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Environment: $627 million restoration plan finalized to repair some of the damage from the Deepwater Horizon disaster

Barrier islands, shorelines, dunes, underwater grasses and oyster beds targeted for restoration

A NASA satellite image shows the oil slick from the Deepwater Horizon disaster spreading across the northern Gulf of Mexico in late May, 2010.

A NASA satellite image shows the oil slick from the Deepwater Horizon disaster spreading across the northern Gulf of Mexico in late May, 2010.

Staff Report

FRISCO — Nearly four years after BP’s Deepwater Horizon drilling operation disastrously failed and spewed millions of gallons of oil into the Gulf of Mexico, NOAA and its partners have finalized a $627 million restoration plan. The formal record of decision released last week authorizes 44 projects to restore barrier islands, shorelines, dunes, underwater grasses and oyster beds.

This announcement marks the largest suite of Gulf early restoration projects selected thus far in the wake of the 2010 oil spill. The projects aim to address a range of injuries to natural resources and the subsequent loss of recreational use. Details of restoration efforts are outlined in the Final Programmatic and Phase III Early Restoration Plan and Early Restoration Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement. Continue reading

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Fish swimming toward poles as fast as they can to escape global warming

Study projects major shifts in species richness patterns

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A map from the new University of British Columbia study shows the current distribution of species richness based on data going back to the 1950s.

Staff Report

FRISCO — Many fish species are racing away from the equator and toward the poles to escape steadily warming ocean temperatures. In a worst-case scenario of unchecked greenhouse gas emissions, many fish will disappear from the tropics by 2050, moving poleward by as much as 26 kilometers per decade.

Under the best-case scenario, where the Earth warms by just 1 degree Celsius, fish would move 15 kilometres every decade, according to a new study by scientists with the University of British Columbia study that examined the impact of climate change on fish stocks. Continue reading

Are California sea otters on the verge of recovery?

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Can sea otters bounce back from the brink?

Population along California coast hovering near targeted recovery level

Staff Report

FRISCO — Sea otters are making a slow and steady comeback along the Central California coast, with the species’ population nearing a level that could earn them the distinction of being taken off the endangered species list.

In the latest official population estimate released last week, federal scientists said there were just under 3,000 southern sea otters living along the Central California coast, based on a population index used since the 1980s. That’s up slightly from 2013 and just shy of the 3,090 threshold set by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service as a recovery benchmark. Continue reading

Mangroves may shelter some corals from global warming

Study documents ‘climate refuge’ in Virgin Islands

Boulder brain corals, for example, were found in abundance under the mangroves and were healthy, while many of those in unshaded areas a short distance away were bleaching. Photo Credit: Caroline Rogers, USGS

Boulder brain corals were found in abundance under the mangroves and were healthy, while many of those in unshaded areas a short distance away were bleaching.
Photo Credit: Caroline Rogers, USGS.

Staff Report

FRISCO — Some coral species are finding a refuge of sorts from global warming by finding new habitat in the shade of red mangrove trees.

Scientists with the U.S. Geological Survey and Eckerd College documented discovery of the refuge in the U.S. Virgin Islands, where more than 30 species of reef corals were found growing in Hurricane Hole, a mangrove habitat within the Virgin Islands Coral Reef National Monument in St. John. Continue reading

Global warming once again forces walruses ashore

PHOTO U.S. GEOLOGICAL SURVEY: Melting Arctic sea ice is forcing walrus colonies into a shore-bound existence to which they aren't adapted. Scientists say they've documented several cases of young calves being trampled in stampedes.

PHOTO via U.S. GEOLOGICAL SURVEY. Melting Arctic sea ice is forcing walrus colonies into a shore-bound existence to which they aren’t adapted. Scientists say they’ve documented several cases of young calves being trampled in stampedes.

Dwindling sea ice leads to dramatic habitat changes for some marine mammals

Staff Report

FRISCO — For the sixth time in the last eight years, Pacific walruses living around Alaska have run out of ice. Instead of their usual resting places on ice floes, the marine mammals are hauling out on land — a clear consequence of global warming, according to U.S. Geological Survey scientists who are tracking the animals from the air.

Just in the past decade, summer sea ice has started retreating far north of the shallow continental shelf waters of the Chukchi Sea in U.S. and Russian waters, drastically changing living conditions for walruses and other species.To keep up with their normal resting periods between feeding bouts to the seafloor, walruses are taking to dry land. Continue reading

Return of wolves leads to aspen resurgence in Yellowstone

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Ecosystems need top-level predators to remain healthy. bberwyn photo.

Predator restoration stirs the ecosystem pot

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — Long term ecological monitoring in Yellowstone National Park shows a surge in aspen growth following the restoration of wolves to the ecosystem, with overall shifts in landscape conditions not seen in more than a century.

A series of studies show the recovery of vegetation as elk numbers drop, a decline driven by the return of the region’s apex predators. Biologists long hypothesized that wolves keep elk populations in check and also affect their grazing habits. Continue reading

Rebuilding biodiversity: Feds release whooping crane chicks

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Whooping crane chicks, hatched and raised by their parents at the U.S. Geological Survey’s Patuxent Wildlife Research Center in Laurel, Maryland, were released on Necedah National Wildlife Refuge in Wisconsin.

Project aims to restore migratory flock in eastern U.S.

Staff Report

FRISCO — Efforts to boost a self-sustaining flock of migratory whooping cranes in the eastern U.S. got a boost last month with the release of four chicks that were raised in captivity at a U.S. Geological Survey research center in Maryland. The crane chicks were released on the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Necedah National Wildlife Refuge in Wisconsin.

According to the U.S. Geological Survey, the six-month-old birds are part ofan experimental rearing and release method referred to as “parent-rearing.”  The parent-reared whooping crane chicks were hatched and raised by captive adult whooping cranes. Continue reading

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