Ecology, Climate Change and Related News Updated August 24, 2012

Ecology, Biodiversity, Climate Change and Related News Updates

August 24, 2012


News of the Week–   Marine Species at Risk
























Highlight of the Week….    Marine Species at Risk




Marine species at risk unless drastic protection policies put in place (August 21, 2012) ScienceDaily

— Many marine species will be harmed or won’t survive if the levels of carbon dioxide continue to increase. Current protection policies and management practices are unlikely to be enough to save them. Unconventional, non-passive methods to conserve marine ecosystems need to be considered if various marine species are to survive.

This is the conclusion of a group of scientists led by University of California, Santa Cruz researcher and Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory visiting scientist Greg Rau, and includes Elizabeth McLeod of The Nature Conservancy in Hawaii and Ove Hoegh-Guldberg of the University of Queensland in Australia. The increasing concentration of atmospheric CO2 is thermally and chemically impacting the ocean and its ecosystems, namely warming and acidifying the oceans. By the middle of this century, the globe will likely warm by at least 2 degrees Celsius and the oceans will experience a more than 60 percent increase in acidity relative to pre-industrial levels.

“Our concern is that the specific actions to counter such impacts as identified in current policy statements will prove inadequate or ineffective,” say the authors. “A much broader evaluation of marine management and mitigation options must now be seriously considered.”…

Greg H. Rau, Elizabeth L. McLeod, Ove Hoegh-Guldberg. The need for new ocean conservation strategies in a high-carbon dioxide world. Nature Climate Change, 2012; DOI: 10.1038/nclimate1555

World’s sea life is ‘facing major shock’, marine scientists warn (August 21, 2012) — Life in the world’s oceans faces far greater change and risk of large-scale extinctions than at any previous time in human history, a team of the world’s leading marine scientists has warned. The researchers have compared events which drove massive extinctions of sea life in the past with what is observed to be taking place in the seas and oceans globally today. … > full story

Paul G. Harnik, Heike K. Lotze, Sean C. Anderson, Zoe V. Finkel, Seth Finnegan, David R. Lindberg, Lee Hsiang Liow, Rowan Lockwood, Craig R. McClain, Jenny L. McGuire, Aaron O’Dea, John M. Pandolfi, Carl Simpson, Derek P. Tittensor. Extinctions in ancient and modern seas. Trends in Ecology & Evolution, 2012; DOI: 10.1016/j.tree.2012.07.010





  1. 1.     ECOLOGY



Information overload in the era of ‘big data’ (August 20, 2012) — The ability of botanists and other scientists to generate data quickly and cheaply is surpassing their ability to access and analyze it. Scientists facing too much information rely on computers to search large data sets for patterns that are beyond the capability of humans to recognize. New tools called ontologies provide the rules computers need to transform information into knowledge, by attaching meaning to data, thereby making those data more retrievable and understandable. … > full story


Sea otter numbers up, but so are deaths

Peter Fimrite San Francisco Chronicle  August 22, 2012

The California sea otter, whose luscious coat was so coveted by fur traders that the species was nearly wiped out, is holding steady in its west coast sanctum despite a record number of deaths, including an alarming uptick in shark attacks. The… more »



Wild pollinators support farm productivity and stabilize yield (August 17, 2012) — Most people are not aware of the fact that 84% of the European crops are partially or entirely dependent on insect pollination. While managed honeybees pollinate certain crops, wild bees, flies and wasps cover a very broad spectrum of plants, and thus are considered the most important pollinators in Europe. … > full story


Organisms cope with environmental uncertainty by guessing the future (August 16, 2012) — In uncertain environments, organisms not only react to signals, but also use molecular processes to make guesses about the future, according to a new study. The authors report that if environmental signals are unreliable, organisms are expected to evolve the ability to take random decisions about adapting to cope with adverse situations. … > full story


Natural Regeneration Building Urban Forests, Altering Species Composition

August 22, 2012 — Scientists have shown that on average, one in three trees in sampled cities were planted while two-thirds resulted from natural … > full story



Native Landscaping in Urban Areas Can Help Native Birds

ScienceDaily (Aug. 22, 2012) — A recent study of residential landscape types and native bird communities in Phoenix, Ariz., led by a University of Massachusetts Amherst urban ecologist suggests that yards mimicking native vegetation and wildlands offer birds “mini refuges,” helping to offset the loss of biodiversity in cities and supporting birds better than traditional grass lawns and non-native plantings. The study, led by Susannah Lerman with her advisor Paige Warren at UMass Amherst, and Hilary Gan and Eyal Shochat at Arizona State University, is one of the first to use quantitative measures and a systematic approach, with 24-hour video monitoring, to assess and compare foraging behavior of common backyard birds in yards in Phoenix, at the northern edge of the Sonoran Desert. It appears in the current issue of PLOS ONE….


Susannah B. Lerman, Paige S. Warren, Hilary Gan, Eyal Shochat. Linking Foraging Decisions to Residential Yard Bird Composition. PLoS ONE, 2012; 7 (8): e43497 DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0043497


Trees Breathing New Life into French Agriculture
The tips of young walnut trees are just visible above the ready-to-harvest wheat. Further away, oaks, ashes and cherry trees are growing in fields of sunflowers and broad beans, all signs of the return to agroforestry in La Bergerie de Villarceaux, an organic experimental farm in the Vexin region of north-west France. Olivier Ranke and his team are pioneers. Ten years ago they started replanting hedges in a part of France where intensive farming is the norm and there is scarcely a shrub on the horizon. In 2011 they took the next step by launching the most ambitious agroforestry project in northern France and planted more than 600 trees in 23 hectares of farmland.


Scientists examine effects of manufactured nanoparticles on soybean crops (August 20, 2012) — Sunscreens, lotions, and cosmetics contain tiny metal nanoparticles that wash down the drain at the end of the day, or are discharged after manufacturing. Those nanoparticles eventually end up in agricultural soil, which is a cause for concern, according to a group of environmental scientists that recently carried out the first major study of soybeans grown in soil contaminated by two manufactured nanomaterials. … > full story

Two new owl species discovered in the Philippines (August 17, 2012) — Two new species of owls have been discovered in the Philippines. The first owl, the Camiguin Hawk-owl, is found only on the small island of Camiguin Sur, close to northern Mindanao. The second new discovery was the Cebu Hawk-owl. This bird was thought to be extinct, as the forests of Cebu have almost all been lost due to deforestation. … > full story


Rock sparrows react to infidelity by singing louder (August 23, 2012) — Rock sparrows indicate their age and their reproductive success with their songs and react to infidelity with a higher song volume. … > full story


Triage for plants: Scientists develop and test rapid species conservation assessment technique (August 16, 2012) — Faced with a host of environmental threats, many of the world’s plant species are believed to be at risk of extinction. But which species? To answer that question, scientists have developed a streamlined method for assessing the conservation status of large numbers of species. Evaluating the flora of Puerto Rico, they found that 459 species — 23 percent of the flora — should be classified as “At Risk.” The process could help focus conservation efforts where they are most needed. … > full story


Good News from the Bad Drought: Gulf ‘Dead Zone’ Smallest in Years

August 24, 2012 — The worst drought to hit the United States in at least 50 years does have one benefit: It has created the smallest “dead zone” in the Gulf of Mexico in years, say … > full story



Improving water quality can help save coral reefs (August 19, 2012) — Researcher have found that an imbalance of nutrients in reef waters can increase the bleaching susceptibility of reef corals. Corals are made up of many polyps that jointly form a layer of living tissue covering the calcareous skeletons. They depend on single-celled algae called zooxanthellae, which live within the coral polyps. The coral animal and the associated zooxanthellae depend on each other for survival in a symbiotic relationship, where the coral supplies the algae with nutrients and a place to live. In turn, the algae offer the coral some products of their photosynthesis, providing them with an important energy source. High water temperatures can block photosynthetic reactions in the algal cells causing a build-up of toxic oxygen compounds, which threaten the coral and can result in a loss of the zooxanthellae. … > full story


How Food Production Impacts Water Quality

by Mindy Selman on August 23, 2012   World Resources Institute


This post is part of a series on World Water Week, an annual event designed to draw attention to and discuss global water issues. Read more posts in this series.

Our water systems are currently being threatened by the crops we grow and food we produce. In many countries, agriculture is the leading source of nutrient pollution in waterways—a situation that’s expected to worsen as the global population increases and the demand for food grows. So it’s timely that next week’s World Water Week, an annual conference organized by the Stockholm International Water Institute, is focusing on water and food security….. Nutrient pollution in water, or eutrophication, is a problem that’s grown exponentially in the past 50 years. While nutrients like nitrogen and phosphorus are needed to grow food and maintain healthy ecosystems, too many of these substances can cause havoc in freshwater and coastal ecosystems. Fertilizers and manure from agricultural fields, as well as sewage and runoff from our urban centers are increasingly making their way into waterways, polluting these bodies of water with excessive amounts of nutrients. Too many nutrients in the water can fuel large algae blooms, including toxic algae. This algae can smother the coral reefs and sea grasses that provide valuable habitat for aquatic species, result in fish kills, and shift the structure of aquatic ecosystems. Plus, when algae blooms die, they suck oxygen out of the water. Under the right conditions, these die-offs create hypoxic areas or dead zones, areas where fish and other aquatic creatures cannot survive. Globally, eutrophication of coastal systems has risen from fewer than 75 systems in 1960 to more than 800 systems today. Of these, more than 500 have experienced hypoxia…..


West Nile outbreak largest ever in US

CNN – ‎August 22, 2012‎

(CNN) — The recent West Nile virus outbreak is the largest ever seen in the United States, according to new numbers from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.


What fish is really on your plate?

August 24, 2012  SF Chronicle

In a posh restaurant, food sleuths sneak samples of fish to see how honest the labeling is. Very often, it isn’t….


The heartbreaking and highly profitable world of wildlife trafficking via Yahoo News
Tourism is big business in Africa. In Tanzania alone, the “tourism sector earned $1.471 billion in the year to June, making it the second biggest source of foreign currency after gold,” says Reuters. “Tanzania’s sweeping savanna plains in the shadow of Mount Kilimanjaro, Africa’s highest peak, teem with wildlife, drawing tourists who pay hundreds of dollars a night to stay in luxury tented camps.” More


Air crews make dent in massive Calif. wildfire

JEFF BARNARD, Associated Press, TERRY COLLINS, Associated Press Associated Press August 24, 2012

(AP) — Air tankers and helicopters flew repeatedly into a deep rim rock canyon to douse the spearhead of a massive wildfire in Northern California and stop it from driving into a nearby mountain community and Lassen Volcanic National Park. A… more »


How science teachers may be spreading invasive species
Potential invasive species may get a helping hand from an unlikely source: science teachers, a new study indicates. The study involved a survey of nearly 2,000 teachers in Florida, New York, Indiana, Illinois, Oregon, Washington, California, Connecticut, British Columbia and Ontario, as well as interviews with curriculum specialists, focus groups involving 84 teachers and information from biological supply houses.











Studies shed light on why species stay or go in response to climate change (August 17, 2012) — Two new studies provide a clearer picture of why some species move — and where they go — in response to climate change. One found a dramatic decline in populations of a mountain ground squirrel, except where humans lived. Another paper finds that precipitation is an underappreciated driving force for species’ response to climate change. … “Temperature did not explain the majority of these shifts,” said Tingley, who is now a postdoctoral researcher at Princeton University’s Program in Science, Technology and Environmental Policy. “Only when we included precipitation as an explanatory variable did our models adequately explain the movement patterns we observed.” The researchers found that while rising temperatures tended to push birds to cooler regions upslope, increased precipitation, which is more common at higher elevations, pulled them downslope. “We believe many species may feel this divergent pressure from temperature and precipitation, and in the end, only one wins,” said Tingley. Notably, more than half of the bird species in each of the three study regions did not shift their range despite pressures from climate change. “Moving is a sign of adaptation, which is good from a conservation standpoint,” said Tingley. “More worrisome are the species that have not shifted. How are they adapting? Are they moving, but we just can’t detect it? Or are they slowly declining as environmental conditions gradually become less ideal where they live?”

full story



Climate Extremes Reexamined: Can We Quantify The Straw That Breaks The Camel’s Back?  Posted: 20 Aug 2012 09:22 AM PDT by Gavin Schmidt via RealClimate**

Note from Joe Romm: James Hansen’s recent work on attributing climate extremes to global warming is very important. That’s because off-the-charts extreme weather — along with its impact on food production — is how most Americans and indeed most homo sapiens are likely to experience the negative impacts of climate change for the foreseeable future. So it’s no surprise that it has come under attack. NASA’s Gavin Schmidt has an excellent explanation of why Hansen’s analysis is so relevant and why some of his critics are so wrong. The bottom line: The critics apparently think climate impacts are linear — a small change always has a small incremental impact — whereas reality makes clear that the impacts are non-linear and have potentially dangerous thresholds. There is a straw that breaks the climate’s back, and we would appear to be fast approaching it.


There has been a lot of discussion related to the Hansen et al (2012, PNAS) paper and the accompanying op-ed in the Washington Post last week. But in this post, I’ll try and make the case that most of the discussion has not related to the actual analysis described in the paper, but rather to proxy arguments for what people think is ‘important’.


What Hansen et al have done is actually very simple. If you define a climatology (say 1951-1980, or 1931-1980), calculate the seasonal mean and standard deviation at each grid point for this period, and then normalise the departures from the mean, you will get something that looks very much like a Gaussian ‘bell-shaped’ distribution. If you then plot a histogram of the values from successive decades, you will get a sense for how much the climate of each decade departed from that of the initial baseline period….



Mann: We Must Heed James Hansen On Global Warming And Extreme Weather Since He’s Been Right For So Long

By Joe Romm and Climate Guest Blogger on Aug 9, 2012 at 12:25 pm

NASA’s James Hansen has been accurately warning about the dangers of global warming for more than three decades. In fact, 31 years ago this month, Hansen and six other NASA atmospheric physicists, published a seminal article in Science, “Climate Impact of Increasing Atmospheric Carbon Dioxide.”



**Extreme metrics — gavin @ 18 August 2012 There has been a lot of discussion related to the Hansen et al (2012, PNAS) paper and the accompanying op-ed in the Washington Post last week. But in this post, I’ll try and make the case that most of the discussion has not related to the actual analysis described in the paper, but rather to proxy arguments for what people think is ‘important’….. Using the metric that Hoerling and Mass are proposing is equivalent to assuming that all effects of extremes are linear, which is very unlikely to be true. The ‘loaded dice’/’return time’/’frequency of extremes’ metrics being used by Hansen, Pall, Rahmstorf & Coumou, Allen etc. are going to be much more useful for anyone who cares about what effects these extremes are having.




New Climate History Adds to Understanding of Recent Antarctic Peninsula Warming

August 22, 2012 — A recent study adds a new dimension to our understanding of Antarctic Peninsula climate change and the likely causes of the break-up of its ice … > full story



Massachusetts butterflies move north as climate warms (August 19, 2012) — A new study shows that, over the past 19 years, a warming climate has been reshaping Massachusetts butterfly communities. Subtropical and warm-climate species — many of which were rare or absent in Massachusetts as recently as the late 1980s — show sharp increases in abundance. At the same time, more than three quarters of northerly species — species with a range centered north of Boston — are now declining in Massachusetts, many of them rapidly. … > full story



Arctic Death Spiral Watch: (Cryosp)here Today, Gone Tomorrow

Posted: 20 Aug 2012 03:39 PM PDT

The record lows for Arctic sea ice area and volume are generally set in mid- to late September.

But as Neven’s Arctic Sea Ice Blog reports, we’re already starting to see those September minimum records being broken in mid-August….




issued by  CLIMATE PREDICTION CENTER/NCEP/NWS  and the International Research Institute for Climate and Society

9 August 2012  ENSO Alert System Status: El Niño Watch

Synopsis: El Niño conditions are likely to develop during August or September 2012.

……  Nearly all of the dynamical models favor the onset of El Niño beginning in July- September 2012 (Fig. 6). As in previous months, several statistical models predict ENSO-neutral conditions through the remainder of the year, but the average statistical forecast of Niño-3.4 increased compared to last month. Supported by model forecasts and the continued warmth across the Pacific Ocean, there is increased confidence for a weak-to-moderate El Niño during the Northern Hemisphere fall and winter 2012-13. El Niño conditions are likely to develop during August or September 2012 (see CPC/IRI consensus forecast).

FROM: NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center web site (El Niño/La Niña Current Conditions and Expert Discussions). Forecasts for the evolution of El Niño/La Niña are updated monthly in the Forecast Forum section of CPC’s Climate Diagnostics Bulletin. The next ENSO Diagnostics Discussion is scheduled for 6 September 2012. To receive an e-mail notification when the monthly ENSO Diagnostic Discussions are released, please send an e-mail message to:


Antarctic ice sheet quakes shed light on ice movement and earthquakes (August 23, 2012) — Analysis of small, repeating earthquakes in an Antarctic ice sheet may not only lead to an understanding of glacial movement, but may also shed light on stick slip earthquakes like those on the San Andreas fault or in Haiti, according to geoscientists. … > full story


From subscription required:

Climate science: Himalayan glaciers in the balance ▶
J. Graham Cogley
Climate change: Brief but warm Antarctic summer ▶
Eric J. Steig 

Recent Antarctic Peninsula warming relative to Holocene climate and ice-shelf history ▶
Robert Mulvaney, Nerilie J. Abram, Richard C. A. Hindmarsh, Carol Arrowsmith, Louise Fleet et al.
An ice-core record from the northeastern Antarctic Peninsula shows that the present warming period in the region is unusual in the context of natural climate variability over the past two thousand years, and that continued warming could cause ice-shelf instability farther south along the peninsula.


Report card shows Australia’s oceans are changing (August 16, 2012) — The 2012 Marine Climate Change in Australia Report Card shows climate change is having significant impacts on Australia’s marine ecosystems. … > full story


Extreme weather linked to global warming, Nobel prize-winning scientist says (August 20, 2012) — New scientific analysis strengthens the view that record-breaking summer heat, crop-withering drought and other extreme weather events in recent years do, indeed, result from human activity and global warming, Nobel Laureate Mario J. Molina has said. … > full story


In Southwest, Worst-Case Fire Scenario Plays Out

NPR – ‎August 24, 2012‎

As the Earth’s average temperature creeps upward, climate scientists have predicted record heat waves and droughts. That’s what we’ve seen this summer in the U.S.. The question has become, are we now seeing the real damage climate change can do?….



Past Tropical Climate Change Linked to Ocean Circulation

Aug 24, 2012

A new record of past temperature change in the tropical Atlantic Ocean’s subsurface provides clues as to why Earth’s climate is so sensitive to ocean circulation patterns, according to climate scientists at Texas A&M University. Geological oceanographer Matthew Schmidt and two of his graduate students teamed up with Ping Chang, a physical oceanographer and climate modeler, to help uncover an important climate connection between the tropics and the high latitude North Atlantic. Their new findings are in the current issue of PNAS (Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences). The researchers used geochemical clues in fossils called foraminifera, tiny sea creatures with a hard shell, collected from a sediment core located off the northern coast of Venezuela, to generate a 22,000-year record of past ocean temperature and salinity changes in the upper 1,500 feet of water in the western tropical Atlantic. They also conducted global climate model simulations under the past climate condition to interpret this new observational record in the context of changes in the strength of the global ocean conveyor-belt circulation….

“What we found was that subsurface temperatures in the western tropical Atlantic rapidly warmed during cold periods in Earth’s past,” Schmidt explains.

“Together with our new modeling experiments, we think this is evidence that when the global conveyor slowed down during cold periods in the past, warm subsurface waters that are normally trapped in the subtropical North Atlantic flowed southward and rapidly warmed the deep tropics. When the tropics warmed, it altered climate patterns around the globe.”


No-till could help maintain crop yields despite climate change (August 23, 2012) — Reducing tillage for some Central Great Plains crops could help conserve water and reduce losses caused by climate change, according to studies at the U.S. Department of Agriculture. … > full story


Ohio Farmers Work To Keep Climate Change On The Agenda: ‘The Drought Moved The Needle’

Posted: 22 Aug 2012 08:41 AM PDT

Farmers in Ohio may not be facing extreme drought conditions like their counterparts in Kansas, Nebraska, and Oklahoma, but record high temperatures and little rain still caused plenty of headaches in the state this summer. Corn yields in the state are expected to fall 29 percent this year. In some areas of the state, farmers are seeing yields up to 60 percent below last year. And some believe those losses, caused by the recent rash of usually hot, dry weather, has raised awareness of climate change among traditionally skeptical farmers in Ohio.

“I really do think that there are farmers that are being converted by the drought,” said Joe Logan, who owns a 300-acre corn, soy and livestock farm in Northeast Ohio. “I think farmers see the changes in precipitation patterns – not just this year, but over time – and make the connection. And I do think the drought moved the needle some more.” Logan, who is also director of agricultural programs at the Ohio Environmental Council, isn’t quite sure how far the needle has moved – or if it will have any political influence. Like in many other states around the country, policymakers have been silent – if not downright hostile – on the issue of climate change…..



August 14, 2012

Farmers in Drought – a teachable moment on climate?

Kristin Hyde  climate access

At a gathering of ranchers in Kansas City last weekend, every meeting and meal was opened with a prayer, including a plea for rain to end this devastating drought. Drought-caused price spikes for feed are forcing many livestock producers to slaughter their herds to a level they can afford to feed. You won’t often see a direct link in these stories to climate change, and you are even less likely to hear such a link made by the farmers and ranchers themselves.   The key is to understand farmers’ perspectives, be strategic about effective engagement and find common ground.


Public and Farmer Attitudes on Food Farming and Biofuels.pdf 16.5 MB




Australia: Can Swan River Survive Climate Change?
It’s been called Perth’s greatest natural asset, but the stunning Swan River that winds through Western Australia’s capital is under increasing pressure from deadly algal blooms caused by the state’s drying climate. The government has spent just $40 million over five years to try and save the Swan and Canning rivers while having spent nearly $440 million to transform Perth’s central riverfront in a smaller version of Sydney’s Circular Quay (a pedestrian water front area). The government has spent an additional $3.3 million over three years to establish nutrient catchments through tree planting and wetland restoration.


Helping Vulnerable People Cope with Climate Change: STOP SAYING THAT!

Posted: 17 Aug 2012 08:52 AM PDT Shaun Martin, WWF-US

Allow me to begin by saying I am all for helping vulnerable people. As in previous entries in this series, I am less concerned whether or not this phrase is technically correct and more interested in how it is interpreted… If you work for a disaster response and recovery organization, continue to use “cope.” Coping is important. At one time we will all at need assistance in managing major disruptions in our lives when they occur. However, if your aim is to ensure that we will need a lot less coping when trouble comes our way, then use words like prepare for, manage, and adapt. As for that troublesome word, “vulnerable,” if you cannot specify exactly whom it is you want to help, try leaving out “vulnerable” altogether. In many cases “empowering people to prepare for the changing climate starting with those who need the most help” might work just fine.


Flood risk ranking reveals vulnerable cities (August 21, 2012) — A new study of nine coastal cities around the world suggests that Shanghai is most vulnerable to serious flooding. European cities top the leader board for their resilience. … > full story


Temperature rise ‘slows economy in poor countries’, Friday 17 August 2012 06.55 EDT  Small increases in temperature may have reduced the industrial and agricultural production of poor countries, according to a study by US economists…Higher temperatures may also have contributed to political instability in these countries — defined as those with below-median per capita income, adjusted for the purchasing power of the country’s currency — according to the study published in the American Economic Journal: Macroeconomics last month. In contrast, rich countries have so far shown no measurable economic or political consequences resulting from temperature change. “Temperature fluctuations can have large negative impacts on poor countries,” said Benjamin Olken, an economics professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and one of the authors of the study….









Alaskans see pipeline threat from reserve proposal

ANCHORAGE, Alaska (AP) August 20, 2012— Special protections proposed for wildlife habitat in the 36,000-square mile National Petroleum Reserve-Alaska would block oil development on half the area, but Alaska officials’ immediate concern is how it would affect… more »


Must-See Video: Oil And Ice Don’t Mix — The Risks Of Drilling In Alaska’s Arctic Ocean

Posted: 20 Aug 2012 07:42 AM PDT

By Kiley Kroh and Michael Conathan

As the decision looms whether to allow Shell Oil to begin exploratory drilling in the Arctic Ocean this summer, the Center for American Progress released a new video today examining our lack of preparedness to respond to an oil spill in the remote and untested region.  Whether the Department of the Interior approves offshore drilling activity in the Arctic Ocean this year or next, the Arctic is still dangerously deficient in infrastructure and scientific knowledge. In “Oil and Ice: The Risks of Drilling in Alaska’s Arctic Ocean,” U.S. Coast Guard Captain Gregory Saniel, Chief of Response says the thought of mustering a response to a major incident like an oil spill “keeps me up at night.”




New nontoxic bird friendly oil spill dispersant  August 20, 2012

Scientists from the University of Southern Mississippi in Hattiesburg presented the prototype of a new nontoxic bird friendly oil spill dispersant at the August 20, 2012, session of the 244th National Meeting & Exposition of the American Chemical Society. The presentation was reviewed at the Eureka Alert web site. Each of the ingredients in the new oil dispersant comes from food products like peanut butter, chocolate and whipped cream. The new oil dispersant breaks up oil and prevents the deposition of oil on birds and other wet animals, plants, and surfaces. Birds that come in contact with oil that is captured by the new dispersant can easily shed the oil and dispersant colloid. This development is expected to prevent damage to birds by oil and dispersants as well as minimize the need for bird cleaning from oil spills.…..Department of the Interior and the Deepwater Horizon Unified Command estimated that the Deepwater Horizon oil spill resulted in the immediate death of 6,045 birds and estimates are that a total of more than 50,000 birds died from the event. Alabama has leased huge tracts of ocean for new oil and gas development in 2012. Another oil spill is probable. Better oil dispersants will prevent some of the environmental damage that will occur in the future.






  1. 4.     POLICY


U.S. court strikes down EPA rule on coal pollution

By Valerie Volcovici Tues Aug 21, 2012

Aug 21 (Reuters) – A U.S. appeals court on Tuesday overturned a key Obama administration rule to reduce harmful emissions from coal-burning power plants, sparking a rally in coal company shares and relief among utility firms. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit said in a 2-1 decision that the Environmental Protection Agency had exceeded its mandate with the rule, which was to limit sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxide emissions from power plants in 28 mostly Eastern states and Texas…

….The EPA’s rule was designed to reduce sulfur dioxide emissions by 73 percent and nitrogen oxide by 54 percent at coal-fired power plants from 2005 levels, improving health for over 240 million people, according to the agency. The reasoning is that unhealthy emissions from those plants, pollutants that cause acid rain and smog, cross state lines. Two of the three judges ruling on the case said the EPA had exceeded its “jurisdictional limits” in interpreting the Clean Air Act and imposed “massive emission reduction requirements” on upwind states. “By doing so, EPA departed from its consistent prior approach to implementing the good neighbor provision and violated the (Clean Air Act),” Judge Brett Kavanaugh said in the court’s opinion. The rule, known as CSAPR, also established a cap-and-trade system that enabled power producers to comply with the emission limits by buying, trading and selling pollution permits. Environmental market traders said they were “surprised and disappointed” by the ruling.

….John Walke, clean air director at the Natural Resources Defense Council, said the dissenting opinion of Judge Judith Rogers more accurately reflected the opinion of the court.

“The EPA can – and should – immediately appeal this decision. The dissenting judge correctly follows the Clean Air Act and prior rulings by this court. The majority opinion is an outlier at odds with the court’s own rulings as well as the Clean Air Act,” Walke said. Judge Rogers said the other two judges were “trampling on this court’s precedent on which the Environmental Protection Agency was entitled to rely in developing the Transport Rule rather than be blindsided by arguments raised for the first time in this court”. The appeals court had in June ruled 2-1 in favor of the EPA in a challenge to the agency’s greenhouse gas regulations.



Farm Bill Stalls During August Recess 

After substantial advancement in recent weeks, progress on the 2012 Farm Bill has ground to a halt, according to the Wildlife Management Institute. In late June, the Senate passed its version of the bill by a vote of 64 to 35. The House Agriculture Committee quickly followed suit and passed their version of the bill on July 12th. ….



Texas: Dr. Pepper Invests $1.1 Million to Save Prairies
Nearly 7,500 acres of wilderness in Texas will be protected thanks to a somewhat unexpected source: the Dr. Pepper Snapple Group (DPS). The beverage company has invested $1.1 million in The Nature Conservancy for preservation and restoration of five natural areas. The preserves are all major watersheds in Texas.



The Climate Change Limits of U.S. Natural Gas

by Michael Levi August 20, 2012  Council on Foreign Relations

The Associated Press reported last week that U.S. greenhouse gas emissions have dropped to a twenty-year low on the back of abundant natural gas. “The question,” it correctly observed, “is whether the shift is just one bright spot in a big, gloomy [climate change] picture, or a potentially larger trend.”

I’ve argued repeatedly in the past that surging supplies of natural gas are good news for climate change. But there are important limits to what U.S. natural gas can do. This post is going to illustrate those with some simple numbers.….The bottom line? Natural gas can do a lot to bend the U.S. emissions curve over the coming years. In even the medium run, though, simply moving from coal to gas is not a substitute for broader policy, at least not if the United States wants to realize the sorts of emissions cuts that both Barack Obama and John McCain talked about only four years ago. Best to think of gas as a climate opportunity – to forestall construction of long-lived and highly polluting infrastructure,  to make carbon capture and sequestration cheaper, to balance intermittent renewable sources – rather than as a solution in itself.


Report: Bird-strike data for planes skimpy

USA TODAY  August 23, 2012

The Federal Aviation Administration doesn’t keep good track of how many times planes strike birds, and its inspectors often aren’t familiar with wildlife, according to an inspector general’s report Thursday.



Sacramento levees fail federal maintenance criteria  Published Friday, Aug. 24, 2012

Levees protecting most of the city of Sacramento and 15 other areas of the Central Valley were declared on Thursday to have failed federal maintenance criteria. As a result, those levees are no longer eligible for federal money to rebuild if damaged in a storm.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers made the declaration after concluding that a new state plan to improve Central Valley levees does not provide enough detail to ensure that maintenance problems, such as erosion and intruding structures, will be fixed.

The affected areas include 40 miles of levees wrapping most of the city of Sacramento on the American and Sacramento rivers. This system of levees, known on flood-control maps as Maintenance Area 9, includes the south bank of the American River from about Bradshaw Road downstream to the confluence with the Sacramento River, then downstream from there nearly to Courtland…


US election 2012: Romney and Obama avoid the climate change elephant

Next week’s Republican convention will highlight – by its omission – how toxic climate change has become in the US.  The Republicans roll into Tampa next week – hurricanes permitting – for their national convention where Mitt Romney will be officially confirmed as the party’s candidate for president.

The build-up to the convention has been overshadowed by the highly controversial “legitimate rape” remarks made by Todd Atkin, a congressman from Missouri, and his subsequent refusal to quit his bid for re-election despite pressure from the party’s leadership.

But while the US media has largely focused on this unedifying internal battle, Mitt Romney has laid out his all-important energy plans for the country. The headline is that, if elected as president, he will make the US “energy independent” by 2020 and, by doing so, create three million jobs.


Florida: Environmental Groups Launch Amendment Drive to Protect Environmental Funds
The Florida Water and Land Legacy Campaign has launched a petition drive to put an amendment on the November 2014 ballot that would guarantee a stable source of money for environmental protection. Since 2009, legislators have cut funding for the state’s Florida Forever program by 97.5% to $23 million for land management and ecological restoration, including the Everglades.


[NY CITY]Council Wants City to Prepare for Extreme Weather of Climate Change

Thursday, August 23, 2012 12:00 AM | by Sarah Crean and Cristian Salazar NEW YORK — For Sabrina Terry, the Sunset Park neighborhood where she works is at the front line of climate change.

…..Terry and her group have been vocal about their belief that the city wasn’t preparing sufficiently for the impact that climate change would have on coastal communities already struggling with environmental problems. The City Council took steps to address those concerns yesterday, voting in favor of a bill that would enlarge the scope of a climate change panel and task force to focus on populations that are especially vulnerable to extreme weather events — such as the elderly, children and the poor. The legislation also makes the panel and task force permanent. Council Speaker Christine Quinn said the point was to make sure that the city was thinking as broadly as possible…



Programs to Reduce Carbon Emissions

August 18, 2012 Compiled: 12:46 AM  (NYT)

Two environmental organizations discuss carbon credits and fees.

More wolves need to go
The Associated Press via Missoulian
Rick Hill, Republican candidate for governor of Montana, said he wants more done to reduce the number of wolves in the state, along with making management changes at the Department of Fish, Wildlife and Parks. The former congressman said he thinks management of Fish, Wildlife and Parks is flawed and needs to be more focused on improving available wildlife opportunities for its customers, the hunters. More

Young Conservatives Discover Climate Change  Daily Beast August 20, 2012

As recently as 2010, major Republican leaders such as Lindsey Graham were comfortable proposing (although not passing) market-based solutions to climate change. That was largely swept away with the Tea Party, but the hints of a comeback are emerging.








  1. 5.   RESOURCES

NEW: Tidal Marsh Restoration- A Synthesis of Science and Practice

Tidal Marsh Restoration by Charles T. Roman and David M. Burdick is the latest title in the SER-Island Press book series The Science and Practice of Ecological Restoration. The book provides the scientific foundation and practical guidance necessary for coastal zone stewards to initiate salt marsh tidal restoration programs. Compiling a synthesizes and interpretation of the current state of knowledge on the science and practice of salt marsh restoration, Tidal Marsh Restoration is an essential work for managers, planners, regulators, environmental and engineering consultants, and others engaged in planning, designing, and implementing projects or programs aimed at restoring tidal flow to tide-restricted or diked salt marshes


Resilience Practice-Building Capacity to Absorb Disturbance and Maintain Function
In 2006, Resilience Thinking addressed an essential question: As the natural systems that sustain us are subjected to shock after shock, how much can they take and still deliver the services we need from them? Now, in Resilience Practice, authors Brian Walker and David Salt take the notion of resilience one step further, applying resilience thinking to real-world situations and exploring how systems can be managed to promote and sustain resilience. This book offers an easy-to-read but scientifically robust guide through the real-world application of the concept of resilience.


This just to remind you all that The River Otter Ecology Project is researching Bay Area river otters, and part of our project is a citizen science “Otter Spotter” program. If you see river otters in the course of your ramblings, we would appreciate it so much if you would go to our website, and click the OTTER SPOTTER icon to input your sighting, and photos/video if any. Then we update our range map, which you can see online. We’ve had over 130 sightings reported since March!


Conversation Helps Build Website for Global Climate Change Awareness
Conversation, a marketing agency located in midtown Manhattan, is helping to build a new website for the Blue Carbon Initiative, a collaborative effort between three conservation organizations (CI, IUCN, IOC-UNESCO). The Initiative is an integrated program with a comprehensive and coordinated global agenda focused on mitigating climate change through the conservation and restoration of coastal marine ecosystems. The website will serve as an informative resource to support the work of the Blue Carbon Initiative.


EcoSummit 2012-Ecological Sustainability– Sept. 30- Oct. 5

6th Annual Conference on Coastal and Estuarine Habitat Restoration– Oct. 20-24

SER2013: 5th World Conference on Ecological Restoration– Oct 6-11, 2013
SER will hold its 5th World Conference in Madison, Wisconsin, from October 6-11 ,2013.




Central Valley Project Improvement Act Habitat Restoration Program Grants- Oct 5, 2012
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and U.S. Bureau of Reclamation today announced the availability of over $2.2 million in grants to improve conditions for federally- imperiled species and their habitats impacted by the Central Valley Project (CVP). The 2012 grants continue 18 years of funding projects. This year, four categories of projects will be funded: land acquisition (fee title and conservation easement); habitat restoration; research; and captive breeding.

U.S. Forest Service Teams with Nonprofit Foundation in Wildfire Recovery Efforts

U.S. Forest Service Chief Tom Tidwell has announced a new nonprofit-operated fund allowing people across the country to support environmental restoration work in areas damaged by wildfire. The Wildfire Recovery Fund established by the National Forest Foundation will help work crews to restore and protect waterways, stabilize soils to prevent mudslides and plant new trees following wildfires.

California to Receive $11 Million in Grants for Habitat Restoration
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has announced $11 million in federal grants for California agencies for habitat restoration and other wildlife protection. The grants, funded by the Cooperative Endangered Species Conservation Fund, are among $33 million in funding awarded to 21 states.

Earth Island Institute: Supporting community-based wetland restoration initiatives
Through the Small Grants Program, Earth Island Institute has been able to support locally based restoration efforts to do just that. Small grassroots efforts to restore the coastal habitats of Southern California, which have been depleted by an astounding 98%, have been slowly working to bring our wetlands back from the brink of extinction. By supporting and empowering the new restoration leaders, we ensure our collective success in restoring some of the earth’s most fragile ecosystems.


Restoration and Education Internship, Winter 2012-13, Palomarin, Farallones, and more:  PRBO Conservation Science (PRBO)









Public wave energy test facility begins operation in Oregon (August 21, 2012) — One of the first public wave energy testing systems in the United States began operation this week off the Oregon coast near Newport, and will allow private industry or academic researchers to test new technology that may help advance this promising form of sustainable energy. … > full story

Urine based ‘potion’ can act as CO<sub>2</sub> absorbent (August 17, 2012) — Absorbing the large quantities of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases present in cities would require millions of tons of some naturally occurring substance. Urine could be the reactive agent. As a resource available across all human societies, it is produced in large quantities and is close to the pollution hubs of large cities. … > full story

Cloud brightening to control global warming? Geoengineers propose an experiment (August 20, 2012) — A scientist has proposed an experiment to test cloud brightening, a geoengineering concept that alters clouds in an effort to counter global warming. His proposed experiment is part of a larger paper detailing the latest thinking on cloud brightening. … > full story



Fuel Efficiency Driving Onshoring

Posted: 24 Aug 2012 08:39 AM PDT by Roland Hwang, via NRDC’s Switchboard

Lost in the current debate about “offshoring” is the remarkable story of the “onshoring” of fuel-efficiency manufacturing.  Thanks in large part to stronger standards, American drivers no longer have to buy foreign if they want to trade in their gas guzzler for gas sippers. Fuel-efficiency is driving sales and jobs growth in the auto industry.  And as demand grows, so does the business case to make fuel efficient cars and components in America.

Hybrid productions exemplify this trend.  With U.S. hybrid sales booming (up 63% this year), Toyota and Honda are bringing production to the U.S.  Most recently, Honda Motor Co. plans to invest $40 million and bring all global Civic Hybrid manufacturing to its Greensburg, Indiana manufacturing plant from Japan, creating 300 jobs by the end of the year.

Earlier this year, Toyota announced it would bring production of its Highlander mid-size SUV, including the Highlander Hybrid, to its Princeton, Indiana plant from its current plant in Japan.  The move to expand capacity represents an investment of $400 million and will add another 400 jobs.  Furthermore, Toyota plans to begin producing the Prius hybrid in the U.S. by 2015, bringing production inshore from Japan to a yet-to-be specified plant.


Warming-Driven Drought Pushes Crop Prices To Record Levels, As We Burn 40% Of Corn Crop In Our Engines  Posted: 23 Aug 2012 03:23 PM PDT

When will the madness stop? In a piece titled, “Nearly Half Of Corn Devoted To Fuel Production Despite Historic Drought,” Bloomberg editorialized: Record-high corn prices should be sending a clear message to policy makers in Washington: Requiring people to put corn-based fuel in their gas tanks is a bad idea…..







Lindzen, Happer, and Cohen-Climate Change Wall Street Journal Rerun

Posted on 22 August 2012 by dana1981

Readers may recall a letter published in the Wall Street Journal (WSJ) in January 2012, signed by 16 climate contrarians, which we dubbed The Latest Denialist Plea for Climate Change InactionRoger Cohen, William Happer, and Richard Lindzen (hereafter CHL) were 3 of the 16 signatories on that letter, and have published yet another in the WSJ a mere 7 months later.  As we noted at the time, neither Happer nor Cohen has a single climate science publication to his name, while Happer is a member of two fossil fuel-funded climate denialist think tanks (George C. Marshall Institute and Global Warming Policy Foundation) and Cohen is a George C. Marshall Institute ‘expert’ who has previously worked for ExxonMobil.  Richard Lindzen is of course a climate scientist, but quite possibly the most consistently wrong climate scientist on climate issues on the planet.

Suffice it to say that CHL do not have a great deal of credibility on climate science issues, which is perhaps why they continue to publish their opinions in the conservative mainstream media rather than subjecting their arguments to the scientific peer-review process.  As we saw in January, the first WSJ letter was little more than a compilation of many long-debunked climate myths, and the quality of their arguments has not improved much in their second attempt.  In fact the two letters bear some striking resemblances, for example both citing the climate opinions of Ivar Giaever, who we have previously seen has not even done the most basic climate science research.

In this post we will examine the claims made in the latest WSJ letter from CHL, with one in particular standing out above the rest.


Electrifying success in raising antioxidant levels in sweet potatoes (August 20, 2012) — Already ranked by some as number one in nutrition among vegetables, the traditional sweet potato can be nutritionally supercharged with a simple, inexpensive electric current treatment that increases its content of healthful polyphenols or antioxidants by 60 percent, scientists have said. This is believed to be the first electrical enhancement of sweet potatoes, a dietary staple since prehistoric times. … > full story

Stop grilling dinner: Specific toxic byproduct of heat-processed food leads to increased body weight and diabetes, mouse study finds (August 20, 2012) — Researchers have identified a common compound in the modern diet that could play a major role in the development of abdominal obesity, insulin resistance, and type 2 diabetes. The research team recommends that clinical guidelines be revised to eliminate foods cooked using dry heat and replace them with methods that use lower heat or lots of moisture (water) as in stewing, poaching or steaming. Examples from the AGE-less diet include stewed beef, chicken and fish instead of grilled meats. … > full story


Multiple factors, including climate change, led to collapse and depopulation of ancient Maya (August 21, 2012) — A new analysis of complex interactions between humans and the environment preceding the 9th century collapse and abandonment of the Central Maya Lowlands in the Yucatan Peninsula points to a series of events — some natural, like climate change; some human-made, including large-scale landscape alterations and shifts in trade routes — that have lessons for contemporary decision-makers and sustainability scientists. … > full story




Baby Boomers Urged to Get Hepatitis C Test

By KATE YANDELL BODY NY TIMES AUGUST 20, 2012, 3:19 PM23 Comments

The Centers for Disease Control and Preventionrecommended last week that all Americans born from 1945 through 1965 get a one-time hepatitis C test.

Baby boomers account for 75 percent of the hepatitis C cases in the United States, even though they make up only 27 percent of the total population. Officials estimated that the new recommendation would help to identify 800,000 people with the infection.

Hepatitis C is a blood-borne virus spread through shared needles, blood transfusions that took place before routine screening, and other exposures to infected blood. The virus can also be spread through sexual contact.


Mountain lion captured in downtown Reno plaza

August 24, 2012(AP) — State wildlife officials have tranquilized and removed a mountain lion that wandered into a downtown Reno entertainment plaza and hid under a stage. Reno police say guests at Harrah’s casino reported seeing the cat running in the plaza… more »



And for some exciting local news!!


Petaluma Nationals – 2012 Little League World Series blog

Petaluma wins, will play for U.S. title

Friday, August 24, 2012 at 1:46 by P360


SOUTH WILLIAMSPORT, Pa. — During the telecast of Petaluma National’s elimination game against McAllistar Park National of San Antonio, ESPN2 flashed a screen shot of Google Earth as it zoomed down on Petaluma, somewhere in all that bumpy green between the Pacific and the Central Valley.

Thirteen happy-go-lucky Little Leaguers are truly putting their city on the map.

The Petaluma all-stars tried a different approach Thursday. After a series of close, tense wins, they won going away against the Southwest representative, scoring six runs in the first inning and breezing to an 11-1 victory that was called after five innings because of the 10-run “mercy” rule…..






  1. 8.     IMAGES OF THE WEEK






















Ellie Cohen, President and CEO

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