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

Each week, MNA compiles news stores related to conservation and the environment from around Michigan and the country. Here is a look at some of what happened this week in environmental news:

Monarch butterflies at Fred Dye Nature Sanctuary. Photo: Adrienne Bozic

Monarch butterflies at Fred Dye Nature Sanctuary. Photo: Adrienne Bozic

Monarch butterfly count rises as conservationists warn of extinction (Reuters): This winter’s tally of monarch butterflies in Mexico rose to 56.5 million from last year’s record low of 34 million. Though this number is an improvement, it is still far below the 1 billion monarch butterflies that migrated to Mexico in the 1990s. Conservationists say the butterfly may warrant Endangered Species Act protections.

Most Americans support government action on climate change, poll finds (The New York Times): A poll conducted by The New York Times, Stanford University, and a nonpartisan research group found that an “overwhelming majority” of Americans support government action to curb global warming. This includes 48% of Republicans, who say they are more likely to vote for a candidate who supports fighting climate change. These findings could have implications for the 2016 presidential campaign.

Climate affects how the Great Lakes grow and flow (Great Lakes Echo): New projections suggest increases in maximum and minimum daily temperatures in the Lake Michigan basin by as much as 8 degrees in 2099. These rising temperatures will lead to increased precipitation and runoff during winter and a decrease in the Spring, especially in northern Michigan and Wisconsin. These seasonal temperatures will also impact wetlands and sensitive fish and invertebrate populations.

House committee passes measure banning soap, scrub microbeads that pollute Great Lakes (Minneapolis Star Tribune): A bill banning the tiny exfoliating plastic bits known as microbeads passed through an Indiana House committee Wednesday. The bill is part of an effort gaining momentum in other states to protect the Great Lakes. Microbeads are found in popular cosmetic products like facial scrubs and toothpastes. Microbeads currently account for about 20 percent of plastic pollution in the Great Lakes.

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Biodiversity bills, white nose syndrome, and a heat record: this week in environmental news

Each week MNA gathers news from around Michigan and the country related to conservation and the environment. Here is a bit of what happened this week in environmental news:

Little brown bat (Myotis lucifugus) with white fungus on muzzle, New York 2008

Gov. Rick Snyder vetoes bill critics said would have jeopardized state’s biodiversity (MLive): Last week, Gov. Rick Snyder vetoed Senate Bill 78, which would have prevented the Michigan DNR from making land use decisions based on biodiversity considerations. In his veto letter, Snyder expressed concerns that the bill could create inconsistencies and confusion and possibly harm Michigan’s forests.

First bats to die from white-nose syndrome this winter reported in Keweenaw County (Michigan DNR): This week the Michigan Department of Natural Resources received the first reports of bats dying from white-nose syndrome. The bats were found outside the opening of an abandoned copper mine near Mohawk in Keweenaw County. Citizens can report bat die-offs on the DNR website but they are asked to stay out of mines and caves where bats hibernate.

New study details costs, environmental impact of raising Michigan’s Renewable Portfolio Standard (University of Michigan): The University of Michigan released a study analyzing the impact of raising Michigan’s Renewable Portfolio Standard in several different scenarios. The study found the most cost-effective renewable resource in Michigan is onshore wind and that changing the standard would raise a typical household’s utility bill by only $2.60 per month.

2014 Breaks Heat Record, Challenging Global Warming Skeptics (The New York Times): Scientists report that 2014 was the hottest year on earth since record-keeping began in 1880. Extreme heat was reported in Alaska and the western United States. Heat records were set in each continent and the ocean’s surface was unusually warm everywhere except around Antarctica. With this, 2014 passed 2010 as the warmest year on record.

Sources: NASA; National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration By The New York Times

Sources: NASA; National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration
By The New York Times

Fascinating Frozen Wood Frogs

By Stephanie Bradshaw, MNA Volunteer

Wood Frog. Photo: Jim Harding/Michigan DNR

Wood Frog. Photo: Jim Harding/Michigan DNR

As the cold winds and icy showers come over the land, many animals migrate and others find a warm spot to curl up with full stomachs for a long winter nap. For Michigan, temperatures can get so cold that we often joke that one would freeze solid just by stepping outside, and that is exactly what our friend the wood frog does to survive the winter.

How do they freeze themselves?

Wood frogs are able to live farther north than any other type of frog. How do they handle the freezing temperatures? As the temperatures cool, the frogs bury themselves in the mud. As the ground freezes, the water in their body pools into their center, around their vital organs, and they freeze solid. These frogs are as hard as stones or bricks of ice. The frogs exhibit no sign of life: they do not breathe, they do not even have a heartbeat. But, they are not dead. Scientists call this “suspended animation.”

Freezing can cause many severe damages such as dehydration, cell damage, and punctured blood vessels. To avoid damages, the wood frog floods its systems with a sugary, glucose substance that retains the cells’ water and prevents cells from freezing. So while the frog allows freezing to occur around the cells and organs, the glucose protects the cells from the damages of freezing.

How do they thaw themselves?

For reasons still unknown to scientists, wood frogs are able to thaw themselves in the spring. Even more amazing, they thaw from the inside out, their vital organs becoming active in perfect timing so that the frog can regain full life. This process of coming back to life takes one or two days.

After the frogs have warmed up, they are ready to begin their mating season. Since the ground thaws before the lakes and ponds, wood frogs are the first frogs to awaken in the spring. Mating earlier than other species gives them an advantage for their youth to grow and mature before summer begins.

Possible Applications for Humans

The blood sugar that the frogs use to secure their organs and cells is the same blood sugar as all other vertebrate animals, including humans. With more research into the secrets of the wood frog, scientists may discover ways of storing and reviving organs without damage to tissues, managing blood sugar for diabetics, and treating people after strokes and heart attacks where their blood ceased to flow.