Invasive Species Workshop, Salamanders, and Wildlife Grants: this week in environmental news

Invasive Species and Site Preparation Workshop (Michigan Society of American Foresters): Attend a free hands-on invasive species workshop in Wellston, Michigan on Saturday, May 21 hosted by the Michigan Society of American Foresters. During this workshop you will learn all about the ecological and economic effects of invasive species, how and why they spread, control options, pesticide laws, and site preparation methods for planting tree seedlings and how this is relevant to invasive species management.  There will be a large hands-on component where you will observe and use different types of equipment, such as personal protective equipment (PPE), the gas-powered forestry clearing saw for killing invasive shrubs and small trees, and herbicide equipment for mixing and applying chemical.

Wildlife grants awarded to tribes in Michigan, Wisconsin and Minnesota (Great Lakes Echo): Native American tribes will protect bats from logging and place sturgeon in school aquariums as part of a recent round of federal grants. The Tribal Wildlife grant program was established by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in 2003. This year, $5 million was awarded to 29 tribes, three from Great Lakes states. In Michigan, the Saginaw Chippewa tribe is receiving $199,431 to determine what plants and wildlife live in the area and how to protect important species.

salamander

Eastern red spotted newts like this one are at risk of fungal disease. Photo: Distant Hill Gardens, Flickr

A deadly fungus threatens salamanders (Great Lakes Echo): A deadly fungus is likely to threaten the health of salamanders in the United States. And one type of salamander found in the Great Lakes region – the eastern newt – is especially at risk. Batrachochytrium salamandrivorans – Bsal for short – is a fungus that eats away the skin of certain salamanders. It’s found in parts of Asia and Europe, and researchers say it could strike the United States next. Eastern newts in the region have an increased risk because Chicago is a port where diseased salamanders could be brought in.

inland fisheries

Inland fisheries are important indicators of changes in ecosystems from things such as hydropower projects and deforestation. Photo: Ken Bosma

Inland fisheries’ importance underrated, study says (Great Lakes Echo): Inland fisheries and aquaculture account for more than 40 percent of the world’s reported fish production but their harvest is frequently under-reported and ignored in the Great Lakes region and elsewhere, a new study says. The central role of inland fish in aquatic ecosystems makes them good indicators of ecosystem change. Ecosystem change includes threats from agriculture, hydropower projects and deforestation, as well as overfishing and invasive species. Although the study focused primarily on inland fisheries in the developing world, it also addressed the situation in the Great Lakes and the region’s inland waters. The study cited massive die-offs of alewives in Lake Michigan in the 1960s, an occurrence that brought to public and political attention large ecological changes occurring in the Great Lakes.

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Signs of Spring: Amphibians Return to Vernal Pools

By Annie Perry, MNA Intern

For many Michigan residents, there are a few tell-tale signs of spring: Springtime birds chirping after being gone for a long winter, green grass growing, flowers sprouting, and days getting longer. But MNA stewards have one more thing to tell them that spring is here: Salamanders and other amphibians migrating to vernal pools.

A salamander MNA steward Dave Richmond found in his yard in early April. Photo by Dave Richmond.

A salamander MNA steward Dave Richmond found in his yard in early April. Photo by Dave Richmond.

Each spring, amphibians make mass (well, mini) migrations to vernal pools and ponds, usually at night during or after the first warm rainstorm. Once at the vernal pools, these amphibians will mate and lay their eggs before returning to the forest. Dave Richmond, a steward at the Edna S. Newnan Nature Sanctuary in St. Clair County, spotted some of the first salamanders of the season early this month—which means spring must be here, after all.

Vernal pools are natural, temporary bodies of water that occur in a shallow depression. These pools typically fill during the spring or fall and may dry in the summer; have no viable populations of fish; and provide essential breeding and nursery habitat for several organisms, including amphibians. Many amphibian eggs have physical properties or toxic compounds that help deter predators, but amphibians that are dependent on vernal pools lack these protections. As a result, their eggs and young are vulnerable to both aquatic and terrestrial predators. Not all vernal pools dry up every year, but each pool has some feature that prevents fish from living there, such as low oxygen concentrations during the summer or shallow levels that allow the pool to freeze to the bottom during the winter.

The spring issue of Michigan Nature magazine includes a feature on vernal pools—keep an eye out to learn more about these unique and important habitats!