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Biodiversity: Will the rain crow sing again?

Feds map critical habitat for yellow-billed cuckoo

Yellow-billed cuckoos have nearly been extirpated from the western U.S. Photo courtesy Rocky Mountain Bird Observatory.

Yellow-billed cuckoos have nearly been extirpated from the western U.S. Photo courtesy Rocky Mountain Bird Observatory.

Will yellow-billed cuckoos make a comeback in Colorado?

Will yellow-billed cuckoos make a comeback in Colorado?

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — The long endangered species odyssey of the yellow-billed cuckoo may be one step closer to resolution, as federal wildlife officials this week proposed designating more than half a million acres of critical habitat for the birds, sometimes known as rain crows for their habit of singing before a storm.

The bird was once common along most rivers and streams in the West, but the decline of the species, eyed for protection since 1986, shows how much human activities have degraded riparian riverside habitat. Yellow-billed cuckoos are neotropical migrants that winter in South America and nest along rivers and streams in western North America. Continue reading

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BLM okays new Colorado River whitewater park

kayakPumphouse site to get new play feature for boaters

Staff Report

FRISCO — Along with the incredible natural terrain of the Colorado River through Gore Canyon, boaters will soon also have an artificial place to play. The Kremmling Field Office of the Bureau of Land Management this week announced approval of the proposed Gore Canyon whitewater park at the Pumphouse Recreation area, west of Kremmling in the Upper Colorado River Valley.

Continue reading

Morning photo: ‘Shroom hunting!

Prime time for Colorado fungi

Colorado mushrooms

Clavaria purpurea, purple coral mushroom growing in the Tenmile Range near Frisco, Colorado.

FRISCO — For a couple of weeks every summer I need to set aside extra time every few days to search for wild mushrooms. It’s not just the eating — I’m totally fascinated by the role fungi have in forest ecosystems, with some recent studies suggesting that they may be the key drivers of the forest carbon carbon cycle because of how they interact with plants to sequester carbon deep in forest soils. This morning, during a short walk in the Tenmile Range, I found one decaying section of a log, about two square feet, home to at least six species of fungi (that I could see), along with many more types of moss and lichen, all woven into a living, organic mat on the forest floor. And, as icing on the cake, I did find a couple of Boletus edulis, delicious edibles sought after around the world under various names, including porcini and cep. Continue reading

Morning photo: Sunday set

Oh, Colorado!

wetlands sunrise Colorado

Wetlands sunrise, Frisco, Colorado.

FRISCO — Our Sunday set is a grab-bag of shots from the last 10 days or so, starting with another spectacular sunrise scene at the Meadow Creek wetlands in Frisco. And since we’ve been on the road reporting for the crowfunded Climate Rangers environmental journalism project, we’re also featuring a few images from outside Summit County. Continue reading

Morning photo: RMNP!

A little taste of high country heaven

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Trail Ridge Road view.

FRISCO — Dylan and I had a chance to visit Rocky Mountain National Park as part of the crowdfunded Climate Ranger project, meeting with a team of scientists who are monitoring conditions in the park’s alpine tundra as part of the Colorado Natural Heritage Program. The monitoring is part of a global program aimed at trying to track climate-induced changes with long-term data, because we won’t know what climate change is doing unless we study it closely. We’ll do more reporting on this topic in the next few days, but for now, a few pics from the Park. Click on the panos to see the full-size versions. Continue reading

Report: Hot times ahead for Colorado

More heatwaves, wildfires and water shortages in the outlook

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Colorado will warm dramatically in the next few decades.

Staff Report

FRISCO — By the middle of this century, Denver’s average temperature could be 6 degrees Fahrenheit warmer than today — on par with Albuquerque, according to a new climate report released by the Colorado Water Conservation Board in early August.

Even with deep cuts in greenhouse gas emissions, Colorado will continue to get warmer. An increase of at least 2 degrees Fahrenheit by mid-century is all but certain, and that will have a big impact on the state’s water supplies, state officials said, reinforcing the results of a series of studies all showing that rising  temperatures will reduce the amount of water in many of Colorado’s streams and rivers, melt mountain snowpack earlier in the spring, and increase the water needed by thirsty crops and cities. Continue reading

Morning photo: Wetlands morning

(Mostly) unfiltered

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Vertical landscape, to emphasize the deep reflections in the pond. This is an unfiltered, unedited shot straight out of the iPhone.

FRISCO — It’s probably no secret, but not all the images in this ongoing series are morning shots (although many are). But today’s sunrise was so cool that I just decided to post a set showing some different flavors of the same scene, with all the shots taken within a half hour and all within a mile of Summit Voice headquarters in Frisco. If the rest of the day is as good as the sunrise, well, it should be pretty spectacular! Continue reading

Morning photo: Moon dance

Another super moon?

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That rhythm of the setting sun and rising moon …

FRISCO — My timing has been a bit off for lunar photography later – I think I need to download an app or something! But I did get out early Monday morning to one of my favorite (albeit trashed out by gun “enthusiasts”) Gore Range overlook spots to catch the supermoon setting behind the Gore Range, realizing as soon as I arrived that I was a day late, at least in terms of catching just the right balance, with the moon close to the horizon, sinking into the deep, rich colors of dawn. Next month! Continue reading

Forest fragmentation alters global carbon cycle

Careful measurements show how roads and other disturbances affect moisture and the ability of fungi and bacteria to break down dead wood

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Forest fragmentation has a big impact on the carbon cycle. bberwyn photo.

By Summit Voice

FRISCO —Logging roads, clearcuts and other disturbances that fragment forests can slow the decay of dead wood and significantly alter the cycling of carbon and nutrients in woodland ecosystems, according to a new study.

Scientists with Earthwatch and the University of Exeter (UK) took a hard look at global forest fragmentation, starting the well-known fact that the edge effect influences temperature, moisture and other elements of forest microclimates. But the effect on the carbon cycle is less understood, so the researchers used on-the-ground experiments combined with modeling to try and fill the gaps. Continue reading

Biodiversity: Can Colorado’s native greenback cutthroat trout make a big comeback?

Recovery team stocks genetically pure trout in historic habitat

A Rio Grande cutthroat trout. Photo courtesy Andrew Todd.

A Rio Grande cutthroat trout. Photo courtesy Andrew Todd.

FRISCO — Colorado’s native greenback cutthroat trout may be on their way to repopulating their historic habitat in the South Platte River Basin, thanks in part to a scientific sleuthing effort that helped trace the genetic roots of the colorful fish a couple of years ago.

About 1,200 greenback cutthroat fingerlings reared in federal and state hatcheries in Colorado were stocked into Zimmerman Lake, near Cameron Pass last week. An interagency recovery team hopes the stocking is a first milestone toward re-establishing populations of the state fish, which nearly vanished from Colorado’s rivers  because of  pollution, overfishing and stocking of native and non-native species of trout.

In 2012, scientists concluded that the only remaining genetically pure greenbacks were isolated in a small, single population — about 750 fish, all living in a four-mile reach of Bear Creek, a small Arkansas River tributary in the mountains west of Colorado Springs.

University of Colorado, Boulder researcher led the study that pinpointed the genetic history of the fish, clarifying the native diversity and distribution of several Colorado cutthroat trout strains. Tracking that history wasn’t easy. Historical records show that, between  1889 and 1925, more than 50 million cutthroat trout from the Gunnison and Yampa river basins were stocked in tributaries of all major drainages in the state, jumbling the picture of native cutthroat strains in Colorado through time and space.

“This is a conservation genetics success story,” said Metcalf. “We were able to use historical specimens to find out something quite novel about cutthroat trout biodiversity that has resulted in a management action. We are not just bringing a native species back to its historic range, but the greenback cutthroat trout, our Colorado state fish. I would have never imagined this outcome when we started our research in 2001.”

According to Doug Krieger, senior aquatic biologist for CPW and the Greenback Cutthroat Recovery Team leader, about 3,500 greenback cutthroat trout — offspring of fish taken from Bear Creek — have been raised at the Mt. Shavano State Rearing Unit and the Leadville National Fish Hatchery.

“We finally have the opportunity to bring these fish home,” Krieger said.

According to CU-Boulder Professor Andrew Martin, who spearheaded the 2012 study with Metcalf, researchers are trying to understand more about the characteristics of the greenback, including a collaborative effort to assess how the fish succeed in their new environment.

“Living in Zimmerman Lake in the Arapaho and Roosevelt National Forest at an elevation over 10,000 feet will be very different from living in Bear Creek at 6,100 feet or living the ‘cushy’ life in a hatchery,” Martin said, explaining that researchers will closely watch the newly stocked greenbacks in Zimmerman Lake.

“This is an extremely challenging situation,” said Martin of CU-Boulder’s ecology and evolutionary biology department. “But this recovery effort has been a joint project of many different people with different interests and backgrounds combining their energy toward one specific goal. We have a chance to bring a native species back from the brink, and I’m happy to be a part of it.”

Colorado’s greenbacks, along with 14 other recognized subspecies, all originated in the Pacific Ocean, evolving along different genetic lineages in river drainages across the West.

 In Colorado, four lineages of cutthroats were previously identified: the greenback cutthroat, the Colorado River cutthroat, the Rio Grande cutthroat and the extinct yellowfin cutthroat. Work by the CU team also identified a previously undiscovered San Juan Basin cutthroat trout that is now extinct.

The study technique could pave the way for the gene sequencing of other wild creatures like reptiles and amphibians that were preserved in ethanol by early scientists, perhaps even helping researchers determine biodiversity levels in the late 1800s, said Metcalf,

 

 

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