Genetics help pinpoint origins of lionfish invasion

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Red lionfish are swarming the western Atlantic and Caribbean. Photo courtesy USGS.

New data may help control efforts

Staff Report

FRISCO— Biologists and resource managers grappling with invasive red lionfish in the Caribbean have some new clues based on genetic research.

Without natural predators, lionfish have spread throughout the western Atlantic, displacing native fish and disrupting ecosystems.

In a new study released this week, U.S. Geological Survey researchers say the invasion probably started in multiple locations. Florida had been fingered as the likely source, but the analysis suggest that multiple introductions occurred, with some potentially coming from the more southern parts of the range. Continue reading

Scientists urge caution on Nicaragua canal plan

New waterway could take a huge environmental toll

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Preparations have started for construction of a new canal connecting the Atlantic and Pacific Ocean across Nicaragua. Map courtesy Pedro Alvarez Grou.

Staff Report

FRISCO — Expediting construction of a planned transoceanic canal in Nicaragua raises a host of environmental and social issues, according to a panel of scientists who recently met at a conference to discuss the potential impacts of the project.

The scientists urged caution and international collaboration, saying that sediment discharges during construction will threaten aquatic species, Nicaragua’s lucrative ecotourism and the supply of fresh water for drinking, irrigation and power generation.

The Nicaragua Interoceanic Grand Canal will cut through Lake Cocibolca , Central America’s main freshwater reservoir and the largest tropical freshwater lake of the Americas. The plan will force the relocation of indigenous populations and impact a fragile ecosystem, including species at risk of extinction, according to Rice University environmental engineer Pedro Alvarez and other members of the consortium. Continue reading

Global warming speeds spread of infectious diseases

Shifting climate brings new exposure risks

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Climate change will shift the world’s disease zones.

Staff Report

FRISCO — Global warming is likely to hasten the spread of infectious diseases to new geographic areas and new host species, scientists warned in a recent study, urging health experts to think ahead as they consider the effects of various pathogens on plants, animals and humans.

“We have to admit we’re not winning the war against emerging diseases,” said Daniel Brooks, a zoologist with the Harold W. Manter Laboratory of Parasitology at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. “We’re not anticipating them. We’re not paying attention to their basic biology, where they might come from and the potential for new pathogens to be introduced.” Continue reading

Study: Global warming likely to help invasive species gain the upper hand in wetlands

Colorado wetlands

 Meadow Creek wetlands, Frisco, Colorado.

‘Death by a thousand cuts’

Staff Report

FRISCO — Invasive wetlands species are likely to get a boost from climate change, resulting in long-term threats to key native ecosystems, according to new research from Duke University.

“Changing surface-water temperatures, rainfall patterns and river flows will likely give Japanese knotweed, hydrilla, honeysuckle, privet and other noxious invasive species an edge over less adaptable native species,” said Neal E. Flanagan, visiting assistant professor at the Duke Wetland Center, who led the research. Continue reading

Global warming could speed up honeybee decline

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New research suggests that honeybee parasites spread faster as the Earth heats up. bberwyn photo.

Study tracks spread of invasive parasite

Staff Report

FRISCO —Global warming is very likely speeding up the spread of an invasive parasite that threatens honeybees in the UK, according to scientists with Queen’s University Belfast.

After studying the gut parasite Nosema ceranae, the scientists said its numbers could increase with climate change because its better able to adapt to warmer temperatures.

The parasite is native to Asia but has spread worldwide and is likely to cause increasing damage to bees as the Earth heats up. The findings were published this week in the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B.

“This emerging parasite is more susceptible to cold than its original close relative, possibly reflecting its presumed origin in east Asia,” said Queen’s School of Biological Sciences Professor Robert Paxton. “In the face of rising global temperatures, our findings suggest that it will increase in prevalence and potentially lead to increased honey bee colony losses in Britain.” Continue reading

Deadly new fungal disease presents global threat to salamanders

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A fire salamander from France. Photo via Wikimedia and the Creative Commons.

Conservation groups call on U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to act decisively to protect U.S. populations

Staff Report

FRISCO — A skin-eating fungus that has spread via the commercial sale of salamanders could pose a serious new threat to amphibians around the world.

Researchers in the Netherlands identified the fungus last year as they investigated a huge crash in the population of fire salamanders. In just four years, the fungus nearly wiped out fire salamanders in the Netherlands. It kills the amphibians by eating through their skin, exposing them to lethal bacterial infections. Continue reading

Invasive bullfrogs spreading quickly in Yellowstone River

Native ecoystems at risk

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Bullfrogs, native to eastern North America, have gained a firm foothold in the Yellowstone River, where they could put native species at risk. Photo courtesy USGS.

Staff Report

FRISCO — Big and pushy, invasive bullfrogs are expanding their range in the Yellowstone River floodplain in Montana at the expense of other native animals, biologists reported in  a new study released in “Aquatic Invasions.

“The impacts of bullfrogs on native amphibians in the Yellowstone River are not yet known, but native Northern leopard frogs are likely to be most vulnerable to bullfrog invasion and spread because their habitats overlap,” said Adam Sepulveda, USGS scientist and lead author of the study.

Bullfrogs are thought to be a cause in the declines of multiple amphibian and reptile species around the globe. They are big, mobile, omnivores with a voracious appetite, ability to reproduce rapidly, and carriers of amphibian diseases. This makes them an extremely successful invader and a threat to biodiversity. The study is the first of its kind to describe the rapid extent of bullfrog spread, as well as their preferred habitat along the Yellowstone River near Billings, Montana. Continue reading

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