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Biologists investigate wolf sighting near Grand Canyon

Gray wolf in the winter woods. Photo courtesy USFWS.

Gray wolf in the winter woods. Photo courtesy USFWS.

Agencies scramble to make positive ID of large canid

By Bob Berwyn

*More recent stories about wolves at this link.

FRISCO — An endangered gray wolf may have wandered into northern Arizona, perhaps from as far away as Wyoming or Montana, and has been spotted on national forest lands north of the Grand Canyon for about the past three weeks.

Federal and state biologists, as well as wildlife conservation advocates, are trying to figure out if the animal is in fact a wolf by collecting scat and doing a genetic analysis. Continue reading

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Feds launch ocean biodiversity monitoring network

A pelican perch along the coast in Englewood, Florida.

A pelican perches along the coast in Englewood, Florida.

Florida, California and Alaska sites will host pilot phase of research effort

Staff Report

FRISCO — Federal agencies are launching an ambitious $17 million pilot project to monitor ocean biodiversity, recognizing that fragile coastal and marine ecosystems face increasing threats, including climate change.

“To mitigate and adapt to such threats, we need a fuller, more integrated, picture of how the biodiversity within these ecosystems may be changing, especially since marine biodiversity is a key indicator of ocean health and critical to sustaining natural resources such as fisheries,” the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration said in a press release. Continue reading

Environment: Colorado biologists still on the lookout for bat-killing white-nose sydrome

batmap

Reports from the public can help inform monitoring, response

Staff Report

FRISCO — Marking the start of National Bat Week (Oct. 26-Nov.1), Colorado Parks and Wildlife officials said they’ll be carefully monitoring bat hibernation sites this winter for the effects of White-nose Syndrome, a deadly fungal disease that has killed between 5.7 and 6.7 million hibernating bats in caves and inactive mines in the eastern U.S.

“Bats are an important yet under-appreciated part of our world,” said CPW Species Conservation Coordinator Tina Jackson. “This threat is something we all should be worried about,” she added. Continue reading

Global hydropower boom poses biodiversity risks

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Hoover Dam.

New database to help assess impacts of planned dams

Staff Report

FRISCO — An emergent global hydropower boom will help meet the demand for low-carbon energy, but also poses environmental risks, according to experts compiling a new data base on global hydropower.

The boom is expected to double production of hydropower, but could also reduce  the number of our last remaining large free-flowing rivers by about 20 percent and pose a serious threat to freshwater biodiversity.

A new database has been developed to support decision making on sustainable modes of electricity production. An unprecedented number of dams for electricity production is currently under construction or planned worldwide, mainly in developing countries and emerging economies in South America, Southeast Asia and Africa, that also hold some of the world’s most important sites for freshwater biodiversity.  Continue reading

Rare California frogs finally get recovery plan

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Can a recovery plan save rare yellow-legged frogs in California? Photo courtesy Adam Backlin, USGS.

 Critical habitat designation and active restoration efforts could bolster populations

Staff Report

FRISCO — After 12 years on the endangered species list, a dwindling population of California frogs will finally get some much-needed attention from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

Under a settlement agreement reached last week, the agency will develop a recovery plan for Southern California’s mountain yellow-legged frogs by December 2018

“I’m so glad these severely endangered frogs will finally get a recovery plan,” said Collette Adkins Giese, a Center of Biological Diversity attorney and biologists dedicated to protecting rare amphibians and reptiles. “Recovery plans really need to be developed soon after species are protected, because they give us a roadmap of exactly what we need to do to ensure those species won’t go extinct.”

There are only nine known populations of the frogs, all living in isolated headwaters streams where they rely on snowmelt and freshwater springs for habitat. Most of the frogs were wiped out by the introduction of non-native trout, and habitat degradation is another factor in their decline. Continue reading

Predator decline spawns thorny biodiversity dilemma

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Yet another study describes cascading ecological impacts of declining predator populations.

Plant communities change as herbivoves spread

Staff Report

FRISCO — The global decline of large predators is leading to a loss of plant and tree diversity, scientists said after studying ecosystem changes in Africa. Recent research shows more than 75 percent of the world’s large carnivore species are in decline, with 17 of those species occupying less than half of their historical distributions.

The research by University of British Columbia zoologist Adam Ford and his colleagues involved tracking Africal impalas with GPS units to see how they respond to the presence (and absence) of predators, specifically whether the predators scare impala so much that impala will avoid areas where they are likely to be killed. They combined the tracking data with a high-resolution satellite image of tree cover and located carcasses to determine where impala are being killed. Continue reading

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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