Ecology, Climate Change and Related News

Ellie Cohen, President and CEO, Point Blue Conservation Science

Ecology, Biodiversity, Climate Change and Related News Updates May 18, 2012

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Ecology, Biodiversity, Climate Change and Related News Updates

May 18, 2012

 

Highlights of the Week  -

1-ECOLOGY, BIODIVERSITY, RELATED

2-CLIMATE CHANGE AND EXTREME EVENTS

3-OIL SPILLS

 

4- POLICY

 

5- RESOURCES

 

6- RENEWABLES AND RELATED

 

7-OTHER NEWS OF INTEREST 

 

8-IMAGES OF THE WEEK

 

 

 

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Highlights of the Week….  

 

A Tour of Drought as it Unfolds Across the U.S.

Andrew Freedman  ClimateCentral May 15th, 2012

Last year at this time, all eyes were on Texas, where drought conditions were intensifying into what became that state’s worst single year drought on record, causing nearly $8 billion in economic losses. Recently, though, Texas has gone from famine to feast in the precipitation department, and drought concerns for the upcoming summer are focused farther to the west, as drought tightens its grip across a broad swath of the interior West and Southwest In addition to the West, drought conditions are also prevalent in the Southeast, Mid-Atlantic, and parts of the Northeast as well, along with a small pocket in the Upper Midwest. In all, 56 percent of the Lower 48 states were experiencing drought conditions as of May 8, almost twice the area compared to last year at this time, according to data from the U.S. Drought Monitor….

 

U.S. Drought Monitor issued May 8, 2012. Click on image for a larger version.

 

Fortunately, much of the West had such bountiful winter precipitation last year that the risk of water supply disruptions are rather low in most areas, but that could change if the current weather pattern lasts much longer. Water officials in Colorado, for example, have begun urging residents to start conserving water in case the dry spell continues…..The Southeast drought is very likely related to the La Niña conditions that existed in the Pacific Ocean last winter. La Niña events, which feature cooler-than-average waters in the equatorial Tropical Pacific, tend to influence weather patterns in such a way that it leads to drier-than-average winter conditions in the southern tier of the U.S. Fortunately, La Niña has diminished, with neither La Niña or El Niño conditions likely for the next few months, according to NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center and forecasters affiliated with Columbia University (some researchers refer to the absence of La Niña and El Niño as “La Nada”)….

 

 

 

 

 

  1. 1.       ECOLOGY

Population pressure impacts world wetlands (May 11, 2012) — The area of the globe covered by wetlands (swamps, marshes, lakes, etc.) has dropped by 6% in fifteen years. This decline is particularly severe in tropical and subtropical regions, and in areas that have experienced the largest increases in population in recent decades. … > full story

 

Map of Life goes live
An interactive resource for global biodiversity analysis ‘Map of Life’ has launched, promising a new era in the visualization of species distributions. Map of Life will soon allow users to add or update species data, thereby becoming the first two-way portal of biodiversity information.

Absence of elephants and rhinoceroses reduces biodiversity in tropical forests (May 11, 2012) — The progressive disappearance of seed-dispersing animals like elephants and rhinoceroses puts the structural integrity and biodiversity of the tropical forest of South-East Asia at risk. Experts have confirmed that not even herbivores like tapirs can replace them. Megaherbivores act as the ‘gardeners’ of humid tropical forests: They are vital to forest regeneration and maintain its structure and biodiversity, researchers say. … > full story

Increasing predator-friendly land can help farmers reduce costs (May 11, 2012) — Having natural habitat in farming areas that supports ladybugs could help increase their abundance in crops where they control pests and help farmers reduce their costs, says a new study. Ladybugs and other predatory insects eat crop pests, saving farmers an estimated $4.6 billion a year on insecticides. Non-crop plants provide these predatory insects with food and shelter, helping them to survive and thrive in areas where they are needed.….Ultimately, natural habitat proved to be more important. The amount of grasslands and forests within 1.5 miles of the soybean fields determined how many ladybugs ended up in the field, she added. Such large areas typically encompass multiple farms, suggesting that rural neighbors may need to work together. In other studies, landscapes with at least 20 percent of non-crop habitat showed good pest control. Providing some habitat on every farm and the properties that surround them would add up to a lot of habitat at the landscape scale — the scale that matters to ladybugs. … > full story

 

Steelhead Trout Lose out When Water Is Low in Wine Country

May 14, 2012 —The competition between farmers and fish for precious water in California is intensifying in wine country, suggests a new study by biologists at the University of California, Berkeley. The findings, published in the May issue of the journal Transactions of the American Fisheries Society, link higher death rates for threatened juvenile steelhead trout with low water levels in the summer and the amount of vineyard acreage upstream. The researchers found that juvenile steelhead trout are particularly at risk during the dry summer season typical of California’s Mediterranean climate. Of the juvenile steelhead trout present in June, on average only 30 percent survived to the late summer. In years with higher rainfall and in watersheds with less vineyard land use, the survival of juvenile trout over the summer was significantly higher. The researchers pointed out that summer stream flow has been inadequately addressed in salmon and trout conservation efforts. Previous studies have highlighted other limiting factors such as habitat degradation and water quality, but here researchers documented the importance of water quantity for restoring threatened populations. “Nearly all of California’s salmon and trout populations are on the path to extinction and if we’re going to bring these fish back to healthy levels, we have to change the way we manage our water,” said lead author Theodore Grantham, a recent Ph.D. graduate from UC Berkeley’s Department of Environmental Science, Policy and Management (ESPM….> full story

 

Theodore E. Grantham, David A. Newburn, Michael A. McCarthy, Adina M. Merenlender. The Role of Streamflow and Land Use in Limiting Oversummer Survival of Juvenile Steelhead in California Streams. Transactions of the American Fisheries Society, 2012; 141 (3): 585 DOI: 10.1080/00028487.2012.683472

 

Color of robins’ eggs determines parental care (May 14, 2012) — A male robin will be more diligent in caring for its young if the eggs its mate lays are a brighter shade of blue. … > full story

Little by little, Hawaii’s iconic beaches are disappearing. Most beaches on the state’s three largest islands are eroding, and the erosion is likely to accelerate as sea levels rise, the United States Geological Survey is reporting. [New York Times]

 

First satellite tag study for manta rays reveals habits and hidden journeys of ocean giants (May 11, 2012) — Using the latest satellite tracking technology, conservationists have completed a ground-breaking study on a mysterious ocean giant: The manta ray. … > full story

 

Sulfur finding may hold key to Gaia theory of Earth as living organism (May 15, 2012) — Is Earth really a sort of giant living organism as the Gaia hypothesis predicts? A new discovery may provide a key to answering this question. This key of sulfur could allow scientists to unlock heretofore hidden interactions between ocean organisms, atmosphere, and land — interactions that might provide evidence supporting this famous theory. … > full story

Hidden lives of elephant seals: Record-setting dive more than a mile deep (May 15, 2012) — The same researchers who pioneered the use of satellite tags to monitor the migrations of elephant seals have compiled one of the largest datasets available for any marine mammal species, revealing their movements and diving behavior at sea in unprecedented detail. … > full story

 

 

Navy treads fine line when defending US, protecting marine mammals

CNN - ‎May 12 2012

The US Pacific Fleet, in a draft study, said the use of sonar and explosives in those regions from 2014 to 2019 could cause up to 200 deaths and 1600 injuries each year, including hearing loss, among marine mammals. The death estimates are based on the

 

2300 birds found dead along Chilean beaches

CNN International - ‎May 12 2012

(CNN) — Chilean officials are asking fishermen to help save birds caught in nets

 

Floating robots use GPS-enabled smartphones to track water flow down Sac River (May 14, 2012) — A fleet of 100 floating robots took a trip down the Sacramento River on May 9, in a field test. The devices, equipped with GPS-enabled smartphones, demonstrated the next generation of water-monitoring technology, promising to transform the way government agencies track one of the state’s most precious resources. … > full story

 

 

 

 

  1. 2.    CLIMATE CHANGE AND EXTREME EVENTS

 

Nearly One-Tenth of Hemisphere’s Mammals Unlikely to Outrun Climate Change

ScienceDaily  May 14, 2012  A safe haven could be out of reach for 9 percent of the Western Hemisphere’s mammals, and as much as 40 percent in certain regions, because the animals just won’t move swiftly enough to outpace climate change. For the past decade scientists have outlined new areas suitable for mammals likely to be displaced as climate change first makes their current habitat inhospitable, then unlivable. For the first time a new study considers whether mammals will actually be able to move to those new areas before they are overrun by climate change. Carrie Schloss, University of Washington research analyst in environmental and forest sciences, is lead author of the paper out online the week of May 14 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.We underestimate the vulnerability of mammals to climate change when we look at projections of areas with suitable climate but we don’t also include the ability of mammals to move, or disperse, to the new areas,” Schloss said. Indeed, more than half of the species scientists have in the past projected could expand their ranges in the face of climate change will, instead, see their ranges contract because the animals won’t be able to expand into new areas fast enough, said co-author Joshua Lawler, UW associate professor of environmental and forest sciences…..

 

Carrie A. Schloss, Tristan A. Nuñez, and Joshua J. Lawler. Dispersal will limit ability of mammals to track climate change in the Western Hemisphere. PNAS, May 14, 2012 DOI: 10.1073/pnas.1116791109

 

Two litttle auks enjoying the midnight sun, East Greenland. Credit: David Grémillet

Arctic seabirds buffer impact of current climate change

Phys.Org - ‎May 15, 2012

The planet is warming up, especially at the poles. How do organisms react to this rise in temperatures? An international team led by a CNRS researcher from the Center for Functional and Evolutionary Ecology has shown that little auks, the most common seabirds in the Arctic, are adapting their fishing behavior to warming surface waters in the Greenland Sea. So far, their reproductive and survival rates have not been affected. However, further warming could threaten the species. For three years, in summer, the researchers studied three colonies of little auks on either side of the Greenland Sea. The difference in surface water temperatures between the warmest and coldest site is 5°C. The warmest site, located in Spitsbergen, reproduces the conditions predicted for the late 21st century in the coldest site (East Greenland). Such temperature differences lead to major changes in the abundance and average size of zooplankton, reducing the quality of little auks’ food resources (copepods).

Surprisingly, the birds have managed to make up for the warming of surface waters in the Greenland Sea by altering their diet and extending the duration of their foraging trips at sea. They travel further and for longer in order to feed in areas where foraging is more successful.

So far, little auks have therefore managed to adapt to the effects of warming surface waters in the Greenland Sea. However, a 5°C temperature rise remains below the maximum temperature increase of 7°C predicted by climate models for the Arctic in 2100. Yet it seems that little auks have reached the limits of their physiological and behavioral capacities. More intense warming could therefore cause their decline as well as a major disruption of marine ecosystems in the Arctic. The scientists are now investigating the impact of global warming on the winter survival of these seabirds.

 

D. Grémillet, J. Welcker, N.J. Karnovsky, W. Walkusz, M.E. Hall, J. Fort, Z.W. Brown, J.R. Speakman & A.M.A. Harding. Little auks buffer the impact of current Arctic climate change. Marine Ecology Progress Series, 21 May 2012

 

NASA news release

Study Finds Surprising Arctic Methane Emission Source

The fragile and rapidly changing Arctic is home to large reservoirs of methane, a potent greenhouse gas. As Earth’s climate warms, that methane is vulnerable to possible release into the atmosphere, where it can add to global warming. Researchers have known for years that large amounts of methane are frozen in Arctic tundra soils and in marine sediments (including gas hydrates). But now a multi-institutional study led by Eric Kort of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory has uncovered a surprising and potentially important new source of methane: the Arctic Ocean itself…..

 

 

Study Shows ‘Clear Indications’ That Climate Change Is Impacting European Fish Stocks Posted: 11 May 2012 11:10 AM PDT

Rising ocean temperatures are driving major changes in fisheries throughout western Europe, bringing warm water species typically seen in the Mediterranean to the coast of the United Kingdom.

A new report card issued by European marine researchers details the ecological and economic impact that climate change is having on fisheries in the UK and Scotland — concluding that there are “clear indications that climate change is affecting fish stocks” in the region. The report card features a map of changes currently underway. ..: Projected global redistributions of fish will affect different parts of the world unequally. By 2050, tropical regions could experience significant declines in landings with gains in some high latitudes. The overall cost of adaptation of the fisheries sector worldwide in response to climate change is predicted to be large and could lead to losses in gross fisheries revenues of $10–31 billion by 2050…

 

U.S. heat records: Third-warmest April, hottest 12 monthsLos

May 15, 2012  LA Times – Americans just lived through the hottest 12 months ever recorded, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration reported Tuesday….

 

5th warmest April on record worldwide

Associated Press Wednesday, May 16, 2012 Washington –

Unseasonable weather pushed last month to the fifth warmest April on record worldwide, federal weather statistics show. …Two years ago was the hottest April since record keeping started in 1880. Last month was the third hottest April in the United States and unusually warm in Russia, but cooler than normal in parts of Western Europe. This is despite a now-ended La Niña, which generally lowers global temperatures. …. The last time the globe had a month that averaged below the 20th century normal was February 1985. April makes it 326 months in a row.  Nearly half the population of the world has never seen a month that was cooler than normal, according to U.N. data. “A warmer world is the new normal,” Oppenheimer said. “To me, it’s startling to think that a generation has grown up with global warming defining their world.” The first four months of 2012 rank the 15th warmest on record.

 

Hawaii’s Beaches Are in Retreat, and Its Way of Life May Follow

Jewel Samad/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images   Beaches like Waikiki face accelerating erosion, a new report says.

By CORNELIA DEAN NY Times Published: May 14, 2012

Most beaches on the state’s three largest islands are eroding, and the erosion is likely to accelerate as sea levels rise, the United States Geological Survey is reporting. Though average erosion rates are relatively low — perhaps a few inches per year — they range up to several feet per year and are highly variable from island to island and within each island, agency scientists say. The report says that over the last century, about 9 percent of the sandy coast on the islands of Hawaii, Oahu and Maui has vanished. That’s almost 14 miles of beach. The findings have important implications for public safety, the state’s multibillion-dollar tourism economy and the way of life Hawaiians treasure, said Charles H. Fletcher, who led the work for the agency. ….Sea level does not rise uniformly around the world, and so far, Dr. Fletcher and other geologists said in interviews, Hawaii has escaped some of the rise that has occurred elsewhere as earth’s climate warms. But that situation is unlikely to continue, the report says. …

 

Drought Hits Spain’s Wheat Crop  NASA Earth Observatory   May 15 2012

Grain crops in Spain are suffering after an unusually dry autumn and winter. The amount of rainfall has been just half of normal in key grain producing regions…..In an analysis released on May 10, 2012, the USDA Foreign Agricultural Service, projected Spain’s wheat production would drop by 20 percent, oats by 18 percent, and barley by 14 percent in comparison to last year. Overall, the USDA expects Spain will need to import 11 million metric tons of grain from other European countries because of the drought. In late April, increasing rainfall has started to improve the situation, particularly in the northern half of the country. If rain continues to fall regularly throughout May, there’s a chance that barley and wheat yields could rebound.  Spain is not the only European country grappling with a weak wheat crop. Ukraine, Romania, Bulgaria, and other countries will likely see reduced yields as well due to dry weather. A cold spell at the end of February in Poland and Germany has also harmed crops.

 

 

Statistical Analysis Projects Future Temperatures in North America

ScienceDaily (May 15, 2012) — For the first time, researchers have been able to combine different climate models using spatial statistics — to project future seasonal temperature changes in regions across North America. They performed advanced statistical analysis on two different North American regional climate models and were able to estimate projections of temperature changes for the years 2041 to 2070, as well as the certainty of those projections. The analysis, developed by statisticians at Ohio State University, examines groups of regional climate models, finds the commonalities between them, and determines how much weight each individual climate projection should get in a consensus climate estimate. Through maps on the statisticians’ website (http://www.stat.osu.edu/~sses/collab_warming.html), people can see how their own region’s temperature will likely change by 2070 — overall, and for individual seasons of the year.

….”One of the criticisms from climate-change skeptics is that different climate models give different results, so they argue that they don’t know what to believe,” he said. “We wanted to develop a way to determine the likelihood of different outcomes, and combine them into a consensus climate projection. We show that there are shared conclusions upon which scientists can agree with some certainty, and we are able to statistically quantify that certainty.”

 

 

James Hansen Is Correct About Catastrophic Projections For U.S. Drought If We Don’t Act Now  Joe Romm, PhD Posted: 13 May 2012 09:33 AM PDT The response by NOAA’s Martin Hoerling to James Hansen’s recent op-ed — posted on this blog and DotEarth — does not reflect the scientific literature. …. focus first on Hoerling’s incorrect statements about drought (and I’ll deal with extreme weather later).  As readers know, the journal Nature asked me to write a Comment piece on the threat posed by drought after they read one of my posts examining the latest science on prolonged drought and “Dust-Bowlification.” The Nature article, which is basically a review of recent drought literature, is here (subs. req’d). Most of the text is here. The research I did for that article — and the comments of the expert reviewers I sent it to — is why I know Hoerling is quite wrong when he writes this:

“In his recent New York Times Op-Ed piece, Jim Hansen asserts: ‘Over the next several decades, the Western United States and the semi-arid region from North Dakota to Texas will develop semi-permanent drought, with rain, when it does come, occurring in extreme events with heavy flooding. Economic losses would be incalculable. More and more of the Midwest would be a dust bowl. California’s Central Valley could no longer be irrigated. Food prices would rise to unprecedented levels.’ He doesn’t define “several decades,” but a reasonable assumption is that he refers to a period from today through mid-century. I am unaware of any projection for “semi-permanent” drought in this time frame over the expansive region of the Central Great Plains. He implies the drought will be due to a lack of rain (except for the brief and ineffective downpours)…. But facts should, and do, matter to some. The vision of a Midwest Dustbowl is a scary one, and the author appears intent to instill fear rather than reason.”

 

The fact is that the recent literature examining warming-driven drought in America could not be clearer in warning about a “semi-permanent” (or worse) drought in both the South West and the Central Great Plains and “More and more of the Midwest.” Here are two studies that lay things out starkly: Aiguo Dai of the National Center for Atmospheric Research, Drought under global warming: a review” (2010); Michael Wehner et al., “Projections of Future Drought in the Continental United States and Mexico” (2011). I would also add the 2010, Environmental Research Letters article “Characterizing changes in drought risk for the United States from climate change.” And that’s not even counting the Journal of Geophysical Research study that Hansen himself co-authored in 1990, Potential evapotranspiration and the likelihood of future drought,” which projected that severe to extreme drought in the United States, then occurring every 20 years or so, could become an every-other-year phenomenon by mid-century…..

 

Australian project simulates effects of runaway climate change

Multimillion-dollar study subjects bushland to heightened CO2 levels and altered rainfall patterns

Oliver Milman guardian.co.uk, Monday 14 May 2012 06.34 EDT

An Australian university has embarked upon an ambitious project – hailed as the first of its kind in the world – to simulate how the environment would cope with runaway climate change. The decade-long study, at the University of Western Sydney’s Hawkesbury Institute for the Environment, will subject Australian bushland to heightened CO2 levels and altered rainfall patterns consistent with a “business as usual” global increase in greenhouse gases. …. recreate an atmosphere where CO2 is at 550 ppm – about 40% higher than current levels – to see how the environment would change for living things, including humans. This level of CO2 has been chosen to mimic how the environment would react in a world where no significant action is taken to reduce carbon emissions over the next 35 years…..

 

 

In addition to the West, drought conditions are also prevalent in the Southeast, Mid-Atlantic, and parts of the Northeast as well, along with a small pocket in the Upper Midwest. [Climate Central]

Global warming could affect everything from national forests and grasslands’ vegetation to their stream flows, and the Forest Service has a comprehensive plan to deal with it. [Herald and News]

 

 

 

 

  1. 3.    OIL SPILLS AND RELATED

 

North Dakota has passed Alaska to become the No. 2 oil-producing state in the country, reflecting how the embrace of new drilling technology is redrawing the U.S. energy map. [Wall Street Journal]

 

Dept. Of Interior Finds ‘Nearly Two-Thirds Of Acreage’ Leased By The Oil Industry ‘Lies Idle’  Posted: 15 May 2012 09:23 AM PDT by Daniel J. Weiss

The Department of Interior released an updated analysis of fossil fuel leases today, finding that “nearly two-thirds of acreage leased by [the oil] industry lies idle.” The report, “Oil and Gas Lease Utilization, Onshore and Offshore Updated Report to the President,” explained that oil and gas companies hold thousands of undeveloped leases. Despite holding these inactive leases, the oil industry continues to demand the opening of new, previously protected federal lands and waters areas to drilling. The report found that:

 

 

 

 

 

  1. 4.    POLICY

 

 

Proposed Carbon Limits for New Power Plants Would Avoid 123 Billion Pounds of Pollution Annually

Posted: 16 May 2012 07:25 AM PDT by Daniel J. Weiss, Jackie Weidman, Celine Ramstein

On April 13 the Environmental Protection Agency proposed the first-ever rules to limit carbon dioxide pollution from new power plants. Carbon dioxide is a major greenhouse gas that significantly contributes to climate change and threatens the health and safety of Americans. Existing power plants are responsible for adding more than 2 billion tons of carbon and other toxic pollutants into the air each year—nearly 13,000 pounds for every man, woman, and child in the United States. The new rules will reduce the pollution added by new power plants by 123 billion pounds annually…. Act now to support this proposal….The public comment period for the carbon pollution rule began on April 13. In the month since then, a broad coalition of public health, clean air, labor, and other progressive organizations have collected nearly a million comments in favor of the proposal to the EPA. These groups, including the Center for American Progress Action Fund, plan to deliver hundreds of thousands more public comments before the 60-day comment period ends on June 25, 2012.

 

 

Senate Committee Passes Farm Bill  Wildlife Mgmt Institute

The Senate Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry Committee approved their version of the 2012 Farm Bill on April 26, according to the Wildlife Management Institute. In an attempt to address federal deficit reduction, a number of changes to current agriculture programs were incorporated in the Agriculture Reform, Food and Jobs Act of 2012 including consolidation of 23 conservation programs into 13. The legislation incorporates the Wildlife Habitat Incentive Program (WHIP) into the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) and continues the Conservation Stewardship Program and the Voluntary Public Access and Habitat Program. Four easement programs, including the Wetland Reserve Program, are consolidated into one program in the bill. The Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) would be continued but with a lower acreage cap of 25 million acres from its current 32 million acre cap.  Overall, the bill provides for $23 billion in deficit reduction, with $6 billion coming from the various conservation programs…

 

Sportsmen’s Bill Stirring Controversy  Wildlife Mgmt Institute

The Sportsmen’s Heritage Act (H.R. 4089) passed the U.S. House of Representatives by a vote of 274 to 146 on April 17.  Many groups are now pushing for action in the Senate, however, the bill’s momentum has created a rift among some conservation organizations.  While many sportsmen’s groups are touting the bill’s importance to entrench hunting, fishing and shooting on federal public lands, others claim the bill is unnecessary and could undermine wilderness protection, reports the Wildlife Management Institute… However, the bill has attracted opposition from some groups – ranging from mainstream environmental organizations to the Backcountry Hunters and Anglers – that believe it will open up wilderness areas for motorized recreation and potential industrial development.  A Congressional Research Service memorandum sent prior to the House vote stated the original bill language was “imprecise” and that “The language could be construed as opening wilderness areas to virtually any activity related to hunting and fishing, even if otherwise inconsistent with wilderness values.”  The House agreed to a manager’s amendment to clarify the language stating that the bill is not intended to permit motorized recreation or mineral extraction. Another concern to some groups is that the House approved an amendment offered by Rep. Virginia Foxx that would require monument designations under the Antiquities Act to be approved by state legislatures and governors where the proposed monument is located.  Read More >>

 

Trayless In New York City

Some schools go trayless to reduce food waste. New York City public schools implemented “Trayless Tuesday” in order to immediately curtail 20 percent of polystyrene trays going to the landfill. While New York City’s 1,700 pubic schools recycle by mandate, most of the approximately 850,000 students participating in the school lunch program are still served on single-serving plastic foam trays. That amounts to about 153 million trays a year, says Debby Lee Cohen, director of Styrofoam Out of Schools/Cafeteria Culture, who participated in a recent webinar entitled “Reducing Waste in Schools” hosted by EPA Region 2. “These trays contain styrene and benzene, kids eat directly off of them, they are only used for 20 or 30 minutes, and then they get exported to out-of-state landfills. That’s inconsistent with the message children are taught in school and at home to reduce waste and recycle.” But the trays are inexpensive, says Stephen O’Brien, Director of Food and Food Support for the New York City Department of Education (DOE), and that is a significant factor when more than 75 percent of participating students are served breakfast and/or lunch at a reduced rate or for free. Cohen and O’Brien got together and began to brainstorm how to make a dent in the problem, eventually involving the New York City Bureau of Waste Prevention, Reuse and Recycling. It turned out the DOE already had contracts for the bulk purchase of clay-lined paper boats, which could accommodate meals such as hamburgers, sandwiches and other items that did not contain high amounts of liquids or sauce. The menu was tweaked, and Trayless Tuesday was born. Rollout involved principals in each school explaining the program classroom by classroom, college student volunteers helping with initial implementation and a “flip, tap and stack” campaign to help ensure proper compliance. “If they are clean and dry, they can be recycled,” explains O’Brien.

 

Least Developed Countries issue bold plan to energize UN climate change talks

GhanaWeb   May 14, 2012

The world’s poorest countries have issued a bold plan to make the UN climate change talks more likely to reach their goal of having an effective and legally binding agreement ready for governments to adopt by 2015.

 

Peru’s coffee growers turn carbon traders to save their farms from climate change The Guardian - ‎May 12, 2012

In the foothills of the Andes, in the Sierra Piura region of Peru, the problems faced by coffee farmers are clear. Up to 6600 farmers produce here for the Central Piurana de Cafetaleros co-operative (Cepicafe), growing 4000 tonnes a year of the finest ….

 

Effects of Climate Change on Wildlife and Habitat  Concern Most Visitors to National Wildlife Refuges  May 16, 2012 The survey is available here.

Visitors to national wildlife refuges are concerned about the impact of climate change on America’s fish, wildlife and plants ─ as well as the habitat that supports them, a new survey just released by the U…S. Fish and Wildlife Service shows. The survey also shows strong support for efforts to help native species adapt to changing climate conditions, such as those now being implemented by the Service and its partners.

71% of the more than 10,000 visitors to national wildlife refuges who took part in the survey ─ conducted by the U.S. Geological Survey in 2010 and 2011 ─ believe that climate change poses a serious threat to wildlife and wildlife habitat. About 74 % of the same respondents agree that addressing climate change effects on wildlife and wildlife habitats will benefit future generations. ….

Ashe noted that the Service’s statutory authorities do not give the agency the ability or responsibility to regulate the causative factors of climate change. However, those authorities do require the Service to work with the conservation community to anticipate and manage for the impacts of climate change on fish and wildlife resources ─ as the agency is required to address any other factor affecting the long-term health and abundance of these resources.

The Fish and Wildlife Service is working with its partners to address the impacts of climate change on fish, wildlife and plants and the communities that depend on them. These efforts include:

“As we look to the future, the Refuge System will need to prioritize land restoration to effectively sequester carbon and protect wildlife,” said Refuge System Chief Jim Kurth. “That means targeted restoration to bring altered landscapes into balance and to protect habitats that support viable populations of wildlife. Most importantly, we have to work with other government agencies, non-profit organizations and private landowners to face the challenge of climate change.” ….Economic considerations factored into visitors assessments of climate change impacts. More than two-thirds (71 percent) agreed that “it is important to consider the economic costs and benefits to local communities when addressing climate change effects on fish, wildlife and habitats.” USGS social scientist Natalie Sexton was the lead researcher on the report. The USGS designed, conducted, analyzed and reported on the peer-reviewed survey. The survey is available here.

LNG: Floating Texas export terminal could come online in 5 years, officials say

Excelerate Energy has proposed to build the country’s first floating natural gas export facility off the coast of Port Lavaca, Texas, in what the company said could be the second export facility to come online in the United States after Cheniere Energy’s Sabine Pass plant….

 

 

What Makes Koch Industries ‘Big Oil’ And Why You Shouldn’t Believe The Claims Saying It Isn’t  Posted: 14 May 2012 07:30 AM PDT

The Obama campaign and the super PAC Priorities USA recently fired back at Americans for Prosperity, highlighting Mitt Romney’s ties to a funding source of $18.5 million in energy attack ads: Koch Industries. Koch Industries has produced its own video claiming it doesn’t deserve the label of a secretive Big Oil corporation. Shockingly, Factcheck.org and the Washington Post have taken up Koch’s argument. Factcheck.org wrote that despite Koch’s $100 billion revenue, the corporation’s diverse holdings mean “it is hardly in the league of the truly ‘big oil’companies.” The Washington Post Factchecker took the same angle. While it’s true the most profitable U.S. corporations — ExxonMobil and Chevron — are larger than Koch, using this standard to claim the company isn’t Big Oil is incorrect. Let’s take a look at some key facts:

 

 

Measuring CO2 to fight global warming, enforce future treaty (May 14, 2012) — If the world’s nations ever sign a treaty to limit emissions of climate-warming carbon dioxide gas, there may be a way to help verify compliance. Using measurements from only three carbon-dioxide (monitoring stations in the Salt Lake Valley, the method could reliably detect changes in CO2 emissions of 15 percent or more, researchers report. … > full story

 

 

An Inconvenient Lawsuit: Teenagers Take Global Warming to the Courts

By Katherine Ellison  May 9 2012, 7:45 AM ET   Industry giants say their case is misguided. But that isn’t stopping a group of high school students from using the legal system to make environmental demands.

Alec Loorz turns 18 at the end of this month. While finishing high school and playing Ultimate Frisbee on weekends, he’s also suing the federal government in U.S. District Court in Washington, D.C.  The Ventura, California, teen and four other juvenile plaintiffs want government officials to do more to prevent the risks of climate change — the dangerous storms, heat waves, rising sea levels, and food-supply disruptions that scientists warn will threaten their generation absent a major turnabout in global energy policy. Specifically, the students are demanding that the U.S. government start reducing national emissions of carbon dioxide by at least six percent per year beginning in 2013.

…The youth — represented, pro bono, by the Burlingame, California, law firm of former U.S. Republican congressman Paul “Pete” McCloskey, a co-founder of Earth Day — filed the suit, Alec L. et. al vs. Lisa P. Jackson, et. al, in May of last year. Defendants include not only Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Lisa Jackson but the heads of the Commerce, Interior, Commerce, Defense, Energy, and Agriculture departments. This Friday, U.S. District Court Judge Robert L. Wilkins, an Obama appointee, will hear arguments on the defendants’ motion to dismiss the complaint.  While skeptics may view the case as little more than a publicity stunt, its implications have been serious enough to attract the time and resources of major industry leaders. Last month, Judge. Wilkins granted a motion to intervene in the case by the National Association of Manufacturers, joined by Delta Construction Company, Dalton Trucking Inc., Southern California Contractors Association, and the California Dump Truck Owners Association. …

 

 

 

 

  1. 5.    RESOURCES

 

 

The Bureau of Reclamation to post two funding opportunities in 2012:

 

 

Addressing Nitrate in California’s Drinking Water

In mid-March, a landmark study by UC Davis researchers on nitrate in California’s groundwater supplies was released. The study prepared for the State Water Resources Control Board to fulfill the requirements of Senate Bill X2.1 concludes that 96% of the nitrate in groundwater is from agricultural fertilizers and animal manure in the Tulare Lake Basin and the Salinas Valley. Many disadvantaged communities in both these regions rely on groundwater as their main drinking water supply, and high nitrate levels are harmful to human health. According to the report, the problem will get worse before it gets better because of the wide range in travel times from applying nitrogen to cropland to its presence in groundwater…. (www.sustainableconservation.org)

Brief (EnglishEspañol) (2 pages)
Executive Summary
 (8 pages)
Main Report (80 pages)

Technical Report 1 - Overview (Version 03/13/2012)
Technical Report 2 - Sources of Nitrate in Groundwater (Version 03/13/2012)
Technical Report 3 - Reducing Sources of Nitrate in Groundwater (Version 03/13/2012)
Technical Report 4 - Nitrate Occurence in Groundwater (Version 03/13/2012)
Technical Report 5 - Remediation of Groundwater Nitrate (Version 03/13/2012)
Technical Report 6 - Treatment of Nitrate in Drinking Water (Version 03/13/2012)
Technical Report 7 - Susceptible Population and Alternative Water Supplies (Version 03/13/2012)
Technical Report 8 - Funding and Policy Options (Version 03/13/2012)

 

 

The Future of Conservation: New Strategies for a Changing World California Association of Resource Conservation Districts (CARCD)

CARCD is soliciting abstracts for presentations, special sessions, and poster papers for its 2012 CARCD Annual Meeting and Conference to be held at the Paradise Point Resort, San Diego, CA, November 14th-17th, 2012. Requirements: Abstracts must be submitted by June 15th, 2012. ….Send your submission via email to emily-sutherland@carcd.org Include on the subject line: 2012 Annual Conference Presenters….. If you have any questions about the conference, please contact CARCD: 801 K Street, 18th Floor, Sacramento, CA 95814  www.carcd.org (916) 457-7904

 

 

 

Wildlife Habitat on Private Lands Fund

The Conservation Partners Program has grant money for conserva­tion professionals willing to help improve wildlife habitat conserva­tion on private lands. The program is a partnership that includes the Natural Resources Conservation Service and the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation. Grants range from $50,000 to $250,000.

 

Online Water Quality Portal

The U.S. Geological Survey and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency have released an online portal that provides water quality data from across the country. It gives the public access to the infor­mation gathered for decades by both agencies. Details are available in this news release.

 

Hope in a Changing Climate – VIDEO

A Global Dialogue on Ecosystem Restoration

BBC World Programme Highlights: Hope in a Changing Climate

The BBC World broadcasts the film, “Hope in a Changing Climate,” on November 27th, and The World Bank and IUCN screened the film in Copenhagen during COP-15, the climate change summit in December 2009.

 

 

 

New iPhone App—XWEATHER

Xweather and puts NASA extreme weather data on a globe, or Earth Browser as we call it. The intent is to allow anyone to see dramatic extreme weather events in the context of the planet.  Our plans include adding temperature, droughts and “skins” to the globe so that the extreme weather events can be juxtaposed with user-specific perspectives of interest such as global population, food, minerals, shipping routes, energy grids, etc….This app is designed for both iPhone and iPad  By eLoomn LLC  ….Xweather is a dynamic and graphically engaging multimedia tool for putting extreme weather events in context, optimized for both iPhones and iPads. Easily navigate a stunning 3D rendition of the globe and get near real-time information and satellite imagery of hurricanes, cyclones and other severe storm events, floods, volcanic eruptions and dust storms. In addition to current extreme weather, users can also access Xweather’s growing historical archive to explore events that have occurred around the world in the past two record-setting years. In an increasingly interconnected world, Xweather is the first app to provide continuous updates on extreme weather events happening now, whether in your backyard or on the other side of the planet.

 

 

 

 

  1. 6.    RENEWABLES AND RELATED

 

 

Saudi Arabia Unveils $100 Billion Plan To Make Solar ‘A Driver For Domestic Energy For Years To Come’ Posted: 11 May 2012 09:29 AM PDT

Even the world’s largest producer of oil understands the value of developing renewable energy.

A few months after Saudi Arabia’s oil minister called global warming “among humanity’s most pressing concerns,” the country is rolling out an ambitious plan to source 41,000 megawatts of solar projects over the next two decades — scaling up a domestic solar industry to support one third of electricity production by 2032. Solar electricity and petroleum serve completely different markets. However, in this case, solar will be directly replacing the oil that Saudi Arabia uses for desalination plants. Officials are currently rolling out a competitive bidding process for 1,100 megawatts of solar photovoltaics and 900 megawatts of concentrating solar power in the first quarter of 2013. The plan is part of a larger strategy to scale up various sources of renewable energy, build a new domestic industry, and reduce oil consumption. Officials estimate that the solar plan will reduce domestic consumption of oil by 520,000 barrels per day. PV Magazine reported on the news from a solar conference in Saudi Arabia:….

 

 

Rainforest microbe can handle ionic liquids: New find could help reduce biofuel production costs (May 14, 2012) — Researchers have identified a tropical rainforest microbe that can endure relatively high concentrations of an ionic liquid used to dissolve cellulosic biomass for the production of advanced biofuels. They’ve also determined how the microbe accomplishes this, a discovery that holds broad implications beyond biofuels. … > full story

 

 

Letter to the Editor: Your recent editorials on the federal wind-energy Production Tax Credit (PTC) and renewable portfolio standard (RPS) (“Gouged by the Wind,” May 5 and “Windy Republicans,” May 7) are off the mark. The wind-power industry is an American success story that is helping us build our manufacturing base, create jobs, lower energy costs and strengthen our energy security. [Wall Street Journal]

 

 

 

  1. 7.    OTHER NEWS OF INTEREST

 

 

 

The Ethicist | The Results Are In  New York Times

The Meat You Eat: The Winner of Our Contest on the Ethics of Eating Meat

Russell Bell

By ARIEL KAMINER Published: May 3, 2012

Is it ethical to eat meat? That short question, posed in these pages a few weeks ago, inspired a debate heated enough to roast a fatted calf (or a really enormous zucchini, depending on your dietary orientation). …..Michael Pollan noted how many essays emphasized the role animals play in making a farm sustainable. “This argument gains authority when it is rooted in the practical realities of farming” — rather than academic theorizing — “which it was in several of our entries, and these to me were the most compelling,” he pointed out. “That said, simply stimulating people to think through their eating choices has a value, since our thoughtlessness in these matters has such a high cost.”……

 

The Winner: Give Thanks for Meat

By JAY BOST NY Times Published: May 3, 2012 Read the Other Finalists’ Essays

As a vegetarian who returned to meat-eating, I find the question “Is meat-eating ethical?” one that is in my head and heart constantly…..What are these “right” and “wrong” ways of producing both meat and plant foods? For me, they are most succinctly summed up in Aldo Leopold’s land ethic: “A thing is right when it tends to preserve the integrity, stability and beauty of the biotic community. It is wrong when it tends otherwise.”…..

 

Audubon NY creates calling cards for birders to tout business benefits of bird …

Washington Post - ‎May 14, 2012‎

ALBANY, NY – Audubon New York is spreading the word about how birders help local economies. The group has launched a campaign that will distribute calling cards for bird-watchers to hand out at restaurants and other businesses.

 

 

Turkey suspects bird of being Israeli spy

Ankara investigating possibility that bee-eater was ‘implanted with Mossad surveillance device’; Israeli wildlife officials say accusation ridiculous

Amir Ben-David

Published: 05.15.12, 13:03 / Israel News

Turkish authorities believe that they have found a bird used for espionage purposes by Israel, the country’s media reported. According to a Tuesday report in Yedioth Ahronoth, an investigation to that effect was launched in Ankara several days ago, after a farmer discovered a dead Merops Apiaster, commonly known as the European Bee-Eater, in his field. The bird had a ring reading “Israel” on one of its legs.  Bird-banding is a common practice in ornithology, meant to help scientists track bird migration routes.  The band, however, was not the most damning piece of evidence against the bee-eater: Its nostrils were.  The bird-beak in question reportedly sported “unusually large nostrils,” which – combined with the identification ring – raised suspicions that the bird was “implanted with a surveillance device” and that it arrived in Turkey as part of an espionage mission. The bird’s remains were originally handed over to the Turkish Agriculture Ministry, which then turned in over to Ankara’s security services. ….

 

Blowout: A Review Of Senator Byron Dorgan’s New Action-Thriller About The Energy Race To Stop Catastrophic Global Warming Posted: 14 May 2012 09:35 AM PDT

 

by Richard W. Caperton

Who will take radical steps to stop the transition to clean energy?  That’s the question that underlies “Blowout,” the new book by retired Senator Byron Dorgan and David Hagberg.  Because the answer is so straightforward (hint: it’s the oil companies), Dorgan and Hagberg have taken the unprecedented step of addressing the issue in a blood-soaked action thriller, instead of the typical non-fiction format we’re all so used to. “Blowout” is based around a fictional clean energy research and development facility in North Dakota, which is very close to making a revolutionary technological breakthrough.  Just as the final critical test approaches, the facility is attacked by a relatively incompetent gang of militia members, who have been hired by unknown outside interests.  This attack, the resulting manhunt, and various other criminal hijinks make up the bulk of the plot…..

 

Prenatal Pesticide Exposure May Harm Kids’ Brains

Common Crop Pesticide Chlorpyrifos May Be Linked With Structural Changes in Developing Brain, Experts Find By Kathleen Doheny WebMD Health News April 30, 2012 — Prenatal exposure to a pesticide used on many crops may be linked with abnormal changes in a child’s developing brain, scientists report.

Compared to children with low prenatal exposure, those with high exposure to the pesticide chlorpyrifos had abnormalities in the cortex (the outer area of the brain), says Virginia Rauh, ScD, professor and deputy director of the Columbia Center for Children’s Environmental Health at the Mailman School of Public Health at Columbia University. The cortex helps govern intelligence, personality, muscle movement, and other tasks. “In areas of the cortex, we detected both enlarged and reduced volumes that were significantly different from the normal brain,” she tells WebMD. “This suggests the process of normal brain development has been disturbed in some way.” The study is published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences’ Early Edition. In 2001, the U.S. EPA banned the residential use of chlorpyrifos. It still allows it on crops. It can also be sprayed in public places such as golf courses…..

 

First gene therapy successful against aging-associated decline: Mouse lifespan extended up to 24% with a single treatment (May 14, 2012) — A new study consisting of inducing cells to express telomerase, the enzyme which — metaphorically — slows down the biological clock — was successful. The research provides a “proof-of-principle” that this “feasible and safe” approach can effectively “improve health span.” … > full story

This is your brain on sugar: Study in rats shows high-fructose diet sabotages learning, memory (May 15, 2012) — A new study is the first to show how a diet steadily high in fructose slows the brain, hampering memory and learning — and how omega-3 fatty acids can minimize the damage. … > full story

A walk in the park gives mental boost to people with depression (May 14, 2012) — In one of the first studies to examine the effect of nature walks on cognition and mood in people with major depression, researchers in Canada and the US have found promising evidence that a walk in the park may provide some cognitive benefits. … > full story

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

  1. IMAGES OF THE WEEK

 

 

 

Western streamflow outlook for spring/summer 2012. Credit: Natural Resources Conservation Service. from ClimateCentral.org.  Click on image for a larger version.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

To celebrate President Obama’s landmark statement that he personally advocates for marriage equality, The New Yorker will for its May 21 addition release a special cover to mark this momentous event. The cover is called “Spectrum of Light” and has been put together by artist Bob Staake. The New Yorker quotes Starke as saying: “I am honored to be doing this cover. It’s a celebratory moment for our country, and that’s what I tried to capture. (I don’t especially like those rainbow colors, but they are what they are–I had to use them.) I wanted to celebrate the bravery of the President’s statement–a statement long overdue–but all the more appreciated in this political year. We are on the right side of history.”

 

 

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