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Mountain Lion Love is in the Air
|Just in time for Valentines Day, a pair of mountain lions stroll together past a wildlife camera at Rancho Corral de Tierra.|
Wildlife cameras have been capturing a variety of images at Rancho Corral de Tierra since they were installed in 2014. Photos of mountain lions (Puma concolor) have become considerably more common since one camera was recently moved 50 feet from its original location to reduce photo over-exposure.
Among these new images is a series of shots of a pair of mountain lions. The cats commonly mate at this time of the year, and may have two to four kittens that will stay with their mother for up to two years. You can learn more about these big cats here or contact email@example.com with specific questions about the camera project at Rancho Corral de Tierra.
Condor Nesting Season Begins in Central California
|A condor chick waits for its parents to return to the nest last year at Pinnacles National Park. Photo by Gavin Emmons/NPS.|
Pinnacles National Park visitors and staff members have seen increased California Condor (Gymnogyps californianus) activity in the past few weeks, as the birds’ breeding and nesting seasons get into in full swing. Condors tend to form long-term bonds, and during the winter biologists observe them carefully to determine if new pairs are forming and to see which pairs are likely to nest.
Around February or March, the condors will usually have chosen their new partners or reestablished old bonds. They also will have found a nest cavity for their single egg. If successful, both parents will split nesting duties, incubating the egg for almost two months. After the chick hatches, they will continue to intensively care for it in the nest for another six months until it fledges, and then for up to another year after it learns to fly.
In 2016, there were eight active condor nests in central California, four of which produced chicks. One of the successful nests was in Pinnacles National Park, yielding the first condor fledgling from inside the park in over 100 years. This year, biologists are again observing several condor pairs in central California, which will hopefully add even more condors to the region’s flock. For more information contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
2016 – 2017 Elephant Seal Breeding Season Update
|Pups and their mothers fight swells caused by this winter’s king tide at the Point Reyes Headlands. Photo Kristen Richardson/NPS. NMFS Permit No. 17152-00|
This year has been a turbulent one for elephant seals (Mirounga angustirostris) at Point Reyes National Seashore. Frequent bouts of heavy surf, high king tides, and generally stormy conditions have continued to hit the shoreline, causing difficulties for elephant seals in general, and for new pups in particular.
Weak and unable to swim at birth, pups are vulnerable to being swept away by storm surges. Elephant seal mothers (cows) must choose a beach where they can safely give birth and care for their pup during their month-long nursing period. A pup’s inadequate fat reserves puts them at high risk of starvation if they are separated from their mothers during this time.
Beaches that have previously been good breeding habitat, such as the sub-colony on the Point Reyes headlands, have been heavily hit by storms this season, resulting in near total abandonment of these sites. Instead, seals have been crowding sites like Drakes Beach that are more sheltered from the brunt of the storms. Higher than average pup mortality from premature separation of cow/pup pairs has also been observed.
At the peak of the season, about 1,000 adult females and 650 total pups were recorded. The overall elephant seal population is still growing however, and animals originally born in southern colonies continue to move northward into the park and beyond. For more information, please contact email@example.com.
Planning for Vegetation Change Under Different Climate Change Scenarios
|Golden Gate Supervisory Vegetation Ecologist Alison Forrestel shares suggested management tools from breakout group discussions after the scenario planning exercise.|
Representatives from Pepperwood’s Terrestrial Biodiversity and Climate Change Collaborative (TBC3) convened a workshop for open space managers and researchers to focus on management responses to vegetation change triggered by a changing climate. Through a scenario planning exercise, participants identified current and new conservation strategies that can be implemented under different future scenarios (e.g., drought-induced oak diebacks, catastrophic fires, or increased precipitation) in response to new plant species arriving or expanding, and existing species declining. In addition, the group evaluated the utility of existing vegetation models as decision support tools for climate-smart open space management in the North Bay. The input provided by participants will now be used to improve TBC3’s Climate Ready Vegetation Reports and Climate Ready Management Implications document.
New Measures of Coastal Erosion Reveal the Effects of 2015–2016 El Niño
|Locations of the six regions where co-located wave, water-level and beach survey data were analyzed. From Figure 2 in "Extreme oceanographic forcing and coastal response due to the 2015–2016 El Niño."|
The winter of 2015–2016 saw the strongest El Niño-Southern Oscillation in 145 years along the US West Coast. The phenomena—which even in a normal cycle is powerful enough to affect ocean conditions and climate across the entire Pacific Ocean—increases wave energy and water levels, which in turn increase coastal erosion and flooding.
A new study, led by USGS scientist Patrick Barnard, looked at two decades of data from LIDAR and topographic beach surveys, as well as sand level measurements for 29 beaches along about 2,000 km of coastline. The research team found that the average shoreline retreat in 2015–2106 was 76% above normal and 27% higher than that recorded for any previous El Niño. Ocean Beach along the Great Highway alone lost up to180 feet of sand.
Sediment that would normally be brought to the shore by coastal rivers to replenish the beaches was also in short supply due to lower than average rainfall levels. Understanding the effects of events like these is essential, as climate change projections predict higher temperatures, lower rainfall, increased sea levels, and the potential for more extreme and more frequent El Niño events.
Can Stream Restoration Mitigate the Effects of Climate Change on Salmon Populations?
|Fish like this steelhead trout may benefit from certain stream restoration practices that help maintain cooler water temperatures in the face of climate change. Photo by Michael Reichmuth/NPS|
Cold water fish such as chinook salmon (Oncorhynchus tshawytscha) and steelhead trout (O. mykiss) need the water temperature of the streams where they live to stay below a certain threshold in order to survive. However, the temperature of many salmon-bearing streams in the Western US has been affected by changes in air temperature and precipitation due to climate change, as well as decreased stream flow from water withdrawals, stream widening/channelization, and reduced shade caused by deforestation or other stream bank vegetation loss.
A recent study using a water temperature simulation model found that intensive, large-scale riparian reforestation and channel narrowing could reduce current peak summer water temperatures to levels that are beneficial to chinook salmon in northeast Oregon. Temperatures in some portions of the study’s watersheds, especially the lower reaches, still remained too high, suggesting that additional restoration actions might be required in some areas.
The authors acknowledge the challenges of implementing watershed-wide restoration; however, they stress that certain aspects of riparian restoration are key to reducing stream temperature for salmonids, and offer their modeling and prioritization framework as a tool for other land managers and restoration practitioners.
The full article is available in the latest issue of the Journal of Environmental Management.
Looking to the Past to Plan for the Future
Although conservation efforts have often focused on preserving individual species, the authors of a recent Science article make the case for also thinking about how to understand and maintain ecological roles and functions regardless of which specific species may fill those roles.
The article, “Merging paleobiology with conservation biology to guide the future of terrestrial ecosystems” uses examples from Joshua Tree, Yellowstone, and other national parks around the world to show how plant and animal fossils can reveal important things about the biology and ecology of the species that lived in a particular area, including critical information about their sensitivity to changes in climate and habitat. The authors argue that understanding how species and systems adapted to change in the past can help managers shift from preserving “idealized” ecosystems to understanding how to preserve ecosystem functions and adaptive capacity in the future.
The abstract is available for free, and the full text may be downloaded by AAAS members.
Events & Announcements
Welcome Dr. Irina Irvine, new Ocean and Coastal Resources Program Manager
Irina replaces Dr. Sarah Allen in this role to work with parks, networks, national level NPS, and partner agency and non-governmental organizations in stewardship and collaboration of coastal landscapes and seascapes. She received her B.S. from California State University Northridge, with a double major in environmental biology and biotechnology, and her Ph.D. from the University of California Irvine where she studied the effects of nitrogen loading in California salt marshes. Most recently Dr. Irvine managed the restoration program for the Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area.
Upcoming Point Reyes Science Lectures
For further details about the free talks at Point Reyes National Seashore, visit http://www.sfnps.org/brownbags.
Upcoming Park Academy Classes
Classes are free for NPS and Conservancy staff and volunteers. For more details or to register see their website.
Upcoming Field Institute Classes
The Point Reyes National Seashore Association's Field Institute has many classes coming up, including:
Point Reyes staff can register for a class at no charge, contact the Field Institute at 415-663-1200 x307 for more details.