New Website Focuses on Mississippi River Delta Restoration
Conservation groups launched a new website Nov. 28, www.MississippiRiverDelta.org, focused on restoring one of America’s greatest natural resources, the Mississippi River Delta. The site houses scientific information, public policy analysis, cultural and historical summaries, and Delta Dispatches, a news blog about restoration efforts in the delta.
“MississippiRiverDelta.org is a one-stop shop for news, analysis, and solutions for delta restoration,” said Kevin Chandler, Mississippi River Delta restoration campaign communications coordinator. “You’ll want to subscribe to our feed and come back often.”
The campaign and the site are a collaborative effort by the Coalition to Restore Coastal Louisiana, Environmental Defense Fund, Lake Pontchartrain Basin Foundation, National Audubon Society and National Wildlife Federation.
The Mississippi River Delta contributes tens of billions of dollars to the U.S. economy every year and supports millions of jobs. The delta sustains the following:
- Commercial trade routes that connect America’s heartland to the rest of the world, critical and extensive energy infrastructure, and fisheries that produce 25 percent of American seafood, all valued at hundreds of billions of dollars. Read more about the economics of the delta.
- Wildlife habitat for hundreds of species, including endangered mammals and reptiles, commercially important seafood species, migratory waterfowl and other birds from across the hemisphere.
- Jobs and ways of life for approximately 2 million people living in or near the delta, including fishermen, boat captains and restaurant owners.
Unfortunately, the delta and Louisiana lose one football field of land on average every hour, amounting to more than 16.5 square miles of land lost per year, mainly due to the leveeing and channelization of the Mississippi River and the construction of thousands of miles of channels and canals through the delta’s fragile wetlands. The delta also is struggling to recover from last year’s British Petroleum (BP) oil disaster. MississippiRiverDelta.org provides updates on action to restore the delta, including a bipartisan bill introduced in both the House and Senate—the RESTORE Act—that would dedicate 80 percent of the BP oil spill penalties to restoring the delta and the rest of the Gulf Coast.
“Science tells us that we can begin reversing the delta’s land loss to protect and restore natural resources that sustain critical shipping and energy infrastructure, millions of jobs and globally important wildlife habitat,” Chandler concluded. “MississippiRiverDelta.org tells that story and will fast become a resource for anyone with an interest in delta restoration.”
For more information, click here.
Sweden's reindeer have a problem. In winter, they feed on lichens buried beneath the snow. But the climate crisis is making this difficult. Warmer temperatures mean moisture sometimes falls as rain instead of snow. When the air refreezes, a layer of ice forms between the reindeer and their meal, forcing them to wander further in search of ideal conditions. And sometimes, this means crossing busy roads.
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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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