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.

Climate change, fall colors, and oil transportation: this week in environmental news

Each week, MNA gathers news stories related to conservation and the environment from around Michigan and the United States. Catch up on some of what happened this week in environmental news!

Protestors at the People’s Climate March in New York City on September 21, 2014. | Dominique Mosbergen/The Huffington Post

Americans Are Getting More Worried About Climate Change, According to New Polls (Huffington Post): Results from two nationwide polls indicate that Americans are getting increasingly worried about climate change and its impacts. One poll found that nearly half of Americans believe global warming is causing a serious impact now, while 60 percent said protecting the environment should be a priority “even at the risk of curbing economic growth.”

Photo: NASA (click to enlarge)

Photo: NASA (click to enlarge)

Fall Color in the Great Lakes (NASA Earth Observatory): See fall color from space! NASA’s Terra satellite captured images of fall color around the Great Lakes on September 26 and New England on September 27. The brown and orange shades on the map are most pronounced in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, and northern Wisconsin. The progression of fall color will move from north to south across North America from mid-September to mid-November.

Scientists Trace Extreme Heat in Australia to Climate Change (The New York Times): Five groups of researchers from around the world have concluded that the heat wave that hit Australia in 2013 was almost certainly a direct consequence of greenhouse gasses released by human activity. The research observed the heat across Australia through all 12 months of 2013 and relied on computer analysis of what the climate would have been like in the absence of human-caused greenhouse gas emissions.

Air near chemical plant remains polluted long after it closed (Great Lakes Echo): A recent Indiana University study finds that people living within six miles of the former site of Velsicol Chemical Co. in St. Louis, Mich. “are still being subject to relatively high levels of HBB, PBBs, and DDTs in the air they breathe.” The plant, which closed nearly 40 years ago, was designated a Superfund site by federal regulators in 1982. Cleanup of the site and the nearby Pine River have cost millions of dollars and continue today.

New report: oil transportation poses risks to Great Lakes Region (WKAR): This week, the Great Lakes Commission released a draft report exploring the safety of how oil is transportated. Increased oil production in North Dakota and Western Canada has turned the Great Lakes region into a transportation corridor for crude oil, but several oil spills have raised questions about how safe oil transportation is.

Ancient lakes, Grayling fish hatchery, confounded moths: this week in environmental news

By Kary Askew Garcia, MNA Intern

Turtle River in eastern North Dakota, a remnant of glaciers once covering the area. Photo by Eric Freedman courtesy of the Great Lakes Echo.

Turtle River in eastern North Dakota, a remnant of glaciers once covering the area and Lake Agassiz. Photo by Eric Freedman courtesy of the Great Lakes Echo.

Every week, MNA gathers news related to the environment from around the state and country. Here are a few highlights from what happened this week in environmental news:

Quick, name the greatest of Great Lakes (Great Lakes Echo): Unbeknownst to many Americans, the greatest of lakes that once existed was in North Dakota, Minnesota and Canada. This lake, known as Lake Agassiz, existed 13,000 years ago and was larger than the five current Great Lakes put together.

Michigan allows Grayling fish hatchery despite angler concerns (Detroit Free Press): On Tuesday a permit was issued to a Grayling fish hatchery to set up on Tuesday via the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality. This permit proceeded despite anglers’ concern of harm to the Au Sable River.

Photo by Kiley Riffell courtesy of the New York TImes.

Photo by Kiley Riffell courtesy of the New York TImes.

City smells confound flower-seeking moths (New York Times):  A new study finds that tobacco hornworm moths which depend on nectar for energy have been adversely affected by fuel exhaust. The exhaust along with other air-pollutants have inhibited the moth from being able to smell flowers, making it difficult to find the nectar they need to survive.

Jones with rhinoceros. Photo via Facebook.

Jones with rhinoceros. Photo via Facebook.

Meet Kendall Jones the Texan cheerleader whose exotic animal hunts outraged the internet (Huffington Post): There has been a large outcry from many activists concerning photos posted by Kendall Jones on Facebook with dead or tranquilized endangered animals. Jones claims her activities are in benefit of these endangered animals, for example posing next to an unconscious rhinoceros in order to place a microchip in it for veterinary tracking purposes.

Duke Energy sued in North Carolina over river-polluting coal plants (Huffington Post): An environmental group announced its plans to sue Duke Energy over a coal ash spill at three plants along rivers in North Carolina.  The Southern Environmental Law Center filed a motion of intent on Tuesday under the federal Clean Water Act.

Wildfires, hound hunting and snake encounters: this week in environmental news

By Kary Askew Garcia, MNA Intern

Fire blazes in Marquette County. Photo via Michigan Department of Natural Resources courtesy of Great Lakes Echo.

Fire blazes in Marquette County. Photo via Michigan Department of Natural Resources courtesy of Great Lakes Echo.

Every Friday, MNA gathers news related to the environment from around the state and country. Here are a few highlights from what happened this week in environmental news:

Above average number of wildfires predicted by summer’s end (Great Lakes Echo): Despite Michigan’s decline in wildfires down to 86 so far in 2014 from a record high of 315 in 2012. according to the Department of Natural Resources (DNR), the latter half of the year may prove to have higher than average numbers of wildfires.

Hunting hounds attack a wounded coyote. Photo courtesy of MLive.

Hunting hounds attack a wounded coyote. Photo courtesy of MLive.

Video in coyote killing raises questions about ethics and the future of wolf hunting in Michigan (MLive): After the discovery of a brutal video of hound dogs attacking a wounded coyote in Gogebic County, policies on how hound dogs can be used during hunting come into question. Although using these hunting dogs are not allowed when pursuing wolves, they are still allowed for other animals, leaving them vulnerable to hunting hound attacks. Legislators are reviewing the film as evidence in a case to determine the legality of hound use in the particular situation.

John Kerry launches global effort to save world’s oceans ‘under siege’ (The Guardian): On Wednesday, John Kerry launched his new global effort to protect oceans from over-fishing and plastic pollution and climate change. Kerry plans to discuss the topic at the State Department two-day summit June 16 and 17. The State Department said Kerry’s conference will help global awareness of issues surrounding the earth’s oceans.

Road salt changes urban ecosystems in big ways (Conservation Magazine): During the winter, tons of salt is dumped along roads throughout the Midwest. Despite the usefulness of salt on icy roads to make it easier and safer for drivers, it ends up running off into soils on the side of the road and changing their chemical composition. The salt can also find its way to bodies of water, plants and animals, changing the way the ecosystem evolves.

DNR offers tips for residents encountering snakes (Michigan Department of Natural Resources): The DNR has released information to help residents who may encounter snakes this summer. Michigan has 17 species of snakes, 16 of which are completely harmless to humans. To avoid snake bites, the DNR suggests getting no closer than within 24 inches of a snake’s head. Residents are also asked to report any reptile or amphibian sightings to the Michigan Herp Atlas research project.

 

 

Bald eagles, decreasing lake levels and an illegal fire: 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:

A bald eagle. Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

A bald eagle. Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Bald eagles: A conservation success story (Mother Nature Network): Bald eagles in the United States are making a recovery. A pesticide called Kepone nearly wiped out the species in the 1960s and 1970s. Since then, the bald eagle has slowly been making a recovery, and was taken off the endangered list in 2007. Invasive species and other pesticides still threaten the bald eagle, but restoration efforts are ongoing. Bald eagles reside all across the United States, but are thriving the most along the James River in Virginia.

Great Lakes panel still waiting for legislative action on lake levels (Journal Sentinel): The Great Lakes Commission is still waiting on a request passed in 2007 to have the U.S. and Canadian governments figure out how to slow down the water flow in St. Clair River, which is heavily dredged. This would raise water levels on Lake Michigan and Lake Huron. The water levels of these lakes today is almost two feet lower than they would be if not for human interaction in St. Clair River. Some officials suggest an adjustable system that would allow the water flow to open or slow down on the river.

USFS: Hunter caused huge wildfire near Yosemite (Detroit Free Press): An illegal fire set by a hunter in Yosemite National Park is what caused the massive wildfire that covered 371 square miles and cost $81 million to contain. The hunter has not yet been arrested, as investigations are still going on. The U.S. Forest Service had banned fires in Yosemite National Park outside of controlled camping areas because of the high risk of wildfire. Officials say the wildfire is now 80 percent contained, having destroyed 111 structures since it started.

Climate change may speed up forests’ life cycles (Science Daily): A study conducted by a Duke University team suggests that in response to global warming, the life cycles of tree species are speeding up. One professor at Duke University, James S. Clark, said because of climate change, there are longer growing seasons for the trees and hotter temperatures. Studies conducted on 65 tree species in the 31 eastern states of the U.S. suggest that there is a higher rate of turnover in warmer climates. There are more young trees. Scientists believe eventually trees will migrate to cooler climates by seed dispersal.

Pollution in Florida’s Lake Okeechobee swells to near-disaster levels (Mother Nature Network): Lake Okeechobee in south Florida is one of the largest lakes in the United States, and is also one of the shallowest. At nine feet deep on average, the lake is potentially an environmental disaster because of its rising water level. Heavy downpour has caused the lake to rise to 15.5 feet, which some fear is too high. Already, the inflated lake has sent polluted runoff into nearby water systems. The polluted runoff is assisting the growth of toxic algae, which can kill many freshwater organisms. The pollution in the lake is also hurting tourism to the area and real estate prices.

Sea turtles, the world’s rarest trout and Red Cedars: 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:

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Baby sea turtles. Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Sea turtles bouncing back in U.S. Southeast (Mother Nature Network): Surveys say endangered sea turtles in the southeast are rising drastically in numbers. There has been a 73 percent increase in the amount of sea turtle nests built at the Archie Carr National Wildlife Refuge. The increase in the number of sea turtles in the United States is credited to U.S. government protection. Officials warn that the sea turtles still face manmade obstacles and are still threatened by ocean pollution.

Poisoning a Sierra stream to save the world’s rarest trout (LA Times): In Walker, California, officials poured poison into the Silver King Creek to kill nonnative species of trout like the rainbow and golden trout. Officials did this to make room for the Paiute cutthroat trout, which were being displaced by the large amounts of rainbow and golden trout. The proposal to poison the river had been debated in federal court for over a decade. Some worry the poison, rotenone, will have long-term negative effects on the water supply. But, biologists say it is a natural poison and will not harm the water.

Red Cedars recover from acid rain (Conservation Magazine): The Clean Air Act of 1970 has helped red cedars in the eastern US regrow after suffering from acid rain pollution. Burning fossil fuels releases sulfur dioxide into the atmosphere, which contributes to high levels of acid rain. Around 1980, changes could start to be seen in red cedars in the Appalachian Mountains. The rate of photosynthesis also grew by 27 percent.

Lake Erie algae needs tough rules to reduce blooms, international panel says (Detroit Free Press): The International Joint Commission reported that steps need to be taken immediately to restrict the amount of phosphorous in runoff. The phosphorous causes harmful algae to bloom in Lake Erie, creating areas where fish can’t survive, called dead zones. The report states that reducing the amount of phosphorous used in farming and slowing down the flow of water to the drainage systems will help the problem. The report encourages both the United States and Canada to implement these changes.

Lobster shell disease expanding north: one of several diseases of marine organisms causing worry (Science Daily): Scientists are worried to find a disease on lobster shells in Maine that was recently only known to exist in waters in Rhode Island. The disease could impact the Maine fishery drastically if it spreads quickly. The shell disease causes more bacteria to live on the lobster’s shell. There is a higher concentration of manmade chemicals on shells that have the disease. The disease gives lobsters a weaker immune system. Scientists believe changing temperatures in the ocean are partly to blame for lobsters contracting the disease.

Snapping turtles, wildfire smoke and Michigan recycling rates: 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:

Snapping turtle. Photo from MNA archives

Snapping turtle. Photo from MNA archives

Snapping turtles finding refuge in urban areas while habitats are being polluted (Science Daily): Snapping turtles’ habitats are being destroyed by pollution and land development, which is causing them to move into urban areas. Many people are hesitant to encounter a snapping turtle. Bill Peterman, a post-doctoral researcher at the University of Missouri, assures that the animal will only bite when provoked. Peterman also suggest that the way to get snapping turtles back to their habitat is for people to use fewer chemicals that eventually end up in waterways. Using fewer chemicals would also benefit the habitat as a whole as it would restore the snapping turtles to their rightful place, which would put the ecosystem back in balance.

New insights on wildfire smoke could improve climate change models (Michigan Tech News): Michigan Technological University researchers have discovered components of smoke that can impact climate change. Previously, components of smoke had been missing from climate change models. The researchers are unsure whether these components warm or cool the earth. However, they should be considered in more models of climate change to determine just what impact smoke components have on climate change.

Michigan’s recycling rate is lowest in Great Lakes region (Great Lakes Echo): Michigan’s recycling rate is 10 percent lower than the regional average. Governor Rick Snyder said in 2012 that increasing recycling is one of his top priorities. Kerrin O’Brien, executive director of the Michigan Recycling Coalition, believes part of the problem is that people in Michigan have limited access to recycling sites and find it inconvenient. She also said Michigan needs a significant culture shift to start participating in more recycling programs.

Otters aid seagrass recovery (Conservation Magazine): The harmful effects of fertilizer pollution on seagrass are offset by otters. Runoff from farms enters the water and damages seagrass, which is important to the marine ecosystem. Otters contribute to the recovery of seagrass by feeding on crabs. In turn, not as many crabs feed on sea slugs. The abundance of sea slugs graze on algae, which helps the seagrass grow.

Great Lakes Week 2013 (Great Lakes Now): Great Lakes Week will run from September 9-12. All organizations that govern the Great Lakes will meet in Milwaukee to discuss key topics including who will be able to draw water from the Great Lakes, threatening algae bloom and record low water levels. Also, the overall health of the lakes will be assessed and new plans for the Great Lakes will be set. Some sessions will be broadcast on public television and streamed online.