Trump's Wall Threatens 93 Endangered Species
President Trump's border wall threatens 93 endangered and threatened species, including jaguars, ocelots, Mexican gray wolves and cactus ferruginous pygmy owls, according to a new study by the Center for Biological Diversity.
The study also found that 25 threatened or endangered species have designated "critical habitat" on the border, including more than 2 million acres within 50 miles of the border.
"Trump's border wall is a disaster for people and wildlife alike," Noah Greenwald, endangered species director at the Center for Biological Diversity, said. "It could drive magnificent species like the jaguar and ocelot to extinction in the United States."
The new study identified all threatened, endangered and "candidate" species (those being considered for protection) that have ranges near or crossing the border. These include 57 endangered species, 24 threatened species, 10 species under consideration for protection and two species of concern, golden and bald eagles. Construction of Trump's 1,200-mile wall—along with related infrastructure and enforcement—will have far-reaching consequences for wildlife, including cutting off migration corridors, reducing genetic diversity, destroying habitat and adding vehicles, noise and lights to vast stretches of the wild borderlands.
"The border wall won't be effective at stopping people seeking a better life from getting to this country, but it will destroy habitat and divide wildlife populations," Greenwald said. "Building a wall across the entirety of the border would cause massive damage to one of the most biologically diverse regions in North America and would be a boondoggle of the highest order."
The sections of border wall that have already been built have had a range of negative effects on wildlife, including direct destruction of thousands of acres of habitat, indirect impacts from noise and light pollution, and division of cross-border wildlife populations like bighorn sheep and jaguars. The border wall would cut through the Cabeza Prieta, Buenos Aires and several other national wildlife refuges, along with Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument, Big Bend National Park and many other natural areas that, besides acting as corridors for wildlife, are national treasures.
Last month the Center for Biological Diversity and Congressman Raúl M. Grijalva (D-Ariz.), the ranking member of the House Committee on Natural Resources, sued the Trump administration over the proposed border wall and other border security measures, calling on federal agencies to conduct an in-depth investigation of the proposal's environmental impacts.
The suit, filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of Arizona, is the first targeting the Trump administration's plan to vastly expand and militarize the U.S.-Mexico border, including construction of a "great wall."
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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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