Tag: Environment

California sea otter population growing steadily

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”

How long can the oceans soak up CO2?

What’s the tipping point?

Researchers examine ocean acidification rates

Staff Report

For now, the world’s oceans are sucking up so much carbon dioxide that it’s helping to slow the rate of global warming. But that’s expected to change in the future, researchers warned after taking a detailed look at the rate of ocean acidification in the northeast Pacific Ocean. Continue reading “How long can the oceans soak up CO2?”

USGS study tracks Great Lakes microplastic pollution

A new USGS study has documented widespread plastic pollution in many of the Great Lakes tributary rivers.

New website highlights the widespread problem of plastic debris

Staff Report

Microplastic pollution is widespread in many rivers flowing into the Great Lakes, according to U.S. Geological Survey scientists who recently took water samples from 29 Great Lakes tributaries in Minnesota, Wisconsin, Indiana, Michigan, Ohio and New York. The researchers found microplastics in all those streams, which together make up about 22 percent of the water flowing into the Great Lakes.

Earlier studies have found microplastics in the Great Lakes at similar concentrations as in some of the most polluted parts of the world’s oceans, as well as in the St. Lawrence River. And several other studies have found that microplastic pollution is pretty much everywhere.

Microplastics are created when plastic bottles and bags degrade, and are used in some cleansing products like toothpaste and lotions. The pollution is ubiquitous in nearly all the world’s waters. The results of the in the journal Environmental Science & Technology and are also posted on a new USGS microplastics website. Continue reading “USGS study tracks Great Lakes microplastic pollution”

Queen bees exposed to neonicotinoids lay fewer eggs

Systemic pesticides seen to affect hives in various ways

honeybees neonicotinoids
A wild bumblebee foraging for pollen. @bberwyn photo.

Staff Report

A new study led by a University of Nebraska-Lincoln entomologist reinforces the link between neonicotinoid pesticides and declining honeybee colonies. The researchers experimentally fed queen bees with a syrup laced with imidacloprid, finding that queens laid significantly fewer eggs than queens in unexposed colonies.

“The queens are of particular importance because they’re the only reproductive individual laying eggs in the colony,” said lead author Judy Wu-Smart, assistant professor of entomology. “One queen can lay up to 1,000 eggs a day. If her ability to lay eggs is reduced, that is a subtle effect that isn’t (immediately) noticeable but translates to really dramatic consequences for the colony.” Continue reading “Queen bees exposed to neonicotinoids lay fewer eggs”

Study tracks amphetamine pollution in Baltimore streams

Illegal drugs harming stream aquatic ecosystems

This is the local stream, Meadow Creek, that starts high in the Eagles Nest Wilderness Area and flows through our backyard.
A new study found that amphetamine pollution may be harming stream health. @bberwyn photo.

Staff Report

As if toxic waste from chemical manufacturing and other industrial processes weren’t enough, scientists say some streams are also being fouled by remnants of amphetamines — in some cases at high enough levels to alter the base of aquatic food chain.

A new study, published in the journal Environmental Science & Technology, traced the presence of illicit drugs at six  stream sites around Baltimore, focusing on the Gwynns Falls watershed, which is part of the Baltimore Ecosystem Study Long-Term Ecological Research program. Two rural streams were also sampled in the Oregon Ridge watershed, the closest forested region. Continue reading “Study tracks amphetamine pollution in Baltimore streams”

Global warming started earlier than you think

New study suggests climate is very sensitive to greenhouse gases

Despite ups and downs from year to year, global average surface temperature is rising. By the beginning of the 21st century, Earth’s temperature was roughly 0.5 degrees Celsius above the long-term (1951–1980) average. (NASA figure adapted from Goddard Institute for Space Studies.
Despite ups and downs from year to year, global average surface temperature is rising. By the beginning of the 21st century, Earth’s temperature was roughly 0.5 degrees Celsius above the long-term (1951–1980) average. (NASA figure adapted from Goddard Institute for Space Studies).

Staff Report

Although the rate of global warming has increased dramatically in the last few decades, a new study suggests that human activities have been driving climate change for the past 180 years. The findings suggest that global warming is not just a  20th century phenomenon, and that the climate system is, indeed, quite sensitive to the buildup of heat-trapping pollution.

The study was led by Nerilie Abram, of  The Australian National University, who  warming began during the early stages of the Industrial Revolution and started leaving a fingerprint in  the Arctic and tropical oceans around the 1830s, much earlier than scientists had expected. Continue reading “Global warming started earlier than you think”

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”