Term Paper: Environmental Effects on Species Habitats

Pages: 12 (3519 words)  ·  Bibliography Sources: 1+  ·  Level: College Senior  ·  Topic: Animals  ·  Buy This Paper

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[. . .] o. occidentalis)

California black rail

Laterallus jamaicensis coturniculus

California clapper rail

Rallus longirostris obsoletus

California condor

Gymnogyps califonianus

California least tem

Sterna albifrons browni (=Sterna antillarum browni) golden eagle

Aquila chrysaetos greater sandhill crane

Grus candadensis tabida light-footed clapper rail

Rallus longirostris levipes southern bald eagle (=bald eagle)

Haliaeetus leucocephalus (=Haliaeetus leucocephalus) trumpeter swan

Cygnus buccinator white-tailed kite

Elanus leucurus

Yuma clapper rail

Rallus longirostris yumanensis

Mammals

Morro Bay kangaroo rat

Dipodomys heermanni morroensis bighorn sheep

Ovis canadensis - except Nelson bighorn sheep (ssp. Ovis canadensis nelsoni) in the area described in subdivision (b) of Section 4902 (Fish and Game Code) northern elephant seal

Mirounga angustirostris

Guadalupe fur seal

Arctocephalus townsendi ring-tailed cat

Genus

Bassariscus (=Bassariscus astutus)

Pacific right whale

Eubalanea sieboldi (=Balaena glacialis) salt-marsh harvest mouse

Reithrodontomys raviventris southern sea otter

Enhydra lutris nereis wolverine

Gulo luscus (=Gulo) recap of all endangered and threatened animal species in the State of California together with their status today is provided at Appendix A; the complete listing is available from the State of California Wildlife and Habitat Data Analysis Branch at http://www.dfg.ca.gov/whdab/pdfs/TEAnimals.pdf.

Effect on Species Habitats in the San Gabriel Mountains. The San Gabriel Mountains are a segment of the Pacific Coast Ranges; this range extends eastward for about 60 miles from Newhall Pass, north of San Fernando, to Cajon Pass in southern California. A number of peaks in the San Gabriel chain exceed 9,000 feet, including the twin peaks of North Baldy (at 9,131 feet) and Mount Baden-Powell (at 9,389 feet), located about 65 miles northeast of Los Angeles, and Mount San Antonio, or "Old Baldy" (at 10,080 feet), the highest point.

The San Gabriel range also includes Mount Wilson (at 5,710 feet), with its internationally famous astronomical observatory, just northeast of Pasadena; favorable weather conditions in the range allow its use by visitors for about 300 days a year.

The mountains are largely situated within the Angeles National Forest. The southern foothills of the San Gabriels actually enter residential and agricultural communities of Los Angeles and San Bernardino counties, and are characterized by citrus-fruit production (San Gabriel Mountains 2004).

As noted above, the San Gabriel is among the most biodiverse of the California ranges and is consequently one of the best-studied. The region enjoys a number of species of birds, some of them endangered (such as the bald eagle and peregrine falcons) (Thompson 2002), but habitat loss from deforestation and degradation endangers more of these birds than any other factor (Youth 2002). "Habitat is routinely destroyed by commercial logging, slash-and-burn clearing, industrial or urban development, intensive farming, and over-grazing, among other land uses" (Youth 2002:18). According to Youth, over the course of the 200 years, 103 species of birds have gone extinct; during the next century, this researcher notes that 1,186 species could go extinct, at least according to Threatened Birds of the World, a comprehensive study published in 2000 by the global conservation group BirdLife International. Youth notes that in heavily forested areas, woodland birds overall are declining as their habitat becomes increasingly fragmented, in other words, chopped up by roads, plowed fields, and housing tracts from the never-ending flow of humanity that continues to encroach on these species' habitats. According to Youth, such fragmentation tends to dry out the edges of the forests, changes plant composition, increases vulnerability to storms, fires, and disease, and paves the way for invasive plants and animals. In southern California's case, such habitats are thus routinely threatened by uncontrolled wildfires that sweep through underbrush and uncleared forest areas; despite these threats, though, the bird species that exist in southern California appear to be in a better position to survive by virtue of their mobility compared to their terrestrial-bound counterparts in the lizards and amphibians who experience both the ravages of these wildfires themselves as well as being more restricted in their ability to relocate to other desirable territories.

Overall, California has the highest concentration of endemism in amphibians with 17 endemic species (Texas is a distant second with 11 endemics) (Adams, Kutner & Stein 2000). In fact, endemism is particularly high in several western states; for instance, in California and Nevada, more than a quarter (29%) of the fish species are endemic. According to these researchers, the California endemics include both abundant species such as the California newt (Taricha torosa), and the very rare and localized species such as the limestone salamander (Hydromantes brunus); this latter animal is known only along one segment of the Merced River below Yosemite National Park.

What Adams, Kutner and Stein describe as "a narrowly endemic slender salamander" (Batrachoseps gabrieli), was recently discovered in the relatively San Gabriel Mountains above Los Angeles, suggesting that even more locally restricted amphibians remain to be found in the state's extensive ranges including the San Gabriels (Adams, Kutner & Stein 2000). Rarity patterns for species in southern California closely reflect those seen for endemism. In other words, those relatively few species found in western states tend to be at greater risk than the larger numbers of species in the East (Adams, Kutner & Stein 2000). Altogether, some 86 imperiled species can be found along the coast and in the mountains of this nationally significant center of biodiversity; however, certain areas stand out even by California standards as hosting a truly extraordinary diversity of rare species. "The Otay Mountain area, near San Diego, for instance, lends its name to a host of locally restricted species, including the Otay Mesa mint (Pogogyne nudiuscula), Otay manzanita (Arctostaphylos otayensis), Otay tarweed (Hemizonia conjugens), and Otay Mountain lotus (Lotus crassifolius var. otayensis)" (Adams, Kutner & Stein 2000:302).

Endangered species in the San Gabriel also include the orange-throated whiptail lizard (Cnemidophorus hyperythrus) is a diminutive reptile inhabiting the coastal hills of southern California, illustrates the possibilities and limitations of integrating various types of data for conservation purposes. The orange-throated whiptail occurs from southern Baja California to southern California. While the lizard is relatively abundant across most of its range, within California, however, the animal's predicament is more serious (Adams, Kutner & Stein 2000). The California mountain yellow-legged frog is an excellent example of a species that warrants emergency listing; however, the USFWS has historically denied this frog protection. According to Lieben (1997), the USFWS was originally petitioned in July 1995, but the Service refused to list the yellow-legged frog as a Tier 1 emergency listing under the 1996 Guidelines, despite the findings of a National Biological Survey scientist who determined that the amphibian's eight remaining populations included fewer than ten frogs each.

Furthermore, the species' habitat of Southern California streams situated in the San Gabriel Mountains and tributaries of the San Jacinto River system were threatened with immediate disturbance from placer mining, water draw for ski resorts, road construction, off-road vehicles, camping, and recreation (Lieben 1997). Possible political pressure comes from the fact that the listing of this species will prohibit or limit many of these important economic activities.

In order to compel the USFWS to either list the species under the emergency listing provision or to consider the species despite the 1996 Guidelines bar (because the frog was a candidate species, it fell under a Tier 3 activity, meaning the USFWS could not start actual processing the petition until April 1, 1997), Biodiversity Legal Foundation (BLF) brought suit against the Secretary and the USFWS in the U.S. District Court in Washington, D.C. (Lieben 199). There, the court held that the Service had no legitimate reason to refuse to consider the listing petition (Lieben 1997).

Consequently, the court set a date by which the USFWS had to make the 90-day ruling on whether the petition represented substantial information; however, the court did not directly address the emergency listing issue, but did note the Agency's stalling behavior was illegal and the "[d]efendant's blaming their failure to act on a budget moratorium that ended almost one year ago is insufficient to relieve them of their statutory obligations under the ESA." This author cites this case as an excellent example of how stone-walling on the part of a government bureaucracy can contribute to the ultimate extinction of a species despite the mandates stipulated by the Endangered species Act: "Clearly, with a population level of less than 100 individuals, the yellow-legged frog is the prototypical imperiled species for which the emergency listing provision was created" (Lieben 1997:1371). As of August 1, 2002, though, this species was successfully added to the federal list. According to the State of California Department of Fish and Game (2004), the following species are currently included on the state's Threatened and Endangered Animals List:

Ambystoma californiense, California tiger salamander (Sonoma Co. distinct population segment); Emergency Federal Endangered status until March 19, 2003; July 22, 2002

Rana muscosa, Mountain yellow-legged frog (Southern California population - San Gabriel, San Jacinto… [END OF PREVIEW]

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