Earth Notes

The Colorado Plateau is one of North America’s human and environmental treasures. Ancient cultures have called this land of sun-baked deserts and lush mountain landscapes home for centuries. Earth Notes, KNAU’s weekly environmental series, explores the Plateau by telling stories of the intricate relationships between environmental issues and our daily lives.

Rooted in science and wrapped in human interest, the two minute long segments encourage listeners to think of themselves as part of the solution to environmental problems. Upbeat and informative, the program tries to foster hope and dampen despair about the environment, and motivate listeners to become more conscious and informed stewards of the Colorado Plateau.

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

Managing wildlife sometimes means weighing the value of one species against another in order for the more threatened of the two to survive. This is the case in New Mexico, where state game managers were able to remove desert bighorn sheep from the state's endangered species list, in part, by reducing a robust mountain lion population.

  As cliff swallows return to the Colorado Plateau this spring, they set about building mud nests on cliffs – or, just as often, on manmade structures like bridge abutments or under wide eaves. That takes a lot of work—more than a thousand beakfuls of mud for a new nest.

  Cliff swallows live communally, and they’ll sometimes fast-track the nest-building process by stealing mud from neighbors or laying an egg or two in a nearby nest.

Springs are magical places where groundwater comes to the surface — lush green patches that are among the most diverse, productive, and threatened ecosystems on Earth.

Credit: Wikipedia Commons.

Migratory birds are among the forces that stitch the globe together. Biologists have long known that animals can carry seeds and spores on their bodies, or may eat them and spread them in their waste.

NASA/JPL-Snow Optics Laboratory

  For those living in the American Southwest, dust is as much a part of the environment as dryness and sunshine. Tiny particles seem to get into everything, including houses, cars, and noses.

While dust can be annoying, scientists believe it plays a vital role in the region’s ecology. It appears to provide essential minerals and chemical compounds to high-mountain ecosystems, just as seafaring salmon bring ocean nutrients high up into freshwater streams.

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