For Immediate Release, June 21, 2016
Petition Filed to Protect Rare Alabama Snail Under Endangered Species Act
Once Thought to Be Extinct, Oblong Rocksnails Threatened by
Habitat Degradation, Pollution, Climate Change
BIRMINGHAM, Ala.— The Center for Biological Diversity and Cahaba Riverkeeper filed a formal petition today to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service seeking protection for oblong rocksnails under the Endangered Species Act. The oblong rocksnail is a freshwater, nickel-sized snail with a characteristic three-banded shell and black-and-yellow-striped soft body. This species, found only in the Cahaba River in Alabama, was thought to be extinct for 70 years until it was rediscovered in 2011.
“The oblong rocksnail has been given a rare second chance at survival,” said Tara Easter, a scientist with the Center. “The Endangered Species Act is the snail’s best lifeline to make sure it’s around for generations to come.”
Oblong rocksnails were driven to near extinction by 1935, likely as a result of pollution and effluent from expanding agriculture and urban development in the Cahaba River Basin, and were officially declared extinct in 2000. The species was rediscovered in 2011, but threats to its survival — including urban sprawl, pollution, sedimentation, small population size, limited range and climate change — threaten its long-term viability.
“Threats to the snail and other species will mount as urban-area growth leads to more stormwater runoff, habitat fragmentation, and development of irrigation systems and wastewater treatment plants,” said Myra Crawford, executive director of Cahaba Riverkeeper.
“Rocksnails are critical to the health of the Cahaba River ecosystem and the Mobile River basin, one of the most biologically rich freshwater systems in the United States,” said Easter. “We should do everything we can to protect this diverse area, because it’s an underappreciated national treasure.”
The Southeast is a global hotspot of both biodiversity and extinction. The region boasts more kinds of freshwater animals than anywhere else in the world, and the Mobile River basin in Alabama is the epicenter of mollusk diversity. But human population growth, pollution, impoundments and invasive species have also made this basin a hotspot of the global extinction crisis and the site of one-third of known mollusk extinctions globally.
The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 1 million members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.