Posted on April 22, 2014 by Bob Berwyn
Scientists track decline of iconic Galápagos birds
FRISCO — Populations of blue-footed boobies, one of the Galápagos Islands iconic species, have dwindled by a third since the 1960s, mainly because the birds don’t seem to be finding the food they need to breed and raise chicks.
The population decline is so steep that the birds are in danger of dying out, according to a new study published in the journal Avian Conservation and Ecology. The researchers found that sardines have all but disappeared from the birds’ diet, said Wake Forest University biology professor Dave Anderson. Without that primary food source, adult birds are simply choosing not to breed, he said. Continue reading
Filed under: biodiversity, Environment | Tagged: biodiversity, Birds, blue-foote boobies, conservation, Galapagos Islands, wildlife | Leave a comment »
Posted on April 19, 2014 by Bob Berwyn
A green sea turtle cruises the sea bottom in this NOAA image.
Relentless fishing pressure pinches population
FRISCO — Endangered green sea turtles aren’t getting much of a break in Central America, where a 20-year assessment shows steeply declining catch rates in Nicaragua — as much as 56 percent in the past two decades, according to conservation scientists with the Wildlife Conservation Society and the University of Florida.
The researchers estimate that more than 170,000 green turtles were killed between 1991 and 2011, with catch rates peaking in 1997 and 2002 and declining steeply after 2008, likely resulting from over-fishing. The trend in catch rates shows a clear need for limits on this legal fishery, according to the report’s authors.
“The significant decrease in the catch rates of green turtles represents a concern for both conservationists and local, coastal communities who depend on this resource,” said Dr. Cynthia Lagueux, lead author of the study. “We hope this study serves as a foundation for implementing scientifically based limits on future green turtle take.” Continue reading
Filed under: biodiversity, endangered species, Environment | Tagged: Environment, green sea turtles, Nicaragua, ocean conservation | Leave a comment »
Posted on April 17, 2014 by Bob Berwyn
Montana court says bison are not livestock
A Yellowstone bison. Photo courtesy National Park Service.
By Summit Voice
FRISCO — A Montana district court judge this month rejected yet another attempt by ranchers to block the restoration of bison in the northern plains. The ranchers sought to have wild bison classified as livestock rather than wildlife, but Montana District Judge John McKeon ruled last week that wild bison are wildlife under state law — regardless of their confinement in quarantine.
A legal classification as livestock would have transferred jurisdiction over quarantined bison from the Montana Department of Fish, Wildlife and Parks to the Montana Department of Livestock—a move that threatened to impede any future efforts to restore native bison as a wildlife species in appropriate portions of their historic habitat.
“This ruling rightly discredits what amounted to a stealth attack on future efforts to restore wild bison in Montana,” said Earthjustice attorney Tim Preso, who represented Defenders of Wildlife and the National Wildlife Federation in opposing Citizens for Balanced Use’s argument. “Wild bison are classified as wildlife under Montana law. Now it is time to restore wild bison as wildlife on the Montana landscape.” Continue reading
Filed under: Environment, public lands, national parks, biodiversity, wildlife | Tagged: Bison, bison restoration, Montana, Yellowstone National Park | Leave a comment »
Posted on April 12, 2014 by Bob Berwyn
‘All it has is this river and it has nowhere else to go …’
An alligator snapping turtle. Photo courtesy Gary M. Stolz/U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
FRISCO — Conservation of coastal rivers of the northern Gulf of Mexico is vital to the survival of the alligator snapping turtle, including two recently discovered species, University of Florida scientists concluded in a recent study that sheds more light on the taxonomy of the dinosaurs of the turtle world.
The study shows the alligator snapping turtle, the largest freshwater turtle in the Western Hemisphere and previously believed to be one species, is actually three separate species. Continue reading
Filed under: biodiversity, Environment, wildlife | Tagged: Alligator snapping turtles, conservation, Florida, Suwannee River | Leave a comment »
Posted on April 10, 2014 by Bob Berwyn
New NOAA-USGS study evaluates aquaculture cleanup potential
Oysters could help clear the water in the Potomac River estuary.
FRISCO — Degraded water quality in the Potomac River estuary could be improved with intensive cultivation of oysters according to a new NOAA and U.S. Geological Survey study published in the journal Aquatic Geochemistry.
As filter feeders, oysters could remove all of the nitrogen currently polluting the river if 40 percent of its river bed were used for shellfish cultivation. The researchers determined that a combination of aquaculture and restored oyster reefs may provide even larger overall ecosystem benefits. Oysters can clean an enormous volume of water of algae which can cause poor water quality, leading to unwanted algae blooms and dead zones. Continue reading
Filed under: biodiversity, Environment, water, water quality | Tagged: aquaculture, Environment, Potomac River, water quality | Leave a comment »
Posted on April 10, 2014 by Bob Berwyn
A tagged California condor in flight.
New study suggests that spent lead ammunition could make it impossible to recover the species
FRISCO — Accidental ingestion of spent lead ammunition is killing endangered California condors at a rate that may prevent the birds from establishing self-sustaining populations.
The condors were among the first animals to be protected under the Endangered Species Act. By 1966, the population had dropped to just a handful of birds, but a massive collaborative conservation effort helped the population grow to more than 400 individuals.
But those gains may be at risk, according to San Diego Zoo conservation biologists.
“After reviewing nearly 20 years of our mortality data on the free-ranging birds, it became clear that lead poisoning is the primary problem for the birds in the wild,” said Bruce Rideout, director of the wildlife disease laboratories for San Diego Zoo Global.
“And this is not just a problem for California condors. We can view them as an indicator species, warning us about the hazards of widespread lead contamination in the environment.” said Bruce Rideout, director of the wildlife disease laboratories for San Diego Zoo Global.
The recent study of lead impacts was done with researchers from the Wildlife Health Center at the School of Veterinary Medicine, University of California at Davis. The findings are published in the January edition of the journal EcoHealth.
Filed under: biodiversity, endangered species, Environment | Tagged: biodiversity, California condors, endangered species, Environment | Leave a comment »
Posted on April 9, 2014 by Bob Berwyn
Developers and energy companies show no love for rare species
Federal biologists are deciding whether wolverines should be protected under the Endangered Species Act. Photo courtesy USFWS.
By Summit Voice
FRISCO — A federal judge last week rejected claims by developers that a 2011 agreement between environmental groups and the federal government will hurt the industry.
At issue is a groundbreaking deal covering more than 700 species that could someday be listed as threatened or endangered. Under the agreement, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service said it will make listing decisions on all the species by 2018, and so far, 138 species have been protected or formally proposed for protection. Continue reading
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Posted on April 5, 2014 by Bob Berwyn
Roaming buffalo create management challenges
By Summit Voice
FRISCO — A herd of bison brought to northern Arizona in the early 1900s has moved from a state-run wildlife area into Grand Canyon National Park, and now park rangers want to develop a plan to manage the animals.
Initially, the bison were managed in the House Rock Wildlife Area for big game hunters, but in the late 1990s, the animals have pioneered their way to the top of the Kaibab Plateau and into Grand Canyon National Park.
Resource managers say combination of public hunt pressure, drought and fire, and reduced forage quality in House Rock Valley during the 1990s may have contributed to the bison moving through Saddle Mountain Wilderness and onto the higher elevations of the Kaibab Plateau. Over the past several years, very few bison have returned to wildlife area. Most now spend a majority of their time inside the park. Continue reading
Filed under: biodiversity, Environment, wildlife | Tagged: Arizona, Bison, buffalo, Grand Canyon National Park, public lands, wildlife | Leave a comment »
Posted on April 5, 2014 by Bob Berwyn
Study offers new insight into long-distance avian migration.
‘We think that these behaviors represent a previously unknown cognitive ability …’
FRISCO — Some migrating birds may be able to sense weather patterns on a hemispheric scale, helping them optimally time their nonstop transoceanic flights.
Bar-tailed godwits, the ultra-marathon champions of migration, breed in Alaska and spend winters in New Zealand and a recent U.S. Geological Survey-led study suggests that these birds can sense broad weather patterns.
Careful monitoring of the birds suggest they time their departure to match the best possible atmospheric wind conditions possible within a two-week window. Remarkably, not only were the conditions optimal for take-off, but they almost always provided the best possible conditions for the birds’ entire flights, as far as 7,000 miles in eight days between Alaska and New Zealand.
Filed under: biodiversity, Environment | Tagged: bar-tailed godwits, Birds, Environment, migration, weather | 1 Comment »
Posted on March 31, 2014 by Bob Berwyn
Why are so many Republicans opposed to efforts to protect and restore endangered and threatened species?
Not much substance, a lot of political smoke …
FRISCO — The Republican anti-environment cadre in the House is once again taking aim at the Endangered Species Act by introducing legislation that would make it even harder for federal agencies to protect animals and plants that are at risk of going extinct.
Two of the bills, H.R. 4316 and H.R. 4318, would limit the ability of citizens to challenge government decisions in court. The Republican measures are also ostensibly aimed at reducing the government’s legal costs associated with responding to endangered species lawsuits, but conservation advocates said that is an ideological red herring. Government data shows that the Department of Interior has spent far more money responding to frivolous demands for documents than on settling lawsuits.
Filed under: biodiversity, endangered species, Environment | Tagged: biodiversity, endangered species, Environment, politics | 1 Comment »