New study documents population declines in Great Basin
U.S. Geological Survey scientists have filled in another piece in the pika puzzle, finding that changes in distribution of populations of the tiny mammals are mainly influenced by climatic factors. The new study, published in The Journal of Mammalogy, helps show how global warming will affect the species.
Several previous research efforts have been inconclusive, and one study from Colorado suggests that pikas are holding their own in the highest reaches of the central and southern Rocky Mountains. But the new study, conducted in 2014 and 2015 at 910 sites, showed widespread reduction in pika range in three mountainous regions including the Great Basin, southern Utah and northeastern California.
More targeted treatments could benefit threatened birds
By Summit Voice
FRISCO — Post-fire rehabilitation work in the Great Basin’s sagebrush ocean isn’t doing much to help greater sage-grouse, USGS and U.S. Forest Service scientists found in a new study.
The research team took a close look at areas eight to 20 years after seeding efforts, pointing out that such restoration projects could, in theory, be used to improve sage grouse habitat — but only if the right types of seeds are planted.
Sage-grouse tend to use areas with a mixture of dwarf sagebrush and Wyoming big sagebrush, native grasses, minimal human development, and minimal non-native plants. Most post-fire restoration projects are were designed to mitigate the effects of fire on soil and vegetation — but they provide an opportunity to reverse habitat degradation for sage-grouse, a species being considered for protection under the Endangered Species Act.
Critical habitat designation will help bolster populations of Webber’s ivesia
By Summit Voice
FRISCO — A rare Great Basin flower will get some protection under the Endangered Species Act, as the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has proposed 2,011 acres of critical habitat for Webber’s ivesia.
The plant, a member of the rose family, grows only in localized patches of rocky, clay-based soils that are wet in spring and that shrink and swell with drying and wetting. The soil can take thousands of years to form and is associated with sparse vegetation associated with low sagebrush.
Salt Lake City suffers through weeks of air quality problems
By Bob Berwyn
SUMMIT COUNTY — When the weather history of January is written, it might be all about the persistent cold air pools that lingered in many western valleys, setting the stage for record-low temperatures, something that’s been quite uncommon in recent years.
In Summit County, only one temperature record was broken during the month, a record minimum high of 7 degrees on Jan. 16 at the Dillon weather station. The previous record-old high temperature for the day was 9 degrees, set not all that long ago, in 2007.
No record highs were set in Summit County, but nearby, Climax broke its all-time record high for January 27, hitting 44 degrees. The previous record of 42 degrees was set back in 1927. A few spots nearby, notably Williams Fork Dam, set both daily record high and low readings. Continue reading “Colorado: Chilly January, but few records broken”→
Satellite images help pinpoint land-cover and fire patterns
By Summit Voice
FRISCO — Along with global warming, new research suggests that invasive cheatgrass is a significant factor in the proliferation of more intense fires in the intermountain West, and specifically in the Great Basin.
“Although this result has been suspected by managers for decades, this study is the first to document recent cheatgrass-driven fire regimes at a regional scale, the scientists wrote, describing the study that relied partly on satellite images captured between 2000 and 2009 to create a detailed land-cover map of the Great Basin. Continue reading “Cheatgrass implicated in Great Basin fire regime”→