Logging Threatens to Eliminate Spotted Owls of British Columbia
The Wilderness Committee is joining local residents to sound the alarm about cutting permits which could be issued any day for logging near Chilliwack Lake Provincial Park, in a Wildlife Habitat Area (WHA) that is supposed to be set aside for the critically endangered spotted owl.
“I’m horrified that the provincial government is considering allowing logging to proceed in the habitat of a critically endangered species,” said Gwen Barlee, policy director with the Wilderness Committee. “We join with concerned local residents in saying that this logging must not proceed—there must be no cutting in this spotted owl habitat.”
Nearby residents were surprised to find out that Tamihi Logging applied for a logging permit late last week. Tamihi had previously told people logging wouldn’t happen until May 2012. But now the permits, according to staff at the Chilliwack Forest District, are set to be issued this week. The area was set aside as a WHA in 2011 to protect it as spotted owl habitat.
There are now thought to be less than 10 spotted owls in the wild in British Columbia (BC). Both the BC and federal governments have pledged to bring the Canadian population of spotted owls back from the brink of elimination. “This is how you log a species into extinction, not bring it back from the edge. It’s incredibly irresponsible to even consider allowing logging of habitat that was specifically set aside for the protection of the spotted owl,” said Barlee.
“If this logging goes ahead, it will further fragment spotted owl habitat,” said Barlee. “The provincial government has committed to restoring spotted owl populations, and the only way they can honour their own policy is by putting a halt to this logging—now.”
Local residents are monitoring the situation, watching for activity in the cutblocks.
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By Aaron W Hunter
A chance discovery of a beautifully preserved fossil in the desert landscape of Morocco has solved one of the great mysteries of biology and paleontology: how starfish evolved their arms.
The Pompeii of palaeontology. Aaron Hunter, Author provided<h2></h2><p>Although starfish might appear very robust animals, they are typically made up of lots of hard parts attached by ligaments and soft tissue which, upon death, quickly degrade. This means we rely on places like the Fezouata formations to provide snapshots of their evolution.</p><p>The starfish fossil record is patchy, especially at the critical time when many of these animal groups first appeared. Sorting out how each of the various types of ancient starfish relate to each other is like putting a puzzle together when many of the parts are missing.</p><h2>The Oldest Starfish</h2><p><em><a href="https://www.biorxiv.org/content/10.1101/216101v1.full.pdf" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Cantabrigiaster</a></em> is the most primitive starfish-like animal to be discovered in the fossil record. It was discovered in 2003, but it has taken over 17 years to work out its true significance.</p><p>What makes <em>Cantabrigiaster</em> unique is that it lacks almost all the characteristics we find in brittle stars and starfish.</p><p>Starfish and brittle stars belong to the family Asterozoa. Their ancestors, the Somasteroids were especially fragile - before <em>Cantabrigiaster</em> we only had a handful of specimens. The celebrated Moroccan paleontologist Mohamed <a href="https://doi.org/10.1016/j.palaeo.2016.06.041" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Ben Moula</a> and his local team was instrumental in discovering <a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0031018216302334?via%3Dihub" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">these amazing fossils</a> near the town of Zagora, in Morocco.</p><h2>The Breakthrough</h2><p>Our breakthrough moment came when I compared the arms of <em>Cantabrigiaster</em> with those of modern sea lilles, filter feeders with long feathery arms that tend to be attached to the sea floor by a stem or stalk.</p><p>The striking similarity between these modern filter feeders and the ancient starfish led our team from the University of Cambridge and Harvard University to create a new analysis. We applied a biological model to the features of all the current early Asterozoa fossils in existence, along with a sample of their closest relatives.</p>
Cantabrigiaster is the most primitive starfish-like animal to be discovered in the fossil record. Aaron Hunter, Author provided<p>Our results demonstrate <em>Cantabrigiaster</em> is the most primitive of all the Asterozoa, and most likely evolved from ancient animals called crinoids that lived 250 million years before dinosaurs. The five arms of starfish are a relic left over from these ancestors. In the case of <em>Cantabrigiaster</em>, and its starfish descendants, it evolved by flipping upside-down so its arms are face down on the sediment to feed.</p><p>Although we sampled a relatively small numbers of those ancestors, one of the unexpected outcomes was it provided an idea of how they could be related to each other. Paleontologists studying echinoderms are often lost in detail as all the different groups are so radically different from each other, so it is hard to tell which evolved first.</p>
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