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FLORA AND FAUNA
European salamander at risk of extinction: study
by Staff Writers
Paris (AFP) April 20, 2017


Activists sue to force Canada to protect caribou
Montreal (AFP) April 20, 2017 - A wildlife group filed a lawsuit against Canada's environment ministry on Thursday over its alleged failure to protect critical caribou habitats.

In it, the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society (CPAWS) says Environment Minister Catherine McKenna has not met her legal obligation to regularly report on steps taken to protect the endangered animal's range across nine provinces and territories.

It asks the federal court to compel her to do so.

The population of the boreal woodland caribou -- a North American reindeer -- has steadily declined due to encroaching industry, to the point that Canada listed it as an endangered species in 2002.

A decade later, the areas needing protection were identified. Many of them were on non-federal lands, but since then "there have been no reports describing what is being done to address any protection gaps," said Alain Branchaud, director of CPAWS's Quebec office.

CPAWS lawyer Eric Paquin said protecting caribou habitats would go well beyond helping caribou -- they would also maintain boreal forests for other animals, "including the billions of birds that use the boreal as a nursery."

McKenn's office declined to comment on the lawsuit. But a spokeswoman said the environment ministry was "working closely" with Canada's provinces and territories on protection and recovery efforts of species at risk, including the caribou.

Europe's already endangered salamander population faces extinction due to a new, virulent fungus that also poses a broader threat to biodiversity, according to a new study.

Even a small amount of the highly infectious pathogen could wipe out fire salamanders from Western Europe, as the amphibian lacks the immune response to fight it off, researchers reported Wednesday in the journal Nature.

"The fungus presents a 'perfect storm'," said senior author An Martel, a professor at Ghent University in Belgium.

"The result is that within six month's time, infected fire salamander populations are reduced by more than 90 percent, and are finally extirpated."

Following an outbreak in 2014, a team of biologists led by Ghent University monitored a colony of vulnerable salamanders for two years, leading to the grim discovery of the pathogen's fatal impact.

Fungal spores -- protected by cells with thick, water-resistant exteriors -- have a long lifespan and can thrive even when they do not inhabit a living organism.

The pathogen can spread through soil, water and air. It can also attach itself to less susceptible birds or frogs, which in turn spread the infection to salamanders.

Dubbed "Bsal" -- short for Batrachochytrium salamandrivorans -- the deadly fungi first appeared on the European continent in 2010.

Scientists believe the global trade in forestry, agricultural and wildlife species are responsible for the invasion of fungi in non-native habitats.

Given the super-fungus' characteristics -- high virulence and rapid expansion -- biologists worry that methods to contain the disease may prove ineffective.

"Classical measures to control animal diseases such as vaccination and repopulation will not be successful and eradication of the fungus from the ecosystem is unlikely," said Gwij Stegen, one of the authors.

FLORA AND FAUNA
Study helps explain how flowers evolved to get pollinators to specialize
Worcester MA (SPX) Apr 20, 2017
Ecologists who study flowering plants have long believed that flowers evolved with particular sets of characteristics - unique combinations of colors, shapes, and orientations, for example - as a means of attracting specific pollinators. But a recent paper in the journal Ecology suggests that flowers that are visited almost exclusively by hummingbirds are actually designed not to lure birds, but ... read more

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