Archive for the 'species extinction' Category

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Snuffbox and Rayed Bean Mussels: Freshwater Species of the Week

A rare freshwater snuffbox mussel (Epioblasma triquetra), now protected as an endangered species. Retrieved from:

“Although they have long served as an important food source for a wide variety of animals (including people), freshwater mussels are highly sensitive to poor water quality and large-scale changes in the flows of rivers. As we have altered and polluted rivers, freshwater mussels, which live by filtering tiny bits of food out of water, have been hard hit.

Besides depriving other animals of a high-quality food source, the loss of freshwater mussels has further harmed water quality because the animals filter out pollutants over time.

The snuffbox (Epioblasma triquetra) is a medium-sized, yellow mussel with triangular-shaped females and oval-shaped males.  It tends to live in small to medium-sized creeks with a swift current, although it is also found in Lake Erie and in some larger rivers.

The snuffbox was formerly common in Alabama, Arkansas, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Virginia, West Virginia, and Wisconsin. But it has declined by more than 60 percent in recent years and has disappeared entirely from four states. Conservation advocates have sought endangered species protection for the species since at least 1991.”

Read more: National Geographic


The Real Cost Of Brazil’s Dam

Photo retrieved from:

“Until a few months ago, the future of the Belo Monte dam seemed in doubt. The project faced a wave of legal battles and opposition from indigenous groups and environmental organisations around the world.

About 400 square kilometres of the Amazon forest will be flooded to make way for the reservoirs.

The dam is being built in Brazil’s northern Para state, home to large parts of the Amazon Rainforest.

Some 25,000 indigenous people live along the banks of the Xingu River.

One indigenous group – the Paquicamba – live downstream from the main dam. If the dam is built, the normal flow of the river would shrink significantly. The Paquicamba say their fish stocks would be severely depleted.”

Read more: Aljazeera

No More Catfish in the Madeira?

Photo retrieved from:

“When the environmental license for the Santo Antônio Dam was approved against the findings of fish experts, Lula controversially claimed that the dams would not be stopped because of “some catfish.” Now, the catfish are disappearing.

The news is especially troubling only a few years after 11 tons of fish were destroyed during construction of a coffer dam. Meanwhile, construction of the Jirau Dam continues farther upstream; and if the government’s plans move forward to build a third dam on the Madeira River – the Ribeirão Dam – fish species may disappear from this majestic river at an even greater rate.

Earlier this year, Congress unilaterally proclaimed the Ribeirão Dam a “national priority,” despite the dam not appearing on any government plan. It is not mentioned in the Program to Accelerate Growth, nor in the Ten-Year Energy Plans for 2020, nor in the National Energy Plan for 2030. The project has not passed through the Ministry of Planning. And no economic feasibility study, no environmental impact assessment, and no indigenous action plan have ever been sent to IBAMA, and no prior consultations have ever been held. Every indication points to this third dam being a nice serving of pork barrel spending for theRaupp political family in Rondônia.

Will the catfish disappear entirely from the Madeira River? As long as Dilma’s authoritarian dam-building in the Amazon continues, chances are only getting worse.”

Read more: International Rivers


8 Mighty Rivers Run Dry From Overuse

Rio Grande. Retrieved from:

“One of the largest rivers in North America, the 1,885-mile (3,033-kilometer) Rio Grande runs from southwestern Colorado to the Gulf of Mexico. It defines much of the border between Texas and Mexico. But the once grande river is looking more poco these days, thanks to heavy use on both sides of the border.

Less than a fifth of the Rio Grande’s historical flow now reaches the Gulf. For a few years in the early 2000s, the river failed to reach the coast entirely. All that separated the United States from Mexico was a beach of dirty sand and an orange nylon fence.

Here, the river defines the international border across the Adams Ranch near Big Bend National Park.

Algae colors the confluence of the Rio Grande and Arroyo San Carlos.

The population in the Lower Rio Grande Valley is exploding in both the United States and Mexico, driven by NAFTA-era factories and agricultural productivity. But by the time it reaches Matamoros, the river’s level is so low that it often falls below the Mexican city’s intake pipes. Farmers in Texas say they lose $400 million annually due to lack of irrigation water.

The region’s wetlands, once critical stopover points for migrating birds, are getting choked off. All these problems are made worse by the decades-long drought gripping the region.”

Read more: National Geographic



Rivers must flow: The case against big dams

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“More than 50,000 large dams now choke about two-thirds of the world’s largest rivers. The consequences of this massive engineering programme have been devastating. Large dams have wiped out species; flooded huge areas of wetlands, forests and farmlands; displaced tens of millions of people, and affected close to half a billion people living downstream.

Large dams hold back not just water, but silt and nutrients that replenish farmlands and build protective wetlands and beaches. Dams change the very riverness of our waterways, in ways we can’t always see, but that the earth can certainly feel.

Of all the complex and interconnected environmental disruptions that dams inflict on the landscape, the most obvious is the permanent inundation of forests, wetlands and wildlife. Reservoirs have flooded vast areas - at last count, the world’s dams had flooded an area bigger than the United Kingdom.

Equally important is the quality of these lost lands: river and floodplain habitats are some of the world’s most diverse ecosystems. Plants and animals that are closely adapted to valley habitats often cannot survive along the edge of a reservoir.”

Read more: Aljazeera



Water Pollution In Israel Threatens People, Animal, Plants

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“Water pollution in Israeli lakes, streams and groundwater aquifers is reaching alarming levels. Although the country has regulations in place to prevent discharges, including a comprehensive Water Law, contamination is commonplace. And now scientists are finding that water quality problems threaten both wildlife and human health.

The lutra, a cousin of the otter found in lakes and rivers throughout Northern Israel, is in danger of extinction. Hunting is one of the threats to this fish-eating swamp dweller. Guest workers, mostly from Thailand, have been responsible for a great deal of lutra poaching. Arriving from areas in Southeast Asia where unrestricted wildlife trapping is the norm, these workers often clash with Israel’s stricter protections.

However, the more pervasive danger for the lutra is polluted water flowing through its habitat. In a recent study published in the Israeli journal Ecology & Environment, scientists reported that low water quality and lack of flow in the Jordan River has nearly wiped out the lutra south of Lake Kinneret (the Sea of Galilee). The population north of the lake is relatively stable, but its disappearance in other areas has shocked ecologists.

Additionally, industrial waste from factories in the Rotem Plain has been leaching into groundwater near Ein Bokek Nature Reserve for almost two decades. Ein Bokek is one of the most important reserves in Israel, hosting a myriad species of animals and plants.”

Read more: Green Prophet

California’s Delta Ecosystem Is Healthier, For Now

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“High flows of water from the melting of deep snow in the Sierra provided enough for both the tiny fish known as the delta smelt, long considered on the brink of extinction, and for the farming communities that have chafed under legal rulings requiring them to give up water to keep the smelt and its ecosystem going.

Mike Taugher reported in The Contra Costa Times that an index reflecting the smelt’s abundance had seen a 10-fold increase, from a score of 29 in 2010 to 343 in 2011. The index was at its highest level in a decade, though still less than a quarter of the levelsrecorded in 1970 and 1980.

The high water levels were not necessarily the main or the only cause of the rebound — a representative of the Natural Resources Defense Council said that changes they had pushed for in the management of the estuary could also be responsible. But there was no question that the populations of fish besides the smelt — particularly the striped bass population — also did well, although shad did not.”

Read more: New York Times


World Rivers Review

Amazon River. Retrieved from:

“Flying across any continent today confirms that the world’s rivers are dominant features in the landscape, and are places where humans and animals gather to reap the many benefits and services they provide. Rivers of all sizes all over the world have underpinned the process of human development. As we progress into the twenty-first century, this development process must now be reassessed. Across the world, we have mismanaged and in some places almost destroyed the core ecological fabric on which river health – and indeed our own survival – depends. Human-caused stressors now endanger the biodiversity of 65% of the world’s river habitats, putting thousands of aquatic wildlife species at risk.

One of the most comprehensive studies of global rivers to date has examined human stressors on all the major rivers of the world. This study, published in September 2010 in the journal Nature, evaluated the state of the world’s rivers by taking into account the major “ecological insults” we impose upon them. The 23 threat factors used in this analysis all have well-documented impacts on human water security and aquatic biodiversity. These were grouped according to their effects on river ecological health and biodiversity, and on human water security. Each of these threats was weighted separately, which is important since the effects of a factor such as nitrogen pollution on fish, for example, are not the same as its consequences for human water security.

Using geo-referenced global databases jointly developed by the team, the combined impact of these multiple threat factors can be displayed graphically, demonstrating global conditions across the 99 million km2 of major river basins included in the study.”

Read more: International Rivers

Hawaii’s Watershed Moment: Killing Trees to Save Water

Retrieved from:

“As Hawaii residents struggle to feed their families, the Governor of Hawaii has just announced a new $110 million war on invasive species, spending $11 million per year to weed the forests of “undesirable” plants and animals, including food resources, over the next ten years.

The alleged excuse for this war is to protect our water resources. According to one study at UH, the nonnative strawberry guava tree uses 27% more water than native o’hia, although strangely not mentioned is that strawberry guava is highly drought resistant, making it suitable for our increasingly drought prone islands. Nevertheless, selling off of the fear of water loss, it is now being stated that all nonnative plants consume more water than native plants.”

Read more: Hawaii Reporter


Thames Water’s dilemma: flood Heathrow or a river with sewage?

Retrieved from:

“Imagine the scene: tens of thousands of tonnes of sewage have backed up behind a jammed gate and a decision has to be made – to flood one of the world’s busiest airports or inundate a small river very few people know exist.

It is a stark version of the choices made daily around the planet between costly economic infrastructure and the natural world: inevitably, the River Crane, and its populations of perch, eels, kingfishers and dragonfly larvae, lost.

The Environment Agency, the UK’s official enforcement body, now reports almost the entire west London river has been “killed” by the huge influx of grey sludge washed down the toilets and drains of nearby Heathrow airport, starting last Saturday night. Experts, who estimate 3,000 fish are floating dead in and along the oxygen-starved Thames tributary, say it will take “months, probably years” to recover. Anglers and other people are being warned to stay out of the water in the seven mile stretch from the A4 to the River Thames at Twickenham, though the risk to the Thames itself is thought to be low.

Thames Water issued an apology in which the company said engineers battled for hours to free the jammed sluice gate and commandeered 20 trucks to haul sewage away by road before being:”

Read more: Guardian