Report identifies places to protect for endangered species
A report released yesterday (5th January 2011), by the Endangered Species Coalition (ESC) identifies numerous habitats that need protection in order for wildlife species to survive the warming effects of climate change.
Environmentalists were angered and disappointed last year when the US Obama administration refused to add the American pika (Ochotona princeps) to the Endangered Species List, however the new report shows promise for improved protection of endangered species.
The report, entitled "It's Getting Hot Out There: Top 10 Places to Save for Endangered Species", names the Sierra Nevada Mountain range, which is home to the American pika, yellow legged frog and big horn sheep, as one of the top 10 key ecosystems to protect in order to safeguard wildlife.
On 4th February 2010, The Interior Department, led by Secretary Ken Salazar, announced that the American Pika would not get the protection it needs to survive. The report indicated that pikas would just adapt by moving up the mountain to cooler temperatures.
However, some environmentalists and scientists believe the reality when dealing with an animal that can't survive more than a few hours in warmer weather; is that it does not have time to adapt to a warming climate in order to survive.
Arctic sea ice, coral reefs, the San Francisco Bay, Yellowstone, the Everglades and the Hawaiian islands are other areas among the top 10 ecosystems needing the most protection in order to save threatened and endangered species from climate change, according to the report.
So far, the Obama administration has a dismal record on species protection. In the first year under the guidance of Salazar it has only listed two species. The George W. Bush administration had listed eight and that was appreciably less than the Clinton Administration or his own father, George H. Bush.
President Obama made a promise that his administration would make decisions based on science, not politics. On that basis alone, he appears to have put the wrong person in charge.
"This is a political decision that ignores science and the law," said Shaye Wolf, Climate Science Director at the Center for Biological Diversity. "Scientific studies clearly show that the pika is disappearing from the American West due to climate change and needs the immediate protections of the Endangered Species Act to help prevent its extinction. The Interior Department has chosen to sit on its hands instead of taking meaningful action to protect our nation's wildlife from climate change."
The pika is a relative of the rabbit and it lives in high mountain regions. Studies that began almost a decade ago have shown that pikas are disappearing at an alarming rate.
A 2003 study, published in the Journal of Mammalogy, showed that nine out of 25 sampled populations of American Pika had disappeared in the Great Basin range.
Yesterday's report from the Endangered Species Coalition identifies the areas that are most important to preserve in order to save the pika and other endangered species.
"Climate change is no longer a distant threat on the horizon," said Leda Huta, Executive Director of the ESC. "It has arrived and is threatening ecosystems that we all depend upon, and our endangered species are particularly vulnerable. If we are serious about saving endangered species from global warming, then these are the places to start."
Huta believes species in these ecosystems do not have the luxury of time. They cannot wait for political leaders to act on plans to reduce C02 and global warming. The 10 ecosystems were chosen by the ESC because there is an opportunity to increase the resiliency of wildlife inhabitants if conservation measures are soon implemented.
"The wildlife of the Sierra Nevada are experiencing the effects of global warming firsthand, as rising temperatures push species such as the American pika further and further upslope until they will have nowhere left to go," said Wolf. "We must drastically reduce our greenhouse gas pollution in order to protect these species from extinction," he said.
The threats that the changing climate poses to species include increased disease, diminished reproduction, lost habitat and reduced food supply.
"If the current trends continue at the rate they're going right now, it's very likely that pikas will be completely extinct within the next 75-100 years. A blink of an evolutionary eye," scientist Chris Ray of the University of Colorado told ABC News in a 2007 interview.
Endangered species inhabiting the top 10 regions proposed for protection by the ESC report also include dozens of other animals, fish, amphibians, plants and corals.
The report calls on the Obama administration to recognize scientific studies suggesting species are endangered, and provide the tools needed to monitor the health of endangered populations and safeguard species living in these most vulnerable regions from climate change.
Author: Marianna Keen | Climate Action