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Global warming reshaping bird communities in Northeast

A backyard cardinal in Englewood, Florida. PHOTO BY BOB BERWYN.

Cardinals have become more common in the Northeast.

‘Climate change should not be viewed as the sole driver of changes in winter bird communities, but this signal is a pretty strong one for climate change’

Staff Report

FRISCO — Global warming is reshaping backyard bird communities in eastern North America, as once-rare birds are now common in the Northeast.

Cardinals, chipping sparrows and other warm-adapted species have greatly expanded their wintering range in a warmer world, a change that may have untold consequences for North American ecosystems, according to University of Wisconsin-Madison wildlife biologists Benjamin Zuckerberg and Karine Princé.

In a new paper published in Global Change Biology, Zuckerberg and Princé analyzed more than two decades of data on 38 species of birds gathered by thousands of citizen scientists through the Cornell University Laboratory of Ornithology’s Project FeederWatch. They found that birds typically found in more southerly regions are gradually pushing north, restructuring the communities of birds that spend their winters in northern latitudes. Continue reading

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Biodiversity: Amphibians now facing huge viral threat

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Amphibians are facing a new viral threat.

Study documents mass die-offs in Spain

Staff Report

FRISCO — Along with the deadly chytrid fungus that has been wiping out frogs and salamanders for a few decades, there’s a new emergent threat to amphibians.

Researchers from the UK and Spain are tracking severe disease and mass deaths in many amphibian species in the mountains of northern Spain, where common midwife toads, common toads and alpine newts are taking the biggest hit, showing levels of population collapse which could ultimately prove catastrophic to amphibian communities and their ecosystems. 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

Invasive bullfrogs spreading quickly in Yellowstone River

Native ecoystems at risk

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Bullfrogs, native to eastern North America, have gained a firm foothold in the Yellowstone River, where they could put native species at risk. Photo courtesy USGS.

Staff Report

FRISCO — Big and pushy, invasive bullfrogs are expanding their range in the Yellowstone River floodplain in Montana at the expense of other native animals, biologists reported in  a new study released in “Aquatic Invasions.

“The impacts of bullfrogs on native amphibians in the Yellowstone River are not yet known, but native Northern leopard frogs are likely to be most vulnerable to bullfrog invasion and spread because their habitats overlap,” said Adam Sepulveda, USGS scientist and lead author of the study.

Bullfrogs are thought to be a cause in the declines of multiple amphibian and reptile species around the globe. They are big, mobile, omnivores with a voracious appetite, ability to reproduce rapidly, and carriers of amphibian diseases. This makes them an extremely successful invader and a threat to biodiversity. The study is the first of its kind to describe the rapid extent of bullfrog spread, as well as their preferred habitat along the Yellowstone River near Billings, Montana. Continue reading

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

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

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