Tag: biodiversity

To save monarchs, plant milkweed — lots of it!

New USGS study quantifies conservation needs

A monarch butterfly in Florida. @bberwyn photo.
A group of monarch butterflies covers an oyamel fir tree at an overwintering site in the Piedra Herrada Monarch Butterfly Sanctuary in Mexico. (Steve Hilburger, USGS)

Staff Report

Saving monarch butterflies means planting a lot of their favorite food, say U.S. Geological Survey scientists, who outlined conservation measures in a new study.

After over-wintering in Mexico, monarchs rely on milkweed plants for food and breeding habitat. But milkweed has been wiped out across millions of acres. The new study measures the need in terms of stems of milkweed.

In the northern U.S. at least 860 million stems were lost during the last decade. After studying the density of Eastern migratory monarch butterflies overwintering in Mexico from 1979-2002 and the amount of milkweed plants available to them in North America. The study found that 3.62 billion milkweed stems are needed to reestablish this monarch population, but only 1.34 billion stems remain in the U.S.

“Monarchs in eastern North America are a beloved insect, but they’re in jeopardy, partly due to the loss of milkweeds in cropland,” said Wayne Thogmartin, a USGS scientist and the lead author of the report. “Our study is important because it helps specify the conservation needs of this charismatic species.” Continue reading “To save monarchs, plant milkweed — lots of it!”

Advertisements

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”

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”

Deep oceans at risk from climate change

Close-up of a tripod fish at 1960 meters depth in the Northeast Providence Channel near Eleuthera Island. Photo courtesy NOAA.

‘It is the equivalent of having summer for the first time in thousands to millions of years’

Staff Report

Deep sea ecosystems that have barely been explored are at risk from global warming, as low-oxygen zones spread and ocean acidification increaseses. By 2100, organisms deep on the  ocean floor may face starvation and sweeping ecological changes, according to scientists from 20 of the world’s leading oceanographic research warned last week.

“Biodiversity in many of these areas is defined by the meager amount of food reaching the seafloor and over the next 80-plus years – in certain parts of the world – that amount of food will be cut in half,” said Andrew Thurber, an Oregon State University marine ecologist and co-author of the study, published in the journal Elementa. Continue reading “Deep oceans at risk from climate change”

Can ‘supersites’ anchor coral reef protection efforts?

Yellow tangs swim in a coral reef ecoystems.
Yellow tangs swim in a coral reef ecoystems. Photo courtesy NOAA.

Study says 90 percent of all predatory fish species have been lost from Caribbean coral reefs

Staff Report

Not all Caribbean reefs are created equal, say researchers with the  University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, who recently identified reef areas they are calling “supersites”that could help restore populations of predatory fish needed maintain an ecological balance.

That’s the good news. The bad news is their study also shows that up to 90 percent of predatory fish are gone from Caribbean coral reefs. The research suggests that these supersites should be prioritized for protection and could serve as regional models showcasing the value of biodiversity for tourism and other uses. Continue reading “Can ‘supersites’ anchor coral reef protection efforts?”

Study says road threat to carnivores is underestimated globally

Findings to help guide conservation strategies

sdfg
Many carnivore species around the world are threatened by road networks. Photo courtesy USFWS.

Staff Report

The threat of roads to carnivore species around the world has been seriously underestimated, according to a new study that looked at the issue on a global scale.

After looking at 232 carnivore species around the world (out of a total of about. 270 existing species) and assessing how severely these are affected by roads cut through their habitat, the researchers concluded that some rare species are even at risk in areas with low road densities. The study, published in the journal Global Ecology and Biogeography, calculated natural mortality rates, reproduction and carnivore movement patterns, determining the maximum density of roads that a species can cope with. Continue reading “Study says road threat to carnivores is underestimated globally”