Modified poplars, Asian carp and a new invasive species: this week in environmental news

By Sally Zimmerman, 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:

Poplar trees. Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Poplar trees. Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Poplars modified for ethanol production still fight bugs (Great Lakes Echo): A recent University of Wisconsin study found that genetically modifying poplar trees to more easily produce ethanol had little to no effect on the tree’s susceptibility to insects. The trees were modified in two ways, making the production of ethanol easier. These findings may bring genetically modified poplar trees closer to commercial use for a biofuel made from the cellulose in plant cell walls.

Asian carp DNA detected in Lake Michigan sample (ABC News): Sturgeon Bay in Wisconsin has tested positive for the invasive Asian carp, which is the second water sample to test positive for the invasive species in recent years. The Asian carp was accidentally introduced into the Mississippi River and has made its way north. Scientists fear the Asian carp could out-compete native species in the Great Lakes and damage the $7 billion fishing industry. Scientists say it is unknown whether the sample came from a live fish or not, so the DNR and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service will take more samples.

New invasive species battle brewing in northern Michigan (Up North Live): The Department of Natural Resources has turned their attention to a new aquatic invasive plant called the European frog-bit. This species has been detected in Saginaw Bay, Alpena and Munuscong Bay in Chippewa County. Frog-bit shades out submerged native plants, which reduces plant biodiversity, disrupts natural water flow and may adversely affect fish and wildlife habitat. Control measures are underway, including removing 1,500 pounds of the free-floating plant.

Crying wolf: Michigan’s first hunt heavily influenced by outside interests; follow the money (MLive): The Humane Society of the United States has donated more than $300,000 in an effort to end the Michigan wolf hunt. More than $600,000 was donated in total. Jill Fritz, the director of the Keep Michigan Wolves Protected campaign said the newest petition drive is all volunteers. Other opponents to the hunt include native tribes, the Doris Day Animal League and individual contributors from outside the state. Many of these people provided statements to Michigan lawmakers.

Tsunami debris ‘island’ isn’t Texas-sized, but it is headed toward the U.S. (Mother Nature Network): About 1.5 million tons of debris from the tsunami that struck Japan in 2011 is drifting across the Pacific Ocean toward the United States. The U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration cannot accurately predict when the debris will arrive on U.S. shores. Debris has been washing up along the shores of Oregon, Washington, Hawaii and Alaska. The docks that washed ashore in Washington and Oregon contained large amounts of marine life that had to be decontaminated to prevent invasive species from entering the U.S. coast.

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The Kirtland’s warbler, Portage Creek cleanup and melting glaciers: this week in environmental news

By Sally Zimmerman, 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:

The Kirtland's warbler. Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

The Kirtland’s warbler. Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Kirtland’s warbler grant boosts effort to end endangerment (Great Lakes Echo): A federal grant of $170,000 is going toward planting two million jack pine seedlings in Northeast Michigan. This is the only habitat the Kirtland’s warbler can nest in. The effort to save the Kirtland’s warbler has been going on for 40 years. The habitat in Northeast Michigan contains 98% of the species’ population, spanning across the top of the Lower Peninsula and into the Upper Peninsula. There is even a possibility that the bird will be taken off the endangered species list.

PCB cleanup in Portage Creek near Kalamazoo River done, ahead of schedule and millions under budget (MLive): The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has worked to remove all the polychlorinated biphenyls, or PCBs, from Portage Creek. The project ended earlier than anticipated and way under budget. Other areas of the Kalamazoo River Superfund will begin to be cleaned up with the extra time and money. The EPA removed almost 19,000 cubic yards of PCB-contaminated sediment.

Yosemite’s largest ice mass is melting fast (LA Times): Scientists believe Lyell Glacier in Yosemite National Park will be gone in 20 years. This glacier is a key source of water in the park and has shrunk 62% over the past 10 years. Lyell has also lost 120 vertical feet of ice. The big question is what will happen to ecological systems surrounding the shrinking and vanishing glaciers. Ken MacLeod, a professor of geological sciences at the University of Missouri, said the earth will eventually become ice-free if carbon dioxide levels continue to rise.

Extend California’s new earthquake early warning system, says scientist (Mother Nature Network): California will be the first state to get an earthquake early warning system, which is designed to detect the first strong pulse of an earthquake. This new system will cost about $80 million to build in California and run for five years. If the system was extended north to Oregon and Washington, it would cost an additional $120 million. These west coast states are in danger of magnitude-9.0 earthquakes from the Cascadia subduction zone.

Mercury will rise in Pacific fish, study finds (Mother Nature Network): Researchers from Michigan and Hawaii have studied how mercury ends up in species of North Pacific fish for years. They have discovered that mercury levels in these fish is likely to continue rising for decades. Researchers found that the mercury first traveled by air, and then entered the oceans when it rained. These findings could help efforts to curb mercury emissions.