California's drought is imperiling tricolored blackbirds, large trees and native fish, with some of the affected species already on the state's endangered list and others likely headed there because of rapidly declining numbers, scientists say.
"The problems created by the drought are just a harbinger of things to come," said Peter Moyle, a professor at the UC Davis Center for Watershed Sciences, which hosted a daylong Capitol summit Friday on economic and environmental costs of the drought.
"Native fishes and the ecosystems that support them are incredibly vulnerable to drought," Moyle said. "There are currently 37 species of fish on the endangered species list in California -- and there is every sign that that number will increase," he said.
Eighty percent of those species face extinction by the year 2100 if present trends continue, Moyle said.
Native fish are able to weather natural drought years, but the development of the state's water system has created the equivalent of perpetual drought conditions for many species, he said.
The state has 47 animal species on its endangered list, another 36 listed as "threatened," plus six that are candidates for inclusion on one of the lists, according to the state Department of Fish and Wildlife.
One species that could end up on the candidate list is the tricolored blackbird, said Robert Meese, of UC Davis' Department of Environmental Science and Policy.
"The tricolored blackbird may not be on the endangered list yet, but the drought is definitely having an effect," Meese said. "The birds have not been reproducing."
Reproduction declines have been noticed since 2007, before the drought, Meese said, but recent counts have shown even steeper declines.
A statewide survey of tricolored blackbirds, known for their red shoulder patch with a bright white stripe, was recently concluded and the results are due out in three weeks.