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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Conservation group sues for walrus protection from climate change

 

AP | By DAN JOLING

ANCHORAGE, Alaska  — A conservation group is going to court to force the federal government to consider adding the Pacific walrus to the list of threatened species.

The Center for Biological Diversity sued the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and Interior Secretary Dirk Kempthorne on Wednesday for failing to act on a petition seeking protection for walruses under the Endangered Species Act.

Walruses are threatened by global warming that melts Arctic sea ice, according to the group, one of the parties that successfully petitioned to list polar bears as threatened. The group also has filed petitions to protect Arctic seals.

The walrus petition was filed in February. The Fish and Wildlife Service was required by law to decide by May 8 whether the petition had merit, which would trigger a more thorough review and a preliminary decision after 12 months. The agency missed the deadline.

Rebecca Noblin, an attorney for the Center for Biological Diversity, said the delay would harm walruses.

“Every day that goes by without protecting the walrus, we’re emitting more greenhouse gases, accelerating the ice melt,” Noblin said.

“In addition to the climate change, the other main threat is oil and gas development that continues to go forward without any consultation regarding walrus,” she said.

Fish and Wildlife spokesman Bruce Woods said Wednesday the agency anticipates making a decision on the petition soon but has limited resources. Decisions on endangered species listings are driven by litigation, he said, forcing the agency to rank actions by court order rather than species need.

Global warming is blamed for Arctic sea ice shrinking to record low levels.

The National Snow and Ice Data Center said summer sea ice in 2008 reached the second lowest level, 1.74 million square miles, since satellite monitoring began in 1979. The loss was exceeded only by the 1.65 million square miles in 2007.

Like polar bears, listed as a threatened species in May, walruses depend on sea ice to breed and forage.

Walruses dive from ice over the shallow outer continental shelf in search of clams and other benthic creatures. Females and their young traditionally use ice as a moving diving platform, riding it north as it recedes in spring and summer, first in the northern Bering Sea, then into the Chukchi Sea off Alaska’s northwest coast.

Sea ice in the Chukchi Sea, shared with the Russian Far East, for the last two years receded well beyond the outer continental shelf over water too deep for walruses to dive to reach clams. In the fall of 2007, herds congregated on Alaska and Siberia shores until ice re-formed.

According to the Center for Biological Diversity, warming sea temperatures and sea ice loss may also be reducing walrus prey at the bottom of the ocean.

The group hopes a listing could slow plans for offshore petroleum development. Oil companies in February bid on 2.7 million acres in the Chukchi Sea. Other lease sales are planned.

The Fish and Wildlife Service, along with its Russian counterparts, has nearly completed a comprehensive population count of walruses. The numbers are anticipated in the coming weeks, possibly by the end of the year, Woods said.

Australia: Possum May Be Extinct Due to Global Warming

 NewCorp Australia / Fox NewsScientists say a white possum native to the Daintree rainforest in the Australian state of Queensland has become the first mammal to become extinct due to man-made global warming.

The Brisbane, Queensland, Courier-Mail reports the white variety of the lemuroid ringtail possum, found only above 3,000 feet in the mountain forests of far north Queensland, has not been seen for three years.

Experts fear climate change is to blame for the disappearance of the highly vulnerable strain thanks to a temperature rise of up to 1.5 degrees Fahrenheit.

Researchers will mount a last-ditch expedition early next year deep into the untouched “cloud forests” of the Carbine Range near Mt. Lewis, three hours north of the city of Cairns, in search of the tiny tree-dweller, dubbed the “Dodo of the Daintree.”

“It is not looking good,” researcher Steve Williams said. “If they have died out it would be first example of something that has gone extinct purely because of global warming.”

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1 in 4 mammals at risk of extinction, scientists say

CNN

WASHINGTON (AP) — Conservationists have taken the first detailed look at the world’s mammals in more than a decade, and the news isn’t good.  “Our results paint a bleak picture of the global status of mammals worldwide,” the team led by Jan Schipper of the International Union for the Conservation of Nature in Gland, Switzerland, concluded.

“We estimate that one in four species is threatened with extinction and that the population of one in two is declining,” the researchers said in a report to be published Friday in the journal Science. The findings were being released Monday at the IUCN meeting in Barcelona, Spain.

“I think the bottom line is, what kind of a world do you want to leave for your children,” Andrew Smith, a professor in the Arizona State University School of Life Sciences, said in a telephone interview.

“How impoverished we would be if we lost 25 percent of the world’s mammals,” said Smith, one of more than 100 co-authors of the report.

“Within our lifetime, hundreds of species could be lost as a result of our own actions, a frightening sign of what is happening to the ecosystems where they live,” added Julia Marton-Lefevre, IUCN director general. “We must now set clear targets for the future to reverse this trend to ensure that our enduring legacy is not to wipe out many of our closest relatives.”

The new report updates the IUCN’s Red List of Threatened Species, which overall includes 44,838 species, of which 16,928 are threatened with extinction. Of these, 3,246 are in the highest-category of threat, critically endangered, 4,770 are endangered and 8,912 are vulnerable to extinction. The IUCN estimated that 76 mammal species have gone extinct since 1500.

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Oregon: Bradbury battles global warming

“We’re blowing it,” said Bill Bradbury, Oregon secretary of state. “We’re creating a situation on the planet that will leave our kids with a planet that isn’t in great shape.”

Bradbury spoke at Scappoose High School on Monday, Sept. 29. His visit was coordinated and sponsored by the Elections 2008 class. More than 50 people showed up to hear him speak.

In 2006 Bradbury was one of the first 50 people trained by former Vice President Al Gore to speak on global warming and the imminent threat it creates.

In Oregon he said rising temperatures are already changing our environment. All the glaciers on Mt. Hood are shrinking; in 20 years there has been a dramatic change. The decrease in size equals:

 

u 61 percent of the White River Glacier.

u 19 percent of the Eliot Glacier.

u 15 percent of the Coe Glacier.

u 37 percent of the Glisan Glacier.

 

Seventy-four percent of the water that sustains the crops in the Hood River Valley comes from the White River Glacier.

“What will happen to the agriculture in that valley when the glaciers melt away?” asked Bradbury.

Between 1950 and 2003 temperatures rose 2.25 degrees Fahrenheit in many areas of the Pacific Northwest. Warmer temperatures have caused an eightfold increase in the destruction of forests by the Oregon bark beetle. The beetles thrive in the warmer temperatures.

The temperature in the Columbia River in August and September is averaging between 68 and 71 degrees Fahrenheit. 70 degrees is very stressful for salmon. 75 degrees is deadly for them. Bradbury said that by 2040 the Yakima, Snake and Willamette river basins will be too hot for salmon.

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