California’s Big Role in Endangered Species’ Success
Californians should feel good about the new report by an advocacy group, the Endangered Species Coalition, which looks at “Ten Success Stories Celebrating the Endangered Species Act.” Six of the 10 animals named can be found in the Golden State:
* the El Segundo blue butterfly, unique to Southern California
* the southern sea otter, unique to to the coastal areas in Central and Southern California, but as far north as Half Moon Bay
* the humpback whale
* the green sea turtle
* the peregrine falcon
* the bald eagle
“Success” in the report means the animals are improving or have been recovered under protection of the Act, which celebrates its 40th anniversary this month. The otter, for example, remains threatened not because it is hunted for its pelt (which nearly drove the species to extinction in the 19th and early 20th centuries), but because the animal gets caught in fishing nets and oil spills, and has had its food sources decline because of climate change.
Climate change, too, is a major reason why humpback whales remain endangered. From the report:
Oceans now are more acidic than at any other time in the past 300 million years, almost entirely due to absorption of carbon dioxide from burned fossil fuels. This increased acidity is changing virtually every aspect of the planet’s oceans, and is directly impacting the main food source of the humpback whale — the small, shrimp-like plankton known as krill. While a single whale requires upwards of two to three hundred pounds of krill-based nourishment daily, increasingly acidic waters dissolve the fragile shells of these small sea creatures, making their survival, let alone reproductive capabilities, close to impossible.
Why are so many of the top 10 in California?
“It’s California’s biogeography,” said Tierra Curry, senior scientist at the Center for Biological Diversity, which is a member of the Endangered Species Coalition. “The state has incredible diversity of animals — it has the second highest number of endangered species after Hawaii.”
Plus, says Curry, “California has good environmental laws.”
The other four species that make up the report’s top 10 are the American alligator, Hawaii’s nēnē goose, a plant from New Hampshire called Robbins’ cinquefoil, and the eastern brown pelican. More than 1,300 plants and animals in the United States have been protected by the Endangered Species Act.