Bee Restoration, Lake Trout, and Birding Apps: this week in environmental news

To save bees, city plans 1,000 acres of prairie (mother nature network): It’s generally a bad time to be a bee in the United States. Populations of the pollinating insects have been declining for more than a decade, including managed honeybee colonies as well as various species of native wild bees. Of course, this isn’t just bad news for bees. Not only do honeybees give us honey and wax, but bees of all stripes play a pivotal role in our food supply. This spring, the city of Cedar Rapids will seed 188 acres with native prairie grasses and wildflowers, part of a broader plan to create a diffuse, 1,000-acre haven for bees and other pollinators. This should help local ecosystems as well as local farms, and if it works as intended, it could become a model for similar projects elsewhere. The 1,000 Acre Pollinator Initiative in Cedar Rapids is hoping to create a movement to build oases for pollinators across the country.

bee

A bee forages among purple flowers near Iowa City. Photo: Geoffrey Fairchild/Flickr.

Searching for bee veterinarians (Great Lakes Echo): Michigan State University is searching for veterinarians willing to treat bees. The Pollinator Initiative at Michigan State launched the search after a recent FDA decision outlawed over-the-counter antibiotics for all food-producing animals. That means a veterinarian has to give beekeepers a prescription for antibiotics. Meghan Milbrath, a beekeeper of 23 years, has a list of 22 Michigan veterinarians who are willing to work with beekeepers, and it is online for beekeepers to find and pick from, depending on their location. In the meantime, Milbrath will train the veterinarians on how to write bee prescriptions. She is teaching online courses and hosting monthly webinars. Eventually, she hopes to create a bee health elective in the College of Veterinary Medicine at MSU.

Unique lake trout could help restore Lake Michigan population (Great Lakes Echo): Scientists have found a potential new ally in the fight to restore lake trout in Lake Michigan. Elk Lake in Northwest Michigan is home to a strain of that fish that researchers believe can contribute uniquely to restoring it. Elk Lake trout have been self-sustaining and reproducing for years. Scientists have been attempting for decades to reintroduce strains from Lake Superior and other areas in the basin–with mixed success. Stocking from Elk Lake may be more successful. Diversity benefits reintroduction efforts because different strains survive in different habitats. Improving lake trout stocking has broad public support.

It’s like Shazam for birds: Song Sleuth app IDs birds by their song (treehugger): The Song Sleuth app was just released for iOS, with an Android version in the works for this fall, and it not only helps people become better birders by helping them identify birds by their songs, but it also includes access to The David Sibley Bird Reference, which offers additional details about the birds, including the birds’ seasonal range maps, song samples, and illustrations of their appearance. Song Sleuth users need merely open the app, push the record button, and allow the app to listen in and record the bird’s song, after which the users are presented with the three most probable birds that the song belongs to. Users can geotag their recordings, add custom notes to them, download the audio files for future reference, or even send their recordings to others via email of messaging apps, further adding to the social nature of the birding community (or used to attract more people to the art and science of birding).

song-sleuth-app

Song Sleuth App. © Wildlife Acoustics.

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Ladybugs, Honeybees, and a National Marine Sanctuary: this week in environmental news

Ladybug

Once a common presence in gardens, the 9-spotted ladybug has become a rare sight. Photo: Todd A. Ugine

Where have all the ladybugs gone? (Mother Nature Network): Native ladybugs have been in serious decline since the mid-1970s. John Losey has created the Lost Ladybug Project, a citizen science effort seeking to document where remaining populations are being seen, where they are not being seen, all to help determine the reasons for their decline. The next time you see a ladybug, do a farmer a favor. Whip out your smartphone, take pictures of it, and email the photos with the location to John Losey.

Bee crisis linked to virus spread by humans (Mother Nature Network): Colony collapse disorder (CCD) is a strange plague that has been obliterating honeybee colonies for at least a decade. But there are at least two other scourges that share the blame: Varroa mites and deformed wing virus (DWV). According to a new study, humans helped it by recklessly shipping honeybee colonies and queens across oceans. The consequences can be devastating, both for domestic animals and for wildlife. The risk of introducing viruses or other pathogens is just one of many potential dangers. The key insight is that the global virus pandemic in honeybees is man-made, not natural. It’s therefore within our hands to mitigate this and future disease problems.

Apostle Island

Map of the Apostle Island National Lakeshore. Image: National Park Service

Apostle Islands National Lakeshore could be connected by National Marine Sanctuary (Great Lakes Echo): The 21 Lake Superior islands and 12 miles of mainland that are the Apostle Islands National Lakeshore could knit together under a new federal protection. A group launched an effort to establish a national marine sanctuary at the lake bottom that surrounds the islands just off the northernmost tip of Wisconsin. The islands draw thousands of tourists each year, and the added significance of the sanctuary designation could attract even more. The sanctuary designation would create important education opportunities and funding for research.

Researchers eye trout spawning sites from space (Great Lakes Echo): Satellite imagery offers a new tool for identifying nearshore lake trout spawning habitat across broad areas of the Great Lakes, according to a recent study in the Journal of Great Lakes Research. Understanding lake trout spawning habitat long-term could inform ways to improve or evaluate hatchery practices. The lake trout’s preference of cleaner, algae-free spawning sites is key to relying on the satellite imagery.

 

A greenhouse gas, a resurgence of lake trout and a new state park: this week in environmental news

Whitcomb Conservancy on Belle Isle. Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Each Friday, MNA shares important environmental news stories from around the state and country. Here is some of what happened this week in conservation and nature news:

Newly discovered greenhouse gas ‘7,000 times more powerful than CO2’ (The Guardian): Researchers in Toronto have discovered the gas perfluorotributylamine (PFTBA), which has been in use by the electrical industry since the mid-20th century. The chemical breaks all records for potential impacts on the climate, and is 7,000 times more powerful at warming the earth over a 100-year time span than carbon dioxide. Currently, there are only low concentrations of the gas in the atmosphere, but climatologists warn that PFTBA could have a very large impact on climate change if it grows.

Go lake trout! Native fish overcome seemingly ‘insurmountable’ challenges in Lake Huron (Michigan Radio): For nearly 40 years, biologists have been trying to reestablish a lake trout population by hatching the fish and placing them in Lake Huron. The stocked fish, however, could not reproduce until alewives disappeared. The trout were eating alewives which caused a vitamin deficiency in eggs and young fish. Now the alewives are being eaten by salmon, and it’s likely their population will not recover. The return of lake trout as a big predator may result in a more stable ecosystem in Lake Huron.

Early warning program battles frog bit, other invasive species (Great Lakes Echo): A DNR early warning program is preventing invasive European frog bit from destroying native aquatic plants. The program quickly assesses areas of infestation and examines the extent of damage. Crews from AmeriCorps and Michigan Civilian Conservation Corps are focusing on southeast Michigan have removed more than 1,500 pounds of frog bit from state waterways. Officials hope to keep the invasive from spreading elsewhere in Michigan.

Crews get busy cleaning up Belle Isle for new state-park status (Detroit Free Press): State and city officials, along with 40 companies, government groups and volunteer associations, have pledged that they’re “All in for Belle Isle”. The Detroit park is in the midst of a transition period after which the DNR will operate the 985-acre state park. Restoration efforts including brush removal, trail clearing, and repairs to picnic structures are already underway. The transition period ends on February 10, and after that entry into Belle Isle will require those in automobiles to have the $11 annual state recreation passport sticker. Pedestrians and bicyclists can enter the park at no charge.

Panel: Strong laws can help West Michigan environmental issues (Holland Sentinel): At Tuesday night’s “Great Michigan” Town Hall meeting in Holland, Mich., a panel discussed environmental issues facing west Michigan. According to Erica Bloom, Michigan League of Conservation Voters director in west Michigan, citizens need to raise environmental issues with legislators. MLCV is concerned with pending legislation that would reduce requirements for biodiversity and require nonprofits to open up land to all forms of recreation, including off-road vehicles.

Invasive species, a fishing boom and algae blooms: 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:

An emerald ash borer. Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

An emerald ash borer. Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Invasive emerald ash borer hurts Michigan timber sales (Great Lakes Echo): The emerald ash borer first caused an infestation in Michigan in 2002. The beetle eats the layer below bark, causing a lack of nutrients and ultimately leads to the death of the tree. The Department of Natural Resources said timber sales are being hurt by the spread of the emerald ash borer. Not all timber is meant to be sold right away, but because of this insect, the process has to be sped up. The infestation is causing a decrease in salvage bid sales and there will be a noticeable decrease in timber sales next year, according to the DNR.

Climate change is making Lake Superior a fishing haven, for the moment (PRI): Lake Superior is warming faster than any other lake on the planet. Because of this, there has been a shift in the species that the lake supports. Lake trout are becoming rarer and are being joined by the walleye in Lake Superior. James Kitchell, an emeritus professor at the University of Wisconsin in Madison, said there will be an economic boost in the short run from this change. However, it will cause problems in the long run. As fish population increases, the amount of food per fish decreases, causing overall growth rates to decline. The warmer temperature of the lake also reintroduces the sea lamprey, a major predator of lake trout.

Algae blooms on Lake Erie getting ‘difficult to control’ (CBC): Massive algae blooms on Lake Erie are becoming harder to control, according to a scientist at the International Joint Commission. The algae blooms are being caused by fertilizer runoff from nearby farms. Raj Bejankiwar of the Lake Erie Ecosystem Priority correctly predicted that Lake Erie would see near-record algae levels because more intense storms cause more intense runoff. The algae is also causing a higher level of toxins in drinking water. This is causing both economic and environmental problems, as 20 percent of the world’s freshwater comes from the Great Lakes.

18-foot-long deep-sea creature found off California (LiveScience): Dive instructor Jasmine Santana found an oarfish carcass while swimming in about 20 feet of water. The animal is rare and serpent-like, and is usually found in much deeper waters. With the help of many others, Santana dragged the carcass onto land, where people took pictures and eventually put the oarfish on ice so it could be shown to students the next day.

Forget polar bears: Global warming will hit the tropics first (Mother Nature Network): Researchers at the University of Hawaii are saying the tropics will suffer “unprecedented” climate change effects in the next ten years. This is predicted to come long before the Arctic and polar bears see effects. Camilo Mora, lead study author and a geographer at the University of Hawaii, Manoa said, “The coldest year in the future will be hotter than the hottest year in the past [150 years].” The amber-eyed jaguar is near the top of the list to become extinct due to climate change.