Category: biodiversity

Satellite mapping could help avert whale-ship crashes

Naval training exercises off the coast of California could pose a threat to endangered marine mammals.
A new satellite mapping program could help avert collisions between whales and ships . Photo courtesy NOAA.

‘No ship captain or shipping company wants to strike a whale’

Staff Report

Satellite data about whale movements and ocean conditions have helped scientists create monthly whale hotspot maps that could help avert collisions between ships and marine mammals.

Developed by researchers with NOAA Fisheries, Oregon State University and the University of Maryland, the WhaleWhatch program alerts ships where there may be an increased risk of encountering these endangered whales.  NASA helped fund the project, which draws on ocean observations from NASA and NOAA satellites. Continue reading “Satellite mapping could help avert whale-ship crashes”

Australian scientists say parts of Great Barrier Reef survived bleaching

Northern section hammered by warm ocean temperatures

This NASA photo shows southern portion of the reef adjacent to the central Queensland coast
This NASA photo shows a southern portion of the Great Barrier Reef adjacent to the central Queensland coast.

Staff Report

Australian researchers this week released results of their latest Great Barrier Reef surveys, concluding that huge swaths of coral died in the past year under the onslaught of an ocean heatwave that led to widespread coral bleaching.

In the hardest-hit area along a 700-kilometer section of the northern reef, an of 67 percent of shallow-water corals died in the last six to nine months. Farther south, over the vast central and southern regions of the Great Barrier Reef, the scientists were relieved to find a much lower death toll. Continue reading “Australian scientists say parts of Great Barrier Reef survived bleaching”

October ends up as 3d-warmest for Earth

Year-to-date still on record-breaking pace

sdfg
Record warmth has spanned the globe in 2016.

Staff Report

The average global temperature for October 2016 was 1.31 degrees Fahrenheit above the 20th century average, putting the month in a tie with 2003 for the third-warmest October on record.

Including 2016, the past three Octobers have been the three warmest in the historical record, but with the globe cooling down slightly from an El Niño heat surge, the monthly anomaly was the lowest deparature from average since Nov. 2014, according to the latest global monthly state of the climate report from the NOAA National Centers for Environmental Information. Continue reading “October ends up as 3d-warmest for Earth”

Snake-killing fungus is widespread in the East

Ophidiomyces ophiodiicola, a fungus that is afflicting snakes across the Midwest and Eastern US, shares many traits with Pseudogymnoascus destructans the fungus that causes white-nose syndrome in bats, researchers report. Credit Julie McMahon
Ophidiomyces ophiodiicola, a fungus afflicting snakes across the Midwest and Eastern US, shares  traits with Pseudogymnoascus destructans the fungus that causes white-nose syndrome in bats. Credit: Julie McMahon.

Some snake populations appear at-risk from spreading fungal pathogen

Staff Report

First the chytrid fungus started killing amphibians, then white-nose syndrome emerged to devastate bat populations, and now, there’s Ophidiomyces ophiodiicola, a snake-killing fungus that appears to be much more widespread than thought, according to new research from the U.S. Geological Survey.

The USGS report concluded the fungus is present in at least 20 eastern states and in many snake species not previously known to  harbor the fungus. These findings increase the total number of confirmed susceptible snake species to 30. Snakes affected by Snake Fungal Disease include the threatened eastern massasauga rattlesnake. The research also shows that SFD infections are often mild, but there are unknown factors that cause outbreaks of severe skin disease and death. Continue reading “Snake-killing fungus is widespread in the East”

Sage grouse and drilling just don’t mix

greater sage-grouse
Greater sage-grouse. Photo via USGS.

Well density seen as key factor in decline of birds in Wyoming

Staff Report

Limiting the density of new oil and gas drilling rigs in Wyoming may not be enough to stem the decline of greater sage-grouse, according to scientists tracking populations of the imperiled bird.

Berween 1984 and 2008, populations declined by 2.5 percent annually, and the drop is clearly linked with oil and gas development, the new study from the USGS and Colorado State University found. The researchers used annual counts of males at breeding sites for their estimates, comparing those tallies to the the density of oil and gas wells and the area of disturbance associated with these wells. Continue reading “Sage grouse and drilling just don’t mix”

Legal wrangling continues over rare oil patch plants

The rare Graham's penstemon grows primarily in the oil and gas patches of western Colorado and Utah. Photo courtesy Susan Meyer.
The rare Graham’s penstemon grows primarily in the oil and gas patches of western Colorado and Utah. Photo courtesy Susan Meyer.

Federal court says U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service must take another look at listing decision

Staff Report

There’s a new legal twist in the long-running battle over rare wildflowers in northwestern Colorado and northeastern Utah. This week, a federal court, restored Endangered Species Act protection for two species of penstemon that grow only in oil shale formations in the region.

Conservation activists won protection for the plants in 2013, when the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service determined that 91 percent of Graham’s beardtongue populations and 100 percent of White River beardtongues were threatened by the impacts of oil and gas development. But a year later, the agency reversed course, claiming that a voluntary conservation agreement would mitigate those threats. Continue reading “Legal wrangling continues over rare oil patch plants”

New surveys confirm Great Barrier Reef damage

Heat-driven coral bleaching continues to take a toll

Staff Report

A new survey of the Great Barrier Reef shows that an ocean heat wave that peaked last March killed up to 95 percent of corals in some parts of the northern reef.  And in the aftermath of the worst coral-bleaching event on record, predatory snails are now taking on toll on the remaining corals.

According to the ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies, researchers recently returned to 83 reefs they surveyed at the height of the bleaching event.

“Millions of corals in the north of the Great Barrier Reef died quickly from heat stress in March and since then, many more have died more slowly,” said Dr. Greg Torda whose team recently returned from re-surveying reefs near Lizard Island. Continue reading “New surveys confirm Great Barrier Reef damage”