Ecology, Climate Change and Related News

Ellie Cohen, President and CEO, Point Blue Conservation Science

Author Archives: ecohen

  1. Mitigating Climate Change—Time is Running Out

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    IPCC: Mitigating Climate Change

     


     

     

    We’re Running Out of Time to Stop Global Warming, UN Says

     

    In this picture taken Thursday, April 3, 2014, giant machines dig for brown coal at the open-cast mining Garzweiler near the city of Grevenbroich, western Germany. Coal is a major contributor of greenhouse gases. Image: Martin Meissner/Associated Press

    By Andrew Freedman April 13, 2014 Mashable.com

     

    The window of opportunity to avoid an amount of global warming that global leaders have agreed would be “dangerous” is rapidly closing, with just a decade left for the world to begin undertaking sweeping technological and governmental actions to rein in emissions of global-warming gases such as carbon dioxide, according to a new United Nations report released Sunday in Berlin.
    After that, it becomes far more difficult and expensive to cut emissions sufficiently to avoid dangerous amounts of warming. Given recent emissions and temperature trends, the world is on track to see an increase in global average surface temperatures of up to 9 degrees Fahrenheit by the end of this century, the report says. This could have disastrous consequences by dramatically raising global sea levels, melting land-based ice sheets, and leading to more heat waves and extreme precipitation events, among other impacts.

     

    The report, the third and final installment of the latest comprehensive review of climate science from the Nobel Prize-winning UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s (IPCC), analyzes more than 1,000 scenarios of potential economic growth and environmental changes to determine how to minimize global warming. The report is simultaneously optimistic and grim in tone, since it concludes there is time and pre-existing technological knowledge available to meet the goals that leaders set out in a non-binding agreement in 2009, yet lays bare the sheer scope of the challenges that lie ahead. The central task for scientists, engineers and policymakers is to figure out how to facilitate continued economic and population growth, without also causing emissions to skyrocket at the same time, the report says.

     

    Figuring out how to do that gets at the core of global-development issues and the sharp climate-policy divide between industrialized and developing nations. Government representatives meeting in Berlin last week to approve the report, objected to language in the widely read summary for policymakers that suggested developing countries have to do more to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions, according to the New York Times. However, such language remained in the lengthy technical report. Text discussing transfers of funding to developing countries to assist them in growing their economies without boosting emissions was also removed from the summary, The IPCC’s fifth assessment provides the foundation for upcoming rounds of negotiations to craft a new global climate treaty, starting with a high-level climate summit in New York this September, and culminating in another summit in Paris next year. The next treaty is supposed to be enforced by 2020. U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said the report underscores the need for action by 2015. “So many of the technologies that will help us fight climate change are far cheaper, more readily available and better performing than they were when the last IPCC assessment was released less than a decade ago,” Kerry said in a statement. “This report makes very clear we face an issue of global willpower, not capacity.”

    Here are some of the report’s key findings:

     

    Climate Change 2014: Mitigation of Climate Change

    IPCC Working Group III Contribution to AR5

    Concluding four years of intense scientific collaboration by hundreds of authors from around the world, this report responds to the request of the world’s governments for a comprehensive, objective and policy neutral assessment of the current scientific knowledge on mitigating climate change. The report has been extensively reviewed by experts and governments to ensure quality and comprehensiveness. The quintessence of this work, the Summary for Policymakers, has been approved line by line by member governments at the 12th Session of IPCC WG III in Berlin, Germany (7-11 April 2014).

    Summary For Policymakers Final Draft

     

    Contributors

    The participation of experts from around the globe is one of the IPCC’s key characteristics. For the preparation of the WGIII AR5, the WGIII Co-Chairs Ottmar Edenhofer (Germany), Ramon Pichs-Madruga (Cuba) and Youba Sokona (Mali) coordinated the efforts of a diverse team of contributors. This team provided a unique breadth and depth of knowledge from various backgrounds, from various scientific disciplines and from diverse regional and cultural affiliations. All authors and reviewers contributed their time, expertise and efforts on a voluntary basis to provide a global consensus view of the scientific knowledge on mitigating climate change.

    A total of 235 Coordinating Lead Authors and Lead Authors, 38 Review Editors from 58 countries and 176 contributing authors contributed to the preparation of WGIII AR5. Overall responsibility lies with the WGIII Co-Chairs and the WGIII Bureau…

     

     

    IPCC: Mitigating Climate Change More Challenging Than Ever

    Science AAAS

    Apr 14, 2014

     

    Written by

    Eli Kintisch

     
           

    BERLIN—Global greenhouse emissions are skyrocketing. Emissions cuts required to avoid dangerous impacts of climate change are steep. And despite decades of talk, world governments have made paltry efforts to address the problem. That’s the grim picture painted by a major report on mitigating greenhouse gas emissions released today by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). “There is a clear message from science: To avoid dangerous interference with the climate system, we need to move away from business as usual,” said Ottmar Edenhofer, an energy expert at the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research in Germany, who was a co-chair of the roughly 500-page report, in a statement. The report also describes the daunting work required to sidestep climate dangers, says energy expert Ken Caldeira of the Carnegie Institution for Science in Stanford, California. “To greatly reduce [carbon dioxide] emissions, we must revolutionize our systems of energy production and consumption,” he says. And that’s a “long, hard, and costly undertaking.“…

  2. Conservation Science News April 25, 2014

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    Focus of the Week — IPCC: Mitigating Climate Change

    1-ECOLOGY, BIODIVERSITY, RELATED

    2-CLIMATE CHANGE AND EXTREME EVENTS

    3- ADAPTATION

    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 the California Landscape Conservation Cooperative Newsletter or the Bay Area Ecosystems Climate Change Consortium listserve to receive this or you can email me directly at Ellie Cohen, ecohen at pointblue.org if you want your name added to or dropped from this list. 

    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- IPCC: Mitigating Climate Change

     


     

     

    We’re Running Out of Time to Stop Global Warming, UN Says

     

    In this picture taken Thursday, April 3, 2014, giant machines dig for brown coal at the open-cast mining Garzweiler near the city of Grevenbroich, western Germany. Coal is a major contributor of greenhouse gases. Image: Martin Meissner/Associated Press

    By Andrew Freedman April 13, 2014 Mashable.com

     

    The window of opportunity to avoid an amount of global warming that global leaders have agreed would be “dangerous” is rapidly closing, with just a decade left for the world to begin undertaking sweeping technological and governmental actions to rein in emissions of global-warming gases such as carbon dioxide, according to a new United Nations report released Sunday in Berlin.
    After that, it becomes far more difficult and expensive to cut emissions sufficiently to avoid dangerous amounts of warming. Given recent emissions and temperature trends, the world is on track to see an increase in global average surface temperatures of up to 9 degrees Fahrenheit by the end of this century, the report says. This could have disastrous consequences by dramatically raising global sea levels, melting land-based ice sheets, and leading to more heat waves and extreme precipitation events, among other impacts.

     

    The report, the third and final installment of the latest comprehensive review of climate science from the Nobel Prize-winning UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s (IPCC), analyzes more than 1,000 scenarios of potential economic growth and environmental changes to determine how to minimize global warming. The report is simultaneously optimistic and grim in tone, since it concludes there is time and pre-existing technological knowledge available to meet the goals that leaders set out in a non-binding agreement in 2009, yet lays bare the sheer scope of the challenges that lie ahead. The central task for scientists, engineers and policymakers is to figure out how to facilitate continued economic and population growth, without also causing emissions to skyrocket at the same time, the report says.

     

    Figuring out how to do that gets at the core of global-development issues and the sharp climate-policy divide between industrialized and developing nations. Government representatives meeting in Berlin last week to approve the report, objected to language in the widely read summary for policymakers that suggested developing countries have to do more to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions, according to the New York Times. However, such language remained in the lengthy technical report. Text discussing transfers of funding to developing countries to assist them in growing their economies without boosting emissions was also removed from the summary, The IPCC’s fifth assessment provides the foundation for upcoming rounds of negotiations to craft a new global climate treaty, starting with a high-level climate summit in New York this September, and culminating in another summit in Paris next year. The next treaty is supposed to be enforced by 2020. U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said the report underscores the need for action by 2015. “So many of the technologies that will help us fight climate change are far cheaper, more readily available and better performing than they were when the last IPCC assessment was released less than a decade ago,” Kerry said in a statement. “This report makes very clear we face an issue of global willpower, not capacity.”

    Here are some of the report’s key findings:

     

    Climate Change 2014: Mitigation of Climate Change

    IPCC Working Group III Contribution to AR5

    Concluding four years of intense scientific collaboration by hundreds of authors from around the world, this report responds to the request of the world’s governments for a comprehensive, objective and policy neutral assessment of the current scientific knowledge on mitigating climate change. The report has been extensively reviewed by experts and governments to ensure quality and comprehensiveness. The quintessence of this work, the Summary for Policymakers, has been approved line by line by member governments at the 12th Session of IPCC WG III in Berlin, Germany (7-11 April 2014).

    Summary For Policymakers Final Draft

     

    Contributors

    The participation of experts from around the globe is one of the IPCC’s key characteristics. For the preparation of the WGIII AR5, the WGIII Co-Chairs Ottmar Edenhofer (Germany), Ramon Pichs-Madruga (Cuba) and Youba Sokona (Mali) coordinated the efforts of a diverse team of contributors. This team provided a unique breadth and depth of knowledge from various backgrounds, from various scientific disciplines and from diverse regional and cultural affiliations. All authors and reviewers contributed their time, expertise and efforts on a voluntary basis to provide a global consensus view of the scientific knowledge on mitigating climate change.

    A total of 235 Coordinating Lead Authors and Lead Authors, 38 Review Editors from 58 countries and 176 contributing authors contributed to the preparation of WGIII AR5. Overall responsibility lies with the WGIII Co-Chairs and the WGIII Bureau…

     

     

    IPCC: Mitigating Climate Change More Challenging Than Ever

    Science AAAS

    Apr 14, 2014

     

    Written by

    Eli Kintisch

     
           

    BERLIN—Global greenhouse emissions are skyrocketing. Emissions cuts required to avoid dangerous impacts of climate change are steep. And despite decades of talk, world governments have made paltry efforts to address the problem. That’s the grim picture painted by a major report on mitigating greenhouse gas emissions released today by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). “There is a clear message from science: To avoid dangerous interference with the climate system, we need to move away from business as usual,” said Ottmar Edenhofer, an energy expert at the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research in Germany, who was a co-chair of the roughly 500-page report, in a statement. The report also describes the daunting work required to sidestep climate dangers, says energy expert Ken Caldeira of the Carnegie Institution for Science in Stanford, California. “To greatly reduce [carbon dioxide] emissions, we must revolutionize our systems of energy production and consumption,” he says. And that’s a “long, hard, and costly undertaking.“…

     

     

     

     

    Point Blue and partners in the News:

     

    Irrigated agriculture — precious habitat for the long-billed curlew

    April 16th, 2014 phys.org

    Despite the recent rainfall, California is still in a drought, so not only are water supplies limited, but demand for water is increasing from a variety of uses. In a recent study published by Point Blue Conservation Science (Point Blue) and Audubon California in the journal Western Birds, scientists document the importance of irrigated agricultural crops in California’s Central Valley to a conspicuous shorebird. Crops like alfalfa provide critical habitat for the Long-billed Curlew, the largest shorebird in North America and a species of continental conservation concern. As the drought continues, mirroring conditions that are projected to be more common in the future, scientists say the need for allocating water reliably to wetlands and flooded agricultural lands will only grow stronger for wetland-dependent birds. “Curlews can’t survive in the Central Valley without irrigated agriculture, given the loss of most of their historic shallow-water habitats in summer and fall,” says Dave Shuford, Point Blue ecologist and lead author of the publication. The Central Valley’s protected wetlands (federal wildlife refuges, state wildlife areas, and private lands) and certain types of agriculture (e.g. rice, alfalfa), provide nearly all of the habitat used by millions of ducks, geese, shorebirds, and other waterbirds every fall, winter, and spring. In early fall—the driest time of year in the Valley—it is especially important that these birds can find flooded fields and wetlands for their survival. In the study, Point Blue scientists, Audubon California, and a host of volunteers studied the curlews for three years. Observers recorded over 20,000 curlews: about 93% were in the central and southern portions of the Central Valley, concentrating in areas extensively flood irrigated for alfalfa and irrigated pasture. “Millions of migratory birds rely on the flooded agricultural fields each year. Conservation and agricultural groups can work together to benefit birds and people,” says Meghan Hertel, Audubon Working Lands Director. In the future, irrigated agriculture will face increased water costs driven by competing needs of an increasing human population and probably drier conditions under a changing climate. These threats might be offset if a program of economic incentives can be devised for farmers to maintain flooding of crops, such as alfalfa and irrigated pasture, to the benefit of both farmers and curlews.

    More information:
    Shuford, W. D., G. W. Page, G. M. Langham, and C. M. Hickey. 2013. The importance of agriculture to Long-billed Curlews in California’s Central Valley in fall. Western Birds 44:196-205.

     

    Irrigated agriculture: precious habitat for the long-billed curlew
    (April 16, 2014) ScienceDaily– Despite the recent rainfall, California is still in a drought, so not only are water supplies limited, but demand for water is increasing from a variety of uses. In a recent study, scientists document the importance of irrigated agricultural crops in California’s Central Valley to a conspicuous shorebird. … > full story

    Alternative identification methods for threatened species urged
    (April 17, 2014) — With global climate change and rapidly disappearing habitat critical to the survival of endangered species, there is a sense of urgency to confirm the return of animals thought to be extinct, or to confirm the presence of newly discovered species. Researchers want to change how biologists think about collecting ‘voucher’ specimens for species identification, suggesting current specimen collection practices pose a risk to vulnerable animal populations nearing extinction. … > full story

     

    Result of slow degradation on environmental pollutants
    (April 14, 2014) — Why do environmental pollutants accumulate in the cold polar regions? This may not only be due to the fact that many substances are less volatile at low temperatures, as has been long suspected, but also to their extremely slow natural degradation. Although persistent environmental pollutants have been and continue to be released worldwide, the Arctic and Antarctic regions are significantly more contaminated than elsewhere. The marine animals living there have some of the highest levels of persistent organic pollutant (POP) contamination of any creatures. … > full story

     

    Five anthropogenic factors that will radically alter northern forests in 50 years
    (April 17, 2014) — Five anthropogenic factors that will radically alter forest conditions and management needs in the Northern United States have been outlined in a new report. “The northern quadrant of the United States includes 172 million acres of forest land and 124 million people,” said one researcher. This report “is helping identify the individual and collective steps needed to ensure healthy and resilient futures for trees and people alike.”
    The report — Five anthropogenic factors that will radically alter forest conditions and management needs in the Northern United States — was published recently by the journal
    Forest Science and is part of the Northern Forest Futures Project, an effort led by the Forest Service’s Northern Research Station to forecast forest conditions over the next 50 years in the 20-state region extending from Maine to Minnesota and from Missouri to Maryland. The study is available at: http://www.nrs.fs.fed.us/pubs/45716 … > full story

     

    Coastal Ecosystem Restoration Yields Remarkable Returns

    Andrew Burger | Thursday April 17th, 2014

    In an increasingly urbanized, technologically complex and consumption-driven society, it’s easy to lose sight of the advantages and benefits to be realized, as well as our fundamental reliance on, ecosystems and the services they provide. Yet even as our preoccupation with jobs, economic growth and development has continued to intensify, we’ve been gaining greater understanding, and appreciation, of the value of ecosystems and ecosystem services — not just in terms of environmental health and safety, but for their economic and broader social value as well. On April 9, the Center for American Progress (CAP) and Oxfam America released, “The Economic Case for Restoring Coastal Ecosystems,” a report that highlights the remarkable economic value and benefits realized by coastal ecosystem restoration projects carried out right here in the U.S.

    Coastal ecosystem restoration: More job creation than offshore oil and gas development

    The CAP-Oxfam America study of coastal ecosystem restoration projects revealed some surprising economic results. As NOAA (National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration) Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Conservation and Management Mark Schaefer elaborated in a news release.

     

    Controversy over nitrogen’s ocean ‘exit strategies’ resolved
    (April 11, 2014) — A decades-long debate over the dominant way that nitrogen is removed from the ocean may now be settled. Researchers found that both of the nitrogen ‘exit strategies,’ denitrification and anammox, are at work in the oceans. The debate centers on how nitrogen — one of the most important food sources for ocean life and a controller of atmospheric carbon dioxide — becomes converted to a form that can exit the ocean and return to the atmosphere where it is reused in the global nitrogen cycle. … > full story

     

    Declining catch rates in Caribbean Nicaragua green turtle fishery may be result of overfishing
    (
    April 16, 2014) — A 20-year assessment of Nicaragua’s legal, artisanal green sea turtle fishery has uncovered a stark reality: greatly reduced overall catch rates of turtles in what may have become an unsustainable take, according to conservation scientists. Growing up to 400 pounds in weight, the green turtle is the second largest sea turtle species next to the leatherback turtle. In addition to the threat from overfishing, the green turtle is at risk from bycatch in various fisheries, poaching of eggs at nesting beaches, habitat deterioration and loss due to coastal development and climate change effects, and pollution. … > full story

     

    Diverse gene pool critical for tigers’ survival, say experts
    (April 16, 2014) — Increasing tigers’ genetic diversity — via interbreeding and other methods — and not just their population numbers may be the best solution to saving this endangered species, according to research. Iconic symbols of power and beauty, wild tigers may roam only in stories someday soon. Their historical range has been reduced by more than 90 percent. But conservation plans that focus only on increasing numbers and preserving distinct subspecies ignore genetic diversity, according to the study. In fact, under that approach, the tiger could vanish entirely. … > full story

     

    Life finds a way: the surprising biodiversity of cities

    Nika Levikov April 11, 2014

    Public perception of wildlife tends to be tied to natural habitats such as forests, ocean and other wild settings. However, cities can provide habitat for many animals and plants. In the largest global assessment of urban biodiversity to date, published in Proceedings of the Royal Society, researchers examined the biodiversity of urban areas and found that cities are home to a surprising number of species. The study underlines the conservation importance of preserving and creating green spaces when it comes to urban planning. The study focused on 54 cities for birds and 110 cities for plants in 36 countries across six continents. The researchers collected and analyzed data from various sources, including databases, surveys and existing literature and found that, on average, 20 percent of the bird species and five percent of the plant species of the regions they examined occur in urban areas. In addition, the number of different species, known as “species richness,” strongly correlated with city size, with bigger cities having larger numbers of different species….

     

    California mulls wolf listing amid hunts elsewhere

    By SCOTT SMITH, Associated Press Updated 4:16 pm, Wednesday, April 16, 2014

    This April 18, 2008, file photo provided by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service shows a gray wolf. The California Fish and Game Commission on Wednesday April 16, 2014, will consider listing the gray wolf as an endangered species. The wolf has been absent from California since the 1920s, but the appearance of a lone wolf in recent years in the north state has advocates pushing for protection in the hope that it will return in greater numbers. Photo: Uncedited, AP

    FRESNO, Calif. (AP) — While much of the country has relaxed rules on killing gray wolves, California will consider protecting the species after a lone wolf from Oregon raised hopes the animals would repopulate their historic habitat in the Golden State. The California Fish and Game Commission on Wednesday postponed for three months a decision on whether to list the gray wolf as endangered. Commissioners heard impassioned arguments from environmentalists who want the wolves to again to roam the state and from cattle ranchers who fear for their herds. “I think we made them blink,” said Amaroq Weiss of the Center for Biological Diversity, which leads the push for protection. “I think they heard our arguments.” State wildlife officials say they don’t support the listing because wolf packs haven’t roamed in California for nearly a century and there’s no scientific basis to consider ….

     

     

    Unprecedented experiment to revive chinook salmon

    Waters may hold secret to spawning

    April 10 2014 Peter Fimrite SF Chronicle

    A chinook salmon smolt swims in a holding tank on the Merva W fishing boat in Rio Vista, Calif. on Tuesday, April 8, 2014, before it’s released into the bay near Tiburon by state fish and game officials.

    Three hundred thousand juvenile chinook with tiny coded chips lodged in their heads were released in Rio Vista and under the Golden Gate Bridge over the past two days in an experiment to determine optimal conditions for hatchery-raised salmon to survive and imprint on their native rivers. The 6-month-old, pinkie-size fish from the Feather River hatchery near Oroville (Butte County) were separated into three groups of 100,000 and subjected to widely varying conditions before the release to see which method best helped the fish survive in the wild. Biologists with the California Department of Fish and Wildlife are focusing mainly on the group that was loaded Tuesday into the hold of a fishing boat in the delta town of Rio Vista and transported down the Sacramento River to the Golden Gate, where they were released Wednesday. That group of smolts swam through freshwater, brackish water and salt water that was circulated through the hold of the boat as they traveled from the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta downriver to the bay. ….It is possible to track the chinook from cradle to grave, so to speak, because of their unique ability to return after three years in the ocean to almost the exact spot on the river where they were born. They do this through a process called imprinting, which begins when the water that flows over their eggs leaves chemical cues…..

     

    Bay Area programs offer hope for dwindling frog population

    Carolyn Jones Updated 8:05 am, Saturday, April 12, 2014

    Starkey holds a yellow-eyed ensatina salamander, an amphibian found on the West Coast and in Mexico. Photo: Michael Short, The Chronicle

    It’s not easy hunting frogs. For starters, there aren’t many frogs left. If you want to find a frog, you’re best off in the flatlands of Madagascar, or maybe Papau New Guinea. But everywhere else? They’ve pretty much croaked. “It’s grim,” said David Wake, an integrative biology professor at UC Berkeley and an expert on amphibians. “We actually have quite a few species, but the problem is, they’re almost all in trouble.” Frogs across the globe, from the creeks of the Bay Area to the rain forests of Panama, are diminishing rapidly. About 50 percent of amphibian species worldwide are threatened or endangered, a higher number than any other vertebrate. Where frogs once happily hopped in backyards, ponds and streams, those places are now ribbit-less. But the best hope for the slimy bug-eaters may lie in the Bay Area, where an increasing number of frog experts are pioneering research, education and captive breeding programs. The latest entry is Save the Frogs, the world’s only nonprofit dedicated solely to saving amphibians, which recently opened its headquarters and a gift shop in Berkeley. “I fell in love with frogs, and I realized that the greatest threat to frogs is people’s lack of awareness,” said Kerry Kriger, an environmental biologist who founded Save the Frogs six years ago. “I think when we protect frogs, we can protect the whole environment.” That’s because frogs are a critical link in the food chain, he said. They eat huge quantities of bugs, especially mosquitoes, and are a favorite snack for a host of predators in creeks, ponds, forests and wetlands. Kriger and his crew visit schools, work on legislation to ban pesticides, persuade restaurants not to serve frog legs, and encourage people to build frog ponds. They’re working with Assemblyman V. Manuel Pérez, D-Coachella (Riverside County), to declare the endangered red-legged frog – made famous in Mark Twain‘s tale “The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County” – as the official state amphibian….

     

    How the public can contribute

    – Don’t use pesticides.

    – Build a frog pond in your backyard.

    – Don’t eat frog’s legs.

    – Don’t buy wild-caught frogs as pets.

    – Drive slowly on wet nights.

    – Be eco-friendly in general: Recycle, save water, use less plastic, buy organic and educate yourself on environmental issues.

    Source: SavetheFrogs.com

     

    Shade grown coffee shrinking as a proportion of global coffee production
    (April 16, 2014) — Over the past couple of decades, global coffee production has been shifting towards a more intensive, less environmentally friendly style, a new study has found. That’s pretty surprising if you live in the U.S. and you’ve gone to the grocery store or Starbucks, where sales of environmentally and socially conscious coffees have risen sharply and now account for half of all U.S. coffee sales by economic value. … > full story

     

    17 April 2014, 11:27 am

    National Park Week (April 19 – April 27) starts with free admission this weekend to all 401 of America’s National Parks; a gathering of all the living Directors of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service; Secretary Jewell travels to Albuquerque, New Mexico, to give the commencement address at the Southwestern Indian Polytechnic Institute (SIPI); the Integrated Wildland Fire Information Reporting system (IRWIN) is among the tools that will be used to fight wildfires this year; and the Interior Museum’s “Posterity” exhibit looks back at the some vintage promotional art from the WPA.

     

     

     

    Entire marine food chain at risk from rising CO2 levels in water

    Fish will make themselves vulnerable by being attracted to predator odour and exhibiting bolder behaviour

    Oliver Milman theguardian.com, Sunday 13 April 2014 13.00 EDT

    A lemon damselfish finding shelter in coral. Exposure to CO2 will make it more adventurous, and endanger its life. Photograph: Bates Littlehales/Corbis

    Escalating carbon dioxide emissions will cause fish to lose their fear of predators, potentially damaging the entire marine food chain, joint Australian and US research has found.

    A study by the Australian Institute of Marine Science, James Cook University and the Georgia Institute of Technology found the behavior of fish would be “seriously affected” by greater exposure to CO2. Researchers studied the behavior of coral reef fish at naturally occurring CO2 vents in Milne Bay, in eastern Papua New Guinea. They found that fish living near the vents, where bubbles of CO2 seeped into the water, “were attracted to predator odour, did not distinguish between odours of different habitats, and exhibited bolder behaviour than fish from control reefs”. The gung-ho nature of CO2-affected fish means that more of them are picked off by predators than is normally the case, raising potentially worrying possibilities in a scenario of rising carbon emissions. More than 90% of the excess CO2 in the atmosphere is soaked up by the oceans. When CO2 is dissolved in water, it causes ocean acidification, which slightly lowers the pH of the water and changes its chemistry. Crustaceans can find it hard to form shells in highly acidic water, while corals risk episodes of bleaching….

     

    Ocean acidification robs reef fish of their fear of predators
    (April 13, 2014) — Research on the behavior of coral reef fish at naturally-occurring carbon dioxide seeps in Milne Bay in eastern Papua New Guinea has shown that continuous exposure to increased levels of carbon dioxide dramatically alters the way fish respond to predators.  … > full story

     

    Odds that global warming is due to natural factors: Slim to none

    McGill University April 11, 2014

    Polar bear in melting Arctic. Statistical analysis rules out natural-warming hypothesis with more than 99% certainty. Credit: © st__iv / Fotolia

    An analysis of temperature data since 1500 all but rules out the possibility that global warming in the industrial era is just a natural fluctuation in the earth’s climate, according to a new study by McGill University physics professor Shaun Lovejoy. The study, published online April 6 in the journal Climate Dynamics, represents a new approach to the question of whether global warming in the industrial era has been caused largely by man-made emissions from the burning of fossil fuels. Rather than using complex computer models to estimate the effects of greenhouse-gas emissions, Lovejoy examines historical data to assess the competing hypothesis: that warming over the past century is due to natural long-term variations in temperature….

     

    March was the 4th warmest on record globally. March 2014 was the fourth-warmest March on record globally, according to recently released NASA data, making it the 349th month — more than 29 years — in which global temperatures were above the historic average. Climate Central

     

    Biologists help solve fungal mysteries, inform studies on climate change
    (April 17, 2014) — A new genetic analysis revealing the previously unknown biodiversity and distribution of thousands of fungi in North America might also reveal a previously underappreciated contributor to climate change. Huge populations of fungi are churning away in the soil in pine forests, decomposing organic matter and releasing carbon into the atmosphere. … > full story

    Methane climate change risk suggested by proof of redox cycling of humic substances
    (April 17, 2014) — Disruption of natural methane-binding process may worsen climate change, scientists have suggested, painting a stark warning on the possible effects of gases such as methane — which has a greenhouse effect 32 times that of carbon dioxide. Researchers have shown that humic substances act as fully regenerable electron acceptors which helps explain why large amount of methane are held in wetlands instead of being released to the atmosphere. … > full story

     

    Drunken trees: Dramatic signs of climate change. Sarah James, an Alaska Native elder, says global warming is radically changing her homeland. Even the forests no longer grow straight. Melting ground has caused trees to tilt or fall. National Geographic News

     

    Warm U.S. West, cold East: 4,000-year pattern; Global warming may bring more curvy jet streams during winter
    (April 16, 2014) — Last winter’s curvy jet stream pattern brought mild temperatures to western North America and harsh cold to the East. A new study shows that pattern became more pronounced 4,000 years ago, and suggests it may worsen as Earth’s climate warms. If this trend continues, it could contribute to more extreme winter weather events in North America, as experienced this year with warm conditions in California and Alaska and intrusion of cold Arctic air across the eastern USA,” says geochemist Gabe Bowen, senior author of the study. The study was published online April 16 by the journal Nature Communications.

    A sinuous or curvy winter jet stream means unusual warmth in the West, drought conditions in part of the West, and abnormally cold winters in the East and Southeast,” adds Bowen, an associate professor of geology and geophysics at the University of Utah. “We saw a good example of extreme wintertime climate that largely fit that pattern this past winter,” although in the typical pattern California often is wetter. It is not new for scientists to forecast that the current warming of Earth’s climate due to carbon dioxide, methane and other “greenhouse” gases already has led to increased weather extremes and will continue to do so. The new study shows the jet stream pattern that brings North American wintertime weather extremes is millennia old — “a longstanding and persistent pattern of climate variability,” Bowen says. Yet it also suggests global warming may enhance the pattern so there will be more frequent or more severe winter weather extremes or both. “This is one more reason why we may have more winter extremes in North America, as well as something of a model for what those extremes may look like,” Bowen says. Human-caused climate change is reducing equator-to-pole temperature differences; the atmosphere is warming more at the poles than at the equator. Based on what happened in past millennia, that could make a curvy jet stream even more frequent and-or intense than it is now, he says. … > full story

     

    Zhongfang Liu, Kei Yoshimura, Gabriel J. Bowen, Nikolaus H. Buenning, Camille Risi, Jeffrey M. Welker & Fasong Yuan. Paired oxygen isotope records reveal modern North American atmospheric dynamics during the Holocene. Nature Communications, 2014; DOI: 10.1038/ncomms4701

     

     

    Study Ties Epic California Drought, ‘Frigid East’ To Manmade Climate Change

    By Joe Romm on April 15, 2014 at 4:52 pm

    In this Feb. 4, 2014 file photo a warning buoy sits on the dry, cracked bed of Lake Mendocino near Ukiah, Calif. CREDIT: AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli, file

    Natural variability alone cannot explain the extreme weather pattern that has driven both the record-setting California drought and the cooler weather seen in the Midwest and East this winter, a major new study finds. We’ve reported before that climate scientists had predicted a decade ago that warming-driven Arctic ice loss would lead to worsening drought in California. In particular, they predicted it would lead to a “blocking pattern” that would shift the jet stream (and the rain it could bring) away from the state — in this case a “Ridiculously Resilient Ridge” of high pressure.

    A new study in Geophysical Research Letters (subs. req’d) takes the warming link to the California drought to the next level of understanding. It concludes, “there is a traceable anthropogenic warming footprint in the enormous intensity of the anomalous ridge during winter 2013-14, the associated drought and its intensity.” The NASA-funded study is behind a pay wall, but the brief news release, offers a simple explanation of what is going on. The research provides “evidence connecting the amplified wind patterns, consisting of a strong high pressure in the West and a deep low pressure in the East [labeled a 'dipole'], to global warming.” Researchers have “uncovered evidence that can trace the amplification of the dipole to human influences.”

    As this figure shows, the amplitude of the dipole driving the extreme nature of the California drought is much higher than can be explained purely by natural causes, and greenhouse gases are needed to explain the difference. The release explains: “… it is important to note that the dipole is projected to intensify, which means more extreme future droughts for California. Historical data show that the dipole has been intensifying since the late 1970s.
    The intensified dipole can be accurately simulated using a new global climate model, which also simulates the level of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. Simulations with only natural variability show a weakening dipole, which is opposite to what is currently being observed. Moreover, the occurrence of the dipole one year before an El Nino/La Nina event is becoming more common, which can only be reproduced in model simulations when greenhouse gases are introduced into the system.”

    This research fits a growing body of evidence — documented by Senior Weather Channel meteorologist Stu Ostro and others — that “global warming is increasing the atmosphere’s thickness, leading to stronger and more persistent ridges of high pressure, which in turn are a key to temperature, rainfall, and snowfall extremes and topsy-turvy weather patterns like we’ve had in recent years.” The new study’s lead author, Dr. Simon Wang of the Utah Climate Center, told me in an email: “I personally think that the debate over global warming leading to stronger blocking has passed. The ongoing challenge is how we predict WHEN and WHERE those blocking will happen and affect WHICH region.”

    I asked one of the country’s top climatologists, Dr. Michael Mann, what he thought of this new research. I’ll give him the final word: “We know that human-caused climate change has played a hand in the increases in many types of extreme weather impacting the U.S., including the more pronounced heat waves and droughts of recent summers, more devastating hurricanes and superstorms, and more widespread and intense wildfires. This latest paper adds to the weight of evidence that climate change may be impacting weather in the U.S. in a more subtle way, altering the configuration of the jet stream in a way that disrupts patterns of rainfall and drought, in this case creating an unusually strong atmospheric “ridge” that pushed the jet stream to the north this winter along the west coast, yielding record drought in California, flooding in Washington State, and abnormal warmth in Alaska. The recent IPCC assessment downplays these sorts of connections, making it very conservative in its assessment of risk, and reminding us that uncertainty in the science seems to be cutting against us, not for us. It is a reason for action rather than inaction.”

     

     


    More, Bigger Wildfires Burning Western US Over Last 30 Years



    Apr. 17, 2014 Wildfires across the western United States have been getting bigger and more frequent over the last 30 years — a trend that could continue as climate change causes temperatures to rise and drought to become more severe in the coming decades, according to new research. The number of wildfires over 1,000 acres in size in the region stretching from Nebraska to California increased by a rate of seven fires a year from 1984 to 2011, according to a new study accepted for publication in Geophysical Research Letters, a journal published by the American Geophysical Union.

    The total area these fires burned increased at a rate of nearly 90,000 acres a year — an area the size of Las Vegas, according to the study. Individually, the largest wildfires grew at a rate of 350 acres a year, the new research says. “We looked at the probability that increases of this magnitude could be random, and in each case it was less than one percent,” said Philip Dennison, an associate professor of geography at the University of Utah in Salt Lake City and lead author of the paper. The study’s authors used satellite data to measure areas burned by large fires since 1984, and then looked at climate variables, like seasonal temperature and rainfall, during the same time. The researchers found that most areas that saw increases in fire activity also experienced increases in drought severity during the same time period. They also saw an increase in both fire activity and drought over a range of different ecosystems across the region. “Twenty eight years is a pretty short period of record, and yet we are seeing statistically significant trends in different wildfire variables — it is striking,” said Max Moritz, a co-author of the study and a fire specialist at the University of California-Berkeley Cooperative Extension….While other studies have looked at wildfire records over longer time periods, this is the first study to use high-resolution satellite data to examine wildfire trends over a broad range of landscapes, explained Littell. The researchers divided the region into nine distinct “ecoregions,” areas that had similar climate and vegetation. The ecoregions ranged from forested mountains to warm deserts and grasslands. Looking at the ecoregions more closely, the authors found that the rise in fire activity was the strongest in certain regions of the United States: across the Rocky Mountains, Sierra Nevada and Arizona- New Mexico mountains; the southwest desert in California, Nevada, Arizona, New Mexico and parts of Texas; and the southern plains across western Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas and eastern Colorado. These are the same regions that would be expected to be most severely affected by changes in climate, said Dennison…. full story

    Philip E. Dennison, Simon C. Brewer, James D. Arnold, Max A. Moritz. Large wildfire trends in the western United States, 1984-2011. Geophysical Research Letters, 2014; DOI: 10.1002/2014GL059576

     

    Fire and drought may push Amazonian forests beyond tipping point
    (April 14, 2014) — Future simulations of climate in the Amazon suggest a longer dry season leading to more drought and fires. Scientists have published a new study on the impacts of fire and drought on Amazon tree mortality. Their article found that prolonged droughts caused more intense and widespread wildfires, which consumed more forests in Amazonia than previously understood. … > full story

     
     
     

     

    Climate paradox deciphered from the Miocene era
    (April 11, 2014) — A supposed climate paradox from the Miocene era has been deciphered by means of complex model simulations. When the Antarctic ice sheet grew to its present-day size around 14 million years ago, it did not get colder everywhere on the Earth, but there were regions that became warmer. This appears to be a physical contradiction, and this research aims to address that. … > full story

     

    DROUGHT:

     

    http://droughtmonitor.unl.edu/Home/RegionalDroughtMonitor.aspx?west

     

     

    Climate Change Drying Out Southwest Now, With Worse To Come For A Third Of The Planet

    By Joe Romm on April 11, 2014 at 5:52 pm

     

    Two new studies confirm that warming-driven climate change is already drying the U.S. Southwest and other parts of the globe. More worrisome, nearly a third of the world’s land faces drying from rising greenhouse gases — including two of the world’s greatest agricultural centers, “the U.S. Great Plains and a swath of southeastern China.”

    These studies add fuel to the growing bonfire of concerns about climate change and food security. As I wrote in the article on Dust-Bowlification I did for the journal Nature in 2011, “Feeding some 9 billion people by mid-century in the face of a rapidly worsening climate may well be the greatest challenge the human race has ever faced.”

    The fact that global warming is already drying out large parts of the planet — and that it is on track to get much, much worse — is well understood by climate scientists. Because this drying may be the single most consequential climate impact, confusionists try to blow smoke on it.

    The first study is “Atmosphere and Ocean Origins of North American Droughts,” by Columbia’s Richard Seager and NOAA’s Martin Hoerling, in the Journal of Climate (subs. required, full text here). It concludes:

    Long-term changes caused by increasing trace gas concentrations are now contributing to a modest signal of soil moisture depletion, mainly over the American Southwest, thereby prolonging the duration and severity of naturally occurring droughts.

    …. rising greenhouse gases will lead to a steady drying of southwest.”

    So, yes, climate change is already worsening the length and strength of droughts in this country.

    Of course, the more important question is: What’s going to happen in the future if we don’t slash CO2 emissions fast? It’s clear the U.S. Southwest will keep trying out. But the problem will be vastly more widespread according to the second study, “Global warming and 21st century drying” in Climate Dynamics by Cook et al.

    The Columbia University news release explains the bleak conclusions:

    Published this month in the journal Climate Dynamics, the study estimates that 12 percent of land will be subject to drought by 2100 through rainfall changes alone; but the drying will spread to 30 percent of land if higher evaporation rates from the added energy and humidity in the atmosphere are considered. An increase in evaporative drying means that even regions expected to get more rain, including important wheat, corn and rice belts in the western United States and southeastern China, will be at risk of drought.

    Interestingly, this study has a similar finding to a study by the Met Office’s Hadley Centre for Climate Prediction and Research that was the subject of one of the earliest posts on Climate Progress, in October 2006: “One third of the planet will be desert by the year 2100, say climate experts in the most dire warning yet of the effects of global warming.”

    This new study is “one of the first to use the latest climate simulations to model the effects of both changing rainfall and evaporation rates on future drought.” It finds “increased evaporative drying will probably tip marginally wet regions at mid-latitudes like the U.S. Great Plains and a swath of southeastern China into aridity.”

    This study vindicates leading climatologist James Hansen when he warned in 2012 that the Great Plains — one of America’s breadbaskets — was at risk of semipermanent drought. It’s not a big surprise he was correct given that Hansen himself co-authored one of the first journal articles ever written on the impact of global warming on increased evaporation. His 1990 Journal of Geophysical Research study, “Potential evapotranspiration and the likelihood of future drought,” projected that severe to extreme drought in the United States, then occurring every 20 years or so, could become an every-other-year phenomenon by mid-century.

    The news release for the new study explains:

    Much of the concern about future drought under global warming has focused on rainfall projections, but higher evaporation rates may also play an important role as warmer temperatures wring more moisture from the soil, even in some places where rainfall is forecasted to to increase, say the researchers.

    This is a central point missed by many drought discussions that focus only on rainfall amounts. In February, the journal Science had an excellent article on this point, “Climate Change: A Drier Future?” with this useful figure:

    Aridity increases in warmer climates, leading to expansion of dry climate zones. Evaporation and precipitation increase modestly, but on land, evaporative demand (broken wavy arrows) increases faster than precipitation, because the strong increases in air temperature and consequently saturated water vapor concentration over land (red bars at lower right) exceed growth in actual water vapor concentration (blue bars). Increases in sensible and latent heat (associated, respectively, with temperature and water vapor, and represented by the area of each bar) have the same sum over land and ocean, with sensible heat increasing more over land than oceans and latent heat increasing more over oceans. Relative humidity (ratio of blue to red bar length) decreases over land. (PET is “potential evapotranspiration.”)

    The bottom line of the Science article is one that everyone in policymaking, agriculture, climate science, and the media who is concerned with the future of drought and food production should set to memory: As the above considerations show, focusing on changes in precipitation, as typical in high-profile climate reports, does not tell the whole story — or perhaps even the main story — of hydrological change. In particular, it obscures the fact that in a warmer climate, more rain is needed. Many regions will get more rain, but it appears that few will get enough to keep pace with the growing evaporative demand.

    We have been warned about this by leading climatologists for nearly a quarter of a century, now. The time to act was a long time ago, but now is infinitely better than later if you are at all concerned about how we are going to feed 9 billion people post-2050.

     

     

    Study shows lasting effects of drought in rainy Eastern U.S.
    (April 17, 2014) — This spring, more than 40 percent of the western U.S. is in a drought that the USDA deems “severe” or “exceptional.” The
    same was true in 2013. In 2012, drought even spread to the humid east. But new research shows how short-lived but severe climatic events can trigger cascades of ecosystem change that last for centuries. …
    The tree records in this study show that just before the American Revolution, across the broadleaf forests of Kentucky, Tennessee, North Carolina, and Arkansas, the simultaneous death of many trees opened huge gaps in the forest — prompting a new generation of saplings to surge skyward. There’s no historical evidence that the dead trees succumbed to logging, ice storms, or hurricanes. Instead, they were likely weakened by repeated drought leading up to the 1770s, followed by an intense drought from 1772 to 1775. The final straw was an unseasonable and devastating frost in 1774 that, until this study, was only known to historical diaries like Thomas Jefferson’s Garden Book, where he recounts “a frost which destroyed almost every thing” at Monticello that was “equally destructive thro the whole country and the neighboring colonies.” The oversized generation of new trees that followed-something like a baby boom — shaped the old-growth forests that still stand in the Southeast today. “Many of us think these grand old trees in our old-growth forests have always been there and stood the test of time,” says Neil Pederson of the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory, lead author of the new study. “What we now see is that big events, including climatic extremes, created large portions of these forests in short order through the weakening and killing of existing trees.“…> full story

     

    Neil Pederson, James M. Dyer, Ryan W. McEwan, Amy E. Hessl, Cary J. Mock, David A. Orwig, Harald E. Rieder, Benjamin I. Cook. The legacy of episodic climatic events in shaping temperate, broadleaf forests. Ecological Monographs, 2014; 140414095101002 DOI: 10.1890/13-1025.1

     

     

     

     

     

    What role for transformation in climate adaptation?

    Source: World Resources Institute – Tue, 15 Apr 2014 05:22 PM Author: Ayesha Dinshaw, WRI

    A farmer harvests rice next to the artist Suharyanto Tri’s statue entitled “Planting Brain” at Nitiprayan village in Bantul, near the ancient city of Yogyakarta, Indonesia, Dec. 27, 2012. Tri’s work is a part of an outdoor sculpture exhibition called “Last Harvest”, which included works from 30 artists voicing their concerns over diminishing agricultural land. REUTERS/Dwi Oblo

    Transformation is a word we use so often in our daily lives that it seems strange to stop and think about what it really means. But in adaptation circles, the definition and role of transformation has recently become a hot topic of conversation, in part because transformational change was an important theme of the recent IPCC Fifth Assessment Report, Climate Change 2014: Impacts, Adaptation, and Vulnerability. ….and while adaptation efforts have increased over the past decade, there is the danger of too few small-scale adaptation interventions failing to protect the most vulnerable people. Despite increased funding for adaptation, the total amount is still limited, and tends to be focused on short time horizons. A growing number of funders, experts, and adaptation practitioners question whether addressing climate change requires fundamental changes in how our society functions, including “paradigm shifts” in our values and decision-making. Lisa Schipper, an expert at the Stockholm Environment Institute, notes that “Adaptation was always meant to be transformational, but it somehow lost its edge; it lost its spunk and it became just another term for development. Now “transformation” has made its mark in the latest IPCC report. But many questions remain about what transformation really means—and these unanswered questions make it more difficult to fund, operationalize, and measure effective adaptation.

    WE NEED CRITERIA

    The IPCC Fifth Assessment Report defines transformation as “adaptation that changes the fundamental attributes of a system in response to climate and its effects.” The authors propose that transformational adaptation could include adaptation at greater scale or magnitude, the introduction of new technologies or practices, the formation of new structures or systems of governance, or shifts in the location of activities.
    Meanwhile, incremental adaptation accounts for actions where the central aim is to maintain the essence and integrity of a system or process at a given scale. Although this gives us a common starting place, adaptation practitioners and funders have not yet clarified what counts as transformative—and that poses a major challenge to facilitating transformational adaptation. For instance, it seems like transformation requires change at a large scale, but what scale does an intervention need to reach in order to qualify as transformational? And, should scale focus on geographic scale or the number of people impacted? If we include the number of people impacted by the change as a criterion, should their vulnerability to climate change impacts also be taken into account? Similarly, for a change to fundamentally alter a system, it seems like it needs to be long-term, if not irreversible. But how long is long enough for an intervention to qualify as transformational?

    WHY TRANSFORMATION MATTERS

    All of this might seem like academic quibbling in the face of an urgent problem, but the way a term like “transformation” is used actually has major influence on adaptation projects going forward. First, funders, such as those involved in the UNFCCC Green Climate Fund, understandably want their grants to fund truly game-changing adaptation interventions. But without concrete criteria for what that means, funding “transformational adaptation” becomes subjective. Second, it follows that in order to operationalize a transformative policy or program, we need to understand the capacity and conditions needed. Third, to measure its success, we need establish indicators and benchmarks that move us beyond business-as-usual adaptation. Therefore, without criteria, we cannot fund or operationalize transformation. We also need to remember that fundamental, systemic shifts have the potential to be positive, but they can also be highly disruptive, or even devastating.
    For instance, forced migration away from eroding coastlines would certainly transform both the lives of those who have to migrate and the communities to which migrants flow. Policymakers have a responsibility to prepare for such unplanned transformations that may occur due to climate change. Funders and other advocates of transformation need to help policymakers and planners recognize when transformational shifts may occur, and can help them plan to mitigate the potential negative consequences.

    WE NEED MORE EXAMPLES

    Without clear criteria, finding concrete examples of transformation remains a challenge. Some examples of potentially transformational adaptation appear in the literature (such as the ongoing re-greening of the Sahel and the Thames Estuary 2100 Plan), but debates rage as to which ones “count”—and which ones should serve as models for adaptation planning and investment….

     

     

     

    US greenhouse gas emissions at lowest level in 20 years. Climate Central

    Most of the GHG decline came from reductions in energy consumption, increased fuel efficiency of cars and other types of transportation, and a shift to natural gas from coal in fueling power plants, the EPA said in a statement

     

     

    Salvation Gets Cheap

    By PAUL KRUGMAN NY Times April 17, 2014

    The incredible recent decline in the cost of renewable energy, solar power in particular, have improved the economics of climate change.

     

     

    Global Warming: Backpack Captures Cow Farts

    Beth Balen on April 16, 2014.

    A bovine backpack has been created at Argentina’s National Institute of Agricultural Technology (NIAT) that can trap the methane gas, a gas reported to contribute to global warming, in cow farts and belches so that it can be converted to energy. The experiment, which is only in the proof-of-concept stage, captures and stores flatulence from the cows’ digestive systems. Argentina is a good place to pilot this backpack experiment, since the country has over 50 million cows. Pablo Sorondo, press officer for NIAT, says the goal of the project is to show that it is possible to collect methane from cows and use it for energy….

    Methane is a powerful greenhouse gas, and cows produce up to 25 percent of it. A more real issue with controlling cow methane emissions is the reduction of a major cause of climate change. One cow can produce up to 300 liters of methane every day. If converted to energy this is enough to run a refrigerator or a car for 24 hours. ….Cows’ methane emissions are thought to be a significant cause of climate change. The methane gas is produced mostly from belches, although farting contributes its fair share. The gas is a byproduct of the fibrous food the cows eat that gets digested through their multiple stomachs and extensive guts. …

    It is already known that some diets cause cows to produce more methane. Just switching to a more natural diet can help reduce flatulence. One company in France is experimenting with feeding an alfalfa, linseed and grass mixture to their cows instead of the typical corn and soy-based mix in an attempt to reduce methane emissions. Their cows are producing 20 percent less gas.

    In the U.S. many farmers are using the antibiotic Monensin to reduce methane by about 15 percent (Monensin is banned in Europe). John Wallace, professor at Scotland University of Aberdeen, is leading a project called Ruminomics to look at new breeding methods that might cut down on methane output. Some animals consistently produce less methane than others, no matter the breed or the food. Some cows just have the genetic basis for having less of a problem with gas. Wallace’s project looks at the genetics of cows. He hopes that by the end of 2015 they will have developed milk and saliva tests that will let farmers pick cows that produce less methane and the resulting ruminant pollution. Dairy production is infamous for allegedly contributing to global warming because of cow gas, and the meat industry has its issues too. The carbon footprint of one single hamburger is about the equivalent of a 10-mile drive in the car. As more people globally buy meat, consumption has tripled over the last 40 years, and with it cow methane production. As the cow population increases, along with their flatulence, the environmental effects of our carnivorous habits become more visible. Cutting down on cow farts may interfere with the idea of using the backpack to capture methane gas for energy. However, maybe the backpack study can make some progress toward both energy generation and global warming. The world is going to need a lot of backpacks.

     

    Lima summit can deliver on adaptation and forests, says Peru climate chief

    Manuel Pulgar Vidal targets small successes at COP20 in December, citing consensus-building as key goal

    Protecting the Amazon is central to addressing climate change – around 15% of emissions come from deforestation (Pic: Global Water Forum)

    By Ed King
    17 April 2014, 11:27 am

    The Peruvian President of the UN’s main climate change summit in Lima later this year hopes progress will be made on smaller ‘cross cutting issues’ during the two week gathering.

    Manuel Pulgar Vidal, Peru’s Environment Minister, says he wants to focus on topics that countries are keen to work on together, like adaptating to climate impacts and reducing deforestation.

    “We need innovative ways to unblock discussion and get the process to move,” he told a meeting of climate experts at Brown University, Rhode Island….

     

     

    Involve the youth in climate change adaptation

    Posted by: admin Posted date: April 15, 2014

    Nadave, Fiji Disaster preparedness and a well assessed risk reduction plan will save lives-These were the words of Taina Naivalu from the St. John organization as she addressed participants at a Training of the Trainers workshop organized by the Partners in Community Development Fiji’s Child Centred Climate Change Adaptation (4CA) project…..The NDMO officers also informed those in attendance that everyone from the elderly to the young, from the Turaga-ni-koro (village headman) to the schoolchildren needed to be involved in reducing the risks of disasters and in their evacuation plans.

    This is in-line with the work of the 4CA project as well as its outcomes which are to increase the capacity of children, youth and communities to facilitate the process of climate change adaptation, use locally designed climate smart solutions to address climate change and ensure that good practices and learning from the 4CA model is incorporated into local, district and national Government process.

    4CA Project officer, Peni Seru in opening the workshop yesterday stressed to participants the importance of 303 which stands for 30 minutes every 3 months when villages and communities should carry out a mock up of their evacuation plan…..

     

    Save the world, work less

    With climate change threatening life as we know it, perhaps it’s time to revive the forgotten goal of spending less time on our jobs

    04.15.14 – 4:19 pm | Steven T. Jones |

    steve@sfbg.com

    Save the world, work less. That dual proposition should have universal appeal in any sane society. And those two ideas are inextricably linked by the realities of global climate change because there is a direct connection between economic activity and greenhouse gas emissions. Simply put, every hour of work we do cooks the planet and its sensitive ecosystems a little bit more, and going home to relax and enjoy some leisure time is like taking this boiling pot of water off the burner. Most of us burn energy getting to and from work, stocking and powering our offices, and performing the myriad tasks that translate into digits on our paychecks. The challenge of working less is a societal one, not an individual mandate: How can we allow people to work less and still meet their basic needs?….Last year, there was a brief burst of national media coverage around this “save the world, work less” idea, triggered by a report by the Washington DC-based Center for Economic and Policy Research, entitled “Reduced Work Hours as a Means of Slowing Climate Change.”….He notes that per capita work hours were reduced by 50 percent in recent decades in Europe compared to US workers who spend as much time as ever on the job, despite being a world leader in developing technologies that make us more productive. Working more means consuming more, on and off the job. “This choice between fewer work hours versus increased consumption has significant implications for the rate of climate change,” the report said before going on to study various climate change and economic growth models.

    It isn’t just global warming that working less will help address, but a whole range of related environmental problems: loss of biodiversity and natural habitat; rapid depletion of important natural resources, from fossil fuel to fresh water; and the pollution of our environment with harmful chemicals and obsolete gadgets……”The paper estimates the impact on climate change of reducing work hours over the rest of the century by an annual average of 0.5 percent. It finds that such a change in work hours would eliminate about one-quarter to one-half of the global warming that is not already locked in (i.e. warming that would be caused by 1990 levels of greenhouse gas concentrations already in the atmosphere),” the report concludes….

     

    Climate Change, the Musical

    By CHARLES ISHERWOOD APRIL 16, 2014 NYTimes

    Actors in the Civilians’ “The Great Immensity” at the Public Theater. Credit Brian Harkin for The New York Times

    Steve Cosson and Michael Friedman had a highbrow hit in the fall collaborating on Anne Washburn’s “Mr. Burns: A Post-Electric Play.” They are reunited for the latest production from the inventive, inquisitive theater troupe the Civilians, in residence at the Public Theater as part of the low-price, low-frills Public Lab series. “The Great Immensity,” written and directed by Mr. Cosson with songs by Mr. Friedman, asks the big-time question of whether man can change his destructive ways before the planet goes kablooey.
    Although past Civilians shows have tackled socially significant themes, this sounds like a departure, at least in form. The company doesn’t usually favor linear narrative, but “The Great Immensity” is intriguingly described as “a continent-hopping thriller” about a woman trying to find out what happened to a friend who disappeared from a tropical island while on assignment for a television show. She uncovers a plot related to an international climate conference….

     

     

     

     

    Michael Mann, U. of Virginia win FOIA case. Unpublished research by university scientists is exempt from the Virginia Freedom of Information Act, the Virginia Supreme Court ruled Thursday, rejecting an attempt by skeptics of global warming to view the work of a prominent climate researcher. Washington Post

     

    EPA scores big win to limit mercury in power plants.

    Seth Anderson/flickr

     

    April 16, 2014 the Daily Climate

    The Environmental Protection Agency took home a victory Tuesday when an appeals court upheld the agency’s pollution limits for mercury and air toxics from oil- and coal-fired power plants. Many of the nation’s oldest and dirtiest plants will be forced into retirement. Politico

     

     

    Greenland ice cores show industrial record of acid rain, success of US Clean Air Act
    (April 11, 2014) — Detailed ice core measurements show smog-related ratios leveling off in 1970, and suggest these deposits are sensitive to the same chemicals that cause acid rain. By analyzing samples from the Greenland ice sheet, atmospheric scientists found clear evidence of the U.S. Clean Air Act. They also discovered a link between air acidity and how nitrogen is preserved in layers of snow. … > full story

     

    Is This The End Of China’s Coal Boom?

    By Joe Romm on April 16, 2014

    A new report documents China’s response to the almost unimaginable life-shortening air pollution caused by its rapid growth in coal use…..

     

    Carter urges Obama, Kerry to reject Keystone XL

    Jennifer A. Dlouhy SF Chronicle April 16, 2014

    WASHINGTON — April 17, 2014

    Former President Jimmy Carter joined fellow Nobel laureates Wednesday in opposing Keystone XL, insisting that approving the pipeline would trigger “more climate upheaval” around the globe.

    In an open letter to President Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry, Carter and the nine other Nobel Peace Prize winners bluntly warned the leaders: “Your decision on the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline will define your climate legacy.” The missive, published as an advertisement in Politico, represents the first time Carter has taken a position on the $5.4 billion project and makes him the first former president to come out against the pipeline. Former President George W. Bush described TransCanada Corp.’s Keystone XL pipeline as a “no-brainer” for the U.S. economy two years ago.

    While Bush and former president Bill Clinton both are featured in an American Petroleum Institute advertisement as having endorsed the pipeline, Clinton’s sole public remarks on the project were far more qualified. Clinton’s relative silence on the issue may be in part attributed to the possible presidential aspirations of his wife, Hillary Rodham Clinton’s, and her own role overseeing some of the Keystone XL reviews as the previous secretary of state. Other prominent political leaders, including previous members of the Obama administration, have been divided over the issue.

    Most of the Nobel laureates urging Keystone XL’s rejection Wednesday have made similar entreaties twice before. The group also includes American political activist Jody Williams, Iranian human rights leader Shirin Ebadi and Leymah Gbowee, a women’s peace movement leader from Liberia….

     

     

     

     

     

    Ohio links fracking to earthquakes, announces tougher rules. Reuters April 12, 2014

    Recent small earthquakes in Ohio were likely triggered by fracking, state regulators said on Friday, a new link that could have implications for oil and gas drilling in the Buckeye State and beyond…

     

    House windows that double as solar panels? Shiny quantum dots brighten future of solar cells
    (April 14, 2014) — A house window that doubles as a solar panel could be on the horizon, thanks to recent quantum-dot work. Scientists have demonstrated that superior light-emitting properties of quantum dots can be applied in solar energy by helping more efficiently harvest sunlight. … > full story

     

    Scientists might have figured out how to make solar power work at night. By attaching photoswitching molecules called azobenzene to a template of carbon nanotubes, scientists have designed a ‘solar thermal fuel’ that can release heat on demand. Christian Science Monitor

     

    Scientists find an ‘ugly duckling’ to convert waste heat to electricity. Researchers looking for better ways to convert waste heat into electricity have stumbled across a simple material that is smashing records for making that conversion efficiently. Christian Science Monitor

     

     

    Relieving electric vehicle range anxiety with improved batteries
    (April 16, 2014)
    – A new nanomaterial called a metal organic framework could extend the lifespan of lithium-sulfur batteries, which could be used to increase the driving range of electric vehicles.
    Researchers added the powder, a kind of nanomaterial called a metal organic framework, to the battery’s cathode to capture problematic polysulfides that usually cause lithium-sulfur batteries to fail after a few charges. During lab tests, a lithium-sulfur battery with the new MOF cathode maintained 89 percent of its initial power capacity after 100 charge-and discharge cycles. …
    Most batteries have two electrodes: one is positively charged and called a cathode, while the second is negative and called an anode. Electricity is generated when electrons flow through a wire that connects the two. To control the electrons, positively charged atoms shuffle from one electrode to the other through another path: the electrolyte solution in which the electrodes sit. The lithium-sulfur battery’s main obstacles are unwanted side reactions that cut the battery’s life short. The undesirable action starts on the battery’s sulfur-containing cathode, which slowly disintegrates and forms molecules called polysulfides that dissolve into the liquid electrolyte. Some of the sulfur — an essential part of the battery’s chemical reactions — never returns to the cathode. As a result, the cathode has less material to keep the reactions going and the battery quickly dies. Researchers worldwide are trying to improve materials for each battery component to increase the lifespan and mainstream use of lithium-sulfur batteries. For this research, Xiao and her colleagues honed in on the cathode to stop polysulfides from moving through the electrolyte….full story

     

    Environmentally compatible organic solar cells in the future
    (April 16, 2014) — Environmentally compatible production methods for organic solar cells from novel materials are in the focus of “MatHero”. The new project aims at making organic photovoltaics competitive to their inorganic counterparts by enhancing the efficiency of organic solar cells, reducing their production costs and increasing their life-time. … > full story

     

     

    ????
    Floating nuclear plants could ride out tsunamis: New design for enhanced safety, easier siting and centralized construction

    (April 16, 2014) — When an earthquake and tsunami struck the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant complex in 2011, neither the quake nor the inundation caused the ensuing contamination. Rather, it was the aftereffects — specifically, the lack of cooling for the reactor cores, due to a shutdown of all power at the station — that caused most of the harm. A new design for nuclear plants built on floating platforms, modeled after those used for offshore oil drilling, could help avoid such consequences in the future. … > full story

     

     

     

     
     

     

    UPCOMING CONFERENCES: 

     

     

    Southern Sierra Fire and Hydroclimate Workshop

    April 22-24, 2014 Yosemite Valley, CA

    This workshop is focused on developing an integrated view of the physical landscape, climate effects, hydrology and fire regimes of the Sierra Nevada.

     

    Sanctuary Currents Symposium; Marine Debris: How do you pitch in?
    Saturday April 26, 2014, University Center, California State University Monterey Bay

    Research Posters: Call for abstracts will occur in January.  Visit the Sanctuary Currents Symposium website for updates and information: Sanctuary Currents Symposium

     

     

    US EPA Climate Showcase Communities Replication Workshop
    April 30, 2014—Hotel Monaco, Baltimore, MD

    US EPA’s Climate Showcase Communities program is hosting a free, 1-day workshop highlighting successful local and tribal government climate and energy strategies that can be replicated in communities across the US. Panel themes will include:

     Please register for the workshop by April 15, 2014 at the conference registration website. For more information about the Climate Showcase Communities program, including a list of grantees and project descriptions, visit the Climate Showcase Communities website. To view a short video overview of past CSC Workshops, please visit our YouTube channel.  Please contact Andrea Denny with any questions.

    Scenario Planning toward Climate Change Adaptation (pdf) WORKSHOP May 6-8, 2014 NCTC, Shepherdstown, West Virginia

    This overview course will introduce the core elements of scenario planning and expose participants to a diversity of approaches and specific scenario development techniques that incorporate both qualitative and quantitative components.

     

    Climate Change: Challenges to California’s Agriculture and Natural Resources
    May 19, 2014; Sacramento, CA    The California Museum, 1020 “O” Street, Sacramento, CA 95814
    The conference will bring together leading economists, analysts, scientists and policy makers from University of California, the state government, non-profits, and the private sector to discuss the potential impacts of climate change and the associated challenges to California agriculture and natural resources. Click here for more information.

     
     

    Headwaters to Ocean “H20″ Conference  May 27-29, 2014 San Diego, CA

     


    Ecosystems, Economy and Society: How large-scale restoration can stimulate sustainable development (in DC)

    29 – 30 MAY 2014 U.S. National Academy of Sciences, Washington DC, USA

     

     

    North America Congress for Conservation Biology Meeting. July 13-16, Missoula, MT. The biennial NACCB provides a forum for presenting and discussing new research and developments in conservation science and practice for addressing today’s conservation challenges.

    First Stewards
    July 21-23, Washington, DC.

    First Stewards will hold their 2nd annual symposium at the National Museum of the American Indian. This year’s theme is
    United Indigenous Voices Address Sustainability: Climate Change and Traditional Places

    99th Annual Meeting of the Ecological Society of America
    Sacramento, California  August 10-15, 2014  http://www.esa.org/sacramento

     

    California Adaptation Forum 
    August 19-20, 2014
    . SACRAMENTO, CA

    This two-day forum will build off a successful National Adaptation Forum held in Colorado in 2013. The attendance of many California leaders there underscored the need for a California-focused event, which will be held every other year to complement the biennial national conference.  To register go to:  https://www1.gotomeeting.com/register/886364449

    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.

     

     

     

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

     


    POINT BLUE CONSERVATION SCIENCE

    Point Blue Conservation Science, founded as Point Reyes Bird Observatory and based in Petaluma, California, is a growing and internationally renowned nonprofit with over 140 staff and seasonal scientists. Our highest priority is to reduce the impacts of accelerating changes in climate, land-use and the ocean on wildlife and people while promoting climate-smart conservation for a healthy, blue planet.  Point Blue advances conservation of nature for wildlife and people through science, partnerships and outreach. Our scientists work hand-in-hand with wildlife managers, private land owners, ranchers, farmers, other scientists, major conservation groups, and federal, state, and local government agencies and officials.  Point Blue has tripled in size over the past 12 years in response to the ever–increasing demand for sound science to assess and guide conservation investments in our rapidly changing world.  At the core of our work is innovative, collaborative science.

     

    Studying birds and other environmental indicators, we evaluate natural and human-driven change over time and guide our partners in adaptive management for improved conservation outcomes. We publish in peer-reviewed journals and contribute to the “conservation commons” of open access scientific knowledge. We also store, manage and interpret over 800 million bird and ecosystem observations from across North America and create sophisticated, yet accessible, decision support tools to improve conservation today and for an uncertain future. 

     

    This is a pivotal moment in the history of life on our planet requiring unprecedented actions to ensure that wildlife and people continue to thrive in the decades to come.  Working from the Sierra to the sea and as far away as the Ross Sea (Antarctica), Point Blue is collaboratively implementing climate-smart conservation.   Read more at www.pointblue.org.

     

     

     

     

     

     

    • OTHER NEWS OF INTEREST

     

    Meet Kepler-186f, the most ‘Earth-like’ planet ever found

    Los Angeles Times

    April 17, 2014

     

    Written by

    Amina Khan

     
           

    Sifting through observations from tens of thousands of distant stars, astronomers say they have discovered the first definitive Earth-sized planet that orbits in a habitable zone where water could exist in liquid form – a necessary condition for life as we know it…

     

    Ikea plans ‘green’ meatballs to help tackle climate change

    ‘Veg balls’ to be launched as eco-friendly alternative to famous Swedish meatballs, which Ikea admits are damaging the planet


    “We have been looking at how we can tweak our recipes to give great taste but also perhaps less of an environmental impact,” Joanna Yarrow said. 

    By Emily Gosden, Energy Editor 17 Apr 2014

    Ikea is developing a new ‘green’ version of its famous Swedish meatballs in order to cut carbon emissions and help tackle climate change, the retailer has revealed. The flat-pack furniture giant sells an estimated 150 million meatballs, made from beef and pork, in its cafes each year. But the popular snack is also the least environmentally-friendly item on the Ikea menu, because of high carbon dioxide emissions involved in the farming process and high methane gas emissions from cattle. Ikea is so concerned about the contribution to global warming from the meatballs that it is now developing “vegetarian meatballs” as an eco-friendly alternative. “We are aware of the meat issue with greenhouse gases,” Joanna Yarrow, head of sustainability for Ikea in the UK, said. “We are looking at all our food products from a sustainability perspective but specifically meatballs. They are very popular and they are also our most carbon-intensive food item on our menu.”

     

    Fish consumption advisories for expecting mothers fail to cover all types of contaminants
    (April 17, 2014) — Fish consumption advisories for expecting mothers are ineffective in reducing infant exposure to contaminants like persistent organic pollutants. The researchers’ model estimates that women who stop eating fish shortly before or during their pregnancy may only lower their child’s exposure to POPs by 10 to 15 per cent. … > full story

     

     

     

     

     

     

    The rich diversity of birds in rice field ecosystems

    Rice fields cover 160 million hectares around the world — an area more than six times the size of the United Kingdom. They are an important ecosystem for various animals, including a number of birds that can be seen at the experimental paddies run by the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI). The IRRI fields in the Philippines cover just 250 hectares, but can be considered a microcosm of millions of rice fields globally in which sustainable agricultural practices, such as non-lethal methods of controlling rice-eating birds, are used. These images were part of photography exhibition, Feathers in the Fields: The Birds of IRRI…..

    Whiskered terns catch fish or insects
    Prof Tirso Paris

     

    The blue-tailed bee-eater nests in holes burrowed into tall sandbanks
    Prof Tirso Paris

     

    ————————————–

     


     

     

     


     


     

     

     

     

     

     

    \\

     

    ————

    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.

     

  3. National Wildlands Fire Strategy: Preventative Measures from Controlled Burns to New Zoning Codes

    Leave a Comment

    Obama Unveils New Wildfire Strategy Citing New Risks Posed By Climate Change

    By Joanna M. Foster on April 10, 2014

    With wildfire season just around the corner and much of the west and southwest still dangerously dry, the Obama Administration has released its National Cohesive Wildland Fire Management Strategy.

    The strategy addresses factors exacerbating wildfire danger such as climate change, increasing community sprawl, and pests and disease affecting forest health. It calls for adopting preventive measures, such as: fuels thinning and controlled burns; promoting effective municipal, county, and state building and zoning codes and ordinances; ensuring that watersheds, transportation, and utility corridors are part of future management plans; and determining how organizations can best work together to reduce and manage human-caused ignitions.

     

    “As climate change spurs extended droughts and longer fire seasons, this collaborative wildfire blueprint will help us restore forests and rangelands to make communities less vulnerable to catastrophic fire,” Council on Environmental Quality Acting Chair Mike Boots said in a press release. “With President Obama’s Climate Action Plan, the Administration is committed to promoting smart policies and partnerships like this strategy that support states, communities, businesses, farmers, ranchers and other stakeholders who are working to protect themselves from more frequent or intense fires, droughts and floods, and other impacts of climate change.” The Administration highlighted the Blue Mountains near Flagstaff, Arizona and the Greater Okefenokee Association of Landowners in Georgia as areas where these strategies have already been implemented successfully.

     

    In February, President Obama announced plans to change how the U.S. pays for the rising costs of fighting wildfires. In his 2015 budget, Obama called for shifting the costs of fighting the biggest wildfires to the same emergency fund that handles other natural disasters such as hurricanes and earthquakes. The new funding framework is designed to avoid forcing the U.S. Forest Service and the Department of Interior to drain fire prevention budgets to pay for big wildfires. According to the White House, over the past two years, these agencies have, out of necessity, taken about $1.1 billion from funds designed to pay for programs to clear brush and thin overgrown forests to reduce fire danger. The federal government currently shoulders about two-thirds of the cost of fighting wildfires, about $3.5 billion every year. This figure is three times what was spent in the 1990s.

     

    The cost of fighting wildfires has skyrocketed in recent decades as climate change has intensified drought, shrunken snowpacks and aided in the spread of tree-killing insects. The dramatic expansion of building in what is known as the “wildland urban interface” has also contributed greatly to the bill as firefighters struggle to protect the now more than 47 million homes in these high risk areas.

     

     


    National Cohesive Wildland Fire Management Strategy


    April 2014

     

    The National Strategy: The Final Phase in the Development of the National Cohesive Wildland Fire Management Strategy
    (PDF, 3.8 MB) represents the culmination of the three-phased Cohesive Strategy effort initiated in 2009. The National Strategy establishes a national vision for wildland fire management, defines three national goals, describes the wildland fire challenges, identifies opportunities to reduce wildfire risks, and establishes national priorities focused on achieving the national goals.

    The National Strategy explores four broad challenges:

    1. Managing vegetation and fuels;
    2. Protecting homes, communities, and other values at risk;
    3. Managing human-caused ignitions; and
    4. Effectively and efficiently responding to wildfire.


    Secretaries Jewell and Vilsack signed “The National Strategy: The Final Phase in the Development of the National Cohesive Wildland Fire Management Strategy


    Posted April 9, 2014


     

  4. Conservation Science News April 11, 2014

    Leave a Comment

    Focus of the Week
    New National Wildfire Strategy

    1-ECOLOGY, BIODIVERSITY, RELATED

    2-CLIMATE CHANGE AND EXTREME EVENTS

    3- ADAPTATION

    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 the California Landscape Conservation Cooperative Newsletter or the Bay Area Ecosystems Climate Change Consortium listserve to receive this or you can email me directly at Ellie Cohen, ecohen at pointblue.org if you want your name added to or dropped from this list. 

    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- New National Wildfire Strategy

    Obama Unveils New Wildfire Strategy Citing New Risks Posed By Climate Change

    By Joanna M. Foster on April 10, 2014

    With wildfire season just around the corner and much of the west and southwest still dangerously dry, the Obama Administration has released its National Cohesive Wildland Fire Management Strategy.

    The strategy addresses factors exacerbating wildfire danger such as climate change, increasing community sprawl, and pests and disease affecting forest health. It calls for adopting preventive measures, such as: fuels thinning and controlled burns; promoting effective municipal, county, and state building and zoning codes and ordinances; ensuring that watersheds, transportation, and utility corridors are part of future management plans; and determining how organizations can best work together to reduce and manage human-caused ignitions.

     

    “As climate change spurs extended droughts and longer fire seasons, this collaborative wildfire blueprint will help us restore forests and rangelands to make communities less vulnerable to catastrophic fire,” Council on Environmental Quality Acting Chair Mike Boots said in a press release. “With President Obama’s Climate Action Plan, the Administration is committed to promoting smart policies and partnerships like this strategy that support states, communities, businesses, farmers, ranchers and other stakeholders who are working to protect themselves from more frequent or intense fires, droughts and floods, and other impacts of climate change.” The Administration highlighted the Blue Mountains near Flagstaff, Arizona and the Greater Okefenokee Association of Landowners in Georgia as areas where these strategies have already been implemented successfully.

     

    In February, President Obama announced plans to change how the U.S. pays for the rising costs of fighting wildfires. In his 2015 budget, Obama called for shifting the costs of fighting the biggest wildfires to the same emergency fund that handles other natural disasters such as hurricanes and earthquakes. The new funding framework is designed to avoid forcing the U.S. Forest Service and the Department of Interior to drain fire prevention budgets to pay for big wildfires. According to the White House, over the past two years, these agencies have, out of necessity, taken about $1.1 billion from funds designed to pay for programs to clear brush and thin overgrown forests to reduce fire danger. The federal government currently shoulders about two-thirds of the cost of fighting wildfires, about $3.5 billion every year. This figure is three times what was spent in the 1990s.

     

    The cost of fighting wildfires has skyrocketed in recent decades as climate change has intensified drought, shrunken snowpacks and aided in the spread of tree-killing insects. The dramatic expansion of building in what is known as the “wildland urban interface” has also contributed greatly to the bill as firefighters struggle to protect the now more than 47 million homes in these high risk areas.

     

     


    National Cohesive Wildland Fire Management Strategy


    April 2014

     

    The National Strategy: The Final Phase in the Development of the National Cohesive Wildland Fire Management Strategy
    (PDF, 3.8 MB) represents the culmination of the three-phased Cohesive Strategy effort initiated in 2009. The National Strategy establishes a national vision for wildland fire management, defines three national goals, describes the wildland fire challenges, identifies opportunities to reduce wildfire risks, and establishes national priorities focused on achieving the national goals.

    The National Strategy explores four broad challenges:

    1. Managing vegetation and fuels;
    2. Protecting homes, communities, and other values at risk;
    3. Managing human-caused ignitions; and
    4. Effectively and efficiently responding to wildfire.


    Secretaries Jewell and Vilsack signed “The National Strategy: The Final Phase in the Development of the National Cohesive Wildland Fire Management Strategy


    Posted April 9, 2014

     

     

     

     

    Putting a price on ecological restoration
    (April 7, 2014) — Putting a price on clean water and soil fertility helps the UN set ecological restoration targets for degraded and deforested land. Forests provide essential ecosystem services for people, including timber, food and water. For those struggling with the after-effects of deforestation, the main hope lies in rebuilding forest resources through ecological restoration. … > full story

    Restoring Coastal Ecosystems Creates More Jobs ….

    By Katie Valentine on April 10, 2014 at 10:05 am

    A bird stands on an oyster shell strip atop an existing reef in the Gulf of Mexico off the Texas coast on Tuesday, Oct. 29, 2013. CREDIT: AP Photo/Pat Sullivan

    Restoring coastal ecosystems can provide significant economic benefits and even create “pathways out of poverty” for low-income Americans, according to a new report. The report, published Wednesday by the Center for American Progress and Oxfam America, looked at three coastal restoration projects on different coasts in the U.S. and found that, for every $1 invested in coastal restoration projects, $15 in net economic benefits was created. These benefits include improved fish stocks, due to the fact that 75 percent of the U.S.’s most important commercial fish species rely on coastal environments at some point in their life cycle, with many young fish and crustaceans using habitats such as oyster reefs as nurseries.

    Coastal restoration also provides increased protection from storm surges, improved coastal recreation opportunities, health benefits from increased levels of filter feeders such as oysters, and last of all, jobs: for every $1 million invested in coastal restoration, the report notes, 17 jobs were created on average. That’s almost double the 8.9 created per $1 million invested in offshore oil and gas development.
    …..Mark Schaefer, Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Conservation and Management at NOAA, said at the report’s release event Wednesday. “The economic benefits are remarkable … there’s a direct connection between what we’re doing to enhance the environment and what we’re doing to enhance economic opportunity.”

    ….. Coastal wetlands, along with serving as essential habitats for many species, help buffer coastal communities from strong storm surges by soaking up seawater. According to the report, up to 60 percent of the damage done to Gulf Coast communities from hurricanes happens because there aren’t healthy barrier ecosystems in place. Many of these ecosystems also serve as major carbon sinks, thus helping mitigate climate change as well as helping protect communities from its effects — coastal sea grass, for instance, stores more carbon dioxide per square kilometer than forests do. But despite these economic and safety benefits, Schaefer said the U.S. shouldn’t just focus on restoring coastal ecosystems. Instead, more must be done to prevent the damages that lead to the need for coastal reclamation in the first place. Loss of sediment from the Mississippi and Missouri Rivers is contributing to Louisiana losing a football field-sized chunk of land every hour, and that loss of sediment is occurring because of the construction of levees and dams along the rivers. Without the sediment, coastal marshes are more susceptible to being submerged due to sea level rise. “We need to do a better job of helping people understand what is happening to our coastlines in aggregate, over time.” he said. “We gain big when we conserve and restore coastal habitats — this is a no-brainer.”

     

    How Restoring Coastal Ecosystems Will Help Our Economy

    April 10, 2014

    As America’s coastal cities expanded throughout the 19th century, the wetlands were often considered a nuisance that stood in the way of progress and development. Marshy areas seemed little more than endless founts of pesky insects or quagmires blocking access between drier uplands and navigable waters. As cities outgrew their dry land footprints and sought additional space to grow, the obvious answer was to simply turn the wet places into dry places. Today, these regions—from Boston’s Back Bay to New York’s Wall Street to Miami’s South Beach—comprise some of the most valuable real estate in the world. We are increasingly learning the cost of losing landscapes once thought to be valueless. The wetlands ecosystem provided numerous services to society that we now are beginning to sorely miss. Sea levels continue to rise and the increasing frequency of extreme weather threatens our shores. Many of our commercial and recreational fisheries are struggling to rebuild to sustainable levels. Population growth continues to generate more pollution, including carbon dioxide. Coastal wetlands are perhaps nature’s most effective solution to these problems.

     

    The Economic Case for Restoring Coastal Ecosystems (pdf) by Michael Conathan, Jeffrey Buchanan, and Shiva Polefka April 2014

     

    • Download the report:
      PDF
    • Download introduction & summary:
      PDF
    • Read it in your browser:
      Scribd

     

     

    Sunken logs create new worlds for seafloor animals
    (April 9, 2014) — When it comes to food, most of the deep sea is a desert. In this food-poor environment, even bits of dead wood, waterlogged enough to sink, can support thriving communities of specialized animals. A new paper by biologists shows that wood-boring clams serve as “ecosystem engineers,” making the organic matter in the wood available to other animals that colonize wood falls in the deep waters of Monterey Canyon. … > full story

     

    The cliffs along the island of Corvo — until recently it was unknown how many birds breed there.

    Credit: Steffen Oppel; CC-BY 4.0

    Counting the invisible by sound: New approach to estimate seabird populations
    (April 9, 2014)

    Seabirds nest in places that are inaccessible for most humans — vertical cliffs and remote islands surrounded by raging waves. Worse still, many seabirds lay their eggs in burrows or cavities where they are protected from inclement weather and invisible for researchers. Hidden under rocks or in burrows during the day, and flying around only during dark nights — counting these birds is a researcher’s nightmare. Despite their cryptic behaviour, the seabirds are ill-prepared to fend off furry invaders. Humans have brought cats and rats to many islands around the world, where the cats and rats roam freely and kill seabirds. Especially those seabirds that nest in burrows are often unable to escape, and many species have disappeared from islands where cats or rats have been introduced.

    Although researchers have known for decades that many seabirds are in trouble, it is surprisingly hard to put a number on how fast populations decline. “Those species that are most vulnerable to rats are often the ones that are the most difficult to count” says Steffen Oppel, a Conservation Scientist with the RSPB who recently tested a new approach to count the invisible birds with colleagues from SPEA in Portugal. Seabirds that nest underground may be all but invisible in their breeding colonies, but they are very noisy at night. And the more birds there are, the louder a colony is. Oppel and his colleagues set up sound recorders on a remote island in the North Atlantic for two years to ‘count’ the number of nesting birds by recording their calls at night. They painstakingly counted every nest near the recorders to test whether larger colonies do in fact make more noise. The study was published in the open access journal Nature Conservation. “Recording seabird calls for a few months is the easy part — but making sense of 1000s of hours of sound recording is quite tricky” says Oppel. Together with Matthew McKown, a seabird researcher who specialises on sound recordings, the team developed an algorithm that automatically counted the seabird calls in terabytes of recordings. The results conformed with expectations: places with the most nests did indeed register the highest number of calls. With that relationship established, the team then extrapolated the seabird population size for the entire island — a number that had so far been derived from wild guesses. “Estimating exactly how many birds nest on a cliff is not very precise” admits Oppel, but the sound recordings provide a very valuable index of how large seabird colonies are. “We can use this index over time to assess whether colonies are stable or decreasing — which is extremely important for many remote colonies about which we know very little.”

     
     
     

     

    Steffen Oppel, Sandra Hervias, Nuno Oliveira, Tania Pipa, Carlos Silva, Pedro Geraldes, Michelle Goh, Eva Immler, Matthew McKown. Estimating population size of a nocturnal burrow-nesting seabird using acoustic monitoring and habitat mapping. Nature Conservation, 2014; 7: 1 DOI: 10.3897/natureconservation.7.6890

     

     

    World ranking tracks evolutionary distinctness of birds
    (April 10, 2014) — The world’s first ranking of evolutionary distinct birds under threat of extinction has been published by a team of international scientists. These birds include a cave-dwelling bird that is so oily it can be used as a lamp and a bird that has claws on its wings and a stomach like a cow. The new rankings will be used in a major conservation initiative called the Edge of Existence program at the London Zoo. The zoo has already identified several species like the huge monkey-eating Philippine eagle that are at once distinct, endangered, and suffer from lack of attention. … > full story

     


    Study: Shippers and seabirds clash over Arctic territory


    Yereth Rosen April 10, 2014

    The Arctic tern is among the 27 species of birds studied by researchers who say the Arctic is not big enough for both birds and increased shipping traffic. Lindsay Robinson via Creative Commons

    The areas coveted as sea routes for commercial shippers seeking to exploit newly ice-free Arctic waters are the same areas that are vital to millions of seabirds that flock north each summer to feast under the midnight sun, says a newly published study.   The Arctic is not big enough for both birds and shippers, suggests the study, published in the April issue of the journal Diversity and Distributions.

    “There is a competition for space, and the space has already been occupied by seabirds,” said co-author Falk Huettmann of the University of Alaska Fairbanks’ Institute of Arctic Biology, co-author of the study published in the journal Diversity and Distributions. Huettmann and co-author Grant Humphries, of the University of Otago’s Zoology Department, mapped out marine habitat used by 27 species of Arctic seabirds and compared those areas to routes already being used by Arctic shippers or contemplated for shippers’ future use. They found that shallow continental shelf areas, where marine life is richest and ice is thinnest, is vital territory for migrating bird populations. But it is also key territory for commercial operators seeking to boost shipments to and from the Arctic.

    A key hotspot is the Bering Strait between Alaska and Russia, famous for its abundant seabird and wildlife populations but also a crucial – and narrow — passage for commercial operators heading in and out of the Arctic. The area has the greatest overlap of seabird diversity and ship activity and the highest potential for conflict, the study says. Another area of “high impact” is likely to be the Davis Strait and Baffin Bay region, entry into the Northwest Passage, the study says.

    “To enter the Arctic basin, you have to go through these bottlenecks,” Huettmann said.

    Additional trouble spots include the Greenland Sea and Norwegian Sea, the study said. Areas of thick multiyear ice, in contrast, are not of much interest to either birds or shippers.

     

    Putting models to a good use: a rapid assessment of Arctic seabird biodiversity indicates potential conflicts with shipping lanes and human activity
    Grant R. W. Humphries1,* and Falk Huettmann2 Diversity and Distributions Volume 20, Issue 4, pages 478–490, April 2014 DOI: 10.1111/ddi.12177

     

    Iconic boreal bird species declining in the Adirondacks
    (April 10, 2014) — Several iconic Adirondack birds are in trouble, with declines driven by the size of their wetland habitats, how connected these wetlands are to one another, and how near they are to human infrastructure, research finds. A new report presents an evaluation of the potential influence of climate change and habitat alteration on species occurrence patterns over time. … > full story

    ‘Dinosaurs of the turtle world’ at risk in Southeast U.S. rivers
    (April 10, 2014) — Conservation of coastal rivers of the northern Gulf of Mexico is vital to the survival of the alligator snapping turtle, including two recently discovered species, scientists say. A new study shows the alligator snapping turtle, the largest freshwater turtle in the Western Hemisphere and previously believed to be one species, is actually three separate species. … > full story

     

    Health of ecosystems on U.S. golf courses better than predicted, researchers find
    (April 10, 2014) — Currently, there are more than 18,300 golf courses in the US covering over 2.7 million acres. The ecological impacts of golf courses are not always straightforward with popular opinion suggesting that environmentally, golf courses have a negative impact on ecosystems. Now, researchers have determined that golf courses can offer a viable habitat for stream salamanders, and enhanced management practices may be beneficial to ecosystems within golf courses. … > full story

     

    2014 Nigiri Project Field Season Summary: Slow it down, spread it out, grow ‘em up

    Salmon smolts reared on Knaggs Ranch as part of the Nigiri Project are on their downstream towards the Golden Gate Bridge. We are winding down our 3rd field season experimentally determining how salmon use floodplain habitats. This year we added two elements to the experiments; varying field depth and volition passage (fish were allowed to leave the fields on their own at any time).

    • In the first year, we demonstrated that winter flooded rice fields not only provide sufficient water quality to keep salmon alive but that they thrive and grow rapidly.  We also learned that oxygen levels and water temperature are driven more by the wind than water flows.  This knowledge allowed us to think of future projects more in terms of ponding water than moving water across the floodplain. 
    • In year two, we demonstrated that current rice farming practices are not simply compatible but provide high quality floodplain rearing habitat for juvenile Chinook salmon as evidenced by the fastest growth rates of juvenile salmon ever recorded in the Central Valley. 
    • This year’s data (year three) has yet to be analyzed but preliminary results are once again extremely encouraging: growth was similarly rapid as in years past but survival was substantially increased and initial indications are that allowing volitional passage will be the preferred model; the fish know when to leave.   

    “Snap shot” comparison of fish reared on floodplain vs. in-river, February 24, 2014. Top fish was one of 300 “wild” fish (all roughly the same size as the one pictured) captured from the Feather River and delivered to Knaggs to be reared. The bottom fish was captured the same day as it volitionally left the Knaggs fields after 3-weeks eating at the floodplain “bug buffet”. Fish which gain access to floodplain habitat on Yolo Bypass and those stuck in the channel theoretically would meet-up near Rio Vista on their way to the ocean.

    …..The abundant wildlife of the historical Central Valley (think birds to turn the sky black and fish to fill the rivers) was a direct result of the Valley’s seasonal marshes and floodplains. Recovery of salmon and other native fish populations will impossible without first reestablishing or mimicking the natural flood processes that are the basis of natural productivity.  Each winter and spring broad, shallow wetlands were inundated as the rivers covered the floodplain.  The wide shallow waters warmed as they caught sunlight making ideal conditions to grow phytoplankton (algae).  This fertile primary production fed incredible amounts of bugs (zooplankton and aquatic insects), which in turn were eaten by ducks and salmon. This simple floodplain food web (algae-bugs-wildlife) created as floodwater slowed down and spread across the floodplains was the engine of productivity that supported prolific numbers of fish and waterfowl in the prehistoric Central Valley.  The Valley has been engineered to drain efficiently and rapidly, shedding high volumes of storm water quickly through incised, armored flood channels. Large levees now confine rivers that once spread out over the floodplain to narrow, swift channels. This rapid high volume drainage system is the antithesis of the historic prolonged, broad and shallow annual inundation of the predevelopment flood pattern. The incredible floodplain food source was lost as marshes and floodplains were drained for agriculture and development. Essentially, Central Valley rivers are now starved systems deprived of the foundation of the aquatic food chain (algae grown on inundated floodplains).

    The Knaggs Investigation is demonstrating that mimicking historical floodplain conditions – slowing down the flood water and spreading it out on winter rice fields instead of the marshes which they replaced – still produces phenomenal insect numbers which in turn result in rapid growth and improved body condition of salmon. In essence, we are providing native organisms with a system they recognize.  When exposed to conditions similar to those under which they evolved and to which they are adapted fish and bird populations respond favorably and quickly. By understanding how natural processes in the valley worked, we can take the key elements of natural productivity and integrate them into the design, operations and management of a central valley water infrastructure built in previous era with little environmental consideration. We are spreading this important knowledge directly to those who operate and design California’s water system. In the seven weeks of the fieldwork we hosted 375 people in 17 tours and open houses and nearly 500 students visited the site on school field trips. We also garnered some great newspaper and TV media coverage.

    With Appreciation

    We want to thank all the great members of the Knaggs team which is a partnership of California Trout, the Center for Watershed Sciences at the University of California at Davis (UCD), the California Department of Water Resources (DWR), the National Marine Fisheries Service Southwest Fisheries Science Center (SWFSC), and Cal Marsh and Farm Ventures, LLC with additional support from the California Waterfowl Association (CWA), the California Department of Fish and Game (DFG), the United States Bureau of Reclamation (USBR), State and Federal Contractors Water Agency (SFCWA), the California Water Foundation, Audubon California, Point Blue Conservation Science and others.  Knaggs Ranch LLC provides the project site and Cal Marsh and Farm Ventures, LLC (CMFV), land manager for Knaggs Ranch, provides key logistical support. 

    Good duck, best fishes and have a very rice day,— CALIFORNIA TROUT; CAL MARSH AND FARM VENTURES, LLC

     

    Oyster aquaculture could significantly improve Potomac River estuary water quality
    (April 9, 2014) — Oyster aquaculture in the Potomac River estuary could result in significant improvements to water quality, according to a new study. All of the nitrogen currently polluting the Potomac River estuary could be removed if 40 percent of its river bed were used for shellfish cultivation, according to the joint study. The researchers determined that a combination of aquaculture and restored oyster reefs may provide even larger overall ecosystem benefits. Oysters, who feed by filtering, can clean an enormous volume of water of algae which can cause poor water quality. … > full story

     


    SF Big Bay Bridge bird problem

    Phillip Matier And Andrew Ross SF Chronicle April 7, 2014

    With the demolition of the old Bay Bridge eastern span already six months behind schedule, Caltrans plans to spend $12.8 million to beat the clock on a bird-nesting season that could tie up the takedown well into next year. At issue: 800 or so double-crested cormorants – a state-protected “species of special concern” – that have enjoyed migratory squatter rights on the bridge since they moved here from Alaska, Mexico and Nova Scotia in 1984. The lanky black birds with hooked bills nest from April to August, mostly on the far eastern end of the old bridge. Caltrans has already spent $709,000 to build “condos” for the birds on the underside of the new span – 2 1/2-foot-wide, stainless-steel nesting platforms – but so far, there have been no takers…..

     

     

     

     

    Permafrost thawing could accelerate global warming
    (April 7, 2014) — Researchers have found new evidence that permafrost thawing is releasing large quantities of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere via plants, which could accelerate warming trends. Permafrost is soil that is frozen year round and is typically located in polar regions. As the world has gotten slightly warmer, that permafrost is thawing and decomposing, which is producing increased amounts of methane. … > full story

     

     

    ENSO Alert System Status: El Niño Watch

    EL NIÑO/SOUTHERN OSCILLATION (ENSO) DIAGNOSTIC DISCUSSION– CLIMATE PREDICTION CENTER/NCEP and the International Research Institute for Climate and Society

    10 April 2014

    Synopsis: While ENSO-neutral is favored for Northern Hemisphere spring, the chances of El Niño increase during the remainder of the year, exceeding 50% by summer.

    ENSO-neutral continued during March 2014, but with above-average sea surface temperatures (SST) developing over much of the eastern tropical Pacific as well as near the International Date Line (Fig. 1). …

     

    Camels emit less methane than cows or sheep
    (
    April 10, 2014) — When digesting ruminants exhale methane. Their contribution to this global greenhouse gas is considerable. So far the assumption had been that camels with similar digestion produce the same amount of the climate-damaging gas. However, researchers have now shown camels release less methane than ruminants. … > full story

     

    Why Scientists Are Making A Map Of The World’s Lobsters

    By Joanna M. Foster on April 8, 2014

    Maine researchers want to use satellite data and on-the-ground observations to create a real-time lobster database and map to help fishery managers cope with climate change….

     

    Desert Research Institute

    Can Deserts Stop Global Warming? No, but They Help, Study Says

    By John Roach NBC News April 6, 2014

    The world’s arid areas — deserts filled with scrubby vegetation and sand — are absorbing more of the carbon dioxide that’s being emitted into the atmosphere than expected, a new study shows. While these ecosystems will not stop global warming, scientists said the finding provides a better understanding of the carbon cycle, and thus how the global climate will change in the future.= “It is definitely not going to stop it … just now we are understanding the processes that are going on,” lead author Dave Evans, a biologist specializing in ecology and global change at Washington State University, told NBC News. “But we are still seeing huge amounts of carbon accumulating in the atmosphere.” Carbon dioxide is the main greenhouse gas driving global climate change. More of the planet-warming gas is released into the atmosphere from the burning of fossil fuels, and scientists want to know where it all goes. Reconciling this so-called carbon budget has proven one of the trickier areas of climate science, Evans explained. It’s well-known that some of the carbon dioxide remains in the atmosphere, and the rest gets stored in the land or oceans in other carbon-containing forms, such as microbes, plants and animals. But the finer details of the process are elusive. To get a better handle on the carbon budget, several research teams around the world are conducting so-called free air carbon dioxide enrichment experiments, where plots of land are fumigated with the elevated levels of carbon dioxide expected in the future. This extra carbon dioxide has a specific chemical fingerprint that can be detected when the soils and plants are analyzed. The new findings come from such an experiment, conducted with nine octagonal plots about 75 feet in diameter in the Mojave Desert in southern Nevada. The plots are representative of the arid and semiarid ecosystems that cover nearly half of the Earth’s land area….. The findings indicate that these arid ecosystems are “significant, previously unrecognized sinks” for atmospheric carbon dioxide, Evans and colleagues write in a paper published Sunday in the journal Nature Climate Change

     

    R. D. Evans, A. Koyama, D. L. Sonderegger, T. N. Charlet, B. A. Newingham, L. F. Fenstermaker, B. Harlow, V. L. Jin, K. Ogle, S. D. Smith, R. S. Nowak. Greater ecosystem carbon in the Mojave Desert after ten years exposure to elevated CO2. Nature Climate Change, 2014; DOI: 10.1038/nclimate2184

     

     

     

    Salamander’s Hefty Role in the Forest

    By RICHARD CONNIFF NY Times April 7, 2014

    Small but prolific predators, salamanders affect the ecosystem of a forest and collectively could help stave off climate disaster….

     

     

    Southwestern bird and reptile distributions to shift as climate changes
    (April 7, 2014) — Dramatic distribution losses and a few major distribution gains are forecasted for southwestern bird and reptile species as the climate changes, according to new research. Overall, the study forecasted species distribution losses — that is, where species are able to live — of nearly half for all but one of the 5 reptile species they examined, including for the iconic chuckwalla. …

     

    Detailed Bird Species Projections:

    Overall: Black-throated sparrow and gray vireo are projected to experience major gains in breeding habitat. In contrast, pygmy nuthatches, sage thrashers and Williamson sapsuckers are projected to experience large losses in breeding habitat. Thus, these three species might be expected to experience large future population declines. (Note: species are linked to their in-depth report summaries.)

    • Black-throated sparrow: breeding range projected to increase by 34-47 percent between 2010 and 2099.
    • Gray vireo: breeding range projected to increase from 58-71 percent between 2010 and 2099.
    • Virginia’s warbler: breeding range projected to decrease slightly, by 1.5-7 percent between 2010 and 2099.
    • Sage thrasher: breeding range projected to decrease by 78 percent between 2010 and 2099.
    • Pinyon jay: breeding range projected to decrease by 25-31 percent between 2010 and 2099.
    • Pygmy nuthatch: breeding range projected to decrease by 75-81 percent between 2010 and 2099.
    • Williamson’s sapsucker: breeding range projected to decrease by 73-78 percent between 2010-2099.

    Reptiles

    Overall: Future climate change will negatively affect the distributions of reptiles in the Western and Southwestern U.S. The one exception is the Sonoran desert tortoise, which is forecasted to expand, and, if a decrease happens, only by about one percent.

    Reptiles can’t move as easily as birds nor can they regulate their body temperature, so they can only move minimally in response to changing climates. The authors found that the greater the projected distributional gain or loss in a reptile species was directly tied to the warmth of its current range. Thus, the less mobile reptiles will be more greatly affected by increasing temperatures.

    • Plateau striped whiptail: range projected to decrease by 42 percent, assuming no dispersal, or by 17 percent, with unlimited dispersal, between 2010 and 2099.
    • Arizona black rattlesnake: range projected to decrease between 32 and 46 percent between 2010 and 2099.
    • Sonoran desert tortoise: The Sonoran (Morafka’s) desert tortoise is the only species of reptile for which projections do not include a decrease in suitable habitat by 2099 but only when unlimited dispersal is assumed. When assuming no dispersal, a slight one percent decrease is forecasted in the extent of suitable habitat.
    • Common lesser earless lizard: ranged projected to decrease by 22-49 percent from 2010 to 2099.
    • Common chuckwalla: projected ranges are likely to decrease by between 13 and 23 percent between 2010 and 2099.

    The report, Projecting climate effects on birds and reptiles of the southwestern United States, is authored by Charles van Riper III, USGS; James Hatten, USGS; J. Tom Giermakowski, University of New Mexico; Jennifer A. Holmes and Matthew J. Johnson, Northern Arizona University; and others.

    …. > full story

     

    What’s devastating the wild moose population in New England?
    PBS NEWS HOUR
    In some regions of northern New England, the moose population is down as much 40 percent in the last three years. The cause of this iconic animal’s dramatic die-off is not yet known, but researchers’ main theory is centered on the parasitic winter tick, and warmer winters may be partly to blame.

     

     

    The tiniest greenhouse gas emitters: Climate feedbacks from decomposition by soil microbes less dire than previously thought
    (April 7, 2014) — Climate feedbacks from decomposition by soil microbes are one of the biggest uncertainties facing climate modelers. A new study shows that these feedbacks may be less dire than previously thought. … > full story

     

     

    Food quality will suffer with rising carbon dioxide, field study shows
    (April 6, 2014) — Climate change is hitting home — in the pantry, this time. A field study of wheat demonstrates how the nutritional quality of food crops can be diminished when elevated levels of atmospheric carbon dioxide interfere with a plant’s ability to process nitrate into proteins. “Several explanations for this decline have been put forward, but this is the first study to demonstrate that elevated carbon dioxide inhibits the conversion of nitrate into protein in a field-grown crop,” the lead researcher said. … > full story

     

     

     

    DROUGHT

     

     

    Managing For Drought

    Rangeland Watershed Laboratory, UC Davis

    Having a drought strategy is pertinent to the sustainability of any ranch enterprise, especially when faced with a winter that has thus far produced below normal precipitation following an extremely dry water year. We have provided info to help prepare for the various stages of a drought.

    • Ranchers’ Perspectives and Management Strategies for Drought
    • Links of Interest Regarding Drought
    • Key Drought Publications
    • UC Sierra Foothill Research & Extension Center Drought Workshop Materials

     

     

     


    California drought puzzle: store or conserve more water?

    Peter Fimrite, SF Chronicle, April 7, 2014

    Raising the height of Shasta Dam 18.5 feet to increase the reservoir’s capacity is among the proposals in a draft plan. There was a time not long ago when much of civilized society considered each drop of river water that reached the ocean a wasted resource. That was before environmentalists pointed out the benefits of the outflow to fish, wildlife and the ocean ecosystem, setting off an ongoing tug-of-war between fishermen and farmers in California that has reached a critical stage this year as the state struggles through a drought. One thing that’s become clear amid the fallow cropland and rationing is that there is not enough water storage in California to sustain all the competing interests. The dilemma has again put a spotlight on the precious water that gets away. In an average year, rain and snowmelt in California generate about 71 million acre-feet of water, some of which is captured in reservoirs or groundwater basins. An acre-foot is the amount needed to cover an acre with a foot of water, enough to supply an average household for a year.
    About 32 percent of the 71 million acre-feet is used for agriculture and 10 percent for urban areas, according to the state Department of Water Resources’ chief hydrologist, Maury Roos. About 35 percent of the total is reserved by law to help river ecosystems, wetlands and fisheries, and to maintain a healthy flow of water in the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta. That leaves about 21 percent of the total to flow out into the ocean without being used for anything, according to Roos’ calculations. “That is the segment we can capture more of,” Roos said. “If we could store more of that, we would have a larger water supply.” Trouble is, nobody in California can agree on how, or even whether, to capture it….

     

    In a typical wet year, California captures about 10 million acre-feet of water in its reservoirs, about 80 percent of which is held in the state water department’s two biggest reservoirs behind Shasta and Oroville dams. That’s well below the 43 million acre-feet capacity of the 1,200 reservoirs under the jurisdiction of the state water department. The reason, said Roos, is that the department is required to release water for fish and wetlands management and must also leave space during winters to avoid flood-causing overflows.

    Yet, agricultural interests support expanding California’s reservoir capacity by adding 18.5 feet to Shasta Dam and building Sites Dam, near the town of Maxwell (Colusa County), and Temperance Flat Dam, near Millerton (Madera County) on the San Joaquin River. These proposals, like the tunnels plan, are expensive. The Shasta dam and Sites proposals together would cost about $3.5 billion and add about 2.6 million acre-feet of water to the system, just enough to “take you through one dry year,” Roos said. Meanwhile, environmental groups mostly oppose the tunnels and water storage projects. The existing dams and conveyance system, they say, cut off the historic salmon and steelhead trout runs and have imperiled other fish populations, like the delta smelt. Instead, they are pushing for water conservation, treatment and recycling plants. Jon Rosenfield, a conservation biologist for the Bay Institute, said water bond money would be better spent replacing thousands of old leaking water mains around the state, implementing tiered water rates and building storm-water capture and water recycling systems. “It simply doesn’t make sense for us to be flushing toilets with pristine water transported miles from the Sierra Nevada,” Rosenfield said. “The notion that it just gets used once and then it is gone is crazy.” Conservationists point to the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California as the model for a successful recycling program. The district has built over the past two decades a wastewater treatment and reclamation system that cleans dirty household water and then filters it into the groundwater for reuse later on. Tom Stokely, the water policy analyst for the California Water Impact Network, said Los Angeles County now uses less water than it did 30 years ago despite having at least a million more residents. “It’s really up to the Legislature and the individual water districts to take this up, but if they use up all their borrowing on the twin tunnels there won’t be money left over for these things,” said Stokely, adding that statewide recycling and conservation programs could save 2 million acre-feet of water a year. “We see it as an either-or scenario. Do we have a sustainable water future or do we spend all our resources on costly tunnels and water storage projects?”…

     

    Ultimately, Californians will have to come to grips with the fact that, no matter what gets done, the state will never be drought proof, said Jay Lund, the director of the Center for Watershed Sciences at UC Davis. “I think there will be some ability to improve, mostly in terms of giving incentives to store groundwater in wet years and to move water from north to south – efficiencies like that – but you can’t make it rain,” Lund said. “In the end, we will still be living in a semi-arid climate, and we will still have droughts. Most of what we can do is make it easier to prepare for the next drought.”

     
     

    California’s drought

    Find additional coverage at www.sfgate.com/drought.

     

    Drought Is Driving Beef Prices To All-New Highs

    By Jeff Spross on April 9, 2014

    USDA choice-grade beef hit a record $5.28 in February, and droughts helped along by climate change are the culprit…..

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    Endangered butterfly defies climate change with new diet and habitat

    Quino checkerspot, native to Mexico and California, shifts to higher altitude and chooses new species of plant for laying eggs

    Patrick Barkham theguardian.com, Monday 7 April 2014 06.03 EDT

    The quino checkerspot butterfly has defied predictions of extinction by moving to higher altitudes and choosing a new plant on which to lay its eggs. Photograph: Butterfly Conservation

    A butterfly species whose population collapsed because of climate change and habitat loss has defied predictions of extinction to rapidly move to cooler climes and change its food plant. The quino checkerspot (Euphydryas editha quino), found in Mexico and California, has shifted to higher altitudes and surprisingly chosen a completely different species of plant on which to lay its eggs, according to research presented at the Butterfly Conservation‘s seventh international symposium in Southampton. Its rapid adaption offers hope that other insects and species may be able to adapt unexpectedly quickly to climate change. “Every butterfly biologist who knew anything about the quino in the mid-1990s thought it would be extinct by now, including me,” said Prof Camille Parmesan of the Marine Sciences Institute at Plymouth University. The Quino was once abundant in southern California but the expansion of Los Angeles and San Diego saw it reduced to just two small colonies. Other populations in Mexico began declining sharply as global warming made conditions too hot and dry for its caterpillars’ food plant, a species of plantain. Six years ago, Parmesan suggested that the endangered quino could be a prime candidate for “assisted colonisation” – to be moved by humans to cooler, unspoilt habitat north of Los Angeles. Instead, to the amazement of scientists, the butterfly did not need human help and reappeared on higher ground to the east, where its caterpillars are feeding on a flowering plant it has never eaten before. Several other butterfly species have been changing habitat or diet to cope with a changing climate but the quino checkerspot is the first butterfly known to science to change both so rapidly. Many environmentalists fear that climate change is happening too quickly for species to adapt but, according to Parmesan, this surprising example shows that some apparently doomed species may be more resilient than we imagine. However, she warned that this case showed that nature reserves, and linking together unspoilt habitat, was more important than ever to enable species to survive a changing climate. Without undeveloped land to the east of Los Angeles and San Diego, the quino checkerspot would have had nowhere to go and would have become extinct…. More than a quarter of Britain’s 59 species are moving north, with butterflies such as the comma moving around 10km each year. With climate change, another UK species, the brown argus, has started to feed on wild geranium plants as a caterpillar, enabling it to spread rapidly through the Midlands and into northern England.
    But the international symposium also heard strong scientific evidence that climate change will create more losers than winners because unspoilt habitat is so fragmented, preventing many butterflies, moths and other insects from moving to more suitable places. Tom Oliver of the Centre for Hydrology and Ecology told the symposium that scientific modelling predicted a number of UK butterfly extinctions by the middle of this century…..

     

     

    Canada’s New Adaptation Library.

    Community resources for climate adaptation: Developing knowledge and tools to reduce risks and maximize opportunities arising from climate change.

    This new library of adaptation resources was put together by Natural Resources Canada and ICLEI-Canada and has a graphically rich user interface to help make searching for the information you need easier to find and more enjoyable. 

     

     

    At-risk cities hold solutions to climate change: UN report

    Smart choices by cities such as Miami in planning and investment could hold key to cutting emissions, IPCC draft says

    Suzanne Goldenberg, US environment correspondent theguardian.com, Friday 11 April 2014 07.02 EDT

    Buildings near the ocean as reports indicate that Miami-Dade county could be one of the most susceptible cities to rising water levels associated with global warming. Photograph: Joe Raedle/Getty Images

    It is already taking shape as the 21st century urban nightmare: a big storm hits a city like Shanghai, Mumbai, Miami or New York, knocking out power supply and waste treatment plants, washing out entire neighbourhoods and marooning the survivors in a toxic and foul-smelling swamp. Now the world’s leading scientists are suggesting that those same cities in harm’s way could help drive solutions to climate change. A draft report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), obtained by the Guardian, says smart choices in urban planning and investment in public transport could help significantly lower greenhouse gas emissions, especially in developing countries. The draft is due for release in Berlin on Sunday, the third and final instalment of the IPCC’s authoritative report on climate change. “The next two decades present a window of opportunity for urban mitigation as most of the world’s urban areas and their infrastructure have yet to be constructed,” the draft said. Around 1 billion people live in cities and coastal areas at risk of sea-level rise and coastal flooding – and those figures are expected to rise in the coming decades. Most of the high-risk areas are in Asia, but the US east coast, where the rate of sea level rise is three or four times faster than the global average, is also a “hotspot”, with cities, beaches and wetlands exposed to flooding….But those at-risk cities also produce a large and growing share of emissions that cause climate change – which makes them central to its solution. “They are at the frontlines of this issue,” said Seth Schultz, research director for the C40 group of mega-cities taking action on climate change. “And on the whole cities have extraordinarily strong power to deliver on these things.” Even in America, where Republican governors and members of Congress deny the existence or have rolled back action on climate change, cities are moving ahead..

     

    New global scorecard aims to promote urban development without cars

    Thu, 10 Apr 2014 08:00 AM Samuel Mintz

    LONDON (Thomson Reuters Foundation) – Researchers have launched an international standard and scorecard aimed at persuading planners, designers and architects to develop urban communities that encourage people to walk, cycle or take public transport – anything but drive. Today, there are more than a billion cars on the planet. In a few decades’ time, there might be twice that number. Combined with the trend in more people moving to cities, this presents a big problem for the planet, argues Luc Nadal, technical director of urban development at the Institute for Transportation and Development Policy (ITDP), which is based in New York City. “The two factors of urbanisation and motorisation tend to result in the phenomenon of ‘suburbanisation’, which is people moving in large numbers to urban places that are car-centric; depending on their cars to connect all the dots of what needs to be done on a daily basis, such as going from home to work, from work to places of supply, of entertainment, going to school, and so on,” he said. He described suburban living as the “most inefficient settlement form ever”. “The time and energy consumed by travelling in personal vehicles from one activity to another is obviously also linked to the emissions of pollutants, of greenhouse gases that transform our climate,” Nadal said. Finding a different way to develop is crucial, he added. To this end, the ITDP has come up with the “Transit-Oriented Development (TOD) Standard“, a policy guide that evaluates real estate schemes on how well they connect people with work, school or any other place they need to go, without having to use a car….

     

     

    Chile Plans To Enact The First Carbon Tax In South America

    By Ari Phillips on April 8, 2014

    Power demand is growing rapidly across Latin America, including in Chile. The government there is trying to figure out how to provide it in a sustainable fashion….

     

    The three most resilient cities? They’re all in Canada

    Toronto, Vancouver and Calgary top a new report measuring the least vulnerable and most adaptive cities on the planet – while the high-growth cities of the Bric nations teeter precariously on the edge of danger

    Chris Michael theguardian.com, Friday 11 April 2014 07.51 EDT

    Hogtown on top … Toronto, seen here from Center Island, heads the list of most resilient cities. Photograph: Alamy

    For perhaps the first time, someone has tried to qualify the resilience of cities. Grosvenor, the London-based property company led by the Duke of Westminster, analysed more than 100 independently verified data sets in order to determine two key elements of what makes a city resilient: its “vulnerability” on the one hand, and its “adaptive capacity” on the other.

    Vulnerability was measured by looking at climate threats, environmental degradation (including pollution and overconsumption due to sprawl), resources (particularly access to energy), infrastructure and community cohesion. Weakness in any of those areas reduced a city’s score.
    Adaptive capacity, or a city’s ability to prevent and mitigate serious threats, was a combination of governance (high value here on democracy, freedom of speech, community participation, transparency, accountability and long-term leadership vision), strong institutions, learning capacity (including good technical universities), disaster planner and finally funding (from budget to credit and access to global funding). Rob Ford and ice storms notwithstanding, Toronto tops the list, following by Vancouver and Calgary and closely trailed by several US cities. London is 18th, suffering as Grosvenor pointed out from social tensions due to lack of affordable housing. Eight of the weakest 20 cities are in the Bric countries of Brazil, Russia, India and China, where blistering economic growth has not yet led to long-term resilience. One particularly disturbing trend is that some of the least resilient cities on the list are also the ones where the population is expected to grow fastest…..

     


    2014 rankings: Top cities with the most ENERGY STAR certified buildings


    On April 20, 2014, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced the sixth annual list of the top 25 U.S. metropolitan areas with the largest number of ENERGY STAR certified buildings. The cities on this list demonstrate the economic and environmental benefits achieved by facility owners and managers when they apply a proven approach to energy efficiency to their buildings.
    The Top 10 cities on the list are Los Angeles; Washington, D.C.; Atlanta; New York; San Francisco; Chicago; Dallas; Denver; Philadelphia; and Houston.
    Energy use in commercial buildings accounts for 17 percent of U.S. greenhouse gas emissions at a cost of more than $100 billion per year. ENERGY STAR certified office buildings cost $0.50 less per square foot to operate than average office buildings, and use nearly two times less energy per square foot than average office buildings…

     

     

     

     

    Climate change Plan B stirs controversy, doubt

    A U.N. panel is pressured on geoengineering, which entails efforts such as storing CO2 underground.

    By Karl Ritter April 11, 2014 The Associated Press

    BERLIN — It’s Plan B in the fight against climate change: cooling the planet by sucking heat-trapping CO2 from the air or reflecting sunlight back into space.

    Called geoengineering, it’s considered mad science by opponents. Supporters say it would be foolish to ignore it, since plan A – slashing carbon emissions from fossil fuels – is moving so slowly.

    The U.N.’s expert panel on climate change is under pressure from both sides this week as it considers whether geoengineering should be part of the tool-kit that governments use to keep global warming in check. Russia, in particular, has been pushing the panel to place more emphasis on such techniques in a key document for policy makers being finalized in Berlin this week.

    Drafts leaked before the conference only mentioned one of the options, removing CO2 from the air and storing it underground. Russia, a major oil and gas producer, said the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change should also mention solar radiation management, which could include everything from covering open surfaces with reflective materials or placing sun-mirrors in orbit around the Earth.

    “It is expedient to give a short description of the approach and mention the major ‘pro and contra’,” Russia said in comments submitted to the IPCC and seen by The Associated Press.

    But even advocates of studying geoengineering express doubts….

     

    Amid showdown with energy-rich Russia, calls rise in Europe to start fracking.
    Ever since Russian forces took hold of Crimea last month, the British prime minister has been leading a chorus of conservative politicians and energy executives in a refrain they believe will spark a shale gas revolution in Europe: Frack, baby, frack. Washington Post

     

    Three-quarters of World Bank-backed projects still don’t evaluate climate risks: Report.

    Huffington Post

    The World Bank is still failing to take climate change into account as it makes decisions about the projects it finances, according to a new report from the nonprofit World Resources Institute.

     

    Secretary Jewell Releases Landscape-Scale Mitigation Strategy to Encourage Dual Objectives of Smart Development and Conservation

    Strategy seeks to provide clarity and consistency to more effectively avoid, minimize and compensate for impacts on public lands

    April 10, 2014 WASHINGTON, D.C. – To advance landscape-scale, science-based management of America’s public lands and wildlife, Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell today released a strategy to implement mitigation policies and practices at the Department that can more effectively encourage infrastructure development while protecting natural and cultural resources….

     

     

    Rough Forecasts

    by Elizabeth Kolbert New Yorker April 14, 2014

    The chemist F. Sherwood Rowland is one of the few people in history about whom it can accurately be said: he helped save the world. In 1972, Rowland, a chemist at the University of California-Irvine, attended a talk on the compounds known as chlorofluorocarbons. At the time, these were being used as refrigerants, cleaning agents, and propellants in aerosol cans, and they had recently been detected in the air over the Atlantic. CFCs are unusually stable, but it occurred to Rowland that, if they were getting blown around the world, at very high altitudes they would eventually break down. He and one of his research assistants began to look into the matter, and they concluded that in the stratosphere CFCs would indeed dissociate. The newly liberated chlorine atoms would then set off a chain reaction, which would destroy the ozone layer that protects the earth from ultraviolet radiation.

    Industry groups ridiculed Rowland’s findings—Aerosol Age accused him of being a K.G.B. agent—but other scientists confirmed them, and Rowland pressed for a ban on CFCs. As he said, “What’s the use of having developed a science well enough to make predictions if, in the end, all we’re willing to do is stand around and wait for them to come true?” The discovery, in the mid-nineteen-eighties, of an ozone “hole” over the South Pole persuaded world leaders, including Ronald Reagan, that the problem was, in fact, urgent, and a global treaty phasing out CFCs was approved in 1987.

    Rowland’s question came to mind last week. At a meeting in Yokohama, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change released its latest update on the looming crisis that is global warming. Only this time it isn’t just looming. The signs are that “both coral reef and Arctic systems are already experiencing irreversible regime shifts,” the panel noted. Composed in a language that might be called High Committee, the report is nevertheless hair-raising. The I.P.C.C.’s list of potential warming-induced disasters—from ecological collapse to famine, flooding, and pestilence—reads like a riff on the ten plagues. Matching the terror is the collective shame of it. “Why should the world pay attention to this report?” the chairman of the I.P.C.C., Rajendra Pachauri, asked the day the update was released. Because “nobody on this planet is going to be untouched by the impacts of climate change.”

    Talk about standing around and waiting. As in the case of the destruction of the ozone layer, much of the key research on climate change was completed in the nineteen-seventies. (The first major report on the subject from the National Academy of Sciences was requested by President Jimmy Carter.) And, once again, it’s been clear since that time what needs to be done. Global warming is a product of carbon emissions produced by burning fossil fuels, so, if we want to limit warming, these emissions have to be phased out.

    Economists on both sides of the political spectrum agree that the most efficient way to reduce emissions is to impose a carbon tax. “If you want less of something, every economist will tell you to do the same thing: make it more expensive,” former Mayor Michael Bloomberg observed, in a speech announcing his support for such a tax. In the United States, a carbon tax could replace other levies—for example, the payroll tax—or, alternatively, the money could be used to reduce the deficit. Within a decade, according to a recent study by the Congressional Budget Office, a relatively modest tax of twenty-five dollars per metric ton of carbon would reduce affected emissions by about ten per cent, while increasing federal revenues by a trillion dollars. If other countries failed to follow suit, the U.S. could, in effect, extend its own tax by levying it on goods imported from those countries.

    Currently, instead of discouraging fossil-fuel use, the U.S. government underwrites it, with tax incentives for producers worth about four billion dollars a year. Those tax breaks are evidently ludicrous, and they should be repealed. According to the International Monetary Fund, the U.S. is the world’s largest single source of fossil-fuel subsidies; the I.M.F. has estimated that eliminating such subsidies worldwide could cut carbon emissions by thirteen per cent. Meanwhile, the tax credit responsible for much of the recent growth in wind generation in the U.S. has been allowed to lapse. This is more lunacy; that tax credit should be reinstated. On a state level, public-utility laws need to be revamped so that utility companies are rewarded for promoting energy efficiency rather than energy consumption. Building codes, too, need to be rewritten; according to the previous I.P.C.C. update, released in 2007, significant cuts in emissions from buildings could be achieved through measures, like improved insulation, that also save their occupants money.

    When the first I.P.C.C. report was issued, back in 1990, George H. W. Bush was in the White House. Each of his successors, including Barack Obama, has vowed to address the problem, only to decide that he had better things to do. Obama had an opportunity early in his first term to make a real difference; legislation to impose a price on carbon emissions, through a cap-and-trade system, was approved by the House in 2009. But the President put little political muscle behind the bill, and it died the following year in the Senate. The White House is now trying to bypass Congress and reduce emissions through regulations. In January, the Environmental Protection Agency published rules governing emissions from new power plants; effectively, they prohibit the construction of coal-burning plants. In February, the Administration announced plans to tighten fuel-efficiency standards for vehicles like garbage trucks and tractor-trailers, and, this spring, it is expected to propose new regulations limiting emissions from existing power plants. These are all laudable efforts, but the last set of regulations, which should be the most consequential, are coming so late in Obama’s second term that they will be left to the next President to implement—or not, as the case may be. And, unfortunately, the Administration is undermining its own best efforts by pressing for more domestic fossil-fuel production.

    The fact that so much time has been wasted standing around means that the problem of climate change is now much more difficult to deal with than it was when it was first identified. But this only makes the imperative to act that much greater, because, as one set of grim predictions is being borne out, another, even worse set remains to be written. 

     

     

     

     

     

    Reducing greenhouse gas emissions: Focus on urban transport solutions distracts from poor planning
    (April 7, 2014) — If you think transportation solutions are essential for reducing greenhouse emissions and growing economic opportunity in rapidly-expanding cities, think again. Scientists now say we’re looking at the problem the wrong way. … > full story

     


    How Japan Replaced Half Its Nuclear Capacity With Efficiency


    Is new coal really necessary in Japan?

    Lauri Myllyvirta and Justin Guay April 10, 2014

    After the Tohoku earthquake in March 2011, Japan was in a seemingly impossible situation. A tremendous amount of conventional generation capacity, including the entire nuclear fleet, was unavailable, and the country faced the risk of power cuts during summer consumption peaks. But miraculously, or seemingly so, in just a few short weeks Japan managed to avert the rolling power cuts that many believed inevitable. Even more impressive, the Japanese have turned these emergency measures into lasting solutions. So how’d they do it without forcing people back to the Stone Age? Japan overcame this daunting task by tapping the cheapest and most widely available source of energy: energy efficiency and conservation. Much of the electricity savings were initially driven by a popular movement known as “Setsuden” (“saving electricity”). This movement emerged to encourage people and companies to conserve energy and prevent rolling power cuts. Simple measures such as increasing temperatures in homes and offices, “thinning” lighting by removing some of the bulbs and tubes, shutting down big screens and cutting exterior lighting enabled Japan to dramatically reduce power demand almost overnight (albeit at the cost of a small amount of personal comfort). In addition to these measures, the dress code in offices was eased to reduce the need for AC, while commercial facilities were audited to identify potential savings. These temporary measures have proven to have long-term impact. They’ve dramatically increased the awareness of energy use and energy efficiency, and large companies are running high-profile efficiency programs. Consequently, power consumption never rebounded with GDP growth because energy-conscious practices became ingrained. More importantly, there is huge potential for technical measures to reduce energy use even further. More surprising is how far off pundits were about the impact. Some made dire predictions about the need to replace the nuclear fleet with “cheap coal” (a myth we debunked here). A combination of commonsense energy savings measures that began as temporary behavioral changes have led to permanent efficiency gains. In the process, the Japanese people, and its business community, proved the punditry wrong.  The key lesson from the Japanese experience is that coal plant construction is simply too slow to be relevant in the modern world, where resiliency is highly valued. To cope with rapid loss of generation capacity, Japan needed fast, nimble and modular 21st-century solutions. That means efficiency and clean energy. Despite major hurdles to deploying these solutions — mostly due to a complete absence of renewable energy policies prior to Fukushima — solar power surged in 2013, blowing away earlier predictions.….

     

    Win-win situation: Growing crops on photovoltaic farms
    (April 9, 2014) — A new model for solar farms that ‘co-locates’ crops and solar panels could result in a harvest of valuable biofuel plants along with solar energy. This co-location approach could prove especially useful in sunny, arid regions such as the southwestern United States where water is scarce, researchers said. … > full story

     

    Four Years Later, BP’s Oil Spill Is Still Killing Gulf Wildlife

    By Katie Valentine on April 10, 2014

    “No matter what BP and others are telling you, the oil is not gone.”

     

    Oklahoma Has Already Had More Magnitude 3 Earthquakes This Year Than All Of Last Year

    By Katie Valentine on April 8, 2014

    Scientists are trying to determine whether wastewater injection from fracking has triggered the earthquakes.

     

     

    New climate pragmatism framework prioritizes energy access to drive innovation and development
    (April 9, 2014) — Expanding access to reliable energy offers better route to address global challenges, climate and energy scholars say in new report. “Climate change can’t be solved on the backs of the world’s poorest people,” said a report co-author. “The key to solving for both climate and poverty is helping nations build innovative energy systems that can deliver cheap, clean and reliable power.” … > full story

     

     

    Cheap solar power pushes renewables growth worldwide. Climate Central

    The share of total global electricity production generated by renewable energy is climbing, mainly because solar photovoltaic systems are becoming less expensive, according to a report released Monday by the United Nations Environment Programme and Bloomberg New Energy Finance.

     

    Global renewable energy investments fell 14 percent in 2013: UN Agence France-Presse

    Global investments in renewable energy slumped 14 per cent last year, with China pouring more money into the sector than Europe for the first time on record, the United Nations said on Monday. Agence

     

     

     
     

     

    UPCOMING CONFERENCES: 

     

    CA DROUGHT CONFERENCE, BERKELEY, CA

    Friday, April 18th 9 AM – 2:30 PM
    David Brower Center Berkeley, CA!

    For More Information and to Register Please Visit: http://caindrought.eventbrite.com!

    Details are here to reserve a seat.


     

    Webinar: Wildlife Response to Climate Change

     April 16, 2014 9:15 – 10:15 am PST
    Dr. Erik Beever, USGS Research Ecologist, will use the American pika (Ochotona princeps) as a model to illustrate ways by which climate changes are already affecting wildlife.

    Click here for more information.

     

     

     

     

     

    EARTH DAY 2014

    Stanford experts from a range of disciplines will discuss the interconnections and interactions among humanity’s need for and use of climate, energy, food, water, and environmental resources…..

     

    Southern Sierra Fire and Hydroclimate Workshop

    April 22-24, 2014 Yosemite Valley, CA

    This workshop is focused on developing an integrated view of the physical landscape, climate effects, hydrology and fire regimes of the Sierra Nevada.

     

    Sanctuary Currents Symposium; Marine Debris: How do you pitch in?
    Saturday April 26, 2014, University Center, California State University Monterey Bay

    Research Posters: Call for abstracts will occur in January.  Visit the Sanctuary Currents Symposium website for updates and information: Sanctuary Currents Symposium

     

     

    US EPA Climate Showcase Communities Replication Workshop
    April 30, 2014—Hotel Monaco, Baltimore, MD

    US EPA’s Climate Showcase Communities program is hosting a free, 1-day workshop highlighting successful local and tribal government climate and energy strategies that can be replicated in communities across the US. Panel themes will include:

     Please register for the workshop by April 15, 2014 at the conference registration website. For more information about the Climate Showcase Communities program, including a list of grantees and project descriptions, visit the Climate Showcase Communities website. To view a short video overview of past CSC Workshops, please visit our YouTube channel.  Please contact Andrea Denny with any questions.

    Scenario Planning toward Climate Change Adaptation (pdf) WORKSHOP May 6-8, 2014 NCTC, Shepherdstown, West Virginia

    This overview course will introduce the core elements of scenario planning and expose participants to a diversity of approaches and specific scenario development techniques that incorporate both qualitative and quantitative components.

     

    Climate Change: Challenges to California’s Agriculture and Natural Resources
    May 19, 2014; Sacramento, CA    The California Museum, 1020 “O” Street, Sacramento, CA 95814
    The conference will bring together leading economists, analysts, scientists and policy makers from University of California, the state government, non-profits, and the private sector to discuss the potential impacts of climate change and the associated challenges to California agriculture and natural resources. Click here for more information.

     
     

    Headwaters to Ocean “H20″ Conference  May 27-29, 2014 San Diego, CA

     


    Ecosystems, Economy and Society: How large-scale restoration can stimulate sustainable development (in DC)

    29 – 30 MAY 2014 U.S. National Academy of Sciences, Washington DC, USA

     

     

    North America Congress for Conservation Biology Meeting. July 13-16, Missoula, MT. The biennial NACCB provides a forum for presenting and discussing new research and developments in conservation science and practice for addressing today’s conservation challenges.

    First Stewards
    July 21-23, Washington, DC.

    First Stewards will hold their 2nd annual symposium at the National Museum of the American Indian. This year’s theme is
    United Indigenous Voices Address Sustainability: Climate Change and Traditional Places

    99th Annual Meeting of the Ecological Society of America
    Sacramento, California  August 10-15, 2014  http://www.esa.org/sacramento

     

    California Adaptation Forum 
    August 19-20, 2014
    . SACRAMENTO, CA

    This two-day forum will build off a successful National Adaptation Forum held in Colorado in 2013. The attendance of many California leaders there underscored the need for a California-focused event, which will be held every other year to complement the biennial national conference.  To register go to:  https://www1.gotomeeting.com/register/886364449

    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.

     

     

     

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

     


    POINT BLUE CONSERVATION SCIENCE

    Point Blue Conservation Science, founded as Point Reyes Bird Observatory and based in Petaluma, California, is a growing and internationally renowned nonprofit with over 140 staff and seasonal scientists. Our highest priority is to reduce the impacts of accelerating changes in climate, land-use and the ocean on wildlife and people while promoting climate-smart conservation for a healthy, blue planet.  Point Blue advances conservation of nature for wildlife and people through science, partnerships and outreach. Our scientists work hand-in-hand with wildlife managers, private land owners, ranchers, farmers, other scientists, major conservation groups, and federal, state, and local government agencies and officials.  Point Blue has tripled in size over the past 12 years in response to the ever–increasing demand for sound science to assess and guide conservation investments in our rapidly changing world.  At the core of our work is innovative, collaborative science.

     

    Studying birds and other environmental indicators, we evaluate natural and human-driven change over time and guide our partners in adaptive management for improved conservation outcomes. We publish in peer-reviewed journals and contribute to the “conservation commons” of open access scientific knowledge. We also store, manage and interpret over 800 million bird and ecosystem observations from across North America and create sophisticated, yet accessible, decision support tools to improve conservation today and for an uncertain future. 

     

    This is a pivotal moment in the history of life on our planet requiring unprecedented actions to ensure that wildlife and people continue to thrive in the decades to come.  Working from the Sierra to the sea and as far away as the Ross Sea (Antarctica), Point Blue is collaboratively implementing climate-smart conservation.   Read more at www.pointblue.org.

     

     

     

     

     

     

    • OTHER NEWS OF INTEREST

     

    The Brutally Dishonest Attacks On Showtime’s Landmark Series On Climate Change

    By Joe Romm on April 9, 2014

    The good news is the video of episode one of Showtime’s climate series, “Years Of Living Dangerously,” has been getting great reviews in the New York Times and elsewhere.

    The bad news is the Times has published an error-riddled hit-job op-ed on the series that is filled with myths at odds with both the climate science and social science literature. For instance, the piece repeats the tired and baseless claim that Al Gore’s 2006 movie “An Inconvenient Truth” polarized the climate debate, when the peer-reviewed data says the polarization really jumped in 2009 (see chart above from “The Sociological Quarterly”)…..

     

    Most Cable News Coverage Of Climate Change Isn’t Exactly Accurate: Report

    April 7, 2014 Huffington Post

    It is no secret that TV news coverage of climate change is far from perfect, even with outlets generally devoting very little time to the issue. And according to a new report released Monday, when cable news in particular does decide to cover climate change, it doesn’t always get the facts straight.

    The report from the Union of Concerned Scientists analyzes just how accurately cable news networks in the United States, including CNN, Fox News and MSNBC, cover climate science. The UCS analysis found that, in 2013, MSNBC had the highest accuracy rate in its coverage of climate change, getting the state of the science right about 92 percent of the time. CNN came in second, at 70 percent accuracy. Fox trailed at 28 percent accuracy. The inaccuracies identified in the report typically stemmed from dismissing or doubting scientific facts, or from overstating and understating current science.

    At the time of publication, CNN and Fox had not responded to requests for comment, and MSNBC’s vice president for media relations said she had not seen the report. UCS analyzed 569 clips of cable news coverage from 2013, looking for all references to “climate change” and “global warming.” Then, the group evaluated the claims in the segments against actual published, peer-reviewed climate science. Segments were classified as “misleading” or “accurate” based on that criteria. If a segment included a single inaccuracy, that segment was listed as “misleading.”

    “Sometimes, it’s like the networks are covering different planets,” Aaron Huertas, a science communications officer at UCS who led the analysis, said in a release accompanying the report. “Unfortunately, too many politicians, interest groups, and pundits continue to dispute established climate science and cable shows sometimes give them a platform to do so.”…

     

    Green tea extract boosts your brain power, especially the working memory, new research shows
    (April 7, 2014) — Green tea is said to have many putative positive effects on health. Now, researchers are reporting first evidence that green tea extract enhances the cognitive functions, in particular the working memory. The findings suggest promising clinical implications for the treatment of cognitive impairments in psychiatric disorders such as dementia. … > full story

    Health benefits of ‘green exercise’ for kids shown in new study
    (April 7, 2014) — Children who are exposed to scenes of nature while exercising are more likely to experience health-enhancing effects after activity, according to a study. The researchers found that after the ‘green exercise’ the children’s post-activity blood pressure was significantly lower than it was without the simulated forest environment, indicating that the nature scenes promoted positive health effects. … > full story

    Drink milk? Women who do may delay knee osteoarthritis
    (April 7, 2014) — Women who frequently consume fat-free or low-fat milk may delay the progression of osteoarthritis (OA) of the knee. Results show that women who ate cheese saw an increase in knee OA progression. Yogurt did not impact OA progression in men or women. OA is a common, degenerative joint disease that causes pain and swelling of joints in the hand, hips, or knee. … > full story

    Spring allergies linked to specific food allergies, says specialist
    (April 7, 2014) — More than 45 million Americans suffer from seasonal allergies, primarily occurring in spring and fall. Food allergies are closely linked to spring allergies, says one expert. “Birch pollen often also means allergies to apples, peaches, carrots and celery while grass allergies can trigger melon, tomatoes and oranges reactions,” he says. “Ragweed, the most noxious allergen, is also linked to allergies to bananas, cucumber and cantaloupe.” … > full story

     

     

     

     



     

     


     


     


     


    ————

    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.

     

  5. An Earth Day Rap

    Leave a Comment

     

    April 2014

    AN EARTH DAY RAP

     

    Earth’s getting hot

    It’s gonna take a lot

    From all of us at home and school

    To keep our planet safe and cool

     

    Refuse… Buy fewer things

    Reduce… Use less and less

    Reuse… Use again and again

    Recycle…  Make new from old

     

    Refuse…reduce…reuse…recycle!

    (clap, clap, clap, clap)

     

    Plastics in the sea

    Hurting fish, you and me

    Poisons in the air

    We’ve got to show we care

     

    Refuse… Buy fewer things

    Reduce… Use less and less

    Reuse… Use again and again

    Recycle…  Make new from old

     

    Refuse…reduce…reuse…recycle!

    (clap, clap, clap, clap)

     

     

    Polar bears got no ice,

    Ocean’s getting sour,

    Floods, fires, drought and storms,

    But we’ve got the power!

     

     

    Refuse… Buy fewer things

    Reduce… Use less and less

    Reuse… Use again and again

    Recycle…  Make new from old

     

    Refuse…reduce…reuse…recycle!

    (clap, clap, clap, clap)

     

    Plant flowers and trees

    For the birds and the bees

    Restore creeks and wetlands

    And protect our famileeees

     

    Refuse… Buy fewer things

    Reduce… Use less and less

    Reuse… Use again and again

    Recycle…  Make new from old

     

    Refuse…reduce…reuse…recycle!

    (clap, clap, clap, clap)

     

    Seder’s here, matzoh and freedom

    Moses led us from Egypt to Eden

    Let’s not be slaves to wasteful ways

    Let’s lead the way to better days!

     

     

    Refuse… Buy fewer things

    Reduce… Use less and less

    Reuse… Use again and again

    Recycle…  Make new from old

     

    Refuse…reduce…reuse…recycle!

    (clap, clap, clap, clap)

     

    Keep our planet blue and green

    It’s up to us—you know what I mean!

    Do your 4 R’s all the way

    and save our planet every day!

     

    Refuse… Buy fewer things

    Reduce… Use less and less

    Reuse… Use again and again

    Recycle…  Make new from old

     

    Refuse…reduce…reuse…recycle!

    (clap, clap, clap, clap)

     

    Refuse… Buy fewer things

    Reduce… Use less and less

    Reuse… Use again and again

    Recycle…  Make new from old

     

    Refuse…reduce…reuse…recycle!

    (clap, clap, clap, clap)

     

    Refuse…reduce…reuse…recycle!

    Refuse…reduce…reuse…recycle!

    Refuse…reduce…reuse…recycle!

     

  6. 2014 IPCC Climate Change Report – links and analysis

    Leave a Comment

     

     

    New IPCC Climate Change Report

     

     

     

    Document: Read the Full Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change Report

     

    Panel’s Warning on Climate Risk: Worst Is Yet to Come

    A U.N. report emphasized that the world’s food supply is at considerable risk — a threat that could have serious consequences for the poorest nations.

    By JUSTIN GILLIS  NY Times March 31 2014
    YOKOHAMA, Japan —

     

    Climate change is already having sweeping effects on every continent and throughout the world’s oceans, scientists reported on Monday, and they warned that the problem was likely to grow substantially worse unless greenhouse emissions are brought under control.

     

    The report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, a United Nations group that periodically summarizes climate science, concluded that ice caps are melting, sea ice in the Arctic is collapsing, water supplies are coming under stress, heat waves and heavy rains are intensifying, coral reefs are dying, and fish and many other creatures are migrating toward the poles or in some cases going extinct.
    The oceans are rising at a pace that threatens coastal communities and are becoming more acidic as they absorb some of the carbon dioxide given off by cars and power plants, which is killing some creatures or stunting their growth, the report found. 

     

    Organic matter frozen in Arctic soils since before civilization began is now melting, allowing it to decay into greenhouse gases that will cause further warming, the scientists said. And the worst is yet to come, the scientists said in the second of three reports that are expected to carry considerable weight next year as nations try to agree on a new global climate treaty….

     

    It cited the risk of death or injury on a wide scale, probable damage to public health, displacement of people and potential mass migrations. “Throughout the 21st century, climate-change impacts are projected to slow down economic growth, make poverty reduction more difficult, further erode food security, and prolong existing and create new poverty traps, the latter particularly in urban areas and emerging hot spots of hunger,” the report declared. The report also cited the possibility of violent conflict over land, water or other resources, to which climate change might contribute indirectly “by exacerbating well-established drivers of these conflicts such as poverty and economic shocks.” The scientists emphasized that climate change is not just a problem of the distant future, but is happening now. Studies have found that parts of the Mediterranean region are drying out because of climate change, and some experts believe that droughts there have contributed to political destabilization in the Middle East and North Africa.

     

    In much of the American West, mountain snowpack is declining, threatening water supplies for the region, the scientists said in the report. And the snow that does fall is melting earlier in the year, which means there is less melt water to ease the parched summers. In Alaska, the collapse of sea ice is allowing huge waves to strike the coast, causing erosion so rapid that it is already forcing entire communities to relocate.

     

    ….”There are those who say we can’t afford to act,” Secretary of State John Kerry said in a statement. “But waiting is truly unaffordable. The costs of inaction are catastrophic.”

     

    Amid all the risks the experts cited, they did find a bright spot. Since the intergovernmental panel issued its last big report in 2007, it has found growing evidence that governments and businesses around the world are making extensive plans to adapt to climate disruptions, even as some conservatives in the United States and a small number of scientists continue to deny that a problem exists. “I think that dealing effectively with climate change is just going to be something that great nations do,” said Christopher B. Field, co-chairman of the working group that wrote the report and an earth scientist at the Carnegie Institution for Science in Stanford, Calif. Talk of adaptation to global warming was once avoided in some quarters, on the ground that it would distract from the need to cut emissions. But the past few years have seen a shift in thinking, including research from scientists and economists who argue that both strategies must be pursued at once.

     

    The poorest people in the world, who have had virtually nothing to do with causing global warming, will be high on the list of victims as climatic disruptions intensify, the report said. It cited a World Bank estimate that poor countries need as much as $100 billion a year to try to offset the effects of climate change; they are now getting, at best, a few billion dollars a year in such aid from rich countries. The $100 billion figure, though included in the 2,500-page main report, was removed from a 48-page executive summary to be read by the world’s top political leaders. It was among the most significant changes made as the summary underwent final review during an editing session of several days in Yokohama. The edit came after several rich countries, including the United States, raised questions about the language, according to several people who were in the room at the time but did not wish to be identified because the negotiations were private. The language is contentious because poor countries are expected to renew their demand for aid this September in New York at a summit meeting of world leaders, who will attempt to make headway on a new treaty to limit greenhouse gases. Many rich countries argue that $100 billion a year is an unrealistic demand; it would essentially require them to double their budgets for foreign aid, at a time of economic distress at home. That argument has fed a rising sense of outrage among the leaders of poor countries, who feel their people are paying the price for decades of profligate Western consumption.

     

    Two decades of international efforts to limit emissions have yielded little result, and it is not clear whether the negotiations in New York this fall will be any different. While greenhouse gas emissions have begun to decline slightly in many wealthy countries, including the United States, those gains are being swamped by emissions from rising economic powers like China and India. For the world’s poorer countries, food is not the only issue, but it may be the most acute. Several times in recent years, climatic disruptions in major growing regions have helped to throw supply and demand out of balance, contributing to price increases that have reversed decades of gains against global hunger, at least temporarily. The warning about the food supply in the new report is much sharper in tone than any previously issued by the panel. That reflects a growing body of research about how sensitive many crops are to heat waves and water stress. The report said that climate change was already dragging down the output of wheat and corn at a global scale, compared with what it would otherwise be.

     

     

     

    Conservative Climate Panel Warns World Faces ‘Breakdown Of Food Systems’ And More Violent Conflict

    By Joe Romm, PhD  on March 30, 2014 at 8:00 pm  climateprogress.org

     

    Humanity’s choice (via IPCC): Aggressive climate action ASAP (left figure) minimizes future warming. Continued inaction (right figure) results in catastrophic levels of warming, 9°F over much of U.S.

     

    The U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has issued its second of four planned reports examining the state of climate science. This one summarizes what the scientific literature says about “Impacts, Adaptation, and Vulnerability” (big PDF here). As with every recent IPCC report, it is super-cautious to a fault and yet still incredibly alarming. It warns that we are doing a bad job of dealing with the climate change we’ve experienced to date: “Impacts from recent climate-related extremes, such as heat waves, droughts, floods, cyclones, and wildfires, reveal significant vulnerability and exposure of some ecosystems and many human systems to current climate variability.” It warns of the dreaded RFCs (“reasons for concern” — I’m not making this acronym up), such as “breakdown of food systems linked to warming, drought, flooding, and precipitation variability and extremes.” You might call them RFAs (“reasons for alarm” or “reasons for action”).

     

    Indeed, in recent years, “several periods of rapid food and cereal price increases following climate extremes in key producing regions indicate a sensitivity of current markets to climate extremes among other factors.” So warming-driven drought and extreme weather have already begun to reduce food security. Now imagine adding another 2 billion people to feed while we are experiencing five times as much warming this century as we did last century! No surprise, then, that climate change will “prolong existing, and create new, poverty traps, the latter particularly in urban areas and emerging hotspots of hunger.” And it will “increase risks of violent conflicts in the form of civil war and inter-group violence” — though for some reason that doesn’t make the list of RFCs. In short, “We’re all sitting ducks,” as IPCC author and Princeton Prof. Michael Oppenheimer put it to the AP.

     

    AN OVERLY CAUTIOUS REPORT

    As grim as the Working Group 2 report on impacts is, it explicitly has very little to say about the catastrophic impacts and vulnerability in the business as usual case where the Earth warms 4°C to 5°C [7°F-9°F] — and it has nothing to say about even higher warming, which the latest science suggests we are headed toward. The report states: “Relatively few studies have considered impacts on cropping systems for scenarios where global mean temperatures increase by 4°C [7°F] or more.… few quantitative estimates [of global annual economic losses] have been completed for additional warming around 3°C [5.4°F] or above.”… You may wonder why hundreds of the world leading climate experts spend years and years doing climate science and climate projections, but don’t bother actually looking at the impacts of merely staying on our current carbon pollution emissions path — let alone looking at the plausible worst-case scenario (which is typically the basis for risk-reducing public policy, such as military spending). Partly it’s because, until recently, climate scientists had naively expected the world to act with a modicum of sanity and avoid at all costs catastrophic warming of 7°F let alone the unimaginable 10°F (or higher) warming we are headed toward. Partly it’s because, as a recent paper explained, “climate scientists are biased toward overly cautious estimates, erring on the side of less rather than more alarming predictions.”

     

    On top of the overly cautious nature of most climate scientists, we have the overly cautious nature of the IPCC. As the New York Times explained when the IPCC released the Working Group 1 report last fall: “The I.P.C.C. is far from alarmist — on the contrary, it is a highly conservative organization,” said Stefan Rahmstorf of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research in Germany, whose papers on sea level were among those that got discarded. “That is not a problem as long as the users of the I.P.C.C. reports are well aware of this. The conservatism is built into its consensus structure, which tends to produce a lowest common denominator on which a large number of scientists can agree.”

     

    That’s why the latest report is full of these sorts of bombshells couched in euphemism and buried deep in the text:  By 2100 for the high-emission scenario RCP8.5, the combination of high temperature and humidity in some areas for parts of the year is projected to compromise normal human activities, including growing food or working outdoors. Yes, “compromise.” A clearer word would be “obliterate.” And the “high-emission scenario RCP8.5″ — an atmospheric concentration of carbon dioxide of about 936 parts per million — is in fact where we are headed by 2100 or soon thereafter on our current do-little path.

     

    Bottom line: We are at risk of making large parts of the planet’s currently arable and populated land virtually uninhabitable for much of the year — and irreversibly so for hundreds of years.

     

    THE RISK OF CREATING MORE FAILED STATES

    Here are two important conclusions from the report that the IPCC strangely puts 13 pages apart from each other:

    • Violent conflict increases vulnerability to climate change. Large-scale violent conflict harms assets that facilitate adaptation, including infrastructure, institutions, natural resources, social capital, and livelihood opportunities.
    • Climate change can indirectly increase risks of violent conflicts in the form of civil war and inter-group violence by amplifying well-documented drivers of these conflicts such as poverty and economic shocks. Multiple lines of evidence relate climate variability to these forms of conflict.

     

    Separately, they are both worrisome. But together, they are catastrophic. Climate change makes violent conflict more likely — and violent conflict makes a country more vulnerable to climate change. So climate change appears poised to help create many more of the most dangerous situations on Earth: failed states. Syria may be turning into an early example.

     

    THE HIGH COST OF INACTION

    The IPCC’s discussion of economic costs is equally muddled: “… the incomplete estimates of global annual economic losses for additional temperature increases of ~2°C are between 0.2 and 2.0% of income. Losses are more likely than not to be greater, rather than smaller, than this range…. Losses accelerate with greater warming, but few quantitative estimates have been completed for additional warming around 3°C or above.” It would have been nice if the IPCC had mentioned at this point that keeping additional temperature increases to ~2°C requires very aggressive efforts to slash carbon pollution starting now. As it is, the deniers, confusionists, and easily confused can (incorrectly) assert that this first sentence means global economic losses from climate change will be low. Again, that’s only if we act now.

     

    As Climate Science Watch noted Saturday, “Other estimates suggest the high impacts on global GDP with warming of 4ºC (For example the Stern Review found impacts of 5-20% of global GDP).” The costs of even higher warming, which, again, would be nothing more than business as usual, rise exponentially. Indeed, we’ve known for years that traditional climate cost-benefit analyses are “unusually misleading” — as Harvard economist Martin Weitzman warned colleagues, “we may be deluding ourselves and others.” Again, that’s because the IPCC is basically a best case analysis — while it largely ignores the business-as-usual case and completely ignores the worst case.

     

    Remember, earlier this month, during the press call for the vastly better written climate report from the American Association for the Advancement of Science, a leading expert on risk analysis explained, “You really do have to think about worst-case scenarios when you are thinking about risk management. When it’s a risk management problem, thinking about worst-case scenarios is not alarmist — it’s just part of the job. And those worst-case scenarios are part of what drives the price.”

     

    So where are we now? The first IPCC report last fall revealed we are as certain that humans are dramatically changing the planet’s climate as we are that smoking causes cancer. It found the best estimate is that humans are responsible for all of the warming we have suffered since 1950. It warned that on the continued do-little path, we are facing total warming from preindustrial levels by 2100 headed toward 4°C (7°F), with much more rapid sea level rise than previously reported, and the prospects of large-scale collapse of the permafrost, with resultant release of massive amounts of greenhouse gases. Now, “the IPCC’s new report should leave the world in no doubt about the scale and immediacy of the threat to human survival, health, and wellbeing,” which in turn shows the need for “radical and transformative change” in our energy system, as the British Medical Journal editorialized.

     

    Every few years, the world’s leading climate scientists and governments identify the ever-worsening symptoms. They give us the same diagnosis, but with ever-growing certainty. And they lay out an ever-grimmer prognosis if we keep ignoring their straightforward and relatively inexpensive treatment. Will we act on the science in time?

     

     

    Climate Signals, Growing Louder

    By THE EDITORIAL BOARD NY Times Editorial April 1, 2014

    Perhaps now the deniers will cease their attacks on the science of climate change, and the American public will, at last, fully accept that global warming is a danger now and an even graver threat to future generations. On Monday, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, a United Nations group that since 1990 has been issuing increasingly grim warnings about the consequences of a warming planet, released its most powerful and sobering assessment so far. Even now, it said, ice caps are melting, droughts and floods are getting worse, coral reefs are dying. And without swift and decisive action to limit greenhouse gas emissions from fossil fuels and other sources, the world will almost surely face centuries of climbing temperatures, rising seas, species loss and dwindling agricultural yields. The damage will be particularly acute in coastal communities and in low-lying poor countries — like Bangladesh — that are least able to protect themselves.

     

    The report’s conclusions mirrored those of a much shorter but no less disturbing report issued two weeks ago by the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the world’s largest scientific society. Like the panel, the association declared that the world is already feeling the effects of global warming, that the ultimate consequences could be catastrophic, and that the window for effective action is swiftly closing. The intergovernmental panel’s report (a companion report later this month will discuss what governments should do) could carry considerable weight with delegates to next year’s climate change summit meeting in Paris, at which the members of the United Nations will again try, after years of futility, to fashion a new global climate treaty. And together, the two reports could build public support for President Obama’s efforts to use his executive authority to limit greenhouse gases, most recently with a plan issued on Friday to reduce methane emissions from landfills, agricultural operations and oil and gas production and distribution….  A poll last year found that one-third of Americans believed that scientists disagreed on whether global warming was happening.

     

    These studies suggest virtually no disagreement. The hope among advocates is that the latest show of scientific solidarity will clear up any confusion about the causes and consequences of climate change and the need for action.

     

     

    The UN’s New Focus: Surviving, Not Stopping, Climate Change

    The international body has issued a manual for adapting to a warming world.

    Uri Friedman and Svati Kirsten Narula
    Apr 1 2014, 8:39 AM ET The Atlantic

     A worker inspects solar panels in China’s Gansu province. (Reuters/Carlos Barria)

    The United Nations’ latest report on climate change contains plenty of dire warnings about the adverse impact “human interference with the climate system” is having on everything from sea levels to crop yields to violent conflicts. But the primary message of the study isn’t, as John Kerry suggested on Sunday, for countries to collectively reduce greenhouse-gas emissions. Instead, the subtext appears to be this: Climate change is happening and will continue to happen for the foreseeable future. As a result, we need to adapt to a warming planet—to minimize the risks and maximize the benefits associated with increasing temperatures—rather than focusing solely on curbing warming in the first place. And it’s businesses and local governments, rather than the international community, that can lead the way. “The really big breakthrough in this report is the new idea of thinking about managing climate change,” Chris Field, the co-chair of the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) study, said this week, adding that governments, companies, and communities are already experimenting with “climate-change adaptation.”…

     

     

     

    The Aliens Have Landed

    APRIL 1, 2014  Mark Bittman  Opinion NY Times

     

    In the ’30s, as Germany rearmed, we said, “Yeah, France can handle that.” Earlier this week, the Panzer Corps of climate change zoomed right around our Maginot line of denial, and we all became the retreating French.  The disaster we refused to acknowledge has arrived. And now, as then, many people are just giving up. “Oh, well,” countless friends and co-workers muttered Monday, “nothing to do now.”

     

    The bland, bureaucratic face of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change gave us horrific news this week: The negative effects of climate change are here, and they’re ahead of schedule. Not that we’re surprised; when every scientist in the world who isn’t in the employ of climate change deniers tells us that we’ve long since passed the place where we could “turn back” the effects of global warming, acknowledging its effects should be no more shocking than arising to a blanket of snow on the ground after having watched flakes fall through the night. If you skid out of the driveway wondering how in the world that happened, you weren’t paying attention.  So yields of corn and wheat are down and falling while prices are going up. There has been record-breaking rain and record-breaking heat. Droughts are commonplace, and ice is melting. Even you, a person of education and at least moderate privilege, are going to notice.  My friends are talking about getting away from it all, as if George W. Bush had won a third term. But to where? Hudson Bay must have sea level rise, no? The Cascades are nice and high, but they’ve got those mudslides! Well, O.K., at least we can go drink heavily.  We know that when little green men with Shar Pei-like faces invade Earth, we’ll recognize that we are all one and act accordingly, uniting to defeat them and creating a world that recognizes our elemental mutual needs of land, water and air, and maintains their sanctity.

     

    But it’s the blindly irrational mistreatment and abuse of land, water and air that have gotten us into this mess, whose visage is not that of a green Shar Pei-faced critter with a ray gun but one that just looks like … weather. We’re all used to weird weather, and even to the occasional drought that might reduce California’s production of edible plants by, say, 5 percent, or a storm that would level a few towns while flooding the Brooklyn-Battery Tunnel. So although we’ve been warned, it was hard to see this coming.  “Do you think that storm was from global warming?” everyone asked after coastal New York and New Jersey were smashed by Hurricane Sandy. “Well, maybe,” was the best anyone could say; there have always been storms.  But the aliens are in the backyard, Granny, and it’s time to start hitting them with the cast-iron pans. The deniers are the equivalent of hucksters selling you a ray-gun-proof magic hat.  “I guess I can stop worrying about my grandchildren,” someone said to me, recognizing that change has come faster than all but a few had anticipated, and that it’s our lifetimes that are threatened now.

     

    You can give up, of course; people will. Or you can break out the clichés about extraordinary times requiring extraordinary measures, put an evil alien face on climate change, and get to work supporting those measures that you know will either mitigate it or help us adapt.

    Many barriers must be built, much coal left unburned and methane unpiped, many cattle unborn. We need a public works project the likes of which has not been seen since the ’40s. And it can be done, or at least attempted. Not to beat the World War II comparisons too heavily, but the United States built 2,000 airplanes in 1939; by 1944 that had become over 96,000, at a time when naysayers doubted 50,000 was a reachable number.

     

    We can devise and build flood barriers; we can cap and control the spewing of carbon and methane into the air; we can turn to forms of agricultural production that reduce greenhouse gas emissions and even sequester them. It’s a matter of will, not one of magic.

    “They” will not build a big umbrella that will reflect all that excess sun back into space; “they” will not compress and suck all that carbon underground; “they” will not release the secret plans for nuclear fusion “they’ve” been hiding.

    It ain’t gonna happen. We need adaptive changes on every level, big plans for mitigation from all forms of government, and real international and even corporate cooperation.

    As individuals, we must do what we can to encourage and demand those efforts, while also reducing our own cumulatively enormous carbon footprints. Americans have long led the world in consumption; we created the lifestyle that’s cooking the planet. If we demonstrate a willingness to change — rather than whining “but what about the Chinese?” — others will follow. If we don’t, we’re all going down. Myself, I’d rather give it a try, and live long enough to fight the Shar Pei men.

     

     


     

    Related news:

     

    U.N. Climate Report Authors Answer 11 Basic Questions

    By ANDREW C. REVKIN  NY Times March 31 2014

    IPCC scientists answer 11 frequently asked questions about the impacts of global warming.

     

    Behind the scenes of the new U.N. climate report, with Stanford scientists
    Chris Field spent five years leading the international team of scientists that drafted the latest report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

    Field Lab

     

    Climate change report shows alarming trends

    ABC NEWS -Tuesday, April 01, 2014

    Wayne Freedman

    PALO ALTO, Calif. (KGO) — … ABC7 News spoke with Terry Root, Ph.D., of Stanford, who worked on this report and says the trends are alarming.  “You don’t tell how bad it is because it will paralyze people,” said Root.  Root is one name among hundreds of scientists who worked on this latest climate change report. The word frustration fails to capture the full measure of her concern.  “When I started in this field 25 years ago, I really believed that we could stop mass extinction from occurring. I’m now to the place where I see we’re on the trajectory that mass extinction will occur. We’re going to lose half the species on the planet. It will be very hard not to lose half the species on the planet,” said Root…  California’s drought is also a product, not just of weather, but the long term effect of climate on the weather. There will be less snow, earlier springs and runoffs, less water for crops. Sorry to scare you, Root says, but this is happening now, and if humans do not drastically reduce carbon emissions, we’ll see much worse.

     

    CNN Ignores Major Climate Report…..

    By Andrew Breiner on April 2, 2014 at 9:04 am

    CREDIT: Andrew Breiner

    On Monday, someone who just watched Fox News wouldn’t know that a U.N. panel’s report said that “breakdown of food systems” and “violent conflict” are likely impacts of even low levels of climate change over the next 100 years. But MSNBC’s coverage gave a thorough look at the risks detailed in the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report on climate change impacts, as well as the woeful state of efforts to mitigate its effects or cut carbon. The day the report came out, CNN devoted one minute and eight seconds to two segments giving a basic review of its contents, MSNBC spent 19 minutes and 49 seconds covering it in depth over a total of five segments, and Fox News dedicated five minutes, mostly to attacking the idea of climate change or of studying it at all. If a viewer was watching Fox, they learned that the main issue is whether it’s “alright for you to exhale without paying tax to the United Nations,” as Claudia Rosett of the neoconservative Foundation for Defense of Democracies told Neil Cavuto on his show. The short segment mocked the idea of the U.N. paying any attention at all to climate change as long as there are other issues like Russia and Korea to address

     

    Poll: Americans Still Unconcerned About Global Warming

    U.S. News & World Report (blog)

      April 4, 2014

           

    “A major challenge facing scientists and organizations that view global warming as a major threat to humanity is that average citizens express so little concern about the issue,” Gallup said.

     

  7. Conservation Science News April 4, 2014

    Leave a Comment

    Focus of the WeekNew IPCC Climate Change Report

    1-ECOLOGY, BIODIVERSITY, RELATED

    2-CLIMATE CHANGE AND EXTREME EVENTS

    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 the California Landscape Conservation Cooperative Newsletter or the Bay Area Ecosystems Climate Change Consortium listserve to receive this or you can email me directly at Ellie Cohen, ecohen at pointblue.org if you want your name added to or dropped from this list. 

    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- New IPCC Climate Change Report

     

    Document: Read the Full Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change Report

     

     

     

     

     

    Panel’s Warning on Climate Risk: Worst Is Yet to Come

    A U.N. report emphasized that the world’s food supply is at considerable risk — a threat that could have serious consequences for the poorest nations.

    By JUSTIN GILLIS NY Times March 31 2014
    YOKOHAMA, Japan —

     

    Climate change is already having sweeping effects on every continent and throughout the world’s oceans, scientists reported on Monday, and they warned that the problem was likely to grow substantially worse unless greenhouse emissions are brought under control.

     


    The report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, a United Nations group that periodically summarizes climate science, concluded that ice caps are melting, sea ice in the Arctic is collapsing, water supplies are coming under stress, heat waves and heavy rains are intensifying, coral reefs are dying, and fish and many other creatures are migrating toward the poles or in some cases going extinct.
    The oceans are rising at a pace that threatens coastal communities and are becoming more acidic as they absorb some of the carbon dioxide given off by cars and power plants, which is killing some creatures or stunting their growth, the report found. Organic matter frozen in Arctic soils since before civilization began is now melting, allowing it to decay into greenhouse gases that will cause further warming, the scientists said. And the worst is yet to come, the scientists said in the second of three reports that are expected to carry considerable weight next year as nations try to agree on a new global climate treaty….

     

    It cited the risk of death or injury on a wide scale, probable damage to public health, displacement of people and potential mass migrations. “Throughout the 21st century, climate-change impacts are projected to slow down economic growth, make poverty reduction more difficult, further erode food security, and prolong existing and create new poverty traps, the latter particularly in urban areas and emerging hot spots of hunger,” the report declared. The report also cited the possibility of violent conflict over land, water or other resources, to which climate change might contribute indirectly “by exacerbating well-established drivers of these conflicts such as poverty and economic shocks.” The scientists emphasized that climate change is not just a problem of the distant future, but is happening now. Studies have found that parts of the Mediterranean region are drying out because of climate change, and some experts believe that droughts there have contributed to political destabilization in the Middle East and North Africa.

     

    In much of the American West, mountain snowpack is declining, threatening water supplies for the region, the scientists said in the report. And the snow that does fall is melting earlier in the year, which means there is less melt water to ease the parched summers. In Alaska, the collapse of sea ice is allowing huge waves to strike the coast, causing erosion so rapid that it is already forcing entire communities to relocate.

     

    ….”There are those who say we can’t afford to act,” Secretary of State John Kerry said in a statement. “But waiting is truly unaffordable. The costs of inaction are catastrophic.”

    Amid all the risks the experts cited, they did find a bright spot. Since the intergovernmental panel issued its last big report in 2007, it has found growing evidence that governments and businesses around the world are making extensive plans to adapt to climate disruptions, even as some conservatives in the United States and a small number of scientists continue to deny that a problem exists. “I think that dealing effectively with climate change is just going to be something that great nations do,” said Christopher B. Field, co-chairman of the working group that wrote the report and an earth scientist at the Carnegie Institution for Science in Stanford, Calif. Talk of adaptation to global warming was once avoided in some quarters, on the ground that it would distract from the need to cut emissions. But the past few years have seen a shift in thinking, including research from scientists and economists who argue that both strategies must be pursued at once.

     

    The poorest people in the world, who have had virtually nothing to do with causing global warming, will be high on the list of victims as climatic disruptions intensify, the report said. It cited a World Bank estimate that poor countries need as much as $100 billion a year to try to offset the effects of climate change; they are now getting, at best, a few billion dollars a year in such aid from rich countries. The $100 billion figure, though included in the 2,500-page main report, was removed from a 48-page executive summary to be read by the world’s top political leaders. It was among the most significant changes made as the summary underwent final review during an editing session of several days in Yokohama. The edit came after several rich countries, including the United States, raised questions about the language, according to several people who were in the room at the time but did not wish to be identified because the negotiations were private. The language is contentious because poor countries are expected to renew their demand for aid this September in New York at a summit meeting of world leaders, who will attempt to make headway on a new treaty to limit greenhouse gases. Many rich countries argue that $100 billion a year is an unrealistic demand; it would essentially require them to double their budgets for foreign aid, at a time of economic distress at home. That argument has fed a rising sense of outrage among the leaders of poor countries, who feel their people are paying the price for decades of profligate Western consumption.

     

    Two decades of international efforts to limit emissions have yielded little result, and it is not clear whether the negotiations in New York this fall will be any different. While greenhouse gas emissions have begun to decline slightly in many wealthy countries, including the United States, those gains are being swamped by emissions from rising economic powers like China and India. For the world’s poorer countries, food is not the only issue, but it may be the most acute. Several times in recent years, climatic disruptions in major growing regions have helped to throw supply and demand out of balance, contributing to price increases that have reversed decades of gains against global hunger, at least temporarily. The warning about the food supply in the new report is much sharper in tone than any previously issued by the panel. That reflects a growing body of research about how sensitive many crops are to heat waves and water stress. The report said that climate change was already dragging down the output of wheat and corn at a global scale, compared with what it would otherwise be.

     

     

     

     

     

    Conservative Climate Panel Warns World Faces ‘Breakdown Of Food Systems’ And More Violent Conflict

    By Joe Romm on March 30, 2014 at 8:00 pm

     

    Humanity’s choice (via IPCC): Aggressive climate action ASAP (left figure) minimizes future warming. Continued inaction (right figure) results in catastrophic levels of warming, 9°F over much of U.S.

     

    The U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has issued its second of four planned reports examining the state of climate science. This one summarizes what the scientific literature says about “Impacts, Adaptation, and Vulnerability” (big PDF here).

     

    As with every recent IPCC report, it is super-cautious to a fault and yet still incredibly alarming. It warns that we are doing a bad job of dealing with the climate change we’ve experienced to date: “Impacts from recent climate-related extremes, such as heat waves, droughts, floods, cyclones, and wildfires, reveal significant vulnerability and exposure of some ecosystems and many human systems to current climate variability.” It warns of the dreaded RFCs (“reasons for concern” — I’m not making this acronym up), such as “breakdown of food systems linked to warming, drought, flooding, and precipitation variability and extremes.” You might call them RFAs (“reasons for alarm” or “reasons for action”).

     

    Indeed, in recent years, “several periods of rapid food and cereal price increases following climate extremes in key producing regions indicate a sensitivity of current markets to climate extremes among other factors.” So warming-driven drought and extreme weather have already begun to reduce food security. Now imagine adding another 2 billion people to feed while we are experiencing five times as much warming this century as we did last century! No surprise, then, that climate change will “prolong existing, and create new, poverty traps, the latter particularly in urban areas and emerging hotspots of hunger.” And it will “increase risks of violent conflicts in the form of civil war and inter-group violence” — though for some reason that doesn’t make the list of RFCs. In short, “We’re all sitting ducks,” as IPCC author and Princeton Prof. Michael Oppenheimer put it to the AP.

     

    AN OVERLY CAUTIOUS REPORT

    As grim as the Working Group 2 report on impacts is, it explicitly has very little to say about the catastrophic impacts and vulnerability in the business as usual case where the Earth warms 4°C to 5°C [7°F-9°F] — and it has nothing to say about even higher warming, which the latest science suggests we are headed toward. The report states: “Relatively few studies have considered impacts on cropping systems for scenarios where global mean temperatures increase by 4°C [7°F] or more.… few quantitative estimates [of global annual economic losses] have been completed for additional warming around 3°C [5.4°F] or above.”

     

    You may wonder why hundreds of the world leading climate experts spend years and years doing climate science and climate projections, but don’t bother actually looking at the impacts of merely staying on our current carbon pollution emissions path — let alone looking at the plausible worst-case scenario (which is typically the basis for risk-reducing public policy, such as military spending). Partly it’s because, until recently, climate scientists had naively expected the world to act with a modicum of sanity and avoid at all costs catastrophic warming of 7°F let alone the unimaginable 10°F (or higher) warming we are headed toward. Partly it’s because, as a recent paper explained, “climate scientists are biased toward overly cautious estimates, erring on the side of less rather than more alarming predictions.”

     

    On top of the overly cautious nature of most climate scientists, we have the overly cautious nature of the IPCC. As the New York Times explained when the IPCC released the Working Group 1 report last fall:

     

    The I.P.C.C. is far from alarmist — on the contrary, it is a highly conservative organization,” said Stefan Rahmstorf of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research in Germany, whose papers on sea level were among those that got discarded. “That is not a problem as long as the users of the I.P.C.C. reports are well aware of this. The conservatism is built into its consensus structure, which tends to produce a lowest common denominator on which a large number of scientists can agree.”

     

    That’s why the latest report is full of these sorts of bombshells couched in euphemism and buried deep in the text:

     

    By 2100 for the high-emission scenario RCP8.5, the combination of high temperature and humidity in some areas for parts of the year is projected to compromise normal human activities, including growing food or working outdoors. Yes, “compromise.” A clearer word would be “obliterate.” And the “high-emission scenario RCP8.5″ — an atmospheric concentration of carbon dioxide of about 936 parts per million — is in fact where we are headed by 2100 or soon thereafter on our current do-little path.

     

    Bottom line: We are at risk of making large parts of the planet’s currently arable and populated land virtually uninhabitable for much of the year — and irreversibly so for hundreds of years.

     

    THE RISK OF CREATING MORE FAILED STATES

    Here are two important conclusions from the report that the IPCC strangely puts 13 pages apart from each other:

     

    Violent conflict increases vulnerability to climate change. Large-scale violent conflict harms assets that facilitate adaptation, including infrastructure, institutions, natural resources, social capital, and livelihood opportunities.

     

    Climate change can indirectly increase risks of violent conflicts in the form of civil war and inter-group violence by amplifying well-documented drivers of these conflicts such as poverty and economic shocks. Multiple lines of evidence relate climate variability to these forms of conflict.

     

    Separately, they are both worrisome. But together, they are catastrophic. Climate change makes violent conflict more likely — and violent conflict makes a country more vulnerable to climate change. So climate change appears poised to help create many more of the most dangerous situations on Earth: failed states. Syria may be turning into an early example.

     

    THE HIGH COST OF INACTION

    The IPCC’s discussion of economic costs is equally muddled: “… the incomplete estimates of global annual economic losses for additional temperature increases of ~2°C are between 0.2 and 2.0% of income. Losses are more likely than not to be greater, rather than smaller, than this range…. Losses accelerate with greater warming, but few quantitative estimates have been completed for additional warming around 3°C or above.”=

     

    It would have been nice if the IPCC had mentioned at this point that keeping additional temperature increases to ~2°C requires very aggressive efforts to slash carbon pollution starting now. As it is, the deniers, confusionists, and easily confused can (incorrectly) assert that this first sentence means global economic losses from climate change will be low. Again, that’s only if we act now.

     

    As Climate Science Watch noted Saturday, “Other estimates suggest the high impacts on global GDP with warming of 4ºC (For example the Stern Review found impacts of 5-20% of global GDP).” The costs of even higher warming, which, again, would be nothing more than business as usual, rise exponentially. Indeed, we’ve known for years that traditional climate cost-benefit analyses are “unusually misleading” — as Harvard economist Martin Weitzman warned colleagues, “we may be deluding ourselves and others.” Again, that’s because the IPCC is basically a best case analysis — while it largely ignores the business-as-usual case and completely ignores the worst case.

     

    Remember, earlier this month, during the press call for the vastly better written climate report from the American Association for the Advancement of Science, a leading expert on risk analysis explained, “You really do have to think about worst-case scenarios when you are thinking about risk management. When it’s a risk management problem, thinking about worst-case scenarios is not alarmist — it’s just part of the job. And those worst-case scenarios are part of what drives the price.”

     

    So where are we now? The first IPCC report last fall revealed we are as certain that humans are dramatically changing the planet’s climate as we are that smoking causes cancer. It found the best estimate is that humans are responsible for all of the warming we have suffered since 1950. It warned that on the continued do-little path, we are facing total warming from preindustrial levels by 2100 headed toward 4°C (7°F), with much more rapid sea level rise than previously reported, and the prospects of large-scale collapse of the permafrost, with resultant release of massive amounts of greenhouse gases.

     

    Now, “the IPCC’s new report should leave the world in no doubt about the scale and immediacy of the threat to human survival, health, and wellbeing,” which in turn shows the need for “radical and transformative change” in our energy system, as the British Medical Journal editorialized.

     

    Every few years, the world’s leading climate scientists and governments identify the ever-worsening symptoms. They give us the same diagnosis, but with ever-growing certainty. And they lay out an ever-grimmer prognosis if we keep ignoring their straightforward and relatively inexpensive treatment. Will we act on the science in time?

     

     

    Climate Signals, Growing Louder

    By THE EDITORIAL BOARD NY Times Editorial April 1, 2014

    Perhaps now the deniers will cease their attacks on the science of climate change, and the American public will, at last, fully accept that global warming is a danger now and an even graver threat to future generations. On Monday, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, a United Nations group that since 1990 has been issuing increasingly grim warnings about the consequences of a warming planet, released its most powerful and sobering assessment so far. Even now, it said, ice caps are melting, droughts and floods are getting worse, coral reefs are dying. And without swift and decisive action to limit greenhouse gas emissions from fossil fuels and other sources, the world will almost surely face centuries of climbing temperatures, rising seas, species loss and dwindling agricultural yields. The damage will be particularly acute in coastal communities and in low-lying poor countries — like Bangladesh — that are least able to protect themselves.

     

    The report’s conclusions mirrored those of a much shorter but no less disturbing report issued two weeks ago by the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the world’s largest scientific society. Like the panel, the association declared that the world is already feeling the effects of global warming, that the ultimate consequences could be catastrophic, and that the window for effective action is swiftly closing. The intergovernmental panel’s report (a companion report later this month will discuss what governments should do) could carry considerable weight with delegates to next year’s climate change summit meeting in Paris, at which the members of the United Nations will again try, after years of futility, to fashion a new global climate treaty. And together, the two reports could build public support for President Obama’s efforts to use his executive authority to limit greenhouse gases, most recently with a plan issued on Friday to reduce methane emissions from landfills, agricultural operations and oil and gas production and distribution…. A poll last year found that one-third of Americans believed that scientists disagreed on whether global warming was happening.

     

    These studies suggest virtually no disagreement. The hope among advocates is that the latest show of scientific solidarity will clear up any confusion about the causes and consequences of climate change and the need for action.

     

     

    The UN’s New Focus: Surviving, Not Stopping, Climate Change

    The international body has issued a manual for adapting to a warming world.

    Uri Friedman and Svati Kirsten Narula
    Apr 1 2014, 8:39 AM ET The Atlantic

    A worker inspects solar panels in China’s Gansu province. (Reuters/Carlos Barria)

    The United Nations’ latest report on climate change contains plenty of dire warnings about the adverse impact “human interference with the climate system” is having on everything from sea levels to crop yields to violent conflicts. But the primary message of the study isn’t, as John Kerry suggested on Sunday, for countries to collectively reduce greenhouse-gas emissions. Instead, the subtext appears to be this: Climate change is happening and will continue to happen for the foreseeable future. As a result, we need to adapt to a warming planet—to minimize the risks and maximize the benefits associated with increasing temperatures—rather than focusing solely on curbing warming in the first place. And it’s businesses and local governments, rather than the international community, that can lead the way. “The really big breakthrough in this report is the new idea of thinking about managing climate change,” Chris Field, the co-chair of the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) study, said this week, adding that governments, companies, and communities are already experimenting with “climate-change adaptation.”…

     

     

     

    The Aliens Have Landed

    APRIL 1, 2014 Mark Bittman Opinion NY Times

     

    In the ’30s, as Germany rearmed, we said, “Yeah, France can handle that.” Earlier this week, the Panzer Corps of climate change zoomed right around our Maginot line of denial, and we all became the retreating French. The disaster we refused to acknowledge has arrived. And now, as then, many people are just giving up. “Oh, well,” countless friends and co-workers muttered Monday, “nothing to do now.”

     

    The bland, bureaucratic face of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change gave us horrific news this week: The negative effects of climate change are here, and they’re ahead of schedule. Not that we’re surprised; when every scientist in the world who isn’t in the employ of climate change deniers tells us that we’ve long since passed the place where we could “turn back” the effects of global warming, acknowledging its effects should be no more shocking than arising to a blanket of snow on the ground after having watched flakes fall through the night. If you skid out of the driveway wondering how in the world that happened, you weren’t paying attention. So yields of corn and wheat are down and falling while prices are going up. There has been record-breaking rain and record-breaking heat. Droughts are commonplace, and ice is melting. Even you, a person of education and at least moderate privilege, are going to notice. My friends are talking about getting away from it all, as if George W. Bush had won a third term. But to where? Hudson Bay must have sea level rise, no? The Cascades are nice and high, but they’ve got those mudslides! Well, O.K., at least we can go drink heavily. We know that when little green men with Shar Pei-like faces invade Earth, we’ll recognize that we are all one and act accordingly, uniting to defeat them and creating a world that recognizes our elemental mutual needs of land, water and air, and maintains their sanctity.

     

    But it’s the blindly irrational mistreatment and abuse of land, water and air that have gotten us into this mess, whose visage is not that of a green Shar Pei-faced critter with a ray gun but one that just looks like … weather. We’re all used to weird weather, and even to the occasional drought that might reduce California’s production of edible plants by, say, 5 percent, or a storm that would level a few towns while flooding the Brooklyn-Battery Tunnel. So although we’ve been warned, it was hard to see this coming. “Do you think that storm was from global warming?” everyone asked after coastal New York and New Jersey were smashed by Hurricane Sandy. “Well, maybe,” was the best anyone could say; there have always been storms. But the aliens are in the backyard, Granny, and it’s time to start hitting them with the cast-iron pans. The deniers are the equivalent of hucksters selling you a ray-gun-proof magic hat. “I guess I can stop worrying about my grandchildren,” someone said to me, recognizing that change has come faster than all but a few had anticipated, and that it’s our lifetimes that are threatened now.

     

    You can give up, of course; people will. Or you can break out the clichés about extraordinary times requiring extraordinary measures, put an evil alien face on climate change, and get to work supporting those measures that you know will either mitigate it or help us adapt.

    Many barriers must be built, much coal left unburned and methane unpiped, many cattle unborn. We need a public works project the likes of which has not been seen since the ’40s. And it can be done, or at least attempted. Not to beat the World War II comparisons too heavily, but the United States built 2,000 airplanes in 1939; by 1944 that had become over 96,000, at a time when naysayers doubted 50,000 was a reachable number.

     

    We can devise and build flood barriers; we can cap and control the spewing of carbon and methane into the air; we can turn to forms of agricultural production that reduce greenhouse gas emissions and even sequester them. It’s a matter of will, not one of magic.

    “They” will not build a big umbrella that will reflect all that excess sun back into space; “they” will not compress and suck all that carbon underground; “they” will not release the secret plans for nuclear fusion “they’ve” been hiding.

    It ain’t gonna happen. We need adaptive changes on every level, big plans for mitigation from all forms of government, and real international and even corporate cooperation.

    As individuals, we must do what we can to encourage and demand those efforts, while also reducing our own cumulatively enormous carbon footprints. Americans have long led the world in consumption; we created the lifestyle that’s cooking the planet. If we demonstrate a willingness to change — rather than whining “but what about the Chinese?” — others will follow. If we don’t, we’re all going down. Myself, I’d rather give it a try, and live long enough to fight the Shar Pei men.

     

     

    Related news:

     

    U.N. Climate Report Authors Answer 11 Basic Questions

    By ANDREW C. REVKIN NY Times March 31 2014

    IPCC scientists answer 11 frequently asked questions about the impacts of global warming.

     

    Behind the scenes of the new U.N. climate report, with Stanford scientists
    Chris Field spent five years leading the international team of scientists that drafted the latest report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

    Field Lab

     

    Climate change report shows alarming trends

    ABC NEWS -Tuesday, April 01, 2014

    Wayne Freedman

    PALO ALTO, Calif. (KGO) — … ABC7 News spoke with Terry Root, Ph.D., of Stanford, who worked on this report and says the trends are alarming. “You don’t tell how bad it is because it will paralyze people,” said Root. Root is one name among hundreds of scientists who worked on this latest climate change report. The word frustration fails to capture the full measure of her concern. “When I started in this field 25 years ago, I really believed that we could stop mass extinction from occurring. I’m now to the place where I see we’re on the trajectory that mass extinction will occur. We’re going to lose half the species on the planet. It will be very hard not to lose half the species on the planet,” said Root… California’s drought is also a product, not just of weather, but the long term effect of climate on the weather. There will be less snow, earlier springs and runoffs, less water for crops. Sorry to scare you, Root says, but this is happening now, and if humans do not drastically reduce carbon emissions, we’ll see much worse.

     

    CNN Ignores Major Climate Report…..

    By Andrew Breiner on April 2, 2014 at 9:04 am

    CREDIT: Andrew Breiner

    On Monday, someone who just watched Fox News wouldn’t know that a U.N. panel’s report said that “breakdown of food systems” and “violent conflict” are likely impacts of even low levels of climate change over the next 100 years. But MSNBC’s coverage gave a thorough look at the risks detailed in the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report on climate change impacts, as well as the woeful state of efforts to mitigate its effects or cut carbon. The day the report came out, CNN devoted one minute and eight seconds to two segments giving a basic review of its contents, MSNBC spent 19 minutes and 49 seconds covering it in depth over a total of five segments, and Fox News dedicated five minutes, mostly to attacking the idea of climate change or of studying it at all. If a viewer was watching Fox, they learned that the main issue is whether it’s “alright for you to exhale without paying tax to the United Nations,” as Claudia Rosett of the neoconservative Foundation for Defense of Democracies told Neil Cavuto on his show. The short segment mocked the idea of the U.N. paying any attention at all to climate change as long as there are other issues like Russia and Korea to address

     

    Poll: Americans Still Unconcerned About Global Warming

    U.S. News & World Report (blog)

    April 4, 2014

           

    “A major challenge facing scientists and organizations that view global warming as a major threat to humanity is that average citizens express so little concern about the issue,” Gallup said.

     

     

     


     

     

     

     

    POINT BLUE in the news:

     

    Is Exxon Valdez oil still a threat 25 years on?

    20:00 20 March 2014 by John Wiens New Scientists

    Oil from the Exxon Valdez spill lingers, as do disputes about its current impact on wildlife. An ecologist asks what a quarter century of research can tell us

    In March 1989, the supertanker Exxon Valdez ran aground on Bligh Reef in Prince William Sound, off southern Alaska. More than 40 million litres of crude oil spilled into the frigid waters. Pushed by a late winter storm, the oil eventually contaminated 2100 kilometres of remote, rocky shoreline.

    It is estimated that it killed as many as 250,000 seabirds, 2000 sea otters, 300 harbour seals, 250 bald eagles and untold numbers of invertebrates living on nearby rocks and beaches. Fisheries closed, people’s lives were disrupted, and so lawyers went to work. Exxon faced a $5 billion damages claim for the worst spill in US coastal waters at the time, only since surpassed by the Deepwater Horizon disaster in the Gulf of Mexico. Practical measures quickly followed. Coast Guard and state oversight to help protect the sound was improved, containment and clean-up equipment was stockpiledin the area in case of future disasters and local fishermen were trained to respond to a spill. Tugs now escort tankers through the sound and many new ships have double hulls. Scientists also set to work, documenting what happened to the oil, its effects and the recovery of wildlife. The spill became the most intensively studied in the history of the oil industry. By and large, these studies showed that nearly all of the oil disappeared from shorelines within a few years and most of the wildlife recovered within a decade or less. Yet bones of contention do remain.

     

    John Wiens is chief scientist at ecology research group Point Blue in California, US. He is editor of Oil in the Environment: Legacies and lessons of the Exxon Valdez oil spill (Cambridge University Press)

     

     

    Extinctions reduce speciation

    April 4, 2014

    The same factors that increase the risk of species extinctions also reduce the chance that new species are formed. This is concluded by two biologists at Umeå University. Their findings are published in the April issue of the scientific journal Evolution.

     
     
     

    We often see alarming reports about the global biodiversity crisis through the extinction of species. The reasons why species become extinct is much discussed, particularly the consequences of human activities. Less often discussed is how environmental changes affect the chances that new species are formed. New species arise when groups of individuals within a species successively become so different that they eventually are recognized as separate species, usually defined as inability to interbreed and produce fertile offspring. Differences can arise in several ways. Groups could become isolated from each other on either side of barriers, for example a mountain range, or they can adapt to different conditions by natural selection. How often new species form varies dramatically among organism groups and regions. Researchers have, so far, attributed this variation to differences in the strength of the forces that cause the differences. Now, Umeå researchers Mats Dynesius and Roland Jansson argue that there is another very important reason for the variation in speciation probability: The groups within a species that may eventually become separate species must persist over long periods of time….

    Mats Dynesius, Roland Jansson. PERSISTENCE OF WITHIN-SPECIES LINEAGES: A NEGLECTED CONTROL OF SPECIATION RATES. Evolution, 2014; 68 (4): 923 DOI: 10.1111/evo.12316

     


    Fences Cause Ecological Meltdown, Study Shows



    Apr. 3, 2014 — Scientists have reviewed the ‘pros and cons’ of large scale fencing and argue that fencing should only be used as a last resort. Wildlife fences are constructed for a variety of reasons including to prevent the spread of diseases, protect wildlife from poachers, and to help manage small populations of threatened species. Human-wildlife conflict is another common reason for building fences: Wildlife can damage valuable livestock, crops, or infrastructure, some species carry diseases of agricultural concern, and a few threaten human lives. At the same time, people kill wild animals for food, trade, or to defend lives or property, and human activities degrade wildlife habitat. Separating people and wildlife by fencing can appear to be a mutually beneficial way to avoid such detrimental effects. But in a paper in the journal Science, published today, April 4th, 2014, WCS and ZSL scientists review the ‘pros and cons’ of large scale fencing and argue that fencing should only be used as a last resort. Although fencing can have conservation benefits, it also has costs. When areas of contiguous wildlife habitat are converted into islands, the resulting small and isolated populations are prone to extinction, and the resulting loss of predators and other larger-bodied species can affect interactions between species in ways that cause further local extinctions, a process which has been termed “ecological meltdown.”… The authors conclude that as climate change increases the importance of facilitating wildlife mobility and maintaining landscape connectivity, fence removal may become an important form of climate change preparedness, and so fencing of wildlife should be avoided whenever possible.

    R. Woodroffe, S. Hedges, S. M. Durant. To Fence or Not to Fence. Science, 2014; 344 (6179): 46 DOI: 10.1126/science.1246251

     


    Credit: Rufus Isaacs

    Attracting wild bees to farms is good insurance policy

    April 3, 2014 Michigan State University

    Investing in habitat that attracts and supports wild bees in farms is not only an effective approach to helping enhance crop pollination, but it can also pay for itself in four years or less, according to Michigan State University research.

     
     
     

    The paper, published in the current issue of the Journal of Applied Ecology, gives farmers of pollination-dependent crops tangible results to convert marginal acreage to fields of wildflowers, said Rufus Isaacs, MSU entomologist and co-author of the paper.

    “Other studies have demonstrated that creating flowering habitat will attract wild bees, and a few have shown that this can increase yields,” he said. “This is the first paper that demonstrates an economic advantage. This gives us a strong argument to present to farmers that this method works, and it puts money back in their pockets.”…

     

     

     
     
     

    Sage grouse losing habitat to fire as endangered species decision looms

    April 3, 2014 Ecological Society of America

    As fires sweep more frequently across the American Great Basin, the US Bureau of Land Management (BLM) has been tasked with reseeding the burned landscapes to stabilize soils. BLM’s interventions have not helped to restore habitat for the greater sage grouse (Centrocercus urophasianus) reported scientists from the US Geological Survey (USGS) and US Forest Service in the Ecological Society of America’s journal Ecosphere last week, but outlier project sites with good grouse habitat may yield clues to successful management scenarios.

     
     
     

    Their report arrives in the shadow of a pending decision by the US Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) to protect the sage grouse under the Endangered Species Act, and efforts by BLM and FWS to establish voluntary conservation and restoration management plans in lieu of endangered species listing mandates.

    Protection of sage grouse under the Endangered Species Act could affect the management of 250,000 square miles of land in the western US. FWS must decide on the grouse’s protection status by the end of FY 2015.

     

    Wildfire is the predominant cause of habitat loss in the Great Basin. The sagebrush ecosystem is not adapted to frequent fires like some forests in California and the central Rockies, and fires have increased in frequency and in size over the last half century….

     

    Experimental techniques have some promise, and include multiple seedings when the first try fails, out-planting pods of seedlings, and using different types of drill seeding equipment. Reseeding burns with local varietals or close genetic matches could improve recruitment. Controlling non-native plants with herbicides and fungal infections has been tried, with mixed results. But the factors that ultimately determine the survival of the sagebrush ecosystem may be out of managers’ control. The study, and another tracking the recovery of mountain big sagebrush (A. tridentata subsp. vaseyana) at high elevation, suggest that climate may play a role in the failure of big sage germination and establishment in hotter locations. Managers can try to work with and around climate and weather constraints, but impending climate changes will likely make this task more difficult. Some sites are more resilient than others. It’s possible that parts of the Great Basin will cross a tipping point of climate and species representation, from which they cannot return.

     

    “There is potential for sites to move into a new plant community state,” said Arkle. “It’s possible that some have gone past a threshold. We could have a really difficult time trying to move them back to plant communities that existed historically.”

     

    Robert S. Arkle, David S. Pilliod, Steven E. Hanser, Matthew L. Brooks, Jeanne C. Chambers, James B. Grace, Kevin C. Knutson, David A. Pyke, Justin L. Welty, Troy A. Wirth. Quantifying restoration effectiveness using multi-scale habitat models: implications for sage-grouse in the Great Basin. Ecosphere, 2014; 5 (3): art31 DOI: 10.1890/ES13-00278.1




    In the Pastures of Colombia, Cows, Crops and Timber Coexist

    As an ambitious program in Colombia demonstrates, combining grazing and agriculture with tree cultivation can coax more food from each acre, boost farmers’ incomes, restore degraded landscapes, and make farmland more resilient to climate change.

    Lisa Palmer
    13 Mar 2014: Analysis Environment 360

    Over the last two decades, cattle rancher Carlos Hernando Molina has replaced 220 acres of open pastureland with trees, shrubs, and bushy vegetation. But he hasn’t eliminated the cows. Today, his land in southwestern Colombia more closely resembles a perennial nursery at a garden center than a grazing area. Native, high-value timber like mahogany and samanea grow close together along the perimeter of the pasture. The trees are strung with electric wire and act as live fences. In the middle of the pen grow leucaena trees, a protein-packed forage tree, and beneath the leucaena are three types of tropical grasses and groundcover such as peanuts. In Colombia’s Cauca Valley, cattle first eat leucaena leaves, then tropical grasses. The plants provide his 90 head of cattle with vertical layers of grazing, leading to twice the milk and meat production per acre while reducing the amount of land needed to raise them. His operation is part of a trend globally to sustainably coax more food from each acre — without chemicals and fertilizers — while reducing greenhouse gas emissions, increasing biodiversity, and enhancing the land’s ability to withstand the effects of climate change. Livestock and their food needs take up 30 percent of land globally, according to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization. In Colombia, where cattle occupy 80 percent of agricultural area, pastures have contributed to soil degradation and deforestation and, in dry areas, have hastened desertification, according to Julián Chará, a researcher at the Center for Research in Sustainable Systems of Agriculture, CIPAV, in The cost and technical complexities of agroforestry are holding back the movement. Cali, Colombia. But a new paradigm is emerging. Land conservation is happening alongside livestock production. In Colombia, Molina’s brand of so-called “sustainable intensification” is the favored agroforestry practice for livestock production. Agroforestry cultivates trees with food crops or livestock, while farmers make use of the trees’ ecological benefits. Plantains grow above shade-loving coffee. Valuable hardwoods like oak grow in alleys next to corn and wheat…. Murgueitio says that some people may scoff at the sustainability innovations in cattle production because emissions from ruminants are one of the largest sources of greenhouse gases. Yet cattle raised using silvopastoral techniques can digest the forage more easily and reduce their methane emissions by 20 percent, according to researcher Michael Peters of the International Center or Tropical Agriculture in Cali, Colombia. The systems also enhance carbon sequestration in both trees and soils and reduce the need to use fire for pasture management. “Cattle ranching is seen as eco-bad no matter what,” says Lerner of Princeton University. “But there is a huge portion of global land area in pasture. Is there a way we can make these pastures better?”

     

     

    U.N. Court Orders Japan to Halt Whaling Off Antarctica

    By HIROKO TABUCHI and MARLISE SIMONSMARCH 31, 2014

    A January 2013 image from the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society shows three minke whales on the deck of a Japanese boat in the Southern Ocean. Credit Tim Watters/Sea Shepherd Australia, via European Pressphoto Agency

    TOKYO — The decision to ban Japan’s annual whaling drive off Antarctica, handed down by the United Nations’ highest court on Monday, was a hard-won victory for conservationists who long argued that Tokyo’s whaling research was a cover for commercial whaling.

    The ruling by the International Court of Justice in The Hague halts a Japanese program that has captured more than 10,000 minke and other whales in the Southern Ocean each year since 1988 in the name of biological research. Japan may not be ready to lay down its harpoons entirely. Though the ruling is final, it allows the Japanese to continue to hunt whales under a redesigned program, said Nanami Kurasawa, who heads a marine conservation group in Tokyo. And the court’s decision does not affect smaller hunts that Japan carries out in the northern Pacific, or coastal whaling carried out on a smaller scale by local fishermen. “It’s an important decision, but it also leaves the Japanese government a lot of leeway,” Ms. Kurasawa said. “The Japanese government could start research whaling again but under a different name, and it would be out of the ruling’s purview….Still, Japan’s whaling program has struggled financially in recent years, as more Japanese consumers turn up their noses at whale meat and as environmental activists chasing whaling boats make the hunts more difficult. Hunts in recent years have relied on public subsidies, including money drawn from funds earmarked for Japan’s post-tsunami reconstruction. Some critics said that Monday’s decision presented Japan with an opportunity to bow out of a practice that has become a drain on its finances, as well as a blow to its image abroad. “This might be a good time to quit,” said Toshio Kasuya, an early collaborator on Japan’s research program who has since become one of its harshest critics. From early on, it became clear to researchers that the program did not prioritize scientific discovery, he said….

     

    Political borders should not hamper wildlife  NATURE 508, 9 (03 April 2014) doi:10.1038/508009a

    Given the lack of global legislation, nations should work hard to establish cross-border protections for vulnerable species, says Aaron M. Ellison.

     


    Tracking Sperm Whales’ Ecology Through Stomach Contents



    Apr. 4, 2014 — While studying pygmy and dwarf sperm whales, a researcher involved in a new project stated that ‘understanding what resources support populations of these incredibly rare animals is important to … full story

     


    Oxygen Depletion in the Baltic Sea Is Ten Times Worse Than a Century Ago



    Mar. 31, 2014 — The Baltic Sea is suffering from a lack of oxygen. Poor oxygen conditions on the seabed are killing animals and plants, and experts are now sounding the alarm — releasing fewer nutrients into the … full story

     

    Birds of a feather: hummingbird family tree unveiled

    The Buff-tailed Sicklebill (Eutoxeres condamini), a Hermit hummingbird with a magnificently recurved …

    By Will Dunham April 3, 2014 WASHINGTON (Reuters) – For such small creatures, hummingbirds certainly have racked up an outsized list of unique claims to fame. They are the smallest birds and the smallest warm-blooded animals on Earth. They have the fastest heart and the fastest metabolism of any vertebrate. They are the only birds that can fly backward. And scientists reported on Thursday that they also have a complicated evolutionary history. Researchers constructed the family tree of these nectar-eating birds using genetic information from most of the world’s 338 hummingbird species and their closest relatives. They said hummingbirds can be divided into nine groups, with differences in size, habitat, feeding strategy and body shape. The common ancestor to all species in existence today lived about 22 million years ago in South America, several million years after hummingbirds were known to be flourishing in Europe, they said. Today’s hummingbirds are found only in the Americas…..”The fossil record for hummingbirds, and other small birds, is so poor that we really don’t know when European hummingbirds disappeared. It could have been 30 million years ago, or it could have been a few thousand years ago,” Witt said. The hummingbird evolutionary lineage split from a related group of small birds called swifts and treeswifts about 42 million years ago – most likely in Europe or Asia – and by 22 million years ago the ancestral species of modern hummingbirds was in South America, the researchers said.

    Hummingbirds found their way to South America probably after crossing a land bridge that once connected Siberia to Alaska, the researchers said. Once in South America, they expanded into new ecological niches and evolved new species, then spread back to North America about 12 million years ago and into the Caribbean about five million years ago, the researchers said. The biggest threat to hummingbirds is loss of habitat thanks to human activities. If people were not around, they “would just continue on their merry way evolving new species,” McGuire said….

     


    NASA Radar Watches Over California’s Aging Levees



    Apr. 3, 2014 — NASA is working with California’s water managers to spot tiny signs of trouble in the Sacramento River delta levees, using a research … full story

     

    Ocean Garbage Frustrates Search for Flight 370

    ABC News

     - ‎Mar 31, 2014‎

           

    “The ocean is like a plastic soup, bulked up with the croutons of these larger items,” said Los Angeles captain Charles Moore, an environmental advocate credited with bringing attention to an ocean gyre between Hawaii and California known as the Great …

     

     

     

     

     

    Too Many Salmon in the Sea, Pacific Study Hints

    Burgeoning numbers of pink salmon may threaten the food supply of young seabirds.

    Pink salmon (shown above spawning in Alaska) have increased since the 1970s, with an estimated 640 million returning to their breeding rivers in Asia and North America in 2009 alone.Photograph by Paul Souders, Corbis

    James Owen for National Geographic Published March 31, 2014

    Too many fish in the sea? Surging pink salmon stocks in the Pacific Ocean pose a risk to other wildlife, suggests a seabird study released on Monday that points to climate change as a culprit. (Related video: “Alaskan Salmon Adventure.“) Along with other salmon, pink salmon (Oncorhynchus gorbuscha) numbers have grown since the 1970s, with an estimated 640 million returning to their breeding rivers in Asia and North America in 2009 alone. (Read “The Long Journey of the Pacific Salmon” in National Geographic magazine.)

    Tied to rising ocean temperatures in the Bering Sea and North Pacific that spurred the growth of the prey of salmon and seabirds alike, the “much larger than previously known” impact of pink salmon is reported in a new Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences report.

    It’s “an uncommon case of too many fish in the sea,” says the report. The study, led by Alan Springer of the University of Alaska Fairbanks, found that salmon eating the food of seabirds appears to be cutting the birds’ numbers. “Very little is known about how open ocean ecosystems work, and the apparent effect on them by salmon, wild and hatchery produced, really must be considered,” Springer said by email. The finding points to unanticipated side effects on wildlife from climate change, with unexpected winners and losers. The just-released Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report (unrelated to the new salmon study) warns, for example, of warming oceans threatening Atlantic cod and tuna species. (Related: “New Climate Change Report Warns of Dire Consequences.”)

    Seabird Colonies

    To investigate potential food competition between pink salmon and other marine life, the team focused on seabird colonies in the Bering Sea and Aleutian Islands. Monitored by scientists since 1984, these colonies changed as the number of pink salmon increased. Specifically, the study team tied the breeding fortunes of seabirds to the two-year life cycle of pink salmon. Each year, the salmon naturally alternate between high and low levels of abundance in the sea. In the salmon-rich years, the team found, the breeding success of birds such as kittiwakes and puffins was significantly less than in the alternate years. Some species laid fewer eggs, up to half as many as they did previously; the eggs also hatched much later, and fewer of the young survived.
    The affected seabirds are species that, like pink salmon, have an omnivorous diet, with prey ranging from zooplankton to squid and Atka mackerel. Evidence that pink salmon are “a major influence” on these seabirds is “compelling,” the team concludes….

     

     

     

    Climate change, pink salmon, and the nexus between bottom-up and top-down forcing in the subarctic Pacific Ocean and Bering Sea

    Alan M. Springer and Gus B. van Vliet PNAS March 4, 2014

    Abstract

    Climate change in the last century was associated with spectacular growth of many wild Pacific salmon stocks in the North Pacific Ocean and Bering Sea, apparently through bottom-up forcing linking meteorology to ocean physics, water temperature, and plankton production. One species in particular, pink salmon, became so numerous by the 1990s that they began to dominate other species of salmon for prey resources and to exert top-down control in the open ocean ecosystem. Information from long-term monitoring of seabirds in the Aleutian Islands and Bering Sea reveals that the sphere of influence of pink salmon is much larger than previously known. Seabirds, pink salmon, other species of salmon, and by extension other higher-order predators, are tightly linked ecologically and must be included in international management and conservation policies for sustaining all species that compete for common, finite resource pools. These data further emphasize that the unique 2-y cycle in abundance of pink salmon drives interannual shifts between two alternate states of a complex marine ecosystem.

     

     

    ‘Like a giant elevator to the stratosphere:’ Newly discovered atmospheric layer may impact earth’s climate

    April 4, 2014 Alfred Wegener Institute, Helmholtz Centre for Polar and Marine Research

    An international team of researchers has discovered a previously unknown atmospheric phenomenon over the tropical West Pacific. Like in a giant elevator to the stratosphere, many chemical compounds emitted at the ground pass unfiltered through the so-called ‘detergent layer’ of the atmosphere, known as the ‘OH shield.’ The newly discovered phenomenon over the South Seas boosts ozone depletion in the polar regions and could have a significant influence on the future climate of the Earth…. “Even though the sky appears to be an extensively uniform space for most people, it is composed of chemically and physically very different layers,” Markus Rex explains the complex makeup of the atmosphere. The air layers near the ground contain hundreds or even thousands of chemical compounds. This is why winter and spring, mountains and sea, city and forests all have a distinct smell. The great majority of these substances are broken down into water-soluble compounds in the lower kilometres of the atmosphere and are subsequently washed out by rain. Since these processes require the presence of a certain chemical substance, the so called hydroxyl (=OH) radical, this part of the atmosphere is called the “OH shield.” It acts like a huge atmospheric washing machine in which OH is the detergent. The OH shield is part of the troposphere, as the lower part of the atmosphere is called.

    “Only a few, extremely long-lived compounds manage to make their way through the OH shield,” says Rex, “then they also get through the tropopause and enter the stratosphere.” Tropopause refers to the boundary layer between the troposphere and the next atmospheric layer above it, the stratosphere. Particularly substances that enter the stratosphere unfold a global impact. The reason for this is that once they have reached the stratosphere, their degradation products remain up there for many years and spread over the entire globe. Extremely long-lived chemical compounds find their way to the stratosphere, even where the OH shield is intact. These include methane, nitrous oxide (“laughing gas”), halons, methyl bromide and chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs), which are notorious as “ozone killers” because they play a major role in ozone depletion in the polar regions. After many years of research scientists now understand the complicated process of stratospheric ozone depletion very well.

    …..”We have to realise,” reminds the Potsdam atmospheric physicist, “that chemical compounds which enter the stratosphere always have a global impact.” Thanks to the OH hole that the researchers discovered over the tropical Pacific, greater amounts of brominated hydrocarbons can reach the stratosphere than in other parts of the world. Although their ascent takes place over the tropical West Pacific, these compounds amplify ozone depletion in the polar regions. Since scientists identified this phenomenon and took it into account in the modelling of stratospheric ozone depletion, their models have corresponded excellently with the actually measured data. However, it is not only brominated hydrocarbons that enter the stratosphere over the tropical West Pacific. “You can imagine this region as a giant elevator to the stratosphere,” states Markus Rex using an apt comparison. Other substances, too, rise here to a yet unknown extent while they are intercepted to a larger extent in the OH shield elsewhere on the globe. One example is sulphur dioxide, which has a significant impact on the climate….

    If one takes into account that sulphur dioxide may also reach the stratosphere via the OH hole over the tropical West Pacific, it quickly becomes obvious that the atmospheric elevator over the South Seas not only boosts ozone depletion, but may influence the climate of the entire Earth. In fact, the aerosol layer in the stratosphere, which is also composed of sulphur particles, seems to have become thicker in recent years. Researchers do not know yet whether there is a connection here. But wouldn’t it be a stroke of luck if air pollutants from South East Asia were able to mitigate climate warming? “By no means,” Markus Rex vigorously shakes his head. “The OH hole over the South Seas is above all further evidence of how complex climate processes are. And we are still a long way off from being in a position to assess the consequences of increased sulphur input into the stratosphere. Therefore, we should make every effort to understand the processes in the atmosphere as best we can and avoid any form of conscious or unconscious manipulation that would have an unknown outcome.”

     

    Background:

     

    Why is there an OH (hydroxyl radicals) hole over the West Pacific?

    The air in the tropical West Pacific is extremely clean. Air masses in this area were transported across the expanse of the huge Pacific with the trade winds and for a long time no longer had contact with forests or other land ecosystems that produce innumerable short-lived hydrocarbons and release them into the air. Under these clean air conditions OH is formed from ozone through chemical transformation to a great degree. If there is hardly any ozone in the lower atmosphere (= troposphere), as is the case in the West Pacific, only little OH can be formed. The result is an OH hole.

    Ozone, in turn, forms in the lower atmosphere only if there are sufficient nitrogen oxides there. Large amounts of nitrogen oxide compounds are produced in particular by intensive lightning over land. However, the air masses in the tropical West Pacific were not exposed to any continental tropical storms for a very long time during their transport across the giant ocean. And the lightning activity in storms over the ocean is relatively small. At the same time the lifetime of atmospheric ozone is short due to the exceptionally warm and moist conditions in the tropical West Pacific. In this South Sea region the surface temperatures of the ocean are higher than anywhere else on our planet, which makes the air not only quite warm, but also quite moist. The ozone is thus quickly lost, especially directly above the water. And due to the lack of nitrogen oxide compounds little ozone is subsequently formed. Rapid vertical mixing in the convection areas that exist everywhere over the warm ocean and in which the warm air rises takes care of the rest. Finally, there is no more ozone in the entire column of air in the troposphere. And without ozone (see above) the formation of OH is suppressed.

     

    What impact does the OH hole over the West Pacific have?

    The OH molecule is also called the detergent of the atmosphere. Nearly all of the thousands of different chemical substances produced by people, animals, plants, fungi, algae or microorganisms on the ground or in the oceans react quickly with OH and break down in this process. Therefore, virtually none of these substances rises into the stratosphere. In the area of the OH hole, however, a larger portion of this varied chemical mix can enter the stratosphere.

    And local emissions may unfold a global impact, especially if they make it to the stratosphere. There they spread globally and can influence the composition of the air for many years — with far-reaching consequences for ozone chemistry, aerosol formation and climate.

     

    Why wasn’t the OH hole discovered earlier?

    The tropical West Pacific is one of the most remote regions on our planet. That is why extensive measurements of the air composition have yet to take place in this area. There is also a considerable gap in the otherwise dense network of global ozone measurement stations here. Even in the past measurements from the peripheral sections of the now investigated region showed minimal ozone values in the area of the upper troposphere, but not the consistently low values that have now been found across the entire depth of the troposphere. The newly discovered phenomenon reveals itself in its full scope only through the measurements that were conducted to such an extensive degree for the first time and was thus not able to be grasped at all previously.

     

     

    Scientists unmask the climate uncertainty monster

    April 4, 2014 University of Bristol

    Scientific uncertainty has been described as a ‘monster’ that prevents understanding and delays mitigative action in response to climate change. New research by Professor Stephan Lewandowsky of the University of Bristol, and international colleagues, shows that uncertainty should make us more rather than less concerned about climate change. In two companion papers, published today in Climatic Change, the researchers investigated the mathematics of uncertainty in the climate system and showed that increased scientific uncertainty necessitates even greater action to mitigate climate change. The scientists used an ordinal approach — a range of mathematical methods that address the question: ‘What would the consequences be if uncertainty is even greater than we think it is?’ They show that as uncertainty in the temperature increase expected with a doubling of CO2 from pre-industrial levels rises, so do the economic damages of increased climate change. Greater uncertainty also increases the likelihood of exceeding ‘safe’ temperature limits and the probability of failing to reach mitigation targets. The authors highlight this with the case of future sea level, as larger uncertainty in sea level rise requires greater precautionary action to manage flood risk…

     
     
     

     

     

    Warming climate may spread drying to a third of earth: Heat, not just rainfall, plays into new projections
    (March 31, 2014)A new study estimates that 12 percent of land will be subject to drought by 2100 through rainfall changes alone; but the drying will spread to 30 percent of land if higher evaporation rates are considered. An increase in evaporative drying means that even regions expected to get more rain, including important wheat, corn and rice belts in the western United States and southeastern China, will be at risk of drought. … Increasing heat is expected to extend dry conditions to far more farmland and cities by the end of the century than changes in rainfall alone, says a new study. Much of the concern about future drought under global warming has focused on rainfall projections, but higher evaporation rates may also play an important role as warmer temperatures wring more moisture from the soil, even in some places where rainfall is forecasted to increase, say the researchers.

     
     
     

    The study is one of the first to use the latest climate simulations to model the effects of both changing rainfall and evaporation rates on future drought. Published this month in the journal Climate Dynamics, the study estimates that 12 percent of land will be subject to drought by 2100 through rainfall changes alone; but the drying will spread to 30 percent of land if higher evaporation rates from the added energy and humidity in the atmosphere is considered. An increase in evaporative drying means that even regions expected to get more rain, including important wheat, corn and rice belts in the western United States and southeastern China, will be at risk of drought. The study excludes Antarctica. “We know from basic physics that warmer temperatures will help to dry things out,” said the study’s lead author, Benjamin Cook, a climate scientist with joint appointments at Columbia University’s Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory and the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies. “Even if precipitation changes in the future are uncertain, there are good reasons to be concerned about water resources.” In its latest climate report, the International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) warns that soil moisture is expected to decline globally and that already dry regions will be at greater risk of agricultural drought. The IPCC also predicts a strong chance of soil moisture drying in the Mediterranean, southwestern United States and southern African regions, consistent with the Climate Dynamics study…The study builds on an emerging body of research looking at how evaporative demand influences hydroclimate. “It confirms something we’ve suspected for a long time,” said Toby Ault, a climate scientist at Cornell University, who was not involved in the study. “Temperature alone can make drought more widespread. Studies like this give us a few new powerful tools to plan for and adapt to climate change.” Rainfall changes do not tell the whole story, agrees University of New South Wales researcher Steven Sherwood, in a recent Perspectives piece in the leading journal Science. “Many regions will get more rain, but it appears that few will get enough to keep pace with the growing evaporative demand.”

     

    Benjamin I. Cook, Jason E. Smerdon, Richard Seager, Sloan Coats. Global warming and 21st century drying. Climate Dynamics, 2014; DOI: 10.1007/s00382-014-2075-y

     


    Arctic Melt Season Lengthening, Ocean Rapidly Warming



    Mar. 31, 2014 – The length of the melt season for Arctic sea ice is growing by several days each decade, and an earlier start to the melt season is allowing the Arctic Ocean to absorb enough additional solar radiation in some places to melt as much as four feet of the Arctic ice cap’s thickness, according to a new study by National Snow and Ice Data Center (NSIDC) and NASA researchers. Arctic sea ice has been in sharp decline during the last four decades. The sea ice cover is shrinking and thinning, making scientists think an ice-free Arctic Ocean during the summer might be reached this century. The seven lowest September sea ice extents in the satellite record have all occurred in the past seven years. “The Arctic is warming and this is causing the melt season to last longer,” said Julienne Stroeve, a senior scientist at NSIDC, Boulder and lead author of the new study, which has been accepted for publication in Geophysical Research Letters. “The lengthening of the melt season is allowing for more of the sun’s energy to get stored in the ocean and increase ice melt during the summer, overall weakening the sea ice cover.”… Despite large regional variations in the beginning and end of the melt season, the Arctic melt season has lengthened on average by five days per decade from 1979 to 2013. Still, weather makes the timing of the autumn freeze-up vary a lot from year to year….
    They found that the ice pack and ocean waters are absorbing more and more sunlight due both to an earlier opening of the waters and a darkening of the sea ice. The sea ice cover is becoming less reflective because it now mostly consists of thinner, younger ice, which is less reflective than the older ice that previously dominated the ice pack. Also, the young ice is flatter, allowing the dark melt ponds that form at the early stages of the melt season are able to spread more widely, further lowering its albedo.
    …The increases in surface ocean temperatures, combined with a warming Arctic atmosphere due to climate change, explain the delayed freeze up in the fall. “If air and ocean temperatures are similar, the ocean is not going to lose heat to the atmosphere as fast as it would when the differences are greater,” said Linette Boisvert, co-author of the paper and a cryospheric scientist at Goddard. “In the last years, the upper ocean heat content is much higher than it used to be, so it’s going to take a longer time to cool off and for freeze up to begin.”

     

    Why Arctic ice is disappearing more rapidly than expected: River ice reveals new twist on Arctic melt
    (April 2, 2014) — A new study has discovered unexpected climate-driven changes in the mighty Mackenzie River’s ice breakup. This discovery may help resolve the complex puzzle underlying why Arctic ice is disappearing more rapidly than expected. … > full story

     

     

    Arctic Sea Ice Cover Was Fifth-Smallest On Record This Year

    By Joanna M. Foster on April 3, 2014

    Arctic sea ice remains on a dangerous downward trend as this year’s peak cover ranks fifth lowest on record… In the latest IPCC report, the world’s leading climate scientists confirmed that Arctic summer sea ice was declining at rates much faster than predicted by most models….

     

     
     
     

    Natural variation: Warm North Atlantic Ocean promotes extreme winters in US and Europe

    April 1, 2014

    The extreme cold weather observed across Europe and the east coast of the US in recent winters could be partly down to natural, long-term variations in sea surface temperatures, according to a new study published today. Researchers from the University of California Irvine have shown that a phenomenon known as the Atlantic Multidecadal Oscillation (AMO) — a natural pattern of variation in North Atlantic sea surface temperatures that switches between a positive and negative phase every 60-70 years — can affect an atmospheric circulation pattern, known as the North Atlantic Oscillation (NAO), that influences the temperature and precipitation over the Northern Hemisphere in winter. When the AMO is in its positive phase and the sea surface temperatures are warmer, the study has shown that the main effect in winter is to promote the negative phase of the NAO which leads to “blocking” episodes over the North Atlantic sector, allowing cold weather systems to exist over the eastern US and Europe. The results have been published today, Wednesday 2 April, in IOP Publishing’s journal Environmental Research Letters.
    To arrive at their results, the researchers combined observations from the past century with climate simulations of the atmospheric response to the AMO. According to their observations, sea surface temperatures in the Atlantic can be up to 1.5 °C warmer in the Gulf Stream region during the positive phase of the AMO compared to the negative, colder phase. The climate simulations suggest that these specific anomalies in sea surface temperatures can play a predominant role in promoting the change in the NAO. Lead authors of the study Yannick Peings and Gudrun Magnusdottir said: “Our results indicate that the main effect of the positive AMO in winter is to promote the occurrence of the negative phase of the NAO. A negative NAO in winter usually goes hand-in-hand with cold weather in the eastern US and north-western Europe.” The observations also suggest that it takes around 10-15 years before the positive phase of AMO has any significant effect on the NAO. The reason for this lag is unknown; however, an explanation might be that AMO phases take time to develop fully. As the AMO has been in a positive phase since the early 1990s, it may have contributed to the extreme winters that both the US and Europe have experienced in recent years. The researchers warn, however, that the future evolution of the AMO remains uncertain, with many factors potentially affecting how it interacts with atmospheric circulation patterns, such as Arctic sea ice loss, changes in solar radiation, volcanic eruptions and concentrations of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere.

     

    This heat map shows the areas of the United States where the soil microbial biomass is susceptible to changes in vegetation cover. Credit: Image courtesy of Yale School of Forestry & Environmental Studies

    Deforestation of Sandy Soils a Greater Climate Threat

    Apr. 1, 2014 —Deforestation may have far greater consequences for climate change in some soils than in others, according to new research led by Yale University scientists — a finding that could provide critical insights into which ecosystems must be managed with extra care because they are vulnerable to biodiversity loss and which ecosystems are more resilient to widespread tree removal.

     
     
     

    In a comprehensive analysis of soil collected from 11 distinct U.S. regions, from Hawaii to northern Alaska, researchers found that the extent to which deforestation disturbs underground microbial communities that regulate the loss of carbon into the atmosphere depends almost exclusively on the texture of the soil. The results were published in the journal Global Change Biology.We were astonished that biodiversity changes were so strongly affected by soil texture and that it was such an overriding factor,” said Thomas Crowther, a postdoctoral fellow at the Yale School of Forestry & Environmental Studies and lead author of the study. “Texture overrode the effects of all the other variables that we thought might be important, including temperature, moisture, nutrient concentrations, and soil pH.”….full story

     

     


    Corals Don’t Lie: Centuries of Rising Sea Levels and Temperature Data Revealed



    Apr. 1, 2014 — Scientists have analyzed coral cores from the eastern Indian Ocean to understand how the unique coral reefs of Western Australia are affected by changing ocean currents and water temperatures. The … full story

     

    MIT Climate Scientist Responds on Disaster Costs And Climate Change

    Kerry Emanuel 12:13 PM Mar 31, 2014

    As someone who has spent some time looking at changes in the incidence of hurricanes around the planet, I have been asked to provide a response to Roger Pielke Jr.’s article “Disasters Cost More Than Ever — But Not Because of Climate Change,” published at FiveThirtyEight earlier this month.

    Let me begin by saying that I am sympathetic to Pielke’s emphasis on the role of changing demographics in increasing damages from natural disasters. This is a serious problem that could be addressed by wiser policies. For example, in the United States, policies regulating insurance and providing federal flood insurance and disaster relief have the effect of subsidizing risk-taking, and the recent repeal of large sections of the 2012 Biggert-Waters Federal Flood Insurance Reform Act shows just how difficult it is to reform these risk-inducing policies. Having said that, I’m not comfortable with Pielke’s assertion that climate change has played no role in the observed increase in damages from natural hazards; I don’t see how the data he cites support such a confident assertion. To begin with, it’s not necessarily appropriate to normalize damages by gross domestic product (GDP) if the intent is to detect an underlying climate trend….Looking ahead, I collaborated with Yale economist Robert Mendelsohn and his colleagues in estimating global hurricane damage changes through the year 2100, based on hurricanes “downscaled” from four climate models.
    We estimate that global hurricane damage will about double owing to demographic trends, and double again because of climate change.
    These projections are not inconsistent with what we’ve been seeing in hurricane data and in economic damage from hurricanes. Besides this study, there are robust theory and modeling results that show increased risk of hydrological extremes (floods and droughts) and heat-related problems. Some of these predicted trends are beginning to emerge in actuarial data. Governments, markets and ordinary people are beginning to account for the increased risk. Those who wait for actuarial trends to emerge at the 95 percent confidence level before acting do so at their peril.

     

     

    Arctic Warming Theory So Cutting Edge, It’s Hard to Prove

    Is the meltdown in the north weakening the jet stream and causing weird weather, or not?

    Apr 3, 2014 |By Stephanie Paige Ogburn and ClimateWire

    Last September, a group of scientists gathered to review the evidence on a new hypothesis: that the rapid warming of the Arctic was causing the jet stream to meander, leading weather systems to become “stuck” in places farther south, like over the United States and Europe. For example, a heat wave caught in a slow-moving, kinked-up jet stream might linger over a city like Chicago for days. Or a storm system could stall over Europe, dumping excess rain and leading to floods. If the hypothesis turns out to be true, it’s a clear signal of how climate change is affecting day-to-day life in a heavily populated part of the world. But a new publication from the National Academy of Sciences, reporting on the meeting proceedings, makes it clear that the science on this topic is in its infancy with significantly more research needed to prove or disprove a connection. The idea that the warming Arctic has an effect on weather farther south has become a popular topic in the media and the public, which often seek to link severe weather events with climate change. “It resonates because it brings the large changes we see in the Arctic and brings them home, so to speak,” said Walt Meier, a research scientist at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center who attended the fall meeting. The problem, however, is that the hypothesis is so “cutting edge,” said Meier, that there is not a whole lot of evidence to support it…..David Robinson, the New Jersey state climatologist and a researcher at Rutgers, who lead the workshop committee, said it’s hard to find statistically significant signals in part because dramatic Arctic sea ice loss has only been going on for a short period of time, since 2007. “It’s clearly not nearly long enough a record to be able to identify any linkages in a statistically significant sense,” he said. Robinson believes the hypothesis is a strong one. “I think Jen Francis presents incredible evidence,” he said. But the way that science works is that someone puts forth an idea, and then “everyone has at it,” he said. That’s the phase this hypothesis is in. The next step is for researchers working on the topic to come up with some common definitions and metrics, said Robinson. He said federal agencies, if they take an interest, could also put out calls for more research on the topic…..

     

     

     

    Smog: Worsening Saharan dust storms to become an annual Spring fixture as climate changes
    The Independent, United Kingdom

    The Saharan dust storms thickening Britain’s smog and coating cars from Cornwall to Aberdeen will become increasingly strong in the coming years as a “nasty mixture” of drought, development and intensive farming in North Africa pushes up air pollution.

     

    Be Worried: Climate Scientists Under Attack

    By Joe Romm on March 28, 2014

    Climate scientists are under attack like never before for telling the truth about about the growing dangers posed by unrestricted carbon pollution. Here’s how to help….

     

     


    Ancient Whodunit May Be Solved: Methane-Producing Microbes Did It!



    Mar. 31, 2014 — Methane-producing microbes may be responsible for the largest mass extinction in Earth’s history. Fossil remains show that sometime around 252 million years ago, about 90 percent of all species … full story

     

     

    DROUGHT:

     

    Despite storms, snowpack still far below normal – just 32% of average

    by Maven April 1, 2014

    From the Department of Water Resources:


    Department of Water Resources snow surveyors today found the Sierra snowpack boosted by late-season storms, but still far below normal as the spring melt fast approaches. Coupled with this winter’s scant rainfall, the meager snowpack — containing only 32 percent of average water content for the date – promises a gloomy summer for California farms and many communities. “We’re already seeing farmland fallowed and cities scrambling for water supplies,” said DWR Director Mark Cowin. “We can hope that conditions improve, but time is running out and conservation is the only tool we have against nature’s whim.” (Visit Drought.Ca.Gov for an update on how the state is dealing with the drought.)

    After a bone dry December and January, February and March storms brought some promise to the state, but have not broken the drought’s three-year grip as reservoirs, rainfall totals and the snowpack remain critically low. Today’s manual and electronic readings – at the time of year the snowpack normally is at its peak before melting into streams and reservoirs – record the snowpack’s statewide water content at just 32 percent of average. Electronic readings indicate that snowpack water content in the state’s northern mountains is 23 percent of normal. The electronic readings for the central and southern Sierra are 38 and 31 percent of normal, respectively.
    This is dismal news for farms and cities that normally depend on the snowpack – often called California’s largest reservoir – for a third of their water. And reservoirs are not making up the difference. Lake Oroville in Butte County, the State Water Project’s (SWP) principal reservoir, is at only 49 percent of its 3.5 million acre-foot capacity (64 percent of its historical average for the date). Shasta Lake north of Redding, California’s and the federal Central Valley Project’s (CVP) largest reservoir, is at 48 percent of its 4.5 million acre-foot capacity (60 percent of its historical average). San Luis Reservoir, a critical south-of-Delta reservoir for both the SWP and CVP, is a mere 42 percent of its 2 million acre-foot capacity (46 percent of average for this time of year) due both to dry weather and Delta pumping restrictions to protect salmon and Delta smelt. Snow surveyors from DWR and cooperating agencies manually measure snowpack water content on or about the first of the month from January through May to supplement and check the accuracy of real-time electronic readings. This year’s final manual survey is scheduled for May 1.

    Results of today’s manual readings by DWR off Highway 50 near Echo Summit are as follows:

    Location

    Elevation

    Snow Depth

    Water Content

    % of Long Term Average

    Alpha

    7,600 feet 

    inches 

    inches 

    missing 

    Phillips Station

    6,800 feet 

    33.7 inches 

    8.1 inches 

    29 

    Lyons Creek

    6,700 feet

    inches 

    inches 

    missing 

    Tamarack Flat

    6,500 feet 

    inches 

    inches 

    missing 

    On January 31, with no relief in sight after the winter’s first snow survey on January 3 found more bare ground than snow, DWR set its allocation of State Water Project water at zero. The allocation has not been increased. The only previous zero allocation (water delivery estimate) was for agriculture in the drought year of 1991, but cities that year received 30 percent of requested amounts. Despite the “zero” allocation, DWR has continued to deliver water essential for health and safety and nearly all people and areas served by the State Water Project also have other sources of water.

    Deliveries could still be boosted by improving hydrology. The final State Water Project allocation for calendar year 2013 was 35 percent of the slightly more than 4 million acre-feet requested by the 29 public agencies that collectively supply more than 25 million people and nearly a million acres of irrigated farmland. In 2012, the final allocation was 65 percent of the requested 4 million acre-feet. It was 80 percent in 2011, up dramatically from an initial allocation of 25 percent. The final allocation was 50 percent in 2010, 40 percent in 2009, 35 percent in 2008, and 60 percent in 2007. The last 100 percent allocation – difficult to achieve even in wet years because of Delta pumping restrictions to protect threatened and endangered fish – was in 2006. Although 2013 was the driest calendar year on record for much of California, last-minute November and December storms in 2012 – the first year of the current drought – replenished major reservoirs to somewhat mitigate dry conditions. That comfortable reservoir cushion is now gone. This year is on track to perhaps be California’s fifth or sixth driest year, with its final ranking to be determined.

    • Electronic snowpack readings are available on the Internet at:

    http://cdec.water.ca.gov/cdecapp/snowapp/sweq.action

    • Electronic reservoir readings may be found at:

    http://cdec.water.ca.gov/cdecapp/resapp/getResGraphsMain.action

    • For a broader snapshot of current and historical weather conditions, see DWR’s “Water Conditions” and “Drought” pages:

     

     

    California’s Drought: Key Facts & Reasons for Optimism

    PPICvideos·220 videos
    Published on Apr 2, 2014 5 min VIDEO—JEFF MOUNT

    California can adapt to the drought without major harm to the economy, says Jeff Mount, senior fellow at the Public Policy Institute of California (PPIC). He offers two reasons why.

     

    California drought: San Joaquin Valley sinking as farmers race to tap aquifer.
    San Jose Mercury News March 29,2014

    So wet was the San Joaquin Valley of Steve Arthur’s childhood that a single 240-foot-deep well could quench the thirst of an arid farm. Now his massive rig, bucking and belching, must drill 1,200 feet deep in search of ever-more-elusive water to sustain this wheat farm north of Bakersfield. Everybody is starting to panic,” said Arthur, whose Fresno-based well-drilling company just bought its ninth rig, off the Wyoming oil fields. “Without water, this valley can’t survive.” When water doesn’t fall from the sky or flow from reservoirs, there’s only one place to find it: underground. So, three years into a devastating drought, thirsty Californians are draining the precious aquifer beneath the nation’s most productive farmland like never before, pitting neighbor against neighbor in a perverse race to the bottom. The rush to drill is driven not just by historically dry conditions, but by a host of other factors that promote short-term consumption over long-term survival — new, more moisture-demanding crops; improved drilling technologies; and a surge of corporate investors seeking profits for agricultural ventures. Now those forces are renewing an age-old problem of environmental degradation: Decades ago, overpumping sunk half of the entire San Joaquin Valley, in one area as much as 28 feet. Today new areas are subsiding, some almost a foot each year, damaging bridges and vital canals. Yet in California, one of the few states that doesn’t regulate how much water can be pumped from underground, even this hasn’t been enough to create a consensus to stop. “It’s our savings account, and we’re draining it,” said Phil Isenberg of the Public Policy Institute of California, a former Sacramento mayor and assemblyman….

     

    California drought: Downpours fall far short of ending crisis

    State’s water demand far exceeding supply after very dry winter

    Kirk Anderson of Ripon (San Joaquin County) waits for friends Saturday at a lift at Sierra at Tahoe resort.

    By Peter Fimrite SF Chronicle March 31, 2014 | Updated: April 1, 2014 6:55am

    Snow surveyors are expected to tromp out into the Sierra powder Tuesday under a soft, steady patter of comforting precipitation, but the spring moisture is a cruel oasis in California’s desert of drought, according to leading climate and weather gurus. The pounding rain along the coast and fluffy snow in the mountains this week won’t come close to solving the state’s mounting water crisis, which has forced the state to turn off the spigot in many communities, a scenario that experts say is threatening farms, fish and homeowners. “The drought is not only severe, but it is extensive,” said Peter Gleick, president of the Pacific Institute, a nonprofit climate science and environmental research organization. “The demand for water exceeds the supply.” The best, most reliable measurement of California’s water supply is the Sierra snowpack, which is why surveyors with the California Department of Water Resources go out to calculate the water content. The Sierra now has an average of only 8 inches of water in the snow, based on measurements from 99 electronic monitoring stations. That’s 29 percent of normal. The averages will likely change as snow continues to fall this week and surveyors take measurements. Still, water department officials do not expect the water content to go much above a third of normal for this time of year. “The first significant precipitation in weeks likely will be too little and too late to have much impact on this year’s severe drought,” a department news release stated. “Snowpack and rain measurements are so far below normal for this time of year that even sustained rainfall over the next several days, as is predicted, won’t end the drought.”…

     

     

    California’s groundwater needs better protection

    Lester Snow SF Chronicle OPINION Published 5:16 pm, Monday, March 31, 2014

    Mother Nature’s last-ditch effort to make a dent in the drought with last week’s rain and snow won’t make any real difference for California’s water supply in 2014. The state will conduct its final measurement of snowpack in the Sierra Nevada today – an indicator of how much snow will melt and flow into our rivers, ultimately making its way to cities and farms throughout California. We don’t need that measurement to know that the drought persists and water supplies remain scarce. What’s more, we need to recognize that this drought may not be over any time soon. Geological records show that California has had droughts lasting not just years but decades. We would be foolish to assume that modern-day California is sheltered from the same fate – and we are far from prepared to deal with decadelong droughts. This drought serves to reveal fundamental weaknesses in our water management system. It highlights our collective failure to adequately invest and adapt to our 21st century reality of higher demand and greater volatility of annual water supply. Approaches that worked in the 1950s are not sufficient for a reliable water future in California. California faces a new set of challenges, including aging water infrastructure, more extreme droughts and floods, declining ecosystems and increasing demand. In addition, many groundwater basins throughout California are contaminated and overdrawn. Eighty-five percent of Californians rely on groundwater, but water levels are dropping at alarming rates. These groundwater supplies, the equivalent of water savings accounts, are essential for drought protection but today are in jeopardy…. As we are looking for every extra gallon of water to soften the effects of drought this summer, we still annually discharge 1.7 million acre-feet – more than 500 billion gallons – of wastewater into the ocean. This is water that could be reclaimed, stored and reused. Every storm results in urban runoff that must be captured and used, rather than polluting our coastal waters. While California has done well in conserving water, so much more can be done in both agricultural and urban use.

    Groundwater, when properly managed, can provide the most effective buffer against drought. In wet years, as we had in 2006 and 2011, water could be stored in groundwater banks for use during dry times. To make this work, we must empower local water managers with the authority necessary to sustainably manage groundwater basins and protect stored water. No one wants to invest in groundwater storage if rules aren’t in place to keep someone from taking more than their fair share. In order to adequately meet California’s water supply needs for decades to come, we must invest in more diverse water supplies, state-of-the-art conservation and effective storage in our groundwater basins to offset times of drought. …

     

     

    California drought: State needs to rethink how it uses water

    Tim Palmer Opinion SF Chronicle Published 5:28 pm, Tuesday, April 1, 2014

    One peril of being human is that we often respond poorly to crises. Because we now face one of the worst droughts in California history, the stage is set to flirt with error on a scale as colossal as the crisis itself. The House of Representatives, for example, passed HR3964 in February to indiscriminately move additional Northern California water southward, to abandon restoration of the beleaguered San Joaquin River and to hang our imperiled salmon out to dry. For the first time ever, a National Wild and Scenic River designation would be rescinded – the Merced River below Yosemite our unlikely victim. None of this would ease the drought or solve the problems we face, as noted by Gov. Jerry Brown, who called the bill “unwelcome and divisive.” Far more important than this retrograde edict, likely to be blocked in the Senate, the drought portends a future of chronic and crippling crises unless Californians embark on some reflection, initiative and change. Real change. Projections for global warming mean that 2014 could become a typical year in the decades ahead. The Scripps Institution forecast that Sierra snowpack may shrink by 80 percent this century. The old days of wide-open spigots are gone, and driving our salmon to extinction for a few emergency soakings of subsidized Central Valley croplands will not bring the old times back. While we have no choice but to wait for the rain, the way we respond to this crisis is up to us.

    If we invested further in water efficiency, total demands could be cut by 20 percent, according to the Pacific Institute. Statewide, 8 out of 10 gallons are used for agricultural irrigation, and the potential for savings in the farm sector are enormous. Drip irrigation, for example, is far more efficient than flooding or sprinkling, and vast acreage has been converted to drip methods in the past 20 years. More can be done if economic incentives would lead farmers to give up tenaciously held water rights from a time of great surplus instead of today’s great scarcity.

    Urban water supply improvements have made it possible for Southern California to add millions of people without increasing water use. More can be done to stretch domestic supplies statewide (many consumers’ water use in Sacramento, for example, is not even metered). Efficiency gains will be mandatory to simply keep pace with population growth, which is slated to again double in the next 50 years or so, posing ominous requirements that will intensify after all the feasible water-saving measures are taken.

    Water’s long-term availability raises questions about the sustainability of growth itself, and the crisis is not a bad time to begin asking how we expect to accommodate ever-rising demands. If we used the money that some are eager to lavish on uneconomic new dams and, instead invested in efficiency, we could shift away from crisis and toward smart management. The saved water would allow California to cope with the reductions mandated by a harsher climate and perhaps buy some time to question unlimited growth and the cultural, economic and demographic challenges it forces upon us.

    Our response to the drought highlights an unfortunate axiom of the human condition: As a society, we regard the laws of nature as optional when, in fact, they are absolute. Meanwhile, we regard our own customs and laws as immutable when, in fact, we can change them whenever we collectively decide to do so. In our minds, we have perfectly reversed the way nature and culture function. We can’t control the drought. But we can respond with foresight to the crises it delivers.

     

    Tim Palmer is the author of “Rivers of California,” “California Glaciers” and “Field Guide to California Rivers.” www.timpalmer.org.

     

     

     

     

     

     

    Lessons on resilience from America’s most crowded coast

    By Meera Subramanian Published in the March/April 2014 issue of Orion magazine

    Given the huge number of people who live on the world’s coasts, how will human populations adapt to an increasingly aquatic world? Do we stand strong, and demonstrate our clever technical ingenuity with floodgates and waterproof buildings? Or do we humbly bid a hasty retreat, scrambling for higher ground? It seems increasingly clear that there may be a third way….

     

    But instead of seeking out the big fix, most adaptation efforts are opting for a multifaceted approach. After Sandy, Mayor Bloomberg formed the Special Initiative for Rebuilding and Resiliency, and in June 2013, it released a comprehensive 440-page report, “A Stronger, More Resilient New York.” In it, the city proposes more than 250 different initiatives that would strengthen everything from the energy grid to communications networks to transportation systems. A proposal for a great flood barrier is notably absent. The city’s response echoes what is rising up like wrack on the high-tide line, a medley of ideas from all sectors across the boroughs and beyond. Many seek to embrace the best of technological advances and apply them in ways that foster, instead of resist, the fundamental laws of the natural world: Let the wetlands be wetlands, bird-festooned sponges. Remember the shape of New York’s native coastlines. Cultivate sand dunes and beach forests. If Richard George and the Beachside Bungalow Preservation Association could save a bit of coastline with thirty-five volunteers and a neighborhood cook, imagine what a whole country could do if it acted with nature in mind.

    The U.S. has over twelve thousand miles of coastline, home to 53 percent of Americans. What can the rest of us learn about coastal infrastructure from the shorelines of America’s largest city? I’d come to the Big Apple to find out….

     

    Governor Andrew Cuomo said in his State of the State address, a few months after Sandy. “She may only visit once every few years, but she owns the parcel and when she comes to visit, she visits.” Nature—in the form of rising seas—has already begun to visit a stretch of the East Coast from Cape Hatteras to Boston, which is experiencing sea level rise greater than the global average. And in 2013, the New York–area flood zone doubled when FEMA released its new maps. Some scientists think that even this is a grave underestimate of coastlines at risk….\

     

    Yet the word engineered evokes the wrong visual. Instead, imagine Staten Island circa 1850, with babbling brooks passing under stone bridges and along banks blooming in purple-flowered pickerelweed. Bluebelt designers, who use words like beautification and countrify to describe their work, draw their inspiration from mid-nineteenth-century photographs and native plant stock, as well as the latest knowledge of hydrological dynamics: strategically placed riffles and pools along with abundant plantings help soak up storm runoff pollutants like nitrogen and phosphorous. A moratorium on new building in wetlands along with buyouts like the one in Oakwood Beach are helping to expand the Bluebelt’s reach. “This is what some people like to call ‘thinking out of the box,’” says Staten Island borough president James Molinaro. “Instead of putting down sewers, you use nature to purify and disperse storm water. There’s both beauty and effectiveness.” The Bluebelt costs considerably less than a typical underground sewer system, and it provides the added benefit of fostering community open spaces and wildlife habitat. Neighborhoods can “adopt” a piece of the Bluebelt, and volunteer groups help with cleanups. The result is an ecosystem-wide maintenance program that brings together citizens and government in a creative way that is winning awards. …

     

    …ANOTHER UNLIKELY BUT INCREASINGLY sensible partnership for a livable New York is between humans and a more aquatically sophisticated member of the natural world—oysters. The city’s waterways were once dense with them. Jamaica Bay alone, a vast network of wetlands and marshes on the north side of the Rockaways, used to send 300,000 bushels of oysters to city markets each year. But by 1921, the impacts of sewage and industrial effluent, overharvesting, and dredging had taken a toll, and the oyster beds perished or, for health reasons, were no longer harvested.

    Now, New York City waters are cleaner than they’ve been in decades, and spat—the little larvae of oysters—are floating about, seeking out some substrate to latch on to so they can grow….Orff has proposed bringing back New York City’s lost oyster reefs—which could naturally help shield the city from future storm surges—in a project called Oyster-tecture.. .. Orff advocates dredging and filling waterways in a way that supports underwater ecosystems instead of destroying them. “I think a big part of this is thinking about it holistically,” she says. “You can use dredging and filling in a cut-and-build concept throughout the harbor to create a new set of edges and cross-sections that can become armatures for habitat.” As the oysters build upon themselves, making reefs out of their own shells, they work continually to clean the waters, acting as natural filtration systems.

     

    Of course, efforts like these can only do so much to counteract the effects of climate change. But if combined with a comprehensive rebuilding of New York’s natural features, they could make a real impact. “There is literally nothing that could have stopped the Sandy surge,” Orff says. “But hard and soft infrastructure solutions could be combined in a win-win-win scenario that would revitalize the harbor landscape, clean the water, and begin to address coastal protection.“…

     

    “Hurricane Sandy was information encoded in a storm,” he says. “If people begin to see the nature of our place, then they can begin to see the landscape strategies that history suggests are protective and adaptive over the long run: specifically, a combination of beaches, dunes, and salt marshes.”

    The process of reimagining New York City’s infrastructure with climate change in mind was underway before Sandy, but the storm’s devastation underscored the urgency of learning from nature and then planning and designing with her machinations in mind. There will be some managed retreat—some withdrawal from coastal areas that one hopes will be graceful—but there are also ways to stay along our shorelines safely. It demands rethinking the meaning of edge, redefining it as something more fluid and less rigid than the single hard line conveyed by a cartographer’s pen.

    To get there will require an era of collaboration and partnership, from government-level climate change panels to grassroots citizen efforts, from design competitions to smart-phone apps to gatherings of engineers, city planners, and scientists. It will take people stepping out to meet their neighbors—before the high waters come. Ultimately, such a collaborative approach could be our generation’s grand act of conciliation with the changing forces of the natural world—one that could represent a cautious step into a future that will allow us to keep some of our coveted seaside haunts while also conceding that some places we’ve set up camp are simply not ours to inhabit.

     


    Voluntary Climate Action Is a Function of Information and Education



    Apr. 3, 2014 — What is it that prompts citizens in Germany to do something about climate change on a voluntary basis? Of major significance here is a mixture of factual knowledge, subjective assumptions and hearsay. This is the result of an online field study involving 2,000 German citizens and conducted by environmental economists at Heidelberg University. In a research project at the Alfred Weber Institute for Economics, they inquired into the factors determining the so-called “willingness to pay” in connection with individual climate action.

     
     
     

    Project leader Prof. Timo Goeschl, Ph.D. tells us that in economics willingness to pay is an instrument widely used to express preferences and value judgements. “But the concept is not purely monetary and should not be viewed too restrictively. For economists willingness to pay refers to the investment of resources an individual could have made use of for other purposes. These can be money, time or work,” says Dr. Johannes Diederich, one of the researchers contributing to the project, which was funded by the German Research Foundation.

    ….”Willingness to pay for environmental goods like climate protection is definitely not carved in stone,” says Prof. Goeschel. “It is strongly influenced by how much an individual knows about the subject. But this knowledge is not merely the product of real facts, it is also made up of subjective assumptions and apparent knowledge.” Knowing more or even merely believing that one knows more, for example about one’s own contribution to climate change, will have a positive effect on the willingness to pay.

    Another crucial factor determining willingness to pay for individual climate action is education. “Better educated people are more likely to reject the money in favour of an emission reduction,” says Prof. Goeschl. “This is independent of their incomes and also of the knowledge they have about climate change and the phenomena associated with it.” The researchers came across an unexpected effect when they linked the decisions of their respondents with regional weather data. People living in places with higher outside temperatures were more likely to plump for emission reductions than for the money offered them. “We shall be looking into this effect in our further studies,” says Prof. Goeschl.

     

     

    College Classes Use Arts to Brace for Climate Change

    By RICHARD PÉREZ-PEÑAMARCH 31, 2014 NY TIMES

    A student presentation in a class, “The Cultures of Climate Change,” offered by the University of Oregon in Eugene. Credit Thomas Patterson for The New York Times

    EUGENE, Ore. — University courses on global warming have become common, and Prof. Stephanie LeMenager’s new class here at the University of Oregon has all the expected, alarming elements: rising oceans, displaced populations, political conflict, endangered animals.

    The goal of this class, however, is not to marshal evidence for climate change as a human-caused crisis, or to measure its effects — the reality and severity of it are taken as given — but how to think about it, prepare for it and respond to it. Instead of scientific texts, the class, “The Cultures of Climate Change,” focuses on films, poetry, photography, essays and a heavy dose of the mushrooming subgenre of speculative fiction known as climate fiction, or cli-fi, novels like “Odds Against Tomorrow,” by Nathaniel Rich, and “Solar,” by Ian McEwan….

     

    Card game aims to guide better climate adaptation decisions

    LONDON (Thomson Reuters Foundation) March 28, 2014 – A group of researchers based in Africa are using a game to explain a concept they have developed to help people adapt to climate change. “Flexible and forward-looking decision making” aims to help communities …

     

    ACCRA takes its resilience game to Uganda’s north eastern pastoral district of Kotido
    VIDEO

    May 9, 2013 YOUTUBE

    In November 2012, ACCRA together with its trainers visited Kotido district in north eastern Uganda (East Africa) to teach the district officials the ACCRA game on Flexible and Forward Decision Making on how the pastoral drought hit district of Kotido can cope with the global phenomenon of climate change through the resilience technique. In this almost five minutes film, the officials and the community elders give their first hand experience on how the game has improved their skills in helping the communities and the villagers to deal with climate change, through the resilience technique.

     

     

    SHOWTIME DOCUMENTARY-Showtime is doing with its new big-budget eight-part series Years of Living Dangerously, which will show the impact of climate change on our planet. Starts April 13th at 10 PM ET/PT.


     

     

     

     

     

     

    Climate Study Puts Diplomatic Pressure on Obama

    By CORAL DAVENPORT March 31, 2014 NY Times

    With no chance that Congress will agree to a huge increase in so-called climate aid, a new study on the effects of climate change creates a diplomatic challenge for President Obama.

     

    White House Unveils Plans to to Cut Methane Emissions

    By CORAL DAVENPORT March 29, 2014 NYTimes

    The move is the latest in a series of administration actions aimed at addressing climate change without waiting for congressional action.

     

     

    Is Canada Tarring Itself?

    By JACQUES LESLIEMARCH 30, 2014 NY Times Opinion

    Credit Kristian Hammerstad

    START with the term “tar sands.” In Canada only fervent opponents of oil development in northern Alberta dare to use those words; the preferred phrase is the more reassuring “oil sands.” Never mind that the “oil” in the world’s third largest petroleum reserve is in fact bitumen, a substance with the consistency of peanut butter, so viscous that another fossil fuel must be used to dilute it enough to make it flow. Never mind, too, that the process that turns bitumen into consumable oil is very dirty, even by the oil industry’s standards. But say “tar sands” in Canada, and you’ll risk being labeled unpatriotic, radical, subversive. Performing language makeovers is perhaps the most innocuous indication of the Canadian government’s headlong embrace of the oil industry’s wishes. Soon after becoming prime minister in 2006, Stephen Harper declared Canada “an emerging energy superpower,” and nearly everything he’s done since has buttressed this ambition. Forget the idea of Canada as dull, responsible and environmentally minded: That is so 20th century. Now it’s a desperado, placing all its chips on a world-be-damned, climate-altering tar sands bet.

     

    Documents obtained by research institutions and environmental groups through freedom-of-information requests show a government bent on extracting as much tar sands oil as possible, as quickly as possible. From 2008 to 2012, oil industry representatives registered 2,733 communications with government officials, a number dwarfing those of other industries. The oil industry used these communications to recommend changes in legislation to facilitate tar sands and pipeline development. In the vast majority of instances, the government followed through. In the United States, the tar sands debate focuses on Keystone XL, the 1,200-mile pipeline that would link Alberta oil to the Gulf of Mexico. What is often overlooked is that Keystone XL is only one of 13 pipelines completed or proposed by the Harper government — they would extend for 10,000 miles, not just to the gulf, but to both the Atlantic and the Pacific Oceans. …President Obama’s decision on Keystone XL, expected later this spring, is important not just because it will determine the pipeline’s fate, but because it will give momentum to one side or the other in the larger tar sands battle. Consequently, the Canadian government’s 2013-14 budget allocates nearly $22 million for pro-tar-sands promotional work outside Canada. It has used that money to buy ads and fund lobbyists in Washington and Europe, the latter as part of a continuing campaign against the European Union’s bitumen-discouraging Fuel Quality Directive….

    The pressure on environmentalists has been even more intense. Two years ago Natural Resources Minister Joe Oliver (who this month became finance minister) declared that some environmentalists “use funding from foreign special interest groups to undermine Canada’s national economic interest” and “threaten to hijack our regulatory system to achieve their radical ideological agenda.” Canada’s National Energy Board, an ostensibly independent regulatory agency, coordinated with the nation’s intelligence service, police and oil companies to spy on environmentalists. And Canada’s tax-collecting agency recently introduced rigorous audits of at least seven prominent environmental groups, diverting the groups’ already strained resources from anti-tar-sands activities. Few Canadians advocate immediately shutting down the tar sands — indeed, any public figure espousing that idea risks political oblivion. The government could defuse much tar sands opposition simply by advocating a more measured approach to its development, using the proceeds to head the country away from fossil fuels and toward a low-carbon, renewables-based future. That, in fact, was the policy recommended by the National Round Table on the Environment and the Economy, a nonpartisan, eminently moderate independent research group founded by another right-leaning prime minister, Brian Mulroney, in 1988. The Harper government showed what it thought of the policy when it disbanded the Round Table last year.

     

    Anadarko Agrees To Record $5 Billion Fine For ’85 Years Of Poisoning The Earth’

    By Emily Atkin on April 4, 2014 at 9:29 am

    Energy company Anadarko Petroleum Corp. on Thursday announced that it has agreed to pay $5.15 billion to clean up 85 years of harmful uranium, wood creosote, and rocket fuel pollution, in what is being widely
    reported as the largest environment settlement in history.
    The deal with the U.S. Department of Justice ends a long-running lawsuit against the Kerr-McGee company, an energy and chemical company owned by Anadarko. Kerr-McGee, the lawsuit claimed, was responsible for detrimental pollution at more than 2,000 sites nationwide which caused at least 8,000 cases of cancer, which in some cases led to death. “If you are responsible for 85 years of poisoning the earth, you are responsible for cleaning it up,” U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara said at a press conference. The settlement still must be approved by a federal judge after a 30-day public comment period.
    But if approved, U.S. Deputy Attorney General James Cole said $4.4 billion of the settlement would go toward cleanup and environmental claims. Of that $4.4 billion, The Navajo Nation would get about $1 billion to remedy radioactive contamination from Kerr-McGee’s shuttered uranium mining operation, according to the litigation trust. $1.1 billion would address pollution from ammonium perchlorate, a primary component of fuel, in Nevada. Another $1.1 billion would be dedicated to cleaning up more than two dozen other contaminated sites around the U.S…..

     

     

    Koch Brothers Quietly Seek To Ban New Mass Transit In Tennessee

    By Katie Valentine on April 1, 2014 at 10:47 am

    A rendering of Nashville’s Amp bus system.CREDIT: Nashville Metropolitan Transit Authority

    The Tennessee Senate passed a bill last week that, if approved, would broadly ban mass transit projects in the region, an anti-transit effort that’s gotten some help in the state from Charles and David Koch…..

     

     

     

     

     

    As Apple, Google, And Facebook Go Green, Report Says Amazon Still Uses Dirty Energy

    By Lauren C. Williams on April 4, 2014

    Greenpeace’s latest energy report called out Amazon as being one of the worst energy transgressors. But the report also praises Apple for completely switching to renewable energy, showing that public pressure and greater transparency can turn former energy offenders into most improved….

     

     

    China Wants To Close 1,725 Coal Mines By The End Of This Year

    By Jeff Spross on April 4, 2014 at 12:25 pm

    A truck loaded with coal from a mine in Mongolia, China. CREDIT: AP Photo / Andy Wong

    According to Reuters, China’s energy administration announced today that the country will close 1,725 small-scale coal mines over the course of 2014. The move is part of China’s plan to shutter older, less productive, and low-quality coal production — most of it in the east — and shift coal production to a series of “coal energy bases” in the northwest and other more remote regions of the country. “Local governments have been under orders to gradually shut all coal mines with annual production capacity of less than 90,000 [metric tons],” Reuters reported. “As well as those mines that are operating illegally and do not comply with state safety requirements.” China’s local governments will be required to publicly release details on what coal mines they have closed in order to improve enforcement and accountability. The program also demands that they encourage mergers and technological upgrades within the coal industry in order to combat a history of poor safety standards. The move is similar to the “name and shame” approach the Chinese government recently took to pressure cities and regions that fail to achieve their targets for air pollution reductions. An announcement from the Ministry of Environmental Protection last week revealed that only three Chinese cities out of 74 had fully complied with their pollution reduction targets for 2013. The Chinese capital of Beijing, along with several other major cities, has been hit recently by rolling, multi-day bouts of smog and air pollution that is many, many times the level consider safe by the World Health Organization. That’s a result of China’s reliance on coal for 70 to 80 percent of its electricity generation. And given the country’s enormous population, that also means China accounts for almost half of global coal consumption — making it the primary driver of global coal consumption, which has climbed upwards at a brisk clip since 2000. Combined with India’s coal burning, China’s course has driven Asia to surpass North America as the world’s leading territory for carbon dioxide emissions. The small-scale coal mine closures are one aspect of an effort to get coal down to 65 percent of China’s energy mix by the end of this year. And the country aims to cap its total coal production at 4.1 billion metric tons by 2015 — up from 3.7 billion metric tons in 2013. Unfortunately, the latest five-year plan from the Chinese government still leaves an opening for 860 million metric tons of new coal production capacity to be set up between 2011 and 2015. So a number of experts think China will most likely blow past that 4.1 billion cap.

     

    Three Mile Island anniversary: the lesson the nuclear industry refuses to learn. Thirty-five years after the world’s first nuclear-power scare, the nuclear industry hasn’t learned the most basic lesson from Three Mile Island: Get accurate information to the public in a timely manner. Christian Science Monitor


    Blue Is The New Green: How Oceans Could Power The Future


    By Ari Phillips on March 26, 2014 at 11:42 am In February, a natural gas power plant along the Central California coast closed after operating for more than 50 years, thus ending an era that saw the surrounding community of Morro Bay grow up around it. In an unlikely partnership, the shuttering may also help usher in a new era of energy generation — this one reliant on power from the waves that undulate through the bay before crashing up against the nearby shoreline. …

    Fish heart development and the Deepwater Horizon spill
    Oil spills, such as the 2010 Deepwater Horizon spill, may cause heart defects in developing fish embryos, according to a study.

     

    Stanford researcher turns wastewater into energy for treatment plants
    TomKat Center for Sustainable Energy

    Yaniv Scherson and colleagues have developed a way for sewage treatment plants to power themselves by converting ammonia to nitrous oxide gas.

      

    Wind farms can provide society a surplus of reliable clean energy 
    Society can “afford” the energetic cost of building batteries and other technologies to store wind energy on the grid, GCEP scientists find.
    Global Climate and Energy Project
     

     

    California climate law is paying off – literally

    Ryan Young and Alex Jackson SF Chronicle Published 12:47 pm, Sunday, March 30, 2014

    Fifth graders from the Hamlin School distribute free Compact Fluorescent Light bulbs in front of the Ferry Building to support World Wildlife Funds” Earth Hour. Photo by Deanne Fitzmaurice / San Francisco Chronicle

    The millions of Californians receiving the first “climate credit” on their electricity bills in April have the state’s landmark climate and clean energy law to thank. Not only is the Global Warming Solutions Act, known as AB32, reducing the amount of carbon pollution dumped into the atmosphere and improving the air we breathe, it also is literally paying off for customers of Pacific Gas and Electric, Southern California Edison and San Diego Gas and Electric. The California climate credit ranges from roughly $30 to $40 depending on the utility supplying your power. It will be distributed every year in April and October. It exemplifies California’s balanced approach to shift from fossil fuels to clean, low-carbon energy under AB32 by holding polluters accountable and ensuring households aren’t left with the cleanup bill. …

     

     

     

     
     

     

    UPCOMING CONFERENCES: 

     

    WATER RESOURCES MANAGEMENT  2014 Conference

    North (SF) Bay Watershed Association Friday, April 11, 2014  NOVATO, CA  8:00 AM to 4:30 PM PDT

    The conference will bring together key participants from around the North Bay to focus on how we can work together to manage our water resources.

    Keynote Speakers

    • Mark Cowin, Director, CA Department of Water Resources
    • Jared Huffman, U.S. Congressman, California 2nd District
    • Felicia Marcus, Chair, State Water Resources Control Board

    For more information or questions contact: Elizabeth Preim-Rohtla North Bay Watershed Association nbwa@marinwater.org 415-945-1475

     

    EARTH DAY 2014

    Stanford experts from a range of disciplines will discuss the interconnections and interactions among humanity’s need for and use of climate, energy, food, water, and environmental resources…..

     

    Southern Sierra Fire and Hydroclimate Workshop

    April 22-24, 2014 Yosemite Valley, CA

    This workshop is focused on developing an integrated view of the physical landscape, climate effects, hydrology and fire regimes of the Sierra Nevada.

     

    Sanctuary Currents Symposium; Marine Debris: How do you pitch in?
    Saturday April 26, 2014, University Center, California State University Monterey Bay

    Research Posters: Call for abstracts will occur in January.  Visit the Sanctuary Currents Symposium website for updates and information: Sanctuary Currents Symposium

     

     

    US EPA Climate Showcase Communities Replication Workshop
    April 30, 2014—Hotel Monaco, Baltimore, MD

    US EPA’s Climate Showcase Communities program is hosting a free, 1-day workshop highlighting successful local and tribal government climate and energy strategies that can be replicated in communities across the US. Panel themes will include:

     Please register for the workshop by April 15, 2014 at the conference registration website. For more information about the Climate Showcase Communities program, including a list of grantees and project descriptions, visit the Climate Showcase Communities website. To view a short video overview of past CSC Workshops, please visit our YouTube channel.  Please contact Andrea Denny with any questions.

    Scenario Planning toward Climate Change Adaptation (pdf) WORKSHOP May 6-8, 2014 NCTC, Shepherdstown, West Virginia

    This overview course will introduce the core elements of scenario planning and expose participants to a diversity of approaches and specific scenario development techniques that incorporate both qualitative and quantitative components.

     

    Climate Change: Challenges to California’s Agriculture and Natural Resources
    May 19, 2014; Sacramento, CA The California Museum, 1020 “O” Street, Sacramento, CA 95814
    The conference will bring together leading economists, analysts, scientists and policy makers from University of California, the state government, non-profits, and the private sector to discuss the potential impacts of climate change and the associated challenges to California agriculture and natural resources. Click here for more information.

     
     

    Headwaters to Ocean “H20″ Conference  May 27-29, 2014 San Diego, CA

     


    Ecosystems, Economy and Society: How large-scale restoration can stimulate sustainable development (in DC)

    29 – 30 MAY 2014 U.S. National Academy of Sciences, Washington DC, USA

     

     

    North America Congress for Conservation Biology Meeting. July 13-16, Missoula, MT. The biennial NACCB provides a forum for presenting and discussing new research and developments in conservation science and practice for addressing today’s conservation challenges.

    First Stewards
    July 21-23, Washington, DC.

    First Stewards will hold their 2nd annual symposium at the National Museum of the American Indian. This year’s theme is
    United Indigenous Voices Address Sustainability: Climate Change and Traditional Places

    99th Annual Meeting of the Ecological Society of America
    Sacramento, California  August 10-15, 2014  http://www.esa.org/sacramento

     

    California Adaptation Forum 
    August 19-20, 2014
    . SACRAMENTO, CA

    This two-day forum will build off a successful National Adaptation Forum held in Colorado in 2013. The attendance of many California leaders there underscored the need for a California-focused event, which will be held every other year to complement the biennial national conference.  To register go to:  https://www1.gotomeeting.com/register/886364449

    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.

     

     

     

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

     


    POINT BLUE CONSERVATION SCIENCE

    Point Blue Conservation Science, founded as Point Reyes Bird Observatory and based in Petaluma, California, is a growing and internationally renowned nonprofit with over 140 staff and seasonal scientists. Our highest priority is to reduce the impacts of accelerating changes in climate, land-use and the ocean on wildlife and people while promoting climate-smart conservation for a healthy, blue planet.  Point Blue advances conservation of nature for wildlife and people through science, partnerships and outreach. Our scientists work hand-in-hand with wildlife managers, private land owners, ranchers, farmers, other scientists, major conservation groups, and federal, state, and local government agencies and officials.  Point Blue has tripled in size over the past 12 years in response to the ever–increasing demand for sound science to assess and guide conservation investments in our rapidly changing world.  At the core of our work is innovative, collaborative science.

     

    Studying birds and other environmental indicators, we evaluate natural and human-driven change over time and guide our partners in adaptive management for improved conservation outcomes. We publish in peer-reviewed journals and contribute to the “conservation commons” of open access scientific knowledge. We also store, manage and interpret over 800 million bird and ecosystem observations from across North America and create sophisticated, yet accessible, decision support tools to improve conservation today and for an uncertain future. 

     

    This is a pivotal moment in the history of life on our planet requiring unprecedented actions to ensure that wildlife and people continue to thrive in the decades to come.  Working from the Sierra to the sea and as far away as the Ross Sea (Antarctica), Point Blue is collaboratively implementing climate-smart conservation.   Read more at www.pointblue.org.

     

     

    Conservation Project Manager
    Audubon California

    Audubon California is hiring a Conservation Project Manager who will be focused on enhancing managed wetlands and farmland by working with partners to implement practices and projects that increase habitat value for a wide diversity of migratory birds and other wildlife, with specific focus on target bird species of conservation need including the Tricolored Blackbird.  This position will work closely with a wide variety of partners including state and federal agencies, agricultural landowners, wetlands managers, and conservation organizations. We are looking for a candidate with strong communication skills, a passion for conservation, and knowledge of wetlands, bird conservation, and the agricultural sector.

     

     

     

     

    • OTHER NEWS OF INTEREST

     

    An unlikely victim of climate change: Derek Jeter’s favorite bat. March 30, 2014 Daily Climate

    Thriving in warmer winters, a beetle threatens a key source of Major League’s cherished wood bats: The white ash forests of Pennsylvania and New York.

     

    Europeans have three times more Neanderthal genes for lipid catabolism than Asians or Africans
    (
    April 2, 2014) — Contemporary Europeans have as many as three times more Neanderthal variants in genes involved in lipid catabolism than Asians and Africans. Although Neanderthals are extinct, fragments of their genomes persist in modern humans. These shared regions are unevenly distributed across the genome and some regions are particularly enriched with Neanderthal variants. … > full story

     

    Morning rays keep off pounds
    (
    April 2, 2014) — A surprising new strategy for managing your weight? Bright morning light. People who had most of their daily exposure to bright light in the morning had a significantly lower body mass index (BMI) than those who had most of their light exposure later in the day, reports a new study. The earlier light exposure occurred, the lower the BMI. The influence of morning light on weight was independent of physical activity, caloric intake, sleep timing, age or season. … > full story


    Allergy alert: Tidal wave of pent-up pollen could be headed our way. Washington Post

    In many parts of the world, the allergy season starts earlier and lasts longer each year, potentially due to climate change…


    Key Chocolate Ingredients Could Help Prevent Obesity, Diabetes



    Apr. 2, 2014 — Improved thinking. Decreased appetite. Lowered blood pressure. The potential health benefits of dark chocolate keep piling up, and scientists are now homing in on what ingredients in chocolate might … They found that adding one particular set of these compounds, known as oligomeric procyanidins (PCs), to the food made the biggest difference in keeping the mice’s weight down if they were on high-fat diets. They also improved glucose tolerance, which could potentially help prevent type-2 diabetes…. full story

     

    Eating fruits, vegetables linked to healthier arteries later in life
    (March 28, 2014) — Women who ate a diet high in fresh fruits and vegetables as young adults were much less likely to have plaque build-up in their arteries 20 years later compared with those who consumed lower amounts of these foods, according to research. This new finding reinforces the importance of developing healthy eating habits early in life. … > full story

     

     

     

     

    APRIL FOOLS:

     

    Hollywood cancels awards season. Hollywood Reporter

    Concerned about the carbon footprint of $600 bouquets, $200,000 haute couture dresses and imported caviar at countless after-parties, the Academy of Motion Pictures cancelled the 2015 Academy Awards and urged the Screen Actors Guild and Golden Globes to follow suit….

     

    Obama Takes Bold Step to Geoengineer Climate Change

    Posted: 04/01/2014 11:48 am EDT Updated: 04/01/2014 12:59 pm ED Bill Chameides/Duke Nicholas School for the Environment

    …A heavily redacted copy of a classified report titled “America Cools Down on Climate” (ACDC) and obtained by TheGreenGrok outlines the audacious plan to use commercial air traffic to mitigate the growing impacts of climate change across the United States….With the unqualified success of ACDC, there are rumors of a summertime geoengineering exercise: Phenological Revamping and other Natural Keys, or PRANK for short. We will be writing more about that one on April 1, 2015.

     

     

    ————————————————————————–

     

     

     

     

     

     

    FBI stung Sen. Yee, but Sacramento’s worse corruption is legal
    By David Horsey |  Apr 01, 2014

    Here’s a stimulating debate topic: Is the welfare of the Bear Republic more threatened by a few legislators who receive illegal bribes or by an entire breed of politicians who take legal campaign donations from unnamed billionaires with an ideological agenda?



     

    ————

    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. Natural History’s Place in Science and Society

    Leave a Comment

     

    Natural history must reclaim its place, experts say
    (March 26, 2014)
    (see links to full article and excerpts below)

     

    Support in developed countries for natural history — the study of the fundamental nature of organisms and how and where they live and interact with their environment — appears to be in steep decline. Yet natural history provides essential knowledge for fields as varied as human health, food security, conservation, land management, and recreation. In the April issue of BioScience, a group of scientists from institutions across North America details examples supporting their conviction that a revitalization of the practice of natural history will provide important benefits for science and society.

     
     
     

    The 17-member group of authors, convened by Joshua J. Tewksbury of the University of Washington and the World Wide Fund for Nature’s International office, notes that 75 percent of emerging infectious diseases of humans, including avian influenza, Lyme disease, cholera, and rabies, are linked to other animals at some point in their life cycle. Control strategies rely on knowledge of these hosts’ natural history.

     

    Sustainable agricultural practices, such as companion planting, crop rotation, and pest control, likewise rely on knowledge of natural history, much of which was, however, discarded with the Green Revolution. Effective fisheries management relies on natural history – disasters such as the collapse of the Bering Sea walleye pollock fishery might have been avoided had it been used sooner. Rigorous forest fire suppression in the western United States during much of the twentieth century was another costly mistake that might have ended sooner if natural history knowledge had been used earlier. And recreational hunting and fishing have often benefited when interest groups applied knowledge of natural history and suffered when it was ignored.

     

    Despite this, natural history collections are not expanding, and the number of active herbaria has declined since 1990 in Europe and North America. The majority of US schools now have no natural history requirements for a biology degree, a trend that has coincided with the rise of molecular, experimental, theoretical, and other forms of biology. These types of biology may be less expensive or be more likely to attract large grants and public recognition. The stagnation could also reflect more general public disengagement with nature in developed countries.Although biological modeling has become more sophisticated, Tewksbury and his coauthors note that models must be built on field observations to usefully represent the real world. The important influence of microbes on human health and plants is a key new frontier in natural history research, the authors believe.

     

    And they see hope for the discipline, both within and outside of traditional natural history collections, in the rise of Internet- and smart phone-based technologies that allow the growth of broad partnerships, including citizen-science initiatives. Such linkages are starting to develop, but will need established professionals to self-identify as natural historians to provide the leadership needed for natural history to reclaim its necessary role, the authors assert.

     

     

    Natural History’s Place in Science and Society Bioscience March 23 2014

    Joshua j. TewksburyJohn G. T. AndersonJonathan D. BakkerTimothy J. Billo,Peter W. DunwiddieMartha J. GroomStephanie E. HamptonSteven G. Herman,Douglas J. LeveyNoelle J. MachnickiCarlos Martínez del RioMary E. Power, Kirsten RowellAnne K. SalomonLiam StaceyStephen C. Trombulak and Terry A. Wheeler

     

    Abstract

    The fundamental properties of organisms—what they are, how and where they live, and the biotic and abiotic interactions that link them to communities and ecosystems—are the domain of natural history. We provide examples illustrating the vital importance of natural history knowledge to many disciplines, from human health and food security to conservation, management, and recreation. We then present several lines of evidence showing that traditional approaches to and support for natural history in developed economies has declined significantly over the past 40 years. Finally, we argue that a revitalization of the practice of natural history—one that is focused on new frontiers in a rapidly changing world and that incorporates new technologies—would provide significant benefits for both science and society.

  9. Conservation Science News March 28, 2014

    Leave a Comment

    Focus of the WeekNatural History’s Place in Science and Society

    1-ECOLOGY, BIODIVERSITY, RELATED

    2-CLIMATE CHANGE AND EXTREME EVENTS

    3-
    POLICY

    4- RENEWABLES, ENERGY AND RELATED

    5-
    RESOURCES and REFERENCES

    6-OTHER NEWS OF INTEREST 

    7-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 the California Landscape Conservation Cooperative ListServe
    or the
    Bay Area Ecosystems Climate Change Consortium listserve to receive this or you can email me directly at Ellie Cohen, ecohen at pointblue.org if you want your name added to or dropped from this list. 

    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- Natural History Must Reclaim its Place, Experts Say

     

    Natural history must reclaim its place, experts say
    (March 26, 2014)
    (see links to full article and excerpts below)

     

    Support in developed countries for natural history — the study of the fundamental nature of organisms and how and where they live and interact with their environment — appears to be in steep decline. Yet natural history provides essential knowledge for fields as varied as human health, food security, conservation, land management, and recreation. In the April issue of BioScience, a group of scientists from institutions across North America details examples supporting their conviction that a revitalization of the practice of natural history will provide important benefits for science and society.

     
     
     

    The 17-member group of authors, convened by Joshua J. Tewksbury of the University of Washington and the World Wide Fund for Nature’s International office, notes that 75 percent of emerging infectious diseases of humans, including avian influenza, Lyme disease, cholera, and rabies, are linked to other animals at some point in their life cycle. Control strategies rely on knowledge of these hosts’ natural history.

     

    Sustainable agricultural practices, such as companion planting, crop rotation, and pest control, likewise rely on knowledge of natural history, much of which was, however, discarded with the Green Revolution. Effective fisheries management relies on natural history – disasters such as the collapse of the Bering Sea walleye pollock fishery might have been avoided had it been used sooner. Rigorous forest fire suppression in the western United States during much of the twentieth century was another costly mistake that might have ended sooner if natural history knowledge had been used earlier. And recreational hunting and fishing have often benefited when interest groups applied knowledge of natural history and suffered when it was ignored.

     

    Despite this, natural history collections are not expanding, and the number of active herbaria has declined since 1990 in Europe and North America. The majority of US schools now have no natural history requirements for a biology degree, a trend that has coincided with the rise of molecular, experimental, theoretical, and other forms of biology. These types of biology may be less expensive or be more likely to attract large grants and public recognition. The stagnation could also reflect more general public disengagement with nature in developed countries.Although biological modeling has become more sophisticated, Tewksbury and his coauthors note that models must be built on field observations to usefully represent the real world. The important influence of microbes on human health and plants is a key new frontier in natural history research, the authors believe.

     

    And they see hope for the discipline, both within and outside of traditional natural history collections, in the rise of Internet- and smart phone-based technologies that allow the growth of broad partnerships, including citizen-science initiatives. Such linkages are starting to develop, but will need established professionals to self-identify as natural historians to provide the leadership needed for natural history to reclaim its necessary role, the authors assert.

     

     

    Natural History’s Place in Science and Society Bioscience March 23 2014

    Joshua j. TewksburyJohn G. T. AndersonJonathan D. BakkerTimothy J. Billo,Peter W. DunwiddieMartha J. GroomStephanie E. HamptonSteven G. Herman,Douglas J. LeveyNoelle J. MachnickiCarlos Martínez del RioMary E. Power, Kirsten RowellAnne K. SalomonLiam StaceyStephen C. Trombulak and Terry A. Wheeler

     

    Abstract

    The fundamental properties of organisms—what they are, how and where they live, and the biotic and abiotic interactions that link them to communities and ecosystems—are the domain of natural history. We provide examples illustrating the vital importance of natural history knowledge to many disciplines, from human health and food security to conservation, management, and recreation. We then present several lines of evidence showing that traditional approaches to and support for natural history in developed economies has declined significantly over the past 40 years. Finally, we argue that a revitalization of the practice of natural history—one that is focused on new frontiers in a rapidly changing world and that incorporates new technologies—would provide significant benefits for both science and society.

     

    Excerpts from the full text:

     

    Natural history has been defined in many ways (Bartholomew 1986, Herman 2002, Greene 2005, Schmidly 2005), and no single definition will satisfy all readers. For our purposes, natural history is the observation and description of the natural world, with the study of organisms and their linkages to the environment being central. This broad definition is inherently cross-disciplinary and multiscaled, which reflects the span and potential of natural history activity. For most of the history of science, natural history was the natural sciences: “at once the beginning and the end of biological study” (Jordan 1916, p. 3).

    A lot has changed since those words were written almost a century ago. The natural sciences now form one of the largest, most diverse collections of disciplines in academia. But across many fields, natural history appears to be in steep decline (Greene and Losos 1988, Noss 1996, Wilcove and Eisner 2000). A number of authors have pointed to a decline in natural history research and education (Suarez and Tsutsui 2004, Schmidly 2005, McCallum and McCallum 2006, but see Arnold 2003); in some countries, this decline may parallel a decline in public participation in nature (Balmford et al. 2009). This decline has troubling implications for science and society.

    Direct knowledge of organisms—what they are, where they live, what they eat, why they behave the way they do, how they die—remains vital to science and society. This knowledge may become even more vital as the rate and extent of global change increase (Johnson et al. 2011, Lavoie 2013). Integration of this knowledge is also increasingly important for translating results obtained in cellular, molecular, and genomic studies (Ley et al. 2006); for understanding and optimizing complex human–environment interactions (Pretty et al. 2006); for advancing human health (Colwell et al. 2003); and for expanding technology and design from biomimicry to biology-inspired design (Stafford et al. 2007). The benefits of careful observation of organisms in their environment and the costs of pursuing environmental policies in which this critical component of science is ignored can be seen in human health, food security, conservation, and management. After highlighting these connections, we document the decline in traditional natural history and suggest ways in which the practice of natural history could be revitalized to better connect science and society.

    HUMAN HEALTH

    Human health is dependent on our understanding of the relationships between people and other organisms. An estimated 75% of emerging infectious diseases that afflict humans are associated at some point in their life cycle with other animals (WHO 2011). …In a similar vein, understanding how organisms compete and defend themselves against predators and pathogens can reveal new pathways for pharmaceutical prospecting and can perhaps spur the development of new drugs (Coley et al. 2003). Although the importance of natural products in drug discovery is undisputed (e.g., drugs from natural products are used to treat more than 85% of current diseases; Newman et al. 2003), the screening process for bioactive compounds is often automated and largely blind to natural history…. For example, the presence of herbivores with warning color patterns feeding on tropical plants has been used to indicate plants with bioactivity against cancer cells and protistan parasites (Helson et al. 2009)….

     

    AGRICULTURE

    Sustainable agriculture requires a detailed understanding of crop species’ local requirements and their long-standing interactions with co-occurring species (Pretty et al. 2006). Knowledge of growing conditions, phenology, pollinators, herbivores, weeds, and pathogens comes from natural history observations. Agricultural practices, such as companion planting, crop rotation, and pest control, are based on knowledge of local natural history. Much of this knowledge was discarded or lost with the advent of the Green Revolution, which relied heavily on the extensive use of chemicals, irrigation, and high-yield crop varieties…. The slow pace of accumulation of essential natural history knowledge for many economically important species, from fisheries to crop pests, has repeatedly hindered the development of robust, predictive policies that would benefit humanity. In many industries, this has resulted in repeated failures of sustainable management, even though these extractive systems are the very ones for which natural history knowledge should be most complete. However, where natural history approaches have been integrated into management agendas, the results have been strongly positive… has helped farmers in developing countries increase yields, save money, and reduce environmental harm by replacing pesticides with natural enemies and ecoagricultural approaches to pest management (figure 2; Pretty et al. 2006).

     

    CONSERVATION AND MANAGEMENT

    Forest conservation and landscape restoration owe much of their success to the inclusion of detailed natural history information. For example, knowledge of the importance of plant–fungal symbioses to the health of forest systems has led to the common restoration and forestry practice of inoculating trees and native plants with mycorrhizae (Horton and van der Heijden 2008). However, failing to incorporate natural history information has sometimes led to large-scale, costly reversals in policy. The most iconic of these reversals may be the decision to suppress forest fires in the western United States during much of the twentieth century…. Water management in the United States has also suffered from a lack of natural history knowledge. In salmon-bearing rivers of the northwestern United States, large stumps and logs were intentionally removed to increase navigability and to assist salmon migration. Only after hundreds of streams were cleared did the managers recognize that accumulations of large woody debris are essential for maintaining suitable salmon habitat (Fausch and Northcote 1992). Millions of dollars are now spent on restoration efforts, which often require helicopters in order for logs to be put back into the streams (Watanabe et al. 2005).

     

    A case in which natural history knowledge has facilitated positive management outcomes is the restoration of tropical forest on degraded, abandoned cattle pastures. Multiple processes may create barriers to forest regeneration, including nutrient depletion, competition with pasture grasses, and a lack of seed input by animal dispersers. Restoration efforts can fail if they do not account for the relative importance of these obstacles at different stages of regeneration and in specific locations (Nepstad et al. 1990). “Legacy” trees within pastures often serve as recruitment foci for forest species (Griscom and Ashton 2011), in part because seed-dispersing birds and bats void seeds more often while perched than while in flight and also because shade from trees suppresses aggressive pasture grasses. In addition, regeneration is greater around fallen logs, which ameliorate harsh environmental conditions within pastures (Slocum 2000). These observations have led to management practices that facilitate forest regeneration, and, combined with falling cattle prices, they facilitated rapid restoration efforts in many areas of the Neotropics. Forest cover in Guanacaste Province, Costa Rica, for example, increased from 24% to 47% of the total land area between 1979 and 2005 (Calvo-Alvarado et al. 2009).

    Natural history has proven vital in many efforts to conserve and responsibly manage iconic species and places—organisms and landscapes that symbolize the heritage of well-loved social–ecological systems. Shared concern over preserving these well-known species spurs social action. Reversing
    declines in species such as eagles, whales, redwoods, and songbirds has repeatedly relied on an understanding of the organisms themselves. Long-term monitoring of breeding success in bald eagles (Haliaeetus leucocephalus) was critical in linking the pesticide DDT (dichlorodiphenyltrichloroethane) with population declines and in determining subsequent recovery efforts (Grier 1982). The establishment of a sustainable quota for bowhead whale (Balaena mysticetus) hunting by the Alaskan Iñupiat was possible only because the Iñupiat people possessed detailed knowledge of whale migration routes and behavior. This information, later confirmed by acoustic and aerial surveys and stable isotope analyses (Huntington 2000), was instrumental in estimating whale abundance and spatial dynamics and provided support for a hunting quota that allows a traditional harvest to be sustained and that satisfies conservation policies.

    RECREATION

    Hunting and fishing activities provide direct connections between natural history and rural economies around the world. When they are well managed, activities from safari hunting to fly fishing combine low-impact recreation with income for guides, licensing agencies, and supporting industries in areas that often struggle to balance the protection of natural resources and economic growth (Balmford et al. 2009). … When [these interests] fail to include natural history, the results can lead to the collapse of the system that supports the industry…..

    DECLINE OF NATURAL HISTORY

    Despite the importance of detailed natural history information to many sectors of society, exposure and training in traditional forms of natural history have not kept pace with growth in the natural sciences over the past 50 years. One way to track the exposure and training in natural history is through changes in the gathering and curation of the natural history material contained in these collections. The general trend in natural history collections has been toward consolidation, not expansion, in spite of the increased use of specimens in global climate change research and ecoinformatics (Ward 2012, Lavoie 2013)….. Other trends suggest more general declines in exposure to natural history at the graduate and undergraduate levels. In the United States, the proportion of PhDs with degrees in natural history–related fields of biology has declined steadily over the past 50 years (figure 4b; see the supplemental material for methods). Exposure to and emphasis on natural history have also declined in undergraduate education (figure 4c).

     

    Natural history in academia: Connecting science and society

    The stature of natural history within many academic institutions will depend on its capacity to generate revenue and contribute to the academic currencies used to measure the success of individuals and programs…. Maintaining a strong natural history curriculum within higher education will require a clear articulation of the importance of the discipline, backed up by collaborative work to design and sell a twenty-first century natural history research and educational agenda to funding agencies, foundations, and the public (Winker 2004). Such an agenda must cross a series of high bars: It must recognize its connections with a wide range of other disciplines and promote new ways of doing natural history, it must embrace rapid shifts in demography and technology to engage a larger and more diverse array of participants, and it must promote an open-source community of collaboration that generates and distributes data at scales relevant to other disciplines and to society as a whole. Below, we articulate some of what we see as the major frontiers for natural history in the twenty-first century. In boxes 1–4, we offer recommendations to individuals and institutions interested in the revitalization of natural history. Our objective is to start a conversation about the future of natural history, and we invite you to join the conversation (please see the details at the end of this article).

    Box 1. Revitalizing natural history within institutions: Claim the title. The vitality of natural history will depend on the willingness of professionals in the natural sciences to self-identify as natural historians, to teach natural history, and to articulate the importance of their expertise across a wide range of disciplines, through lectures, conferences, professional societies, and public talks….

    Box 2. Revitalizing natural history within institutions: Avoid exclusivity, enhance connectivity, and embrace technology. The practice of natural history needs to be inclusive and adaptive to survive the twenty-first century. Its relevance will depend on the willingness of its practitioners to embrace new modes of observing the world and their capacity to recruit naturalists who use a much wider set of tools and skills than were historically associated with the study of natural history. The twenty-first century naturalist is as likely to work with a smartphone and a social network or with a scanning electron microscope and a mass spectrometer as with binoculars and a hand lens…

    Box 3. Revitalizing natural history within institutions: Work collectively. Individual naturalists with isolated knowledge have little capacity to demonstrate the importance of their work, but groups that integrate and share knowledge across disciplines will flourish. Naturalists of all types need to contribute to common resources, work toward standardized formats, and move their work into the public sphere. In these open data warehouses, objects and empirical observations can be shared, used, and repurposed to meet the rapidly changing needs of society (Winker 2004, Hampton et al. 2013). Investment in naturalist partnerships can add value to a larger effort to provide common access to natural history knowledge and applications. Most institutions have begun to see the value in collaboration across these boundaries. For example, all of the major environmental nongovernmental organizations now have research and curation partnerships with multiple universities and museums, and many museums are shifting toward porous boundaries, with as much happening outside of the museum walls as inside (Sunderland et al. 2012)….

    Box 4. Revitalizing natural history within institutions: Go where the people are. Many naturalists of the twentieth century were inspired by sustained contact with nature at an early age, but the pace of urbanization is fundamentally changing the way in which the next generation will interact with the natural world. Finding exciting ways to build natural history into the fabric of modern urban life is a key challenge for natural history, and there are a number of programs that are focused directly on urban natural history…

    Box 5. Natural history and the digital revolution. Technology influences how we observe, organize, and share information about the natural world. Here, we highlight programs that use technology to change the way we see the world and programs that organize and standardize the collection and curation of natural history information…

     

    Frontiers for twenty-first century natural history

    Technology is expanding the reach of the naturalist, uncovering a new world of opportunities at the microbial scale. Microbial cells outnumber human cells 10:1 in the human body and contribute to defense, metabolism, and nutrition (HMPC 2012). The amount that is unknown in this field is truly vast. The rapidly growing understanding of the wide range of microbial impacts on human health comes in large part from linking knowledge of microbial natural history with details observable at the macroscopic scale (Ley et al. 2006).…. The capacity to build networks of natural history collections on a global scale has never been greater, and this capacity is only just beginning to be realized. There is now a wide range of efforts to collect and curate natural history information in a standardized manner at global scales (box 5). These programs, coupled with the widespread availability of remote-sensing technologies, allow observers to study large-scale phenomena across ecosystems in ways that were previously unimaginable….

     

    ….The current capacity of humanity to alter the planet’s natural systems has created an unprecedented need for ecological forecasting (Luo et al. 2011). Empirical information about complex natural systems is fundamental to accuracy in forecasting (Hastings and Wysham 2010), and natural history provides this essential baseline information against which to measure the reality and scope of change (Winker 2004). Although the capacity of scientists to model complex systems is now greater than during any period in history, the collection and organization of basic information needed to parameterize these increasingly complex models have not kept pace (Botkin et al. 2007). As a result, a lack of basic natural history knowledge is often the limiting factor in the development of predictive ecological theory. The behavior of complex environmental systems cannot be predicted with simple models, and complex models cannot be built without empirical knowledge of organisms under realistic conditions. Meeting this challenge requires a greater investment in the organization, integration, and dissemination of current natural history knowledge within and outside of traditional collections (Suarez and Tsutsui 2004, Winker 2004, Hampton et al. 2013). Identifying and filling critical gaps in that knowledge will likely be a multiscaled effort involving both historical and contemporary natural history…..

     

    …The rapid spread of consumer technologies—most notably, the rise of smartphones—is expanding opportunities for participation in biodiversity science, allowing broad partnerships through social networks, collective species discovery, and the real-time mapping of species and communities (see box 5 for examples). The vitality of natural history will depend on its capacity to build broad collaborative efforts using technological advances to lower the barriers associated with collecting, analyzing, and sharing natural history knowledge. The rapid growth in citizen science has the potential to yield a large increase in the number of people helping to build natural history knowledge, and this ethos of collaboration and public participation needs to permeate natural history research, outreach, and education. An outstanding example of the potential for this approach is provided by eBird, a Web-based program developed by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology that has capitalized on the widespread interest in and appeal of birds. The program has witnessed a rapid, global increase in data contributors and users, which has enabled both researchers and the general public to benefit in diverse ways from technologies for the collection, organization, and dissemination of vast numbers of bird observations. Successful programs on other taxa, such as eButterfly and the Lost Ladybug Project, illustrate that birds are not unique in their ability to engage the public in documenting and compiling natural history data.

    Conclusions

    A renewed focus on the natural history of organisms is central to the growth of basic and use-inspired research and is also a critical step toward sustainable management and toward providing increased predictive capacities and improved outcomes across disciplines as diverse as health, agriculture, and conservation. However, natural history in the twenty-first century will look different from that of the nineteenth as this fundamental knowledge is applied to new frontiers and as new technologies are used in the practice of natural history. Despite these differences, however, the importance of natural history to science and society remains timeless.

    Supplemental material

    The supplemental material is available online at http://bioscience.oxfordjournals.org/lookup/suppl/doi:10.1093/biosci/biu032/-/DC1. AIBS has also made available for a limited time a moderated discussion forum at www.access.aibs.org/group/overview.

     

     

     

     

     

     

    Rebuilding the Natural World: A Shift in Ecological Restoration
    From forests in Queens to wetlands in China, planners and scientists are promoting a new approach that incorporates experiments into landscape restoration projects to determine what works to the long-term benefit of nature and what does not.

    Richard Conniff Environment 360 March 17, 2014

    Restoring degraded ecosystems — or creating new ones — has become a huge global business. China, for instance, is planting 90 million acres of forest in a swath across its northern provinces. And in North America, just in the past two decades, restoration projects costing $70 billion have attempted to restore or re-create 7.4 million acres of marsh, peatland, floodplain, mangrove, and other wetlands. This patchwork movement to rebuild the natural world ought to be good news. Such projects are, moreover, likely to become far more common as the world rapidly urbanizes and as cities, new and old, turn to green infrastructure to address problems like climate change, flood control, and pollution of nearby waterways. But hardly anyone does a proper job of measuring the results, and when they do, it generally turns out that ecological restorations seldom function as intended.
    A 2012 study in PLOS Biology, for instance, looked at 621 wetland projects and found most had failed to deliver promised results, or match the performance of natural systems, even decades after completion. Likewise, an upcoming study by Margaret A. Palmer at the University of Maryland reports that more than 75 percent of river and stream restorations failed to meet their own minimal performance targets. “They may be pretty projects,” says Palmer, “but they don’t provide ecological benefits.” Hence the increasing interest in what Alexander Felson, an urban ecologist and landscape architect at the Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies, calls “designed experiments” — that is, experiments designed by ecologists and incorporated into development and landscape restoration projects to test which alternative approaches work best — or whether a particular approach works at all. The idea is both to improve the project at hand, says Felson, and also to provide a scientific basis for making subsequent projects more successful. At first glance, the designed experiment idea might seem to echo practices that already exist. Environmental consultants have been a part of most development projects for decades. But they almost never do long-term research on a project, says Felson. “Adaptive management,” the idea of continually monitoring environmental projects and making steady improvements over time — or “learning by doing” — has also been around in ecological circles since the 1970s. But a recent survey in Biological Conservation found “surprisingly few practical, on-ground examples of adaptive management.” In part, that’s because “long-term investigations are notoriously difficult to establish and maintain.”…

     

    Historic “Pulse Flow” Brings Water to Parched Colorado River Delta

    Binational agreement brings life to delta after five decades of water withdrawal.

    The Colorado River Delta in Mexico cuts through the Sonoran Desert, and was formerly host to lush wetlands.

    By Brian Clark Howard, National Geographic PUBLISHED MARCH 22, 2014

    Thanks to a landmark agreement between the United States and Mexico, the parched Colorado River Delta will get a rejuvenating shot of water this spring for one of the first times in five decades, just in time for World Water Day on March 22. On March 23, 2014, the gates of Morelos Dam on the Arizona-Mexico border will be lifted to allow a “pulse flow” of water into the final stretch of the Colorado River. Officials and scientists hope the water will help restore a landscape that has long been arid but that once supported a rich diversity of life….

     

     

    Tidal and seasonal effects on survival of the endangered California clapper rail: does invasive Spartina facilitate greater survival in a dynamic environment?

    Overton, CT, ML Casazza, JY Takekawa, DR Strong, M Holyoak. 2014. Tidal and seasonal effects on survival of the endangered California clapper rail: does invasive Spartina facilitate greater survival in a dynamic environment? Biological Invasions. doi: 10.1007/s10530-013-0634-5 USGS WERC

    Invasive species frequently degrade habitats, disturb ecosystem processes, and can increase the likelihood of extinction of imperiled populations. However, novel or enhanced functions provided by invading species may reduce the impact of processes that limit populations. It is important to recognize how invasive species benefit endangered species to determine overall effects on sensitive ecosystems. For example, since the 1990s, hybrid Spartina (Spartina foliosa × alterniflora) has expanded throughout South San Francisco Bay, USA, supplanting native vegetation and invading mudflats. The endangered California clapper rail (Rallus longirostris obsoletus) uses the tall, dense hybrid Spartina for cover and nesting, but the effects of hybrid Spartina on clapper rail survival was unknown. We estimated survival rates of 108 radio-marked California clapper rails in South San Francisco Bay from January 2007 to March 2010, a period of extensive hybrid Spartina eradication, with Kaplan–Meier product limit estimators. Clapper rail survival patterns were consistent with hybrid Spartina providing increased refuge cover from predators during tidal extremes which flood native vegetation, particularly during the winter when the vegetation senesces. Model averaged annual survival rates within hybrid Spartina dominated marshes before eradication (Ŝ = 0.466) were greater than the same marshes posttreatment (Ŝ = 0.275) and a marsh dominated by native vegetation (Ŝ = 0.272). However, models with and without marsh treatment as explanatory factor for survival rates had nearly equivalent support in the observed data, lending ambiguity as to whether hybrid Spartina facilitated greater survival rates than native marshland. Conservation actions to aid in recovery of this endangered species should recognize the importance of available of high tide refugia, particularly in light of invasive species eradication programs and projections of future sea-level rise.

     

    Deepwater Horizon oil left tuna, other species with heart defects likely to …

    Washington Post

     - ‎March 25, 2014‎

           

    When scientists re-created the conditions of the spill in a lab, exposing tuna and amberjack in the developmental stage to an oil slick, they observed “a slowing of their heartbeats,” said Barbara Block, a biology professor at Stanford University who

     

     

    Targeting enforcement where needed most in Africa’s heart of biodiversity

    March 26, 2014 Wildlife Conservation Society

    Scientists seeking a more efficient way of protecting the heart of Africa’s wildlife — the Greater Virunga Landscape — have developed a method to make the most of limited enforcement resources, according to a new study by the Wildlife Conservation Society, the University of Queensland, Imperial College London, and the Uganda Wildlife Authority. By channeling data on wildlife sightings and park guard patrolling routes into spatial planning software, conservationists have devised a cost-effective method for maximizing the deterrence effect of patrolling to protect Africa’s threatened wildlife from poaching and other illegal activities…. The authors of the study conducted their analysis by first determining the distribution of key species and habitats. Data on the distribution of threats was then added, followed by estimates of current patrol effort and the cost of patrolling parks, protected areas, and other wildlife-rich regions effectively. All data layers were then used to conduct a spatial prioritization to minimize the cost of patrols and maximize the protection of wildlife species. What the authors found was that only 22 percent of the Greater Virunga Landscape is being effectively patrolled at present. “The key problem is trying to ascertain where to send patrols to make them effective,” said Dr. James Watson, who holds a joint WCS-University of Queensland position. “Our research has shown that existing patrols are not frequent enough to be effective at deterring poaching and other illegal activities beyond 3 kilometers from a patrol post.” “We discovered that careful planning of patrol activity can increase its effectiveness while reducing costs by up to 63 percent,” added Prof. Hugh Possingham, director of the ARC Centre of Excellence for Environmental Decisions….In addition to helping wildlife managers and park authorities to redirect enforcement efforts into areas requiring protection, the method — the authors say — will also help reduce the cost of achieving conservation goals….

     

    Andrew J. Plumptre et al. Efficiently targeting resources to deter illegal activities in protected areas. Journal of Applied Ecology, 2014; DOI: 10.1111/1365-2664.12227

     
     
     

     

    This March 2007 photo provided by the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department shows a male lesser prairie chicken in a mating stature in the Texas panhandle…..(AP Photo/Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, Jon McRoberts)

    Lesser prairie chicken listed as threatened species, 5 states affected

    By MATTHEW DALY, Associated Press March 27, 2014 WASHINGTON (AP) — The Obama administration announced Thursday it is placing the lesser prairie chicken on a list of threatened species, a move that could affect oil and gas drilling, wind farms and other activities in five central and southwestern states. The decision by the Fish and Wildlife Service is a step below “endangered” status and allows for more flexibility in how protections for the bird will be carried out under the Endangered Species Act. Dan Ashe, the agency’s director, said he knows the decision will be unpopular with governors in the five affected states — Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas, Colorado and New Mexico — but said the agency was following the best science available. “The lesser prairie-chicken is in dire straits,” Ashe said in an interview. “The bird is in decline and has been in decline for more than a decade.” The prairie chicken, a type of grouse known for its colorful feathers and stout build, has lost more than 80 percent of its traditional habitat, mostly because of human activity such as oil and gas drilling, ranching and construction of power lines and wind turbines, Ashe said. The bird, which weighs from 1-1/2 to 2 pounds, has also been severely impacted by the region’s ongoing drought. Biologists say a major problem is that prairie chickens fear tall structures, where predators such as hawks can perch and spot them. Wind turbines, electricity transmission towers and drilling rigs are generally the tallest objects on the plains…..

     

    …Fish and Wildlife officials had refused nearly two years ago to list the species as threatened, and efforts across the region have brought about conservation agreements and habitat protection plans from landowners, the oil and gas industry and those aiming to increase the prairie chicken’s numbers.

    The listing decision, which will take effect around May 1, includes a special rule that Ashe said will allow officials and private landowners in the five affected states to manage conservation efforts. The rule, which Ashe called unprecedented, specifies that activities such as oil and gas drilling and utility line maintenance that are covered under a five-state conservation plan adopted last year will be allowed to continue. The plan, developed by the Western Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies, establishes that conservation practices carried out through usual agricultural and energy development are not subject to further regulation under the Endangered Species Act

     

    Oil and gas companies, ranchers and other landowners have pledged to devote more than 3 million acres in the five states toward conserving the bird’s habitat. Most of the acreage was set aside with the aim to prevent the bird from being given federal protection as a threatened species, but Ashe said states and private landowners will play a significant role after the listing decision. “The key thing is, states will remain in the driver’s seat in management and conservation of this bird,” he said.

    Environmental groups hailed new federal protections, but said the wildlife agency had created a loophole that allows continued oil and gas drilling in exchange for voluntary conservation plans that are virtually unenforceable….

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    A right whale. Credit: © Eduardo Rivero / Fotolia

    Biologists use sound to identify breeding grounds of endangered whales

    March 25, 2014 Syracuse University

    Remote acoustic monitoring among endangered whales is the subject of a major article by two doctoral students in The College of Arts and Sciences.

     
     
     

    Leanna Matthews and Jessica McCordic, members of the Parks Lab in the Department of Biology, have co-authored “Remote Acoustic Monitoring of North Atlantic Right Whales Reveals Seasonal and Diel Variations in Acoustic Behavior.” The article appears in the current issue of PLOS ONE, an inclusive, peer-reviewed, open-access resource from the Public Library of Science in San Francisco.

    Susan Parks, assistant professor of biology for whom the lab is named, says the article confirms what many conservationists fear — that Roseway Basin, a heavily traveled shipping lane, off the coast of Nova Scotia, is a vital habitat area for the endangered North Atlantic right whale.

    “Remote acoustic monitoring is an important tool for understanding patterns in animal communication, and studies on the seasonality of context-specific acoustic signals allow inferences to be made about the behavior and habitat use of certain species,” says Parks, an expert in behavioral ecology, acoustic communication and marine science. “Our results support the hypothesis that the North Atlantic right whale’s breeding season occurs mostly from August to November and that this basin is a widely used habitat area.”

    More than 30 percent of all right whales use Roseway Basin, part of a larger geological formation called the Scotian Shelf, throughout the year. With only 400-500 in existence, these whales, says Parks, must congregate in the basin to feed and find mates.

    Already, the U.S. and Canadian governments have taken steps to redirect shipping traffic, in response to several fatal collisions with right whales….

     

     

     


    Crows understand water displacement at the level of a small child.\ Credit: Sarah Jelbert; CC-BY

    Crows understand water displacement at the level of a small child: Show causal understanding of a 5- to 7-year-old child
    (March 26, 2014) — New Caledonian crows may understand how to displace water to receive a reward, with the causal understanding level of a 5- to 7-year-old child. Understanding causal relationships between actions is a key feature of human cognition. However, the extent to which non-human animals are capable of understanding causal relationships is not well understood. Scientists used the Aesop’s fable riddle — in which subjects drop stones into water to raise the water level and obtain an out-of reach-reward — to assess New Caledonian crows’ causal understanding of water displacement. … > full story

     

     

    Male mallard duck. University of Akron researchers discovered leptin in the mallard duck, peregrine falcon and zebra finch, marking the first time the hormone has been found in birds.

    Credit: Image courtesy of University of Akron

    Missing hormone in birds: Leptin found in mallard duck, peregrine falcon and zebra finch

    March 24, 2014 University of Akron

    How does the Arctic tern (a sea bird) fly more than 80,000 miles in its roundtrip North Pole-to-South Pole migration? How does the Emperor penguin incubate eggs for months during the Antarctic winter without eating? How does the Rufous hummingbird, which weighs less than a nickel, migrate from British Columbia to Mexico? These physiological gymnastics would usually be influenced by leptin, the hormone that regulates body fat storage, metabolism and appetite. However, leptin has gone missing in birds — until now.

     
     
     

    University of Akron researchers have discovered leptin in birds, In their “Discovery of the Elusive Leptin in Birds: Identification of Several ‘Missing Links’ in the Evolution of Leptin and its Receptor,” published March 24, 2014, in the journal PLOS ONE, UA researchers reveal their findings of leptin in the peregrine falcon, mallard duck and zebra finch. UA Professor of Biology R. Joel Duff made the initial discovery by comparing ancient fish and reptile leptins to predict the bird sequence. Duff, along with undergraduate students Cameron Schmidt and Donald Gasper, identified the sequence in multiple bird genomes and found that the genomic region where leptin was found is similar to that of other vertebrates. Jeremy Prokop, a former UA Integrated Bioscience doctoral student who initiated the project, then constructed computer models of the bird leptin’s three-dimensional structure and performed bench experiments to show that the bird leptin can bind to a bird leptin receptor….

     

     

    Male Eurasian jays know that their female partners’ desires can differ from their own
    (March 25, 2014) — Researchers investigated the extent to which males could disengage from their own current desires to feed the female what she wants. The behavior suggests the potential for ‘state-attribution’ in these birds — the ability to recognize and understand the internal life and psychological states of others. … > full story

     

    Biased sex ratios predict more promiscuity, polygamy and ‘divorce’ in birds
    (March 24, 2014) — More birds break pair bonds or ‘divorce’ in populations where there are more females, according to new research. Researchers also found that short-term infidelity increases in male-dominated environments. The research has some striking parallels in human societies. … > full story

     

     

    Convulsing sea lions along coast may hold clues to epilepsy

    Peter Fimrite SF Chronicle Updated 11:02 pm, Sunday, March 23, 2014

    Sea lion Blarney McCresty recuperates at the Marine Mammal Center in Sausalito. Photo: Lacy Atkins, The Chronicle

    Sick and confused sea lions convulsing with seizures are being found in increasing numbers along the California coast, suffering from what Stanford University scientists say is a form of epilepsy similar to the kind that attacks humans. The culprit is a neurotoxin found in algae blooms, also known as red tides, that have proliferated lately along the coast for unknown reasons, scientists at Stanford University and the Marine Mammal Center in Marin announced last week in a study published in the Journal of Comparative Neurology. Besides harming and killing wildlife, the oceanic phenomenon puts humans at risk. As troubling as that may be, medical researchers believe the new findings may help them root out the causes and improve treatments for human epilepsy, according to the study published March 19. “We found there was a loss of neurons in specific patterns that closely matched what is found in people,” said Paul Buckmaster, a professor of comparative medicine at Stanford. “And there is synaptic reorganization – a rewiring of surviving neurons. This also matches what is found in humans with temporal lobe epilepsy.”…

     

    Pesticides make the life of earthworms miserable
    (March 25, 2014) — Pesticides are sprayed on crops to help them grow, but the effect on earthworms living in the soil under the plants is devastating, new research reveals. The worms only grow to half their normal weight and they do not reproduce as well as worms in fields that are not sprayed, a research team reports after having studied earthworms that were exposed to pesticides over generations. … > full story

     

    WERC Center Director Steven Schwarzbach Retires

    MONDAY MAR 03 2014

    Steven Schwarzbach, Center Director of the USGS Western Ecological Research Center, has retired from federal service.
    WERC Deputy Center Director Dr. Keith Miles will serve as Acting Center Director in the interim. Best known as an ecologist and an administrator, Schwarzbach’s roots were in education. He obtained a M.A. in Education from San Francisco State University in 1983, and went on to teach 7th and 8th grade science and 5th and 6th grade in Placerville, Calif. in the early 1980′s. There, he also developed a K-8 environmental education curriculum.  His deep passion was science, however, having worked early stints with the U.S. Forest Service and National Park Service. He returned to ecology, receiving his PhD from UC Davis in 1989. His thesis: “Metabolism and storage of the miticide dicofol in ring neck doves (Streptopelia risoria) and American kestrels (Falco sparverius): relationships to dicofol induced eggshell thinning”…..

     

     

    CA BLM WILDLIFE TRIVIA QUESTION of the WEEK

     

    Desert iguanas are most common in the Mojave and Colorado deserts of California. One special trait gives them an advantage over other animals in their range. What is it?

    (a.) They are the most heat-tolerant reptiles in North America, so they have little competition while locating food in midday heat.

    (b.) They need much less water than other desert species, so they can travel over a wider range and can escape predators into more remote areas.

    (c.) They can digest even the woodiest fibers of various types of cactus, so they can find more nutrition in a smaller area than other animals.

    (d.) They are more resistant to snake venom than other reptiles, so they can seek food in more areas than other desert animals.

    (e.) They know the words to hundreds of camp songs, passed down by ancestors who lurked outside prospector’s campsites –so they can better put up with the long distance travel and solitude that are part of living in the desert.

    See answer – and more information at the end.

     

     

     

     

    Boulder scientists report record-early high CO2 readings at key site

    400 parts per million at Mauna Loa reached two months ahead of 2013

    By Charlie Brennan, Boulder Camera Staff Writer Posted:   03/22/2014

    Carbon dioxide readings at Mauna Loa Observatory

    • Sunday: 400.13 ppm
    • Monday: 401.12 ppm
    • Tuesday: 401.18 ppm
    • Wednesday: 401.28 ppm
    • Thursday: 400.87 ppm

    More info:
    esrl.noaa.gov/gmd

    Carbon dioxide levels at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Mauna Loa Observatory in Hawaii and analyzed in Boulder have reached a disturbing benchmark earlier than last year and have done so for several days running, scientists said. The readings hit 400 parts per million for CO2 every day from Sunday through Thursday. That is a level recorded at that observatory for the first time only last year — and in 2013, it was not reached until May 19. The levels of CO2 in the Earth’s atmosphere move in seasonal swings, typically peaking in May and hitting their low point in September.

    “Each year it creeps up,” said Jim Butler, director of the global monitoring division at NOAA. “Eventually, we’ll see where it isn’t below 400 parts per million anywhere in the world. We’re on our way to doing that.” Pieter Tans, chief scientist in NOAA’s global monitoring division, said, “This problem could become much worse. The climate change we see at this point is just beginning.”….

     

     

    The Pacific Ocean Is Turning Sour Much Faster Than Expected, Study Shows

    By Emily Atkin on March 28, 2014 at 11:31 am

    A Norwegin coral reef with gorgonian and stony corals in Norway. CREDIT: AP Photo/GEOMAR, Karen Hissmann

    It’s common knowledge among the scientific community that climate change will eventually acidify the oceans and turn them sour. What’s less common knowledge is when exactly it will happen. In the tropical Pacific Ocean, however, the answers are getting a little clearer — and they’re not pretty. According to a study released by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and University of Washington scientists on Wednesday, the amount of carbon dioxide in the tropical Pacific has increased much faster than expected over the past 14 years, making that part of the ocean much more acidic than previously believed. “We assume that most of the carbon dioxide increase [in the tropical Pacific] is due to anthropogenic CO2,” Adrienne Sutton, a research scientist with NOAA’s Joint Institute for the Study of the Atmosphere and Ocean at the University of Washington, told E&E News. In other words, scientists say their results show that much of the increase in carbon dioxide concentrations can be attributed to human-caused climate change. This is because, while the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere increases at a rate of about 2 parts per million (ppm) per year, parts of the tropical Pacific saw an increase in CO2 concentrations of up to 3.3 ppm per year. NOAA’s study monitored CO2 levels at seven buoys in the tropical Pacific, starting in 1998. “It was a big surprise. We were not expecting to see rates that strong,” Sutton told E&E….

     

     

    A more potent greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide, methane emissions will leap as Earth warms
    (March 27, 2014)
    While carbon dioxide is typically painted as the bad boy of greenhouse gases, methane is roughly 30 times more potent as a heat-trapping gas. New research in the journal Nature indicates that for each degree that Earth’s temperature rises, the amount of methane entering the atmosphere from microorganisms dwelling in lake sediment and freshwater wetlands — the primary sources of the gas — will increase several times. As temperatures rise, the relative increase of methane emissions will outpace that of carbon dioxide from these sources, the researchers report. The findings condense the complex and varied process by which methane — currently the third most prevalent greenhouse gas after carbon dioxide and water vapor — enters the atmosphere into a measurement scientists can use, explained co-author Cristian Gudasz, a visiting postdoctoral research associate in Princeton’s Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology. In freshwater systems, methane is produced as microorganisms digest organic matter, a process known as “methanogenesis.” This process hinges on a slew of temperature, chemical, physical and ecological factors that can bedevil scientists working to model how Earth’s systems will contribute, and respond, to a hotter future. The researchers’ findings suggest that methane emissions from freshwater systems will likely rise with the global temperature, Gudasz said. But to not know the extent of methane contribution from such a widely dispersed ecosystem that includes lakes, swamps, marshes and rice paddies leaves a glaring hole in climate projections. “The freshwater systems we talk about in our paper are an important component to the climate system,” Gudasz said. “There is more and more evidence that they have a contribution to the methane emissions. Methane produced from natural or humanmade freshwater systems will increase with temperature.”

     
     
     

    To provide a simple and accurate way for climate modelers to account for methanogenesis, Gudasz and his co-authors analyzed nearly 1,600 measurements of temperature and methane emissions from 127 freshwater ecosystems across the globe. The researchers found that a common effect emerged from those studies: freshwater methane generation very much thrives on high temperatures. Methane emissions at 0 degrees Celsius would rise 57 times higher when the temperature reached 30 degrees Celsius, the researchers report. For those inclined to model it, the researchers’ results translated to a temperature dependence of 0.96 electron volts (eV), an indication of the temperature-sensitivity of the methane-emitting ecosystems.”We all want to make predictions about greenhouse gas emissions and their impact on global warming,” Gudasz said. “Looking across these scales and constraining them as we have in this paper will allow us to make better predictions.” … > full story

     

    Gabriel Yvon-Durocher et al. Methane fluxes show consistent temperature dependence across microbial to ecosystem scales. Nature, 2014; 507 (7493): 488 DOI: 10.1038/nature13164

     

     

     

    Is A Super El Niño Coming That Will Shatter Extreme Weather And Global Temperature Records?

    By Joe Romm on March 26, 2014

    Signs are increasingly pointing to the formation of an El Niño in the next few months, possibly a very strong one. When combined with the long-term global warming trend, a super El Niño means 2015 (and possibly even 2014) is likely to become the hottest year on record….Remember that 2010, a moderate El Niño, is the hottest year on record so far. And 2010 saw a stunning 20 countries set all-time record highs, including “Asia’s hottest reliably measured temperature of all-time, the remarkable 128.3°F (53.5°C) in Pakistan in May 2010.” Meteorologist Dr. Jeff Masters said 2010 was “the planet’s most extraordinary year for extreme weather since reliable global upper-air data began in the late 1940s.” Given that the “Earth’s Rate Of Global Warming Is 400,000 Hiroshima Bombs A Day,” the planet is half a billion Hiroshimas warmer than it was in 2010. So even a moderate El Niño will cause record-setting temperature and weather extremes. But a strong one, let alone a super El Niño, should shatter records.

    Peru’s official El Niño commission said last week that they are expecting an El Niño to start as soon as April. Peru tracks this closely because “El Nino threatens to batter the fishmeal industry by scaring away abundant schools of cold-water anchovy.” To be clear, an El Niño is not a sure thing at this point. Some forecasters put the chances at about 60 percent, but one recent study put the chances at 75 percent. Mashable’s Andrew Freedman (formerly of Climate Central) reports “some scientists think this event may even rival the record El Niño event of 1997-1998.” He cites meteorology professor Paul Roundy: Roundy said the chances of an unusually strong El Niño event “Are much higher than average, it’s difficult to put a kind of probability of it … I’ve suggested somewhere around 80%.” “The conditions of the Pacific ocean right now are as favorable for a major event as they were in March of 1997. That’s no major guarantee that a major event develops but clearly it would increase the likelihood of a major event occurring,” Roundy says….

     

     

    Deep ocean current may slow due to climate change
    (March 21, 2014) — Far beneath the surface of the ocean, deep currents act as conveyer belts, channeling heat, carbon, oxygen and nutrients around the globe. A new has found that recent climate change may be acting to slow down one of these conveyer belts, with potentially serious consequences for the future of the planet’s climate. … > full story

     

    A satellite image of Pine Island Glacier shows an 18-mile-long crack across the glacier. Researchers used cracks and other physical features on the glaciers to calculate glacier acceleration by comparing image data from year to year to see how far the cracks traveled. Credit: NASA

    Major increase in West Antarctic glacial loss
    (March 26, 2014)Six massive glaciers in West Antarctica are moving faster than they did 40 years ago, causing more ice to discharge into the ocean and global sea level to rise, according to new research…
    .
    The researchers studied the Pine Island, Thwaites, Haynes, Smith, Pope and Kohler glaciers, all of which discharge ice into a vast bay known as the Amundsen Sea Embayment in West Antarctica. The amount of ice released by these six glaciers each year is comparable to the amount of ice draining from the entire Greenland Ice Sheet annually, Mouginot said. If melted completely, the glaciers’ disappearance would raise sea levels another 1.2 meters (four feet), according to co-author and UC-Irvine Professor Eric Rignot. The decades of increasing speeds and ice loss are “a strong indication of a major, long-term leakage of ice into the ocean from that sector of Antarctica,” noted Rignot. “This region is considered the potential leak point for Antarctica because of the low seabed. The only thing holding it in is the ice shelf,” said Robert Thomas, a glaciologist at the NASA Wallops Flight Facility, in Wallops Island, Va., who was not involved in the study. Ice shelves are platforms of permanent floating ice that form where glaciers meet the sea. In West Antarctica, ice shelves prevent the glaciers investigated in the study from slipping more rapidly into the ocean. … > full story

     

    Permafrost thaw exacerbates climate change
    (March 21, 2014) — Growing season gains do not offset carbon emissions from permafrost thaw, new research shows. Permafrost contains three to seven times the amount of carbon sequestered in tropical forests. The warming climate threatens to thaw permafrost, which will result in the release of carbon dioxide and methane into the atmosphere creating feedbacks to climate change — more warming and greater permafrost thaw. … > full story

     

    Seasonal Arctic summer ice extent still hard to forecast, study says
    (March 27, 2014) — Scientists analyzed 300 summer Arctic sea ice forecasts from 2008 to 2013 and found that forecasts are quite accurate when sea ice conditions are close to the downward trend that has been observed in Arctic sea ice for the last 30 years. However, forecasts are not so accurate when sea ice conditions are unusually higher or lower compared to this trend. … > full story

     

    FOOD WEB Dynamics behind Arctic ecosystems revealed
    (March 27, 2014) — Species such as the musk ox, Arctic fox and lemming live in the harsh, cold and deserted tundra environment. However, they have often been in the spotlight when researchers have studied the impact of a warmer climate on the countryside in the north. Until now, the focus has been concentrated on individual species, but an international team of biologists has now published an important study of entire food-web dynamics in the journal Nature Climate Change. Field studies covering three continents show that temperature has an unexpectedly important effect on food-web structure, while the relationship between predator and prey is crucial for the food-web dynamics and thereby the entire ecosystem.

     
     
     

    ….The researchers have evidenced that temperature is of decisive importance for which elements form part of the food chain, thus permitting them to predict how climate changes may impact whole food chains — and not just the conditions for the individual species.
    Temperature regulates which organisms interact with each other in the far north arctic nature. However, the present study also shows that predation, i.e. the interactions between predators and prey, is the factor regulating the energy flows in ecosystems and, with that, the function of the ecosystem. ‘Our results show that predators are the most important items of the tundra food chains, except in the High Arctic. The intensity varies with the body size of the herbivores (plant eaters) of the chains. For example, the musk ox is far more likely to avoid being eaten by predatory animals than the lemming,’ Niels Martin Schmidt explains. Researchers have previously revealed similar patterns for the food chains of the African savannas. The researchers behind the present recently published study therefore believe that we may possibly be one step closer to proposing a general principle for how terrestrial ecosystems are structured. … > full story

     

    P. Legagneux et al. Arctic ecosystem structure and functioning shaped by climate and herbivore body size. Nature Climate Change, 2014; DOI: 10.1038/nclimate2168

     

    Geographical limits to species-range shifts are suggested by climate velocity

    Michael T. Burrows et al Nature 507, 492–495 (27 March 2014) doi:10.1038/nature12976 Received 13 September 2013 Accepted 30 December 2013 Published online 09 February 2014 Corrected online 26 March 2014

    The reorganization of patterns of species diversity driven by anthropogenic climate change, and the consequences for humans1, are not yet fully understood or appreciated2, 3. Nevertheless, changes in climate conditions are useful for predicting shifts in species distributions at global4 and local scales5. Here we use the velocity of climate change6, 7 to derive spatial trajectories for climatic niches from 1960 to 2009 (ref. 7) and from 2006 to 2100, and use the properties of these trajectories to infer changes in species distributions. Coastlines act as barriers and locally cooler areas act as attractors for trajectories, creating source and sink areas for local climatic conditions. Climate source areas indicate where locally novel conditions are not connected to areas where similar climates previously occurred, and are thereby inaccessible to climate migrants tracking isotherms: 16% of global surface area for 1960 to 2009, and 34% of ocean for the ‘business as usual’ climate scenario (representative concentration pathway (RCP) 8.5)8 representing continued use of fossil fuels without mitigation. Climate sink areas are where climate conditions locally disappear, potentially blocking the movement of climate migrants. Sink areas comprise 1.0% of ocean area and 3.6% of land and are prevalent on coasts and high ground. Using this approach to infer shifts in species distributions gives global and regional maps of the expected direction and rate of shifts of climate migrants, and suggests areas of potential loss of species richness.

     

     

    In Ranchers Vs. Weeds, Climate Change Gives Weeds An Edge

    by Luke Runyon March 25, 2014 4:03 PM NPR

    A tall, rubbery weed with golden flowers Dalmatian toadflax is encroaching on grasslands in 32 U.S. states. Most climate models paint a bleak picture of the Great Plains a century from now as a hot region besieged by heavy rainstorms and flooding. And new studies suggest that climate change may bring farmers another headache: more invasive plants. Ask most Midwestern and Rocky Mountain ranchers about the weeds they pull their hair out over and be prepared for a long list . There’s cheat grass in Nebraska, red brome in Utah and yellow star thistle in California. And they can’t count on cattle to gobble them up. Depending on the plant, most cattle either don’t want to eat it or could get sick if they do. “You kinda have to teach them about a new plant,” says Ellen Nelson, a rancher in north-central Colorado who has a weed problem. “I’ve gotten some of them to eat some, but in general, that’s a hard one.” As climate change takes hold, it’s likely to only get worse, not just for Nelson, but for ranchers across the country. In 2005, U.S. Department of Agriculture research ecologist Dana Blumenthal set out to find out just how it will get worse. Specifically, he wanted to know what effect climate change will have on a noxious weed called Dalmatian Toadflax that’s encroached on grasslands in 32 U.S. states. For about eight years Blumenthal and his team one possible future climate in the Wyoming grassland. They used a heating apparatus to keep test plots warmer than normal, and pumped carbon dioxide into the air surrounding the toadflax. The warming and CO2 weren’t set at doomsday levels, but rather conservative levels Blumenthal says the Plains could see within a century. Under those conditions, Dalmatian toadflax flourished, growing in size 13-fold and producing more seeds….


    Invasive Species in Waterways on Rise Due to Climate Change


    Mar. 26, 2014 — One of the most serious threats to global biodiversity and the leisure and tourism industries is set to increase with climate change according to new research. Researchers have found that certain … full story

    Model now capable of street-level storm-tide predictions
    (March 25, 2014)A new modeling study demonstrates the ability to predict a hurricane’s storm tide at a much finer scale than current operational methods. The water that surged into the intersection of New York City’s Canal and Hudson streets during Hurricane Sandy — to choose just one flood-ravaged locale — was ultimately driven ashore by forces swirling hundreds of miles out in the Atlantic. That simple fact shows not only the scale and power of a tropical cyclone, but the difficulty of modeling and forecasting its potential for coastal flooding on the fine scale needed to most effectively prepare a response. … > full story

    Predicting climate: Researchers test seasonal-to-decadal prediction
    (March 25, 2014) — Researchers are exploring the potential for seasonal to decadal climate prediction. Seasonal-to-decadal prediction is now being tested with an advanced initialization method that has proven successful in weather forecasting and operational oceanography. … > full story

     

    Climate change will improve survival rates of British bird – the long-tailed tit.Credit: Image courtesy of University of Sheffield

    Climate change will improve survival rates of British bird — the long-tailed tit
    (March 24, 2014) — Climate change may be bad news for billions, but scientists have discovered one unlikely winner — a tiny British bird, the long-tailed tit. Like other small animals that live for only two or three years, these birds had until now been thought to die in large numbers during cold winters. But new research suggests that warm weather during spring instead holds the key to their survival. Like other small animals that live for only two or three years, these birds had until now been thought to die in large numbers during cold winters. But new research suggests that warm weather during spring instead holds the key to their survival.

    The findings come from a 20-year study of long-tailed tits run by Professor Ben Hatchwell at the Department of Animal and Plant Sciences. The recent work is led by PhD student Philippa Gullett and Dr Karl Evans from Sheffield, in collaboration with Rob Robinson from the British Trust for Ornithology.

    “During spring, birds must work their socks off to raise their chicks,” said Philippa Gullett. “For most small birds that live for only two or three years, not raising any chicks one year is a disaster. They might only get one more chance, so they can’t afford to fail.”

    No surprise then that these birds are willing to invest everything and risk death if it means their young survive. The surprise is that weather makes all the difference. The research discovered that birds trying to breed in warm and dry springs have much better chances of surviving to the next year — a novel result that counters common assumptions about the cause of death for small birds. “What seems to be going on is that the tits try to raise their chicks at any cost,” added Ms Gullett.

    “If it’s cold and wet in spring, that makes their job much tougher. Food is harder to find; eggs and chicks are at risk of getting cold. The result is that by the end of the breeding season, the adult birds are exhausted.” The study found no real effect of winter weather in recent years on adult survival, however cold and wet autumns were associated with a higher death rate. “We’re not saying that birds never die in winter — in harsh years there are bound to be some fatalities,” explained Dr Karl Evans. “However, it seems that in most years autumn weather plays a bigger role, perhaps acting as a filter that weeds out weaker birds before the real winter hits.” Although autumns may get wetter in the coming years, any increase in mortality is likely to be offset by the benefits of warmer breeding seasons, when more benign conditions reduce the costs of breeding. Dr Evans added: “Looking ahead to the future, our data suggests that every single plausible climate change scenario will lead to a further increase in long-tailed survival rates. While many species struggle to adjust to climate change, these delightful birds seem likely to be winners.” … > full story

     

    Philippa Gullett, Karl L. Evans, Robert A. Robinson, Ben J. Hatchwell. Climate change and annual survival in a temperate passerine: partitioning seasonal effects and predicting future patterns. Oikos, 2014; DOI: 10.1111/j.1600-0706.2013.00620.x

     

    A researcher bags a red backed salamander, Plethodon cenereus, prior to swabbing it, measuring it, and releasing it. Next, researchers will study whether smaller size is a useful adaptation to climate change, or is related to population declines. Credit: Nicholas M. Caruso

    Salamanders shrinking as their mountain havens heat up
    (March 25, 2014) — Salamanders in some of North America’s best habitat are shrinking fast as their surroundings get warmer and drier, forcing them to burn more energy. A new article examines specimens caught in the Appalachian Mountains from 1957 to 2007 and wild salamanders caught at the same sites in 2011-2012. Animals measured after 1980 averaged 8 percent smaller — one of the fastest rates of changing body size ever recorded. … > full story

     

    Nicholas M. Caruso, Michael W. Sears, Dean C. Adams, Karen R. Lips. Widespread rapid reductions in body size of adult salamanders in response to climate change. Global Change Biology, 2014; DOI: 10.1111/gcb.12550

     

    Dust in the wind drove iron fertilization during ice age
    (March 21, 2014) — A longstanding hypothesis that wind-borne dust carried iron to the region of the globe north of Antarctica, driving plankton growth and eventually leading to the removal of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere has been confirmed by researchers. Plankton remove the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide (CO2) from the atmosphere during growth and transfer it to the deep ocean when their remains sink to the bottom. … > full story

     

    Lots of carbon dioxide equivalents from aquatic environments
    (March 24, 2014) — Large amounts of carbon dioxide equivalents taken up by plants on land are returned to the atmosphere from aquatic environments. The findings were that emissions of carbon dioxide equivalents (as methane and carbon dioxide) from lakes, running water, dams, ponds, and wells correspond to on an average 42% of the expected natural carbon sink in India. This carbon sink may therefore be smaller than expected, illustrating that we do not have full knowledge on the natural greenhouse gas balance. … > full story

     

    Net primary productivity of subalpine meadows in Yosemite National Park in relation to climate variability

    Moore, PE, JW van Wagtendonk, JL Yee, MP McClaran, DN Cole, NK McDougald, ML Brooks. 2013. Net primary productivity of subalpine meadows in Yosemite National Park in relation to climate variability. Western North American Naturalist 73:4: 409-418. doi: 10.3398/064.073.0410 USGS WERC

    Subalpine meadows are some of the most ecologically important components of mountain landscapes, and primary productivity is important to the maintenance of meadow functions. Understanding how changes in primary productivity are associated with variability in moisture and temperature will become increasingly important with current and anticipated changes in climate. Our objective was to describe patterns and variability in aboveground live vascular plant biomass in relation to climatic factors. We harvested aboveground biomass at peak growth from four 64-m2 plots each in xeric, mesic, and hydric meadows annually from 1994 to 2000. Data from nearby weather stations provided independent variables of spring snow water content, snow-free date, and thawing degree days for a cumulative index of available energy. We assembled these climatic variables into a set of mixed effects analysis of covariance models to evaluate their relationships with annual aboveground net primary productivity (ANPP), and we used an information theoretic approach to compare the quality of fit among candidate models. ANPP in the xeric meadow was negatively related to snow water content and thawing degree days and in the mesic meadow was negatively related to snow water content. Relationships between ANPP and these 2 covariates in the hydric meadow were not significant. Increasing snow water content may limit ANPP in these meadows if anaerobic conditions delay microbial activity and nutrient availability. Increased thawing degree days may limit ANPP in xeric meadows by prematurely depleting soil moisture. Large within-year variation of ANPP in the hydric meadow limited sensitivity to the climatic variables. These relationships suggest that, under projected warmer and drier conditions, ANPP will increase in mesic meadows but remain unchanged in xeric meadows because declines associated with increased temperatures would offset the increases from decreased snow water content.

     

    Climate Change May Make Terrible Mudslides More Common

    By Eric Holthaus March 24 2014 12:54 PM

    An aerial view of the deadly mudslide in Washington Photo by Washington State Dept of Transportation via Getty Images

    The death toll from this weekend’s mudslide through Oso, Wash., is still climbing, with more than 100 still listed as missing. The stories emerging are the definition of heart-rending. Here’s one, from the Seattle Times: One volunteer firefighter who had stopped working around 11:30 p.m. Saturday night said many tragic stories have yet to be told. He watched one rescuer find his own front door, but nothing else—not his home, his wife or his child. They’re in the “missing” category along with many it is feared will eventually be listed as dead. “It’s much worse than everyone’s been saying,” said the firefighter, who did not want to be named. “The slide is about a mile wide. Entire neighborhoods are just gone. When the slide hit the river, it was like a tsunami.” The most immediate cause of the mudslide is a near-record pace of rainfall for the area so far in the month of March.

    Rainfall so far during the month of March has been 200-300 percent above normal across parts of western Washington State, site of this weekend’s tragic mudslide. Image: National Weather Service’s Advanced Hydrologic Prediction Service

    The Pacific Northwest has had an exceptionally wet finish to its rainy season, as storms that historically would have hit California were re-routed northward by a semi-permanent dome of high pressure that’s been mostly responsible for the intensifying drought there. This particular mudslide wasn’t just a freak event brought about by heavy rain, although this month’s deluge surely speeded the process. Another mudslide happened on this very same hillside just eight years ago. In fact, the State of Washington recently completed a project aimed at preventing future mudslides, just short distance away from the site of this weekend’s deadly tragedy. Only problem is? It was on the other side of the river. Again, from the Seattle Times: Sixteen months ago, the Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT) completed a $13.3 million project, called the Skaglund Hill Permanent Slide Repair, to secure an area just west of Saturday’s slide, on the opposite side of the Stillaguamish River. That project covered about a half-mile stretch of Highway 530, from mile marker 36.25 to 36.67. It secured a hill south of the river. Saturday’s slide collapsed a hill north of the river and sent mud crashing into the Stillaguamish and across Highway 530 between mile markers 37 and 38, according to WSDOT. This weekend’s tragedy reminds me of a similar pair of mudslides that occurred in 1995 and 2005 along the coast of California, in the tiny town of La Conchita. In 2005, heavy rains caused groundwater levels to rise, re-mobilizing the previous debris flow and creating a repeat tragedy. Like in La Conchita, this weekend’s disaster occurred in an area known for its landslides. There are surely other, more remote areas where this process happens with less tragic results.

    One of the most well-forecast and consequential components of human-caused climate change is the tendency for rainstorms to become more intense as the planet warms. As the effect becomes more pronounced, that will make follow-on events like flooding and landslides more common.

    But we don’t have to wait for the future. This is already happening. Here’s an explainer, from the Union of Concerned Scientists: As average global temperatures rise, the warmer atmosphere can also hold more moisture, about 4 percent more per degree Fahrenheit temperature increase. Thus, when storms occur there is more water vapor available in the atmosphere to fall as rain, snow or hail. Worldwide, water vapor over oceans has increased by about 4 percent since 1970 according to the 2007 U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report, its most recent.

    It only takes a small change in the amount of water vapor in the atmosphere to have a major effect. That’s because storms can draw upon water vapor from regions 10 to 25 times larger than the specific area where the rain or snow actually falls. According to the U.S. Global Change Research Program’s (USGCRP) most recent report, scientists have observed less rain falling in light precipitation events and more rain falling in the heaviest precipitation events across the United States. From 1958 to 2007, the amount of rainfall in the heaviest 1 percent of storms increased 31 percent, on average, in the Midwest and 20 percent in the Southeast. The United States Geological Survey maintains a database and monitoring program dedicated to identifying other places like La Conchita and Oso that may be at risk of future mudslides….

     

     

    Why Listening To Scientists Could’ve Minimized The Tragic Impact Of The Washington Mudslide

    By Ari Phillips on March 27, 2014

    As rescue crews and search dogs continue to scour day and night for survivors, it’s worth a moment to reflect on the importance of accurately communicating science in a situation like this.

     

    10853 out of 10855 scientists agree: Global warming is happening, and humans …

    Salon

     - ‎March 26, 2014‎

           

    In an update to his ongoing project of reviewing the literature on global warming, Powell went through every scientific study published in a peer-review journal during the calendar year 2013, finding 10,855 in total (more on his methodology here).

     

     

     

    Borrowed Time on Disappearing Land: Facing Rising Seas, Bangladesh Confronts the Consequences of Climate Change

    By GARDINER HARRISMARCH 28, 2014

    Photo

    Bangladesh, with its low elevation and severe tropical storms, is among the countries most vulnerable to the effects of climate change, though it has contributed little to the emissions that are driving it. Credit Kadir van Lohuizen for The New York Times

    DAKOPE, Bangladesh — When a powerful storm destroyed her riverside home in 2009, Jahanara Khatun lost more than the modest roof over her head. In the aftermath, her husband died and she became so destitute that she sold her son and daughter into bonded servitude. And she may lose yet more.

    Ms. Khatun now lives in a bamboo shack that sits below sea level about 50 yards from a sagging berm. She spends her days collecting cow dung for fuel and struggling to grow vegetables in soil poisoned by salt water. Climate scientists predict that this area will be inundated as sea levels rise and storm surges increase, and a cyclone or another disaster could easily wipe away her rebuilt life. But Ms. Khatun is trying to hold out at least for a while — one of millions living on borrowed time in this vast landscape of river islands, bamboo huts, heartbreaking choices and impossible hopes.

    Like many of her neighbors, Nasrin Khatun, unrelated to Jahanara Khatun, navigates daily life in a disappearing landscape. As the world’s top scientists meet in Yokohama, Japan, this week, at the top of the agenda is the prediction that global sea levels could rise as much as three feet by 2100. Higher seas and warmer weather will cause profound changes.
    Climate scientists have concluded that widespread burning of fossil fuels is releasing heat-trapping gases that are warming the planet. While this will produce a host of effects, the most worrisome may be the melting of much of the earth’s ice, which is likely to raise sea levels and flood coastal regions.
    Such a rise will be uneven because of gravitational effects and human intervention, so predicting its outcome in any one place is difficult. But island nations like the Maldives, Kiribati and Fiji may lose much of their land area, and millions of Bangladeshis will be displaced.”There are a lot of places in the world at risk from rising sea levels, but Bangladesh is at the top of everybody’s list,” said Rafael Reuveny, a professor in the School of Public and Environmental Affairs at Indiana University at Bloomington. “And the world is not ready to cope with the problems.”
    The effects of climate change have led to a growing sense of outrage in developing nations, many of which have contributed little to the pollution that is linked to rising temperatures and sea levels but will suffer the most from the consequences
    ….

     

     

    DROUGHT:

     

     

    California drought: Central Valley [southern San Joaquin Valley] farmland on its last legs

    Carolyn Lochhead SF Chronicle March 24, 2014

    Jack Mitchell sold about 3,000 acres of his Tulare County ranch a decade ago to federal officials trying to find out whether imperiled farmland could be returned to nature. Studies point to the need to retire more acreage. Photo: Michael Short, The Chronicle

    Even before the drought, the southern San Joaquin Valley was in big trouble. Decades of irrigation have leached salts and toxic minerals from the soil that have nowhere to go, threatening crops and wildlife. Aquifers are being drained at an alarming pace. More than 95 percent of the area’s native habitat has been destroyed by cultivation or urban expansion, leaving more endangered bird, mammal and other species in the southern San Joaquin than anywhere in the continental U.S. Federal studies long ago concluded that the only sensible solution is to retire hundreds of thousands of acres of farmland. Some farming interests have reached the same conclusion, even as they publicly blamed an endangered minnow to the north, known as the delta smelt, for the water restrictions that have forced them to fallow their fields. The 600,000-acre Westlands Water District, representing farmers on the west side of the valley, has already removed tens of thousands of acres from irrigation and proposed converting damaged cropland to solar farms. Many experts said if farmers don’t retire the land, nature eventually will do it for them. “We can make the decision now, when we actually have the choice about how to rationally back out of that bad situation and make landowners whole,” said Jon Rosenfield, a conservation biologist for the Bay Institute, an environmental group. “Or we can just wait until the worst is upon us, we’ve driven the species extinct, we’ve plowed under the last bit of naturalized landscape in the area, and then we’re going to retire these lands anyway.”…. The district now has on its website a proposal for a “Westlands Solar Park” to build solar power panels on 24,000 acres of farmland. In some areas of the valley, salt has crystallized on the surface, covering fields with what is known as “California snow,” rendering the ground useless not just for crops but also for any vegetation at all. Retiring lands before they reach that point “has just got to be the highest priority for California,” said Tom Stokely, a water policy analyst for California Water Impact Network, an environmental group. “We don’t have the water to be irrigating these poisoned lands. We’re having a hard enough time keeping the good lands in production.”

     

     

    DROUGHT: Lack of water threatens desert tortoise

    Desert tortoises can survive in areas where ground temperatures exceed 140 degrees Fahrenheit, but they are not as well-suited to the arid climate as many people think. They are at risk of extinction due to drought, among other factors, experts say. ROBB HANNAWACKER/NATIONAL PARK SERVICE

    BY JANET ZIMMERMAN STAFF WRITER March 21, 2014; 12:22 PM

    It’s early in the season, but some desert tortoises are setting about their springtime ritual, emerging from their burrows in search of bright yellow desert dandelions and other favorite forage. When the animals find such a feast, it leaves their beaks smeared bright green from chlorophyll in the plants….. — an encouraging sign to wildlife experts. Trackers of the long-lived and elusive animals say it appears that late February rains sparked enough germination of annual wildflowers and other plants to draw tortoises from their deep burrows, if temperatures are warm enough. Whether it’s enough to sustain this struggling population remains to be seen. “If the weather gets real hot and windy and the green-up dries out before the tortoises can take full advantage, they could have trouble this spring,” said Jeffrey Lovich, a research ecologist with the U.S. Geological Survey’s Southwest Biological Science Center in Flagstaff, Ariz. The Mojave Desert’s largest reptile is surprisingly susceptible to the effects of drought, and the past couple of years have been dry. Experts already have seen some changes….

     

    California drought: How water crisis is worse for almonds

    Peter Fimrite SF Chronicle March 23, 2014


    Humberto Hernandez uses an excavator to place a dead almond tree into a wood chipper as the sun rises March 14, 2014 on a former block of almond trees on the land of Baker Farming in Firebaugh, Calif. Barry Baker decided late last year to pull up 1,000 acres of his almond trees to save water during the drought. Photo: Leah Millis, The Chronicle

    Atwater, Merced County — A huge shift away from annual crops to nut trees has transformed the California farm belt over the past two decades and left farmers perilously vulnerable to the severe drought that is currently gripping the state. California farmers have spent past years busily ripping out lettuce, tomatoes and other annual crops in an attempt to sate the nation’s growing appetite for almonds, pistachios and other nuts. The delicious perennials are lucrative, but the vast orchards that have been planted throughout the Central Valley require decades-long investments, year-round watering and a commitment from Mother Nature that she is evidently unwilling to make. The crisis is a matter of crop flexibility. During droughts, farmers can fallow fields of lettuce and other crops, then replant them years later, picking up pretty much where they left off. That’s not an option for nut trees, which need 10 years of growing and a steady supply of water before they yield enough to pay for themselves. “These orchards are more profitable, which is why the farmers do it,” said Jay Lund, the director of the Center for Watershed Sciences at UC Davis. “It brings more money into California so there are a lot of good things about it, but the farmers have to be careful because a drought can be very tough on them.”

    The result is that about one-third of California’s agricultural land is, Lund said, “very hard to fallow.”

    Farmers are scrounging for every drop of water they can find – digging wells, tapping aquifers and finding alternative sources. But some are coming to the stark realization that, no matter what they do, there won’t be enough water to keep their trees alive. Barry Baker has decided to sacrifice 1,000 acres of his Fresno County almond orchard so that he can keep the remaining 4,000 acres alive. “It’s a huge economic loss,” said Baker, who looked on forlornly this past week as workers felled his beloved trees. “That’s probably $10 million in revenue I lost right there, but with the price of water today, up to $2,500 per acre-foot, there is no way I could have found the water this year.” ….The switchover from annual crops to nuts has, by all accounts, been highly profitable. Nut production in California brings in $7 billion in sales every year, with almonds by far the biggest money maker, at $4.35 billion. Only grapes, which generated $4.45 billion, sold more. The growth is, at least in part, because of the popularity of the Mediterranean diet, which may also explain why U.S. consumption of olive oil has tripled over the past twenty years. The average American eats 1.8 pounds of almonds, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. That’s a 36 percent increase since 2008. Consumption of walnuts, pistachios and pecans has also increased.

    Most of the orchards have been planted in areas suffering from what meteorologists call “extreme drought.” “An increase in the planting of permanent crops since California’s last drought episode in 2009 is one reason we have concerns that this drought has the potential to be significantly worse,” said Steve Lyle, the spokesman for the California Department of Food and Agriculture. About 3 million of the 9 million or so acres of irrigated agriculture in California are now orchards and vineyards, according to the experts. The Golden State is the nation’s top producer of tree nuts, with almonds far outpacing everything else…. There are more than 800,000 acres of almonds in California compared with 418,000 acres in 1995. Production also doubled, from 912 million pounds in 2006 to 1.88 billion in 2013. California produces 82 percent of the world’s almonds, which are neck and neck with grapes as the highest valued crop in the United States.

    Meanwhile, most field crops have been cut back. There was, for instance, 1.5 million acres of cotton in California 25 or 30 years ago. Now there is only 300,000 to 400,000 acres, said Daniel Sumner, of the Agricultural Issues Center at the University of California at Davis. The situation is also bad for dairy farmers and ranchers, according to Pete Craig, who owns a large cattle ranch near Lake Berryessa. He said the planting of almond orchards has taken thousands of acres of grazing land away from ranchers, many of whom are selling cattle because of a lack of feed. “My company has lost over 8,000 acres of grasslands that I leased for cattle grazing to almonds in the last year alone,” said Craig, who believes it is bad for the environment to replace California’s diverse grassland ecosystem with a monoculture. “It is impossible to compete against a very realistic $5,000 acre net return for a tree farmer, versus a $15 acre return on native rangeland, and perhaps a $100 acre return on irrigated ground to a cattle rancher. If you were a landowner, what would you do?”

    ….An almond tree must get 3 to 4 acre-feet of water per year or nut production will decrease for an extended period of time. An acre-foot is enough water to cover an acre of land in a foot of water. … And it could actually get worse before it gets better. “Another year of this and you will see even the people who planned ahead getting hurt really bad,” said Baker, the farmer who cut down 1,000 acres of orchard just so he could stay afloat another year. “It will really be a disaster next year.”

     

    California drought puts spotlight on water theft

    By Matt Weiser The Sacramento Bee March 22, 2014 

    It’s amazingly easy to steal water from a California stream. Even in this epic drought, the state has no way of monitoring exactly who is tapping into its freshwater supplies and how much they take.

    And those who do get caught taking water they have no right to often are allowed to keep taking it for years just by promising to obtain a permit. Nearly 30,000 entities in the state hold valid water diversion permits, including individual property owners, farmers and water utilities. Some have meters or gauges to measure their diversions, but the state has no ability of its own to monitor those gauges in real-time. People and entities with water rights are required to regularly report their water use to the state, but many don’t, and the state has no way of knowing whether their accounts —self-reported — are truthful. In average water years, many of these issues don’t matter much. But the weaknesses are expected to complicate matters this year as the state struggles to stretch limited water supplies during the worst drought in 40 years. This spring, it is likely the State Water Resources Control Board will order some water rights holders to divert less water to ensure enough flow for cities and wildlife, something that has not been done since the drought of 1976-77. The state’s ability to enforce such curtailment orders will be sorely tested…..

     

     

     

     

     

     

    UN climate science report will highlight ‘limits to adaptation’

    Focus on limits to adaptation within the new IPCC report could sharpen focus on loss and damage within UN talks

    Last updated on 26 March 2014, 8:32 am By Sophie Yeo

    Humans will struggle to adapt to dangerous levels of climate change indefinitely, a UN science report is expected to announce next week. It will warn that there are barriers to man’s ability to adapt to projected floods, droughts and other extreme weather events, which means that the world will inevitably endure a certain amount of pain within the next century. The two volume report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) is set to be released on March 31 in Yokohama, Japan. “The question of defining whether there are limits and what those limits might be is a new thing that we’ve uncovered in the IPCC, and I think it’s really interesting,” Frans Berkhout, lead author on the chapter on constraints to adaptation, told RTCC. “We can’t adapt our way out of this problem.”

    Loss and damage

    The findings will be particularly relevant to countries that are pushing for the controversial issue of ‘loss and damage’ to be recognised in a UN treaty to stop climate change, due to be signed off in Paris in 2015. ‘Loss and damage’ means that countries accept that damage as a result of climate change is inevitable, and that they must prepare themselves accordingly. This could take place in the form of research, insurance, or compensation payments from the rich countries historically responsible for climate change to those now suffering its consequences. But the notion that rich countries like the US should take the blame for climate change and pay out accordingly means that the issue is one of the most controversial at the UN climate negotiations. The fiercely political debate surrounding the issue means that the policy neutral IPCC is likely to steer clear of the phrase ‘loss and damage’ itself, but it’s there in all but name, says Saleemul Huq, an expert on the topic at the IIED, and a lead author on the IPCC report. “Chapter 16 is about the limits and barriers to adaptation. That’s effectively what happens when we fail to sufficiently adapt,” he told RTCC. “They may not use the words loss and damage, but substantively it’s there….

     

    Governments reject IPCC economist’s ‘meaningless’ climate costs estimate The Guardian March 28, 2014

    UK-based Richard Tol, who has criticised overall report, accused of underestimating costs of climate change in economics section

    Britain has dismissed as “completely meaningless” a key economic finding cited in part of the draft United Nations climate report from a dissenting author who went public on Thursday with criticisms of the report, the Guardian has learned. Scientists and government officials are gathered this week in Yokohama, Japan, to agree on the exact wording of a final summary of the UN report – seen as the authoritative account of climate change science – before its release on Monday. Britain and other governments have been severely critical of a finding from Richard Tol, a Dutch economics professor at Sussex University, according to documents made available to the Guardian. The summary of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report on the impact of global warming cites research by Tol on global economic losses due to climate change, which he put at between 0.2% and 2% of income. That is far lower than estimates of the costs of climate change by the economist Nicholas Stern. Britain and other governments rejected the finding as an underestimate when the draft was first circulated to officials last December, noting that Tol did not include the potential for catastrophic damages due to climate change. “This statement … risks being deeply misleading,” British officials wrote….

     

     

    Democrats plan big ad campaign in challenge to Koch brothers.
    NY TIMES

    Senate Majority PAC, an outside group that supports Senate Democrats, is preparing a $3 million ad campaign against Charles G. Koch and David H. Koch, the libertarian-minded billionaire brothers who support conservative causes and have already poured millions of dollars into the 2014 midterm elections.

     

    California Water Policy eNews March 26, 2014

    This week’s Water Plan eNews includes:

    • Biodiversity council will focus on improving agency alignment
    • ARB opens comment period for scoping plan’s draft environmental analysis
    • New report details stakeholder input on strategic plan for IRWM in California
    • Collaborative approaches for the Delta Plan on agenda for DSC
    • LAO looks at management of groundwater resources, offers recommendation
    • Central Valley Project report looks at strategies for dealing with climate change

     

     

    Bad News For Polluters: EPA Moves To Better Protect Streams And Wetlands

    By Joanna M. Foster on March 27, 2014

    The hope is that these new rules will restore protection for about 20 million wetland acres and two million miles of streams whose legal status was thrown into uncertainty during the Bush era.

     

     

    New York City Disposable Bag Ban Takes A Step Forward

    By Joanna M. Foster on March 27, 2014

    The New York City Council introduced legislation Wednesday that would charge customers 10 cents for plastic or paper bags at most city stores.

     

    Senator Feinstein and Valley Congressmembers call on Administration to take immediate action to capture water from latest storm

    March 28 2014 by Maven

    Senator Feinstein, along with Congressmembers Ken Calvert, Jim Costa, Jeff Denham, Kevin McCarthy, Devin Nunes and David Valadao have written a letter to Secretary Sally Jewell and Secretary Penny Pritzker, backing the exchange contractors request and asking them to evaluate the operating criteria for the Central Valley Project and the State Water Project in order to capture the maximum amount of runoff possible from this week’s storm that is passing through. The extremely low water allocations to agriculture will have severe imapcts, while so far, the numbers of take of listed species at the pumps are 0 or minimal, the letter states.  “These numbers show that existing protections for endangered fish are more than adequate.  On the other hand, our constituents’ farms and communities are facing potential devastation.  From our view, it is apparent that there is significant imbalance of regulatory burdens,” the letter says. A disaster of great magnitude has been unfolding in our communities, the letter says.  Since the state’s drought declaration, there have been only two major storms, and based on historical weather patterns, these storms could be the last chance.

    We understand that your Departments have to consider other factors, such as salinity levels in the Delta and the need for pulse flows.  Still, this latest data strongly suggests that there is significant leeway for the Bureau of Reclamation, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and the National Marine Fisheries Service to alter current water operations to benefit water users without risking jeopardy to protected species,” the letter says. “This latest rain storm is occurring as we speak.  You have authority under the law and, we assert, the obligation, to immediately take advantage of the rare, and likely the last, opportunity this year to capture and move water to bring relief to millions of Californians, and to mitigate the large-scale drought disaster that has struck our State.  We urge you in the strongest terms to take action without delay,” the legislators say.

    Read the full letter here: California Lawmakers Call on Administration to Take Immediate Action to Capture Water from Latest Storm

     

    California drought: So many water bonds, so little time

    By Jessica Calefati Posted:   03/22/2014 SACRAMENTO — As California’s drought drags on, more farmers are being forced to fallow fields and a growing number of small towns run out of water. So Republicans and Democrats here finally agree on something: They need to spend billions of dollars to fix California’s broken water system. But that doesn’t mean getting a water bond on November’s ballot that voters will approve is a sure thing. Gov. Jerry Brown hasn’t even decided whether he supports the idea, while the Legislature has come up with seven different schemes aimed at making the next drought a lot less painful. Republicans want to build new dams and reservoirs, Democrats want to fund conservation and recycling projects. And the Bay Area, Southern California and the Central Valley all have competing interests. Still, longtime Capitol observers see some hope for a grand compromise. “It would be a political missed opportunity if we don’t see a water bond on the ballot this fall,” said Jack Pitney, a political-science professor at Claremont McKenna College. “As Rahm Emanuel says, ‘Never let a crisis go to waste.’” Since 1970, California voters have approved 15 of the 16 water bonds they’ve considered, though most of the money has gone to water conservation and recycling, as opposed to water storage. The last time a water bond passed was 2006, when voters approved Proposition 84, authorizing $5.4 billion in spending on water projects…. Wolk’s blueprint includes $2.9 billion for watershed and ecosystem improvements, $2 billion for regional water-infrastructure projects, $1 billion for groundwater and surface storage upgrades and $900 million to expand access to safe drinking water, especially in disadvantaged communities.
    But everyone seems to want more, she said…..

     

     

    Will power dry up this summer too? Hanford Sentinel March 27 2014

    Recent focus on groundwater overdraft amid punishing drought has spurred yet another spin-off discussion: Will power companies run out of electricity in the hot summer months?  The issue goes beyond the possibility that your air conditioner or swamp cooler might shut off. It extends to growers who are dependent on electric well pumps to keep their crops alive. With so little available water, there’s little margin for error.

     

    The Expanding Impact of California’s Drought

    Download audio (MP3)

    California Report, KQED March 22, 2013

    Justin Sullivan/Getty Images Empty boat docks at the Folsom Lake Marina sit on the dry lakebed of Folsom Lake on March 20, 2014.

    Spring officially arrived this week, and with it a reminder that the rainy season — such as it was — is quickly coming to an end. The lack of rain was the focus of a very heated Congressional hearing in Fresno this week, and of policy changes from California’s superintendent of schools. Host Scott Shafer talks about the drought and its expanding impact with KQED Science Editor Craig Miller.

    SCOTT SHAFER: Craig, there were a number of drought-related things that happened this week. Help us, if you would, to put them in context.

    CRAIG MILLER: Scott, you know, the impacts of this drought — and we’re only just seeing the start of them — can almost be divided into the predictable and the unpredictable. And the congressional hearing in the Valley that you just referred to is kind of in the predictable category. It’s Valley Republicans decrying what they like to call the “man-made drought” or the “regulatory drought,” meaning that environmental regulations designed to protect the delta and protect fish are to blame substantially for the lack of water. Here’s Devin Nunes, a Republican who represents a district around Fresno:

    NUNES: These extremists won’t uproot themselves from their comfortable homes in San Francisco and other coastal cities, but they’re more than willing to use the Central Valley communities as a guinea pig to see if our lands can be restored to some mystical state of nature. You see the results of their relentless fight in the new Dust Bowl that has overtaken the Valley.

    MILLER: So this is framing the drought as farms versus fish. It’s an old drumbeat and it’s one that I think a lot of observers would say is a bit simplistic, given California’s complex water picture.

    SHAFER: A very much less predictable or anticipated impact of the drought this week played out with state School Superintendent Tom Torlakson touring the Central Valley and some of the school districts there. Describe what he was there to talk about.

    MILLER: Yeah. So this is an example of the unpredictable, I think. Who would’ve thought, I mean obviously if you’re close to the situation you see it happening, but who would’ve thought that the drought would have such a direct impact on public schools of all things? But as hundreds of thousands of acres go fallow, which will be happening this year — that means acreage not put into production — farmworker families will leave the towns where they’ve been.

    SHAFER: And maybe leave California.

    MILLER: And maybe leave California altogether for greener pastures, so to speak. Baldomero Hernandez, he’s certainly given it a lot of thought. He’s superintendent of the Westside Elementary School District down there. Here’s how he frames it:

    HERNANDEZ: Within a year or two my school district will be closed. Bottom line. With a zero allocation of water, that means next year 80 percent of the workforce out there in my area is laid off. It’s gone. They’re gonna leave.

    MILLER: And when they leave, that impacts the school districts directly because their state funding is tied directly to attendance.

    SHAFER: And so what can the state, what will the state do about it?

    MILLER: Well, they’re working on a plan right now that would allow school districts to maintain their funding at a certain level for a limited period of time even if students leave. But it’s just a temporary fix…..

     

     

    Heads Up: National Wildlife Refuge Association

    Keep an eye out for these upcoming events: 

    • April 10- Public Witness Day & Deadline to Submit Written Testimony to the House Interior Appropriations Subcommitee (Instructions)
    • April 22- Earth Day
    • May 10- International Migratory Bird Day
    • May 23- Deadline to submit written testimony to the Senate Interior Appropriations Subcommitee (Instructions)

     

     

     

     

     

    Texas oil spill threatens shorebird habitat

    Associated Press Published 10:34 pm, Saturday, March 22, 2014

    A barge sits partly submerged after a collision caused it to spill an unknown amount of fuel oil. Photo: PO3 Manda Emery, Associated Press

    McAllen, Texas

    Crews armed with infrared cameras planned to work through the night after a barge carrying nearly a million gallons of especially thick, sticky oil collided with a ship in Galveston Bay on Saturday, leaking an unknown amount of the fuel into the popular bird habitat as the peak of the migratory shorebird season was approaching. Booms were brought in to try to contain the spill, which the Coast Guard said was reported at around 12:30 p.m. by the captain of the 585-foot ship, Summer Wind. Coast Guard Lt. j.g. Kristopher Kidd said the spill hadn’t been contained as of late Saturday, and that the collision was still being investigated. The ship collided with a barge carrying 924,000 gallons of marine fuel oil, also known as special bunker, which was being towed by the vessel Miss Susan, the Coast Guard said. It didn’t give an estimate of how much fuel had spilled into the bay, but there was a visible sheen of oil at the scene. Officials believe only one of the barge’s tanks was breached, but that tank had a capacity of 168,000 gallons….

     

    Galveston Oil Spill Threatening Crucial Bird Refuge

    National Geographic 

     - ‎March 24, 2014‎

           

    A barge that spilled 168,000 gallons (635,000 liters) of oil Saturday into Galveston Bay is threatening a refuge that’s crucial habitat for thousands of birds, experts say. The spill occurred when the barge collided with a ship in the Houston Ship …

     

    Why electric utilities should struggle to sleep at night. Washington Post March 26, 2014

    What’s good news for those concerned with climate change, and bad news for electric utilities? That’s grid parity, which is sometimes called socket parity. It exists when an alternative energy source generates electricity at a cost matching the price of power from the electric grid…

     

    Permian Basin: America’s newest fracking boom where there’s not much water

    Emily Guerin | Mar 19, 2014 10:40 PM High Country News

    In the early 1980s, it wasn’t so uncommon for a visitor to Midland, Texas, to saunter off his private jet and into a Rolls Royce dealership. Eight Midland oil barons made it onto Forbes’ list of the 400 wealthiest Americans, “an amazing statistic considering that the city’s population was only 70,000,” notes Texas Monthly writer Skip Hollandsworth. It was the height of the oil boom in the Permian Basin, a geologic formation that underlies southeastern New Mexico and West Texas. The Permian was a place where newly drilled oil wells spurted into the sky, producing 600 or more barrels of oil a day. But by 1983, the 10-year energy crisis had ended, Saudi Arabia amped up production and the price of oil dropped. West Texas emptied out, and since then, oil production in the Permian has sputtered. Now, thanks to horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing – the same technology that turned quiet western North Dakota towns into congested cities teeming with roughnecks – the Permian is on its way to another boom. The region’s aging, under-producing vertical rigs are being replaced by new, horizontal drilling operations that can suck crude from hard to reach places…..

    In the past five years, horizontal drilling in the Permian has exploded: the number of rigs has increased fivefold. Since 2011 alone, companies have drilled over 9,300 new wells. The federal Energy Information Administration expects Permian oil production to surge to over 1.3 million barrels per day in 2014, from just 800,000 barrels in 2007. The basin is now the country’s largest oil producer.
    Water is one of the key ingredients facilitating the boom. In the Permian Basin, like many other oil and gas producing regions, water is scarce and over allocated. A new report by Ceres, a Boston-based environmental non-profit focused on sustainable investing and business, found that more than 70 percent of the Permian’s oil wells are in areas of extreme water stress, which means over 80 percent of surface water and shallow groundwater is already allocated.

    In the Permian, 1.1 million gallons are needed to frack each well – which isn’t much compared to other parts of the country (wells in the Bakken use twice as much, and in Texas’ Eagle Ford Shale each well averages over 4.4 million gallons). But the sheer number of wells in the Permian means the gallons add up, and with more wells biting into the shale every day, Ceres projects water use in the Permian to double by 2020. Only two percent of fracking water is recycled in the Permian, says Brooke Barton, the water program manager at Ceres. That’s because Texas, like 32 other states, gives companies a cheaper, easier solution: injecting wastewater into a deep underground well. “Some companies have tried to do recycling, but they stopped doing it because it costs more money than using a disposal well,” says JP Nicot, a research scientist who studies water consumption in the oil and gas industry for the Bureau of Economic Geology at University of Texas-Austin. “If it’s not sustainable, they’ll stop doing it.” Still, there is at least one oil company operating in the Permian that’s trying to cut its water use. Apache Corporation recycles fracking water and supplements it with brackish water pumped from aquifers, reducing its consumption of fresh groundwater. But there’s a catch: in some parts of the Permian Basin, there is
    no fresh water to be found. “Using brackish water looks good on paper, but there is no other choice,” Nicot says. “They could use fresh water, but they’d have to ship it from 15 miles away. So it doesn’t make sense.”…

     

    Engineered bacteria produce biofuel alternative for high-energy rocket fuel
    (March 26, 2014) — Researchers have engineered a bacterium to synthesize pinene, a hydrocarbon produced by trees that could potentially replace high-energy fuels, such as JP-10, in missiles and other aerospace applications. By inserting enzymes from trees into the bacterium scientists have boosted pinene production six-fold over earlier bioengineering efforts. … > full story

     

     

    Could a toilet reinvention help save $260 billion worldwide?

    By Katy Daigle, Associated Press 03/22/2014 07:13:36 PM MDT

    An exhibitor demonstrates the use of a toilet tap where water is recycled and reused, during Reinvent The Toilet Fair in New Delhi, India. Scientists who accepted the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundationâ s challenge to reinvent the toilet showcased their inventions in the Indian capital Saturday with the primary goal to sanitize waste, use minimal water or electricity, and produce a usable product at low cost. (Tsering Topgyal/AP Photo)

    NEW DELHI — Who would have expected a toilet to one day filter water, charge a cellphone or create charcoal to combat climate change? These are lofty ambitions beyond what most of the world’s 2.5 billion people with no access to modern sanitation would expect. Yet, scientists and toilet innovators around the world say these are exactly the sort of goals needed to improve global public health amid challenges such as poverty, water scarcity and urban growth. Scientists who accepted the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation’s challenge to reinvent the toilet showcased their inventions in the Indian capital Saturday. The primary goal: to sanitize waste, use minimal water or electricity, and produce a usable product at low cost. The World Bank estimates the annual global cost of poor sanitation at $260 billion, including loss of life, missed work, medical bills and other related factors. India alone accounts for $54 billion — more than the entire GDP of Kenya or Costa Rica. India is by far the worst culprit, with more than 640 million people defecating in the open and producing a stunning 72,000 tons of human waste each day — the equivalent weight of almost 10 Eiffel Towers or 1,800 humpback whales….

     

     

     

     

     

    1. RESOURCES and REFERENCES

     
     


    CA Dept of Fish and Wildlife Climate College Resources and Upcoming Classes

     

    Class #2: March 10, 2014, 1:00 – 3:00 p.m.

    Climate impacts on California’s marine waters (PDF)

    Nate Mantua, NOAA/Southwest Fisheries Science Center

    Featured Reading

     
     

    Class #3: April 3, 2014, 2:00 – 4:00 p.m.

    Climate Change Impacts: Winds/Upwelling and California Current/Counter Currents.

    For participants outside of CDFW, please use the Outside CDFW Enrollment Form – Lecture #3

    Location: Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute, Pacific Forum, 7700 Sandholdt Rd, Moss Landing, CA

    Speakers

    • Arthur Miller, Ph.D., Research Oceanographer. Scripps Institution of Oceanography
    • Francisco Chavez, Ph.D., Senior Scientist, Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute

     

     

    UPCOMING CONFERENCES: 

     

    WATER RESOURCES MANAGEMENT  2014 Conference

    North (SF) Bay Watershed Association Friday, April 11, 2014  NOVATO, CA  8:00 AM to 4:30 PM PDT

    The conference will bring together key participants from around the North Bay to focus on how we can work together to manage our water resources.

    Keynote Speakers

    • Mark Cowin, Director, CA Department of Water Resources
    • Jared Huffman, U.S. Congressman, California 2nd District
    • Felicia Marcus, Chair, State Water Resources Control Board

    For more information or questions contact: Elizabeth Preim-Rohtla North Bay Watershed Association nbwa@marinwater.org 415-945-1475

     

    EARTH DAY 2014

    Stanford experts from a range of disciplines will discuss the interconnections and interactions among humanity’s need for and use of climate, energy, food, water, and environmental resources…..

     

    Southern Sierra Fire and Hydroclimate Workshop

    April 22-24, 2014 Yosemite Valley, CA

    This workshop is focused on developing an integrated view of the physical landscape, climate effects, hydrology and fire regimes of the Sierra Nevada.

     

    Sanctuary Currents Symposium; Marine Debris: How do you pitch in?
    Saturday April 26, 2014, University Center, California State University Monterey Bay

    Research Posters: Call for abstracts will occur in January.  Visit the Sanctuary Currents Symposium website for updates and information: Sanctuary Currents Symposium

     

     

    US EPA Climate Showcase Communities Replication Workshop
    April 30, 2014—Hotel Monaco, Baltimore, MD

    US EPA’s Climate Showcase Communities program is hosting a free, 1-day workshop highlighting successful local and tribal government climate and energy strategies that can be replicated in communities across the US. Panel themes will include:

    · Engaging the Community and Changing Behavior

    · Big Opportunities for Small Communities

    · Innovative Green Business Solutions

    · Leveraging Partnerships and Opportunities

     Please register for the workshop by April 15, 2014 at the conference registration website. For more information about the Climate Showcase Communities program, including a list of grantees and project descriptions, visit the Climate Showcase Communities website. To view a short video overview of past CSC Workshops, please visit our YouTube channel. Please contact Andrea Denny with any questions.

    Scenario Planning toward Climate Change Adaptation (pdf) WORKSHOP May 6-8, 2014 NCTC, Shepherdstown, West Virginia

    This overview course will introduce the core elements of scenario planning and expose participants to a diversity of approaches and specific scenario development techniques that incorporate both qualitative and quantitative components.

     

     


    Headwaters to Ocean “H20″ Conference
    May 27-29, 2014 San Diego, CA

     


    Ecosystems, Economy and Society: How large-scale restoration can stimulate sustainable development (in DC)

    29 – 30 MAY 2014 U.S. National Academy of Sciences, Washington DC, USA

     

     

    North America Congress for Conservation Biology Meeting. July 13-16, Missoula, MT. The biennial NACCB provides a forum for presenting and discussing new research and developments in conservation science and practice for addressing today’s conservation challenges.

    First Stewards
    July 21-23, Washington, DC.

    First Stewards will hold their 2nd annual symposium at the National Museum of the American Indian. This year’s theme is
    United Indigenous Voices Address Sustainability: Climate Change and Traditional Places

    99th Annual Meeting of the Ecological Society of America
    Sacramento, California  August 10-15, 2014  http://www.esa.org/sacramento

     

    California Adaptation Forum 
    August 19-20, 2014
    . SACRAMENTO, CA

    This two-day forum will build off a successful National Adaptation Forum held in Colorado in 2013. The attendance of many California leaders there underscored the need for a California-focused event, which will be held every other year to complement the biennial national conference.  To register go to:  https://www1.gotomeeting.com/register/886364449

    Call for Session ProposalsDue: March 20, 2014
    This forum is designed to create a network of climate adaptation leaders who have a strong commitment to addressing climate risks.
    Proposal session categories include: 
    1) Planning 
    2) Governance 
    3) Implementation Strategies 
    4) Monitoring and Evaluation 
    5) Innovation and Technology 
    6) Communication and Stakeholder Engagement 
    7) Funding, Financing and the Economics of Adaptation  
    Click here for more information.

     

    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.

     

     

     

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

     


    POINT BLUE CONSERVATION SCIENCE

    Point Blue Conservation Science, founded as Point Reyes Bird Observatory and based in Petaluma, California, is a growing and internationally renowned nonprofit with over 140 staff and seasonal scientists. Our highest priority is to reduce the impacts of accelerating changes in climate, land-use and the ocean on wildlife and people while promoting climate-smart conservation for a healthy, blue planet.  Point Blue advances conservation of nature for wildlife and people through science, partnerships and outreach. Our scientists work hand-in-hand with wildlife managers, private land owners, ranchers, farmers, other scientists, major conservation groups, and federal, state, and local government agencies and officials.  Point Blue has tripled in size over the past 12 years in response to the ever–increasing demand for sound science to assess and guide conservation investments in our rapidly changing world.  At the core of our work is innovative, collaborative science.

     

    Studying birds and other environmental indicators, we evaluate natural and human-driven change over time and guide our partners in adaptive management for improved conservation outcomes. We publish in peer-reviewed journals and contribute to the “conservation commons” of open access scientific knowledge. We also store, manage and interpret over 800 million bird and ecosystem observations from across North America and create sophisticated, yet accessible, decision support tools to improve conservation today and for an uncertain future. 

     

    This is a pivotal moment in the history of life on our planet requiring unprecedented actions to ensure that wildlife and people continue to thrive in the decades to come.  Working from the Sierra to the sea and as far away as the Ross Sea (Antarctica), Point Blue is collaboratively implementing climate-smart conservation.   Read more at www.pointblue.org.

     

     

     

     

    1. OTHER NEWS OF INTEREST

     


    Plane search hampered by ocean garbage problem


    By Tom Cohen, CNN updated 3:39 PM EDT, Fri March 21, 2014

    (CNN) — Another debris field, another new and so-far futile focus in the search for Flight MH370. Two weeks after the Malaysia Airlines jet disappeared, one thing has been made clear: the ocean is full of garbage, literally. “It isn’t like looking for a needle in a haystack,” Conservation International senior scientist M. Sanjayan said of the difficulty in finding the Boeing 777 aircraft. “It’s like looking for a needle in a needle factory. It is one piece of debris among billions floating in the ocean.” Environmentalists like Sanjayan have warned for years that human abuse of the planet’s largest ecosystem causes major problems for ocean life and people that depend on it. With the world’s eyes now scouring Asian waters for any trace of the plane that was more than 240 feet long and weighed more than 700,000 pounds, the magnitude of the ocean debris problem has become evident….No definitive records exist, but estimates for how many containers go overboard range from about 700 to as many as 10,000 of the roughly 100 million that the World Shipping Council says get shipped each year. Lost containers are only a minor part of the problem. While ship waste also adds to ocean pollution, most of the garbage comes from land, Sanjayan said. More than a third of the world’s 7 billion people live within 60 miles of an ocean coast, and their waste inevitably reaches the water — either deliberately or indirectly. Estimates from various sources, including the Japanese government, indicate that more than 10 million tons of debris — including houses, tires, trees and appliances — washed into the sea in the 2011 tsunami….

     

     

    Lessons From the Little Ice Age

    By GEOFFREY PARKER MARCH 22, 2014 NY Times

    COLUMBUS, Ohio — CLIMATOLOGISTS call it the Little Ice Age; historians, the General Crisis.

    During the 17th century, longer winters and cooler summers disrupted growing seasons and destroyed harvests across Europe. It was the coldest century in a period of glacial expansion that lasted from the early 14th century until the mid-19th century. …. What happened in the 17th century suggests that altered weather conditions can have catastrophic political and social consequences. Today, the nation’s intelligence agencies have warned of similar repercussions as the planet warms — including more frequent but unpredictable crises involving water, food, energy supply chains and public health. States could fail, famine could overtake large populations and flood or disease could cross borders and lead to internal instability or international conflict. …..Britain’s chief scientific officer has warned, for instance, that in the face of a seemingly inexorable rise in sea levels, “We must either invest more in sustainable approaches to flood and coastal management or learn to live with increased flooding.” In short, we have only two choices: pay to prepare now — or prepare to pay much more later. The experience of Somalia provides a terrible reminder of the consequences of inaction. Drought in the region between 2010 and 2012 created local famine, exacerbated by civil war that discouraged and disrupted relief efforts and killed some 250,000 people, half of them under the age of 5. In the 17th century, the fatal synergy of weather, wars and rebellions killed millions. A natural catastrophe of analogous proportions today — whether or not humans are to blame — could kill billions. It would also produce dislocation and violence, and compromise international security, sustainability and cooperation. So while we procrastinate over whether human activities cause climate change, let us remember the range of climate-induced catastrophes that history shows are inevitable — and prepare accordingly.

     

     

    Elizabeth Kolbert INTERVIEW– on How Tech Can — And Can’t — Tackle Climate Change and Extinction

    March 23, 2014, 8:00 AM PDT By James Temple

    Somewhere around two hundred thousand years ago, a new primate emerges on Earth. “The members of the species are not particularly swift or strong or fertile,” the New Yorker’s Elizabeth Kolbert writes in her new book, “The Sixth Extinction: An Unnatural History.” “They are, however, singularly resourceful.” It is, of course, us — big-brained, small-browed genetic mutants clever enough to outcompete animals ten times our size and gradually fan out across the globe…..

     

    The Ecological Creed of Craft Beer

    A time-honored artisanal endeavor is quietly articulating a 21st century version of industrial production

    By James McWilliams March 2014 Conservation

    From the outside, the New Belgium Brewery, located on 50 acres near downtown Fort Collins, Colorado, appears to be an environmentalist’s dreamscape. Company-issued bicycles surround the facility. A parking lot next to the brew house has an electric car charging station. Solar panels layer the roof of the bottling plant. A well-worn biking path snakes across the property. This tableau of eco-correctness is impressive. So impressive, in fact, that I found myself feeling skeptical as I watched the brewery come to life on a cold January morning. After all, there’s a lot of what Robert Engelman of Worldwatch Institute calls “sustainababble” out there. Brewing is a quintessential artifact of rust-belt industrialism, so it is hardly the first place I’d think to look for environmental inspiration….

     

    Climate Change Art: That Sinking Feeling

    By ANDREW C. REVKIN NY Times March 25, 2014

    A sculptor’s view of politicians yammering in the face of rising seas and a warming climate.

     

    What Famous Old Paintings Can Tell Us About Climate Change

    The Atlantic Cities

    March 25, 2014

           

    To study climate change, scientists often must travel to extremely remote places. Clues are stored in fossils on the ocean floor, under the bark of Alaskan trees, and inside air bubbles trapped deep in the Antarctic ice. Christos Zerefos, an atmospheric researcher at the Academy of Athens in Greece, has a shorter commute. When he wants to investigate the climate, he stares at landscapes executed by some of Britain’s most esteemed painters, like this circa-1829 piece by J. M. W. Turner:

    (Wikipaintings)

    Whereas the casual viewer of “The Lake, Petworth: Sunset, Fighting Bucks” might spy a transcendent panorama from one of Romanticism’s leading artists, Zerefos notices something different. He sees the sky: a hazy, almost angry-looking blob of dirty-yellow sunlight. To him, the strange colors are evidence that something was happening to alter the atmosphere, and that it was big and violent enough that painters years apart would capture it on their canvases. After studying hundreds of landscapes made between 1500 and 2000, Zerefos and fellow researchers in Germany believe that these spectacular scenes were the result of volcanic air pollution. More than 80 major eruptions occurred during that 500-year period, they say in a new study in Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics. Some, like the 1815 Tambora explosion in Indonesia, spewed aerosols like ash and sulfates over much of the planet. That created a situation known as high “aerosol optical depth“—basically, there was so much junk floating around that it scattered the sunlight, producing brilliant red-and-orange sunsets that lasted as long as three years after an eruption….

     

     

    Secret to cutting sugary drink use by teens found by new study
    (March 26, 2014) — A new study shows that teenagers can be persuaded to cut back on sugary soft drinks — especially with a little help from their friends. A 30-day challenge encouraging teens to reduce sugar-sweetened drink use lowered their overall consumption substantially and increased by two-thirds the percentage of high-school students who shunned sugary drinks altogether.
    … > full story

     

     

     

    1. IMAGES OF THE WEEK

     

     

     

     


     

     


     

     


     

     

     


     

     


     

     

    MIND OVER MECHANICS—youtube video

    Technology is exciting!  Someday you will control it by thinking it.   Turn up sound, watch full screen and ponder the future potential….

     
     

     

    CA BLM WILDLIFE TRIVIA ANSWER and related information

     

    Desert iguanas are most common in the Mojave and Colorado deserts of California. One special trait gives them an advantage over other animals in their range. What is it?



    (a.) They are the most heat-tolerant reptiles in North America, so they have little competition while locating food in midday heat.

    SOURCE: “Desert iguana – Dipsosaurus dorsalis” (BLM California wildlife database)
    These lizards are the most heat-tolerant reptiles in North America. They can remain active in temperatures up to 115 degrees Fahrenheit (this temperature would kill most other reptiles). Most desert reptiles avoid the extreme heat of mid-afternoon, so with all of the other species hidden in shady areas, desert iguanas have very little competition for food.http://ow.ly/v0zhC


    PHOTO: One of Amboy Crater’s Desert Iguanas by Jennifer Dickson
    (The Wilderness Society, Jennifer’s Blog)
    Make a pit stop for critters at California’s Amboy Crater. http://ow.ly/v0zNG

     

     

     

    ————

    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.

     

  10. WHAT WE KNOW: Reality, Risks and Response to Climate Change AAAS

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    Scientists Sound Alarm on Climate

    MARCH 18, 2014 Justin Gillis NY Times

    Early in his career, a scientist named Mario J. Molina was pulled into seemingly obscure research about strange chemicals being spewed into the atmosphere. Within a year, he had helped discover a global environmental emergency, work that would ultimately win a Nobel Prize. Now, at 70, Dr. Molina is trying to awaken the public to an even bigger risk. He spearheaded a committee of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the world’s largest general scientific society, which released a stark report Tuesday on global warming. The report warns that the effects of human emissions of heat-trapping gases are already being felt, that the ultimate consequences could be dire, and that the window to do something about it is closing. “The evidence is overwhelming: Levels of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere are rising,” says the report. “Temperatures are going up. Springs are arriving earlier. Ice sheets are melting. Sea level is rising. The patterns of rainfall and drought are changing. Heat waves are getting worse, as is extreme precipitation. The oceans are acidifying.”….. In a sense, this is just one more report about global warming in a string going back decades. For anybody who was already paying attention, the report contains no new science. But the language in the 18-page report, called “What We Know,” is sharper, clearer and more accessible than perhaps anything the scientific community has put out to date. And the association does not plan to stop with the report. The group, with a membership of 121,200 scientists and science supporters around the world, plans a broad outreach campaign to put forward accurate information in simple language…..

     


    Climate Scientists: We’re Alarmed. Here’s Why You Should Be, Too.



    By Joe Romm on March 20, 2014 climateprogress.org

    The world’s largest general scientific society, the American Association for the Advancement of Science, has issued an uncharacteristically blunt call to action on climate change. The must-read new report by the AAAS’s Climate Science Panel, “What We Know” has several simple messages [see below]…. Kudos to the AAAS for this report. They join the US National Academy of Sciences and the U.K. Royal Society in producing a new, highly readable climate report, though the AAAS has done a better job of bluntly laying out the risks.

    Bottom line: If a generally staid, consensus-oriented body like the AAAS is alarmed, then we all should be. As climatologist Lonnie Thompson explained back in 2010: Climatologists, like other scientists, tend to be a stolid group. We are not given to theatrical rantings about falling skies. Most of us are far more comfortable in our laboratories or gathering data in the field than we are giving interviews to journalists or speaking before Congressional committees. Why then are climatologists speaking out about the dangers of global warming? The answer is that virtually all of us are now convinced that global warming poses a clear and present danger to civilization.

     

    What we know:

    THE REALITY, RISKS AND RESPONSE TO CLIMATE CHANGE
    American Association for the Advancement of Science

    The overwhelming evidence of human-caused climate change documents both current impacts with significant costs and extraordinary future risks to society and natural systems. The scientific community has convened conferences, published reports, spoken out at forums and proclaimed, through statements by virtually every national scientific academy and relevant major scientific organization — including the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) — that climate change puts the well-being of people of all nations at risk.

    Surveys show that many Americans think climate change is still a topic of significant scientific disagreement.[i] Thus, it is important and increasingly urgent for the public to know there is now a high degree of agreement among climate scientists that human-caused climate change is real. Moreover, while the public is becoming aware that climate change is increasing the likelihood of certain local disasters, many people do not yet understand that there is a small, but real chance of abrupt, unpredictable and potentially irreversible changes with highly damaging impacts on people in the United States and around the world.

    It is not the purpose of this paper to explain why this disconnect between scientific knowledge and public perception has occurred. Nor are we seeking to provide yet another extensive review of the scientific evidence for climate change. Instead, we present key messages for every American about climate change:

    1.  Climate scientists agree: climate change is happening here and now. Based on well-established evidence, about 97% of climate scientists have concluded that human-caused climate change is happening. This agreement is documented not just by a single study, but by a converging stream of evidence over the past two decades from surveys of scientists, content analyses of peer-reviewed studies, and public statements issued by virtually every membership organization of experts in this field. Average global temperature has increased by about 1.4˚ F over the last 100 years. Sea level is rising, and some types of extreme events – such as heat waves and heavy precipitation events – are happening more frequently. Recent scientific findings indicate that climate change is likely responsible for the increase in the intensity of many of these events in recent years.

    2.  We are at risk of pushing our climate system toward abrupt, unpredictable, and potentially irreversible changes with highly damaging impacts. Earth’s climate is on a path to warm beyond the range of what has been experienced over the past millions of years.[ii] The range of uncertainty for the warming along the current emissions path is wide enough to encompass massively disruptive consequences to societies and ecosystems: as global temperatures rise, there is a real risk, however small, that one or more critical parts of the Earth’s climate system will experience abrupt, unpredictable and potentially irreversible changes. Disturbingly, scientists do not know how much warming is required to trigger such changes to the climate system.

    3. The sooner we act, the lower the risk and cost. And there is much we can do.
    Waiting to take action will inevitably increase costs, escalate risk, and foreclose options to address the risk. The CO2 we produce accumulates in Earth’s atmosphere for decades, centuries, and longer. It is not like pollution from smog or wastes in our lakes and rivers, where levels respond quickly to the effects of targeted policies. The effects of CO2 emissions cannot be reversed from one generation to the next until there is a large- scale, cost-effective way to scrub carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. Moreover, as emissions continue and warming increases, the risk increases.

    By making informed choices now, we can reduce risks for future generations and ourselves, and help communities adapt to climate change. People have responded successfully to other major environmental challenges such as acid rain and the ozone hole with benefits greater than costs, and scientists working with economists believe there are ways to manage the risks of climate change while balancing current and future economic prosperity.

    As scientists, it is not our role to tell people what they should do or must believe about the rising threat of climate change. But we consider it to be our responsibility as professionals to ensure, to the best of our ability, that people understand what we know: human-caused climate change is happening, we face risks of abrupt, unpredictable and potentially irreversible changes, and responding now will lower the risk and cost of taking action.