Category: biodiversity

Bat-killing fungus spreads to Texas

White-nose syndrome has killed 5.5 million bats so far

Bats take to the evening sky in the San Luis Valley of southern Colorado. Photo courtesy Colorado Parks and Wildlife.
A little brown bat afflicted with white-nose syndrome. Photo courtesy USGS.

Staff Report

Read more about white-nose syndrome in the Summit Voice archives

A fungal pathogen that has wiped out bat populations across the eastern third of the U.S. has now been found in Texas, according to state wildlife officials, who documented the fungus for the first time on two new bat species: the cave myotis and a western subspecies of Townsend’s big-eared bat.

White-nose fungus first emerged in 2006 in New York and his since spread into 30 states and killed at least 5.5 million bats. Wildlife conservation advocates said the recent announcement from is a biological disaster, considering the potential risks to huge, world-famous bat colonies that thrive in unique cave ecosystems in the state. Continue reading “Bat-killing fungus spreads to Texas”

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Legal battle over wolves heats up in California

Shasta pack photo courtesy California Department of Fish and Wildlife.

Ranching, farming groups sue to end legal protections

Staff Report

Wildlife conservation advocates are helping fend off a nuisance lawsuit by a right wing group that seeks to end state endangered species protection for wolves in California.  The lawsuit, brought against the California Fish and Wildlife Commission by the Pacific Legal Foundation, falsely claims that wolves are ineligible for state protection. Like many other legal actions filed by the group, this one is aimed mainly at harassing government agencies and others working in the public interest.

For conservation groups — he Center for Biological Diversity, Environmental Protection Information Center, Cascadia Wildlands and Klamath-Siskiyou Wildlands Center — have intervened in the case on behalf of wolves, represented by Earthjustice. Continue reading “Legal battle over wolves heats up in California”

Mass coral bleaching likely along northern Great Barrier Reef

Extensive stand of severely bleached coral at Lisianski Island in the Papahanaumokuakea Marine National Monument in Hawaii, documented during an August 2014 NOAA research mission. (Credit: NOAA).

Scientists are currently mapping the biological damage caused by global warming

Staff Report

At the end of eastern Australia’s long, hot summer, ocean scientists are once again seeing devastating coral die-backs in the northern reaches of the Great Barrier Reef. Over the next few weeks, they’ll venture underwater to study how the coral communities responded to a second straight year of overheated water.

When temperatures pass a threshold, the coral expels its symbiotic algal partner, leaving underwater wastelands of white-washed reefs. The scientists will also use survey flights above the reef, and even satellite imaging as they mobilize to document one of global warming’s most devastating impacts. There has been a prolonged global mass bleaching under way for the past year, and climate researchers say nearly all the world’s corals will be at risk by mid-century under projected global temperature increases. Continue reading “Mass coral bleaching likely along northern Great Barrier Reef”

New interior secretary begins stint by re-authorizing use of toxic lead hunting ammunition

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An endangered California condor soars over Zion National Park. As carrion eaters, condors are especially susceptible to lead poisoning. Photo courtesy National Park Service.

Let them eat lead …

Staff Report

Toxic lead is back on the menu for many wildlife species, as newly appointed  Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke revoked a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service order that had banned lead hunting ammunition on federal wildlife reserves after a years-long campaign by wildlife advocates.

The USFWS order was finalized the day before Donald Trump was inaugurated as president. In his reversal, Zinke made no reference to the extensive body of science showing that lead ammunition is harmful to wildlife.

His first move as Interior Secretary should make it clear that anybody who had been hoping Zinke would be a reasonable voice in the new anti-environment administration was sorely mistaken. Along with the rest of Trump’s cabinet picks, Zinke seems likely to move ahead at full speed in dismantling as many environmental protections as possible. Continue reading “New interior secretary begins stint by re-authorizing use of toxic lead hunting ammunition”

Can ‘supersites’ anchor coral reef protection efforts?

Yellow tangs swim in a coral reef ecoystems.
Yellow tangs swim in a coral reef ecoystems. Photo courtesy NOAA.

Study says 90 percent of all predatory fish species have been lost from Caribbean coral reefs

Staff Report

Not all Caribbean reefs are created equal, say researchers with the  University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, who recently identified reef areas they are calling “supersites”that could help restore populations of predatory fish needed maintain an ecological balance.

That’s the good news. The bad news is their study also shows that up to 90 percent of predatory fish are gone from Caribbean coral reefs. The research suggests that these supersites should be prioritized for protection and could serve as regional models showcasing the value of biodiversity for tourism and other uses. Continue reading “Can ‘supersites’ anchor coral reef protection efforts?”

Coral bleaching threat persists in Southern Hemisphere

Uptick in tropical cyclones intensifies impacts, hampers recovery

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A recent update from NOAA’s coral watch program shows that many reefs in the Southern Hemisphere face potential bleaching events in the next several months.

Staff Report

Along with the widely reported bleaching threat from over-heated oceans, coral reefs in many parts of the world also may have to cope with intensifying tropical storms, which could make it even more difficult for them to survive the Anthropocene.

New research published in the journal Global Change Biology looked at whether predicted increases in cyclone intensity might change the nature of coral reefs, using the Great Barrier Reef as a test case with reef data going back to 1996, as well as information gathered during recent tropical cycles. The study found that tropical cyclones between 2009 and 2014  caused record destruction of corals. Continue reading “Coral bleaching threat persists in Southern Hemisphere”

Study says road threat to carnivores is underestimated globally

Findings to help guide conservation strategies

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Many carnivore species around the world are threatened by road networks. Photo courtesy USFWS.

Staff Report

The threat of roads to carnivore species around the world has been seriously underestimated, according to a new study that looked at the issue on a global scale.

After looking at 232 carnivore species around the world (out of a total of about. 270 existing species) and assessing how severely these are affected by roads cut through their habitat, the researchers concluded that some rare species are even at risk in areas with low road densities. The study, published in the journal Global Ecology and Biogeography, calculated natural mortality rates, reproduction and carnivore movement patterns, determining the maximum density of roads that a species can cope with. Continue reading “Study says road threat to carnivores is underestimated globally”