back to article Researchers find development and conservation aren't mutually exclusive

Researchers from the Zoological Society of London and UCL have found a clear link between economic development and improved biodiversity. The boffins compared bird and mammal populations with socioeconomic trends in 33 low and middle-income countries. They found positive relationships between economic growth and wildlife …

  1. Tim Worstal

    Err, yes, and?

    This is the environmental Kuznets Curve. Perhaps nice to see it proven again empirically but still.

    The Thames is cleaner now than it was. The air in London is cleaner than it has been since about 1500.

    Not an entirely new observation.

    1. Thoguht Silver badge

      Re: Err, yes, and?

      That and the simple fact that if you've got enough money to buy food, you don't need to eat the wildlife.

      1. Jellied Eel Silver badge

        Re: Err, yes, and?

        I guess if you're rich, you can always import more exotic pets, and release them when bored. Lick of my toad, anyone? See poor'ol Australia for more info*.

        And as well as not having to eat the wildlife, I guess the more time/money & inclination you have, the more time & money you can invest into caring for the wildlife and natural environment. Even if that's just clearing dead birds & bats away from windmills.

        *which reminds me of another potential solution to Londoner's urban fox problem. Pet Cassowarys**! Further proof that Australia's native species drift towards attitude.

        **Another critter that fascinates me, but unlike ravens, I'd not want to own. Unless I could use it to educate cock fighters about the error of their ways. I guess I'd have to be quick before they bled to death though.

    2. Fungus Bob Silver badge
      Trollface

      Re: Err, yes, and?

      Well, I say it's just a big frown!

      https://www.thoughtco.com/thmb/QXfOsoNP6xGjrzVbuSuM25aanXA=/768x0/filters:no_upscale():max_bytes(150000):strip_icc():format(webp)/Kuznets_curve-copy-56a27de33df78cf77276a802.jpg

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Good to know, but...

    ..don't tell Bolsonaro in Brazil, who decided to wage a war against conservation since the numbers "make he look bad".

  3. Claptrap314 Silver badge

    "While more research is needed to clarify this, it could be that water sanitation results in concentrated discharges of pollution into natural water bodies to the detriment of bird species."

    You really don't know anything about water sanitation, do you?

    1. Charles 9 Silver badge

      Riddle me this, Batman. What do you do with all the bad stuff (including salts when you throw in desalination plants) you take out of the water to clean it and make it safe and/or potable?

      1. M.V. Lipvig

        Sea salt is a valuable gourmet product. Sell it to foodies, obviously. Swimming pools can be chlorinated, or they use a salinization method to keep the water pure and clean. Sell it to people with pools. Salt in general is used in a great many industries, and I've only listed two of them.

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Or...

    ...affluent societies can afford to offload all their effluent activities to low cost geographies.

    1. Phage

      Re: Or...

      Came here to say this. It's obvious that we have outsourced our polluting industries

      1. M.V. Lipvig

        Re: Or...

        Yes, to willing nations. Meanwhile, those of us who get on our soap boxes do deride this practice have zero problems buying these products because they're cheaper than the same products built in a nation that cares about pollution. Not so high and mighty anymore, are they?

  5. Claverhouse Silver badge
    Thumb Down

    Goodie-Goodies...

    The researchers found similar relationships for more gender-equal governments, lower levels of government corruption and longer human lifespans.

    Woke reporters find woke results, who'dda thunk ?

    The best results for 'wildlife' and nature would result from minimal human populations and interference. Not that I would prefer that, but it's pretty obvious motorways are not good for badgers, foxes, bears or even packs of hounds...

    1. Alan Brown Silver badge

      Re: Goodie-Goodies...

      "but it's pretty obvious motorways are not good for badgers, foxes, bears or even packs of hounds..."

      On the other hand building motorways in such ways that they don't attempt to go over the fences to get to the other side(*) is perfectly feasible - if implemented at the design stage pretty much cost neutral.

      (*) And I don't mean by making the fences 30 feet high impossible barriers to pass. Wildlife/local population tunnels aren't that difficult and have paid dividends wherever used(**). Animals encountering a high fence tend to run along them until they find a place to dig through or jump over - and if the place happens to have a tunnel, Robert is an elder male relative.

      (**) Both for the wildlife and in terms of reduced costs of crash cleanups when wildlife encounter high speed traffic.

      1. Spherical Cow Bronze badge

        Re: Goodie-Goodies...

        Depending on the critter it doesn't have to be a tunnel under the road. Here in Australia we use rope bridges to allow possums to cross above the road. Cheap and effective. http://netmakercomau.melbourneitwebsites.com/page/possum_crossings__fauna_crossings.html

        1. eric halfabe

          Re: Goodie-Goodies...

          or you could waste half a mil on a bat bridge

          https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bat_bridge

  6. Mike 125

    The elephant...

    ...in the room, is the transition to carbon-neutral. The way that transition is implemented will overwhelmingly determine what remains of existing species, probably including us and elephants.

    1. Jellied Eel Silver badge

      Re: The elephant...

      Problem is we keep finding unintended consequences from dabbling with nature. So I saw something about an island off Australia. Uninhabited, but in whaling waters. So people figured it was a good idea to stick some rabbits there, so there'd be some food around. Rabbits did as rabbits do, and then there were a lot of rabbits, and much less vegetation.

      The transition to 'carbon-neutral' carries a lot of the same risks. There's a lot of pressure to do it, because there's a lot of money to be made. There's often much less concern about the environmental impact, even to the extent that allegedly pro-environment groups like Greenpeace or the RSPB encourage wind farms. I mean nothing says 'protecting the environment' quite like covering it in solar farms, and windmills.

      So early wind installations, famously Altamont Pass in California killed a lot of birds, including heavily protected ones like Golden Eagles. The numbers of dead raptors have been dropping, which no doubt will be seen as a 'success' for ever larger 'bird friendly' windmills being built there now. And that 'success' will no doubt be used in PR, and local extinction will be glossed over.

      And of course if you erase a predator, then their prey populations increase.. So unsuprisingly, ground squirrels support wind power.. Except those squirrels are a pest and will destroy vegatation, so habitat loss for other species..

      Or windmills also kill lots of bats, which normally are a protected species. 'Renewables' get an exemption on that one. Bats help keep insect populations in check, but then so might windmills-

      https://www.dlr.de/dlr/en/desktopdefault.aspx/tabid-10176/372_read-32941/#/gallery/33841

      The model calculation used in the study indicates that the numbers of affected flying insects could be relevant for the stability of the flying insect population and thus influence species protection and the food chain.

      The study does not conclude whether wind farms are the main cause of insect extinction or whether they have an impact on it.

      Although the study did show plenty of bug impacts on windmill blades, leading to efficency losses and costs to try and keep those clean.

      But there are impacts, either directly killing species, or indirect effects from things like boundary layer mixing & vorticies on species and habitats down-wind from massive windmills. So ok, some of these effects are easier to hide than eagle carcasses.. Like off-shore windfarms. But those have their own impacts from construction and potential threats like mechanical noise and vibration. LF sonar bad! LF noise from wind farms.. Let's gloss over that one and build MOAR!

      Alternatively, given 'renewables' are the most expensive/less efficient and most environmentally harmful forms of electricity generation.. Perhaps building more nuclear plants is a better way to tackle the 'low carbon' problem.. Assuming of course that carbon is/was ever a problem..

      1. Alan Brown Silver badge

        Re: The elephant...

        "and then there were a lot of rabbits, and much less vegetation."

        And then (eventually) a lot less rabbits.

        Carbon-reduction... "There's a lot of pressure to do it, because there's a lot of money to be made."

        There's a lot of money to be made by certain groups. The pressure is coming largely because _so far_ just about every IPCC prediction of the range of possibilities of the future made 30-40 years ago has happened either "early" or at the "pessimistic" end of the scale, depending how you look at it and things seem to be accelerating.

        The REAL elephant in the room is this:

        If you want to understand why there's a real urgency in a lot of climate scientists' minds, look at the Laptev Sea - it shouldn't be bubbling methane to the surface - that was thought to be impossible, but it's happening (methane should be dissolving on the way up).

        Furthermore it's been doing it in increasing volumes for the last 15 years and appears to be the source of the Global Methane Survey's rather famous 20% "we can't find this" error of 2011 (they weren't looking there).

        The REALLY scary bit is what's still on the seafloor - if the methane clathrate deposits are weakened too much then a mudslide could set them off in one big hit - somewhere between 0.75-2 times (or more) the annual human carbon emissions hitting the atmosphere in one go. That happened 9,000 years ago off Norway (Storegga) and caused a near immediate 1-2C uptick in temperatures. This time around such an event might add enough warming to kick off a chain reaction of methane clathrate eruptions and last time THAT happened triggered a major mass extinction(*) - it's not known exactly how long it took to get underway due to the briefness of the fossil records but it was definitely less than a decade - possibly as short as a year for the last hurrah

        (*) It wasn't global warming that killed off most of the land plants, it was acid rain from the massively elevated levels of CO2. Without plants, most animals followed within months. Without plants CO2 levels went higher and O2 levels fell as everything rotted and without plant cover erosion went crazy. In the meantime during the buildup to this the high acidity started killing off shell-forming organisms in the oceans (we are HERE) and as O2 levels fell in the water, most ocean animal life died off (Anoxic events - we may be on the leading edge of these already in some parts of the world). There were then a series of red tides - the algae from those formed most of the oil we've been burning. Oxygen levels went down to 11% and stayed there for about 100,000 years.

        How bad was it? It took about 10 _million_ years before coal beds started forming again - the only time in earth history since land plants evolved that has happened. Life nearly got reset back to single celled organisms.

        Windmills, tidal and solar are mostly scams. It's not that they can't generate enough electricity to replace existing carbon-sourced electricity generation (they can - just). but that they can't provide enough EXTRA electricity production to replace motor vehicles, gas/oil heating, carbon-intensive industrial processes - and provide sufficient extra energy to allow production of fuels for things like aircraft - which aren't going to be battery powered on anything other than journeys which could as easily made by a train anyway. (Biofuels are a scam too, when you start looking into the arable land they consume. Using waste products is a way of offsetting that but it's nowhere near enough and it frequently causes soil to be strip mined).

        The result is that a lot of time effort and money is being put into "Green" solutions which are largely akin to rearranging the deckchairs on the Titanic. Either we figure out ways to produce 6-10 times more electricity than we were making in 2010 (and making enough to allow developing countries to do the same or they're just going to increase their carbon consumption) or we start seriously risking not only radical climate change and ocean level rises but a world where atmospheric oxygen content may drop so fast that our children won't live to see these things happen.

        1. Jellied Eel Silver badge

          Re: The elephant...

          There's a lot of money to be made by certain groups. The pressure is coming largely because _so far_ just about every IPCC prediction of the range of possibilities of the future made 30-40 years ago has happened either "early" or at the "pessimistic" end of the scale, depending how you look at it and things seem to be accelerating.

          No, they have not. Something I have in common with 'Extinction Rebellion' and their list of demands is that governments should tell the truth. So the IPCC is a governmental body, under the auspices of the UN to synthesise the best available science, and brief decision makers. Which it does in part via the Annual Review report(s), and then the COP jolly. Which is soon, and 30,000+ lobbyists, doomsday merchants etc will be demanding that even more money is spent.

          However.. The IPCC reports don't state there is any 'climate emergency'. They don't state any urgent need to act, especially not in WG1, which is allegedly the sciencey bit. It's simply not in the IPCC's remit for WG1 to make any official recommendations, except via the 'SPM', or 'Summary for Policymakers', where the WG reports are condensed down into something the average politician may understand.

          But the IPCC stuff works on various emissions scenarios, so what might happen if CO2 levels rise at different rates. Which then leads to CO2 sensitivity, and various other assumptions. So if theory (ok, dogma) couples 2C+ warming for a high trend in CO2 levels, then this could be bad.. Except that's not what the science shows.. That shows a lower CO2 sensitivity than theorised in the old IPCC reports. And then because CO2 is a weak GHG, and if you assume the relationship is logarithmic per doubling CO2, you can never get to 'catastrophic' levels of warming using CO2 alone., And it gets worse. Because scientists know CO2 is a weak GHG, to sell the fear, you have to assume that other factors (forcings, feedbacks) are coupled positively with CO2, so as CO2 levels increase, warming is amplified further.. Which isn't apparent from the data, but should be obvious from history, if you assume CO2 is the magical 'control knob' that has driven all past climate change, be it warming, or cooling..

          Hence the pressure to act in haste before it gets even harder to ignore (or shout down) growing evidence for low CO2 sensitivity.

          If you want to understand why there's a real urgency in a lot of climate scientists' minds, look at the Laptev Sea - it shouldn't be bubbling methane to the surface - that was thought to be impossible, but it's happening (methane should be dissolving on the way up).

          That's probably news to marine chemists like these-

          https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0304420318301932

          Measurement of methane solubility in pure water in equilibrium with hydrate by using high–pressure optical capillary cell

          Methane being hydrophobic and mostly insoluble in water.. So bubbling to the surface is expected, and observed. But that's always been the challenge with the 'Clathrate Gun' hypothesis, especially when combined with CO2 being the fundamental GHG. Explaining minor historical events like getting into and out of Ice Ages is.. tricky using CO2. Milankovitch cycles don't really help because those are external/insolation changes where effect exceeds cause.

  7. Carpet Deal 'em Bronze badge

    So what they're saying

    Is that environmentalism is a luxury good? That being able to set aside large tracks of land for non-use requires you to be advanced enough to not need it? This should really all be obvious, but instead we get people pointing to the "noble savage" as an excellent example of treading lightly on the environment(even though people at this level of development are the ones who wiped out most of the world's megafauna).

    Now, is a larger human population(as enabled by current technology) harder on the ecosystem? Yes, but the impact of a first world country is mostly overhead(for example, even if we slashed the global population in half, we'd still need about as many trucks, trains, ships, etc with their concomitant infrastructure to move goods between populations); the impact of any added individual isn't that high(we're just good at adding enough to make a noticeable difference).

    1. Jellied Eel Silver badge

      Re: So what they're saying

      Is that environmentalism is a luxury good? That being able to set aside large tracks of land for non-use requires you to be advanced enough to not need it? This should really all be obvious, but instead we get people pointing to the "noble savage" as an excellent example of treading lightly on the environment(even though people at this level of development are the ones who wiped out most of the world's megafauna).

      It gets worse..

      http://wwf.panda.org/wwf_news/?uNewsID=350872

      Dr Stephen Cornelius, WWF’s chief advisor on climate change and IPCC lead, said:

      “We need to see an urgent transformation in how we use land in the future. This includes the type of farming we do, our food system and diets, and the conservation of areas such as forests and other natural ecosystems. All of which can either help or hinder the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions. This new report should bring this home to us.”

      #SadPanda #LeaveBehindTheBacon #GoVegan

      Ok, so leaving aside the conflicts of interests between a wealthy and dishonest WWF and the allegedly scientific and impartial IPCC.. This is your basic ecofacism. Meat is bad, vegan is good. Especially if you ignore the land use changes that would be required to support an all-vegan planet. Forest 'conservation' and wetland restoration will reduce farmland, but increase WWF and donor's incomes from carbon offsetting scams, and general grants.

      So the WWF does it's own 'noble savage' junk, like saving the rainforests.. Which of course is an area where land use changes had pretty dramatic effects. Like pre-Conquistador native populations living in large cities, with pretty sophisticated agriculture & trade to support those large populations. Then it was decided that those savages should be 'civilised', brought into new towns.. At least the ones that weren't killed by the new diseases. Which meant the native cities being reclaimed by nature, until being uncovered by modern farmers.. And leaving archaeologists* & environmentalists arguing over the implications.

      *One neat one was discovering circular buildings with no immediately obvious purpose, therefore they must have been temples. Not food stores, or given some satellite images also showed them located on/near river meander loops, fish farms. Some modern primatives still catch fish the same way..

      1. Charles 9 Silver badge

        Re: So what they're saying

        "Especially if you ignore the land use changes that would be required to support an all-vegan planet."

        What kind of land use changes are you describing that wouldn't be for the better versus a meat-eating diet (which is notoriously terrible in resource consumption versus plant diets)? Otherwise, why wouldn't thing like the Impossible Burger be turning up ecological interests.

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