Thursday, September 25, 2008

Gulf coast refuges: hurricane damage & climate change too

"After Hurricane Ike, finding the coastline rearranged, again
By Cornelia Dean
Published: September 23, 2008

From the plane flying over the Gulf Islands National Seashore, scientists from the United States Geological Survey were scanning the ocean, trying to find Ship Island. Their maps and GPS system told them they were over its eastern end, but there was no sign of it.

"I don't see Ship anywhere," said Asbury Sallenger, a oceanographer at the Geological Survey who was sitting in the co-pilot's seat and had the best view. "On the map we see it, but all I see is breakers. There is just zip left of this thing."

Eventually, the scientists spotted the western part of Ship, but its eastern half had all but disappeared. A small patch of land and whitecaps breaking on underwater shoals were all that remained.

The damage was considerable, but it was the kind of land loss they would see often on their flight, which they made about 48 hours after Hurricane Ike struck the Gulf Coast, as part of the survey's long-standing effort to track storm damage on the coast.

The geologists should not have been surprised. Scientists studying the way stormy weather erodes the coast have long been able to identify regions at risk for inundation if sea-level rise continues, an inevitability in a warming world.

For example, researchers have estimated that large stretches of another barrier chain, the Outer Banks of North Carolina, will vanish if seas rise more than two feet, which many scientists consider quite likely by 2100.

But on the Gulf Coast, "we are not talking 100 years," Sallenger said, "we are talking three years," the time since Hurricane Katrina and a parade of other storms, including Hurricanes Gustav and Ike this year, virtually destroyed several islands running west into Louisiana. Among them are the Chandeleur Islands, a barrier chain formed thousands of years ago in a now-defunct delta of the Mississippi River, and other islands in the Breton National Wildlife Refuge.

Storms and climate change are partly to blame. But the region as a whole is subsiding. And in some areas, some critics contend, federal dredging projects are robbing islands of sand.

The result is a chain of feeble island remnants. In many places, as Sallenger observed at one point, "there ain't nothing here but white water."'

Read the rest of the story

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Birds soaked in oil from Ike damage

<In the aftermath of Hurricane Ike, The Wildlife Rehab and Education Center is preparing to wash oiled wildlife that has been observed on the Texas Coast. Executive Director of the WR&E Center Sharon Schmalz has contacted the Texas General Land Office (TGLO) Oil Spill Prevention & Response Division to utilize their 40 foot oiled wildlife cleaning trailer. So far, the WR&E Center has received four impacted Brown Pelicans from Galveston and two more are in route. Two of the pelicans are soaked with oil while the other two have an unknown substance on their feathers. Another 20 of this endangered species have been spotted in Galveston, Seabrook and Kemah.

The WR&E Center has responders trained in ICS (incident command system) and HAZWOPER certified (ability to deal with hazardous substances) that are authorized by the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service and the Texas Parks & Wildlife Department to care for oil impacted wildlife. If anyone in the general public comes across oiled wildlife do not handle or wash the animal. Call the Houston SPCA Disaster hotline at 713.435.2990 to report the sighting immediately. It is against state and federal laws for the public to handle or wash wild animals.

All oiled wildlife that the WR&E Center receives will be cleaned in the TGLO wildlife trailer which has flash hot water heaters for proper washing. The animals will be set up in a triage, administered rehydrating fluids, once stable they will be washed then dried under heatlamps, encouraged to begin to self feed fish, exercised in flight cages and then finally released back into the wild.>>

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Distressed Brown Pelicans released

BILOXI, MS (WLOX) - You may remember a story we aired on WLOX News a few weeks ago about a wildlife organization saving a group of distressed pelicans. Sunday, many of those birds were released, but rescue workers have a favor to ask of South Mississippians.

Hurricane Gustav washed up more than 30 distressed brown pelicans to the Mississippi Gulf Coast. The birds were beaten and battered from the storm.

Two weeks later, after being doctored by people like Alison Sharpe and other workers with the Wildlife Care and Rescue Center, some of the birds are ready to return to their natural habitat.

"They are going to have to make several trips in and out of the water to preen themselves and condition their feathers," Sharpe said.

This is Sharpe's second attempt to release the birds back into the wild. She said when she first tried last week, people were so excited to get close to the birds, that they began to take pictures and play with them. That only stressed the birds out again, so she had to take them back to a safe place. Read the full story

Apparently Gustav also pushed a Brown Pelican to northern Colo two weeks ago, a very unusual bird anywhere in this state.

Monday, September 22, 2008

More bad news for Gulf Coast wildlife

"ANAHUAC, Texas — For hundreds of species of migratory birds heading south this fall and winter, Anahuac National Wildlife Refuge is the last place they can fill up on food and water before making the 600-mile trek across the Gulf of Mexico.

They may not be able to do that this year, after Hurricane Ike decimated the refuge known by bird-watchers around the country for the array of migratory and coastal birds that pass through it.

"It's like a truck stop," says Matt Whitbeck, the refuge's wildlife biologist. "Except this winter, the truck stop will be closed. That's what I'm afraid of." Read the full story here