Southern California crustacean sand-dwellers suffering localized extinctions

Southern California crustacean sand-dwellers suffering localized extinctions

Two types of small beach critters –– both cousins of the beloved, backyard roly-poly –– are suffering localized extinctions in Southern California at an alarming rate, says a new study. As indicator species for beach biodiversity at large, their disappearance suggests a looming threat to similar sand-dwelling animals across the state and around the world.

via ScienceDaily: Top Science News:

July 18, 2013 — Two types of small beach critters — both cousins of the beloved, backyard roly-poly — are suffering localized extinctions in Southern California at an alarming rate, says a new study by UC Santa Barbara scientists. As indicator species for beach biodiversity at large, their disappearance suggests a looming threat to similar sand-dwelling animals across the state and around the world.Led by David Hubbard and Jenifer Dugan of UCSB’s Marine Science Institute, the new work reveals a trend toward extirpation that has been growing slowly since 1905, steadily since the 1970’s, and today reflects the “dramatic” impact of development, climate change, and sea level rise on the diminutive critters that are essential prey for shorebirds.From Point Conception in Santa Barbara County, to Baja at the state’s southern tip, the endemic isopods in question have vanished from some 60 percent of beaches where they were recorded 100 years ago. Barring the quick implementation of effective conservation strategies for sandy beaches, the pair say, the isopods — and several other species — may be wiped out altogether.”The pattern is really strong, and it’s a lot larger than we expected,” said research scientist Dugan, co-author to Hubbard on the paper posted today in the online edition of the journal Estuarine Coastal and Shelf Science. “The southern species has lost eight percent of its California range since 1971 — there are only a few places where you can find it on the mainland coast now. The northern species isn’t doing well in the southern California region either. Just a handful of populations still remain south of Ventura County.”By mining historical data and conducting modern surveys at beaches where the species were reported in the past, Hubbard and Dugan assembled something of a biography of the critters whose formal names are Alloniscus perconvexus and Tylos punctatus. Their research spans more than a century, dating back to a 1905 Smithsonian monograph on isopods that includes a section on Santa Barbara. But the bulk of earlier data came from surveys conducted in the 1970’s, which were inspired by the 1969 Santa Barbara oil spill that affected a section of coast where both species today are flourishing.They may not be so lucky in the future.The nocturnal creatures, whose tell-tale burrows were once a familiar site to beachgoers, are caught in an ecological Catch-22. The beaches where they are currently thriving — mostly on ungroomed, undeveloped coastlines — are also those where they face the greatest threat from sea level rise. Such “natural” beaches, Dugan explained, are often also bluff-backed, leaving the slow, vulnerable critters with no place to go as sea level rises.”Looking into the future is a little bit daunting,” said Hubbard. …

For more info: Southern California crustacean sand-dwellers suffering localized extinctions

ScienceDaily: Top Science News

Southern California crustacean sand-dwellers suffering localized extinctions

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