Category Archives: canada

Caribou facing extinction as recovery efforts stall, biologist says

CBC

There has been no real progress in efforts to save the southern mountain caribou in B.C., according to a longtime wildlife biologist.

Even though the B.C. government announced a caribou recovery plan last October, the animals are facing extinction, says Dr. Lee Harding, formerly with Environment Canada.

Harding was hired by the environmental group ForestEthics to evaluate the progress of the first six months of the new government recovery plan.

He found that while many teams of experts and stakeholders are working to find a way to protect the remaining herds, once again, government action is not living up to promises.

“We have had three different recovery plans developed for these caribou in the last 20 years and there still has yet to be any substantial action to actually protect the caribou,” said Harding on Tuesday in Coquitlam.

Government constraints on habitat protection and upcoming agreements with recreation groups spell doom for the remaining animals, said Harding, because the caribou are dependent on the same old growth forests favoured by loggers, and they can’t survive disturbances that come with snowmobilers and heli-ski operators.

“I can imagine all of them going extinct in a few decades, and more than half of the populations going extinct very soon,” said Harding.

There are just an estimated 1,900 southern mountain caribou left in B.C., down from approximately 5,000 about 20 years ago, said Harding.

The remaining population is spread out among 11 herds. However, three herds are so small that the government is making no efforts to save them, according to Harding.

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Sask. river sturgeon headed for extinction

Hanneke Brooymans – The Star Phoenix

EDMONTON — Canada’s largest freshwater fish could soon find itself on the endangered species list.

And in the North and South Saskatchewan River systems, which span the three Prairie provinces and part of Montana, the population of lake sturgeon — which once shared the planet with dinosaurs — has declined as much as 80 per cent, according to the federal government.

Ottawa is therefore considering using legislation to protect the large, bottom-feeding fish. To that end, it recently ran advertisements, soliciting public reaction to the idea.

But getting the sturgeon on the endangered list could be “very challenging,” said Fred Hnytka, a species-at-risk biologist with the Department of Fisheries and Oceans.

For instance, it could be difficult to restrict how many are caught along some northern rivers, where First Nations people have a cultural attachment to the fish, Hnytka said.

Lake sturgeon are found in waterways from Alberta to Quebec. They can live for decades — some up to 100 years.

In Alberta alone, they once swam at 48 sites in the North Saskatchewan River and 30 in the South Saskatchewan River. They are now found at 16 and 12 sites, respectively.

In August, the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada recommended listing the sturgeon as endangered, blaming over-fishing and habitat loss from dam construction. Adding to the species’ problems is the late and infrequent spawning of its females.

“The species is just so vulnerable, you need to be extra cautious,” said Joe Nelson, a University of Alberta professor emeritus who wrote Fishes of Alberta. “That’s why I would come down in favour of it being listed.”

Terry Dick, a University of Manitoba zoology professor, said it’s a disgrace the species hasn’t been listed yet.

“It was wiped out in so many areas nearly 100 years ago, and we’re still debating it,” said Dick, who wrote the original proposal to the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada.

Dick said the government shouldn’t be worried about the challenges of dealing with First Nations, and should seek to involve them directly in the recovery plans.

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Mass Extinctions Not So Easy to Come Back From

Canada Free Press – Joshua Hill 

A recent report from the University of Bristol, and published in the Proceedings of the Royal Society B this week, focuses on just what it takes for real recovery to take place after a mass extinction. The study, conducted by Sarda Sahney and Professor Michael Benton focused upon the mass extinction at the end of the Permian era, known as the end-Permian mass extinction.

Taking place some 251 million years ago, the end-Permian was the most devastating ecological event of all time, and the only event that comes close to completely wiping life off the face of this planet. Furthermore, it came after two previous extinction events, lesser in severity, but overall unfortunate.

The previous extinction took place at the beginning and end of the Guadalupian, a period middling the Permian, 270 and 260 million years ago.

The study, entitled “Recovery from the most profound mass extinction of all time,” is a new view of an era of time that has been long short on evidence. Most studies of the time have focused on the marine impact, with very little evidence to be found, apart from two sedimentary basins; the Karoo Basin of South Africa and the South Urals Basin of Russia.

Previous work on the subject had theorized that life bounced back quickly after these extinction events. But the latest study shows that the life that bounced back was disaster taxa; organisms that insinuate themselves in to gaps in the ecological landscape. One leading example of this was Lystrosaurus, which accounted for approximately 90% of terrestrial vertebrates.

Sahney and Benton’s study presents the theory that while life did in fact bounce back, the communities and ecosystems that had flourished prior to the extinction events had not. Complexity is the key here, with the Lystrosaurus proving their point.

Sahney said: “Our research shows that after a major ecological crisis, recovery takes a very long time. So although we have not yet witnessed anything like the level of the extinction that occurred at the end of the Permian, we should nevertheless bear in mind that ecosystems take a very long time to fully recover.”

In fact, according to their study, while tetrapods – four limbed vertebrates – did bounce back, the communal structuring of the species did not recover ecologically or numerically, until some 30 million years later, well into the Triassic era (the late Triassic). This included species such as dinosaurs, pterosaurs, crocodilians, amphibians and mammals.

Professor Benton explained: “Diversity is most commonly assessed by tallying the number of taxa on a global scale, but these studies are subject to the vagaries of sampling. By examining well-preserved and well-studied faunas, the taxonomic and ecological recovery of communities after the Permian extinction event can be examined more accurately, and the problems of geological bias are largely avoided.”

The end-Permian mass extinction, also known as the Permian–Triassic (P–Tr) extinction event and informally as the Great Dying, occurred 251.4 million years ago. Subsequently it became the boundary between the Permian and Triassic geological periods. What caused the event is – as with many geological incidents – uncertain, though several theories present themselves.

One primary theory is often seen as, if not solely responsible, coincidentally responsible, for the Permian-Triassic extinction event. The large-scale volcanism in Russia that eventually formed the Siberian Traps is described as one of the largest volcanic events of the last 500 million years of Earth’s geological history.

The massive eruption occurred about 251 to 250 million years ago, and formed a large igneous province in Siberia. ‘Traps’ refers to the step-like hills that were formed, derived from the Swedish word for stairs, trappa, or sometimes trapp.

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N.S. wildlife officials seek public’s help in finding moose poachers

The Canadian Press

HALIFAX – Natural Resources officers are asking for the public’s help as they investigate an second incident of moose poaching on the Nova Scotia mainland within the past month.

A hide was discovered floating in the South Branch Apple River last week. It’s presumed the moose was killed Thanksgiving weekend, the meat was taken and the remains dumped in the river.

“We can’t stress enough how detrimental poaching is to the moose population on mainland Nova Scotia,” Natural Resources Minister David Morse said in a release Wednesday.

“Each and every moose we have left is precious and, in an effort to increase the mainland moose population, we need the public’s help to enforce a zero-tolerance policy for this offence.”

Moose in mainland Nova Scotia have been listed as “endangered” under the Nova Scotia Endangered Species Act since 2003. There are about 1,000 of the animals in that part of the province.

Individuals convicted of illegally killing the animal have received fines of about $7,500.

Under terms of the act, a first-time offence can face a $500,000 maximum fine for individuals and $1 million for corporations. These fines can double with each additional mainland moose killed.

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Sea Otter, Peregrine Falcon Back From The Brink Of Extinction But Other Species At Risk In Canada

Science Daily

Science Daily There’s good news and bad news in the report the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC) just dropped on the Minister of the Environment’s desk.

The good news: The peregrine falcon and the sea otter no longer face extinction.

The not-so-good news: COSEWIC proposes adding another 36 species to Canada’s official List of Wildlife Species at Risk. Species from all regions of the country, on the land and in the sea, are at risk of extinction.

“Our job is to assess species based on the best available scientific, community and aboriginal traditional knowledge available,” says Jeffrey Hutchings. The Dalhousie biology professor has served as the chair of the committee for more than a year. “What we don’t take into account are the political or socio-economic consequences of our assessments.”

COSEWIC is a national scientific advisory body that assesses the status of wild species, subspecies, varieties, or other important units of biological diversity, that are considered to be at risk in Canada. As an arm’s length body, COSEWIC reports annually to the Minister of the Environment, who can accept the body’s recommendations, reject them or send species back to COSEWIC for further evaluation.

The peregrine falcon was almost wiped out in the 1950s and ‘60s because of pesticide contamination that thinned their eggshells. But since the 1970s, particularly after DDT was banned in Canada, this impressive bird of prey has made a strong recovery.

The resurgence of the sea otter — its rich brown pelt was once prized the world over — is even more dramatic. Extirpated on Canada’s west coast because of the fur trade more than a century ago, sea otters from California were reintroduced to British Columbia in the early 1970s. They’ve since repopulated a third of their historic range along the province’s coastline, and although numbers are still small, the population is healthy and expanding.

“It’s very satisfying to witness the successful recovery of species that were on the edge of extinction. It highlights the importance of endangered species legislation and associated recovery programs in protecting and recovering Canada’s wildlife,” says Dr. Hutchings.

If only that legislation could help species like the basking shark, a plankton-feeding fish that grows to the size of a bus; the Eastern pond mussel, decimated by the introduction of the zebra mussel into the Great Lakes; and the Eastern flowering dogwood, one of Canada’s showiest trees which is being destroyed by an invasive species of fungus.

“Habitat loss and disturbance are the biggest threats facing species. This could be the result of factors as diverse as forestry, housing development, or changes to the natural flow of rivers,” says Dr. Hutchings. “Another major threat is the invasion of exotics that can have devastating effects on Canada’s native species.”

“Habitat loss and disturbance are the biggest threats facing species. This could be the result of factors as diverse as forestry, housing development, or changes to the natural flow of rivers,” says Dr. Hutchings. “Another major threat is the invasion of exotics that can have devastating effects on Canada’s native species.”

The legal list has expanded to include 389 species, which are categorized as extirpated, endangered, threatened or special concern.

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Workers find innards of endangered moose

 Chronicle Herald Nova Scotia

TRURO — Woods workers found the discarded innards of an endangered mainland moose near Debert on the weekend, prompting a provincewide hunt for its poachers.

Chris Ball, regional enforcement co-ordinator for the Department of Natural Resources in central Nova Scotia, says the moose had already been field-dressed and was gone when workers discovered the remains, he believes on Saturday.

They reported it to the department, prompting an investigation and an appeal for public assistance.

“We’re looking for any information we can get,” Mr. Ball said Thursday, adding there are roughly 1,000 mainland moose left in the province, and more than half are in the Cobequid Hills area where the remains were found.

The mainland moose was killed in the Farm Lake area north of Debert, Colchester County.

“Usually, and in this case, it’s in an area far from houses so there’s no one directly near the area,” Mr. Ball said. Nevertheless, he’s hoping someone saw a suspicious truck or all-terrain vehicle and will report it.

According to the Natural Resources Department, the mainland moose was listed as endangered under the Nova Scotia Endangered Species Act in October 2003.

Anyone convicted of killing one faces a fine of $7,500, a 20-year hunting suspension and confiscation of hunting equipment related to the offence.

A department spokesman said in a news release officers are working hard to enhance the population and distribution of the moose, but the task becomes increasingly difficult when poachers continue to take the lives of these rare animals.

Anyone with information is asked to call 1-800-565-2224.

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World’s species to be ‘barcoded’

Preserving their information for posterity?

Scientists are already working on hand-held barcoders to access a barcode data bank [AFP:: Al Jazeera]

A group of Canadian scientists is hoping to raise $150 million to fund an initial five-year stage of what they describe as the biodiversity equivalent of launching a rocket to the moon.

The technology could help remove illegal fish and timber supplies from global markets, get rid of pests such as mosquitoes and even reduce the numbers of collisions between birds and planes.

“Like in the film of Star Trek, anything scanned by such devices could display its image, name and function”


Allen Chen, Academia Sinica, Taiwan

“We’re now trying to launch in Canada the International Barcode of Life Project, which has a five-year life span,” Paul Hebert, head of the Canadian Centre for DNA Barcoding, who is spearheading the project told AFP at a three-day seminar on DNA in Taipei.

“We hope to put $150 million into this through a 25-nation alliance.”

“The idea is collectively we would gather five million specimens and 500,000 species within that five-year period,” Hebert added, saying the entire project could take 15 years.

The seminar in Taipei has brought together 350 scientists from 45 countries to debate the “barcoding of life” concept.

Scientists estimate that while nearly 1.8 million species have already been identified, there may be another 10 million that are not known.

But DNA barcoding technology has progressed so rapidly that scientists predict that science fiction-style powers to recognise previously unfamiliar creatures could become reality in a decade.

“Like in the film of Star Trek, anything scanned by such devices could display its image, name and function,” said Allen Chen from Taiwan’s Academia Sinica, Taiwan’s top academic body and one of three main organisers of the conference.

“This could be done 10 years from now after a global barcoding data bank is set up,” said Chen, an expert in corals.

Scientists are already working on hand-held barcoders that would enable users to access a barcode data bank using a global positioning system, said Taiwan’s Shao Kwang-tsao, one of the conference chairs.

Hebert said the alliance would invest heavily in the development of such technology.

This week’s conference is being held by the Washington-based Consortium for the Barcode of Life, which was set up in 2003 in response to Hebert’s initiative and now includes some 160 organisations.

At its first conference in London in 2005, the consortium’s data banks collected some 33,000 DNA references belonging to some 12,700 species.

Increasing attention

Today it counts more than 290,000 DNA samples from some 31,000 species, including about 20 per cent of the world’s estimated 10,000 bird species and 10 per cent of the 35,000 estimated marine and freshwater fish species.

The “barcoding of life” projects have drawn increasing attention, particularly from the US, Canada and Europe, as scientists explore the technique’s applications, which range from food safety and consumer protection to the identification of herbal plants.

One British scientist is working on a project to barcode 2,800 species of mosquito, or 80 per cent of those known to the world, within two years.

The project is aimed at reducing the scourge of malaria, which infects some 500 million people a year and is spread by some mosquitoes.

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