Great Lakes levels, deep-sea coral and an ‘incomplete’ grade: this week in environmental news

Each week, the Michigan Nature Association gathers news stories from around the state and country related to conservation, nature, and environmental issues. Here is a peek at what happened this week in environmental news:

Smoother sailing as Great Lakes levels continue their rebound (Detroit Free Press): After last winter’s record snowfall and a rainy spring, Great Lakes levels are recovering faster than they have in decades. All of the Great Lakes with the exception of Lakes Huron and Michigan are above their long-term average depths going back to 1918.

Great Lakes water levels have rebounded significantly. Photo via Detroit Free Press.

 

Reaching Deep: BP oil spill had big impact on deep-sea coral (Conservation Magazine): A new study finds that deep-water coral communities were affected by the BP oil spill, even at large distances from the wellhead itself.

State Senate approves measure that would cancel wolf hunt ballot measure (WKZO): The Michigan State Senate has approved a measure that could nullify items on the November ballot that will ask voters to ban wolf hunts in Michigan. Conservation officials say they hope the House will take up the issue later this month.

Environmental group gives MI Legislature an ‘incomplete’ grade (WKAR): The Michigan League of Conservation Voters recently graded the slate legislature on performance in the 2013-2014 session, giving legislators an “incomplete” for the environmental score.

Ohio farmers point to algae law loophole (Great Lakes Echo): Farm groups in Ohio and environmentalists say a new state law that will certify fertilizer doesn’t go far enough to reduce phosphorous run-off into Lake Erie.

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Oil Spill Effects, Michigan Trail Networks and a Deadly Bat Fungus: This Week in Environmental News

By Alyssa Kobylarek, MNA intern

Every Friday, MNA gathers news related to conservation and the environment that has happened throughout the state and country. Here are a few highlights of what happened this week in environmental news:

Little brown bats have been found to carry white-nose syndrome in Michigan. Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Little brown bats have been found to carry white-nose syndrome in Michigan. Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Deadly bat fungus found in Michigan may lead to mass die-off, crop damage and mosquito bites (mlive): A deadly bat fungus has been identified for the first time in Michigan. It could dramatically reduce the state’s bat population and have an effect on the agricultural industry. The fungus, called white-nose syndrome, causes skin lesions that can interrupt hibernation patterns. Scientists have predicted up to 90 percent of the bats susceptible to the disease may die off in the next three to five years. A large bat die-off could lead to more mosquito bites for Michigan residents and the loss of a natural pesticide service for farmers.

State officials launch tourism initiative to promote trail network (Great Lakes Echo): In order to make trails in Michigan easier to find for tourists, the Department of Natural Resources wants to provide information for all trails in Michigan at the click of a button. A package of five bills was introduced that would label all trails as Pure Michigan trails. Cities hope that this will help increase tourism in their towns.

Michigan Mercury Collection Program keeps potentially hazardous mercury from reaching Michigan landfills and waterways (mlive): The Environmental Quality Company and the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality for the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative Mercury Collection project have teamed together to provide free mercury collection services to residents and businesses in Michigan. If the mercury enters landfills, it can reach the water and the air and cause mercury pollution.

The 2010 BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico still affects marine life living there. Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

The 2010 BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico still has detrimental effects marine life living there. Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Wildlife in Gulf of Mexico still suffering four years after BP oil spill: report (the guardian): Four years after the oil spill, the report from the National Wildlife Federation found that some 14 species still showed symptoms of oil exposure. The oil is sitting at the bottom of the gulf and washes up on the beaches. There is also some oil still residing in marshes. There has been a high report of animal deaths, with more than 900 bottlenose dolphins being found dead or stranded in the oil spill area since April 2010. NWF scientists said it could take years before the full effects of the oil spill were understood.

Salamander’s Hefty Role in the Forest (The New York Times): Woodland salamanders are a large asset to forests; on an average day, a single salamander eats 20 ants, two fly or beetle larvae, one adult beetle and half of an insect. Collectively, salamanders affect the course of life in the forests in which they live. They play a significant role in the global carbon cycle by eating the invertebrates that spend their lives ripping leaves to bits and eating them, which consists of about 47.5 percent carbon.

Dolphin deaths, tiny plastic pollutants, and a predator for the emerald ash borer: this week in environmental news

Each Friday, MNA rounds up news stories focused on nature and the environment. Here is what happened this week in environmental news:

The BP oil spill as seen from space by NASA’s Terra satellite in May 2010. Photo from Wikimedia Commons.

Study links BP oil spill to dolphin deaths (The Guardian):  A study led by scientists from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration found lung disease, hormonal abnormalities and other health effects among dolphins at Barataria Bay in Louisiana, an area heavily oiled during the April 2010 BP spill. The diseases and elevated mortality rates have raised concerns about the short-term and long-term impacts on the Barataria Bay dolphin population.

Emerald ash border may have met its match (Science Daily): A study has found a native predator that is able to detect and respond to the invasive emerald ash border. Bark-foraging birds, including woodpeckers and nuthatches, were found to be feeding on the emerald ash borer, an invader responsible for the death of 30 million trees in the U.S. and Canada. The native birds are more efficient than other methods to slow the spread of the invasive.

Scientists turn their gaze toward tiny threats to Great Lakes (The New York Times): Tiny plastic beads used in facial scrubs and toothpastes are turning up by the tens of millions in the Great Lakes, where fish and other aquatic life eat them and the pollutants they carry. Scientists fear that the pollutants may be working their way back up the food chains to humans. Recent studies have found that there may be greater concentrations of plastic particles in the Great Lakes than in the oceans.

Chemistry getting greener at Michigan companies, universities (Great Lakes Echo):  Michigan companies are leading the way in a movement to make chemical manufacturing more environmentally friendly. Created under Gov. Jennifer Granholm’s executive order in 2006, the Green Chemistry Program has brought together government agencies and businesses. Companies involved are making strides in using chemistry that is benign toward people and the environment.

As wolves die out on remote national park in Michigan, debate brews over whether to intervene (The Republic):  The gray wolf population on Isle Royale National Park has dropped steadily in recent years. Eight wolves remained last winter, the lowest rate since the 1950s. Park managers are now trying to determine whether they should intervene to preserve the wolf population in the park. The situation could set a precedent for other parks and wilderness areas dealing with threats to species as climate change alters the environment.

Gypsy moths, an eaglet and 15 new birds: 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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A gypsy moth caterpillar. Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Gypsy moth caterpillars attacking trees in southeast Michigan (MSU Extension): Effects of last year’s drought are still prevalent, as gypsy moth populations are rapidly increasing in southeast Michigan. The lack of rainfall in 2012 allowed more caterpillars to survive into the moth stage, resulting in mass defoliation in southeast woodlands. In defense, local property owners are wrapping Tanglefoot bands around tree trunks to prevent caterpillars from climbing. Additionally, recent rainy periods have allowed for the creation of Entomophaga maimaiga, a fungus that naturally limits the species.

Bald eagles produce first eaglet in Stony Creek Metropark history (Daily Tribune): Though only 6 weeks old, a Stony Creek eaglet is making headlines. According to area birdwatchers, the baby eagle is the first of its kind born in the park since Stony Creek’s founding in 1964, as high levels of human activity have continually limited eagle reproduction in the area. Birdwatchers say the birth is a positive sign, revealing that Stony Creek’s efforts to protect bald eagles, such as improved water quality and better habitat management, are paying off.

Mayfly population is steady, indicating good water quality (The News-Messenger): After decades of little mayfly presence on Lake Erie, the species is back and its populations are remaining steady. Though Lake Erie has dealt with algae blooms and invasive species in recent years, these factors do not appear to be affecting the pollution-intolerant mayfly population at this point. Because mayflies are a vital source of protein, the lake’s ecosystem is showing positive changes as a result of the consistent mayfly population.

Fish Nets Found to Kill Large Numbers of Birds (The New York Times): A recent study in the journal Biological Conservation reveals that fishing nets have a much larger impact on bird species than was previously believed. According to the study, vessels that use gill nets snare and drown at least 400,000 seabirds each year, including penguins, ducks and some critically endangered species, such as the waved albatross. Because there are few proven ways to deter seabirds from nets, it is difficult to reduce this number of deaths. Still, many fishing enterprises are researching ways to solve the issue.

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Arapaçu-de-bico-torto, loosely translating to crooked-beaked woodcreeper, is one of the birds recently discovered in the Amazon. Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Bird extravaganza: scientists discover 15 new species of birds in the Amazon (Mongabay): Scientists working in the southern Amazon have recorded 15 new bird species since the start of 2013, making this group the largest number of uncovered Brazilian Amazon birds in 140 years. Though 11 of the new species are known only in Brazil’s forests, four others are found in areas of Bolivia and Peru as well. This especially large discovery is unusual because, on average, only seven new bird species are discovered worldwide each year.

BP Ends Gulf Cleanup in 3 States (The Huffington Post): Roughly three years after BP’s massive oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, the company officially ended cleanup work in Mississippi, Alabama and Florida last Monday. BP spent approximately $14 million attempting to return the shoreline as close to pre-spill conditions as possible, with more than 48,000 individuals involved in those efforts. However, work continues along 84 miles of Louisiana’s shoreline, which still shows damage from the spill.