Ignite session commemorates Endangered Species Act 40th anniversary
Aug21

Ignite session commemorates Endangered Species Act 40th anniversary

The 98th Annual Meeting of the Ecological Society of America commemorated this year’s 40th anniversary of the Endangered Species Act with an Ignite session that brought together a diverse group of panelists to give an overview of the landmark law, its accomplishments and insights into various methods to improve species recovery. Daniel Evans, an AAAS Science and Technology Policy Fellow with the USDA Forest Service, took the lead in organizing  The Endangered Species Act turns 40: Lessons learned for conservation of threatened and endangered species in the United States. Evans outlined the four main causes of species’ decline: habitat destruction/degradation, introduction of exotic/invasive species, pollution and overexploitation.  He explained that the Endangered Species Act has stymied a great deal of exploitation, which was the single biggest driver of species decline during the 18th and 19th centuries. However, he noted that the three other causes remain with habitat destruction and degradation being the biggest driver of extinction. Camille Parmesan, with the University of Texas, proposed coping with habitat fragmentation by transplanting certain endangered and threatened species to less imperiled areas.. As an example, she referenced her research on how climate change has altered the geographical range of Edith’s checkerspot butterfly (Euphydryas editha). Sylvia Fallon, a senior scientist with the Natural Resources Defense Council’s (NRDC) land and wildlife program, gave an overview of contemporary legislative attempts at the federal level to alter enforcement of the law. She noted that while the majority of unprecedented efforts to legislatively delist species have come from Republican leaders in Congress, Senate Democrats pushed legislative language co-authored by Sen. Jon Tester (D-MT) to remove federal protections for gay wolves in Montana and Idaho. The incentive for pushing this measure was to give Senator Tester a legislative victory he could promote at home in hopes of bolstering his 2012 re-election efforts, which were ultimately successful. Fallon noted that while prior attempts to weaken the scope of the law from Members such as former Congressman Richard Pombo (R-CA) failed, current budget constraints are likely to motivate Members of Congress to continue to pursue legislative efforts to alter federal protections for endangered species in the name of deficit reduction.   The current political climate and pressure from Congress may also motivate the administration to delay decisions on listing certain species, said Fallon. Mark Schwartz, of the University of California-Davis, suggested that, given current funding constraints, we need to generate alternative methods to sustain imperiled species. Schwartz also cited various factors which result in uneven funding for animal and plant species.  Among them: congressional priorities, agency decisions and the general popularity of furry and “cute” species over scaly or otherwise less appealing...

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Landscape connectivity: corridors and more, in Issues in Ecology #16
Oct19

Landscape connectivity: corridors and more, in Issues in Ecology #16

WE live in a human-dominated world. For many of our fellow creatures, this means a fragmented world, as human conduits to friends, family, and resources sever corridors that link the natural world. The latest installment in ESA’s Issues in Ecology series takes on models and methods for reconnecting wildlife habitat in restoration and conservation planning and management.

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Habitat corridors help preserve wildlife in the midst of human society

As demonstrated by a recent vote in Congress, it appears that support remains among policymakers to preserve endangered species. H.R. 2584, the Department of Interior, Environment and Related Agencies Appropriations Act for Fiscal Year 2012, as introduced, included language to prevent the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service from adding any additional plant or animal species for protection under the Endangered Species Act. House Appropriations Committee Ranking Member Norman Dicks (D-WA) sponsored an amendment to remove the provision from the bill. The amendment passed by a vote of 224-202, with 37 Republicans voting for the amendment and all but two Democrats supporting it. Several key senior Republicans supported the amendment, including Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Fred Upton (MI), House Science, Space and Technology Energy and Environment Subcommittee Chairman Andy Harris (MD) and Commerce, Justice and Science Appropriations Committee Chairman Frank Wolf (VA). In light of this relatively bipartisan consensus to preserve endangered species, policymakers should also work to advance initiatives that help sustain protected wildlife. One key tool in ensuring the preservation of endangered species is the establishment of habitat corridors, which help mitigate the effects of habitat fragmentation, brought on largely by urban development. In the latest edition of the Ecologist Goes to Washington podcast, ESA Graduate Student Policy Award winner Daniel Evans discusses his National Science Foundation (NSF)-funded research into habitat corridors and their importance to ecological communities. Habitat fragmentation can lead to an overall reduction in species population and potentially local extinction of a plant or animal species. As Evans notes, species affected by habitat fragmentation become increasingly vulnerable to natural disasters and predation and are also more susceptible to inbreeding, increasing the prevalence of genetic defects. In light of this, habitat corridors provide numerous benefits for plants and animals and can play a critical role for endangered species. Habitat corridors allow movement between isolated populations, promoting increased genetic diversity. They provide food and shelter for a variety of wildlife and help with juvenile dispersal and seasonal migrations. The establishment of additional habitat corridors can also benefit people, with underpasses or overpasses for wildlife helping to reduce vehicle collisions with large animals.  For example according to State Farm Insurance, the biggest U.S. auto insurer, there have been 2.3 million U.S. deer collisions in the past two years, up 21 percent from five years ago. State Farm estimates that deer-vehicle accidents resulted in more than $3.8 billion of insurance claims and driver costs alone over the past year. Habitat corridors can also minimize interaction between humans and wildlife by allowing predators, such as wolves and bears, to hunt for food in other locations, minimizing their threat to...

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From the Community: adjustable shark scales, science games and dinosaur diversity

A builder rethinks standards by designing homes from reclaimed and recycled materials, international climate change awareness expressed through satellite-captured art, sharks turn at high speeds by adjusting their scales, researchers develop a computer game for citizen scientists and ancient rainforest fragmentation led to the rise of dinosaurs. Here is the latest in ecological science from November.

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