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Study: White sharks rebound from exploitation

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New data suggests white sharks are making a comeback.

Research charts important habitat of apex predators

Staff Report

FRISCO — White sharks in the Atlantic Ocean may be making a comeback a few decades after expanding recreational and commercial fisheries appeared to have decimated populations of the apex predators. A new study sheds some light on population trends, showing were populations are most concentrated and which areas may serve as important nurseries.

“White sharks in the Northwest Atlantic are like a big jigsaw puzzle, where each year we are given only a handful of pieces,” said Tobey Curtis, a shark researcher at NOAA’s Greater Atlantic Regional Fisheries Office in Gloucester, Mass. and lead author of the study. “After decades of effort by a lot of researchers, we finally have enough puzzle pieces for a picture to emerge on distribution and abundance patterns. We are pleased to see signs of population recovery.” Continue reading

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Deadly starfish disease explodes on Oregon coast

Northern rainbow star afflicted with sea star wasting disease. This species had virtually disappeared from central California kelp forests as of February 2014. Photo: Steve Lonhart / NOAA MBNMS

Northern rainbow star afflicted with sea star wasting disease. This species had virtually disappeared from central California kelp forests as of February 2014. Photo: Steve Lonhart / NOAA MBNMS.

Biologists fully expecting local extinctions

Staff Report

FRISCO — As scientists continue to puzzle over the cause of a devastating starfish disease, the outbreak this month spread rapidly north along the coast of Oregon, where ocean experts are now expecting a widespread die-off with some local extinctions of starfish possible.

Sea star wasting syndrome is a traumatic process in which, over the course of a week or less, the sea stars begin to lose legs, disintegrate, ultimately die and rot. They sometimes physically tear their bodies apart. Various epidemics of the syndrome have been observed in the past, but none of this extent or severity, according to information released by Oregon State University. Continue reading

Scientists face endangered species conundrum

Bay Area marsh bird at nexus of endangered and invasive species

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A clapper rain along the shore of San Francisco Bay. Photo via USFWS.

Staff Report

FRISCO — Conservation biologists in the San Francisco bay area say they’re facing a conundrum, as they try to remove an invasive salt marsh grass while recovering an endangered bird that has come to rely on the non-native plant.

In a study published last month in the journal Science, researchers at the University of California, Davis said that an all-out push to eradicate the marsh cordgrass could hamper efforts to recover the clapper rail, a bird on the brink because of urban development and loss of wetlands.

Their results showed that, rather than moving as fast as possible with eradication and restoration, the best approach is to slow down the eradication of the invasive species until restoration or natural recovery of the system provides appropriate habitat for the endangered species.

Scientists in the southwestern U.S. have faced similar issues as they try to remove invasive tamarisk, which has come to provide habitat for rare southwestern willow flycatchers. Continue reading

Environment: Honey bee mortality drops slightly

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A bumblebee searches for pollen on a wildflower in Frisco, Colorado. bberwyn photo.

Colonies still dying off at an unsustainable rate

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — Honey bee colonies continues to die off at an alarming rate last year, with beekeepers reporting that they lost 23.2 percent of their colonies during the 2013-2014 winter. The preliminary numbers are from a survey conducted by the Bee Informed Partnership and the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

The drop in mortality may be a small ray of hope in an otherwise bleak picture, showing mortality that is not economically sustainable for beekeepers. Of course it’s not just honey that’s at stake. Commercial beekeepers truck thousands of hives around the country to help pollinate many commercial food crops. Continue reading

Opinion: No GOP love for sage grouse

Click on the image for more information on greater sage-grouse.

While Republican lawmakers play election-year politics, sage grouse are going extinct

Western Republicans looking to strip protections for dwindling species

By Bob Berwyn

FRISCO — A group of right wing western lawmakers want to kill federal protections for dwindling sage grouse for at least 10 years with a proposed law that would specifically prevent the iconic birds from being listed as threatened or endangered under federal law.

Using the twisted Orwellian doublespeak that’s become common in anti-environmental GOP circles, the proposed bill is called  the Sage Grouse Protection and Conservation Act — which would strip federal biologists of their authority to make an accurate, science-based determination about the status of the birds. Continue reading

Report: Deep-sea trawling causes widespread ecosystem damage

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Fishing boats at anchor in Appalachicola, Florida.

Study shows losses in seabed biodiversity after regular fishing

By Staff Report

FRISCO — It may be hard to imagine a desert at the bottom of the ocean, but scientists working in the Mediterranean region say that’s exactly what’s happening in areas that are heavily fished by deep-sea fishing trawlers. In some of the studied areas, the number of microorganisms has dropped by 80 percent from pre-trawling days, with an overall drop of 50 percent in biodiversity.

Dragging heavy nets across the ocean flower is inexorably changing the marine ecology by reducing organic carbon content and threatens regional biodiversity, said the scientists from the Polytechnic University of Marche in Ancona, Italy. Continue reading

Colorado to update wildlife action plan

Public input wanted

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Elk in Colorado’s Blue River Valley. bberwyn photo.

Staff Report

FRISCO —Colorado is set to start updating a critical wildlife action plan that helps the state qualify for federal grant funds to protect habitat. The existing version of the plan was completed in 2006 and is due for a mandated 10-year overhaul.

State Wildlife Action Plans originated in the early 2000’s after a coalition of federal and state resource agencies, sportsmen’s groups, conservation groups, non-governmental organizations, businesses and private citizens joined in partnership, urging the feds to provide grants for wildlife and habitat conservation. Continue reading

Wolves just can’t catch seem to a break in the West

Was public cut out of  Arizona wolf planning process?

Mexican gray wolf. Photo courtesy USFWS.

Mexican gray wolf. Photo courtesy USFWS.

Staff Report

FRISCO — The slowly recovering population of Mexican gray wolves in the Southwest may face even more pressure in coming years, as state officials in Arizona seek to codify a new wolf management plan that could restrict recovery efforts. Continue reading

Scientist find source of mysterious Southern Ocean sound

New data could help minke whale conservation efforts

A group of Antarctic minke whales. Photo courtesy Ari S. Friedlaender, Oregon State University

A group of Antarctic minke whales, which have been identified as the source of a mysterious sound in the Southern Ocean. Photo courtesy Ari S. Friedlaender, Oregon State University.

Staff Report

FRISCO — If you’ve ever heard mysterious sounds that you can’t identify, you’re not alone. For decades, researchers have tried to trace the source of a unique rhythmic sound in the remote Southern Ocean that’s often been recorded, but never definitively pinpointed — until now.

This week, scientists with NOAA’s Northeast Fisheries Science Center said the sound is generated by the Antarctic Minke whale, the smallest of the “great whales” or rorquals, a group that includes the blue whale, Bryde’s whale, and humpback, fin, and sei whales. Rorqual whales are relatively streamlined in appearance, have pointed heads and, with the exception of humpback whales, small pointed fins. Continue reading

Where have all the blue-footed boobies gone?

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Galápagos Islands blue-footed boobie populations have dwindled by a third since the 1960s. Photo via Wikipedia under a Creative Commons license.

Scientists track decline of iconic Galápagos birds

Staff Report

FRISCO — Populations of blue-footed boobies, one of the Galápagos Islands iconic species, have dwindled by a third since the 1960s, mainly because the birds don’t seem to be finding the food they need to breed and raise chicks.

The population decline is so steep that the birds are in danger of dying out, according to a new study published in the journal Avian Conservation and Ecology. The researchers found that sardines have all but disappeared from the birds’ diet, said Wake Forest University biology professor Dave Anderson. Without that primary food source, adult birds are simply choosing not to breed, he said. Continue reading

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