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

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.

Tags:

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. http://abcnews.go.com/Technology/wireStory/advocates-dams-put-dinosaur-river-fish-risk-28673490

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. http://news.fisheries.org/broadening-the-regulated-river-management-paradigm-a-case-study-of-the-forgotten-dead-zone-hindering-pallid-sturgeon-recovery/

Lundquist, Laura. “Groups sue to save endangered pallid sturgeon”. The Bozeman Daily Chronicle. February 2, 2015. http://www.bozemandailychronicle.com/news/environment/groups-sue-to-save-endangered-pallid-sturgeon/article_38667c30-9954-5d29-83c2-18a6bff32634.html

Red Fox Populations Encroach on Arctic Fox Ranges due to Warmer Temperatures

by Hilary Bruegl

In the nineteenth century Arctic tundra of Finnmark, Norway, the Arctic fox population declined to near extinction and have been recovering minimally despite strict protection. Hamel et al. (2013) investigated potential factors involved in suppressing healthy recolonization of prior territories, including encroaching red fox populations and variation in prey availability. By baiting and periodically photographing the area, the authors found red foxes to be the most important influence on the Arctic fox population in northeast Norway. Not only are red foxes more comfortable in the warming temperatures of the tundra, but there has also been a significant reduction in fox hunting, allowing the red fox population to flourish. Rodent population fluctuations were first documented alongside fox populations as a limiting factor of population growth; however, they had fewer effects than either land cover changes or red fox infiltration. Continue reading