Digest of Socio-Ecological Union International, No14

March, 2021

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. Please, send me the addresses of your friends and colleagues to be included in the list. I will be glad to receive and publish your positive news from the fields and offices.

Sviatoslav Zabelin, SEU coordinator

Iberian Lynx.

The idea of being able to put a price on nature is dividing opinion, but the financial value of ‘ecosystem services’ is increasingly guiding policy. More than half of global GDP – $42tn (£32tn) – depends on high-functioning biodiversity, according to the insurance firm Swiss Re. The “natural capital” that sustains human life looks set to become a trillion-dollar asset class: the cooling effect of forests, the flood prevention characteristics of wetlands, and the food production abilities of oceans understood as services with a defined financial value. Animals, too. The services of forest elephants are worth $1.75m for each animal, the International Monetary Fund’s Ralph Chamihas estimated; more than the $40,000 a poacher might get for shooting the mammal for ivory. Whales are worth slightly more at over $2m, he also estimates, due to their “startling” carbon capture potential, and therefore deserve better protection.

The World Wildlife Fund (WWF of Russia) and JSC “Onezhsky LDK” signed an agreement on the conservation of ecologically valuable forests in the Arkhangelsk region with a total area of about 600,000 hectares. Under the agreement with WWF Russia, JSC Onezhsky LDK will voluntarily preserve forests of high conservation value on the territory of its lease in the Onezhsky, Severodvinsky and Priozerny forest districts of the Arkhangelsk region. The total area of forest areas where forestry activities will be restricted is about 600,000 hectares, of which logging on more than 150,000 hectares will be completely prohibited. Among them are primeval forests, called intact forest territories by scientists, where many rare species of plants and animals live. The purpose of the signed agreement is to preserve such territories.

In Onega Pomerania. Old-growth forest. Photo by Igor Shpilenok.

Cyclone Winston devastated vital coral colonies off Fiji, but five years on, the reefs are alive again, teeming with fish and colour. In the immediate aftermath of the strongest cyclone to ever make landfall in the southern hemisphere, reefs across the Namena reserve and Vatu-i-Ra conservation park off Fiji were reduced to rubble. Tropical Cyclone Winston struck Fiji on 20 February 2016, causing devastation on land and underwater. Winds of up to 280km/h claimed 44 lives, leaving more than 40,000 homes damaged or destroyed, and storm surges smashed reefs in their path. Winston caused US$1.4bn in damage, the most destructive cyclone ever in the Pacific. But four years on, to the delight of scientists, the coral reefs of the Fijian archipelago are vibrantly resurgent and once again teeming with fish and colour.

Australian conservationists on Wednesday unveiled plans to build the world’s first refuge for the platypus, to promote breeding and rehabilitation as the duck-billed mammal faces extinction due to climate change. The Taronga Conservation Society Australia and the New South Wales State government said they would build the specialist facility, mostly ponds and burrows for the semiaquatic creatures, at a zoo 391 km (243 miles) from Sydney, by 2022, which could house up to 65 platypuses. “There is so much to learn about the platypus and we know so little,” Taronga CEO Cameron Kerr told reporters. “These facilities will be critical in building our knowledge so that we don’t let this iconic creature slip off the earth.”

By 2002, the Iberian lynx was extinct in its native Portugal and down to fewer than 100 animals in Spain, well on track to becoming the first cat species to go extinct since the saber-toothed tiger 12,000 years ago. But a battery of conservation measures targeting the wide range of threats to the species has seen it bounce back from the brink, with a wild population today of around 1,000. Reintroduction of captive-bred lynx has been complemented by rewilding of historical lynx ranges, along with boosting of prey species and the creation of wildlife corridors and highway tunnels to reduce deaths from road collisions. The species is one of a handful highlighted in a study showing how targeted conservation solutions can save species from going extinct, although threats still remain, including climate change.

Conservationists are elated as a rare species of Smooth-coated otter has been sighted at the Uppalapadu Bird Sanctuary, near Guntur, India. The sight of otters peering their head above the water, and swimming has caught the attention of forest department watchers, who say that the water tank is able to hold more species and helps in the conservation efforts. Known by its binomial name Lutrogale perspicillate, the mammal is listed as vulnerable on the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List since the year 1996. “We are delighted to see otters in Uppalapadu and its sighting is a testimony to the conservation efforts at the sanctuary for over 30 years. Otters feed on juvenile birds, reptiles like snakes, etc., and help in preserving the balance in ecosystem,” said District Forest Officer, Guntur, M. Siva Prasad. The Uppalapadu Bird Sanctuary, located at about 20 km from Guntur, has evolved over the years and is often touted as a shining example of human coexistence with the migratory birds, is home to about 12,000 birds — mostly, spot-billed pelicans and painted storks, which have made the water tank spread over four acres their home after arriving during the nesting season beginning in September-October. There are others too, spot billed duck, darter, black headed ibis and open billed storks, all of them local migratory birds.

The Port of Tallinn has entered into a renewable energy purchase agreement with local energy group Eesti Energia and now consumes only green electricity produced in Estonia.

Under the deal, Eesti Energia will supply Port of Tallinn with 10 GWh of renewable electricity during 2021 for the port’s own use. This leaves a total of almost 7,000 tons of CO2 unreleased in the air per year. According to Ellen Kaasik, Head of the Quality and Environmental Management Department at Port of Tallinn, the port has consistently contributed to its business and development in order to reduce the negative impact of its activities on the environment.

“Energy efficiency and greater use of renewable energy sources are an important step in reducing the port’s ecological footprint and achieving climate neutrality,” Kaasik noted.

“Port of Tallinn is a progressive and responsible company, which is an example for many major companies with its consistent activities. We are pleased to see that they have taken the next step towards a cleaner future,” Dajana Tiitsaar, Estonian Market Manager at Eesti Energia.

In the Ecuadoran Amazon, at least 447 flares have been burning gas for decades. Local communities say these flares are responsible for the high cancer rates in the area. In January, the Sucumbíos Provincial Court ruled in favor of the petition filed by Jurado, Leonela Moncayo and seven other girls, and ordered that the flares be shut down. But getting to this point wasn’t easy. (Read the report in Spanish here: “Apaguen los mecheros”: niñas acuden a la justicia para frenar la quema de gas en la Amazonía de Ecuador) The full story

Dumoine River in Quebec, Canada: place to visit

Dumoine River in May

The Dumoine River is one of the nine main tributaries flowing into the Ottawa River, and the last remaining undammed river in southern Quebec. The Dumoine River flows south from Dumoine Lake into the Ottawa River, about 200 km upstream from Canada’s National Capital, Ottawa. It has a basin area of 5,380 km2 and is 129 km long. For most of its length, it acts as the boundary between the municipalities of Temiscamingue and Pontiac. It also happens to be home to the largest area of unfragmented boreal forest in southern Quebec. Not only is Dumoine River located close to the Vérendrye Wildlife Reserve, but it serves as a very significant wildlife corridor linking La Vérendrye Wildlife Reserve to Algonquin Park, further linking to Adirondacks in New York state, and then to the Appalachian Mountains.

Long ago, Wiskedjak, a prominent character of the Algonquian legends, came across Kiwegoam or the “turn-back lake” (Dumoine Lake). As he walked to the opposite side, he found a round, high, mountain that looked like a beaver lodge. Wiskedjak wanted to hunt the giant beaver that lived in this lodge, and decided to drain Kiwegoam (Dumoine Lake). While the water was draining, Wiskedjak took a nap. When he woke up, he couldn’t find the beaver, and thought that the beaver had followed the draining water and left the lake, so he followed the beaver. He went past the Coulonge River, past the Pembroke Lakes, and arrived at Calumet Chutes, but he found nothing. He turned around and began to follow his own tracks, thinking they belonged to the beaver. Finally, after several attempts Wiskedjak gave up. Nonetheless, his efforts made a significant contribution! His draining of the Dumoine Lake created the Dumoine River, while his trail established the Calumet portage, or simply the Wiskedjak tracks (Ottawa River Heritage Designation Committee, 2005; Schaber, 2015). This is an ancient legend, but confident beavers still inhabit the riverbanks…

Since that time and until now, the Dumoine River area is a great piece of intact nature still free of invasive species, and full of wilderness. Many natural habitats have been kept along the river providing healthy environment for settlements of boreal inhabitants. Fresh bear and moose footprints can be found in many places as well as animals themselves. Mostly wild animals are very cautious and try to avoid direct meetings with people. But they leave the evidence of their presence on the roads and in the woods. Other animals even pose for observers, because they are not scared by “bipedal aliens”, disturbing their realm.

The boreal forest is amazingly rich with many bird species, representing good northern species diversity. The birds are the most abundant and diverse group of vertebrate animals around Dumoine River, including many boreal specialists that inhabit the woods and make regular seasonal migrations. Some species are very abundant, others are more secretive and hidden in the woods and in the foliage of deciduous trees. It is hard to spot them in the crowns, but they can be recognized by calls and songs.

Morning light is something special on the river and time spent in the wilderness is very valuable for inspiration, and motivation of curious and artistic minds, as well as for enjoyment of life in all its fullness. The life is empty without such moments. Dumoine River still maintains wonderful landscapes, untouched wild nature and pieces of real wilderness that probably do not produce measurable goods and services, but fill the human sense by belonging to all living creatures and responsibility for the future of this virgin life. It is important to keep such “sacred” places for other people and future generations, because there is more to life than the fast paced urbanized society many of us live in.

Only small portion of photos taken by author was used for illustration. The Dumoine area always surprises the curious minds by unexpected observations of wildlife dynamics and picturesque sceneries.

Exploring Wildlife in Ottawa Area

Ottawa is located on the border between Canadian Shield and Mixwood Plains ecological zones. This location defines its relatively rich biodiversity. Species occurring in the northern Canadian (Ontario) Shield Ecozone and Southern Mixwood Plain Ecozone can be found here, often in the same habitats.

Moose (Alces alces) and White-tailed Deer (Odocoileus virginianus) in Ottawa Valley 

 

Ontario Shield Ecozone is associated with Precambrian Shield, which occupies approximately 60% of Ontario stretching from the Hudson Bay Lowlands to the Thousand Islands area on the south. The shield is represented by the limestone bedrock which forms specific landscapes with rock outcrops and alvars grown by coniferous forests with Black Spruce (Picea mariana), Balsam Fir (Abies balsamea), Jack Pine (Pinus banksiana) and Tamarack (Larix laricina) on the north and mixed and deciduous forests with Sugar Maple (Acer saccharum) and North-American Beech (Fagus grandifolia) on south. All these forest types can be found in Ottawa Valley and in the Ottawa Greenbelt.  The area is abundant with lakes and rivers; many wetlands are shaped in the result of beaver activity. Although there are some extracting industries in this area, such as mining, logging and hydro-energy, it is relatively intact and still keeps the core diversity typical for the boreal forest and taiga biomes.  

Mixwood Plains Ecozone occupies only 10% from the total area of Ontario, but it has the densest human population and the area is heavily developed in the result of human activity. It is located on the limestone to south of the Precambrian Shield and bounded by three large Great lakes – Lake Huron, Lake Erie and Lake Ontario, and the St. Lawrence River. The area, especially in its northern and eastern parts, is mostly flat. Many flat plains are developed for agricultural production, creating conditions for the movement of some southern prairies and grassland species to the north. Two major rivers – Ottawa and St. Lawrence – form their watersheds in this area with diverse wetlands and rich species diversity. Vegetation is very diverse and presented both coniferous and deciduous trees.  Carolinian forests are grown on the south of this zone; tolerant hardwood forests are represented mostly on the north and in the areas around Ottawa. The most typical trees of this Ecozone growing around Ottawa are coniferous such as a White (Pinus strobus) and Red pines (Pinus resinosa), Eastern Hemlock (Tsuga canadensis), Eastern Red Cedar (Juniperus virgniana), Eastern White Cedar (Thuja occidentalis), and deciduous such as a Sugar (Acer saccharum), Red (A. rubrum), Striped (A. pensylvanicum) and Silver (A. saccharinum) maples, Red (Quercus rubra) and White (Q. alba) oaks, American (Ulmus americana) and Slippery (U. rubra) elms, Yellow (Betula alleghaniensis) and Paper birches, Eastern Black Walnut (Juglans nigra), Butternut (J. cinerea), Trembling Aspen (Populus tremuloides), Balsam Poplar (P. balsamifera), Basswood (Tilia americana), Bitternut Hickory (Carya cordiformis) and others. In spite of development and expanding of urbanization, only about 1.5% of this ecozone is protected. In this eco-zone, many areas, unique landscapes and habitats need urgent protection, because they become isolated in human-created “matrix” and fragmented by growing road network. Road corridors create conditions for dispersal of exotic alien species, which replace native species and form the new environment.   

Animal species diversity in Ottawa valley is relatively high, because species belonging to both – Canada Shield and Mixwood Plain ecozones – occur in this area. In spite of human activity, many species well adapted and live in close human neighborhood. Some of them sometimes create tiny problems for local gardeners. Some species are well preserved since the time when this area was not developed. Another species has been dispersed relatively recently. For example, a White-tailed Deer (Odocoileus virginianus) spread to the north, because evident climate change and created favorable conditions for this species in open mixed woods altering with farms, which provide rich harvest of herbs. Other species, such as an American Red Squirrel (Tamiasciurus hudsonicus), opposite, moves to the south and compete with an Eastern Grey Squirrel (Sciurus carolinensis) for habitats in the towns and greenbelts. Bird feeders placed along trails ensure feeding for both squirrel species; therefore, their populations in the cities and around cities are flourishing.  Groundhogs (Marmota monax), Eastern Chipmunk (Tamias striatus) and raccoons (Procyon lotor), Eastern Cottontail (Sylvilagus floridanus) and other mammals in some degree benefited from urban development and established successful urban populations, which survive in suburban areas and in the city parks. However, roads provide limiting barriers for many mammal species and their dispersal to the new areas is often impossible. Bird species in Ottawa Valley are diverse and abundant; but their composition usually change with seasons. Diverse reptile and amphibian species are also well represented. The diversity of invertebrates and especially insects is large in the southern regions; In the northern regions, several species of bloodsucking insects can be very numerous in the summer, creating certain inconveniences for visiting these places.

The Ottawa region is attractive for any naturalist, who interested to know more about wildlife in Canada. Any season here is fascinating. However, perhaps, late spring – the end of May and the beginning of June, as well as autumn – the end of September – the beginning of October – are most attractive to naturalists, since it is in these seasons that one can observe a greater number of species, flowering “festivals” and bright autumn colors.

 

Deserts of Kazakhstan

Ustyurt Desert Plateau

Kazakhstan is the largest landlocked country in the world. Its area is about 2.72 million square kilometers, and the total length of the borders is over 13 thousand kilometers. Besides, it is the second largest state on the planet, which is located immediately in two parts of the world (the border between Europe and Asia passes through Kazakhstan). The large area of ​​the country with various climatic conditions and relief generally determines the diversity of its landscapes and natural complexes. The relief of Kazakhstan is characterized by great contrast: the lowest point of the country is located on the Caspian coast (the bottom of Karagiye depression, which is 132 meters below sea level), and the highest point almost reaches 7 thousand meters (Khan Tengri peak in the south-east of the country).

“Solonchak” or salt-flat desert in the Kaplankyr Valley

The climate of Kazakhstan is generally moderate-continental and quite arid. In summer, heat waves are often observed here, and in winter it is cold (up to -40° C). In early spring, climatic contrasts in Kazakhstan are especially noticeable: when snowstorms are still raging in the north of the country, almonds and apricots are already blooming in the south.

Deserts and semi-deserts occupy almost half of Kazakhstan. They stretch almost a continuous strip from the coast of the Caspian Sea to the mountain ranges of the eastern part of the country. Within Kazakhstan, there are presented deserts of various types, including rock, sandy, gravel, “solonchak” or salt flat and clay deserts. Deserts provide specific natural habitats for many plant and animal species, including rare and threatened. The deserts of Kazakhstan belong to the type of Central Asian northern cold deserts, which are designated by the WWF as one of the 200 ecoregions in the world.

Desert with cliffs of Ustyurt Plateau and rare vegetation

It is generally accepted that desert biodiversity is very poor, since many living organisms have a hard time surviving in extreme conditions with a lack of moisture and extreme temperature fluctuations in day and night time. However, many species of animals and plants have adapted well to life in such conditions. Among them are many specialized species and forms. Very few amphibians (for example, green toad) have adapted to life in the desert, but reptiles – lizards, snakes and tortoises – are perfectly adapted specifically to harsh desert conditions.

It would seem that the desert is an environment unsuitable for human life and wildlife here is not in danger. But this is not true! The northern deserts, like many other regions of the world, have suffered from the intensive development and penetration of people with technology even into their hidden corners. Many deserts hide mineral deposits in their bowels and they are actively developed by people for economic purposes. Development carries out with it the burden and destruction of fragile natural ecosystems, the declining of species and their habitats. Desert wildlife species are no exception. Many wildlife species are included in the IUCN Red Lists and national red books.​

Among the most famous species of animals – the inhabitants of the deserts of Kazakhstan, listed in the IUCN Red List and the Red Book of the Republic of Kazakhstan, there are such as the goitered gazelles Gazella subgutturosa, the Ustyurt urial Ovis vignei arcal, the onager Equus hemionus, the sand cat Felis margarita, the caracal Caracal caracal, the houbara bustard Chlamydotis maquenii, Egyptian Vulture Neophron percnopterus, desert monitor Varanus griseus caspius, and many others.

In the deserts of Kazakhstan there are still many species that are not considered rare, but are clearly attractive for travel enthusiasts. You can see some of these animals below or on the link to our store:

Ottawa Greenbelt: “for people and nature”

These days the parking places to most trails in Greenbelt of Ottawa are closed due to pandemics of COVID-19. But we hope that with summer time the normal life will return and all interested people may enjoy the beauty of nature in the National Capital Region…

The unique Ottawa Greenbelt creates specific atmosphere in the Canadian capital and makes it one of the greenest, “environmentally friendly” and attractive city in North America. The Greenbelt idea was proposed by Jacques Gréber (1882-1962), architect specialized in landscape architecture and urban design, as a part of his master plan for Ottawa in 1950. The land for greenbelt was partly expropriated, partly bought and partly donated by owners of farms located in this area. At present, the Greenbelt covers about 204 square kilometers of lands within the present boundaries of Ottawa from Shirley’s Bay in the west to Green’s Creek in the east. Most part of the area (149 square kilometers) is owned and managed by the National Capital Commission (NCC); other land belongs to federal government[1].  The purpose of greenbelt establishment directed to prevent urban sprawl and provide open space for development of farms, natural areas and government campuses. Greenbelt surrounded Ottawa in the time of its establishment; however, after joining of several urban and rural municipalities and formation of city Ottawa in its current boundaries the greenbelt “moved” inside of the city, where it forms the green arc with numerous recreation areas.  It is considered currently as one of the largest urban parks in the world. And, who knows? Perhaps, it serves as a model for future landscape architecture of the environmentally friendly urban settlements under scenarios of adaptive management development of human societies, where highly industrialized civilization neighboring with green spaces and caring about wildlife…

Ottawa Greenbelt: Source: NCC, 2019

More information about Greenbelt and places of interest you can find here

At present, the greenbelt area comprised by forests, wetlands and traditional fields, provides immense opportunities for recreational activity within a city. This area is used for farming, forestry, research and conservation.  Successful location of greenbelt creates the “green” islands for the dispersal of wildlife, providing the connecting corridors for large number of wildlife species during migration and ensuring normal population dynamics. This belt supports also northern bird visitors during wintering, which can stay near feeders established by Ottawa Field Naturalist Club, other environmental groups and citizens.  The greenbelt provides the presence of breeding sites not only for “edge” species, but also for typical representatives of many forest and wetland ecosystems from different ecozones.

Even now, with human population of Ottawa about 900,000 people, it is difficult to find an empty trail in the greenbelt in any time of the year. With projected increase of population and its doubling after 30-40 years, the role of greenbelt for recreation will grow dramatically. Several new centers growing in Kanata, Barrhaven, Orleans, Stittsville are located beyond the greenbelt boundaries. Their infrastructure and especially new roads present the new barriers and increase isolation of wildlife habitats in the greenbelt. The further careful planning and development are very important that to keep the current level of wildlife diversity and abundance in the urban conditions. Ottawa can pioneer developing and designing the urban park concept in North America as well as in the world.  Current projects of the City of Ottawa, National Capital Commission and Nature Conservancy Canada on evaluation and analysis of the links between core natural areas provides the real base for the development of conservation plan, and, probably, for the development of urban park in Ottawa.  It is difficult to predict what we can expect after next 50 years and what kind of wildlife will survive in the urban conditions. However, it is clear that the presence of greenbelt will secure the adaptation of species to the changing environmental conditions in the process of development. The greenbelt represents the real natural and historical heritage, important not only for city, but for whole country and many Ottawa visitors. It is important to remain this land without development. Its current role as a green space will provide much more benefits to the city and citizens at present and in the future than any modern constructions, new streets and buildings. Ecological integrity is more significant that visible current economic benefits. So, we just need to think beyond the boundaries of our current believing, standards and imagination.

What you can do in the Ottawa Greenbelt?

The area of Greenbelt is designed for all kinds of recreation activities. Each designated place has the special facilities, such as comfortable outhouses, maintained trails with wooden bridges and passages in the marshy areas. Guiding maps on wooden boards at the entrance provide information about the trails, as well as about the permitted activities. If in this place you cannot walk with the dog, then a corresponding sign will be put (crossed dog sign, etc.). In places where the trails diverge, signs are usually put showing the number of the trail and where it goes. Each path has its own name. Read them carefully to avoid getting lost. Signs also show directions to parking lots and sometimes even distance to them. In each particular place of the Greenbelt there are special skiing, snowshoeing, hiking and cycling routes. Some areas are open to visitors with dogs. Some areas are open for visitors with dogs.

All sites are attractive for nature watch in different seasons and many naturalists and photographers visit sites during a year that to look for the “chronicles of nature”, inspire by beauty of changing environment or just rest observing natural things.

What is not allowed in Ottawa Greenbelt?

Any activity that can be harmful for wildlife and can damage the integrity of the Greenbelt is not allowed. It is not allowed to cut a forest, leave garbage and wastes, camp in the greenbelt, start fire, collect flowers, plants and firewood, pick up mushrooms, catch insects, hunt or capture wild animals, damage trail infrastructure, disturb animals, destroy their habitats, talk loudly or shout in the animal breeding places.

What is the best season for visit of Ottawa Greenbelt?

There is no “best” season in the Greenbelt. This area is open for recreation activity in any season and weather. However, some areas in Greenbelt are more attractive in winter. Other areas gather more visitors in spring or summer. The autumn is adorable everywhere.

[1] About the National Capital Greenbelt. The National Capital Commission. 2013.04.26