Lake Erie Waves, Great Lakes Forests, and Mudpuppies: this week in environmental news

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Turbulent waves in Lake Erie. Photo: Dave Sandford.

This Is What A Great Lake Looks Like After All The Vacationers Are Gone (Buzzfeed): Photographer Dave Sanford spent time on Lake Erie shooting the Great Lake’s turbulent fall season. From mid-October to mid-November, the longtime professional sports photographer traveled each week to Port Stanley, Ontario, on the edge of Lake Erie to spend hours taking photos. His goal was to capture the exact moment when lake waves driven by gusting winds collide with a rebound wave that’s created when the water hits a pier and collection of boulders on the shore. People are blown away that these are from a lake, and not an ocean due to the size and force.

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Crayfish in Burt Lake are thought to be on the decline. Image: Greg Schechter, Flickr.

Pharmaceutical pollution takes toll on crayfish and other species (Great Lakes Echo): Drugs seeping into groundwater threaten crayfish and have a domino effect of environmental impacts that harm fish and other species, according to new research. Pharmaceutical pollution happens when medicines are improperly disposed or flushed into septic tanks and sewers as the body eliminates them. Treatment can’t filter them so they make their way into lakes and streams. Crayfish are a keystone species, one that many others species depend upon. If they died, so would trout and bass. That would lead to algae overgrowth and in turn, insects and invertebrates would die when decaying algae used up all the oxygen. At this point there are not solutions for removing pharmaceuticals once they are in lakes and streams, so this is a prevention issue. We need to keep it out of the waterways, improving septic and sewer systems to filter pharmaceutical pollution is a critical need.

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Red pine forest in West Michigan. Image: Marie Orttenburger.

Researchers look to brace Great Lakes forests for climate change (Great Lakes Echo): Great Lakes forests will get warmer and suffer more frequent short-term droughts, scientists say. The stakes are high. Forests are staple ecosystems in the region. Many wildlife and plant species depend on forest stability. Plus, forests are a part of the regional culture. The approaches to climate change adaptation for trees are as diverse as the tree species.

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Underwater shot of a mudpuppy at Wolf Lake. Image: Alicia Beattie.

Secretive amphibian can provide pollution clues (Great Lakes Echo): The mudpuppy is a fully-aquatic salamander thought to be on the decline–though the extent of that decline is unknown. The foot-long amphibians are classified a “threatened species” in the state of Illinois and considered a concern throughout the Great Lakes region. Destruction and degradation of habitat, along with invasive species, are spelling doom for mudpuppies. Mudpuppies are also very sensitive to pollution. That characteristic could make them especially important to researchers. Population statistics and tissue samples could clue scientists in on the effects pollution and habitat degradation are having on those environments.

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

Service Removes Modoc Sucker from the Federal List of Threatened and Endangered Wildlife (U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service Press Release): The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced that, thanks to decades of collaborative conservation efforts under the Endangered Species Act (ESA), it is removing the Modoc sucker from the Act’s protections. This marks the second-time that a fish has been ‘delisted’ due to recovery. The Modoc sucker is a small fish native to the Upper Pit River Watershed in Southern Oregon and Northeastern California. The fish was listed as endangered in 1985 due to habitat loss and degradation from overgrazing, situation and channelization due to agriculture practices. The recovery of the Modoc sucker is a great victory for conservation, for the Endangered Species Act, and for our natural heritage.

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Modoc sucker taken off Endangered Species List. Photo: USFWS

Trust fund awards $28 million for Michigan public lands projects (Great Lakes Echo): Michigan’s Natural Resources Trust Fund will award nearly $28 million for public lands projects, including funds for the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) Wildlife and Parks and Recreation divisions. The DNR Wildlife Division will get $2.47 million for a Petobego State Game Area in Grand Traverse County land acquisition project. The primary goal is to provide essential habitats for migratory and resident wildlife and create opportunities for hunting, trapping, fishing, and wildlife viewing.

Report: Mexico’s Monarch Butterfly Reserve Lost 24 Acres (ABC News): Studies found that illegal loggers clear-cut at least 24 acres in the monarch butterflies’ wintering ground in central Mexico this year. The butterflies depend on the pine and fir forests west of Mexico City to shelter them against cold and rain. Environmentalists called on authorities to stop illegal logging in the butterfly reserve.

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A kaleidoscope of Monarch butterflies hang from a tree branch, in the Piedra Herrada sanctuary. Photo: Rebecca Blackwell

Oneida Lake among hundreds worldwide warming due to climate change: study (Syracuse.com): A new study of more than 200 lakes around the world show that many – including Oneida Lake – are warming so rapidly that toxic algae outbreaks could become more frequent. Increasing warmth in lakes is projected to increase algal blooms by 20%, and toxic blooms by 5%, according to NASA. The warmer water could also alter the balance of ecosystems and threaten the livelihood of people who depend on fish from the lakes.

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.

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.

Karner blue butterflies, wolves, and climate change: this week in environmental news

Each week, MNA gathers news stories from around the state and the globe. Here is some of what happened this week in environmental news:

The Karner’s range extends from eastern Minnesota and eastward to the Atlantic seaboard. Image: USFWS Midwest

Imperiled butterfly leads way for conservation of climate sensitive species (Great Lakes Echo): The Karner blue butterfly population in Michigan is down, and experts say the state’s dry winters, hot summers, and inconsistent precipitation are to blame. Conservation strategies like oak savanna restoration have helped the Karner blues, as well as a number of state threatened and endangered plants. With additional pressure from climate change, scientists are seeking new approaches to protect the butterflies and other rare species.

There are now just three wolves left on Isle Royale (IFL Science): Wolves and moose have been observed for decades on Isle Royale National Park. Wolves access the remote island by walking over ice bridges from land near the Minnesota-Ontario border. Typically, between 18 and 27 wolves are seen each year and there may have been as many as 50 at one time. Last winter, there were nine wolves. The wolf population began declining in 2009, plummeting by 88 percent. The dwindling frequency of ice bridges means fewer new or visiting wolves can access Isle Royale.

Scientists and religious leaders discuss climate change at Vatican (The New York Times): Scientists, diplomats and religious and political leaders gathered at the Vatican on Tuesday to discuss climate change and its impact on poverty. In September, the pope is expected to address Congress and a United Nations summit meeting on sustainable development to reiterate his environmental message. Following Tuesday’s symposium, the participants released a statement underscoring their environmental concerns.

Whooping crane, No. 27-14, that was spotted in Michigan. Photo courtesy of Rhoda Johnson.

Rare whooping crane spotted in Southwest Michigan land preserve (MLive): Local birdwatcher Rhoda Johnson reported seeing an endangered whooping crane at the Southwest Michigan Land Conservancy’s Topinabee Preserve near Niles earlier this month. There are only about 600 whooping cranes in the world and the bird Johnson saw in Southwest Michigan was raised at the Patuxent Wildlife Research Center in Maryland and has a tracking device. She was released in Wisconsin last September and has migrated from Kentucky to Wisconsin, Indiana, and now Southwest Michigan.

Piping plovers, Kirtland’s warblers, and the Great Lakes: this week in environmental news

Each week, MNA gathers news stories from around the state and country related to conservation and the environment. Here is what happened this week in environmental news:

Credit: Don Freiday/USFWS

Piping plovers make comeback in the Great Lakes (Great Lakes Echo): The piping plover, a shorebird once nearly extinct, is on the rebound. There were once only 12 pairs left in the Great Lakes region, but thanks to conservation efforts. scientists are seeing an upswing in the population. The plovers should arrive on the shores of the Great Lakes in the next couple of weeks.

Judges skeptical of challenge to proposed EPA rule on climate change (The New York Times);  Lawyers for coal companies, two dozen states, and the Environmental Protection Agency argued before the U.S. Court of Appeals over a rule proposed by President Obama to curb carbon pollution from coal-fired power plants. The rule would require all states to draft plans to restructure their electricity sectors and transition from coal power to cleaner forms of energy. The plaintiffs say the rule is wreaking economic havoc and that the EPA lacks the authority to issue the regulation. They have petitioned the court to block it from finalizing the rule.

New mapping of Great Lakes’ wetlands released (The Swamp School): A new and comprehensive map of the Great Lakes region’s coastal wetlands was recently released by the Michigan Tech Research Institute. The map is the first of its kind, with fluorescent bands of color outlining the Great Lakes. It displays both Canadian and U.S. wetlands along more than 10,000 miles of shoreline. The new coastal map is the result of years of work expanding on previous maps from the Michigan Tech Research Institute.

Endangered Wisconsin Kirtland’s warbler found in the Bahamas (Milwaukee Journal Sentinel): For the first time, scientists have found a Kirtland’s warbler from Wisconsin in the forests of the Bahamas. The bird was one of six warblers banded last summer in central Wisconsin. The state has a total population of fewer than 25 Kirtland’s warblers. It is estimated that there are about 4,000 total Kirtland’s warblers scattered in Wisconsin, Michigan and Ontario. The field crew in the Bahamas has found about two dozen total Kirtland’s warblers since mid-March.

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.