Invasive species, Great Lakes, and biodiversity: this week in environmental news

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

Water levels in Lakes Superior, Michigan and Huron continue to be above their monthly averages for the first time in 16 years. Photo: NOAA

Upper Great Lakes water levels are up. Here’s why. (Michigan Radio): Water levels in Lakes Superior, Michigan and Huron are above their monthly averages for the first time in 16 years. According to the Great Lakes Environmental Research Laboratory, water levels dropped in the late 1990s and remained low. Since 2013, water levels have surged, mainly due to increased precipitation. A seasonal forecast predicts a typical seasonal cycle with no extreme changes in water level.

Invasive species can dramatically alter landscapes, study shows (Science Daily): A study from Purdue University and the University of Kentucky reviewed research on how life forms interact with and influence their surroundings. The review concluded that invasive species can cause serious problems that may have an impact for decades, or longer. The review showed that areas where land and water systems overlap are particularly vulnerable to invasives.

Rufa Red Knot Gets Listed (Audubon Magazine): The US Fish and Wildlife Service announced this week that the Rufa Red Knot will be listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act. This coastal shorebird has experienced a population drop of more than 75 percent since the 1980s. The Rufa Red breeds in the Arctic tundra in the summer and then migrates more than 9,000 miles to the tip of South America – passing through parts of Michigan on its journey. The bird’s primary threat is climate change – rising water levels and storms are harming the coastal habitat used by the bird for migration.

Scientists oppose bill to keep DNR from considering biodiversity (Michigan Radio): The state legislature is considering a bill that would forbid the Michigan Department of Natural Resources from considering biodiversity along with other uses of state lands. Introduced by State Sen. Tom Casperson , the bill would prohibit the DNR from enforcing the rule that designates an area of land specifically for maintaining biological diversity, limiting the ability to fight invasive species

Study shows that 270,000 tons of plastic float in the ocean (AP): A new study estimates that 270,000 tons of plastic, enough to fill 38,500 garbage trucks, is floating in the world’s oceans. The study, led by the 5 Gyres Institute, aims to understand how synthetic materials are entering the oceans and how they affect fish, seabirds, and the ecosystem. The study only measured plastic floating on the ocean’s surface – plastic on the ocean floor was not included.