Posts Tagged ‘Climate Change’

Sea Otter Awareness Week

Good work: Defenders of Wildlife launches Sea Otter Awareness Week

Support your local Sea Otter
Sea otters, playful fun-loving members of the weasel family, roam the northern coasts of the North Pacific Ocean from Russia to Alaska, Washington and California. Because of their luxuriantly dense fur, sea otters were nearly hunted to extinction until 1911, when an international ban on hunting enabled the long process of restoring this keystone species to its historic range. Although sea otters are now protected, they still face hurdles on the road to recovery, such as disease, habitat degradation, food scarcity and exposure to freshwater toxins, especially in California.

Sea otter facts
Sea otters grow on average up to four feet long. Females weigh about 45 pounds, while males can reach more than 60 pounds. Because they don’t have blubber like seals or whales to insulate them against the Pacific Ocean’s cold waters, sea otters rely on thick fur for protection against the elements.

Sea otters are one of the few animals to use tools. They use rocks and other items from their environment like hammers to break into mollusks and other prey. They are naturally gifted hunters, perfectly adapted to their environment. Typically sea otters hunt in shallow waters of less than 60 feet, but they can dive more than 300 feet to forage the ocean floor. Because of their high metabolism, sea otters eat as much as 25 percent of their body weight each day.

Despite their cunning, sea otters have remained on the list of endangered and threatened species since 1977. Originally, oil spills were considered the main threat to their survival. New findings indicate that disease might play a larger role than scientists realized, possibly the result of the otter’s fondness for dining on filter feeders, like mussels and clams. These invertebrates tend to accumulate toxins from the water, and when otters eat them, the poisons get passed along.

California’s sea otters
California, home to a small but beloved sea otter population, is working hard to bring these animals back from the brink. Californians love their otters so much that legislation was passed to create a voluntary tax check-off program, called the California Sea Otter Fund, which Californians can donate to when filing their state tax returns.

Otters and climate change
Trouble for the sea otters could mean big problems for near-shore ecosystems. Sea otters keep sea urchins and other invertebrates populations in check, so they don’t devastate underwater kelp forests. Kelp forests act as critical buffers against storms and provide habitat for an array of marine life — from fish to seahorses.  By locking up heat-trapping pollution like carbon dioxide, kelp forests also help in the fight against climate change.

Otters in the Registry? You could win
The Conservation Registry has plenty of Otter Creek, Otter Brook and Otter Tail projects, many featuring river otters, but we have no sea otter projects yet. Be the first to enter your sea otter project and the Registry will send you a free Family Sea Otter Adoption kit.

Learn more about Sea Otter Awareness Week.

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Hart-Sheldon Wildlife Connectivity Project

Funding Favorite
Hart-Sheldon Wildlife Connectivity Project. The Hart Mountain National Antelope Refuge in Oregon and the Sheldon National Wildlife Refuge in Nevada encompass a sensitive high desert landscape that is critically important for yearly migrations and wintering of pronghorn antelope. It also is a key habitat stronghold for sage grouse.

Working together, the Oregon Natural Desert Association and Friends of Nevada Wilderness are creating a wildlife corridor between the Oregon and Nevada refuges to help pronghorn antelope adapt to climate change.

Both the Hart Mountain and Sheldon refuges were created for the conservation of pronghorn antelope the 1930′s. Management has since grown to include conservation of a wide variety of wildlife as well as the restoration of native ecosystems found within the refuges.

The Harte-Sheldon project will work to maintain the overall integrity of the critical wildlife habitat and migratory corridors in the region between and around the refuges, known as the Hart-Sheldon complex. Partners will work with state and federal agencies and other groups to complete a climate change and resource vulnerability assessment, organize restoration opportunities, and complete on-the-ground activities such as fence removal and restoration of degraded springs.

How you can help
Funding is still needed to purchase spring exclosure fence packages and spring monitoring kits, both necessary to protect vital water sources for habitat integrity and survival of migrating animals. In-kind donations: they are also looking for fence removal tools, such as pliers, fence post pullers, work gloves, fencing materials, GPS units and cameras.

Support this project
Email Devon Comstock, Hart-Sheldon Conservation Coordinator for the Oregon Natural Desert Association.

Read more about the Greater Hart-Sheldon Ecosystem.

Want to highlight your Registry project on Funding Favorites? Email Kassandra Kelly.

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Wild Watch MacDonald Pass

Funding Favorite this week is Wild Watch MacDonald Pass, a climate change adaptation project from the Upper Missouri River in Montana, home of the wolverine and Canada lynx. The best tool we have for protecting our natural heritage against climate change is to learn as much as possible about the habits and habitats of the elusive creatures that share our ecosystem. And that’s exactly what partners in Montana are setting out to do.

Wild Watch’s project goal is to collect scientific information and build local support by organizing long-term wildlife monitoring projects in three important linkage areas in the Northern Rockies: Monida Pass west of Yellowstone National Park, the Bondurant Corridor south of Jackson, Wyoming, and MacDonald Pass west of Helena, Montana.

Partners include Defenders of Wildlife, Wild Things Unlimited, Winter Wildlands Alliance and Montana Wilderness Association. But more is needed!

Help wildlife by supporting the efforts of local communities to monitor and maintain their wildlife values. Contact Kylie Paul, Northern Rockies representative of Defenders of Wildlife.

Watch a wild wolverine video.

Want to have your Registry project highlighted in Funding Favorites? Email Kassandra Kelly.

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Climate Change Adaptation–from Sara O’Brien

Salt Creek, Death Valley, California

Salt Creek, Death Valley, California

Registry staff will soon roll out some changes to make it easier to use the Conservation Registry to track climate change adaptation activities. The idea behind climate change adaptation is to start planning now for the unavoidable effects of climate change — the ones that we’re already committed to, despite our best efforts to reduce emissions. In fact we’re already starting to see many of these changes on the ground today, so we know it’s important to make sure the conservation work we do now will still make sense in a rapidly changing climate.

In talking about how to best track adaptation activities, we’ve had to face up to some interesting questions about climate change and conservation: What is climate change adaptation, exactly? How do we know it when we see it? How can we figure out what’s adaptive and what’s not in a world where future conditions are so uncertain? Are all conservation actions climate-adaptive? Are there actions we should take specifically to prepare for and adapt to the consequences of climate change?

We don’t have any pat answers to these questions yet… if you do, please share them in the comments! Perhaps Dr. Lara Hansen has it figured out:

“Today, everything we do, every decision we make, every plan we put into place is either planning for climate change (adaptation) or it’s done without regard for the reality of climate change (maladaptation)… Adaptation is the new lens through which we must view the world and make decisions in it, if we want them to be good, robust decisions.”

What do you think? Can climate change adaptation be found in making sure every decision we make is climate-smart? Or is there something more to it? Comment below.
–Sara O’Brien, Defenders of Wildlife

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