Sturgeon Outlasted the Dinosaurs. Can They Survive Us? – The New York Times

“The American caviar rush began on the lower Delaware estuary, a landscape today crowded with chemical plants, container ports and the sprawl of Philadelphia. But this was the 1870s, when nature edged up to the city’s limits, when probably nowhere else in the country was home to more Atlantic sturgeon: During the spring spawn, an estimated 360,000 adults thronged the reach that marked the brackish threshold between bay and river. Theirs was the roe prized by the Russian czars, whose brokers at one point paid more than $1,400 in today’s dollars for a single female Atlantic sturgeon. Bayside, N.J., came to be known as Caviar, a miniature, pop-up New Bedford in the state’s marshy south. During the fishery’s peak, in 1888, 16,500 Atlantic sturgeon — they can live 60 years and grow to 14 feet and 800 pounds — were “harvested,” or killed. Most were female, and the millions of eggs that each could produce during a spawn never made it into the water within which they were meant to hatch.

For an estimated 10 to 15 million years, Atlantic sturgeon, or Acipenser oxyrinchus oxyrinchus, have spawned in as many as 38 rivers throughout eastern North America. An anadromous fish, it is born in fresh water, spends its adulthood in salt water and returns to its natal rivers to spawn. Because individuals from different rivers do not commonly interbreed, their homing instinct has produced populations whose genetics are unique to the waterways of their birth. But the caviar rush of the late 19th century ravaged the Atlantic sturgeon, and today breeding populations remain in only 22 of its 38 natal rivers. In 2012, the species became protected under the Endangered Species Act.

At the time, researchers estimated that the Delaware population consisted of 300 or fewer spawning adults per year. While the Delaware Atlantic sturgeon is just one branch of the species, its decline epitomizes the global biodiversity crisis. “If you lose one population and their functional genetic diversity, then you’re possibly eliminating the ability for the species to adapt to new conditions in the future,” says Isaac Wirgin, an associate professor of environmental medicine at N.Y.U. Langone Health, who has sequenced Atlantic sturgeon DNA. In other words, when one branch is extirpated, a block from the genetic Jenga tower is removed and the whole family teeters further.”

David Lindsay Jr.

NYT comment:

Thank you Andrew S. Lewis et al. This is an amazing, and depressing story. We should bend over backwards to try and save the North Altantic sturgeon, as well as many other endangered species as well. How do we stop the corruption in our own regulatory agencies? David blogs at

Opinion | An Invasive Insect Threatens Delmarva Westlands – The New York Times

“On the Delmarva Peninsula, the low-lying expanse of coastal plain that bulges east from the Chesapeake Bay, some of the last remaining sizable green and wild spaces are wetland forests that shroud tidal rivers and creeks on their languid journeys toward the bay: the Nanticoke, the Marshyhope, the Choptank, the Tuckahoe, the Pocomoke.

As hard as it may be to believe in this long-settled part of the world, made up of Delaware and the Eastern Shore counties of Maryland and Virginia, many of these forests remain virtually unexplored natural wonders. They are home to an explosive diversity of trees, shrubs and understory plants shaped by the rhythmic undulations of the tides, including rare and threatened species such as red turtlehead and seaside alder. They are havens for salamanders, lizards, woodpeckers, herons and more. The distinctive hill-and-hummock topography creates shallow pools where small fish shelter and forage; these fish feed bigger ones sought by fishermen and women.

The hummock-building power of ash trees is on display in a forest near the Tuckahoe Creek. Emerald ash borer damage is visible near the bases of trees.

The hummock-building power of ash trees is on display in a forest near the Tuckahoe Creek. Emerald ash borer damage is visible near the bases of trees.

One tree makes these wetlands possible: The ash. But now these trees face a formidable adversary. A few years ago, a small beetle showed up and started to change everything: the emerald ash borer, originally from Asia, was most likely a stowaway on a container ship and was first discovered in Michigan in 2002. It is now found in 35 states and was confirmed on Maryland’s Eastern Shore in 2015. This invasive insect has killed tens of millions of ash trees in the United States and threatens millions more in its continuing path of destruction. On the Delmarva, it could upend entire ecosystems.”