Solid, mind blowing photo essay on Alberta oil tar sands.
Posts tagged habitat.
Can you re-blog? My favorite conservation charity is in second place!
A move that is both bold and weak at the same time. Scientists say ‘oil pollution,’ government says ‘small shrimp.’ Smells like PR bullshit to protect BP and oil drillers from further payouts to local communities.
The Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources acted this week to close waters along the Gulf Coast to shrimping due to widespread reports from scientists and fishermen of deformed seafood and drastic fall-offs in populations two years after the BP oil spill. [‘Official’ reason is now reported to be smaller than average shrimp.]
Barred owls vs spotted owls, and the controversy and challenges of conserving the Northern Spotted Owl.
I’m on an owl kick today…
Climate change is affecting the color of owls in Finland.
Researchers who looked at Finnish tawny owls over the last 28 years found that the brown variant is winning over the gray one in the wild.
Plumage color is about 80% heritable in Strix aluco, the Finnish tawny owl. The researchers modeled the survival of 466 owls and found that historically, brown owls had lower survival rate compared to gray owls in winter when there was lots of snow. “Predation on brown individuals may be more severe under snow-rich conditions,” the paper says.
Controversial, but it works.
Barred owls shot by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in order to save populations of the Northern spotted owl.
Forest managers in the Pacific Northwest are facing a tough decision. Environmentalists shut down logging in the national forests in the1980s and 1990s in order to save the Northern spotted owl. Considered an indicator species by biologists, meaning that a given species is studied and assumed to be indicative of the health of species throughout the ecosystem, this sensitive owl needs old growth forest to survive. Overlogging and deforestation sent spotted owl numbers plummeting. Federal courts forced the government to list the owl under the Endangered Species Act, which closed off the remaining old growth forest in the Northwest to logging.
In the last 20 years, spotted owl numbers have not recovered. This is largely because of the arrival of the more aggressive and closely related barred owl. Many scientists believe the barred owl is little different from the spotted owl, perhaps only separated by a few thousand years of living in different forests. The natural westward migration of the barred owl has threatened spotted owl populations both because the barred owl both mates with spotted owls and often eats them.
In response, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has made the decision to start shooting barred owls in order to protect the spotted owl.
Anonymous asked: Hi, Michael - I noticed your post on “Great News! The DOI incorporates adaptation!” I work for a DOI agency, and am curious about the FWS approach to recovery of the northern spotted owl - this recovery plan includes a proposal to consider shooting barred owls based on a lot of assumptions, and will release a draft EIS on a research proposal this spring to do just that. I am trying to figure out how killing one species that may be expanding due to climate change is an “adaptation strategy” - it seems about as productive as killing California sea lions in the Columbia River because they kill salmon - that, by the way congregate at the base of dams that we built. Thoughts? Do a google search and you will find a few articles and public response to the proposal. I appreciate your optimism, but I am not so sure these agencies even know what adaptive management is. or means.
Thank you for the kind words and especially your confidence in my ability to respond to such a controversial issue. The issue, as I understand it, is whether the barred owl should be controlled as an invasive species in order to protect the spotted owl, an endangered species?
Spotted owl chicks.
The issue did get a lot of attention in 2009, when mainstream environmental media picked up the story. For example, Smithsonian Magazine wrote about it over two years ago, in an excellent piece called, The Spotted Owl’s New Nemesis; An epic battle between environmentalists and loggers left much of the spotted owl’s habitat protected. Now the celebrity species faces a new threat—a tougher owl.
The (rather meandering) article describes the history of the spotted owl, and tries to position the bird as the ultimate yardstick for measuring endangered species management and policy.
The spotted owl has been controversial for decades, and management of the species has largely failed,
…northern spotted owls continue to move ever closer to extinction. Populations have been virtually eliminated in British Columbia, are declining at a rate of 7%/ year in Washington and are declining at an annual rate of 4% over their entire range. Source
Audubon Portland reluctantly supports the EIS to manage the barred owl,
…the highest priority must be placed on preventing the extinction of species even to the degree that this entails lethal control of other protected species. To that degree we support moving forward with the EIS, but will not take a final position on lethal control until we are able to fully evaluate the different options presented. We must see that the fundamental cause of spotted owl populations declines, loss of critical habitat, is being adequately addressed, that lethal control of barredowls, in addition to habitat protection and restoration, is a necessary condition for spotted owls to recover, and that such an approach is practicable and will substantially improve the spotted owl’s chances for survival.
That’s the background. With respect to whether this falls under the category of a climate adaptation adds a new layer of paradox. If the barred owl is indeed migrating to other areas due to climate change, the DOI and the FWS must show this is the case in the EIS. If they do, that will open the doors for many, many lawsuits against those that caused climate change in the first place. My understanding is that causal lawsuits are nearly a requirement of the ESA (I can’t be sure, at this point).
I need more information. It seems like the DOI/FWS can manage the barred owl under traditional invasive species management tools in order to protect an endangered species. In their EIS, they have to show that the owl did migrate and therefore causes harm to the spotted owl, but (I believe) not the reason why it migrated.
Back to you - does the EIS mention climate change as a cause for the barred owl to migrate?
Thanks for the thought provoking question!
“It’s totally maddening,” Mr. Sanfilippo said. “They’re just doing it to make all the green people happy.”
Whole Foods says that, in fact, it is doing its part to address the very real problem of overfishing and help badly depleted fish stocks recover. It is using ratings set by the Blue Ocean Institute, a conservation group, and the Monterey Bay Aquarium in California. They are based on factors including how abundant a species is, how quickly it reproduces and whether the catch method damages its habitat.
How dare us green people.
Wrong answer, Susty Sam. Enviros will not make inroads by alienating people who just lost their jobs. Hostility to opposing points of view, spouting egotistical responses, or publicly blathering about the poor environment are failed strategies. Such responses negatively impact the domain of viable solutions to ongoing environmental problems. They certainly do not foster public support nor does it build trust.
Public trust is a valuable and rare commodity among environmentalists. And trust is needed in order for environmentalists to get a seat at the table.
The NYTimes article shows that environmental wins sometimes cost good people’s jobs. When jobs are lost due to a new restriction - especially blue collar jobs - the impacts negatively affect public opinion. It’s not cool to spit in the faces of someone who lost their job to environmental successes. In this context, job losses become stained by environmental regulation.
Environmental success should exemplify excellence. They should not chip away at any potential support from the public for new or altered environmental regulations.
When the next round of regulations are proposed, imagine the opposition pointing to sarcastic responses, such as Susty Sams. This stuff infuriates the public, who are needed to vote for restrictive measures.
Enviros need to increase their influence by being respectful, acknowledge social impacts from increased regulations, and attempt to offer sets of alternatives once changes occur such as the above.
White Orca spotted for the first time off coastal Russia. Nick-named “Iceberg.”
“Iceberg seems to be fully socialised; we know that these fish-eating orcas stay with their mothers for life, and as far as we can see he’s right behind his mother with presumably his brothers next to him,” said Dr Hoyt.
The cause of his unusual pigmentation is not known. The captive white orca, Chima, suffered from Chediak-Higashi syndrome, a genetic condition that causes partial albinism as well as a number of medical complications.
Click for story and video via BBC.
A behind-the-scenes look at the making of Frozen Planet