Web commerce speeds invasive plant threat

himalayan balsam

Himalayan balsam was introduced as an ornamental and quickly spread throughout the northern hemisphere where it’s considered an invasive plant that displaces native flora in some areas. Photo courtesy Royal Horticultural Society.

Swiss study tracks online sales of potential invaders

Staff Report

Online commerce is accelerating the invasive species threat worldwide, Swiss reasearchers said last week after taking a close look at at the unbridled market for buying and selling plants on the internet.

These days, all it takes is one click to spread potentially invasive plants from continent to continent – and unintentionally encouraging biological invasions, the researchers said, referring to invaders like goldenrod, Himalayan balsam and the Chinese windmill palm — all of which now threaten native biodiversity in the Alpine republic.

The assess the extent of the problem, ETH Zurich researchers monitoried online trades of about two-thirds of the world’s flora on eBay plus nine other online trading platforms for 50 days, tracking which plant species were offered for sale in various countries, and how often. Continue reading

Feds finalize plan to save country’s most endangered toad


Wyoming toads are listed as extinct in nature by the IUCN. Photo via USFWS.

Wyoming toad has been on endangered species list since 1984

Staff Report

After more than a quarter century on the Endangered Species List, Wyoming toads may have a chance at recovery under a new plan that sets specific targets and requires long-term monitoring.

The once-common toads died off in massive numbers starting in the 1970s, succumbing to a deadly fungal disease that has afflicted amphibians around the world.

Listed as endangered in 1984, the Wyoming toad is considered one of the four most endangered amphibian species in North America and is currently classified as “extinct in the wild” by the International Union for Conservation of Nature. Approximately 500 individuals are currently held in captivity for breeding and reintroduction efforts. Continue reading

Threatened prairie butterflies get habitat protection


Federal biologists have designated about 46,000 acres of critical habitat for two endangered prairie butterflies. Photo courtesy USFWS.

Preserving prairie remnants could help species survive

Staff Report

With most of their prairie habitat sliced and diced by agricultural development, the  Dakota skipper and Poweshiek skipperling have long been in trouble.

The butterflies were put on the Endangered Species List in 2014, and this week, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service designated about 46,000 acres of critical habitat for the two species.

“That these butterflies have survived at all is because of the good stewardship of some of the region’s landowners,” said USFWS Midwest regional director Tom Melius. “We will continue to work with these and other landowners to ensure the conservation of remnant prairie habitat and these prairie butterflies.” Continue reading

Can the Endangered Species Act withstand the GOP assault?

Lynx kittens

Rare species like lynx would face increased threats under GOP proposals to weaken the Endangered Species Act. Photo courtesy Colorado Parks and Wildlife.

Lawmakers rally to block attacks on key environmental law

Staff Report

Conservation-minded lawmakers are rallying to counter the GOP’s seemingly endless attacks on the Endangered Species Act. In a letter to President Barack Obama, 91 members of Congress warned that Republicans are “doubling down” on their efforts to undermine protections for threatened plants and animals.

Led by Arizona Rep. Raúl M. Grijalva, the lawmakers asked the administration to reject the many proposals that undermine the Endangered Species Act, including those weakening or blocking protections for specific imperiled species. Continue reading

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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