Tag: California

California sea otter population growing steadily

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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”

Climate: California mussel shells thinning as oceans acidify

A new study shows California mussel shells are getting thinner because of ocean acidification. @bberwyn photo.
A new study shows California mussel shells are getting thinner because of ocean acidification. @bberwyn photo.

Biologists create historic record of climate change impacts

Staff Report

The shells of California mussels have thinned dramatically in the modern era, probably as a result of ocean acidification, a direct result of increased carbon dioxide in the atmosphere resulting from fossil fuel combustion, say University of Chicago biologists who compared mussel specimens collected in the 1970s with present-day samples.

In the 70s, the shells were on average 32 percent thicker than modern specimens. Going back even farther, the researchers said shells collected by Native Americans 1,000 to 1,300 years ago were also 27 percent thicker than modern shells.

“Archival material provided by past researchers, the Makah Tribal Nation, and the Olympic National Park allowed us to document this intriguing and concerning pattern in shell thickness,” said Cathy Pfister, PhD, professor of ecology and evolution at the University of Chicago and lead author. The study was published June 15, 2016, in the Proceedings of the Royal Society B. Continue reading “Climate: California mussel shells thinning as oceans acidify”

Wildlife: Another Oregon wolf moves to California

Room to roam?

OR25, a yearling male in the Imnaha Pack, after being radio-collared on May 20, 2014.  Photo courtesy of ODFW. Download high resolution image.
OR25, a yearling male in the Imnaha Pack, after being radio-collared on May 20, 2014. Photo courtesy Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife.

Staff Report

The wild mountains, plateaus and forests of northeastern California are becoming a stronghold for wolves dispersing from Oregon.

This week, the California Department of Fish and Wildlife reported that yet another wolf — a three-year old male — appears to be “exhibiting dispersal behavior” in Modoc County. Continue reading “Wildlife: Another Oregon wolf moves to California”

California releases draft wolf management plan

State to take public input through Feb. 15

A wolf in Yellowstone National Park. (Photo courtesy of Yellowstone National Park)
How will California manage a growing population of wolves? Photo courtesy Yellowstone National Park.

Staff Report

A new draft wolf management plan for California aims to conserve biologically sustainable populations of the predators in areas where there is adequate habitat, while minimizing conflicts with livestock.

The California Department of Fish and Wildlife developed the plan in the past few years after wolves recolonized the far northeastern corner of the state. Wildlife managers say they will communicate to the public that natural dispersal of wolves into and through California is reasonably foreseeable given the expanding populations in the Pacific Northwest. Continue reading “California releases draft wolf management plan”

Use of rat poison at illegal California pot plantations is pushing fishers toward extinction

A fisher kit climbs a tree. Poisons used on illegal marijuana farms continue to threaten fishers in California.
A fisher kit climbs a tree. Poisons used on illegal marijuana farms continue to threaten fishers in California. Photo courtesy U.S. Forest Service.

Findings leave little doubt that marijuana growers are key threat to rare mammals

Staff Report

A new study presents more evidence that illegal marijuana growers are speeding the demise of a rare forest critter in California. After studying hundreds of forest-dwelling fishers, researchers concluded that the annual rate of poisoning deaths rose 233 percent compared to a study in 2012.

“This study further solidifies the need for continuing to remediate and remove these threats to fishers and other species of conservation concern within our public lands,” said Dr. Mourad Gabriel, executive director of the Integral Ecology Research Center, lead author of the study published in PLOS One.

“I hope the next steps can focus on rectifying the harmful effects of this clandestine activity so that they do not stem the years of conservation efforts of stabilizing the California fisher populations.” Continue reading “Use of rat poison at illegal California pot plantations is pushing fishers toward extinction”

Study suggests California weather will be more extreme

More drought, more flooding …

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An intensifying El Niño cycle could affect California weather.

Staff Report

The Pacific Ocean’s El Niño-La Niña cycle may become a dominant factor in West Coast weather by the end of this century and lead to more frequent weather extremes, according to a new study published in Nature Communications. Based on the findings, California could see the number of extreme droughts and floods by 2100, the researchers found.

A better understanding of what gives rise to El Nino and La Nina cycles — together known as El Nino-Southern Oscillation — might help California predict and prepare for more frequent droughts and floods in the coming century. Continue reading “Study suggests California weather will be more extreme”

Can California’s redwood trees survive global warming?

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Some research suggests redwood trees may start to thrive in Oregon as the climate warms along the West Coast. @bberwyn photo.

Latest study suggests giant trees can persist along central coast, at least for a while

Staff Report

Redwood trees in California face an uncertain climate future, but some of the latest research suggests they’ll be able to persist in the coastal mountains south of San Francisco. And suitable climate conditions for the giant trees may expand northward in to Oregon, according to a new study published in Global Change Biology.

The research focused on the central California coast, where Redwoods are protected in a series of 14 parks, including the Santa Cruz Mountains, Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park south of Carmel, and Garrapata State Park between Carmel and Big Sur on the Monterey coast. Continue reading “Can California’s redwood trees survive global warming?”