A report pinpoints critical areas in California for protecting critters
California is one of five places on earth with a Mediterranean climate. It has enough endemic plant species to be its own “floristic province.” It’s also what biologists refer to as a biodiversity hotspot. So it’s not surprising that a report by the Endangered Species Coalition includes three places either completely or partially within California in its list of ten of the most important locations to protect endangered species.
The report highlights areas across the U.S. that are most threatened, such as the Everglades, and places that provide home to the greatest number of endangered species, like Hawaii.
California locations include the Sonora Desert, the Sierra Nevada, and the Bay Delta. The coalition, an activist group which aims to stem the tide of species loss, says the gravest threats in these California places — no surprise here, either — revolve around water: not enough, too much, or badly timed.
In the Sonora Desert, drought threatens species like the desert tortoise. The Sierra and the Delta are linked, since the former provides water for the latter. Species face different challenges depending on where they are along that watershed. Down in the Bay Area, trout, salmon, and the Delta smelt are losing habitat to development and losing water to irrigation canals. Up in the Sierra, the report explains that yellow-legged frogs and pika are confronted with thinner snowpack and warmer temperatures.
About those pika: The Endangered Species Coalition doesn’t list any supporting literature, and favors messaging over nuance in this report. There is an ongoing debate over pika colonies in California and Nevada. The Center for Biological Diversity, a coalition member, has petitioned both state and the federal wildlife agencies to list the pika as endangered. That listing has so far been denied, and for good reason, according to Forest Service ecologist Connie Millar, who says that in California, pika are “extremely abundant.”
Millar is concerned that all the attention focused on pika draws away from other species in the Sierra that may indeed be in climate change-induced trouble, like Belding’s ground squirrels and yellow-bellied marmots.