Invasive species, a fishing boom and algae blooms: this week in environmental news

By Sally Zimmerman, 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:

An emerald ash borer. Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

An emerald ash borer. Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Invasive emerald ash borer hurts Michigan timber sales (Great Lakes Echo): The emerald ash borer first caused an infestation in Michigan in 2002. The beetle eats the layer below bark, causing a lack of nutrients and ultimately leads to the death of the tree. The Department of Natural Resources said timber sales are being hurt by the spread of the emerald ash borer. Not all timber is meant to be sold right away, but because of this insect, the process has to be sped up. The infestation is causing a decrease in salvage bid sales and there will be a noticeable decrease in timber sales next year, according to the DNR.

Climate change is making Lake Superior a fishing haven, for the moment (PRI): Lake Superior is warming faster than any other lake on the planet. Because of this, there has been a shift in the species that the lake supports. Lake trout are becoming rarer and are being joined by the walleye in Lake Superior. James Kitchell, an emeritus professor at the University of Wisconsin in Madison, said there will be an economic boost in the short run from this change. However, it will cause problems in the long run. As fish population increases, the amount of food per fish decreases, causing overall growth rates to decline. The warmer temperature of the lake also reintroduces the sea lamprey, a major predator of lake trout.

Algae blooms on Lake Erie getting ‘difficult to control’ (CBC): Massive algae blooms on Lake Erie are becoming harder to control, according to a scientist at the International Joint Commission. The algae blooms are being caused by fertilizer runoff from nearby farms. Raj Bejankiwar of the Lake Erie Ecosystem Priority correctly predicted that Lake Erie would see near-record algae levels because more intense storms cause more intense runoff. The algae is also causing a higher level of toxins in drinking water. This is causing both economic and environmental problems, as 20 percent of the world’s freshwater comes from the Great Lakes.

18-foot-long deep-sea creature found off California (LiveScience): Dive instructor Jasmine Santana found an oarfish carcass while swimming in about 20 feet of water. The animal is rare and serpent-like, and is usually found in much deeper waters. With the help of many others, Santana dragged the carcass onto land, where people took pictures and eventually put the oarfish on ice so it could be shown to students the next day.

Forget polar bears: Global warming will hit the tropics first (Mother Nature Network): Researchers at the University of Hawaii are saying the tropics will suffer “unprecedented” climate change effects in the next ten years. This is predicted to come long before the Arctic and polar bears see effects. Camilo Mora, lead study author and a geographer at the University of Hawaii, Manoa said, “The coldest year in the future will be hotter than the hottest year in the past [150 years].” The amber-eyed jaguar is near the top of the list to become extinct due to climate change.

Why do leaves change in the fall?

By Sally Zimmerman, MNA Intern

Colorful trees in Estivant Pines Nature Sanctuary. Photo by Marianne Glosenger.

Colorful trees in Estivant Pines Nature Sanctuary. Photo by Marianne Glosenger

There is nothing quite like the colors one can see in Michigan in the fall. Reds, oranges, yellows and browns cover the trees and make for a beautiful sight, whether you’re on a hike or just driving by. Many people are delighted by fall and the wonderful colors, but don’t fully understand why the leaves change in the first place.

Many of the colors seen in fall are always present in leaves, just hidden by an abundance of chlorophyll. Chlorophyll is what makes leaves green and is regulated by light. When there is plenty of light, like in the summer months, the green overshadows the other colors of the leaf.

When the days start to get shorter and there is less light, less chlorophyll is produced. The chlorophyll starts to decompose, and without new chlorophyll being produced, the green color of the leaf starts to fade.

Changing leaves at Klipfel Memorial Nature Sanctuary. Photo by Marianne Glosenger

Changing leaves at Klipfel Memorial Nature Sanctuary. Photo by Marianne Glosenger

At the same time that this is happening, high levels of sugar concentrations in the leaves lead to increased production of anthocyanin and carotenoid pigments. Anthocyanins cause leaves to appear red, and carotenoids cause leaves to appear yellow. A leaf that has a combination of the two will appear orange. If a plant has neither of these pigments, it may appear brown because of other plant chemicals, such as tannins.

All of this might seem a bit heavy, but it will come in handy on any of MNA’s upcoming fall events! There are hikes, volunteer days and exploration days all throughout the months of October and November that anyone can attend to see the beautiful fall colors in action.

Some of these upcoming events include a field trip to Newaygo Prairie on October 19, an exploration of Braastad Nature Sanctuary on October 23 and an exploration of Fox River Nature Sanctuary on October 30. To learn more, visit the MNA website or call (866) 223-2231.

Estivant Pines’ 40th anniversary sparks new challenge for old-growth forest

By Sally Zimmerman, MNA Intern

Photo by Charlie Eshbach

Photo by Charlie Eshbach

Forty years ago, people across the state of Michigan rallied together to raise money to save Estivant Pines. In honor of the 40th anniversary of this event, anonymous donors have provided MNA with a new matching challenge grant. The donors will match all contributions over $500 to MNA, up to a maximum of $40,000 by the end of 2013. New membership dues will also be matched. You can make a secure donation at www.michigannature.org or by calling (866) 223-2231.

Estivant Pines Nature Sanctuary in the Keweenaw Peninsula has efficiently protected several threatened species and the beautiful white pines that cover the land over the past four decades.

MNA and local citizens ended their three-year long battle on August 17, 1973 by successfully acquiring a copy of the deed to the Estivant Pines. The “Save the Estivant Pines Committee” began in 1970 when local citizen Lauri Leskinen wrote a column that appeared in the Houghton Daily Mining Gazette that expressed the need to save the pines.

Universal Oil Products, who had cut down about 350 acres of the old forest and had plans for future development, previously owned the Estivant Pines. Charlie Eshbach and Jim Rooks were co-chairs of the committee that worked together with local citizens to generate enough funds to cover the $56,000 price tag that marked the foundation of Estivant Pines Nature Sanctuary.

The sanctuary is often referred to as a “living museum” because of its large old-growth white pine forest, with some trees that are 500 years old and stand up to 125 feet tall. For the past four decades, Estivant Pines Nature Sanctuary has protected numerous species of plants and animals, including Michigan’s official state tree, the white pine.

There are two trails that visitors can walk down, the Cathedral Loop Trail and the Bertha Daubendiek Memorial Grove Trail, to see the beautiful scenery of Estivant Pines. Visitors can also see several copper mine pits, dating back thousands of years.

For more information, visit the Michigan Nature Association website or check out the Fall 2013 issue of Michigan Nature magazine.

Mountain lions, a wildlife council and invasive stink bugs: this week in environmental news

By Sally Zimmerman, 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:

Mountain lion. Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Mountain lion. Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Are mountain lions going urban? (Mother Nature Network): Due to excessive hunting and habitat destruction, mountain lions are now making their home in urban areas of the United States, such as Los Angeles and Washington D.C. Researchers say the mountain lions are traveling long distances across the U.S. to find homes. Mountain lions are on the endangered list and were all but extinct in 2011. Since then, they have made a slight comeback.

Michigan lawmakers propose wildlife council to promote hunting, fishing (Great Lakes Echo): Lawmakers want to create a bill that would finance a new wildlife council, headed by the Michigan Wildlife Management Public Education Fund. This council would educate the public on the importance of wildlife management and licensed hunters. The Department of Natural Resources estimates $1.6 million will be collected from hunting and fishing license increases, which will cover the cost to create the council.

Invasive stink bugs swarm across the U.S. (Mother Nature Network): The brown marmorated stink bugs, arriving from Asia, are overshadowing stink bugs native to the U.S. The bug that once bred in only southern Pennsylvania now breeds in 15 states and exists in about 25 more. Chuck Ingels of the Cooperative Extension office in Sacramento calls them the “worst invasive pests we’ve ever had in California.” Besides their stench, the brown marmorated stink bug destroys commercial crops. In 2010 alone, they caused $37 million in damage to Mid-Atlantic apple farms.

Lyons Dam on borrowed time: Endangered species discovery complicates removal project (MLive): The Lyons Dam was set to be removed until biologists from Central Michigan University discovered an endangered species downstream of the dam, the snuffbox mussel. These mussels were added to the endangered species list in 2012 when there was a 62% population decrease. They must be relocated before the dam can be removed. State and federal officials will have to decide where to relocate the mussels, and they would likely not begin this process until next summer.

No cure in sight for loon-killing botulism (Great Lakes Echo): An avian botulism outbreak in northern Michigan has killed more than 1,000 loons. Tom Cooley, a Department of Natural Resources disease lab biologist and pathologist said there is an estimated loon population of 2,000. Conditions in the water make a breeding ground for the bacteria. Scientists believe the loon’s predation on infected fish is causing a rise in deaths. There are no known solutions to stop the botulism from infecting loons.