Climate: Too hot for lizards?


Global warming may bake lizard embryos before they have a chance to escape the heat. Photo via USGS.

New study shows lizard habitat could shrink by 48 percent

Staff Report

Climate change is likely to have a big impact on lizards across the United States, researchers warned in a recent paper after studying how warmer temperatures will affect them at all stages of their development.

The scientists found that lizard embryos die when subjected to a temperature of 110 degrees Fahrenheit even for a few minutes. Previous studies may have underestimated the impacts because they didn’t look closely at early life stages, when lizards are immobile and cannot seek shade or cool off when their surrounding soil becomes hot.

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Endangered Species Act changes would send many plants and animals towards oblivion

A lynx in the wilds of Colorado. Photo courtesy Tanya Shenk, Colorado Division of Wildlife.

A lynx in the wilds of Colorado. Photo courtesy Tanya Shenk, Colorado Division of Wildlife.

Huge coalition sends letter to President Obama criticizing proposed new petitioning rules

Staff Report

A federal plan to tweak the Endangered Species Act isn’t getting much love from conservation advocates, who say the changes would make it much harder to start the listing process.

To reinforce their concerns, 175 environmental and social justice organizations sent a letter to the Obama administration, detailing what they call “massive roadblocks” to needed protection for many species. Continue reading

California sea otters inch toward recovery


Sea otters are increasingly facing shark attacks at the northern and southern end of their range. Photo courtesy USGS.

Latest survey shows population growth in some areas

Staff Report

There’s good news and bad news for sea otters along the California coast. A boom in sea urchin numbers in some areas is providing plenty of food for the species, but sharks are taking a bite from the otter population at the northern and southern end of their range, potentially slowing the spread of otters up and down the coast.

Sea otters were presumed extinct in California after the fur trade years, but a remnant population was discovered off the coast of Big Sur in the 1930s, prompting a recovery effort. Otters are a keystone coastal species that maintain the ecological balance in undersea kelp forests.

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Court orders U.S. Navy to cut sonar testing, explosives use in key marine mammal areas


Marine mammals around California and Hawaii will get some relief from U.S. Navy training exercises. @bberwyn photo.

‘If a whale or dolphin can’t hear, it can’t survive …’

Staff Report

Whale and dolphins off the coast of California and Hawaii will get temporary protection from naval warfare training activities under a federal court settlement that restricts sonar training and the use of powerful explosives in some areas.

The settlement is in response to a lawsuit from a coalition of activist groups that has been sparring with the U.S. Navy over the issue for about 10 years. The court previously found that the Navy’s activities illegally harm more than 60 separate populations of whales, dolphins, seals, and sea lions.

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Sea turtles face serious plastic pollution risk


Sea turtles along the East Coast of North America face a high risk of ingesting plastic waste. Photo courtesy NOAA.

Study estimates more than half of all sea turtles have ingested plastic debris

Staff Report

LINZ — Not long after a team of scientists detailed the extent to which seabirds have been exposed to ocean plastic pollution, another group of researchers say sea turtles face similar threats.

The international study, led by a led by a University of Queensland researcher, shows more than half the world’s sea turtles have ingested plastic or other human trash — perhaps not surprising considering that up to 12 million tons of plastic debris reach the oceans each year.

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Drought dries up frog ponds in Pacific Northwest


Current drought offers window into future climate conditions.

‘More years like 2015 do not bode well for the frogs …’

Staff Report

LINZ — This year’s fierce drought in the Pacific Northwest has given researchers a chance to see how climate change may affect the region long-term, and the outlook is not good for amphibians.

The low winter snowpack and long, hot summer have left some frogs high and dry as their mountain ponds dry up and disappear. Those conditions could be the norm in another 50 years, said Se-Yeun Lee, research scientist at University of Washington’s Climate Impacts Group and one of the lead authors of the study published last week in PLOS ONE.

“This year is an analog for the 2070s in terms of the conditions of the ponds in response to climate,” said Se-Yeun Lee, research scientist at University of Washington’s Climate Impacts Group and one of the lead authors of the study. Continue reading

Can the Endangered Species Act save the stonefly?

Western Glacier Stonefly

A Western Glacier Stonefly.

Glacier meltdown threatens unique ecosystems

Staff Report

Even with immediate and massive cuts in greenhouse gas emissions, most of the glaciers in the northern Rockies are likely to vanish in the next few decades. That means there won’t be any habitat left for the western glacier stonefly, which depends on cold glacial meltwater for habitat.

Even though their demise is all but certain, environmental activists say the insect needs protection under the Endangered Species Act, and last week, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service agreed to make that decision within the next year. Continue reading


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