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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 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 2007 the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) proposed a request for additional critical habitat designation regarding the Salt Creek tiger beetle. In April 2009, the USFWS was able to add 138 acres of designated critical habitat to three of four proposed units. Today, designated critical habitat for the Salt Creek tiger beetle spans four units and consists of roughly 1,933 acres. 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.)

Photo courtesy of Robert KaulPhoto courtesy of Nebraskaland Magazine

Field Marks:  All saltworts 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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