Category: biodiversity

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”

Neonicotinoid pesticides implicated in decline of wild bees across the UK

New study helps explain bee die-offs

bees and neonicotinoids
A new study in the UK once again links declining wild bee populations with exposure to systemic neonicotinoid pesticides. @bberwyn photo.

Staff Report

Researchers with the UK’s Centre for Ecology and Hydrology have released a new study linking neonicotinoid pesticides with a long-term decline of wild bee species.

The study, published in the journal Nature Communications, analyzed changes in the population of 62 wild bee species, comparing them with patters of oilseed rape crops between 1994 and 2011, as the use of commercial use of neonicotinoids became widespread.

The findings suggest that systemic pesticides contributed to a “large-scale and long-term decline” in wild bee species distributions and communities. Species that regularly forage on treated rape fields declined, on average, three times as much as species that feed on a wider variety of plants, showing that oilseed rape is a principle mechanism of neonicotinoid exposure among wild bee communities. Continue reading “Neonicotinoid pesticides implicated in decline of wild bees across the UK”

New report IDs biggest global threats to wildlife

Some species of seals are expected to face a growing global warming threat in coming decades. @bberwyn photo.
Some species of seals are expected to face a growing global warming threat in coming decades as warmer temperatures melt their habitat. @bberwyn photo.

‘Reducing immediate impacts is essential to tackling the biodiversity crisis’

Staff Report

About 75 percent of the world’s threatened species are at risk because of human impacts to their environment and unsustainable harvesting, according to a new study in the journal Nature.

“Addressing these old foes of overharvesting and agricultural activities are key to turning around the biodiversity extinction crisis” said lead author Sean Maxwell of the University of Queensland, “This must be at the forefront of the conservation agenda.”

Scientists from the University of Queensland, the Wildlife Conservation Society and the International Union for Conservation of Nature studied 8,688 species on the IUCN Red List. They found that 72 percent of species are imperiled by unsustainable harvesting. The production of food, fodder, fiber and fuel crops; livestock farming; aquaculture; and the cultivation of trees imperils another 62 percent.  By comparison, 19 percent are considered threatened by climate change. Continue reading “New report IDs biggest global threats to wildlife”

Colorado will kill bears and lions to boost deer herds

Colorado mule deer.
Colorado mule deer. @bberwyn photo.

State plans predator control research on Roan Plateau

Staff Report

Colorado wildlife managers say they are set to start a three-year study on whether killing bears and mountain lions can help boost deer populations in the northwestern part of the state, where hunting is a big part of the local economy.

According to Colorado Parks and Wildlife, mule deer populations remain below objective in the state’s largest mule deer herds in the Piceance Basin. Part of a 2015 strategy to boost those numbers is predator control, which is not a popular concept with some wildlife advocates, who believe that habitat fragmentation from oil and gas development is probably a bigger factor in the long-term decline of deer herds. Continue reading “Colorado will kill bears and lions to boost deer herds”

Study eyes tourism threat to sustainable fisheries in Caribbean

A spiny lobster in the Florida Keys Marine Sanctuary. Photo courtesy NOAA.
A spiny lobster in the Florida Keys Marine Sanctuary. Photo courtesy NOAA.

Under-reporting of catches documented by nonprofit research group

Staff Report

The marine environment around some Caribbean islands is still threatened by unsustainable fishing, according to a new study that documents the under-reporting of catches in the Turks and Caicos Islands. According to the research, catches on the islands were 86 percent higher than what was reported to the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization, a finding with troubling implication for sustainable fisheries efforts.

The research team from the nonprofit Sea Around Us program says urgent policy action is needed to ensure the future sustainability of the fishing industry in this archipelago nation. The findings were published in open-access journal Frontiers in Marine Science. Continue reading “Study eyes tourism threat to sustainable fisheries in Caribbean”