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Scientists face endangered species conundrum

Bay Area marsh bird at nexus of endangered and invasive species

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A clapper rain along the shore of San Francisco Bay. Photo via USFWS.

Staff Report

FRISCO — Conservation biologists in the San Francisco bay area say they’re facing a conundrum, as they try to remove an invasive salt marsh grass while recovering an endangered bird that has come to rely on the non-native plant.

In a study published last month in the journal Science, researchers at the University of California, Davis said that an all-out push to eradicate the marsh cordgrass could hamper efforts to recover the clapper rail, a bird on the brink because of urban development and loss of wetlands.

Their results showed that, rather than moving as fast as possible with eradication and restoration, the best approach is to slow down the eradication of the invasive species until restoration or natural recovery of the system provides appropriate habitat for the endangered species.

Scientists in the southwestern U.S. have faced similar issues as they try to remove invasive tamarisk, which has come to provide habitat for rare southwestern willow flycatchers. Continue reading

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Study: Low levels of oil fatal to young fish

A school of Pacific herring. PHOTO COURTESY NOAA.

“These embryos were literally falling apart …”

By Summit Voice

SUMMIT COUNTY — Very low concentrations of oil from a 2007 spill in San Francisco Bay had an unexpectedly lethal impact on embryonic herring.  Ultraviolet light dramatically increased the toxicity of the bunker oil that leaked from a ship after it collided with the Bay Bridge, killing a high percentage of the young fish.

“Based on our previous understanding of the effects of oil on embryonic fish, we didn’t think there was enough oil from the Cosco Busan spill to cause this much damage,” said Gary Cherr, director of the University of California Davis Bodega Marine Laboratory.

The spill devastated a commercially and ecologically important species for nearly two years, according to a new study by the University of California, Davis, and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Continue reading

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