Conservation Science News October 18, 2013

Focus of the WeekGeoengineering: IPCC and Perspectives









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Focus of the Week– Geoengineering: IPCC and Perspectives



Latest IPCC Climate Report Puts Geoengineering in the Spotlight

A statement by the U.N.-convened group suggests that tinkering with the atmosphere could be necessary to meet climate goals

By Daniel Cressey and Nature magazine October 2, 2013

Attempts to counter global warming by modifying Earth’s atmosphere have been thrust into the spotlight following last week’s report from the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). Mention of ‘geoengineering’ in the report summary was brief, but it suggests that the controversial area is now firmly on the scientific agenda. Some climate models suggest that geoengineering may even be necessary to keep global temperature rises to below 2 °C above pre-industrial levels. Most geoengineering technologies generally either reflect sunlight — through artificial ‘clouds’ of stratospheric aerosols, for example — or reduce the amount of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. The latter approach, described as ‘negative emissions’, involves capturing carbon dioxide with strategies that range from building towers to collect it from the atmosphere to grinding up rocks to react with CO2 and take it out of circulation. Critics say that the technologies are unproven, will have unforeseen impacts and could distract from attempts to limit emissions of greenhouse gases. But advocates point to language in the summary for policy-makers produced by the IPCC working group that assessed the scientific evidence for climate change as evidence that reducing emissions will not be enough. The document notes that a “large fraction” of anthropogenic climate change is irreversible except with a “large net removal of CO2 from the atmosphere over a sustained period”. Under some climate models, keeping temperature rise below 2 °C will require negative emissions. The summary reads: “Methods that aim to deliberately alter the climate system to counter climate change, termed geoengineering, have been proposed. Limited evidence precludes a comprehensive quantitative assessment of both Solar Radiation Management (SRM) and Carbon Dioxide Removal (CDR) and their impact on the climate system.” Piers Forster, a climate-change researcher at the University of Leeds, UK, and one of the authors of the summary, says: “The policy relevance of the information is that if you do not start mitigating [ie reducing emissions] tomorrow we will have to start to consider these unattractive options.”…






Why has geoengineering been legitimised by the IPCC?

27 Sep 2013: Jack Stilgoe

… publication of the IPCC’s summary for policymakers tells a familiar and gloomy story of the science of climate change. The big surprise comes in the final paragraph, with a mention of geoengineering. In the scientific world, a final paragraph is often the place to put caveats and suggestions for further research. In the political world, a final paragraph is a coda, a big finish, the place for a triumphant, standing-ovation-inducing summary. The IPCC tries to straddle both worlds. The addition of the word “geoengineering” to the most important report on climate change for six years counts as a big surprise. There are many reasons to be worried about geoengineering. The idea is old. Countless inventions have been proposed as a technological fix to climate change, but scientists have only recently taken it seriously. Their previous reticence was largely due to a concern that talking about easy solutions would wobble the consensus on the need for a cut in emissions that had been painstakingly built over decades. Geoengineering was taboo – too seductive, too dangerous and too uncertain. It is now moving towards the mainstream of climate science. As the number of geoengineering studies published shoots up, it is now acceptable to discuss it in polite scientific company. There is an argument that the taboo has already been broken and that, like sex education, it therefore has to be discussed. Those of us interested in geoengineering were expecting it to appear in one or two of the main reports when they are published in the coming months. To bring it up front is to give it premature legitimacy. The description of geoengineering provided in the summary document is suitably critical. The report points to troubles with both carbon dioxide removal (CDR) from the atmosphere and solar radiation management (SRM) – reflecting a bit of sunlight back into space. In the case of CDR, the sheer scale of the clean-up makes it grotesquely expensive and difficult, and SRM would likely have unintended, unpredictable and disastrous effects on regional weather, among many other troubles (see this pdf for more). But the paragraph still states that: “Modelling indicates that SRM methods, if realizable, have the potential to substantially offset a global temperature rise.” This science is still very young. Climate science historian James Fleming describes such studies as “geo-scientific speculation”. To include mention of geoengineering, and its supporting “evidence” in a statement of scientific consensus, no matter how layered with caveats, is extraordinary. If I were one of the imagined policymakers reading this summary, sitting in a country whose politicians were unwilling to dramatically cut greenhouse gas emissions (ie any country), I would have reached that paragraph and seen a chink of light just large enough to make me forget all the dark data about how screwed up the planet is. And that scares me.


Why we’d be mad to rule out climate engineering

If climate change continues then all options to lessen its impact, including geoengineering, must be considered as a last resort

Matthew Watson, Tuesday 8 October 2013 10.07 EDT Dr. Matthew Watson is a researcher at the University of Bristol’s school of Earth sciences and blogs

Tests to see whether climate engineering work could see water droplets sprayed into the atmosphere.

The release of the report by the International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) last month threw into stark relief the clear message on anthropogenic global warming and sounded the direst of warnings against our continued inaction. For the first time, and to the alarm of some, discussion on geoengineering (or, more correctly, climate engineering) was included in the report. A single paragraph couched climate engineering in cautious terms, in bland language, and stated that deliberate intervention at large scale would be an imperfect solution with potentially serious negative side-effects. Even that level of caveating prompted consternation from some quarters who said, with limited legitimacy, that inclusion of climate engineering in the report somehow normalises it. There often appears to be no role for cautious moderates who see the value in careful, thoughtful and transparent research in this public debate. You are either to be damned for even thinking about climate engineering, and assumed to be in it for money or glory, or you are pandering to the anti-science, anti-technology eco-fascists. Most serious thinkers, however, sit somewhere between the two, broadly positive about careful research without severe climatological or societal impact but instinctively against deployment. Although the point is laboured, a distinction between research and deployment must be part of one’s personal framing….

Mine is simple. We are better off knowing everything we can about all our options, however unpalatable, while being mindful of undermining efforts on greening our energy sector and, more than that, our own lives. Deployment of technologies at global-scale with trans-boundary effects must be a last resort. Personally, I believe the IPCC should have gone further and stated that climate engineering deployment should only be considered under careful and robust global governance, only in time of great need, and only when it is clear that we are a long way down the path to decarbonisation…… Climate engineering research is vital to prevent misinformation and poor decision making. Humility and thoughtfulness among those researching climate engineering must be our leitmotif. Very few serious researchers are strongly in favour of deployment. Most, like me, would see it as tragedy; nothing less than a total abdication of our responsibility of planetary stewardship, were we to actually get to the point where deployment of global climate-altering technology was deemed necessary. The IPCC’s latest report clearly indicates that with every decision we make to value the economy more highly than the environment we make climate engineering more likely.


Has the Time Come to Consider Geoengineering?

Methods to adjust the planetary thermostat might prove necessary, sparking interest from researchers to government agencies

By Umair Irfan Climate Wire July 18 2013

Scientists are taking a hard look at tweaking the planet’s thermostat with geoengineering methods, which were once a taboo avenue for research, as a way to stave off some of the worst-case scenarios for the warming Earth. Earlier this week [July], the National Research Council convened a committee to review approaches that could cool the world, with the goal of creating a scientific foundation that could help resolve political, ethical and legal issues surrounding these controversial techniques. Geoengineering refers to techniques that deliberately change the climate at scale, like dispersing aerosols and sucking greenhouse gases straight out of the air. “We have no findings yet; we have no conclusions yet,” said Marcia McNutt, a former director of the U.S. Geological Survey, who leads the committee. She emphasized that the discussion was an exploration and would not reflect on what makes it into the committee’s final report.

“Geoengineering is not an easy subject to come to grips with,” said Richard Rosen, a climate researcher at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, one of sponsors for the study. “Some are advocating for field experiments now, while others have called the idea of putting sulfate aerosols in the atmosphere ‘barking mad.’…

Robert Socolow, a professor at Princeton University and co-director of the school’s Carbon Mitigation Initiative, concurred. “The scrimmage line is not deployment; it’s research,” he said.

He explained that geoengineering strategies tend to center on either solar radiation management or carbon dioxide removal. Radiation management encompasses reflecting the sun’s energy into space with clouds and aerosols, while carbon removal includes industrial-scale capture devices, as well as planting trees and cultivating algae…..


Why geoengineering suits Russia’s carbon agenda

24 Sep 2013 The Guardian Opinion Clive Hamilton is the author of Earthmasters: The Dawn of the Age of Climate Engineering (Yale University Press 2013).

News that Russia is calling for geoengineering be considered by the IPCC as a possible response to global warming makes a perverse kind of sense. No government, not even those of Canada and Australia, has been more eager to open up new sources of fossil energy than Russia’s. By offsetting the effects of global warming – by, for example, coating the Earth with a layer of sulphate particles to reduce the amount of sunlight – geoengineering promises to allow the world to have its carbon cake and eat it. The contradictions of geoengineering appear most starkly in the Arctic. Melting summer sea ice has made the Arctic global warming’s canary in the coal-mine, the place that most keeps climate scientists awake at night. Yet the Arctic, a large portion of which is controlled or claimed by Russia, is a new carbon El Dorado, holding up to a quarter of the globe’s undiscovered oil and gas reserves. According to one energy industry insider: “Climate change is opening up one of the last frontiers for hydrocarbons on our planet. The Arctic … could be set for rapid change and development as exploration, production and infrastructure will have an inevitable, irreversible impact.”…


The Climate Fixers: Can Geoengineering Solve Climate Change

The New Yorkerby Michael Specter – May 2012

The best solution, nearly all scientists agree, would be the simplest: stop burning fossil fuels, which would reduce the amount of carbon we dump into the atmosphere… For years, even to entertain the possibility of human intervention on such a scale—geoengineering, as the practice is known—has been denounced as hubris. Predicting long-term climatic behavior by using computer models has proved difficult, and the notion of fiddling with the planet’s climate based on the results generated by those models worries even scientists who are fully engaged in the research. “There will be no easy victories, but at some point we are going to have to take the facts seriously,” David Keith, a professor of engineering and public policy at Harvard and one of geoengineering’s most thoughtful supporters, told me. “Nonetheless,” he added, “it is hyperbolic to say this, but no less true: when you start to reflect light away from the planet, you can easily imagine a chain of events that would extinguish life on earth.” There is only one reason to consider deploying a scheme with even a tiny chance of causing such a catastrophe: if the risks of not deploying it were clearly higher. No one is yet prepared to make such a calculation, but researchers are moving in that direction. To offer guidance, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (I.P.C.C.) has developed a series of scenarios on global warming. The cheeriest assessment predicts that by the end of the century the earth’s average temperature will rise between 1.1 and 2.9 degrees Celsius. A more pessimistic projection envisages a rise of between 2.4 and 6.4 degrees—far higher than at any time in recorded history. (There are nearly two degrees Fahrenheit in one degree Celsius. A rise of 2.4 to 6.4 degrees Celsius would equal 4.3 to 11.5 degrees Fahrenheit.) Until recently, climate scientists believed that a six-degree rise, the effects of which would be an undeniable disaster, was unlikely. But new data have changed the minds of many. Late last year, Fatih Birol, the chief economist for the International Energy Agency, said that current levels of consumption “put the world perfectly on track for a six-degree Celsius rise in temperature. . . . Everybody, even schoolchildren, knows this will have catastrophic implications for all of us.” ….

…Curtis Carlson, who, for more than a decade, has been the chairman and chief executive officer of S.R.I. and a leading voice on the future of American innovation. “These geoengineering methods will not be implemented for decades—or ever,” he said. Nonetheless, scientists worry that if methane emissions from the Arctic increase as rapidly as some of the data now suggest, climate intervention isn’t going to be an option. It’s going to be a requirement. “When and where do we have the serious discussion about how to intervene?” Carlson asked. “There are no agreed-upon rules or criteria. There isn’t even a body that could create the rules.” Over the past three years, a series of increasingly urgent reports—from the Royal Society, in the U.K., the Washington-based Bipartisan Policy Center, and the Government Accountability Office, among other places—have practically begged decision-makers to begin planning for a world in which geoengineering might be their only recourse. As one recent study from the Wilson International Center for Scholars concluded, “At the very least, we need to learn what approaches to avoid even if desperate.”

The most environmentally sound approach to geoengineering is the least palatable politically. “If it becomes necessary to ring the planet with sulfates, why would you do that all at once?” Ken Caldeira asked. “If the total amount of climate change that occurs could be neutralized by one Mt. Pinatubo, then doesn’t it make sense to add one per cent this year, two per cent next year, and three per cent the year after that?” he said. “Ramp it up slowly, throughout the century, and that way we can monitor what is happening. If we see something at one per cent that seems dangerous, we can easily dial it back. But who is going to do that when we don’t have a visible crisis? Which politician in which country?” Unfortunately, the least risky approach politically is also the most dangerous: do nothing until the world is faced with a cataclysm and then slip into a frenzied crisis mode. The political implications of any such action would be impossible to overstate. What would happen, for example, if one country decided to embark on such a program without the agreement of other countries? Or if industrialized nations agreed to inject sulfur particles into the stratosphere and accidentally set off a climate emergency that caused drought in China, India, or Africa? “Let’s say the Chinese government decides their monsoon strength, upon which hundreds of millions of people rely for sustenance, is weakening,” Caldeira said. “They have reason to believe that making clouds right near the ocean might help, and they started to do that, and the Indians found out and believed—justifiably or not—that it would make their monsoon worse. What happens then? Where do we go to discuss that? We have no mechanism to settle that dispute.”

Most estimates suggest that it could cost a few billion dollars a year to scatter enough sulfur particles in the atmosphere to change the weather patterns of the planet. At that price, any country, most groups, and even some individuals could afford to do it. The technology is open and available—and that makes it more like the Internet than like a national weapons program. The basic principles are widely published; the intellectual property behind nearly every technique lies in the public domain. If the Maldives wanted to send airplanes into the stratosphere to scatter sulfates, who could stop them? “The odd thing here is that this is a democratizing technology,” Nathan Myhrvold told me. “Rich, powerful countries might have invented much of it, but it will be there for anyone to use. People get themselves all balled up into knots over whether this can be done unilaterally or by one group or one nation. Well, guess what. We decide to do much worse than this every day, and we decide unilaterally. We are polluting the earth unilaterally. Whether it’s life-taking decisions, like wars, or something like a trade embargo, the world is about people taking action, not agreeing to take action. And, frankly, the Maldives could say, ‘*!@#! you all—we want to stay alive.’ Would you blame them? Wouldn’t any reasonable country do the same?”

Terraforming* Earth: Geoengineering megaplan starts now

09 October 2013 by Michael Marshall

THIS is how we will hold off disaster. To help us avoid dangerous climate change, we will need to create the largest industry in history: to suck greenhouse gases out of the air on a giant scale. For the first time, we can sketch out this future industry – known as geoengineering – and identify where it would operate.The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change now considers geoengineering to be respectable. The reason is simple. Unless our greenhouse gas emissions start falling soon, Earth will probably warm this century by more than 2 °C, at which point things get nasty – because human society might not be able to adapt. But emissions are still rising. The upshot is we urgently need ways to suck CO2 out of the air. This was the subject of the Oxford Conference on Negative Emission Technologies, held last month in the UK….


*(esp. in science fiction) transform (a planet) so as to resemble the earth, esp. so that it can support human life.





Point Blue highlights:

Whale Spotter app to help curb strikes by ships

San Francisco Chronicle ‎- September 30, 2013 Front Page

Whale Spotter app to help curb strikes by ships “We are trying to engage the community in this effort,” said Jahncke, who will be whales so that large ships traveling in and out of the Golden Gate can steer clear of them. The dead whales were all found near shipping lanes entering San Francisco Bay, 


A Scientific Basis for a Ross Sea Marine Protected Area

Grant Ballard, PhD, Point Blue’s Chief Science Officer, recently presented at Cornell Lab of Ornithology on our work to provide the scientific basis for a Ross Sea (Antarctica) marine protected area.  Co-authors include Dennis Jongsomjit, Sam Veloz, PhD, and David Ainley, PhD.  View Grant’s presentation.


Eyes Wide Shut-down
Mary Ellen Hannibal, Huffington Post, Author of “Spine of the Continent” Posted: 10/16/2013 11:11 am

I hated that Kubrick movie but I love the title. It’s pretty apt for what this government paroxysm is doing to science all over the world. Take stalled scientific expeditions to Antarctica, where expensive instruments tuned to the pulses of melting ice caps stand in danger of going unmonitored this year. This doesn’t represent just the waste of hundreds of hours of preparation and analysis. If the instruments aren’t repaired and tended to this year, they are likely to be lost in the snowy depths and rendered useless. Because the research is federally funded, it’s on ice, as it were. In Point Reyes, Calif., researchers from world-renowned Point Blue Conservation Science are caught at an ornithological impasse. Formerly known as the Point Reyes Bird Observatory, this organization has been collecting data on songbirds since 1966. That’s 46 years of how many of which species are tweeting when and where, how well they are reproducing and how well they are surviving. In the world of natural science, long data sets are extremely rare. Until relatively recently, even if researchers had the ambition to collect the painstaking records that reveal the life histories of species, they weren’t able to easily collect it. Mobile technology, sophisticated statistical programming, and massive computing power have put Big Data at center stage in biodiversity studies. Point Blue has been at the forefront of this revolution and this year is the second they have deployed sophisticated miniature geolocator tabs to track birds that pass through Point Reyes. “It’s pretty much changed our lives,” says Tom Gardali of Point Blue’s Palomarin Field Station. “Before the geolocators, we didn’t really know where the birds went. Now we do.” Monitoring Swainson’s thrushes, Gardali and his team have discovered that after wintering here they go to western Mexico near Puerta Vallarta (of course they do). “This is incredibly important to conservation,” he explains. “Now we know that this landscape is connected to that landscape.” On the other hand, Golden Crowned sparrows that find Point Reyes to be their idea of a winter vacation go to Alaska to breed. “The amazing thing is that they spread out rather drastically,” Gardali says, the wonder of it all evident in his voice. “They break up and go to different spots along a 1300-km stretch of Alaskan coast. That ties our little West Marin place here with a vast geography.” Most of the shore line of North America is connected through these birds, conjoined at the special locus of Point Reyes….



Nutrient pollution threatens national park ecosystems, study says

Sequoia National Park is among dozens of parks nationwide where scientists found nitrogen deposition at or above a critical threshold for ecological damage. (Brian Vander Brug / Los Angeles Times / July 12, 2005)

By Tony Barboza LA Times October 14, 2013, 4:39 p.m.

National parks from the Sierra Nevada to the Great Smoky Mountains are increasingly being fertilized by unwanted nutrients drifting through the air from agricultural operations, putting some of the country’s most treasured natural landscapes at risk of ecological damage, a new study has found. Thirty-eight of 45 national parks examined by scientists are receiving doses of nitrogen at or above a critical threshold that can harm sensitive ecosystems, such as lichens, hardwood forests or tallgrass prairie, scientists found. “Changes to lichen communities may signal the beginning of other ecosystem changes that can eventually alter the function and structure of the community as a whole,” the study says. Scientists looked at nitrogen oxides and ammonia that are released by vehicles, power plants and farms and carried on air currents into national parks, including those in some of the most remote areas of the West. Nitrogen deposition is worst in parks close to concentrated industry, agriculture or cars, the study found. Researchers pointed to Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Cuyahoga Valley National Park and Sequoia National Park as among the most threatened. Although plants need nitrogen to grow, too much of it is harmful because it can disrupt the cycling of nutrients in the soil, lower the pH of water, promote algae blooms and give a competitive advantage to nutrient-loving exotic species. Air pollution regulations have been steadily reducing nitrogen oxides from fuel combustion, the study said. But emissions of ammonia, another nitrogen-based gas that comes from fertilizers and livestock, are not going down. “If anything, they’re going up,” said Daniel Jacob, a professor of atmospheric chemistry at Harvard University and an author of the study, published in the journal Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics….


Unregulated, agricultural ammonia threatens U.S. national parks’ ecology
(October 10, 2013) — Thirty-eight U.S. national parks are experiencing “accidental fertilization” at or above a critical threshold for ecological damage, according to a new study. Unless significant controls on ammonia emissions are introduced at a national level, they say, little improvement is likely between now and 2050. The environmental scientists, experts in air quality, atmospheric chemistry, and ecology, have been studying the fate of nitrogen-based compounds that are blown into natural areas from power plants, automobile exhaust, and — increasingly — industrial agriculture. Nitrogen that finds its way into natural ecosystems can disrupt the cycling of nutrients in soil, promote algal overgrowth and lower the pH of water in aquatic environments, and ultimately decrease the number of species that can survive.

“The vast majority, 85 percent, of nitrogen deposition originates with human activities,” explains principal investigator Daniel J. Jacob, Vasco McCoy Family Professor of Atmospheric Chemistry and Environmental Engineering at the Harvard School of Engineering and Applied Sciences (SEAS). “It is fully within our power as a nation to reduce our impact.” … > full story


Herbicide runoff reduced by 90 per cent in Great Barrier Reef sugarcane crops

October 15, 2013 CSIRO AUSTRALIA An innovative new approach to sugarcane plantation weed management trialled in select Great Barrier Reef (GBR) catchments have shown a dramatic 90 per cent reduction in runoff of highly soluble herbicides into waterways. In the lower Burdekin region of northern Australia, scientists from CSIRO’s Water for a Healthy Country Flagship trialled a new technique for applying herbicides to raised beds of furrow irrigated sugar cane by using a specially adapted shielded sprayer. The technique minimises the likelihood of PSII herbicides such as diuron, atrazine, ametryn and hexazinone coming into contact with irrigation water.  “The conventional application of herbicides in furrow-irrigated sugarcane production is to broadcast spray across the whole field using boom sprayers, which applies herbicides to both beds and furrows. Irrigation water then carries the herbicides with the tail water into the drainage channels, into nearby creeks and rivers and potentially into the GBR lagoon”, said CSIRO research leader, Dr Rai Kookana. CSIRO scientist Ms Danni Oliver said “The geography of the region means that almost the entire flow from the Burdekin River Irrigation Area in the dry season (from July to January) is made up exclusively of irrigation water from sugarcane and other cropping.” According to Jon Brodie of James Cook University, “the amount of some herbicides in creek and estuarine waters during this period regularly exceeds Australian water quality guidelines and could potentially affect, for example, coastal seagrass.” Many of the herbicides used in the region are PSII herbicides that are known to negatively impact reef ecosystems. These waters discharge into the internationally recognised Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area and subsequently into the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park. Improved farming techniques such as the shielded sprayer help keep herbicides on-farm have potential to have a significant and positive impact on water quality in the GBR.  “The trials show that while there will certainly be some herbicide loss following the first irrigation or rainfall event, the marked decreases in losses documented in this study – a reduction of to 90 per cent – could lead to significant improvements in off-site water quality, particularly during the dry season”, said Ms Oliver….


Oliver DP, Anderson JS, Davis A, Lewis S, Brodie J, Kookana R. 2013. Banded applications are highly effective in minimising herbicide migration from furrow-irrigated sugar cane. Science of the Total Environment 466-467 (2014) 841-848.


Flower research shows gardens can be a feast for the eyes – and the bees
(October 16, 2013)
Are our favorite garden flowers attractive to hungry visitors such as bees and butterflies to feed on? …
Researchers at the Laboratory of Apiculture and Social Insects (LASI) at the University of Sussex have completed one of the first scientific studies to put the business of recommending pollinator-friendly garden flowers on a firmer scientific footing. The study’s findings are published today (17 October 2013) in the journal Functional Ecology. Gardens are more important than ever as a source of food for a wide variety of insects who feed on the nectar and pollen found in many flowers: pollinators such as bees and butterflies are in decline globally, with one of the main causes being the loss of flowers, especially in the countryside. As popular support for wildlife continues to grow, gardeners are increasingly looking for ways to help bees and other insects by providing attractive flowers in their gardens for insects to feed on. To do this, they often rely on “pollinator-friendly” plant lists. But these lists are generally based on opinion and experience rather than scientific research.  full story



Birds on repeat: Do birdwatchers playbacks hurt fowl?
(October 16, 2013) — Using the emphatic sounds of two bird species in Ecuador, a researcher has — for the first time in peer-reviewed research — examined the effects of birdwatchers’ “playbacks” in the wild. He shows that playbacks do have potentially negative consequences, especially in terms of birds’ energies. Birdwatchers often seek out rare and beautiful birds like the wren and antpitta using “playbacks” — or recordings of bird songs — to draw such them out from their hideaways. But does such babbling-on-repeat harm the birds?Using the emphatic sounds of both bird species, a Princeton University researcher has — for the first time in peer-reviewed research — examined the effects of birdwatchers’ “playbacks” in the wild. In PLOS One, he shows that playbacks do have potentially negative consequences, especially in terms of birds’ energies. “Playbacks would be harmful if a species becomes stressed, expends energy, or takes time away from other activities to respond to these recordings,” said J. Berton C. Harris, a postdoctoral fellow studying under Professor David Wilcove from the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs’ Program in Science, Technology and Environmental Policy. … > full story


J. Berton C. Harris, David G. Haskell. Simulated Birdwatchers’ Playback Affects the Behavior of Two Tropical Birds. PLoS ONE, 2013; 8 (10): e77902 DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0077902


Cuckoos impersonate hawks by matching their ‘outfits’
(October 16, 2013) — An evolutionary trick allows cuckoos to ‘mimic’ the plumage of birds of prey, and may be used to scare mothers from their nests — allowing cuckoos to lay eggs. Parasitism in cuckoos may be more much more widespread than previously thought. … > full story


Drones open way to new world of coral research
(October 16, 2013) — Camera-equipped flying robots promise new insights into climate change effects on important ecosystems. … > full story


Just ask the animals: Fishers with GPS sensors show animal movements
(October 16, 2013) — Many animals are adapting to human encroachment of their natural habitats. Carnivores in particular require territories of sufficient size and so are often forced to move between numerous small habitat patches. To date, scientists often use mathematical models to predict these important routes, but fishers fitted with GPS sensors are now showing that their calculations may be missing the mark if they ignore animal behavior. … > full story


Special Issue on Science and Policy in California’s Bay-Delta Vol 11 Iss 3  | Oct 2013

Essays on Science and Policy in the Bay-Delta
Samuel N. Luoma
Six Lessons Learned in Applying Science in Coastal Ecosystem Restoration
Donald F. Boesch
Using Science to Restore California’s Bay-Delta
Judith A. Layzer
Mutual Benefits: Linking Science and Policy in the Delta
Judy L. Meyer
We Can Do Better: Longin Smelt and a Case Study in Collaborative Science
Mark Cowin and Charlton H. Bonham
Its Time for Bold New Approaches to Link Science and Policymaking
James Cloern and Ellen Hanak
Leading Change: The Collaborative Science and Adaptive Management Program
Valerie Connor
Adaptive Management and Science for the Delta Ecosystem
Jay Lund and Peter B. Moyle
The Econocene and the Delta
Richard B. Norgaard
The Future of Suisun Marsh as Mitigation Habitiat
Peter B. Moyle, Amber D. Manfree, and Peggy L. Fiedler
Successes, Failures and Suggested Future Directions for Ecosystem Restoration of the Middle Sacramento River, California
Gregory H. Golet, et al. including Tom Gardali/Point Blue as co-author

Eastward Migration or Marshward Dispersal: Exercising Survey Data to Elicit an Understanding of Seasonal Movement of Delta Smelt
Dennis D. Murphy and Scott A. Hamilton


How is Climate Change Jeopardizing the Sounds of Nature?

By Kristen Rodman, Staff Writer October 15, 2013; 12:29 PM

Climate change has brought once lively and loud habitats to utter silence as their inhabitants of birds, frogs and insects have either vanished or drastically changed their migration patterns. A relatively new study known as biophony, or the signature of collective sounds that occur in any given habitat at any given time, has provided scientific evidence to show that the sounds of nature have been altered by both global warming and human endeavors. “Biophony is changing,” bioacoustician and founding father of the research, Bernie Krause, said. “What was present 20 years ago or so has changed so radically that you wouldn’t recognize the habitat from its voice of 20 years ago.” Krause has recorded soundscapes for 45 years in a variety of locations both in the U.S. and internationally. During a TED talk in Edinburg, Scotland, Krause stated that of these soundscapes, “50 percent of his archive comes from habitats so radically altered that they are altogether silent or can no longer be heard in their original form.” While soundscape research has not been fully developed, hypotheses for the causes of these changes have been formed. “My hunch from my work is that it has a lot to do with global warming,” Krause said. “Springtime is occurring almost two weeks earlier than it was even 20 years ago.” The early onset of spring has brought migratory species to their migration and breeding grounds much earlier than years before, according to research by the National Center for Biotechnology Information. “The breeding and migration cycles are out of sync with what’s occurring in the natural habitats,” Krause said…..



How tiny organisms make a big impact on clean water
(October 15, 2013) — Nearly every body of water contains microscopic organisms that live attached to rocks, plants, and animals. These sessile suspension feeders are critical to aquatic ecosystems and play an important role in cleaning up environmental contaminants by consuming bacteria. A study reveals that by changing the angle of their bodies relative to the surfaces, these feeders overcome the physical constraints presented by underwater surfaces, maximize their access to fresh, nutrient-rich water, and filter the surrounding water. … > full story



Those Hazardous Flying Birds

By ERIC UHLFELDER NY Times Opinion Published: October 17, 2013

WHEN a US Airways jet leaving Reagan National for New York struck birds as it took off, it had to return to Washington. A JetBlue flight departing from Westchester County Airport was rerouted after colliding with birds. Ditto for another JetBlue flight leaving Kennedy Airport. Planes hit birds all the time… The Federal Aviation Administration says more than 9,000 birds are struck annually, a figure that’s increasing every year, with the total probably twice as large when unreported hits are included. Over the past 23 years, bird strikes have forced an average of one plane a day to land prematurely, according to the F.A.A. ….While we should always practice smart land-use and wildlife management, even the former national coordinator of the Agriculture Department’s Airport Wildlife Hazards Program, Richard Dolbeer, recently concluded, “management actions at and in the immediate vicinity of airports do little to mitigate the risk of off-airport strikes during departure and approach.” He said new technologies like avian radar should be more vigorously pursued.…. In Israel, the issue is a particularly urgent matter because the country sits in the middle of major intercontinental avian migratory routes that twice a year bring 500 million birds passing overhead. Avian radar combined with the study of migratory and weather patterns has helped reduce Israeli Air Force bird strikes by 76 percent over the past 30 years. Prof. Yossi Leshem, a senior researcher in Tel Aviv University’s zoological department, who spearheaded the effort to mitigate strikes, says avian radar can track very small birds 12 miles away and larger birds like geese 60 miles out. Once significant risk is determined, air traffic controllers could then temporarily delay takeoffs or redirect planes under 3,500 feet — the space in which virtually all bird strikes happen. …


Where Science Is Going

By JIM AL-KHALILI NY Times Published: October 14, 2013

PORTSMOUTH, England — By the final decade of the 19th century, many of the world’s leading physicists were brimming with self-congratulatory confidence, convinced that scientific knowledge was truly nearing completion, that the workings of nature had been revealed in all their glory. The laws of mechanics, thermodynamics and electromagnetism could explain all phenomena in the physical world, and it was just a matter of dotting the i’s and crossing the t’s. But within the space of a decade, between 1895 and 1905, along came the discovery of X-rays, radioactivity, quantum theory and Einsteinian relativity, and physics was turned on its head….


Printable Biotechnology

Oct. 14, 2013 — Cells, biological circuits, and individual biomolecules organize themselves and interact with the environment. Use of these capabilities in flexible and economically efficient biotechnological production systems is in the focus of the “Molecular Interaction Engineering” (MIE) project. It is the objective to develop printed biological circuits and catalysts for biologico-technical hybrid systems. MIE will be funded with about EUR 3.5 million by the BMBF. The capabilities of biological systems are based on specific interactions of molecular components. Due to their molecular fitting accuracy, for instance, enzymes allow for certain chemical reactions only. Some proteins bind via specific molecular interfaces to the DNA or other proteins and control processes in complex organisms. Sensors respond to defined molecular signals from the environment. The MIE project focuses on interactions of molecules, technical interfaces, and surrounding solvents. “Transfer of complex biological mechanisms to printable systems may result in innovative biotechnologies that might be the basis of a number of industrial applications,” Professor Jürgen Hubbuch, project coordinator at KIT, explains. However, conventional, continuous evolution of biological molecules reaches its limits. The key to innovative developments is the specific, adjusted construction of the interaction of complex biomolecules and fusion of these units with technical interfaces. This requires close cooperation of biology, engineering, chemistry, and physics…..


5 Simple Tips for Communicating Science

Posted by Guest Blogger in Ocean Views on October 11, 2013 By Maddalena Bearzi, PhD

Many scientists have a bad tendency: they often speak in a way that is incomprehensible to the general public. I know what I am talking about because I am one of them. In our defense, traditional scientific training doesn’t typically prepare us to be effective communicators outside academic circles. Scientific peer-reviewed papers are frequently written in language that would require a translator to be grasped by a non-specialist and, even in everyday conversations, we can easily slip into speaking in technical terms as soon as the conversation turns anywhere toward our respective field of expertise. We often sound boring…..1. Be Simple and Straightforward…2. Don’t Be Condescending… or Pedantic….3. Tell Compelling Stories… 4. (When and if you can)
Use Illustrations….5. Be Apolitical….






Without plants, Earth would cook under billions of tons of additional carbon
(October 16, 2013)Enhanced growth of Earth’s leafy greens during the 20th century has significantly slowed the planet’s transition to being red-hot, according to the first study to specify the extent to which plants have prevented climate change since pre-industrial times. Researchers based at Princeton University found that land ecosystems have kept the planet cooler by absorbing billions of tons of carbon, especially during the past 60 years. Researchers found that Earth’s terrestrial ecosystems have absorbed 186 billion to 192 billion tons of carbon since the mid-20th century, which has significantly contained the global temperature and levels of carbon in the atmosphere. …Those “carbon savings” amount to a current average global temperature that is cooler by one-third of a degree Celsius (or a half-degree Fahrenheit), which would have been a sizeable jump, the researchers report. The planet has warmed by only 0.74 degrees Celsius (1.3 degrees Fahrenheit) since the early 1900s, and the point at which scientists calculate the global temperature would be dangerously high is a mere 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit) more than pre-industrial levels. The study is the most comprehensive look at the historical role of terrestrial ecosystems in controlling atmospheric carbon, explained first author Elena Shevliakova, a senior climate modeler in Princeton’s Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology. Previous research has focused on how plants might offset carbon in the future, but overlooked the importance of increased vegetation uptake in the past, she said. “People always say we know carbon sinks are important for the climate,” Shevliakova said. “We actually for the first time have a number and we can say what that sink means for us now in terms of carbon savings.” “Changes in carbon dioxide emissions from land-use activities need to be carefully considered. Until recently, most studies would just take fossil-fuel emissions and land-use emissions from simple models, plug them in and not consider how managed lands such as recovering forests take up carbon,” she said. “It’s not just climate — it’s people. On land, people are major drivers of changes in land carbon. They’re not just taking carbon out of the land, they’re actually changing the land’s capacity to take up carbon.”

… “I think this does have implications for policies that try to value the carbon saved when you restore or preserve a forest,” Saleska said. “This modeling approach could be used to state the complete ‘climate impact’ of preserving large forested areas, whereas most current approaches just account for the ‘carbon impact.’ Work like this could help forest-preservation programs more accurately consider the climate impacts of policy measures related to forest preservation.” Although the researchers saw a strong historical influence of carbon fertilization in carbon absorption, that exchange does have its limits, Saleska said. If carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere continue rising, more vegetation would be needed to maintain the size of the carbon sink Shevliakova and her colleagues reported. “There is surely some limit to how long increasing carbon dioxide can continue to promote plant growth that absorbs carbon dioxide,” Saleska said. “Carbon dioxide is food for plants, and putting more food out there stimulates them to ‘eat’ more. However, just like humans, eventually they get full and putting more food out doesn’t stimulate more eating.”….> full story


E. Shevliakova, R. J. Stouffer, S. Malyshev, J. P. Krasting, G. C. Hurtt, S. W. Pacala. Historical warming reduced due to enhanced land carbon uptake. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 2013; 110 (42): 16730 DOI: 10.1073/pnas.1314047110



Wildebeests herd, Serengeti. Scientists found that a decline in wildebeest populations in the Serengeti-Mara grassland-savanna system decades ago allowed organic matter to accumulate, which eventually led to about 80 percent of the ecosystem to burn annually, releasing carbon from the plants and the soil, before populations recovered in recent years. (Credit: © photocreo / Fotolia)

Carbon cycle models underestimate indirect role of animals
(October 16, 2013)
Animal populations can have a far more significant impact on carbon storage and exchange in regional ecosystems than is typically r
ecognized by global carbon models, according to a new paper authored by researchers at the Yale School of Forestry & Environmental Studies (F&ES). In fact, in some regions the magnitude of carbon uptake or release due to the effects of specific animal species or groups of animals — such as the pine beetles devouring forests in western North America — can rival the impact of fossil fuel emissions for the same region, according to the paper published in the journal Ecosystems. While models typically take into account how plants and microbes affect the carbon cycle, they often underestimate how much animals can indirectly alter the absorption, release, or transport of carbon within an ecosystem, says Oswald Schmitz, the Oastler Professor of Population and Community Ecology at F&ES and lead author of the paper. Historically, the role of animals has been largely underplayed since animal species are not distributed globally and because the total biomass of animals is vastly lower than the plants that they rely upon, and therefore contribute little carbon in the way of respiration. “What these sorts of analyses have not paid attention to is what we call the indirect multiplier effects,” Schmitz says. “And these indirect effects can be quite huge — and disproportionate to the biomass of the species that are instigating the change.” In the paper, “Animating the Carbon Cycle,” a team of 15 authors from 12 universities, research organizations and government agencies cites numerous cases where animals have triggered profound impacts on the carbon cycle at local and regional levels. … > full story

Oswald J. Schmitz, Peter A. Raymond, James A. Estes, Werner A. Kurz, Gordon W. Holtgrieve, Mark E. Ritchie, Daniel E. Schindler, Amanda C. Spivak, Rod W. Wilson, Mark A. Bradford, Villy Christensen, Linda Deegan, Victor Smetacek, Michael J. Vanni, Christopher C. Wilmers. Animating the Carbon Cycle. Ecosystems, 2013; DOI: 10.1007/s10021-013-9715-7




Global warming will increase intensity of El Nino, scientists say

By Matt McGrath Environment correspondent, BBC News

How the impact of El Nino is felt on sea height across the world

Scientists say they are more certain than ever about the impact of global warming on a critical weather pattern. The El Nino-Southern Oscillation (ENSO) occurs in the Pacific Ocean but plays an important part in the world’s climate system. Researchers have until now been unsure as to how rising temperatures would affect ENSO in the future. But this new study suggests that droughts and floods driven by ENSO will be more intense.This study finds that both wet and dry anomalies will be greater in future El Nino years”
Dr Wenju Cai CSIRO ….
The ENSO phenomenon plays a complicated role in the global weather system. The El Nino part of the equation sees a warming of the eastern and tropical Pacific, while its cooler sister, La Nina, makes things chillier in these same regions. Like water in a bathtub, the warmer or cooler waters slosh back and forth across the Pacific Ocean. They are responsible for rainfall patterns across Australia and the equatorial region, but their effects are also felt much further away. During the Northern Hemisphere winter, for example, you can get more intense rainfall over the southern part of the US in a warmer El Nino phase. For years, scientists have been concerned about how this sensitive weather system might be changed by rising temperatures from global warming…..



World ocean systems undermined by climate change by 2100
(October 15, 2013)
An ambitious new study describes the full chain of events by which ocean biogeochemical changes triggered by humanmade greenhouse gas emissions may cascade through marine habitats and organisms, penetrating to the deep ocean and eventually influencing humans. Factoring in predictable synergistic changes such as the depletion of dissolved oxygen in seawater and a decline in productivity of ocean ecosystems, no corner of the world ocean will be untouched by climate change by 2100.
Previous analyses have focused mainly on ocean warming and acidification, considerably underestimating the biological and social consequences of climate change. Factoring in predictable synergistic changes such as the depletion of dissolved oxygen in seawater and a decline in productivity of ocean ecosystems, the new study shows that no corner of the world ocean will be untouched by climate change by 2100. “When you look at the world ocean, there are few places that will be free of changes; most will suffer the simultaneous effects of warming, acidification, and reductions in oxygen and productivity,” said lead author Camilo Mora, assistant professor at the Department of Geography in the College of Social Sciences at the University of Hawai’i at Mānoa (UH Mānoa). “The consequences of these co-occurring changes are massive — everything from species survival, to abundance, to range size, to body size, to species richness, to ecosystem functioning are affected by changes in ocean biogeochemistry.” The human ramifications of these changes are likely to be massive and disruptive. Food chains, fishing, and tourism could all be impacted. The study shows that some 470 to 870 million of the world’s poorest people rely on the ocean for food, jobs, and revenues, and live in countries where ocean goods and services could be compromised by multiple ocean biogeochemical changes… Of the many marine habitats analyzed in the study, researchers found that coral reefs, seagrass beds, and shallow soft-bottom benthic habitats would experience the largest absolute changes in ocean biogeochemistry, while deep-sea habitats would experience the smallest changes.The impacts of climate change will be felt from the ocean surface to the seafloor. It is truly scary to consider how vast these impacts will be,” said co-author Andrew K. Sweetman, who helped to convene the original team of investigators and now leads the deep-sea ecosystem research group at the International Research Institute of Stavanger, Norway. “This is one legacy that we as humans should not be allowed to ignore.”full story


Mora C, Wei C-L, Rollo A, Amaro T, Baco AR, et al. ) Biotic and Human Vulnerability to Projected Changes in Ocean Biogeochemistry over the 21st Century.. PLoS Biol, 2013 DOI: 10.1371/journal.pbio.1001682



Assessing the effect of climate change on upwelling ecosystems is essential to be able to predict the future of marine resources. (Credit: © Lichtspiel-IRD)

Ocean: Assessing the effect of climate change on upwelling ecosystems
Oct. 14, 2013 — Assessing the effect of climate change on upwelling ecosystems is essential to be able to predict the future of marine resources. The zones concerned by this upwelling of cold deep water, which is very rich in nutrients, provide up to 20 % of g
lobal production of fish. Since the 1990s, the theory adopted by the majority of the scientific community affirmed that these phenomena were intensifying. The rising temperatures of the air masses above the continents were expected to quicken the trade winds, which would in turn increase the upwellings, thereby cooling the surface water. But this theory has been contradicted by the recent work of researchers from the IRD and its partners. In their new study, led off the coast of North and West Africa, the scientists reviewed the wind measurements taken over the past 40 years and the data of the meteorological models along the Spanish and West African coastline, and discovered that they do not show an acceleration of the wind on a regional scale that would be likely to significantly cool the coastal waters. In fact, quite the opposite is true, since the satellite images and in situ measurements of the surface water temperature show a distinct upward trend in the temperature for the entire zone, at a rate of 1°C per century. These new findings contradict the hypothesis that the upwelling of the Canary Current is intensifyingfull story

E.D. Barton, D.B. Field, C. Roy. Canary current upwelling: More or less?
Progress in Oceanography, 2013; 116: 167 DOI: 10.1016/j.pocean.2013.07.007



Climate change moves Nemo current to south

EXCLUSIVE Simon Benson National Political Editor
The Daily Telegraph
October 15, 2013 6:25PM

THE ocean current off the coast of Australia made famous in Finding Nemo has moved 350km south and is accelerating toward the pole, a draft international climate change report has found.
And with it so too are moving some species of shark and large fish such as Tuna, it has warned. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s second and yet to be released report into the impact of climate change has claimed average climate zones in Australia have already shifted 200km southward along the north east coast. Australia and warming the Tasman Sea in northern New Zealand,” it claimed. “The rate of warming is even faster in south eastern Australia with a poleward advance of the East Australia current of 350km over the past 60 years.” The East Australia current is the largest and most powerful current acting on marine life and climate along the coast from the barrier Reef and along the NSW coastline. “Based on elevated rates of ocean warming south west and south east Australia are recognised as global warming hot spots.” The report of the IPCC’s Working Group II, due to be released next March in Yokohama, Japan, claims that the oceans off the south east of Australia, which would include NSW are warming faster than anywhere else – and could rise 10 per cent above the average expected for the rest of the world. It claimed that it was already having an impact on the distribution of coastal fish, and growth rates of some fish species. “Observed impacts on marine species have been reported from a range of trophic levels,” the report said. It cited changed growth rates of abalone, rock lobster, coastal fish with plankton levels and the life cycles of some species of sea birds also affected…..



Blizzard Catastrophe Kills Tens of Thousands of Cows; Shutdown Leaves Ranchers on Ice

—By Tim McDonnell Thu Oct. 10, 2013 1:06 PM PDT

A cow lies frozen to death following last weekend’s “historic” blizzard in South Dakota. KEVN News via YouTube

Last Wednesday, the weather was sunny and warm at Bob Fortune’s cattle ranch in Belvidere, S.D. On Thursday, it started raining. By Friday night, the rain had turned to snow. By the weekend, the snow turned to a blizzard with 60 mile an hour winds. By the weekend, Fortune says, “the cattle just couldn’t stand the cold anymore, and they just started dying.” Only a year after sweeping drought left ranchers across South Dakota desperate for feed, this week they’re just beginning to reckon with a freak early snowstorm, dubbed Winter Storm Atlas, that wiped out an estimated 10 percent of the cattle in the state’s western region, up to 100,000 animals. In the coming weeks they will dig through the mess to try to tally the damage to an industry worth $5.2 billion statewide, that also killed an unknown number of horses, sheep, and wildlife. Fortune, president of the South Dakota Stockgrowers Association, says losses like this would be enough to cripple many ranchers even in the best of times, especially with the loss of future calves next spring whose would-be mothers were killed. But with the federal Department of Agriculture still shut down, ranchers are cut off from the livestock insurance that would normally keep them afloat following a disaster like this. “We have no idea if there’ll be federal aid for these ranchers,” Fortune says. After catastrophes, livestock producers typically turn to the federal Farm Service Agency’s livestock indemnity program, which offers compensation for lost cattle, pigs, sheep, chickens, and other livestock. As long as the government stays shut, FSA offices nationwide will be shut too, leaving ranchers without support. …. The weekend blizzard, which dumped up to five feet of snow in some places, was “very historic,” according to meteorologist Darren Clabo at the South Dakota School of Mines and Technology’s Institute of Atmospheric Sciences. Rapid City, the largest city in the state’s western half, received the most snowfall ever recorded in October, and the third-highest one-day snowfall for any time of year. While South Dakota residents and ranchers are accustomed to brutal winters, Clabo said, “we don’t get these kinds of storms in the first week of October.” That means that cattle were still covered in thin summer coats, and left out in exposed summer pastures.




Moose Die-Off Alarms Scientists

Brian Peterson/Minneapolis Star Tribune Mark Keech, right, a research biologist, and Tiffany Wolf, a veterinarian, fitted a moose with a radio collar and took samples as part of a Minnesota study of why the animals die. By JIM ROBBINS NY TIMES March 15, 2013 CHOTEAU, Mont. — Across North America — in places as far-flung as Montana and British Columbia, New Hampshire and Minnesota — moose populations are in steep decline. And no one is sure why. Twenty years ago, Minnesota had two geographically separate moose populations. One of them has virtually disappeared since the 1990s, declining to fewer than 100 from 4,000. The other population, in northeastern Minnesota, is dropping 25 percent a year and is now fewer than 3,000, down from 8,000. (The moose mortality rate used to be 8 percent to 12 percent a year.) As a result, wildlife officials have suspended all moose hunting. Here in Montana, moose hunting permits fell to 362 last year, from 769 in 1995. “Something’s changed,” said Nicholas DeCesare, a biologist with the Montana Department of Fish, Wildlife and Parks who is counting moose in this part of the state — one of numerous efforts across the continent to measure and explain the decline. “There’s fewer moose out there, and hunters are working harder to find them.” What exactly has changed remains a mystery. Several factors are clearly at work. But a common thread in most hypotheses is climate change.




Cloudy with a chance of… climate change: Discovery that agricultural practices help form clouds could change the way we calculate global warming

By Ian Johnston Independent UK Sunday October 13 2013

A team of scientists led by a British academic has solved a long-standing enigma to explain how up to half the clouds in the sky are formed. And in finally cracking the problem of how planet-cooling clouds are conjured from what might seem to be thin air, the researchers found that humans play a significant role. It is a discovery that could fundamentally change our understanding of climate change, and may even mean experts have underestimated just how warm the planet will get over the next century. The mystery was that many clouds appeared in the sky even though there were no “seeds” – often just specks of dust – that must be present for water droplets to form in the air. But, writing in the journal Nature last week, researchers from the Cern laboratory in Switzerland described for the first time how a chemical soup of gas vapours can react to form the necessary tiny particles…..”This is the first time that atmospheric particle formation has been reproduced with complete knowledge of the participating molecules,” said Professor Jasper Kirkby, leader of the research team. “This is an important step forward, but we still have a long way to go before we fully understand the processes of aerosol formation and their effects on clouds and climate.” The research showed that gases called amines – produced in large quantities as a result of farming cattle and other animals – can help form the seed particles when combined with sulphuric acid in the air. …The lack of knowledge about aerosols – particles suspended in the atmosphere – and their effect on clouds is widely recognised as the major source of uncertainty in predictions about global warming. “We have to understand how clouds have been changed by human activity or natural activity if we are to understand climate change in the 20th century and therefore have reliable projections in the 21st century,” Professor Kirkby said….



Nature CLOUD Study Author: ‘The Climate May Be More Sensitive Than Previously Thought’

By Joe Romm on October 14, 2013 at 11:47 am

New research from the CERN laboratory in Switzerland suggests that the climate’s sensitivity to carbon dioxide may be higher than expected.

CERN is the world’s leading particle physics laboratory. In 2011, we reported on their Cosmics Leaving Outdoor Droplets (CLOUD) experiment, which used a special cloud chamber to examine whether their was a link between galactic cosmic rays and cloud formation. This and other research show “cosmic rays play a minor role in cloud formation, and have not contributed in any significant way to the global warming over the past 50 years.”

The CERN news release explains that the new research looked into how “aerosols – tiny solid or liquid particles suspended in the air” form, which matters because “aerosols cause a cooling effect by reflecting sunlight and by seeding cloud droplets.” The two key findings:

  • “minute concentrations of amine vapours combine with sulphuric acid to form aerosol particles at rates similar to those observed in the atmosphere.”
  • “ionising radiation such as the cosmic radiation that bombards the atmosphere from space has negligible influence on the formation rates of these particular aerosols.”

Amines are atmospheric vapors that are closely related to ammonia and emitted by natural sources and human activities such as farming cattle and other animals (aka animal husbandry). They are “responsible for odours emanating from the decomposition of organic matter that contains proteins.” The release notes: The measured sensitivity of aerosol formation to amines came as a surprise, and points to a potentially significant climate cooling mechanism.

Why does this matter? The UK Independent talked to research team leader Jasper Kirkby: The global average temperature on land and sea rose by 0.85C from 1880 to 2012, the IPCC said in a major report last month. The fact that amines are produced by animal husbandry means that humans are responsible for a previously unknown cooling effect on the planet. So the overall man-made “forcing” of the climate -– once greenhouse gases are taken into account -– may actually be less than thought. And that could be bad news because, Professor Kirkby said, it suggested “the climate may be more sensitive than previously thought”. “If there’s been more cooling from aerosols than thought at the moment then this temperature rise will have resulted from a smaller forcing – or change – than previously thought,” he said. “That would mean the projected temperatures this century for a doubling of carbon dioxide may be bigger than current estimates.”

Notwithstanding some research that has suggested climate sensitivity is on the low side, considerable research suggests that the Earth system’s actual sensitivity to CO2 is on the high side:

  • Hansen Study (9/13): Climate Sensitivity Is High, Burning All Fossil Fuels Would Make Most Of Planet ‘Uninhabitable’
  • Science Stunner (11/12): Observations Support Predictions Of Extreme Warming And Worse Droughts This Century

The full Nature study is open access here.



Climate Change Creates Complicated Consequences for North America’s Forests

Oct. 15, 2013 — Climate change affects forests across North America — in some cases permitting insect outbreaks, plant diseases, wildfires and other problems — but Dartmouth researchers say warmer temperatures are also making many forests grow faster and some less susceptible to pests, which could boost forest health and acreage, timber harvests, carbon storage, water recycling and other forest benefits in some areas. The Dartmouth-led study, which appears in the journal Ecological Monographs, reviewed nearly 500 scientific papers dating to the 1950s, making it the most comprehensive review to date of climate change’s diverse consequences for forests across the United States, Canada and the rest of North America. Tree-killing insects and plant diseases are natural elements of healthy forest ecosystems, but climate change is rapidly altering the distribution and magnitude of forest pestilence and altering biodiversity and the ecosystem. For example, pine bark beetles have recently killed trees over more area of U.S. forests than wildfires, including in areas with little previous experience managing aggressive pests. “One of our prominent challenges is to adapt forest management tactics and generalize the underlying theory to cope with unprecedented changes in pest pressure,” the authors say. Results show that over the last 50 years, the average global air temperature has increased about 1 ̊ F, while the coldest winter night averages about 7 ̊ F warmer. That has permitted population explosions of tree-killing bark beetles in forests that were previously shielded by winter cold and made it easier for invasive species to become established. But tree growth rates in many regions are increasing due to atmospheric change, which may increase resilience to pests. Also, pest populations in some regions may decline, allowing those forests and their environmental and economic benefits to expand.


Aaron S. Weed, Matthew P. Ayres, Jeffrey Hicke. Consequences of climate change for biotic disturbances in North American forests. Ecological Monographs, 2013; : 130211092805008 DOI: 10.1890/13-0160.1



Does the global warming ‘pause’ mean what you think it means?

The slowed warming is limited to surface temperatures, two percent of overall global warming, and is only temporary

In their study of media coverage of the 2013 Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report, Media Matters for America found that nearly half of print media stories discussed that the warming of global surface temperatures has slowed over the past 15 years. While this factoid is true, the question is, what does it mean? Many popular climate myths share the trait of vagueness. For example, consider the argument that climate has changed naturally in the past. Well of course it has, but what does that tell us? It’s akin to telling a fire investigator that fires have always happened naturally in the past. That would doubtless earn you a puzzled look from the investigator. Is the implication that because they have occurred naturally in the past, humans can’t cause fires or climate change? The same problem applies to the ‘pause’ (or ‘hiatus’ or better yet, ‘speed bump‘) assertion. It’s true that the warming of average global surface temperatures has slowed over the past 15 years, but what does that mean? One key piece of information that’s usually omitted when discussing this subject is that the overall warming of the entire climate system has continued rapidly over the past 15 years, even faster than the 15 years before that.

Energy accumulation within distinct components of Earth’s climate system from 1971 to 2010. From the 2013 IPCC report.

The speed bump only applies to surface temperatures, which only represent about 2 percent of the overall warming of the global climate. Can you make out the tiny purple segment at the bottom of the above figure? That’s the only part of the climate for which the warming has ‘paused’. As the IPCC figure indicates, over 90 percent of global warming goes into heating the oceans, and it continues at a rapid pace, equivalent to 4 Hiroshima atomic bomb detonations per second. Another important piece of oft-omitted information: while the warming of surface temperatures was relatively slow from 1998 to 2012, it was relatively fast from 1990 through 2006. Over longer time frames, for example from 1990 to 2012, average global surface temperatures have warmed as fast as climate scientists and their models expected. So what’s changed over the past 10 to 15 years? The IPCC attributes the recent slowing of surface temperatures to a combination of external and internal climate factors. For example, solar activity has been relatively low and volcanic activity has been relatively high, causing less solar energy to reach the Earth’s surface. At the same time, we’re in the midst of cool ocean cycle phases, for example with a preponderance of La Niña events since 1999. A number of recent studies have suggested that most of the recent slowing of surface warming is due to these ocean cycles. What does that mean for the future? It means more global warming….


Greenhouse Gas Abatement and Carbon Storage in Land Use Systems

The Sustainable Agriculture Flagship is developing science, technology, measurement and management systems to help reduce net greenhouse gas emissions from Australian lands while increasing the storage of new carbon in our lands.

Updated 14 October 2011 CSIRO Australia

Research in this theme is helping Australia to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and to store or sequester carbon within agricultural, forestry and land use systems. Tackling GHG emissions is considered to be one of the most serious national and international challenges of our time. Through this research the Flagship aims to sustain the economic viability of agricultural industries while reducing these emissions. The key ways in which the Flagship’s research will support emissions reduction are through:

  • measuring carbon stocks and greenhouse gas emissions from Australian lands 
  • predicting changes in carbon stocks over time
  • identifying and demonstrating emission reduction practices and associated social, economic and environmental benefits and interactions
  • developing new technologies and practices for emissions reduction and generation of carbon sinks
  • assisting adoption of mitigation options and the institutional arrangements that support them.

With this research and development Australia will be able to provide reliable estimates of emission sources and carbon sinks from agricultural and forestry lands, be able to design permanent and measurable greenhouse gas offsets, and be able to scale-up from the animal, plant or paddock level to regional and continental scales. The Sustainable Agriculture Flagship has five key areas of research and a wide range of projects targeting emission reductions and offsets in land use systems:

1. Reducing methane emissions from livestock systems: Aims to reduce methane emissions from ruminant livestock per unit of product and reduce net emissions of CO2-e from ruminant production systems while maintaining the viability of farming enterprises that include livestock production.

Research example: Mitigating methane emissions from our northern beef herd CSIRO is developing reliable methods for measuring methane emissions from Australia’s northern beef herd.

2. Carbon balance in native ecosystems: Aims to protect and enhance carbon stocks in forests and savannas while maximising co-benefits to the environment and society.

Research example: Tiwi Carbon Study: managing fire for Greenhouse gas abatement Tiwi Islanders and CSIRO are working together to examine the biophysical and economic potential of fire management for Greenhouse gas abatement on the Tiwi Islands, as a basis for possible livelihood opportunities for Tiwi people.

3. New forests as carbon sinks and feedstocks for bioenergy production: Aims to contribute to GHG mitigation by establishing new woody vegetation on agricultural land, by substituting forest products for more greenhouse intensive products, and by provision of feedstocks for bioenergy that displaces use of fossil fuels. Research example: Carbon and rural land use: key findings This report brings together much of the latest research on emission reduction and offsets in rural land, including the potential of forests as carbon sinks.

4. Soil carbon and nitrogen balance in agricultural lands: Aims to develop and identify management strategies that maximise productive capacity of Australian agricultural soils while minimising greenhouse gas emissions and resource degradation.

Research examples: The Soil Carbon Research Program: assessing soil carbon across Australia The Soil Carbon Research Program will provide data from which realistic sequestration options and targets for Australia can be formed.

Biochar as a soil amendment in agriculture The Sustainable Agriculture Flagship is leading national collaborative research analysing the properties and potential of a variety of biochars to sequester carbon, reduce nitrous oxide emissions, and alter soil functions in order to improve plant productivity.

5. Adoption pathways for carbon pollution reduction: Aims to provide information and decision support that encourages and informs policy resulting in adoption of profitable land-use and management practices that reduce carbon pollution.

Research example: Reforestation under a Carbon Market: Key Findings This report examines the likely effects of a carbon market on the supply and demand for tree plantings to sequester carbon in agricultural lands in South Australia.

Find out more about the Sustainable Agriculture Flagship.



The Bay of Bengal, in Peril From Climate Change

By SUNIL S. AMRITH NY Times Op-Ed October 13, 2013

LONDON — NEARLY one in four people on earth live in the countries that border the Bay of Bengal. The region is strategically vital to Asia’s rising powers. Its low-lying littoral — including coastal regions of eastern India, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Myanmar, Thailand, Malaysia and Sumatra — is home to over half a billion people who are now acutely vulnerable to rising sea levels. Storms are a constant threat; over the weekend, a cyclone, Phailin, swept in from the bay to strike the coastal Indian state of Odisha, leading to the evacuation of some 800,000 people….



With Great Lakes stuck at historic lows, talk turns to adapting

By Nick Manes and Joe Boomgaard October 17, 2013

Harbor towns across West Michigan are dealing with the impact of low water levels on Lake Michigan. The low water impacts a range of water users, from recreational boaters to commercial users.

In 1998, …also the last year that Lake Michigan water levels were at their long-term average height. In September, Lake Michigan’s average water level was 577.56 feet, or 18 inches below its long-term average for the month, according to data from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. The 14 years of below-average levels on Lake Michigan is “the longest in its period of record,” the corps said in its September Great Lakes Water Level Summary. Earlier in January, Lake Michigan dropped to its lowest average level ever recorded. The implications of lower water levels are numerous for Michigan. The Great Lakes provide much of the state’s drinking water and are used for commerce ranging from shipping to fishing, recreational boating and tourism…. A mix of evaporating water and minimal ice cover due to warmer temperatures over the winter has contributed to the record-low levels, according to the corps. Heavy rainfall throughout April, which resulted in significant flooding in downtown Grand Rapids, as well as water flowing in from Lake Superior, has helped raise Lake Michigan, Steinman said…. The city of Grand Rapids embraced climate adaptation as part of the five-year sustainability plan it passed in 2010. Each year, the city tracks, measures and reports data related to progress on the plan. Specific to water resources, the city has reduced its consumption of water, which it draws from Lake Michigan, and has focused on removing pollution from combined sewer overflows into the Grand River, a Lake Michigan tributary. It’s also looking at water conservation measures, such as reducing losses in the city’s water system, updating plumbing and reusing gray water for irrigation, said Haris Alibasic, director of the city’s office of energy and sustainability…..



Australian wineries hit by coldest October morning ever. October 18 2013 Canberra Times
Canberra, Australia, winemakers were reeling from the heavy frost overnight on Thursday, Canberra’s coldest October morning on record, which wiped millions of dollars from the industry. ….


First evidence that dust and sand deposits in China are controlled by rivers
(October 14, 2013) — New research has found the first evidence that large rivers control desert sands and dust in Northern China. … > full story


Foliage Season Under Fire from Climate Change

Published: October 14th, 2013 By Brian Kahn

Clocks aren’t the only things falling back at this time of year. The start to foliage season is also on the move, with the season starting later and later in the U.S. since 1982. Other threats from climate change could also cost states that rely on the billions from leaf peepers in lost tourism revenues and have ecological impacts that extend well beyond the season. The U.S. Forest Service estimates that fiery foliage in the Berkshires and Green and White Mountains generates $8 billion in tourism revenue annually for New England alone. Foliage season is so important to Vermont that the state employs a leaf forecaster. States in other parts of the country also depend on foliage season to bring in tourism dollars, though specific numbers are harder to come by. Warmer weather is contributing to a later ending to the growing season in the U.S. according to research from Seoul National University. The end of the season is marked by the point when satellites see the overall greenness of foliage start to decline, was over two weeks later in 2008 compared to 1982.

The end of the growing season in the continental U.S. has become roughly two weeks later from 1982-2008.

A later onset to fall isn’t the only issue affecting foliage season, though. The financial benefits of leaf tourism are reaped in the fall, but they’re sown in spring and mature through summer. The climate during all three seasons affects how vibrant foliage actually is. A warm, wet spring followed by a Goldilocks summer followed by a fall with warm days and cool nights create the most ideal conditions for eye-catching colors. Climate change is causing warming across all seasons, and while that might be a boon in spring, warmer and more extreme heat during the summer could negate those benefits. The stress from warm weather can knock leaves off the trees before they’ve even had a chance to change. Nighttime temperatures are also generally rising faster than daytime highs, which means cool fall nights are likely to become shorter in supply. All these shifts could work to reduce the brilliance of fall foliage over time, but they also create openings for other threats to trees and their leafy assets. “A lengthening growing season could open up the door for invasive species, particularly invasives that are adaptable to different climates,” said Carolyn Enquist, science coordinator for the National Phenology Network. “We could see more invasives or invasives (that) are more active in the fall.”….



Three Startling Ways Climate Change Could Affect Your Health

October 14, 2013; 3:56 PM

While debates over climate change’s existence and causes continue, researchers around the world are postulating the possible health risks a changing climate poses to humanity. Wide-ranging health dangers are being predicted, including increased deaths due to carbon emissions, exposure to carcinogens in lakes and increased infections of certain diseases…..





Supreme Court to review EPA rules on curbing global warming gases from factories, power plants …

Minneapolis Star Tribune

 – ‎ October 15, 2013‎


WASHINGTON – The Supreme Court agreed Tuesday to decide whether to block key aspects of the Obama administration’s plan aimed at cutting power plant and factory emissions of gases blamed for global warming. The justices said they will review a unanimous federal appeals court ruling that upheld the government’s unprecedented regulation of carbon dioxide and five other heat-trapping gases. The question in the case is whether the Environmental Protection Agency’s authority to regulate automobile emissions of greenhouses gases as air pollutants, which stemmed from a 2007 Supreme Court ruling, also applies to power plants and factories. The court’s decision essentially puts on trial a small but critical piece of President Barack Obama’s toolbox to tackle global warming — a requirement that companies expanding existing industrial facilities or building new ones that would increase overall pollution must evaluate ways to reduce the carbon they release, as well. For many industrial facilities, this is the only way heat-trapping gases will be regulated, until the EPA sets national standards. That’s because the administration’s plans hinge on the high court’s 2007 ruling in Massachusetts v. EPA which said the EPA has the authority, under the Clean Air Act, to limit emissions of greenhouse gases from vehicles. Two years later, Obama’s EPA concluded that the release of carbon dioxide and other heat-trapping gases endangered human health and welfare, a finding the administration has used to extend its authority beyond automobiles to develop national standards for large stationary sources. The administration currently is at work setting first-time national standards for new and existing power plants, and will move on to other large stationary sources. But in the meantime, the only way companies are addressing global warming pollution is through a permitting program that requires them to analyze the best available technologies to reduce carbon dioxide, the chief greenhouse gas. The president gave the EPA until next summer to propose regulations for existing power plants, the largest unregulated source of global warming pollution. “From an environmental standpoint, it is bad, but not catastrophic,” said Michael Gerrard, a law professor at Columbia University and director of its Center for Climate Change Law. Gerrard said it would have been far worse if the court decided to question the EPA’s conclusion that greenhouse gases endanger human health and welfare. Environmental groups generally breathed a sigh of relief that the court rejected calls to overrule its 2007 decision or review the EPA’s conclusion about the health effects of greenhouse gas emissions. “It’s a green light for EPA to go ahead with its carbon pollution standards for power plants because the court has left standing EPA’s endangerment finding,” said Joanne Spalding, the Sierra Club’s senior managing attorney. But a lawyer for some of the business groups involved in the case said the court issued a more sweeping ruling….



New Sea Level Rise Executive Order in Delaware.
Governor Jack Markell of Delaware, a Democrat, has signed an executive order requiring all state agencies to take sea-level rise into account when designing and locating state projects. The order also requires agencies to develop strategies ( ) to make state facilities and operations better prepared to deal with climate change and sea-level rise.



Another Dry Winter Could Mean More Water Cutbacks For Californians

By Jeff Spross on October 15, 2013 at 1:55 pm

An aqueduct in Southern California. CREDIT: AP Photo / MWD of Southern California

Another round of water shortages will likely come to California next year, if this winter sees less precipitation than usual. The L. A. Times reports that state officials are not prepared to declare another drought, but current water supplies only cover one more year. If precipitation this winter is sufficiently low, California residents will face mandatory cutbacks in their water use. As of this past May, California’s snowpack amounts were only at 17 percent of their normal levels for this time of year. Snowpack supplies one third of the state’s fresh water, and up to three-fourths for western California. The state’s water reservoirs are already low thanks two previous years of drought: Lake Shasta is at 66 percent of its average level for this time of year, and Lake Oroville is at 73 percent. Approximately one quarter of Southern California’s water also comes courtesy of the Colorado River basin, and Colorado’s last two years were among the driest in nearly a century. Two of the state’s major reservoirs — Lake Powell and Lake Mead — are less than half full…..


An Unprecedented Antarctic Disaster, Unfolding in Darkness

Posted: 10/11/2013 11:47 am

The largest scientific research station in Antarctica, the United States’ McMurdo Station, will experience 17 hours of daylight today. Meanwhile a scientific disaster of unprecedented proportions is unfolding due to fallout from the U.S. government shutdown. But with communication networks essentially severed, even the scientists involved find themselves in the dark, struggling to comprehend the magnitude of what is happening. Hubert Staudigel, a senior researcher at Scripps Institution of Oceanography who has spent five seasons in Antarctica, explains the basic situation: “Antarctic researchers and McMurdo station are being instructed to shift operations into ‘caretaker’ mode. Effectively, this means that science is stopped, because McMurdo goes into ‘winter-over’ mode, just keeping the station alive.” As a consequence, an entire season of Antarctic research will be lost. Because of the harsh weather, “we have to cram all our science into three months of the year,” Staudigel says. And due to the extremely complicated logistics of working in Antarctica, it will be difficult or impossible to meet the deadlines for this year’s research season, no matter how soon the shutdown is resolved. “You can get everybody home in two weeks,” Staudigel tells me, “but then you can’t just get started again.”

Scientists I spoke to are estimating thousands of researchers in the U.S. and thousands more abroad will be directly impacted. But with program managers and other key players unavailable, it’s impossible to be more precise. “Everybody who you would contact as a reporter is furloughed,” Staudigel says….


For operations on U.S. land, it’s not open and shut

Carl Nolte SF Gate Updated 12:45 pm, Friday, October 11, 2013

The government shutdown is having a patchwork effect in the Bay Area, with some public areas open while others are closed – a confusing and complex situation that is causing economic hardship to the tune of hundreds of millions of dollars. For example, the historic Cliff House restaurant in San Francisco is closed because it is owned by the National Park Service and operated by a private concessionaire. But the luxurious Cavallo Point lodge, spa and restaurant on national parkland at Fort Baker in Marin County is open because it is leased to an operator under a different set of federal rules. And while the vast Golden Gate National Recreation Area, which stretches from Tomales Bay to the Santa Cruz Mountains, is closed to the public, the Presidio of San Francisco surrounded by the recreation area operates under a separate federal law and is open…The difference, as explained by Alexandra Picavet, a National Park Service spokeswoman, is that the Cliff House and other park concession operators run under one legal arrangement and Cavallo Point under another….


US Shutdown Threatens Hopes for Antarctic Reserve

WELLINGTON, New Zealand October 16, 2013 (AP) By NICK PERRY Associated Press

The U.S. government shutdown is threatening a long-awaited deal to create the world’s largest marine sanctuary in Antarctica. Americans are among the most enthusiastic proponents, but they might not make it to the negotiating table. The U.S., New Zealand and other countries have sought a sanctuary in the pristine waters of the Ross Sea for the past decade, and there are hopes that previous objectors Russia and Ukraine will agree to a new, smaller proposal when the nations that regulate Antarctic fishing meet next week in Hobart, Australia. On Wednesday, Secretary of State John Kerry joined his counterparts from other nations in calling for the sanctuary to proceed. But the U.S. apparently has suspended travel plans for its delegation. If they don’t make it, the proposal probably will be held until next year at least. Gerry Leape, a senior international policy expert at Pew Charitable Trusts, said he’s spoken to members of the U.S. delegation and he understands that their travel has been suspended because of the shutdown…..Leape said the suspension could be lifted on short notice, either if the shutdown ends or if the delegation gets special permission to travel. Under normal circumstances, he said, the delegation would already be in Australia and working its diplomatic channels in pre-meetings. “It would be a real missed opportunity if the U.S. isn’t able to go,” he said. “I hope the situation changes, but they haven’t come to an agreement yet.”….


Shutdown a setback for Bosque del Apache birds

ABQ Journal (blog) 

 – ‎October 14, 2013‎ 


The Bosque del Apache, the iconic bird refuge run by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service along the Rio Grande south of Socorro, is closed because of the partial federal government shutdown….October is the critical time in which refuge staff prepares wetlands for the winter. Wetlands are typically dry at this time and are being disced, plowed, or mowed to optimize feeding conditions before they are flooded in late October. When the government shut down on October 1, over 95% of the refuge habitat was not ready for the birds. Over the past few years these wetlands have become critical for one iconic Bosque del Apache Refuge species, the greater sandhill crane. These birds have experienced successive years of poor reproduction and their population is in decline. Proper wintering habitat is critical for survival and reproductive success.


Sustainability & Climate Change Emerging Priorities At World Bank

Posted on October 12, 2013 by Gary Chandler

Under the new leadership of Dr. Jim Yong Kim, the World Bank Group continues to reinvent itself to meet the challenges of global development. That reinvention will continue this Saturday, when the Board of Governors is expected to endorse a new strategy for the institution. If properly implemented across the Group, the strategy could help boost the institution’s contribution to equitable and sustainable development. Two areas of focus will be especially important, including how the Group handles its work on climate change and selects its investments…..


Environmentalists threaten lawsuit as drilling continues despite shutdown

Posted on October 15, 2013 at 1:38 pm by Jennifer A. Dlouhy in Politics/Policy

A sign blocks off the entrance to Grand Canyon National Park in early October, before it was reopened to visitors using state funds. (AP Photo/Brian Skoloff, File) WASHINGTON — Environmentalists on Tuesday accused the Obama administration of illegally allowing oil companies to keep drilling on public lands during the government shutdown, even as officials erect barricades around national monuments and close park gates to visitors. Continuing to allow oil and gas drilling on federal lands violates the Anti-Deficiency Act, said the Phoenix-based Center for Biological Diversity, citing a 19th century law that bars the government from incurring new financial obligations in the absence of congressionally appropriated funding. Federal agencies have cited the law in decision to furlough workers, close national parks and cut off energy data streams. At the Interior Department, the Bureau of Land Management has stopped issuing new and revised permits for oil and gas drilling on public lands. Offshore permits are still flowing out of the Interior Department’s Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement, which is tapping non-appropriated funds to keep the work going….



Global panel seeks economic solutions to climate change


 – ‎ October 11, 2013‎


Energy efficiency has more potential to reduce greenhouse gas emissions than any other single current option, the World Bank’s former chief economist Lord Nicholas Stern said Friday in co-launching a global panel to find cost-effective solutions to …


Fighting climate change, with crowd funding and Google Hangouts

10.11.13 – 2:27 pm | Rebecca Bowe |

A young San Francisco couple, Ryan Kushner and Amanda Ravenhill, are trying out a new approach to climate change activism that they hope will ultimately reach thousands of people via online videos and interactive web-based trainings. Called Hero Hatchery, the ambitious project launched earlier this week. Celebrity-status environmentalists such as Bill McKibben, head of, and Tim DeChristopher, who made headlines for throwing a monkey wrench into a Bureau of Land Management auction, will lead free weekly online trainings on climate change, administered via Google Hangout, as part of the effort…..


Big win on arsenic in meat
October 15 2013

In a major win for public health, the FDA has announced that it would withdraw approval of three of the four arsenicals in animal feed for poultry and hog production….






EBay, Ellison Embrace Microgrids in Threat to Utilities

By Ken Wells & Mark Chediak Oct 17, 2013 6:34 AM PT

Microgrids are emerging as a credible threat to the dominance of America’s 100-year-old-plus utility monopoly, possibly making these electricity power transmission lines obsolete. Oracle Corp. Chief Executive Officer Larry Ellison plans to build one to power the Hawaiian island he bought last year. EBay Inc. has one to run a data center. The University of California at San Diego and the federal government have invested tens of millions of dollars in the technology. Microgrids are emerging as a credible threat to the dominance of America’s 100-year-old-plus utility monopoly. The small-scale versions of centralized power systems, once just used against blackouts, are now gaining thousands of customers as homeowners in states with high power costs turn to them as a way to manage rooftop solar systems, cut electricity bills and, in some cases, say goodbye to their power companies. The systems use computer software and remote measuring devices to control energy sources such as rooftop solar panels and natural gas-fueled power generators. They allow a home or business owner, a college systems engineer or a farmer on a mountainside to generate, distribute and regulate their locally produced power with an ease and sophistication that only utilities had a few years ago. Not much of a factor a decade ago, microgrids are expected to explode into a $40 billion-a-year global business by 2020, according to Navigant Research, a clean-technology data and consulting company. In the U.S., about 6 gigawatts of electricity — enough to power as many as 4.8 million homes — will flow through microgrids by 2020, Navigant said. …



California adopts first-in-nation energy storage plan

Dana Hull 10/17/2013 12:48:22 PM

PG&E’s Yerba Buena battery energy storage project, seen here Tuesday morning Oct. 15, 2013, in the hills above Evergreen Valley College in San Jose, Calif. A California law that requires utilities to get 33 percent of their electricity from renewable sources like solar and wind is widely credited …

In a bold move being closely watched by utilities, environmentalists and the clean technology industry, California on Thursday adopted the nation’s first energy storage mandate. State regulators with the California Public Utilities Commission, meeting in Redding, unanimously approved Commissioner Carla Peterman’s groundbreaking proposal that requires PG&E, Southern California Edison and San Diego Gas & Electric to expand their capacity to store electricity, including renewable energy generated from solar and wind. “The decision lays out an energy storage procurement policy guided by three principles: optimization of the grid, integration of renewable energy and reduction of greenhouse gas emissions,” said Peterman, a rising star who was appointed to the agency by Gov. Jerry Brown in late 2012. The state’s three investor-owned utilities must collectively buy 1.3 gigawatts — or 1,325 megawatts — of energy storage capacity by the end of 2020. That is roughly enough energy to supply nearly 1 million homes….



The Solar Robots

NY Times October 15 2013 A California company thinks robots that can install and clean thousands of solar panels may make solar energy competitive with fossil fuels.


Lac-Mégantic blast leaves impact on town, rail industry.
October 14 2013 NPR -All Things Considered
Three months ago, a train carrying American crude oil derailed and exploded in the heart of Lac-Mégantic, Quebec, killing 47 people. Industry experts say the accident could change the way oil and other dangerous chemicals are transported on trains in North America. ….


In North Dakota, New Concerns Over Mixing Oil and Wheat

By JOHN ELIGON NY Times Published: October 17, 2013

ROSS, N.D. — While three generations of the Sorenson family have made their livelihood growing wheat and other crops here, they also have learned to embrace the furious pace of North Dakota’s oil exploration. After all, oil money helped the Sorensons acquire the land and continue to farm it. But more oil means more drilling, resulting in tons of waste that is putting cropland at risk and raising doubt among farmers that these two cash crops can continue to coexist. A private company is trying to install a landfill to dispose of solid drilling waste on a golden 160-acre wheat field across the road from Mike and Kim Sorenson’s farmhouse. Although the engineers and regulators behind the project insist that it is safe for the environment, the Sorensons have voiced concern that salt from the drilling waste could seep onto their land, which would render the soil infertile and could contaminate their water, causing their property value to drop. “I’m concerned not if it leaks, it’s when it’s going to leak over there,” Ms. Sorenson, 42, said. Oil companies in North Dakota disposed of more than a million tons of drilling waste last year, 15 times the amount in 2006, according to Steven J. Tillotson, the assistant director of the Division of Waste Management for the state’s Health Department. Seven drilling waste landfills operate in the state, with 16 more under construction or seeking state approval. ….


After Sparking Outrage In Detroit, Koch Brothers’ Tar Sands Waste Now Piling Up In Chicago

By Kiley Kroh on October 15, 2013 at 9:35 am

Petroleum coke, a byproduct of tar sands refining, is building up along Chicago’s Calumet River and alarming residents, reported Midwest Energy News.

Petroleum coke is a high-carbon, high-sulfur byproduct of Canadian tar sands that are shipped from Alberta to the U.S. to be refined and is rapidly becoming a cause for concern in Chicago. “It’s growing by leaps and bounds,” Southeast Environmental Task Force member Tom Shepherd, told Midwest Energy News. “It’s coming at a breathtaking rate.”…


California’s alternative-energy program under scrutiny

Billions spent on wind, hydrogen, cow manure projects are questioned after some investments go bust, but the program is expected to grow. It could surpass current state support for the UC system.

By Ralph Vartabedian and Evan Halper October 13, 2013, 7:59 p.m.

California is spending nearly $15 million to build 10 hydrogen fueling stations, even though just 227 hydrogen-powered vehicles exist in the state today. It’s a hefty bet on the future, given that government officials have been trying for nine years, with little success, to get automakers to build more hydrogen cars. The project is part of a sprawling but little-known state program that packs a powerful financial punch: It spent $1.6 billion last year on a myriad of energy-efficiency and alternative-energy projects. Even as California has scaled back education, law enforcement and assistance to the disabled in this era of financial stress, the energy program has continued unrestrained and is expected to grow significantly in coming years. State agencies have invested in milk trucks that run on cow manure, power plants fueled by ocean tides and artificial photosynthesis for powering vehicles and buildings. The spending is drawing increasing scrutiny. Some of the energy investments have gone bust, electricity costs have soared, and some economists have disputed the benefits. The legality of some consumer fees that fund the programs also is being challenged in court. The alternative-energy projects are largely financed by small charges on electricity bills or obscure consumer fees that are seldom noticed.
The hydrogen fueling stations, for example, will be financed by a $3 fee on license plates. Proponents of this spending say the funds are working the way they were designed. The money is helping position the state as an international leader in energy-conservation technology, said Michael Peevey, president of the California Public Utilities Commission…..


Fine dining in the lunch line at Marin City school

Julian Guthrie SF Chronicle Updated 7:14 pm, Sunday, October 13, 2013

The lunch menu was quinoa macaroni and cheese, a garden salad with shaved beets and radishes, warm flatbread, an organic, green-colored juice drink, and a berry and wild fennel trifle dessert. The setting was a cafeteria in Marin City, where students returned for seconds – not only of the mac ‘n’ cheese, but also of the salad. A new program called Conscious Kitchen is bringing organic and seasonal food to a group of students who were more accustomed to soda and Cheetos than granola and arugula. The pilot program – spearheaded by chef Justin Everett of Cavallo Point Lodge in Sausalito – serves a healthy breakfast, lunch and snack to 120 students at the Bayside Martin Luther King Academy every school day. Through donations and collaborations, the food costs $5 per day per child.
“This started because I was taking my son out to the tide pools in Marin and I saw a group of kids who were pulling out lunches of Coke and Cheetos,” said Everett. “I said, ‘Oh, you have a special lunch today.’ They were throwing away the sandwiches and just having that. And the kids said, ‘This is what we have every day.’ “
Everett worked with Teens Turning Green founder Judi Shils to create the healthy food program for the school in the Sausalito-Marin City School District – a school in which nearly all of the children in kindergarten through eighth grade qualify for free or reduced-price lunches. Together, the two brought in a range of food purveyors and community supporters who helped them find ways to keep the meals healthy and low-cost.
“When we first set out to make a lunch with quinoa macaroni and cheese, the total meal ended up costing over $8,” Everett said, standing in the cafeteria at MLK Academy as students finished lunch. “Instead of trying to go for cheaper products, we found local food purveyors to donate ingredients.”

Working with companies including Cavallo Point and Good Earth Natural Foods, as well as local chefs, farmers and foundations, Everett said, “Not only were they willing to donate, but they asked how they could continue to help.”

Shils, whose student-led Teens Turning Green organization is about raising awareness around environmental issues, said, “After months of observing the Marin City school food program, we set out to break the cycle of unhealthy, prepackaged and over-processed food and start serving fresh, local organic options for breakfast and lunch.”….







Cows saving the planet? Why not? An idea that sounds preposterous begins to make sense when you take a soil’s-eye view of our current ecological predicament. Cattle, like all grazing creatures, can, if appropriately managed, restore land and help build soil. Rebuilding soil is only one aspect of this important, paradigm-shifting book. Drawing on the work of thinkers and doers, renegade scientists and institutional whistleblowers from around the world, Schwartz challenges much of the conventional thinking about global warming and other problems. Cows Save the Planet is at once a primer on soil’s pivotal role in our ecology and economy and an antidote to those awash in despairing environmental news. It is also an important call to action on behalf of the soil—and, by extension, those of us who benefit from it. Please  click here for a review of Cows Save the Planet.  You can go to the HMI store to take advantage of our featured book sale.






  • For those who might be interested, next week an online class on the Science of Climate Change is beginning. More information about the class is available in this article at RealClimate.


  • The California Coastal Commission has released Draft Sea-Level Rise Policy Guidance and now seeking comments. To download the document, please visit: The document provides an overview of best available science on sea-level rise for California and recommended steps for addressing sea-level rise in Coastal Commission planning and regulatory actions. Comments can be submitted via email to, by U.S. mail to the address below, or orally at Commission public hearings in November, December 2013 and/or January 2014. Please send your comments as soon as possible, and no later than Wednesday, January 15, 2014. 



Parks: The New Climate Classroom

The Institute at the Golden Gate is pleased to announce our premier workshop on climate change communication and education, Parks: The New Climate Classroom, November 7-8, 2013 at Cavallo Point Lodge in Sausalito.

Parks: The New Climate Classroom is a two-day workshop to accelerate and deepen climate change communications and education and link organizations, public lands, formal and in-formal educators, and related fields to fundamentally shifting the public dialogue on climate change.

Attendees will learn from leading thinkers and share knowledge and practices across agencies, organizations, and geographies to strengthen programs, build partnerships, and align for greater impact.

Please visit the Agenda page for a full program listing, updated as the program is confirmed.








**Incorporating Birds into Tools for Measuring Ecosystem Services: A case study from Central California.   Tuesday, October 22, 2 PM Eastern, 11 AM Pacific

NRCS WEBINAR featuring Nat Seavy, PhD, Point Blue Conservation Science and Kelli McCune, Sustainable Conservation. To join, register here:

Abstract: Landowners and the agricultural community are facing increased pressure to demonstrate measurable gains in environmental quality, while at the same time working to replace income from cuts in conservation funding. Payment for ecosystem service programs can help conservation groups and agencies target scarce conservation investments and achieve more strategic outcomes from restoration projects on working lands. The presenters will provide an overview of the concept and discuss a current Conservation Innovation Grant-supported pilot in California to develop mutually beneficial partnerships that reward watershed restoration and achieves tangible benefits to investors. They also will discuss assessment tools developed for California riparian areas that quantify bird habitat quality as a measure of environmental benefit from restoration.





Establishing Functional California Native Grasslands – Thursday, Oct. 24th

Save the date for CA Native Grassland Associatio’s popular “how-to” workshop for native grassland restoration & revegetation projects.
WHEN:  Thursday October 24th   8:00am – 4:30pm WHERE: Lake Solano Nature Center and field visit to upland restoration site west of Winters, CA
WHO: course led by CNGA expert instructors Bryan Young, J.P. Marie, Chris Rose, Emily Allen of Hedgerow Farms, assisted by Jon O’Brien and Kurt Vaughn.
QUESTIONS: Contact our Admin. Director or drop us a note via our Contact us link. Hope to see you in October!  Early bird registration extends through October 14th.


The 11th Biennial State of the San Francisco Estuary Conference
Oakland Marriott Hotel, October 29-30, 2013. 

This year’s theme, “20/20 Vision: Past Reflections, Future Directions,” both celebrates the 20th anniversary of SFEP’s Comprehensive Conservation and Management Plan, and focuses our attention on the many challenges ahead.  If you have not already registered, please register now.  The Pre-Registration deadline is October 23rd. Conference Updates ( On-Line registration is available through October 23rd: An updated program is available on the conference web site:


Quivira Conference 2013– Inspiring Adaptation  Wednesday, November 13 – Friday, November 15, 2013  Registration Deadlines:  November 5, 2013
“The Westerner is less a person than a continuing adaptation. The West is less a place than a process.” – Wallace Stegner 

From prehistoric times to the present, human societies have successfully adapted to the challenges of a changing West, including periods of severe drought, limitations created by scarce resources and shifting cultural and economic pressures. Now, the American West is entering an era of unprecedented change brought on by new climate realities, which will test our capacity for adaptation as well as challenge the resilience of the region’s native flora and fauna. It is therefore paramount that we find and share inspiring ideas and practical strategies that help all of the region’s inhabitants adapt to a rapidly changing world.  We will hear from scientists, ranchers, farmers, conservationists, urban planners and others who have bright ideas and important tools to share from their adaptation toolbox.


Eleventh Annual Workshop: Habitat Conservation Planning from Tahoe to the Bay

November 20, 2013, Ulatis Community Center, Vacaville
Speakers and Presentations

The Conservation Planning Partners is an ad-hoc association of eight County and Sub-county scale Habitat Conservation Plans and Natural Community Conservation Plans.

County and sub-county scale Habitat Conservation Plans and Natural Community Conservation Plans are in preparation or being implemented in a number of counties in the San Francisco Bay Area and the Sacramento Region. These plans provide a means for the conservation of endangered species and contribute to the ir recovery, while allowing appropriate, compatible growth and development in the metropolitan areas.


The Future of the Concrete Channel

Thursday 21 November 2013, UC Berkeley

Ubiquitous in the urban landscape, concrete channels embody a mid-20th-century attitude of subduing nature and maximizing developable land.  Yet these optimistically-engineering structures have proven hard to maintain, and society increasingly regrets the loss of riparian ecosystems and the opportunity for human recreation and renewal once offered by the natural streams.  As concrete channels inevitably age and reach the end of their design lives, river managers confront the question of what to do with this deteriorating infrastructure?  Can the channels be rebuilt or modified to pass floods increasing due to urbanization and climate change?  Or is this an opportunity to implement alternative approaches that restore valuable functions of natural rivers?  These issues are highlighted in the San Francisco Bay Region, where multiple concrete channels suffer from sedimentation problems and one county has adopted a policy to replace them with natural channels where possible, and on the Los Angeles River, where the US Army Corps of Engineers has just released a draft Integrated Feasibility Study for ecosystem restoration of an 11-mile reach.  Scholars, practitioners, and managers will share ideas and experiences from California and elsewhere in the US, and look forward to the challenges and opportunities of rethinking the concrete channel.  The conference will wrap up with an exhibition of Concrete Channel Art. 

Speakers include Carol Armstrong (City of Los Angeles), Mitch Avalon (Contra Costa County Public Works), Josephine Axt (US Army Corps of Engineers – shutdown permitting), Jack Curley (Marin County Public Works), David Fowler (Milwaukee Metro Sewerage District), Jeff Haltiner (ESA-PWA), Ralph Johnson (Alameda County Public Works), Jim Fiedler (Santa Clara Valley Water District), Lewis MacAdams (Friends of Los Angeles River), Scott Nicholson (US Army Corps), Chip Sullivan (UC Berkeley), Phil Williams (ESA-PWA).  Conference organizers Matt Kondolf and Raymond Wong.  This conference is held as part of the centennial celebration of the Department of Landscape Architecture and Environmental Planning, UC Berkeley.  For more information and to register, please visit the conference website:


Introducing Green Infrastructure for Coastal Resilience
December 12, 2013

9:30am – 4:30 pm David Brower Center, Kinzie Room 741 Allston Way Berkeley, CA 94710

Registration: To register, click here. Registration is limited to 41 participants and is expected to fill fast. The deadline to register is December 6, 2013.  

A workshop sponsored by the San Francisco Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve and NOAA Coastal Services Center.  Green Infrastructure incorporates the natural environment and constructed systems that mimic natural processes in an integrated network that benefits nature and people. A green infrastructure approach to community planning helps diverse community members come together to balance environmental and economic goals. This day-long workshop will include a morning introductory course and afternoon panels by local experts. Who Should Attend: City and county officials, Engineers, Floodplain managers, Landscape Architects, NGO’s, Planners, and other Decision Makers involved in Coastal Management Issues 

This workshop is being developed in partnership by the San Francisco Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve and NOAA Coastal Services Center. In addition, an advisory committee have provided feedback on the training including participants from: San Francisco Estuary PartnershipBay Area Ecosystems Climate Change ConsortiumSan Francisco Bay Conservation and Development CommissionCalifornia Coastal Conservancy and the Bay Institute. Questions? Contact Heidi Nutters,, 415-338-3511 Feel free to forward this message to others who might be interested. 


Date CHANGED! : Rangeland Coalition Summit 2014 January 21-22, 2014  Oakdale, CA  Please note that the dates have been changed for the 9th Annual California Rangeland Conservation Coalition Summit to be hosted at the Oakdale Community Center. Mark your calendar for January 21-22, 2014, more details will be coming soon! The planning committee will have a conference call on September 11 at 9:00 AM to start planning for the event. If you are interested in serving on the planning committee or being a sponsor please contact Pelayo Alvarez:


Soil Science Society of America ecosystems services conference–abstracts are now being invited and are due by 12/1/2013.

March 6-9, 2014 Sheraton Grand Hotel, Sacramento, CA Sponsored by the Ecological Society of America, American Geophysical Union, and US Geological Survey. More info is available here:


99th Annual Meeting of the Ecological Society of America
Sacramento, California  August 10-15, 2014

Call for Proposals– Symposia, Organized Oral Sessions, and Organized Poster Sessions

Deadline for Submission: September 26, 2013




Rangeland Watershed Initiative Partner Biologist (Madera, CA) –  Point Blue Conservation Science
The Rangeland Watershed Initiative Partner Biologist is a partnership position between the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) and Point Blue Conservation Science that will focus on providing value added delivery of wildlife conservation programs on working lands through Farm Bill and other federal and state funding programs.  The Partner Biologist will actively participate with NRCS Field Conservationists, working lands producers, and other resource professionals in the development of ranch and farm conservation plans, including resources assessments, conservation practice design and implementation.  The Partner Biologist will also be involved with assessment and monitoring of conservation practices that have been applied on those working lands.  Email resumes to: by October 18, 2013.  Please include a 1 page cover letter explaining your interest and qualifications.  Please put “Madera RWI Partner Biologist” in the subject line.  No calls please. Equal Opportunity Employer.  For additional information about Point Blue and highlights of current programs, see




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Prehistoric Cave Paintings Largely Made By Women, Not Men: The First Artists Were Women, Archeologists Say

Researchers have assumed men made cave art. They assumed wrong.

October 15, 2013 4:17 PM EDT |

Hand Stencil Cave Art

The first artists were women, archeologists now say. Most early cave drawings were by women, not men. The assumption has long been that the first painters who made cave art were men. Most scientists surmise that the purpose of cave art had to do with luck in hunting, and that hunters were mostly men. “The assumption that most people made was it had something to do with hunting magic,” Penn State archaeologist Dean Snow said. She’s been studying hand prints in cave art for over a decade. However, a new analysis of the ancient handprints found in France and Spain indicates that most of the early artists were female. Based on the overall size of the hand and finger length, the artists were likely women. This common assumption may have to do with the fact that male archeologists were the first to find the handprints. “[M]ale archaeologists were doing the work,” Snow said. It may be that modern gender roles “had something to do with it,”  she said.



October 15th, 2013, New York City – The Buckminster Fuller Institute (BFI) is proud to announce the five finalists selected for the 2013 Buckminster Fuller Challenge. After a long day of deliberation on October 7th, the distinguished jury narrowed the 19 semi-finalists down to five top contenders for the $100,000 prize. The jury is comprised of leading innovators from a variety of expertise who bring distinct viewpoints to the deliberation process, and the group of finalists clearly reflects that diversity. “Every year we are impressed by the areas of work in which we find creative whole systems thinkers, and this year was no exception,” said Program Manager, Sharifah Taqi. “Being able to support and showcase comprehensive designs in areas of education, citizen science, materials innovation, architecture and financing systems is what makes this prize program truly unique.”
The 2013 Finalists Are:

  • Echale a tu Casa, an elegantly integrated model that combines community empowerment, local technical capacity building, a novel, affordable financing system, and cutting-edge but culturally appropriate “green” building techniques to improve housing conditions for otherwise underserved populations in Mexico.
  • Ecovative has developed a new class of home-compostable bio-plastics made from living organisms, mushroom mycelia, developed by Ecovative. Their high-performance, environmentally responsible alternatives to traditional plastic foam packaging, insulation, and other synthetic materials offer a revolutionary, truly sustainable alternative to the current toxic plastic foam materials that pollute and burden the modern world.
  • The Green Chemistry Commitment, an initiative to get university chemistry departments to commit to integrating Green Chemistry into their academic curricula and transform how chemistry is taught and practiced in order to eliminate the numerous devastating neurotoxic and carcinogenic chemicals that characterize modern life and damage the global ecosystem, replacing them with non-toxic alternatives.
  • PITCHAfrica: Waterbank Schools, a building prototype in Laikipia, Kenya, is a working demonstration of the remarkable leveraging power of water catchment as a socially integrated resource awareness and community engagement tool.
  • Public Laboratory for Open Technology and Science collaboratively develops inexpensive, open-source monitoring tools and techniques in order to ‘democratize’ science and empower a grassroots network of ‘citizen scientists’ to be able to accurately measure environmental problems, and, when necessary, challenge inaccurate government and industry environmental health data in order to demand accountability.


Climbing Beyond Boehner’s Reach

By FREDDIE WILKINSON OP ED NY TIMES Published: October 15, 2013 67 Comments

YOSEMITE WEST, Calif. — THE limit of John Boehner’s reach is defined by a line of orange traffic cones and a forest green and white S.U.V. that’s parked, lights flashing, beneath a stand of ponderosa pines on the edge of a scenic meadow in Yosemite Valley. Directly overhead lies the southeast face of El Capitan, also known as the Dawn Wall — a monolith of cleaved gray granite rising more than 2,800 feet that is, for legions of rock climbers around the world, without peer. …. Even if one lacks official exemption, there are numerous solutions for those still wishing to climb in Yosemite. The chief challenge lies in not leaving a vehicle parked at the trailhead. With the aid of a bicycle, or a friendly drop-off, it takes only a few moments to dash off the pavement. After a hundred feet, the granite boulders and pine forest of the high Sierra swallow you, and vertical realms await. It’s doubtful anyone will pursue. Crossing this threshold onto publicly held wilderness that’s closed down by our government, I was reminded of an adage, from the American frontier: “When freedom is outlawed, only outlaws will be free.”



Coffee and the consumer: can McDonald’s mainstream sustainability?

McDonald’s is marketing certified espresso and fish for the first time in the US. Why? Because consumers are finally starting to show they care

Marc Gunther, Tuesday 24 September 2013 00.00 EDT

McDonald’s is marketing Rainforest Alliance-certified espresso and Marine Stewardship Council-labeled fish for the first time. Photograph: AP

Across the US, McDonald’s last week introduced pumpkin spice lattes made with Rainforest Alliance-certified espresso. No such assurance comes with McDonald’s drip coffee. Why? Because consumers haven’t yet shown Mickey D’s that they care. That’s gradually changing, says Bob Langert, the vice president of sustainability for McDonald’s, and not a moment too soon. As the world’s biggest fast-food chain, which has 34,000 restaurants in 118 countries, seeks to make its supply chain more environmentally friendly, McDonald’s is trying to enlist its customers as allies. That’s why the pumpkin lattes marketing features the little green frog seal of approval from the Rainforest Alliance. That’s also why McDonald’s fish sandwiches, for the first time, feature a blue ecolabel from the Marine Stewardship Council certifying that the pollock inside comes from better-managed fisheries. …


Analysis of herbal products shows contamination is common
(October 10, 2013) — Most herbal products, available to buy as alternative medicines, may be contaminated. Researchers demonstrate the presence of contamination and substitution of plant species in a selection of herbal products using DNA barcoding. … > full story


Compound in grapes, red wine could help treat multiple types of cancer
(October 11, 2013) — A recent study by a University of Missouri researcher shows that resveratrol, a compound found in grape skins and red wine, can make certain tumor cells more susceptible to radiation treatment. The next step is for researchers to develop a successful method to deliver the compound to tumor sites and potentially treat many types of cancers. … > full story

Calorie burner: How much better is standing up than sitting?

Studies have claimed major health benefits for standing for much of the day as opposed to sitting. The difference is marked, explains Michael Mosley.

Guess how many hours a day you spend sitting? Fewer than eight? More than 10? A recent survey found that many of us spend up to 12 hours a day sitting on our bottoms looking at computers or watching television. If you throw in the seven hours we spend sleeping then that adds up to a remarkable 19 hours a day being sedentary.

Sitting down as much as this is clearly bad for us and some studies suggest that those who sit all day live around two years less than those who are more active. Most of us are guilty of excess sitting. We sit at work, in the car and at home, moving only to shift from one seat to another.

Even if you exercise on a regular basis that may not be enough. There is mounting evidence that exercise will not undo the damage done by prolonged sitting. Our technology has made us the most sedentary humans in history. …


Injuries exploding as youths focus on one sport

Ron Kroichick Updated 8:05 am, Wednesday, October 16, 2013

….Barely a month later, at age 16, he had reconstructive surgery on his ulnar collateral ligament, better known in baseball circles as Tommy John surgery. The procedure has long been common for major-league pitchers with years of wear and tear on their arms, but Billinger’s case offers a stark reminder: Teenagers are vulnerable, too. It’s just one of the many side effects of specialization in youth sports. As more and more kids play the same sport year-round from an early age, they are increasingly vulnerable to injury. This trend toward focusing on one sport can sharpen skills and even set young athletes on the path to scholarships and college success. But it also means more repetition, more strain and more injuries. …. There has been a five-fold increase since 2000 in the number of serious elbow and shoulder injuries among youth baseball and softball players, according to the American Orthopaedic Society for Sports Medicine. The organization helped launch, a website devoted to educating parents and young athletes about sports injuries. Among the sobering statistics: Overuse injuries are responsible for nearly half of all sports injuries to middle school and high school students. Specialization is a logical culprit. A report this year by the sports medicine department at Loyola University of Chicago found that “kids are twice as likely to get hurt if they play just one sport as those who play multiple sports.”… There’s no foolproof formula, though Safran warned of the danger of playing some sports, such as golf, tennis or baseball, year-round at young ages. Those are what he called “unilateral arm-dominant sports,” making proper technique and proper rest all the more essential. “You’re always using the arms or body in the same way, and you’re not getting that cross-training experience,” Safran said. “That is ultimately an issue.”….







Climate change moves Nemo current to south



Wildlife photographer of the year 2013 – in pictures
October 15 2013

The results of the wildlife photographer of the year 2013 competition have been announced at London’s Natural History Museum. The overall winner is South African photographer Greg du Toit for his picture Essence of Elephants, a portrait of elephants in Botswana. Here is a selection of some of the winning images…

Behaviour, birds winner: Sticky Situation by Isak Pretorius (South Africa)
In May the seafaring lesser noddies head for land to breed. Their arrival on the tiny island of Cousine in the Seychelles coincides with peak web size for the red-legged golden orb-web spiders. The female spiders, which can grow to the size of a hand, create colossal conjoined webs up to 1.5m in diameter in which the tiny males gather. These are woven from extremely strong silk and are suspended up to six metres above the ground, high enough to catch passing bats and birds, though it’s flying insects that the spiders are after. Noddies regularly fly into the webs. Even if they struggle free the silk clogs up their feathers so they can’t fly. This noddy was exhausted, said Pretorius, ‘totally still, its fragile wing so fully stretched that I could see every feather’

















Ellie Cohen, President and CEO

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