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Environment: Polluted runoff from farms and cities in Hawaii causes sea turtle tumors

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An endangered green sea turtle swims along the sea bottom. Photo courtesy NOAA.

‘We’re drawing direct lines from human nutrient inputs to the reef ecosystem, and how it affects wildlife’

Staff Report

FRISCO — What goes on your lawn and garden doesn’t stay there — and that’s bad news for sea turtles in Hawaii, Duke University biologists said this week, explaining that pollution from urban areas and farms is causing often-deadly tumors in the endangered animals.

A new study, published Tuesday in the peer-reviewed open-access journal PeerJ, shows that nitrogen in the runoff ends up in algae that the turtles eat, promoting the formation of tumors on the animals’ eyes, flippers and internal organs. Continue reading

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New chytrid fungus test could help amphibian conservation

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A boreal toad found in the Cucumber Gulch wetlands in Breckenridge, Colorado. bberwyn photo.

New sampling method enables early detection of deadly fungus in the environment, before it infects amphibians

Staff Report

FRISCO — A new way to test for the presence of the amphibian-killing chytrid fungus may help conservation efforts for species like the Rocky Mountain’s boreal toads, still under consideration for the endangered species list.

Instead of testing amphibians directly for the fungus, U.S. Geological Survey researchers said they’ve learned how to test for chytrid fungus in the water the animals live in. The new sampling technique can help assess the risk of exposure, potentially helping plan recovery efforts. Continue reading

Florida panthers catch break from National Park Service

Big Cypress National Preserve closes some motorized backcountry routes in response to environmental lawsuit

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Ribbons of trails cut through Big Cypress National Preserve.

By Bob Berwyn

FRISCO —Florida panthers will get at least a temporary reprieve from dirt bikes and off-road vehicles, as the National Park Service agreed to cut motorized in Big Cypress National Preserve.

The agreement with conservation groups requires the park service to close an extensive network of motorized secondary and user-created trails until it conducts an environmental analysis. The park service must also work with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to ensure protection for panthers and other rare species in the area. Continue reading

Report highlights species on brink of extinction

Sierra Yellow-legged frog. PHOTO COURTESY USFWS.

Sierra Yellow-legged frog. Photo: USFWS.

Biodiversity crisis growing as more and more species blink out

Staff Report

FRISCO — It’s no secret that many plant and animal species in the U.S. are in danger of disappearing permanently, but a new report from the Endangered Species Coalition brings home the point by highlighting several once-common species teetering on the brink of extinction.

Among them, the mountain yellow-legged frog, with 90 percent of remaining populations supporting fewer than 10 frogs.

“Frogs have successfully thrived on our planet since the time of the dinosaurs, but now the mountain yellow legged frog and 30 percent of all amphibian species are facing extinction due to human actions,” said Jeff Miller with the Center for Biological Diversity, which nominated the mountain yellow-legged frog for today’s report and petitioned for its federal protection in 2000. Continue reading

Great Smoky Mountains National Park seeks to protect bat populations by limiting seasonal access to hibernation area

Monitoring to help inform conservation plan

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A map from Bat Conservation International shows the spread of white-nose syndrome in the eastern United States.

Staff Report

RISCO — The National Park Service hopes to protect bat populations in Great Smoky Mountains National Park with a winter closure to limit human disturbance to bat hibernacula and help hikers avoid interactions with bats.

The Whiteoak Sink area will be closed through March 31 while park biologists monitor  the site throughout the winter to cllect population, ecological and behavioral data. The information will be used to develop a long-term protection plan. An extended closure through late spring may be recommended if the winter data suggests such an action would increase the chances for survival of a significant number of bats. Continue reading

Report claims Florida’s fast-track permitting for boat launches ignores impacts to manatees

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Florida manatees. bberwyn photo.

Feds consider changing manatee status from endangered to threatened

Staff Report

FRISCO — Gentle, slow-moving manatees are still facing serious threats from motorboats in Florida waterways and should continue be be listed as endangered, according to conservation advocates.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is considering down-listing manatees, but the move doesn’t make sense, considering that boat collisions are still the leading cause of death, as detailed in a new report issued by the Center for Biological Diversity.

The conservation group charges that federal and state officials have issued permits for thousands of new docks, boat ramps and piers without considering the cumulative effects on the marine mammals who favor the same near-shore waters used by Florida’s recreational boaters. Continue reading

Study tracks big drop in Pacific walrus numbers

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.

 Melting Arctic sea ice is forcing walrus colonies into a shore-bound existence to which they aren’t adapted. Photo courtesy USGS.

Melting sea ice likely a factor in population decline

Staff Report

FRISCO — With a 2017 endangered species listing deadline looming, federal researchers are trying to pinpoint Pacific walrus population numbers. In the newest study, the U.S. Geological Survey said the population dropped by about half between 1981 and 1999, but scientists aren’t sure if the numbers have stabilized since then.

in 2011, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service acknowledged that the species was under pressure from sea ice loss and over-harvesting, but didn’t formally add the Pacific walrus to the endangered species list. A federal court said the agency must make a final determination by 2017. Continue reading

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