North America nature

Articles in ‘North America nature’

The world’s fastest disappearing land mass

September 21st, 2009 Over the last four years, some 500 kilometres of wetlands around New Orleans have been lost to the sea, leading some biologists to call these wetlands “the fastest disappearing land mass on the planet”. Much of the area has been lost due to hurricanes Rita and Katrina. More here

Rising temperatures push polar bears closer to humans

September 17th, 2009 Polar bears are coming into increasingly conflict with humans as melting ice is pushing them to search for food on land. “Hungry bears don’t just lie down – they go looking for an alternate food source,” says zoologist Ian Stirling at the University of Alberta in Edmonton, Canada. “In many cases this brings them into human settlements and hunting camps.” The team found that the number of bears reported as attacking humans, homes and hunting camps in Churchill on the shores of Hudson more than tripled between 1970 and 2005, from 20 to 90 per year, despite a 20% fall in the bear’s population since 1980. The researchers note that shorter the sea ice season, the greater the reports of problem bear activity. New Scientist I’m sure this is true, but I wonder if humans are also occupying more and more territory and so increasing the amount of potential contact…

Grizzily bears hungry

September 11th, 2009 Worrying news from Canada’s West coast. Grizzily bears seem to be disappearing probably starving to death because of the massive drop in salmon numbers this year. We may be witnessing the collapse of an entire and until recently pristine ecosysem. Treehugger The Globe and Mail writes: “Reports from conservationists, salmon-stream walkers and ecotourism guides all along British Columbia’s wild central coast indicate a collapse of salmon runs has triggered widespread death from starvation of black and grizzly bears. Those guides are on the front lines of what they say is an unfolding ecological disaster that is so new that it has not been documented by biologists.”

Birding by train in the USA

September 1st, 2009

I thought this guided birding trip across America by train was well worth a plug.

A sensational cross-country birding trip aboard Amtrak trains, linking New York’s Adirondack Mountains, the prairies of North Dakota, and Washington’s Olympic Peninsula. This remarkable 14-day adventure combines the excitement of a cross-country train trip with great birding in some of the classic landscapes of North America. Our route will take us from the northeast through the Midwest, and across the northern tier of the United States, all the way to the deep blue waters of the Pacific Northwest. En route, we will experience a sampling of ecosystems: the northeastern forests, lakes, and bogs of Upstate New York; the prairies, farmlands, and wide open spaces of the Great Plains of North Dakota; and the snow-capped mountains, old-growth forests, and rocky coastline of Washington’s Olympic Peninsula. More here

Axolotl on edge of extinction in the wild

August 27th, 2009 The axolotl is a bit of an amphibian oddball. It uniquely spends its whole life in its larval form. Now, a new survey suggests that between 700 and 1,200 survive in six reduced and scattered areas within the Xochimilco area of the Mexican Central Valley, making its long term survival critical. Recent evidence suggests that the population has declined alarmingly in recent decades. For example, in 1998 there were thought to be around 6,000 axolotls per square kilometre of the Xochimilco. By 2004 just 1,000 lived in the equivalent area, and by 2008 around 100 animals survived per square kilometre: a 60-fold reduction in ten years. Water quality is one of the main factors driving the axolotl to extinction in the wild. Other factors include introduced carp and disease. BBC

Grizzly Bears feeding at Brooks Falls

August 23rd, 2009
Brooks Falls 2 por Rhonda2327.

Grizzly Bears feeding at Brooks Falls in the Katmai National Park, Alaska. At times dozens of bears can be seen gorging on the sockeye salmon swimming upstream on their way to their spawning grounds. Photo by Brian Ronda (CCL). See also this rather amusing video:
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More wildfires for the US

July 29th, 2009

Scientists expect wildfires in the US to increase in number as global warming kicks in in the coming decades. And because smoke and other particles from fires adversely affect air quality, an increase in wildfires could have large impacts on human health. Eureka

Wild mustang problem

July 27th, 2009

That most potent symbol of the American West, the horse, was introduced from Iberia and like other non-native species, can cause seriuos environmental harm. Read the rest of this entry

Contribution of birding to the US economy

July 26th, 2009 A report recently released by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in 2009 claims that a remarkable one in every five Americans watches birds, and that birdwatching contributed $36 billion to the U.S. economy in 2006. The original report (pdf here) says that birdwatching was worth 82 bilion dollars accounted for 671,000 jobs and reaped in 11 billlion dollars in tax revenue.  The first five US states with greatest birding participation rates were Montana (40 percent), Maine (39 percent), Vermont (38 percent), Minnesota (33 percent) and Iowa (33 percent). The study states that the average birder is 50 years old and likely to be female, with a better than average education and income. California is near the bottom of the list at 15%, a percentage greater than only four other states (New Jersey, Texas and North Dakota at 14% and Hawaii at 10%). Picked up on Wildlife Extra.

American Pika in danger

July 23rd, 2009 The American Pika (Ochotona princeps), a small relative of the rabbit, may become seriusly endangered because of global warming as rising eliminate Pikas from their alpine habitat. The US government may decide to afford them endangered status. Eco Worldly A worrying number of populations of Pikas have already disappeared. They are now believed to be extinct in some areas of the Great Basin mountains of Nevada and Oregon, where more than a third of the American Pika population has been wiped out. A 2003 study showed that 9 out of 25 sampled populations of American Pika had disappeared, causing biologists to conclude that the species is reaching extinction. Because they live in Alpine mountain regions, they are very sensitive to high temperatures, and are considered to be one of the best early warning systems for detecting global warming in the western United States. Because their regular habitat’s temperature rises, the American Pikas move higher up the mountain. Pikas can die within an hour if the outside temperature reaches above 23°C (75°F). Wikipedia (