For Immediate Release, April 20, 2010
Contact: Noah Greenwald, Center for Biological Diversity, (503) 484-7495
404 Southeastern Freshwater Fish, Mussels, Crayfish, Birds, and Others
Petitioned for Protection as Endangered Species
ATLANTA, Ga.— The Center for Biological Diversity and six southeastern conservation groups filed a formal petition today asking the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service for Endangered Species Act protection for 404 species dependent on the region’s troubled waterways. The 1,145-page petition asks for protection for 48 fish, 92 mussels and snails, 92 crustaceans, 82 plants, 13 reptiles, four mammals,15 amphibians, 55 insects, and three birds including the Florida sandhill crane, salamanders like the hellbender and Black Warrior waterdog, fish that once formed important fisheries like the Alabama shad, and nine freshwater turtle species. It sets in motion a federal review of the species.
“With unparalleled diversity and a variety of severe threats, the Southeast’s rivers are the extinction capital of North America,” said Noah Greenwald, endangered species program director at the Center. “Dams, pollution, growing demand for water, and uncertainty about future water availability with global climate change mean these 404 species need Endangered Species Act protection to have any chance at survival.”
Based on a massive search of available literature and extensive consultation with a host of scientific experts, the petition includes extensive information on the status of, and threats to, the 404 species, and clearly demonstrates the species are in need of protection. The combined threat of dams, urban and agricultural sprawl, logging, mining, livestock grazing, pollution, invasive species, climate change, and other factors represent a massive assault on the health and integrity of Southeast rivers and clearly threaten the survival of these 404 species.
“These 404 species are an integral part of what makes the Southeast unique,” said Greenwald. “Saving them would improve the health of southeastern rivers and help ensure a high quality of life for people now and in the future.”
The Southeast’s rivers and streams are a hotspot of biological diversity, harboring, for example, 493 fishes (62 percent of U.S fish species) and at least 269 mussels (91 percent of all U.S. mussel species). The Coosa River is the site of the greatest modern extinction event in North America with extinction of 36 species following construction of a series of dams. Overall, the Mobile Basin is home to half of all North American species that have gone extinct since European settlement.
“An extinction crisis is unfolding in southeast rivers and streams,” said Greenwald. “If dramatic action is not taken to curb impacts to the region’s rivers, these 404 species and many others will be lost forever.”
The species included in the petition have a diversity of life-history strategies and range from the anadromous Alabama shad to the sandshell mussel, which lures fish into close proximity using an appendage that looks like a small fish in order to release their larvae into the fish’s gills. The species have colorful names like Chesapeake logperch, holiday darter, Alabama hickorynut, bearded red crayfish, frecklebelly madtom, and Pascagoula map turtle.
Groups joining the Center include Alabama Rivers Alliance, Clinch Coalition, Dogwood Alliance, Gulf Restoration Network, Tennessee Forests Council, and West Virginia Highlands Conservancy.
Learn more about the campaign: http://www.biologicaldiversity.org/programs/biodiversity/1000_species/the_southeast_freshwater_extinction_crisis/index.html.
View an interactive map of all the species' ranges: http://www.biologicaldiversity.org/programs/biodiversity/1000_species/the_southeast_freshwater_extinction_crisis/map.html.
View a slide show of focal species in the petition: http://www.biologicaldiversity.org/programs/biodiversity/1000_species/the_southeast_freshwater_extinction_crisis/slide_show.html.