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Environment articles

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A study unveiled today shows that the number of species that are threatened or endangered, or are candidates for listing in the Salish Sea, has nearly doubled over the last decade. When scientists first began tracking the indicator in 2002 there were 60 listed species, today the SeaDoc Society showed that as of November 2013, there are 119 species listed.

Species of concern, also called species at risk, are species that warrant special attention to ensure their conservation. In the Salish Sea, four jurisdictions list species: British Columbia’s Provincial Government, Washington State, the Canadian Federal Government and the US Federal Government. The SeaDoc Society has tracked species of concern since 2002.

In 2008 the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and Environment Canada adopted the metric, called Marine Species at Risk , as a transboundary ecosystem indicator. For scientists the list illustrates where improved cross-jurisdiction (State or Provincial / Federal) and transboundary (US/Canadian) collaboration is needed for species recovery efforts.

According to Jacqlynn Zier, the SeaDoc Society scientist who presented the findings today at the Salish Sea Ecosystem Conference in Seattle, Washington, the increases are due to two factors. Zier pointed out “while we have improved our understanding of which species use the Salish Sea ecosystem over the last decade and that has added some species to the list, many species have been added because one or more jurisdiction as recognized the species are in decline and need special consideration for recovery.”

In terms of species diversity, the paper delivered today shows that currently 35% of mammal species, 32% of bird species, 17% of fish species and 100% of reptile species in the Salish Sea are listed by one or more jurisdiction.

Co-author Joe Gaydos, Chief Scientist with the SeaDoc Society said, “those percentages are shocking” and suggested, “Maybe it is time we consider the Salish Sea an ecosystem of concern.” Gaydos and Zier are pleased that all four listing jurisdictions are actively listing and removing species, but worry that restoration efforts are being out-paced by increasing stressors on the ecosystem such as population growth and habitat conversion.

The SeaDoc Society is about people and science healing the sea. It funds and conducts marine science and uses science to improve management and conservation in the Salish Sea. It is a program of the Karen C. Drayer Wildlife Health Center, a center of excellence at the UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine.

For more information on the SeaDoc Society and to view the entire paper, visit: www.seadocsociety.org/publication/species-of-concern-2013/

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