Thursday, September 24, 2009

Fish and Wildlife Service Announces Climate Change Strategy

By Mitch Merry

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service released their proposed Climate Change Strategy marking a positive first step in protecting species from the threats caused by a warming world. The Service says that the plan will “help guide the Fish and Wildlife Service’s response to impacts such as changing wildlife migration patterns, the spread of invasive species, changing precipitation patterns and rising sea levels.” It is a strong recognition by the administration of the scientific concensus that human activity is changing the climate system and that the effects on plants, fish and wildlife will be drastic if left unchecked.

The framework for the pioneering plan has 3 elements:
  • Adaptation- Limiting the effects of warming on species through habitat restoration and similar projects.
  • Mitigation- Reducing CO2 levels in the atmosphere to limit the rate at which warming occurs.
  • Engagement-Greater public and private involvement worldwide in seeking solutions to help wildlife cope with climate change.
While the plan is a laudable launching point for dealing with climate change, it is the first in what needs to be multiple steps. The plan is based in part on legislation currently pending before Congress. The legislation, the American Clean Energy and Security Act, must be passed soon and with robust funding for wildlife adaptation. Please contact your Senator and ask them to ensure that provisions to safeguard natural resource are included in the climate change bill.

To learn more about safeguarding species in a warming world, visit the Endangered Species Coalition website.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Reptiles Slowly but Steadily Feeling the Heat

Recently we've been discussing the effects of climate change on various species such as pikas, polar bears and birds. Today we'll turn our attention to reptiles.

Like pikas, reptiles are moving upslope according to research conducted by the American Museum of Natural History. As they move upslope in response to warming caused habitat loss, they will eventually run out of habitat and gradually go extinct. The Museum's research showed an average shift upslope of 62 to 167 feet, a substantial movement for a species with limited range. As temperatures rise, with a worst case scenario calling for a 6 degree Celcius rise by 2100, species going upslope will soon run out of viable options.

Rising water levels are pushing some aquatic reptiles northward as well as inland. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, this phenomenon will bring American Alligators in closer proximity to humans. The increasing number of conflicts will be dangerous not only to people and domestic animals but to the alligators, pythons, and other reptiles that are crowded out of their present swamp and mangrove habitat into backyards and roadways. In addition to being hit by cars, many of these animals will be killed out of fear or retaliation when they come in contact with humans.

In addition to changing the locality of reptile habitat, rising temperatures are impacting the biological processes of species whose sex determination is thermally dependent. According to research published in The Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, the sex ratio of some populations of painted turtles (Chrysemys picta) are becoming skewed to an extent that could bring about their extinction if temperatures continue to rise. Statistical evaluations indicate that an increase in mean temperature of 4 degrees Celcius would effectively eliminate production of male offspring, ending the possibility of reproduction for the painted turtle.

Lastly, reptiles are at risk of overheating. A recent study by U.S. and Australian researchers concluded that the world's ectotherms will spend an increasing amount of time and energy trying to stay cool. With limited shade habitat, that will require the expenditure of more energy to thermoregulate, or as one researcher said, “"Effectively their rent goes up, but the time they've got to find an income goes down".

It's critical that we act to prevent the worst case scenario from occuring and pass a strong climate bill with adequate wildlife allocation funds attached. Please contact your Senator today and ask them to support strong legislation.

To learn more about species in a warming world, please visit the Endangered Species Coalition website at stopextinction.org.

Friday, September 11, 2009

America's Hottest Species!

Our nation's wildlife, birds, fish and plants are feeling the heat from a warming world. We need to spread the word about the importance of protecting wildlife and wild places from the impacts of climate change.

The Endangered Species Coalition is preparing a report on America's endangered species threatened by climate change. We need your help to pick an ambassador species for our report and our campaign to safeguard species in a warming world.

Polar Bear: King of the Arctic
Polar bears live in one of the harshest environments - the arctic wilderness . Unfortunately, sea ice has been melting under their feet making it harder for them to find food and protect their young.

Vote for the Polar Bear!

Lynx: Wild Snow Cat
The lynx is a wild and elusive cat that lives in the northern forests from the Northeast to the Rocky Mountains. Its thick fur and large paws helps it hunt showshoe hares in the far northern wilderness. As climate change continues, the Canada Lynx will no longer be an animal perfectly suited for its habitat and its prey, and its numbers are in jeopardy of declining drastically.

Vote for the Lynx!

Gray Wolf: Wilderness Witness
Gray Wolves may face challenges in parts of their range due to climate change for its affect on their food sources, the Moose and Caribou. With a decrease in potential prey, wolves will be increasingly vulnerable.

Vote for the Wolf!

Chinook Salmon: In Hot Water
The migration of the salmon from river to ocean is one of nature's most dramatic journeys. Climate change is both heating up and changing the water flows in these streams, causing massive dieoffs of the fish.

Vote for the Salmon!

Leatherback Sea Turtles: Boys are Threatened!
Green Sea Turtles return to the shore to lay eggs--ranging from 70 to 100 per brood! When turtle eggs develop, the temperature of the sand determines the sex of the hatchling. Warmer temperatures result in more females, altering the ratio between males and females.

Vote for the Sea Turtle!

Hawaiian Honeycreeper: Stung to Death?
We all dislike getting bitten by mosquitos. When the highly endangered Hawaiian birds are stung by mosquitos, they are at risk for avarian malaria and other diseases. They used to be safe in high mountains, which are too cold for the insects. However, as temperatures rise, their mountain refuge is threatened.

Vote for the Honeycreeper!

Blue Butterly: Where Have all the Flowers Gone?
The Karner Blue Butterfly can be found in the upper Midwest and parts of New York and New Hampshire. The butterfly feeds exclusively on wild lupine, which are disappearing due to climate change.

Vote for the Butterfly!

Pika: Moving up the Mountain
The American Pika, a cousin to the rabbit, is found in the colder, mountainous, alpine regions of the western United States. Even small changes in the temperature in the mountains can be fatal. As temperatures rise due to global warming, the pika is forced higher up the mountains and may eventually run out of room!

Vote for the Pika!

Right Whale: Save the Whale Babies!
The North Atlantic Right Whale is the most endangered large whale in the world. Found along the East Coast, there are only 250-350 whales alive today. They eat krill, a fragile species that is severely affected by the impacts of climate change. As krill populations decline, the whales experience more miscarriages and deaths during infancy, because of the lack of food.

Vote for the Whale!

Orchid: Parched Prairie Potholes
The western prairie fringed orchid is found throughout the Midwest in Prairie Potholes, seasonal wetlands at the core of what were once the largest grasslands in the world. Climate change is drying out the seasonal wetlands of these prairies leaving no habitat for the western prairies fringed orchid to thrive.

Vote for the Orchid!

Coral: Bleached to Death!
Elkhorn Coral once flourished in the waters off Florida, the Bahamas, and much of the Caribbean. It has been one of the most important reef-building corals, serving as key habitat for fish, lobsters and other species. Warmer temperatures cause the corals to "bleach," turn white and die.

Vote for the Coral!

More information on each species and the threat from climate change is available on our website.

To find out more or to vote, visit http://org2.democracyinaction.org/o/6014/t/6442/questionnaire.jsp?questionnaire_KEY=214