Wildlife

Should the Pacific walrus be considered a threatened species?
September 8, 2014 03:52 PM - USGS Newsroom

A recent U.S. Geological Survey estimates that the Pacific walrus population nearly halved between 1981 and 1999, the last year for which demographic data are available. The study notes that the decline was most severe in the mid-1980s, and then moderated in the 1990s. Currently, the USGS is working to obtain more recent population data of the Pacific walrus. This information will be vital because the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service is expected to determine whether the Pacific walrus should be listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act in 2017.

Dairy - the case for greener, healthier cows
September 8, 2014 08:06 AM - Mark Eisler, Graeme Martin & Michael Lee, The Ecologist

With supermarket milk cheaper than spring water, it's time to rethink the modern dairy industry. It's not just the milk that's become a throwaway product - the high-octane Holstein cows that produce it are also in the knackers yard after just two or three lactations, the living waste of a loss-making, environment-trashing industry.

Monarch Butterflies losing critical habitat
September 7, 2014 09:57 AM - KEVIN PROFT/ecoRI News staff

Sandy Oliviera has raised monarch butterflies in her East Providence backyard for 25 years. In 1998, she helped 125 monarch caterpillars transform into butterflies, and then released them to the wind. "I began to feel like a butterfly factory that year," Oliviera said. Each time her husband or daughter collected milkweed to feed their captive caterpillars, they returned with more eggs or caterpillars to raise. Some days, Oliviera released a dozen newly emerged butterflies, to the pleasure of her 8-year-old grandson who let them rest on his head before they flew away. This summer, for the first time, Oliviera hasn't found a single monarch egg or caterpillar, and hasn't seen any monarch butterflies.

How Pollutant Risk is Affected by Different Insect Stages
September 5, 2014 11:34 AM - Editor, ENN

The food chain is a hierarchical series of organisms that are interrelated in their feeding habits. The chain starts when the smallest being like an insect is fed upon a larger prey species, which in turn feeds an even larger species. So if a species among the lower ranks of the chain has accumulated toxins such as pesticides or other organic chemicals, there is potential for these toxic substances to affect the species that prey upon them. This is the subject of new research conducted by the US Geological survey that found when fish feed on insects and when other wildlife species feed on fish, harmful contaminants are transferred up the line.

The tragic fate of the Passenger Pigeon
September 3, 2014 01:46 PM - Joel Greenberg, Yale Environment360

This September 1 is the 100th anniversary of a landmark event in the history of biodiversity. On that day in 1914, at about one o'clock in the afternoon, Martha - the last surviving passenger pigeon - died at the Cincinnati Zoo. It is extraordinary to know with virtual certainty the day and hour when a species ceases to be a living entity. And it was a stunning development because less than half a century earlier, the passenger pigeon had been the most abundant bird in North America, if not the world. As late as the 1860s, passenger pigeons had likely numbered in the billions, and their population was neither evenly distributed across the landscape nor in any way subtle. These birds had a propensity for forming huge aggregations that are difficult to imagine today. John James Audubon, America's best-known student of birds, recorded a flight of passenger pigeons along the Ohio River in Kentucky that eclipsed the sun for three days. Other accounts, written over the course of three centuries and in several languages, testify to the birds darkening the sky for hours at a time over the major cities of the eastern third of the United States and Canada.

How Farm Pests Can Threaten Food Security
September 2, 2014 12:49 PM - Tim Radford, The Ecologist

Agricultural pests - viruses, bacteria, fungi, blights, mildews, rusts, beetles, nematodes, flies, mites, spiders and caterpillars - are spreading thanks to trade, travel and global warming, writes Tim Radford. The world faces a dire future of increased crop losses and growing insecurity. Coming soon to a farm near you: just about every possible type of pest that could take advantage of the ripening harvest in the nearby fields.

How did humans domesticate wild rabbits?
August 30, 2014 10:23 AM - University of Montana via EurekAlert

Until recently, little has been known about what genetic changes transform wild animals into domesticated ones. An international team of scientists, one of whom is a University of Montana assistant professor, has made a breakthrough by showing that genes controlling the development of the brain and the nervous system were particularly important for rabbit domestication. The study was published Aug. 28 in Science and gives answers to many genetic questions.

Puffins in New England
August 29, 2014 03:36 PM - PETER BAKER/ecoRI News contributor

I can't help but smile when I see a puffin, and I know I'm not alone. Thousands of people board tour boats each summer in Maine to get a glimpse of these charming seabirds with their tuxedo plumage and rainbow beaks. But what's in those beaks is serious business. The forage fish that puffin parents bring back to their island nests mean the difference between life and death for the chicks, and the past few years offer stark evidence of what happens when those fish become scarce.

"Global Roadmap" Created to Balance Development with Environmental Protection
August 28, 2014 11:49 AM - Morgan Erickson-Davis, MONGABAY.COM

Roads make it possible to bring goods to market, to get to the office, to log a forest, to hunt its wildlife. Without roads, human society as we know it could not exist. However, to build roads, trees must be cleared and swamps drained, shrinking valuable wildlife habitat and fragmenting populations in the process. A new study, published today in Nature, unveils an innovative map that defines which areas of the world would best be used to build roads — and which should be left alone. Scientists estimate more than 25 million kilometers of new roads will be built worldwide by 2050, representing a 60 percent increase over 2010 numbers. Many of these are slated for environmentally valuable places with high numbers of unique species and pristine forest, such as the Amazon Basin.

Monarch Butterflies need Endangered Species Act protection
August 28, 2014 09:49 AM - Alicia Graef, Care2

As monarch butterflies are beginning their epic migration from Canada and the U.S. to Mexico for the winter, concerns about the drastic rate at which they're disappearing from the landscape have led environmental and health organizations to petition the government for federal protection. This week, the Center for Biological Diversity, Center for Food Safety, Xerces Society and monarch scientist Dr. Lincoln Brower filed a legal petition with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service seeking protection for monarchs under the Endangered Species Act.

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