New data to help inform tamarisk eradication and bird conservation efforts
New mapping by the U.S. Geological Survey may help resource managers in the southwestern U.S. figure out how they can bolster populations of the endangered southwestern willow flycatcher while at the same time trying to control an unwanted invasive plant that provides habitat for the tiny songbird.
The new report from the USGS provides detailed habitat information on the entire range of of the flycatcher, which breeds in lush, dense vegetation along rivers and streams from May through September. In 2013, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service designated 1,975 stream kilometers as critical flycatcher habitat, located in six states and 38 counties.
“The satellite model provides us with new capabilities to locate and monitor potential flycatcher habitat within individual watersheds and across its entire range” said James Hatten, Research Biogeographer with the USGS and the report’s author. “The satellite model also revealed how the quantity of flycatcher habitat is affected annually by drought conditions, with habitat declining in California from 2013 to 2015, while increasing in New Mexico and Texas.” Continue reading “Endangered and invasive species meet in the desert Southwest”→
Non-native bugs threatening habitat for endangered songbirds
By Summit Voice
FRISCO — Conservation advocates say non-native tamarisk-eating bugs have gone haywire, destroying habitat needed by endangered southwestern willow flycatchers, native songbirds that need thick riparian vegetation to survive.
The exotic beetles were imported from Asia to destroy invasive tamarisk plants seen as a threat to water resources, but now the bugs have invaded the nesting areas of southwestern willow flycatchers in southern Utah, Nevada, and northern and western Arizona. If the beetle spreads farther without mitigation, it could seriously threaten the flycatcher’s survival, according to Dr. Robin Silver, with the Center for Biological Diversity.
The designation covers about 208,000 acres of riparian habitat along 1,227 miles of rivers and streams in California, Arizona, New Mexico, Colorado, Utah and Nevada. Some of the critical habitat is along the banks of well-known rivers, including the Rio Grande, Gila, Virgin, Santa Ana and San Diego.
Latest version of long-contested plan encompasses more than 2,000 stream miles of riparian habitat
By Summit Voice
SUMMIT COUNTY — Federal biologists are moving one step closer to finalizing a critical habitat designation for the endangered southwestern willow flycatcher.
In the latest version, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife service wants to remove a 60-mile stretch of the Lower Colorado River from critical habitat proposed previously. A total of 2,113 stream miles are being considered for critical habitat designation.
Some riparian areas along the Colorado River in the western part of the state could be designated as critical habitat under the proposal.
The flycatcher was listed as an endangered species in 1995 in response to a petition from the Center for Biological Diversity. According to a 2007 survey, there are about 1,299 territories spread across the range of the species, with substantial populations on the upper Gila River and middle Rio Grande in New Mexico, Roosevelt Lake and the lower San Pedro in Arizona and numerous scattered locations in California.
Impacts to endangered birds at issue; latest studies show the non-native plants don’t use as much water as previously believed
SUMMIT COUNTY — Land managers looking for ways to control invasive tamarisk trees in the Colorado River Basin may have to search for a new tool.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture has terminated the use of a non-native insect used to destroy tamarisk after concluding that the bug was destroying critical habitat used by the southwestern willow flycatcher, listed as endangered by the federal government. The decision, announced in a June 15 memo, affects biological control efforts in 13 states.
Tamarisk, also called saltcellar, is native to the Mediterranean and central Asian region. It was brought to the U.S. to be used as a windbreak and for ornamental purposes. It quickly spread across at least 1.5 million acres in the arid climate and alkaline soils of the Southwest. In an ironic twist, the endangered flycatcher has taken to nesting in tamarisk.