Salamanders “Completely Gone” Due to Global Warming?

Christine Dell’Amore | National Geographic News

Silent and secretive creatures, salamanders are just as quietly falling off the map in tropical forests throughout Central America, a new study says.

Two common species surveyed in the 1970s in cloud forests of southern Mexico and Guatemala are extinct, and several others have plummeted in number, researchers say.

The tiny amphibians seem to be on the same downward spiral as their frog cousins, which have been mysteriously declining for years.

Scientists have identified chytrid, a fast-killing fungus that may spread in waves, as responsible for wiping out frogs around the world. Others have said that climate change is shifting temperatures and humidity, factors intricately tied to amphibian survival.

But among the Central American salamanders, “we have no evidence that either chytrid or climate change is responsible for the declines,” said study author David Wake, an biologist at the University of California, Berkeley.

“Completely Gone”

In the 1970s, Wake spent several years researching lungless salamanders in the San Marcos region of western Guatemala, one of the most diverse and well-studied salamander communities in the American tropics.

Between 2005 and 2007, he and colleagues returned to that region and previous study sites in Mexico to survey salamanders and compare their results to the historical data.

Their data-collecting strategy remained the same: Spot as many salamanders as possible in a standard amount of time.

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Arizona: Audubon joins fight against global warming

Tony Davis  | Arizona Daily Star
The Tucson Audubon Society is broadening its primary focus from birds and wildlife habitat to water and, particularly, global warming from carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases.
“It’s clear that unless we do something about CO2, habitats will continue to deteriorate, and we won’t have the birds to watch,” said the group’s director, Paul Green, explaining the provocative shift.
Sixty years ago, when 25 people held the society’s first local meeting at Tucson High School, they were volunteers interested mainly in watching the hundreds of species that make Southern Arizona one of the country’s premier birding hot spots.
Today, the Audubon group is a local fixture, on its own and as one of 35 groups in the Coalition for Sonoran Desert Protection that pushes for the Sonoran Desert Conservation Plan.
It has 3,500 members, a paid staff of 17 and about a $1 million annual budget. It operates two nature shops. It just upgraded its half-century-old bimonthly newsletter, the Vermillion Flycatcher, into a glossy magazine-style format. The group has a new logo, displaying the flycatcher’s flaming crimson on a yellow background to reflect the Sonoran Desert sun.
But its biggest change comes next.

Obama blocks some of Bush’s last-minute environmental decisions

By Jim Tankersley | LA Times

Reporting from Washington — With a short memo on Inauguration Day, President Obama blocked plans to loosen some air quality standards and to remove the gray wolf from the endangered species list. But he did not stop several other controversial, late-term environmental regulations issued by the Bush administration — at least not yet.

The list of Bush-era environmental rules that survived includes a major tweak to the Endangered Species Act, a first step in opening Western lands to oil shale development, leases for oil and gas drilling near some national parks, and the start of a process to allow new oil rigs off the Atlantic, Gulf, Alaska and California coasts.

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Palin fought safeguards for polar bears with studies by climate change sceptics

The Republican Sarah Palin and her officials in the Alaskan state government drew on the work of at least six scientists known to be sceptical about the dangers and causes of global warming, to back efforts to stop polar bears being protected as an endangered species, the Guardian can disclose. Some of the scientists were funded by the oil industry.

In official submissions to the US government’s consultation on the status of the polar bear, Palin and her team referred to at least six scientists who have questioned either the existence of warming as a largely man-made phenomenon or its severity. One paper was partly funded by the US oil company ExxonMobil.

The status of the polar bear has become a battleground in the debate on global warming. In May the US department of the interior rejected Palin’s objections and listed the bear as a threatened species, saying that two-thirds of the world’s polar bears were likely to be extinct by 2050 due to the rapid melting of the sea ice. Palin, governor of Alaska and the Republican nominee for US vice-president, responded last month by suing the federal government, to try to overturn the ruling. The case will be heard in January.

Though the state of Alaska has no polar bear specialists on its staff, the governor’s stance has pitted it against the combined scientific fire-power of the US Fish and Wildlife Service, the US Geological Survey, and world experts on the mammal.

In its lawsuit, Alaska said it opposed the endangered label partly because the listing would “deter activities such as … oil and gas exploration and development”. Oil companies recently bid $2.7bn (£1.5bn) for rights to explore the Chuckchi sea, an established polar bear habitat.

The threatened species status might also impede the building of an Alaskan natural gas pipeline, which Palin has called the “will of God”. In a letter last year to the US interior secretary, Dirk Kempthorne, she said she believed the polar bear population was “abundant, stable and unthreatened by direct human activity”. She opposed the call for the listing because it “did not use the best available scientific and commercial information”.

Her own Alaskan review of the science drew on a joint paper by seven authors, four of whom were well-known climate- change contrarians. Her paper argued that it was “certainly premature, if not impossible” to link temperature rise in Alaska with human CO2 emissions.

The paper, entitled Polar Bears of Western Hudson Bay and Climate Change, has been criticised for relying on old research and ignoring evidence that Arctic sea-ice is melting at a quickening pace. Walt Meier, a world authority on sea ice, based at the National Snow and Ice Data Centre, said: “The paper doesn’t measure up scientifically.”

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Like polar bear, wolverine is threatened by global warming, Montana lawsuit claims

By Michael Jamison | The Missoulian
Charging that politics have trumped science, conservationists are challenging the federal government’s refusal to provide wolverines with Endangered Species Act protections.

“The wolverine is facing serious threats to its survival in the Lower 48 states, yet the Bush administration made a political decision not to protect this species,” said Tim Preso.

Decisions regarding sensitive species, he said, “are supposed to be based on science, not politics.”  Preso serves as counsel at Earthjustice, and is representing a coalition of 10 environmental groups in a lawsuit on behalf of the wolverine. On Tuesday, he filed the action in Missoula’s U.S. District Court.

According to Preso, plaintiffs have unearthed documents showing that federal officials overruled biologists at the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, including scientists who had concluded wolverines are “warranted” for protections.

The Bush administration, plaintiffs charge, meddled with the science in order to avoid a second Endangered Species Act listing related to climate change. (In May, the polar bear was listed as threatened, largely due to habitat loss resulting from a warming planet.)

Wolverines, the groups allege, are likewise at risk from climate change because the animals depend on areas that remain snowbound well into spring, when females dig snow dens to give birth.

But spring snowpack, scientists say, is in decline, a trend that is predicted to worsen.

Wolverine populations also are threatened by trapping and human encroachment into mountain habitat, plaintiffs charge.

The secretive and wide-ranging members of the weasel family resemble small bears, and are most often associated with remote alpine country that remains snow-covered much of the year.

“Recent scientific studies,” the suit alleges, “document that areas of wolverine habitat have already lost up to 30 percent of their historic spring snowpack, and reductions could increase to 60 percent of historic levels by 2090.”

Largely isolated from Canadian populations by human development, the animals are thought to be declining in the Lower 48.

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Polar bears resort to cannibalism as Arctic ice shrinks

CNN

Summer is over in the northern hemisphere, but it’s been another chilling season for researchers who study Arctic sea ice.

“It’s definitely a bad report. We did pick up little bit from last year, but this is over 30 percent below what used to be normal,” said Walt Meier, a research scientist with the National Snow and Ice Data Center in Boulder, Colorado.

This past summer, the Arctic sea ice dwindled to its second lowest level. Arctic sea ice is usually one to three meters, or as much as 9 feet thick. It grows during autumn and winter and shrinks in the spring and summer.

Scientists have monitored sea ice conditions for about 50 years with the help of satellites. Changes in the past decade have been alarming to climate researchers and oceanographers.

“It is the second lowest on record … If anything it is reinforcing the long-term trend. We are still losing the ice cover at a rate of 10 percent per decade now, and that is quite an increase from five years ago,” said Meier. “We are still heading toward an ice cover that is going to melt completely in the summertime in the Arctic.”

Arctic ice helps regulate and temper the climate in many other parts of the world. The less ice there is, the more dramatic the impact. Huge sheets of ice reflect solar radiation, keeping our planet cool. When that ice melts, huge expanses of darker, open ocean water absorb the heat instead, warming things up.

While few humans live in the Arctic, the disappearance of this ice cover can have impacts far beyond the few residents and the wildlife of this harsh region. Ice cover loss can influence winds and precipitation on other continents, possibly leading to less rain in the western United States and creating more in Europe.

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Sarah Palin Denies Global Warming, Says Polar Bears Not Endangered

Alaska leads the US in global warming! As for Polar Bears –Alaska’s entire population of Polar Bears will be killed off by the year 2050 unless Palin’s policies are stopped now. These developments are concurrent with the increase of oil exploration and drilling in Alaska. Palin is lying about Alaska, about oil, about Polar Bears and about Global Warming.. [See: Washington Post, Polar Bear Population Seen Declining;]

As a result of these efforts, polar bears are more numerous now than they were 40 years ago. The polar bear population in the southern Beaufort Sea off Alaska’s North Slope has been relatively stable for 20 years, according to a federal analysis. 

In fact, there is insufficient evidence that polar bears are in danger of becoming extinct within the foreseeable future — the trigger for protection under the Endangered Species Act. And there is no evidence that polar bears are being mismanaged through existing international agreements and the federal Marine Mammal Protection Act.

–Sarah Palin, New York Times

In fact, the polar bear population in Alaska is declining.

Two-thirds of the world’s polar bears will be killed off by 2050 _ and the entire population gone from Alaska _ because of thinning sea ice from global warming in the Arctic, government scientists forecast Friday. 

Only in the northern Canadian Arctic islands and the west coast of Greenland are any of the world’s 16,000 polar bears expected to survive through the end of the century, said the US Geological Survey, which is the scientific arm of the Interior Department.

–The Associated Press, Washington Post, Polar Bear Population Seen Declining

Palin denies that human activity –including the drilling, production and refining of oil –has any effect on environments, a position that puts her to the right of even George W. Bush. In fact, Alaska is where it’s ‘at’ in terms of global warming.

Read on here.