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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

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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

Environment: Unchecked population growth & development are threatening Florida’s wildlife

State’s wildlife is squeezed from all sides

Oceanic birds and birds that rely on coastal habitat face challenges related to climate change, according to the 2011 State of the Birds report. PHOTO BY BOB BERWYN.

Oceanic birds and birds that rely on coastal habitat face challenges related to climate change, according to the 2011 State of the Birds report. bberwyn photo.

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — The rapid growth of Florida’s population, combined with laissez-faire development policies and the lack of strong environmental regulations is putting the state’s natural resources at risk, conservation advocates said in a year-end press release.

The warning came as the U.S. Census Bureau released figures showing that Florida will soon overtake New York as the third-most populous state in the country, and as Florida’s wildlife continues to struggle in the face habitat loss, urban sprawl, water withdrawals and other effects of rapid human population growth in recent decades.

“As Florida’s human population growth breaks new records, incredible species like panthers and manatees are dying at record rates,” said Stephanie Feldstein, the Center for Biological Diversity’s population and sustainability director. “Florida is a beautiful, biodiversity-rich state, but it has a long history of replacing that beauty with condos and strip malls. If Florida doesn’t get its growth under control, development and concrete are all that will be left.” Continue reading

Climate: Florida plants threatened by sea level rise get Endangered Species Act protection

Listing decision part of far-reaching settlement for imperiled species

Three Florida coastal plants threatened by sea level rise get Endangered Species Act protection. bberwyn photo.

Three Florida coastal plants threatened by sea level rise get Endangered Species Act protection. bberwyn photo.

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — Chugging ahead on its commitment to make endangered species listing decisions for more than 750 species, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service last week announced that three native Florida plants — all threatened by sea level rise — deserved protected status.

Most populations of the plants — aboriginal prickly apple, Florida semaphore cactus and Cape Sable thoroughwort are at, or just above, mean sea level.

“These native plants are being squeezed out of existence — pressed between coastal development and rising sea levels,” said Florida-based Center for Biological Diversity attorney Jaclyn Lopez. “Protection under the Endangered Species Act will give them a role in South Florida’s planning for rising seas.” Continue reading

Study: Loggerhead sea turtles visit multiple nesting sites in a single season

A loggerhead sea turtle off the coast of New England. Photo courtesy NOAA/Matthew Weeks.

A loggerhead sea turtle off the coast of New England. Photo courtesy NOAA/Matthew Weeks.

Findings suggest need for broader habitat protection

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — A USGS study tracking threatened loggerhead sea turtles in the Gulf of Mexico suggests the turtles may need broader habitat protection to recover. The loggerheads roam far and wide between nesting beaches, and to offshore habitat in a single season, through waters impacted by oil and fishing industries.

The findings also cast new uncertainties on current estimates of the size of the species’ Gulf of Mexico subpopulation, based on nest counts.

“Our research shows that the same turtle could easily deposit eggs in Alabama and Florida if nests are separated by about 2 weeks,” said lead author Kristen Hart, a USGS research ecologist.. “Population numbers based on nest counts may therefore be biased upwards if nests at the two sites were assumed to have come from two different females.” Continue reading

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