Eco-briefs | Artists organize against fracking

A lionfish
Photo by Joel Rotunda

Dear Governor Hickenlooper events in Boulder, Denver organize artists against fracking

Frack Free Colorado, a collaborative group of organizations hoping to raise awareness of fracking, will team up with Patagonia’s Boulder store to host a gathering at 7:30 p.m. on Aug. 5. The event is intended to encourage people to contribute to Dear Governor Hickenlooper: This Is My Colorado, a project to engage filmmakers, photographers, graphic artists and anyone who has a story about fracking’s effects or possible solutions. The event will showcase previously submitted short films as well as general information about how to get involved with the project. According to a press release, a full-length film will premiere at Mountainfilm 2014 and is a collaboration with established filmmakers, including Oscar winning director Louie Psihoyos of The Cove, Jeff Orlowski, director of Chasing Ice, Pete McBride, Ally Bombeck and others. The goal of Dear Governor Hickenlooper: This Is My Colorado is to shape the conversation around energy to gear up for the 2014 elections. The Patagonia store in Boulder is located at 1212 Pearl St. The Patagonia Denver Store, at 1431 15th St., will host a gathering at 7:30 p.m. on Aug. 6.

— Camilla Sterne

No fowling around: Chickens await classification for endangerment

The lesser prairie chicken has escaped the endangered species list — for six more months at least. After adding the bird to the list of “threatened” species in December 2012 due to habitat loss, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service managers have decided to wait another six months to determine the status of the imperiled fowl to gather additional data and verify the accuracy of information already available. According to the service, the final fate of the lesser prairie chicken will be decided no later than March 2014.

— Patrick Fort

Lionfish becoming king of the Atlantic Ocean

The elegant but dangerous lionfish is causing problems all over the eastern seaboard of the United States. A recent expedition completed by Oregon State University and others found that not only are lionfish populations reaching unprecedented levels, they are getting bigger — some reaching lengths of 16 inches. The fish were found as deep as 300 feet below the surface.

“We expected some populations of lionfish at that depth, but their numbers and size were a surprise,” Stephanie Green, David H. Smith Conservation Research Fellow at Oregon State University, said in a press release from the school.

This increase in size also allows lionfish to create even more lionfish cubs, if you will, than usual. Large, mature females in some species of fish have been known to be able to produce up to 10 times as many offspring as a fish half its size.

With all of these extra fish swimming around, other species are suffering. Populations in herbivorous fish have dwindled, allowing seaweed to run rampant. Lionfish have been known to decrease prey populations by up to 80 percent in the Atlantic Ocean, according to a 2007 study by Oregon State University.

Lionfish were accidentally introduced to the Atlantic, where they have no natural predators, in the 1990s. Researchers are still trying to determine what controls are lacking in the Atlantic that are present in the lionfish’s native Pacific Ocean.

— Patrick Fort

Glacial meltwater affecting internal glacial ice, speeding melt

A new study released by the University of Colorado Boulder and the Cooperative Institute of Research for Environmental Sciences has concluded that the water produced by melting glaciers melts the ice sitting underneath the glaciers, increasing the speed of ice melt and creating what the study called “snouts.” The discovery of this phenomenon was made by studying satellite images. Researchers noticed parts of a glacier in Greenland were flowing faster than others.

“Through satellite observations, we determined that an inland region of the Sermeq Avannarleq Glacier, 40 to 60 miles from the coast, is flowing about one and a half times faster than it was about a decade ago,” Thomas Philips, the author of the study, says in a University of Colorado Boulder press release.

It was previously estimated that it would take thousands of years for the internal temperature of the ice to change dramatically, but when considering the presence of melted glacial ice, that number drops to one measured in mere decades.

— Patrick Fort