Category: biodiversity

U.S. Supreme Court rejects fossil fuel industry effort to remove protection for threatened polar bears

Polar bears will keep their endangered species status. Photo by Eric Regehr, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

Global warming seen as main threat to Arctic predators

Staff Report

Endangered Species Act protection for polar bears will remain in place following a U.S. Supreme Court decision late last week to reject an attempt by the fossil fuel industry to overturn the 2010 listing.

At issue was a decision by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s to designate more than 120 million acres as critical habitat in Alaska for imperiled polar bears. The Supreme Court decision came just days after President Trump issued an executive order that attempts to rescind a ban on new offshore oil drilling in the Arctic and Atlantic oceans. Continue reading “U.S. Supreme Court rejects fossil fuel industry effort to remove protection for threatened polar bears”

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Sea level rise overwhelming some coral reefs

A sea turtle swims lazily along a coral reef in Hawaii, trailed by tropical fish. (Photo by Kosta Stamoulis, courtesy Oregon State University via Flickr.)

Seafloor erosion outpacing expectations

Staff Report

Coral reefs aren’t just threatened by pollution, ocean acidification and over-heated ocean temperatures. In some places they are being undermined by erosion of the seafloor, U.S. Geological Survey scientists said in a new study that looked at reefs in Florida, the Caribbean and Hawaii.

In the five study sites, the reefs can’t keep pace with sea level rise. As a result, coastal communities protected by the reefs are facing increased risks from storms, waves and erosion.

The degradation of reefs and the subsiding seafloor go hand-in-hand, as sand and other sea floor materials have eroded over the past few decades. In the waters around Maui, the sea floor losses amounted to 81 million cubic meters of sand, rock and other material – about what it would take to fill up the Empire State Building 81 times, the researchers calculated.  Continue reading “Sea level rise overwhelming some coral reefs”

Study says Florida manatees safe for now

Population expected to double in the next 50 years

Florida manatees at Crystal Springs. @bberwyn photo.

Staff Report

Biologists say current conservation efforts for Florida’s manatees should suffice to help the marine mammals survive for at least the next 100 years. If resource managers continue to protect manatees and their habitat, there’s less than a half-percent chance the population would drop below 500 individuals, the level that would threaten long-term survival.

The new study was done by the  US Geological Survey and the Florida Fish and Wildlife Research Institute. It found that Florida’s manatee population is likely to gradually double over the next 50 years and then level off. Over time, environmental and habitat changes will probably cause manatees to become less abundant in South Florida and more numerous in North Florida, but the population as a whole will remain high. Continue reading “Study says Florida manatees safe for now”

Global warming speeds diversity threats to native fish

Study looks at hybridization of trout in Northern Rocky Mountains

Biologists study trout in the Blue River in Silverthorne, Colorado. @bberwyn photo.

Staff Report

Global warming is intensifying the hybridization of native and non-native trout in the northern Rocky Mountains, according to a new study from the U.S. Geological Survey and other scientists. The trend is a serious threat to the biodiversity of Rocky Mountain aquatic ecosystems, says the study published in the journal Global Change Biology.

As non-native rainbow trout, introduced by early settlers, interbreed with cutthroat trout it leads to a decline in local adaptations that can threaten the long-term survival of species. Preserving the  genetic integrity of native species is important for  resiliency, the scientists said. Continue reading “Global warming speeds diversity threats to native fish”

Sunday set: Wien scene

City sights …


A short photographic stroll through a city that consistently ranks near the very top worldwide for quality of life.  Vienna’s coffee houses and parks are definitely part of its charms, but it’s also a European hub science, culture, literature and tech innovation. And there are connections to my old stomping grounds in Colorado. For example, I spent several years following the story of how parasitic whirling disease wiped out most of Colorado’s rainbows, and how biologists were working to restore the popular game fish with a population resistant to the disease. Then last summer, as I was working on a story about a massive fish die-off in the Yellowstone River, my research led me to an Egyptian-born research scientist at the University of Vienna who has been studying various parasitic trout diseases, and linking them with global warming. Turns out that Mansour El-Matbouli also was an instrumental figure in the efforts to breed the strain of rainbow trout that are resistant to whirling disease, and that he had worked closely with aquatic biologists in Colorado that I also had interviewed for my stories in Colorado. We’re facing global environmental challenges, and they require a global and science-based response. It’s a small world.

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”

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”