Ecology, Climate Change and Related News

Ellie Cohen, President and CEO, Point Blue Conservation Science

Archive: Mar 2014

  1. Natural History’s Place in Science and Society

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    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.

  2. Conservation Science News March 28, 2014

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    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….

    .

     

     

    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.

     

  3. WHAT WE KNOW: Reality, Risks and Response to Climate Change AAAS

    Leave a Comment

     

    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.

  4. US Bycatch

    Leave a Comment

     

    US fishermen throw back 20% of their catch—often after the fish are already injured or dead

    By Gwynn Guilford @sinoceros March 20, 2014

     

    Over the side with these. Reuters/Alister Doyle

     

    Each year, the 41 Alaskan trawlers licensed to sift the seas for flatfish—such as flounder and sole—haul back around $6 million worth of fish. Boat space is limited, so fishermen save it for only the priciest fish. That means the less-valuable fish go back over the side, along with the hundreds of other sea creatures that these fishermen can’t sell back on land, because they’re funny-tasting, too small, simply wrong kind of fish, or even an endangered species. By the time they’re tossed back, many of these animals are already dead (pdf, p.7). Just how destructive is this practice?

     

    A new report by Oceana (pdf), an NGO concerned with ocean wildlife conservation, estimates that these Alaskan flatfish trawlers are throwing back around $17.7 million worth of fish a year. That’s right: nearly three times the value of what those fishermen actually sell.

    +

    What gets cast back into the Gulf of Alaska, dead or alive. Oceana

     

    Alaska, alas, is not an outlier. Oceana calculates that, all told, 17-22% of what all US fisheries haul up is discarded as bycatch, which is what the industry calls the fish that are thrown back, dead or alive. That adds up to a minimum of 2 billion pounds chucked back each year—or about 4.5 ounces for every pound of seafood the average American eats. Here are some of the startling figures from Oceana’s report:

     

    • The $90 million Northeast Bottom Trawl fishery discards 35% of its catch. 50 million pounds of fish are thrown back each year.
    • The $13.8-million Southeast Snapper-Grouper Longline fishery discards 66% of its catch. More than 400,000 sharks were thrown back in a single year.
    • The $450,000 California Set Gillnet fishery discards 65% of its catch. The fishery caught 94 baby great white sharks in a five-year period. Around half of them were dead on arrival.
    • The $314-million Southeast Shrimp Trawl Fishery discards 64% of its catch. Thousands of sea turtles die trapped in nets each year.

     

    Why is this happening? To keep up with surging global seafood consumption, the fishing business has industrialized, harnessing increasingly powerful engines to drag bigger nets farther, faster. That has collapsed and threatened the populations of America’s favorite fish species, including Atlantic cod and Pacific halibut.

     

    The depletion of those standbys has encouraged still more industrialization. To catch rarer species, fishermen must travel farther, and cast those bigger nets many more times to land the same number they once did. Boats now rake the sea with trawl nets as wide as football fields, says Amanda Keledjian, one of the report’s authors. And longlines—ropes with thousands of baited hooks attached—can trail 50 miles behind boats. It’s probably no coincidence that seven-eighths of the species targeted by the Southeast Snapper-Grouper fishery—which has the highest discard rate—are currently overfished. The rarer the target species, the more bycatch dies at sea. This not only further endangers vulnerable species; it also has dire economic consequences. One fishery’s bycatch is oftentimes another fishery’s prize catch.

     

    Take for example bluefin tuna, whose stocks are in such precipitous decline that Japan—the fancy fish capital of the world—just announced that it’s slashing its catch limit on juveniles by half. The species’ rarity means it’s pricey; Japan paid around $10 per pound on US Atlantic bluefin tuna last year, according to the National Marine Fisheries Service data

     

    Protecting juveniles is vital to preventing their numbers from shrinking further, which is why regulations in Japan, the US and other places prevent their capture. But those laws do little if juveniles don’t survive long enough to reproduce. The vessels in the $52-million Atlantic Highly Migratory Species Longline fishery threw back twice as many bluefin tunas as they were allowed to keep (presumably due to rules banning capture of juveniles), says Oceana—disquieting given generally high mortality rates (pdf) for longline-caught bluefin tuna.

     

    Pacific halibut offer an even more vivid example. The stocks of these valuable fish, which can grow up to eight feet (2.4 meters) and spoil slowly, have plunged in the last decade—even in the Gulf of Alaska, the nursery ground for the species. The authorities forbid Alaskan flatfish trawlers from keeping the halibut they bring aboard as bycatch for fear that allowing them to sell the species would lead to their targeting it. The problem is, an estimated 40-70% halibut die in the process of being snared as bycatch and discarded.

     

    That worsens the halibut shortage and robs Alaskan halibut fishermen of at least around $13.5 million annually, according to Oceana estimates. The damage it does is potentially far greater, though; as Alaskan halibut fishermen point out, the dwindling sizes of the halibut population because that trawlers reporting the same weight in bycatch each year are actually killing more fish.

     

    This hidden overfishing perverts ecosystems. For example, imploding Atlantic shark populations allowed an explosion of cownose rays, which then gobbled up the region’s valuable bivalve populations, making clam chowder pricier. Overfishing ultimately risks causing what scientists call “ecosystem flips“—big population shifts that alter the ecosystem permanently.

     

    Oceana

    Unlike the nine US fisheries that Oceana highlights, many fisheries are taking steps to reduce bycatch and diminish bycatch mortality.

     

    This largely comes down to initiative, though. Federal law devolves fishery management—including conservation—to eight regional agencies. So economic priorities, reporting protocols and enforcement vary widely, even as the species they aim to manage span the various regions. Oceana reports that fewer than five percent of US fisheries document bycatch in line with federal standards, making it hard to gauge the urgency of adopting more sustainable practices in a single region, let alone across several.

     

    It also means the death-by-bycatch problem is worse than many realize—something that finicky American consumers, and not just regulators, would do well to note. You can understand why fishermen go after premium species; those are the ones that Americans deign to eat. Decades of serving these narrow tastes forced fishermen to dig through a haystack for a tiny diminishing number of needles. If we ate a little more of that haystack, it would make life a lot easier for fishermen and fish alike.

     

     

    http://oceana.org/en/news-media/publications/reports/wasted-catch-unsolved-problems-in-us-fisheries

     

     

     

    Oceana Report on Bycatch Ignores Examples of Environmental Stewardship in Commercial Fishing

     

    Oceana released a report calling out nine U.S. fisheries for allegedly wasteful practices producing harmful levels of bycatch. But the report only tells half of the story.

     

    WASHINGTON (Saving Seafood) – March 20, 2014 – Today, Oceana released a report and accompanying press release, Wasted Catch: Unsolved Bycatch Problems in U.S. Fisheries, which calls out nine U.S. fisheries for allegedly wasteful practices producing harmful levels of bycatch. But the report only tells half of the story. Bycatch remains one of the top concerns of US fisheries management from coast to coast, and several prominent fisheries, aided by contributions from concerned members of the industry, government officials, and conservation groups, have made great strides in reducing bycatch and creating more sustainable marine resources.
     
    The New England scallop fishery is one of the best examples of where collaborative efforts to reduce bycatch have yielded positive results. Since 2010, the fishery has partnered with the School for Marine Science and Technology (SMAST) at the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth to avoid one of the species most commonly caught as scallop bycatch, yellowtail flounder. The SMAST Yellowtail Bycatch Avoidance Program uses information provided by participating vessels to identify areas where yellowtail are sighted, and help the rest of the fleet avoid them. Almost 75 percent of the scallop fleet participates in the program, which the industry has helped fund since its inception. The scallop fishery has not exceeded its annual allocation of yellowtail flounder since the program began.
     
    The fishery also partnered with the Coonamessett Farm Foundation to develop new scallop gear that prevents sea turtles from being caught and limiting the interactions between the turtles and the fishery. The resulting Turtle Deflector Devices have greatly reduced harmful interactions between turtles and scallop gear, and have won praise from several environmental groups, including Oceana. Last year, the sea scallop fishery was certified as sustainable by the Marine Stewardship Council.
     
    By nature, some fishing methods are more selective than others, and their fisheries have been much more successful at avoiding bycatch. Purse seine gear, for example, is highly effective at targeting schooling, pelagic species while producing little bycatch or harmful environmental impacts. The Atlantic menhaden fishery has less than .3 percent bycatch, according to a 1994 study by the Virginia Institute of Marine Science. The Gulf of Mexico menhaden fishery has bycatch rates ranging from .06% – 3.9%. These fisheries have independently taken additional measures to further prevent incidental catch, such as voluntarily installing large fish excluder devices and shark guards on menhaden nets, at a cost of over $1 million to the industry.
     
    Several fisheries mentioned in Oceana’s report have already taken steps to reduce their bycatch. The Atlantic long-line fishery, for example, has made the use of circle hooks, which reduce the likelihood that untargeted species will be caught, commonplace in the fishery. The Northeast gillnet fishery has also taken measures to reduce interactions with marine mammals, with all nets required to feature acoustic devices meant to deter porpoises and other species.

  5. Conservation Science News March 21, 2014

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    Focus of the WeekUS fishermen throw back 20% of their catch…injured or dead- Oceana report; Only half the story- Saving Seafood

    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- US fishermen throw back 20% of their catch…injured or dead- Oceana report; Only half the story- Saving Seafood

     

    US fishermen throw back 20% of their catch—often after the fish are already injured or dead

    By Gwynn Guilford @sinoceros March 20, 2014

     

    Over the side with these. Reuters/Alister Doyle

     

    Each year, the 41 Alaskan trawlers licensed to sift the seas for flatfish—such as flounder and sole—haul back around $6 million worth of fish. Boat space is limited, so fishermen save it for only the priciest fish. That means the less-valuable fish go back over the side, along with the hundreds of other sea creatures that these fishermen can’t sell back on land, because they’re funny-tasting, too small, simply wrong kind of fish, or even an endangered species. By the time they’re tossed back, many of these animals are already dead (pdf, p.7). Just how destructive is this practice?

     

    A new report by Oceana (pdf), an NGO concerned with ocean wildlife conservation, estimates that these Alaskan flatfish trawlers are throwing back around $17.7 million worth of fish a year. That’s right: nearly three times the value of what those fishermen actually sell.

    +

    What gets cast back into the Gulf of Alaska, dead or alive. Oceana

     

    Alaska, alas, is not an outlier. Oceana calculates that, all told, 17-22% of what all US fisheries haul up is discarded as bycatch, which is what the industry calls the fish that are thrown back, dead or alive. That adds up to a minimum of 2 billion pounds chucked back each year—or about 4.5 ounces for every pound of seafood the average American eats. Here are some of the startling figures from Oceana’s report:

     

    • The $90 million Northeast Bottom Trawl fishery discards 35% of its catch. 50 million pounds of fish are thrown back each year.
    • The $13.8-million Southeast Snapper-Grouper Longline fishery discards 66% of its catch. More than 400,000 sharks were thrown back in a single year.
    • The $450,000 California Set Gillnet fishery discards 65% of its catch. The fishery caught 94 baby great white sharks in a five-year period. Around half of them were dead on arrival.
    • The $314-million Southeast Shrimp Trawl Fishery discards 64% of its catch. Thousands of sea turtles die trapped in nets each year.

     

    Why is this happening? To keep up with surging global seafood consumption, the fishing business has industrialized, harnessing increasingly powerful engines to drag bigger nets farther, faster. That has collapsed and threatened the populations of America’s favorite fish species, including Atlantic cod and Pacific halibut.

     

    The depletion of those standbys has encouraged still more industrialization. To catch rarer species, fishermen must travel farther, and cast those bigger nets many more times to land the same number they once did. Boats now rake the sea with trawl nets as wide as football fields, says Amanda Keledjian, one of the report’s authors. And longlines—ropes with thousands of baited hooks attached—can trail 50 miles behind boats. It’s probably no coincidence that seven-eighths of the species targeted by the Southeast Snapper-Grouper fishery—which has the highest discard rate—are currently overfished. The rarer the target species, the more bycatch dies at sea. This not only further endangers vulnerable species; it also has dire economic consequences. One fishery’s bycatch is oftentimes another fishery’s prize catch.

     

    Take for example bluefin tuna, whose stocks are in such precipitous decline that Japan—the fancy fish capital of the world—just announced that it’s slashing its catch limit on juveniles by half. The species’ rarity means it’s pricey; Japan paid around $10 per pound on US Atlantic bluefin tuna last year, according to the National Marine Fisheries Service data

     

    Protecting juveniles is vital to preventing their numbers from shrinking further, which is why regulations in Japan, the US and other places prevent their capture. But those laws do little if juveniles don’t survive long enough to reproduce. The vessels in the $52-million Atlantic Highly Migratory Species Longline fishery threw back twice as many bluefin tunas as they were allowed to keep (presumably due to rules banning capture of juveniles), says Oceana—disquieting given generally high mortality rates (pdf) for longline-caught bluefin tuna.

     

    Pacific halibut offer an even more vivid example. The stocks of these valuable fish, which can grow up to eight feet (2.4 meters) and spoil slowly, have plunged in the last decade—even in the Gulf of Alaska, the nursery ground for the species. The authorities forbid Alaskan flatfish trawlers from keeping the halibut they bring aboard as bycatch for fear that allowing them to sell the species would lead to their targeting it. The problem is, an estimated 40-70% halibut die in the process of being snared as bycatch and discarded.

     

    That worsens the halibut shortage and robs Alaskan halibut fishermen of at least around $13.5 million annually, according to Oceana estimates. The damage it does is potentially far greater, though; as Alaskan halibut fishermen point out, the dwindling sizes of the halibut population because that trawlers reporting the same weight in bycatch each year are actually killing more fish.

     

    This hidden overfishing perverts ecosystems. For example, imploding Atlantic shark populations allowed an explosion of cownose rays, which then gobbled up the region’s valuable bivalve populations, making clam chowder pricier. Overfishing ultimately risks causing what scientists call “ecosystem flips“—big population shifts that alter the ecosystem permanently.

     

    Oceana

    Unlike the nine US fisheries that Oceana highlights, many fisheries are taking steps to reduce bycatch and diminish bycatch mortality.

     

    This largely comes down to initiative, though. Federal law devolves fishery management—including conservation—to eight regional agencies. So economic priorities, reporting protocols and enforcement vary widely, even as the species they aim to manage span the various regions. Oceana reports that fewer than five percent of US fisheries document bycatch in line with federal standards, making it hard to gauge the urgency of adopting more sustainable practices in a single region, let alone across several.

     

    It also means the death-by-bycatch problem is worse than many realize—something that finicky American consumers, and not just regulators, would do well to note. You can understand why fishermen go after premium species; those are the ones that Americans deign to eat. Decades of serving these narrow tastes forced fishermen to dig through a haystack for a tiny diminishing number of needles. If we ate a little more of that haystack, it would make life a lot easier for fishermen and fish alike.

     

     

    http://oceana.org/en/news-media/publications/reports/wasted-catch-unsolved-problems-in-us-fisheries

     

     

     

    Oceana Report on Bycatch Ignores Examples of Environmental Stewardship in Commercial Fishing

     

    Oceana released a report calling out nine U.S. fisheries for allegedly wasteful practices producing harmful levels of bycatch. But the report only tells half of the story.

     

    WASHINGTON (Saving Seafood) – March 20, 2014 – Today, Oceana released a report and accompanying press release, Wasted Catch: Unsolved Bycatch Problems in U.S. Fisheries, which calls out nine U.S. fisheries for allegedly wasteful practices producing harmful levels of bycatch. But the report only tells half of the story. Bycatch remains one of the top concerns of US fisheries management from coast to coast, and several prominent fisheries, aided by contributions from concerned members of the industry, government officials, and conservation groups, have made great strides in reducing bycatch and creating more sustainable marine resources.
     
    The New England scallop fishery is one of the best examples of where collaborative efforts to reduce bycatch have yielded positive results. Since 2010, the fishery has partnered with the School for Marine Science and Technology (SMAST) at the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth to avoid one of the species most commonly caught as scallop bycatch, yellowtail flounder. The SMAST Yellowtail Bycatch Avoidance Program uses information provided by participating vessels to identify areas where yellowtail are sighted, and help the rest of the fleet avoid them. Almost 75 percent of the scallop fleet participates in the program, which the industry has helped fund since its inception. The scallop fishery has not exceeded its annual allocation of yellowtail flounder since the program began.
     
    The fishery also partnered with the Coonamessett Farm Foundation to develop new scallop gear that prevents sea turtles from being caught and limiting the interactions between the turtles and the fishery. The resulting Turtle Deflector Devices have greatly reduced harmful interactions between turtles and scallop gear, and have won praise from several environmental groups, including Oceana. Last year, the sea scallop fishery was certified as sustainable by the Marine Stewardship Council.
     
    By nature, some fishing methods are more selective than others, and their fisheries have been much more successful at avoiding bycatch. Purse seine gear, for example, is highly effective at targeting schooling, pelagic species while producing little bycatch or harmful environmental impacts. The Atlantic menhaden fishery has less than .3 percent bycatch, according to a 1994 study by the Virginia Institute of Marine Science. The Gulf of Mexico menhaden fishery has bycatch rates ranging from .06% – 3.9%. These fisheries have independently taken additional measures to further prevent incidental catch, such as voluntarily installing large fish excluder devices and shark guards on menhaden nets, at a cost of over $1 million to the industry.
     
    Several fisheries mentioned in Oceana’s report have already taken steps to reduce their bycatch. The Atlantic long-line fishery, for example, has made the use of circle hooks, which reduce the likelihood that untargeted species will be caught, commonplace in the fishery. The Northeast gillnet fishery has also taken measures to reduce interactions with marine mammals, with all nets required to feature acoustic devices meant to deter porpoises and other species.

     

     

     

     

    Animals losing migratory routes? Devasting consequences of scarcity of ‘knowledgeable elders’
    (March 20, 2014) — Small changes in a population may lead to dramatic consequences, like the disappearance of the migratory route of a species. Scientists have created a model of the behavior of a group of individuals on the move (like a school of fish, a herd of sheep or a flock of birds, etc.) which, by changing a few simple parameters, reproduces the collective behavior patterns observed in the wild. .. One hypothesis is that, although the overall number of Mediterranean tuna has not changed, what has changed is the composition of the population: “The most desirable tuna specimens for the fishing industry are the larger, older individuals, which are presumably also those with the greater amount of knowledge, in other words the knowledgeable elders.” concludes De Luca. Another curious fact: what happens if there are too many knowledgeable elders? “Too many know-alls are useless,” jokes De Luca. “In fact, above a certain number of informed individuals, the group performance does not improve so much as to justify the “cost” of their training. The best cost-benefit ratio is obtained by keeping the number of informed individuals above a certain level, provided they remain a minority of the whole population.”

    ….. > full story

    G. De Luca, et al Fishing out collective memory of migratory schools. Journal of The Royal Society Interface, 2014; 11 (95): 20140043 DOI: 10.1098/rsif.2014.0043

     

     

    Geographers create ‘easy button’ to calculate river flows from space
    (March 18, 2014) — The frustrated attempts of a graduate student to quantify the amount of water draining from Greenland’s melting ice sheet led him to discover a new way to measure river flows from outer space. The new approach relies exclusively on measurements of a river’s width over time, which can be obtained from freely available satellite imagery. … > full story

     


    Humans drive evolution of conch size



    (March 18, 2014) — Scientists found that 7,000 years ago, the Caribbean fighting conch contained 66 percent more meat than its descendants do today. Because of persistent harvesting of the largest conchs, it became advantageous for the animal to mature at a smaller size, resulting in evolutionary change. … > full story

     

    New statistical models could lead to better predictions of ocean patterns
    (March 18, 2014) — The world’s oceans cover more than 72 percent of the earth’s surface, impact a major part of the carbon cycle, and contribute to variability in global climate and weather patterns. Now, researchers at the University of Missouri applied complex statistical models to increase the accuracy of ocean forecasting that influences the ways in which forecasters predict long-range events such as El NiDo and the lower levels of the ocean food chain. … > full story

    Tracking endangered leatherback sea turtles by satellite, key habitats identified
    (March 19, 2014)
    Most satellite tagging studies of leatherbacks have focused on adult females on their tropical nesting beaches, so little is known worldwide about males and subadults, the researcher point out. But now, tagging and satellite tracking in locations where leatherbacks forage has allowed the scientists to get a much richer picture of the leatherback’s behavior and dispersal patterns on the open ocean. … > full story

     

    The research evaluated a cover crop rotation using red clover (shown above), frost-seeded into winter wheat in March, and winter rye, planted after corn was harvested in the fall.

    True value of cover crops to farmers, environment
    (March 19, 2014)
    Planting cover crops in rotation between cash crops — widely agreed to be ecologically beneficial — is even more valuable than previously thought, according to a team of agronomists, entomologists, agroecologists, horticulturists and biogeochemists. The research quantified the benefits offered by cover crops across more than 10 ecosystem services. Benefits included increased carbon and nitrogen in soils, erosion prevention, more mycorrhizal colonization — beneficial soil fungus that helps plants absorb nutrients — and weed suppression….
    Trade-offs occurred between economic metrics and environmental benefits, ….The planting of cover crops already is accepted as an environmentally prudent practice. It is so beneficial, in fact, that the National Resource Conservation Service last month set a goal to increase the acres planted nationally in cover crops from the current 2 million to 20 million by 2020full story

     

    Meagan E. Schipanski, et al. A framework for evaluating ecosystem services provided by cover crops in agroecosystems. Agricultural Systems, 2014; 125: 12 DOI: 10.1016/j.agsy.2013.11.004

     

    Costa Rica is losing 30 percent of its ecosystems, study finds

    Lindsay Fendt March 21, 2014

    A green heron sits on a log in Costa Rica’s Tortuguero canals. Tortuguero is among the 30 percent of threatened ecosystems identified by CATIE and the IUCN.

    Lindsay Fendt/The Tico Times

    Some of Costa Rica’s ecosystems could be on the verge of disappearing, says a new study released at the Mesoamerican Protected Areas Congress, held this week in San José. The report was issued by Costa Rica’s Tropical Agriculture Research and Higher Education Center (CATIE) in coordination with the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN).

    By analyzing environmental degradation in 42 different areas between 1960 and 2010, researchers determined that 30 percent of Costa Rica’s ecosystems are in danger of losing their useful attributes such as providing drinking water or fighting climate change.

    Researchers found the largest amount of environmental degradation in the country’s northeastern plains, including in the Caribbean tourist hub of Tortuguero. According to researchers, most of these problems can be attributed to the loss of forest cover.

    The IUCN – which creates the Red List of Threatened Species – initiated the research as part of an initiative to create a Red List of Ecosystems. The IUCN hopes the list will be used as a risk-management tool to protect endangered ecosystems.

     


    The Role of Tidal Marsh Restoration in Fish Management in the San Francisco Estuary

    March 21, 2014

    Bruce Herbold, Donald M. Baltz, Larry Brown, Robin Grossinger, Wim Kimmerer, Peggy Lehman, Charles (Si) Simenstad, Carl Wilcox, and Matthew Nobriga

     

    Agricultural Losses from Salinity in Californias Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta
    March 21 2014

    Josué Medellín-Azuara, Richard E. Howitt, Ellen Hanak, Jay R. Lund, and William E. Fleenor

     

     

    Diversity in UK gardens aiding fight to save threatened bumblebees, study suggests
    (March 19, 2014) — The global diversity of plants being cultivated by Britain’s gardeners is playing a key role in the fight to save the nation’s threatened bumblebees, new research has revealed. “Urban gardens are increasingly recognized for their potential to maintain or even enhance biodiversity,” Dr Hanley said. “In particular, the presence of large densities and varieties of flowering plants supports a number of pollinating insects whose range and abundance has declined as a consequence of agricultural intensification and habitat loss. By growing a variety of plants from around the world, gardeners ensure that a range of food sources is available for many different pollinators,” an author notes. … > full story

     

    Nasa-funded study: industrial civilisation headed for ‘irreversible collapse’?

    Natural and social scientists develop new model of how ‘perfect storm’ of crises could unravel global system

    This Nasa Earth Observatory image shows a storm system circling around an area of extreme low pressure in 2010, which many scientists attribute to climate change. Photograph: AFP/Getty Images

    A new study sponsored by Nasa’s Goddard Space Flight Center has highlighted the prospect that global industrial civilisation could collapse in coming decades due to unsustainable resource exploitation and increasingly unequal wealth distribution.

    Noting that warnings of ‘collapse’ are often seen to be fringe or controversial, the study attempts to make sense of compelling historical data showing that “the process of rise-and-collapse is actually a recurrent cycle found throughout history.” Cases of severe civilisational disruption due to “precipitous collapse – often lasting centuries – have been quite common.”

    The research project is based on a new cross-disciplinary ‘Human And Nature DYnamical’ (HANDY) model, led by applied mathematician Safa Motesharri of the US National Science Foundation-supported National Socio-Environmental Synthesis Center, in association with a team of natural and social scientists. The study based on the HANDY model has been accepted for publication in the peer-reviewed Elsevier journal, Ecological Economics.

    It finds that according to the historical record even advanced, complex civilisations are susceptible to collapse, raising questions about the sustainability of modern civilisation:

    “The fall of the Roman Empire, and the equally (if not more) advanced Han, Mauryan, and Gupta Empires, as well as so many advanced Mesopotamian Empires, are all testimony to the fact that advanced, sophisticated, complex, and creative civilizations can be both fragile and impermanent.”

    By investigating the human-nature dynamics of these past cases of collapse, the project identifies the most salient interrelated factors which explain civilisational decline, and which may help determine the risk of collapse today: namely, Population, Climate, Water, Agriculture, andEnergy.

    These factors can lead to collapse when they converge to generate two crucial social features: “the stretching of resources due to the strain placed on the ecological carrying capacity”; and “the economic stratification of society into Elites [rich] and Masses (or “Commoners”) [poor]” These social phenomena have played “a central role in the character or in the process of the collapse,” in all such cases over “the last five thousand years.”

     

     

     

    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.

     

     

    Greenland Ice Melt ‘Accelerating,’ Climate Change Awakens ‘Sleeping Giant’

    International Business Times

    March 17, 2014

     
     

    Written by Phillip Ross

     
           

    Scientists have known for decades that Greenland’s ice sheet is melting, but they may have underestimated just how much water the second-largest ice sheet on the planet is shedding. New research indicates that a key section of northeast Greenland thought to be stable is actually dumping billions of tons of water into the ocean annually after a barrier of ice debris that had blocked its flow finally gave way. “We’re seeing an acceleration of ice loss,” Michael Bevis, professor of earth sciences at Ohio State University and co-author of a new study on Greenland’s melting ice sheet, told USA Today. “Now, there’s more ice leaving than snow arriving.” The study, published in the journal Nature Climate Change, included the work of an international team of researchers from Denmark, the Netherlands, the U.S. and China. According to AFP, the team measured the thickness of Greenland’s ice using four satellites and a network of 50 GPS sensors along the island’s coast. The monitors calculate the size of the Greenland ice sheet using Earth’s natural elasticity. When ice melts, it relieves pressure on the land underneath it, causing the ground to rebound just slightly. The monitors can sense these small changes. The data showed that between 2003 and 2012, the northeast region of Greenland’s ice sheet retreated 12.4 miles following a three-year stretch of particularly high temperatures. The melting ice dumped 10 billion tons of water into the ocean every year during that time. According to researchers, the island is estimated to contribute .5mm to 3.2mm (.012 inches to .13 inches) to the annual rise in global sea levels….

     

     

    Plankton make scents for seabirds and a cooler planet
    (March 20, 2014) — The top predators of the Southern Ocean, far-ranging seabirds, are tied both to the health of the ocean ecosystem and to global climate regulation through a mutual relationship with phytoplankton, according to newly published work from the University of California, Davis. When phytoplankton are eaten by grazing crustaceans called krill, they release a chemical signal that calls in krill-eating birds. At the same time, this chemical signal — dimethyl sulfide, or DMS — forms sulfur compounds in the atmosphere that promote cloud formation and help cool the planet. Seabirds consume the grazers, and fertilize the phytoplankton with iron, which is scarce in the vast Southern Ocean. The work was published March 3 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences….This suggests that marine top predators are important in climate regulation, although they are mostly left out of climate models, Nevitt said. “In addition to studying how these marine top predators are responding to climate change, our data suggest that more attention should be focused on how ecological systems, themselves, impact climate. Studying DMS as a signal molecule makes the connection,” she said. Nevitt has studied the sense of smell in ocean-going birds for about 25 years, and was the first to demonstrate that marine top predators use climate-regulating chemicals for foraging and navigation over the featureless ocean. DMS is now known to be an important signal for petrels and albatrosses, and the idea has been extended to various species of penguins, seals, sharks, sea turtles, coral reef fishes and possibly baleen whales, she said. Phytoplankton are the plants of the open ocean, absorbing carbon dioxide and sunlight to grow. When these plankton die, they release an enzyme that generates DMS….. The work suggests that by linking predatory seabirds and phytoplankton — the top and bottom levels of the food chain — DMS plays an important role in the ocean ecosystem, which affects climate by taking up carbon, as well as a physical role in generating clouds, Nevitt said. “Studying how seabirds use scent cues to forage has shown us a mechanism by which the seabirds themselves contribute to climate regulation. That’s not what we expected, but I really think our results will have global significance,” she said. At the same time, numbers of these birds are declining, with almost half of species listed as vulnerable, endangered or critically endangered. The newly discovered links between top predators and the base of the ocean food web mean that a decline in seabirds could have a significant effect on the marine productivity.

    M. S. Savoca, G. A. Nevitt. Evidence that dimethyl sulfide facilitates a tritrophic mutualism between marine primary producers and top predators. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 2014; 111 (11): 4157 DOI: 10.1073/pnas.1317120111

    Ocean’s carbon budget balanced: Supply of food to midwater organisms balanced with demands for food
    (March 20, 2014) — Ocean scientists have, for the first time successfully balanced the supply of food to midwater organisms with their demands for this food. The depth at which they consume this sinking material regulates our climate by determining how much carbon is stored by the ocean and how much remains in the atmosphere. The study in the North Atlantic focuses on ‘marine snow’ — bacteria, microscopic animals and sinking organic matter. … > full story

    Sarah L. C. Giering, et al. Reconciliation of the carbon budget in the ocean’s twilight zone. Nature, 2014; DOI: 10.1038/nature13123

     

    Key climate-change measurement imperiled

    Doyle Rice, USA TODAY 9:52 a.m. EDT March 19, 2014

     

    (Photo: NOAA Earth System Research Laboratory/Scripps Institute of Oceanography)

    One of the planet’s top dipsticks is in trouble. The “Keeling curve,” the most famous measurement of the world’s rising levels of carbon dioxide for the past six decades, is in jeopardy from funding shortfalls. The Keeling curve, run by the Scripps Institution of Oceanography in San Diego, is the longest continuous record of carbon dioxide measurements on the planet. The measurements were begun in 1958 by Scripps climate scientist Charles David Keeling and are taken near the top of Mauna Loa on the Big Island of Hawaii. Keeling died in 2005, and his son, Ralph, is now the keeper of the “curve.” A physicist himself, he says the ongoing measurements at Mauna Loa are on the “cutting edge of discovering what we’re doing to the planet.” Carbon dioxide (CO2) is the greenhouse gas responsible for most of the warming attributable to such gases, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) Earth System Research Lab, which also measures carbon dioxide levels at Mauna Loa and other locations…..

     

    Goldilocks principle: Earth’s continued habitability due to geologic cycles that act as climate control
    (March 19, 2014) — Scientists have shown how geologic process regulates the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. Researchers have documented evidence suggesting that part of the reason that Earth has become neither sweltering like Venus nor frigid like Mars lies with a built-in atmospheric carbon dioxide regulator — the geologic cycles that churn up the planet’s rocky surface. … > full story

    Study: Rockies’ wildflower season 35 days longer from climate change

    Los Angeles Times March 17 2014

    By Tony Barboza

     
       
     
           

    The Rocky Mountain wildflower season has lengthened by over a month since the 1970s, according to a study published Monday that found climate change is altering the flowering patterns of more species than previously thought. Flowers used to bloom from …

    Researchers take on fighting disastrous consequences of extreme changes in climate before they occurSCENARIO PLANNING
    (March 18, 2014)
    How can communities dodge future disasters from Mother Nature before she has dealt the blow? Researchers are taking a unique approach to
    the issue and gaining input and support from community stakeholders. Daniel Murphy, a University of Cincinnati assistant professor of anthropology, will present findings on March 20, at the 74th annual meeting of the Society for Applied Anthropology (SFAA) in Albuquerque, N.M. The presentation reveals an innovative, interdisciplinary research technique for approaching climate change vulnerability that’s called Multi-scale, Interactive Scenario-Building (MISB). The project focuses on two geographic case studies: Big Hole Valley in Montana — a high-altitude ranching valley — and Grand County in Colorado — a resort community west of Denver and south of Rocky Mountain National Park.

     
     
     

    The researchers conducted a series of one-on-one interviews at those sites to get an array of community contributors thinking and planning for future ecological hazards, and to consider the impact of those decisions. The researchers posed three scenarios involving future drastic climate changes. The one-on-one interviews involved around 30 people for each region, ranging from ranchers to teachers, small business owners, hunting guides, county planners and representatives from federal and state agencies. Ecologists on the research team would then predict the impact of the suggested planning. The three possible scenarios were:

    • Some Like it Hot — Describes years and years of consistent summer drought.
    • The Seasons, They’re a-Changing - Describes changes in seasonality, such as significantly increased rainfall in the spring.
    • Feast or Famine — Describes big swings in temperature and precipitation between years…..

    ….”Flood irrigation, for example, has environmental impacts that are really, really good. So, we looked at the impact of stopping flood irrigation and switching to center pivot irrigation. It could rob the groundwater, it would evaporate off the soil and it wouldn’t go back into the river, so river levels would go down and stress the fish. So in examining that scenario, ranchers could see how this feeds back and that’s the iteration,” says Murphy. Murphy adds that one of the major concerns in Grand County, Colo., is also water, because much of the snow melt there feeds into a lake that’s a reservoir for Denver’s water. “Ranchers, irrigators and home owners are concerned about rising water prices if there is less snow, so that was a conflict that seemed to emerge there.” Murphy says that in both Grand County and Big Hole Valley, the second scenario was perceived as an opportunity, because despite any temperature increases or other issues, it involved continuous rain in the spring…..

     

     

    Heat extremes threaten crop yields – study.
    Climate News Network, United Kingdom

    Yields of several major crops are likely to be seriously affected by rising temperatures, scientists say, with spells of extreme heat posing the greatest risk.


    Race Against Time: Climate Change and the Olympic Winter Games



    Mar. 21, 2014 — Time may be running out for some Olympic Winter Games host locations – including the 2014 host, Sochi (Russia) – according to an article. Researchers have analyzed two climatic indicators – … full story

     

     

    DROUGHT:

     


    Extreme and Exceptional Drought Continues in California http://droughtmonitor.unl.edu/

     

    GPS also helps analyze global water resources
    (March 19, 2014) — WaterGAP is a hydrological model used to model water shortage, groundwater depletion, and floods and droughts over the land area of the globe. The Frankfurt hydrologist Professor Petra Döll has examined how good a fit this model provides, using GPS observations and data from the GRACE satellite, which measures the gravitational field of the Earth. The study indicates that WaterGAP needs to be modified. … > full story

     

    Workers plant grapes in the rolling hills of Templeton, near Paso Robles in parched Central California. Photo: Michael Macor, The Chronicle Buy this photo

    California drought: Strife over groundwater boils over

    Melody Gutierrez SF Chronicle
    Updated 7:27 am, Saturday, March 15, 2014

    SACRAMENTO – Zinfandel will flow like the water once did in Paso Robles this weekend. Bottles will pop open during a wine festival as rigs drill deep across the city to find a resource whose scarcity threatens Paso Robles to its core: water. How scant has the crucial underground water supply become around the San Luis Obispo County city? Sue Luft can tell you anecdotally. The water levels in wells that feed homes and wineries around her 10-acre property just south of Paso Robles have dropped 80 feet in some areas, leaving many with no choice but to take out loans to drill farther down. Luft calls it a “race to the bottom.” Casting blame for depleting underground supplies is at the center of a bitter debate about who, if anyone, should be monitoring withdrawals.

    Groundwater is loosely regulated in California, but that could change. Years of dry conditions have lawmakers looking at groundwater in ways once considered too politically risky.

    In many areas across the state, property owners – who have a right to the water under their land – don’t have to disclose how much they use from shared basins. Those who oppose groundwater regulation consider it government overreach. “The drought is being used as a political mechanism to take away property rights,” said Cindy Steinbeck of Steinbeck Vineyards & Winery in Paso Robles. “We are in a serious drought, but that doesn’t mean individual landowners should have to give up what is theirs by law.”

    Groundwater has been regulated in vastly different ways from other water sources. California requires permits and licenses to take water from streams, rivers and lakes, but no such process exists for groundwater. Surface water and groundwater are treated differently in state law in a way that resource experts say makes little sense, given that one affects the other.

    “California has the least structure and fewest requirements (compared with any other) state,” said Andrew Fahlund, deputy director of the California Water Foundation. “The system has survived up to this point because we weren’t facing a significant crisis.” Eighty percent of Californians rely on groundwater for at least a portion of their drinking water, while some cities and rural areas exclusively use groundwater. ….

     

     

    With scarce water this season, wildlife refuges may not be able to attract marsh-nesting tricolored blackbirds, forcing many more birds to nest in farm fields. SPECIAL TO THE BEE

    Dry spring imperils dwindling tricolored blackbirds in Valley

    By Mark Grossi The Fresno BeeMarch 15, 2014 

    A single colony of 80,000 tricolor blackbirds filled a Tulare County farmer’s field with nests and eggs a few years ago shortly before harvesting blades were scheduled to level the crop.It would have been an ugly killing field if not for a delay negotiated between the farmer and Audubon California. The financial settlement saved one-third of Earth’s dwindling population of tricolored blackbirds. But California’s epic drought may prevent such heroic ag-conservation alliances this year. And the tricolored blackbird finally may be pushed to long-dreaded protection under the Endangered Species Act.

    With scarce water this season, wildlife refuges may not be able to attract these marsh-nesting birds this spring, forcing many more tricolored blackbirds to nest in farm fields.

    Farmers may not be as willing this year to delay precious dairy feed crops, such as wheat. The price of water and feed have skyrocketed, so farmers will need timely harvests for peak prices to make ends meet. Many tricolored blackbird colonies — sometimes tens of thousands — have been inadvertently wiped out in farm fields, biologists say. It just adds to the stress of a songbird that has been on the verge of federal protection since the 1990s. Nearly all tricolored blackbirds live in California — an estimated 3 million of them in the 1930s but only about 250,000 just a few years ago. A bird count in April will reveal how bad the situation has become, experts say…..

     

    California drought: Ray of hope in fish-vs.-farms dispute

    By Peter Fimrite SF CHroncle Updated 6:30 am, Friday, March 21, 2014

    Tens of thousands of squiggling salmon fattening up on bugs and other nutrients on flooded cropland in the Sacramento Valley could soon provide a solution to the long-running dispute over who should get the bulk of California’s diminishing supply of water: farms or fish. There appears to be a way to satisfy both. Researchers from UC Davis flooded rice paddies on a 1,700-acre farm in nearby Woodland (Yolo County) and converted the fields into wetland fish habitat, much like the vast marshlands that once covered the state’s inland valleys during the winter. The idea is to give young chinook salmon a spot where they can rest and feed as they migrate through the Yolo Bypass and into the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta. It is a strategy that Asian countries have long used between planting seasons. The three-year experiment has resulted in a dramatic increase in the size of migrating juvenile salmon every winter of the experiment, according to the researchers, the state Department of Water Resources, and the fisheries conservation groups Cal Trout and Trout Unlimited. Fish migrating from the fields toward the Sacramento River also had an astonishingly high survival rate, researchers said. The study, known as the Nigiri Project, offers the most compelling evidence yet that it is possible to develop a water-delivery system in California that benefits both fish and farms, said Jacob Katz, a biologist and regional manager of Cal Trout. “The idea that we can get the most benefit from every drop of water is what this project is all about,” Katz said. “We are trying to create a system that mimics the natural system and allows for more efficient use of water all the way around. That synthesis is the future of California.” The floodplain project, on 20 acres at Knaggs Ranch north of Woodland, was the first involving farmers, environmentalists, scientists and state water resources officials working together to improve water resources and conservation….

     

    Thirsty California pins hopes on El Niño’s return

    Kale Williams and Kurtis Alexander SF Chronicle Updated 8:17 am, Friday, March 21, 2014

    The arrival of spring Thursday ushered out the third-driest winter in Northern California history, leaving behind parched hills, shallow reservoirs and a higher-than-usual threat of fire.

    But even as hope dims for a March miracle storm, climatologists say weather conditions could change this year if an El Niño takes shape. The U.S. Climate Prediction Center issued an El Niño watch this month, citing a 52 percent chance of Pacific Ocean waters warming and creating – possibly – a wetter-than-average winter. Historically, El Niño conditions have been associated with the state’s biggest rain years, including the winters of 1997-98 and 1982-83, which brought fatal mudslides to the Santa Cruz Mountains and devastating surf to the Southern California coast. In 1997-98, San Francisco was pounded by a record 47.2 inches of rain. But while El Niño boosts the odds of rain, it provides no guarantees, especially if the ocean warming isn’t extreme.

    “If it’s only in the weak to moderate category, it doesn’t really make me convinced that things will turn around,” said state Department of Water Resources climatologist Mike Anderson, who plans to monitor the telltale phenomenon as fall approaches. “We’ve still got a long, hot summer to go.”

     

    West’s Drought and Growth Intensify Conflict Over Water Rights

    By MICHAEL WINESMARCH 16, 2014


    Under restrictions, a Mumford, Tex., farm on the Brazos River could not draw water from it, while cities and power plants could. Credit Ilana Panich-Linsman for The New York Times

    MUMFORD, Tex. — Across the parched American West, the long drought has set off a series of fierce legal and political battles over who controls an increasingly dear treasure — water….Residents of the arid West have always scrapped over water. But years of persistent drought are now intensifying those struggles, and the explosive growth — and thirst — of Western cities and suburbs is raising their stakes to an entirely new level.

    In southern Texas, along the Gulf coast southwest of Houston, the state has cut off deliveries of river water to rice farmers for three years to sustain reservoirs that supply booming Austin, about 100 miles upstream. In Nevada, a coalition ranging from environmentalists to the Utah League of Women Voters filed federal lawsuits last month seeking to block a pipeline that would supply Las Vegas with groundwater from an aquifer straddling the Nevada-Utah border.

    In Colorado, officials in the largely rural west slope of the Rocky Mountains are imposing stiff restrictions on requests to ship water across the mountains to Denver and the rest of the state’s populous eastern half. Fearing for their existence, Colorado farm towns on the Arkansas River have mobilized to block sales of local water rights to Denver’s fast-growing suburbs. In Arizona, activists and the federal government are fighting plans to tap groundwater used by a vast housing development — a move that would reduce the water level of a protected river. Kansas accuses Colorado and Nebraska of allowing their farmers to divert Kansas’ share of the Republican River, which flows through all three states. A similar dispute between New Mexico and Texas is before the United States Supreme Court.

    California, in the midst of a major drought, so far has witnessed but a few local skirmishes. In January, environmentalists and sport fishermen sued to halt the drilling of hundreds of new groundwater wells sought by Central Valley farmers, saying more pumping would lower stream levels. That may not last long, said Stuart Somach, a Sacramento water-rights lawyer. California farmers have long grumbled about big-city designs on their water; Northern California has long grumbled about being the spigot that supplies most of the water to the dry south.

    “We’re very close to the time that people are going to start staking out rights. We’re right at the cusp,” Mr. Somach said. “If this drought persists, depending on how state and federal agencies react, you’re going to get some real conflicts going.” Actually, the laws that govern most of the West’s water seem tailor-made for fighting. In many places, the rules for owning or using groundwater are still in flux: In Texas, landowners own the groundwater beneath their property, but a neighbor pumping groundwater from the same aquifer can siphon it away without penalty. The Arizona court battle over a proposed housing development hinges on the still-murky question of whether the state can allow the builder to pump groundwater that sustains a river that is under federal control. In contrast, the prevailing law on rivers and streams is all too clear: The earlier someone stakes a claim on a stretch of water, the more bulletproof that owner’s right to it. “If you’ve got the oldest claim on that river, you get to use that water regardless of what you’re using it for — agriculture, industry, whatever,” said Gabriel Eckstein, a professor at Texas A & M University School of Law and a lawyer with Sullivan and Worcester. “That’s regardless of whether you’re doing it efficiently, regardless of whether it’s the highest use.” In the rural West of days past, when even arid climes held enough water for everyone, that principle worked well. In the booming West of today, it is increasingly a recipe for conflict

     

    California drought: Solar desalination plant shows promise

    Kevin Fagan SF Chronicle Updated 7:45 am, Tuesday, March 18, 2014 Firebaugh, Fresno County

    Quietly whirring away in a dusty field in the Central Valley is a shiny solar energy machine that may someday solve many of California’s water problems. It’s called the WaterFX solar thermal desalination plant, and it has been turning salty, contaminated irrigation runoff into ultra-pure liquid for nearly a year for the Panoche Water and Drainage District. It’s the only solar-driven desalination plant of its kind in the country. Right now its efforts produce just 14,000 gallons a day. But within a year, WaterFX intends to begin expanding that one small startup plant into a sprawling collection of 36 machines that together can pump out 2 million gallons of purified water daily. Within about five years, WaterFX company co-founder Aaron Mandell hopes to be processing 10 times that amount throughout the San Joaquin Valley. And here’s the part that gets the farmers who buy his water most excited: His solar desalination plant produces water that costs about a quarter of what more conventionally desalinated water costs: $450 an acre-foot versus $2,000 an acre-foot. An acre-foot is equivalent to an acre covered by water 1 foot deep, enough to supply two families of four for a year.

     

     

     

     

    In shift, Exxon Mobil to report on risks to its fossil fuel assets. NY TIMES March 22 2014

    On Thursday, a shareholder group said that it had won its biggest prize yet, when Exxon Mobil became the first oil and gas producer to agree to report on the risks that stricter limits on carbon emissions would place on their business…..

     

    How The EPA Could Cut Carbon Emissions Even More Than We Thought By 2020

    By Jeff Spross on March 21, 2014

    New data shows a plan submitted by the Natural Resources Defense Council for regulating existing power plants would cut even more carbon emissions than previously thought…..

     

     

    Wall Street investors take aim at farmland

    Farmland prices have soared to all-time highs in recent years. Wall Street’s move onto farms comes at a time of severe ecological flux that will be exacerbated by climate change.

    —By Tom Philpott | Fri Mar. 14, 2014 3:00 AM GMT Mother Jones

    Where’s the money? FuzzBones /Shutterstock

    In a couple of posts last fall (here and here), I showed that corporations don’t do much actual farming in the United States. True, agrichemical companies like Monsanto and Syngenta mint fortunes by selling seeds and chemicals to farmers, and grain processors like Archer Daniels Midland and Cargill reap billions from buying crops cheap and turning them into pricey stuff like livestock feed, sweetener, cooking oil, and ethanol. But the great bulk of US farms—enterprises that generally have razor-thin profit margins—are run by independent operators. That may be on the verge of changing. A recent report by the Oakland Institute documents a fledgling, little-studied trend: Corporations are starting to buy up US farmland, especially in areas dominated by industrial-scale agriculture, like Iowa and California’s Central Valley. But the land-grabbing companies aren’t agribusinesses like Monsanto and Cargill. Instead, they’re financial firms: investment arms of insurance companies, banks, pension funds, and the like. In short, Wall Street spies gold in those fields of greens and grains.
    Why are they plowing cash into such an inherently risky business with such seemingly low profit potential? For Wall Street, farmland represents a “reassuringly tangible commodity” with the potential for “solid, if not excellent, returns,” the Oakland Institute notes—something clients are hungry for after being recently burned not long ago by credit-default swaps and securities backed by trashy mortgages. As the saying goes, you can’t make more land; and as the Oakland Institute notes, “over the last 50 years, the amount of global arable land per capita shrank by roughly 45 percent, and it is expected to continue declining, albeit more moderately, going toward 2050.”….And Wall Street likes a good bubble. Farmland prices have soared to all-time highs in recent years, pushed up by the government-mandated corn ethanol boom. The average per acre price of Iowa land surged about 60 percent in real terms between 2007 and 2012, and rents have jumped in lockstep. The report notes that over the next 20 years, nearly half of US farmland—about 400 million acres—will be up for sale as our aging base of farmers moves into retirement. So far, Wall Street cash is moving onto US farms like a stream; financial firms own just about 1 percent of total acreage, and most farmland is still bought by farmers, not institutional investors, the report states. But as more prime land enters the market, the hot money could soon flow like a gusher. By mid-2013, farmland was such a hot commodity that institutional investors were complaining of a tight market for prime farmland—that is, they had more money committed to buying farmland than they could find attractive deals for. But the supply of prime farmland for sale will expand as farmers retire in the coming decades, and Wall Street looks poised to move into the market. And of course, you don’t have to take on the risk of farming when you buy farmland; you can also collect rent checks from the people who take on that risk. According to this USDA report, nearly 40 percent of US farmland acres are rented, and in the ag-heavy regions of farm states such as Iowa, Illinois, and California, the number tops 50 percent. …

     


    Emerging Carbon Trading Markets Offer Lessons



    Mar. 21, 2014 — Carbon trading markets that attempt to limit greenhouse gas emissions have met with mixed political and policy success around the world. But each new attempt offers lessons that will make new marketsfull story

     

     

     

     

     

    Wind farms can provide society a surplus of reliable clean energy
    (March 20, 2014) — Researchers have found that the wind industry can easily afford the energetic cost of building batteries and other grid-scale storage technologies. However, for the solar industry, scientists found that more work is needed to make grid-scale storage energetically sustainable. … > full story

     

     

     

    1. RESOURCES and REFERENCES

     
     

     

    White House to Introduce Climate Data Website

    By CORAL DAVENPORT NY Times March 19, 2014

    President Obama and two advisers will inaugurate a website on Wednesday that will try to turn scientific data about global warming into mapped digital presentations.

     

     

    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

     

    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.

     


    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:

     


     

    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.

     

     

    Program Director: Central and Northern California Ocean Observing System

     

     

    1. OTHER NEWS OF INTEREST

     

    Funding the Future

    NY Times SCIENCE VIDEO March 15, 2014

    As government financing of basic science research has plunged, private donors have filled the void, raising questions about the future of research for the public good.

     

    The Rise of Anti-Capitalism

    By JEREMY RIFKIN NY TIMES March 16 2014 OPINION

    As production costs plummet, the future lies with nonprofits.

     

    Titanium clubs can cause golf course fires
    (March 19, 2014) — Titanium alloy golf clubs can cause dangerous wildfires, according to scientists. When a club coated with the lightweight metal is swung and strikes a rock, it creates sparks that can heat to more than 3,000 degrees Fahrenheit for long enough to ignite dry foliage, according to new findings. … > full story

     

    Your Kids’ Brains On Touch-Screens

    March 24, 2013 8:00 AM

    Hanna Rosin of The Atlantic, a mother of three, wondered what all the easy access to smartphones and tablets was doing to her kids’ brains. So she talked to developers of children’s media and researchers to find out. Host Rachel Martin speaks with Rosin about her latest article, “The Touch-Screen Generation.”….

     

    The Overprotected Kid

    A preoccupation with safety has stripped childhood of independence, risk taking, and discovery—without making it safer. A new kind of playground points to a better solution.

    Hanna Rosin Atlantic Monthly March 19, 2014

     

     

    1. IMAGES OF THE WEEK

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    http://blog.chron.com/nickanderson/2014/03/fred-phelps/

     

     

    ————

    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.

     

  6. Short-Lived Climate Pollutants

    Leave a Comment

     

     

    The Climate and Clean Air Coalition to Reduce Short-Lived Climate Pollutants
    began in February 2012 with 7 partners. Today it has 80. With its rapid growth, this global effort to reduce emissions of black carbon, methane and many hydrofluorocarbons has already touched numerous sectors of society in the effort to slow the rate of global warming and protect human health, agriculture and the environment….

     


    Primer on Short-lived Climate Pollutants Feb 2013


    Primer on Short-Lived Climate Pollutants


    (pdf) provides a summary of short-lived climate pollutants (SLCPs), including: an introduction to SLCPs; explanation of the multiple benefits of reducing SLCPs with respect to climate, human health and food security; and a menu of mitigation options for reducing SLCPs, including international and regional initiatives, such as the Climate and Clean Air Coalition (CCAC). Institute for Governance and Sustainable Development (IGSD), 2013.


    Download/Read


     


    TIME TO ACT to Reduce Short-Lived Climate Pollutants (Version 1)


    (pdf)

    Through text and colorful graphics, this publication explains short-lived climate pollutants and their effects on climate, health and agriculture. Time to Act also offers 16 measures to reduce black carbon and methane, two of the most potent SLCPs, details why the measures are beneficial, and describes the overall advantages of SLCP mitigation. Climate and Clean Air Coalition, 2013

    Download/Read

    Reports


    On Thin Ice: How Cutting Pollution Can Slow Warming and Save Lives


    (pdf)

    This report is about how climate change is affecting the cryosphere—those snow-capped mountain ranges, brilliant glaciers, and vast permafrost regions on which all of us depend. It lays out 14 specific measures we could take by 2030 to reduce short-lived climate pollutants and slow the melting of ice and snow that must stay frozen to keep oceans and global temperatures from rising even faster. The World Bank, International Cryosphere Climate Initiative, 2013

    Download/Read
    See more at: http://www.unep.org/ccac/Publications/Publications/tabid/130293/language/en-US/Default.aspx#sthash.Hoy5be6R.dpuf


     

  7. New Ozone-destroying Chemicals Found in Atmosphere

    Leave a Comment

     


    New ozone-destroying chemicals found in atmosphere


    Mysterious compounds undermining recovery of giant ozone hole over Antarctica, scientists warn
    The chemicals are also extremely potent greenhouse gases; Newly discovered greenhouse gas ’7,000 times more powerful than CO2′

    Damian Carrington The Guardian, Sunday 9 March 2014 14.00 EDT

    The ozone hole reached its biggest extent for the year on 26 September, 2013. Photograph: NOAA

    Dozens of mysterious ozone-destroying chemicals may be undermining the recovery of the giant ozone hole over Antarctica, researchers have revealed. The chemicals, which are also extremely potent greenhouse gases, may be leaking from industrial plants or being used illegally, contravening the Montreal protocol which began banning the ozone destroyers in 1987. Scientists said the finding of the chemicals circulating in the atmosphere showed “ozone depletion is not yesterday’s story.”

    Until now, a total of 13 CFCs and HCFCs were known to destroy ozone and are controlled by the Montreal protocol, widely regarded as the world’s most successful environmental law. But scientists have now identified and measured four previously unknown compounds and warned of the existence of many more.”There are definitely more out there,” said Dr Johannes Laube, at the University of East Anglia. “We have already picked up dozens more. They might well add up to dangerous levels, especially if we keep finding more.” Laube and his colleagues are in the process of fully analysing the dozens of new compounds, but the work completed on the four new chemicals shows them to be very powerful destroyers of ozone.

    Laube is particularly concerned that the atmospheric concentrations of two of the new compounds, while low now, are actually accelerating. “They are completely unimpressed by the Montreal protocol,” Laube told the Guardian. “There are quite a few loopholes in the protocol and we hope some of these are tightened. But the good news is that we have picked up these [four] early.” The chemicals take decades to break down in the atmosphere, meaning their impact on ozone and climate change is long-lived.

    “This research highlights that ozone depletion is not yesterday’s story,” said Prof Piers Forster, at the University of Leeds, who was not involved in the study. “The Montreal protocol – the most successful international environmental legislation in history – phased out ozone-depleting substances from 1987 and the ozone layer should recover by 2050. Nevertheless this paper reminds us we need to be vigilant and continually monitor the atmosphere for even small amounts of these gases creeping up.”

    The new research, published the journal Nature Geoscience, analysed air samples captured since the mid-1970s in several ways. Air bubbles trapped in snowpack in Greenland, samples taken by scientists in Tasmania and others collected by aircraft flying 13 miles above Europe were all analysed. The team found three new CFCs and one HCFC, none of which had been identified before. “I was surprised no-one had picked these up before,” said Laube. At least 74,000 tonnes of the four newly discovered chemicals have been emitted, the scientists estimate, although in the 1980s one million tonnes of other CFCs were pumped into the atmosphere every year.

    Despite the production of all CFCs having been banned since 2010, the concentration of one – CFC113a – is rising at an accelerating rate. The source of the chemicals is a mystery but Laube suggests that CFC113a may be being used as a feedstock chemical in the production of agricultural pesticides. “But we can’t rule out illegal sources,” he said.

    CFCs and HCFCs were used mainly in refrigeration and aerosol sprays but, in 1985, scientists discovered the Antarctic ozone hole. It grew in size from almost nothing in 1979 to a peak of 26.6m sqkm in 2006. As the Montreal protocol has taken effect, it has recovered slowly, shrinking to 21.0m sqkm in 2013. Ozone screens out harmful ultraviolet rays from sunlight that can cause cancer in humans, as well as damaging marine life, crops and animals.

    “Although these new emissions [of the four chemicals] are small, for the Montreal protocol to continue to be successful it is necessary to understand whether it is being strictly complied with,” said Prof William Collins, at the University of Reading, and not part of the research team. “This study provides useful new information on policing the protocol, tracing sources of new CFCs that are possibly arising as the by-products of manufacturing other chemicals.”

    In December, Nasa researchers revealed the discovery of a new greenhouse gas that is 7,000 times more powerful than carbon dioxide at warming the Earth and which has been in use by the electrical industry since the mid-20th century. The four newly identified compounds are also expected to trap heat thousands of times more powerfully than CO2.

  8. Conservation Science News March 14, 2014

    Leave a Comment

    Focus of the WeekNew Ozone-destroying Chemicals Found in Atmosphere; Primer on Short-lived Climate Pollutants

    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- New Ozone-destroying Chemicals Found in Atmosphere; Primer on Short-lived Climate Pollutants

     


    New ozone-destroying chemicals found in atmosphere


    Mysterious compounds undermining recovery of giant ozone hole over Antarctica, scientists warn
    The chemicals are also extremely potent greenhouse gases; Newly discovered greenhouse gas ’7,000 times more powerful than CO2′

    Damian Carrington The Guardian, Sunday 9 March 2014 14.00 EDT

    The ozone hole reached its biggest extent for the year on 26 September, 2013. Photograph: NOAA

    Dozens of mysterious ozone-destroying chemicals may be undermining the recovery of the giant ozone hole over Antarctica, researchers have revealed. The chemicals, which are also extremely potent greenhouse gases, may be leaking from industrial plants or being used illegally, contravening the Montreal protocol which began banning the ozone destroyers in 1987. Scientists said the finding of the chemicals circulating in the atmosphere showed “ozone depletion is not yesterday’s story.”

    Until now, a total of 13 CFCs and HCFCs were known to destroy ozone and are controlled by the Montreal protocol, widely regarded as the world’s most successful environmental law. But scientists have now identified and measured four previously unknown compounds and warned of the existence of many more.”There are definitely more out there,” said Dr Johannes Laube, at the University of East Anglia. “We have already picked up dozens more. They might well add up to dangerous levels, especially if we keep finding more.” Laube and his colleagues are in the process of fully analysing the dozens of new compounds, but the work completed on the four new chemicals shows them to be very powerful destroyers of ozone.

    Laube is particularly concerned that the atmospheric concentrations of two of the new compounds, while low now, are actually accelerating. “They are completely unimpressed by the Montreal protocol,” Laube told the Guardian. “There are quite a few loopholes in the protocol and we hope some of these are tightened. But the good news is that we have picked up these [four] early.” The chemicals take decades to break down in the atmosphere, meaning their impact on ozone and climate change is long-lived.

    “This research highlights that ozone depletion is not yesterday’s story,” said Prof Piers Forster, at the University of Leeds, who was not involved in the study. “The Montreal protocol – the most successful international environmental legislation in history – phased out ozone-depleting substances from 1987 and the ozone layer should recover by 2050. Nevertheless this paper reminds us we need to be vigilant and continually monitor the atmosphere for even small amounts of these gases creeping up.”

    The new research, published the journal Nature Geoscience, analysed air samples captured since the mid-1970s in several ways. Air bubbles trapped in snowpack in Greenland, samples taken by scientists in Tasmania and others collected by aircraft flying 13 miles above Europe were all analysed. The team found three new CFCs and one HCFC, none of which had been identified before. “I was surprised no-one had picked these up before,” said Laube. At least 74,000 tonnes of the four newly discovered chemicals have been emitted, the scientists estimate, although in the 1980s one million tonnes of other CFCs were pumped into the atmosphere every year.

    Despite the production of all CFCs having been banned since 2010, the concentration of one – CFC113a – is rising at an accelerating rate. The source of the chemicals is a mystery but Laube suggests that CFC113a may be being used as a feedstock chemical in the production of agricultural pesticides. “But we can’t rule out illegal sources,” he said.

    CFCs and HCFCs were used mainly in refrigeration and aerosol sprays but, in 1985, scientists discovered the Antarctic ozone hole. It grew in size from almost nothing in 1979 to a peak of 26.6m sqkm in 2006. As the Montreal protocol has taken effect, it has recovered slowly, shrinking to 21.0m sqkm in 2013. Ozone screens out harmful ultraviolet rays from sunlight that can cause cancer in humans, as well as damaging marine life, crops and animals.

    “Although these new emissions [of the four chemicals] are small, for the Montreal protocol to continue to be successful it is necessary to understand whether it is being strictly complied with,” said Prof William Collins, at the University of Reading, and not part of the research team. “This study provides useful new information on policing the protocol, tracing sources of new CFCs that are possibly arising as the by-products of manufacturing other chemicals.”

    In December, Nasa researchers revealed the discovery of a new greenhouse gas that is 7,000 times more powerful than carbon dioxide at warming the Earth and which has been in use by the electrical industry since the mid-20th century. The four newly identified compounds are also expected to trap heat thousands of times more powerfully than CO2.

     

     

    The Climate and Clean Air Coalition to Reduce Short-Lived Climate Pollutants
    began in February 2012 with 7 partners. Today it has 80. With its rapid growth, this global effort to reduce emissions of black carbon, methane and many hydrofluorocarbons has already touched numerous sectors of society in the effort to slow the rate of global warming and protect human health, agriculture and the environment….

     


    Primer on Short-lived Climate Pollutants Feb 2013


    Primer on Short-Lived Climate Pollutants


    (pdf) provides a summary of short-lived climate pollutants (SLCPs), including: an introduction to SLCPs; explanation of the multiple benefits of reducing SLCPs with respect to climate, human health and food security; and a menu of mitigation options for reducing SLCPs, including international and regional initiatives, such as the Climate and Clean Air Coalition (CCAC). Institute for Governance and Sustainable Development (IGSD), 2013.


    Download/Read


     


    TIME TO ACT to Reduce Short-Lived Climate Pollutants (Version 1)


    (pdf)

    Through text and colorful graphics, this publication explains short-lived climate pollutants and their effects on climate, health and agriculture. Time to Act also offers 16 measures to reduce black carbon and methane, two of the most potent SLCPs, details why the measures are beneficial, and describes the overall advantages of SLCP mitigation. Climate and Clean Air Coalition, 2013

    Download/Read

    Reports


    On Thin Ice: How Cutting Pollution Can Slow Warming and Save Lives


    (pdf)

    This report is about how climate change is affecting the cryosphere—those snow-capped mountain ranges, brilliant glaciers, and vast permafrost regions on which all of us depend. It lays out 14 specific measures we could take by 2030 to reduce short-lived climate pollutants and slow the melting of ice and snow that must stay frozen to keep oceans and global temperatures from rising even faster. The World Bank, International Cryosphere Climate Initiative, 2013

    Download/Read
    See more at: http://www.unep.org/ccac/Publications/Publications/tabid/130293/language/en-US/Default.aspx#sthash.Hoy5be6R.dpuf

     

     

     

     

    ‘Tree of life’ distances are no shortcut to conservation
    (March 9, 2014) — Some conservation strategies assume that the evolutionary distances between species on a phylogenetic ‘tree of life’ (a branching diagram of species popularized by Charles Darwin) can be used to predict how diverse their biological features will be. These distances are then used to select which species to conserve in order to maximize interesting biological features — such as potentially useful drug compounds and resilience to climate change. But a new analysis of data from 223 studies of animals, plants, and fungi, shows that methods based on such distances are often no better at conserving interesting biological features than picking species at random. … > full story

    Exotic plant species alter ecosystem productivity
    (March 11, 2014) — Biologists have reported an increase in biomass production in ecosystems colonized by non-native plant species. In the face of climate change, these and other changes to ecosystems are predicted to become more frequent, according to the researchers. … > full story

     

    More to biological diversity than meets the eye: Specialization by insect species is the key
    (March 13, 2014) — Scientists found greater diversity among insects in a rainforest in Peru than theory would predict. Scientists have been studying flies in the tropics for years, and now report evidence that there is more to a fly’s ecological niche than where it lives and what it eats — you have to look at what eats the fly, as well. …
    “Most insects are specialists,” Forbes says. “We have an idea that being a specialist should reduce the amount of overlap that you have with other species. So if you specialize in eating some plants, there shouldn’t be lots of other similar insects eating the same plants. But we’re finding lots and lots of fly species and lots and lots of parasitic wasp species in the same place. “It’s these interactions between plants, flies, and wasps that lead to far more diversity than we expect in this system,” Forbes says. “Each fly can only be killed by one wasp, so when a fly moves into a new type of flower home it escapes that wasp. Eventually, the wasp might find it again, or a new wasp may evolve the ability to kill the fly. “It’s like a big game of hide and seek,” he adds…full story

     

    M. A. Condon, S. J. Scheffer, M. L. Lewis, R. Wharton, D. C. Adams, A. A. Forbes. Lethal Interactions Between Parasites and Prey Increase Niche Diversity in a Tropical Community. Science, 2014; 343 (6176): 1240 DOI: 10.1126/science.1245007

     

    Land cover change over five years across North America revealed (March 11, 2014) — A new set of maps featured in the CEC’s North American Environmental Atlas depicts land cover changes in North America’s forests, prairies, deserts and cities, using satellite images from 2005 and 2010. These changes can be attributed to forest fires, insect infestation, urban sprawl and other natural or human-caused events. Produced by the North American Land Change Monitoring System (NALCMS), a trinational collaborative effort facilitated by the CEC, these maps and accompanying data can be used to address issues such as climate change, carbon sequestration, biodiversity loss, and changes in ecosystem structure and function.

     
     
     

    This project, which seeks to address land cover change at a North American scale, was initiated at the 2006 Land Cover Summit, in Washington, DC. Since then, specialists from government agencies in Canada, Mexico and the United States have worked together to harmonize their land cover classification systems into 19 classes that provide a uniform view of the continent at a consistent 250-meter scale. To view examples of significant land cover changes in British Colombia, California, and Cancun, slide the green bars on the maps, found at: www.cec.org/nalcms. To view the full 2005-2010 land cover change map, visit www.cec.org/atlas and click on “Terrestrial Ecosystems” on the left. Under “Land Cover,” click on the plus sign next to “2005-2010 land cover change” to add the map layer to North America. Then zoom in and take a look at all the purple patches — these are the areas of North America where land cover has changed over the five-year period…. > full story

     

    In grasslands remade by humans, animals may protect biodiversity: Grazers let in the light, rescue imperiled plants
    (March 9, 2014) — A study of grasslands on six continents suggests a way to counteract the human-made overdose of fertilizer that threatens the biodiversity of the world’s prairies. The solution originates in nature: let grazing animals crop fast growing grasses, which have a competitive advantage in an over-fertilized world. The grasses block sunlight from ground level, but herbivores make light available to other plants. … In general, where fertilizer was added and grazing animals were kept out, the variety of plants in the experimental plots decreased. Where animals were allowed to graze in the fertilized plots, plant diversity generally increased. The researchers’ data analysis concluded that the grazers improved biodiversity by increasing the amount of light reaching ground level. Grassland plants have evolved a variety of strategies to take advantage of a setting where nutrients are in short supply and inconsistently available. They may be ground-hugging, or ephemeral, or shoot up when they capture a nutrient pulse, Gruner explained. These differing strategies create a diverse grassland ecosystem. In the human-altered world where nutrients are always plentiful, plants that put their effort into growing tall to capture sunlight have an advantage. They block the sunlight from reaching most other plant species, which cannot grow or reproduce. But grazing animals cut down the light-blocking plants and give the others a chance to bloom. “Where we see a change in light, we see a change in diversity,” said Borer, the lead author. “Our work suggests that two factors which humans have changed globally, grazing and fertilization, can control ground-level light. Light appears to be very important in maintaining or losing biodiversity in grasslands.” The effect was greatest where large animals, wild and domesticated, grazed on the test plots: cattle, pronghorn and elk on North America’s Great Plains; wildebeests and impala on Africa’s Serengeti; and horses, sheep and ibex in rural India. In places where the only grazers were small animals like rabbits, voles and gophers, the grazers’ effect was weak and variable….> full story

     

    Elizabeth T. Borer, et al. Herbivores and nutrients control grassland plant diversity via light limitation. Nature, 2014; DOI: 10.1038/nature13144

     


    Tropical Grassy Ecosystems Under Threat, Scientists Warn



    Mar. 13, 2014 — Scientists have found that tropical grassy areas, which play a critical role in the world’s ecology, are under threat as a result of ineffective management. This land is often misclassified, which leads to degradation of the land and has a detrimental effect on the plants and animals that are indigenous to these areas. Tropical grassy areas cover a greater area than tropical rain forests, support about one fifth of the world’s population and are critically important to global carbon and energy cycles, and yet do not attract the interest levels that tropical rainforests do. They are characterised by a continuous grass understorey, widespread shade-intolerant plants and the prevalence of fire, which all generate a unique and complex set of ecological processes and interactions not found in other habitats … Approximately 20% of the world’s population depend on these areas of land for their livelihoods including their use for grazing, fuel and food. They also store about 15% of the world’s carbon. Tropical grassy ecosystems are associated with savannas and upland grasslands in Africa and savanna-type grasslands in India, Australia, and South America, representing diverse lands from open grassland through to densely canopied savanna….full story

     

    Catherine L. Parr, Caroline E.R. Lehmann, William J. Bond, William A. Hoffmann, Alan N. Andersen. Tropical grassy biomes: misunderstood, neglected, and under threat. Trends in Ecology & Evolution, 2014; DOI: 10.1016/j.tree.2014.02.004

     

     

    Soil microbes shift as shrubs invade remnant hill prairies
    (
    March 11, 2014) — Perched high on the bluffs of the big river valleys in the Midwest are some of the last remnants of never-farmed prairie grasslands. These patches, edged by forest, are slowly being taken over by shrubs. A recent study examined the soil microbes on nine patches, also called “balds,” that had varying degrees of shrub invasion and found an interesting shift in the composition of the microbial community. … > full story

     

    Serpentine ecosystems shed light on the nature of plant adaptation and speciation

    EurekAlert (press release)

    March 10 2014

           

    Plants that live in unusual soils, such as those that are extremely low in essential nutrients, provide insight into the mechanisms of adaptation, natural selection, and endemism.

     

    A plague of fleas: Tiny Eurasian exotic is upending watery ecosystems across the northern Great Lakes
    (March 12, 2014) — The spiny water flea, aka Bythotrephes, is devouring its way through the Great Lakes and into the surrounding inland waters, including Minnesota’s Voyageurs National Park, disrupting an entire ecosystem from the bottom up. … > full story

     

    Salmon may get lift to ocean if drought slows, warms rivers

    Associated Press Published 4:47 pm, Tuesday, March 11, 2014 Sacramento

    Wildlife officials said they will consider a plan to move millions of hatchery-raised salmon by tanker trucks to the ocean if the Sacramento River and its tributaries prove inhospitable due to the drought.

    Officials fear the rivers could become too shallow and warm, affecting food supply and making salmon easier to catch by predators, the Sacramento Bee reported. State and federal officials said Monday that they were watching conditions and would be ready to implement the plan next month, barring heavy rains. Salmon are usually released in April and May from the Coleman National Fish Hatchery on Battle Creek, a tributary of the river…..The California Department of Fish and Wildlife is also putting together similar trucking plans for the Feather, American and Mokelumne rivers, which also produce millions of young salmon annually. Some concerns over trucking the fish have been raised after evidence that the transported fish sometimes swim into the wrong river when they return to spawn as adults, harming the unique genetic traits of the species. A long-term study is under way to help scientists determine the least disruptive way to transport the salmon…..

     

     

    Over demanding market affects fisheries more than climate change
    (March 7, 2014) — Fisheries that rely on short life species, such as shrimp or sardine, have been more affected by climate change, because this phenomenon affects chlorophyll production, which is vital for phytoplankton, the main food for both species. … > full story

     

     

    The Island That Came in from the Cold—Skaggs Island (SF Estuary)

    by Joe Eaton March 2014 SF Estuary
    For years, Skaggs Island was a tantalizing blank in the map of San Pablo Bay wetlands restoration. Renee Spenst of Ducks Unlimited says it was “one of those places in a strange limbo.” Two-thirds of it was owned by the US Navy, which had operated a top-secret listening post there; the rest was privately-owned farmland, where the Haire family grew oat hay. Converting any of the 4,400 acres back to tidal wetland was out of the question. “The agencies doing restoration just had to work around these two parcels,” recalls San Francisco Bay Joint Venture coordinator Beth Huning.

    Within the last few years, though, these key pieces in the North Bay restoration puzzle have fallen into place. The Navy transferred its property to the US Fish & Wildlife Service in 2011. Then, last December, came what the Sonoma Land Trust’s Wendy Eliot calls “the Holy Grail,” namely acquisition of the Haire Ranch. In a creative triple play, the US Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resources Conservation Service paid the Haire family $7.5 million for a conservation easement; the Land Trust then purchased the land itself for $707,421 (with help from the California Coastal Conservancy and the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation) and transferred it to the Service. The entire island is now part of the San Pablo Bay National Wildlife Refuge and restoring Skaggs is no longer a pipe dream.
    Considered as terra firma, Skaggs Island was the creation of British immigrant John Percival Jones, a gold-seeker turned silver baron whose Pacific Reclamation Company took title to the tract in 1878. It was originally called Camp 6, one of a string of work camps along the Bay. Jones hired Chinese laborers to hand-build levees and drainage ditches; later, clamshell dredgers took over the work…..

     

    Trapping And Tracking The Mysterious Snowy Owl

    by Adam Cole and Meredith Rizzo NPR March 11, 2014 5:30 AM 5 min 5 sec

    Meredith Rizzo/NPR

    This is Hungerford, a large female snowy owl. Last summer she was just a hatchling — a gray ball of fuzz in the middle of the Arctic tundra. In the fall, newly equipped with adult plumage, she flew thousands of miles south until she reached the coast of Maryland. And this winter, she became an important part of an unprecedented research project. Snowy owls are among the largest birds in North America, but scientists know very little about their behavior. The owls spend most of their days far from humans, hunting rodents and birds in the flat expanses of the Arctic Circle. In the winter, the owls move south, but they don’t usually reach the United States. Most years, only a few are spotted in the northernmost states — a rare treat for birders. But this winter was different.

    Source: IUCN, eBird.org Credit: Alyson Hurt and Matt Stiles / NPR

    Owls started to appear all over the United States right around Thanksgiving — in Nebraska, in Kentucky — even as far south as Georgia. , a biologist with the Maryland Department of Natural Resources, was shocked when he saw not one but two snowy owls on a small stretch of Maryland beach.

    “Something huge is going on,” Brinker told his colleagues. “We won’t see something like this for a long time — probably for the rest of our lifetimes.” This rapid population boom — called an “irruption” by ecologists — is the largest the East Coast has seen in 40 or 50 years. …. Thanks to the abundance of lemmings last summer, well-fed mother owls laid more eggs, and huge numbers of owlets grew up fat and strong. Come winter, they spread far to the south.
    This irruption has provided a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for owl researchers — the chance to tag and track members of a mysterious species.
    Brinker says that following the movements of a few snowy owls will give scientists unprecedented information — about their routes through Canada and around the Arctic Circle, about their hunting patterns, and about the human-made hazards they face. That new understanding, in turn, will help the scientists better protect the owls.
    So Brinker teamed up with his colleague Scott Wiedensaul ….. You can follow the tagged owls at http://www.projectsnowstorm.org/.

     

     


    Bottlenose dolphin attack on a harbour porpoise

    March 12, 2014 Caroline Weir

    Events in February 2014 and media coverage

    On 17 February I assisted the Scottish Marine Animal Strandings Scheme (SMASS) with the collection of two dead harbour porpoises from St Cyrus beach in Aberdeenshire. The skin of both porpoises exhibited extensive tooth raking from bottlenose dolphins, and at this stage an attack by dolphins is presumed to have caused their deaths. These animals were transported to the Scottish Agricultural College in Aberdeen where they await post-mortem….

    Why do bottlenose dolphins attack harbour porpoises?

    Attacks by dolphins on porpoises have been investigated in several scientific papers. Bottlenose dolphins and harbour porpoises do not prey upon each other, and consequently a predatory basis for the interactions can be eliminated. However, several other mammal species engage in inter-specific killings where direct predation is not the primary driver, for example when eliminating potential competitors for food resources (e.g. wolves killing coyotes)…..

     

     

    Light pollution impairs rainforest regeneration: Seed-dispersing bats avoid feeding in light polluted areas
    (March 10, 2014) — Increasing light pollution in tropical habitats could be hampering regeneration of rainforests because of its impact on nocturnal seed-dispersers. These new findings show that seed-dispersing bats avoid feeding in light-polluted areas. … > full story

     

    Deer proliferation disrupts a forest’s natural growth
    (March 8, 2014) — Researchers have discovered that a burgeoning deer population forever alters the progression of a forest’s natural future by creating environmental havoc in the soil and disrupting the soil’s natural seed banks. … > full story

    Bright blue says, “I’m not on the menu!”Credit: Courtesy of MSU

    Impersonating poisonous prey: Evolution of interspecific communication
    (March 10, 2014) — Imitation is the most sincere form of flattery — especially in the predator/prey/poison cycle. In nature, bright colors are basically neon signs that scream, ‘Don’t eat me!’ But how did prey evolve these characteristics? When did predators translate the meaning? …
    In the current issue of the journal PLOS ONE, researchers at Michigan State University reveal that these color-coded communiqués evolve over time through gradual steps. Equally interesting, the scientists show how drab-colored, oft-eaten prey adopt garish colors to live long and prosper, even though they aren’t poisonous, said Kenna Lehmann, MSU doctoral student of zoology. “In some cases, nonpoisonous prey gave up their protection of camouflage and acquired bright colors,” said Lehmann, who conducted the research through MSU’s BEACON Center for the Study of Evolution in Action. “How did these imitators get past that tricky middle ground, where they can be easily seen, but they don’t quite resemble colorful toxic prey? And why take the risk?” They take the risk because the evolutionary benefit of mimicry works. A nontoxic imposter benefits from giving off a poisonous persona, even when the signals are not even close. Predators, engrained to avoid truly toxic prey, react to the impersonations and avoid eating the imposters….full story

     

     

     

    This is a close up of Eschscholzia papastillii. Credit: Shannon M. Still; CC-BY 4.0

    California and Arizona Amaze With Two New Species of Desert Poppy

    Mar. 11, 2014 — Not quite desert roses, two new species of desert poppies from North America amaze with their simple beauty. The newly described plants are found in the deserts of California and Arizona and have a vibrant yellow colored inflorescences, typical for all the desert dwellers from the Eschscholzia genus of the poppy family. The study was published in the open access journal PhytoKeys. Most commonly known for the iconic California Poppy, the state flower of California, Eschscholzia is a genus in the poppy family Papaveraceae that previously held 12 species. The genus is native to the mainland and islands of western North America in both the United States and Mexico, but the type species, Eschscholzia
    californica, is commonly spread and has invaded Mediterranean regions around the world. Shannon Still discovered the new species while studying Eschscholzia for his dissertation research at the University of California Davis. “What is interesting about these new species is that, while people have been collecting these plants for decades, they were not recognized as something different” Still said. “They were always confused for existing species. This confusion led to my study of the group, and ultimately, recognizing something new. I imagine there are many more desert plant species that are also understudied.”…. full story

     

    Evidence that speed restrictions implemented in 2008 to reduce vessel related deaths of North Atlantic right whales along the East Coast of the United States have been effective.

    Laist, D.W, A.R. Knowlton, and D. Pendleton.  2014.  Effectiveness of mandatory vessel speed limits for protecting North Atlantic right whales.  Endangered Species Research 23(2): 133-147. 

    ABSTRACT: To reduce right whale Eubalaena glacialis deaths caused by ship collisions along the US East Coast, a rule was implemented on 8 December 2008 requiring all vessels ≥65 feet (19.8 m) to travel 10 knots (18.5 km h−1) or less in 10 seasonal management areas (SMAs). To evaluate the effectiveness of this rule, we plotted the locations of all right whale and humpback whale Megaptera novaeangliae carcasses attributed to ship-strikes since December 1990 in US waters to determine their proximity to SMAs. In the 18 yr pre-rule period, 13 of 15 (87%) right whales and 12 of 26 (46%) humpback whales killed by ships were found inside later SMA boundaries or within 45 nmi (83 km) of their perimeters during later active dates. In the first 5 yr after the rule became effective, no ship-struck right whales were found inside or within 45 nmi of any active SMA. This was nearly twice as long as the longest pre-rule period without discovery of a ship-struck carcass in those areas during effective time periods. Based on the 18 yr pre-rule period, bootstrap resampling analyses revealed that the probability of finding no ship-struck whales in or near SMAs during the first 5 yr post-rule period would be a statistically significant reduction in such deaths (p = 0.031). The results suggest the rule has been effective at reducing right whale deaths. We suggest enlarging SMAs to include additional parts of the right whale migratory corridor.

     


     

    Birds drawn to frozen lake’s ferry channels

    Bennington Banner

     - ‎ March 10 2014‎

           

    CHARLOTTE — Thousands of water birds that normally spread out across Lake Champlain are seeking refuge in the channels left by two ferry routes that carry passengers between Vermont and New York during this bitterly cold winter. Thousands of water birds that normally spread out across Lake Champlain are seeking refuge in the channels left by two ferry routes that carry passengers between Vermont and New York during this bitterly cold winter. Bird watchers have been drawn to the Essex, N.Y., landing of the ferry from Charlotte in hopes of catching a glimpse of sometimes-rare birds that are usually scattered across the length of the 120-mile lake. During a winter of below-zero temperatures, the ducks, bald eagles and other birds have been forced to scour the open water of the channels for food. “They are surviving the winter in a lake that’s over 100 miles long that right now is down to five puddles,” said Ian Worley, a retired University of Vermont environmental studies professor who goes birding along the lake two to three times a week. It’s the first time the lake has frozen since 2007 and it’s created a paradise for birders, who peer through the eyepiece of a scope to watch birds foraging for the zebra mussels, fish, plants or other animals they need to survive. “The lake — as it ices over and pulls the birds into this little isolated place — also pulls the possibility of uncommon or rare or really rare species right to you as well,” Worley said. Birders on the New York side of the ferry crossing are eager to spot the single tufted duck, which is common in Europe and Asia but exceedingly rare in the eastern United States. The duck is spending this winter in the lake among the more-familiar mallards, black ducks and common goldeneyes…

     

     

     

     

     

     

    POINT BLUE and Partners- NEW PUBLICATION:

     

    Non-stationary seabird responses reveal shifting ENSO dynamics in the northeast Pacific

    March 3 2014 Marine Ecology Progress Series, Vol. 499: 249–258, 2014 doi: 10.3354/meps10629

    Annie E. Schmidt1, 2,*, Louis W. Botsford1, John M. Eadie1, Russell W. Bradley2, Emanuele Di Lorenzo3, Jaime Jahncke2

     

    ABSTRACT: The impacts of the El Niño Southern Oscillation (ENSO) and the Pacific Decadal Oscillation (PDO) on the ecology of the northeast Pacific are well known. However, recently there has been a shift in the dominance of El Niño events from the eastern Pacific (canonical) El Niño, to the central Pacific (Modoki) El Niño, concurrent with a strengthening of the North Pacific Gyre Oscillation (NPGO). Our examination of ocean conditions and seabird reproductive success in central California shows that the way these physical factors affect the pelagic food web is also changing. Reproduction of Cassin’s auklet Ptycoramphus aleuticus and Brandt’s cormorant Phalacrocorax
    penicillatus, species that forage at different trophic levels, responded primarily to ENSO variability from the 1970s to the 1990s. By 1995, however, NPGO had become the dominant variable determining Cassin’s auklet reproductive success. Eventually, NPGO also became correlated with Brandt’s cormorant success but in the opposite direction to Cassin’s auklet. Thus, during the mid-1990s, the correlation between the reproduction of these 2 species weakened and eventually became inversely correlated. This shift from coherent reproduction, presumably bottom-up driven, to an inverse relationship between the 2 species suggests that the structure of the local marine food web changed as the equatorial forcing changed. This non-stationary response of seabirds to physical forcing is cause for concern since predictions of future ecosystem productivity and effects of climate change rely on the assumption that a species’ response to environmental conditions is consistent over time.

     

     

    Projection of Earth warming by 2099: A new NASA study suggests that projections of Earth’s future warming should be more in line with previous estimates that indicated a higher sensitivity to increasing greenhouse gas emissions. Credit: NASA SVS/NASA Center for Climate Simulation

    Long-term warming likely to be significant despite recent slowdown
    (March 11, 2014) — A new study shows Earth’s climate likely will continue to warm during this century on track with previous estimates, despite the recent slowdown in the rate of global warming. The research hinges on a new and more detailed calculation of the sensitivity of Earth’s climate to the factors that cause it to change, such as greenhouse gas emissions. The study found Earth is likely to experience roughly 20 percent more warming than estimates that were largely based on surface temperature observations during the past 150 years. …
    One reason for the disproportionate influence of the Northern Hemisphere, particularly as it pertains to the impact of aerosols, is that most human-made aerosols are released from the more industrialized regions north of the equator. Also, the vast majority of Earth’s landmasses are in the Northern Hemisphere. This furthers the effect of the Northern Hemisphere because land, snow and ice adjust to atmospheric changes more quickly than the oceans of the world. “Working on the IPCC, there was a lot of discussion of climate sensitivity since it’s so important for our future,” said Shindell, who was lead author of the IPCC Fifth Assessment Report’s chapter on Anthropogenic and Natural Radiative Forcing. “The conclusion was that the lower end of the expected warming range was smaller than we thought before. That was a big discussion. Yet, I kept thinking, we know the Northern Hemisphere has a disproportionate effect, and some pollutants are unevenly distributed. But we don’t take that into account. I wanted to quantify how much the location mattered.”

    Shindell’s climate sensitivity calculation suggests countries around the world need to reduce greenhouse gas emissions at the higher end of proposed emissions reduction ranges to avoid the most damaging consequences of climate change. “I wish it weren’t so,” said Shindell, “but forewarned is forearmed.”…full story

     

    Drew T. Shindell. Inhomogeneous forcing and transient climate sensitivity. Nature Climate Change, 2014; DOI: 10.1038/nclimate2136

     

     


    More Accurate Data on Thousands of Years of Climate Change



    Mar. 13, 2014 — Using a new, cutting-edge isotopic tool, researchers have reconstructed the temperature history of a climatically important region in the Pacific Ocean. The study analyzes how much temperatures have increased in the region near Indonesia, and how ocean temperatures affect nearby tropical glaciers in Papua New Guinea and Borneo. Researchers also evaluated the accuracy of existing climate model predictions for that region. The findings illustrate that the region is very sensitive to climate change and that it has warmed considerably over the last 20,000 years, since the last ice age…. “We found that the large amount of ocean warming goes a long way to explaining why glaciers have retreated so much,” said Tripati, a faculty member in the College of Letters and Science and a member of UCLA’s Institute of the Environment and Sustainability. “Throughout the region, they have retreated by close to a kilometer since the last ice age, and are predicted to disappear in the next one to three decades. Previously understanding this large-scale glacial retreat has been a puzzle. Our results help resolve this problem.” Among the implications of the study are that ocean temperatures in this area may be more sensitive to changes in greenhouse gas levels than previously thought and that scientists should be factoring entrainment into their models for predicting future climate change. The group has already begun a follow-up study, looking at sediment from Indonesia’s Lake Towuti to develop data that can be used to further improve models of climate and water cycling for the region. Researchers will also look at other places in the tropics, the Western U.S. and China…. full story

     

    Aradhna K. Tripati, Sandeep Sahany, Dustin Pittman, Robert A. Eagle, J. David Neelin, Jonathan L. Mitchell, Luc Beaufort. Modern and glacial tropical snowlines controlled by sea surface temperature and atmospheric mixing. Nature Geoscience, 2014; 7 (3): 205 DOI: 10.1038/ngeo2082

     

    This graphic shows the global carbon budget with black arrows and values reflecting the natural carbon cycle and red the anthropogenic perturbation. Credit: Courtesy of the 2007 IPCC report

    Ocean Food Web Is Key in the Global Carbon Cycle

    Mar. 11, 2014 — Nothing dies of old age in the ocean. Everything gets eaten and all that remains of anything is waste. But that waste is pure gold to an oceanographer. In a study of the ocean’s role in the global carbon cycle, oceanographers used those nuggets to their advantage. They incorporated the lifecycle of phytoplankton and zooplankton — small, often microscopic animals at the bottom of the food chain — into a novel mechanistic model for assessing the global ocean carbon export…. “Quantifying this carbon flux is critical for predicting the atmosphere’s response to changing climates,” Siegel said. “By analyzing the scattering signals that we got from satellite measurements of the ocean’s color, we were able to develop techniques to calculate how much of the biomass occurs in very large or very small particles.” Their results predict a mean global carbon export flux of 6 petagrams (Pg) per year. Also known as a gigaton, a petagram is equal to one quadrillion (1015) grams. This is a huge amount, roughly equivalent to the annual global emissions of fossil fuel. At present, fossil fuel combustion represents a flux to the atmosphere of approximately 9 Pg per year. “It matters how big and small the plankton are, and it matters what the energy flows are in the food web,” Siegel said. “This is so simple. It’s really who eats whom but also having an idea of the biomasses and productivity of each. So we worked out these advanced ways of determining NPP, phytoplankton biomass and the size structure to formulate mass budgets, all derived from satellite data.” The researchers are taking their model one step further by planning a major field program designed to better understand the states in which the biological pump operates. “Understanding the biological pump is critical,” Siegel concluded. “We need to understand where carbon goes, how much of it goes into the organic matter, how that affects the air-sea exchanges of CO2 and what happens to fossil fuel we have emitted from our tailpipes.”…. full story

     

    D. A. Siegel, K. O. Buesseler, S. C. Doney, S. F. Sailley, M. J. Behrenfeld, P. W. Boyd. Global assessment of ocean carbon export by combining satellite observations and food-web models. Global Biogeochemical Cycles, 2014; DOI: 10.1002/2013GB004743

     

    How do oceans absorb carbon dioxide? Scientists find clues. Christian Science Monitor

    Are you grateful that it’s not 850 degrees Fahrenheit outside right now, like the surface of Venus? You can thank some of the ocean’s tiniest and simplest creatures, who help trap most of our heat-trapping carbon dioxide emissions in the ocean. The ocean’s biological pump, exports organic carbon from the upper part of the ocean into the deeper layers below, “through sinking particulate matter, largely from zooplankton feces and aggregates of algae,” say researchers, who published their findings in a paper titled “Global assessment of ocean carbon export by combining satellite observations and food-web models” in the journal Global Biogeochemical Cycles. The color of ocean waters is an indicator of the type of phytoplankton biomass and its composition. For example – green ocean water means the particular area probably contains a lot of phytoplankton. Blue water could mean that portion of the ocean has less phytoplankton. Using satellite images, the team of researchers examined the color of ocean waters which helped them to zero in on the different types of phytoplankton present in oceans. Among other things, the images also helped them to determine the size and pigmentation of the phytoplankton, David Siegel, director of the Earth Research Institute at UC Santa Barbara, and an author of the paper told the Monitor.

     

     

    New light shed on changing Greenland ice
    (March 10, 2014) — Research using NASA data is giving new insight into one of the processes causing Greenland’s ice sheet to lose mass. A team of scientists used satellite observations and ice thickness measurements gathered by NASA’s Operation IceBridge to calculate the rate at which ice flows through Greenland’s glaciers into the ocean. The findings of this research give a clearer picture of how glacier flow affects the Greenland Ice Sheet and shows that this dynamic process is dominated by a small number of glaciers. Over the past few years, Operation IceBridge measured the thickness of many of Greenland’s glaciers, which allowed researchers to make a more accurate calculation of ice discharge rates. In a new study, researchers calculated ice discharge rates for 178 Greenland glaciers more than one kilometer (0.62 miles) wide. … > full story

     

    Volcanoes helped species survive ice ages
    (March 10, 2014)

    Researchers have found evidence that the steam and heat from volcanoes and heated rocks allowed many species of plants and animals to survive past ice ages, helping scientists understand how species respond to climate change. … > full story

     

    Sun’s energy influences 1,000 years of natural climate variability in North Atlantic
    (March 9, 2014) — Changes in the sun’s energy output may have led to marked natural climate change in Europe over the last 1,000 years, according to researchers. The study found that changes in the sun’s activity can have a considerable impact on the ocean-atmospheric dynamics in the North Atlantic, with potential effects on regional climate. … > full story

     

    Predation on invertebrates by woodland salamanders increases carbon capture
    (March 10, 2014) — Woodland salamanders perform a vital ecological service in American forests by helping to mitigate the impacts of global warming. Woodland salamander predation on invertebrates indirectly affects the amount of leaf litter retained for soil-building where nutrients and carbon are captured at the litter-soil interface. … > full story

     

    DROUGHT:

     

     

    Number of Days Without Rain to Dramatically Increase in Some World Regions

    First-of-its-kind analysis considers the effects of climate change on a daily basis

    Mar 13, 2014 Scripps News

     

    Map of projected change in frequency of dry days

     

    By the end of the 21st century, some parts of the world can expect as many as 30 more days a year without precipitation, according to a new study by Scripps Institution of Oceanography, UC San Diego researchers. Ongoing climate change caused by human influences will alter the nature of how rain and snow falls; areas that are prone to dry conditions will receive their precipitation in narrower windows of time. Computer model projections of future conditions analyzed by the Scripps team indicate that regions such as the Amazon, Central America, Indonesia, and all Mediterranean climate regions around the world will likely see the greatest increase in the number of “dry days” per year, going without rain for as many as 30 days more every year. California, with its Mediterranean climate, is likely to have five to ten more dry days per year. This analysis advances a trend in climate science to understand climate change on the level of daily weather and on finer geographic scales…..

    ….”Looking at changes in the number of dry days per year is a new way of understanding how climate change will affect us that goes beyond just annual or seasonal mean precipitation changes, and allows us to better adapt to and mitigate the impacts of local hydrological changes,” said Polade, a postdoctoral researcher who works with Scripps climate scientists Dan Cayan, David Pierce, Alexander Gershunov, and Michael Dettinger, who are co-authors of the study.

    In regions like the American Southwest, where precipitation is historically infrequent and where a couple of storms more or fewer can make a wet or a dry year, annual water accumulation varies greatly. A decrease in precipitation frequency translates into even more year-to-year variability in fresh water resources for the Southwest.   

    “These profound and clearly projected changes make physical and statistical sense, but they are invisible when looking at long-term trends in average climate projections,” Gershunov said. Other regions of the world, most of which are climatologically wet, are projected to receive more frequent precipitation. Most such regions are not on land or are largely uninhabited, the equatorial Pacific Ocean and the Arctic prominent among them.     The authors suggest that follow-up studies should emphasize more fine-scale analyses of dry day occurrences and work towards understanding the myriad regional factors that influence precipitation. “Climate models have improved greatly in the last 10 years, which allows us to look in detail at the simulation of daily weather rather than just monthly averages,” said Pierce. Besides the Southwest Climate Science Center, the NOAA Regional Integrated Sciences and Assessments program provided major funding for the study, which appears in Scientific Reports, the open-access journal from Nature Publishing Group.

     

    Suraj D. Polade, David W. Pierce, Daniel R. Cayan, Alexander Gershunov & Michael D. Dettinger. The key role of dry days in changing regional climate and precipitation regimes

    Scientific Reports 4, Article number: 4364 doi:10.1038/srep04364 13 March 2014

     

     

    http://www.drought.gov/drought/

     


     

     

    New Planning and Drought guide (pdf)
    American Planning Association January 2014

    The new publication “Planning and Drought” offers a comprehensive guide for citizens, planners and communities to explore what drought is, how to track it, its impacts, and how planners and communities can prepare to mitigate its effects [and climate change and drought]. The volume includes eight case studies illustrating the range of drought’s consequences and how different organizations prepared for and responded to them. NIDIS and the National Drought Mitigation Center joined the American Planning Association to create the new guidebook, published in January 2014. Find a free download here or purchase a hard copy here.

     

    Optimizing the dammed: Water supply losses and fish habitat gains from dam removal in California

    UC Davis- John Muir Institute of the Environment; Journal of Environmental Management April 2014

    Dams provide water supply, flood protection, and hydropower generation benefits, but also harm native species by altering the natural flow regime and degrading aquatic and riparian habitat. Restoring some rivers reaches to free-flowing conditions may restore substantial environmental benefits, but at some economic cost. This study uses a systems analysis approach to preliminarily evaluate removing rim dams in California’s Central Valley to highlight promising habitat and unpromising economic use tradeoffs for water supply and hydropower…. Results show that existing infrastructure is most beneficial if operated as a system (ignoring many current institutional constraints). Removing all rim dams is not beneficial for California, but a subset of existing dams are potentially promising candidates for removal from an optimized water supply and free-flowing river perspective. Removing individual dams decreases statewide delivered water by 0e2282 million cubic meters and provides access to 0 to 3200 km of salmonid habitat upstream of dams. The method described here can help prioritize dam removal, although more detailed, project-specific studies also are needed. Similarly, improving environmental protection can come at substantially lower economic cost, when evaluated and operated as a system.

     

     

    Why Distant Dust Storms Matter to California Rainfall

    Lauren Sommer, KQED Science | March 10, 2014 |

    A storm approaching California on February 24 had large amounts of dust at the center, as shown by the highlighted orange areas. (NASA Earth Observing System Data and Information System)

    California’s recent rainstorms, as welcome as they were, haven’t been enough to save the state from a serious drought this year. The rainy season typically winds down by late March. Scientists are trying to understand why some storms unload lots of rain and snow in California and others don’t. They’re finding it could be linked to dust storms thousands of miles away. ….Tiny particles like pollution, sea spray, dust and smoke, are the seeds of a rainstorm. The water inside a cloud condenses on these aerosols, growing larger and larger until it becomes a raindrop or snowflake that’s heavy enough to fall….The dust has made its way from the deserts of Asia and Africa. Dust storms send particles miles into the air, then they drift to California in 7 to 10 days…..she says. “And it’s not a lot of dust. It’s just the right amount of dust that comes in and seeds the very top of the clouds.” In one study, Prather found that the right kind of dust storm could boost snowfall in the Sierra Nevada by 40 percent. It happens because dust helps ice crystals grow. Ice formation appears to be the magic recipe for producing lots of precipitation….”Are we getting less precipitation? The ultimate goal is to be able to feed this into weather forecast models and improve those models, where they actually take into account the seeds. Right now, they don’t.” An improved forecast could help California manage its water supplies better, leading to fuller reservoirs that help buffer California against drought. “The storms that provide the beneficial water that we really need badly this year?” says Marty Ralph, director of the Center for Western Weather and Water Extremes at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography. “It often comes in just a few events each winter, and that’s really the make or break thing for the season.” California’s network of reservoirs stores that runoff. But reservoirs are required to release a lot of stored water in the fall and early winter, in order to make room for runoff from extreme storms and protect against floods.
    “In the future, it may be possible if we can predict these storms accurately enough ahead of time, we could maybe keep a little extra water in there, knowing that if we had three days lead time we could release that water in a safe and appropriate way,” Ralph says…..

     

     

    California’s drought-prone pattern forcing farmers to adapt

    Carolyn Lochhead SF Chronicle March 9, 2014

    Shawn Coburn farms land that holds senior water rights to the giant Central Valley Project, rights that usually assure him water. Not this year. He already has decided to let his pomegranates die, abandon alfalfa and cut his tomato crop by half. He may not plant any row crops if the state water board follows through on its intention to slash deliveries to “protect human health and safety” from the effects of drought. Coburn, 45, says his ranch near Dos Palos (Merced County) is no water-guzzler. He uses buried irrigation. Computers tell him how much moisture his plants lose each day.

    “I need every drop of water to keep the trees and vines alive,” he said. “I can’t conserve any more. This year I’m going to watch stuff die.” As California gets drier and hotter, no one is more vulnerable than farmers. And no one is likely to have to do more to adapt to what many experts fear will be a more drought-prone environment. Climate change is “coming upon us, and it looks like it’s coming upon us fairly quickly,” said Paul Wenger, a Modesto almond and walnut grower who heads the California Farm Bureau Federation. Wenger said this year’s drought has farmers asking how long they can continue. “It’s going to be difficult,” he said. “We’re going to see a lot of farmland retired.”….

     

    ….Farmers tend to see more and bigger dams as a solution, but many experts believe California can no longer plumb its way out. “You can build all the storage you want right now, but there’s no water to fill it,” said Jay Lund, director of watershed science at UC Davis. “It’s not like a pile of concrete in a river is going to create water.” Faced with water cutbacks imposed on them in recent years by environmental legislation and litigation, farmers adopted sophisticated irrigation systems. Central Valley farmers now use 2 million acre-feet less water than 25 years ago and grow twice as much per gallon, said Timothy Quinn, chief of the Association of California Water Agencies. An acre-foot is what would cover a football field with a foot of water and supply two California households for a year.

    Yet in achieving those savings, other problems emerged. Drip irrigation saves water but also can increase groundwater pumping, which exhausts aquifers and in some places actually causes the land to sink. Drip irrigation also intensifies salt buildup in soils that damages crops. Environmentalists argue that some crops shouldn’t be grown at all. They accuse farmers of “exporting water” in the form of crops such as alfalfa and almonds to Japan and China. Alfalfa is one of the state’s biggest water users, far exceeding the water requirements of other crops grown in the state…..

     

    ….Coburn, however, says his thirsty alfalfa isn’t some boutique crop – it’s vital to San Joaquin Valley ranchers and dairies that put meat and milk in the refrigerators of millions of Californians. The drought has driven alfalfa prices to record highs,
    if it is available at all. When Coburn told one farmer he wasn’t going to grow any alfalfa this summer, “he literally was beside himself,” Coburn said. “How am I going to feed my cows this summer?” the man asked him. Farmers’ point: Everything they grow requires water, and shorting them has consequences for everyone. “We will see sizable impacts this year for a lot of those fruits and vegetables, sweet corn, melons, those things that you take for granted that are fresh,” said Wenger, the farm bureau president. “You like wine?” Coburn asked. “How many gallons of water do you think goes into a bottle of Two-Buck Chuck or a really nice varietal up north? Take your pick: 275 gallons.”…..

     

    Farmers have taken heat from environmentalists for going more heavily into permanent crops – trees and vines that produce grapes, almonds, pistachios, avocados and the like, and require steady watering over their decades-long life. They cannot be fallowed like melons or tomatoes for a year or two during droughts. The public, however, seems to like tree crops. Last week, the Chipotle restaurant chain warned in its annual report that climate change could reduce avocado supplies and force it to stop serving guacamole. Such was the panic that the company had to clarify that a “guacapocalypse” was not at hand. If climate-change models are borne out and California droughts intensify, the trade-offs are likely to be increasingly painful for consumers as well as farmers. “When people say the farmers are using all the water,” said Michael Dimock, head of Roots of Change, a San Francisco sustainable food group, “what they’re really saying is the public is eating.”

     

     

    Scientists: Past California droughts have lasted 200 years
    (including again—by popular demand)

    MCT: Aric Crabb, Bay Area News Group Police officers Eric Baade, left, and Daren Prociw ride across the bed of Folsom Lake.

    1/31/14 By Paul Rogers of San Jose Mercury News

    SAN JOSE, Calif. — California’s current drought is being billed as the driest period in the state’s recorded rainfall history. But scientists who study the West’s long-term climate patterns say the state has been parched for much longer stretches before that 163-year historical period began. And they worry that the “megadroughts” typical of California’s earlier history could come again.

    Through studies of tree rings, sediment and other natural evidence, researchers have documented multiple droughts in California that lasted 10 or 20 years in a row during the past 1,000 years — compared to the mere three-year duration of the current dry spell. The two most severe megadroughts make the Dust Bowl of the 1930s look tame: a 240-year-long drought that started in 850 and, 50 years after the conclusion of that one, another that stretched at least 180 years. “We continue to run California as if the longest drought we are ever going to encounter is about seven years,” said Scott Stine, a professor of geography and environmental studies at Cal State East Bay. “We’re living in a dream world.” California in 2013 received less rain than in any year since it became a state in 1850. And at least one Bay Area scientist says that based on tree ring data, the current rainfall season is on pace to be the driest since 1580 — more than 150 years before George Washington was born. The question is: How much longer will it last? A megadrought today would have catastrophic effects. California, the nation’s most populous state with 38 million residents, has built a massive economy, Silicon Valley, Hollywood and millions of acres of farmland, all in a semiarid area. The state’s dams, canals and reservoirs have never been tested by the kind of prolonged drought that experts say will almost certainly occur again.

    Stine, who has spent decades studying tree stumps in Mono Lake, Tenaya Lake, the Walker River and other parts of the Sierra Nevada, said that the past century has been among the wettest of the last 7,000 years. Looking back, the long-term record also shows some staggeringly wet periods. The decades between the two medieval megadroughts, for example, delivered years of above-normal rainfall — the kind that would cause devastating floods today. The longest droughts of the 20th century, what Californians think of as severe, occurred from 1987 to 1992 and from 1928 to 1934. Both, Stine said, are minor compared to the ancient droughts of 850 to 1090 and 1140 to 1320. What would happen if the current drought continued for another 10 years or more?…

     

    California Drought News: Food for thought next time you eat almonds, hydropower and more

    KPCC staff Southern CA Public Radio | March 12th, 2014, 7:30am

    Maya Sugarman/KPCC Almond farmers rely on bees to pollinate trees in the spring.

    Today’s journey through the drought reveals the growing impacts on California’s all-important agricultural sector. But renewable energy offers a bright spot. 

    • California’s all-important almond crop is making news this morning: Mark Bittman writes the beauty of the spring almond blossoms in the San Joaquin Valley belies the stark reality of their demand on local water supplies. (New York Times)
    • Jim Jelter says water-craving almonds have become California’s second most profitable crop (only behind grapes). What happens when the global economy and Mother Nature collide? (MarketWatch)
    • The global supply chain of food
      won’t be enough to offset the effects of California’s drought, writes Dana Hull. Higher prices are coming to a supermarket near you. (San Jose Mercury News)
    • More than two years of drought have taken their toll on California’s hydroelectric sector, but as Josie Garthwaite reports, other renewables are picking up the slack. (National Geographic)
    • The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors have passed a motion to build
      more stormwater capture projects. During the storms a couple weeks ago, existing systems snared enough water to supply 15,000 homes for a year. (KABC)

     

    The Opinion Pages|Contributing Op-Ed Writer

    Exploiting California’s Drought

    MARCH 11, 2014 NY TIMES Mark Bittman

    The San Joaquin Valley in California can be stunningly beautiful: On a visit two weeks ago, I saw billions of pink almond blossoms peaking, with the Sierra Nevada towering over all…..

    Efficiency is imperative: The amount of water available is not going to increase. This drought may or may not be a result of climate change, but the area is likely to become warmer and drier as the effects of global warming increase. But there is enough water to farm here while providing water for 40 million people (with more coming) to drink, bathe and wash. Some of that will be “gray” (recycled) water, especially for lawns, the single biggest use of residential water.

    And, according to Obegi, it could be that not every one of the current eight million irrigated acres will be planted.
    This year, about 500,000 of those acres will lay fallow, and although that may not have a national impact — mass-produced food is a global commodity, and California’s drought is not a global tragedy — it’s a crisis locally. Many farmers are receiving 0 percent (as in none) of their federal water allocation, and some are pulling out their trees or crops or not bothering to plant at all.
    The more squarely the state faces the necessary changes now, the more drought-resistant California can be in the years to come.

    For a consistently reliable water supply, one of two things must happen: Crop selection must be modified or water delivery and use must be more rational. But trying to persuade politicians, farmers and even water conservation advocates to think about determining what’s grown may be nearly impossible. Still: The most water-thirsty “crops” are industrially produced meat and dairy and the food needed to sustain them. Livestock guzzle water and produce a double-digit percentage of our greenhouse gases. Other crops, like almonds (California grows 82 percent of the world’s supply), are mostly exported.

    But the state can’t dictate what landowners grow. (We can help by eating fewer animal products.) It can, however, price water more fairly and make profligate water use unprofitable.

    Some argue that more dams would solve the problem, but as the Sierra’s snowpack shrinks, this might be a recipe for expensive and dry reservoirs. Less expensive and more effective solutions would essentially overhaul the water delivery system to provide metered water on demand (now it’s often “use it or lose it”), which in turn would encourage more farmers to install drip irrigation, which quickly pays for itself. The state should not just monitor but also manage groundwater usage, and mandate treatment and recycling plants; these may be expensive, but they’re far less so than building new dams and shipping water hundreds of miles. Furthermore, if farmers were encouraged to build soil health by rotating crops, planting cover crops and integrating more organic matter, the land itself would become more drought-resistant.

    The current drought is a crisis worth exploiting. Because rainfall cannot be relied upon but California agriculture is of critical importance nationally (the state provides around 50 percent of our fruits, vegetables and nuts), these kinds of changes are needed to begin to shift an arcane and antiquated system.

     

    Farm to fork: California drought to drive up food prices in the long term

    By Dana Hull San Jose Mercury News   03/11/2014 04:35:46 PM PDT

    …. Jim Cochran of Swanton Berry Farm in Davenport offers a hint of what may come. He stopped watering his artichokes a month ago and expects the cost of a pint of organic strawberries, which usually sell for $3.50 at Bay Area farmers markets, to go up roughly 20 percent to at least $4.20 a pint. “We are going to have to sell our products for higher prices because we are not going to have the yield,” Cochran said. “We’re not trying to make more money; we’re trying to lose less.” California is the nation’s largest producer of many fruits, vegetables and nuts. But with the traditional rainy season more than half over, farmers are making hard decisions about what crops to plant and how many acres to leave fallow. At least 500,000 prime acres, representing an area the size of Los Angeles and San Diego combined, are expected to go unplanted this spring because of insufficient water….

     

     

    In Parched California, Town Taps Run Nearly Dry

    By ADAM NAGOURNEYMARCH 7, 2014

    Lake of the Woods, a small community north of Los Angeles, is running dry amid a deep California drought. Residents are changing water habits, but many worry about the future.

    LAKE OF THE WOODS, Calif. — People in this mountain town straddling the San Andreas Fault are used to scrapping for water. The lake for which it is named went dry 40 years ago. But now, this tiny community is dealing with its most unsettling threat yet: It could run out of water by summer.

     

    Water-rich gem points to vast ‘oceans’ beneath Earth’s surface, study suggests
    (March 12, 2014) — The first terrestrial discovery of ringwoodite confirms the presence of massive amounts of water 400 to 700 kilometers beneath Earth’s surface. Ringwoodite is a form of the mineral peridot, believed to exist in large quantities under high pressures in the transition zone. Ringwoodite has been found in meteorites but, until now, no terrestrial sample has ever been unearthed because scientists haven’t been able to conduct fieldwork at extreme depths. … > full story


    Can the solution to climate change help eliminate poverty


    ?

    March 10, 2014 Taylor & Francis

    It is clear that climate change and poverty are two separate problems that affect all corners of the world, but can the solution to one help eliminate the other? Richard Munang and Jessica Andrews, authors of “Harnessing Ecosystem-Based Adaptation: To Address the Social Dimensions of Climate Change,” published in Environment: Science and Policy for Sustainable Development, think that we can.

     
     
     

    Ecosystem-Based Adaptation (EbA) is becoming more widely recognized as a possible solution to addressing climate change. “EbA is the use of biodiversity and ecosystem services as part of an overall adaptation to help people and communities adapt to the negative effects of climate change at local, regional, and global levels.” It works by providing sustainable social benefits for a local community within climate change adaptation practices. This idea understands the relationship and interconnectivity between many different facets of life; ecological, social/cultural, economic, and institutional.

    EbA is built to successfully implement sustained social and environmental achievements. Developing a community’s resilience in the face of climate change impacts improves the wellness of the entire ecosystem. “EbA can accelerate income gains, improve health, and secure food production, all while ensuring the sustainable development of local resources.” Munang and Andrews provide examples where this program has been successful. In Togo, Africa, EbA aided in the revitalization of water reservoirs, as well as cereal and vegetable production in the savannah region, directly benefiting women and youth groups. The extraordinary and integral component of this program is the collaboration between nongovernmental and civil society organizations (NGOs and CSOs, respectively) and the local community. This resulted in improved access to water, an array of social benefits, and a trained community competent to take an active role in future resilience efforts.

    However, there are some problems. The success of EbA depends largely on the involvement of the local community in the planning and implementation process, while also taking into consideration the overall political context and land use conflicts. Also, the concept of EbA is relatively new and needs to be fully understood by the public, and there needs to be development to provide further evidence of the success of the program. Although this program does have its setbacks and limitations, it provides a plan to combat climate change while uplifting poverty stricken communities most vulnerable to the negative effects of climate change….

    Richard Munang, Jesica Andrews, Keith Alverson, Desta Mebratu. Harnessing Ecosystem-based Adaptation To Address the Social Dimensions of Climate Change. Environment: Science and Policy for Sustainable Development, 2014; 56 (1): 18 DOI: 10.1080/00139157.2014.861676

     

     

     

     

     

    For EPA’s Global Warming Rules, Will ‘Next Year’ Mean ‘Never’? March 11 2014

    EPA is running out of time to craft carbon-emissions standards for industrial polluters beyond power plants.

    EPA’s new budget plan says the agency hopes to make critical—and controversial—decisions about its effort to regulate greenhouse gases by the end of fiscal 2015.

    Specifically, the budget says the agency hopes to determine whether it should craft carbon-emissions standards for several big industrial pollution sources—notably refineries, but also pulp and paper facilities, iron and steel production, and few other categories. But if the pledges about expanding climate rules sounds familiar to EPA-watchers, they should: The fiscal 2014 plan said the same thing about a decision on the rules, and the fact that the agency has now moved these decisions to its 2015 budget suggests that determinations in 2014 are probably not in the cards.

    Now, with the clock winding down on the Obama administration, experts say it’s unclear whether EPA will craft carbon-emissions standards for any big stationary pollution sources beyond power plants—or even if it has enough time or resources left to do so. “As a practical matter, they would probably need to get started on the rulemaking by the end of this year if they want to get new [greenhouse-gas] regulations in place for refineries or any other industry sector before they leave office,” said Jeff Holmstead, who was the top EPA air pollution official under President George W. Bush and is now a partner at Bracewell & Giuliani….

     

    30 Senators stay up for climate change – a turning point for US policy?

    The all night, 15-hour event was a display of climate science awareness and a shift in political strategy

    On the night of March 10th to the morning of March 11th, 30 US Senators stayed up all night speaking about climate change for 15 hours. The Up4Climate event was the first hosted by the Senate Climate Action Task Force. A video of the full session can be viewed courtesy of C-SPAN2, and is also searchable by speaker and keyword.

    The event was encouraging not just because 30 percent of the members of the US Senate were willing to devote their personal time to discuss this critical subject, but also because they displayed a strong understanding of climate change and its impacts. Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT) invoked the 97 percent expert consensus on human caused global warming from the study my colleagues and I published last year.

     

    Making a Visible Difference in Communities across the Country through Green Infrastructure

    The President’s proposed fiscal year 2015 budget for the EPA dedicates $5.0 million and adds 30 staff to strengthen green infrastructure activities to further sustainability goals, particularly in urban, underserved and economically distressed communities. Incorporating green infrastructure and enhancing stormwater management helps to create livable urban communities and improve the quality of urban waters. Green Infrastructure is a cost-effective and resilient approach to our stormwater infrastructure needs that provides many community benefits: improving water and air quality; reducing energy use and mitigating climate change; improving habitat for wildlife; reducing a community’s infrastructure cost and promoting economic growth. The proposed FY15 funding continues and increases EPA’s commitment to expanding the use of green infrastructure through collaborative partnerships and capacity building. More information:  http://water.epa.gov/infrastructure/greeninfrastructure/

     For more details on the President’s proposed fiscal year 2015 EPA budget, please see:  http://www2.epa.gov/sites/production/files/2014-03/documents/fy15_bib.pdf

     

    California’s water system faces a funding drought: New PPIC report says resources and reforms needed

    by Maven March 13, 2014

    New Public Policy Institute of California (PPIC) Report highlights the resources and reforms needed for rural communities, flood protection, stormwater pollution, and aquatic ecosystems

    From the Public Policy Institute of California:

    “California faces critical funding gaps in five key areas of water management, according to a report released today by the Public Policy Institute of California (PPIC). These areas include safe drinking water in small, disadvantaged communities; flood protection; management of stormwater and other polluted runoff; aquatic ecosystem management; and integrated water management.

    The report identifies the overall funding gap in these five areas at $2 billion to $3 billion annually. Filling this gap would require a spending increase of 7–10 percent—or $150 to $230 per household—for a water system with annual spending of more than $30 billion.

    Our water challenges seem daunting, but this is a fixable problem,” said Ellen Hanak, PPIC senior fellow and one of the authors of the report. “With a bold, concerted effort by state and local leaders, Californians can sustainably manage this critical resource—despite increasing water scarcity, population growth, and climate change.” … ”

    Click here to continue reading this press release at the PPIC website.

    Click here to download the report.

    Click here for more information and to register for the related event on April 10.

     

     

    Wildlife organizations send letter to [CA] State Water Board: Don’t leave the refuges out to dry

    by Maven

    The Nature Conservancy, the Trust for Public Land, Audubon, Defenders of Wildlife, Ducks Unlimited and the California Waterfowl Association have send a letter to Felicia Marcus outlining concerns over potential impacts of this extreme drought on refuges and Central Valley wetlands, and recommending actions that need to be taken to protect waterfowl and migrating birds along the Pacific Flyway.

    This year, Central Valley refuges anticipate receiving little more than one-quarter of their legally-mandated supplies, and the post-harvest flooding of wildlife-friendly farmland – a vital component of the flyway habitat mosaic – could decline severely this year due to potential water supply curtailments, the letter says.  This loss of flooded agricultural habitat places overwhelming pressure on the private and public refuges, making them less able to provide food and nesting habitat for the millions of birds and other species, they say, and collectively, available habitat may be reduced to levels not seen since the 1980s. The cumulative impacts of habitat loss at both refuges and agricultural lands is an unprecedented challenge to birds and wetland-dependent wildlife, and it could take many years for populations to recover, they say. Public refuges, private wetlands, and some agricultural land piece together just one-tenth of the four million acres that once supported wildlife before human development, and millions of migrating birds depend on these remaining wetlands to rest and feed between long flights of hundreds, even thousands of miles, the letter says.  These relatively few remaining wetland areas are not incidental; their existence depends on dedicated water supplies and active management, the groups point out.

    “Unquestionably, our farms and communities are suffering during this drought. So, too, are migratory birds, resident waterfowl, and other wetland wildlife. These species have no insurance policy to recover from the significant loss of habitat they could suffer this year if no action is taken. To protect our public investments and international commitments, we must provide a backstop to so much habitat loss in the Central Valley by prioritizing and augmenting water supplies to the remaining 5 percent of California wetlands.”

    Don’t be too hasty with your decision, the groups say.  Take action only after directly engaging with agencies and organizations, considering all the information provided as well as the creative solutions proposed by water users.

    “We urge the Board to fully consider the cumulative effects that comprehensive “dewatering” of the Flyway may cause.”

    Read the letter here:  SWRCB-Drought-and-Flyway-Letter

     

    Obama Creates New [Coastal] National Monument (Mendocino, CA)

    By Joanna M. Foster on March 11, 2014 at 1:50 pm

    Mendocino Coast, California. CREDIT: SHUTTERSTOCK

    On Tuesday, President Obama held a ceremony at the White House to announce his use of executive authority to expand the California Coastal National Monument (CCNM) to include the Point Arena-Stornetta Public Lands on the Mendocino Coast. This is the first land-based addition to the CCNM and permanently protects more than 1,660 acres of beach, bluffs, and the Garcia River estuary. The area is home to rare and endangered species such as coho salmon, steelhead, the Point Arena mountain beaver, and the Behren’s silverspot butterfly. The Mendocino Coast of California was recently picked for the number 3 spot in the New York Times “52 Places to Go in 2014.”
    This is the 10th national monument designated by President Obama. For comparison, President Clinton created 19 new monuments and enlarged three others, while President George W. Bush used his power under the Antiquities Act just 5 times. While Obama has been criticized in the past for his reluctance to declare monuments, there appears to be new momentum in the administration to conserve. Former Interior Secretary Ken Salazar announced five designations before leaving office last year, and in November, his successor Sally Jewell delivered a major agenda-setting speech on conservation that challenged Congress to pass the many backlogged conservation bills that are pending, saying that “President Obama is ready and willing to step up where Congress falls short.”  Obama confirmed this in his state of the Union speech, saying — “I’ll use my authority to protect more of our pristine federal lands for future generations.”

    Even Congress seems to be hearing the message. Although the previous 112th Congress became somewhat notorious as the first in decades not to protect a single new acre of public lands, last Tuesday, Congress passed a bill to set aside more than 30,000 acres of wilderness at Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore in Michigan….

     

     

    Wildlife Researcher Sentenced to Three Years Probation, Fined $7,500 For Unlawful Taking of Golden Eagle

    San Diego – United States Attorney Laura E. Duffy announced that John David Bittner, 68, of Julian, Calif., was sentenced August 13 following his plea of guilty to the unlawful taking of a Golden Eagle, in violation of the Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act. At the sentencing hearing today, Magistrate Judge David H. Bartick observed that although Bittner had devoted his life to wildlife, he had apparently placed his own financial interests ahead of the need to comply with federal permitting requirements. Judge Bartick cited the fact that Bittner captured and banded birds without federal and state permits, placed unpermitted devices on birds, conducted aerial surveys after authorization was denied, used wild birds in educational programs without a permit, failed to immediately send eagle carcasses to the National Eagle Repository (where there is a lengthy waiting list for Native Americans to obtain plumage for religious ceremonies) and failed to provide to the government the data he had obtained about this wildlife. After considering the scientific concerns associated with placing multiple tracking devices on a single bird, and the failure to send eagle carcasses to the National Eagle Repository, Judge Bartick concluded that it cannot be said that there was no harm in this case….

     

    Tom Steyer: An inconvenient billionaire. Men’s Journal

    Hedge-fund mogul Tom Steyer is using his checkbook to punish climate-change deniers, persuade Obama to halt the Keystone XL pipeline, and try to save the planet.

     

     

     

     

     

     

     


    Now You Can Walk Into A Best Buy And Get A Solar System For Your Home


    By Jeff Spross on March 12, 2014 at 9:30 am

    CREDIT: Shutterstock

    SolarCity and Best Buy have just announced a deal allowing customers to get low-cost and low-hassle solar power for their homes.
    It’s what’s called a third party leasing agreement.
    Rather than purchasing a solar array outright, they lease the system from the provider — SolarCity, in this case. It’s just that the system is installed on the roof of the homeowner. The benefit for the customer is they don’t have to worry about installation and maintenance — the provider handles that — and there are no big upfront costs. The customer just pays the provider a set amount each month for the electricity, and that cost is usually slightly lower than the going market rate. Meanwhile, as the provider, SolarCity gets a guaranteed revenue stream for whatever period of time the lease agreement covers. Partnering with Best Buy allows SolarCity to make use of the chain’s already-existing network of stores to reach as many customers as possible…..While residential solar has grown more slowly than utility-scale installations, its growth has been steady. And third party leasing and deals like this are a big reason why. Third party leasing is also an example of how innovations in the ways we buy, sell and finance solar are just as important to its widespread adoption as technological innovations. But there are still some blockages. States are still figuring out how to adjust to the arrival of distributed solar, because traditional regulations have locked the market into a specific relationship between utilities and customers, with certain expectations from each. As a result, only a limited number of states currently allow for third party leasing. That’s why the deal between SolarCity and Best Buy is only available to customers in California, Arizona, New York and Oregon right now. For it to spread further, more states will have to adapt their regulations to allow for freer exchange of energy buyers, sellers, and innovators on their grids….

     

     

    Alaska the Last Frontier … not for long
    (March 10, 2014) — Alaska, the last great frontier, is being threatened by many proposals to mine an estimated 5.5 trillion tons of coal. Scientists comment on the struggle to keep Alaska untouched. … > full story

     

    Is pee-power really possible? March 13, 2014 BBC

    Today, over seven billion people populate our planet, which means on average around 10.5 billion litres of human urine is produced and wasted each day. It’s the equivalent of 4,200 Olympic-sized swimming pools, if anyone was counting. In fact, some scientists are – and if they have their way, our human waste will be wasted no more. …Is pee-power really possible? With around one-seventh of the population lacking access to basic electricity, and as our global supply of oil slowly dwindles and coal continues to add to mounting greenhouse gases, scientists have rushed to find solutions to power the world in more renewable and sustainable ways. One answer could lie in methods being developed to generate power from perhaps an unlikely source. Last year, a group of researchers at Bristol Robotics Laboratory in the UK proved they could power a mobile phone with human urine. Their device uses what’s known as microbial fuel cells, or MFCs, to generate enough energy for a smartphone to text, browse the internet and make short phone calls. But they believe, in time, it could eventually help power houses, buildings, and maybe even entire off-grid villages. A microbial fuel cell is essentially an energy converter, which uses bacteria found in nature to breakdown organic matter, and in turn produce electrons that are converted into energy. It’s a self-renewing system, because the more waste the microbes eat, the more energy the system can generate and for longer.
    MFCs hold such promise because they are currently one of the most efficient means of converting waste to energy. According to Ani Vallabhaneni, co-founder of Sanergy, a start-up that converts human waste to energy and fertiliser in Kenya’s slums, common biogas digesters (which convert waste into mostly methane gas) are around 35% efficient in terms of capturing energy inside the waste. It’s claimed MFCs have upwards of 85% efficiency…..

     

     

    ‘Super bacteria’ clean up after oil spills
    (March 10, 2014) — Researchers have achieved surprising results by exploiting nature’s own ability to clean up after oil spills. Scientists know that marine bacteria can assist in cleaning up after oil spills. What is surprising is that given the right kind of encouragement, they can be even more effective. … > full story

     

    Small biomass power plants could help rural economies, stabilize national power grid
    (March 10, 2014) — Researchers have found that creating a bioenergy grid with these small plants could benefit people in rural areas of the country as well as provide relief to an overworked national power grid. … > full story

     


    California Set Back-To-Back Solar Records Last Week

    By Katie Valentine on March 11, 2014

    Last week was a good week for solar power in California….

     

     

    Nuclear Power:

     

    World’s Greatest Crime against Humanity and Nature- draft op-ed

    James E. Hansen

     

    A world awash in a nuclear explosive? Center for Public Integrity

    A generation after Three Mile Island and Chernobyl, the world is rediscovering the attractions of nuclear power to curb the warming pollution of carbon. Japan is leading the global move towards dangerous reactors fueled by plutonium, experts say….

     

     

    Scents and sustainability: Renewable sources for artificial scents and flavors
    (March 10, 2014) — Fresh banana, a waft of flowers, blueberry: the scents in some labs are a little sweeter than most. Researchers are engineering bacteria to make esters — molecules widely used as scents and flavorings, and also as basic feedstock for chemical processes from paints to fuels. … > full story

     

    New Jersey Banned Tesla To Help Out Car Dealers

    By Ryan Koronowski on March 12, 2014 at 4:38 pm

    In this May 2, 2013 photo, a Tesla car is shown outside of Tesla motors in Fremont, Calif. CREDIT: AP Photo/Jeff Chiu

    If you want to buy a Tesla in the Garden State, after April 1 you’ll have to try your luck somewhere else. New Jersey regulators caved to pressure from car dealers and decided on Tuesday to ban automakers that want to sell directly to customers from doing so in the state. The New Jersey Motor Vehicle Commission rushed through a rule change and voted 6-0 to adopt this new regulation that mandates that all new car dealers get a franchise agreement if they want a state license to sell cars in New Jersey….

     

     

     

    1. RESOURCES and REFERENCES

     
     

     

    EPA has released two climate and energy strategy guides for local governments:

    On-Site Renewable Energy Generation. A growing number of local governments are turning to renewable energy sources such as solar, wind, biomass, hydropower, and landfill gas, to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, improve air quality and energy security, boost the local economy, and pave the way to a sustainable energy future. Local governments can work with utilities, local businesses, nonprofit groups, residents, state agencies, and green power marketers and brokers to plan and implement on-site renewable energy generation projects at local government facilities and throughout their communities.

    Combined Heat and Power. Combined heat and power, also known as cogeneration, refers to the simultaneous production of electricity and thermal energy from a single fuel source. Simultaneous production is more efficient than producing electricity and thermal energy through two separate power systems and requires less fuel. Reductions in fuel use can produce a number of benefits, including energy cost savings, reduced GHG emissions, and reductions in other air emissions.

     

    NEW: NOAA climate and fisheries webpage

    Climate change is already having a profound effect on life in the oceans. Marine species tend to be highly mobile, and many are moving quickly toward the poles to stay cool as average ocean temperatures rise. These shifts can cause ecological disruptions as predators become separated from their prey. They can also cause economic disruptions if a fish population becomes less productive or moves out of range of the fishermen who catch them. In addition to getting warmer, the oceans are also becoming more acidic as they absorb about one-half of the CO2 we emit into the atmosphere. This increased acidity can make life difficult for organisms that build shells out of calcium carbonate. This includes not only corals and shellfish, but also tiny organisms like pteropods that form the foundation of many marine food webs. NOAA Fisheries scientists are working to understand the effects of climate change and ocean acidification so we can minimize the disruptions they cause, adapt to the changes that are coming, and ensure that future generations can enjoy the benefits of healthy marine ecosystems. Here are some of the things we’re working on

     

     

     

     

    WEBINAR:

     


     

     

     

    21st Century Sea Level Rise and  the Fate of California Coastal Marshes
    March 19, 2014 12:00-1:00 pm PST

    Speaker Glen MacDonald, Director of the UCLA Institute for the Environment and Sustainability.

    This webinar will present some basics on potential rates and magnitudes of relative sea level rise along the California coast over the 21st century as influenced by climate change, tectonics and other related factors. The potential accretion rates of selected marshes relative to anticipated sea level rise will be outlined and a multidisciplinary joint USGS-UCLA project to study past, present and future marsh response to sea level changes will be described. Click here for CA LCC webpage for this event.

     
     

     

     

    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

     

    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.

     


    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

     

    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.

     

     


     

    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.

     

     

     

    Postdoctoral Research Associate Opportunity: Landscape Analysis

    Utah State University and U.S. Geological Survey, Bureau of Land Management and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

    The Research Associate will work as part of a joint Utah State University, FWS Southern Rockies Landscape Conservation Cooperative (SRLCC), and Bureau of Land Management (BLM) interdisciplinary team assessing the capabilities of landscape-level data and information in resolving regional and local land management issues. The spatial extent of the work is the SRLCC geographic area with initial emphasis on the Colorado Plateau ecoregion….Applications will be accepted until the position is filled, with initial review beginning on 14 April 2014. Candidates should submit to http://jobs.usu.edu, Requisition ID=054420. Any questions and all documents regarding the position should be sent via email only; phone calls will not be returned.

    Thomas C. Edwards, Research Ecologist and Professor; U.S. Geological Survey and Wildland Resources, Utah State University; t.edwards@nr.usu.edu

     

     

     

    1. OTHER NEWS OF INTEREST

     

    Natural selection has altered the appearance of Europeans over the past 5,000 years
    (March 10, 2014) — There has been much research into the factors that have influenced the human genome since the end of the last Ice Age. Anthropologists, geneticists and archaeologists have analyzed ancient DNA from skeletons and found that selection has had a significant effect on the human genome even in the past 5,000 years, resulting in sustained changes to the appearance of people. … > full story

     

    Dinosaur skull may reveal T. rex’s smaller cousin from the north
    (March 12, 2014) — A 70-million-year-old fossil found in the Late Cretaceous sediments of Alaska reveals a new small tyrannosaur. Tyrannosaurs, the lineage of carnivorous theropod (“beast feet”) dinosaurs that include T. rex, have captivated our attention, but the majority of our knowledge about this group comes from fossils from low- to mid-latitudes of North America and Asia. In this study, scientists analyzed the partial skull roof, maxilla, and jaw, recovered from Prince Creek Formation in Northern Alaska, of a dinosaur originally believed to belong to a different species, and then compared the fossils to known tyrannosaurine species. … > full story

     

     

    Citizen Scientists Needed For New Barn Swallow Study

    Researchers will study the effects of artificial light on the pace of life March 13, 2014 Ithaca, N.Y.—We live in an incredibly well-lit world. All that wattage in heavily-populated areas creates a halo glow that brightens the night sky. Researchers at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Syracuse University, and the Globe at Night project are seeking participants for a unique new study. Scientists want to know what impact all that extra night light might have on the circadian rhythms of life using Barn Swallows as their subjects. Barn Swallows have adapted to live near humans and nest almost exclusively on structures such as bridges, homes, and yes, barns. Volunteers can sign up through the Cornell Lab’s free NestWatch citizen-science project.

     

    Environmentally Friendly Fashion? Dress Knitted out of Birch Cellulose Fiber

    Mar. 13, 2014 — The first garment made out of birch cellulose fiber using the Ioncell method is displayed at a fashion show. The Ioncell method is an environmentally friendly alternative to cotton in textile … full story

     

    Mongol Empire rode wave of mild climate, but warming now may be tipping region into unparalleled drought
    (March 10, 2014) — Researchers studying the rings of ancient trees in mountainous central Mongolia think they may have gotten at the mystery of how small bands of nomadic Mongol horsemen united to conquer much of the world within a span of decades, 800 years ago. The rise of the great leader Genghis Khan and the start of the largest contiguous empire in human history was propelled by a temporary run of nice weather. … > full story


    First-ever blood test identifies impending Alzheimer’s disease


    March 10, 2014, 3:27 p.m. LA Times

    For the first time, a test that detects 10 types of lipids, or fats, circulating in a person’s blood has been shown to predict accurately whether he or she will develop the memory loss and mental decline of Alzheimer’s disease over the next two to three years. A screening test based on the findings could be available in as little as two years, said the researchers who identified the blood biomarkers…..

     

    Could grapefruit be good for your kidneys?
    (March 12, 2014) — A natural product found in grapefruit can prevent kidney cysts from forming, new research indicates. Naringenin, which is also present in other citrus fruits, has been found to successfully block the formation of kidney cysts, an effect that occurs in polycystic kidney disease, by regulating the PKD2 protein responsible for the condition. With few treatments currently available, symptoms include high blood pressure and loss of kidney function, and lead to the need for dialysis. … > full story

     

    Even Babies Discriminate: A NurtureShock Excerpt.

    By Po Bronson and Ashley Merryman Newsweek   Updated 1/23/14 at 4:23 PM

    At the Children’s Research Lab at the University of Texas, a database is kept on thousands of families in the Austin area who have volunteered to be available for scholarly research. In 2006 Birgitte Vittrup recruited from the database about a hundred families, all of whom were Caucasian with a child 5 to 7 years old…

     


    Dropped your toast? Five-second food rule exists, new research suggests
    (March 10, 2014)Food picked up just a few seconds after being dropped is less likely to contain bacteria than if it is left for longer periods of time, according to new research. The findings suggest there may be some scientific basis to the ’5 second rule’ — the urban myth about it being fine to eat food that has only had contact with the floor for five seconds or less. The study, undertaken by final year biology students monitored the transfer of the common bacteria Escherichia coli (E. coli) and Staphylococcus aureus from a variety of indoor floor types (carpet, laminate and tiled surfaces) to toast, pasta, biscuit and a sticky sweet when contact was made from 3 to 30 seconds. … > full story

     

     

     

    1. IMAGES OF THE WEEK

     

    The climate contrarian guide to managing risk. Created by John Cook

     

     


    Dianne Feinstein outraged that CIA spied on her Senate staff


     

     

     

     

     

    ————

    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.

     

  9. Conservation Science News March 7, 2014

    Leave a Comment

    Focus of the WeekCalifornia’s groundwater problems and prospects

    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, www.blm.gov/ca/news/newsbytes/2012/529.html 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- California’s groundwater problems and prospects


    California’s groundwater problems and prospects



    Posted on January 30, 2013 by UC Davis Center for Watershed Sciences

    Photo by California Department of Water Resources

    Under the rocks and stones, there is water underground – Talking Heads

    By Jay R. Lund and Thomas Harter

    Jay R. Lund is the Ray B. Krone Professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering at UC Davis and director of the university’s Center for Watershed Sciences. Thomas Harter holds the Robert M. Hagan Endowed Chair in Water Management and Policy at UC Davis.

    Groundwater is one of California’s most ubiquitous, widely used resources that is unseen and misunderstood. Aquifers gather and store water and contaminants from large areas over decades to eons to support many human and ecosystem functions.  We must manage groundwater wisely.

    Groundwater is important to California in many ways.  Roughly 30 percent of water deliveries in California come directly from groundwater, with much more in drought years, particularly long droughts (CDWR 2005, Megdal et al. 2009).  Smaller urban and rural areas depend entirely on groundwater, as do many sizable cities, including Fresno. In all, 85 percent of Californians depend on groundwater for at least part of their drinking water. (SWRCB, 2012). The state’s groundwater storage capacity is more than 10 times that of all its surface reservoirs.  Groundwater removes some, but not all, forms of drinking water contaminants. Groundwater also accumulates contaminants with time, particularly salts and nitrate.  Groundwater pumping energy is about 2% of California’s electricity use (5,800 GwH/yr of total 280,000 GwH/yr).  And many native species depend on streamflows and wetlands fed by springs and supported by high groundwater tables. California’s multifaceted dependence on groundwater leads to diverse controversies and myths.

    Where does groundwater come from? Groundwater comes from surface water, natural landscape recharge and irrigation return water. When pumping exceeds recharge, it depletes aquifer storage.  Recharge from streams occurs when the groundwater table is lower than the stream. Natural landscape and irrigation water recharge occurs when unused water percolates to below the root zone of plants and crops. Percolation is vital to crops and ecosystems. Without some percolation, the root zone accumulates salinity that kills plant life. In some areas, recharge basins, injection wells and irrigation management are used to intentionally recharge and bank groundwater during wet years or winters when ample water is available, for long-term storage and use in dry years or summer. In much of California, groundwater pumping has significantly lowered groundwater levels, which often increases recharge from streams. Increased losses from streams to groundwater can reduce downstream flows and affect ecosystems, if not regulated by upstream dams.  Ultimately, almost all groundwater used for irrigation and drinking water would have become streamflow were it not pumped. (The largest exception is chronically overdrafted aquifers, less than 10% of California’s groundwater use.) .

    Irrigation “inefficiency” is a major source of groundwater recharge.  In the Central Valley and other agricultural regions of California, irrigation inefficiency is a major source of aquifer recharge (Ruud et al. 2004).  In many areas, drought-year groundwater supplies depend substantially on irrigation inefficiency in wetter years, when surface water is available and used by farmers. Ironically, local inefficiency often improves regional water use efficiency and sustainability. However, excessive groundwater pumping causes long-term continual decline in groundwater levels (“overdraft”) and irrigation inefficiency increases salt and nitrate loads to groundwater.  There are few perfect solutions in water.

    Groundwater problems in California vary greatly and are locally quite important. 

    • Overdraft in California today occurs in parts of the Central Valley, especially the Tulare Lake Basin, but also in some coastal and southern California basins with limited surface water supplies and intensive agriculture.  During wet periods with more surface water deliveries, some overdraft reverses temporarily.  Still, statewide overdraft is estimated diversely to average between 500,000 acre-feet a year to more than 1.5 million acre-feet a year, which amounts to 10-20 percent of all water use in the Tulare Lake Basin (Faunt et al 2009). Other Central Valley areas with groundwater overdraft are along the eastern margin of the San Joaquin Valley, including east of the Delta. Overdraft in much of the Sacramento Valley has been limited due to increased infiltration from streams induced by lower groundwater tables (Harou and Lund 2008; Faunt, et al. 2009).  Overdraft in most of Southern California has largely ended by regulation from local groundwater adjudications and water imports (Blomquist 1998).  In Southern California, the Tulare Lake Basin and elsewhere, drawdown of aquifers has created empty groundwater storage capacity used to store water from wet years for droughts (Vaux 1986; Jenkins 1998; Hanak et al. 2012). The Tulare Lake Basin’s long dependence on the Delta and overdraft for about 60 percent of its water supplies is a major regional and statewide challenge. The Tulare Lake Basin uses more water than any other region of California – about 8 million acre-feet a year. Delta imports and San Joaquin River diversion supply about 3 million acre-feet; local streams, 3.2 million acre-feet; local groundwater inflows from precipitation, 1.1 million acre-feet; and 0.7-1.5 million acre-feet from groundwater overdraft (Hanak et al. 2011; CDWR 2009). The high value of Tulare Lake Basin agriculture, its dependence on water imports and overdraft, and the accumulation of salts and nitrate in this closed basin raise substantial long-term economic and social challenges for this region and the state (Chou 2012).
    • Nitrate contamination is one of the most widespread groundwater problems worldwide and in California, affecting drinking water supplies in many agricultural or historically agricultural areas.  While even large cities such as Fresno are affected, nitrate contamination is most expensive for small rural water supplies that lack economies of scale. Nitrate contamination affects many groundwater-dependent systems in California, including more than 200,000 people in small and household wells in the Tulare and Salinas basins (Harter et al. 2012). Most nitrate contamination is from agricultural fertilizers, although other sources, notably septic tanks and dairies, can be important locally. Most agricultural areas can expect nitrate contamination of drinking water supplies. Source control of nitrate discharge is only a partial long-term solution because of the large extent of contamination and its decades of travel in groundwater.  Providing drinking water solutions and compensation for affected communities now and into the foreseeable future is an unavoidable and urgently needed response (Harter et al 2012).  Nitrate problems for drinking water are often compounded by naturally occurring arsenic, chromium, uranium, and other groundwater contaminants (SWRCB 2012).
    • Salinity accumulation is another long-term groundwater quality challenge. Salt accumulation is particularly problematic on the Westside of the Tulare Lake and San Joaquin basins, which lack much ability to export salt from imported water or local soils – affecting about 500,000 acres of farmland (SJVDP 1990). In many other parts of California, such as the cities of Davis and Woodland, the accumulation of salts in groundwater is threatening the viability of urban groundwater water use, because of wastewater regulations regarding the consequently higher salinity in urban wastewater discharges.  Statewide, major sources of salt are local soils and aquifers, irrigation water, animal farming, and municipal and industrial wastes – including salts from water softeners. Salts in irrigation water and wastewater applied to crops or urban landscapes are concentrated by evapotranspiration from plants, leaving salts behind.  Salinity accumulation has a history of ending agriculture in arid regions (Hillel 2000).
    • Land subsidence resulting from groundwater use has been considerable in some areas, particularly in the Tulare Lake and San Joaquin basins. In the mid-20th century, land subsidence in the San Joaquin Valley and Tulare Lake basins has ranged from a few feet to over 30 feet (Poland et al 1975; Faunt et al. 2009). Due to decreasing groundwater levels, land subsidence is recurring and remains a threat in these regions (Corbett et al. 2011). While physically remarkable, there has been insufficient analysis of the occurrence and implications of subsidence and little accounting of the long-term economic costs. However, regional subsidence can incur potentially large costs from flooding and insufficient slopes on canal and drainage systems.
    • Decreased streamflows have occurred on many California streams, as groundwater levels were lowered from pre-development levels. Lowered groundwater levels drain water from rivers, stressing ecosystems during low-flow times (Harou and Lund 2008; Faunt et al. 2009). Ironically, streams with an upstream dam now often have higher summer streamflows than they would have with natural runoff, despite surrounding groundwater levels being lowered. Reservoir operations delivering summer streamflow significantly contribute to groundwater recharge. But in unmanaged rivers, pumping drains water from riparian ecosystems (Fleckenstein et al. 2004; Harter and Hines 2008; Howard and Merrifield 2010) and more generally undermines surface supplies for junior surface water right holders (who sometimes respond by increasing their own groundwater pumping).

    Should the State do anything? 

    • The sky is not falling, in most places. California has widespread groundwater problems, and probably always will. California is a dry place, after all.  Many groundwater problems are severe, growing and local. Some groundwater problems could benefit from state action, but California’s groundwater problems must be solved mostly at local and regional levels, perhaps with some state legal, financial, and technical help. The state can provide better institutional and information frameworks to help locals solve local and regional groundwater problems.
    • Many local groundwater problems are being handled well locally. California has had a remarkable record of effective local groundwater management (Nelson 2011, 2012; ACWA 2011; Blomquist 1992). Historical overdraft in some areas of California has been eliminated or limited by build-out of surface water projects, and more recently by effective local conjunctive use in much of the Central Valley or groundwater adjudication in Southern California. In other areas, problems of groundwater depletion remain. Groundwater quality management has been much more difficult, with accumulations of salt and nitrate having so far defied local solutions. Groundwater quality and groundwater overdraft management are closely linked, as are groundwater and surface water. Creative regional solutions that consider these broader scales and interconnections are needed. Support for successful development of stakeholder supported local-regional management is also critical.

    Some state reforms would be useful. 

    1. Official information is important. State agencies should declare areas at risk of nitrate and salinity contamination. Many domestic well users will not know of contamination without such official declarations. And local governments and interests are likely to lack capacity or incentive to address long-term groundwater contamination issues without the attention of state agencies.
    2. Effective compensation is needed more than source control. Source control for large-scale groundwater problems, such as nitrate and salt contamination, often take decades to be effective, but people drink from and use these aquifers every day.  Declarations of at-risk areas should trigger compensation mechanisms
      for affected water users, while long-term source control policies are developed and implemented. Long-term source control poses a dilemma for the state, as even the best source control may not provide clean recharge and large-scale groundwater degradation often requires decades of response time. Because degradation in some aquifers is long-term and perhaps permanent for nitrate and salinity, providing mechanisms for information and compensation are key state roles.
    3. Better data and science.  Much data is available on groundwater in California, but too much of it is poorly organized, not in electronic format or hidden by secrecy rules. Consequently, little synthetic work is done to develop insights from these data.  A serious technical program is needed, at arm’s length from stakeholders, to develop the perspective and insights needed for informed public policy and management discussions and actions. State efforts to account for and model groundwater have been missing and hindered by data problems, but advanced substantially for the Central Valley with the recent California Department of Water Resources C2VSIM model and the U.S. Geological Survey model, CVHM.  While both substantially improve answers to major groundwater questions, they still have great potential for further improvement.
    4. Security of groundwater rights and integrated regional water management.  Except in adjudicated groundwater basins, where courts have divided and allocated groundwater rights and established watermasters and enforcement mechanisms, most groundwater use in California is largely unregulated.  Environmental limits on some surface water supplies for agriculture and urban users have stressed groundwater to levels not seen since the 1950s and ’60s. In addition, large-scale groundwater quality management, driven by the state’s nutrient and salt management policy, is becoming intimately intertwined with water quantity management. The state needs to find a way to more expeditiously establish groundwater use rights in ways compatible with separately regulated water quality and with physically connected, but legally separated surface water rights. Groundwater recharge management, integrated with groundwater quality management, in both urban areas and agricultural areas must become part of state and local groundwater protection strategies.
    5. The major overdraft areas of California create substantial economic value.  In the Tulare Lake Basin and numerous smaller basins, groundwater is mined, as one would deplete gold, oil and other mineral deposits. Are there areas of California where depletion of water should be viewed and accepted economically? In many areas, new solutions should be sought to increase groundwater banking and conjunctive use that allow water users to work within a long-term water budget, particularly in agricultural regions. This approach would provide a sustainable future for groundwater reservoirs (Scanlon et al., 2012; Hanak et al. 2012).

    California will always have groundwater problems, and its dependence on groundwater is likely to increase with changes in demands, climate and environmental regulations.  Success will be in how effectively groundwater is managed, especially in managing groundwater together with other water supplies and demands. Effective management will require state and regional frameworks of information, organization and authorities that help local water managers work effectively and transparently. Effective management of overdraft, salinization and contamination also will require a long-term perspective and serious technical efforts – through the end of the 21st century and beyond. This requires an important, if limited, role for the state.

    Further reading

     

     

     

    POINT BLUE and partners publications and news:

     


    2014 Coastal California Waterbird Conservation Plan (pdf) Published by U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Pacific Southwest Region

     

    Shuford, W. Dave (author and editor). 2014. Coastal California (BCR 32) Waterbird Conservation Plan: Encompassing the coastal slope and Coast Ranges of central and southern California and the Central Valley. A plan associated with the Waterbird Conservation for the Americas initiative. U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Region 8, 2800 Cottage Way, Sacramento, CA 95825. Additional Species Account Authors: Lyann A. Comrack, Meredith Elliott, Catherine M. Hickey, Gary L. Ivey, John P. Kelly, Dan Robinette, Cheryl Strong

    The 2014 Coastal California Waterbird Conservation Plan, which focuses on the U.S. portion of Bird Conservation Region (BCR) 32 encompassing the coastal slope and Coast Ranges of central and southern California and the Central Valley is now available as a pdf online.  The Coastal California plan provides a framework for implementing the initiative’s vision regionally by sustaining or restoring the distribution, diversity, and abundance of populations and habitats of breeding, migratory, and nonbreeding waterbirds in conservation region. The plan includes 46 species of waterbirds (loons, grebes, pelicans, cormorants, herons, egrets, night-herons, bitterns, ibis, rails, gallinules, coots, cranes, gulls, terns, and skimmers).  This will also be distributed via the Waterbird Initiative listserve and web site but feel free to distribute to interested parties. For further details regarding the document and utilization of the data for future conservation efforts, please contact Rob Doster at Rob_Doster@fws.gov

     

     

    Satellites reveal divergent migration habits among Long-billed Curlews

    3/6/2014 |BirdWatching Magazine enews

    Long-billed Curlew at Fort De Soto County Park, Tierra Verde, Florida, by geopix.

    Cinnamon-brown above, buff below, and large, Long-billed Curlew is always a welcome sight. Its ringing call is the quintessential sound of spring and summer on many midwestern and western grasslands. Yet the bird’s population is small, its breeding range has shrunk, and many aspects of its biology remain unknown, leading it to be categorized as a species of high conservation concern in the United States, Mexico, and Canada. To shed light on its migration patterns, Gary W. Page of Point Blue Conservation Science, Nils Warnock of Audubon Alaska, and other researchers recently netted over two dozen curlews at three widely separated breeding sites, outfitted them with satellite transmitters, and then tracked their movements over four years. The birds were captured in north-central Oregon, northeastern Nevada, and north-central Montana…..

     

    Gary W. Page, Nils Warnock, T. Lee Tibbitts, Dennis Jorgensen, C. Alex Hartman, and Lynne E. Stenzel (2014) Annual migratory patterns of Long-billed Curlews in the American West. The Condor: February 2014, Vol. 116, No. 1, pp. 50-61. Abstract.

     

     

    Nesting ecology of Marbled Murrelets at a remote mainland fjord in southeast Alaska

    Blake A. Barbaree
    1,a*, S. Kim Nelson 2, Bruce D. Dugger 1, Daniel D. Roby 2, Harry R. Carter 3, Darrell L. Whitworth 4, and Scott H. Newman 5 The Condor 116(2):173-184. 2014 doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.1650/CONDOR-13-116.1

    ABSTRACT

    Studying the ecology of endangered species in portions of their range where the population remains abundant can provide fundamental information for conservation planners. We studied nesting by radio-tagged Marbled Murrelets (Brachyramphus marmoratus) during 2007 and 2008 in Port Snettisham, a relatively pristine, remote mainland fjord in southeast Alaska with high at-sea densities of Marbled Murrelets during the breeding season. Of 33 active Marbled Murrelet nest sites located during the study, we found 15 within forested habitat (tree nest sites), 16 in nonforested habitat (ground nest sites), and 2 that could not be determined. Some nests were located farther inland from the coast (range: 1–52 km) and at higher elevations (range: 42–1,100 m) than previously documented in Alaska. Nesting success to ≥20 days posthatch (0.20 ± 0.07 [SE]) was less than half of similar estimates in British Columbia and more comparable to estimates from California and Washington. A logistic regression found that nesting success did not differ between years, but nesting success was higher for tree nests than for ground nests. Conservation planners should consider that Marbled Murrelets will use certain nonforest habitat types for nesting in mainland southeast Alaska. Our reported nesting success was likely a maximum, and our results indicate that nesting success can be low even when nesting habitat is seemingly abundant and marine habitat appears excellent.

     

    RESTORE Episode 14: Marijuana Grows and Restoration- Forest Service News Video

    Marijuana growing on our national forests causes significant harm to the land, water and animals. The toxicants and lethal weapons found at these sites are both shocking in terms of amount, and raise concerns regarding the health of the Region’s forests. The Forest Service, along with other agencies and volunteers, are working together to restore these impacted lands….

     

    Coral fish biodiversity loss: Humankind could be responsible
    (February 28, 2014) — Literal biodiversity reservoirs, coral reefs and associated ecosystems are in grave danger from natural and human-made disturbances. The latest World Resources Institute assessment is alarming with 75% of coral reefs reported as endangered worldwide, a figure that may reach 100% by 2050. The numbers are concerning, particularly as coral reefs provide sustenance and economic benefits for many developing countries and fish biodiversity on coral reefs partly determines the biomass available for human consumption. … > full story

     

    How river networks move across a landscape
    (
    March 6, 2014) — Large river networks — such as those that funnel into the Colorado and Mississippi rivers — may seem to be permanent features of a landscape. In fact, many rivers define political boundaries that have been in place for centuries. Now researchers have developed a mapping technique that measures how much a river network is changing, and in what direction it may be moving.
    .
    Large river networks — such as those that funnel into the Colorado and Mississippi rivers — may seem to be permanent features of a landscape. In fact, many rivers define political boundaries that have been in place for centuries. But scientists have long suspected that river networks are not as static as they may appear, and have gathered geologic and biological evidence that suggest many rivers have been “rewired,” shifting and moving across a landscape over millions of years. Now researchers at MIT and the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (ETH Zurich) have developed a mapping technique that measures how much a river network is changing, and in what direction it may be moving. Their results are published in this week’s issue of Science.

    The technique focuses on a river network’s drainage divides — ridgelines, such as along mountain ranges, that act as boundaries between two river basins. As rainwater flows down either side of a drainage divide and into opposing rivers, it erodes the underlying rock. The river on one side of a divide may erode faster than the other, creating what the researchers call an “imbalance” in the river network. To reach a balance, they reasoned that a drainage divide must shift to assume a more stable pattern. .. > full story

     

    Sean D. Willett, Scott W. Mccoy, J. Taylor Perron, Liran Goren, Chia-Yu Chen. Dynamic Reorganization of River Basins. Science, 2014 DOI: 10.1126/science.1248765

     

     

    Birds display lateralization bias when selecting flight paths
    (March 6, 2014)Flocks of birds manage to navigate through difficult environments by individuals having predispositions to favor the left- or right-hand side. Researchers flew the budgerigars down a tunnel where they were met by an obstacle, and a choice of two paths to fly through. Sometimes the paths were of equal size, and sometimes one would be bigger than the other. Some birds had no bias and would choose the wider gap every time, while others with a distinct bias preferred going to one side, even if it was significantly narrower than the alternative. Scientists at The University of Queensland’s Queensland Brain Institute (QBI) and the Australian Research Council Centre of Excellence in Vision Science found that budgerigars display individual bias to fly to the left or right. This allows flocks to quickly navigate past obstacles by being able to split and not slow down due to crowding. Dr Partha Bhagavatula, the study’s first author, says: “We were looking at finding out how birds decide to navigate, because they’re very good at travelling through environments with narrow gaps such as dense bush and forests quickly and without collisions.” Researchers flew the budgerigars down a tunnel where they were met by an obstacle, and a choice of two paths to fly through. Sometimes the paths were of equal size, and sometimes one would be bigger than the other.

    By giving birds the choice of flying left or right, through a pair of two adjacent openings, we were able to see that they displayed individual preferences,” Dr Bhagavatula said. Some birds had no bias and would choose the wider gap every time, while others with a distinct bias preferred going to one side, even if it was significantly narrower than the alternative. “This is very interesting and unexpected — because it’s generally expected for an animal species to have one dominant side that they prefer, so we theorised why this is the case,” Dr Bhagavatula commented.

    … > full story

     

    Partha S. Bhagavatula, Charles Claudianos, Michael R. Ibbotson, Mandyam V. Srinivasan. Behavioral Lateralization and Optimal Route Choice in Flying Budgerigars. PLoS Computational Biology, 2014; 10 (3): e1003473 DOI: 10.1371/journal.pcbi.1003473

     

    Surface of the sea is a sink for nitrogen oxides at night
    (March 3, 2014) — The surface of the sea takes up nitrogen oxides that build up in polluted air at night, new measurements on the coast of southern California have shown. The ocean removes about 15 percent of these chemicals overnight along the coast, a team of atmospheric chemists reports. … > full story

    Monarch Population Status
    March 3, 2014 Monarch Water

    The overwintering numbers are in from Mexico and once again it’s bad news. The numbers are not a surprise; as early as May, we predicted that the population would be lower this winter. The total area occupied by monarch colonies at overwintering sites in Mexico this winter was a mere .67 hectares, down from the previous all-time low of 1.19 hectares reported last year. Monarch numbers will rebound but only if the weather allows AND there is enough milkweed to increase the population. While we will never get back to the large populations of the 1990s, there is still enough milkweed to produce monarchs in sufficient numbers to colonize 3-4 hectares of the forests in Mexico. However, given the current size of the overwintering population it is likely that it will take 2-3 years with relatively favorable breeding conditions for the population to attain such numbers. For a more detailed discussion of the monarch population status please visit http://monarchwatch.org/blog/

     

    SAVE THE MONARCH MIGRATION – ONE BUTTERFLY AT A TIME – PLANT MILKWEED

    Monarch butterfly numbers are at an all-time low and many pollinators are declining as well. The widespread planting of herbicide tolerant corn and soybean lines, intensive farming, and the ethanol mandate have led to a rapid loss of habitats for monarchs, and many species of bees and other pollinators. This loss of habitat threatens the monarch migration and all the species dependent on the services of pollinators to provide the fruits, nuts, seeds and foliage they feed on. Monarchs and pollinators need our help. By planting milkweeds, the host plants for monarch caterpillars, and nectar plants for adult monarchs and pollinators you can help maintain the monarch migration and sustain the pollinators whose pollinating services maintain our ecosystems. As you may know, Monarch Watch launched the “Milkweed Market” last year, commissioning the production of 25,000 plugs of some 15 species of milkweed. The mission of the Milkweed Market is milkweed restoration and to that end we only ship plants to ecological regions from which the seeds were obtained. This project has been supported by a large number of volunteers who have supplied seeds of many milkweed species from most areas of the country. If we don’t have milkweeds available for your area, please take advantage of the new vendor listing – more than 70 vendors that sell native milkweeds in various regions of the country are currently listed in a searchable/sortable format. Go to http://monarchwatch.org and click on the “Milkweed Market” button or visit http://monarchwatch.org/milkweed/market for complete details.

     

     

    Humans responsible for 62% of cougar deaths in re-established populations
    (March 3, 2014) — The reintroduction of mountain lions across the mid-western United States has made species management an urgent area of research for conservationists. A new report explores the fatal cost of human interaction with cougars and asks what state agencies can do to protect both species. … > full story

     

    This is a reconstruction of a Last Interglacial temperate landscape (Germany) with typical Late Pleistocene European large herbivores such as the now extinct straight-tusked elephant (Elephas antiquus), an extinct rhinoceros (Stephanorhinus kirchbergensis), as well as the still common roe deer (Capreolus capreolus).

    Large mammals were the architects in prehistoric ecosystems
    (March 3, 2014) — Elephants, rhinoceroses and aurochs once roamed around freely in the forests of Europe, while hippopotamuses lived in rivers such as the Thames and the Rhine. New research shows how we can use knowledge about the past to restore a varied landscape with a high level of biodiversity. … > full story

    Rare Purple Martin birds — and locals — return to Mount Umunhum outside San Jose

    Posted on March 4, 2014 | By Peninsula Press
    By Faine Greenwood

    The purple martin bird, an iconic fixture of East Coast backyards, has a little-known Western hideout: the summit of Mount Umunhum in the Santa Cruz Mountains outside of San Jose — the former site of an Air Force surveillance center, and the future site of a recreational area. “It’s one of those situations where no one was really up there looking around, and we didn’t realize the birds had been there all the time,” said San Francisco Bay Bird Observatory biologist Alvaro Jaramillo of the rediscovery of these social, plum-purple migratory birds. Environmentalists hope the discovery of the rare birds will boost public interest in the site, as officials complete its transformation from a former Air Force station laced with toxic chemicals into a new addition to the Midpeninsula Regional Open Space District….

     

    Zoos, aquariums do teach us about biodiversity, largest international study proves
    (March 3, 2014) — Zoos and aquariums do teach the public about the delicate balance between animal species and their habitats, a new international study shows. More than 6,000 visitors to over 30 zoos and aquariums across the world took part in this landmark study. Participants filled out pre- and post-visit surveys to evaluate their biodiversity understanding and knowledge of how to help protect biodiversity. The study found there was an increase from pre-visit (69.8%) to post-visit (75.1%) in respondents demonstrating some positive evidence of biodiversity understanding. … > full story

     

     

    Is West Nile virus coming to your town? UCLA releases first risk-assessment predictions

    By Rebecca Kendall February 28, 2014

    Since its introduction to the U.S. in 1999, West Nile virus has spread rapidly across North America, threatening wildlife populations and posing a serious health risk to humans. In 2012, there were more than 5,500 human cases of the disease reported in 48 states, the highest number in more than a decade. Now, a team of researchers from the Center for Tropical Research at UCLA’s Institute of the Environment and Sustainability has created a model to help predict where the disease may occur under future climate change. Their findings were published Feb. 27 in the journal Global Change Biology…. The most important climate variables predicting West Nile virus occurrence, said the researchers, are the maximum temperature of the warmest month and measures of annual and seasonal precipitation. This study does not take into account factors like future land-use changes, insect control efforts, socioeconomic conditions, host-switching by West Nile carrying insects or host community diversity, which are difficult to predict in the long-term, Harrigan said. The information, he said, is useful to a variety of groups, including the general public, who may use it to better understand their personal geographical risk; local vector control agencies, which can identify potential “hot spots” in various counties and districts; and wildlife biologists, who can use it to determine need and risk in certain areas and how this may impact animal populations. The intent of the research is not to cause alarm but rather to raise awareness of the existence of the disease and where the risks are to encourage people to take precautions,” said Harrigan, adding that although there is no cure for the virus, symptoms can be lessened, if caught early, through supportive therapy.

     

    EL NIÑO/SOUTHERN OSCILLATION (ENSO) DIAGNOSTIC DISCUSSION

    NOAA CLIMATE PREDICTION CENTER/NCEP and the International Research Institute for Climate and Society

    6 March 2014

    Synopsis: ENSO-neutral is expected to continue through the Northern Hemisphere spring 2014, with
    about a 50% chance of El Niño developing during the summer or fall.

    ENSO-neutral continued during February 2014, with below-average sea surface temperatures (SST) continuing in the eastern equatorial Pacific Ocean and above-average SSTs increasing near the International Date Line….

     


    This is a map of sea water temperatures indicating the El Nino effect, the inexplicable warming of the Pacific Ocean off the coast of Ecuador that has upset weather patterns for much of the world. El Nino has fueled killer storms, waves and tornadoes in California and the South, and has kept Arctic air from pushing into northern parts of the United States. Photo: Associated Press

     

    Here comes El Nino; good news for US weather woes

    By SETH BORENSTEIN, AP Science Writer Updated 9:08 pm, Thursday, March 6, 2014 WASHINGTON (AP) — Relief may be on the way for a weather-weary United States with the predicted warming of the central Pacific Ocean brewing this year that will likely change weather worldwide. But it won’t be for the better everywhere. The warming, called an El Nino, is expected to lead to fewer Atlantic hurricanes and more rain next winter for drought-stricken California and southern states, and even a milder winter for the nation’s frigid northern tier next year, meteorologists say. While it could be good news to lessen the southwestern U.S. drought and shrink heating bills next winter in the far north, “worldwide it can be quite a different story,” said North Carolina State University atmospheric sciences professor Ken Kunkel. “Some areas benefit. Some don’t.” Globally, it can mean an even hotter year coming up and billions of dollars in losses for food crops.

    The National Oceanic Atmospheric and Administration issued an official El Nino watch Thursday. An El Nino is a warming of the central Pacific once every few years, from a combination of wind and waves in the tropics. It shakes up climate around the world, changing rain and temperature patterns.

    ….Kevin Trenberth, a senior scientist at the National Center for Atmospheric Research, who wasn’t part of NOAA’s forecast, agreed that an El Nino is brewing. “This could be a substantial event and I think we’re due,” Trenberth said. “And I think it could have major consequences.” Halpert said it is too early to say how strong this El Nino will be. The last four have been weak or moderate and those have fewer effects on weather. Scientific studies have tied El Ninos to farming and fishing problems and to upticks in insect-born disease, such as malaria. Commodity traders even track El Nino cycles. A study by Texas A&M University economics professor Bruce McCarl found the last big El Nino of 1997-1998 cost about $3 billion in agricultural damage.

    Trenberth said this El Nino may even push the globe out of a decade-long slowdown in temperature increase, “so suddenly global warming kicks into a whole new level.”

    Kunkel said if this El Nino is a strong one, global temperatures, probably in 2015, could “be in near record breaking territory.” Halpert, however, says El Ninos can be beneficial, and that the one being forecast is “a perfect case.” After years of dryness and low reservoirs, an El Nino’s wet weather would be welcome in places like California, Halpert said.

    “If they get too much rain, I think they’d rather have that situation rather than another year of drought,” Halpert said. “Sometimes you have to pick your poison.”….

     

    Global Warming
    Slows Down Antarctica’s Coldest Currents

    The deep, salty currents that carry oxygen and nutrients to the ocean depths have been disappearing over the past few decades

    Scientific American-Mar 4, 2014

    A shift from briny to fresh in Antarctica’s ocean waters in recent decades could explain the shutdown of the Southern Ocean’s coldest, deepest currents, a new study finds. The cold currents, called the Antarctic Bottom Water, are chilly, salty rivers that flow from the underwater edge of the Antarctic continent north toward the equator, keeping to the bottom of the seafloor. The currents carry oxygen, carbon and nutrients down to the deepest parts of the ocean. Previous studies have found this deep, dense water is disappearing, though researchers aren’t sure if the shrinkage is part of a long-term trend linked to global warming, or a natural cycle. The new study suggests that Antarctica’s changing climate is to blame for the shrinking Antarctica Bottom Water. In the past 60 years, the ocean surface offshore Antarctica became less salty as a result of melting glaciers and more precipitation (both rain and snow), researchers reported Sunday (March 2) in the journal Nature Climate Change. This growing freshwater layer is the key link in a chain that prevents the cold-water currents from forming, the study finds. “Deep ocean waters only mix directly to the surface in a few small regions of the global ocean, so this has effectively shut one of the main conduits for deep-ocean heat to escape,” said Casimir de Lavergne, an oceanographer at McGill University in Montreal….

    Warm rivers play role in Arctic sea ice melt
    (March 5, 2014) — The heat from warm river waters draining into the Arctic Ocean is contributing to the melting of Arctic sea ice each summer, a new NASA study finds. … > full story

     

    Joe Raedle / Getty Images file 2 days

    Scientists More Certain Than Ever on Climate Change, Report Says

    By John Roach February 28, 2014 NBC

    Experts are more certain than ever that human activity is changing the global climate, even though they don’t fully understand every detail of the climate system, according to a new report released Wednesday by two of the world’s leading scientific bodies. The document from the U.S. National Academy of Sciences and the United Kingdom’s Royal Society aims to move the climate change debate beyond humans’ role in global warming to a discussion of how to limit the impacts on society. “Climate change is happening. We see it in temperature, we see it in the melting ice, and we see it in sea-level rise,” Inez Fung, an atmospheric scientist at the University of California at Berkeley and a co-lead author of the report, told NBC News. The changes are due to rising atmospheric concentrations of carbon dioxide with a chemical signature from the burning of fossil fuels, she added. The report, “Climate Change: Evidence and Causes,” is written in simple language and filled with pictures and graphs to illustrate why scientists are certain human activity is causing the climate to change….. The linchpins linking freshwater and cold currents are polynyas, or natural holes within sea ice. These persistent regions of open water form when upwellings of warm ocean water keep water temperatures above freezing, or when winds drive sea ice away from the coast. Polynyas are one of the main sources of Antarctica Bottom Water. Polynyas act like natural refrigerators, letting frigid temperatures and cold winds chill seawater and send it sinking down to the ocean bottom. As the cold water sinks, warmer ocean water comes up to take its place, maintaining the polynya’s open water. [Album: Stunning Photos of Antarctic Ice] But as Antarctica’s ocean surface water has freshened, fewer polynyas have appeared, the researchers found. That’s because the fresher water is less dense. Even if the water is very cold, it doesn’t sink as readily as saltier water, de Lavergne explained. The freshwater acts like a lid, shutting down the ocean circulation that sends cold water to the seafloor, and brings up warm water into the polynyas.

    “What we suggest is, the change in salinity of the surface water makes them so light that even very strong cooling is not sufficient to make them dense enough to sink,” de Lavergne told Live Science. “Mixing them gets harder and harder.”

     


    Study Suggests Non-Uniform Climate Warming Globally



    Mar. 5, 2014 — A recent study of five decades of satellite data, model simulations and in situ observations suggests the impact of seasonal diurnal or daily warming varies between global regions affecting many … full story

     

    Smell of forest pine can limit climate change – researchers

    BBC News

    February 28, 2014

           

    New research suggests a strong link between the powerful smell of pine trees and climate change. Scientists say they’ve found a mechanism by which these scented vapours turn into aerosols above boreal forests.

     

    Warmer temperatures push malaria to higher elevations
    (March 6, 2014) — Researchers have debated for more than two decades the likely impacts, if any, of global warming on the worldwide incidence of malaria, a mosquito-borne disease that infects more than 300 million people each year. Now, ecologists are reporting the first hard evidence that malaria does — as had long been predicted — creep to higher elevations during warmer years and back down to lower altitudes when temperatures cool. … > full story

     

    Warming temperatures are pushing two chickadee species — and their hybrids — northward

    ScienceDaily March 6, 2014 Villanova University

    The two chickadee species overlap in a narrow band across the eastern United States. This band has moved northward by 7 miles in the last decade. Credit: Image courtesy Cornell Lab of Ornithology

    The zone of overlap between two popular, closely related backyard birds is moving northward at a rate that matches warming winter temperatures, according to a study by researchers from the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Villanova University, and Cornell University. The research was published online in Current Biology on Thursday, March 6, 2014.

     
     
     

    In a narrow strip that runs across the eastern U.S., Carolina Chickadees from the south meet and interbreed with Black-capped Chickadees from the north. The new study finds that this hybrid zone has moved northward at a rate of 0.7 mile per year over the last decade. That’s fast enough that the researchers had to add an extra study site partway through their project in order to keep up.

    “A lot of the time climate change doesn’t really seem tangible,” said lead author Scott Taylor, a postdoctoral researcher at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology. “But here are these common little backyard birds we all grew up with, and we’re seeing them moving northward on relatively short time scales.”… As a final step, the researchers overlaid temperature records on a map of the overlap zone, drawn from eBird sightings of the two chickadee species. They found a very close match: the zone of overlap occurred only in areas where the average winter low temperature was between 14 and 20 degrees Fahrenheit. They also used eBird records to estimate where the overlap zone had been a decade earlier, and found the same relationship with temperature existed then, too. The only difference was that those temperatures had shifted to the north by about seven miles since 2000.

     

    Scott A. Taylor, Thomas A. White, Wesley M. Hochachka, Valentina Ferretti, Robert L. Curry, Irby Lovette. Climate-Mediated Movement of an Avian Hybrid Zone. Current Biology, March 2014 DOI: 10.1016/j.cub.2014.01.069

     

     

    Food production in northeastern U.S. may need to change if climate does
    (February 28, 2014) — If significant climate change occurs in the United States it may be necessary to change where certain foods are produced in order to meet consumer demand. Researchers have provided an overview of current farmland use and food production in the Northeastern U.S., identifying potential vulnerabilities of the 12-state region. … > full story

    Spanish forest ecosystems: Carbon emission will be higher in second half of century
    (March 3, 2014) — Spanish forest ecosystems will probably emit high quantities of carbon dioxide in the second half of the 21st century. This is the conclusion of a report that reviews the results obtained from the implementation of a forest simulation model that serves as a tool to simulate forest growth processes under several environmental conditions and to optimize Mediterranean forests management strategies in the context of climate change. … > full story

     

    Europe may experience higher warming than global average
    (March 6, 2014) — The majority of Europe will experience higher warming than the global average if surface temperatures rise to 2 degrees C above pre-industrial levels, according to a new study. … > full story

     

    Frequency of severe flooding across Europe ‘to double by 2050 Independent UK

    The frequency of severe flooding across Europe is set to double by 2050 and over the same period there could be a nearly fivefold increase in the annual economic losses resulting from floods, a study has found.

     

    If Climate Change May Sink These Islands Anyway, Should We Save Their Biodiversity?

       

    By: By Michele Berger Published: March 3, 2014

    Many islands could be under water by the year 2100 if sea-level rise continues at its current rate. In 2009, the island nation of Maldives (seen above) held a cabinet meeting below the waves to highlight the problem. Now the question becomes, what happens to the ecosystems on these islands? (Thinkstock)

    It’s not news that as a result of climate change, oceans could literally swallow many low-lying islands if sea-level rise continues at its current pace. Four years ago, the small island nation of Maldives, population 393,988, held its cabinet meeting underwater to highlight the problem, hoping the backdrop of coral would raise alarm bells about a rising Indian Ocean. Several islands off of India have all but disappeared, lost under the waves for years only to reemerge on satellite images. In many cases, it’s no longer a question of whether this will happen, but when. A new paper in the March Trends in Ecology & Evolution asks a different question about these islands, particularly those acting as sanctuaries for species, where invasives have been eradicated: What happens to the animals on these places, and if climate change will sink the islands anyway, are they ecosystems worth saving? Researchers from the New Zealand’s University of Auckland, France’s University of Paris Sud and Australia’s Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization looked at more than 600 islands where invasive-species eradication has been successful. They found that should the ocean waters rise just 3 feet, 26 of the islands will be submerged, The
    New Zealand Herald reports. Of 4,500 islands in what are considered biodiversity hotspots, up to 19 percent of those could drown, according to Grist. The researchers don’t conclude that the animals should be left to swim or sink. And they don’t propose halting efforts to remove invasive species from these islands. Rather, they suggest a new approach that considers changes in levels of the sea: “The full spectrum of climate change, especially sea-level rise and loss of suitable climatic conditions, should be rapidly integrated into island biodiversity research and management,” they write in the abstract to their paper. “It may be that eventually we will be faced with some tough decisions about whether we move species in order to save them or whether we do nothing and let them go extinct,” James Russell, one of the researchers from the University of Auckland, told the Herald. Now, he added, is the time to determine which species most need our help “and the options for saving them.”….

     

    Climate change, sea-level rise, and conservation: keeping island biodiversity afloat

    Franck Courchamp1,  Benjamin D. Hoffmann2James C. Russell3Camille Leclerc1 and Céline Bellard1

    Trends in Ecology & Evolution, Volume 29, Issue 3, 127-130, 30 January 2014 doi:10.1016/j.tree.2014.01.001

    Island conservation programs have been spectacularly successful over the past five decades, yet they generally do not account for impacts of climate change. Here, we argue that the full spectrum of climate change, especially sea-level rise and loss of suitable climatic conditions, should be rapidly integrated into island biodiversity research and management…..

     

     

     


    Climatologist Who Predicted California Drought 10 Years Ago Says It May Soon Be ‘Even More Dire’


    By Joe Romm on March 7, 2014 at 12:26 pm

    Climate change can worsen drought in multiple ways. Climate scientists and political scientists often confuse the public and the media by focusing on the narrow question, “Did climate change cause the drought” — that is, did it reduce precipitation? In general, most climate scientists say that is the wrong question — severe drought is much more than just a reduction in precipitation. After a political scientist unjustifiably labeled his mainstream views “zombie science,” the President’s Science Advisor, Dr. John P. Holdren, explained in an extended debunking how climate change worsens Western droughts even if it doesn’t reduce precipitation (see here and below).

    First, though, as I’ve reported, scientists a decade ago not only predicted the loss of Arctic ice would dry out California, they also precisely predicted the specific, unprecedented change in the jet stream that has in fact caused the unprecedented nature of the California drought. Study co-author, Prof. Lisa Sloan, told me last week that, “I think the actual situation in the next few decades could be even more dire that our study suggested.”

    Back in 2004, Sloan, professor of Earth sciences at UC Santa Cruz, and her graduate student Jacob Sewall published, “Disappearing Arctic sea ice reduces available water in the American west” (subs. req’d). They used powerful computers “to simulate the effects of reduced Arctic sea ice,” and “their most striking finding was a significant reduction in rain and snowfall in the American West.” “Where the sea ice is reduced, heat transfer from the ocean warms the atmosphere, resulting in a rising column of relatively warm air,” Sewall said. “The shift in storm tracks over North America was linked to the formation of these columns of warmer air over areas of reduced sea ice.” In January, Sewall wrote me that “both the pattern and even the magnitude of the anomaly looks very similar to what the models predicted in the 2005 study (see Fig. 3a [below]).”

    Here is what Sewall’s model predicted in his 2005 paper:

    Figure 3a: Differences in DJF [winter] averaged atmospheric quantities due to an imposed reduction in Arctic sea ice cover. The 500-millibar geopotential height (meters) increases by up to 70 m off the west coast of North America. Increased geopotential height deflects storms away from the dry locus and north into the wet locus

    “Geopotential height” is the height above mean sea level for a given pressure level. The “500 mb level is often referred to as the steering level as most weather systems and precipitation follow the winds at this level,” which is around 18,000 feet. Now here is what the 500 mb geopotential height anomaly looked like over the last year, via NOAA:

    That is either a highly accurate prediction or one heck of a coincidence. The San Jose Mercury News explained that “meteorologists have fixed their attention on the scientific phenomenon they say is to blame for the emerging drought: a vast zone of high pressure in the atmosphere off the West Coast, nearly four miles high and 2,000 miles long, so stubborn that one researcher has dubbed it the Ridiculously Resilient Ridge.” This high pressure ridge has been acting “like a brick wall” and forcing the jet stream along a much more northerly track, “blocking Pacific winter storms from coming ashore in California, deflecting them up into Alaska and British Columbia, even delivering rain and cold weather to the East Coast.

    Last year, I contacted Sloan to ask her if she thought there was a connection between the staggering loss of Arctic sea ice in recent years and the brutal drought gripping the West, as her research predicted. She wrote, “Yes, sadly, I think we were correct in our findings, and it will only be worse with Arctic sea ice diminishing quickly.” Last week, Sloan wrote me:

    Yes, in this case I hate that we (Sewall & Sloan) might be correct. And in fact, I think the actual situation in the next few decades could be even more dire that our study suggested. Why do I say that? (1) we did not include changes in greenhouse gases other than CO2; (2) maybe we should have melted more sea ice and see what happens; (3) these atmospheric and precipitation estimates do not include changes in land use, in the US and elsewhere. Changing crops, or urban sprawl increases, or melting Greenland and Northern Hemisphere glaciers will surely have an impact on precipitation patterns. All this isn’t “proof” that human caused climate change helped shift and reduce precipitation in California during its record-setting drought. But a prediction this accurate can’t be ignored, either, especially because of its implications for the future. That’s doubly true when there is also emerging 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.”

    That’s why it was so puzzling that NOAA’s Martin Hoerling was quoted in the NY Times Thursday saying “to state the obvious, this drought has occurred principally due to a lack of rains, not principally due to warmer temperatures.” He ended by saying, “It is quite clear that the scientific evidence does not support an argument that this current California drought is appreciably, if at all, linked to human-induced climate change.”

    Except that it is not quite clear there is no connection to climate change — as we’ve seen. Michael Mann, one of the country’s leading climatologists, told me: There is credible peer-reviewed scientific work by leading climate scientists, published more than a decade ago, that hypothesized that precisely this sort of blocking pattern would become more frequent with disappearing Arctic sea ice. Moreover, Arctic sea ice has declined precipitously in the intervening decade. So it seems quite clear that there is a potential connection, in a statistical sense, between human-caused global warming, declining Arctic sea ice, and the anomalous blocking pattern this winter that has added to other factors we know are tied to human-caused climate change (warmer temperatures and increased soil evaporation, and decreased winter snowpack and freshwater runoff) to produce the unprecedented drought this year in California. To claim that it is “quite clear” there is no connection at all turns the burden of scientific evidence completely on its head. Such a statement defies logic….

     


    SF Bay Area Adaptation Report March 6, 2014

    A new 125-page report on Bay Area climate adaptation/resilience is now available. The report contains county-level “snapshots” of projects, structures and needs/barriers for each of the 9 Bay Area counties. Each chapter is truly a snapshot—we don’t claim to know everything—but together they provide a clearer picture of where we are and what we need to move forward. The report is biased towards larger projects and programs involving the public sector—this is not a complete inventory of the hundreds of efforts underway in our region. The snapshots will be revised and updated next in mid-2014. Page 2 of the Full Report provides more context for this project.
    Our next step is to turn these findings into draft recommendations for action that will be discussed with you and finalized in the next 4-6 weeks. 
    The Full Report and the individual County Reports are available on the JPC web site at: http://www.abag.ca.gov/jointpolicy/projects.html#climate

     

    The surf’s up at San Onofre nuclear power plant. And it will likely go further up. Photo by D. Ramey Logan, courtesy of Wikipedia.

    Infrastructure threatened by climate change poses a ‘national crisis’

    Evan Lehmann, E&E reporter ClimateWire: Thursday, March 6, 2014

    The nation’s aging infrastructure makes up an interconnected web of systems that are alarmingly vulnerable to the shocks of climate change, according to a report released today that will inform the National Climate Assessment, to be made public next month. The difficulty of strengthening the systems that support the American economy — from electricity to drinking water — poses significant problems requiring large investments at a time of rising risk and receding political appetite for big spending initiatives. “It’s kind of a national crisis,” said Tom Wilbanks, a senior scientist at the Department of Energy’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory and a co-author of the 109-page report. It is the first time the National Climate Assessment will include a section on the risks to infrastructure, a broad term that includes most major societal investments. Among them are health care systems; the nation’s web of roads, airports and seaports; and communication systems relied on by every owner of a cellphone….

     

     

    Israel Gives California Some Advice On How To Deal With Drought

    By Ari Phillips on March 6, 2

    California and Israel have major water challenges both within their borders and beyond. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu stopped in California to address some of these issues, including construction of the hemisphere’s largest desalination plant.

     

     

    Why women are the secret weapon to tackling climate change

    CNN-Mar 6, 2014

    STORY HIGHLIGHTS

    • Climate change impacts women at a greater scale, especially in developing countries
    • Small scale farming, cooking, fetching water, and walking long distances put women at risk
    • Women are also key figures in tackling climate change and developing new solutions
    • Four easy steps can increase gender equality and lessen the climate change impact

    Although climate change
    affects all people, women often bear the brunt in places where the impacts of climate change are already being felt…..

    …When extreme weather conditions do hit—something we’re seeing with increased regularity—women suffer the most. This is often linked to their lack of rights. For example, many can’t leave their homes during emergencies if they lack a male escort.
    It’s easy to label these women as victims, but what makes them vulnerable also makes them pivotal to climate change action. Whether in developing countries or in developed countries, women stand at the front lines in the battle against climate change: as providers of water, food, and energy or as leaders in businesses, communities and politics. Women are in a unique position to recognize some of the opportunities that climate change provides. We recognized some of these women and the work they do to tackle climate change as part of the United Nations’ Momentum for Change initiative at the Warsaw climate change conference last year. For example, the Low Smoke Stoves Project is delivering health and economic benefits to households in the strife-torn region of Darfur, Sudan, where climate change, drought and desertification are a fact of life. In Ghana, propelled by women’s leadership, the Ghana Bamboo Bikes Initiative is tackling climate change and providing an income for women by training them to build and sell high-quality bamboo bicycles. In Guatemala, women farmers are planting trees to sequester carbon and improve farming techniques. And in Australia, 1 Million Women has grown to become the country’s largest women’s environmental organization — with a goal to get one million women to take small steps in their daily lives that shrink their carbon footprint….These women are not only inspirational, they’re entrepreneurs and trailblazers. But if they are to be true agents of change, real and measurable action at all levels must be ramped up. Here are four steps we can take immediately that will increase equality for women worldwide, and lessen the severity of climate change. First, we can reduce consumption patterns that have become incompatible with a sustainable future and instead invest in products that support low-carbon living. Second, we can support the expansion of women’s rights throughout the world as well as their leadership in climate-related activities. Third, we can enable the transfer of technologies to developing countries to help establish renewable energy and build sustainable transportation. This includes technologies that will empower women to adapt to climate change. Finally, we can encourage government representatives to achieve an international agreement on climate change backed up by national plans of action. This will have a positive and lasting effect for all people…

     

     

    Revealed: How climate change ended world’s first great civilisations

    ‘Megacities’ of the Indus Valley region of Pakistan and north-west India declined and never recovered because of a dramatic increase in drought conditions, according to new research

    David Keys Archaeology Correspondent Monday 03 March 2014

    The world’s first great civilisations appear to have collapsed because of an ancient episode of climate change – according to new research carried out by scientists and archaeologists. Their investigation demonstrates that the Bronze Age ‘megacities’ of the Indus Valley region of Pakistan and north-west India declined during the 21st and 20th centuries BC and never recovered – because of a dramatic increase in drought conditions. The research, carried out by the University of Cambridge and India’s Banaras Hindu University, reveals that a series of droughts lasting some 200 years hit the Indus Valley zone – and was probably responsible for the rapid decline of the great Bronze Age urban civilization of that region….

     

    Extreme weather is ‘silver lining’ for climate action: Christiana Figueres. Devastating extreme weather including recent flooding in England, Australia’s hottest year on record and the U.S. being hit by a polar vortex have a “silver lining” of boosting climate change to the highest level of politics, according to the U.N.’s climate chief. The Guardian

     

     

     

     


    EU injects €35.5 Million into Pacific climate change adaptation


    Matangi Tonga

     - ‎March 5, 2014‎

           

    The European Union and the Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat have signed a €37.26 million financing agreement to support the “Adapting to Climate Change and Sustainable Energy” programme. The agreement was signed in Suva, Fiji last week. The bulk of 

     

    Will $1 billion help regions prepare for the impacts of climate change? Yes, according to President Obama
    Bloomberg

    President Obama’s 2015 budget includes a new climate resilience fund within a broader $56 billion Opportunity, Growth, and Security Initiative, designed to boost research spending and spur growth.

     

    Podesta: The man behind Obama’s new environmental push
    March 4, 2014 Washington Post

    John Podesta’s role at the White House, which includes steering climate and public lands policies, provides the clearest indication yet that President Obama and his top aides are increasingly focused on cementing a presidential legacy on the environment during his remaining time in office….

     

    Students arrested in Keystone pipeline protests outside White House
    Al Jazeera America March 3, 2014
    Police arrested nearly 400 student-led demonstrators who marched to the White House on Sunday to protest against the Keystone XL pipeline.   Marching under the name XL Dissent, at least 500 students from across the United States demonstrated and carried out acts of civil disobedience outside of the White House….

     

     

     

     

    Vermont loves renewable energy, except when it arrives AP March 3, 2014 Getting energy from the sun, wind and forests fits with Vermont’s sense of itself as clean, green and independent. But when it comes time to build and live with the projects that make it possible, things can get complicated.

     

    Ohio wind turbine shutdown raises issue of migratory bird safety.
    Environmental groups have won what they call a victory for birds with the suspension of a plan to build a wind turbine in Ohio. Great Lakes Echo, Michigan

     

     

    1. RESOURCES and REFERENCES

     
     

     

    WEBINAR:

     




    Soil Health and Production Benefits of Mob Grazing


    NRCS webinar, Tuesday, March 11th at 11:00 am Pacific Time, 2:00 pm Eastern.

    This webinar focuses on how both soil health and productivity can be improved by managing grazing to mimic the impact bison had on prairies, a system characterized by high plant diversity, intensive grazing, trampling of vegetation, and long rest periods. Because of their vegetative cover, pastures and rangeland are often overlooked as having degraded soils. In fact, grazing lands suffer from soil disturbing activities caused by overgrazing that results in reduced root mass, increased weed pressure, compacted soils, greater surface runoff, and diminished soil habitat. Our presenter will explain how managing stock density can be the most powerful tool available to manage grassland resources. He will cover how stock density affects utilization, reduces spot grazing, controls weed competition, improves manure distribution, and provides seed to soil contact. Simply put, managing stock density has the potential to improve and build more soil than we ever thought possible. This webinar is presented by the USDA NRCS National Soil Health and Sustainability Team located at the East National Technology Support Center. Contact David Lamm, Team Leader, for soil health technical assistance. Contact Holli Kuykendall, Ph.D., National Technology Specialist, for more information about this webinar.

     


     

     

     

    Global Ocean Refuge System to Protect  Marine Life Worldwide (GLORES)

    March 13, 2014 10:00-11:00 am PST (2 pm Eastern)
    Speaker Lance Morgan of the Marine Conservation Institute will discuss GLORES. GLORES is a science-based strategy for for advancing marine protected areas worldwide.
    Click here for more information.

     

    UPCOMING CONFERENCES: 

     

    Cartographic Design for Geographic Information Systems (GIS)March 14-15, 2014, from 8:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.

    Center for Integrated Spatial Research at the University of California, Santa Cruz– The Elkhorn Slough Coastal Training Program

    Registration fee: $500 Teacher: Tim Norris, Cartography Consultant, PhD Candidate

     

    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

     

    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.

     


    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

     

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

     

    California Adaptation Forum 
    August 18-20, 2014
    .

    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

     


     

    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

     

    A wristband for a different kind of cause … environmental health
    (March 5, 2014) — From ‘Livestrong’ to ‘Purple Paws,’ trendy wristbands have come to represent causes from cancer to ending cruelty to animals. Add a new wristband of a different sort: one that could close the loop on determining the potential disease risks of exposure to substances like pesticides. … > full story

    Elephant age estimated from voice: A powerful conservation tool?
    (March 6, 2014) — Researchers have been able to estimate the age of an elephant based on its vocal sounds. Results showed that they could distinguish infants, calves, juveniles, and adults with 70 percent accuracy and youngsters (infants/calves) from adults with 95 percent accuracy. The call feature that was most useful for doing this was overall frequency — not surprisingly, since vocal frequency usually decreases as an animal grows larger. … > full story

    BPA linked to breast cancer tumor growth
    (March 6, 2014) — Researchers have attempted to trace how bisphenol-A may promote breast cancer tumor growth with help from a molecule called RNA HOTAIR. “We can’t immediately say BPA causes cancer growth, but it could well contribute because it is disrupting the genes that defend against that growth,” said a corresponding author on the paper. BPA has been widely used in plastics, such as food storage containers, the lining of canned goods and, until recently, baby bottles. Previous studies have linked BPA to problems with reproductive development, early puberty, obesity and cancers. … > full story

    Marijuana’s anxiety relief effects: Receptors found in emotional hub of brain
    (March 6, 2014) — Cannabinoid receptors, through which marijuana exerts its effects, have been found in a key emotional hub in the brain involved in regulating anxiety and the flight-or-fight response. This is the first time cannabinoid receptors have been identified in the central nucleus of the amygdala in a mouse model. … > full story

     

    Santorini tree rings support the traditional dating of the volcanic eruption
    (March 6, 2014) — Will the dating of the volcanic eruption of Santorini remain an unsolved mystery? The question whether this natural disaster occurred 3,500 or 3,600 years ago is of great historiographical importance and has indeed at times been the subject of heated discussion among experts. After investigating tree rings, scientists have concluded that the volcano erupted in the 16th century BC, rather than any earlier than that. … > full story

     

    Eating red, processed meat: What scientists say
    (March 6, 2014) — Recent reports warn about a link between eating red and processed meat and the risk of developing cancer in the gut. These reports have resulted in new nutritional recommendations that advise people to limit their intake of red and processed meats. A recent perspective paper, authored by 23 scientists, underlines the uncertainties in the scientific evidence and points to further research needed to resolve these issues and improve the foundation for future recommendations on the intake of red meat. … > full story

     

     

     

    1. IMAGES OF THE WEEK


    Starling Murmurations Video

     

     


     


     

     


     


    ————

    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.