A Pest With a Passion for Prickly Pear Cactus

July 17th, 2018

Map from presentation by Kristen Sauby, from her presentation to the Ecological Society of America Annual Meeting.

This is Passport to Texas

There’s a moth making its way to Texas from Florida whose larvae feed exclusively on prickly pear cactus.

The cactus moth has proven to be a really effective eradicator of prickly pear.

Invertebrate biologist, Michael Warriner, says Australian officials imported the cactus moth—a South American native—in the mid-1920s as a biological control against the coastal prickly pear; a nonnative species they had imported in the early 1800s.

And over a few years, it didn’t totally eliminate it, but it reduced it substantially. So, it’s proven to be one of the most successful biological control agents, as far as insects go.

The moth, discovered in the Florida Keys in 1989, may have arrived on imported prickly pears, and since then has spread up to South Carolina and over to Louisiana.

So, the concern is that if it makes it to the southwestern United States and Mexico that it could have a similar impact and eradicate or reduce prickly pear; and the fact is that—for Mexico especially—prickly pear is a major agricultural commodity in the tens of millions of dollars in terms of value. And it’s worth millions of dollars in the US, too: for agriculture and biodiversity and landscaping.

Tomorrow: How to identify and prevent the spread of the cactus moth.

The Wildlife Restoration program supports our series.
For Texas Parks and Wildlife…I’m Cecilia Nasti

Catching Waves — Sound Waves

July 16th, 2018

Atlanta State Park

This is Passport to Texas

It’s easy to forget how the sounds of nature enrich our wellbeing, or how some manmade sounds can have the opposite effect. The World Listening Project recognizes these relationships.

The World Listening Project is a not for profit organization whose goal is to help people better understand our relationships with the sounds around us.

Dan Godston lives in Chicago and is involved in the World Listening Project. He says Wednesday, July 18 is World Listening Day, and one way to observe it is by taking a sound walk in a state park.

And a sound walk is where you’re focused on what you hear in your sound scape, your sonic environment.

In parks you might hear birds, rustling leaves, water, buzzing insects, the sound of mountain bikes whizzing by, people’s voices, and the crunch of a hiking trail beneath your feet.

Traffic, the clanging and growling of industry and manufacturing, and the thumping bass of car stereos heard from blocks away, are also part of the sonic environment, and often considered sound pollution. Just as bright city lights obscure our view of stars in the night sky, excessive manmade sounds muffle our ability to connect with the natural world.

As stewards of this planet, we should try to be careful about what’s happening to biodiversity, and certainly, I think, having the range of sounds relates to that.

That’s our show…for Texas Parks and Wildlife…I’m Cecilia Nasti.

Borderland Ecology

July 13th, 2018
Mother Black Bear and cub in Big bend National Park.

Mother Black Bear and cub in Big Bend National Park.

This is Passport to Texas

Smiley Nava served as borderlands biologist at Texas Parks and Wildlife before retiring. His job involved understanding and developing conservation strategies for the natural resources along the shared border between Texas and Mexico.

We have ecosystems; we have natural resources that we share between Mexico and the state of Texas. We’re talking about an area that is a little over 12-hundred miles in length – from El Paso, Ciudad Juarez – to the mouth of the Rio Grand. And that’s all inclusive of the area that is my project.

Nava identified local, state and governmental partners in Mexico to join this mission. During his tenure, Nava said one border city, in particular, lead the way.

The City of Nuevo Laredo, they have an ecological department. It’s a sub directoria de la ecología – as it’s called — subdirectory of ecology. They make sure that there’s conservation implemented… if they’re clearing out trees that they’re replanted with native vegetation. And they’re very proactive… They’re setting the example and showing their other cities along the border how this can work and be beneficial.

Learn more about Borderlands Ecology and other conservation topics on the Texas parks and Wildlife website.

The Wildlife Restoration Program supports our series.

For Texas Parks and Wildlife…I’m Cecilia Nasti.

Wildlife Ignores Borders

July 12th, 2018

Big Bend National Park. On the border.

This is Passport to Texas

Borders are political demarcations, conceived of by man. Nature, meanwhile, knows no such boundaries.

The boundary to Texas and the United States doesn’t stop midway in the Rio Grande. It goes all the way to the Mexican side as far as the resources are concerned.

Smiley Nava retired from Texas Parks and Wildlife where he served as its borderlands biologist. His work focused on the natural resources along the 12-hundred mile border shared between Texas and Mexico.

We are specifically looking at the state natural resources that we share with our four Mexican states. We’re right at around fifty percent of the US/Mexico border, so Texas is an important component of those shared resources.

The area Smiley oversaw is diverse.

The Tamaulipan scrub land is one of the provinces that are prominent for a good part of our border that we share with Mexico. The other part, the upper basin of the Rio Grande, as you move inland, is more typical of the Chihuahuan desert. So the species utilize those, what natural resources and components we share with Mexico in those regions, kind of drive where we’re trying to focus our work.

The Wildlife Restoration Program supports our series.

For Texas Parks and Wildlife…I’m Cecilia Nasti.

Birding: Gateway to the Natural World

July 11th, 2018

Roseate Spoonbill on Texas coast.

This is Passport to Texas

Legendary Birder, Victor Emanuel, views birding as a gateway to nature appreciation.

Well, it’s the best way for people to get connected to nature, because birds are the most obvious part of nature visible to us. A lot of the mammals are active at night. But birds are here; they’re all around us.

Emanuel says it’s the fact that they are so visible that makes them interesting.

Birds are some of the most visible creatures around us. You have the song of birds, you have the motion of birds, the fact they can fly. A cardinal, a blue jay, a duck on a pond… they’re large enough and so they attract our attention in a way that smaller creatures don’t.

Victor Emanuel has spent a lifetime watching birds around the world. And while all birds are watchable, he says that doesn’t mean he likes them all.

I actually have a prejudice against introduced birds that are a problem, like starlings. They’re a beautiful bird, actually, with the colors on them in the sunlight. But they take over the nest of native birds, and throw out the young and eggs, so they don’t get to raise their young and eggs. But, yeah, they’re all watchable.

Find birding information on the Texas Parks and Wildlife website.

That’s our show for today…For Texas Parks and Wildlife…I’m Cecilia Nasti