Plastic pollution, wolf hunt regulations and Great Lakes cuts: 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:

Masses of plastic particles found in Great Lakes (The Weather Channel): In the already polluted Great Lakes, scientists are discovering great quantities of tiny, plastic pellets, some of which are only visible through a microscope. It is suspected that the pellets are abrasive “microbeads,” commonly used in facial washes and toothpaste. Because of their miniscule size, many of the plastic specks flow through water treatment plants and into the lakes. The plastic beads soak up toxins from the water and harm the fish that mistakenly eat them, causing significant ecological damage. Research groups are urging personal care companies to stop developing microbead products, hoping to keep the plastic out of the Great Lakes altogether.


A gray wolf.
Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Michigan’s first wolf hunt will no longer include trapping (Detroit Free Press): Michigan’s Natural Resources Commission has rejected the use of steel-jaw leg traps during the state’s first-ever wolf hunt, applying to both public and private land. According to specialists from Michigan’s Department of Natural Resources, the regulation was added to the approved hunt to help ease into the public harvest as a management tool and to start the hunt conservatively. Still, other groups believe the regulation is a tool to compromise with the hunt’s many opponents.

Could these mice save threatened Midwestern prairies? (Huffington Post): Chicago’s Lincoln Park Zoo is raising mice in an effort to bring back restored prairies. Researchers are releasing the mice in hopes that the animals will mate and distribute the grassland seeds that they eat, aiding in the spread of plant life. Currently, biologists believe that only 1 percent of historical prairie grasslands remain in Illinois. The Chicago team is implanting trackers on the mice to see if spread of the species can work as a natural restoration agent for plant life in diminishing prairies.

Michigan senators and congressman consider Great Lakes cuts (Petoskey News): The U.S. House Committee on Appropriations considered a bill Wednesday with the potential to cut 80 percent form Great Lakes funding. The funds have been gradually dropping form the initial amount of $475 million in 2009, and would fall from $285 million to $60 million if last week’s draft of the bill were passed. The committee chose to raise this proposed amount to $210 million for the 2014 year. Michigan senators Carl Levin and Debbie Stabenow still oppose the cuts, believing that the initiative funds critical restoration efforts such as combating the invasive Asian carp species.


Crested auklets rely on scent during breeding season.
Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

By a nose: Birds’ surprising sense of smell (National Wildlife Foundation): While previously believed to be anosmic, or unable to smell, new discoveries show that some birds extensively rely on scent. Biologists from the Alaska Department of Fish and Game’s Wildlife Diversity Program are studying small seabirds called crested auklets, located off western Alaska in the Bering Sea. In groups or pairs, the birds bury their faces into each other’s citrus-scented feathers, occurring every summer during breeding season. Additionally, other findings suggest that songbirds are able to recognize their kin based on smell, and that European starlings rely on scent when selecting certain plants for their nests.

Climate change report: As Michigan warms, new crops, plant life and disease may take hold (mlive): A report by the Union of Concerned Scientists predicts radical consequences of climate change for the state of Michigan, anticipating the state’s climate to become similar to that of northern Arkansas by the end of the century. Along with increased temperature, the report states that incidents of flooding and extreme storms will rise, lake levels will drop and wetlands will shrink. Though the predictions of this report parallel many other analyses, its findings make clear the potential ecological and economic results of climate change in Michigan.