Category: Environment

New study reveals whale shark secrets

Science helps inform conservation

Little by little, giant whale sharks are giving up some of their secrets. Photo courtesy NOAA.

Staff Report

Ocean biologists are starting to learn about the world’s largest fish, and the information should help efforts to protect endangered whale sharks.

Giant whale sharks, up to 60 feet long, feed mostly on tiny drifting animals and small fish like sardines. To find enough food, they endlessly cruise vast reaches of ocean to find dense swarms of prey. The learn more, scientists have been tracking the whale sharks in the eastern tropical Pacific, finding that they spend most of their time along ocean fronts, which are dynamic boundaries of cold and warm water masses that stimulate life. Continue reading “New study reveals whale shark secrets”

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Sunday set: Blooming!

Austrian wildflowers

Can’t let summer end without posting a wildflower set, so here are few shots taken the last few months, from high mountain pastures in the Alps to the banks of the Danube River in downtown Vienna. A couple of the images include insects, and I’m always amazed to see how the diversity of bugs increases dramatically as you get a few miles away from agricultural areas where pesticides are used heavily. We may not think about bugs very much, and yes, some of them are pests, but we will miss them when they are gone.

Federal court stalls Las Vegas water grab

Federal court slows Las Vegas water grab.

Environmental studies flawed

Staff Report

A federal court has at least temporarily stifled a major water grab in Nevada, finding that the Bureau of Land Management didn’t adequately study and disclose impacts from groundwater pumping scheme by Las Vegas. At issue are losses of wetlands and wildlife habitat that would result from the Southern Nevada Water Authority’s massive groundwater pipeline development project.

The court ruled that the BLM violated federal environmental laws by failing to demonstrate how it would compensate for the destruction of thousands of acres of wetlands and sensitive habitat in eastern Nevada. Continue reading “Federal court stalls Las Vegas water grab”

Western monarchs in steep decline

Will Monarch survive? @bberwyn photo.

Concerted conservation actions needed to save species

Staff Report

Monarch butterflies in the western U.S. have declined even more dramatically than believed, putting the population at risk of extinction, according to new research. In As recently as the 1980s, about 10 million monarchs over-wintered in coastal California, but today that’s down to about 300,000, said Cheryl Schultz, an associate professor at Washington State University Vancouver, who led the study, published last week in the journal Biological Conservation. Continue reading “Western monarchs in steep decline”

Invasive species shift Great Lakes ecosystems

A new study documents ecological changes in Lake Michigan. Photo via @NASA_EO

How will fisheries managers respond?

Staff Report

The Great Lakes have seen successive invasions by non-native species that alter the ecosystem, including quagga mussels that filter the water and remove nutrients. At least partly as a result of the invasive mussels, Lake Michigan is becoming less hospitable to Chinook salmon, according to a new study led by scientists with the U.S. Geological Survey and Michigan State University.

The scientists concluded that stocking could help sustain a population of Chinook salmon, but that the lake’s ecosystem is now more conducive to stocking lake trout and steelhead salmon. These two species can switch from eating alewife, which are in decline, to bottom-dwelling round goby, another newly established invasive prey fish that feeds on quagga mussels. Continue reading “Invasive species shift Great Lakes ecosystems”

Sunday set: Saving lakes

Acting now could help protect lakes from global warming

Had a chance to explore some of Austria’s most beautiful lakes this summer, and spent time talking to scientists about how they will be affected by global warming. As it turns out, there are a few thing we can do to try protect them from climate change impacts, but we have to act now, and in the hope that we can tackle the larger problem in the near future by drastically reducing greenhouse gas emissions. But in the short-term, protecting lakes from pollution, making sure their source waters are clean and cool and trying to protect groundwater that feeds into lakes can help make them more resilient to climate change. In some cases, fisheries managers should probably be thinking about trying to create climate sanctuaries for some species, and regular monitoring, linked with adaptive management, can also help control impacts. Read my story for Deutsche Welle to learn more.

Can volcanoes overheat the Earth?

A geyser in Iceland is part of the Central Atlantic rift system where volcanic activity may have caused an extreme global warmup about 56 million years ago. @bberwyn photo.

Study says ancient extreme global warming event was caused by C02 buildup from massive eruptions

Staff Report

The role of volcanoes on Earth’s climate is complex. It’s well known that aerosol particles from eruptions like Mt. St. Helens can cool temperatures by blocking a small part of the sun’s energy, but a new study suggests that an extreme global warming event about 56 million years ago was caused by massive volcanic C02 emissions.

The research, led by the University of Southampton found evidence that atmospheric C02 doubled within a relatively short period of time, on the geological scale, resulting in a global temperature spike that drove mass extinctions. The eruptions happened during formation of the Atlantic Ocean, according to the study published in the journal Nature. Continue reading “Can volcanoes overheat the Earth?”