Releasing mosquitoes to save Hawaiian birds

Conservationists have launched an ambitious project to slow the spread of avian malaria in Hawaii.  They have so far released 10 million male Culex quinquefasciatus mosquitoes infected with a strain of Wolbachia, a naturally occurring bacterium that disrupts mozzie reproduction.  The region’s birds, which have no natural immunity to avian malaria, can be killed with a single bite from an infected mosquito — and climate change is helping the invasive insects spread.  The Wolbachia intervention is controversial, pricey and must be relentlessly repeated to have any hope of working.  Meanwhile, wildlife centres are breeding the rarest birds in mosquito-netted enclosures in the hope that they can someday be released into the wild. “This is the last resort,” says bird conservationist Jennifer Pribble.

What’s behind Nepal’s record wildfires

Nepal has experienced its second-worst fire season on record in 2024, with smoke choking Kathmandu for many days.  But while the spread of wildfires is affected by climate change, “their origin, at least in Nepal, is mainly anthropogenic”, says climate scientist Binod Pokhrel.  The country’s transition from a monarchy to a federal system deprioritized the management of community forests, out-of-date laws hinder cutting trees for fire prevention and urban migration severed some people’s connection to the woods.  Pohkrel recommends re-engaging the community with localized fire prediction.

Save the high seas: plan for climate change

The high seas — waters outside of any nation’s control, covering two-thirds of oceans’ surface area — urgently need a conservation plan as the climate warms, argue ten scientists with experience of such issues in the North Atlantic.  Implementing the international High Seas Treaty agreed last year will be a first step, say the authors — a first meeting to prepare that process is due this month.  But specific measures that address climate change’s impact on marine life, for example as species’ habitats shift, are needed.  “Protecting biodiversity in the high seas in the face of climate change is an ongoing chess game,” they write.

New Zealand ‘burp tax’ scrapped

New Zealand’s government has dropped plans for a tax aimed at reducing the nearly half of the country’s greenhouse-gas emissions that comes from sheep and cows.  The government will remove agriculture from its greenhouse-gas emissions trading scheme.  The pioneering ‘burp tax’ had been brought in by the previous government as an attempt to reach net zero by 2050, but was met with nationwide protests by farmers.

Giant viruses found on Arctic ice sheet

Several families of giant viruses have been discovered on the Greenland ice sheet, appearing in samples from different snow and ice habitats, such as dark ice, and red or green snow.  These get their colour from blooming algae, such as Chlorophyta and Streptophyta, that emerge during the spring months.  This discolouration reduces reflectivity, increasing ice melt and exacerbating the effects of global warming.

The presence of these giant viruses — many of them bigger than bacteria, with huge genomes to match — might offer a way to control the algal blooms that darken the ice during the summer melt season.

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