Category Archives: Wildlife

If you see magnolias hitchhiking perhaps offer them a lift…

At least, I assume they are hitching as there are no reports of north-bound magnolias towing U-haul trailers…

As the Climate Warms, Magnolias Move North
Bruce Dorminey

Scarlett O’Hara herself would likely be scandalized by what researchers found when scouring a plot of central North Carolina forest outside Chapel Hill. Jennifer Gruhn was looking for Southern magnolias, one of the most enduring symbols of the American South (besides Scarlett herself, of course), and the state flower of both Mississippi and Louisiana.

The scandal was that she found them — no fewer than 500 of the magnificent trees, with their dark green leaves and spectacularly fragrant blossoms — in an abundance unexpected for a location so far north. And as with so many changes in the natural world lately, Gruhn, a biology graduate student at Washington University in St. Louis, thinks climate change may be at least partly responsible.

Writing in the June issue of Southeastern Naturalist, Gruhn and her co-author Peter White, of the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, point to average temperatures some 2.7°F higher, and a growing season several weeks longer, than it was a few decades ago. (Climate Central)

Unusual positive item about sewage outfall and wind farm platforms – and check out the source publication

Accidental Nature: The benefits of human waste
Richard Taylor-Jones

I’m now well into filming for this year’s Autumnwatch series and already we’ve come across plenty of stories that apply very well to Accidental Nature.

The first films involved tracking the migration of young Osprey chicks from their nest site in the Dyfi Estuary in Wales, to their overwintering grounds in West Africa. The chicks have been fitted with satellite tags so we can monitor the route they take.

There are three chicks and the first named Einion made a very direct journey straight across the English Channel, down through France and across the Bay of Biscay. This fast and determined start must have left him very hungry. So, as he hit Spain he spent a short while in one particular coastal cove, presumably fishing.

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Jonathan H. Adler on the failure of the ESA

The Leaky Ark
By Jonathan H. Adler
Wednesday, October 5, 2011

The failure of endangered species regulation on private land.

The Endangered Species Act (ESA) was enacted with much fanfare and little controversy in 1973. At the time, few anticipated how broadly the law would affect both government and private activities.1 Yet ever since its celebrated passage, the nation’s premier wildlife conservation law has been a source of conflict and controversy; it has been rightly described as “one of the most contentious of our federal environmental laws.”2 The ESA is a focus of controversy in part because of its strength. Indeed, the ESA may be the most powerful environmental law in the nation.

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New study of Glover’s Reef challenges whether corals will benefit from Marine Reserves’ protection

New study of Glover’s Reef challenges whether corals will benefit from Marine Reserves’ protection

MIAMI — The ability of marine reserves to replenish fish stocks has been studied extensively, but evidence of their ability to benefit shallow-water communities to thrive remains a mystery. A team of scientists from the University of Miami (UM) Rosenstiel School of Marine & Atmospheric Science recently tested whether 10 years of reserve designation has translated into positive impacts on coral communities in Glover’s Reef Marine Reserve, Belize. Results from their surveys of 87 patch reefs both inside and outside the marine reserve showed no clear indication of reserve implementation benefiting coral cover, colony size or the abundance of juvenile corals. The study, conducted by Brittany Huntington, Mandy Karnauskas and UM Professor Diego Lirman appears in the journal Coral Reefs.

“We had hoped to find evidence of reserve protection benefiting the coral community as well as the fish community at Glover’s Atoll. Unfortunately, the coral communities on protected reefs were in no better condition than the fished reefs,” says Huntington. (EurekAlert)

Global warming causes really dumb predictions

Like these dills, who claim that faster growing plants will cause herbivores to run out of food(!). Apparently they are unaware grazing populations always increase to exploit the available resource rather than decline because of it. Further, said ecologists do not seem to be aware that temperature is not the sole determinant of herbivore growth – something called “nutrition” has an effect too (i.e., if there’s not enough food young herbivores grow less quickly). I’m embarrassed to see that University of Queensland faculty was also involved in this theoretical claptrap.

Herbivore populations will go down as temperatures go up, U of T study says
If predictions are right, global warming will cause large shifts in food chains with consequences for global food security and species conservation.
October 4, 2011
By Jessica Lewis

As climate change causes temperatures to rise, the number of herbivores will decrease, affecting the human food supply, according to new research from the University of Toronto.

In a paper being published this month in American Naturalist, a team of ecologists describe how differences in the general responses of plants and herbivores to temperature change produces predictable declines in herbivore populations. This decrease occurs because herbivores grow more quickly at high temperatures than plants do, and as a result the herbivores run out of food. (UToronto)

A Bird-Brained Prosecution (Persecution?)

Indicting oil and gas companies but giving wind turbines a pass.

The Obama Administration’s hostility to oil and gas exploration is well known, but last week it took an especially fowl turn. The U.S. Attorney for North Dakota hauled seven oil and natural gas companies into federal court for killing 28 migratory birds that were found dead near oil waste lagoons. You may not be surprised to learn that the Administration isn’t prosecuting wind companies for similar offenses.

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Fish (heart) oil platforms

North Sea platforms are fish magnets: researcher

Oil platforms in the North Sea are attracting more cod and haddock than previously thought and wind farm installations could be designed with reefs in mind to help attract fish.

Scientists have long been aware of the “reef effect” whereby artificial structures in the sea act as havens for fish, but a two year study by Aberdeen University academic Toyonobu Fujii has found structures in the sea attract more fish than previously thought. (Reuters)

A study to see how much studying affects subjects

Tracking equipment could be harming wild birds, experts warn
Postmortem study of red kites has aroused suspicions that radio transmitters be damaging their health and welfare
James Meikle

Hi-tech tracking equipment that maps the lives of bird species appears to be damaging the health and welfare of the birds to which it is attached, wildlife experts have warned.

A study involving postmortems on red kites fitted with radio transmitters in England has aroused suspicions that the equipment could cause lesions and reduce the breeding prospects of those being tracked. (Guardian)

How to get even less electrickery from aerial cuisinarts

TransAlta urged to shut down wind farm during migration season
Richard Blackwell, Globe and Mail

A major conservation group is calling on TransAlta Corp. to periodically turn off turbines at its Wolfe Island wind farm in Ontario to cut down on the number of birds and bats killed by the machines.

Nature Canada says the project’s 86 turbines are among the most destructive of wildlife in North America. The organization argues TransAlta should shut down parts of the wind farm – one of the biggest in the country – during high-risk periods in the late summer and early fall, when swallows congregate in the region and bats migrate.

“That period is when the vast majority of birds seem to be killed,” said Ted Cheskey, manager of bird conservation programs at Nature Canada. “The evidence is there, and now there is an obligation for [TransAlta] to act.”

The controversy over bird deaths is just one of the many challenges facing Canada’s wind industry, which has run up against by increasingly vocal opponents who say turbines are ugly, cause health problems, and do not contribute to reduced carbon emissions. (Point to Point PEC)

Spoiling the “Big Oil” conspiracy narrative

Polar Bear Scientist Was Accused By Federal Worker

The controversial “polarbeargate” investigation into Arctic researcher Charles Monnett originated when allegations of scientific misconduct were made by a “seasoned, career Department of the Interior” employee.

That’s according to a new letter sent to Sen. James Inhofe (R-OK) from the Department of the Interior’s Office of Inspector General.

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PlayStation® climatology threatens salmon again and habitat fragmentation can be good for fish

Warming streams could be the end for salmon

Warming streams could spell the end of spring-run Chinook salmon in California by the end of the century, according to a study by scientists at UC Davis, the Stockholm Environment Institute and the National Center for Atmospheric Research.

There are options for managing water resources to protect the salmon runs, although they would impact hydroelectric power generation, said Lisa Thompson, director of the Center for Aquatic Biology and Aquaculture at UC Davis. A paper describing the study is published online this week by the Journal of Water Resources Planning and Management. (UC Davis)

Patchy reefs ‘good for fish’

Vital clues to coral reef recovery have been identified in a remarkable research project in which three scientists laboured to hand-build 30 coral reefs from hundreds of tonnes of rock and gravel.

Working in a shallow, sandy area of Kimbe Bay in Papua New Guinea, the team constructed their artificial reefs over several weeks, with just a boat and their bare hands, to find out whether it is possible to rescue a damaged coral reef from obliteration and restore its richness. (Science Alert)

Alaska Says Climate Change is no Threat to Polar Bears

Alaska Says Climate Change is no Threat to Polar Bears, Opposes Protection

The state of Alaska will appeal a federal judge’s ruling that continues to list the polar bear as a threatened species. In a notice filed Friday, the state argued that the bears have successfully survived past climate changes.

The threatened species status of the polar bear was upheld by U.S. District Judge Emmet Sullivan in June, after the state of Alaska sued the federal government in 2008 over the Bush administration’s decision to protect polar bears under the Endangered Species Act. The listing was based on the warning by the Department of the Interior that warming of the Arctic climate and the melting of sea ice was threatening the polar bear’s habitat.

Gov. Sean Parnell, a Republican, said the world population of polar bears has grown from a low of between 8,000 and 10,000 in the late 1960s to the current count of about 20,000 to 25,000. “The Endangered Species Act was not intended for species that are healthy with populations that have more than doubled in the last 40 years,” Parnell said. (IBT)

Aerial cuisinarts protected, raptors not so much

Wind farms under fire for bird kills
Darryl Fears

Six birds found dead recently in Southern California’s Tehachapi Mountains were majestic golden eagles. But some bird watchers say that in an area where dozens of wind turbines slice the air they were also sitting ducks.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is investigating to determine what killed the big raptors, and declined to divulge the conditions of the remains. But the likely cause of death is no mystery to wildlife biologists who say they were probably clipped by the blades of some of the 80 wind turbines at the three-year-old Pine Tree Wind Farm Project, operated by the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power.

As the Obama administration pushes to develop enough wind power to provide 20 percent of America’s energy by 2030, some bird advocates worry that the grim discovery of the eagles this month will be a far more common occurrence. (WaPo)

Not global warming but it’s alright – humans still to blame

Human pathogen killing corals in the Florida Keys

Winter Park, Fl. and Athens, Ga. – A research team from Rollins College in Florida and the University of Georgia has identified human sewage as the source of the coral-killing pathogen that causes white pox disease of Caribbean elkhorn coral. Once the most common coral in the Caribbean, elkhorn coral was listed for protection under the United States Endangered Species Act in 2006, largely due to white pox disease. The team’s findings have just been published in the peer-reviewed open access journal PLoS ONE.

Kathryn P. Sutherland, associate professor of biology at Rollins College, and her research collaborators, Associate Professor of Environmental Health Science Erin K. Lipp and Professor of Ecology James W. Porter of the University of Georgia, have known since 2002 that the bacterium that killed coral was the same species as found in humans. “When we identified Serratia marcescens as the cause of white pox, we could only speculate that human waste was the source of the pathogen because the bacterium is also found in the waste of other animals,” Sutherland said.

In order to determine a source for the pathogen, the research team collected and analyzed human samples from the wastewater treatment facility in Key West and samples from several other animals, such as Key deer and seagulls. While Serratia marcescens was found in these other animals, genetic analyses showed that only the strain from human sewage matched the strain found in white pox diseased corals on the reef. The final piece of the investigative puzzle was to show that this unique strain was pathogenic to corals. (EurekAlert)

What does California have against avians?

Energy in America: Dead Birds Unintended Consequence of Wind Power Development
William La Jeunesse

As California attempts to divorce itself from fossil-fueled electricity, it may be trading one environmental sin for another — although you don’t hear state officials admitting it.

Wind power is the fastest growing component in the state’s green energy portfolio, but wildlife advocates say the marriage has an unintended consequence: dead birds, including protected species of eagles, hawks and owls.

“The cumulative impacts are huge,” said Shawn Smallwood, one of the few recognized experts studying the impact of wind farms on migratory birds. “It is not inconceivable to me that we could reduce golden eagle populations by a great deal, if not wipe them out.”

California supports roughly 2,500 golden eagles. The state’s largest wind farms kill, on average, more than 80 eagles per year. But the state is set to triple wind capacity in the coming years as it tries to become the first state in the nation to generate 33 percent of its electricity from clean energy sources by 2020. (