Environment: Expanding rubber-tree plantations seen as huge threat to biodiversity on Southeast Asia

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Expanding rubber-tree plantations threatens biodiversity in Southeast Asia. Photo courtesy Eleanor Warren-Thomas, University of East Anglia.

Major sustainability push needed to protect habitat for endangered species

Staff Report

FRISCO — The growing global demand for rubber is threatening biodiversity in Southeast Asia, where expanding plantations are encroaching on protected areas, according to a new study from the University of East Anglia.

Meeting the demand will require up to  8.5 million hectares of additional rubber plantations, but expansion on this scale will have “catastrophic” biodiversity impacts, with globally threatened unique species and ecosystems all at risk the researchers said, comparing the extent of the problem to palm oil production. Continue reading

Genetics help pinpoint origins of lionfish invasion

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Red lionfish are swarming the western Atlantic and Caribbean. Photo courtesy USGS.

New data may help control efforts

Staff Report

FRISCO— Biologists and resource managers grappling with invasive red lionfish in the Caribbean have some new clues based on genetic research.

Without natural predators, lionfish have spread throughout the western Atlantic, displacing native fish and disrupting ecosystems.

In a new study released this week, U.S. Geological Survey researchers say the invasion probably started in multiple locations. Florida had been fingered as the likely source, but the analysis suggest that multiple introductions occurred, with some potentially coming from the more southern parts of the range. Continue reading

Environmental groups slam McConnell-led Senate

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U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.

100 days of pain …

Staff Report

FRISCO — A furious assault on the environment during the first 100 days of a GOP-controlled Senate has environmental advocates on the defensive.

Instead of making progress on climate change and other key conservation issues, progressives are in the position of trying to hold the line on gains they made during the first six years of the Obama administration.

According to a coalition of advocacy groups, Senate Majority leader Mitch McConnell has made it clear that his top priority is protecting polluters and dismantling clean air and public health protections. Continue reading

Government-sanctioned wildlife slaughter continues

Resident bald eagle in Summit County, Colorado guarding the nest.

Resident bald eagle in Summit County, Colorado guarding the nest. @bberwyn photo.

Federally licensed hunters and trappers killed 2.7 million animals in 2014

Staff Report

FRISCO — A lot of things have changed in the U.S. during the past 100 years, but some things have not, including the frontier-era mindset among some people that makes it OK to willfully slaughter wildlife.

Even as some branches of the government expend considerable resources to protect and conserve plants and animals, another secretive agency continues to routinely kill millions of animals, including wolves, coyotes, bears, mountain lions, beavers, foxes, eagles and other animals deemed pests by powerful agricultural, livestock and other special interests. Continue reading

Environment: Blacktop runoff is deadly to stream life

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Off the road, into the stream … Photo courtesy U.S. Department of Transportation.

Coal-tar sealant fingered as highly damaging to DNA

Staff Report

FRISCO — New research led by U.S. Geological Survey scientists shows that pavement sealants made with coal tar are highly toxic. Runoff from surfaces treated with such sealants can kill fish and other stream organisms for months after it’s applied, the researchers concluded in a pair of recent studies.

Pavement sealant is a black liquid sprayed or painted on the asphalt pavement of parking lots, driveways and playgrounds to improve appearance and protect the underlying asphalt.

Pavement sealants that contain coal tar have extremely high levels of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs).  Coal tar is a known human carcinogen; several PAHs are probable human carcinogens and some are toxic to fish and other aquatic life. Continue reading

Environment: Are research stations polluting Antarctica?

Study finds that some Persistent Organic Pollutants are ‘pervasive’ in the environment around Antarctic base

The ice fields of Antarctica

The ice fields of Antarctica. @bberwyn photo.

Staff Report

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FRISCO — Antarctica is often described as one of the last pristine environments on Earth, but that may be changing as human activity increases.

Researchers with the Australian Antarctic Division recently said they tracked pollutants from common household sources dispersing from a research station into the surrounding environment. As a result, the scientists are rethinking how they store and dispose of materials that could be the source of pollutants. Continue reading

Watchdog group says manatee harassment ‘out of control’

Agency efforts to educate visitors sometimes met with verbal abuse, according to federal biologists

Manatees gather at King Spring, along Florida's Crystal River, which serves as a warm-water refuge on a 30-degree January day. PHOTO BY JOYCE KLEEN/USFWS.

Manatees gather at King Spring, along Florida’s Crystal River, which serves as a warm-water refuge on a 30-degree January day. PHOTO BY JOYCE KLEEN/USFWS.

Staff Report

FRISCO — Observations by U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service biologists may bolster a watchdog group’s arguments that well-intentioned swim-with-manatee programs are actually pushing the endangered marine mammals closer to the brink of extinction.

In some Florida locations, harassment of manatees by visitors may be out of control, according to Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility, which last month said it will go to court to try and end the programs.

An email written last year by outgoing Crystal River National Wildlife Refuge/ Kings Bay Manatee Refuge manager Michael Lusk may be a “smoking gun” that shows exactly how visitors are disturbing the animals. Without adequate resources to manage the swim-with-manatees programs, the activities are likely to contribute to the decline of the species. Continue reading

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