Sleeping Bear Dunes, gray wolves, and invasive species: this week in environmental news

sleeping bear dunes

Sleeping Bear Dunes

Living Lab: Science a constant at Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore (Record-Eagle): More than 30 scientific studies take place within the park at any given time. Some studies include topics such as tree generation, tree disease, and the impact of deer on vegetation. The public is able to learn about the studies taking place by attending Research Rendezvous talks, which are presented by scientists themselves. The talks are free and take place at Sleeping Bear’s Philip A. Hart Visitor Center in Empire.

Nature-inspired art exhibit opens Saturday at U-M (Detroit Free Press): The art exhibit “Forest & Tree – a Multitude of Gifts”, featuring nature-inspired works, is opening this weekend at the University of Michigan’s Matthaei Botanical Gardens. The exhibit, displaying works from nearly 70 artists, runs through January 3.

Scientists call for continuing Great Lakes wolf protections (Upper Michigans Source): Gray wolves in the western Great Lakes region should not yet be removed from the federal endangered species list, a group of scientists and scholars say, disagreeing with colleagues who said the population has rebounded sufficiently. The scientists contend the wolves still meet the legal definition of endangered species and need to continue to follow state management plans.

wolf

Scientists say gray wolves should remain on the endangered species list.

New invasive species discovered in Michigan rivers (The Arenac County Independent): The Department of Natural Resources has confirmed that two new aquatic invasive species have been detected in Michigan. Rock snot and the New Zealand mud snail have only been found in one river each.

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Eradicating Invasive Phragmites

By Kary Askew Garcia, MNA Intern

Seedheads near water. Photo via MNA archives.

Seedheads near water. Photo via MNA archives.

A straw-like plant ranging from 6-13 feet in height may seem quite harmless to come across. Yet, this plant, known as Phragmites, is an invasive species threatening the natural flora of Michigan.

Phragmites is the most common invasive plant species in Michigan.

Phragmites has a tall stalk with blades along its shaft and a red-colored seedhead that can fade to a straw-like color with age. Phragmites is usually found in wetland habitats like marshes and swamps.

This invasive species poses alarming impacts on biodiversity because it grows tall and in dense stands, squelching out any native plant and animal life by blocking sunlight and taking up space. Animals find it difficult to make habitats because of the density of the stands and find they have reduced vegetation to eat.

A thick Phragmites stand. Photo via MNA archives.

A thick Phragmites stand. Photo via MNA archives.

Phragmites obstructs views and can make it difficult for people to enjoy nature because of the difficulty of traveling through the thick reeds to get to bodies of water. It also can negatively affect navigation on highways and waterways because of its height.  Phragmites has a rapid growth rate and are prone to catching and spreading fires quickly, killing natural vegetation around it and posing threat to homes and buildings nearby.

Learn how to identify invasive species like Phragmites by clicking here.

Two methods of eliminating invasive Phragmites are prescribed burns and the use of herbicides. Prescribed burns are controlled fires that kill the invasive species, allowing a chance for native vegetation to grow. Herbicides must always be used carefully and some areas even require permits before use. Mowing is recommended post-chemical treatment.

Detroit River project, helping hunters, and yellow perch: this week in environmental news

New dock and fishing pier at the Detroit River International Wildlife Refuge Gateway. Photo: Hamilton Anderson Associates

New dock and fishing pier at the Detroit River International Wildlife Refuge Gateway. Photo: Hamilton Anderson Associates

Huge fishing pier, outdoor center set for Detroit River (Detroit Free Press): The Detroit River International Wildlife Refuge will see many changes, including a $2.85-million structure stretching 775 feet across the Detroit River, with a fishing pier to accommodate 100 people and a floating dock for the Michigan Sea Grant educational program boat. Seating, shade structures, and interpretive signs will also be included. The Downriver facility improvements will not only boost the number of visitors, but also help change the perception of the Detroit area. The
refuge has allowed nature to move back
into the area, and people can see that up close.

2015 Lake Erie algae bloom largest on record (Detroit Free Press): Scientists say an algae bloom that spread across Lake Erie this past summer was the largest on record and produced a thick scum about the size of New York City. The bloom stayed toward the center of the lake between Canada and Ohio and away from the shoreline. That lessened the impact on boaters and plants that handle drinking water.

Michigan hunters help feed the hungry (Outdoorhub): Michigan Sportsmen Against Hunger (MSAH) is a volunteer-based program that aims to get excess game meat onto the plates of the less fortunate. Food banks love the program, often contacting the DNR to ask about participating. One of the requirements is that venison has to go through a license processor. Another element to the program is that it promotes hunting and hunters need to know that nothing goes to waste.

Study author Troy Farmer with yellow perch inside environmental-control chambers. Image: The Ohio State University

Study author Troy Farmer with yellow perch inside environmental-control chambers. Image: The Ohio State University

Climate change threatens perch, other warm-water fish (Great Lakes Echo): A recent study looked at how shorter and warmer winters impact yellow perch, but it also could have implications for other early spring spawning fish. The study shows that if fish can’t adapt to the changing climate, they die. A drop in the fish population could have far reaching consequences in the Great Lakes. According to the Michigan chapter of the Nature Conservancy, the Great Lakes fisheries are worth $7 billion annually to our regional economy. The loss of the yellow perch
population could harm the health of the entire food web.

Help MNA Celebrate National Philanthropy Day on November 15

This Sunday people across the United States are recognizing the value of giving back by celebrating National Philanthropy Day.You can celebrate National Philanthropy Day with MNA by taking advantage of these special gift opportunities.

3:1 Match for New Protectors!

MNA Protectors automatically contribute each month providing sustainable, predictable support to help MNA acquire, protect, and maintain our over 170 nature sanctuaries across the state. As a Protector, your credit card or bank account will automatically be charged an amount you choose ($10 minimum) each month.

MNA has obtained a challenge grant that will match the first two months of all new Protectors at a 3:1 ratio, up to $1,000. That means that a new $25 Protector will provide $200 to help protect Michigan’s rare, threatened, and endangered species, expand MNA’s statewide network of sanctuaries, and connect children with nature.

You can make a secure donation online or contact the office at (866) 223-2231.

Include Your Friends and Family in the Fun

Give the gift of nature! For only $35, gift membershipsinclude a full year of MNA’s Michigan Nature magazine, regular copies of MNA’s event guides, a personal invitation to sign up for free email updates, including the latest Michigan nature news, and much more!

Purchasing a gift membership for a friend or family member is easy! Simply visit MNA’s website or call the office at (866) 223-2231. Be sure to include the recipient’s name, address, and email address (optional).

Support MNA in Style

Purchase a Discover Michigan Nature shirt! Show your love of all Michigan has to offer while wearing MNA’s flattering and versatile “Discover Michigan Nature” t-shirt.

Order your forest green or white tee on the MNA website. Make sure to include the size you would like in the “Notes” section during checkout.

You Make the Difference

By protecting Michigan’s rare, threatened, and endangered species, together we build a brighter future. All gifts to MNA will help MNA protect Michigan’s natural heritage for future generations. There is no finer legacy to leave.

You can become a member or renew online, or contact MNA at (866) 223-2231.

Thank You!

As always, thank you for all that you do. We hope you get outside and enjoy a wonderful fall day, and remember to tell a friend that Sunday is National Philanthropy Day!

Northern lights, rattlesnakes, and city bees: this week in environmental news

An auroral substorm over the Mackinac Bridge. Image: Shawn Malone, Special to Detroit News

An auroral substorm over the Mackinac Bridge. Image: Shawn Malone, Special to Detroit News

Northern lights over northern Michigan (The Detroit News): Skywatchers received a celestial treat Monday and Tuesday nights when northern lights were visible in northern Michigan. A storm on the sun sent waves of solar particles 93 million miles to earth’s magnetic poles to create an aurora borealis. The light show stretched from New Hampshire to Nebraska treating citizens to red and green ribbons that shimmered against the inky sky.

Michigan rattlesnakes face uncertain future (Detroit Free Press): The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service recommend putting the Eastern Massasauga rattlesnake, Michigan’s only venomous snake, on the threatened species list due to habitat loss and negative human interaction. While most people fear these snakes, only one or two people are bitten by the snakes each year, but there has not been a fatality for decades, according to the DNR. The best way to ensure survival of the rattlesnake is to preserve its habitat and support wetlands conservation.

Urban beekeeping is on the rise, a trend that could help bees and educate people. Image: U.S. Department of Agriculture

Urban beekeeping is on the rise, a trend that could help bees and educate people. Image: U.S. Department of Agriculture

City bees pollinate urban education (Great Lakes Echo): Urban beekeeping is an increasingly popular teaching tool that also provides support for the threatened pollinators. Rooftops and balconies are great places for beehives in the city since the bees will fly above everyone. Programs at Michigan State University and the University of Minnesota are working to provide educational programs and events for various age groups and help support organizations that teach kids about bees. They also provide hands-on mentoring classes about basic beekeeping. They understand that no bees means no food and emphasize the importance of bees as pollinators and the food systems they support.

App shows energy sources, emails preferences to state officials (Great Lakes Echo): PicMyEnergyMix is a new web app that calculates the sources of energy used by people in Michigan and lets them adjust the mix on their screen to reflect their preferences. Users can denote how much of each energy source they would like to use. The website adjusts the other percentages proportionately. If a person favors only solar and wind power and selects exactly 50 percent of each, everything else lowers to zero. Michigan has recently lost ground when it comes to energy waste, so the PicMyEnergyMix app features a switch that people can turn on to convey that energy efficiency is their priority and email Gov. Rick Snyder and Sen. Mike Nofs their preferences and current utility mix.