Conservation Science News October 25, 2013

Focus of the WeekAgriculture, Climate Change and Carbon Markets









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Focus of the Week– California Agriculture, Climate Change and Carbon Markets


New CDFA Report Identifies Adaptation Strategies for California Agriculture (from CALCAN- California Climate and Agriculture Network)
The California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA) recently released a new report outlining recommendations for agriculture’s ongoing adaptation to climate change. The report was based in large part on the input of a Climate Change Consortium comprised of stakeholders from the California agriculture community, including CalCAN. The report, titled “The Climate Change Consortium for Specialty Crops: Impacts and Strategies for Resilience (PDF)” identifies known challenges – such as higher overall temperatures, reduced water supply and quality, and unpredictable changes to pest and pollination dynamics – that farmers of specialty crops will increasingly confront due to climate change.



The Climate Change Consortium for Specialty Crops: Impacts and Strategies for Resilience, PDF

From the introduction:

California is the nation’s leading agricultural state in gross cash receipts; $43.5 billion in 2011. A large portion of the crops grown in the state are “specialty crops.” Specialty crops are defined as fruits and vegetables, tree nuts, dried fruits, horticulture, and nursery crops including floriculture. In 2011, global exports of California’s specialty crops reached nearly $10.9 billion. California is the United States’ sole producer of several crops such as Clingstone peaches, olives, pistachios, walnuts, almonds and artichokes (California Department of Food and Agriculture 2013a). The state’s unique environmental zones and Mediterranean climate allow for a diversity of crops to be produced throughout the year for local, national, and global distribution. California’s specialty crop commodities are known for being a healthy, affordable, safe food source.


Impacts to agriculture from changes in weather will be felt differently in different parts of California. Temperature, rainfall, humidity, and wind are some common weather variables. Long-term patterns of weather are referred to as the “climate,” and changes in weather patterns over time are defined as “climate change.” Climate is essentially the average pattern of weather for a region, which could be a county, state, continent, or the entire world. Climate change occurs when an area’s weather pattern, as indicated by weather variables, deviates significantly from the “average,” or from the historically observed “normal.” The severity of the impacts of climate change on food production will be variable and crop-specific. Growers should be made aware of adaptation measures available to them. Ensuring sustainable agricultural adaptation to climate change will require a concerted collaborative effort by growers, government agencies, and agricultural service organizations.


The importance of this effort is highlighted in the California State Board of Food and Agriculture report, California Agricultural Vision: Strategies for Sustainability. Specifically, strategy nine is titled “Assure Agricultural Adaptation to Climate Change” and has the following objective – “Assure that all sectors of California agriculture can adapt to the most likely climate-related changes in seasonal weather, water supply, pests and diseases, and other factors affecting agricultural production” (California Department of Food and Agriculture 2012). ….


To identify specific strategies to assure agricultural adaptation to climate change, the California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA) convened the Climate Change Consortium workgroup in the fall of 2012 for two purposes:

1. To determine specific adaptation strategies that can be implemented now, and on-the-ground by specialty crop growers;

2. To provide direction and action measures to CDFA that can be initiated over the next several years, based on available resources, to help California agriculture adapt to climate change.


The Consortium includes representatives from several specialty crops commodity groups in California, growers from each of the top ten specialty crops in the state, scientists from the University of California and the California State University systems, University of California Extension Specialists, a member from the California Association Resource Conservation Districts, a member from the California Agricultural Commissioners and Sealers Association, and a certified crop/pest control advisor….



Paying Attention to Soil: Carbon Storage and Sequestration

September 27, 2013 CALCAN

The University of California magazine California Agriculture recently published a report that measured soil carbon levels in three perennial cropping systems across Northern California.  This study, which was funded by the USDA, brings California one step closer to realizing programs for agriculture that could incentivize sustainable soil management practices and provide financial benefits to farmers. With a focus on the lesser-understood “high-value specialty perennial crops,” such as walnuts, almonds and wine grapes, researchers in the study sought to develop baseline soil carbon estimates for a variety of agricultural land types and management systems. They gathered data by implementing long-term monitoring networks in perennial crop soils, using a research methodology that could serve as a model for future carbon storage studies. Why are these measurements so important? Establishing baseline carbon levels is necessary for determining how changes to a farming system – adding biomass, reducing tillage – may increase the carbon sequestering potential of a land area.  If such changes can be verifiably predicted and quantified, farms would be able to demonstrate carbon sequestration and could sell carbon credits or receive other financial incentives (such as the payments provided by NRCS conservation programs) on the basis of this data.

California’s cap-and-trade program does not currently regulate the greenhouse gas emissions of the agricultural industry. With adequate information on carbon levels in soils, however, it may be possible to systematically incentivize climate-friendly agricultural practices and support the state’s farmers and ranchers in contributing climate solutions by voluntarily reducing their emissions and/or sequestering carbon. Unfortunately, studies producing solid data on carbon reporting in soils remain rare. Increased investment in this kind of research, therefore, will be a crucial step in enabling farms to simultaneously benefit from the state’s climate policies and reduce the amount of greenhouse gases in our atmosphere. CalCAN continues to advocate that a portion of the revenue generated from cap-and-trade should be invested in climate-friendly farming practices, technical assistance and research such as that exemplified by this report.



Monitoring soil carbon will prepare growers for a carbon trading system

Emma C. Suddick, UC Davis, Woods Hole Research Center, Moffatt K. Ngugi, UC Davis, USAID USDA-FAS, Keith Paustian, Colorado State University, Johan Six, UC Davis, ETH Zurich

California Agriculture 67(3):162-171. DOI: 10.3733/ca.v067n03p162. July-September 2013.

ABSTRACT: California growers could reap financial benefits from the low-carbon economy and cap-and-trade system envisioned by the state’s AB 32 law, which seeks to lower greenhouse gas emissions statewide. Growers could gain carbon credits by reducing greenhouse gas emissions and sequestering carbon through reduced tillage and increased biomass residue incorporation. First, however, baseline stocks of soil carbon need to be assessed for various cropping systems and management practices. We designed and set up a pilot soil carbon and land-use monitoring network at several perennial cropping systems in Northern California. We compared soil carbon content in two vineyards and two orchards (walnut and almond), looking at conventional and conservation management practices, as well as in native grassland and oak woodland. We then calculated baseline estimates of the total carbon in almond, wine grape and walnut acreages statewide. The organic walnut orchard had the highest total soil carbon, and no-till vineyards had 27% more carbon in the surface soil than tilled vineyards. We estimated wine grape vineyards are storing significantly more soil carbon per acre than almond and walnut orchards.
The data can be used to provide accurate information about soil carbon stocks in perennial cropping systems for a future carbon trading system.



Can ‘Carbon Ranching’ Offset Emissions In Calif.?

by December 07, 2011 5:01 AM NPR 4 min 1 sec [reprinting this story from 2011]

Second of a two-part series on California’s climate policies.

Tall grasses in the San Joaquin valley in California suck carbon dioxide out of the air and store it in the soil. It’s one option that environmentalists are pursuing for greenhouse gas “offsets” that can be bought and sold in the state.Christopher Joyce/NPR

Climate experts are exploring the concept of growing dense fields of weeds to help soak up carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. ….So if you run a power plant in California, you might reduce your footprint by buying new, cleaner equipment. But that can be expensive. Instead, you could help pay to protect a growing forest, because it sucks carbon dioxide out of the air. Or you could pay a farmer to capture methane from a pond of pig waste. The market for these so-called greenhouse gas “offsets” is growing, and people are angling to come up with new kinds of offsets. One potential bumper crop lies in the state’s huge agricultural heartland — the San Joaquin Valley, a place where biologist Whendee Silver spends a lot of time. “What we found was that this area was a really big source of greenhouse gases,” she says on a walk across some of the valley’s prime grazing land. Silver, a professor at the University of California, Berkeley, measures greenhouse gases coming up out of the peat-rich soil — carbon dioxide, nitrous oxide and methane. She’s looking for ways to reduce those gases, and that could create offsets that farmers and ranchers could sell to businesses trying to reduce their carbon footprint. One way to cork up those gases is to flood the peatland and grow a tall grass called tule. Silver and Berkeley environmental scientist Dennis Baldocchi point to a field of densely packed reeds about 12 feet high, swaying in the wind. Over centuries, this stuff breaks down into peat soil.

The soil in the wetlands area is dark and rich in carbon. Flooding of the land traps carbon from the air in the reeds and soil. Christopher Joyce/NPR

“These things have grown in this region for about 10,000 years or so,” says Baldocchi, who grew up here on a walnut farm. “You can stick your hand down if you want to feel the stuff and see.”

He bends over and scoops a handful of black, stinking mud from the floods ground. “This is the stuff that will form the soils that are now being lost as this land is being drained.”

“Smell it,” Silver says. “Do you smell the sulfur? That tells you that the air is gone. Take a good sniff. It smells like rotten eggs.”

The flooded soil means there’s very little oxygen there. That keeps bacteria from chewing carbon from the soil and sending it up into the atmosphere. And as the reeds grow — and they grow fast — they suck carbon out of the atmosphere like a big sponge.

“I think it’s pretty clear when you can see this beautiful green swath of wetland growing next to the brown hills at this time of year, you can see, this is carbon,” Silver says. That’s carbon taken out of the air and sequestered in the reeds and the soil. Flooding would return the land to the way it used to be. However, that would reduce acreage for farmers and ranchers. But if they can get paid enough for the greenhouse gases they capture, it could be profitable. Local rice farmers are interested too, since they flood land to grow rice, and that could capture greenhouse gases too.

“Here we may have a small area, but it’s a very, very intense carbon sink, and that’s the strength of this project,” Baldocchi says.

But there are kinks to work out. For example, flooding land may reduce emissions of carbon and nitrous oxide — both greenhouse gases — but increase methane, another greenhouse gas.

“So that’s part of the reason we’re looking at this,” explains Silver. “How much methane comes out, how much carbon gets stored in, and is it sustainable? Can we keep that positive balance of carbon coming in?” Silver calls this “carbon ranching” — an alternative to expensive retrofits at factories. Derik Broekhoff is vice president for policy at Climate Action Reserve, which ensures that these offsets actually do what they’re supposed to do: lower emissions. “A lot of these emission reductions you can do that a lot more cheaply so it reduces the overall cost,” he says.

California officials are interested in carbon ranching in part because the state government needs to reduce emissions from its own facilities and vehicles. And it owns plenty of land in the delta.





Widespread Plague In Wildlife Threatens Western Ecosystems

by October 23, 2013 5:17 PM 5 min 18 sec

For most of us, plague is something that maybe we read about in history books. In the 14th Century, it wiped out half of Europe’s population. But the bacteria is busy killing wildlife now in the American West. By studying small mammals scientists have learned that plague is far more pervasive a killer than anyone thought…..Biggins has confirmed his theory in field experiments on other small mammals. Plague is killing various kinds of mice and ground squirrels in New Mexico and Mexican wood rats in Colorado. BIGGINS: The threat is to the ecosystems of the West. I think we could be having basically a Black Death type of episode occurring rather continuously in the United States that we haven’t even recognized….



Poorly camouflaged insects can kick off a cascade of ecological impacts
(October 21, 2013) — A California walking stick insect that has evolved to produce individuals with two distinct appearances — an all-green form that camouflages well with broader leaves and a form with a white stripe running down its back that blends better with needle-like leaves — can markedly affect its broader ecological community when the appearance of the bug is mismatched with the plant it’s living on. … > full story


For fish and rice to thrive in Yolo Bypass, ‘just add water’
(October 24, 2013)
From a fish-eye view, rice fields in California’s Yolo Bypass provide an all-you-can-eat bug buffet for juvenile salmon seeking nourishment on their journey to the sea. That’s according to a new report detailing the
scientific findings of an experiment that planted fish in harvested rice fields earlier this year, resulting in the fattest, fastest-growing salmon on record in the state’s rivers.. The report, provided to the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, describes three concurrent studies from researchers at the University of California, Davis, nonprofit California Trout and the California Department of Water Resources. The scientists investigated whether rice fields on the floodplain of Yolo Bypass could be managed to help recover California’s populations of Chinook salmon, and if so, the ideal habitats and management approaches that could allow both fish and farms to thrive. “We’re finding that land managers and regulatory agencies can use these agricultural fields to mimic natural processes,” said co-author Carson Jeffres, field and laboratory director of the Center for Watershed Sciences at UC Davis. “We still have some things to learn, but this report is a big step in understanding that.” Researchers found that the fish did not have a preference among the three rice field types tested: stubble, plowed and fallow. The food supply was so plentiful that salmon had high growth rates across habitats and management methods. “It’s like a dehydrated food web,” said Jeffres of the harvested rice fields. “Just add water. All of those habitats are very productive for fish.”

The salmon did demonstrate a preference for habitats with better water flow. Jeffres compared it to choosing among three good restaurants: Each offers good food with hearty portions, but one has better ambience and so is chosen above the others. In this case, the better water flow was the ambience the fish preferred.

Among the key findings:

  • Experimental flooding of Yolo Bypass rice fields during the winter can create productive aquatic food webs for salmon.
  • Average growth rates during the study’s 41 days were the highest recorded in freshwater in California. Growth of juvenile Chinook averaged 0.93mm per day, with growth of 1.5 mm per day observed during specific two-week intervals.
  • Mortality was greater than in the team’s previous 2012 study at Knaggs Ranch. In the 2013 study, between 0 and 29 percent of free-swimming fish survived, while 35-98 percent of fish in enclosures survived.
  • Lower survival rates were attributed to bird predation. The winter of 2013, when the study was conducted, was one of the driest on record in the Sacramento Valley, which may have drawn more birds to the inundated rice fields, and to the fish. The study plots were also relatively shallow, providing little escape for fish. A follow-up study planned for 2014 will explore the role of depth as a refuge for fish against avian predators.
  • Fish reared in plowed rice fields grew faster than those reared over stubble or weedy vegetation. However, all habitat types were beneficial to the fish, suggesting farm managers may have more flexibility in land treatment after harvest.

“These results are good news for the effort to rebuild salmon populations in California,” said lead author Jacob Katz, a biologist with California Trout. “We’ve always suspected that when we mimic natural flood processes in agricultural fields, we give these fish a food-rich habitat they recognize and thrive in. These findings support that theory and provide a strong path forward for California land use planners, conservationists and farmers alike. This is a win-win model that can be replicated around the state.” The Yolo Bypass is the Central Valley’s largest contiguous floodplain and provides critical fish and wildlife habitat, the report said. It is covered by floodway easement held by the state of California, making other land uses subservient to flood control. Agriculture is a major land use in the bypass, with rice the primary crop. More than 95 percent of Central Valley floodplain habitat that was historically used to rear juvenile Chinook salmon has been altered, primarily diked, and drained for agriculture conversion. Most former floodplain wetlands are now only inundated during major floods. The report said access to floodplain habitats and the high growth rates associated with them during even a limited time may be critical in improving return rates for Central Valley salmon populations... > full story


Can a Potentially Invasive Plant Bring a Positive Influence to a Region?

Oct. 25, 2013 — Can invasive species be beneficial for the region? A recent study, published in the open access Journal of Hymenoptera Research, aimed to obtain empirical data on the activity and distribution of the bee species Braunsapis puangensis in the Suva area of Fiji and examine its association with the invasive creeping daisy Sphagneticola trilobata. The paper suggests that the invasive creeping daisy could in fact have a positive influence on a wild bee pollinator species, thus benefitting crops and biodiversity on the islands….


Aboriginal hunting practice increases animal populations
(October 24, 2013) — In Australia’s Western Desert, Aboriginal hunters use a unique method that actually increases populations of the animals they hunt, according to a new study. The hunting method — using fire to clear patches of land to improve the search for game — also creates a mosaic of regrowth that enhances habitat. … > full story


RAT ISLAND RENAMED–Hawadax Island Recovery Exceeding Expectations

Rat Island makeover more than just a name change

Island Conservation October 23rd, 2013

“When I first landed on what was Rat Island in 2007, it was an eerily silent place. A typical Aleutian island is teeming with wildlife, swirling with noisy, pungent birds. Not this place. It was crisscrossed with rat trails, littered with rat scat, scavenged bird bones, it even smelled…wrong,” reports Stacey Buckelew, an Island Conservation biologist. Buckelew first visited the island to help document centuries of damage to native birds and plant species from introduced invasive Norway rats (Rattus norvegicus). Flash forward to today—five years after the successful removal of invasive Norway rats by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (The Service), The Nature Conservancy (The Conservancy) and Island Conservation (IC). Much has changed. “The island is hardly recognizable among the cacophony of birds calling everywhere; it’s alive with bird fledglings-teals, eiders, wrens, sparrows, eagles, peregrine falcons, gulls, sandpipers. The island is transforming,”says Buckelew, who has just returned from the now renamed Hawadax Island where she is helping document early stages of an extraordinary recovery. For the first time ever, breeding tufted puffins (Fratercula cirrhata) have been documented on the island in the Alaska Maritime National Wildlife Refuge. Species thought to have been extirpated because of the rats, such as Leach’s storm-petrels (Oceanodroma leucorhoa) and fork-tailed storm-petrels (Oceanodroma furcate), have been recorded on-island.


Gulf ecosystem in crisis after BP spill

Three years after well blowout, declining seafood catches and deformities point to an environment in distress.

Dahr Jamail Last Modified: 20 Oct 2013 12:53

New Orleans, US – Hundreds of kilograms of oily debris on beaches, declining seafood catches, and other troubling signs point towards an ecosystem in crisis in the wake of BP’s 2010 oil disaster in the Gulf of Mexico.
“It’s disturbing what we’re seeing,” Louisiana Oyster Task Force member Brad Robin told Al Jazeera. “We don’t have any more baby crabs, which is a bad sign. We’re seeing things we’ve never seen before.”
Robin, a commercial oyster fisherman who is also a member of the Louisiana Government Advisory Board, said that of the sea ground where he has harvested oysters in the past, only 30 percent of it is productive now.
“We’re seeing crabs with holes in their shells, other seafood deformities. The state of Louisiana oyster season opened on October 15, and we can’t find any production out there yet. There is no life out there.”
According to Robin, entire sectors of the Louisiana oyster harvest areas are “dead or mostly dead”. “I got 10 boats in my fleet and only two of them are operating, because I don’t have the production to run the rest. We’re nowhere near back to whole, and I can’t tell you when or if it’ll come back.”….


Nitrogen fertilizer remains in soils, leaks towards groundwater for decades
(October 21, 2013) — Nitrogen fertilizer applied to crops lingers in the soil and leaks out as nitrate for decades towards groundwater — “much longer than previously thought,” scientists say in a new study. Thirty years after synthetic nitrogen fertilizer had been applied to crops in 1982, about 15 percent of the fertilizer still remained in soil organic matter, these scientists found. … > full story

Grazers, pollinators shape plant evolution
(October 21, 2013) — It has long been known that the characteristics of many plants with wide ranges can vary geographically, depending on differences in climate. But changes in grazing pressure and pollination can also affect the genetic composition of natural plant populations, according to a new study. … > 



Managing Rangelands to Benefit California Red-legged Frogs and California Tiger Salamanders. (PDF) 2013. Alameda County Resource Conservation District. (authors L.D. Ford, P.A. Van Hoorn, D.R. Rao, N.J. Scott, P.C. Trenham, and J.W. Bartolome; photography by Joe DiDonato; design and illustration by Katie Bertsche). Once common throughout central California, the California Red-legged Frog and California Tiger Salamander are now listed as threatened by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. They are rare, and their ranges have shrunk severely, mainly due to habitat loss and fragmentation associated with agricultural and urban development. Ranches and grazed public lands and the associated stewardship activities of ranchers and others are vital to the survival and recovery of these amphibians. Grazing as a land use is generally compatible. Livestock ponds have become crucial breeding habitats for both amphibians, and grazing significantly reduces the biomass of the exotic annual grasses that now dominate upland (terrestrial) habitat, lowering fire risk and preventing the degradation of habitat conditions that would occur if the grasses were left unm anaged. This document provides comprehensive recommendations for habitat management based on the best available scientific research and the expertise of individuals who study or manage these amphibians and their habitat. This publication was reviewed by over 40 experts (besides the authors), and sponsored by the Alameda County Resource Conservation District, California Coastal Conservancy, California Rangeland Conservation Coalition, East Bay Regional Park District, Joseph DiDonato Wildlife Consulting and Photography, LD Ford Rangeland Conservation Science, National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, The Nature Conservancy, Pacific Gas and Electric Company, Santa Clara County Open Space Authority, and United States Fish and Wildlife Service. We are pleased to present this new document without charge—click on this link to download. 


Why plants usually live longer then animals
(October 24, 2013) — Stem cells are crucial for the continuous generation of new cells. Although the importance of stem cells in fuelling plant growth and development still many questions on their tight molecular control remain unanswered. Plant researchers have now discovered a new step in the complex regulation of stem cells. … > full story


Focusing a lens on China’s environmental challenges.
Yale Environment 360 Traveling throughout China, from the Tibetan Plateau to the lush subtropical forests in the south, a photojournalist documents the vast scope of the country’s environmental challenges.


Second giant oarfish found off California coast

NY Daily News October 20, 2013 Southern California’s coastline is getting fishier and fishier. Less than a week after an extremely rare, 18-foot oarfish was discovered near Catalina Island a second has washed ashore at nearby Oceanside


Bugs not gay, just confused
(October 21, 2013) — Researchers have found that homosexual behavior in bugs is probably accidental in most cases. In the rush to produce offspring, bugs do not take much time to inspect their mates’ gender, potentially leading to same-sex mating. … > full story


Monkey That Purrs Like a Cat Is Among New Species Discovered in Amazon Rainforest

October 25, 2013 — At least 441 new species of animals and plants have been discovered over a four year period in the vast, underexplored rainforest of the Amazon, including a monkey that purrs like a … > full story





Highest Levels in Last 44,000 Years; Has Climate Change Finally Been Proven?

Posted by Russell Westerholm ( on Oct 24, 2013 04:16 PM EDT

The average summer over the last century in the Eastern Canadian Arctic has exceeded the same such average in any previous over the last 44,000 years, according to a University of Colorado at Boulder press release.

(Reuters) Scientists said Arctic Sea ice is becoming thinner and more broken apart, which encourages melting.

Lead author Gifford Miller and his colleagues conducted the first study, published Monday in the journal Geophysical Research Letters, with direct evidence that the present warmth in the Eastern Canadian Arctic exceeds a previous high. In a period known as the Early Holocene, the sun’s energy reaching the Northern Hemisphere was during the summer was about nine percent stronger than it is today. The Holocene is a period some 12,000 years ago when a geological epoch began after the last glacial period ended. “The key piece here is just how unprecedented the warming of Arctic Canada is,” said Miller, also a fellow at CU-Boulder’s Institute of Arctic and Alpine Research. “This study really says the warming we are seeing is outside any kind of known natural variability, and it has to be due to increased greenhouse gases in the atmosphere.”…



NOAA’s State of the Climate Monthly Update

The State of the Climate is a collection of monthly summaries recapping climate-related occurrences on both a global and national scale. October, 2013 (pdf)

    • Contiguous U.S. has sixth warmest and 12th wettest September on record.  This was the warmest September in the U.S. since 2005.  
    • Drought conditions eased in parts of the Plains and West with record flooding along the Front Range of Colorado.  
    • Globally-averaged temperature across land and ocean surfaces tied with 2003 as the fourth warmest September since records began in 1880.



Pacific Ocean temperature influences tornado activity in US
(October 17, 2013)
Meteorologists often use information about warm and cold fronts to determine whether a tornado will occur
in a particular area. Now, a University of Missouri researcher has found that the temperature of the Pacific Ocean could help scientists predict the type and location of tornado activity in the U.S. … …McCoy and Lupo found that the tornados that occurred when surface sea temperatures were above average were usually located to the west and north of tornado alley, an area in the Midwestern part of the U.S. that experiences more tornados than any other area. McCoy also found that when sea surface temperatures were cooler, more tornadoes tracked from southern states, like Alabama, into Tennessee, Illinois and Indiana. “Differences in sea temperatures influence the route of the jet stream as it passes over the Pacific and, eventually, to the United States,” McCoy said. “Tornado-producing storms usually are triggered by, and will follow, the jet stream. This helps explain why we found a rise in the number of tornados and a change in their location when sea temperatures fluctuated.”

In the study, McCoy and Lupo examined the relationship between tornadoes and a climate phenomenon called the Pacific Decadal Oscillation (PDO). PDO phases, which were discovered in the mid-1990s, are long-term temperature trends that can last up to 30 years. According to NASA scientists, the current PDO phase has just entered into a “cool” state. “PDO cool phases are characterized by a cool wedge of lower than normal sea-surface ocean temperatures in the eastern Pacific and a warm horseshoe pattern of higher than normal sea-surface temperatures extending into the north, west and southern Pacific,” McCoy said. “In the warm phase, which lasted from 1977 to 1999, the west Pacific Ocean became cool and the wedge in the east was warm.” …> full story


How climate change affects microbial life below the seafloor
(October 22, 2013) — Sediments from the deep sea give insight into the dynamics of the deep biosphere. This “Deep Biosphere”, reaching several hundred metres below the seafloor, is exclusively inhabited by microbes and is generally considered as stable. Nevertheless, only little is known about how this system developed over millennia and how this microbial life influences the cycling of carbon in the oceans. … > full story




Increasing toxicity of algal blooms tied to nutrient enrichment and climate change
(October 24, 2013) — Nutrient enrichment and climate change are posing yet another concern of growing importance: an apparent increase in the toxicity of some algal blooms in freshwater lakes and estuaries around the world, which threatens aquatic organisms, ecosystem health and human drinking water safety. … > full story


Iowa scientists: Climate change affecting farming.
Associated Press
More than 150 Iowa professors and climate researchers have signed on to a statement released Friday that says extreme weather patterns caused by climate change are affecting farming, and updated practices are needed to prevent soil erosion and adjust to the new reality.


Watering the forest for the trees: an emerging priority for managing water in forest landscapes: Widespread threats to forests resulting from drought stress are prompting a re-evaluation of priorities for water management on forest lands. In contrast to the widely held view that forest management should emphasize providing water for downstream uses, researchers argue that maintaining forest health in the context of a changing climate may require focusing on the forests themselves and on strategies to reduce their vulnerability to increasing water stress. Management strategies would need to be tailored to specific landscapes but could include thinning, planting and selecting for drought-tolerant species, irrigating, and making more water available to plants for transpiration. Hydrologic modeling reveals that specific management actions could reduce tree mortality due to drought stress. Adopting water conservation for vegetation as a priority for managing water on forested lands would represent a fundamental change in perspective and potentially involve trade-offs with other downstream uses of water. (Grant, Tague, and Allen, 2013, Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment 11: 314–321.


Climate Change and North American Rangelands: Trends, Projections, and Implications: The ecological consequences of climate change will vary substantially among ecoregions because of regional differences in antecedent environmental conditions; the rate and magnitude of change in the primary climate change drivers, including elevated carbon dioxide (CO2), warming and precipitation modification; and nonadditive effects among climate drivers. Elevated atmospheric CO2 will directly stimulate plant growth and reduce negative effects of drying in a warmer climate by increasing plant water use efficiency; however, the CO2 effect is mediated by environmental conditions, especially soil water availability. Warming and drying are anticipated to reduce soil water availability, net primary productivity, and other ecosystem processes in the southern Great Plains, the Southwest, and northern Mexico, but warmer and generally wetter conditions will likely enhance these processes in the northern Plains and southern Canada. The Northwest will warm considerably, but annual precipitation is projected to change little despite a large decrease in summer precipitation. Reduced winter snowpack and earlier snowmelt will affect hydrology and riparian systems in the Northwest. Specific consequences of climate change will be numerous and varied and include modifications to forage quantity and quality and livestock production systems, soil C content, fire regimes, livestock metabolism, and plant community composition and species distributions, including range contraction and expansion of invasive species. Recent trends and model projections indicate continued directional change and increasing variability in climate that will substantially affect the provision of ecosystem services on North American rangelands. (Polley et al. (2013) Climate Change and North American Rangelands: Trends, Projections, and Implications. Rangeland Ecology & Management: September 2013, Vol. 66, No. 5, pp. 493-511. doi:

Climate Change and North American Rangelands: Assessment of Mitigation and Adaptation Strategies:  
Recent climatic trends and climate model projections indicate that climate change will modify rangeland ecosystem functions and the services and livelihoods that they provision. Recent history has demonstrated that climatic variability has a strong influence on both ecological and social components of rangeland systems and that these systems possess substantial capacity to adapt to climatic variability. Specific objectives of this synthesis are to: 1) evaluate options to mitigate greenhouse gas emissions and future climate change; 2) survey actions that individuals, enterprises, and social organizations can use to adapt to climate change; and 3) assess options for system transformation when adaptation is no longer sufficient to contend with climate change. Mitigation for carbon sequestration does not appear economically viable, given the small and highly variable carbon dioxide fluxes of rangeland ecosystems and the high transaction costs that would be incurred. In contrast, adaptation strategies are numerous and provide a means to manage risks associated with climate change. Adaptation strategies are diverse, including altered risk perception by individuals, greater flexibility of production enterprises, and modifications to social organizations that emphasize climatic variability, rather than consistency. Many adaptations represent “no regrets” actions because their implementation can be justified without emphasis on pending climate change. Adaptations specific to livestock production systems can include flexible herd management, alternative livestock breeds or species, innovative pest management, modified enterprise structures, and geographic relocation. Social-ecological systems in which adaptation is insufficient to counter the adverse consequences of climate change might undergo transformative change to produce alternative ecosystem services, production enterprises, and livelihoods. The rangeland profession is in a pivotal position to provide leadership on this global challenge because it represents the intersection of management and scientific knowledge, includes diverse stakeholders who derive their livelihoods from rangelands, and interacts with organizations responsible for rangeland stewardship. (Joyce et al. (2013) Climate Change and North American Rangelands: Assessment of Mitigation and Adaptation Strategies. Rangeland Ecology & Management: September 2013, Vol. 66, No. 5, pp. 512-528. doi:



In Australia, raging early spring wildfires have rekindled a raging debate over climate change

Reporter Peter Thomson PRI The WORLD October 23, 2013 · 7:00 PM EDT

Roughly 60 blazes are still raging near Sydney, Australia, as the region enters its second week of intense wildfires.

Police say some of the fires in the Blue Mountains west of Australia’s largest city may have been started by children. Others apparently were started by power lines being buffeted by strong winds. One was even started by an army training exercise gone wrong.

But the biggest culprit has been the weather. It’s been dry, windy and unseasonably hot — in the upper 80s in Australia’s early spring. Taylor Auerbach, a reporter with Newscorp in Australia, says conditions on Wednesday were “a perfect storm” for bushfires.

The fires began last week and have consumed roughly 300,000 acres of land and more than 200 homes. They’ve closed schools and sent many local residents down the hills into Sydney to wait out the danger. Auerbach says they’ve also brought the largest-ever mobilization of emergency services in the state of New South Wales. “We’re talking maybe 3,000 volunteer fire fighters rolling out,” he says, from places as far afield as New Zealand. But even that hasn’t been up to the task. At last count 19 fires were still out of control. And Auerbach says new ones can start virtually without warning…. Abbott reserved special scorn for Christina Figueras, head of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, who said this week that there was “absolutely a connection between wildfires and rising temperatures.” Abbot said Figueras was “talking through her hat.” But climate scientists say it’s Abbott who’s got the science wrong. Kevin Trenberth, a distinguished senior scientist at the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Boulder, Colorado, says he’s “on the side of Christina Figueras.” Trenberth says Australia is one of the countries most vulnerable to the effects of climate change, and that “the Australians ought to be very worried.”….


Map showing extent of wildfires near Sydney, as of October 20, 2013. (Source: Reuters)


Bushfires: Coalition deploys straw man against burning issue of climate change

Government is desperate to keep bushfires and climate change apart for fear its emissions reduction policy will be found wanting

Lenore Taylor, Thursday 24 October 2013 00.00 EDT


Risk of Amazon rainforest dieback is higher than IPCC projects, study suggests
(October 21, 2013) — A new study suggests the southern portion of the Amazon rainforest is at a much higher risk of dieback due to stronger seasonal drying than projections made by the climate models used in the latest report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. … > full story


« Landscape Architecture in the News Highlights (October 1 – 15)

Novel Ecosystems: Not So Novel Anymore »Working with the Changing Shore

10/16/2013 by The Dirt Contributor

Sea levels are projected to rise dramatically over the next century, impacting coastal infrastructure that was never designed for these new conditions. In the face of this change, simply maintaining the status quo is an implausible prospect. At the Society for Ecological Restoration (SER) conference in Madison, Wisconsin, a set of landscape architects and ecologists proposed ecological strategies for adapting to sea level rise. By harnessing previously ignored or repressed ecological systems, coastal settlements can more effectively respond to their changing landscapes.

Kristina Hill, Affiliate ASLA, a landscape architecture professor at the University of California, Berkeley, discussed strategies for beach restoration in the context of rising seas. Using Virginia Beach as a case study, she explored the potential of the Dutch zandmotor (or sand motor) method of beach restoration (see image above).

Virginia Beach claims to have the longest recreational beach in the world, and, therefore, an economic impetus to keep its beach in a static, predictable form, requiring periodic restoration work. Traditionally, beach restoration work, which was last completed in Virginia Beach in 2002, involves dumping large amounts of new sand on the shoreline and spreading it around with a bulldozer. This process is expensive and highly disruptive to beach ecology.

The zandmotor method involves harnessing wave action to distribute sand across the shoreline. Instead of applying sand directly to the beach with bulldozers, sand is dumped offshore. Over time, coastal currents move the sand and deposit it along the beach. This method is much cheaper and less disruptive than traditional beach restoration.

In order to be applied in Virginia Beach, however, cultural attitudes toward the beach must change. Hill stated that hotel owners are leery of the irregular beach arrangements that result from the Dutch method, desiring the predictability that is achieved through traditional methods. Still, Hill expressed hope that eventually people may embrace a changing beach as something “exciting and beautiful to check in to see every year.” [See more on the Dutch sand motor at Landscape Architecture Magazine (LAM)]

Next, Shimrit Perkol-Finkel, SeArc – Ecological Marine Consulting LTD, spoke about retrofitting existing coastal infrastructure to support diverse marine ecosystems. Perkol-Finkel described how much existing construction consists of smooth concrete, a material that is not hospitable to marine growth. As an alternative to traditional concrete, she proposed the development of ecologically-active infrastructure that enhances ecological systems without compromising function. Enhanced biological buildup, including the proliferation of oysters and corals, can actually enhance the strength and durability of this infrastructure.

Speculating that concrete’s poor ecological performance has to do with its alkaline composition and smooth texture, Perkol-Finkel discussed a series of experiments with alternate concrete mixtures and arrangements. These experiments, which took place both in the lab and in the field, revealed that some concrete mixes perform significantly better ecologically than others. Furthermore, textured concretes proved to be far more conducive to marine life than smooth concretes. Slight modifications to the composition, texture, and design of marine infrastructure can lead to an enhanced ability to attract flora and fauna. This translates to an infrastructure that is biologically active, contributing to both ecological health and infrastructural function.

Peter Hummel, Anchor QEA, discussed strategies for integrating ecological restoration and infrastructure in Puget Sound. Much of the degradation to Puget Sound’s ecosystems has come not only from encroaching development, but also from coastal infrastructure itself. Using examples from rural, suburban, and urban settings, he presented case studies where coastal infrastructure was reconnected to ecological systems, enhancing resiliency to sea level change.

Whidbey Island in Puget Sound was given as a rural case study. Historically, the 600-acre site consisted of tidal marshes and mudflats. Most of this was lost with the introduction of a dyke and pump station, as well as a state highway and navel base. Recognizing that the pump station is extremely expensive to maintain, the restoration plan involves the wholesale removal of the levee and the replacement of the state highway with a bridge. By removing everything that limits the site’s hydrology, these modifications allow natural processes to rebuilt marshland – a process-based restoration plan.

Similarly, restoration efforts in Seahurst Park, a suburban setting, involve the removal of hard infrastructure to allow natural processes to function. In this case, a series of bulkheads have prevented landslide material from reaching the park’s beach, piling up uselessly only to be eventually hauled away by trucks. As a consequence, the beach has lowered 3 – 4 feet over 30 years. The restoration plan for the site involves the removal of these bulkheads, allowing landslide debris to reach the beach and rebuilt it over time.
In all of these examples, ecological processes are integrated into traditionally hard coastal infrastructures, benefiting both marine ecosystems and infrastructure. As sea levels rise, finding creative ways of harnessing ecological processes will be critical to coastal resiliency.

This guest post is by Ben Wellington, Master’s of Landscape architecture graduate, Louisiana State University and ASLA 2012 summer intern.


Near-term acceleration of hydroclimatic change in the western U.S. 
Using a high-resolution, hierarchical, five-member ensemble modeling experiment that includes a global climate model (Community Climate System Model), a regional climate model (RegCM), and a hydrological model (Variable Infiltration Capacity model), researchers find that increases in greenhouse forcing over the next three decades result in an acceleration of decreases in spring snowpack and a transition to a substantially more liquid-dominated water resources regime. These hydroclimatic changes are associated with increases in cold-season days above freezing and decreases in the cold-season snow-to-precipitation ratio. The changes in the temperature and precipitation regime in turn result in shifts toward earlier snowmelt, base flow, and runoff dates throughout the region, as well as reduced annual and warmseason snowmelt and runoff. The simulated hydrologic response is dominated by changes in temperature, with the ensemble members exhibiting varying trends in cold-season precipitation over the next three decades but consistent negative trends in cold-season freeze days, cold-season snow-to-precipitation ratio, and 1 April snow water equivalent. Given the observed impacts of recent trends in snowpack and snowmelt runoff, the projected acceleration of hydroclimatic change in the western U.S. has important implications for the availability of water for agriculture, hydropower, and human consumption, as well as for the risk of wildfire, forest die-off, and loss of riparian habitat. (Ashfaq,M., S. Ghosh, S.-C.Kao, L. C. Bowling, P. Mote,D. Touma, S. A. Rauscher, and N. S. Diffenbaugh (2013), Near-term acceleration of hydroclimatic change in the western U.S., J. Geophys. Res. Atmos., 118, doi:10.1002/jgrd.50816.)


Raging Australian wildfires raise questions about climate change, emergency preparedness

Wildfires hitting Australia’s east coast are the worst in a decade and have struck unusually early in the season.

By John Zubrzycki, Correspondent / October 18, 2013

The worst fires to hit Australia’s east coast in more than a decade have raised questions about what if any lessons have been learned from previous bushfire tragedies and stoked controversy over the federal government’s climate change credentials. Firefighters in New South Wales admitted they were unprepared for the hot and windy conditions that led to Thursday’s inferno, which turned hundreds of houses into smoldering ruins and left at least one person dead. At the height of the emergency, 97 fires with a combined front of more than 400 kilometers were burning across Australia’s most populous state. More than 80 fires continue to burn across New South Wales, with over 20 blazes not yet contained, according to the Australian Broadcasting Corp. 


Loss and Damage from Climate Change

October 25, 2013 — New research outlines empirical evidence of loss and damage from climate change from the perspective of affected people in nine vulnerable countries. The articles show how climatic stressors affect … > full story

Scientists Develop New Method to Help Global Coasts Adapt to Sea-Level Rise

October 25, 2013 — Scientists have developed a new method to help the world’s coasts adapt to global sea-level rises over the next 100 years. Future sea-level rise seems inevitable, although the rates and geographical patterns of change remain uncertain. Given the large and growing populations and economic activity in coastal zones, as well as the importance of coastal ecosystems, the potential impacts of sea-level change are far-reaching. Current methods to assess the potential impact of sea-level rise have varied significantly and hindered the development of useful scenarios and in turn, suitable adaption policies and planning. A new study led by Professor Robert Nicholls from the University of Southampton, has combined the available data on a number of different climate and non-climate (such as uplift, subsidence and natural phenomena — earthquakes for example) mechanisms, which contribute to sea-level change, to create appropriate scenarios of sea-level rise at any location when policy-makers consider impacts and adaption. Professor Robert Nicholls says: “The goal here is not to ‘scare people’ but rather to encourage policy makers to think across the full range of possibilities. Hence, the problem can be addressed in a progressive and adaptive manner where sea-level rise is planned for now, and that plan includes monitoring and learning about sea-level change over the coming decades. This means that sea-level rise can be fully prepared for without over-adapting.

“Given that the uncertainties of sea-level rise are global, this approach will probably be widely applicable around the world’s coasts, especially in major coastal cities with high values and growing flood risk.”.. > full story


Who created the global warming ‘pause?’
Mother Jones How climate skeptics and the media – with a little inadvertent help from scientists themselves – forged a misleading narrative.



8 Tribes That Are Way Ahead of the Climate-Adaptation Curve

Terri Hansen 10/15/13

Much has been made of the need to develop climate-change-adaptation plans, especially in light of increasingly alarming findings about how swiftly the environment that sustains life as we know it is deteriorating, and how the changes compound one another to quicken the pace overall. Studies, and numerous climate models, and the re-analysis of said studies and climate models, all point to humankind as the main driver of these changes. In all these dire pronouncements and warnings there is one bright spot: It may not be too late to turn the tide and pull Mother Earth back from the brink. None of this is new to the Indigenous Peoples of Turtle Island. Besides already understanding much about environmental issues via millennia of historical perspective, Natives are at the forefront of these changes and have been forced to adapt. Combining their preexisting knowledge with their still-keen ability to read environmental signs, these tribes are way ahead of the curve, with climate-change plans either in the making or already in effect…..

1. Swinomish Tribe: From Proclamation to Action

On the southeastern peninsula of Fidalgo Island in Washington State, the Swinomish were the first tribal nation to pass a Climate Change proclamation, which they did in 2007. Since then they have implemented a concrete action plan. … The tribe began a two-year project in 2008, issued an impact report in 2009 and an action plan in 2010, said project coordinator and senior planner Ed Knight. The plan identified a number of proposed “next step” implementation projects, several of them now under way: coastal protection measures, code changes, community health assessment and wildfire protection, among others. The tribe won funding through the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services and the Administration for Native Americans to support the $400,000 Swinomish Climate Change Initiative, of which the tribe funded 20 percent…. Since the Swinomish started work on climate issues, many tribes across the country have become active on these issues as they also realize the potential impacts to their communities and resources. The Institute for Tribal Environmental Professionals (ITEP) has been funded over the last few years to conduct climate adaptation training, Knight said, “and probably more than 100 tribes have now received training on this.”…


Check out “Facing Climate Change: Coastal Tribes” by Benjamin Drummond / Sara Steele on Vimeo.



Let’s play God: The scientific experiments that might save the world (or destroy it…)

Fake volcanoes, giant space mirrors, oceans of iron filings… One of these ideas might save our planet from the worst effects of global warming – or destroy it. Memphis Barker reports on the rise of geoengineering – and the rift it has opened in the scientific community

Memphis Barker Sunday 20 October 2013

Two years ago this month, in a disused Norfolk airfield, a small group of scientists were preparing to undertake one of the more controversial experiments in British scientific history. What little equipment it needed – a B&Q pressure washer, 1km of hydraulic hose and an 8m air balloon – had been bought or loaned. A truck was ready. Once in the air, the dirigible balloon would spray 120 litres of fine water droplets into the East Anglia sky, a miniaturised test for a much larger system that would eventually pump out chemical particles to reflect sunlight and, so the scientists calculated, cool the planet. It was to be a momentous day. Geoengineering – as defined by the Royal Society in 2009 – is the large-scale, technological manipulation of the climate (some call it “planet hacking”). After decades of theorising, the Cambridge group was going to be the first in the West to take research out of doors. But shortly before lift-off, they aborted. There was, they feared, no way of knowing who could use their research, or in what way, and the Stratospheric Particle Injection for Climate Engineering (Spice) team did not want to open a door that might be impossible to close. Little has changed in practical terms since 2011. The Spice balloon has been shipped back to its owners; the pressure washer is back in use spraying down cars. Yet, since the end of last month, the prospect of geoengineering has cast a giant shadow over the world of environmental campaigners and climate scientists. On 27 September, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), the world’s most respected authority on global warming, acknowledged for the first time the need to consider it as a weapon against rising temperatures…..



To Fix Climate Change, Scientists Turn To Hacking The Earth


 – ‎October 21, 2013‎


Because some very mainstream scientists are saying that the climate change situation is so bad that saving life as we know it might require something radical: like shooting chemicals into the stratosphere to protect earth from the sun. In the summer of 2012, a small group of the Haida people, a native community in Canada, had a problem. The salmon they rely on were disappearing. So the Haida took matters into their own hands. They partnered with an American businessman, drew up plans and then took a boat full of iron dust into the waters off their home island and put the dust in the ocean. When they spread the iron dust, it created a big algae bloom. They hoped the algae would soak up carbon dioxide and bring back the fish. The reaction to the experiment was immediate and negative, and as the “world’s first rogue geoengineering project.” While it scared a lot of people and angered a lot of scientists, this event could be a sign of what’s to come. Because some very mainstream scientists are saying that the climate change situation is so bad that saving life as we know it might require something radical: like shooting chemicals into the stratosphere to protect earth from the sun. In essence, these scientists are talking about hacking the climate….. People get scared because a lot of these plans sound like mad scientist schemes. Ocean fertilization is just one of a wide array of climate-engineering techniques out there. One technique is to suck the carbon dioxide out from the atmosphere and put it somewhere else. “You might do that by planting lots of trees or setting up machines that draw down CO2 and store it somewhere, or generating ocean fertilization where you add iron to the ocean and that generates phytoplankton, which locks up carbon dioxide,” Watson tells NPR’s Arun Rath. “The whole point is that you’re trying to take CO2 out of the atmosphere and put it somewhere else.” A second technique is to try and reflect sunlight away from the earth to keep the earth cooler. You can do that, Watson says, by painting roofs white, through making natural clouds a little brighter or through volcanic aerosols.

In fact, there is evidence of volcanic eruptions that have dramatically lowered the temperature on earth. Scientists want to replicate that. But the catch is that scientists haven’t really tested either technique. “For the most part we’ve got more questions than answers,” Watson says. “It’s a very emotive subject and a divisive subject. I can think of academics who agree on almost everything else in terms of science who are diametrically opposed on geoengineering.” Watson says that some people see it as a necessary evil to protect the environment and some see it as retention of the status quo; just trying to techno-fix our way out of what is already a technological problem. If the schism in the science community weren’t enough, Watson points out there are serious questions about the basic feasibility of actually using any of these techniques. What is already a divisive problem in the sciences is quickly becoming a governance nightmare…..




Why We Don’t Care About Saving Our Grandchildren From Climate Change

A new study shows that human beings are too selfish to endure present pain to avert future climate change. That’s why we need win-win solutions now

By Bryan Walsh TIME @bryanrwalshOct. 21, 201318 Comments

Attila Kisbenedek / AFP / Getty Images Some 30,000 people demonstrate in the center of Copenhagen on Dec. 12, 2009 to turn up the heat on world leaders debating global warming at the U.N. climate conference

You want to know what the biggest obstacle to dealing with climate change is? Simple: time. It will take decades before the carbon dioxide we emit now begins to have its full effect on the planet’s climate. And by the same token, it will take decades before we are able to enjoy the positive climate effects of reducing carbon-dioxide emissions now. (Even if we could stop emitting all CO₂ today, there’s already future warming that’s been baked into the system, thanks to past emission.) But we will feel the economic effects of either emitting or restricting CO₂ right now, in real time. While we can argue about the relative cost of reducing CO₂ emissions now — just as we can argue about the economic effects of climate change in the future — it should be clear that any attempt to restrict CO₂ emissions enough to make a dent in future climate change will cause some present-day economic pain. The global economy is still so dependent on relatively inexpensive fossil fuels that a quick transition to renewable sources would likely be costly in the short term. (See Naomi Klein’s 2011 piece in The Nation for a fairly clear-eyed view of what truly radical climate policy would mean.. What that means, in effect, is that climate policy asks the present to sacrifice for the future. Human beings tend not to be very good at that kind of planning, even when their own future selves stand to benefit — a study this year found that just 10% of Americans have saved enough in a 401(k) or individual retirement account to put themselves on a track to retire. When it comes to climate change, the worst effects will be felt years after many people today are long gone. From a self-centered perspective, that makes strict climate policy like saving for a retirement you know you’ll never live to see. So it shouldn’t be surprising that a new study in Nature Climate Change confirms the fact that the kind of long-term cooperation demanded by effective climate policy is going to be even more challenging than we thought.

How Do You Get People to Give a Damn About Climate Change?

Posted by Chris Mooney on Friday, October 18, 2013  

Experts have come a long way in trying to figure out which messages can successfully open minds and move public opinion. There’s just one problem: They disagree about whether the message everyone’s using actually works.

Scientists overwhelmingly agree that humans are causing global warming. But does telling conservatives this actually make a difference? Skeptical Science


As two top researchers studying the science of science communication—a hot new field that combines public opinion research with psychological studies—Dan Kahan and Stephan Lewandowsky tend to agree about most things.

There’s just one problem. The little thing that they disagree on—whether it actually works to tell people that there’s a “scientific consensus” on climate change—is a matter of huge practical significance. After all, many scientists, advocates, and bloggers are doing this all the time. Heck, Barack Obama and Al Gore are out there doing it. And the central message that the U.N.’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change sought to convey with its latest report, that scientists are now 95-percent certain that humans are driving global warming, is a message about scientific consensus.

In this episode of Inquiring Minds (click above to stream audio), Kahan and Lewandowsky debate this pressing issue. The discussion begins with a paper published in Nature Climate Change last year by Lewandowsky and two colleagues, providing experimental evidence suggesting a consensus message ought to work quite well.


Dan Kahan of Yale (left) and Stephan Lewandowsky of the University of Bristol (right) slugged it out over science communication strategies on our latest Inquiring Minds podcast. (Er, not really. They agreed on some points and cordially disagreed on others.) Maggie Severns “We told people that 97 out of 100 climate scientists agree on the basic premise that the globe is warming due to greenhouse gas emissions,” explains Lewandowsky, who is based at the University of Bristol in the UK. “And what we found was that that boosted people’s acceptance of the scientific facts relating to climate change by a significant amount, and it did so in particular for people of a free-market worldview or ideology.” (The 97 percent figure comes from a recent study surveying the scientific literature on climate change.)

But Kahan, a Yale law professor who has extensively researched how our ideological predispositions skew our acceptance of facts, isn’t so sure. It’s not that he doubts Lewandowsky’s basic finding. But, he says, “when people get that kind of message in the world, there are all kinds of other influences that are filtering, essentially, the credibility of that message. If that would work, I would have expected it to work by now.” The two researchers agree that political ideologyand in particular conservative fiscal or free market thinking—is an overwhelming factor preventing acceptance of climate science. “A position on climate change has become almost like a tribal totem,” says Lewandowsky. “I am conservative, therefore I cannot believe in climate change.” But the difference is that Lewandowsky thinks other factors can mitigate this reality—including a consensus message that works, in essence, through peer pressure. After all, who wants to fly in the face of what 97 percent of experts have to say?

“We know from my studies that if you can only tell people about the consensus, that it does make a huge difference to their belief,” Lewandowsky says.

At stake in this debate is much more than the practical question of how we get people to care about what’s happening to the planet. There’s a far deeper issue: Do facts actually work to change minds? Or should we simply resign ourselves to human irrationality, at least on issues where people have a deep emotional stake?

The “smart idiot” effect: Kahan’s research shows that with increasing levels of scientific literacy, liberals (“egalitarian communitarians”) and conservatives (“hierarchical individualists”) become more polarized over global warming. Dan Kahan

Kahan’s research provides an extensive documentation of how wildly biased we can be. After all, it’s not just that liberals and conservatives perceive completely different scientific realities on issues like climate change. It’s that as they grow more educated and scientifically literate, this problem becomes worse, rather than better, as the figure on the left demonstrates.

In response to such findings, many communications researchers have recommended framing strategies—in other words, placing potentially threatening information in a context that makes it more palatable to a particular person. Basically, it’s an acknowledgement of human irrationality and an attempted workaround. Thus, Kahan’s research suggests that you can make conservatives more accepting of climate science by framing it as supporting a free-market solution that they like for ideological reasons, such as nuclear power.

By contrast, what’s so striking about Lewandowsky’s “scientific consensus” message is that it isn’t really framed at all. There’s no sugar-coating present to make it go down easier on the political right. Rather, the message amounts to a blunt assertion of fact—in this case, the documented fact that climate scientists overwhelmingly agree. But in light of the research depicted aboveas well as some research suggesting that political conservatives double down and become stronger in their beliefs when incorrect views are subject to a factual correctionthere were plenty of reasons to fear this kind of approach would fail, at least in the face of strong ideology.

Image from the Consensus Project, a initiative that has taken up Lewandowsky’s climate communications strategy. Skeptical Science


Still, Lewandowsky insists that it isn’t an all or nothing issue—in large part because there are so many different kinds of people out there to reach, not all of whom are dogged conservative ideologues. “I think underscoring the consensus is an arguably successful strategy for most people,” he says. “I also think reframing is a very important thing.”

The implications of this debate extend far beyond the climate issue. On evolution, for instance, the scientific consensus is even stronger than it is on climate change—a fact that evolution defenders have sought to cleverly emphasize by listing scientists named “Steve” who support evolution (so far, they’re at over 1,200 Steves). And again, Lewandowsky suspects that highlighting the overwhelming consensus on evolution is a winning message. “The consensus message is going to fail with some people, but that doesn’t mean that it wouldn’t also be effective overall,” he says.

So what’s the bottom line? Clearly, communications researchers have a lot of work to do to figure out how to reconcile the views of Lewandowsky and Kahan—both of whom, after all, are leading researchers in the field. So we can expect more studies aimed right at this central problem; in fact, they’re probably already in the works.

Meanwhile, both researchers agree that those going out and trying to communicate should test out different scientifically based approaches, trying to see which ones work in the real world. If anything, Kahan and Lewandowsky suggest that so far, those who actually practice communication aren’t relying on the latest science enough—or, in the case of many scientific institutions, aren’t investing enough in communications in the first place.

“It’s a mistake to assume that valid science will communicate itself,” says Kahan.

You can listen to the full interview with Kahan and Lewandowsky here…








Opinion: Taxing tar sands, chasing Goliath. In an essay, former NASA scientist James Hansen says an honest carbon tax and political pressure can undermine the global reach of Big Oil, hasten the transition to clean energy, and keep coal and tar sands deposits where they belong – in the ground. Daily Climate



Major Pension Funds Ask for Climate Change Study

PITTSBURGH October 24, 2013 (AP) By KEVIN BEGOS Associated Press

Some of the largest pension funds in the U.S. and the world are worried that major fossil fuel companies may not be as profitable in the future because of efforts to limit climate change, and they want details on how the firms will manage a long-term shift to cleaner energy sources.

In a statement released Thursday, leaders of 70 funds said they’re asking 45 of the world’s top oil, gas, coal and electric power companies to do detailed assessments of how efforts to control climate change could impact their businesses. “Institutional investors must think over the long term, which means that we must take environmental risks into consideration when we make investments,” New York State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli told The Associated Press in a statement. The state’s Common Retirement Fund manages almost $161 billion of investments…. “The underlying question here is the billions of dollars that are being invested” in exploration for fossil fuels every year, and whether that’s a prudent investment, said Jack Ehnes, the head of the California’s State Teachers’ Retirement System, which has about $5.4 billion invested in major fossil fuel companies. Ehnes made clear that his fund is not seeking to punish the fossil fuel companies but rather work with them to study the issue and identify long-term options that will be good for shareholders, the environment and the firms. While the pension funds are concerned about climate change, their strategy is more moderate than a student-led movement that is asking schools around the country to divest from fossil fuels. “The scientific trajectory that we’re on is clearly in conflict” with the business strategy of the companies, Ehnes added, referring to the overwhelming consensus among top scientists from around the world that global warming is a man-made threat, that pollution from fossil fuels is the biggest problem and that many of the already-discovered fossil fuel reserves will need to stay in the ground to avoid extreme climate change. The effort is being coordinated by Boston-based Ceres, a coalition of investors and companies that advocate for sustainable business practices, and the Carbon Tracker initiative, an effort to get companies to better explain to investors the value of their fossil fuel reserves…..



Congress turns a blind eye to global warming

By Editorial Board, Washington Post Editorial Published: October 20 2013

THIS WASN’T THE dramatic news that opponents of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) were hoping for: Last Tuesday, the Supreme Court declined to consider a variety of challenges to the EPA’s effort to slash greenhouse gas emissions.

But the news wasn’t a total victory for environmentalists. The court announced it would hear one challenge to the agency’s regulations: The Justice Department will have to convince the court that the EPA has the power under the Clean Air Act to put carbon-dioxide limits on so-called stationary sources — power plants, cement mixers and the like — using a powerful permitting program. If the court disagrees, it could rip some teeth out of the agency’s greenhouse gas effort… The overriding problem is that Congress hasn’t faced up to the global-warming threat. Instead of updating clean air rules and building a policy that addresses the unique challenge of greenhouse emissions, it has left the EPA and the courts with a strong but sometimes ambiguous law that applies imperfectly to greenhouse emissions. In the absence of congressional action, the EPA’s approach — interpreting the confusing text of the Clean Air Act in light of its overriding purpose to combat threatening air pollution — is the right one.



The Conundrums of Business Adaptation to Climate Change: Why, and How Much?

IPCC scientist Mark Trexler explains scenario planning for business adaptation to global warming.

Submitted by: Guest Contributors Posted: Oct 21, 2013 – 09:30 AM EST By Dr. Mark C. Trexler
This post in the DōShorts series gives options to businesses for planning for climate change using scenario planning.

The Biggest Unarticulated Issue –In his classic study of business scenario planning, The Art of Strategic Conversation (2005), Kees van der Heijden notes that:

“[M]ost companies . . . have looming somewhere at the edge of their collective consciousness . . . the ‘big unarticulated issue.’ Everybody feels it, it is there, always present, the imminent threat or the un-seized opportunity . . . [S]o vast, so different from Business-As-Usual, that existing management thinking just can’t cope.” The implications of climate change are so large and so contrary to the “business-as-usual” course of society since the Industrial Revolution that climate change is probably the biggest “unarticulated issue” of them all…. Scenario Planning for Adaptation When companies do want to look farther ahead, the problem becomes “adapt to what?” Even pro-active companies are so unsure of what the future holds that they can remain stuck in neutral. That doesn’t have to be the case; corporate adaptation efforts can successfully advance even in the face of uncertainty. Unfortunately, business uncertainties keep many companies from seriously thinking about climate change at all. That’s where scenario planning comes in. As van der Heijden notes: “If properly developed and institutionalized, a set of scenarios can be the institutional ‘memories of the future’ to help organizations perceive their environment. … using multiple storylines to encapsulate learning is powerful.” Pioneered by Shell some 40 years ago, scenario analysis remains widely misunderstood and under-utilized in most business sectors. Scenarios help us escape from pre-conceived (and usually wrong) notions of what we “want to be,” or what we think “will be,” and instead consider what “could be.“…

Climate Risk Scenario 1: Business as Usual – Stay the Course

Climate change progresses as climate models currently anticipate. Average global temperatures rise by 1.5oC by 2050, and average global sea levels by .33 meters. The difficulties of achieving a coordinated international response to climate change prevail; the limited policy measures that are undertaken have little impact on climate trends.

Climate Risk Scenario 2: Accelerated Change – Lagging Policy

Climate change accelerates in line with recently observed trends. Average global temperatures rise by 2.5oC by 2050, and sea levels are .66 meters higher. Climate change “tipping points” including an ice-free Arctic have accelerated the rate of change. A coordinated policy response still fails to materialize, even as adaptation needs grow rapidly.

Climate Risk Scenario 3: 2020 Climate Policy Response

Climate change accelerates as per Scenario 2, but a steadily worsening series of climatic events led by Hurricane Sandy in 2012 causes the politics of climate change to shift. A material climate policy response takes hold in in 2020. Draconian emissions reduction measures are imposed to limit the possibility of runaway climate change by 2100. A carbon price of $75/ton CO2e is imposed in the electric sector, and $150/ton in the transportation sector.

Climate Risk Scenario 4: 2040 Climate Policy Response

Climate change progresses as per Scenario 1, but a global policy response is triggered in 2040 when it becomes obvious that climate change will have catastrophic impacts during the second half of the century. By 2040 GHG emissions have grown substantially from current levels, and significantly more climate change is “in the pipeline.” The policy response is therefore more draconian than in Scenario 3, with a carbon price of $125/ton being imposed in the electric sector, and $250/ton in the transportation sector. Geoengineering options are also fast-tracked.

Corporate Risk from Climate Change

These are just a few of the almost infinite range of potential climate change scenarios, but they seem to effectively book-end corporate risk….We can’t truly know the future when it comes to the rate of climate change, the degree of climate change impacts, or the nature of resulting domestic and international policy. But as long as GHG emissions remain an economic externality, and climate policy does not reflect the true risks of climate change, changing business contexts are inevitable. Integrating consideration of a range of climate change and climate policy scenarios into business strategic and risk management thinking is one way for companies to show stakeholders they’re taking the issue seriously, and to reduce the risk that stakeholders will be left holding the bag of the willful blindness that is so common right now.

About the Author:

Dr. Mark Trexler (@ClimateRoulette) has worked with companies around the world on climate change risk perception and management, from carbon markets to adaptation. He is widely published on these and other issues, and has served as a lead author for the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. His latest book Adapting to Climate Change: 2.0 Enterprise Risk Management is part of the DōShorts Sustainable Business Collection published by Dō Sustainability (2013). CSRwire readers can use code CSR15 to save 15% when ordering from the publisher here.



A Fight Over Vineyards Pits Redwoods Against Red Wine

by Alastair Bland October 18, 2013 3:53 PM

Environmental groups are fighting to stop the leveling of 154 acres of coast redwoods and Douglas firs to make way for grapevines. Courtesy Friends of the Gualala River

In the California wine mecca of Sonoma County, climate change is pitting redwood lovers against red wine lovers. This Friday morning, a coalition of environmental groups are in a Santa Rosa, Calif., courtroom fighting to stop a Spanish-owned winery from leveling 154 acres of coast redwoods and Douglas firs to make way for grapevines. Redwoods in the relatively cool coastal region of Northern California and southern Oregon. Parts of this range, such as northwestern Sonoma County, have become increasingly coveted by winemakers. Chris Poehlmann, president of a small organization called , says the wine industry is creeping toward the coast as California’s interior valleys heat up and consumers show preferences for cooler-weather grapes like pinot noir.”Inexorably, the wine industry is looking for new places to plant vineyards,” says Poehlmann, whose group is among the plaintiffs. California’s Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, or CalFire, approved the redwood-clearing project in May 2012….The project planners have even estimated this timber to represent 1.25 million board feet of “merchantable” lumber. Dennis Hall, a higher official with CalFire, says his department’s approval of Artesa’s project in 2012 came only after a lengthy review process found that it would not significantly damage the environment. “We did an [environmental impact report] for the project,” Hall says. “It was an extreme and exhaustive analysis of potential impacts to the environment.” The report deemed most of these potential impacts to be “less-than-significant.”…


Scotland to create ‘buffer zones’ for shale gas and onshore oil extraction. October 20, 2013 BBC Planning rules governing the extraction of shale gas and onshore oil in Scotland will be made tougher, the Scottish government has said….


Implementation Guide for Local Governments to Prepare for Climate Change in British Columbia is Released
[summary courtesy EPA Climate Change and Water News]: Local governments have a lead role to play in ensuring our communities will be resilient and sustainable in light of challenges such as rising sea levels in coastal areas, more extreme weather events, increased risk of flooding and forest fires, and the possibility of seasonal water shortages. “Preparing for Climate Change: An Implementation Guide for Local Governments in British Columbia” is a new resource developed by West Coast Environmental Law that looks at the tools available, and highlights useful experiences and good practices from around the province and elsewhere in Canada. This publication received a 2013 Gold Award for Excellence in Planning from the Planning Institute of British Columbia. It was a project of the British Columbia Regional Adaptation Initiative. To view the report, visit:


Britain looks to fracking as North Sea oil dwindles.

Andrew Testa for The New York Times A worker prepares a site for exploratory drilling in Barton, England. IGas Energy expects to get started before the end of the year.

By STANLEY REED Published: October 18, 2013 Inauspicious as it may look, what happens in the coming months on a bare patch the size of a soccer field at the edge of a peat bog in northwest England could help determine the future of Britain’s, and even Europe’s, approach to shale gas. …


Green investment bank profitable as Abbott axe looms, CEO Yates says

October 19, 2013

Clean Energy Finance Corp., Australia’s green development bank earmarked for closing by Prime Minister Tony Abbott, is making a profit and prodding commercial banks to lend, according to its chief executive officer. “We’re operating profitably already, with our contracted investments expected to earn an average return of around 7 percent,” which is above the bank’s capital cost of about 3 percent, Oliver Yates, CEO of the bank founded less than four months ago by the previous government, told delegates at a conference in London. He declined to comment on Abbott’s plan to close CEFC, citing public-service rules.



California finds more instances of offshore fracking.
October 19 2013 AP–The oil production technique known as fracking is more widespread and frequently used in the offshore platforms and man-made islands near some of California’s most populous and famous coastal communities than state officials believed.


Will fracking suck California dry?

New technologies have expanded oil production, but they’re adding another thirsty mouth to the state’s tight water market.

Oil pumps in operation near central Los Angeles.(Mark Ralston/Getty Images)

By Patrick Reis October 20 2013 National Journal—
In California, every drop of water counts, and every drop is contested.The state’s fishers and farmers have been at war over water for decades, battling over how to divide the water between river beds and farm fields. And Northern Californians—whose water supplies are more plentiful—live in fear of the desert neighbors to the south marching on the San Francisco Bay Delta with pipelines and straws. And then there are municipalities, which are all jockeying to secure supplies for California’s nearly 40 million residents. But now, they’ll all have a new contender to jostle with: the fracking boom. Oil shale development is taking off in California, thanks in large part to hydraulic-fracturing, or fracking, technologies for oil and gas extraction that have opened previously inaccessible fields to development. In order to get at those deposits, however, fracking uses tremendous quantities of water. For oil developers, it’s an issue not to be taken lightly: Californians, hailing from a state known for its green ethos, are already nervous about the impacts of fracking, and if oil companies step on too many toes, it could derail the the energy boom they’re so eagerly anticipating…..California’s struggles reveal a darker aspect of America’s energy boom: Technologies have vastly expanded the country’s energy-development options, but they have not—in many cases—expanded the ability to deal with impacts from that development. They haven’t produced new infrastructure to carry hydrocarbons to market or new pollution-control technologies to reduce the effects on climate change, and above all, they haven’t found a way to maintain or increase water supplies for California.

So how do California’s developers intend to increase production without sucking the state dry? Fracking involves drilling deep below the surface and injecting chemicals and water to release oil and gas deposits trapped in geological formations. In North Dakota, at the heart of the country’s most recent energy boom, fracking wells accounted for 5.5 billion gallons worth of water usage last year, according to state estimates.But developers insist that fracking in California is different from the fracking done farther east. Much of the state’s drilling operations are aimed at accessing shale oil rather than natural gas, and because of the state’s geology less water is needed. Dave Quast, California director for oil and gas development advocate Energy in Depth, says that fracking wells in California on average use a little more than 100,000 gallons of water, compared with other wells to the east that guzzle gallons by the millions. And Hayes noted that there are ways for developers to cut down their water footprint, including programs that recycle some or all of the water used in operations. “But,” Hayes cautioned, “that’s not the customary approach yet where fracking is required.”

For now, the state’s regulators are taking a wait-and-see approach. SB 4, the California’s landmark fracking law signed last month by Democratic Gov. Jerry Brown, contains little in the way of restrictions on water usage. Instead, the law contains strict disclosure requirements. Under SB 4, drillers must publicly disclose their water usage starting in 2014.

California’s environmental community will be watching when the reports start going online. “One of the big problems is we don’t have a handle on how much water is being used. There’s a big data gap,” said Andrew Grinberg, an Oakland-based oil and gas policy expert for Clean Water Action. But once the information is publicly available, California residents will be better able to gauge how fracking impacts the state’s watersheds, aquifers, and reservoirs—and gauge how effectively their regulators are dealing with it, Grinberg said.

“There’s definitely a big role for the public and nonprofits,” he added. “If we see anything, we need to be prepared to take action.”





Groundwater testing near oil and gas wells: How much data is enough?

National Public Radio Stephanie Joyce October 18, 2013

Credit Geologicresources monitoring

A proposal to test water quality at oil and gas wells before and after drilling is making its way through the rulemaking process. The governor’s office and industry hope it will answer some of the questions surrounding groundwater contamination near oil and gas development, but as Wyoming Public Radio’s Stephanie Joyce reports, the rule may not actually be able to answer the question of who’s responsible, if contamination occurs, and that has some people questioning whether it’s valuable at all….









New device stores electricity on silicon chips
(October 22, 2013) — Solar cells that produce electricity 24/7. Cell phones with built-in power cells that recharge in seconds and work for weeks between charges: These are just two of the possibilities raised by a novel supercapacitor design invented by material scientists. … > full story


Train derailment, explosions force evacuation of Alberta community

CARRIE TAIT CALGARY — The Globe and Mail Published Saturday, Oct. 19 2013, 9:18 AM EDT

Tanker cars on a train carrying propane and oil derailed and caught fire outside of Edmonton on Saturday, forcing the evacuation of a small community.

The derailment caused explosions, through no injuries were reported. Fire and hazmat crews were on the scene, but firefighters have since opted to let the flames burn themselves out.


Heavy air pollution in Canadian area with cancer spikes
(October 22, 2013) — Levels of contaminants higher than in some of the world’s most polluted cities have been found downwind of Canada’s largest oil, gas and tar sands processing zone, in a rural area where men suffer elevated rates of cancers linked to such chemicals. … > full story

Shifting winds in turbine arrays
(October 22, 2013) — Researchers modeling how changes in air flow patterns affect wind turbines’ output power have found that the wind can supply energy from an unexpected direction: below. … > full story

Classification system proposed for green roofs
(October 22, 2013) — A proposed classification system aims to better identify the unique characteristics and benefits of green roofs amid a growing industry. … > full story


Scientists’ New Approach Improves Efficiency of Solar Cells

October 25, 2013 — Scientists have developed a new method to increase the efficiency of solar cells …full story


Eight states vow 3.3M zero-emission vehicles by 2025. October 24 2013 AP The governors of eight states including California and New York pledged Thursday to work together to create charging stations and other fueling infrastructure needed to get 3.3 million zero-emission vehicles on those states’ roadways by 2025 to curb greenhouse gas pollution.


Ever Considered Biking Across the Bay to Work? Check Out this Water Bike

One Bay Area commuter is urging cities around San Francisco to invest in alternative commute methods, such as his water bike.

Posted by Lindsey Hickman (Editor) , October 19, 2013 at 10:18 AM













Making Shade Coffee Work: Challenges In Telling the Bird Friendly Story,

Wednesday, November 6, 10:10-10:45 PT Webinar–Scott Weidensaul and Bill Wilson, Birds and Beans

Bird Education Alliance for Conservation BEAC for our Post Federal Government Shutdown Extravaganza BEAC Call (AKA, the Rescheduled October Webinar/Call).  BEAC calls are open to ALL – new people are welcome to participate any time, so please share this invitation widely! Learn more here: For audio you will need to call in with your phone…..To call in: US/Canada 1-866-600-3050 Mexico: 001-517-466-5793 Passcode: 9124900# To join the web share






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.




Friday, November 15, 2013 San Jose

Join Bay Area cities, counties, agencies, and environmental organizations for a day of presentations and discussion about trash reduction and prevention.

Agenda Highlights:

*Impacts of Litter on Aquatic Environments

*Tobacco Product Litter

*Engaging the Public in Trash Reduction

*Food and Beverage Packaging

Learn More and Register

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




CA NRCS Announces Assistance for Catastrophic Fire Recovery

DAVIS, Calif., Oct. 18, 2013—The USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) today announced that applications will be accepted to assist private landowners in California affected by wildfires in the last 18 months. Financial assistance for implementing conservation practices may be available through the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP). Applications for this initiative can be submitted for primary consideration and ranking through Nov. 15, 2013. “I encourage landowners who have private forestlands and rangelands that were damaged by the recent catastrophic fires to visit with their local NRCS field office about how this initiative can provide assistance to protect their natural resources,” said California State Conservationist Carlos Suarez. The purpose of the Catastrophic Fire Recovery EQIP Initiative is to provide immediate resource protection in areas burned by catastrophic fires in the past 18 months. Priority concerns include immediate soil erosion protection, minimizing noxious and invasive plant proliferation, protecting water quality, fish and wildlife habitat, and bringing back forests and restoring livestock infrastructure necessary for grazing management. Priority applications will include practices that are implemented within one year and provide immediate erosion protection, adequate livestock water, and habitat protection. Participants interested in implementing practices beyond the scope of this special and limited initiative are encouraged to apply under the regular EQIP funding opportunities. NRCS has provided leadership in a partnership effort to help America’s private land owners and managers conserve their soil, water and other natural resources since 1935.


Proposal Deadline: 3 December 2013 – Neotropical Migratory Bird Conservation Grants 2014

The United States Neotropical Migratory Bird Conservation Act established an annual, competitive grants program to support projects that promote the conservation of neotropical migratory birds and their habitats in the United States, Canada, Latin America and the Caribbean. Because our Website was not available during the U.S. Federal government shutdown, the deadline for applying to the NMBCA program has been extended, and proposals are now due no later than 3 December 2013. All applications must be submitted through, a process that requires an active “Dun and Bradstreet number” (DUNS) and active registration in the “System for Award Management” (SAM). Start preparing soon if you have never applied through, and start NOW if you do not have a DUNS! Information to help you through this process is available online at






Sierra Nevada Alliance Executive Director Job Announcement

October 14, 2013
The Sierra Nevada Alliance seeks an innovative, resilient, and dynamic executive director to lead the organization at its 20th anniversary and beyond. The executive director will have primary responsibility for pursuing the Alliance’s long-range vision of success in concert with member organizations, partners, volunteers, staff and board.






Yellow-Fever Mosquito, Found In California, Is ‘Very Difficult To Control’

International Business Times Philip Ross October 20 2013 


Aedes aegypti, otherwise known as the yellow fever mosquito, is a dark mosquito with white markings and bands around its legs….


NASA boffins: 622 Mbps broadband FOUND ON MOON


October 24, 2013


NASA has successfully tested a broadband communications system built into its Lunar Atmosphere and Dust Environment Explorer (LADEE) probe, firing data to and from the Moon at rates of up to 622Mbps.


Gravitational Wavelengths Could Crack the Black Hole Code

Guardian Express

 – ‎October 20, 2013‎


A paper published in the Science Journal details how a team of researchers is about to crack the mysterious black hole code. The research has been making waves within the science media community, with some claiming that the secret to how they grow has 


Status of US secondary Earth science education
(October 17, 2013) — A landmark report on the status of Earth Science education in US middle and high schools describes in detail significant gaps between identified priorities and lagging practice. The report offers baseline data on indicators of the subject’s status since the release of the Next Generation Science Standards in April 2013. … > full story







Top 25 Wild Bird Photographs of the Week #50

National Geographic

 – ‎October 24, 2013‎








Ellie Cohen, President and CEO

Point Blue Conservation Science (formerly PRBO)

3820 Cypress Drive, Suite 11, Petaluma, CA 94954

707-781-2555 x318  | Follow Point Blue on Facebook!


Point Blue—Conservation science for a healthy planet.


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