The eft stage of a red-spotted newt in Walker County, Georgia (Crockford-Pigeon Mountain Wildlife Management Area). Photo credit: Alan Cressler, USGS.
LAUREL, Md. — A deadly fungus causing population crashes in wild European salamanders could emerge in the United States and threaten already declining amphibians here, according to a report released today by the U.S. Geological Survey.
The Department of the Interior is working proactively to protect the nation’s amphibians. The USGS is report released today highlights cooperative research and management efforts needed to develop and implement effective pre-invasion and post-invasion disease-management strategies if Batrachochytrium salamandrivorans (Bsal) enters and affects salamanders within the United States. Last week the United States Fish and Wildlife Service published a rule listing 201 salamander species as injurious under the Lacey Act, which will reduce the likelihood of introduction of Bsal into the country.
Although Bsal has not yet been found in wild U.S. salamander populations, scientists caution it is likely to emerge here because of the popularity of captive salamanders as household pets, in classrooms and in zoos; the captive amphibian trade is a known source of salamanders afflicted with the fungus.
Amphibians are the most endangered groups of vertebrates worldwide, with another fungus closely related to Bsal (Bd) contributing to amphibian die-offs and extinctions global over the last two decades.
“Based on the kinds of species affected and the fact that the United States has the highest salamander diversity in the world, this new pathogen is a major threat with the potential to exacerbate already severe amphibian declines,” said Evan Grant, a USGS wildlife biologist and lead author of the USGS report. “We have the unusual opportunity to develop and apply preventative management actions in advance.”
Bsal was first identified in 2013 as the cause of mass wild salamander die-offs in the Netherlands and Belgium. Captive salamander die-offs due to Bsal have occurred in the United Kingdom and Germany. Scientists believe Bsal originated in Asia and spread to wild European populations through the import and export of salamanders.
The USGS brought together scientists and managers from federal and state agencies that oversee resource conservation and management to identify research needs and management responses before Bsal arrives and becomes entrenched in the country. USGS, the USFWS, U.S. Forest Service, U.S. Department of Defense, National Park Service, zoos, and U.S. and international universities participated in the Bsal workshop.
Key findings in the report include:
- Bsal is highly likely to emerge in U.S. populations of wild salamanders through imports of potentially infected salamanders.
- Management actions targeted at Bsal containment after arrival in the United States may be relatively ineffective in reducing its spread.
- A coordinated response, including rapid information sharing, is necessary to plan and respond to this potential crisis.
- Early detection of Bsal at key amphibian import locations, in high-risk wild populations, and in field-collected samples is necessary to quickly and effectively implement management responses.
“The increasing pace of global commerce and emergence of new infectious diseases put vulnerable native wildlife populations at risk for extinction,” said Grant. “Managing disease threats to the 191 species of U.S. salamanders is essential for the global conservation of salamanders.”
Grant noted that the process by which Bsal research and management needs were identified could be adapted for future infectious disease threats to wildlife.
The workshop and Open-File Report were supported by the USGS Amphibian Monitoring and Research Initiative – or ARMI – and the USGS Powell Center for Analysis and Synthesis. ARMI is a national program focusing on amphibian research to stop or reverse the worldwide decline in amphibian populations from habitat change to disease.
AUSTIN, Texas – State and federal recovery officials encourage Texas residents to watch for and report any suspicious activity or potential fraud from scam artists, identity thieves and other criminals who may try to prey on survivors vulnerable due to the October severe storms, tornadoes, straight-line winds and flooding. The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) does not endorse any commercial businesses, products or services. FEMA encourages survivors to be especially vigilant for these common post-disaster fraud practices:Language English
AUSTIN, Texas – Texas homeowners and renters who have registered for disaster assistance with the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) are encouraged by recovery officials to “stay in touch,” even after the Jan. 25 application deadline.
Applicants changing their addresses or phone numbers should update that information with FEMA. Missing or erroneous information could result in delays getting a home inspection or in receiving assistance.
FEMA has provided two ways for homeowners and renters to update their information:Language English
Additional Contacts: David Hayman, Massey University, +64-06-356-9099 ext. 83047, D.T.S.Hayman@massey.ac.nz; Raina Plowright, Montana State University, 406-994-2939, firstname.lastname@example.org; and Daniel Streicker, University of Glasgow, 44 (0) 141 330 663, email@example.com
FORT COLLINS, Colorado – Reports of bat deaths worldwide due to human causes largely unique to the 21st century are markedly rising, according to a new USGS-led analysis published in Mammal Review.
Collisions with wind turbines worldwide and the disease white-nose syndrome in North America lead the reported causes of mass death in bats since the onset of the 21st century. These new threats now surpass all prior known causes of bat mortality, natural or attributed to humans.
A comprehensive study reveals trends in the occurrence and causes of multiple mortality events in bats as reported globally for the past 200 years, shedding new light on the possible factors underlying population declines.
“Many of the 1,300 species of bats on Earth are already considered threatened or declining. Bats require high survival to ensure stable or growing populations," said Tom O’Shea, a USGS emeritus research scientist and the study’s lead author. “The new trends in reported human-related mortality may not be sustainable.”
Bats are long-lived, slow-breeding mammals that play vital roles in most of Earth’s ecosystems. Bats are important pollinators and seed dispersers in tropical regions, and serve as the main predators of night flying insects in most parts of the world. Insect-eating bats are estimated to save farmers billions of dollars each year by providing natural pest control.
The researchers combed the scientific literature dating from 1790 to 2015 in search of annual mortality events involving more than 10 bats per event. They then divided these ‘multiple mortality events’ into nine different categories, spanning a variety of both natural and human causes. In the end, they found and categorized a total of 1,180 mortality events from all over the world, representing more than 200 years of recorded history.
Prior to the year 2000, intentional killing by humans caused the greatest proportion of mortality events in bats globally; the reasons varied with region, but bats were hunted for human consumption, killed as pests, to control vampire bats, and to protect fruit crops. Although the proportion of intentional killing reports declined in recent times, such acts continue in some parts of the world.
Since the dawn of the 21st century, however, collisions with wind turbines worldwide and white-nose syndrome in North America are the primary reported causes of mass mortality in bats. In additions, storms, floods, drought, and other weather-related factors also historically caused mass mortality, and could increase in the future due to climate change.
Surprisingly, the authors did not find convincing evidence that bats regularly die in large proportion due to infectious diseases caused by viruses or bacteria. This finding comes at a time when increasing evidence points to bats as natural reservoirs of several viruses that cause disease in humans. Despite often being more social than other animals, bats may somehow avoid deaths from diseases that sweep through dense populations.
The authors conclude that bats globally could benefit from policy, education, and conservation actions targeting human-caused mortality. “Determining the most important causes of bat mortality is a first step toward trying to reduce our impact on their populations,” said David Hayman, another author of the study and senior lecturer at Massey University in New Zealand.
Bats in a Texas Evening Sky — Insect-eating Brazilian Free-Tailed bats (Tadarida brasiliensis) provide a great pest-control service to agriculture and natural ecosystems. Photo credit: Paul Cryan, USGS.
Brown Bats with White Nose Syndrome — Little brown bats in a New York hibernation cave. Note that most of the bats exhibit fungal growth on their muzzles. Photo credit: Nancy Heaslip, New York Department of Environmental Conservation.
Wind Turbines — Two wind turbines from the side on a clear day. Photo credit: Paul Cryan, USGS.
Hoary Bat — A hoary bat (Lasiurus cinereus) roosting on the branch of a tree. About half of all bat fatalities documented in North America involve hoary bats, a migratory species that roosts in the foliage of trees. Photo credit: Paul Cryan, USGS.
Long Nosed Bat — A long-nosed bat covered with pollen, probably from a cactus flower. Photo credit: Ami Pate, National Park Service.
OXFORD, Miss. – The Mississippi and federal emergency agencies are operating five disaster recovery centers in Mississippi to offer a number of services to individuals affected by the December storms. The centers, located in Benton, Coahoma, Marshall, Quitman and Tippah counties, are jointly operated by the Mississippi Emergency Management Agency and the Federal Emergency Management Agency in partnership with county and local agencies. They serve as one-stop-shops to provide community access to recovery services, referrals and information.Language English
OXFORD, Miss. – The disaster recovery centers open in Benton, Coahoma, Marshall, Quitman and Tippah counties are changing their hours of operation, effective Monday, Jan. 18.
The centers will now be open from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m., Monday through Friday, and from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Saturday until further notice. The centers will be closed on Sundays.
Anyone who needs reasonable accommodations when visiting the centers may request them by calling the FEMA helpline at 800-621-3362. People who are deaf, hard of hearing, or speech-impaired and use a TTY should call 800-462-7585.Language English
Following is a summary of key federal disaster aid programs that can be made available as needed and warranted under President Obama's emergency disaster declaration issued for the State of Michigan.
Assistance for the State and Affected Local Governments Can Include as Required:Language English
WASHINGTON, D.C. -- The U.S. Department of Homeland Security's Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) announced that federal emergency aid has been made available to the State of Michigan to supplement state and local response efforts in the area affected by contaminated water beginning on April 25, 2014, and continuing.Language English
OXFORD, Miss. – The state of Mississippi and local governments and certain private nonprofits in Coahoma, Panola and Quitman counties are now eligible to receive federal assistance to help cover expenses and repair damage associated with the tornadoes and severe weather in late December, according to state and federal officials.Language English
OXFORD, Miss. – Less than a month after severe storms, tornadoes and flooding swept across Mississippi, more than $1.5 million in state and federal disaster assistance has been approved to help those affected by the storms.
The Federal Emergency Management Agency has been contacted by 775 people for help or information regarding disaster assistance.Language English
Following is a summary of key federal disaster aid programs that can be made available as needed and warranted under President Obama's disaster declaration issued for the State of Washington.
Assistance for the State and Affected Local and Tribal Governments Can Include as Required:Language English
WASHINGTON, D.C. – The U.S. Department of Homeland Security's Federal Emergency Management Agency announced that federal disaster aid has been made available to the State of Washington to supplement state, tribal, and local recovery efforts in the area affected by severe storms, straight-line winds, flooding, landslides, and mudslides during the period of November 12-21, 2015.Language English
SACRAMENTO, Calif. – In response to the unmet needs of survivors following the Valley Fire, a long term recovery committee (LTRC) has been established. This committee, Team Lake County (TLC), has requested the expertise of a national disaster recovery group to determine who in the community will need additional assistance from voluntary agencies to rebuild and recover from the fire.Language English
COLUMBIA, S.C. – A disaster recovery center in Darlington County will close Wednesday, Jan. 20, at 5 p.m.:
South Carolina National Guard Armory, 1764 Harry Byrd Highway, Darlington
Many services available at disaster recovery centers are also available by calling the FEMA helpline. Survivors of Oct. 1-23 storms and flooding in Darlington County can get help by calling 800-621-3362 or TTY 800-462-7585; those who use 711/VRS can call 800-621-3362. Lines are open 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. seven days a week until further notice.Language English
Researchers have found clear evidence that biological communities rich in species are substantially healthier and more productive than those depleted of species.
Using new scientific techniques, U.S. Geological Survey research ecologist Jim Grace and a group of international scientists have resolved a long-standing debate about whether species diversity is necessary for a healthy ecosystem.
Scientists have long hypothesized that biodiversity is of critical importance to the stability of natural ecosystems and their abilities to provide positive benefits such as oxygen production, soil genesis, and water detoxification to plant and animal communities, as well as to human society. In fact, because this assumption is intuitively true to the general public, many of the efforts of conservation agencies around the world are driven by the assumption that this hypothesis is scientifically proven. Although theoretical studies have supported this claim, scientists have struggled for the past half-century to clearly isolate such an effect in the real world. This new study does just that.
“This study shows that you cannot have sustainable, productive ecosystems without maintaining biodiversity in the landscape,” said Grace.
The scientists used data collected for this research by a global consortium, the Nutrient Network, from more than a thousand grassland plots spanning five continents. Using recent advances in analytical methods, the group was able to isolate the biodiversity effect from the effects of other processes, including processes that can reduce diversity., Using these data with “integrative modeling”--integrating the predictions from multiple theories into a single model—scientists detected the clear signals of numerous underlying mechanisms linking the health and productivity of ecosystems with species richness.
“The ability to explain the diversity in the number of species is tremendously important for potential conservation applications,” said Grace. “The new type of analysis we developed can predict how both specific management actions (such as reduction of plant material through mowing or increase in soil fertility through fertilization), as well as shifts in climate conditions, may alter both productivity and the number of species.”
According to Debra Willard, Coordinator for the USGS Climate Research & Development Program, “These results suggest that if climate change leads to reduced species or genetic diversity, which is a real possibility, that then could lead to a reduced capacity for ecosystems to respond to additional stresses.”
As an indication of the global awareness of this issue, the Intergovernmental Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services was recently created to help policy-makers understand and address problems stemming from the global loss of biodiversity and degradation of ecosystems.
The article, “Integrative modeling reveals mechanisms linking productivity and plant species richness,” is available online in the journal Nature.
OXFORD, Miss. – A disaster recovery center is open in Tippah County to provide assistance to survivors of the December storms, tornadoes and floods that affected Mississippi.
The recovery center is run jointly by the Mississippi Emergency Management Agency and the Federal Emergency Management Agency, and hosts representatives of federal and state agencies who can explain the various programs designed to help survivors recover.Language English
Laboratory experiments in flowing water using synthetic surrogate Silver Carp eggs demonstrate egg suspension at lower velocities than previously thought, according to a new U.S. Geological Survey study. The drift of synthetic eggs at a range of flows was evaluated to provide insight into both suspension of water-hardened Silver Carp eggs and the potential interaction of eggs with the bottom of a river.
Since Asian carp eggs must stay suspended in rivers to survive to hatching, it is important to understand what flows cause them to settle to the bottom. These critical flow conditions help scientists to determine which rivers may be suitable for Asian carp reproduction. Results are published in the journal PLOS ONE.
Scientists with University of Illinois and the USGS recently studied the suspension, transport and settling of Silver Carp eggs using synthetic surrogates at the Ven Te Chow Hydrosystems Laboratory, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. The researchers found that 65 percent of the eggs were in suspension at mean velocities as low as 0.07 meters per second, considerably lower than previously thought (0.15 to 0.9 meters per second). If eggs are staying in suspension at these small velocities, then survival rates would be higher than previously expected in low flow systems. In addition, dimensionless ratios between turbulence and egg sinking rate were calculated for different flow conditions. These ratios can be used for first order assessment of egg suspension together with observed egg suspension mode from laboratory experiments. Results provide more information on egg suspension (i.e., 50 percent of eggs in suspension) than a mean velocity threshold.
Tatiana Garcia, USGS research hydrologist and lead author of the paper, performed experiments in moving water in a temperature-controlled re-circulatory flume with a sediment bed. Styrene beads were used as synthetic surrogate eggs to mimic the physical properties of water-hardened Silver Carp eggs. Egg suspension and drifting behavior of synthetic eggs was evaluated under different flow conditions and bed configurations.
Synthetic surrogate water-hardened Silver Carp Eggs settled on top of a sediment bed. Laboratory experiments in flowing water demonstrate egg suspension at lower velocities than previously thought. The drift of synthetic eggs at a range of flows was evaluated to provide insight into both suspension of water-hardened Silve