Illegal cannabis farms damage critical habitat for susceptible birds and mammals – sciencedaily

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The sites favored by illegal cannabis growers on the west coast of the United States overlap the habitats of three endangered predators, potentially exposing them to toxic pesticides, according to a study by Greta Wengert of the Integral Ecology Research Center in California and colleagues, publishing September 1 in the open access journal PLOS ONE.

Illegal cannabis cultivation is often associated with the widespread use of pesticides, such as rodenticides, which can move up the food chain and build up in the bodies of predators. In a unique collaboration between law enforcement and wildlife biologists, researchers used location data on 1,469 illegal cannabis cultivation sites discovered between 2007 and 2014 to map the likely distribution of the sites. of cultivation in the forest regions of California and southern Oregon. They compared these maps with habitat distribution models for two carnivorous mammals: the endangered Pacific fisherman (Pekania pennanti) and endangered Humboldt’s marten (Martes caurina humboldtensis), and a bird of prey: the endangered northern spotted owl (Strix occidentalis caurina).

The model predicted 21,000 square kilometers of forest with a high probability of cannabis cultivation, and ground verification located sixteen previously undetected cannabis farms, suggesting that illegal cultivation may be widespread in the study area. The analysis revealed an overlap between planned cannabis cultivation sites and suitable habitat for the three species of conservation concern: nearly 48% of Spotted Owl habitat, 45% of Spotted Owl habitat. fishermen and 40% of Humboldt’s marten habitat overlaps areas with a high probability of illegal cultivation. . In the southern Sierra Nevada, 100% of fisherwomen’s home ranges overlapped with high probability cultivation areas, suggesting that this population may be particularly at risk of exposure to toxic pesticides from illegal cannabis farms. Locating and cleaning up contaminated cultivation sites should be a high priority for conservationists and land managers, the authors say.

The authors add, “The results of our study and its support for validation indicate that the problem of trespassing cannabis cultivation is larger than previously thought. The study reinforces our conviction that the environmental impacts of this illicit activity negatively affect the recovery of these three sensitive substances. forest predators in a way we haven’t started to deal with yet. “

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