Friday, August 15, 2014

Urbanization shrinking firefly population; species can be indicators of the health of the environment

Urbanization is destroying firefly populations in the South, Alan Blinder reports for The New York Times. "Scientists have for years been warning that the world’s estimated 2,000 species of fireflies are dwindling, partly because expanding cities are altering water flow patterns and yielding more light pollution, which researchers say can hamper the mating rituals of the insects." (Firefly Experience photo)

The Selangor Declaration, named for the Malaysian site of a 2010 symposium about fireflies, says: “Fireflies are indicators of the health of the environment and are declining across the world as a result of degradation and loss of suitable habitat, pollution of river systems, increased use of pesticides in agro-ecosystems and increased light pollution in areas of human habitation. The decline of fireflies is a cause for concern and reflects the global trend of increasing biodiversity loss.”

In response, Clemson University is conducting a unique experiment called The Vanishing Firefly Project, which asks "people to step outside, peer into the darkness and, for a single minute, count the fireflies that sweep through their field of vision," Blinder writes.

Participants in the experiment include Greenville, S.C., resident Jeremy Lyons and his 6-year-old son Ryan. Jeremy told Blinder, “Kids are naturally drawn to fireflies, so it’s a good building block to teach them lessons about the environment. It’s a good little icebreaker activity for a kid, so then their attention is gotten and you can talk to them about it and they don’t even realize that you’re teaching them something.” Separate studies are being conducted in other parts of the country. (Read more)

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