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Antarctica’s ice-free fringe needs more protection

Invasive species a huge threat to sparse ecosystems, scientists report

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Tourists on Dundee Island hike past birds and pinnipeds. bberwyn photo

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Tourists hiking on Deception Island. bberwyn photo

Staff Report

FRISCO — The tiny ice-free fringes of Antarctica are especially prone to ecosystem disruption, including invasive species, an Australian science team warned earlier this year after taking a close look at how human use is concentrated in those slivers of dry land.

Antarctica has over 40,000 visitors a year, and more and more research facilities are being built in the continent’s tiny ice-free area. Most of the Antarctic wildlife and plants live in the ice-free areas – and this is also where people most visit.

Most tour operators in Antarctica follow strict guidelines set to protect ecosystems, including at least basic decontamination procedures, but those measures might not be enough, especially as global warming makes ice-free zones more susceptible to invasive species. Continue reading

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Environment: Tracking pharmaceutical pollutants up the food chain

Fish-eating ospreys not showing signs of contamination

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Ospreys so far are not picking up significant amounts of pharmaceutical pollution found in many streams and rivers around the world. bberwyn photo

Staff Report

FRISCO — Pharmaceutical compounds from makeup and drugs are turning up in streams and rivers all over the world, even in remote Yucatan cenotes, but for now, they don’t seem to be working their way up the food chain.

The chemicals have been finding their way into the environment, primarily through wastewater, urban runoff and even biosolids applied to agricultural lands, but he impact on wildlife is unknown, so researchers with the U.S. Geological Survey and Baylor University teamed up to try and track the pollutants through the food chain by testing ospreys. Continue reading

Predator decline spawns thorny biodiversity dilemma

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Yet another study describes cascading ecological impacts of declining predator populations.

Plant communities change as herbivoves spread

Staff Report

FRISCO — The global decline of large predators is leading to a loss of plant and tree diversity, scientists said after studying ecosystem changes in Africa. Recent research shows more than 75 percent of the world’s large carnivore species are in decline, with 17 of those species occupying less than half of their historical distributions.

The research by University of British Columbia zoologist Adam Ford and his colleagues involved tracking Africal impalas with GPS units to see how they respond to the presence (and absence) of predators, specifically whether the predators scare impala so much that impala will avoid areas where they are likely to be killed. They combined the tracking data with a high-resolution satellite image of tree cover and located carcasses to determine where impala are being killed. Continue reading

Report: Global wildlife populations drop 50 percent

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Global biodiversity is at risk.

‘We’re gradually destroying our planet’s ability to support our way of life’

FRISCO —Neocolonialism under multinational corporations is devastating biodiversity in developing low-income countries, as the wealthy part of the world continues to increase consumption of resources at an unsustainable rate.

As a result, populations of mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians, and fish around the globe dropped 52 percent, according to the annual 2014 Living Planet report released last week by the World Wildlife Fund. Continue reading

Biodiversity: Will grizzlies return to the North Cascades?

Grizzlies are roaming farther north and encroaching on Polar bear habitat, PHOTO COURTESY U.S. GEOLOGICAL SURVEY.

Will grizzlies once again roam the North Cascades? Photo courtesy U.S. Geological Survey.

National Park Service launches 3-year study on possible restoration

Staff Report

FRISCO — In a big move for grizzlies and wild ecosystems, the National Park Service this week launched a three-year environmental study to evaluate to possibility of restoring the apex predators to the North Cascades.

“This is the first stage of a multi-step process to help inform decisions about grizzly bear restoration in the North Cascades ecosystem,” said National Park Service Director Jonathan B. Jarvis. “The National Park Service and our partners in this effort haven’t made any decisions about the bear’s restoration at this time as federal law requires us to look at a range of options, including not restoring grizzlies to the area.” Continue reading

Morning photo: Sunday set

Oh, Colorado!

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Wetlands sunrise, Frisco, Colorado.

FRISCO — Our Sunday set is a grab-bag of shots from the last 10 days or so, starting with another spectacular sunrise scene at the Meadow Creek wetlands in Frisco. And since we’ve been on the road reporting for the crowfunded Climate Rangers environmental journalism project, we’re also featuring a few images from outside Summit County. Continue reading

Study: Colorado pikas holding their own

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A Quandary Peak pika enjoys some sunny weather recently on his rocky ledge. bberwyn photo.

Plenty of good habitat left in the Colorado Rockies, researchers conclude

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — New surveys by Colorado wildlife biologists suggest that pikas seem to be holding their own as temperatures rise in the Rocky Mountains. The study found that pikas remain well distributed in the Colorado high country.

“In their primary habitat, mainly at and above timberline where there is lots of talus, we find pikas almost everywhere we look,” said Amy Seglund, a species conservation biologist for Parks and Wildlife based in Montrose. Continue reading

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