Asian Carp plan, river tracing, butterflies and a gulf leak: this week in environmental news

By Allison Raeck, MNA Intern

Every Friday, MNA shares recent environmental news stories from around the state and country. Here’s some of what happened this week in environmental and nature news:

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Electrofishing for the invasive Asian carp.
Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Feds update plan to protect Great Lakes from carp (ABC News): Improving defensive barriers is the primary focus of the $50 million federal plan to keep Asian carp from reaching the Great Lakes. The plan calls for reinforcement of electrical barriers already in place as well as for some new methods to deter Asian carp, such as a shock-and-catch method known as electrofishing. Currently, an electric fish barrier in the Chicago Sanitary and Ship Canal is repelling most of the invasive fish from the Great Lakes. Various conservation groups are brainstorming possible methods to keep Asian carp out of the Great Lakes and protect its $7 billion fishing industry.

Here’s a cool new tool for tracing US rivers to their sources and destinations (MinnPost): The National Atlas of the United States has developed a useful online map to trace U.S. rivers. Users can zoom into any area on the United States map or use the search feature to find the rivers they want to track. Once a river is selected, users can “Trace Upstream” to see sources draining to it or “Trace Downstream” to discover its destination. Additionally, the “Trace Report” button displays summaries and up-to-date detailed reports on any river, maintained by the U.S. Geological Survey.

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A monarch butterfly.
Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Flowers are blooming, but where are Southwest Michigan’s butterflies? (mlive): Almost three months later than usual, monarch butterflies have recently been reported in the upper Midwest and southern Ontario area for the 2013 season. Monarchs are not the only butterflies seeing a dramatic decrease in Michigan, as rare Karner blues are more sparse than usual as well. Experts believe that the overall population decrease is a result of last year’s hot and dry weather as well as the lack of nectar-supplying plants this year. Additionally, human activities such as habitat destruction and pesticide use are likely causes of this butterfly population decline.

Carbon acidification could cause problems for Great Lakes wildlife (The Arenac County Independent): The Environmental Protection Agency is suggesting that carbon dioxide in the atmosphere could be affecting Great Lakes pH levels and harming lake wildlife. Though data on the issue is currently limited, experts believe that the increasingly acidic concentrations of Great Lakes waters are a result of human carbon emissions. Lowered pH levels in the lakes can also see lowered carbonate ion levels, hindering the formation of mussel and oyster shells. Though experts are not certain as to whether atmospheric carbon is the main cause for these acidic waters, the correlation has been proven in some oceanic areas.

Data Watch: The Great Lakes’ top priorities (Great Lakes Echo): Recent data shows that almost a third of the Environmental Protection Agency’s priority waste sites are in Great Lakes States. The agency’s National Priority List includes 1,320 areas that have released or can release hazardous contaminants. Each site is given a score on a scale from 0-100 based on environmental threat, with the average score of a Great Lakes region site being 41.77. All of the sites listed are either undergoing or awaiting cleanup.

Why The Latest Gulf Leak Is No BP Disaster (NPR): A natural gas well in the Gulf of Mexico exploded and caught fire Tuesday, resulting in a continual blaze off the Louisiana coast. Teams of workers are on the scene, putting out fire and cleaning up the mess. A thin sheen on the ocean surface has been reported in certain areas, caused by hydrocarbon liquids that were released into the air. While this explosion is having a negative environmental impact on the coast, experts say this leak is very different from the BP oil disaster of 2010. Bureau officials have not yet determined how the gas leak started or where it is located.

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