Climate Change and Land Use Effects on the Red-Cockaded Woodpecker

by Kelsey D’Ewart

Climate change has been a pervasive issue when looking at the health and protection of endangered species. However, land- use has also been a significant factor in the decreasing population size of endangered species. Together, climate and land-use change affect habitat, behavioral patterns, phenology, and many other parts of many specie’s lives. This is especially relevant to species that have specific habitats, dietary needs, or both. If these issues are not addressed the risks of endangered species becoming extinct drastically increase. Bancroft et al. (2016) studied the affects of land use and climate change on the Red-cockaded Woodpecker (RCW) using a modeling system that allows them to analyze different predicted land-use and climate change scenarios up until the year 2100. This study looks at the RCW population in Fort Benning, which includes specific pine forests vital to the RCW survival. The authors looked at three different potential future conditions: conservation, convenience, and worst-case, to determine what types of major changes might occur in the RCW population over the remainder of the century. Continue reading

Angling Industry Threatened by Climate Change

by Patrick Shore

A study conducted by Penn State University revealed that climate change is threatening one of our countries oldest and most beloved past times: fishing. Research conducted by Dr. Tyrell DeWeber indicates that rising air and river water temperatures in the eastern United States will drive the brook trout upstream in search of colder water. Dr. DeWeber predicts that anglers may be forced to travel up to 450 miles in the near future to fish for brook trout. The disappearance of these fish is detrimental to many states who use fishing license fees to fund wildlife conservation, as well as to many outdoor stores and other small businesses associated with angling. Trout anglers spent $3.6 billion in 2011, which translated to an estimated $8.3 billion total economic impact, supporting thousands of jobs and hundreds of millions of dollar in salaries and tax revenues. Continue reading

Absorptivity due to Climate Change Affects Wing Melanin in Butterflies

by Anna Alquitela

Climate change affects many organisms in varying ways. Organisms that are unlikely to migrate must adapt to climate change through evolutionary responses. Numerous studies have documented evolutionary responses to climate change over a period of one to three decades. However, the study by Kingsolver and Buckley (2015) provides evidence of a delayed evolutionary response to climate change for the subalpine and alpine butterfly, Colias meadii, in the southern Rocky Mountains of Colorado. Kingsolver and Buckley investigated the evolution of wing melanin of C. meadii and its effect on selection. They state that many species of the study area have adapted to their local climate conditions and “have limited potential for large-scale migration and gene flow.” Comparing wing melanin to regional climate change, the authors relied on models to predict selection and evolutionary responses over the past 50—60 years. Continue reading

Projecting the Frequency of Heat Waves in the 21st Century over the Paris Basin

by Amelia Hamiter

The high mortality of the 2003 heat wave in France, and its particularly severe impact in the Paris basin, has drawn attention to the importance of considering heat wave occurrences of the future. Evaluating heat waves in the Paris region from 1951-2009 and using several climate change and emissions scenarios to model future heat wave possibilities, Lemonsu et al. (2014) predict that the frequency of heat wave occurrences in the target area will increase systematically with time and global warming, and that the durations of these heat waves will grow. Continue reading

Climate Change Causes Ectotherms to Produce a Lost Generation

by Anna Alquitela

Ectotherms are organisms that rely on environmental heat sources to maintain their body temperatures. The timing of reproduction in these organisms has much to do with their available thermal time windows. According to Van Dyck et al. (2015), the warming climate could cause an increase in the annual number of generations of ectotherms, but this response is potentially maladaptive, leading to a developmental trap; if an organism reproduces at the end of its reproductive season, there is a good chance that the new generation will die and the energy used to produce that generation would have been in vain. Continue reading

Environmentalists Sue Governmental Agencies in an Effort to Help Pallid Sturgeon in Montana Rivers

by Trevor Smith

The Bozeman Daily Chronicle reports that two environmental activist groups have filed a lawsuit early this week against the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the Fish and Wildlife Service, and the Bureau of Reclamation (Lundquist 2015). The Natural Resources Defense Council and the Defenders of Wildlife’s suit claims that these agencies’ operation of dams on the Montana and Yellowstone Rivers threatens the life of pallid sturgeon. The suit hopes both to stop the agencies’ current actions, which it claims will be ineffective in helping the fish survive, and to force the agencies to create a new dam modification plan.

Pallid sturgeon have been listed as endangered since 1990, and although their population is estimated to have increased somewhat since then (Brown 2015), biologists assert that the upper Missouri River pallid sturgeon fish population rests at approximately 125 fish, almost all of whom are older—younger fish are not surviving (Lundquist 2015).

The problem comes from the way the two dams in question work. A study published by the American Fisheries Society in Fisheries last month makes the novel claim that one of the main reasons the dams threaten pallid sturgeon is not because of their difficulty passing through the dams, but because the dams slow the speed of the water, creating anoxic “dead zones” that lack enough oxygen for the fish to survive (Guy et al. 2015). The study is notable in that it focuses on the effects of dams on fish survival upriver of the dams, noting that dams make life more difficult for pallid sturgeon miles before they attempt to cross the dam.

The lawsuit cites this evidence to argue that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineer’s current plan to aid pallid sturgeon survival—increasing the width of side channels for fish to navigate through dams—is unlikely to be particularly effective at increasing the size of the sturgeon population (Brown 2015).The lawsuit seeks both to block this current plan and to require governmental agencies overseeing the dams to make different modifications to improve the health of the rivers for the pallid sturgeon.


Pallid Sturgeon, Endangered Species, Dams, Lawsuits, Natural Resources Defense Council, Defenders of Wildlife, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers

Brown, Matthew. “Advocates: Dams Put Dinosaur-Like River Fish at Risk.” ABC News. February 2, 2015.

Guy, Christopher S., Treanor, Hilary B., Kappenman, Kevin M., Scholl, Eric A., Ilgen, Jason E., Webb, Molly A. H. “Broadening the Regulated-River Management Paradigm: A Case Study of the Forgotten Dead Zone Hindering Pallid Sturgeon Recovery”. Fisheries.

Lundquist, Laura. “Groups sue to save endangered pallid sturgeon”. The Bozeman Daily Chronicle. February 2, 2015.

Reduced Fecundity in Wood Frogs due to Warmer Winters

by Anna Alquitela

From 2006 to 2012, Michael Benard conducted research at a field station in southeastern Michigan where he used drift fences and pitfall traps to capture both adult and metamorphosing wood frogs (Rana sylvatica) at six wetlands (Benard 2014). Benard’s goal was to determine if a relationship exists between date of breeding and winter temperature and precipitation, and between the female reproductive rate (fecundity) and winter temperature and precipitation. Using these data, he was also able to discern if breeding dates affect changes in metamorphosis timing, length of the larval period, weight at metamorphosis, and larval survival. Continue reading

Occupational Health Hazards and Consequent Economic Losses Due to Workplace Heat Exposure

by Amelia Hamiter

Kjellstrom et al. (2015) study how warming temperatures due to climate change may create an occupational health hazard in tropical and subtropical countries that have a significant workforce employed in jobs in hot environments, such as physical jobs which must be done outdoors or in indoor spaces such as some factories that lack efficient cooling systems. (Air conditioning in urban areas is contested, since on a large urban scale it can increase heating of outdoor air, and because of its electricity demands. Thus indoor workplaces in some regions lack sustainable temperature control systems.) This problem is exacerbated by the high humidity of these countries, which reduces the effectiveness of sweating in cooling the body. To avoid excessive heat stress, workers must not work during the hottest hours of the day, which increase in the hottest days of the year. Many of the countries affected by this are low- to middle-income, and this issue can have an impact on their respective gross domestic products (GDPs). Preventative actions include development of coolant systems where possible as well as occupational health advisories, adjusted work hours, and other changes such as increased access to drinking water and education about symptoms of heat strain and heat stroke in the workplace. However, these strategies are limited, and also hold little hope for cutting economic losses. Global action against climate change is the most effective action to take against this situation. Continue reading

Reduced Body Size is a Positive Response to Climate Change

by Anna Alquitela

Surveying 85 unique sites on the western borders of North Carolina and Virginia, biologist Nicholas Caruso and his team collected data on adult specimens of Appalachian woodland salamanders (genus Plethodon). The results showed a reduction in salamander body size in accordance with lower climate temperatures. Because woodland salamanders are lungless they breathe through their skin and require a moist environment for survival. The authors used historical and present-day data to model the changes in body size of 15 species of salamanders over the past 55 years. The dataset included 9,450 adult body size measurements from 102 populations of the 15 different species of salamanders. An 8% reduction in the average salamander size was found in all of the species over the 55-year study (Caruso et al, 2014). The reduction in body size reveals the plasticity of organisms to adapt to changes in climate. Because body size is directly linked to diet and foraging behavior, growth rates are also affected. Smaller body size means less surface area, and less loss of moisture through cutaneous responses. Also, the salamanders that were surveyed have demonstrated an increase in metabolism. Continue reading

Colonization Potential of Oaks under Climate Change

by Elizabeth Medford

While the impact of climate change on a variety of animal populations and their ranges has been studies extensively in the past, the study of the impact of warming on tree species also provides useful information for policymaking. A variety of different modeling systems apply different variables and make predictions about tree species distribution in the future as temperatures rise. In this study however, Prasad et al. (2013) combine two different commonly used technologies to overcome the constraint of computation time and allow assessment of colonization potential for oak species. Four oak species were chosen to focus on because they are strongly climate-driven species: black oak, post oak, chestnut oak, and white oak. Using the DISTRIB and SHIFT models together the authors were able to determine the future dominant forest types in the northeastern United States. This study determined that even under optimistic conditions ignoring some influential factors, only a small fraction of suitable oak habitat is likely to be occupied by oaks within 100 years. The authors urge that the information garnered in this study be used to inform assisted migration practices for vulnerable tree species. They additionally call for further studies focusing on how each individual species will adapt to increases in temperature. Continue reading