White-lipped peccaries have declined by as much as 87% to 90% from their historical range in Central America, signaling a population collapse of a key species in the region, according to a study published recently in the journal Biological Conservation. The research was conducted by a team of 50 scientists from 30 organizations including Washington State University, the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) and El Colegio de Frontera Sur.
A pig-like animal that is an important food source for large animal predators and humans alike, the white-lipped peccary (Tayassu pecari) also plays a critical ecological role by dispersing seeds and creating water holes that benefit other animals. The study found that current IUCN estimates underestimated the population decline. The study results are a 63% drop from the current IUCN range estimates for the region.
“White-lipped peccary populations are in more of a critical condition than previously thought,” said lead author Dan Thornton, assistant professor in the School of the Environment at Washington State University. “While these results are sobering, they also offer a roadmap on how to conserve this iconic, ecologically important species.”
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Resembling an overgrown house cat with black-tipped ears and a stubby tail, the Canada lynx, a native of North America, teeters on the brink of extinction in the U.S. The few lynx that now roam parts of Washington and the mountainous Northwest survive largely because of a network of protected landscapes that crosses the U.S.-Canada border.
Washington State University environmental researchers believe this transboundary landscape provides not only essential habitat for the wild cats but likely also vital connections with larger lynx populations in Canada.
Wildlife cameras set by WSU researchers recently photographed lynx in the Kettle Mountains of far northeast Washington, close to the Canadian border, and more big cats have been spotted in Glacier National Park near the Montana-Canada line.
Lynx, like their forest-dwelling neighbor the grizzly bear, require many miles of connected, undeveloped terrain to survive. According to new research led by Daniel Thornton, assistant professor in WSU’s School of the Environment, such terrain occurs most frequently throughout the Americas near international borders.
This clustering of protected habitats, including national parks and conservation areas, makes many iconic, wide-ranging animals—lynx, grizzlies, jaguars, tapirs and scarlet macaws among them—physically dependent on good relations between neighboring countries and wildlife-friendly borders.
In Glacier National Park, little camouflaged cameras are hidden throughout the trails, not to see hikers’ antics but to capture photos of the elusive lynx.
The 132 cameras took about 570,000 photos last summer capturing everything from bears and lynx to worn-out hiking boots.
This is part of a three-year study of the lynx population that hopes to learn about their activity in the southernmost portion of their habitat.
Alissa Anderson, a graduate student in environmental studies at Washington State University and fondly called A-lynx-ssa by her colleagues, brought the camera trap technique to Montana after it was developed in Washington.
Lynx studies are often done in the winter to avoid disturbing bears, but field work in the winter is expensive and dangerous, Anderson said.
A new study funded by and focused on King County, Washington, aims to go beyond the sensational “salmon on cocaine” headlines to get us closer to understanding what chemicals in wastewater means for the life cycles of salmon and orcas that eat them. It has become a frequent topic of discussion within state government — especially after the Governor’s Orca Task Force made reducing exposure to pollution a top priority.
Over the next year, researchers will explore how effluent from King County’s three largest plants and nearby waters affect orca prey species and orca exposure.
The researchers will collect effluent from the West Point, Brightwater and South plants and water from nearby drainage outfalls, then send it to a lab to get a breakdown of the compounds in it. In the spring, they’ll expose juvenile chinook salmon from a hatchery to effluent mixtures at a laboratory in Puyallup run by Jen McIntyre, assistant professor in the School of the Environment at Washington State University.
“We will dilute the treatment plant effluent with clean water to simulate for fish exposure to different ‘strengths’ of effluent from the treatment plant, such as occurs in receiving water,” McIntyre says.
Beyond measuring bioconcentration of chemicals and evaluating for impacts both acute (death) and chronic (limited growth and reproduction), they’ll be studying biomarkers in the blood and liver that can show subtle negative health impacts, including metabolic, endocrine or behavioral disruption.