Climate: Arctic meltdown to shake up fish diversity

Arctic sea ice receded to the second-lowest extent on record this year. MAP COURTESY NATIONAL SNOW AND ICE DATA CENTER.

Open water in the Arctic will shake up the species mix in both the Atlantic and Pacific oceans.

Changes ahead, outcome uncertain

Staff Report

FRISCO — Melting Arctic sea ice is breaking down the natural barrier between Pacific and Atlantic fish species, with as-yet unknown consequences for ocean ecosystems, scientists said this week in a new study published in Nature Climate Change.

The last time the environmental conditions allowed such large-scale transfer to occur was nearly three million years ago during the opening of the Bering Strait, which facilitated the spread of mostly Pacific marine species toward the Atlantic. Continue reading

Biodiversity: Rare fox spotted in Yosemite National Park

Just 50 Sierra Nevada red foxes remain in the wild

A Sierra Nevada red fox. Photo courtesy USFWS.

A Sierra Nevada red fox. Photo courtesy USFWS.

Staff Report

FRISCO — One of the rarest mammals in the American West may be making a comeback in the Sierra Nevada. Yosemite National Park biologists this week confirmed a sighting of a Sierra Nevada red fox in the northern reaches of the park — the first the speices has been seen in Yosemite for nearly 100 years.

“We are thrilled to hear about the sighting of the Sierra Nevada red fox, one of the most rare and elusive animals in the Sierra Nevada,” said Yosemite National Park Superintendent Don Neubacher. “National parks like Yosemite provide habitat for all wildlife and it is encouraging to see that the red fox was sighted in the park.”

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has been considering endangered species protection for the species since late 2011. There are only two known populations, one near Mt. Lassen and the other near Sonora Pass, just north of Yosemite, with a total population estimated at about 50 individuals. Continue reading

Study shows challenges of restoring fracking sites

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A patchwork of drill pads connected by a spiderweb of roads in northeastern Utah.

‘Wildlife habitat goals cannot be realized by merely establishing grasses …’

Staff Report

FRISCO — Restoring areas after drilling and fracking requires more than just spreading out some dirt and sprinkling a few grass seeds around, according to two Colorado scientists who took a close look at 10 drilling sites in Rio Blanco County.

After sampling  two undisturbed reference sites and eight reclaimed or abandoned natural gas well pads, they found that none of the oil and gas well pads included in the study had returned to a  pre-drilling, condition — even those that had had 20 to 50 years to recover. Continue reading

Morning photo: Colors of Iceland

Flashback …


FRISCO — From the surreal mineral-tinted waters of the Blue Lagoon to glacial runoff in the highlands, Iceland is dominated by water features. As I recently wandered through the Summit Voice photo archives, I noticed how nearly every single image in the set included water in some form, including massive geysers, ubiquitous waterfalls and, of course, the sea!

Siberian ‘ice wedges’ help track Arctic climate history

Temperature spike seen in late 1800s

Exposed ice wedges at the coast of the Siberian island Muostakh. Photo courtesy Dr. Thomas Opel/AWI.

Exposed ice wedges at the coast of the Siberian island Muostakh have helped scientists gain a better understanding of Arctic climate. Photo courtesy Dr. Thomas Opel/AWI.

Staff Report

FRISCO — Close scrutiny of giant underground ice wedges in Siberia have helped climate scientists gain a better understanding of temperature trends in the Arctic.

After picking apart the ice layers year by year and analyzing chemical signatures, researchers with the Germany’s Alfred Wegener Institute concluded that a gradual 7,000-year increase in temperatures was punctuated by a sharp upward kink at the start of the industrial revolution, as heat-trapping greenhouse gases started to build up in the atmosphere. Continue reading

Disturbances have big effect on carbon uptake in southeastern forests

Florida oak.

Florida oak.

‘Continued forest carbon accumulation in the region is highly sensitive to land use transitions’

Staff Report

FRISCO — Forest disturbances, such as fire, disease, and cutting, as well as the impacts of land use change, may be slowing the carbon uptake of southeastern U.S. forests, according to a new U.S. Forest Service study.

The research shows that future carbon accumulation rates are highly sensitive to land use changes. Land use choices that either reduce the rate of afforestation or increase the rate of deforestation are key factors in future forest carbon accumulation, the scientists concluded in their report, published in the journal Scientific Reports. Continue reading

Energy: New Southwest power line to boost production, distribution of renewable energy

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Energy infrastructure improvements are key to tapping renewable resources.

‘The SunZia transmission line will finally unlock New Mexico’s stranded wind and solar resources and move that energy to market’

Staff Report

FRISCO — A $2 billion, 550-mile transmission line project will bolster the U.S. energy grid’s capacity to use power generated from renewable sources in the Southwest, Obama administration leaders said as they announced approval for the SunZia Southwest Transmission Project.

The line will run from the proposed SunZia East Substation in Lincoln County, New Mexico, to the existing Pinal Central Substation in Pinal County, Arizona.

“The SunZia Project will help unlock the abundant renewable energy resources in the Southwest, creating jobs and bringing reliable, sustainable power to a growing corner of our country,” said Interior Secretary Sally Jewell. Continue reading

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