Category: biodiversity

Endangered and invasive species meet in the desert Southwest

willow flycatcher
A southwestern willow flycatcher. Photo courtesy USGS.

New data to help inform tamarisk eradication and bird conservation efforts

Staff Report

New mapping by the U.S. Geological Survey may help resource managers in the southwestern U.S. figure out how they can bolster populations of the endangered southwestern willow flycatcher while at the same time trying to control an unwanted invasive plant that provides habitat for the tiny songbird.

The new report from the USGS provides detailed habitat information on the entire range of of the flycatcher, which breeds in lush, dense vegetation along rivers and streams from May through September. In 2013, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service designated 1,975 stream kilometers as critical flycatcher habitat, located in six states and 38 counties.

“The satellite model provides us with new capabilities to locate and monitor potential flycatcher habitat within individual watersheds and across its entire range” said James Hatten, Research Biogeographer with the USGS and the report’s author. “The satellite model also revealed how the quantity of flycatcher habitat is affected annually by drought conditions, with habitat declining in California from 2013 to 2015, while increasing in New Mexico and Texas.” Continue reading “Endangered and invasive species meet in the desert Southwest”

California sea otter population growing steadily

sadf
A Southern sea otter. Via USFWS.

Survey results show healthy core population

Staff Report

The Southern sea otter population is healthy at the core of its range along the California coast, but the aquatic mammals are still struggling to expand north and south, probably because of predation by sharks, scientists said as they released the results of the latest annual otter survey.

“The population index has exceeded 3,090 for the first time, and that’s encouraging,” said Lilian Carswell, Southern Sea Otter Recovery Coordinator for USFWS, referring to a threshold number for recovery. If the population stays above that number for three years in a row, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service could consider a delisting proposal.Sea otters were presumed to be extinct in California in the early 1900s, but a remnant population of 30 animals was discovered and protected in the 1930s near Bixby Bay, north of Big Sur. They were listed as a threatened species in 1977, deemed at risk from oil spills. Continue reading “California sea otter population growing steadily”

Queen bees exposed to neonicotinoids lay fewer eggs

Systemic pesticides seen to affect hives in various ways

honeybees neonicotinoids
A wild bumblebee foraging for pollen. @bberwyn photo.

Staff Report

A new study led by a University of Nebraska-Lincoln entomologist reinforces the link between neonicotinoid pesticides and declining honeybee colonies. The researchers experimentally fed queen bees with a syrup laced with imidacloprid, finding that queens laid significantly fewer eggs than queens in unexposed colonies.

“The queens are of particular importance because they’re the only reproductive individual laying eggs in the colony,” said lead author Judy Wu-Smart, assistant professor of entomology. “One queen can lay up to 1,000 eggs a day. If her ability to lay eggs is reduced, that is a subtle effect that isn’t (immediately) noticeable but translates to really dramatic consequences for the colony.” Continue reading “Queen bees exposed to neonicotinoids lay fewer eggs”

For the third time in ten years, a judge orders the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to consider critical habitat for lynx in Colorado

‘The Service’s own representations suggest that parts of Colorado constitute suitable critical habitat, appropriate for designation’

A lynx in the wild counry of Colorado. PHOTO COURTESY COLORADO DIVISION OF PARKS AND WILDLIFE.TANYA SHENK.
A lynx in the Colorado high country. Photo courtesy Colorado Division of Wildlife/Tanya Shenk.
This Colorado Division of Wildlife map gives a general idea of the distribution of lynx in the Rockies through 2007.
A Colorado Division of Wildlife map gives a general idea of the distribution of lynx in the Rockies through 2007.

*For more detailed info, visit the Summit Voice lynx archive

Staff Report

A federal judge in Montana has once again ruled that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service violated the Endangered Species Act when it excluded Colorado from a critical habitat designation for threatened lynx. In the end, the rare cat may yet get some protected sanctuaries in the Colorado high county.

In a Sept. 7 ruling, Chief District Judge Dana L. Christensen said the agency’s decision is arbitrary and capricious, and “offends the ESA.” The court ordered the USFWS to develop a new critical habitat designation that complies with the law. The order also covers parts of Montana and Idaho. Continue reading “For the third time in ten years, a judge orders the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to consider critical habitat for lynx in Colorado”

Study IDs threats to North Atlantic right whales

A North Atlantic right whale and calf. PHOTO COURTESY NOAA.
A North Atlantic right whale and calf. PHOTO COURTESY NOAA.

Birth rate decline, fish net entanglements threaten recovery

Staff Report

Some whale populations have recovered strongly since end of the whaling era, but North Atlantic right whales are still struggling and their recovery is in doubt. More and more, the marine mammals are getting entangled in nets, and their overall birth rate has declined by 40 percent since 2010, marine researchers reported this week in the journal Frontiers in Marine Science.

About 500 North Atlantic right whales still survive after two decades period of modest annual growth, but even that was slow compared to other species —  2 to 3 percent a year compared to 6 to 7 percent in other regions, the study found. One recent study found that a different species of right whale is currently making a comeback around New Zealand, with pioneers from Antarctic waters once again visiting the island’s sandy bays to reestablish breeding grounds.

“Right whales need immediate and significant management intervention to reduce mortalities and injuries from fishing gear,” the authors concluded in the study. “Managers need a better understanding about the causes of reduced calving rates before this species can be considered on the road to recovery. Failure to act on this new information will lead to further declines in this population’s number and increase its vulnerability to extinction.” Continue reading “Study IDs threats to North Atlantic right whales”

Climate: Pikas disappearing from marginal habitat

New study documents population declines in Great Basin

Colorado pika
A Quandary Peak pika enjoys some sunny weather on a rocky ledge in the Colorado Rocky Mountains. @bberwyn photo.

Staff Report

U.S. Geological Survey scientists have filled in another piece in the pika puzzle, finding that changes in distribution of populations of the tiny mammals are mainly influenced by climatic factors. The new study, published in The Journal of Mammalogy, helps show how global warming will affect the species.

Several previous research efforts have been inconclusive, and one study from Colorado suggests that pikas are holding their own in the highest reaches of the central and southern Rocky Mountains. But the new study, conducted in 2014 and 2015 at 910 sites, showed  widespread reduction in pika range in three mountainous regions including the Great Basin, southern Utah and northeastern California.

Another recent study that included National Park Service researchers tried to project where pikas will be able to persist in places like Rocky Mountain National Park, Crater Lake and Yellowstone National Park. More information is available on the NPS Pikas in Peril website. Continue reading “Climate: Pikas disappearing from marginal habitat”

Environment: Massive fish kill reported in Yellowstone River

A Colorado Division of Wildlife biologist holds a young rainbow trout before releasing it into the Blue River in Silverthorne. The fingerling was raised in a cross-breeding program to develop a strain of fish resistant to parasitic whirling disease that all but wiped out rainbow trout across parts of the West.
A  young rainbow trout @bberwyn photo.

Disease may be exacerbated by warm water, low stream flows

Staff Report

The Yellowstone River, part of Montana’s iconic western landscape, is once again beset by environmental woes, as a rapidly spreading fish kill has spurred state resource managers to close the river to all recreational uses, including fishing, boating and tubing. Biologists with Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks said they’ve counted more than 2,000  dead mountain whitefish, and the estimate the total mortality in the tens of thousands. The river was also hammered by an oilspill in 2011 after pipeline burst. Continue reading “Environment: Massive fish kill reported in Yellowstone River”