Lately, much of the mass media science news has been about discoveries in physics and astronomy.  The news is interesting but it is so speculative that it is likely to be obsolete next week. Alternatively, a few earth-based stories caught my eye.  This information has relevant and immediate application.  

The first report is from the Frontiers in Marine Science.  The paper announced a small victory for Loggerhead (Caretta caretta) and Green Turtles (Chelonia mydas) that use the Cayman Islands as nesting sites.  

A research team from the Centre for Ecology and Conservation at Loggerhead Turtlethe University of Exeter and the Marine Resources Unit in the Grand Cayman worked together to review data collected during 22 years of nest monitoring.  By comparing the most recent 5 year period to the earliest 5 year period, they found an increase in green turtle nests from 82 to1,005 nests.  Similarly, loggerhead nests increased from 10 to 290.  

These numbers demonstrate a strong recovery for two species that were on the verge of local extinction. 

Progress was supported by several conservation efforts including a captive breeding program for the green turtles, some changes to artificial lighting usage, and changes to the turtle fishery regulations which introduced restrictions for legal capture.  Since 2008, there have not been any legal captures of turtles by the fishing community.

The Caymans historically have one of the world’s largest sea turtle nesting populations.  While not discussed in the research paper, perhaps the Caymans’ environmental leaders leverage the goodwill and appeal of these turtles to attract volunteers for nesting site education and protection.  Sea turtles also capture the attention of many tourists.  I can attest to the success of such programs in Florida and Trinidad.  People will protect what they appreciate.

You can read more about the efforts here:  https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fmars.2021.663856/full

@doecayman @UniofExeter @BrendanGodley

 

Do you know which pollinator species are helping out in your vegetable garden?  Moths, butterflies, and bees, plus some wind, help corn plants exchange pollen.  But do we know which types of bees, for example?  What if the specific bee or butterfly species was at risk for extinction and we didn’t even realize their role in pollinating one of our most critical food crops?  One research team has been thinking along these lines concerning the cocoa plant pollinators.

Cocoa PlantA few years ago, there were articles in the press about the pending extinction of cocoa (Theobroma cacao) plants that would spell the end of chocolate.  Climate change, fungal diseases, and other threats prophesized chocolate’s demise within 50 years.  

Subsequently, an international team led by the University of Gottingen initiated a study of specific pollinators for cocoa grown in Central Sulawesi, Indonesia.  Indonesia was the third-largest cocoa-producing country in 2020.  

The team focused on flower visitations and the factors that influence the visitations.  These include the habitats for the potential pollinators, such as the amount of leaf litter present, the canopy coverage and distance to the surrounding forest, and the abundance of cocoa flowers.

The study showed that ants and flies (Diptera) were directly and indirectly involved in pollination.   However, the ceratopogonid midges (you might know them as no-see-ums) were conspicuously absent.  They did not play their predicted role.

The team used some cool techniques to gather their data. For example, they added glue to more than 15,000 flowers in more than 500 trees over eight months. That is some serious dedication!

One significant finding showed that the forest proximity and the abundance of leaf litter increased the number of pollinators.  The presence of shade trees and the encouragement of other biodiversity enhance the future sustainability of this precious crop.  This information could have a long-term impact on this type of agroforest management.

To read more about this, see:  https://www.uni-goettingen.de/en/3240.html?id=6246 

The scientific synopsis is available here:  https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0006320721001580

@MToledoMX

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