale up across the planet, by establishing a global movement, improving the political will of the Member States and other actors, and by enhancing the capacity for designing, implementing and sustaining ecosystem restoration initiatives”.