Journal archives for September 2019

September 19, 2019

Observations: The Last Butterflies?

The Last Butterflies?
If the Trump administration weakens the Endangered Species Act, many populations that are already dwindling will disappear
By Nick Haddad on September 19, 2019

A recent U.N. panel on biodiversity reported that there are one million species currently threatened with extinction. Most of those are the insects that make up two-thirds of the earth’s species. What we know about these vanishing insects is largely informed by scientific studies that show the alarming, decades-long decline of butterflies, including those listed under the Endangered Species Act.

As a conservation biologist, studying these butterflies has been my life’s work, and I am deeply troubled by the disastrous modifications to the Endangered Species Act recently announced by the Trump administration. Indeed, the changes could jeopardize one of the act’s signature successes: that no listed butterfly has yet gone extinct.

Nick Haddad is a professor and senior terrestrial ecologist in the Department of Integrative Biology and the W. K. Kellogg Biological Station at Michigan State University. He is the author of The Last Butterflies: A Scientist's Quest to Save a Rare and Vanishing Creature (Princeton University Press, 2019).

Posted on September 19, 2019 01:44 PM by andreacala andreacala | 0 comments | Leave a comment

September 25, 2019

California's butterflies and climate change

Climate Change
‘There’s No Ambiguity. It Will Be Gone.’ How Animals Will Feel the Warming Climate
by Jane Braxton Little, September 20, 2019

"A blue copper butterfly perches waist height on a buckwheat blossom blooming in the cloud dunes near Bodega Bay. In the thick fog its gossamer wings are folded, keeping its sky-blue hues to itself and the milk-white flower. Normally found at higher elevations in California’s Sierra Nevada and Cascade mountains, this colony of blue coppers exists in this chilly coastal prairie because of the low clouds that drip with moisture.
If the fog belt burns off permanently, this butterfly population will become extinct. “There’s no ambiguity. It will be gone,” said Arthur Shapiro, an evolution and ecology professor at University of California, Davis.


"In inland California, butterflies at various elevations have shown mixed responses to record-setting temperatures. During the state’s five-year drought, researchers found the number of butterfly species and individuals observed per year increased at lower elevations but decreased at higher elevations. A 2018 study documented those at sea level reversing long-term declines, while butterflies in the Sierra Nevada were severely harmed, said Shapiro, the UC Davis professor.
Butterflies generally do not do well in warm, wet winters, he said. During the drought, species at low elevation sites benefitted from hot sunny days and cold nights with minimal humidity. But the drought reduced the high-elevation snowpack that helps overwintering butterflies survive until spring. It may also have caused them to emerge earlier in the season, which could have put them out of sync with the flowers and other resources they depend upon. When ecosystems warm to the extent that they are no longer capable of supporting these and other species, “it’s bye bye,” Shapiro said.


"Of the state’s 300 at-risk species, those already gone include two populations of the Bay Checkerspot butterfly. California’s Fourth Climate Change Assessment predicts temperatures will climb another 5 to 8 degrees Fahrenheit by 2100. Glaciers will continue to melt. In the San Francisco area, where sea level is already 8 inches higher than a century ago, the 2018 assessment projects it will rise an additional 4.5 feet by 2100 – and possibly as much as 9 feet along the California coast. Northern California farmers will face water shortages of up to 16 percent in some regions. Winter storms will likely become more intense in a boom-bust cycle with very wet and very dry years. And in the Sierra Nevada, the snowpack will decline by two-thirds over the next century and temperatures will increase up to 9 degrees Fahrenheit, according to an assessment led by David Ackerly, a biology professor at University of California, Berkeley.
As scientists continue to document the sometimes surprising ways that animals respond to heat, blue coppers will continue to lay eggs and nibble on buckwheat as caterpillars before spreading their bright blue wings as butterflies. But for how long? These are uncharted times in a hot and entirely novel climate regime.

About the author Jane Braxton Little:
Based in the northern Sierra Nevada, Jane Braxton Little is an independent journalist covering science and natural resource issues for publications that include Scientific American, National Geographic, Audubon, Discover, High Country News and, with this story, Bay Nature.

Posted on September 25, 2019 10:21 PM by andreacala andreacala | 0 comments | Leave a comment

September 26, 2019

Woolsey Fire

NPS page on the fire

Story Map of the fire

“Fire Fact Forum: The Science of Fire”

LAT story about about the hardship of California Red-legged Frogs ( before and after the fire.
[The fire] showed little mercy for the California red-legged frogs, savaging the reintroduction sites.
Mark Mendelsohn, a vegetation and wildlife biologist with the Park Service, had worked for Delaney on the reintroduction project before becoming the park’s botanist. He was the first to see the sites after the fire. “It was awful,” he said. “Just thinking about the frogs it looked awful. It was just ... a moonscape.”
The rains that followed the fire also wreaked destruction. Streams were filled with burned debris and ash, poisoning the water. Pools that had once been deep and clear filled with mud. At three of the four sites, Delaney said, “the habitat just got completely blown out.”
Then, days before Christmas last year, the U.S. government partially shut down and Park Service employees like Delaney were not allowed to work for 35 days.
Eventually, the team surveyed the Simi Hills source of all the frogs. They found 90 frogs. But when they returned for another visit weeks later, the frogs were noticeably skinnier. In February, with more rainfall coming, Delaney asked the Santa Barbara Zoo to shelter masses of frog eggs from the Simi Hills source. Those eggs ended up hatching tadpoles, which ended up being placed at two of the Santa Monica Mountains locations.
The frogs at the Simi Hills site have since recovered and are healthier and “breeding like crazy,” Delaney said. And at the fourth reintroduction site — the one not completely blown out — the frogs survived and have resumed breeding. “Those are my champion frogs,” Delaney said.

Also on the California Red-legged Frog:


Fire and Rain Spell Trouble for Parks in the Santa Monica Mountains Area
The Woolsey Fire was bad enough, but the heavy rains that followed caused additional problems. Most notably: A huge crop of invasive weeds is turning into kindling.

KCLU interview with Dr. Seth Riley, a wildlife ecologist with the National Park Service, and branch chief of wildlife at the Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area.
RILEY: Yeah, so one thing about the Woolsey Fire that was really impressive was just the sheer size of it - three times larger than the biggest fire to affect the Santa Monicas ever before. And it burned over 40% of the natural area within the Santa Monica Mountains. So it really - it really had a huge effect, and we're continuing to see those effects even six months later. For example, we've been following mountain lions in the park for 17 years or so, and we're continuing to see they - as soon as the fire occurred, we saw them stay largely out of that area. They would pass through it still once in a while, but, even six months later, they are mostly not using it.


02/14/2019 - UCLA
After the Woolsey fire burned more than 150 square miles in November in the Santa Monica Mountains, two of the most important questions became how long it would take plants and animals to recover, and which ones will thrive or die out after the mountains’ worst fire ever recorded.
Now, a UCLA-led research project has begun a months-long study in more than 50 burn areas to closely monitor the recovery of native plants, invasive grasses, insects, slugs, snails and more. Those flora and fauna are important in their own right and also key food resources. With nearly 90 percent of the National Park Service’s land in the Santa Monica Mountains burned, a slow recovery of those smaller species could spell trouble for small mammals and reptiles that escaped the flames, said lead researcher Brad Shaffer, a distinguished professor of ecology and evolutionary biology and a member of UCLA’s Institute of the Environment and Sustainability.

County Releases Damage Info—21,500 Trees on Public Land Lost to Fire




People Who Aren't Biologists Are Fighting With Biologists About Feeding Wildlife In The Woolsey Fire Zone
How Will The Santa Monica Mountains Recover From The Woolsey Fire? We Asked A Scientist

Posted on September 26, 2019 02:24 PM by andreacala andreacala | 0 comments | Leave a comment