The federal Court of Appeals this week reinstated Endangered Species Act protection for the gray wolf populations in the Great Lakes region, vacating a previous decision by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. The court ruling says the previous decision did not take into account the potential impact on other wolf populations, a decision which could have implications for other species sub-populations or “distinct population segments” which have similarly lost protections.
Extinction starts to have an effect on ecosystems long before a species fully disappears. A new paper calls this “biological annihilation” — the effect that localized extinction has on a region when certain species, such as lions, become extirpated from their former habitats. The paper argues we should pay more attention to species even if they are considered “of low concern,” because many of them are actually in decline. Although these species are not currently considered threatened with extinction, their “population decay” causes cascading effects on the abundance of other local species — which, the paper warns, will eventually result in yet more extinctions.
Mexico this week permanently banned gill nets as part of a last-minute effort to save the vaquita from extinction. Just 30 or fewer of these critically endangered porpoises (Phocoena sinus) remain in their only habitat, the Gulf of California. The cetaceans frequently die after becoming entangled in gill nets, which poachers use to catch the totoaba (Totoaba macdonaldi), an endangered fish whose swim bladders sell to Chinese consumers for thousands of dollars a pound. The Revelator will cover this developing story extensively in the coming weeks.