Study: Florida’s beach-hardening strategy threatens green sea turtle nesting areas

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A green sea turtle. Photo courtesy NOAA.

‘Smart’ adaptation plans needed to protect critical beach nesting habitat

Staff Report

FRISCO — Florida’s strategy of trying to “harden” beaches to prevent erosion poses a serious threat to sea turtles, university scientists said this week, outlining results of a study that tracked reproduction for 30 years.

Hardening beaches puts up barriers to wildlife and impacts sea turtles’ ability to nest,” the researchers said. Continue reading

Wildlife: Florida panther deaths reach record high

Can panthers survive the onslaught of continued development in southwest Florida?

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No slowdown in Florida panther deaths. Graph courtesy PEER.

An endangered Florida panther. PHOTO BY RODNEY CAMMAUF, COURTESY THE NATIONAL PARK SERVICE.

An endangered Florida panther. PHOTO BY RODNEY CAMMAUF, COURTESY THE NATIONAL PARK SERVICE.

Staff Report

FRISCO — Panther deaths in Florida climbed to a record level in 2014, as the wild cats continue to succumb to collisions with vehicles on highways in southwest Florida.

In all, 30 panther deaths were reported by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission this year, topping the previous record of 27 deaths tallied in 2012. More than half of this year’s deaths were the result of collisions with vehicles.

Panther mortality this year could represent as much as one-fourth of the entire population, which the Florida Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commission estimates at between 100 and 180 animals.  The reason for this wide variation is that the number of cats monitored through radio collars has steadily declined. Continue reading

Feds taking input on new Florida manatee plan

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Manatees at Crystal Springs, Florida. bberwyn photo.

Refuge managers seek to balance protection of marine mammals with demand for public access at Three Sisters Springs

Staff Report

FRISCO — The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service says a careful management plan at a freshwater spring in Florida can help protect manatees and ensure public access to the popular Three Sisters Springs recreation area.

The agency this week started taking input on a draft environmental assessment for management actions to protect manatees and still allow public access at Three Sisters Springs during the winter season. Continue reading

Climate: Icebergs … in Florida?

Dawn in the Antarctic Sound. Click on the image for more ...

Iceberg tracks offer modern climate clues. bberwyn photo.

Study seeks abrupt climate change clues

Staff Report

FRISCO — Icebergs may have been drifting off the coast of Florida as recently as 21,000 years ago, university researchers said after developing a climate model that recreates ocean currents from the end of the last ice age.

The study implies that the mechanisms of abrupt climate change are more complex than previously thought, according University of Massachusetts Amherst oceanographer Alan Condron. The models are supported by the discovery of iceberg scour marks on the sea floor along the entire continental shelf. Continue reading

Report claims Florida’s fast-track permitting for boat launches ignores impacts to manatees

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Florida manatees. bberwyn photo.

Feds consider changing manatee status from endangered to threatened

Staff Report

FRISCO — Gentle, slow-moving manatees are still facing serious threats from motorboats in Florida waterways and should continue be be listed as endangered, according to conservation advocates.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is considering down-listing manatees, but the move doesn’t make sense, considering that boat collisions are still the leading cause of death, as detailed in a new report issued by the Center for Biological Diversity.

The conservation group charges that federal and state officials have issued permits for thousands of new docks, boat ramps and piers without considering the cumulative effects on the marine mammals who favor the same near-shore waters used by Florida’s recreational boaters. Continue reading

River protection critical for snapping turtles

‘All it has is this river and it has nowhere else to go …’

Gary M. Stolz/U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

An alligator snapping turtle. Photo courtesy Gary M. Stolz/U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

Staff Report

FRISCO — Conservation of coastal rivers of the northern Gulf of Mexico is vital to the survival of the alligator snapping turtle, including two recently discovered species, University of Florida scientists concluded in a recent study that sheds more light on the taxonomy of the dinosaurs of the turtle world.

The study shows the alligator snapping turtle, the largest freshwater turtle in the Western Hemisphere and previously believed to be one species, is actually three separate species. Continue reading

Climate: Annual sea-level cycles intensifying along eastern Gulf Coast

Higher summer spikes could mean more destructive storm surges

Researchers have documented changes in the annual cycle of sea level changes along the Florida Gulf Coast. bberwyn photo.

Researchers have documented changes in the annual cycle of sea level changes along the Florida Gulf Coast. bberwyn photo.

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — Annual sea level fluctuations have been intensifying along parts of the Gulf Coast, raising concerns about more hurricane flooding and impacts to delicate coastal ecosystems in the region.

There have always been seasonal fluctuations in sea level, which rise in summer and fall in winter. But a new study shows that, from the Florida Keys to southern Alabama, those cycles have amplified in the past 20 years.

The additional summer sea level rise during the past two decades means storm surges can rise higher than previously thought, according to Thomas Wahl, a postdoctoral researcher from the University of Siegen in Germany who is working at the University of South Florida in St. Petersburg and lead author of the study. Continue reading

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