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Scientists: California drought threatens fish, birds & trees

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POSTED April 27, 2014 7:45 p.m.

SACRAMENTO (AP) — California’s drought threatens some fish, birds and trees that are already struggling to survive, university researchers said at a summit held in Sacramento.

The state’s fish are especially at risk, said Peter Moyle of the University of California, Davis, Center for Watershed Sciences.

The state lists 37 types of fish as endangered. Moyle said 80 percent of them could be extinct by the year 2100 given current trends.

“The problems created by the drought are just a harbinger of things to come,” Moyle said.

California is in its third consecutive dry year, and in January, Gov. Jerry Brown declared a drought emergency.

Animals are taking their toll, Moyle said in Friday’s summit. California lists 47 animals as endangered with 36 considered threatened.

Native fish can weather nature’s occasional dry periods, but Moyle said the state-engineered water system has created the equivalent to perpetual drought conditions, making survival even harder.

The tricolored blackbird — distinctive for its red shoulder patch and bright white stripe — may soon be endangered, said Robert Meese of the UC Davis Department of Environmental Science and Policy.

The bird has declined since 2007, said Meese, who estimated a dwindling population of 120,000 birds — less than half of 2011. He said the drought means fewer insects for birds to feed on to form eggs and nourish their newly hatched young.

There is a correlation between the drought, warmer temperatures and tree mortality in the Sierra Nevada mountains, the newspaper reported.

At lower elevations, California’s foothill pine is struggling, said Andrew Fulks of the UC Davis Putah Creek Riparian Reserve.

“We have seen more mortality in Yolo County,” Fulks said. “The tree has been unable to fend off the dwarf pine mistletoe, which weakens the tree enough to allow it to be killed by it and the bark beetle.”

 

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