The bison was once on the brink of extinction. Today, it is the national mammal of the US.
WWF’s Bison Initiative Coordinator for Northern Great Plains program Dennis Jorgensen says:
“The plains bison’s remarkable recovery from near extinction in the 20th century is an important reminder that we can change the course of history when we work together to save an imperiled species.”
The bison received bipartisan support when the U.S. House of Representatives passed the National Bison Legacy Act – declaring the bison the national mammal – on April 26 and President Obama signed it into law on May 9.
Historically, there was an estimated 30-60 million plains bison in America’s grasslands. But human expansion and hunting decimated the bison population, leaving just 500 animals at the end of the 20th century.
But the bison, strong and resilient, was able to make a comeback with the help of conservationists, Native American communities, ranchers, industrialists, and other concerned citizens. Their efforts resulted in one of America’s first conservation success stories, as 20,000 or so bison were living in the US by the 1930’s.
Beyond the conservation implications of making the bison the national mammal, the species embodies many qualities that the US wants represented. The bison, which survived the Ice Age, is the nation’s largest land mammal and is a long-standing symbol of freedom, strength, and self-determination. It is on the Buffalo Nickel as well as the U.S. Department of the Interior’s official seal.
While several species will struggle to survive climate change, a few animals may benefit from the rising temperatures. Specifically, the moose and snowshoe hares in the Arctic regions would benefit from the increased availability of shrubs and similar foods.
A new study looked at these two animals and how climate change may be supporting the growth of their populations. The team found that with warming temperatures came the growth of more shrubs and with more shrubs came more moose and hares.
However, an increase in moose and snowshoe hares has its impacts on the area’s ecosystem and wildlife management. For example, it causes predators, like various birds of prey and the lynx, to become more frequent visitors. In addition, tundra species that prefer open habitats may decline as their habitat shrinks and they are out-competed by moose and hares.
Over the next 100 years, our planet’s tropical amphibians may go extinct.
A new study found that in the last 30-40 years, 200 frog species have gone extinct around the world and that hundreds more may disappear in the next century. Habitat loss and destruction, climate change and deadly diseases are the factors that put these amphibians at risk.
John Alroy, associate professor in biological sciences at the Macquarie University in Australia authored the study. To estimate the number of extinct species, he looked at samples from museums of amphibians and reptiles in nine different regions and compared them to published observations.
Some of the worst rates of extinction were in Latin America, possibly due to the chytrid fungus. Alroy says:
“There’s pretty good agreement that the biggest threat for amphibians is the [chytrid] (Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis) fungus. However, I think habitat destruction might have a bigger role than people realize — and future climate change is going to have huge and unpredictable consequences.”
While tropical amphibians face high extinction rates, those in the Southeast United States do not. In addition, reptiles in all regions faced low extinction rates except in a few areas like Madagascar.
Over 9,000 feet below the surface, off the coast of Puerto Rico, scientists saw some creatures for the first time ever. In April 2015, a team of scientists embarked on a National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) expedition that captured incredible images of these deep-sea creatures. The ship, called the Okeanos Explorer, journeyed into largely uncharted ecosystems, including the seafloor, and investigated what lives in these unknown and little-known areas.