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Endangered Species of the Saline Wetlands

 

Salt Creek Tiger Beetle

(Cicindela nevadica lincolniana Casey)

Photo courtesy of University of Nebraska-Lincoln Department of EntomologyThe rare Salt Creek tiger beetle, a tiny insect that makes its home exclusively on the salt flats along stream banks of Salt Creek and its tributaries, is one species that utilizes the saline wetlands.  As one of the rarest insects in the United States, the tiger beetle’s population has been steadily declining over the past decades due largely to loss of habitat.  The beetle received federal protection under the Endangered Species Act in October of 2005; before, it was protected as an endangered species by the State of Nebraska.  The Salt Creek tiger beetle is considered a bio-indicator species. Its presence signals the existence of a healthy saline wetland and serves as an important link in a complex food chain of the saline wetland ecosystem. The tiger beetle is often used as an indicator species signally the existence of a healthy saline wetland and serves as an important link in a complex food chain of the saline wetland ecosystem. 

Critical Habitat Designation: In 2010, the Service designated 1,933 acres of critical habitat for the beetle along Little Salt Creek and Rock Creek in Lancaster County. As a result of a 2011 settlement agreement, on June 3, 2013, the Service revised critical habitat to include saline wetlands along Little Salt Creek, Rock Creek, Oak Creek, and Haines Branch Creek, all of which are functioning saline wetlands or have the potential to be restored to that capacity. The Service sought public comment on that proposal, and conducted an economic screening analysis on its potential impacts.

The revised critical habitat designation consist of 1,110 acres. It is smaller than the previous designation, but contains sufficient suitable habitat to support recovery of the species. It includes two additional stream corridors that were not previously included, which could support Salt Creek tiger beetle populations in the future. The goal of this designation is to support at least six populations of Salt Creek tiger beetle in the future. This designation will accommodate growth of existing populations and reintroduction of additional tiger beetle populations, as well as protect dispersal corridors and support sufficient prey insects to ensure adequate food for the species.

US Fish & Wildlife Service | Endangered Species: Salt Creek Tiger Beetle Information

For articles and documents regarding the Salt Creek tiger beetle and critical habitat, see the Publications and Resources page.

Description:  The Salt Creek tiger beetle is metallic brown to dark olive green above with a metallic dark green underside.  It’s a relatively small beetle reaching about 10-13mm in total length.  Although similar to other tiger beetles, it’s distinguished by its form and unique dorsal and ventral color patterns.  A predatory insect preying on other arthropods, the tiger beetle gets its name from the way it captures its prey, grasping other insects with its mandibles (mouthparts) in a “tiger-like” manner. 
Similar Species:  From a distance, a well-marked specimen might resemble the Common Shore tiger beetle (Cicindela repanda)
Range:  The Salt Creek tiger beetle is endemic to the remnant saline wetlands of Lancaster County in eastern Nebraska, located along Salt Creek and its tributaries.  Only three small populations are believed to persist.   
Habitat:  The beetle can be found in moist, muddy areas along stream banks and has adapted to the extreme saline conditions associated with saline wetlands and exposed salt flats.  They can tolerate brief periods of high water inundation. Critical Habitat designated by the USFWS for the Salt Creek tiger beetle can be seen here.
Seasonal Occurrence:  The adult Salt Creek tiger beetle has a life span of only two years and spends the majority of its time underground, surfacing for a brief time between late spring and early summer.
Status:  Endangered; State and Federal endangered species.

 

Saltwort

(Salicornia rubra A. Nels.)

Field Marks:  Saltwort plants have leafless, jointed stems and flowers in fleshy cylindrical spikes. The saltwort is an annual that has the joints of the spike longer than thick.
Stems:   Upright or ascending, branched from the base, up to 1 foot tall, smooth, with opposite, jointed branchlets, with the joints longer than thick, usually turning reddish.
Habitat:   Grows in wet, saline or alkaline soils.
Seasonal Occurrence:   Annual, flowering July - November
Status:   Endangered; State endangered species

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