Maine Woods among top endangered species conservation priorities

Posted Jan. 05, 2011, at 2:08 p.m.

AUGUSTA — The Maine Woods is on a list of one of the most important places to save for wildlife, fish and plants on the brink of extinction.

A new report released Wednesday by the Endangered Species Coalition, “It’s Getting Hot Out There: Top Places to Save for Endangered Species in a Warming World,” highlights the importance of saving habitat for endangered species.

The report examines how the changing climate is increasing the risk of extinction for imperiled fish, plants, and wildlife, and the importance of protecting key ecosystems.

“Climate change is no longer a distant threat on the horizon,” said Leda Huta, executive director of the Endangered Species Coalition. “It has arrived and is threatening ecosystems that we all depend upon, and our endangered species are particularly vulnerable. If we are serious about saving endangered species from global warming, then these are the places to start,” added Huta.

Jym St. Pierre of RESTORE: The North Woods said, “The Maine Woods region is the last U.S. stronghold of native brook trout. It is a primary breeding area for neo-tropical migratory songbirds. And it is home to several endangered and threatened species, including Canada lynx, Atlantic salmon, wood turtle, Bicknell’s thrush, yellow lampmussel, and Tomah mayfly.”

If permanently protected, the Maine Woods could provide one of the largest contiguous swaths of forest habitat in the country for species adaptation and carbon storage, according to St. Pierre. RESTORE has proposed the creation of a 3.2 million-acre Maine Woods National Park and Preserve.

The new report highlights ecosystems that are hotspots for threatened and endangered species, many of which are highly vulnerable to climate change now. For each ecosystem, the report identifies some of the endangered species that live there, as well as the necessary conservation measures that will be required to help them to survive.

“Endangered species don’t have the luxury of waiting for political leaders to act to slow the pace of climate change,” said Huta. “We certainly need to reduce global warming pollution, but we also need to act now to protect some of the most important ecosystems for imperiled wildlife for which climate change may mean extinction. Each ecosystem for the report was chosen because we have an opportunity to increase its resiliency-or the resiliency of the species that live there-to climate change if we immediately implement conservation measures.”

According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), 20 to 30 percent of the world’s species will be at an increased risk of extinction if global temperature increases exceed 1.5-2.5° C (3-5° F) above pre-industrial levels. The climate threats to species include increased disease, diminished reproduction, lost habitat, reduced food supply, and other impacts.

Safeguarding Species in a Warming World

It’s Getting Hot Out There calls for the Obama Administration and Congress to provide the tools and resources necessary to protect these key ecosystems from global climate change. The Coalition says it would also like to see climate change factored into all future endangered species-related decisions in order to help prevent species from disappearing forever.

The list of ecosystems to save for endangered species featured in the report includes:

1. The Arctic Sea Ice, home to the polar bear, Pacific walrus and at least 6 species of seal.

2. Shallow Water Coral Reefs, home to the critically endangered elkhorn and staghorn coral.

3. Hawaiian Islands, home to more than a dozen imperiled birds, and 319 threatened/endangered plants.

4. Southwest Deserts, home to numerous imperiled plants, fish, and mammals.

5. The San Francisco Bay-Delta, home to the imperiled Pacific salmon, Swainson’s hawk, tiger salamander and Delta smelt.

6. California Sierra Mountains, home to 30 native species of amphibian, including the Yellow-legged frog.

7. The Snake River Basin, home to four imperiled runs of salmon and steelhead.

8. Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem, home to the imperiled Whitebark pine, an important food source for animals, including the threatened Grizzly bear.

9. The Gulf Coast’s flatlands and wetlands, home to the Piping and Snowy plovers, Mississippi sandhill crane, and numerous species of sea turtles.

10. The Greater Everglades, home to 67 threatened and endangered species, including the manatee and the red cockcaded woodpecker.

11. Glacier National Park, home for the mist forestfly, bull trout, and grizzly bear.

12. Jemez Mountains, home to ESA-listed species that will suffer from climate change, including the Canada lynx and Mexican spotted owl.

13. Sagebrush steppe, among the most imperiled landscapes in North America facing numerous threats that will be exacerbated by climate change.

14. U.S. Western Coast, home to the entire population of the Western Snowy Plover, which winters from Southern Washington to the Mexican border.

15. Maine Woods, the last U.S. stronghold of native brook trout, a primary breeding area for neo-tropical migratory songbirds, and home to several imperiled species, including Canada lynx and Atlantic salmon.

16. National Grasslands, 4 million acres of rolling terrain down the midsection of the continental U.S., home to a variety of endangered species, including prairie wildfowl, black-footed ferret, and Wyoming Toad.

17. Southern Rockies, an important refuge for endangered species pressured by climate change, including Canada lynx and wolverines.

The full report, which includes information on each ecosystem, as well as recommended conservation measures, is available online at www.itsgettinghotoutthere.org or www.StopExtinction.org.

The Endangered Species Coalition is a national network of hundreds of conservation, scientific, religious, sporting, outdoor recreation, business and community organizations working to protect endangered species and their habitat.

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