Fed Agency Plans Are Not Adequate to Prevent 99.8% of U.S. Endangered Species From Suffering Climate Crisis, Study Says
While the planet continues to heat up, almost every single one of the 459 species listed as endangered in the U.S. will struggle as the climate crisis intensifies, according to new research published in the journal Nature Climate Change.
The researchers found that every animal on the list except for the Hawaiian Goose had one or more sensitivity that would leave them ill equipped to handle a warming planet, meaning 99.8 percent is vulnerable to extinction caused by global warming. However, federal agencies that are mandated to protect endangered animals have a subpar response. The federal agencies consider that only 64 percent of the endangered animals will be affected by the climate crisis. To make matters worse, the federal agencies have only planned interventions for 18 percent of species, according to the study.
"This study confirms that the climate crisis could make it even harder for nearly all of our country's endangered species to avoid extinction," said Astrid Caldas, a study co-author and a climate scientist at the Union of Concerned Scientists, as The Guardian reported.
"While agencies have increasingly listed climate change as a growing threat to species whose survival is already precarious, many have not translated this concern into tangible actions, meaning a significant protection gap still exists," she added.
The animals on the Endangered Species List face numerous threats. The Key deer, found only in the Florida Keys, for example, faces a threat of habitat loss due to rising seas. The Florida Panther and the north Atlantic right whale also face threats from declining food stocks. However, nothing faces more threats than amphibians, mollusks and arthropods, which are sensitive to manifold threats from the climate crisis, including changes in water quality and harmful invasive species that move in as temperatures climb, according to the study, as The Guardian reported.
While 99.8 percent were found to have at least one of eight sensitivities to a changing climate, the analysis found that 74 percent of the animals on the list face threats from three or more factors.
Defenders of Wildlife, a non-profit conservation organization, led the study. The group faulted federal agencies for not doing their due diligence in administering the Endangered Species Act (ESA).
"Our study demonstrates that while climate change is a pressing threat to imperiled species, agencies that manage federally protected species have not given enough attention to this threat," said Aimee Delach, Senior Policy Analyst for Climate Adaptation and lead author on the study, in a Defenders of Wildlife study. "Even worse, we found the agencies are moving in the wrong direction, with actions in recovery documents addressing climate change threats declining since 2014. The current administration produced only one species' document in 2017-18 that included management actions to address climate impacts. These numbers don't even account for the disastrous new ESA regulations, which will hinder future efforts by agencies to protect species from these effects."
The report comes after recent maneuver's by Trump's Interior Secretary, David Bernhardt, to weaken endangered species protections to help the same companies Bernhardt was a lobbyist for before entering government, as Common Dreams reported.
It also comes in the wake of a UN released a report in May that natural biodiversity is declining at unprecedented rates due to global warming and nearly 1 million species around the world were at risk of extinction, as The Hill reported.
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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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