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Environment: NOAA lists 20 coral species as threatened under the Endangered Species Act

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Widespread threats lead to “threatened” listing for 20 coral species under the Endangered Species Act. Photo courtesy NOAA.

Conservation and recovery plans will be crafted in partnership with coastal communities

Staff Report

FRISCO — Twenty types of coral in the Pacific and Caribbean will be listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act, federal officials announced this week, citing declines of up to 90 percent in some species. Continue reading

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Biodiversity: Endangered species protection sought for dwindling monarch butterflies

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Can monarch butterflies be saved?

Pesticides, habitat loss and GMO crops seen as main threats

Staff Report

FRISCO —As monarch butterfly populations dwindle to unprecedented low levels, activists say the colorful and far-ranging insects need protection of the Endangered Species Act to survive. In a formal listing petition to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, a coalition of advocacy groups say the widespread use of pesticides and genetically modified crops are the biggest threats to the butterflies. Continue reading

Study pinpoints threats to loggerhead sea turtles in Gulf

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Proposed critical habitat designations could help protect dwindling loggerhead sea turtles in the Gulf of Mexico.

Findings may help protect dwindling population

Staff Report

FRISCO — The beleaguered population of loggerhead sea turtles in the northern Gulf of Mexico feeds in areas affected by the 2010 Deepwater Horizon spill and where they are threatened by other human activities.

The feeding areas for 10 turtles overlapped with an area that experienced surface oiling during the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill. These sites, and others, also overlapped with areas trawled by commercial fishing operations and used for oil and gas extraction, U.S. Geological Survey scientists said after tracking 59 nesting females. That could be about 15 percent of the entire breeding females in the Northern Gulf of Mexico—a small and declining subpopulation of loggerheads that is federally classified as threatened. Continue reading

Antarctica: Life beneath the ice

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Science mission finds microbial life beneath Antarctic ice sheets. bberwyn photo.

Simple organisms process basic elements to survive

Staff Report

FRISCO —Tiny organisms living beneath the vast Antarctic ice fields can convert ammonium and methane into the energy required for growth, surviving in one of the most unlikely environments on Earth, according to scientists who studied a subsurface lake that hasn’t seen sunlight for millions of years.

“We were able to prove unequivocally to the world that Antarctica is not a dead continent,” said Montana State University professor John Priscu, the chief scientist of the U.S. project called WISSARD that sampled the sub-ice environment. Continue reading

Biodiversity: Will grizzlies return to the North Cascades?

Grizzlies are roaming farther north and encroaching on Polar bear habitat, PHOTO COURTESY U.S. GEOLOGICAL SURVEY.

Will grizzlies once again roam the North Cascades? Photo courtesy U.S. Geological Survey.

National Park Service launches 3-year study on possible restoration

Staff Report

FRISCO — In a big move for grizzlies and wild ecosystems, the National Park Service this week launched a three-year environmental study to evaluate to possibility of restoring the apex predators to the North Cascades.

“This is the first stage of a multi-step process to help inform decisions about grizzly bear restoration in the North Cascades ecosystem,” said National Park Service Director Jonathan B. Jarvis. “The National Park Service and our partners in this effort haven’t made any decisions about the bear’s restoration at this time as federal law requires us to look at a range of options, including not restoring grizzlies to the area.” Continue reading

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

Global warming spells trouble for fish populations in desert rivers of the Southwest

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Dwindling precipitation in the Southwest spells trouble for native fish. bberwyn photo.

Study shows significant loss of fish habitat by mid-century

Staff Report

FRISCO — Big sections of vulnerable stream habitat for native fish in the Southwest are likely to disappear by mid-century as global warming causes stream flows to dwindle.

By 2050, stream-drying events could increase by 17 percent, and the number of zero-flow days could go up by 27 percent in the Verde River Basin, affecting species like speckled dace (Rhinichthys osculus), roundtail chub (Gila robusta) and Sonora sucker (Catostomus insignis).

The drying trend will fragment aquatic habitat, hampering feeding and spawning. Some populations that are already isolated may very well disappear, said Ohio State University researcher Kristin Jaeger, an assistant professor at the School of Environment and Natural Resources. Continue reading

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