kenyon mobley kenyon_b_mobley at
Tue Feb 23 17:03:18 EST 1999

Food (or fodder) for thought about the endangered species act vs. ecosystem

>>Published Saturday, February 20, 1999, in the Miami Herald
>>Scientists sound the alarm for rare, tiny marine critter
>>Is there room for lowly, microscopic marine critters on the marquee list of
>>America's endangered species, next to the popular manatees, Florida
>>panthers and bald eagles?
>>A coalition of scientists and conservationists is calling the question.
>>They are asking the federal government to grant endangered species status
>>to 11 species and a new genus of bryozoans found nowhere else but on a
>>large sand bar off St. Lucie County.
>>The marine animals are in immediate danger of extinction, their advocates
>>say, because the Army Corps of Engineers plans to mine sand from Capron
>>Shoal, where they live, to widen 2.3 miles of beach south of Fort Pierce
>>The $6.3 million project is expected to start late next week -- unless the
>>National Marine Fisheries Service, which lists endangered marine plants and
>>animals, steps in.
>>The service must step carefully. Listing the bryozoans could have
>>implications for other beach-building projects that Florida uses to pump up
>>its prime tourist draws.
>>But not considering them for protection might violate one of the nation's
>>most important environmental laws, says attorney Eric Glitzenstein, who
>>represents the bryozoans' advocates.
>>Quoting the >>Endangered<< >>Species<< >>Act<<, he says: "From the
>>narrowest point of view, it is in the best interest of mankind to minimize
>>the losses of genetic variations. . . . They are potential resources. They
>>are keys to puzzles which we cannot solve, and may provide answers to
>>questions which we have not yet learned to ask.
>>A bryozoan is a tiny, invertebrate marine animal that can live its entire
>>life on a single grain of sand.
>>Judith Winston, who co-discovered the Capron Shoal bryozoan colonies 14
>>years ago with a scientist from Denmark, argued in a letter to the
>>fisheries service that the species will become extinct -- and with them the
>>chemical secrets she says might help battle cancer.
>>"These unique bryozoans belong to the same order taxonomically as the
>>bryozoan species which is the source of a potent anti-cancer agent,
>>Bryostatin 1, wrote Winston, the research director at the Virginia Museum
>>of Natural History. "Bryostatin 1 derives from the bryozoan Bugula species
>>. . . which is also present in the currently rich biotic community of
>>Capron Shoal.
>>"The medicinal properties of the newly discovered bryozoans have not yet
>>been explored, and if the species do not receive emergency listing
>>protection, the opportunity to conduct such research may be lost forever.
>>There are about 5,000 species of bryozoans, whose name means "moss animals.
>>In his book, Land From the Sea: The Geologic Story of South Florida, marine
>>scientist John Edward Hoffmeister says bryozoans grow together to form
>>knobby colonies that can be a foot or more in diameter. They are higher on
>>the scale of life than corals, he says, but not anywhere near as pretty.
>>Winston, fellow scientist Brian Killday, the St. Lucie County Audubon
>>Society, the St. Lucie Waterfront Council and the St. Lucie County
>>Conservation Alliance asked the fisheries service and its parent, the
>>Department of Commerce, on Feb. 11 for the emergency listing for bryozoans.
>>The listing would be temporary, lasting up to 240 days -- or long enough
>>for the federal agency to determine whether or not the species warrant
>>inclusion among 40 plants and animals listed by the fisheries service as
>>endangered or threatened. The proposal asks that the corps not begin
>>dredging until the service decides on the emergency listing request.
>>Gordon Helm, service spokesman, said the agency was studying the request,
>>which he described as difficult to evaluate given the size of the species
>>in question and complications of searching for it on other shoals.
>>The corps of engineers, meanwhile, overlooked the bryozoans entirely in its
>>planning. Jacqueline Griffin, spokeswoman for the corps' Jacksonville
>>district, said the agency had "no knowledge of the bryozoans when the
>>project began.
>>When scientists and conservationists pointed out the omission of the
>>bryozoans, the agency responded: "The effect on these and other species
>>inhabiting the shoal should be minimal.
>>Winston says the corps' response rests on sheer speculation since
>>scientific research has never been conducted to find these particular
>>bryozoans on other shoals nearby. She has found them only on the shallowest
>>part of Capron, where the corps plans to dredge.
>>And fellow researcher Eckart Hakansson of Denmark has never seen those
>>species in his work in the Caribbean, Philippines and Australia.
>>"Whether or not bryozoans exist elsewhere . . . is an important question
>>that must be answered before  [the corps] begins dredging the only known
>>habitat of these unique organisms, she wrote.
>>Of course, many people scoff at the idea of holding up a
>>multimillion-dollar beach-building project while scientists search for
>>bryozoans, but ecologists who've dedicated their careers to preserving
>>>>biodiversity<< say that the lowliest deserve protection.
>>"Some of these tiny, unloved marine organisms are proving hugely important
>>in the pharmaceutical industry for the compounds they're finding there,
>>said Stuart Pimm, a prominent University of Tennessee scientist.
>>"And that's only one reason to protect these animals. The other is that
>>they're found only in one place. By that, they're telling us that something
>>unique, special and wonderful is going on there.
>>NewsHound is a service of Knight Ridder.
>>For more information, write to: speak at
>>This material is copyrighted and may not be republished without permission
>>of the originating newspaper or wire service.
>>For more information, visit the NewsHound website at
>>or send an email to speak at
>>Defenders of Wildlife
>>1101 14th St. NW, Suite 1400
>>Washington, DC 20005
>>(202)-682-9400 ext. 283
>>fax: (202)-682-1331
>>LHood at

Kenyon B. Mobley
Georgia Southern University
Department of Biology
Statesboro, GA 30460-8042

Office (912) 681-5963
Fax:   (912) 681-0845

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