Conservation Science News August 16, 2013

Focus of the WeekRedwoods and Climate Change; Remembering John Warriner …









We have changed our name to Point Blue Conservation Science (formerly PRBO) reflecting the expanded depth and reach of our work, building on our long-term bird ecology expertise.  Our 140 Point Blue
scientists and educators work with hundreds of partners, pointing the way forward to secure a healthy, blue planet well into the future.  We have changed our name to Point Blue
to more directly address climate change, together with other environmental threats, through nature-based solutions that benefit wildlife and people.  For more information please see From Point Reyes to Point Blue as well as our first Point Blue Quarterly.  You might also enjoy viewing our inspiring ~6 minute video introducing Point Blue that includes partner and staff highlights as well as a brief congratulatory video from Congressman Jared Huffman (CA-2).  Our new website,, is under construction through the summer. Until then, our existing website,, will remain active.




Focus of the Week– Redwoods and Climate Change; Remembering John Warriner …


By taking pencil-thin corings from 78 redwoods in California and studying tree rings, researchers have compiled a chronology going back to the year 328. They have also analyzed tree rings from giant sequoias dating to 474. Above, sunlight filters through trees in Redwood National Park in Northern California. (Brian van der Brug, Los Angeles Times)

Climate change may be speeding coast redwood, giant sequoia growth

Scientists find that since the 1970s, some California coast redwoods have grown at the fastest rate ever.

By Bettina Boxall LA TIMES August 14, 2013, 12:05 a.m.

Finally, some good news about the effects of climate change. It may have triggered a growth spurt in two of California’s iconic tree species: coast redwoods and giant sequoias. Since the 1970s, some coast redwoods have grown at the fastest rate ever, according to scientists who studied corings from trees more than 1,000 years old. “That’s a wonderful, happy surprise for us,” said Emily Burns, science director at the Save the Redwoods League, which is collaborating on a long-term study with university researchers on the effect of climate change on redwoods, the world’s tallest trees, and giant sequoias, the largest living things by total mass. “The forests are not experiencing detrimental impacts of climate change,” Burns said. Researchers doing fieldwork for the study also made a bonus discovery. They came across an ancient, shaggy tree that corings revealed to be the oldest coast redwood on record. At 2,520 years of age, the ancient tree beats the previous record-holder by 300 years. Humboldt State forestry professor Stephen Sillett, one of the researchers, said a variety of factors besides climate change could explain the increased growth rates. “We really do not know,” Sillett said. “What we can say is that … it’s not like a doom and gloom scenario by any means.” Conducted by scientists from UC Berkeley, Humboldt State and the Marine Conservation Institute, the research program was launched in 2009.



So Far, The World’s Tallest Trees Are Handling Climate Change OK — But They Aren’t Out Of The Woods Yet

Posted: 15 Aug 2013 09:12 AM PDT

Two species may be making it through climate change unscathed — at least for now.

New research has found that in spite of — or perhaps even due to — rising temperatures, coast redwoods and giant sequoias in California are growing at their fastest rates since the 1970s. The research is part of a study that’s expected to continue for at least another ten years, the initial findings of which were presented at a Berkeley symposium Wednesday. So far, by examining the tree’s ring data, the researchers have created a chronology of the redwoods’ girth expansion since the year 328 and the sequoias’ growth since 474. The redwoods, in particular, have seen large growth spurts recently, with rates up to 45 percent higher today than at any time in the last 200 years.

There are multiple explanations for why redwoods — the world’s tallest trees — and sequoias could be growing so quickly in California. The surge could be climate related — researcher Stephen Sillett told the LA Times that the trees could be responding to an extended growing season made possible by rising temperatures in the Sierra Nevada. Another researcher, Emily Burns, said the reduction in fog due to rising temperatures might mean the trees are getting more sun. But it could have nothing at all to do with climate change: Sillett said a reduction in North Coast air pollution also increased light in redwood forests, which could have upped the trees’ growth rate, and wildfire suppression in the area may have also played a role.

The scientists aren’t sure yet which of these factors contributed most to the trees’ growth. But they warn that, while the growth spurt is a promising sign, it isn’t necessarily a permanent one. If rising temperatures bring less rainfall to the California coast, the trees — especially young sequoia seedlings, which studies have shown have a hard time surviving when soil moisture drops below a certain threshold — could suffer.

“There’s a tipping point,” the research team’s lead scientist Todd Dawson told the San Jose Mercury News. “As we go into warmer and drier times, particularly with snowpacks on the decline — which means less water for giant sequoias — we’re concerned that this growth surge is probably not going to be sustainable.”

The future looks uncertain for other types of trees as well — previous studies have yielded varying results on trees’ ability to adapt to climate change. A 2011 study found more than half of tree species in the eastern U.S. were not adapting to climate change as well as models had predicted: nearly 59 percent of the species showed signs that their habitat ranges were getting smaller, contracting both from the north and south, and that only 21 percent seemed to be moving their ranges northward as temperatures warmed.

Last month, a study’s findings were a bit more hopeful: the research found trees in some parts of the world may use water more efficiently as atmospheric carbon levels rise, which could mean the trees will be able to become more drought-resilient. And a 2010 study also provided some hope for the future of forests, discovering that ancient rain forests bloomed with diversity, rather than went extinct, during the Paleocene-Eocene Thermal Maximum, an era associated with rapid warming and doubling of CO2 levels.

But other factors associated with climate change are already making survival difficult for many trees. Some face harrowing challenges — warmer winters have allowed mountain pine beetles to expand their range into higher latitudes, regions that were off limits to them in the past. The insects have killed millions of acres of trees from New Mexico to British Columbia, and have even reached as far north as Alaska. The beetles prey most heavily on old trees or those weakened by drought or wildfires — two factors that climate change is already exacerbating in many parts of the world. Wildfires have consumed more than 6.25 million acres of forest in Alaska alone — an area which, as the EPA notes, is roughly the size of Massachusetts. And hundreds of thousands of U.S. trees died during last summer’s historic drought, and scientists predict many more weakened by the drought will continue to die in in the next two to three years.

–The post So Far, The World’s Tallest Trees Are Handling Climate Change OK — But They Aren’t Out Of The Woods Yet appeared first on ThinkProgress



Very sad news—long time PRBO researcher and friend:

Posted: Friday, Aug 9th, 2013

John Sherman Warriner, 88, of Watsonville, CA and previously of Portola Valley, CA, passed away July 27. John was born and raised in Pennsylvania. He attended The Fay and St. Mark’s Schools in MA and graduated from Princeton with a degree in Geology. John served in WWII in the infantry where he earned a Bronze Star. In 1949, he married Jane (Ricky) Cunningham in South Bend, IN. After graduation, he worked in gold mines in Perron, Quebec and Grass Valley, CA. He then moved into publishing and lived with his wife in Menlo Park and Portola Valley. Eventually he became co-owner of Fearon Publishing of San Francisco until his early retirement. In 1977 they moved to the beach outside Watsonville

While living in Portola Valley, John loved playing tennis. He was member #11 at the Alpine Hills Tennis Club. He later organized tennis tournaments including several California State Tennis Championships. John was an avid birder. He was a founding board member of the Elkhorn Slough Foundation on which he served for many years. He was involved in the Snowy Plover Project at PRBO from the beginning. He was also Co-Compiler of the Moss Landing Christmas Bird Count since its inception in 1976. His love of nature, birding and traveling sent him and his wife all over the world to over 40 countries including those in: Africa, Central and South America, New Zealand and Australia. He particularly enjoyed expedition cruising.

John leaves his wife of 63 years, Jane “Ricky” two daughters, Barbara Indra and Sue Delmanowski; four grandchildren and one great-grandchild. He also leaves two nephews and nine nieces and their families. He was preceded in death by his brother, Lendall P. Warriner. In lieu of services, there will be an informal gathering of family and friends on Sunday, September 15 between 2 & 5 p.m. at the Sanderling Center (Rec hall) at Pajaro Dunes in Watsonville. Contributions can be sent to The Elkhorn Slough Foundation (P.O. Box 267, Moss Landing, CA 95039) or The Snowy Plover Project at PRBO (3820 Cypress Dr., Petaluma, CA 94954). The family would like to thank the doctors and staff of Dominican Hospital for their attentive care during John’s final weeks. John will be remembered for his intellect, love of books, quick wit and generosity.








Extinctions of large animals sever the Earth’s ‘nutrient arteries’
(August 13, 2013)A new study has demonstrated that large animals have acted as carriers of key nutrients to plants and animals over thousands of years and on continental scales.
The paper in the advance online publication of the journal
Nature Geoscience explains that vital nutrients are contained in the dung and bodies of big animals. As they eat and move more than small animals, they have a particularly important role in transporting nutrients into areas where the soil is otherwise infertile.

In the study, the researchers use a new mathematical model to calculate the effect of mass extinctions of big animals around 12,000 years ago, focusing on a case study of the Amazon forest. They estimate that extinctions back then reduced the dispersal of phosphorus in the Amazon by 98%, with far-reaching environmental consequences that remain to this day. The model also enables them to forecast the likely environmental effects of the extinction of large animals currently under threat in Africa and Asian forests….. The study finds that the effect of the mass extinction of megafauna 12,000 years ago was to switch off a nutrient pump — vital nutrients, such as phosphorus, were no longer spread around the region but became concentrated in those areas bordering the floodplains and other fertile areas. It concludes that even thousands of years after the extinctions, the Amazon basin has not yet recovered from this step change. Nutrients may continue to decline in the Amazon and other global regions for thousands of years to come, says the paper.… > full story


Christopher E. Doughty, Adam Wolf, Yadvinder Malhi. The legacy of the Pleistocene megafauna extinctions on nutrient availability in Amazonia. Nature Geoscience, 2013; DOI: 10.1038/ngeo1895



New species of carnivore looks like a cross between a house cat and a teddy bear
(August 15, 2013) — Observed in the wild, tucked away in museum collections, and even exhibited in zoos around the world — there is one mysterious creature that has been a victim of mistaken identity for more than 100 years. A team of Smithsonian scientists, however, uncovered overlooked museum specimens of this remarkable animal, which took them on a journey from museum cabinets in Chicago to cloud forests in South America to genetics labs in Washington, D.C. The result: the olinguito (Bassaricyon neblina) — the first carnivore species to be discovered in the American continents in 35 years. … > full story


Smithsonian scientists discover new species of carnivore: the olinguito

/ 15 August 2013 / 7 comments

Observed in the wild, tucked away in museum collections, and even exhibited in zoos around the world―there is one mysterious creature that has been a victim of mistaken identity for more than 100 years. A team of Smithsonian scientists, however, uncovered overlooked museum specimens of this remarkable animal, which took them on a journey from museum cabinets in Chicago to cloud forests in South America to genetics labs in Washington, D.C. The result: the olinguito (Bassaricyon neblina)―the first carnivore species to be discovered in the American continents in 35 years. The team’s discovery is published in the Aug. 15 issue of the journal ZooKeys.

A team, led by Smithsonian scientist Kristofer Helgen, spent 10 years examining hundreds of museum specimens and tracking animals in the wild in the cloud forests of Ecuador. The result―the newest species of mammal known to science, the olinguito (Bassaricyon neblina) (Photo by Mark Gurney)

The olinguito (oh-lin-GHEE-toe) looks like a cross between a house cat and a teddy bear. It is actually the latest scientifically documented member of the family Procyonidae, which it shares with raccoons, coatis, kinkajous and olingos. The 2-pound olinguito, with its large eyes and woolly orange-brown fur, is native to the cloud forests of Colombia and Ecuador, as its scientific name, “neblina” (Spanish for “fog”), hints. In addition to being the latest described member of its family, another distinction the olinguito holds is that it is the newest species in the order Carnivora―an incredibly rare discovery in the 21st century. “The discovery of the olinguito shows us that the world is not yet completely explored, its most basic secrets not yet revealed,” said Kristofer Helgen, curator of mammals at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History and leader of the team reporting the new discovery. “If new carnivores can still be found, what other surprises await us? So many of the world’s species are not yet known to science. Documenting them is the first step toward understanding the full richness and diversity of life on Earth.“…



California seafloor mapping reveals hidden treasures
(August 12, 2013) — Science and technology have peeled back a veil of water just offshore of California, revealing the hidden seafloor in unprecedented detail. … > full story



Point Blue in the news:

Lucky plover: Threatened shorebirds get help from researchers, aquarium program

By Donna Jones Posted:   08/08/2013 07:07:11 PM PDT MOSS LANDING — The three tiny western snowy plovers hopped out of the crate and onto the sand at Moss Landing State Beach mid-morning Thursday.

A few moments later, the first bird spread its wings and flapped away. The other two slightly younger birds meandered up the beach until their perfect white-and-brown camouflage merged with the sand and they were no longer visible to the naked eye.

“This is what we want, wild birds out in the wild,” said Aimee Greenebaum, assistant curator of aviculture at the Monterey Bay Aquarium. The aquarium has been working with Point Blue Conservation Science to release birds raised in captivity for the past 15 years. This was the third release of the summer, bringing the total to 11 birds.

Also: watch a report.



New Whale Spotter App:

We are excited to announce the launch of a new iPhone and iPad application (App) for use by marine biologists and boaters to help track and further protect whales off our coast.  “Whale Spotter” was developed by Conserve IO working with our marine ecologists to track whale populations in real time (available for free through Apple’s iTunes). If you have an old iPhone 4 or iPad, please consider donating it.  We will help commercial ship captains use “Whale Spotter” on these donated devices to report whale sightings and reduce possible strikes.  If you would like to help us track whales while you are on the water, let us know.  Please be in touch with Dr. Jaime Jahncke ( to follow up!   


Purple sea urchins spoiling kelp forest

LA Times ‎- August 16, 2013

Millions of sea urchins – scrawny, diseased and desperate for food – have overrun a band of the shallow seafloor, devouring kelp and crowding out most all other life at a time the giant green foliage is making a comeback elsewhere along the California coast. In an effort to remedy the situation, scientists and divers will spend the next five years culling the urchins from more than 152 acres of coastal waters degraded years ago by pollution. Once the purple, golf ball-size creatures are under control, young kelp should be able to take hold on the rocky seafloor and grow into the undulating canopies that sustain hundreds of species of marine life. “Trillions of kelp spores are out there, falling on the seafloor,” said Tom Ford, director of marine programs for the Santa Monica Bay Restoration Foundation, the nonprofit leading the project in conjunction with environmental groups, aquariums, fishermen and research institutions. “They just can’t get established because they’re getting mowed down.”….


Huge owls need huge trees
(August 15, 2013) — The world’s largest owl – and one of the rarest – is also a key indicator of the health of some of old-growth Russian forests. … > full story


Shortening tails gave early birds a leg up



Phys.Org  – ‎Aug 13 2013‎

A radical shortening of their bony tails over 100 million years ago enabled the earliest birds to develop versatile legs that gave them an evolutionary edge, a new study shows.

A team led by Oxford University scientists examined fossils of the earliest birds from the Cretaceous Period, 145-66 million years ago, when early birds, such as Confuciusornis, Eoenantiornis, and Hongshanornis, lived alongside their dinosaur kin. At this point birds had already evolved powered flight, necessitating changes to their forelimbs, and the team investigated how this new lifestyle related to changes in their hind limbs (legs).

The team made detailed measurements of early bird fossils from all over the world including China, North America, and South America. An analysis of this data showed that the loss of their long bony tails, which occurred after flight had evolved, led to an explosion of diversity in the hind limbs of early birds, prefiguring the amazing variety of talons, stilts, and other specialised hind limbs that have helped to make modern birds so successful.

A report of the research is published this week in Proceedings of the Royal Society B……


More information: Rates of dinosaur limb evolution provide evidence for exceptional radiation in Mesozoic birds,

Science | Eric Wagner
The Tiniest Tsunami Refugees
Thursday, August 15, 2013, at 12:02 PM EDT
They came from Japan, clinging to wreckage. They made it to the U.S., only to be destroyed. They are crabs, sea stars, and kelp.


Bright birds make good mothers

Phys.Org  – ‎Aug 13 2013 ‎

Unlike humans, birds can see ultra-violet (UV) light. While the crown of a blue tit looks just blue to us, to another bird it has the added dimension of appearing UV-reflectant. The three-year study of blue tits, which also involved researchers from ..



Tahiti: A very hot biodiversity hot spot in the Pacific
(August 9, 2013) — Picturesque Tahiti may be the hottest spot for evolution on the planet. A recent biological survey of tiny predatory beetles has found that over 100 closely related species evolved on the island in about 1.5 million years. Given Tahiti’s small area, slightly more than 1000 square kilometers, this adaptive radiation is the geographically densest species assemblage in the world. … > full story


Dolphins display memory better than elephants, study finds

Fox News  – ‎aug 6 2013‎

Forget elephants. Dolphins can swim circles around them when it comes to long-term memory. Scientists in a new study repeatedly found that dolphins can remember the distinctive whistle — which acts as a name to the marine mammal — of another dolphin …







Young or old, song sparrows experience climate change differently from each other
(August 12, 2013) — What’s good for adults is not always best for the young, and vice versa. At least that is the case with song sparrows and how they experience the effects of climate change, according to recent studies.
Both studies show the importance of considering the various stages and ages of individuals in a species — from babies to juveniles to adults — to best predict not only how climate change could affect a species as a whole, but also why. “To learn how climate change is expected to affect an individual population, you have to look at demography,” said lead author Kristen Dybala, a postdoctoral scholar in the UC Davis Department of Wildlife, Fish and Conservation Biology. “If you don’t break it down by these different stages, you get a different understanding that may be misleading, or worse, that’s just wrong.”… Both studies were conducted at Point Blue’s Palomarin Field Station in the Point Reyes National Seashore in California. While song sparrows are found throughout North America, the local population is nonmigratory, and Point Blue (formerly PRBO Conservation Science) biologists have collected survivorship data on them for 34 years. Dybala combined that information with weather data collected at the field station to see how different weather factors influenced survival rates over the years. The scientists said that efforts to understand or project demographic responses to climate change could be used to inform climate change adaptation plans, help prioritize future research, identify where limited conservation resources could be best spent and help soften the impacts of climate change for individual species…..full story

Kristen E. Dybala, John M. Eadie, Thomas Gardali, Nathaniel E. Seavy, Mark P. Herzog. Projecting demographic responses to climate change: adult and juvenile survival respond differently to direct and indirect effects of weather in a passerine population. Global Change Biology, 2013; 19 (9): 2688 DOI: 10.1111/gcb.12228


How 9 Well-Known Critters are Weathering a Changing Climate

By Katie Fleeman DISCOVER

Our changing climate presages a world with less coffee, more cases of tropical disease, and more adorable Adélie penguins—but the science of which species will win and which will lose is a work in progress…. [references Point Blue’s Grant Ballard’s recent work:]

Receding glaciers and increased breeding habitat have led to population increases for Adélie penguins, left, in the South Antarctic sea, according to New Zealand researchers. However these same increased open-water conditions translate to a loss of breeding ground for emperor penguins, right.

LaRue MA, Ainley DG, Swanson M, Dugger KM, Lyver PO, Barton, G Ballard (2013) Climate Change Winners: Receding Ice Fields Facilitate Colony Expansion and Altered Dynamics in an Adélie Penguin Metapopulation. PLoS ONE 8(4): e60568. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0060568



Soil biodiversity will be crucial to future land management and response to climate change
(August 12, 2013) — Maintaining healthy soil biodiversity can play an important role in optimizing land management programs to reap benefits from the living soil. The findings extend the understanding
about the factors that regulate soil biodiversity.
The team says more research on soil food webs — the community of organisms living all or part of their lives in the soil — and their response to land use and climate change could also improve predictions of climate change impacts on ecosystems….Soils contain a vast diversity of organisms which are crucially important for humans. These organisms help capture carbon dioxide (CO2) which is crucial for helping to reduce global warming and climate change. “This research highlights the importance of soil organisms and demonstrates that there is a whole world beneath our feet, inhabited by small creatures that we can’t even see most of the time. By liberating nitrogen for plant growth and locking up carbon in the soil they play an important role in supporting life on Earth.” “We hope that this research will in the longer term will help us to devise ways for farmers, landowners and conservation agencies to optimise the way they manage land to reap benefits from the living soil and reduce carbon emissions.” … > full story


Franciska T. de Vries, Elisa Thébault, Mira Liiri, Klaus Birkhofer, Maria A. Tsiafouli, Lisa Bjørnlund, Helene Bracht Jørgensen, Mark Vincent Brady, Søren Christensen, Peter C. de Ruiter, Tina d’Hertefeldt, Jan Frouz, Katarina Hedlund, Lia Hemerik, W. H. Gera Hol, Stefan Hotes, Simon R. Mortimer, Heikki Setälä, Stefanos P. Sgardelis, Karoline Uteseny, Wim H. van der Putten, Volkmar Wolters, and Richard D. Bardgett. Soil food web properties explain ecosystem services across European land use systems. PNAS, August 12, 2013 DOI: 10.1073/pnas.1305198110


Heat waves to become much more frequent and severe
(August 15, 2013)
Climate change is set to trigger more frequent and severe heat waves in the next 30 years regardless of the amount of carbon dioxide we emit into the atmosphere, a new study has shown.

Extreme heat waves such as those that hit the US in 2012 and Australia in 2009 — dubbed three-sigma events by the researchers — are projected to cover double the amount of global land by 2020 and quadruple by 2040. Meanwhile, more-severe summer heat waves — classified as five-sigma events — will go from being essentially absent in the present day to covering around three per cent of the global land surface by 2040. The new study, which has been published on 15 August, in IOP Publishing’s journal Environmental Research Letters, finds that in the first half of the 21st century, these projections will occur regardless of the amount of CO2 emitted into the atmosphere. After then, the rise in frequency of extreme heat waves becomes dependent on the emission scenario adopted. …Lead author of the study, Dim Coumou, from the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research, said: “We find that up until 2040, the frequency of monthly heat extremes will increase several fold, independent of the emission scenario we choose to take. Mitigation can, however, strongly reduce the number of extremes in the second half of the 21st century.”According to the research, tropical regions will see the strongest increase in heat extremes, exceeding the threshold that is defined by the historic variability in the specific region. The results show that these changes can already be seen when analysing observations between 2000 and 2012. “Heat extremes can be very damaging to society and ecosystems, often causing heat-related deaths, forest fires or losses to agricultural production. So an increase in frequency is likely to pose serious challenges to society and some regions will have to adapt to more frequent and more severe heat waves already in the near-term,” continued Coumou.full story


Dim Coumou, Alexander Robinson. Historic and future increase in the global land area affected by monthly heat extremes. Environmental Research Letters, 2013; 8 (3): 034018 DOI: 10.1088/1748-9326/8/3/034018


Climate change threatens crunchy, tart apples

Warmer temperatures mean varieties such as Fuji are softer and sweeter than 40 years ago.

Heidi Ledford 15 August 2013

Those who remember how Fuji apples tasted four decades ago may find that the current fruits have become sweeter and softer as climate has changed.

Those who find satisfaction in the crunch of a hard apple have reason to be worried about climate change: a 40-year study of Japanese apple orchards has found that global warming is producing softer — but sweeter — apples.

The work, published today in Scientific Reports1, joins a growing body of research that describes how changes in climate are affecting iconic foods. The findings mean that Japan’s beloved Fuji apples join the ranks of other plants that are likely to have their harvests altered by warming temperatures, such as wine grapes and the sugar maple trees used to make maple syrup….


Warming climate pushes plants up the mountain
(August 14, 2013) — In a rare
opportunity to directly compare plant communities in the same area now with a survey taken 50 years ago, biologists have provided the first on-the-ground evidence that Southwestern plants are being pushed to higher elevations by an increasingly warmer and drier climate.
In a rare opportunity to directly compare today’s plant communities with a survey taken in the same area 50 years ago, a University of Arizona-led research team has provided the first on-the-ground evidence that Southwestern plants are being pushed to higher elevations by an increasingly warmer and drier climate. The findings confirm that previous hypotheses are correct in their prediction that mountain communities in the Southwest will be strongly impacted by an increasingly warmer and drier climate, and that the area is already experiencing rapid vegetation change. In a rare opportunity to obtain a “before — after” look, researchers studied current plant communities along the same transect already surveyed in 1963: the Catalina Highway, a road that winds all the way from low-lying desert to the top of Mount Lemmon, the tallest peak in the Santa Catalina Mountains northeast of Tucson…. … > full story

Richard C. Brusca, John F. Wiens, Wallace M. Meyer, Jeff Eble, Kim Franklin, Jonathan T. Overpeck, Wendy Moore. Dramatic response to climate change in the Southwest: Robert Whittaker’s 1963 Arizona Mountain plant transect revisited. Ecology and Evolution, 2013; DOI: 10.1002/ece3.720


Effects of climate change in California are ‘significant and growing’

Los Angeles Times

August 11, 2013

Written by

Tony Barboza

California is feeling the effects of climate change far and wide, as heat-trapping greenhouse gases reduce spring runoff from the Sierra Nevada, make the waters of Monterey Bay more acidic and shorten winter chill periods required to grow fruit and nuts in the Central Valley, a new report says.

Though past studies have offered grim projections of a warming planet, the report released Thursday by the California Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment took an inventory of three dozen shifts that are already happening. “The nature of these changes is that they’re occurring gradually, but the impacts are significant and growing,” said Sam Delson, a spokesman for the health hazard assessment office, a branch of the California Environmental Protection Agency. Among the effects detailed in the report: The number of acres burned by wildfires in California has been increasing since 1950, with the three worst fire seasons occurring in the last decade. Sea surface temperatures at La Jolla have risen by about 1.8 degrees Fahrenheit over the last century, twice as much as the global average. Glaciers in the Sierra Nevada are shrinking, and water in lakes, including Lake Tahoe and Mono Lake, has warmed over the last few decades. The changes associated with global warming can be irregular. Sea level rise in California, for instance, has bucked the global pattern and leveled off over the last two decades, the report notes. But the overall trend is overwhelming, scientists say.

“These environmental indicators are leaning very dominantly in a single direction that is consistent with the early phases of climate change,” said Dan Cayan, a climate scientist at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography and the U.S. Geological Survey who contributed to the report. “It’s not something that’s 100 years away; it’s already starting to play out.” The report also describes some of the ways plants and animals appear to be responding to a warming climate. Butterflies in the Central Valley are emerging earlier in the spring, and Sierra Nevada conifer trees have retreated upslope over the last 60 years, the report says. About half of the small mammals in Yosemite National Park have moved to higher elevations compared with decades ago….



Indicators of Climate Change in CA California Environmental Protection Agency with contributions from Point Blue

We are pleased to inform you that the above report has been released.  The full report, its summary, and a press release  can be viewed at:



NASA, via Reuters The fast-retreating Sheldon Glacier in Antarctica. A collapse of a polar ice sheet could result in a jump in sea level.

By Degrees

Timing a Rise in Sea Level

By JUSTIN GILLIS August 13, 2013

Thirty-five years ago, a scientist named John H. Mercer issued a warning. By then it was already becoming clear that human emissions would warm the earth, and Dr. Mercer had begun thinking deeply about the consequencesAlong with how high oceans may swell, researchers are also trying to determine how fast. His paper, in the journal Nature, was titled “West Antarctic Ice Sheet and CO2 Greenhouse Effect: A Threat of Disaster.” In it, Dr. Mercer pointed out the unusual topography of the ice sheet sitting over the western part of Antarctica. Much of it is below sea level, in a sort of bowl, and he said that a climatic warming could cause the whole thing to degrade rapidly on a geologic time scale, leading to a possible rise in sea level of 16 feet. While it is clear by now that we are in the early stages of what is likely to be a substantial rise in sea level, we still do not know if Dr. Mercer was right about a dangerous instability that could cause that rise to happen rapidly, in geologic time. We may be getting closer to figuring that out. …Dr. O’Leary’s group found what they consider to be compelling evidence that near the end of the Eemian, sea level jumped by another 17 feet or so, to settle at close to 30 feet above the modern level, before beginning to fall as the ice age set in. In an interview, Dr. O’Leary told me he was confident that the 17-foot jump happened in less than a thousand years — how much less, he cannot be sure. …If you are the mayor of Miami or of a beach town in New Jersey, you may be asking yourself: Exactly how long is all this going to take to play out? On that crucial point, alas, our science is still nearly blind. Scientists can look at the rocks and see indisputable evidence of jumps in sea level, and they can associate those with relatively modest increases in global temperature. But the nature of the evidence is such that it is hard to tell the difference between something that happened in a thousand years and something that happened in a hundred. On the human time scale, of course, that is all the difference in the world. If sea level is going to rise by, say, 30 feet over several thousand years, that is quite a lot of time to adjust — to pull back from the beaches, to reinforce major cities, and to develop technologies to help us cope. But if sea level is capable of rising several feet per century, as Dr. O’Leary’s paper would seem to imply and as many other scientists believe, then babies being born now could live to see the early stages of a global calamity.



How will crops fare under climate change? Depends on how you ask
(August 14, 2013) — The damage scientists expect climate change to do to crop yields can differ greatly depending on which type of model was used to make those projections, according to new research. …
The report in the journal
Global Change Biology is one of the first to compare the agricultural projections generated by empirical models — which rely largely on field observations — to those by mechanistic models, which draw on an understanding of how crop growth and development are affected by the environment. Building on similar studies from ecology, the researchers found yet more evidence that empirical models may show greater losses as a result of climate change, while mechanistic models may be overly optimistic.full story


Lyndon D. Estes, Hein Beukes, Bethany A. Bradley, Stephanie R. Debats, Michael Oppenheimer, Alex C. Ruane, Roland Schulze, Mark Tadross. Projected climate impacts to South African maize and wheat production in 2055: A comparison of empirical and mechanistic modeling approaches. Global Change Biology, 2013; DOI: 10.1111/gcb.12325



Report highlights climate change threats to nation’s estuaries

NOAA  – Aug 7 2013

The nation’s 28 National Estuarine Research Reserves (NERR) are experiencing the negative effects of human and climate-related stressors according to a new NOAA research report from the National Ocean Service.


How Two Reservoirs Have Become Billboards For What Climate Change Is Doing To The American West

By Tom Kenworthy, Guest Blogger on August 12, 2013 at 8:11 am

Lake Mead’s “bathtub ring” at the top of the white band shows how high the water used to be. CREDIT: (Credit: AP)

This week, to see how climate change will pull a nasty water surprise on the desert Southwest, you only need to look at one river.

Lake Powell is the giant reservoir on the Utah-Arizona border that backs up behind Glen Canyon Dam and is the linchpin for managing the Colorado River. The Colorado basically makes modern life possible in seven western states by providing water for some 40 million people and irrigating 4 million acres of crops. It is also depended upon by 22 native American tribes, 7 national wildlife refuges and 11 national parks. As soon as Monday, the federal government’s Bureau of Reclamation will announce the results of some very serious number crunching and model running focused on falling water levels in Lake Powell. It is widely expected that the bureau will announce that there is a serious water shortage and that for the first time in the 50-year-history of the dam, the amount of water that will be released from the reservoir will be cut. Not just cut, but cut by 750,000 acre feet — an acre foot being enough water to cover an acre one foot deep. That’s more than 9 percent below the 8.23 million acre feet that is supposed to be delivered downstream to Lake Mead for use in the states of California, Nevada and Arizona and the country of Mexico under the 81-year old Colorado River Compact and later agreements….


Extreme weather events fuel climate change
(August 14, 2013) — In 2003, Central and Southern Europe sweltered in a heatwave that set alarm bells ringing for researchers. It was one of the first large-scale extreme weather events which scientists were able to use to document in detail how heat and drought affected the carbon cycle (the exchange of carbon dioxide between the terrestrial ecosystems and the atmosphere). Measurements indicated that the extreme weather events had a much greater impact on the carbon balance than had previously been assumed. It is possible that droughts, heat waves and storms weaken the buffer effect exerted by terrestrial ecosystems on the climate system. In the past 50 years, plants and the soil have absorbed up to 30% of the carbon dioxide that humans have set free, primarily from fossil fuels. … > full story


Greenland ice is melting — even from below: Heat flow from the mantle contributes to the ice melt
(August 11, 2013) — The Greenland ice sheet is melting from below, caused by a high heat flow from the mantle into the lithosphere. This influence is very variable spatially and has its origin in an exceptionally thin lithosphere. Consequently, there is an increased heat flow from the mantle and a complex interplay between this geothermal heating and the Greenland ice sheet. New research finds that this effect cannot be neglected when modeling the ice sheet as part of a climate study. … > full story


Baby corals pass the acid test
(August 13, 2013) — Corals can survive the early stages of their development even under the tough conditions that rising carbon emissions will impose on them says a new study. Globally, ocean acidification remains a major concern and scientists say it could have severe consequences for the health of adult corals, however, the evidence for negative effects on the early life stages of corals is less clear cut. … > full story


Climate benefit for cutting soot, methane smaller than previous estimates
(August 12, 2013) — Cutting the amount of short-lived, climate-warming emissions such as soot and methane in our skies won’t limit global warming as much as previous studies have suggested, a new study shows. … > full story


Seasonal carbon dioxide range expanding as more is added to Earth’s atmosphere
(August 12, 2013) — Levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere rise and fall each year as plants, through photosynthesis and respiration, take up the gas in spring and summer, and release it in fall and winter. Now the range of that cycle is expanding as more carbon dioxide is emitted from burning fossil fuels and other human activities. … > full story


Caribbean policymakers get climate adaptation tool

Reuters AlertNet  – ‎Aug 14, 2013‎

The Caribbean Climate Online Risk and Adaptation TooL (CCORAL), unveiled last month (12 July) in Saint Lucía, allows users to identify whether their activity is likely to be influenced by climate change and how to deal with this. It helps project .


Novel worm community affects methane release in ocean
(August 12, 2013) — Scientists have discovered a super-charged methane seep in the ocean off New Zealand that has created its own unique food web, resulting in much more methane escaping from the ocean floor into the water column. It will not make it into the atmosphere, where it could exacerbate global warming. However, the discovery does highlight scientists’ limited understanding of the global methane cycle — and specifically the biological interactions that create the stability of the ocean system. … > full story

Ozone hole might slightly warm planet, computer model suggests
(August 8, 2013) — A lot of people mix up the ozone hole and global warming, believing the hole is a major cause of the world’s increasing average temperature. Scientists, on the other hand, have long attributed a small cooling effect to the ozone shortage in the hole. Now a new computer-modeling study suggests that the ozone hole might actually have a slight warming influence, but because of its effect on winds, not temperatures. The new research suggests that shifting wind patterns caused by the ozone hole push clouds farther toward the South Pole, reducing the amount of radiation the clouds reflect and possibly causing a bit of warming rather than cooling. … > full story







Can China clean up fast enough?

The Economist  – ‎Aug 10, 2013‎

The place is vulnerable to climate change: in absolute terms, more people live at sea level in China, and so are threatened by rising oceans, than in any other country.


Two Mexican Towns Try To Save Fishing — By Banning Fishing



By Andrew Breiner on August 15, 2013

The 21st century hasn’t been kind to fish. While overfishing was largely halted in U.S. waters thanks to a 2006 fishery law, we’re a long way from repopulating already-depleted species, and most nations don’t have legally-mandated fishery management.


Enviros not happy with Calif. carbon offsets

Updated 3:28 pm, Sunday, August 11, 2013

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — A component of California’s landmark offensive against greenhouse gas emissions is not sitting well with some environmental groups.

Under the measure, companies would be able to meet the state’s strict greenhouse gas restrictions in part by purchasing offsets, or credits that are generated when others achieve carbon emission reductions.

Those others could be a tree planter on California’s North Coast or an Arkansas company that destroys gaseous coolants from old refrigerators, the Sacramento Bee reported (

Some environmental groups are critical of offsets, saying they allow companies to get credit for greenhouse gas cuts that would have occurred anyway instead of cutting their own emissions further.

“What we actually need is straightforward, meaningful reductions in emissions,” said Mark Reynolds of Citizens Climate Lobby, one of two groups that sued the state last year to prevent the use of offsets. The case was dismissed in January, the Bee reported.


San Anselmo dilemma: closing a popular park to create a floodplain

Peter Fimrite San Francisco Chronicle August 8, 2013

An innovative plan to turn a popular park in San Anselmo into a flood control basin has generated a torrent of opposition from neighbors, who say the $17.4 million project to help prevent catastrophic flooding in Marin County’s Ross Valley… more »


An Entire New Jersey Town Considers Elevating Itself To Escape Future Storms



By Jeff Spross on August 10, 2013

In the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, Highlands, New Jersey is considering dropping hundreds of millions to lift itself ten or more feet out of the path of future storms.


Judge halts Klamath River flows, for now; order on salmon releases in effect through Friday

Times-Standard ‎- Aug 14 2013

A U.S. District Court judge in Fresno halted water releases meant to prevent a fish kill on the lower Klamath River on Tuesday, granting a temporary restraining order sought by farmers in the San Joaquin Valley who filed a lawsuit against the federal government last week.

Judge Lawrence J. O’Neill noted that the runs were meant to stave off a potential “serious fish die off,” but said holding off for a few days wouldn’t change the outcome of the releases.


An accurately informed public is necessary for climate policy

Posted on 29 July 2013 by dana1981

Last week, the University of Nottingham Making Science Public blog published a guest post by Ben Pile, What’s behind the battle of received wisdoms?, which focused on Andrew Neil’s interview with Ed Davey on BBC Sunday Politics and my articles
at The Guardian discussing the scientific errors Neil made on the show and in a subsequent BBC blog post.  This is a re-post of my guest post response.

Response to Professor Hulme’s Comments

Before addressing this post, I would like to respond to some comments made by Professor Mike Hulme regarding a paper I co-authored, Quantifying the consensus on anthropogenic global warming in the scientific literature, which was one of the topics discussed on Sunday Politics and in Pile’s post.  Professor Hulme said, “It seems to me that these people are still living (or wishing to live) in the pre-2009 world of climate change discourse. Haven’t they noticed that public understanding of the climate issue has moved on?”

With all due respect to Professor Hulme, his perception of the public understanding of climate science is not reflected in the polling data.  In fact, we discussed this in our paper (which is open access and free to download),

“…the perception of the US public is that the scientific community still disagrees over the fundamental cause of GW. From 1997 to 2007, public opinion polls have indicated around 60% of the US public believes there is significant disagreement among scientists about whether GW was happening (Nisbet and Myers 2007). Similarly, 57% of the US public either disagreed or were unaware that scientists agree that the earth is very likely warming due to human activity (Pew 2012).”



Media Slammed For ‘Surprisingly Limited Analysis’ Of Major Report On Climate Change’s ‘New Normal’

By Joe Romm on August 13, 2013 at 5:28 pm
The Columbia Journalism Review has criticized the NY Times and other major media outlets for inadequate coverage of NOAA’s annual State of the Climate report. In its critique, CJR points out “Considering the importance of the information, the mainstream press provided surprisingly limited analysis.”

The report is a “a hefty, 258-page document” that is “used to set and influence domestic climate policy and distributes statistics that form the baseline for discussions of climate change.” Acting NOAA Administrator Kathryn Sullivan said of the report:…


India Calls Dolphins ‘Non-Human Persons’, Bans In-Captivity Shows



Source: Epoch Times of India May 24 2013
India’s Ministry of Environment and Forests, has banned public entertainment shows by captive dolphins calling it morally unacceptable. “Cetaceans in general are highly intelligent and sensitive, and various scientists who have researched dolphin behavior have suggested that the unusually high intelligence compared to other animals means that dolphins should be seen as ‘non-human persons’ and as such should have their own specific rights and it is morally unacceptable to keep them captive for entertainment purposes.”








August 15-17
ScienceOnline Climate Conference  Explores the intersection of climate science, communication and the web.

August 29, 11:30a.m.-12:30p.m. (Pacific Time)
Pikas in the Columbia River Gorge FWS/C3 Webinar
WebEx link 
Call in: 877 952-8012  Access code: 274207


Call for Abstracts

September 5-6, Fourth Annual Pacific Northwest Climate Science Conference: Reminder– All abstracts must be submitted by July 12.  Registration and lodging information will be available soon. For more details or to submit an abstract, please go to:







Simulating flow from volcanoes and oil spills
(August 12, 2013) — Some time around 37,000 BCE a massive volcano erupted in the Campanian region of Italy, blanketing much of Europe with ash, stunting plant growth and possibly dooming the Neanderthals. While our prehistoric relatives had no way to know the ash cloud was coming, a recent study provides a new tool that may have predicted what path volcanic debris would take. … > full story


Plastic solar cells’ new design promises bright future
(August 14, 2013) — Harvesting energy directly from sunlight to generate electricity using photovoltaic technologies is a very promising method for producing electricity in an environmentally benign fashion. Polymer solar cells offer unique attractions, but the challenge has been improving their power-conversion efficiency. Now a research team reports the design and synthesis of new polymer semiconductors and reports polymer solar cells with fill factors of 80 percent — a first. This number is close to that of silicon solar cells. … > full story


New Energy Star Rules Raise The Question Of How To Make Energy Efficiency Accessible To All



By Joanna M. Foster on August 13, 2013

EPA’s popular Energy Star program wrestles with the balance between efficiency and affordability….






Scientists have a moral obligation to take action on climate change

The Guardian  – ‎Aug 15, 2013‎

Calling on all scientists to refrain from public advocacy and leadership is wrong. We are in a global crisis, and the scientific fraternity has an ethical obligation to act


Climate change may have caused demise of Late Bronze Age civilizations

Los Angeles Times August 15, 2013

Archaeologists have debated for decades over what caused the once-flourishing civilizations along the eastern Mediterranean coast to collapse about 1300 BC.


Dot Earth

Is the Internet Good for the Climate?


An exploration of the role of the Web in fostering, or impeding, public engagement on global warming.


It’s all about the birds in Israel

Israel is building more birding centers, a new conservation center, and an urban wetland in the heart of Tel Aviv to protect birds, and attract international bird-watchers.

By Viva Sarah Press July 23, 2013,  No Comments

The planned new building for the International Center for the Study of Bird Migration in Latrun.

Birding in Israel is serious business. With more than one billion feathered friends flying over Israel during spring and autumn, and an amazing variety of resident bird species, the country is one of the world’s best places for bird-watching all year long. “Israel sits on the junction of three continents,” Prof. Yossi Leshem, director of Israel’s International Center for the Study of Bird Migration (ICSBM), tells ISRAEL21c. “Politically, it’s a disaster, but for bird migration, it’s heaven. We have a huge bird bottleneck — it’s a superhighway.” A new report indicating that the international bird-watching community comprises some 100 million people has prompted private and governmental Israeli organizations to put more resources into birding tourism…..


Shining stem cells reveals how our skin is maintained
(August 15, 2013) — All organs in our body rely on stem cells in order to maintain their function. The skin is our largest organ and forms a shield against the environment. New research challenge current stem cell models and explains how the skin is maintained throughout life. … > full story


Kansas and Al Qaeda

By THOMAS L. FRIEDMAN NY Times Op-Ed Published: August 10, 2013 148 Comments

SALINA, Kan. — I’VE spent the last few months filming a Showtime documentary about how climate and environmental stresses helped trigger the Arab awakening. ….Our film crew came to look at the connection between the drought in Kansas and the rise in global food prices that helped to fuel the Arab uprisings. But I stumbled upon another powerful environmental insight here: the parallel between how fossil fuels are being used to power monoculture farms in the Middle West and how fossil fuels are being used to power wars to create monoculture societies in the Middle East. And why both are really unhealthy for their commons. …. “We have to stop treating soil like dirt,” he says. Jackson knows this has to be economically viable. That’s why his goal is to prove that species of wheat and other grains that scientists at The Land Institute are developing can be grown as perennials with deep roots — so you would not need to regularly till the soil or plant seeds. The way to do that, he believes, is by growing mixtures of those perennial grains, which will mimic the prairie and naturally provide the nutrients and pesticides. The need for fossil-fuel-powered tractors and fertilizers would be much reduced, with the sun’s energy making up the difference. That would be so much better for the soil and the climate, since most soil carbon would not be released. ….


Exploratorium cuts 18% of staff

August 16 2013 S.F. museum’s attendance in the four months since it opened at its new location reached only half of what had been anticipated, directors say.


More than 28 cups of coffee a week may endanger health in under 55s
(August 15, 2013) — Drinking large amounts of coffee may be bad for under 55 year olds. A study of more than 40,000 individuals found a statistically significant 21 percent increased mortality in those drinking more than 28 cups of coffee a week and death from all causes, with a greater than 50 percent increased mortality risk in both men and women younger than 55 years of age. Investigators warn that younger people in particular may need to avoid heavy coffee consumption. … > full story


CIA: The mysterious Area 51 exists!

USA TODAY  – ‎August 16 2013‎

New document shows the CIA is becoming less secretive about Area 51’s existence. area 51. A car moves along the Extraterrestrial Highway near Rachel, Nev.


Simplify Your Tech Life,Thoreau-Style



Wall Street Journal ‎- Aug 10 2013

When Henry David Thoreau began his grand experiment, in 1845,
Michael Hsu has tips to tweaking your lifestyle to encourage a more 







Orca in the Gulf of the Farallones, Jaime Jahncke, Point Blue/GOF NMS, NOAA, August 2013







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