Bay Area national parks to host BioBlitz 2014

Citizen science in the spotlight

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Fungi growing in redwood litter at Muir Woods National Monument. bberwyn photo.

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Muir Woods. bberwyn photo.

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — California’s Golden Gate National Parks will host BioBlitz 2014 (March 28-29), bringing together 300 scientists and naturalists from around the country, more than 2,000 students, including 1,400 students from the San Francisco Unified School District, school groups from surrounding counties and thousands of Bay Area community members.

Bioblitz participants will comb the parks, observing and recording as many plant and animal species as possible in 24 hours. Inventory activities include counting seals, documenting insects, spotting birds, examining aquatic invertebrates and using technology to better understand the varied ecosystems of these unique national parks in an urban area.

“The Golden Gate National Parks are well-loved by the surrounding Bay Area as well as visitors around the world,” said Golden Gate National Recreation Area General Superintendent Frank Dean. “BioBlitz will allow people to explore the parks in a new way, better understand the biodiversity that exists and help document and protect these amazing natural resources,” Dean said. Continue reading

Have sea otters recovered from the Exxon Valdez spill?

 Monitoring shows populations have returned to pre-spill numbers

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Sea otter in kelp. Photo by Benjamin Weitzman, U.S. Geological Survey.

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — It took almost quarter of a century, but federal scientists say that sea otters have recovered to pre-spill population numbers in the most heavily oiled areas of Prince William Sound, where the Exxon Valdez ran aground in 1989, spilling tens of millions of gallons of oil.

“Although recovery timelines varied widely among species, our work shows that recovery of species vulnerable to long-term effects of oil spills can take decades,” said lead author of the study, Brenda Ballachey, research biologist with the U.S. Geological Survey. “For sea otters, we began to see signs of recovery in the years leading up to 2009, two decades after the spill, and the most recent results from 2011 to 2013 are consistent with recovery as defined by the Exxon Valdez Oil Spill Trustee Council.”

Several thousand otters died in the immediate aftermath of the spill, and recovery was slow. Scientists monitoring the area say chronic exposure to oil remnants likely hampered recovery. Other studies documented persistence of oil in the sea otter’s intertidal feeding habitats. Continue reading

Maps show how climate change may affect global biodiversity

‘We need to act fast to make sure as much of the world’s living resources survive that change …’

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Shifting global temperatures are drive a climate-induced migration.

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — An international team of researchers have published new global maps showing how fast and in which direction local climates are shifting, and how those changes could affect global biodiversity.

As climate change unfolds over the next century, plants and animals will need to adapt or shift locations to track their ideal climate.

“The maps show areas where plants and animals may struggle to find a new home in a changing climate and provide crucial information for targeting conservation efforts,” said Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) researcher Dr. Elvira Poloczanska. Continue reading

Biodiversity: Counting whales — from space

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New satellite technology could help biologists getter more accurate estimates of whale populations  NOAA photo.

New method could help with marine mammal conservation planning

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — After using satellite images to discover new emperor penguin colonies in Antarctica, scientists with the British Antarctic Survey said they’ve also been able to use similar technology to count whales.

Marine mammals are extremely difficult to count on a large scale and traditional methods, such as counting from platforms or land, can be costly and inefficient, so the new method could lead to breakthroughs in estimating populations of whales and other marine mammals. Continue reading

Sea turtle conservation efforts need more international collaboration

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A leatherback sea turtle. Photo courtesy NOAA.

Long-line fishing still seen as key threat

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — Efforts to protect leatherback sea turtles urgently require better communication between scientists and fisheries managers, a team of researchers said after analyzing satellite data on sea turtle migration.

The last large populations of the leatherback turtle are at risk because their migratory routes in the Atlantic Ocean clash with the locations of industrial fisheries, according to the study.

The researchers used data from satellite transmitters attached to the turtles to track their movements across the Atlantic Ocean. These movements were then overlapped with information on high pressure fishing areas to identify where the turtles are most susceptible to becoming entangled and where they may drown.

The international study was jointly led by Dr. Matthew Witt, of the University of Exeter and Dr, Sabrina Fossette, of Swansea University, found that urgent international efforts are needed to protect the iconic species. Continue reading

Environment:: Some good news for endangered Colorado River fish

Recovery stakeholders find permanent sources of water to sustain needed late summer and autumn flows

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Endangered Colorado River Fish will benefit from permanent sources of water earmarked for a collaborative recovery effort. Click on the image to visit the recovery project website.

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — Four endangered native fish species in the Upper Colorado River may have a little better chance a long-term survival, as stakeholders in a collaborative recovery program found permanent sources of water needed to protect aquatic habitat for the the fish.

Water previously provided from Williams Fork and Wolford reservoirs to benefit endangered fish recovery has been replaced with permanent sources at a cost of about $25 million. The water will come from Ruedi Reservoir (5,412.5 acre-feet) and  from Granby Reservoir (5,412.5 acre-feet). The releases from Granby Reservoir will also benefit flow conditions and water quality upstream of endangered fish habitat. Continue reading

Biodiversity: Review panel says feds didn’t use best available science for wolf delisting proposal

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Scientists find flaws in federal plan to take wolves off the Endangered Species List. Photo courtesy USFWS.

USFWS reopens comment period on controversial proposal

By Bob Berwyn

FRISCO — A federal plan to take gray wolves off the endangered species list hit a snag last week, as an independent review panel raised questions about the scientific rationale for the plan.

Specifically, the reviewers questioned whether U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service biologists used the best available science when they developed the delisting proposal. Part of the criticism hinged on the fact that the agency relied heavily on one single report that may have omitted some key information, and included fundamental flaws about the taxonomy and genetic differentiation of wolves. Continue reading

Biodiversity: More bad news for bats

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White-nose syndrome may be nearly impossible to eradicate from caves.

New study traces biological evolution of bat-killing fungus

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — A new study by University of Akron scientists forecasts a gloomy future for North American bats, showing that the fungus that causes the deadly white-nose syndrome can likely survive in caves with or without the presence of bats.

The persistence of the fungus threatens regional extinction of some bat species, according to the new study published in PLOS One. White-nose syndrome has killed almost 7 million bats and appears to be relentlessly spreading across the country.

“The ability of the fungus to grow in caves absent of bats would mean that future attempts to reintroduce bats to caves would be doomed to failure,” said University of Akron associate biology professor Hazel Barton. Continue reading

Is climate change killing Magellanic penguins?

‘Increasing storminess bodes ill not only for Magellanic penguins but for many other species …’

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New research suggests that some penguin colonies are likely to see direct impacts from climate change. bberwyn photo.

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — A 27-year study of Magellanic penguins at Punta Tombo, Argentina, offers convincing evidence that climate change is killing penguin chicks, as the starving young birds succumb to increasing rainfall during stormy weather and, at other times, heat.

The University of Washington biologists who led the study say their findings are proof that climate change is directly responsible for penguin mortality — not just indirectly by depriving them of food, as has repeatedly been documented by other research.

Other recent research has shown similar impacts to white pelicans at their breeding grounds in North Dakota, and climate change is also disrupting breeding of migratory songbirds.

The research is based on careful chick counts at breeding sites and analyses of regional weather weather data showing that storminess increased between 1983 and 2010. Along with showing climate change impacts, the researchers said their finding show the need to create a protected area to at least ensure an adequate food supply for the chicks that do survive. Continue reading

Oceans: Study highlights threats to sharks and rays

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Majestic manta rays are among the species identified as facing a significant threat. Photo courtesy NOAA.

‘Unless binding commitments to protect these fish are made now, there is a real risk that our grandchildren won’t see sharks and rays in the wild …’

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — Overfishing is putting about 25 percent of the world’s sharks and rays at risk of extinction, according to ocean experts who took a close look at the global distribution, catch, abundance, population trends, habitat use, life histories, threats and conservation measures.

Previous studies have documented local overfishing of some populations of sharks and rays, but this is the first survey of their status throughout coastal seas and oceans. According to the findings, 249 of 1,041 known shark, ray and chimaera species globally fall under three threatened categories on the IUCN Red List.

“We now know that many species of sharks and rays, not just the charismatic white sharks, face extinction across the ice-free seas of the world,” said Nick Dulvy, a Simon Fraser University Canada Research Chair in Marine Biodiversity and Conservation. “There are no real sanctuaries for sharks where they are safe from overfishing,” Dulvy said. Continue reading

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