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Nesting Gulf Sea Turtles Feed in Waters Filled With Threats

August 4, 2014 Comments off

Nesting Gulf Sea Turtles Feed in Waters Filled With Threats
Source: USGS/PLoS ONE

Nesting loggerhead sea turtles in the northern Gulf of Mexico feed among areas that were oiled by the 2010 Deepwater Horizon spill and where human activities occur, several of which are known to pose threats to sea turtles, a new U.S Geological study showed.

The feeding areas for 10 turtles overlapped with an area that experienced surface oiling during the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill. These sites, and others, also overlapped with areas trawled by commercial fishing operations and used for oil and gas extraction.

The study, which is the largest to date on Northern Gulf loggerheads, examined 59 nesting females, which scientists believe could be 15 percent of the breeding females in the Northern Gulf of Mexico—a small and declining subpopulation of loggerheads that is federally classified as threatened.

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Deep-Sea Octopus (Graneledone boreopacifica) Conducts the Longest-Known Egg-Brooding Period of Any Animal

July 31, 2014 Comments off

Deep-Sea Octopus (Graneledone boreopacifica) Conducts the Longest-Known Egg-Brooding Period of Any Animal
Source: PLoS ONE

Octopuses typically have a single reproductive period and then they die (semelparity). Once a clutch of fertilized eggs has been produced, the female protects and tends them until they hatch. In most shallow-water species this period of parental care can last from 1 to 3 months, but very little is known about the brooding of deep-living species. In the cold, dark waters of the deep ocean, metabolic processes are often slower than their counterparts at shallower depths. Extrapolations from data on shallow-water octopus species suggest that lower temperatures would prolong embryonic development periods. Likewise, laboratory studies have linked lower temperatures to longer brooding periods in cephalopods, but direct evidence has not been available. We found an opportunity to directly measure the brooding period of the deep-sea octopus Graneledone boreopacifica, in its natural habitat. At 53 months, it is by far the longest egg-brooding period ever reported for any animal species. These surprising results emphasize the selective value of prolonged embryonic development in order to produce competitive hatchlings. They also extend the known boundaries of physiological adaptations for life in the deep sea.

Climate Change Could Alter Range of Caribou and May Impact Hunters’ Access

July 30, 2014 Comments off

Climate Change Could Alter Range of Caribou and May Impact Hunters’ Access
Source: USGS (PLoS ONE)

Due to climate change, some communities in rural Alaska and the Yukon Territory of Canada may face a future with fewer caribou according to new research published by the U.S. Geological Survey and the University of Alaska, Fairbanks in the recent issue of PLoS ONE. Scientists examined the future effects of fires on winter habitats of caribou herds and determined that wildfires will reduce the amount of winter habitat for caribou, thus caribou may need to shift their wintering grounds

Warming temperatures will increase the flammability of lichen-producing boreal forests, which are important winter habitat for caribou herds. Caribou serve as nutritional as well as cultural sustenance for certain communities. Caribou avoid burned areas in winter and the changes in their distribution can persist across multiple generations of hunters. Those who rely on caribou in fire-prone areas may therefore have fewer available as climate change increases the number and sizes of fires in the boreal forests.

Guidelines for the Use of Fishes in Research

July 29, 2014 Comments off

Guidelines for the Use of Fishes in Research (PDF)
Source: American Fisheries Society

The understanding and welfare of animals used in research can be served best by using a multidisciplinary approach in which data and expertise are derived from such disciplines as ecology, behavioral studies, nutrition, genetics, toxicology, chemistry, endocrinology, physiology, anatomy, and fish health. At the same time, understanding that research is conducted in a variety of human cultural settings is important. Ideally, scientific procedures, analytical methods, data interpretations, and conclusions based on scientific studies should be consistent across all cultures; however, personal belief systems can and do influence concepts regarding which practices and methods are, or are not, consistent with humane treatment of animals. Some members of the 2014 Uses of Fishes in Research (UFR) Committee also served on the committee that revised the 2004 Guidelines (Use of Fishes in Research Committee 2004). The 2004 and 2014 Guidelines not only reflect the scientific expertise of both UFR Committees but also provide a framework for the promotion of scientifically valid research on fish and fish habitats and for research that is conducted in a manner acceptable to the social communities within which the research takes place.

The Guidelines address both field and laboratory rese arch with fishes and will serve as a resource document on topical themes. Specific information in response to United States laws is a focus here, yet these Guidelines can be applied and adapted internationally by investigators working within their own ins titutional infrastructure with regard to animal care and use committees. Internet pathway links to various Web sites and documents are included; however, such pathways to online media may change.

Marine mammals trace anthropogenic structures at sea

July 22, 2014 Comments off

Marine mammals trace anthropogenic structures at sea
Source: Current Biology

On land, species from all trophic levels have adapted to fill vacant niches in environments heavily modified by humans (e.g. [1] ). In the marine environment, ocean infrastructure has led to artificial reefs, resulting in localized increases in fish and crustacean density [2] . Whether marine apex predators exhibit behavioural adaptations to utilise such a scattered potential resource is unknown. Using high resolution GPS data we show how infrastructure, including wind turbines and pipelines, shapes the movements of individuals from two seal species (Phoca vitulina and Halichoerus grypus). Using state-space models, we infer that these animals are using structures to forage. We highlight the ecological consequences of such behaviour, at a time of unprecedented developments in marine infrastructure.

See: Seals Are Drawn to Offshore Wind Farms (The Atlantic)

EU — Environment: Commission launches new platform to help resolve social conflicts over large carnivores

June 13, 2014 Comments off

Environment: Commission launches new platform to help resolve social conflicts over large carnivores
Source: European Commission

Europe’s brown bear, wolf, wolverine, lynx – at least one of these species can now be found in 21 EU Member States. After a lengthy period of decline their numbers are growing once more, but coexistence with man can be problematic. In an effort to solve the social and economic problems that sometimes result from this new expansion, the European Commission has launched a platform where farmers, conservationists, hunters, landowners and scientists can exchange ideas and best practices on sharing the same land with large carnivores.

The EU Platform on Coexistence between People and Large Carnivores will support constructive dialogue between key stakeholder organisations at the European level. Launching the platform, EU Environment Commissioner Janez Potočnik said: “We need to treat our natural neighbours with respect – but we also need to heed the concerns of those whose lives are genuinely affected by their close proximity. My warm congratulations to the organisations that have worked together to set up this important platform, which represents a major step forward in efforts to address the issue of peaceful coexistence.”

The European Union is home to five species of large carnivores. All suffered dramatic declines in numbers and distribution as a consequence of human activity, but increasing protection and public awareness about their vital role in healthy ecosystems have caused many populations to stabilize or increase, and to return to areas from which they had been absent for decades or even centuries.

While this recovery is seen by some as a great conservation success, it has not been without its opponents. The issue involves a diversity of stakeholders such as hunters, foresters, livestock producers, reindeer herders, landowners, rural communities, conservation organizations and the wider public. These groups are influenced by and perceive large carnivores in different ways, and in some cases these differences can be a source of conflict. The platform will facilitate exchanges of knowledge and promote ways and means to minimize, and wherever possible, find equitable solutions to these conflicts.

NOAA study shows educating, warning, and citing speeding mariners helps lower ship speeds in areas with endangered North Atlantic Right Whales

June 12, 2014 Comments off

NOAA study shows educating, warning, and citing speeding mariners helps lower ship speeds in areas with endangered North Atlantic Right Whales
Source: NOAA

NOAA’s policy of notifying — but not necessarily citing — speeding vessels in protected areas along the East Coast was effective in lowering their speeds through these sensitive areas, protecting the critically endangered North Atlantic right whales from ship collisions, while keeping punitive fines to mariners to a minimum, according to a new study.

A NOAA regulation, instituted in December 2008, requires vessels 65 feet or greater in length to travel at speeds of 10 knots or less in areas seasonally occupied by the critically endangered North Atlantic right whale.

The NOAA-led study looked the compliance with speed regulations by 8,009 individual vessels that made more than 200,000 trips between November 2008 and August 2013, mostly in areas where the endangered whales are known to travel. Some were remotely monitored by radio signals sent from the vessels.
Virtually all ships received notification of the speed regulations. The owners or operators of 437 of these ships received non-punitive notifications of violations and were reminded of the regulation, or cited after they were observed violating the restrictions. Twenty-six of them received citations and were fined.

Compliance with the regulation was low at the beginning of the regulatory period but steadily improved, according to the study. Vessels that received fines or citations later showed improved compliance. Informational letters issued by NOAA’s Office of Law Enforcement, monthly public summaries of vessel operations, and direct at-sea radio contact also were effective in keeping the vessels in compliance with the law.

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