Friday, February 22, 2013

Loose Feathers #380

Wisdom, the 62-year-old Laysan Albatross, and her mate / Photo by Pete Leary/USFWS
Birds and birding
Nature and science blogging
Environment and biodiversity
  • National parks are set to take a big hit if the federal budget sequester happens. Among other things, some visitor centers and campgrounds will close, many parks will not hire seasonal staff, and invasive species management will be curtailed.
  • According to a study done by Oceana (pdf), mislabeling is widespread in the seafood industry. In particular, seafood labeled as "snapper" or "white tuna" is likely to come from another fish species. Mislabeling has health effects since some fish, such as escolar, have high mercury levels, and many times endangered fish are sold under the names of other fish. Mislabeling is especially high in California; in southern California, a majority of fish tested were a species other than what the label indicated.
  • The production of biofuels is wiping out natural grasslands in the Midwest. Farmers are planting biofuel crops on marginal land that in the past would have been left as natural habitat. This has conservation implications for grassland specialists (especially birds) and also means that the soil will not retain carbon as well.
  • Arctic sea ice continues to disappear, with potential climate feedback effects. 
  • Death Valley National Park was named one of the world's best dark sky sites.
  • A "super-mega-pod" of Common Dolphins, with up to 100,000 individuals, was seen off the coast of California.
  • A study of specimens found 138 new species of beetles in the genus Operclipygus in the family Histeridae (also known as clown beetles).
  • Killing apex predators can intensify climate change since fewer predators means more herbivores, which eat plants and release the carbon they would otherwise store.