Ladybugs, Honeybees, and a National Marine Sanctuary: this week in environmental news

Ladybug

Once a common presence in gardens, the 9-spotted ladybug has become a rare sight. Photo: Todd A. Ugine

Where have all the ladybugs gone? (Mother Nature Network): Native ladybugs have been in serious decline since the mid-1970s. John Losey has created the Lost Ladybug Project, a citizen science effort seeking to document where remaining populations are being seen, where they are not being seen, all to help determine the reasons for their decline. The next time you see a ladybug, do a farmer a favor. Whip out your smartphone, take pictures of it, and email the photos with the location to John Losey.

Bee crisis linked to virus spread by humans (Mother Nature Network): Colony collapse disorder (CCD) is a strange plague that has been obliterating honeybee colonies for at least a decade. But there are at least two other scourges that share the blame: Varroa mites and deformed wing virus (DWV). According to a new study, humans helped it by recklessly shipping honeybee colonies and queens across oceans. The consequences can be devastating, both for domestic animals and for wildlife. The risk of introducing viruses or other pathogens is just one of many potential dangers. The key insight is that the global virus pandemic in honeybees is man-made, not natural. It’s therefore within our hands to mitigate this and future disease problems.

Apostle Island

Map of the Apostle Island National Lakeshore. Image: National Park Service

Apostle Islands National Lakeshore could be connected by National Marine Sanctuary (Great Lakes Echo): The 21 Lake Superior islands and 12 miles of mainland that are the Apostle Islands National Lakeshore could knit together under a new federal protection. A group launched an effort to establish a national marine sanctuary at the lake bottom that surrounds the islands just off the northernmost tip of Wisconsin. The islands draw thousands of tourists each year, and the added significance of the sanctuary designation could attract even more. The sanctuary designation would create important education opportunities and funding for research.

Researchers eye trout spawning sites from space (Great Lakes Echo): Satellite imagery offers a new tool for identifying nearshore lake trout spawning habitat across broad areas of the Great Lakes, according to a recent study in the Journal of Great Lakes Research. Understanding lake trout spawning habitat long-term could inform ways to improve or evaluate hatchery practices. The lake trout’s preference of cleaner, algae-free spawning sites is key to relying on the satellite imagery.

 

What are migratory bird stopover sites?

By Alyssa Kobylarek, MNA intern

A flock of migrating birds. Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

A flock of migrating birds. Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

When birds migrate to warmer climates, their long distance travel requires them to take frequent breaks to rest and refuel in order to complete their long journey. Just like people need to make pit stops for food and rest during long car rides, birds need places along the way that provide areas with food, water and shelter from the weather and predators. These sites are known as stopovers and they are essential for bird migrations. Areas like woods, wetlands and beaches with an adequate amount of food and shelter help the species survive and migrate from year to year. The Great Lakes area provide important stopover sites for waterfowl, shorebirds, songbirds, raptors and owls.

There are three types of stopover sites for birds and each one serves an important purpose for migration. They are fire escapes, convenience stores and full-service hotels.

Fire escapes

Fire escape stopovers sites that receive less use because they are lacking in food and other resources but they are essential during high stress situations. These areas are typically small isolated patches of habitat. They can be a city park, a small island on the Great Lakes, a freighter, a docked boat or a lighthouse. Birds use these fire escapes when they need a short term break break from flying due to bad weather or predators.

Convenience stores

Convenience stores sites that are larger than fire escapes, such as a county park and forested patches in cities. They provide a limited source of shelter and food, but enough for birds to take a short rest and eat enough to gain energy to continue their migration.

Full-service hotels

Full-service hotels are sites where migrating birds can rest fully for several days and load up on food without a risk of predators. They are extensive, intact areas that are rich in resources with a diverse array of habitats that can house a large number of birds. Examples of full-service hotels are state or national parks, expansive forests, national wildlife refuges or state wildlife areas.

National Parks, Species Studies, and Solar Energy: this week in environmental news

national park

A view of the beach below a dune from the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore. Photo: carfull

Great Lakes national parks prepare for centennial (Great Lakes Echo): The Great Lakes region units of the National Park Service are celebrating its centennial this year, after its creation in 1916. The national parks are publicly owned treasures of environmental and natural resources, historic and cultural wealth, recreation and national identity.

More harm than help? Antibacterial hand soaps threaten fish (Great Lakes Echo): The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) reports that many consumer products, including antibacterial soaps, contain triclosan. That’s a chemical added to prevent and reduce bacterial contamination. Although it has not been found hazardous to people, scientific studies found that it alters hormones in animals. This may cause a population of fish to have a much smaller number of reproducing adults and that would lead to a much smaller population of fish in general. A lot of other animals, including humans, eat fish, but with a smaller population of fish, fewer fish will be available to eat.

Binational efforts target bird-bashing buildings (Great Lakes Echo): According to a recent report by the University of Toronto, somewhere between 365 million and 988 million birds die annually from window collisions in the U.S. and Canada. A member of Congress from Illinois has proposed a bill to bird proof the windows of federal buildings. Bird-safe glass has an ultraviolet pattern within the glass that is invisible to the human eye, but gives birds a heads up.

In Japan, work kicks off on the world’s largest floating solar farm (Mother Nature Network): Japan, a nation that’s big on solar but short on space, is constructing the world’s largest floating solar farm. The solar power plant will be located at the Yamakura Dam reservoir in Chiba Prefecture, outside of Tokyo. The facility will produce enough juice to power about 5,000 homes while offsetting 8,170 cubic tons of CO2 emissions annually – a figure that’s equivalent to the consumption of 19,000 barrels of oil.

Kyocera-Floating-Solar-Farm

Kyocera has done floating solar installations before. But this one, a 13.7 MW facility due to go online in 2018, will be by far the largest. Photo: Kyocera

Vernal Pools, Rare Plants, and Invasive Species: this week in environmental news

Searching for woodland fairies and fingernail clams (Great Lakes Echo): In this podcast, Yu Man Lee, a conservationist, zoologist with the Michigan Natural Features Inventory and Trustee at Michigan Nature Association, discusses vernal pools and how they provide habitats for unique creatures one won’t find anywhere else. She also speaks about how MNFI is teaming up with citizen scientists to help protect vernal pools.

Rare Plants Discovered Near Detroit (U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service Newsroom): It was recently discovered that Humbug Marsh, part of the Detroit River International Wildlife Refuge, is home to a rare grass-like plant called the hairy-fruited sedge and an orchid species called oval ladies’ tresses. Records show that these plants have never been found in Wayne County. Humbug Marsh, which was determined to have had the most disturbance over the years, has a disproportionately higher abundance of new, common species to older, rare ones that have been together for a long time.

RarePlants

Oval ladies’ tresses. Photo: David McAdoo/Creative Commons.

A sound strategy: blasting carp from the Great Lakes (Great Lakes Echo): A recent study found that sound could be the answer to keeping invasive silver carp out of the Great Lakes. What appears to be the most effective in scaring off unwanted fish is a complex sound that consists of multiple pure tones. The carp are harmful due to their fast growth, prolific spawning, and ability to out-compete native fish for food and space.

round goby

The long term effects of round goby in Lake Erie are still unknown. Photo: Michigan Sea Grant

Round goby a good-news, bad-news Great Lakes invader (Great Lakes Echo): The round goby is one of the nastiest aliens in the Great Lakes – with what the DNR calls its voracious appetite and an aggressive nature which allows them to dominate over native species. But smallmouth bass find them yummy chow, and that’s also good news for crayfish that used to top the smallmouth bass menu. Although the round goby is responsible for a decreased abundance of some bottom-dwelling Great Lakes native species, the study said that other species have benefited, such as burbot and the Lake Erie water snake.

Bat Study, Songbird Forest, and Nature Programs: this week in environmental news

bat

White-nose syndrome has killed 98 percent of the little brown bat population. Image: U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

Bat recovery slow from white-nose syndrome (Great Lakes Echo): Little brown bat populations are unlikely to recover from a widespread fungal disease anytime soon, according to a recent study. This is worrisome since bats have a crucial role in the ecosystems in the Great Lakes and globally. They are the primary predators of night-time insects, pollinate over 300 species of fruit, and also keep forest ecosystems healthy. Studies about the diminishing bat population have pressured state officials to promote bat conservation. There are things ordinary citizens can do to help too, like replacing dead trees with bat houses so bats have a safe place to raise babies and replace lawns with wildflower gardens so bats have food.

‘Songbird Forest’ expands to save species (Mother Nature Network): A small nature preserve in Brazil’s Atlantic Forest has just grown by nearly 50%, thanks to conservationists working to save its array of wildlife from extinction. Known as Mata do Passarinho – Portuguese for “Songbird Forest” – this patch of Atlantic Forest has expanded to add 766 new acres, raising its total area from 1,586 to 2,352 acres. The forest is a haven for songbirds, many near extinction. Its most at-risk species is the critically endangered Stresemann’s bristlefront, whose estimated 15 survivors all live here.

songbird

A male Stresemann’s bristlefront in Mata do Passarinho, the species’ last-known refuge. Image: Ciro Albano

Ruling the sky: Presentation to focus on Michigan’s birds of prey (MLive): Great predators of the sky will swoop into Muskegon as part of a unique presentation later this month. The two-session event scheduled for 4 p.m. and 5:30 p.m. on Jan. 21 will be held at the Lakeshore Museum Center in downtown Muskegon. The presentations will discuss the habitats of both common and rare Michigan hawks and owls, as well as their importance to the ecosystem.

Nature Center Offers Variety of Programs for Preschoolers (Farmington-Farmington Hills Patch): The Farmington Hills Nature Center is offering a variety of nature preschool classes this winter. Winter preschool classes meet Jan. 19 through March 14 on Monday, Tuesday, and Thursday mornings. Each preschool class offers a different nature theme every week and time outdoors if weather permits.

You’re Invited!

The Michigan Nature Association
invites you to

Foreshadowing
Endangered and Threatened Plant Species

Jane Kramer artwork

Visit Jane Kramer’s art exhibit to see her collection: images of Michigan’s endangered and threatened plants that are transferred onto handmade paper crafted from the invasive plants that threaten them.

Please join us:

Friday, January 8, 2016

Artist Talk
5:30 p.m.

Reception
6:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m.

Lansing Art Gallery
119 N Washington Square, Suite 101
Lansing, MI 48933

Learn more on the Facebook Event Page

Modoc suckers, Monarch butterflies, and climate change: this week in environmental news

Service Removes Modoc Sucker from the Federal List of Threatened and Endangered Wildlife (U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service Press Release): The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced that, thanks to decades of collaborative conservation efforts under the Endangered Species Act (ESA), it is removing the Modoc sucker from the Act’s protections. This marks the second-time that a fish has been ‘delisted’ due to recovery. The Modoc sucker is a small fish native to the Upper Pit River Watershed in Southern Oregon and Northeastern California. The fish was listed as endangered in 1985 due to habitat loss and degradation from overgrazing, situation and channelization due to agriculture practices. The recovery of the Modoc sucker is a great victory for conservation, for the Endangered Species Act, and for our natural heritage.

modoc sucker

Modoc sucker taken off Endangered Species List. Photo: USFWS

Trust fund awards $28 million for Michigan public lands projects (Great Lakes Echo): Michigan’s Natural Resources Trust Fund will award nearly $28 million for public lands projects, including funds for the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) Wildlife and Parks and Recreation divisions. The DNR Wildlife Division will get $2.47 million for a Petobego State Game Area in Grand Traverse County land acquisition project. The primary goal is to provide essential habitats for migratory and resident wildlife and create opportunities for hunting, trapping, fishing, and wildlife viewing.

Report: Mexico’s Monarch Butterfly Reserve Lost 24 Acres (ABC News): Studies found that illegal loggers clear-cut at least 24 acres in the monarch butterflies’ wintering ground in central Mexico this year. The butterflies depend on the pine and fir forests west of Mexico City to shelter them against cold and rain. Environmentalists called on authorities to stop illegal logging in the butterfly reserve.

monarch butterflies

A kaleidoscope of Monarch butterflies hang from a tree branch, in the Piedra Herrada sanctuary. Photo: Rebecca Blackwell

Oneida Lake among hundreds worldwide warming due to climate change: study (Syracuse.com): A new study of more than 200 lakes around the world show that many – including Oneida Lake – are warming so rapidly that toxic algae outbreaks could become more frequent. Increasing warmth in lakes is projected to increase algal blooms by 20%, and toxic blooms by 5%, according to NASA. The warmer water could also alter the balance of ecosystems and threaten the livelihood of people who depend on fish from the lakes.