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News Article | January 11, 2017
Site: www.techtimes.com

Toothless polar bears are going extinct. Despite a "recovery" plan, environmentalists say that humans are pushing for the extinction since the preventive measures presented are insufficient. To curb the problem, large-scale greenhouse mitigation is called for. The death of polar bears can be attributed to harsh changes to their environment like melting of sea ice due to rising global temperature. If the situation does not improve, it won't be long until the species becomes non-existent due to the limited, or worse, non-action by human beings. Currently, there are about 26,000 remaining polar bears according to the Center for Biological Diversity. "Polar bears are starving and drowning as their sea ice melts away, but this toothless plan shrugs off the one solution that will save them - carbon pollution cuts," Shaye Wolf, climate science director at the Center for Biological Diversity said. Last Jan. 9, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced the Conservation Management Plan's (CMP) near-term survival strategy for polar bears. However, focusing on the short-term effect is not enough to save the species from extinction. "This plan outlines the necessary actions and concrete commitments by the Service and our state, tribal, federal and international partners to protect polar bears in the near term," Greg Siekaniec, The Service's Alaska regional director said in a press release. "But make no mistake; without decisive action to address Arctic warming, the long-term fate of this species is uncertain." The plan calls for the reduced human-bear conflicts, management of subsistence harvest, habitat protection, and minimized contamination from oil spills. The plan also includes the constant monitoring of the efficacy of the project. Extinction of polar bears are not only caused by rising global temperature but also other man-made factors such as toxic chemical pollutants. Reports say that polar bears were listed as "threatened" under the Endangered Species Act (ESA) in the year 2008. Last December, the National Sea and Ice Data Center recorded the second lowest December sea ice extent covering only an average of 12.10 million square kilometers (4.67 million square miles). Even Greenland has been experiencing unexpected ice melts due to greenhouse gasses. Every inch of carbon dioxide emitted has an equivalent Arctic sea ice melt. The rising global temperature should not only concern U.S. Fish and Wildlife but also all environmental groups and government agencies worldwide. However, President Donald Trump's nonchalance when it comes to climate change issues may put the fate of polar bear in jeopardy. © 2017 Tech Times, All rights reserved. Do not reproduce without permission.

News Article | February 15, 2017
Site: www.marketwired.com

Joining effort to assist in creation of the Whale Protection Zone SEATTLE,WA--(Marketwired - February 15, 2017) - Orca Relief Citizens' Alliance is honored to have Dr. Roger Payne, Founder/President, Ocean Alliance, join its advisory board. Dr. Payne's extensive expertise in understanding both whale songs and how to safely study the health of an ailing whale population, will be an asset to the board as Orca Relief continues to seek support of their petition for the Whale Protection Zone Proposition. Together with the Center for Biological Diversity and the Project Seawolf, Orca Relief is a co-sponsor of The Whale Protection Zone Proposition now before the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS), which just added the WPZ to the Federal Register, opening a 90-day period for public comment through the Administrative Procedure Act process. "Having reviewed Orca Relief's regulatory petition, Ocean Alliance supports the request to establish a Whale Protection Zone as well as regulatory efforts designed to increase salmon populations and reduce contaminant loads. I am writing to request that you start the process of creating a Whale Protection Zone as soon as possible. I worry that without such intervention these whales may not have a survivable future," said Dr. Roger Payne in his letter to National Marine Fisheries Service's Seattle Branch Chief of Protected Resources Division, Lynne Barre. "Roger Payne is widely agreed to be the most famous whale scientist and conservation biologist in the world. We are honored and delighted that he is not only supporting the Whale Protection Zone, but also joining Orca Relief, as we work to save this endangered population of local killer whales. His presence on our advisory board, together with that of Christopher Clark, should indicate to all who are concerned about these whales that the WPZ is based upon the best available science, in both conservation and acoustics," said Mark Anderson, Founder of Orca Relief; CEO and Chairman of Strategic News Service; and Founder and Chairman of Future in Review Conference. Citizens and groups interested in voicing their support for the Whale Protection Zone should send a comment to NOAA (https://www.regulations.gov/document?D=NOAA-NMFS-2016-0152-0001) before April 13, 2017. Orca Relief Citizens' Alliance is a volunteer-driven 501 (c)(3) nonprofit organization focused on recovering the population health of the endangered southern resident killer whales (SRKWs) of Puget Sound and the Salish Sea. Orca Relief relies on the best available science to demonstrate what must be done to protect and recover J, K, and L pods, particularly from the noise and stress they experience from the commercial motorized whale watch boats and the many private boats they attract. We are dedicated to creating a Whale Protection Zone on the west side of San Juan Island, Washington state to provide a safe haven that will assist Puget Sound's endangered Orca in their recovery.

News Article | March 1, 2017
Site: www.eurekalert.org

Researchers at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill have found that up to 90 percent of predatory fish are gone from Caribbean coral reefs, straining the ocean ecosystem and coastal economy. The good news? They identified reefs, known as supersites, which can support large numbers of predator fishes that if reintroduced, can help restore the environmental and economic setback inflicted by overfishing. The work, led by former UNC-Chapel Hill graduate student Abel Valdivia working with John Bruno, a marine biologist at UNC College of Arts & Sciences, suggests that these supersites - reefs with many nooks and crannies on its surface that act as hiding places for prey (and attract predators) - should be prioritized for protection and could serve as regional models showcasing the value of biodiversity for tourism and other uses. Other features that make a supersite are amount of available food, size of reef and proximity to mangroves. "On land, a supersite would be a national park like Yellowstone, which naturally supports an abundance of varied wildlife and has been protected by the federal government," said Bruno, whose work appears in the March 1 issue of Science Advances. The team surveyed 39 reefs across the Bahamas, Cuba, Florida, Mexico and Belize, both inside and outside marine reserves, to determine how much fish had been lost by comparing fish biomass on pristine sites to fish biomass on a typical reef. They estimated the biomass in each location and found that 90 percent of predatory fish were gone due to overfishing. What they didn't expect to find was a ray of hope -- a small number of reef locations that if protected could substantially contribute to the recovery of predatory fish populations and help restore depleted species. "Some features have a surprisingly large effect on how many predators a reef can support," said Courtney Ellen Cox, a coauthor and former UNC-Chapel Hill doctoral student now at the National Museum of Natural History in Washington, D.C. For example, researchers believe that the Columbia Reef within the fisheries closures of Cozumel, Mexico, could support an average 10 times the current level of predatory fish if protected. Not long ago, large fishes were plentiful on coral reefs, but are now largely absent due to targeted fishing. Today, predators are larger and more abundant within the marine reserves than on unprotected, overfished reefs. But even some of the marine reserves have seen striking declines, largely due to lack of enforcement of fishing regulations. The bottom line is protection of predatory fish is a win-win from both an environmental and an economical perspective, explained Bruno. "A live shark is worth over a million dollars in tourism revenue over its lifespan because sharks live for decades and thousands of people will travel and dive just to see them up close," said Valdivia, now at the Center for Biological Diversity in Oakland, Calif. "There is a massive economic incentive to restore and protect sharks and other top predators on coral reefs."

News Article | March 1, 2017
Site: www.washingtonpost.com

The coral reef formations of the deep sea are huge rocklike structures with thousands of nooks and crannies that little fish call home. John Bruno, a University of North Carolina marine biologist, has seen them up close while diving. But a trip to a reef isn’t satisfying if big predators — sharks, barracuda, grouper and such — aren’t lurking there, looking to snack on some pretty little thing that ventures from its hole. Bruno says he hasn’t been satisfied in a long time, and his newest research, published Wednesday, shows why: Up to 90 percent of reef predators have been removed from the Caribbean because of overfishing. “Reefs are largely devoid of anything big,” he said during an interview, in a tone bordering on sad. “Just like the forests, there’s nothing big … just squirrels, a few deer here and there. Bear has all been hunted out.” The consequences are twofold, explained Bruno, a professor at UNC Chapel Hill. The absence of apex predators, and even smaller predators like snapper, can throw an ecosystem out of whack. Consider the removal of wolves from forests and sea stars from the Pacific Ocean off California, Oregon and Washington. Without wolves, deer run amok, eating areas of the forest bare, trampling grasses and gnawing on trees, all of which ruins the habitat of smaller animals. In the Pacific, a wasting disease that has devastated sea stars in turn has left the sea urchins they preyed on to multiply and gobble kelp, removing hiding places for small fish and eventually causing the urchins to starve. Another problem is that sharks are worth a lot to Caribbean islands because they’re what snorkelers and divers want to see, far more than candy-colored tropical fish. “A live shark is worth over a million dollars in tourism revenue over its lifespan because sharks live for decades and thousands of people will travel and dive just to see them up close,” said Abel Valdivia, a study co-author who was a UNC graduate student during the research. He now works at the Center for Biological Diversity in Oakland. Valdivia and Bruno, along with a third researcher, Courtney Cox, visited 39 reefs off Belize, Mexico, Cuba, the Bahamas and Florida — some protected in reserves, most not — to determine how many fish had vanished. Long story short, they counted predators as the predators circled them. They compared the numbers counted at pristine reefs that were full of life to the typical reef. That’s how they arrived at the conclusion that 90 percent of predatory fish are gone, more than likely from overfishing. Bruno said they might have over-counted sharks, especially, because they often circle back around and can easily be counted twice. “Right now, there are less than 1 percent of diverse reefs, not many of them across the Caribbean,” Bruno said. The study, published in the journal Science Advances, took three years of searching and traveling to reefs in the Caribbean. The most diverse and spectacular reef was off Cuba, in a reserve called Jardines de la Reina. Jardines thrives, Bruno said, essentially because anyone with a boat good enough to reach the area would rather use it to escape the island altogether to reach Florida. Most fishing is done off the coast of the main island, by people floating in tubes with hooks dangling in the water. After being disappointed by reefs in Mexico, the Bahamas and other areas, Jardines “totally opened my eyes to what natural was in the Caribbean,” Bruno said. The silver lining is that, if left alone, reefs with features small fish like can come back to life, attracting predators in search of food. Of course, fishermen would also have to stay away from grouper, a favorite restaurant fish. Taking reef sharks would also have to be outlawed. “Some features have a surprisingly large effect on how many predators a reef can support,” said Cox, a former UNC doctoral student who now works at the National Museum of Natural History in Washington. She said the Columbia Reef in a fishery off Cozumel, Mexico, could support 10 times its current level of predatory fish if protected. Fishermen are outsmarting themselves, the scientists said. They love to chase breeding aggregations, when huge groups of fish meet to spawn. “Fishermen know where they are … just snatch them all up,” Bruno said. “Obviously, that’s a totally unsustainable way to fish. You’re eating all the brood stock and next year there won’t be any babies.” Not for humans or predators. How we’re all contributing to the destruction of coral reefs: Sunscreen Scientists say a plague of Pacific sea stars is devastating coral reefs

Evans D.,Center for Biological Diversity
Nature Conservation | Year: 2012

In the second half of the 20th Century there was a growing awareness of environmental problems, including the loss of species and habitats, resulting in many national and international initiatives, including the creation of organisations, such as the IUCN, treaties and conventions, such as Ramsar and the Berne Convention, and the establishment of networks of protected areas. Natura 2000 is a network of sites in the European Union for selected species and habitats listed in the 1979 Birds Directive and the 1992 Habitats Directive. Under the Habitats Directive a series of seminars and other meetings have been held with agreed criteria to ensure a coherent network. Despite both scientific and political difficulties the network is now nearing completion. © 2015 Copyright Douglas Evans.

Dougherty L.R.,Center for Biological Diversity | Shuker D.M.,Center for Biological Diversity
Behavioral Ecology | Year: 2015

Quantifying the shape and strength of mating preferences is a vital component of the study of sexual selection and reproductive isolation, but the influence of experimental design on these estimates is unclear. Mating preferences may be tested using either no-choice or choice designs, and these tests may result in different estimates of preference strength. However, previous studies testing for this difference have given mixed results. To quantify the difference in the strength of mating preferences obtained using the 2 designs, we performed a meta-analysis of 38 studies on 40 species in which both experimental designs were used to test for preferences in a single species/trait/sex combination. We found that mating preferences were significantly stronger when tested using a choice design compared with a no-choice design. We suggest that this difference is due to the increased cost of rejecting partners in no-choice tests; if individuals perceive they are unlikely to remate in a no-choice situation they will be more likely to mate randomly. Importantly the use of choice tests in species in which mates are primarily encountered sequentially in the wild may lead to mating preferences being significantly overestimated. Furthermore, this pattern was seen for female mate choice but not for male mate choice, and for intraspecific choice but not for interspecies or interpopulation mate discrimination. Our study thus highlights the fact that the strength of mating preferences, and thus sexual selection, can vary significantly between experimental designs and across different social and ecological contexts. © 2014 The Author 2014.

Bailey N.W.,Center for Biological Diversity
Trends in Ecology and Evolution | Year: 2012

A variety of theoretical models incorporate phenotypes expressed in the external environment, but a core question is whether such traits generate dynamics that alter evolution. This has proven to be a challenging and controversial proposition. However, several recent modelling frameworks provide insight: indirect genetic effect (IGE) models, niche construction models, and evolutionary feedback models. These distinct approaches converge upon the observation that gene action at a distance generates feedback that expands the range of trait values and evolutionary rates that we should expect to observe in empirical studies. Such conceptual replication provides solid evidence that traits with extended effects have important evolutionary consequences, but more empirical work is needed to evaluate the predictive power of different modelling approaches. © 2012 Elsevier Ltd.

Bailey N.W.,Center for Biological Diversity
G3 (Bethesda, Md.) | Year: 2013

Field crickets (family Gryllidae) frequently are used in studies of behavioral genetics, sexual selection, and sexual conflict, but there have been no studies of transcriptomic differences among different tissue types. We evaluated transcriptome variation among testis, accessory gland, and the remaining whole-body preparations from males of the field cricket, Teleogryllus oceanicus. Non-normalized cDNA libraries from each tissue were sequenced on the Roche 454 platform, and a master assembly was constructed using testis, accessory gland, and whole-body preparations. A total of 940,200 reads were assembled into 41,962 contigs, to which 36,856 singletons (reads not assembled into a contig) were added to provide a total of 78,818 sequences used in annotation analysis. A total of 59,072 sequences (75%) were unique to one of the three tissues. Testis tissue had the greatest proportion of tissue-specific sequences (62.6%), followed by general body (56.43%) and accessory gland tissue (44.16%). We tested the hypothesis that tissues expressing gene products expected to evolve rapidly as a result of sexual selection--testis and accessory gland--would yield a smaller proportion of BLASTx matches to homologous genes in the model organism Drosophila melanogaster compared with whole-body tissue. Uniquely expressed sequences in both testis and accessory gland showed a significantly lower rate of matching to annotated D. melanogaster genes compared with those from general body tissue. These results correspond with empirical evidence that genes expressed in testis and accessory gland tissue are rapidly evolving targets of selection.

News Article | September 9, 2016
Site: www.sej.org

"Environmentalists sued the Obama administration on Thursday seeking new federal water-quality standards designed to protect marine life against the corrosive effects of carbon emissions absorbed into the ocean from the burning of fossil fuels. The lawsuit, brought by the Arizona-based Center for Biological Diversity, accused the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency of failing to take action as required under the Clean Water Act to stem the rising threat of ocean acidification. Specifically, the lawsuit demands that water quality criteria for measuring pollutants be updated by the EPA to reflect the latest science showing carbon dioxide emissions are altering the chemistry of oceans, making seawater increasingly acidic."

The Environmental Protection Agency Thursday announced it was withdrawing a request that operators of existing oil and gas wells provide the agency with extensive information about their equipment and its emissions of methane, undermining a last-ditch Obama administration climate change initiative. The EPA announcement was a first step towards reversing an Obama administration effort – which  only got underway two days after Donald Trump’s election – to gather information about  methane, a short-lived but extremely powerful climate pollutant which is responsible for about a quarter of global warming to date. The agency cited a letter sent by the attorneys general of several conservative and oil-producing states complaining that the information request “furthers the previous administration’s climate agenda and supports … the imposition of burdensome climate rules on existing sites, the cost and expense of which will be enormous.” Scott Pruitt, the EPA administrator, said the agency took those complaints seriously. “Today’s action will reduce burdens on businesses while we take a closer look at the need for additional information from this industry,” he said in a statement. Environmental advocates saw the move as something else entirely. “With this action, Administrator Pruitt is effectively telling oil and gas companies to go ahead and withhold vital pollution data from the American public,” Mark Brownstein, vice president climate and energy at the Environmental Defense Fund, said in an interview. “This was a good faith effort on the part of the agency to collect additional information on oil and gas industry operations and the pollution that comes from them. [Now], it’s a complete lack of transparency.” The EPA announcement  further advances efforts by the White House and Republicans in Congress to undo the Obama administration’s efforts to regulate emissions from oil and gas production. Congress, through the Congressional Review Act, is already moving to dismantle an Interior Department regulation, finished very late in the Obama administration, that would have restricted methane emissions from wells drilled on public lands in particular.  The EPA did not issue its request for information from companies until November 10, two days after Donald Trump was elected president. “The exercise imposed significant costs on companies to produce additional paperwork and added unnecessary burdens on producers’ technical teams to prepare and submit rushed comments under enormous time constraints,” said Lee Fuller, executive vice president of the Independent Petroleum Association of America, in a statement. But the EPA announcement could result in the United States emitting more greenhouse gases to the atmosphere in coming years. At the very least, it means that the United States will not be tracking those emissions as closely. Not everyone, however, thinks that withdrawing an information request is the same as an intention not to regulate. “The withdraw doesn’t necessarily means that the Trump folks are not planning to regulate methane from existing oil and gas operations,” said Jeffrey Holmstead, a former EPA deputy administrator and a lawyer with Bracewell LLP, which has clients in the energy industry. “They may well come out with a less-burdensome request at some point, but they needed to withdraw the Obama request right away to ensure that the industry wouldn’t be forced to spend a lot of money to produce information that may not be necessary.” The Obama administration’s efforts to tackle methane emissions got going in May last year when the EPA  announced new regulations to restrict methane emissions from new or modified oil and gas operations. Simultaneously, the agency sent out an information request to existing facilities — by far a bigger source of methane — asking for them to provide extensive information about their emissions and how they were seeking to control them. This was widely considered as a first step towards an eventual regulation of these facilities, as well. The request for information was a way of “really launching our work to address methane emissions from existing sources,” EPA administrator Gina McCarthy said at the time. But after  Trump’s inauguration, the EPA began to give companies more time to supply that information.  Many of those companies assumed that the request itself would ultimately be undone. Now, it has. “This step will reduce the significant uncertainties and burdens on the oil and gas industry,” Howard Feldman, senior director for regulatory and scientific affairs at the American Petroleum Institute, said in a statement. “The United States is leading the world in the production and refining of oil and natural gas and in the reduction of carbon emissions, and we look forward to working with the administration on lawful, common sense regulations that create jobs and benefit American consumers.” But Vera Pardee, a senior attorney with the Center for Biological Diversity’s Climate Law Institute, said the “appalling decision” demonstrates how Pruitt is turning the EPA into an oil industry vending machine.” “Just one day after oil-friendly state governments complain about efforts to collect methane pollution data, out pops this cancellation,” she said in a statement. “The Trump administration doesn’t want this data because it doesn’t want to rein in oil companies’ massive emissions of this dangerous greenhouse gas.”

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