Monarch butterfly populations have declined by 90 percent in the last two decades.

Monarch butterfly populations have declined by 90 percent in the last two decades.

“The biosphere, upon which humanity as a whole depends, is being altered to an unparalleled degree across all spatial scales. Biodiversity — the diversity within species, between species and of ecosystems — is declining faster than at any time in human history.”

That’s according to a new United Nations report, which found that humans are accelerating species loss at an “unprecedented” rate. As many as one million plant and animal species are currently facing extinction — the last time such rapid species loss took place was 66 million years ago when the dinosaurs disappeared.

So what does it mean for us? In this hour, we discuss the importance of biodiversity, the local species under threat, and what it all could mean for life as we know it.

Produced by Julie Depenbrock


  • Eliza Cava Conservation Director, Audubon Naturalist Society; @ANStweets
  • Rebecca Shaw Chief Scientist and Senior Vice President, World Wildlife Fund; @WWF
  • Michael Raupp "Bug Guy" and Professor of Entomology, University of Maryland; @BugoftheWeek


  • 12:19:13

    KOJO NNAMDIThe biosphere, upon which humanity as a whole depends, is being altered in an unparalleled degree. Biodiversity, the diversity within a species, between species and of ecosystems, is declining faster than at any time in human history, that according to a recent United Nation's report which details that loss, saying as many as one million plant and animal species are currently facing extinction. The last time such rapid species loss took place was 66 million years ago, when the dinosaurs disappeared.

  • 12:19:41

    KOJO NNAMDISo, what local species are most under threat, and what could this sixth extinction mean for life as we know it here in the Washington region? Joining me in studio to talk about this is Eliza Cava. Eliza Cava is director of conservation for the Audubon Naturalist Society. Eliza Cava, thank you very much for joining us.

  • 12:19:59

    ELIZA CAVAThank you so much for having me, Kojo.

  • 12:20:01

    NNAMDIAlso joining me in studio is Michael Raupp. Is a professor of entomology at the University of Maryland. He's better known as the Bug Guy. Mike Raupp, wonderful to see you.

  • 12:20:09

    MICHAEL RAUPPAlways a pleasure to be here, Kojo.

  • 12:20:12

    NNAMDIAnd joining us from studios in San Francisco is Rebecca Shaw, chief scientist and senior vice-president of the World Wildlife Fund. Rebecca Shaw, thank you for joining us.

  • 12:20:22

    REBECCA SHAWThank you so much for having me, and I'm so happy to be here on the 20th anniversary of your show.

  • 12:20:26

    NNAMDIThank you very much. Can you tell us about the most recent UN report? Why was it significant?

  • 12:20:32

    SHAWThis report was significant in that it was the most comprehensive report of both regionally and globally what's happening to species on the planet and the consequences for that species loss and ecosystem loss for humans and human wellbeing, loss of clean water, clean air, loss of medicine, loss of filtered water for consumption. It's really profound what happens when you begin to mess with nature at the scale we're messing with it now, at a global scale.

  • 12:21:07

    NNAMDIRebecca, the report found that humans are speeding the extinction of one million plant and animal species. What are some of the things we're doing, humans are doing to cause this loss of species?

  • 12:21:18

    SHAWYeah, I think it's not always intuitive that the things we're doing are actually resulting in the demise of other species. But it's simple things, like a land use change for producing more food, or building cities or building coastal access points and infrastructure, like ports. There's also a direct exploitation. When you buy exotic animal parts from Africa, that results in the loss of species in Africa. If you are buying or consuming too many things, too much meat, it will result in the loss of species.

  • 12:22:03

    SHAWAnd then, finally, climate change is a powerful influence on the natural systems of the planet, and one that will have more influence in the future, and then pollution. So, almost all human activity done un-thoughtfully is having an impact on species, and therefore having an impact on the very ecosystems that we depend on for our survival.

  • 12:22:25

    NNAMDIEliza Cava, what are your thoughts about the UN report? Anything surprise you in there?

  • 12:22:31

    CAVAKojo, the number with the one million species really surprised me. We know that it's been bad, but we didn't realize how bad it was. And the scale of this report now seems comparable to the climate reports that were released in the fall, in which we were given the span of just over a decade to get our acts together and work hard to transform our lifestyles and our economies to address the threat of climate change. And we now know that there are twin crises, a climate crisis and a biodiversity crisis. And just like Rebecca said, they are intertwined. They're each contributing to the other.

  • 12:23:13

    NNAMDIMichael Raupp, same question to you. Anything surprise you about this UN report?

  • 12:23:17

    RAUPPYeah, I think it was the magnitude, here, the extrapolation up to a million species, based on the data they saw. I think the other elements here are things like the habitat loss, the pollutants, the climate change, invasive species. These are all things we know that were dragging down the biodiversity globally, but particularly in cities. These things have been underway for a long time. The key thing here is now we're starting to see several studies line up, large, powerful studies of many, many different scientific studies. So, we now see a very strong signal heading in this direction. I think that UN report kind of pulled it altogether pretty well.

  • 12:23:58

    NNAMDIEliza, let's back up for a minute. For listeners who might not know, what is biodiversity, exactly, and why should we be worried about its decline?

  • 12:24:06

    CAVABiodiversity is the -- I like to say, think back to if you learned this in school, the web of life, the interconnections and the flow of food and energy amongst all the animals and plants and insects and fungi and bacteria that we share the world with. And we don't know how big it is. We don't even know anywhere close to how many species there are in the world, but what we do know is that if you take a net and you start picking at it, it begins to fray, becomes less useful, less powerful and it holds you less well. So, in a sense, biodiversity is the net that carries us, and we're picking at it.

  • 12:24:46

    NNAMDIAnything you'd like to add to that, Rebecca?

  • 12:24:49

    SHAWI absolutely agree with that, and it is the unique fabric of life that holds us together. I do want to say that often people think about the term biodiversity, if they think about it at all, because it's quite a scientific term. But it really means the diversity of all life, species, habitat, ecosystems. And species come together to form ecosystems, and it's these ecosystems which deliver these life-producing services that we need from nature that creates healthy soil, that produces abundant food, intact forests, clean air, by pulling CO2 out of the atmosphere, and then returning the oxygen we breath.

  • 12:25:30

    SHAWWetlands filter water, so that it's drinkable by communities around the globe. And coral reefs produce an abundance of fish so it is the way species are woven together to create ecosystems which produce the lifeblood of our economies that's really at threat here. And what we're beginning to see, as Eliza said, is we're seeing the cracks form. And we're seeing, with projection, scientific projections we're seeing that this is not good for society. It's not good for our economies, and it's not good for our children and our futures.

  • 12:26:06

    NNAMDIEliza, can you talk a little bit about what local species in particular are in danger of extinction?

  • 12:26:11

    CAVAI will talk about what local species are in danger of extinction, but I also want to mention that we have already lost many species here, long before most of us today were alive. For example, when the colonists arrived to the Mid-Atlantic to the Chesapeake, we had elk, wolves and bison here, maybe even mountain lions. And we don't have those animals here anymore. They're not extinct globally, but they're extinct locally. So, this was started long ago. We're part of a trend that has, if anything, perhaps already peaked in our region.

  • 12:26:45

    CAVABut today, we keep up the pressure with forest loss, for example. And some of the species that are most at risk in our area are, for example, those that really need specialized habitats, rare, threatened habitats that we don't have a lot of and are not very well protected. Many of these in our area are wetlands habitats, like vernal pools or coastal wetlands. Some of these wetlands are losing protection now under the Trump administration's attempts to roll back the Clean Water Act protections. So, those species might be yellow-crowned night herons, or wood turtles.

  • 12:27:17

    CAVAWe also have species that have a lot of different kinds of stressors upon them. For example, ash trees are threatened by the emerald ash borer, which are an invasive pest...

  • 12:27:28

    NNAMDIWe've discussed that with Michael Raupp before, yes.

  • 12:27:29

    CAVAAbsolutely, yes. And there are the ash borers, but we also contribute. We have moved the wood around that brings the ash borers that then threaten our own forests. So, there's multiple different kinds of stresses in our region.

  • 12:27:43

    NNAMDIWanted to get back to the issue of habitat loss. Can you tell us what's going on in Charles County, Maryland right now?

  • 12:27:48

    CAVAYes, absolutely. In Charles County, Maryland, the Nanjemoy Forest -- which is called the lungs of DC, or it looks like a green thumb of Maryland that sticks out into a loop in the Potomac. It's a vast forest, and many thousands of acres. Part of it is protected, but not all of it is. And currently, there's a proposal by Georgetown University and their solar contractor Origis Energy to cut down 240 acres of forest on the side of the Nanjemoy Forest and replace it with solar panels, which would power about half of Georgetown's energy needs.

  • 12:28:27

    CAVAIt's laudable that Georgetown is trying to move in this direction, of course, and get solar energy for their campus, but at the expense of biodiversity that lives in this forest, this incredible forest, is something we're very opposed to at my organization. And we'll actually be testifying on that tonight in Charles County. There are interior species there, interior forest species there. Some examples are birds. The Eastern Whippoorwill, it's already in decline due to loss of its habitat, but it's also threatened by climate change and the fact that its habitats are moving as the temperatures change.

  • 12:29:06

    CAVAAnd they primarily eat insects. So, when Mike talks to us about insects, think again about the Eastern Whippoorwill and these multiple kinds of threats, forest loss, climate change, insect loss. We don't want to exacerbate that by cutting 240 acres for any purpose, even if it's solar panels.

  • 12:29:24

    NNAMDIIndeed, we were getting ready to talk about insects, and I'll allow Kingston in Annapolis to start this conversation. Kingston, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.

  • 12:29:33

    KINGSTONYes, good afternoon, Kojo. I was just talking to a friend of mine about that yesterday. I spend a lot of time outdoors. I'm a bird watcher, outdoorsman. And I've noticed over the years the decline in Bobwhite Quail. Bobwhite Quail are pretty much extinct in Maryland. American kestrel , Meadowlarks, are the few and the sure. It all boils down to decline in insects. When we were kids, we'd go to a pond. We'd just grab grasshoppers, throw them on the hook and catch Sunfish. Now, try finding a grasshopper, and I'd link it to the chemicals. It's bad farming practices now, bad farming and (unintelligible) I was talking to the fishermen (unintelligible) and they've never seen it this late. Normally, we would catch a lot and -- yeah.

  • 12:30:26

    NNAMDIKingston, you're underscoring a number of issues that we'd like to talk about. I'd like to focus on insects for a second, because Mike Raupp, you're finishing up a book chapter about the loss of insects in urban spaces. What's happening to cause the decline that Kingston is seeing, particularly in the DMV region?

  • 12:30:41

    RAUPPWell, one of the things we know for sure, Kojo, when we take our natural forests -- and this is the way that cities evolve here in the Northeast. First thing we do is we remove the trees. Very often, it then becomes farmland. It may become tobacco or corn or cotton or soybeans. This brings about dramatic changes in the biodiversity, because you're gone from this diversity-rich system, simply hundreds of species of plants and animals down to a single species, right, tobacco or corn. This is going to ripple through and greatly affect and reduce the biodiversity we found in that space before.

  • 12:31:17

    RAUPPNow, this can go a couple of ways. One way is it can go like Washington, DC. We can pave it over and build a city. And once we build impervious surface, this is basically the death knell for most of biodiversity. It can then go another way. It can go back into perhaps residential neighborhoods, where people are planting a diversity of plants, and we can begin to restructure some of that biodiversity. But the composition of that ecosystem, as Eliza has alluded to, is going to be dramatically different than that natural composition we saw in that forest beforehand.

  • 12:31:56

    RAUPPWith the winnowing of diversity, as we build our cities, we look out here on Connecticut Avenue, I see a half a dozen different species of plants. Now, in that natural forest where we had a hundred different species, we can now build upon that a diverse web of insects. And then the more charismatic creatures, the mammals, the birds that basically sit atop of these food webs, but without those insects in the system, you can't have that underlying and the over-structuring biodiversity we see in a food web. And that's what we see when we build cities is a loss of species, a very dramatic loss of species.

  • 12:32:37

    NNAMDIJournalist Brooke Jarvis dubbed this, quoting here, "the insect apocalypse" in a 2018 New York Times story. And she said it's happening quietly, almost without people noticing. Why does it matter if people notice or don't notice the disappearance of insects? It wasn't until I started preparing for this show today that I realized that when I moved into my current home, I used to see lightning bugs all the time, and I haven't seen one in years.

  • 12:33:01

    RAUPPYeah, I know, yeah. Well, figure it this way. Okay, plants have figured out the magic of harnessing the energy and sunlight and basically fixing carbon to produce biomass. This great swath of biomass is then eaten by what we call the primary consumers. These are the herbivores, the insects. Now, for many people, they think they would like to have these things out of the system. But a healthy system is actually a system with bugs in it, because your insect community connects all those higher levels of a food web, the other insects and the birds that eat insects, and then the reptiles that eat the birds and the birds that eat the birds. And finally, we work our way to the top of the food web, where we have ospreys and eagles.

  • 12:33:48

    RAUPPBut this is just like "Yertle the Turtle." Do you remember? I like Dr. Seuss. Remember Yertle at the bottom of the stack, and remember the king at the top? And remember when Yertle said, enough is enough? What happened to the king's pyramid? It collapsed. And if you take the bugs, those things that link the plant world with those higher, charismatic creatures, these food webs collapse. And that's what we're concerned with, and hence the term insect apocalypse.

  • 12:34:18

    NNAMDIBut I have to ask, even though it's an insect apocalypse, it seems like mosquitoes are everywhere. (laugh) Are all insects in trouble and what about mosquitoes, bedbugs, roaches and others? (laugh)

  • 12:34:29

    RAUPPWell, these are the ones we call the urban adapters, and, by golly, you're absolutely right. What we find is, as we lose species richness, as we move into the urban centers, as we have here, there are certain very hearty bugs that have been around for millennia. These are what we call the urban adapters, and, yeah, the Asian Tigers, the yellow fever mosquitoes, the cockroaches, the stinkbugs and the scale insects on the trees along Massachusetts Avenue. They're going to do just fine, so there are some urban adapters that are going to hang on.

  • 12:34:59

    NNAMDIBut in our efforts to get rid of them, let's talk to Alan about what he sees as the consequences. Alan, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.

  • 12:35:07

    ALANYeah, thank you, Kojo, and thanks to Mike for all his great work on the Bug of the Week and educating people about how critical insects are. I just wanted to mentioned a film I just saw by a local -- she used to be local. Catherine Zimmerman just did this film called "Hometown Habitat," which we showed in Tacoma Park. And it's available, you can go on their website and you can show it other places. It's about interviewing Doug Tallamy, and then going around the country showing how people are restoring habitats. You know, getting more insects in yards with native plants.

  • 12:35:37

    ALANBut I wanted to thank Eliza for commenting, so well, writing comments for our Quiet Clean DC bill, which will ban the, you know, gas-powered leaf blowers in 2022. That was a unanimous city council vote, and that affects insects and birds, as well. I just wanted to mention, I'm not seeing as many -- June 2nd on my calendar is when I see lightning bugs start, but the past few years, I haven't seen as many, as neighbors are using these Mosquito Joe and Mosquito Squad, you know, pyrethrin and permethrin, which are very broad spectrum...

  • 12:36:10

    NNAMDI(overlapping) So, the anti-mosquito spraying, you think, has been lowering the lightning bug or firefly populations?

  • 12:36:19

    ALANI do.

  • 12:36:19

    NNAMDIOkay. Mike?

  • 12:36:21

    RAUPPWell, it certainly is part of the puzzle, Kojo. I think what a lot of people don't realize is the immature stages of these charismatic lightning bugs are maniacal predators that live in the soil. They're eating things like your grubs and your cutworms in your flowerbeds. So, if you're putting things into these ecosystems that are long-lasting in the soil, perhaps, or if you're putting pesticides into these systems -- mosquito sprays, for example -- and eliminating the food that these adult stages prey on, or also contaminating those things, certainly this will have impacts on the populations.

  • 12:37:03

    RAUPPAnd the other piece of it, as we pave our cities over, insects need habitat to live in. As that habitat disappears under concrete, you simply have lost habitat for these things.

  • 12:37:15

    NNAMDIRebecca Shaw, outside of the insect realm, are there species that thrive in this changing climate -- urban adapters, so to speak -- of a larger magnitude? I'm thinking particularly about snakes and rodents.

  • 12:37:26

    SHAWThere are a lot of species across the planet that are thriving in the context of all these changes that are happening, reducing the diversity. Certainly, rats are a really good thriver in urban environments and environments that are changing rapidly. We have lots of weedy species that take over the grazing lands across the globe that produce our beef. And we also have lots of invaders coming in marine systems. We have systems that are being overrun by algae that had not occurred before, but now are thriving in a disturbed environment. So, it's the invasive species and those species that love disturbance that are moving in and further depleting the diversity of...

  • 12:38:22

    NNAMDI(overlapping) Eliza Cava (unintelligible) you'd like to add. Urban adapters are a large American...

  • 12:38:29

    CAVAYeah, the urban adapters are definitely something that we see frequently here in the city. There's some really interesting urban adapters. They're not all, for example, invasive species that have come from other climates. Some of them are local. You hear about coyotes, for example, in Rock Creek Park. They do a great job in forests that are interspersed around the cities. But they also might eat cats, for example. They're not always welcome within our urban spaces, but they are very well adapted.

  • 12:39:00

    CAVAAnd some of these species, again, have just found themselves really good at living with us, living side by side with us, but they're a rare few. Most wildlife, most species don't do well in the kinds of environments we have created, and they just go further and further away until there's no place else for them to go.

  • 12:39:18

    NNAMDIAre there some key species that could have ripple effects?

  • 12:39:22

    CAVAThe bugs is one. Rebecca mentioned this at the beginning, but the bugs are pollinators. Many of our insect species pollinate, not only wild plants but also our crop plants. And in the UN report, they said that the economic benefit that we get from pollinators is worth up to $577 billion a year of possible lost crop production worldwide, with the loss of those pollinators. So, if you think about places that are already struggling to feed themselves, and now they don't get their crops pollinated, their crops are more and more likely to fail, where are they going to get $100 billion? They're not going to. So, these are ripple effects that go, deeply and quickly, right into our own human populations.

  • 12:40:08

    NNAMDIHere's Bob in Rockville, Maryland. Bob, your turn.

  • 12:40:12

    BOBWell, congratulations, Kojo, on your day, first of all.

  • 12:40:15

    NNAMDIThank you.

  • 12:40:16

    BOBYeah, I was just calling to -- or I was wondering what your guys' thoughts were on the overabundance of domestic geese and deer. Just anecdotally, I enjoy a section of the Potomac, and every once in a while I'll go out there kayaking, and there'll be hundreds of geese kind of perched up on the rocks. And it definitely gives a kind of fetid feeling to the river. I can't imagine that that's good for the species in the water. And then deer also just seem to be clearing out all the understory in our local forests.

  • 12:40:53

    NNAMDI(overlapping) Eliza Cava.

  • 12:40:55

    CAVAOkay. I can't really speak to the geese, but in terms of the deer, at my organization, at Audubon Naturalist Society, we have a 40-acre nature sanctuary called Wooden Sanctuary in Chevy Chase -- which is free and open to the public, by the way, any time during the day. And we wanted to restore it. It has had 40 years of overgrazing by deer. It has no understory left. We have a five-foot browse line, which means if you go in the forest, even in the spring, you look across at my eyelevel, you just don't see green, because that's as far as the deer could reach.

  • 12:41:29

    CAVABut in the last year-and-a-half, we have been working to exclude the deer from our sanctuary, and we've been successful. This spring, we have no deer. It took repeated efforts. We built a fence around, and we gently, carefully guided them out. And the forest is coming back, without so many deer. The number of deer we had inside of our sanctuary was probably at least 20 times the number that would have been there in that space, if the forest had been in its predevelopment state, and there were just too many. We couldn't feed them enough.

  • 12:42:00

    CAVAAnd they ate everything we wanted to plant, and they ate all of our native plants. They ate our nonnative plants. They ate our invasive plants. They ate absolutely everything, except for those best-adapted, nonnative invasive plants that they didn't want as much. They were not tasty to them. But it's just been a remarkable change this spring. It's really our first spring with less deer, and we'd welcome everyone to come out and see it.

  • 12:42:23

    NNAMDIHow do you protect local species? Are you planting native plants in your garden, setting the pesticides aside? Do you think there are more or fewer bugs than when you were a child? Give us a call: 800-433-8850. I'm Kojo Nnamdi.

  • 12:43:13

    NNAMDIWelcome back to our conversation about the rate of species disappearance. We're talking with Eliza Cava, director of conservation for the Audubon Naturalist Society. Michael Raupp is a professor of entomology at the University of Maryland, also known as the Bug Guy. Rebecca Shaw is chief scientist and senior vice president of the World Wildlife Fund. Rebecca, you are one of the elite authors of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Changes' fifth assessment report. What did you focus on in that report, and how much has changed in the five years since it was released?

  • 12:43:44

    SHAWClimate change is a rapidly changing science, and we're finding out more and more. And one of the things we're finding out absolutely is that we are accelerating climate change at faster rates than we ever thought we were. And the impacts are more severe and greater than we ever thought they were. We're losing parts of the Antarctic ice sheet through calving. We are seeing changes in species distribution and responses that we just didn't think were going to happen this early.

  • 12:44:21

    SHAWAnd, as a result, I think that the call from both this report, the UN report on biodiversity, and the multi reports that have come out in the last year on climate change from the UN suggests that if we are going to survive in the future, we really need to have an integrated approach to solving both the climate crisis and the biodiversity crisis, and do that together. And there's lots of things we can do together, both in our local communities at the national level, and at a global scale, as well.

  • 12:44:58

    NNAMDIBut, Rebecca, for those who might say, okay, the polar bears and elephants are going to go, but how does this affect me? What about humans here? Are we one of the million species in danger of extinction?

  • 12:45:09

    SHAWI wouldn't say in danger of extinction, but we absolutely have to pay attention to what's happening right now. Your callers have been talking about the changes they've seen in their own backyards in their lifetimes. And that's within the last 40, 50 years. These kind of changes are happening everywhere like that, and they're increasing in the pace and accelerating in the way they're manifesting themselves.

  • 12:45:37

    SHAWAnd so it is going to affect us. There will be places on the planet where people will not be able to get the food that they need, the water they need. So, we will be one of the species that suffers, and suffers greatly, if we don't care and steward the Earth into the next century. And I think one of the things we really have to think about, it's not just about whether our children will be able to see elephants in the wild. That sometimes seems like a luxury for some people. But it's whether our children will actually have the level of wellbeing and a healthy lifestyle that we have, and do better off than we have done in the past. And I think that that's one of the things we really need to think about. What is the planet that we're going to leave for future generations?

  • 12:46:25

    NNAMDIEliza, Will emails to ask: does the figure of one million species going extinct include species that haven't even been identified and named yet, or is it one million of the known species? How many total species of plants and animals are currently known, and how many estimated unidentified?

  • 12:46:45

    CAVAI'm going to kick the exact details on what is the one million identified to Rebecca as an author of the report.

  • 12:46:52


  • 12:46:53

    CAVABut what does it mean that we haven't even identified so many species is a big deal. Most of the species that scientists estimate that exist, but that we haven't identified, are insects. Isn't that right, Mike?

  • 12:47:07

    RAUPPYeah, we've only named about a million, Kojo. In my short existence, I've discovered three new species in places like the marshes of Atlantic City, (laugh) and the mountains in Peru. So, if a Bug Guy can figure out three new species, you know we've got a lot of work to do. We've named about a million. We think there are somewhere between five and eight million species that we haven't even put a name on yet. So, we've got a long way to go.

  • 12:47:32

    NNAMDIRebecca Shaw.

  • 12:47:34

    SHAWYeah, that's exactly right. And we have to think about how many species are given the diversity in lots of places we have, so we project the number of species. But that one million species threatened with extinction is understanding that we probably have about eight million species. And given the rates of extinction and the way we're impacting species across the planet and every place where we're looking, we think that there's likely one million that are in threat of extinction in the coming decades, unless we change our ways.

  • 12:48:11

    NNAMDIHere's Stella in Washington, DC. Stella, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.

  • 12:48:16

    STELLAHi, great show. Thanks, everyone, very much. You know, I think we really have to employ the most creative tools at our disposal to engage people with the natural world. And I have found through my organization, Capital Nature, that Citizen Science is a really great tool for engaging urban residents. And I don't know if any of you have heard the City Nature Challenge. It's a growing international Citizen Science competition that focuses on living species in our cities. And here in the DC area, just last week, we counted the numbers, and we made over 30,000 observations of living species in our urban area.

  • 12:48:55

    STELLASo, I'd love to know what your guests think about Citizen Science as one of the kind of power tools in our box to really get folks thinking about what lives in our cities, and noticing when it's here and when it disappears.

  • 12:49:09


  • 12:49:10

    CAVAI'd love to speak to that. And many Audubon Naturalist Society members were involved with City Nature Challenge. And we have been doing community science -- we call it Community Science Citizen Science at ANS for over 25 years -- with our water quality monitoring program where we actually train ordinary volunteers, a lot of retirees, young folks, people who work to identify bugs and other organisms that live in the streams around this region. And we use them as indicators of water quality.

  • 12:49:42

    CAVALast year, we produced a report on stream health in DC that came from the observations of those volunteers about the organisms they had observed -- mostly insects -- over the prior eight years. And I think people are so excited to look in the water -- that they normally just see as something pretty -- and realize that it's a home. It's a habitat, and it's a house and it's a living room and it's, you know, a dining room for these little animals that we share our world with.

  • 12:50:11

    CAVAAnd I'd like to speak to something that goes a little beyond that, if you don't mind, Kojo...

  • 12:50:14


  • 12:50:14

    CAVA...which is that this is our home, and when we look at the pavement, we really just think of our own kinds of species. But we're very lonely if we're by ourselves. There's eight million other species. And what if they really weren't there anymore? I think it's lonely not to see lightning bugs. And one of our most famous Washington, DC residents, Rachel Carson, who was a government scientist, an author, an Audubon Naturalist Society board member and a Silver Spring resident, wrote in her book "Silent Spring": nature has introduced great variety into the landscape, but man has displayed a passion for simplifying it, thus the undos, the built-in checks and balances by which nature holds the species within bounds.

  • 12:51:03

    CAVAAnd that's what biodiversity is, I think, in a nutshell, and we need to look at it. We need to stop. The Citizen Science are incredible tools to get people to go deep and really connect and understand that these are our friends. These are, in fact, our relatives.

  • 12:51:20

    NNAMDIAnd there are people who know what can individuals do about it, so let's talk with Tony in Garrett Park. Tony, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.

  • 12:51:27

    TONYYeah. Hi, Kojo. Thank you very much for letting me speak, and I really appreciate hearing what everyone has to say. I wanted to address the question of land use change, and really, the habitat loss in our own front and backyards, and get the panel's opinion on something my wife Kristen and I have started doing. And that is, we have been, during the fall cleanup, we've been not having all the leaves removed. I mean, everybody sees these huge piles of leaves, they get sucked up and removed. We've been blowing them into our beds, and leaving some on the lawns, as well.

  • 12:52:01

    TONYAnd what we find is, first of all, it really looks nice. It's a very attractive modeled look, and very natural look that survives the winter and endures into the spring. And then in the spring, we find that we no longer need, of course, to buy all of that sort of processed mulch, that brown stuff. And don't spread that on the beds, because they're already covered. We save about $500 out of the $1,000 that we...

  • 12:52:27


  • 12:52:27

    TONY...spend every time. And so it's a great cost savings, and we're looking forward to seeing more insects in our yard. So, I was curious what the panel thought of that policy, something that everybody can do.

  • 12:52:37

    NNAMDI(overlapping) I'll restrict it to Mike Raupp, because we're running out of time, very quickly. Mike, in addition to what our caller Tony just said, how can we help local species thrive, bugs?

  • 12:52:48

    RAUPPWell, I think this is -- Tony hit the nail on the head. I mean, this is what mother nature had in mind, Tony, was to actually allow trees and vegetation to recycle themselves. And when we take that away, we've eliminated habitats. One of the studies we found is that, deep in our cities, where we remove the plant material, the things that insects, charismatic insects like these ground beetles that are vitally important in terms of providing what we call biological control, that is mother nature's hit squad taking care of our pests. In the city, where these natural products don't exist, we find a dramatic decline in the number of species of these very important predators.

  • 12:53:30

    RAUPPSo, in addition to things like this, again, in our cities, I think we have to create a broader pallet of plants that we use. We have to incorporate native plants into our landscape's designs, because these native plants provide the food for the native insects that feed on them. And now we're beginning to reconstruct our food web. We have to replace impervious surface with pervious surface. Photosynthesis, CO2 plus H2O. If you don't have H2O, you don't have photosynthesis. We have to find ways to put water into the ground for the plants to survive in cities.

  • 12:54:06

    RAUPPAnd we need to have more green space. We need to preserve corridors like Rock Creek Park, for example, that allows the animals -- sometimes there's even a bear in Rockville. So, that was a stroke of genius in the 1890s, to preserve these forested habitats that help bring wildlife into our cities. So, to me, it's to plan these cities to be diverse, native plants, plants that flower to encourage our pollinators, reduce that impervious surface and, you know, try to make nature work again in our cities.

  • 12:54:45

    NNAMDIWe're almost out of time, but we got a note from one listener. My name is Sebastian and I am eight years old. My sister Aster and I care deeply about animals. Today, you're discussing the global mass extinction of plants and animals and what's happening close to home. I am writing because we would like to propose that the mayor recognizes May 17th as Endangered Species Day. This was originally proposed by the Endangered Species Coalition and our nonprofit, EPIC Animals, is now supporting it as strongly as we can. We approached the mayor two years ago, and she was very excited about the idea, but we have not heard back from her staff.

  • 12:55:18

    NNAMDIWell, rest assured, somebody from WAMU or this broadcast will be raising this question with the mayor at some point, Sebastian. But thank you so much for getting in touch with us. And I'm afraid that's about all the time we have. Rebecca Shaw is chief scientist and senior vice-president of the World Wildlife Fund. Rebecca, thank you for joining us.

  • 12:55:36

    SHAWThank you so much.

  • 12:55:38

    NNAMDIEliza Cava is director of conservation for the Audubon Naturalist Society. Eliza, thank you for joining us.

  • 12:55:44

    CAVAThank you so much, and happy Kojo Day.

  • 12:55:46

    NNAMDIThank you. Michael Raupp is a professor entomology at the University of Maryland, better known as the Bug Guy. You got something for me?

  • 12:55:52

    RAUPPI have something for you, Kojo. Let me reach behind me and get it.

  • 12:55:55

    NNAMDIOkay. As Michael Raupp reaches behind him, and I bet you it has something to do with a bug, because he is the Bug Guy. So let's see what he's producing here. Woo, it says Happy 20th, Kojo. It feels like a framed picture, and as you can hear, I'm opening it right now. And it is a picture -- oh, yes -- of my favorite bug, the Ladybug. (laugh) I grew up loving Ladybugs and love them to this day. And they perform a very important function, don’t they?

  • 12:56:28

    RAUPPIndeed, they do. And if you look carefully at that picture, that's the ashy gray ladybird beetle. And what is it eating, Kojo? These are on your roses right now, aren't they?

  • 12:56:38


  • 12:56:39

    RAUPPThose are aphids. So, this is one of these bugs that really gets down to business and, Kojo, on behalf of the five to eight million species of insects on this planet, I just want to thank you for giving them a voice. This is a rare event, and you're the guy that does it.

  • 12:56:57

    NNAMDII'll be hanging it proudly on my wall. The celebration of Kojo Nnamdi Day is all day. If you're hankering for ice cream, Ice Cream Jubilee at the wharf is giving away free scoops of one of my favorite flavors, strawberry, all day today. And I'm going to be enjoying some right after the show. That's it for today. Tune in tomorrow for a conversation spies. We'll check in with the International Spy Museum that just reopened, and also discuss the growing debate and the protests over gentrification. Until then, thank you for listening. I'm Kojo Nnamdi.

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