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Environment: Changes in precipitation may drive birds response to global warming

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Perched.

New model unravels some of the complexities of how wildlife will respond to global warming

Staff Report

FRISCO — Populations of familiar backyard birds like the rufous hummingbird and evening grosbeak are declining, a trend that may be linked with changes in precipitation patterns across the western U.S.

Scientists studying the changes with a new model say precipitation, rather than temperature, may be the the main factor in determining how birds will respond to climate change.

Several past studies have found that temperature increases can push some animal species – including birds – into higher latitudes or higher elevations. Few studies, however, have tackled the role that changes in precipitation may cause, according to Matthew Betts, an Oregon State University ecologist and a principal investigator on the study. Continue reading

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Study: English Channel all fished out

Scientists call for network of protected areas

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The English Channel. Photo courtesy NASA.

Staff Report

FRISCO — The English Channel is all but fished out, leaving fishermen scraping the bottom of the barrel in their quest for a commercial haul.

Sharks, rays, cod, haddock and many other species at the head of the food chain are at historic lows with many removed from the area completely, according to UK marine biologists, who analyzed catches over the past 90 years and found significant evidence of the practice of fishing down the food web.

“It is clear from our analyses that fishing pressure has caused significant changes to food webs of the English Channel over the past 90 years,” said Plymouth University Professor Jason Hall Spencer, with the School of Marine Science and Engineering, and the Marine Institute.

The report, published in the PLOS ONE journal, used catch statistics from the International Council for the Exploration of the Seas to establish a ‘mean trophic level’ for catches – an average for how far up the food chain the fish are located. Continue reading

Oceans: Mediterranean fish in steady decline

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Albanian fishermen tend nets in Saranda. bberwyn photo.

Unregulated coastal fisheries, juvenile catch threaten sustainability

Staff Report

FRISCO — Stocks of commercially valuable fish in the Mediterranean Sea are disappearing steadily because of a lack of good planning and management, as well as inadequate enforcement of existing regulations. Without action, some species are likely to disappear, scientists warned last week in a report showing that fisheries resources in the Mediterranean have deteriorated in the past 20 years.

The report evaluated nine fish species and called for stringent monitoring of Mediterranean fishing activities, better enforcement of fisheries regulations, and advanced management plans in Mediterranean waters. The findings were published July 10 in the Cell Press journal Current Biology.
Continue reading

Wildlife: Denali wolf packs hammered by hunting

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Wolves draw tourists to Denali National Park.

Death of breeding wolves affects pack size and persistence

Staff Report

FRISCO — Following a steep drop in the Denali National Park wolf population, biologists have documented how the death of breeding wolves affects pack size and persistence. The number of wolves in the 6million acre park in Alaska dropped from 143 in the fall of 2007 to just 55 wolves in the spring of 2013, raising concerns about impacts to tourism.

Many visitors come to Denali with the expectation of seeing wolves, but a recent state decision to allow wolf hunting in area previously deemed a buffer zone has had a big impact on wolf numbers. According to the latest research, the death of a breeding wolf sometimes results in a wolfpack disbanding. Continue reading

Oceans: Feds finalize critical habitat designation for threatened loggerhead sea turtles

Beach nesting areas, open ocean habitat protected

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Room to roam for loggerheads. Photo by NOAA.

Staff Report

FRISCO — Loggerhead sea turtles  may have a better chance of surviving — and even thriving — after federal agencies designated 685 miles of beaches along the Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico coastlines, as well as 300,000 square miles of ocean, as critical habitat. The decision came after more than five years of delays and court battles, as conservation groups sought protection for the turtles.

While the ocean habitat rule provides unprecedented habitat protection for loggerhead sea turtles, it only protects nearshore habitat for one mile off nesting beaches despite science showing the importance of habitat three miles from beaches for females and hatchlings. The rule also failed to identify critical habitat for the endangered North Pacific Ocean loggerhead, which is at risk due to Hawaii and California fisheries activities in areas overlapping with the loggerhead’s habitat. Continue reading

Can amphibians bounce back from the brink?

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A live boreal toad from waters known to harbor the deadly chytrid fungus. bberwyn photo.

Research suggests some species can develop or acquire an immunity to deadly fungal pathogens

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — Florida-based researchers say they may have some answers for the puzzling wave of amphibian deaths that’s been wiping out populations of some species. At least some frogs and snakes may be able to develop immunity to the deadly chytrid fungus that’s been implicated in the die-off, University of South Florida biologists said this week.

Their findings could be good news in general for biodiversity, as emerging fungal pathogens are seen as posing the greatest threat of any parastic pathogens, contributing to declines of  amphibians, bats, corals, bees and snakes. Continue reading

Feds to backpedal on wolverine protection

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Are wolverines in the U.S. doomed by global warming?

Leaked memo suggests USFWS is bowing to political pressure from western states

By Bob Berwyn

FRISCO — Federal officials apparently won’t let the best available science stop them from making yet another politically motivated endangered species decision.

This time, wolverines are at issue, as the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service prepares to withdraw a proposal to list the rare mammal based on threats posed by global warming. The agency hasn’t officially announced its intention, but a leaked memo  shows that USFWS Mountain-Prairie regional director Noreen Walsh wants to override the recommendations of her own scientists and withdraw the listing proposal. Continue reading

The Rocky Mountain Climate Ranger project

Crowdfunding project includes matching funds

By Bob Berwyn

FRISCO — The generous response to last month’s call for grassroots donations has encouraged us to tap into a great fundraising opportunity with Beacon, a cool new journalism incubator and crowdfunding platform.

More than 20 people, from California to Pennsylvania, responded with donation. We know there are more Summit Voice readers and subscribers ready to step up, and this could be the best time, with a generous sponsor willing to match every dollar you donate. Continue reading

Wildfire activity well below average for year to-date

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The far West and northern Great Basin are especially prone to wildfires this summer.

Potential for big fires still a concern in California

By Bob Berwyn

FRISCO — For the first time in 10 years, the acreage burned by wildfires was less than 1 million acres as of the beginning of July. With extreme drought and high fire danger in parts of the far West, that could change quickly, but for now, both the number of fires and the acreage affected is well below average for the season, according to the National Interagency Fire Center.

To-date, 26,684 fires have burned across about 909,000 acres, less than half he average 2.5 million acres for this time of year. By comparison, wildfires had already burned across more than 1.7 million acres last year at this time. In 2011 that number was at 4.8 million acres. Continue reading

Biodiversity: Feds take new look at bison restoration

Report addresses brucellosis concerns

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Badlands bison. bberwyn photo.

Staff Report

FRISCO — Bison may not be getting much love in Montana, where livestock producers have repeatedly blocked efforts to restore herds outside Yellowstone National Park, but the federal government has identified ways to address concerns about brucellosis, according to a comprehensive new report on bison conservation released last week.

According to a press release from the U.S. Department of Interior, the report “reaffirms the commitment to work with states, tribes and other partners to promote the restoration of bison to appropriate and well-managed levels on public and tribal lands.”

“The Interior Department has more than a century-long legacy of conserving the North American bison, and we will continue to pursue the ecological and cultural restoration of the species on behalf of the American public and American Indian tribes who have a special connection to this iconic animal,” said Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell. Continue reading

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