Ecology, Climate Change and Related News

Ellie Cohen, President and CEO, Point Blue Conservation Science

Author Archives: ecohen

  1. San Francisco- Adaptation Check List for Sea Level Rise

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    A representation of what San Francisco’s Crissy Field would look like under 12 feet of sea level rise. Credit: Nickolay Lamm. Data: Climate Central

    San Francisco Rising to Threat of Swelling Seas

    October 23rd, 2014 By John Upton climatecentral.org

    The fog of uncertainty cast by rising seas is starting to lift from $25 billion worth of public projects planned in San Francisco. The City by the (rising) Bay, where bayfront shorelines will continue to experience worsening high tide flooding, where the nearby international airport is among the nation’s most vulnerable to floods, and where Pacific Ocean shoreline erosion could be accelerated by sea level rise, has adopted a first-in-the-nation approach to assessing potential infrastructure risks posed by rising seas. The new guidance, which includes a simple project checklist, will help officials incorporate sea level rise into decisions about building and upgrading everything from pipes to police stations to streets. Seas have risen 8 inches since industry started burning fossil fuels, although long-term ocean cycles have temporarily spared the West Coast from some of those impacts in recent decades. Two or three more feet of sea level rise is forecast globally this century.

    “I haven’t seen anything this comprehensive,” said Jessica Grannis, the Georgetown Climate Center’s adaptation program manager, after reviewing San Francisco’s new approach. “This is pretty unique, and a cool new step forward in mainstreaming climate adaptation into city capital budgeting processes.” The guidance was adopted last month by the city’s capital planning committee, a group of lawmakers and city officials formed nearly a decade ago to guide and prioritize byzantine capital spending by departments and agencies. According to the committee’s most recent biennial report, such spending will slightly exceed $25 billion during the next decade. The checklist process is simple, designed to create a high-level picture of a proposed infrastructure project’s future flooding risks. Some facilities, such as parks, can easily withstand occasional flooding. A hospital or fire station, by contrast, could be crippled if the land upon which it was built became permanently inundated. The new checklist helps figure out where a project’s flood risks lie between those extremes. The checklist requires a city official to review sea level rise inundation maps to determine whether their infrastructure project will be located in a floodplain under different sea level rise scenarios — or on land that could become permanently inundated. If either of those is the case, then the official ticks a series of “high,” “medium,” or “low” boxes. The boxes indicate how severely anticipated floods would affect operations at the project, how well the infrastructure would recover from a flood, and the extent of projected costs associated with cleaning up after it is waterlogged. Finally, the official jots down sea level rise adaptation measures that are being incorporated into the project.

    The process is straightforward, but not prescriptive. A project won’t automatically be abandoned if sea level rise risks are found to be high. Rather, the findings from the checklist will be used to guide decisions by officials and lawmakers regarding whether a proposed project makes sense, whether it makes sense where it is planned, and whether it needs to be redesigned to reduce flooding hazards — or constructed in such a way that it can be easily adapted later. The capital planning committee doesn’t have the power to veto or approve a project, but it advises lawmakers on whether they should approve its costs. The guidance was adopted five years after San Francisco-based urban think tank SPUR published a report highlighting the need for Bay Area cities and counties to start planning for climate change impacts, and less than two years after San Francisco’s mayor assembled a city committee to do just that.

    In the U.S., much of the work needed to adapt to climate change and improve resilience is occurring within cities, a trend that’s being pushed along by 100 Resilient Cities and similar initiatives. Following Hurricane Sandy, New York launched a $19.5 billion climate resiliency plan, and just this month it released new building guidelines for those living in floodplains.

    The Georgetown Climate Center recently concluded that 14 U.S. states have adaptation plans in place, and another nine have some planning underway. President Obama has proposed spending $1 billion in 2015 on climate resilience at the federal level. The U.S. has not yet committed anything to what is imagined to eventually be a $100 billion a year Green Climate Fund, designed to help the world’s poor and developing countries adapt to climate change, though it has been reported that a pledge might be made next month. So far, the fund has raised about $2.3 billion from other national donors.

    SPUR policy director Laura Tam, who has spoken out in the past about the dangers of lackluster and uncoordinated climate adaptation planning in the San Francisco Bay Area, praised San Francisco’s new guidance. “Five years ago, this topic was virtually unknown,” Tam told Climate Central. “Today, many city departments have not only participated and worked together to produce this guidance, but they are working collaboratively to develop solutions.” The guidance currently relates only to public projects. San Francisco capital planning official Brian Strong, who helped write it, said he hopes that it “leads to reforms” within the city’s planning and building inspection departments, which could use similar processes when assessing risks associated with proposed private developments, such as new homes and neighborhoods. But individual assessments for projects won’t be enough. City officials say sea level rise will start figuring in neighborhood-wide planning efforts, including along its vulnerable northern bayfront, which is a thriving hub of tourism — the city’s most important industry. One major decision that the city is going to start trying to make in the coming months, through what planning department staff say will be a public process, will be how to manage flood risks at Mission Bay, a booming redevelopment area close to the ballpark and near the city’s downtown. The city is building its main public safety building there, in what could become a flood plain. Flood gates are being considered to reduce flooding risks, along with various urban design solutions. As conversations such as those proceed in the coming years, they will be accompanied by an evolution of the new sea level rise guidance and checklist. The city plans to review the guidance in four years, or sooner if need be, as lessons are learned and science advances. “I think that this has to play out a little,” Tam said. “We’ll see how well it works in practice over the next 5 to 10 years as we build projects.”

  2. Compost helps rangeland lock up carbon

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    A sprinkle of compost helps rangeland lock up carbon

    By Carolyn Lochhead Updated 8:22 pm, Saturday, October 18, 2014

    A compost experiment that began seven years ago on a Marin County ranch has uncovered a disarmingly simple and benign way to remove carbon dioxide from the air, holding the potential to turn the vast rangeland of California and the world into a weapon against climate change.
    The concept grew out of a unique Bay Area alignment of a biotech fortune, a world-class research institution and progressive-minded Marin ranchers. It has captured the attention of the White House, the Brown administration, the city of San Francisco, officials in Brazil and China, and even House Republicans, who may not believe in climate change but like the idea that “carbon farming” could mean profits for ranchers.
    Experiments on grazing lands in Marin County and the Sierra foothills of Yuba County by UC Berkeley bio-geochemist Whendee Silver showed that a one-time dusting of compost substantially boosted the soil’s carbon storage. The effect has persisted over six years, and Silver believes the carbon will remain stored for at least several decades.
    The experiments were instigated by John Wick and his wife, Peggy, heiress to the Amgen biotech fortune, on a 540-acre ranch they bought in Nicasio. What began as a search for an artist’s studio turned into a seven-year, $8 million journey through rangeland ecology that has produced results John Wick calls “the most exciting thing I can think of on the planet right now.”
    The research showed that if compost from green waste — everything from household food scraps to dairy manure — were applied over just 5 percent of the state’s grazing lands, the soil could capture a year’s worth of greenhouse gas emissions from California’s farm and forestry industries.
    The effect is cumulative, meaning the soil keeps absorbing carbon dioxide even after just one application of compost, the researchers found. In theory, Silver calculates, if compost made from the state’s green waste were applied to a quarter of the state’s rangeland, the soil could absorb three-quarters of California’s total annual greenhouse gas emissions.
    “For a lot of people, this sounds a little fantastic,” Silver said. “There’s nothing magic about it.”
    Soil is a major source of carbon, “and we’ve been bleeding it into the atmosphere for many, many years through plowing, overgrazing and poor agricultural practices,” Silver said. “So anything we can do to get some of that carbon back into the soil is going to be beneficial.”….

     

    Applying Compost To Soil Can Help Cut Carbon Pollution

    by Katie Valentine Posted on October 22, 2014

    According to research, if compost were applied to 5 percent of California’s land used for livestock grazing, it could result in a year’s worth of emissions from farm and forestry industries being captured. …

  3. No-till with cover crops and rotation effective in dryland ecosystems, less so in moist climates

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    No-till farming, such as used in this Illinois soybean field, shows promise in dry regions but causes lower yields in cold, moist areas like Northern Europe, a new study finds. Credit: Paige Buck/USDA NRCS Illinois photo

    No-till agriculture may not bring hoped-for boost in global crop yields, study finds

    October 23, 2014 University of California – Davis

    No-till farming appears to hold promise for boosting crop yields only in dry regions, not in the cool, moist areas of the world, this study found. As the core principle of conservation agriculture, no-till has been promoted worldwide in an effort to sustainably meet global food demand….Conservation agriculture is currently practiced on 125 million hectares of land globally, an area nearly as big as the total U.S. cropland. Three key principles guide the concept: minimizing soil disturbance (also called no-till farming), protecting the soil with cover crops or leftover crop residue, and rotating the crops.

    The goals of conservation agriculture are to improve long-term productivity, profits and food security, particularly under the threat of climate change. Because conservation agriculture avoids tillage, it is less time-consuming and can be more cost-effective than conventional farming methods. In recent years, however, there has been some disagreement about the impact of no-till farming practices on yield.

    ….For example, yield reductions were minimized when the principles of crop rotation and residue retention were also practiced, highlighting the importance of implementing all three conservation agriculture principles as part of an integrated management system rather than no-till alone. Moreover, when adopted in dry climates in combination with the other two principles of conservation agriculture, no-till farming performed significantly better than conventional tillage, likely due to the higher retention of soil moisture. Dryland ecosystems are home to 38 percent of the world’s population, and millions of acres of land in arid regions of sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia have been identified as suitable for sustainable intensification. Yet, the authors also caution that practicing no-till in dryland areas without the implementation of the other two principles of conservation agriculture decreases yields.
    In regions with moist climates and sufficient precipitation, no-till farming actually resulted in yields that were on average 6 to 9 percent lower than with conventional tillage methods….

     

    Cameron M. Pittelkow, Xinqiang Liang, Bruce A. Linquist, Kees Jan van Groenigen, Juhwan Lee, Mark E. Lundy, Natasja van Gestel, Johan Six, Rodney T. Venterea, Chris van Kessel. Productivity limits and potentials of the principles of conservation agriculture. Nature, 2014; DOI: 10.1038/nature13809

  4. Where Have All The Rangelands Gone?

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    New Study: Where Have All The Rangelands Gone?

    October 23, 2014  |  by: Matt Miller  |  TNC

    Cows on a California ranch. Photo by Matt Miller/TNC.

    By Matt Miller, senior science writer, The Nature Conservancy

    Across the western United States, it’s a familiar conservationist’s lament: rangelands are disappearing at an alarming rate, lost in a sea of “for sale” signs and subdivisions. But what do the data really say? What are the long-term trends in rangeland conversion? Are conservation easements and other land protection tools making a difference? A new paper in the journal PLOS ONE by Dick Cameron, a lead scientist for The Nature Conservancy in California, and coauthors presents a comprehensive view of rangeland conversion — and just as importantly, the drivers of this conversion — on a large scale.

    The result is a comprehensive look at landscape change. And it’s true: rangelands really are disappearing at an alarming rate.

    What are the Losses?

    Cameron and his coauthors used a dataset of land-use types to map rangeland conversion in California between 1984 and 2008. They classified the resulting land-use changes with aerial imagery to determine whether it was developed into homes, planted with crops or dedicated to other land uses. Then they compared this loss against ranchland protection achieved by various conservation measures. They found a loss of more than 20,000 acres of rangeland per year to other uses within California, for a total loss of more than 480,000 acres. Of the remaining rangeland, only 24 percent was protected against future conversions by conservation easement or fee ownership. About 38 percent had no protection at all.

    Is It Just Homes on the Range?

    Conservationists often cite residential and commercial development as key threats to rangeland development. And indeed, researchers found this as a significant factor, accounting for 49 percent of the conversion. More surprisingly, 40 percent of rangelands were lost to agricultural intensification for a variety of crops. While the land was still in agriculture, a lot of the habitat value and low water usage offered by ranching was lost. An agricultural tax incentive — designed to discourage conversion of agricultural lands to residential development — was successful in protecting 37 percent of the remaining rangeland. But those tax incentives don’t protect those lands from being converted to other agriculture.

    Why Should Conservationists Care?

    Rangelands protect a lot of valuable wildlife habitat, but their value goes well beyond that. They often connect large blocks of public lands, providing room for migratory species as well as those that have large home range. And new research is finding even more benefits of protecting rangelands, including storing carbon — helping to mitigate the effects of climate change.

    Perhaps most significant of all is water savings, especially as Western states like California face severe droughts. The rangeland that has been converted to intensified agriculture is estimated to use five times more water than all the households of San Francisco combined.

    What’s Driving the Change?

    Quite simply, economics. It’s not exactly a secret that it’s tough to make a living at ranching. As ranches pass to younger generations, many find that the difficulties are just too much, and choose to sell the property or plant a higher value crop, such as almonds or pistachios. The authors advocate land-use planning that enables large areas of ranchland to remain intact and for increased incentives to make ranching more economically viable. They call conservation easements “underutilized” for ranchland protection and believe their study can help organizations focus on unprotected properties. And policies that provide incentives for keeping working ranches working are also vital, they argue. In California, the Williamson Act — passed in 1965 — provided state money allowing local governments to provide tax incentives to protect land for agricultural land uses. However, state funding of this program ceased in 2009 — and the study’s authors state that this will likely accelerate the rate of land conversion. They urge a return to funding this Act and other policies that provide financial incentives for landowners.

    What’s This Paper’s Impact on Conservation?

    This paper provides a comprehensive look at regional landscape change, but the tools used to measure that change can be applied beyond Central California. “Fragmentation of rangelands isn’t just a story of California, it’s a story of the Western United States,” says Cameron. “By analyzing the data to pick up drivers of conversion, we are in a better position to prevent future losses. Knowing where land is protected by different tools can help us prioritize future public and private investments in habitat conservation.” Cameron calls this approach of tracking loss and protection “conservation accounting.” Just as the private sector uses profit-and-loss statements to measure the health of a company, this accounting allows conservationists to assess losses against protection. “It’s an indicator of progress,” says Cameron. “Conservationists have protected key rangelands in California. But this analysis shows that rangeland is still being lost — and points us to the places where our investments can make the most difference.”

  5. Stormy outlook for long-term ecology studies

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    Stormy outlook for long-term ecology studies

    The closure of a 40-year project to understand and protect seabirds shows the false priorities of funders, warns Tim Birkhead.

    NATURE October 2014 PDF

    In the early months of this year, a series of fierce storms battered Europe’s western seaboard. Seabirds struggle to feed in rough water, and some 40,000 of them soon washed up dead on beaches. Climate change is expected to increase the frequency of such storms, so to understand the impact of global warming on ecosystems, we need to analyse the long-term biological impact of these events.
    Until recently, I was in an excellent position to do this. For more than 40 years, I have studied populations of guillemots on Skomer Island, off the coast of Wales. My research has revealed, for example, that the birds now breed two weeks earlier than they did in the 1970s, probably owing to climate change. This kind of research is not easy. It has taken four decades to accumulate the data necessary to understand how the population works because to do so requires accurate measures of how long adult guillemots live, how many chicks they produce, how old they are when they breed, what proportion of young birds survive to breed and so on. No more. Funding for the project has been axed. As it stands, I have no money to pay a research assistant to help me identify and count exactly how many of the birds have managed to survive the storms. To assess the storms’ effects, we need to gather data from the 2015 breeding season to feed into the statistical models we use to calculate survival. It is frustrating that officials chose this moment to terminate our funding, when we have such an important opportunity to assess the vulnerability of seabirds to climate change. Guillemots are one of our most abundant seabirds, and they are excellent indicators of the quality of the marine environment. For example, they are desperately vulnerable to oil pollution, and tens of thousands have died in oil spills such as those resulting from the sinking of the Torrey Canyon (1967) and Erika (1999) oil tankers. Partly as a consequence of such disasters, guillemot numbers have fluctuated widely over the past 80 years….

  6. Hottest month and 12 months on record globally

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    NOAA: September global temperature reaches record high; January-September global temperature ties as record highest

    October 20, 2014 NOAA

    The globally averaged temperature over land and ocean surfaces for September 2014 was the highest for the month since record keeping began in 1880, according to NOAA scientists. It also marked the 38th consecutive September with a global temperature above the 20th century average. The last below-average global temperature for September occurred in 1976.….

    •    Global Climate Report for September 2014

    •    NOAA Climate Portal

     

    CREDIT: NOAA

     

    Global Highlights

    • The combined average temperature over global land and ocean surfaces for September 2014 was the highest on record for September, at 0.72°C (1.30°F) above the 20th century average of 15.0°C (59.0°F).
    • The global land surface temperature was 0.89°C (1.60°F) above the 20th century average of 12.0°C (53.6°F), the sixth highest for September on record. For the ocean, the September global sea surface temperature was 0.66°C (1.19°F) above the 20th century average of 16.2°C (61.1°F), the highest on record for September and also the highest on record for any month.
    • The combined global land and ocean average surface temperature for the January–September period (year-to-date) was 0.68°C (1.22°F) above the 20th century average of 14.1°C (57.5°F), tying with 1998 as the warmest such period on record.

     

    Earth Just Had Its Hottest September On Record

    by Katie Valentine Posted on October 20, 2014 at 12:24 pm

    Last month was the warmest September the globe has experienced since record-keeping began in 1880, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Researchers from NOAA’s National Climatic Data Center found that the Earth’s average global land and ocean surface temperature temperature in September was 60.30°F, which is 1.30°F warmer than the 20th century average. In September, NOAA states, “warmer-than-average temperatures were evident over most of the global land surface, except for central Russia, some areas in eastern and northern Canada, and a small region in Namibia. Record warmth was notable in much of northwestern Africa, coastal regions of southeastern South America, southwestern Australia, parts of the Middle East, and regions of southeastern Asia.” Southern California experienced a heat wave in September that forced schools to shorten the school day and saw temperatures that about 15 degrees higher than average for the region.

     

     

    Hottest 12 Months On Record: NOAA Data ‘Show No Pause In Warming’

    by Joe Romm Posted on October 21, 2014

    NOAA reports, “The past 12 months (10-13 to 9-14) was the warmest 12-month period since records began in 1880.” While some, mainly non-scientists, have said the world hasn’t warmed in 18 years “NOAA records show no pause in warming.”

     

    Annual temperature anomalies and 2014 projection from NOAA (see below).

    Global warming is like the Energizer bunny. It just keeps going and going and going. The big difference is that there aren’t any “Energizer bunny” deniers, claiming that the bunny stopped moving 18 years ago! Not only did NOAA report Monday that last month was the hottest September on record, but they also pointed out, “The past 12 months—October 2013–September 2014—was the warmest 12-month period among all months since records began in 1880.” NOAA climatologist Jessica Blunden says “It’s pretty likely” that 2014 will break the record for hottest year.” The AP reports: Some people, mostly non-scientists, have been claiming that the world has not warmed in 18 years, but “no one’s told the globe that,” Blunden said. She said NOAA records show no pause in warming. ….What’s especially amazing is that 2014 is poised to break the global temperature record despite the fact that it isn’t an El Niño year. It is usually the combination of the underlying long-term warming trend and the regional El Niño warming pattern that leads to new global temperature records, as NASA has explained. But the underlying trend of human-caused warming is simply too strong to be denied, as it were. If we want to slow it down and ultimately stop it before it destroys a livable climate, we need to slash carbon pollution ASAP. Why does NOAA think 2014 will be a record? They released this chart as a supplement to their September global temperature report (click to enlarge):

    NOAA explains:

    These graphics compare the year-to-date temperature anomalies for 2014 (black line) to what were ultimately the five warmest years on record: 2010, 2005, 1998, 2003, and 2013. Each month along each trace represents the year-to-date average temperature. In other words, the January value is the January average temperature, the February value is the average of both January and February, and so on.

    The graph at the top of this post, by Things Break, uses NOAA’s purple projection, which assumes that each of the last three months of 2014 matches its 3rd warmest value on record. As NOAA explains, “Each of the last six months (April through September) have been 3rd warmest or warmer.” In fact, four of the last five months — May, June, August, and September — have been first (or tied for first) warmest, so there’s a good chance 2014 will be warmer than this projection.

    I asked Dr. John Abraham, a climate expert who follows global temperature trends closely, what it would mean if this becomes the hottest year on record despite the fact that there’s been no El Niño. He told me:

    It is likely we will have the hottest year on record. The surprising fact is this year has not had an El Niño. This year was not supposed to be hot, at least according to those who think climate change had stopped. But the real facts tell us a different story, the Earth is still warming, the “pause” never really was, and once again….

  7. Conservation Science News October 24, 2014

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    Focus of the WeekHottest month and 12 months on record globally

    1-ECOLOGY, BIODIVERSITY, RELATED

    2-CLIMATE CHANGE AND EXTREME EVENTS with special DROUGHT section

    3- ADAPTATION and HOPE

    4- POLICY

    5- RENEWABLES, ENERGY AND RELATED

    6-
    RESOURCES and REFERENCES

    7-OTHER NEWS OF INTEREST 

    8-IMAGES OF THE WEEK

    ——————————–

    NOTE: Please pass on my weekly news update that has been prepared for
    Point Blue Conservation Science
    staff.  You can find these weekly compilations posted on line
    by clicking here.  For more information please see www.pointblue.org.


    The items contained in this update were drawn from www.dailyclimate.org, www.sciencedaily.com, SER The Society for Ecological Restorationhttp://news.google.com, www.climateprogress.org, www.slate.com, www.sfgate.com, The Wildlife Society NewsBrief, CA BLM NewsBytes and other sources as indicated.  This is a compilation of information available on-line, not verified and not endorsed by Point Blue Conservation Science.  
    You can sign up for this news compilation by signing up for the California Landscape Conservation Cooperative Newsletter or the Bay Area Ecosystems Climate Change Consortium listserve to receive this. You can also email me directly at Ellie Cohen, ecohen at pointblue.org with questions or suggestions. 

    Founded as Point Reyes Bird Observatory, Point Blue’s 140 scientists advance nature-based solutions to climate change, habitat loss and other environmental threats to benefit wildlife and people, through bird and ecosystem science, partnerships and outreach.  We work collaboratively to guide and inspire positive conservation outcomes today — for a healthy, blue planet teeming with life in the future.  Read more about our 5-year strategic approach here.

     

     

    Focus of the Week- Hottest month and 12 months on record globally

     

    NOAA: September global temperature reaches record high; January-September global temperature ties as record highest

    October 20, 2014 NOAA

    The globally averaged temperature over land and ocean surfaces for September 2014 was the highest for the month since record keeping began in 1880, according to NOAA scientists. It also marked the 38th consecutive September with a global temperature above the 20th century average. The last below-average global temperature for September occurred in 1976.….

    •    Global Climate Report for September 2014

    •    NOAA Climate Portal

     

    CREDIT: NOAA

     

    Global Highlights

    • The combined average temperature over global land and ocean surfaces for September 2014 was the highest on record for September, at 0.72°C (1.30°F) above the 20th century average of 15.0°C (59.0°F).
    • The global land surface temperature was 0.89°C (1.60°F) above the 20th century average of 12.0°C (53.6°F), the sixth highest for September on record. For the ocean, the September global sea surface temperature was 0.66°C (1.19°F) above the 20th century average of 16.2°C (61.1°F), the highest on record for September and also the highest on record for any month.
    • The combined global land and ocean average surface temperature for the January–September period (year-to-date) was 0.68°C (1.22°F) above the 20th century average of 14.1°C (57.5°F), tying with 1998 as the warmest such period on record.

     

    Earth Just Had Its Hottest September On Record

    by Katie Valentine Posted on October 20, 2014 at 12:24 pm

    Last month was the warmest September the globe has experienced since record-keeping began in 1880, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Researchers from NOAA’s National Climatic Data Center found that the Earth’s average global land and ocean surface temperature temperature in September was 60.30°F, which is 1.30°F warmer than the 20th century average. In September, NOAA states, “warmer-than-average temperatures were evident over most of the global land surface, except for central Russia, some areas in eastern and northern Canada, and a small region in Namibia. Record warmth was notable in much of northwestern Africa, coastal regions of southeastern South America, southwestern Australia, parts of the Middle East, and regions of southeastern Asia.” Southern California experienced a heat wave in September that forced schools to shorten the school day and saw temperatures that about 15 degrees higher than average for the region.

     

     

    Hottest 12 Months On Record: NOAA Data ‘Show No Pause In Warming’

    by Joe Romm Posted on October 21, 2014

    NOAA reports, “The past 12 months (10-13 to 9-14) was the warmest 12-month period since records began in 1880.” While some, mainly non-scientists, have said the world hasn’t warmed in 18 years “NOAA records show no pause in warming.”

     

    Annual temperature anomalies and 2014 projection from NOAA (see below).

    Global warming is like the Energizer bunny. It just keeps going and going and going. The big difference is that there aren’t any “Energizer bunny” deniers, claiming that the bunny stopped moving 18 years ago! Not only did NOAA report Monday that last month was the hottest September on record, but they also pointed out, “The past 12 months—October 2013–September 2014—was the warmest 12-month period among all months since records began in 1880.” NOAA climatologist Jessica Blunden says “It’s pretty likely” that 2014 will break the record for hottest year.” The AP reports: Some people, mostly non-scientists, have been claiming that the world has not warmed in 18 years, but “no one’s told the globe that,” Blunden said. She said NOAA records show no pause in warming. ….What’s especially amazing is that 2014 is poised to break the global temperature record despite the fact that it isn’t an El Niño year. It is usually the combination of the underlying long-term warming trend and the regional El Niño warming pattern that leads to new global temperature records, as NASA has explained. But the underlying trend of human-caused warming is simply too strong to be denied, as it were. If we want to slow it down and ultimately stop it before it destroys a livable climate, we need to slash carbon pollution ASAP. Why does NOAA think 2014 will be a record? They released this chart as a supplement to their September global temperature report (click to enlarge):

    NOAA explains:

    These graphics compare the year-to-date temperature anomalies for 2014 (black line) to what were ultimately the five warmest years on record: 2010, 2005, 1998, 2003, and 2013. Each month along each trace represents the year-to-date average temperature. In other words, the January value is the January average temperature, the February value is the average of both January and February, and so on.

    The graph at the top of this post, by Things Break, uses NOAA’s purple projection, which assumes that each of the last three months of 2014 matches its 3rd warmest value on record. As NOAA explains, “Each of the last six months (April through September) have been 3rd warmest or warmer.” In fact, four of the last five months — May, June, August, and September — have been first (or tied for first) warmest, so there’s a good chance 2014 will be warmer than this projection.

    I asked Dr. John Abraham, a climate expert who follows global temperature trends closely, what it would mean if this becomes the hottest year on record despite the fact that there’s been no El Niño. He told me:

    It is likely we will have the hottest year on record. The surprising fact is this year has not had an El Niño. This year was not supposed to be hot, at least according to those who think climate change had stopped. But the real facts tell us a different story, the Earth is still warming, the “pause” never really was, and once again….

     

     

     

    Stormy outlook for long-term ecology studies

    The closure of a 40-year project to understand and protect seabirds shows the false priorities of funders, warns Tim Birkhead.

    NATURE October 2014 PDF

    In the early months of this year, a series of fierce storms battered Europe’s western seaboard. Seabirds struggle to feed in rough water, and some 40,000 of them soon washed up dead on beaches. Climate change is expected to increase the frequency of such storms, so to understand the impact of global warming on ecosystems, we need to analyse the long-term biological impact of these events.
    Until recently, I was in an excellent position to do this. For more than 40 years, I have studied populations of guillemots on Skomer Island, off the coast of Wales. My research has revealed, for example, that the birds now breed two weeks earlier than they did in the 1970s, probably owing to climate change. This kind of research is not easy. It has taken four decades to accumulate the data necessary to understand how the population works because to do so requires accurate measures of how long adult guillemots live, how many chicks they produce, how old they are when they breed, what proportion of young birds survive to breed and so on. No more. Funding for the project has been axed. As it stands, I have no money to pay a research assistant to help me identify and count exactly how many of the birds have managed to survive the storms. To assess the storms’ effects, we need to gather data from the 2015 breeding season to feed into the statistical models we use to calculate survival. It is frustrating that officials chose this moment to terminate our funding, when we have such an important opportunity to assess the vulnerability of seabirds to climate change. Guillemots are one of our most abundant seabirds, and they are excellent indicators of the quality of the marine environment. For example, they are desperately vulnerable to oil pollution, and tens of thousands have died in oil spills such as those resulting from the sinking of the Torrey Canyon (1967) and Erika (1999) oil tankers. Partly as a consequence of such disasters, guillemot numbers have fluctuated widely over the past 80 years….

     

    Retaining forests where raptors nest can help to protect biodiversity

    Posted: 23 Oct 2014 07:07 AM PDT

    Raptors can affect the distribution of other species and they can also be used to find forests with high biodiversity value, researchers say. Predators influence decisions on conservation actions because they awake a remarkable interest in the society. However, favoring just predators in conservation can also mislead the scarce funding invested in nature conservation….

     

    Birds roosting in large groups less likely to contract west nile virus

    October 23, 2014 University of Illinois College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences (ACES)

    Although it would seem logical that large numbers of roosting birds would attract more mosquitoes that carry West Nile virus and contract the disease when bitten, recent research has found the opposite to be true. That is, when large groups of birds roost together the chances that an individual bird will get bitten by mosquitoes carrying West Nile virus and subsequently contract the disease actually go down….

     

    B. L. Krebs, T. K. Anderson, T. L. Goldberg, G. L. Hamer, U. D. Kitron, C. M. Newman, M. O. Ruiz, E. D. Walker, J. D. Brawn. Host group formation decreases exposure to vector-borne disease: a field experiment in a ‘hotspot’ of West Nile virus transmission. Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences, 2014; 281 (1796): 20141586 DOI: 10.1098/rspb.2014.1586

     

    Australian Birds That Mysteriously Chase Rain

    OCT. 20, 2014 NY Times Observatory By SINDYA N. BHANOO

    Thousands of banded stilts in flight over a lake in Australia. Credit Roger Standen

    The banded stilt, a graceful, nomadic water bird found in inland salt lakes in Australia, can somehow sense and move toward rainfall hundreds of miles away. Australians often spot the birds within days of rainfall, said Reece Pedler, a biologist at Deakin University in Australia. And then, abruptly, the birds will disappear. The mystery, he said, is “How do these birds know when to leave one place for another, and how do they do it so fast?” To better understand the movements of the nomadic birds, Mr. Pedler and his colleagues tagged 21 banded stilts with satellite transmitters. Their findings appear in the journal Biology Letters. One tagged bird flew to a saline wetland more than 1,000 miles in less than two and a half days. Another bird took six days but ended up in the same area. Other tagged birds made overnight flights of about 200 to 400 miles. The banded stilts are interesting because their movements are so sudden and unpredictable. While many other birds migrate, Mr. Pedler said, most do it seasonally, “on a predictable time scale, and have time to plan, prepare and adjust flight-muscle mass.” Exactly how the banded stilts know when and where to travel is still a mystery, he said, but the satellite trackers provide important details about their gypsylike movements.

     

    Extreme nomadism in desert waterbirds: flights of the banded stilt

    R. D. Pedler, R. F. H. Ribot and A. T. D. Bennett Biology Letters Received July 13, 2014. Accepted September 23, 2014.

    Abstract

    In contrast to well-studied Northern Hemisphere birds with spatially and temporally predictable seasonal migrations, waterbirds in desert biomes face major challenges in exploiting stochastic, rich, yet short-lived resource pulses in vast arid landscapes, leading to the evolution of nomadic behaviour. An extreme example is the banded stilt (Cladorhynchus leucocephalus), an opportunistic colonial breeder at remote inland salt lakes after infrequent rain events. Using satellite telemetry on 21 birds (tracked for a mean of 196.2 days), we reveal extensive, rapid and synchronized movement among individuals to and from salt lakes. Two birds left coastal refugia for the inland following rain, flying 1000–2000 km, while 12 others rapidly moved a mean of 684 km (range 357–1298 km) away from drying inland sites to the coast. Two individuals moved longitudinally across the continent, departing and arriving at the same points, yet travelling very different routes; one bird moving more than 2200 km in less than 2.5 days, the other more than 1500 km in 6 days. Our findings reveal movements nearly twice as long and rapid as recorded in other desert waterbirds. We reveal capability to rapidly detect and exploit ephemeral wetland resource pulses across the stochastic Australian desert.

    © 2014 The Author(s) Published by the Royal Society. All rights reserved.

     

     

    New Study: Where Have All The Rangelands Gone?

    October 23, 2014  |  by: Matt Miller  |  TNC

    Cows on a California ranch. Photo by Matt Miller/TNC.

    By Matt Miller, senior science writer, The Nature Conservancy

    Across the western United States, it’s a familiar conservationist’s lament: rangelands are disappearing at an alarming rate, lost in a sea of “for sale” signs and subdivisions. But what do the data really say? What are the long-term trends in rangeland conversion? Are conservation easements and other land protection tools making a difference? A new paper in the journal PLOS ONE by Dick Cameron, a lead scientist for The Nature Conservancy in California, and coauthors presents a comprehensive view of rangeland conversion — and just as importantly, the drivers of this conversion — on a large scale.

    The result is a comprehensive look at landscape change. And it’s true: rangelands really are disappearing at an alarming rate.

    What are the Losses?

    Cameron and his coauthors used a dataset of land-use types to map rangeland conversion in California between 1984 and 2008. They classified the resulting land-use changes with aerial imagery to determine whether it was developed into homes, planted with crops or dedicated to other land uses. Then they compared this loss against ranchland protection achieved by various conservation measures. They found a loss of more than 20,000 acres of rangeland per year to other uses within California, for a total loss of more than 480,000 acres. Of the remaining rangeland, only 24 percent was protected against future conversions by conservation easement or fee ownership. About 38 percent had no protection at all.

    Is It Just Homes on the Range?

    Conservationists often cite residential and commercial development as key threats to rangeland development. And indeed, researchers found this as a significant factor, accounting for 49 percent of the conversion. More surprisingly, 40 percent of rangelands were lost to agricultural intensification for a variety of crops. While the land was still in agriculture, a lot of the habitat value and low water usage offered by ranching was lost. An agricultural tax incentive — designed to discourage conversion of agricultural lands to residential development — was successful in protecting 37 percent of the remaining rangeland. But those tax incentives don’t protect those lands from being converted to other agriculture.

    Why Should Conservationists Care?

    Rangelands protect a lot of valuable wildlife habitat, but their value goes well beyond that. They often connect large blocks of public lands, providing room for migratory species as well as those that have large home range. And new research is finding even more benefits of protecting rangelands, including storing carbon — helping to mitigate the effects of climate change.

    Perhaps most significant of all is water savings, especially as Western states like California face severe droughts. The rangeland that has been converted to intensified agriculture is estimated to use five times more water than all the households of San Francisco combined.

    What’s Driving the Change?

    Quite simply, economics. It’s not exactly a secret that it’s tough to make a living at ranching. As ranches pass to younger generations, many find that the difficulties are just too much, and choose to sell the property or plant a higher value crop, such as almonds or pistachios. The authors advocate land-use planning that enables large areas of ranchland to remain intact and for increased incentives to make ranching more economically viable. They call conservation easements “underutilized” for ranchland protection and believe their study can help organizations focus on unprotected properties. And policies that provide incentives for keeping working ranches working are also vital, they argue. In California, the Williamson Act — passed in 1965 — provided state money allowing local governments to provide tax incentives to protect land for agricultural land uses. However, state funding of this program ceased in 2009 — and the study’s authors state that this will likely accelerate the rate of land conversion. They urge a return to funding this Act and other policies that provide financial incentives for landowners.

    What’s This Paper’s Impact on Conservation?

    This paper provides a comprehensive look at regional landscape change, but the tools used to measure that change can be applied beyond Central California. “Fragmentation of rangelands isn’t just a story of California, it’s a story of the Western United States,” says Cameron. “By analyzing the data to pick up drivers of conversion, we are in a better position to prevent future losses. Knowing where land is protected by different tools can help us prioritize future public and private investments in habitat conservation.” Cameron calls this approach of tracking loss and protection “conservation accounting.” Just as the private sector uses profit-and-loss statements to measure the health of a company, this accounting allows conservationists to assess losses against protection. “It’s an indicator of progress,” says Cameron. “Conservationists have protected key rangelands in California. But this analysis shows that rangeland is still being lost — and points us to the places where our investments can make the most difference.”

     

     

    BOFFFFs (big, old, fat, fertile, female fish) sustain fisheries

    Posted: 21 Oct 2014 07:16 AM PDT

    A new compilation of research from around the world now shows that big, old, fat, fertile, female fish — known as BOFFFFs to scientists — are essential for ensuring that fishery stocks remain sustainable.

     

    Pharmaceuticals and the water-fish-osprey food web

    Posted: 20 Oct 2014 06:26 PM PDT

    Ospreys do not carry significant amounts of human pharmaceutical chemicals, despite widespread occurrence of these chemicals in water, a recent study finds. These findings represent the first published study that examines the bioaccumulation of pharmaceuticals in the water-fish-osprey food web.

     

    Desert Streams: Deceptively Simple

    Oct. 23, 2014 — Volatile rainstorms drive complex landscape changes in deserts, particularly in dryland channels, which are shaped by flash flooding. Paradoxically, such desert streams have surprisingly simple….”Semi-arid and arid river systems are extremely important to the populations that live around them,” he concluded. “Water resources are obviously a huge limitation in the development of societies, and a lot of water is being progressively diverted for irrigation, water use and other purposes, so those can further affect the spatial patterns of where flow is in these channels and potentially impact the processes of where topography develops in the river channel. Humans can inadvertently have an impact on the shape and form of river channels like these.”

     

    How ferns adapted to one of Earth’s newest and most extreme environments

    October 23, 2014 University of Bristol

    Ferns are believed to be ‘old’ plant species — some of them lived alongside the dinosaurs, over 200 million years ago. However, a group of Andean ferns evolved much more recently: their completely new form and structure (morphology) arose and diversified within the last 2 million years. This novel morphology seems to have been advantageous when colonising the extreme environment of the high Andes. …The researchers also found that the rate by which new biological species arise (speciation) is significantly higher among páramo than non-páramo ferns.Dr Sanchez-Baracaldo of Bristol’s School of Geographical Sciences said: “These ferns are remarkable because, in geological terms, they quickly evolved a new morphology as a response to new and extreme environmental conditions. It’s fascinating to notice that, by a process known as convergent evolution, whereby similar features evolve independently in species of different lineages, cloud forest ferns arrived at the same ‘solution’ in response to the same environmental pressures.”…

     

    New feather findings get scientists in a flap

    Posted: 21 Oct 2014 06:06 PM PDT

    Scientists have revealed that feather shafts are made of a multi-layered fibrous composite material, much like carbon fiber, which allows the feather to bend and twist to cope with the stresses of flight. Since their appearance over 150 million years ago, feather shafts (rachises) have evolved to be some of the lightest, strongest and most fatigue resistant natural structures.

     

     

    CA BLM WILDLIFE TRIVIA QUESTION of the WEEK

     

    As in the famous Merriam’s Kangaroo rat TV show, this is posed as an answer — you supply the question.
    And the answer is, “Merriam’s kangaroo rat and Fresno kangaroo rat.”
    (Okay, here it is as a question, after all: “What distinction do these two share, among kangaroo rats on BLM California-managed lands?”)

    ——> See answer at end

     

     

     

    2014 Arctic sea ice extent – 6th lowest in millennia

    By dana1981 & Skeptical Science posts: 23 October 2014

    The National Snow and Ice Data Center has reported that this year we saw the 6th-lowest minimum Arctic sea ice extent on record. Research has shown that most of the long-term decline in sea ice, or the “death spiral” as it’s come to be known, is due to human-caused global warming.

     

     

    As permafrost soils thaw soil microbes amplify global climate change

    Posted: 22 Oct 2014 10:14 AM PDT

    Scientists have discovered how an invisible menagerie of microbes in permafrost soils acts as global drivers of Earth processes such as climate via gas exchange between soils and the atmosphere. These findings will help climate modelers more accurately predict Earth’s future climate. Tiny soil microbes are among the world’s biggest potential amplifiers of human-caused climate change, but whether microbial communities are mere slaves to their environment or influential actors in their own right is an open question. Now, research by an international team of scientists from the U.S., Sweden and Australia, led by University of Arizona scientists, shows that a single species of microbe, discovered only very recently, is an unexpected key player in climate change. The findings, published in the journal Nature, should help scientists improve their simulations of future climate by replacing assumptions about the different greenhouse gases emitted from thawing permafrost with new understanding of how different communities of microbes control the release of these gases. Earlier this year, the international team discovered that a single species of microbe, previously undescribed by science, was prominent in permafrost soils in northern Sweden that have begun to thaw under the effect of globally rising temperatures. Researchers suspected that it played a significant role in global warming by liberating vast amounts of carbon stored in permafrost soil close to the Arctic Circle in the form of methane, a powerful greenhouse gas trapping heat in the Earth’s atmosphere. But the actual role of this microbe — assigned the preliminary name Methanoflorens stordalenmirensis, which roughly translates to “methane-bloomer from the Stordalen Mire” — was unknown. The new research nails down the role of the new microbe, finding that the sheer abundance of Methanoflorens, as compared to other microbial species in thawing permafrost, should help to predict their collective impact on future climate change. “If you think of the African savanna as an analogy, you could say that both lions and elephants produce carbon dioxide, but they eat different things,” said senior author Scott Saleska, an associate professor in the UA’s Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology and director of the UA’s new Ecosystem Genomics Institute. “In Methanoflorens, we discovered the microbial equivalent of an elephant, an organism that plays an enormously important role in what happens to the whole ecosystem.” Significantly, the study revealed that because of these microbial activities, all wetlands are not the same when it comes to methane release….”As the ‘global freezer’ of permafrost is failing under the influence of warming, we need to better understand how soil microbes release carbon on a larger, ecosystem-wide level and what is going to happen with it,” he said. Said UA co-author Virginia Rich: “For years, there’s been a debate about whether microbial ecology ‘matters’ to what an ecosystem collectively does — in this case, releasing greenhouse gases of different forms — or whether microbes are just slaves to the system’s physics and chemistry. This work shows that microbial ecology matters to a great degree, and that we need to pay more attention to the types of microbes living in those thawing ecosystems.” Added McCalley: “By taking microbial ecology into account, we can accurately set up climate models to identify how much methane comes from thawing permafrost versus other sources such as fossil-fuel burning.”

     

    Carmody K. McCalley, Ben J. Woodcroft, Suzanne B. Hodgkins, Richard A. Wehr, Eun-Hae Kim, Rhiannon Mondav, Patrick M. Crill, Jeffrey P. Chanton, Virginia I. Rich, Gene W. Tyson, Scott R. Saleska. Methane dynamics regulated by microbial community response to permafrost thaw. Nature, 2014; 514 (7523): 478 DOI: 10.1038/nature13798

     

     

    No-till farming, such as used in this Illinois soybean field, shows promise in dry regions but causes lower yields in cold, moist areas like Northern Europe, a new study finds. Credit: Paige Buck/USDA NRCS Illinois photo

    No-till agriculture may not bring hoped-for boost in global crop yields, study finds

    October 23, 2014 University of California – Davis

    No-till farming appears to hold promise for boosting crop yields only in dry regions, not in the cool, moist areas of the world, this study found. As the core principle of conservation agriculture, no-till has been promoted worldwide in an effort to sustainably meet global food demand….Conservation agriculture is currently practiced on 125 million hectares of land globally, an area nearly as big as the total U.S. cropland. Three key principles guide the concept: minimizing soil disturbance (also called no-till farming), protecting the soil with cover crops or leftover crop residue, and rotating the crops.

    The goals of conservation agriculture are to improve long-term productivity, profits and food security, particularly under the threat of climate change. Because conservation agriculture avoids tillage, it is less time-consuming and can be more cost-effective than conventional farming methods. In recent years, however, there has been some disagreement about the impact of no-till farming practices on yield.

    ….For example, yield reductions were minimized when the principles of crop rotation and residue retention were also practiced, highlighting the importance of implementing all three conservation agriculture principles as part of an integrated management system rather than no-till alone. Moreover, when adopted in dry climates in combination with the other two principles of conservation agriculture, no-till farming performed significantly better than conventional tillage, likely due to the higher retention of soil moisture. Dryland ecosystems are home to 38 percent of the world’s population, and millions of acres of land in arid regions of sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia have been identified as suitable for sustainable intensification. Yet, the authors also caution that practicing no-till in dryland areas without the implementation of the other two principles of conservation agriculture decreases yields.
    In regions with moist climates and sufficient precipitation, no-till farming actually resulted in yields that were on average 6 to 9 percent lower than with conventional tillage methods….

     

    Cameron M. Pittelkow, Xinqiang Liang, Bruce A. Linquist, Kees Jan van Groenigen, Juhwan Lee, Mark E. Lundy, Natasja van Gestel, Johan Six, Rodney T. Venterea, Chris van Kessel. Productivity limits and potentials of the principles of conservation agriculture. Nature, 2014; DOI: 10.1038/nature13809

     

     

    A sprinkle of compost helps rangeland lock up carbon

    By Carolyn Lochhead Updated 8:22 pm, Saturday, October 18, 2014

    A compost experiment that began seven years ago on a Marin County ranch has uncovered a disarmingly simple and benign way to remove carbon dioxide from the air, holding the potential to turn the vast rangeland of California and the world into a weapon against climate change.
    The concept grew out of a unique Bay Area alignment of a biotech fortune, a world-class research institution and progressive-minded Marin ranchers. It has captured the attention of the White House, the Brown administration, the city of San Francisco, officials in Brazil and China, and even House Republicans, who may not believe in climate change but like the idea that “carbon farming” could mean profits for ranchers.
    Experiments on grazing lands in Marin County and the Sierra foothills of Yuba County by UC Berkeley bio-geochemist Whendee Silver showed that a one-time dusting of compost substantially boosted the soil’s carbon storage. The effect has persisted over six years, and Silver believes the carbon will remain stored for at least several decades.
    The experiments were instigated by John Wick and his wife, Peggy, heiress to the Amgen biotech fortune, on a 540-acre ranch they bought in Nicasio. What began as a search for an artist’s studio turned into a seven-year, $8 million journey through rangeland ecology that has produced results John Wick calls “the most exciting thing I can think of on the planet right now.”
    The research showed that if compost from green waste — everything from household food scraps to dairy manure — were applied over just 5 percent of the state’s grazing lands, the soil could capture a year’s worth of greenhouse gas emissions from California’s farm and forestry industries.
    The effect is cumulative, meaning the soil keeps absorbing carbon dioxide even after just one application of compost, the researchers found. In theory, Silver calculates, if compost made from the state’s green waste were applied to a quarter of the state’s rangeland, the soil could absorb three-quarters of California’s total annual greenhouse gas emissions.
    “For a lot of people, this sounds a little fantastic,” Silver said. “There’s nothing magic about it.”
    Soil is a major source of carbon, “and we’ve been bleeding it into the atmosphere for many, many years through plowing, overgrazing and poor agricultural practices,” Silver said. “So anything we can do to get some of that carbon back into the soil is going to be beneficial.”….

     

    Applying Compost To Soil Can Help Cut Carbon Pollution

    by Katie Valentine Posted on October 22, 2014

    According to research, if compost were applied to 5 percent of California’s land used for livestock grazing, it could result in a year’s worth of emissions from farm and forestry industries being captured. …

     

     

    EPA releases 2014 update of “Climate Change Indicators in the United States”
    October 22, 2014
    The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has released the third edition of a report, Climate Change Indicators in the United States.’ The report pulls together observed data on key measures of our environment, including U.S. and global temperature and precipitation, ocean heat and ocean acidity, sea level, length of growing season, and many others. With 30 indicators that include over 80 maps and graphs showing long-term trends, the report demonstrates that climate change is already affecting our environment and our society. The third edition of the Indicators report, which was last published in 2012, adds additional years of data and four new indicators: Lyme disease, heating and cooling degree days, wildfires, and water level and temperature in the Great Lakes. In addition, the report adds four new features that connect observed data records to local communities and areas of interest, including cherry blossom bloom dates in Washington D.C., timing of ice breakup in two Alaskan rivers, temperature and drought in the Southwest, and land loss along the mid-Atlantic coast. EPA compiles decades of observed data in cooperation with a range of federal government agencies, nongovernmental organizations, universities, and other institutions. The Indicators report focuses on long-term trends for key measures of our environment for which high-quality data exist. Each indicator and the report itself were peer-reviewed by independent experts, and extensive technical documentation accompanies the report. To order a FREE copy of the report, send a request with your mailing address included to climateindicators@epa.gov   

     
     

    Wild Ginseng, Wood Thrushes, and Climate Change: A Survival Story

    By Glynis Board West VA Public Radio

    Credit U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

    Some researchers at West Virginia University have discovered that wild ginseng—a native and valuable medicinal plant—could be using specific birds to catch a ride into climates for which it’s better suited.
    Eberly Professor of Biology at WVU, Jim McGraw, has been studying ginseng from every angle for 18 years. A simple question lead McGraw and researchers Amy Hruska and Sara Souther to ask other questions, which is lead them to discover an ecological survival story.

    STUDY 1: Fruit

    Why does ginseng bear bright red berries?

    “When a plant evolves fleshy fruit like that, it usually means there’s some kind of animal interaction going on,  but we had no idea what that was,” said McGraw.

    So all around wild fruiting ginseng cameras were set, and for three years tripped by the occasional raccoon, opossum, mouse, or turkey. But there was one pretty regular visitor: the Wood Thrush, (a cousin of the Robin, actually, but with superior vocal abilities on account of a double-set of vocal chords!)….

     

    A chamois goat perches on a hillside in Italy’s Gran Paradiso National Park. Photograph by Wouter Pattyn, Hollandse Hoogte/Redux

    Mountain goats are shrinking – a lot – because of global warming

    October 22, 2014 National Geographic News

    Wild mountain goats in the Italian Alps have gotten significantly smaller over the past few decades in response to a warming climate, scientists report – a result more dramatic than expected, suggesting that a changing climate may have significant impacts on natural systems in the near term in ways that are only beginning to be understood…Although global warming is known to be driving changes in body size in a number of animals, this result was more dramatic than researchers expected and suggests that a changing climate may have significant impacts on natural systems in the near term, in ways that are only beginning to be understood. Young Alpine chamois mountain goats (Rupicapra rupicapra) now weigh about 25 percent less than animals of the same age did 30 years ago, scientists at Durham University in the U.K. reported in the journal Frontiers in Zoology. At the same time, temperatures where the goats live have risen by 3° to 4° Celsius, or 5° to 7° Fahrenheit. (See “Climate Change and the Mystery of the Shrinking Sheep.”) “Over the past few years there’s been quite a few papers coming out showing that all sorts of species, from mammals to fish to birds, have tended to get smaller as climate warms,” says Stephen Willis, a study co-author and professor of biology at Durham University. But scientists hadn’t expected such a significant change among the Alpine goats in such a short period, says Willis. Willis adds that scientists “don’t know enough about how extreme climate might affect the population of this species,” but he said continued warming might be a problem for the animal’s survival in the future. As it stands, though, the population has actually increased over the past few decades…..Willis says he and his colleagues discovered the change in body weights by measuring carcasses of yearlings collected by hunters since the 1980s….Clifford Rice, a wildlife biologist with Washington State’s Department of Fish and Wildlife who studies mountain goats, says the fact that the scientists had such a long record of weights to go on is highly unusual. Such data are especially rare in North America, says Rice, who was not involved in the study. In general, says Rice, “there is the potential for threats to mountain ungulates around the world due to climate change, including shrinking habitats, but exactly what those consequences might be we don’t know yet.” The declining size of the Italian chamois has a potential downside, Willis and his colleagues write: Lighter goats don’t overheat as easily, but they may be more susceptible to freezing to death in harsh winters. The balance of the two effects will depend on whether winters warm as much as summers in the Alps. Willis notes that the team’s findings may have wider implications for other species, or even domestic animals. “If climate change results in similar behavioral and body mass changes in domestic livestock, this could have impacts on agricultural productivity in coming decades,” he says. Translation: Farm animals that eat less produce less meat….

     

    If you plant different trees in the forest, is it still the same forest?

    As the Nature Conservancy works to help Minnesota’s North Woods adapt to climate change, other environmentalists worry ‘assisted migration’ may end up changing the forest’s very nature

    Nature Conservancy scientists are searching for ways to save forests while preserving their unique character. Photograph: David Levene

    Bill Lascher Sunday 19 October 2014 10.00 EDT

    In northern Minnesota, there’s a near-mythic expanse of lakes and boreal forests known as the North Woods, packed with spruces, firs, red and bur oaks, and other trees. It’s in danger of vanishing forever. The North Woods joins the ever-lengthening list of regions threatened by climate change. Temperatures in Minnesota have increased by more than 1.5F since record keeping began, according to a 2013 report by the state’s interagency climate adaptation team. Temperatures have risen even more in the northern portion of the state, and the growth is picking up speed, with more than 80% of the recorded increase happening since 1980. These increases are expected to continue through the next 50 years, joined by more days of extreme heat, heavier precipitation and other changes to the region’s climate. As rainfall and other conditions shift because of climate change, once iconic species like spruce and fir may move northward, either leaving the forests replaced by unproductive grasslands or given over to the hardwoods more common further south. Climate change, the state report says, will “likely exacerbate and intensify the effects of invasive plant species, insect pests, and tree diseases”. …

     

     

     

    DROUGHT

     

     


    http://droughtmonitor.unl.edu/

     

     

    LA TIMES INFOGRAPHIC: 2010-2014- 199 drought maps reveal just how thirsty California has become

    Much of California is mired in extreme and exceptional drought. (Los Angeles Times) October 23, 2014

     

     

    California’s Folsom Lake, a strategic state reservoir, was at one point less than 20 percent full this year. FlickrCC/sjrankin

    Confronting the West’s Water Crisis

    A new report highlights opportunities to improve water management in drought-stricken Western states.

    Chad Vander Veen | October 21, 2014

    The Hamilton Project at the Brookings Institution and the Stanford Woods Institute for the Environment released a new report Oct. 20 that addresses how Western states can confront the crippling drought that threatens the nation’s entire water system. The report is comprised of three papers, each of which examines particular strategies for coping with ongoing drought conditions. The first paper, Shopping for Water, advocates using market forces to manage water resources and lessen the impact and frequency of water shortages. The second paper, The Path to Water Innovation, highlights the need for innovative new technologies for promoting efficiency and conservation and suggests reviews of regulatory practices and creating statewide offices for water innovation. The third paper looks at nine economic facts about water in the United States with “the aim of providing an objective framing of America’s complex relationship with water.” In conjunction with the release of the papers, a forum was hosted on Oct. 20 at Stanford University to discuss the topics and issues within the report. Authors of the paper were joined by other water experts, as well as California Gov. Jerry Brown, who opened the forum with his vision of the landscape of water in the west. “Water is going to be a major issue that is going be addressed in the California Legislature, in Congress – water issues don’t get solved in one place. It’s a complicated interplay of governmental jurisdiction at every level,” Brown said. The governor made frequent reference to the California Water Action Plan. Part of his 2014-15 budget allocates $618.7 million in funding priorities for water efficiency projects, wetland and watershed restoration, groundwater programs, conservation, flood control, and integrated water management. “The number one priority for the California Water Action Plan is conservation. In both urban areas and in agriculture we have to find ways to conserve. There’s millions of acre feet to be derived from conservation and water recycling,” Brown said. “We have to prepare for dry periods. We need a longer term understanding and plan to be able to use water and at the same time save water.” Brown admitted the state has taken too long, in some respects, to plan for water scarcity. He specifically called out the fact that efforts to create a statewide groundwater plan first began in 1978 and were only recently completed. The governor did not shy away from the reality that there is a significant amount of work that remains if the state is going to be able to meet the ever-growing demand for water….

     

     

     

     

     

    Essay: In Iceland’s resilience, a lesson for us as our world shifts

    A surprise eruption almost wiped an Icelandic village off the map in 1973. The town and country rebounded – and offers a lesson for how we adapt to changes underway today. Photo by Eldheimer/IcelandReview.

    By Johanna Hoffman The Daily Climate Oct. 24, 2014

    HEIMAY, Iceland – The grassy slopes above this small Icelandic fishing town exploded with lava and ash 41 years ago. Rolling meadows erupted into a raw volcano and columns of 2,000º molten rock burst from the Earth. The surprise five-month eruption nearly destroyed the town. Yet residents found ways to not only return but benefit from the devastation.  That Heimay’s townspeople bounced back with speed and agility is no accident. For Icelanders, long tested by fire and ice, resiliency to environmental change is par for the course.  As climate change threatens us all with stress and surprise, we would do well to learn from their ways. Design and planning can help us cope with – and even embrace – uncertainty and instability in our cities. Like the people of Heimaey, we can learn to take shelter in shifting ground….. As lava began to pour across the island, Icelanders realized the major center of their country’s fishing industry – Heimaey’s harbor – was about to be blocked from the sea. Fishing is so central to Iceland that the country puts a different fish, crustacean or dolphin on each coin. John McPhee, writing in Control of Nature, put the dilemma in perspective: Proportionally Heimaey was more valuable to Iceland than Manhattan was to Americans. Controversial tactics got the go-ahead. Physicist Thorbjorn Sigurgeirsson proposed spraying the lava’s face with seawater to cool and redirect the flow. Crews set to work with fire hoses, a dredging boat, and finally industrial pumps. The $1.5 million intervention worked: The lava flows were slowed, then diverted. Residents who returned came home an island 20 percent larger, with a more protected harbor…..The lesson here is that resilience can be cultivated. Heimaey’s resilience to Eldfell’s explosive force stemmed from two key factors. 

    One, residents had a strong understanding of their island’s landscape dynamics. Understanding the natural forces that shape our landscapes helps prepare us both practically and psychologically for how those landscapes can change.

    Two, Icelandic culture is shaped by robust social ties and strong governing institutions. We can cooperate better and act quicker if we foster strong connections with people – from neighbors to government officials – who share our landscapes. 

    Both factors are key in developing resiliency to intense environmental change….

    ….Planning and design can also play fundamental roles in strengthening our social networks.  Long before Eldfell exploded, Heimaey’s harsh winters and violent storms had taught residents how to cooperate and rebuild. Those strong social ties likewise extended to Heimaey’s relationship with the Icelandic government, whose swift actions were key in saving the town and its harbor. We can cultivate those ties by pushing for development that fosters connections between residents and nurtures economic development. Designing housing within walking distance from stores creates opportunities to strengthen relationships between neighbors. Promoting public transportation sets the stage not just for more chance encounters, but for the sense of shared experience.  Given the uncertainties climate change is throwing our way, it’s time to learn from Heimaey’s example. We can’t stop the ground from shifting beneath us but we can learn to shift with it when it does. 

     

     

     

    Quinoa plants seen at WOW farm in front of the old West Oakland train depot in Oakland, Calif., on Tuesday, October 7, 2014 SF Chronicle

    Oakland plowing a path for urban farming on vacant lots

    By Carolyn Jones SF Chron Updated 4:33 pm, Monday, October 20, 2014 

    Oakland’s getting ready for a rhubarb revolution. After four years of planning, the city is poised to eliminate bureaucratic roadblocks for urban gardeners, making it easier for residents to turn the city’s 3,000 vacant lots into fields of arugula and marigolds. “We can’t feed everyone by doing this, but it’s a start,” said Lara Hermanson, owner of Farmscape, an urban gardening and landscaping company in Oakland. “This will really give a leg up for nonprofits, businesses and people who just want to grow their own food.” Until now, gardeners could raise vegetables on vacant lots, but they needed a permit if they intended to sell those veggies, either at farmers’ markets, to restaurants or even to neighbors. Conditional use permits could cost up to $3,000 and take up to six weeks to obtain. The proposed changes are meant to simplify and clarify the rules, and ultimately make it easier for gardeners to grow and sell veggies just about anywhere in the city without a permit, as long as they have the property owner’s permission. The only places off-limits for vegetable gardens would be public parks and heavy industrial zones, because of contaminated soil…

     

     

    A representation of what San Francisco’s Crissy Field would look like under 12 feet of sea level rise. Credit: Nickolay Lamm. Data: Climate Central

    San Francisco Rising to Threat of Swelling Seas

    October 23rd, 2014 By John Upton climatecentral.org

    The fog of uncertainty cast by rising seas is starting to lift from $25 billion worth of public projects planned in San Francisco. The City by the (rising) Bay, where bayfront shorelines will continue to experience worsening high tide flooding, where the nearby international airport is among the nation’s most vulnerable to floods, and where Pacific Ocean shoreline erosion could be accelerated by sea level rise, has adopted a first-in-the-nation approach to assessing potential infrastructure risks posed by rising seas. The new guidance, which includes a simple project checklist, will help officials incorporate sea level rise into decisions about building and upgrading everything from pipes to police stations to streets. Seas have risen 8 inches since industry started burning fossil fuels, although long-term ocean cycles have temporarily spared the West Coast from some of those impacts in recent decades. Two or three more feet of sea level rise is forecast globally this century.

    “I haven’t seen anything this comprehensive,” said Jessica Grannis, the Georgetown Climate Center’s adaptation program manager, after reviewing San Francisco’s new approach. “This is pretty unique, and a cool new step forward in mainstreaming climate adaptation into city capital budgeting processes.” The guidance was adopted last month by the city’s capital planning committee, a group of lawmakers and city officials formed nearly a decade ago to guide and prioritize byzantine capital spending by departments and agencies. According to the committee’s most recent biennial report, such spending will slightly exceed $25 billion during the next decade. The checklist process is simple, designed to create a high-level picture of a proposed infrastructure project’s future flooding risks. Some facilities, such as parks, can easily withstand occasional flooding. A hospital or fire station, by contrast, could be crippled if the land upon which it was built became permanently inundated. The new checklist helps figure out where a project’s flood risks lie between those extremes. The checklist requires a city official to review sea level rise inundation maps to determine whether their infrastructure project will be located in a floodplain under different sea level rise scenarios — or on land that could become permanently inundated. If either of those is the case, then the official ticks a series of “high,” “medium,” or “low” boxes. The boxes indicate how severely anticipated floods would affect operations at the project, how well the infrastructure would recover from a flood, and the extent of projected costs associated with cleaning up after it is waterlogged. Finally, the official jots down sea level rise adaptation measures that are being incorporated into the project.

    The process is straightforward, but not prescriptive. A project won’t automatically be abandoned if sea level rise risks are found to be high. Rather, the findings from the checklist will be used to guide decisions by officials and lawmakers regarding whether a proposed project makes sense, whether it makes sense where it is planned, and whether it needs to be redesigned to reduce flooding hazards — or constructed in such a way that it can be easily adapted later. The capital planning committee doesn’t have the power to veto or approve a project, but it advises lawmakers on whether they should approve its costs. The guidance was adopted five years after San Francisco-based urban think tank SPUR published a report highlighting the need for Bay Area cities and counties to start planning for climate change impacts, and less than two years after San Francisco’s mayor assembled a city committee to do just that.

    In the U.S., much of the work needed to adapt to climate change and improve resilience is occurring within cities, a trend that’s being pushed along by 100 Resilient Cities and similar initiatives. Following Hurricane Sandy, New York launched a $19.5 billion climate resiliency plan, and just this month it released new building guidelines for those living in floodplains.

    The Georgetown Climate Center recently concluded that 14 U.S. states have adaptation plans in place, and another nine have some planning underway. President Obama has proposed spending $1 billion in 2015 on climate resilience at the federal level. The U.S. has not yet committed anything to what is imagined to eventually be a $100 billion a year Green Climate Fund, designed to help the world’s poor and developing countries adapt to climate change, though it has been reported that a pledge might be made next month. So far, the fund has raised about $2.3 billion from other national donors.

    SPUR policy director Laura Tam, who has spoken out in the past about the dangers of lackluster and uncoordinated climate adaptation planning in the San Francisco Bay Area, praised San Francisco’s new guidance. “Five years ago, this topic was virtually unknown,” Tam told Climate Central. “Today, many city departments have not only participated and worked together to produce this guidance, but they are working collaboratively to develop solutions.” The guidance currently relates only to public projects. San Francisco capital planning official Brian Strong, who helped write it, said he hopes that it “leads to reforms” within the city’s planning and building inspection departments, which could use similar processes when assessing risks associated with proposed private developments, such as new homes and neighborhoods. But individual assessments for projects won’t be enough. City officials say sea level rise will start figuring in neighborhood-wide planning efforts, including along its vulnerable northern bayfront, which is a thriving hub of tourism — the city’s most important industry. One major decision that the city is going to start trying to make in the coming months, through what planning department staff say will be a public process, will be how to manage flood risks at Mission Bay, a booming redevelopment area close to the ballpark and near the city’s downtown. The city is building its main public safety building there, in what could become a flood plain. Flood gates are being considered to reduce flooding risks, along with various urban design solutions. As conversations such as those proceed in the coming years, they will be accompanied by an evolution of the new sea level rise guidance and checklist. The city plans to review the guidance in four years, or sooner if need be, as lessons are learned and science advances. “I think that this has to play out a little,” Tam said. “We’ll see how well it works in practice over the next 5 to 10 years as we build projects.”

     

     

     

     

     

     

    PACIFIC INSTITUTE RELEASES INDEPENDENT ANALYSIS OF THE WATER BOND

    With the state facing serious and deepening water challenges, voters on November 4th will be asked whether to approve Proposition 1, the Water Quality, Supply and Infrastructure Improvement Act of 2014. The ballot measure would raise $7.12 billion in new general obligation bonds along with reallocating an additional $425 million of previously authorized, but unissued, bonds to fund a wide range of water-related actions and infrastructures. When the full costs of the bond are assessed, including interest payments, Proposition 1 will cost over $14 billion and be the fourth largest water bond in California history….. An overarching conclusion of the report is that while the taxpayer-funded bond could provide benefits to California’s communities and the state’s environment — including specific water supply, reliability and environmental quality improvements — those benefits are not guaranteed.  The Institute also concludes that Proposition 1 would have little impact on the immediate challenges posed by California’s severe drought. Some of the state’s most pressing water needs are slated to receive relatively limited portions of the total funds. For instance, measures to ensure disadvantaged communities have access to safe drinking water and their wastewater systems are improved would receive 9% of the funds and water conservation and efficiency efforts would be allocated a mere 1%.

    The report notes that a clear benefit of the bond would be the allocation of funds for select ecosystem protection and restoration as well as improvements to surface and groundwater quality. If Proposition 1 passes, the Institute recommends in the report that the California Water Commission develop rigorous, independent, and transparent rules governing evaluation and quantification of public benefits from proposed water storage projects. It also recommends that decisions about the rest of the funds be made with a focus on meeting public and ecosystem needs for safe and reliable water, improvements in efficient use, and reductions in the risks of future droughts and floods. The report makes it clear that passage of Proposition 1 would be just the beginning of a long-term investment to fund better institutions, smarter planning, and more effective water management strategies. It can be, at best, a down payment on our water future.

     

    Download the full report  (PDF)

    Download the two-page executive summary (PDF)

     

    PROP 1- CALIFORNIA WATER BOND- MAVEN’S NOTEBOOK
    October 24, 2014

    other perspectives….

     

    UNITED NATIONS: REPORT FINDS OCEAN ACIDIFICATION IMPACTING MARINE ECOSYTEMS This month, a United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity team of 30 international experts led by UK scientists issued “An Updated Synthesis of the Impacts of Ocean Acidification on Marine Biodiversity.” The report finds that ocean acidification has increased by around 26 per cent since pre-industrial times, and will continue to increase in the next 50 to 100 years, drastically affecting marine organisms and ecosystems as well as the $1 trillion annually in goods and services they provide.

    “While $1 trillion may sound like a huge figure, but we need to consider the benefits derived from marine biodiversity to many major industries,” Mr. Arico said in an interview. “Ocean acidification will greatly affect food security in the coming years, as well as tourism and other industries such as the pharmaceutical industry which relies on many marine organisms.”…

     

     

    GAO: REPORT FINDS GOVERNMENT LACKING IN EFFORTS TO ADDRESS OCEAN ACIDIFICATION

    A report from the independent Government Accountability Office (GAO) criticizes the federal government for not fully implementing a recent federal law to curb ocean acidification. “The National Science and Technology Council’s Subcommittee on Ocean Science and Technology, in the Executive Office of the President, and several federal agencies have taken steps to implement the Federal Ocean Acidification Research and Monitoring Act of 2009 (FOARAM) but have yet to complete some of the act’s requirements,” the report found. The FOARAM law requires an interagency task force to assess the impacts of ocean acidification and identify mitigation and adaptation strategies that federal agencies can implement. The lead agencies comprising the task force are the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the National Science Foundation and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration. Findings site a lack of coordination between task force agencies. It also faulted the task force for not laying out a budget estimates for its research and monitoring plan that would help federal agencies and lawmakers understand what specific amount of funding is necessary to address the issue. The report called upon the White House to be more specific in laying out each agency’s responsibilities. GAO also suggested that establishing an independent ocean acidification program office might improve coordination between agencies. However, the interagency group has not reached a consensus on how to fund such an office.

     

     

    EU leaders agree to cut greenhouse gas emissions by at least 40 percent by 2030.
    EU leaders agreed early Friday to cut greenhouse gas emissions in the 28-nation bloc to at least 40 percent below 1990 levels by 2030 – a deal aimed at countering climate change and setting an example for the rest of the world ahead of international climate negotiations next year. Associated Press

     

    Insurers Retreat From Weather-Related Disasters

    By EDUARDO PORTER NY Times October 20 2014

    As the damages wrought by increasingly disruptive weather patterns have climbed around the world, the insurance industry seems to have quietly engaged in what looks a lot like a retreat.

     

    In key midterm races, Democrats sound like Republicans on climate issue. Even if Democrats win the Senate by a slim margin, climate action could still be foiled for the next few years by members of their own party. InsideClimate News

     

    Steyer Passes Adelson as No. 1 ‘Super PAC’ Donor

    By DEREK WILLIS 11:18 PM ET NY Times October 20 2014

    Tom Steyer, the hedge fund founder, has become the largest “super PAC” donor ever, surpassing Sheldon G. Adelson….

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    Federal and State Agencies Announce Public Meetings for Draft Desert Renewable Energy Conservation Plan
    (BLM News Release)

    The BLM, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, California Energy Commission, and California Department of Fish and Wildlife announced today the dates and locations of several public meetings for the draft Desert Renewable Energy Conservation Plan Environmental Impact Report/Environmental Impact Statement…

     

    China’s coal use falls for first time this century, analysis suggests.
    The amount of coal being burned by China has fallen for the first time this century, according to an analysis. China’s booming coal in the last decade has been the major contributor to the fast-rising carbon emissions that drive climate change, making the first fall a significant moment. The Guardian

     

    Wind Could Provide Almost One-Fifth Of Global Electricity By 2030

    by Ari Phillips Posted on October 22, 2014

    A new report points to a number of encouraging signs in the global wind industry. …

     

     

     

     
     

    LCC Network Strategic Plan
    October 20, 2014

    The Landscape Conservation Cooperatives (LCC) Network is releasing a strategic plan that identifies goals and objectives for the LCC network in the next five years.This strategic plan builds on existing work within the Network and articulates a path for achieving, through collective impact, the LCC Network’s vision and mission to conserve and maintain landscapes and seascapes capable of sustaining natural and cultural resources for current and future generations. The LCC Network Strategic Plan identifies goals, objectives, and example tactics that support the Network’s vision and mission in the areas of conservation strategy, collaborative conservation, science, and communications.

     

    UPCOMING CONFERENCES: 

    8th Biennial Bay-Delta Science Conference – Register Now
    October 28-30, 2014 Sacramento Convention Center

    If you haven’t already done so, please register now for the Bay-Delta Science Conference.  The deadline for the pre-registration is October 22nd.

    The Biennial Bay-Delta Science Conference is a forum for presenting technical analyses and results relevant to the Delta Science Program’s mission to provide the best possible, unbiased, science-based information for water and environmental decision-making in the Bay-Delta system. The goal of the conference is to provide new information and syntheses to the broad community of scientists, engineers, resource managers, and stakeholders working on Bay-Delta issues.

     

    Visualizing and Analyzing Environmental Data with R
    November 18-19, 2014 Sacramento, CA

    This course is designed for participants who wish to gain beginning to intermediate skills in using R for manipulating, visualizing and analyzing their environmental data.
    It is applicable to anyone that conducts environmental monitoring or uses environmental data for research, management, or policy-making and is recommended for anyone needing to become proficient with R basics. Read More

     

     

    7th California Oak Symposium: November 3-6, 2014; Visalia Convention Center

    Managing Oak Woodlands in a Dynamic World

    Register Today!

     

    Planning and Facilitating Collaborative Meetings
    Nov 6-7, 9:00am – 5:00pm both days 

    Bay Conference Center at the Romberg Tiburon Center, 3152 Paradise Drive, Tiburon, CA 94920

    Join us for this exciting workshop, developed by NOAA Coastal Services Center. This workshop was formerly titled “Navigating Rough Seas: Public Issues and Conflict Management.”  Learn to design meetings that enhance problem solving and minimize conflict.  Collaboration can be complicated, requiring  a systematic approach. This course provides the skills and tools to design and implement collaborative approaches. The skills will be useful even when attending, but not running, meetings. The cost of the workshop is $100, which includes workshop materials, lunch both days and morning refreshments. Contact Heidi Nutters (heidin@sfsu.edu) about scholarships. To register, click here

     

    2015 California Climate & Agriculture Summit  March 24 and 25, 2015
    UC Davis Conference CenterCall for Workshop and Poster Presentations   

     

    INVITATION TO PARTICIPATE  Abstract submission deadline is 1 November 2014 

    COME TO OUR HISTORIC SUMMIT 25-27 MARCH 2015

    ABSTRACT SUBMISSION (through November 1, 2014) and REGISTRATION (through January 25, 2015) NOW OPEN for Science for Parks, Parks for Science: The Next Century - A 2.5-day Summit at U.C. Berkeley March 25-27, 2015 convening natural and social scientists, managers and practitioners — 100 years after historic meetings at U.C. Berkeley helped launch the National Park Service — to rededicate a second century of science and stewardship for national parks.  This summit will feature visionary plenary lectures, strategic panel discussions on current controversies, and technical sessions of contributed paper and posters.   Keynote Speaker: E. O. Wilson.  Distinguished Plenary Speakers and Panelists include David Ackerly, Jill Baron, Steven Beissinger, Joel Berger, Edward Bernbaum, Ruth DeFries, Thomas Dietz, Josh Donlan, Holly Doremus, Ernesto Enkerlin, John Francis, David Graber, Denis Galvin, Jane Lubchenco, Gary Machlis, George Miller, Hugh Possingham, Jedediah Purdy, Nina Roberts, Mark Schwartz, Daniel Simberloff, Monica Turner, & Jennifer Wolch.

     

     

    Ninth International Association for Landscape Ecology (IALE) World Congress meeting, July 9th 2015

    Coming to Portland, Oregon July 5-10, 2015! The symposium, which is held every four years, brings scientists and practitioners from around the globe together to discuss and share landscape ecology work and information. The theme of the 2015 meeting is Crossing Scales, Crossing Borders: Global Approaches to Complex Challenges.

     


     

     

    National Adaptation Forum– Call for Proposals
    May 12 – 14, 2015 in St. Louis, MO

    The National Adaptation Forum is a biennial gathering of the adaptation community to foster information exchange, innovation, and mutual support for a better tomorrow. The Forum will take place from May 12 – 14, 2015 in St. Louis, MO. 
    Proposals are being accepted for Symposia, Training Sessions, Working Groups, Poster Presentations, and a Tools Cafe. 

    Click here for more information.

     

     

     

     

     

    JOBS  (apologies for any duplication; thanks for passing along)

     

    • Chief Development Officer
    • Informatics Engineer
    • RWI ACEP Partner Biologist/Range Ecologist—POINT BLUE Rangeland Watershed Initiative (RWI) Agricultural Conservation Easement Program (ACEP) Partner Biologist/Range Ecologist; McArthur, CA Local Partnership Office. The ACEP Partner Biologist/Range Ecologist serves as a wildlife biologist/range ecologist on the Rangeland Watershed Initiative staff and provides technical assistance to NRCS Wetland Reserve Easement Implementation Team in Northern California.  The Biologist/Ecologist is responsible for planning and applying conservation measures in all types of situations with emphasis on wildlife biology, grazing management and habitat restoration, especially for wetland wildlife species.  The applicant is also responsible for carrying out NRCS environmental planning and evaluation for conservation easement programs in the area of assignment.

    Climate Adaptation Manager National Wildlife Federation

     

    Assistant Professor of Wildlife Biology

    The Division of Science & Environmental Policy (SEP) at California State University, Monterey Bay (CSUMB) invites applications for a tenure-track faculty position at the assistant professor level to begin in fall 2015. We seek applicants with a demonstrated commitment to teaching and research, interdisciplinary research on wildlife interactions across wild, urban, and agricultural interfaces, and a record of successful research grant proposal writing. The successful candidate will work with other faculty to develop undergraduate curricula and professional outreach programs that leverage our unique location on California’s Central Coast and in the Salinas Valley region.

     

     

    The Nature Conservancy – California

    Applicants must apply on-line at www.nature.org/careers (external applicants) or PeopleSoft/Self-Service/Careers (internal applicants). To more easily locate the position, enter the job ID (see below) in the keyword search.

    • The Associate Director of Integrated Water Management (Associate Director: Job ID # # 42477) will have primary responsibility for leading a multi-disciplinary team to set and drive The Conservancy’s strategy for ensuring that California operates its surface and groundwater storage and conveyance systems collectively and proactively to meet the needs of nature as well as the needs of people.  The Associate Director will guide an experienced and talented team and will take into account the complex nature of California’s water infrastructure, legal system, water use, freshwater diversity and a challenging socio-political context, to define priorities, set objectives and mobilize the human, financial and intellectual resources of The Conservancy to achieve progress towards a sustainable California water future.

     

    • The Associate Director of Water and Habitat for Nature (Associate Director Job ID# 42478) will have primary responsibility for leading a multi-disciplinary team to set and drive The Conservancy’s strategy meeting the water and habitat needs of freshwater biodiversity in California.  The Associate Director will guide an experienced and talented team and will take into account the complex nature of California’s water infrastructure, legal system, water use, freshwater diversity and a challenging socio-political context, to define priorities, set objectives and mobilize the human, financial and intellectual resources of The Conservancy to deliver water and restore habitat to specific suites of species where and when they need it.  Particular sets of species include salmon and migratory waterfowl.

     

     

     

     

     

     

    • OTHER NEWS OF INTEREST

     

    1491

    The Atlantic Monthly March 1, 2002

    Before it became the New World, the Western Hemisphere was vastly more populous and sophisticated than has been thought—an altogether more salubrious place to live at the time than, say, Europe. New [2002] evidence of both the extent of the population and its agricultural advancement leads to a remarkable conjecture: the Amazon rain forest may be largely a human artifact….

     

    New Bird Biology Website Awakens the Sense of Discovery

    Enjoy interactive activities about bird song, feathers, and more
    October 23, 2014 Ithaca, N.Y.—We know birds have feathers—but what are they made of, how do they work, and how many kinds are there? Birds sing songs—but how do they produce those sounds, what do they mean, and can you learn to identify birds by sound alone? If just knowing the name of a bird isn’t enough, then it’s time to make new discoveries at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology’s All About Bird Biology website. The new site is designed to appeal to anyone who’s even a little bit curious about what makes birds tick.

    Exotic pet craze poses threat to China’s local ecosystems

    WantChinaTimes 

     - ‎October 20, 2014‎

           

    China has seen a surge in illegal imports of animals, including poisonous scorpions and frogs, as demand for exotic pets is thriving, the Chinese-language Beijing News reports.

     

    Hard Lesson in Sleep for Teenagers

    By JANE E. BRODY NY TIMES OCTOBER 20, 2014 11:29 AMOctober 20, 2014 11:29 am  

    Within a week of my grandsons’ first year in high school, getting enough sleep had already become an issue. Their concerned mother questioned whether lights out at midnight or 1 a.m. and awakening at 7 or 7:30 a.m. to get to school on time provided enough sleep for 14-year-olds to navigate a demanding school day. The boys, of course, said “yes,” especially since they could “catch up” by sleeping late on weekends. But the professional literature on the sleep needs of adolescents says otherwise.

    Few Americans these days get the hours of sleep optimal for their age, but experts agree that teenagers are more likely to fall short than anyone else.
    Researchers report that the average adolescent needs eight and a half to nine and a half hours of sleep each night. But in a poll taken in 2006 by the National Sleep Foundation, less than 20 percent reported getting that much rest on school nights.
    With the profusion of personal electronics, the current percentage is believed to be even worse. A study in Fairfax, Va., found that only 6 percent of children in the 10th grade and only 3 percent in the 12th grade get the recommended amount of sleep. Two in three teens were found to be severely sleep-deprived, losing two or more hours of sleep every night. The causes can be biological, behavioral or environmental. And the effect on the well-being of adolescents — on their health and academic potential — can be profound, according to a policy statement issued in August by the American Academy of Pediatrics.
    Sleep is not optional. It’s a health imperative, like eating, breathing and physical activity,” Dr. Judith A. Owens, the statement’s lead author, said in an interview. “This is a huge issue for adolescents.”

     

    Thermal paper cash register receipts account for high bisphenol A (BPA) levels in humans

    October 22, 2014 University of Missouri-Columbia

    BPA from thermal paper used in cash register receipts accounts for high levels of BPA in humans. Subjects studied showed a rapid increase of BPA in their blood after using a skin care product and then touching a store receipt with BPA.

     

    Art/Act: Maya Lin

    Learn More
    Exhibition Events
    Photos
    Press

    Gallery Hours: Monday – Friday, 9 a.m. – 5 p.m.; Sundays, 10 a.m. – 1 p.m. Berkeley, CA

    Every fall, the Brower Center presents the Art/Act Award & Exhibition, created to honor established artists who have dedicated a significant part of their careers to using art’s unique transformative power in the service of activism. In 2014, the Center recognizes internationally acclaimed sculptor, architectural designer, and ardent environmentalist Maya Lin, known most widely for her Vietnam Veterans Memorial, but whose most recent work has focused on threatened ecosystems. In the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, Lin was inspired to highlight the fragility of bodies of water around the world, creating abstract wall sculptures to represent entities like the San Francisco Bay and Tuolumne River, both of which will be featured at the Center.  Art/Act: Maya Lin will also highlight the What is Missing? project, dedicated to documenting vanishing species and environments around the world through an interactive website. As part of this year’s Art/Act, the Center is partnering with Heyday Books’s Malcolm Margolin to add an in-depth exploration of the Bay Area’s environmental history as a permanent contribution to the What is Missing? project.

     

    Herbal medicines could contain dangerous levels of toxic mold

    Posted: 23 Oct 2014 06:10 AM PDT

    Herbal medicines such as licorice, Indian rennet and opium poppy, are at risk of contamination with toxic mold, according to a new study. The authors of the study say it’s time for regulators to control mold contamination. An estimated 64% of people use medicinal plants to treat illnesses and relieve pain. The herbal medicine market is worth $60 billion globally, and growing fast. Despite the increasing popularity of herbal medicine, the sale of medicinal plants is mostly unregulated.

     

    Fight against Alzheimer’s disease: New research on walnuts

    Posted: 21 Oct 2014 09:57 AM PDT

    An new animal study reveals potential brain-health benefits of a walnut-enriched diet. Researchers suggest that a diet including walnuts may have a beneficial effect in reducing the risk, delaying the onset, slowing the progression of, or preventing Alzheimer’s disease.

     

    Reminiscing can help boost mental performance

    Posted: 23 Oct 2014 08:10 AM PDT

    Engaging brain areas linked to so-called ‘off-task’ mental activities (such as mind-wandering and reminiscing) can actually boost performance on some challenging mental tasks, a new research led by a neuroscientist shows for the first….

     

     

     

     

     

     


     

     

    34 Surprising Facts You Need to Know About California’s Drought- infographics

    Why the Golden State’s long dry spell—and its changing climate—will have implications far beyond the West Coast.

    October 23, 2014 By Kenneth Miller

    California, like much of the West, has been locked in a years-long drought scientists say could be a harbinger of things to come. Tree-ring records show that droughts lasting decades have hit the region in centuries past, and a warming climate will make much precipitation in and around the state—now delivered in the form of snow, which conveniently stores water for dry summer months—more difficult to capture.  The nation’s largest state by population and agricultural production need not be a victim of natural forces, however. Policy and infrastructure affect how water is used and delivered, and both have seen updates in recent years. With coordination, modernization, and compromise among regions and economic interests, California should still be able to provide enough water for a growing population and a growing economy. The illustrations below show some of the major sources of water that are drying up, and some of the consumers of water that might have to make do with less. 

    [Note—how could 318m people be supported if there were no agriculture?]


     

    If We Cared About The Environment Like We Care About Football


     


     


     


     


     


     

    CA BLM WILDLIFE TRIVIA ANSWER and Related Information

     

    What distinction do these two share, among kangaroo rats on BLM California-managed lands?


     
     

    ANSWER: The Merriam’s kangaroo rat and Fresno kangaroo rat are the two smallest kangaroo rats found on BLM California lands.
    SOURCE: Fresno kangaroo rat (BLM Wildlife Database) http://ow.ly/DePyq

     

    ————

    Ellie Cohen, President and CEO

    Point Blue Conservation Science (formerly PRBO)

    3820 Cypress Drive, Suite 11, Petaluma, CA 94954

    707-781-2555 x318

     

    www.pointblue.org  | Follow Point Blue on Facebook!

     

    Point Blue—Conservation science for a healthy planet.

     

  8. EPA Launches Broad Collaborative of External Stakeholders to Advance Green Infrastructure

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    EPA Launches Broad Collaborative of External Stakeholders to Advance Green Infrastructure

    EPA’s Green Infrastructure Program and the White House Council on Environmental Quality have launched a broad collaborative of external stakeholders to advance the implementation of green infrastructure. The Green Infrastructure Collaborative will leverage efforts from the federal family, non-governmental organizations, the private sector, and academia to advance green infrastructure as a means of supporting water quality and community development goals. As part of the announcement, EPA released a Statement of Support outlining specific commitments from Collaborative members to advance cooperation and coordination on green infrastructure initiatives.  The Collaborative will build capacity for green infrastructure by providing a platform for national stakeholders to:

    • Leverage joint efforts to promote the multiple community benefits of green infrastructure;
    • Share and build knowledge around emerging green infrastructure technologies and policy issues; and
    • Facilitate shared inquiry into the best ways to encourage adoption of green infrastructure technologies at the local level.
    • The Collaborative will build on the Green Infrastructure Partnership launched in 2007 by EPA and its founding partner organizations.
    • For more information, see the Collaborative’s website or the White House fact sheet.  

       

     

    To join greenstream, an EPA listserv featuring updates on green infrastructure publications, training, and funding opportunities, send an email to join-greenstream@lists.epa.gov. To learn more about the relationship between green infrastructure and low impact development please visit EPA’s Low Impact Development Page.

     

    EPA Releases “Being Prepared for Climate Change: A Workbook for Developing Risk-Based Adaptation Plans”

    EPA’s Climate Ready Estuaries program has published Being Prepared for Climate Change: A Workbook for Developing Risk-Based Adaptation Plans as a resource for environmental managers and planners. This publication provides much needed guidance for conducting risk-based climate change vulnerability assessments and developing adaptation action plans. The workbook helps users to identify, analyze and prioritize climate change risks. In developing an action plan, it guides users to address their most pressing risks and find appropriate responses. Climate change, once considered an issue for a distant future, has moved firmly into the present. By using the workbook and addressing climate change in their systems, users will be ready to protect environmental resources, public safety, and infrastructure. Learn more about the Being Prepared for Climate Change workbook tools to help increase resiliency and tackle climate change in your own place. Watch a video about the new workbook.

  9. Fish moving poleward at rate of 26 kilometres per decade

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    Caribbean islands (stock image). “The tropics will be the overall losers,” says William Cheung, associate professor at the UBC Fisheries Centre and co-author of this study. “This area has a high dependence on fish for food, diet and nutrition. We’ll see a loss of fish populations that are important to the fisheries and communities in these regions.”

    Fish moving poleward at rate of 26 kilometres per decade

    Posted: 10 Oct 2014 05:38 AM PDT

    Large numbers of fish will disappear from the tropics by 2050, finds a new University of Britsh Columbia study that examined the impact of climate change on fish stocks. The study identified ocean hotspots for local fish extinction but also found that changing temperatures will drive more fish into the Arctic and Antarctic waters. Using the same climate change scenarios as the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, researchers projected a large-scale shift of marine fish and invertebrates. In the worst-case scenario, where the Earth’s oceans warm by three degrees Celsius by 2100, fish could move away from their current habitats at a rate of 26 kilometres per decade. Under the best-case scenario, where the Earth warms by one degree Celsius, fish would move 15 kilometres every decade. This is consistent with changes in the last few decades….

     

    M. C. Jones, W. W. L. Cheung. Multi-model ensemble projections of climate change effects on global marine biodiversity. ICES Journal of Marine Science, 2014; DOI: 10.1093/icesjms/fsu172

  10. What’s the role of the deep ocean in global warming? Climate contrarians get this wrong

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    What’s the role of the deep ocean in global warming? Climate contrarians get this wrong

    Posted on 10 October 2014 by Guest Author This is a re-post from Greg Laden’s Blog

    I’ve already posted on a study published in Nature Climate change that shows that the amount of extra global warming related heat in the Southern Oceans is greater than previously thought. There is another paper in the same journal by Llovel et al, “Deep-ocean contribution to sea level and energy budget not detectable over the past decade.” This paper verifies previous research that the oceans absorb a lot of the excess heat, but looks specifically at the ocean below 2,000 meters, which the paper referrs to in places as “deep” but that we should probably call “abyssal.”1 The paper concludes that the abyss is not warming. This is bad news, because if it was warming the total effects of global warming on the surface would be potentially less, or at least, stretched out over a longer period of time. But, it is not unexpected news. We already suspected that the abyssal ocean does not absorb much of the surface heat, while the shallower ocean absorbs quite a bit. Research done prior to 2012 (e.g. Hansen et al 2011) parceled out the energy imbalance the Earth experiences from anthropogenic global warming. The extra heat caused by AGW from 2004 to 2010 was divided among the upper ocean (71%), the deep ocean (5%), with the rest going various other places (only 4% over land). The new paper suggests that the abyssal ocean takes up closer to zero heat. There are three complexities you need to be aware of to interpret this finding. First is the complexity in the climate system, second is the complexity of the research itself, and third is the relatively straight forward statistical problem of assigning meaning to specific numbers. That third one is important for journalists and regular people to pay attention to, because the climate science denial community is already exploiting it to misrepresent this study….So, we have changing quality of data, a data set that is growing incrementally over time, studies that look at slightly different time and space parameters. And, on top of this, we have the increasingly advanced methods of figuring this all out. Both of the Nature Climate Change studies used a combination of direct measurements of temperature at various depths, a measurement of the altitude of the top of the ocean (sea level) from highly accurate satellite instruments, and measures of the mass of the water in the ocean, from the GRAIL gravity research project. If the mass of the ocean stays the same (same number of water molecules) but the surface rises, that is from heat, and that allows an estimate of energy imbalance. If the ocean goes up more than it should from heat expansion, the extra may be from glacial melting. And that is the simple version….But for some reason we see various individuals, including sadly at least one climate scientist (Judith Curry: “Evidence of deep ocean cooling?“), but mostly anti-science climate trolls, crowing that the “deep ocean” is cooling therefore we are not experiencing global warming. However, the truth is that the total amount of heat that is going into the ocean, instead of the atmosphere or other places, was thought to be large, is still known to be large, and in fact is larger than we were originally thinking (from these papers and several others that have come out recently). And, the contribution of the abyss ocean to both sea level rise and energy imbalance is statistically nil. It might be negative, it might be positive, but it is tiny either way. The deep ocean, on the other hand, is in strong positive energy balance.

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    1The terminology used in this discussion and some of the research papers (or reporting thereof) is a bit confused. Climate scientists have repeatedly said that heat is going into the “deep ocean” and this paper seems to say it is not. But it is. It is a matter of terminology. This is a source of confusion sometimes exploited by climate science denialists. A good way to define these terms is as follows:

    Shallow ocean = 0-700 meters
    Deep ocean = 700-2,000 meters
    Abyss = > 2,000 meters

    1. Hansen, J., Mki. Sato, P. Kharecha, and K. von Schuckmann, 2011: Earth’s energy imbalance and implications. Atmos. Chem. Phys., 11, 13421–13449, doi:10.5194/acp–11–13421–2011.
    2. Llovel, W. J. K. Willis, F. W. Landerer, I. Fukumori. 2014. Deep-ocean contribution to sea level and energy budget not detectable over the past decade. Nature Climate Change, 5 October.