Conservation Science News December 13, 2013

Focus of the WeekReducing Climate Risk with Natural Infrastructure (CA TNC); Forests as Infrastructure (Harvard)









NOTE: Please pass on my weekly news update that has been prepared for
Point Blue Conservation Science (formerly PRBO) staff.  You can find these weekly compilations posted on line by clicking here.  For more information please see

The items contained in this update were drawn from,, SER The Society for Ecological Restoration,,,, The Wildlife Society NewsBrief, and other sources as indicated.  This is a compilation of information available on-line, not verified and not endorsed by Point Blue Conservation Science.  
You can sign up for the California Landscape Conservation Cooperative ListServe or the Bay Area Ecosystems Climate Change Consortium listserve to receive this or you can email me directly at Ellie Cohen, ecohen at if you want your name added to or dropped from this list. 

Point Blue’s 140 scientists advance nature-based solutions to climate change, habitat loss and other environmental threats to benefit wildlife and people, through bird and ecosystem science, partnerships and outreach.



Focus of the Week– Reducing Climate Risk with Natural Infrastructure (CA TNC); Forests as Infrastructure (Harvard)




Reducing Climate Risks with Natural Infrastructure

December 12, 2013 (Louis Blumberg/TNC) A new report from TNC’s California Climate Change Initiative entitled, “Reducing Climate Risks with Natural Infrastructure” draws on experience from nine case studies in California and makes a compelling case for conservation as an effective tool to reduce risks of a changing climate. The main conclusions:

Green infrastructure:

  1. can provide cost-effective flood and coastal protection.
  2. has been demonstrated successfully in a wide variety of settings.
  3. can be designed to adapt to changing conditions.
  4. provides multiple benefits.
  5. can inspire strong local support.

The report was written by consultant Jim Downing and produced by Nancy Crowley in the TNC (CA) marketing department. The California State Coastal Conservancy, the CA Landscape Conservation Collaborative and Pacific Gas and Electric joined with TNC in providing financial support for the project.





Harvard study urges Mass. to embrace ‘forests as infrastructure’

Elizabeth Harball, E&E reporter Published: Wednesday, December 11, 2013

A new Harvard study urges Massachusetts to
optimize its forests’ ability to store carbon and maintain water quality as part of its future climate adaptation and mitigation goals.
Additionally, the study’s authors modeled a scenario where these goals could be met while still increasing the amount of timber harvesting taking place on the state’s 3 million acres of forested land. And as policymakers appear ready to update the state’s zoning laws, the authors also encourage more concentrated development to reduce conflict between future community growth and woodlands. “Our ability to be resilient to climate change is linked to how much forest we retain on the landscape,” said Jonathan Thompson, senior ecologist with the Harvard Forest program at Harvard University in Cambridge, Mass. “Conservation matters, so we need to redouble our efforts.” With this study, “we’ve shown the benefits of growing smart as opposed to growing dispersed and that forests are generally underutilized as a source of local wood and local fuel,” Thompson said. Harvard Forest and the Smithsonian Institution worked with the Massachusetts government and local environmental groups to develop four forest management scenarios for the study. The researchers then modeled the impacts and benefits of these scenarios over the next half-century, assuming that climate change will cause a total temperature increase of 4 degrees Fahrenheit and between a 5 and 7 percent increase in yearly precipitation in the state.

They concluded that one scenario, dubbed “Forests as Infrastructure,” provided the maximum benefit for both people and the environment. This scenario envisions policymakers and private landowners assuming more aggressive forest management practices, protecting about 15,000 acres of woodlands per year and designating two-thirds of this new area as “priority habitat.” The scenario also has cities and towns prioritizing “clustered development” while still growing as projected, the executive summary states….


The study’s Forests as Infrastructure landscape scenario maps a future in which policies, markets, state and local planning, and incentives focus on increasing the commonwealth’s “living infrastructure,” with more targeted conservation, smart growth development, and improvement forestry. This scenario scored best for 7 out of 9 nature-based benefits to the commonwealth.  In the full report, town insets like this one help to visualize landscape change. Maps by O2 Planning + Design.


Urban Sprawl Threatens Water Quality, Climate Protection, and Land Conservation Gains

Dec. 11, 2013 — A groundbreaking study by Harvard University’s Harvard Forest and the Smithsonian Institution reveals that, if left unchecked, recent trends in the loss of forests to development will undermine significant land conservation gains in Massachusetts, jeopardize water quality, and limit the natural landscape’s ability to protect against climate change. The scientists researched and analyzed four plausible scenarios for what Massachusetts could look like in the future. …. This is the first time a study of this magnitude has been conducted for an entire state. Thompson goes on to say, “Massachusetts is an important place to study land-use because it is densely populated, heavily forested, and experiencing rapid change — much like the broader forested landscape of the eastern U.S. The results of the study show that sprawl, coupled with a permanent loss of forest cover in Massachusetts, create an urgent need to address land-use choices. We know from decades of research that forests are more than a collection of trees, they are ‘living infrastructure’ that works 24-hours a day to provide climate protection, clean water, local wood products, and natural areas for people and wildlife. The results of this new study show that seemingly imperceptible changes to the land add-up in ways that can significantly enhance or erode these vital benefits, depending on the choices we all make,” said David Foster, Director of the Harvard Forest and co-author of the study…… “The Forests as Infrastructure scenario shows it’s possible to protect forest benefits while also increasing local wood production and supporting economic development, by making important but achievable changes,” said Thompson. Forests as Infrastructure clusters more of the development, implements “improvement forestry” on much of the harvested land, and increases the rate of forest conservation with a focus on priority habitat. By 2060, compared to Recent Trends, this scenario would:

  • Limit flooding risks in virtually all of the state’s major watersheds
  • Protect water quality by minimizing impervious surfaces like roads and parking lots
  • Grow 20% more high-value trees like large oak, sugar maple, and white pine
  • Double the amount of local wood harvested
  • Maintain a 35% increase in the storage of carbon that would otherwise warm Earth
  • Reduce forest fragmentation by 25%
  • Protect a quarter-million more acres of high-priority wildlife habitat…


Download the report and the executive summary with policy addendum; watch a short video on the report; and access maps, figures at:






Vast freshwater reserves found beneath the oceans
(December 8, 2013) — Scientists have discovered huge reserves of freshwater beneath the oceans kilometers out to sea, providing new opportunities to stave off a looming global water crisis. A new study reveals that an estimated half a million cubic kilometers of low-salinity water are buried beneath the seabed on continental shelves around
the world.
A new study, published December 5 in the international scientific journal Nature, reveals that an estimated half a million cubic kilometres of low-salinity water are buried beneath the seabed on continental shelves around the world. The water, which could perhaps be used to eke out supplies to the world’s burgeoning coastal cities, has been located off Australia, China, North America and South Africa. “The volume of this water resource is a hundred times greater than the amount we’ve extracted from the Earth’s sub-surface in the past century since 1900,” says lead author Dr Vincent Post (pictured) of the National Centre for Groundwater Research and Training (NCGRT) and the School of the Environment at Flinders University…..hese reserves were formed over the past hundreds of thousands of years when on average the sea level was much lower than it is today, and when the coastline was further out, Dr Post explains. “So when it rained, the water would infiltrate into the ground and fill up the water table in areas that are nowadays under the sea….”Freshwater on our planet is increasingly under stress and strain so the discovery of significant new stores off the coast is very exciting. It means that more options can be considered to help reduce the impact of droughts and continental water shortages.” But while nations may now have new reserves of freshwater offshore, Dr Post says they will need to take care in how they manage the seabed: “For example, where low-salinity groundwater below the sea is likely to exist, we should take care to not contaminate it…..Dr Post also warns that these water reserves are non-renewable: “We should use them carefully — once gone, they won’t be replenished until the sea level drops again, which is not likely to happen for a very long time.”…

Vincent E.A. Post, Jacobus Groen, Henk Kooi, Mark Person, Shemin Ge, W. Mike Edmunds. Offshore fresh groundwater reserves as a global phenomenon. Nature, 2013; 504 (7478): 71 DOI: 10.1038/nature12858


Quality of biodiversity, not just quantity, is key: Right mix of species is needed for conservation
(December 8, 2013) — A new study of biodiversity loss in a salt marsh finds that it’s not just the total number of species preserved that matters; it’s the number of key species. If humans want to reap the benefits of the full range of functions that salt marshes and other coastal ecosystems provide, we need to preserve the right mix of species. In a new study of biodiversity loss in a salt marsh, published this week in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, they find that it’s not just the total number of species preserved that matters, it’s the number of key species. If humans want to reap the benefits of the full range of functions that salt marshes and other coastal ecosystems provide, we need to preserve the right mix of species, they said. “Having a group of distantly related species, representing markedly different ecologies and biology, is as important, or more important, than just having more species in general,” said Brian R. Silliman, Rachel Carson associate professor of marine conservation biology at Duke’s Nicholas School of the Environment. “It’s quality, not just quantity,” said lead author Marc J. S. Hensel, a Ph.D. student at the University of Massachusetts at Boston. “We need to preserve a wide variety of species.” Salt marshes perform a long list of ecological services: they buffer coastal erosion; filter runoff; reduce the risk of flooding; provide habitat for juvenile fish, crabs and shrimp; and store excess carbon, keeping it from re-entering Earth’s atmosphere… They set up eight different experimental treatments, each with a different mix of three of the marsh’s most abundant “consumer” species: purple marsh crabs; marsh periwinkle snails; and fungus. At first, all three species were present, to mirror the natural “intact” conditions of the marsh. Silliman and Hensel then began sequentially removing species — first one, then two, then all three — to simulate extinctions. Throughout the experiment, they measured the effects of each species mix on three important salt marsh functions: overall grass growth (productivity); the rate of dead plant removal (decomposition); and how fast tidal or storm surge water percolated through the marsh (filtration). The effect of the species removals on individual functions varied considerably, because in salt marshes, each species is very good at performing one or two functions. However, when all three key species were present, the average rate of all functions — a measure of overall ecosystem health — rose simultaneously.It suggests that the ability of nature to perform well at multiple levels may depend not just on the overall number of species present, but on having many distantly related species, each of which performs a particular task that keeps an ecosystem healthy and allows it to provide the multiple benefits humans value. If we had only been looking at three different species of similarly functioning crabs, or only one marsh function, we would have missed that, and erroneously predicted that only one consumer species is needed to maintain high system performance,” he said. > full story


M. J. S. Hensel, B. R. Silliman. Consumer diversity across kingdoms supports multiple functions in a coastal ecosystem. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 2013; DOI: 10.1073/pnas.1312317110


Rapid Evolution of Novel Forms: Environmental Change Triggers Inborn Capacity for Adaptation

Dec. 12, 2013 — In the classical view of evolution, species experience spontaneous genetic mutations that produce various novel traits — some helpful, some detrimental. Nature then selects for those most beneficial, passing them along to subsequent generations. It’s an elegant model. It’s also an extremely time-consuming process likely to fail organisms needing to cope with sudden, potentially life-threatening changes in their environments. Surely some other mechanism could enable more rapid adaptive response. In this week’s edition of the journal Science, a team of researchers from Harvard Medical School and Whitehead Institute report that, at least in the case of one variety of cavefish, that other agent of change is the heat shock protein known as HSP90.

“It’s a very cool story in terms of the speed of evolution,” says Nicolas Rohner, lead author of the Science paper and a postdoctoral researcher in the lab of Harvard Medical School Genetics Professor Clifford Tabin….


A penguin’s tale: Diet linked to breeding failure (December 12, 2013) — A study on a Victorian penguin colony has revealed new insight into the link between seabird diet and breeding success. … We found that a sharp decline of anchovy in 2010 had a negative impact on little penguin reproduction. However, in 2011, despite the relatively low anchovy abundance, their breeding success was extremely high. “We believe the decrease of anchovy itself was not the only cause for low breeding success in 2010 but in combination with the scarcity of alternative prey. Our results show that little penguins are resilient to changes in their preferred prey but their ability to adapt to these changes is limited by the availability of alternative prey species.”

Ms Kowalczyk said understanding seabird diet was integral to their conservation and management.

“Our results highlight that resource abundance and the availability of a variety of prey are critical factors in enabling this inshore seabird to adjust to changes in environmental conditions and fluctuations in their primary source of prey,” Ms Kowalczyk said. Dietary changes have been linked to population declines and provide information about foraging conditions, particular prey species and foraging locations that require protection.”… > full story


Study offers economical solutions for maintaining critical delta environments
(December 9, 2013) — A new study documents the historic sediment record along the Danube River delta, and offers simple and inexpensive strategies to enhance deltas’ natural ability to trap sediment and maintain their floodplains against rising sea levels and increasingly frequent and severe storms. … > full story



A penguin’s tale: Diet linked to breeding failure
(December 12, 2013) — A study on a Victorian penguin colony has revealed new insight into the link between seabird diet and breeding success. … We found that a sharp decline of anchovy in 2010 had a negative impact on little penguin reproduction. However, in 2011, despite the relatively low anchovy abundance, their breeding success was extremely high. “We believe the decrease of anchovy itself was not the only cause for low breeding success in 2010 but in combination with the scarcity of alternative prey. Our results show that little penguins are resilient to changes in their preferred prey but their ability to adapt to these changes is limited by the availability of alternative prey species.” Ms Kowalczyk said understanding seabird diet was integral to their conservation and management. “Our results highlight that resource abundance and the availability of a variety of prey are critical factors in enabling this inshore seabird to adjust to changes in environmental conditions and fluctuations in their primary source of prey,” Ms Kowalczyk said. “Dietary changes have been linked to population declines and provide information about foraging conditions, particular prey species and foraging locations that require protection.” > full story


Nicole D. Kowalczyk, Andre Chiaradia, Tiana J. Preston, Richard D. Reina. Linking dietary shifts and reproductive failure in seabirds: a stable isotope approach. Functional Ecology, 2013; DOI: 10.1111/1365-2435.12216


Scientists map food security, self-provision of major cities
(December 12, 2013) — Wealthy capital cities vary greatly in their dependence on the global food market. The Australian capital Canberra produces the majority of its most common food in its regional hinterland, while Tokyo primarily ensures its food security through import. The Copenhagen hinterland produces less than half of the consumption of the most common foods. For the first time, researchers have mapped the food systems of capital cities, an essential insight for future food security. … > full story


Messed Up Migrations

Air Date: Week of December 6, 2013 PRI Living on Earth stream/download this segment as an MP3 file

Monarch butterflies in Mexico (photo:

From the wildebeest to the monarch butterfly, this year many of the world’s great animal migrations are out of whack. Migration expert and Princeton Ecology professor David Wilcove joins host Steve Curwood to discuss what’s going on.

CURWOOD: Some of the most awe-inspiring spectacles of the natural world are the migrations of creatures great and small – from turtles and terns, to butterflies and beasts. But this year some of the world’s most famous migrations seem to be out of sorts. To find out what’s going on, we called up David Wilcove, Professor of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology at Princeton. Welcome to Living on Earth….CURWOOD: First, let’s talk about the butterflies. As I understand it, usually by November there are millions of Monarch butterflies that have arrived in Central Mexico. Could you describe that migration for us?

WILCOVE: It’s really an extraordinary migration. The butterflies begin moving south from the northeastern United States around August or September, and they funnel into this tiny area in Mexico where they will roost for the winter, and then in the spring, the survivors will head north, and they will hit the Gulf States, lay eggs and die. Those eggs will develop into the next generation of Monarchs, which will continue migrating north, they’ll lay eggs and die. And it takes about three or four generations until Monarchs have repopulated the eastern United States and Canada. And that last generation born in the summer is the one that will somehow know to go back to that small area in Mexico where their great-grandparents left the previous spring.

CURWOOD: When exactly are the monarchs supposed to arrive and what’s the cultural significance to folks in Mexico?

WILCOVE: Well, the monarchs arrive as we get into the late autumn beginning of the winter, and for some people in Mexico, it’s really part of the Day of the Dead celebrations, the idea being that the monarchs represent the souls of their departed loved ones returning to Mexico, returning to that set of forests in the mountains. The Monarch migration is also an important tourist draw. It’s such a beautiful phenomenon to see these millions of butterflies covering the trees that people from around the world come to Michoacan, Mexico, to see it. And so it’s become an important economic force in those communities, and of course, in a broader sense, it’s part of the world’s natural heritage because it is such a remarkable phenomenon. CURWOOD: But this year, things were different. What happened?

WILCOVE: It appears as through the Monarchs are either very late in arriving at the site, or very few of them have survived making it down to Mexico. So we hope that it’s merely a case of them being very late, and that eventually we’ll get a healthy population, but there is the alarming possibility that the population has really crashed.

CURWOOD: What could put them at risk? WILCOVE: The Monarchs face a number of problems. The one that’s gotten the most attention over the years has been illegal logging of the forests on that mountain in Mexico where they winter. So if you imagine the trees as providing a kind of thermal blanket for the butterflies, the illegal logging essentially means that we’re cutting holes in the blanket, and so when the cold weather hits, many of the Monarchs freeze to death. But there’s another issue that is starting to attract attention, and that’s the loss of the milkweed flowers that the butterflies lay their eggs on and rely on for their development. And it turns out that more and more farmers are planting crops that have been genetically modified so that they can withstand herbicides, and the farmers then apply herbicides to eliminate plants like the milkweed, which they view as a competitor with the crops. So unfortunately, as we’ve gotten cleaner, more industrialized, agricultural fields, we’re losing habitat for Monarchs and all sorts of other insects.


…CURWOOD: Now, similarly Right whales off the New England coast aren’t showing up at their usual breeding grounds…..CURWOOD: What do scientists think is going on? WILCOVE: They’re not certain. They know that these zooplankton, these little copepods that the whales depend on have shifted in abundance, and they think that that may be causing the whales to find new foraging areas for the summer. Why that is all happening is still a subject of research, but there’s a strong possibility that we’re seeing climate change here, changing the ecology of the Bay of Fundy, changing the food resources that the whales depend on, and causing the whales to move elsewhere….


…CURWOOD: Now of course one of the largest migrations in the world, and certainly spectacular is that of the Wildebeest in east Africa. Could you describe that for us?….WILCOVE: The Wildebeests are very important to that ecosystem. They are basically recycling nutrients because they’re consuming the forage, and then through their dung they redistribute nutrients. So it could have a major disruptive effect for many of the grazing mammals, any of the birds that occur in these savannahs.

CURWOOD: Generally, why do you think we’re seeing so many disruptions in the animal migration patterns?

WILCOVE: We’re seeing disruptions in the animal migration in large part because we’re disrupting the environment. You have to remember that migratory animals really connect different parts of the world, and so they’re sensitive to changes in any of those parts. When due to things like climate change or habitat alteration we change their summering grounds, wintering grounds or even the stopover sites…they’re going to respond. In some cases, their numbers are going to decline, or crash completely; in other cases, they’re going to have to find new places to go to. Either way, there are useful early warning signs of the types of disruptions that we’re creating in the environment.


….CURWOOD: So far, climate change amounts to less than two degrees centigrade, about a degree centigrade around the world. How do you think climate change going forward would impact migration?

WILCOVE: It’s not just changes in temperature. It’s changes in precipitation, which can be very important for animals because those precipitation changes affect vegetation. It’s also changes in the extremes of heat, cold, drought, flood, all of that can be very disruptive to animal populations. We’re really basically reshuffling the deck and the consequences are going to be idiosyncratic and difficult to predict. CURWOOD: What can we do to prepare for these changes and better protect migratory species?

WILCOVE: The best thing we can do, in my opinion, is to continue to protect natural ecosystems, to maintain connectivity between protected areas, so animals, plants, food; to restore connectivity where we’ve disrupted it, and of course take steps to reduce climate change.


Report: Turbines Kill Up To 328000 Birds Annually

Washington Free Beacon

 – ‎December 11, 2013‎


A new report published in Biological Conservation estimates that between 140,000 and 328,000 birds are killed annually by wind turbines in the United States….


Eagle deaths split wind-farm debate

Peter Fimrite San Francisco Chronicle ‎- December 11, 2013

The golden eagle swooped low, close to the sloping field of yellow brush covering the Altamont Pass, searching for ground squirrels, rabbits and snakes, then soared upward between two giant whooshing wind turbines. In these windswept, rolling hills, the country’s environmental movement hits a divide. It is where two laudable green movements – the renewable energy industry and wildlife conservation – come in direct conflict. “In an ideal world, we wouldn’t put a wind farm here,” said Doug Bell, the wildlife program manager for the East Bay Regional Park District, as he walked past one of the many ridgetop windmills on a 600-acre parcel that the district acquired several years ago with its accompanying wind farm. “Having said that, the Altamont isn’t going to go away.”

Altamont Pass, just east of Livermore, is both the birthplace of the wind power movement and the deadliest spot in the United States for eagles and other birds, according to wildlife biologists. The wind turbines, on many different parcels and owned by a variety of companies, were first built in the wake of the energy crisis in the 1970s. Their spinning blades, the tips of which reach speeds of 179 miles per hour, annually kill about 10,000 birds, 2,000 of which are raptors. The pass contains about 4,200 turbines – about a third of California’s 13,000 turbines, which produce about 4,260 kilowatts, or enough to light up San Francisco. The Obama administration, to encourage investment in this renewable energy source, has extended a permitting system for wind-energy companies that allows them to kill a certain number of bald and golden eagles for up to 30 years. The Audubon Society and other wildlife advocates are furious, depicting the move by the Department of the Interior as a license for indiscriminate killing. “Instead of balancing the need for conservation and renewable energy, Interior wrote the wind industry a blank check,” said David Yarnold, National Audubon Society president and CEO. “It’s outrageous that the government is sanctioning the killing of America’s symbol, the bald eagle.” The irony is that the Audubon Society and other bird advocates have previously supported so-called “take permits” for wind farms and other companies that might harm eagles, albeit for a five-year period, not 30 years. Wildlife advocates supported shorter permits on the belief that they would force what had previously been an unregulated industry to conduct studies, determine how many birds are killed every year by turbines and develop methods to reduce that number.

The problem is that the system has had no teeth…..


‘Shocking’ decline of UK countryside birds revealed

Wide-ranging study of bird populations since 1995 shows grim picture for willow tit, cuckoo, lapwing and many others

Jessica Aldred The Guardian, Sunday 8 December 2013

Cuckoo numbers have halved in the UK in less than 20 years. Photograph: Wildlife GmbH /Alamy

Some of Britain’s most familiar countryside birds have plummeted in numbers since the 1990s, and some species have disappeared from parts of the UK, according to an authoritative annual report.

Numbers of the farmland-dwelling grey partridge have halved since 1995, while the turtle dove has declined by 95%. The yellow wagtail, which inhabits farm and wetland, has declined by 45% over the same period. The State of the UK’s Birds report, from the RSPB, the British Trust for Ornithology (BTO), the Wildfowl & Wetlands Trust and several UK government nature bodies, shows that of the UK’s 107 most widespread and common breeding birds, 16 species have declined by more than a third since 1995, including the willow tit, starling, cuckoo, lapwing and wood warbler. Many of these species do not require highly managed landscapes such as nature reserves or protected areas, but are once common birds that live in the “wider countryside”, in farmland, open country, commons, woodlands or local country parks. Dr Mark Eaton, RSPB conservation scientist, said many contributors to the report were shocked at how poorly familiar species were faring. “Many of the birds we’re referring to aren’t rare and don’t occur in remote locations. To the contrary, they are ones you used to see while walking the dog or enjoying a family picnic. But over two decades many of these species have ebbed away from huge swaths of our countryside.” The report has been running since 1999 and brings together the most recently published research, which is used to update population trends. This year’s report draws heavily on the findings of the BTO’s Bird Atlas 2007-11, which was published last month, a massive volunteer-led project that mapped changes in the patterns of distribution and abundance of 296 breeding and wintering bird species in Britain and Ireland. By including the BTO findings, the report has for the first time in 20 years enabled conservationists to look at bird populations in terms of population trends and range. “The shocking thing when you put both sets of figures together is the decline in number and range,” said an RSPB spokesman…..


A main cause is thought to be the loss of habitat due to wetlands being drained for farming or development, she said. “We need to protect and restore these habitats in order for species like these – and all wetland wildlife – to survive and prosper.” The report also highlights some species that have seen significant population recoveries. Following its reintroduction into England and Scotland and its continuing recovery in Wales, red kite numbers have increased by 676% since 1995. Songbirds such as the goldfinch and blackcap have also increased their populations since 1995, by 109% and 133% respectively. Phil Grice, Natural England’s senior ornithology specialist, said: “While we’ve made progress with reversing the declines in many of our rarer bird species, thanks to site management and species recovery work, improving the fortunes of our ‘wider countryside’ birds requires us to think beyond good management of our special sites.”….



New report shows influence of cognitive factors on ecosystem services valuation
(December 9, 2013) — A new report, drawing on behavioral economics literature from 2001 to 2012, has examined how cognitive factors influencing people’s choices and preferences can affect the values that they place upon ecosystem services and upon ecosystem sustainability. Ecosystem services valuation is currently central to forestry and natural resources strategies and policy-making
Ecosystem services refer to the benefits or outputs that people derive from ecosystems. Following the publication of the UK National Ecosystem Assessment there has been a growing interest in assessing the flows of such services and valuing the contribution they make to human well-being. Evidence shows that the values placed on particular ecosystem services will vary depending upon how survey questions are framed, the setting in which questions are posed and a range of other factors influencing people’s choices and preferences. Better understanding of these implications will enable a more nuanced interpretation of valuation evidence and better understanding of potential pitfalls in undertaking valuation studies. … > full story


Mystery ailment is wiping out [CA] coast’s starfish

Peter Fimrite SF Chronicle Updated 6:49 am, Monday, December 9, 2013

At the Monterey Bay Aquarium, a bat star is suspected of suffering from wasting disease. Photo: Russell Yip, The Chronicle

A mysterious pathogen is wiping out starfish along the Pacific coast, a potential catastrophe that has flummoxed marine biologists who are joining forces to find the culprit. The uncontested star of tide pools is disappearing from large areas along the coast, including Monterey, where the marine invertebrates have been withering and dying by the thousands. Nobody knows what is causing the die-off, but the killer – most likely some kind of virus, bacteria or pollutant – is widespread and extremely virulent. It has ravaged a variety of starfish species in tide pools and in deeper water along the coast from Mexico to Alaska. Pete Raimondi, a marine biologist and lead researcher on a team of scientists, laboratory technicians and geneticists, said he has seen 90 percent of the sea stars, as the multi-armed animals are also known, die within in an infected area in just two weeks. ….The disease, which has been dubbed sea star wasting disease, was first detected last summer in tide pool areas along the coast of Monterey.… Raimondi said he believes the starfish are succumbing mainly to a secondary bacterial infection caused by the disease, which spreads in the water almost like the common cold among the dense, often interwoven, populations of starfish. … They are looking for marine biotoxins and viruses and exploring a variety of possible sources, including radiation from the debris that washed across the Pacific Ocean after the Fukushima disaster. Although he doubts it will result in extinctions, Raimondi said the loss of so many starfish could have serious consequences as mussels and other starfish prey begin to overpopulate areas where their numbers were once controlled.
As a result, he said, fish, invertebrates, crabs and other species that feed on algae, plants and other sea life that thrive when starfish are in control will be marginalized and forced to look elsewhere for food.
“It just started, so we don’t know yet what it is going to do,” Raimondi said. “The theory is that there is going to be a fundamental shift” in the balance of sea life. Starfish die-offs have occurred in the past, but Raimondi said they have been localized and clearly associated with specific events, like a sewage spill or a sudden influx of warm water. The last substantial sea star die-off occurred during the 1998 El Niño weather pattern, but that was restricted to Southern California. It isn’t the only weird thing to happen of late along the California coast. Marine scientists have been trying to find out why previously unknown blooms of toxic algae are suddenly proliferating along the coast. The mysterious blooms, including deadly red tides, have been bigger, occurred more frequently and killed more wildlife than in the past. Last year at about this time, legions of big predatory Humboldt squid gathered along the Northern California coast and stranded themselves on Santa Cruz beaches, far north of their normal habitat.

By most accounts, though, the California ocean ecosystem has been healthy. Herring were abundant in San Francisco Bay last year, and there are plenty of salmon off the coast. Harbor porpoises, bottlenose dolphins and orcas have returned to the region in larger numbers than anyone can remember, while humpback and other whale migrations have been growing.

The strangest thing about the starfish die-off is that it is happening at a time when ocean temperatures along the West Coast are going through an extended cool period, something normally associated with ocean abundance.
So far, Raimondi said, there are no signs that the mysterious killer is slowing down. “Usually it is pretty obvious what is causing it. None of those factors exist,” he said. “I don’t think it’s the end. We see it in more and more sites.”


Common bird-killing disease documented in Alaska for 1st time

By ZAZ HOLLANDER December 6, 2013 Updated 3 hours ago

Avian cholera has been found for the first time in Alaska. Die-off on St. Paul Island. This is one of the first 3 dead birds sent to a biologist in Nome, who sent them to a USGS lab in Wisconsin that made the avian cholera diagnosis.

Hundreds of dead sea birds found on the beaches of St. Lawrence Island were the victims of  Alaska’s first detected avian cholera outbreak, officials said this week. One hunter in Gambell spotted a bird on the beach, its head flopping backward, said Kimberlee Beckmen, a wildlife veterinarian with the Alaska Department of Fish and Game. The bird acted like it was having a seizure. Then it dropped dead. Avian cholera, common in certain areas of the Lower 48 and Canada, causes mass die-offs of wild birds in places like California, Nevada and Texas. The fast-spreading disease can kill birds in six to 12 hours, though it isn’t much of a threat to humans. “It’s super, super common,” Beckmen said. “The only unusual part is us finding a die-off in Alaska.” The outbreak on St. Lawrence Island — 200 miles from the mainland in the Bering Sea — is apparently already declining, wildlife authorities said. Seabird carcasses are also less plentiful than expected, according to reports from the island villages of Gambell and Savoonga during a teleconference Friday. A local biologist will try to get an aerial count of infected birds or carcasses next week.


China Bans Shark Fin Soup From Official Banquets

By Katie Valentine on December 9, 2013

“It’s a commendable decision and a brave one that the Chinese government has taken,” one environmental leader said….According to conservation group WildAid, up to 73 million sharks are killed each year solely so that their fins can be sold for shark fin soup, 95 percent of which is consumed in China, Hong Kong and Taiwan. As recently as 2006, as the Washington Post reports, many Chinese citizens didn’t even know the soup came from sharks — 80 percent, according to one poll, were unaware of the origin of the soup’s key ingredient. But after WildAid launched a campaign in the country against the soup, using celebrities such as Chinese professional basketball player Yao Ming to speak out against the harm the soup causes shark populations and the oceans overall, the tide began turning in China. In January 2012, luxury hotel chain Shangri-La Asia announced it would ban shark fin soup from all 72 of its hotels. Several high-end restaurants and hotels have followed suit, and in September, Hong Kong announced a ban on shark fin soup (as well as the increasingly rare bluefin tuna and black moss) at government functions. Far from all restaurants and hotels in China have banned the soup, but overall demand has dropped off in recent years. This is good news for sharks, whose populations have been decimated by the shark finning trade, a fishing practice that is considered one of the cruelest and most wasteful, as fins are often cut off from live sharks, who are then thrown back into the ocean to die. Some shark populations have declined by 98 percent in the last 15 years due to finning, and all 14 species most commonly caught for their fins are now at risk of extinction. As a top marine predator, their drastic drops in numbers put considerable stress on an ocean ecosystem already at major risk from acidification and over-fishing.



System developed for assessing how effective species are at pollinating crops
(December 9, 2013) — From tomatoes to pumpkins, most fruit and vegetable crops rely on pollination by bees and other insect species — and the future of many of those species is uncertain. Now researchers are proposing a set of guidelines for assessing the performance of pollinator species in order to determine which species are most important and should be prioritized for protection. … > full story



NRCS, Farmers and Ranchers in California Invested more than $200 Million in 2013
Alan Forkey, November 20, 2013 California’s air, water, soil, wildlife and landscapes all received a healthy boost in federal fiscal year 2013. Over 2400 farmers and ranchers joined with USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) and partners to voluntarily invest time and money in protecting and restoring natural resources under their care. NRCS California invested $102.8 million in working lands conservation programs, and when contributions by farmers and ranchers are included this figure rises to at least $180 million. Additionally NRCS invested over $21.1 million in easement projects that preserve and restore California farmlands, wetlands, grasslands and forests. “Californians value both their access to diverse, high quality fresh food as well as environmental quality,” says Carlos Suarez, State Conservationist for NRCS in California. “Our role is to help farmers and ranchers achieve and balance both production and conservation goals”…..


U.S. Fish and Wildlife Turns Back on Baby Peregrines?

by Peter Jon Shuler | June 25, 2013 — 8:39 PM KQED San Francisco

A group instrumental in the recovery of peregrine falcons in California is now battling the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. The dispute is over the group’s long-standing efforts to rescue young birds from drowning in San Francisco Bay. Thanks in large part to the Predatory Bird Research Group at UC Santa Cruz, peregrines are no longer an endangered species. The birds have adapted to the urban environment, nesting in skyscrapers and bridges.  But when they choose bridges, young birds sometimes fly into the water and drown. Until this year, PBRG staff and volunteers have rescued many of the fledglings.  But now the group’s director, Glenn Stewart, says that Fish and Wildlife wants to let nature take its course. “They are saying that they will issue no more permits for rescuing and then releasing these young birds at a safe place,”  Stewart says. Fish and Wildlife defends its hands-off approach, saying peregrines are now thriving and could threaten other smaller birds.






US Navy predicts summer ice free Arctic by 2016

Is conventional modelling out of pace with speed and abruptness of global warming?

December 9, 2013 Ahmed

An ongoing US Department of Energy-backed research project led by a US Navy scientist predicts that the Arctic could lose its summer sea ice cover as early as 2016 – 84 years ahead of conventional model projections. The project, based out of the US Naval Postgraduate School‘s Department of Oceanography, uses complex modelling techniques that make its projections more accurate than others. A paper by principal investigator Professor Wieslaw Maslowski in the Annual Review of Earth and Planetary Sciences sets out some of the findings so far of the research project:

“Given the estimated trend and the volume estimate for October–November of 2007 at less than 9,000 km3, one can project that at this rate it would take only 9 more years or until 2016 ± 3 years to reach a nearly ice-free Arctic Ocean in summer. Regardless of high uncertainty associated with such an estimate, it does provide a lower bound of the time range for projections of seasonal sea ice cover.” The paper is highly critical of global climate models (GCM) and even the majority of regional models, noting that “many Arctic climatic processes that are omitted from, or poorly represented in, most current-generation GCMs” which “do not account for important feedbacks among various system components.” There is therefore “a great need for improved understanding and model representation of physical processes and interactions specific to polar regions that currently might not be fully accounted for or are missing in GCMs.”

According to the US Department of Energy describing the project’s development of the Regional Arctic System Model (RASM): “Given that the Arctic is warming faster than the rest of the globe, understanding the processes and feedbacks of this polar amplification is a top priority. In addition, Arctic glaciers and the Greenland Ice Sheet are expected to change significantly and contribute to sea level rise in the coming decades.” Such Arctic changes “could have significant ramifications for global sea level, the ocean thermohaline circulation and heat budget, ecosystems, native communities, natural resource exploration, and commercial transportation.” The regional focus of RASM permits “significantly higher spatial resolution” to represent and evaluate the interaction of “important fine-scale Arctic processes and feedbacks”, such as: “… sea ice deformation, ocean eddies, and associated ice-ocean boundary layer mixing, multiphase clouds as well as land-atmosphere-ice-ocean interactions.” The role of the Department of Energy in backing the research is not surprising considering that President Obama’s national Arctic strategy launched in May is focused on protecting commercial and corporate opportunities related to control of the region’s vast untapped oil, gas and mineral resources. The model coheres with the predictions of several other Arctic specialists – namely Prof Peter Wadhams, head of polar ocean physics at Cambridge University and Prof Carlos Duarte, director of the Ocean Institute at the University of Western Australia – who see the disappearance of the Arctic sea ice in the summer of 2015 as likely….


But scientists also largely agree that an ice free Arctic in the summer could have serious consequences for the global climate. Some research has pointed out a link between the warming Arctic and changes in the jet stream, contributing to unprecedented weather extremes over the last few years. These extreme events in turn have dramatically impacted crop production in key food basket regions. A landmark new study in Nature Climate Change finds the melting of the sea ice over the last 30 years at a rate of 8% per decade is directly linked to extreme summer weather in the US and elsewhere in the form of droughts and heatwaves. Lead study author Quihang Tang at the Institute of Geographic Sciences and Natural Resources Research in Beijing said:

As the high latitudes warm faster than the mid-latitudes because of amplifying effects of melting ice, the west-to-east jet-stream wind is weakened. Consequently, the atmospheric circulation change tends to favour more persistent weather systems and a higher likelihood of summer weather extremes.” The new study supplements earlier research published in Geophysical Research Letters demonstrating a link between Arctic sea ice loss and extreme weather particularly in both the summer and winter, including prolongation of “drought, flooding, cold spells, and heat waves.”

Last year Prof Duarte was lead author of a paper in the Royal Swedish Academy of Science’s journal AMBIO warning that the Arctic was at risk of passing critical “tipping points” that could lead to a cascading “domino effect once the summer sea ice is lost.” Prof Duarte said at the time: “If set in motion, they can generate profound climate change which places the Arctic not at the periphery but at the core of the Earth system. There is evidence that these forces are starting to be set in motion. This has major consequences for the future of human kind as climate change progresses.”



Rivers and streams release more greenhouse gas than all lakes
(December 9, 2013)Rivers and streams release carbon dioxide at a rate five times greater than the world’s lakes and reservoirs combined, contrary to common belief. Research from the University of Waterloo was a key component of the international study, the findings of which appear in a recent issue of the journal Nature.

Identifying the sources and amounts of carbon dioxide released from continental water sources has been a gap in understanding the carbon cycle. Our findings show just how much carbon dioxide inland waters release and identified that rivers and streams are the main source not lakes and reservoirs, as previously thought,” said Professor Hans Dürr, research professor from the Faculty of Science at Waterloo. A team of scientists from Belgium, Canada, Finland, France, Germany and the United States found that the rate at which lakes and reservoirs release carbon dioxide, or evasion rate, was lower than previous estimates. The rate from rivers and streams was three times higher and even greater in smaller, fast-moving streams. The researchers found that the global carbon dioxide evasion rate from rivers and streams was 1.8 billion tons of carbon per year, compared with the 0.32 billion tons from lakes and reservoirs…. “This study is an example of how new knowledge can be gained by bringing together different tools, techniques and ideas from hundreds of scientists to tackle a global issue,” said Professor Dürr. “More integrated, international collaborations like this are needed.” The model is a global database of water bodies, or catchments, that connect to oceans. This land-ocean water connection is important for the movement of nutrients, greenhouse gases and metals in water systems. This study provides new insights into how rivers and streams affect the global carbon cycle but emphasizes that additional research is needed to determine the carbon dioxide evasion rate for inland waters in the northern hemisphere. Better estimates of carbon dioxide emissions are crucial because climate models project higher temperature increases than the global average in latitudes higher than 60 degrees north, yet many of the tools are derived from satellite products that do not yet exist for these latitudes.… > full story

Peter A. Raymond, Jens Hartmann, Ronny Lauerwald, Sebastian Sobek, Cory McDonald, Mark Hoover, David Butman, Robert Striegl, Emilio Mayorga, Christoph Humborg, Pirkko Kortelainen, Hans Dürr, Michel Meybeck, Philippe Ciais, Peter Guth. Global carbon dioxide emissions from inland waters. Nature, 2013; 503 (7476): 355 DOI: 10.1038/nature12760



Santa Ana Watershed Study Completed

December 12, 2013 — The Santa Ana River Watershed Basin Study, which addresses water supply and demand projections for the next 50 years and identifies potential climate change impacts to Southern California’s Santa Ana … > full story The results of the study are posted on Reclamation’s website at


Is the West’s dry spell really a megadrought? December 13, 2013 Climate Central

The drought that has been afflicting most of the Western states for the past 13 years may be a “megadrought,” like nothing else seen over the past 1,000 years, according to research presented at the American Geophysical Union Fall Meeting on Wednesday and Thursday. Today, drought or abnormally dry conditions are affecting every state west of the Mississippi River and many on the East Coast, with much of the Southwest under long-term severe, extreme or exceptional drought conditions. While drought conditions nationwide are down this year, they remain entrenched in the West.

Lakeside homes, Lake Isabella, Calif. Credit: Don Barrett/flickr

Since 2000, the West has seen landscape-level changes to its forests as giant wildfires have swept through the Rockies and the Sierra Nevada, bark beetles have altered the ecology of forests by killing countless trees and western cities have begun to come to terms with water shortages made worse by these changes as future snowpack and rainfall becomes less and less certain in a changing climate.

“The current drought could be classified as a megadrought — 13 years running,” paleoclimatologist Edward Cook, director of the Tree Ring Laboratory at Columbia University’s Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory in Palisades, N.Y., said at an AGU presentation Wednesday night. “There’s no indication it’ll be getting any better in the near term.” But the long period of drought the West is currently experiencing may not be a product of human-caused climate change, and could be natural, he said. “It’s tempting to blame radiative forcing of climate as the cause of megadrought,” Cook said. “That would be premature. Why? There’s a lot of variability in the system that still can’t be separated cleanly from CO2 forcing on climate. Natural variability still has a tremendous impact on the climate system.”

Tree ring data show that decades-long droughts have occurred before humans started emitting greenhouse gases that fuel climate change. Long-lasting drought events have been tied to fluctuations in ocean conditions, which can alter large-scale weather patterns. For example, when the tropical Pacific Ocean is cooler than average, but the Atlantic Ocean is unusually mild — as has been the case during the past several years — there is a higher risk of drought in parts of the West and Central U.S.  The area of the West that was affected by severe drought in the Medieval period was much higher and much longer than the current drought, tree ring data show. It is “indeed pretty scary,” Cook said. “One lasted 29 years. One lasted 28 years. They span the entire continental United States.”


Two megadroughts in the Sierra Nevada of California lasted between 100 and 200 years. Cook is among the first to suggest that the current drought in the West is a megadrought, which is typically defined as a widespread drought lasting for two decades or longer, Cornell University assistant professor of earth and atmospheric sciences Toby Ault said during an AGU presentation Thursday.

But the idea that the current 13-year dry spell will be of similar magnitude of the megadroughts found in tree ring records is subject of debate. “Are we in a megadrought? I guess we are,” Ault said. “They are a threat to civilization in the future.”….. Ault is studying the probability that the U.S. will experience a megadrought this century on the order of no other dry period seen here at any time in the last millennium.

Data gleaned from tree rings and other sources show that the chance of a decade-long drought in the U.S. this century would be about 45 percent, and a multi-decade-long drought less than 10 percent, he said.   “That’s not the whole picture because we’re going to see climate change in this century,” he said. He said that the chances of a widespread multi-decade megadrought are high in the worst-case scenario, but he quoted University of Arizona geosciences professor Jonathan Overpeck to characterize the chances of megadrought in less severe scenarios: “It’s extremely non-negligible, the risk of prolonged multi-decadal megadrought.” The bottom line: “The picture looks like we’re going to have to take this seriously,” Ault said. Such dry spells would have severe implications for the nation’s water supply, and the U.S. is going to have to adapt and find smarter ways to cope, he said. The current drought is occurring at a time of sweeping and abrupt changes in the nation’s forests as a result of both the extended dry period and human-caused climate change, said Lisa Graumlich, dean of the College of the Environment at the University of Washington. Speaking at AGU on Wednesday, Graumlich said vast ecosystem changes are happening at an unprecedented scale across the country as tree mortality in Western forests is increasing dramatically, partly because bark beetles are spreading widely as summer warm seasons are longer than before. “The time in which forests are burning in the West is much longer than it was in previous decades,” she said. “Forest insects are erupting across the West.”

Those changes and others including loss of sea ice, longer growing seasons in the Arctic, tundra being replaced by forests and shrubs, are occurring across an area scientists haven’t seen before, she said.

“We’re seeing right now ecosystem tipping points,” she said. “They’re at an unprecedented spatial scale. They’re related to timing of biological events that ecologists are finding surprising.”



Environment drives genetics in ‘Evolution Canyon’: Discovery sheds light on climate change
(December 12, 2013) — Researchers studying life from a unique natural environment in Israel discover heat stress seems to influence a species’ genetic makeup, a finding that may influence understanding of climate change. … > full story


What the Past Tells Us About Modern Sea-Level Rise

December 12, 2013 — Researchers report that sea-level rise since the industrial revolution has been fast by natural standards and – at current rates – may reach 80cm above the modern level by 2100 and 2.5 meters by … > full story


NOAA: Contiguous U.S. experiences wetter and warmer than average autumn, while November was drier and cooler than average

December 11, 2013 Lower 48 drought footprint shrank to 30.6 percent by early December; Alaska experienced its 10th warmest autumn…


Long-term warming and environmental change trends persist in the Arctic in 2013

Though not as extreme as last year, new report by NOAA and partners finds that the Arctic continues to show evidence of a shift to a new warmer, greener state

December 12, 2013 NOAA

According to a new report released today by NOAA and its partners, cooler temperatures in the summer of 2013 across the central Arctic Ocean, Greenland and northern Canada moderated the record sea ice loss and extensive melting that the surface of the Greenland ice sheet experienced last year. Yet there continued to be regional extremes, including record low May snow cover in Eurasia and record high summer temperatures in Alaska.


Thawing Arctic throwing climate out of kilter

December 9, 2013 – 8:05AM Sydney Morning Herald

It’s not just bad for polar bears. Photo: Supplied

A thaw of Arctic ice and snow is linked to worsening summer heatwaves and downpours thousands of miles south in Europe, the United States and other areas, underlying the scale of the threat posed by global warming, scientists said. ….warned of increasingly extreme weather across “much of North America and Eurasia where billions of people will be affected”. The study is part of a drive to work out how climate change affects the frequency of extreme weather, from droughts to floods. Governments want to know the trends to plan everything from water supplies to what crops to plant. But the science of a warming Arctic is far from settled. Writing in the journal Nature Climate Change, experts in China and the United States said they could not conclusively say the Arctic thaw caused more extreme weather, or vice versa. But they said they had found evidence of a relationship between the two. Rising temperatures over thawing snow on land and sea ice in the Arctic were changing atmospheric pressure and winds, the report said. The changes slowed the eastward movement of vast meandering weather systems and meant more time for extreme weather to develop – such as a heatwave in Russia in 2010, droughts in the United States and China in 2011 and 2012, or heavy summer rains that caused floods in Britain in 2012, the paper added. “The study contributes to a growing body of evidence that … the melting Arctic has wide-ranging implications for people living in the middle latitudes,” lead author Qiuhong Tang of the Chinese Academy of Sciences told Reuters. Sea ice in the Arctic shrank to a record low in 2012 and the U.N.’s panel of climate scientists says it could almost vanish in summers by 2050 with rising greenhouse gas emissions….

A Closer Look at Tornadoes in a Human-Heated Climate

By ANDREW C. REVKIN NY Times dotEarth December 9, 2013

Six scientists focused on how tornadoes might be affected by global warming last week criticized the central claim in “The Truth About Tornadoes,” a recent Op-Ed article asserting there was a measurable decline in strong tornadoes. The piece was by Richard Muller, the University of California, Berkeley, physicist and author who gained national attention for doing independent analysis confirming that humans were warming the climate after years of criticizing global warming researchers. The critique of Muller’s article by the tornado researchers was initially posted on LiveScience and a short letter by two of the scientists ran in The Times. One of the researchers, Harold Brooks of the National Severe Storms Laboratory in Norman, Okla., mentioned that he was eager to make the unedited version available (he said the LiveScience version had been tweaked), so I’m posting it below in its original form. The piece is followed by a reaction that I received from Muller after I sent him the scientists’ critique. At the end of the post, I’ll weigh in on a Twitter discussion that centered on this debate. First, here’s the rebuttal of Muller’s opinion piece, written by Paul Markowski, a professor of meteorology at Pennsylvania State University, Brooks and four others:….



Austalia Well On Its Way To Hottest Year Ever

By Joanna M. Foster on December 7, 2013

Australia’s spring was the warmest on record. 2013 is likely to be the Australia’s hottest year ever. Mean temperatures for Australia’s spring (which occurs during the U.S.’s fall) were 1.57°C above the 1961-1990 average. September was especially hot, with an average temperature of 2.75°C or nearly 5°F above normal. October came in at 1.43°C above average, while November came closer to normal, at 0.52C above average. And in addition to being unusually warm, spring also came early. On August 31, the last day of winter, average temperatures reached 85.9°F. It was the warmest last day of winter recorded since Australia started collecting temperature data 104 years ago. To date, the year is 1.23°C above average and 0.18°C above the previous record year, 2005….




More logging, deforestation may better serve climate in some areas

Posted: 05 Dec 2013 11:16 AM PST

Replacing forests with snow-covered meadows may provide greater climatic and economic benefits than if trees are left standing in some regions, according to a study that for the first time puts a dollar value on snow’s ability to reflect the sun’s energy. The findings suggest more frequent logging or deforestation may better serve our planet and pocketbooks in high latitude areas where snowfall is common and timber productivity is low. Such a scenario could involve including snow cover/albedo in existing greenhouse gas exchanges like the Kyoto protocol or a cap-and-trade program or ecosystem services market in which landowners are paid to maintain snow cover and produce timber rather than conserve forests and store carbon. Previous studies have put a price on many ecosystem services — or services that nature provides to humans that have both economic and biological value, such as drinking water and crop pollination — but the Dartmouth study is the first to do so for albedo, or the surface reflection of incoming solar energy…..



Reducing salt is bad for glacial health, NASA finds

Posted: 06 Dec 2013 11:36 AM PST

A new NASA-led study has discovered an intriguing link between sea ice conditions and the melting rate of Totten Glacier, the glacier in East Antarctica that discharges the most ice into the ocean. The discovery, involving cold, extra salty water — brine — that forms within openings in sea ice, adds to our understanding of how ice sheets interact with the ocean, and may improve our ability to forecast and prepare for future sea level rise…. Ice loss seen in Antarctica is generally attributed to the well-documented rise in temperature of the surrounding ocean, but scientists are still puzzling out the mechanisms behind the regional variations that they are observing. The new study highlights the key role of processes occurring on small geographic scales in determining how global climate change can affect the stability of ice sheets….That ocean basin, as elsewhere around Antarctica, contains polynyas (poe-LEEN-yahs), large, annually recurring openings in the winter sea ice cover. Polynya sizes and numbers vary markedly from winter to winter, although there is no overall trend in this region. The computer simulations revealed that these year-to-year variations in the polynyas greatly affected the glacier’s melting rate. In polynyas, large quantities of sea ice form, only to be swept away by the winds that formed the openings in the first place. When seawater freezes it expels its salts, producing a layer of very dense, briny water at the freezing temperature. The cold and dense brine formed in polynyas sinks to the seafloor, where it can flow into the cavities under the ice shelves, just as warmer ocean water could.

The researchers hypothesized that when the cold brine pooled under Totten Ice Shelf, it mixed with the water there, lowering its temperature and slowing the glacier’s winter melt rate. If so, a reduction in cold brine would mean the glacier’s winter melt rate would increase….. in the latter part of the study period, the extent of polynyas (and therefore the production of cold brine) decreased significantly. ICESat observations showed that at the same time, the thinning of Totten Glacier increased, as the team’s hypothesis predicted it would. If there are more winters with reduced polynya extents, Khazendar points out, the cavity under Totten can fill with warmer ocean water rather than cold brine. “If that happens, the glacier’s flow could be significantly destabilized, causing it to discharge even more ice into the ocean,” he said. “With the widespread changes seen in Antarctic sea ice conditions over the last few years, this process could be affecting other glaciers around Antarctica and the volume of ice they discharge into the ocean,” he added.


For more information on ICESat, visit: .For more information on the ECCO2 ocean modeling and data synthesis project, visit: .


Worrisome Arctic ocean methane leaks.
Living On Earth New research based in the East Siberian continental shelf of the Arctic Ocean finds the powerful greenhouse gas methane is escaping from the seabed into the atmosphere twice as fast as scientists previously thought, threatening runaway global warming.


Alpine glacier, unchanged for thousands of years, now melting: New ice cores suggest Alps have been strongly warming since 1980s
(December 11, 2013) — Less than 20 miles from the site where melting ice exposed the 5,000-year-old body of Ötzi the Iceman, scientists have discovered new and compelling evidence that the Italian Alps are warming at an unprecedented rate. Part of that evidence comes in the form of a single dried-out leaf from a larch tree that grew thousands of years ago. … > full story


Global warming is unpaused and stuck on fast forward, new research shows

December 10, 2013 the Guardian UK

New research by Kevin Trenberth and John Fasullo of the National Center for Atmospheric Research investigates how the warming of the Earth’s climate has behaved over the past 15 years compared with the previous few decades. They conclude that while the rate of increase of average global surface temperatures has slowed since 1998, melting of Arctic ice, rising sea levels, and warming oceans have continued apace.….Previous estimates put the amount of heat accumulated by the world’s oceans over the past decade equivalent to about 4 Hiroshima atomic bomb detonations per second, on average, but Trenberth’s research puts the estimate equivalent to more than 6 detonations per second. Trenberth and Fasullo note that using their ocean heating estimate by itself would increase the equilibrium climate sensitivity estimate in the paper referenced by Ridley from 2°C to 2.5°C average global surface warming in response to a doubling of atmospheric carbon dioxide, and using other more widespread accepted values would bring the estimate in line with the standard value of 3°C. They thus note, “Using short records with uncertain forcings of the Earth system that is not in equilibrium does not (yet) produce reliable estimates of climate sensitivity.” In any case, the main point of the paper is that global warming is stuck on fast forward. Ice continues to melt, sea levels continue to rise, and the oceans continue to warm rapidly. While the warming of global surface temperatures has slowed somewhat, that appears to primarily be due to changing ocean cycles, particularly in the Pacific. However, these changes are mostly just causing the oceans to absorb more heat, leaving less for the atmosphere. As Trenberth and Fasullo conclude, “[Global warming] is very much alive but being manifested in somewhat different ways than a simple increase in global mean surface temperature.”


Climate Change Opens the Arctic to Shipping, Drilling, Militarization

 – ‎December 9 2013‎


As climate change transforms our planet and the polar ice caps recede, new, previously inaccessible areas of the Arctic are opening up for business.


Arctic cyclones more common than previously thought
(December 11, 2013) — From 2000 to 2010, about 1,900 cyclones churned across the top of the world each year, leaving warm water and air in their wakes — and melting sea ice in the Arctic Ocean. That’s about 40 percent more than previously thought, according to a new analysis of these Arctic storms. … > full story


New results from inside the ozone hole
(December 11, 2013) — Scientists have revealed the inner workings of the ozone hole that forms annually over Antarctica and found that declining chlorine in the stratosphere has not yet caused a recovery of the ozone hole. … > full story


New long-lived greenhouse gas discovered: Highest global-warming impact of any compound to date
(December 9, 2013) — Scientists have discovered a novel chemical lurking in the atmosphere that appears to be a long-lived greenhouse gas. The chemical — perfluorotributylamine — is the most radiatively efficient chemical found to date, breaking all other chemical records for its potential to impact climate
. … PFTBA has been in use since the mid-20th century for various applications in electrical equipment and is currently used in thermally and chemically stable liquids marketed for use in electronic testing and as heat transfer agents. It does not occur n
aturally, that is, it is produced by humans. There are no known processes that would destroy or remove PFTBA in the lower atmosphere so it has a very long lifetime, possibly hundreds of years, and is destroyed in the upper atmosphere…. …> full story


Cuba creates nature reserves in response to climate change

Published: Monday, December 9, 2013

Efforts to increase the number of nature reserves and other protected areas are going largely unnoticed in Cuba as a chronic economic crisis harms efforts to adapt to climate change.

Nature reserves “are a reservoir of genetic biodiversity of many species,” biologist Ángel Quirós said. “Many of the species of economic importance for the future will come out of these areas, adapted to the new environmental conditions.” But “the varied and complex role played by protected areas in curbing global warming is not very well-known,” said Quirós, a researcher with the Centre for Environmental Studies and Services, a government institution. He said protected areas curb effects of climate change such as higher temperatures, sea-level rise, and unprecedented weather events like Superstorm Sandy, which wreaked havoc in the east of Cuba, other Caribbean nations and the northeastern United States in October 2012. Nature reserves “containing large forests contribute to stabilizing average rainfall and temperatures,” Quirós said. Cuba’s investment in protecting the environment rose from $278 million in 2007 to $488 million in 2012, but lack of funding has been an obstacle for the teams leading the efforts to create protected areas. The number of nature reserves in Cuba rose from 35 in 2007 to 80 in 2011 and 103 in 2012, according to the national statistics office. The local managers of Los Caimanes National Park, a marine park located on the coast between the provinces of Villa Clara and Ciego de Ávila, have turned to community work to help raise badly needed funds. Raising environmental awareness among the local populations of protected areas is a long-term task, said María Elena Chirino, who lives in a biosphere reserve. “When I was little, we would kill birds, for example. But we weren’t really taught not to do so. Now people have a better idea of the importance of what surrounds us, but there’s still a long way to go,” Chirino said (Ivet González Inter Press Service, Dec. 5).


Climate change may be worsening wildfires in the West

NBC News December 12 2013

Rich Pedroncelli / AP file

A firefighter hoses down flames from the Butte Lightening Complex fire as he approaches a fire line near Concow, Calif. The fire destroyed more than 50 homes while consuming more than 45,000 acres in July 2008.

SAN FRANCISCO — Wildfires in the western United States are getting worse, and human-caused climate change may be the main culprit in the hotter, more dangerous infernos, new research suggests.

“We’re seeing an increase in fire activity across the western United States, and we’re seeing it in many different facets of fire activity,” study co-author Philip Dennison, a geographer at the University of Utah, said Tuesday here at the annual meeting of the American Geophysical Union. “Total area burned, number of fires and the size of the largest fires are all increasing.”

Though Dennison’s study isn’t the first to suggest that climate change may be fueling more Western wildfires, past studies often looked at limited data sets, ruled out private or public lands or were limited to smaller regions of the country. Using data available from the Earth-observing Landsat satellite, the team looked at all the Western fires that burned more than 1,000 acres (400 hectares) of both public and private land starting in 1984. That amounted to more than 6,000 fires. Across the West, in both grasslands and high mountain forests, wildfires seem to be getting worse, although there were regional variations in how that increased fire activity appeared. In Southern California, for instance, where nearly all wildfires are started by people (whether by arson or accident), the total number of ignitions didn’t increase. But those fires tended to become bigger, and the largest conflagrations are getting bigger, Dennison said. [Yosemite Aflame: Rim Fire in Photos]

In higher-elevation forests, infernos come earlier in the summer fire season, he said….






China publishes comprehensive plan to deal with climate change

The Verge

Dec 10 2013


Written by

Nathan Ingraham


The potential threats stemming from global climate change is something that countries across the world are considering – China is now the latest to publish a comprehensive look at what pitfalls might await it due to global warming and how it can work


For Environmental Concerns, The Ryan-Murray Budget Deal Is A Mixed Bag

By Jeff Spross on December 11, 2013

It keeps most of sequestration’s cuts, could open more offshore waters to drilling, and modestly reduces some federal assistance to fossil fuel interests….



Obama’s pollution-control agenda to face courtroom challenges. December 9, 2013 Business Week
Two of President Barack Obama’s top pollution-control measures face courtroom tests tomorrow as coal-dependent utilities, miners and some states challenge what they call overreach by the Environmental Protection Agency.


As Keystone ruling nears, Canada short on time for climate plan. December 9, 2013 Reuters Canada is running out of time to offer U.S. President Barack Obama a climate change concession that might clinch the controversial Keystone XL oil pipeline, as the country’s energy industry continues to resist costly curbs on greenhouse gas emissions.


Large Companies Prepared to Pay Price on Carbon

By CORAL DAVENPORT NY Times December 7, 2013

More than two dozen of the nation’s biggest corporations, including the five major oil companies, are preparing to pay climate-related taxes, a departure from the policies they usually support. he development is a striking departure from conservative orthodoxy and a reflection of growing divisions between the Republican Party and its business supporters. A new report by the environmental data company CDP has found that at least 29 companies, some with close ties to Republicans, including ExxonMobil, Walmart and American Electric Power, are incorporating a price on carbon into their long-term financial plans. Both supporters and opponents of action to fight global warming say the development is significant because businesses that chart a financial course to make money in a carbon-constrained future could be more inclined to support policies that address climate change. But unlike the five big oil companies — ExxonMobil, ConocoPhillips, Chevron, BP and Shell, all major contributors to the Republican party — Koch Industries, a conglomerate that has played a major role in pushing Republicans away from action on climate change, is ramping up an already-aggressive campaign against climate policy — specifically against any tax or price on carbon. Owned by the billionaire brothers Charles and David Koch, the company includes oil refiners and the paper-goods company Georgia-Pacific. … Other companies that are incorporating a carbon price into their strategic planning include Microsoft, General Electric, Walt Disney, ConAgra Foods, Wells Fargo, DuPont, Duke Energy, Google and Delta Air Lines…..

In 1994, dozens of Democratic lawmakers lost their jobs after Al Gore, who was vice president at the time, urged them to vote for a climate change bill that would have effectively taxed carbon pollution. In 2009, President Obama urged House Democrats to vote for a cap-and-trade bill that would have required companies whose carbon-dioxide emissions exceeded set levels to buy emissions rights from those who emitted less. The next year, Tea Party groups spent millions to successfully unseat members who voted for the bill.

But ExxonMobil, which last year was ranked by the Fortune 500 as the nation’s most profitable company, is representative of Big Oil’s slow evolution on climate change policy. A decade ago, the company was known for contributing to research organizations that questioned the science of climate change. In 2010, ExxonMobil purchased a company that produces natural gas, which creates less carbon pollution than oil or coal. ExxonMobil is now the nation’s biggest natural gas producer, meaning that it will stand to profit in a future in which a price is placed on carbon emissions. Coal, which produces twice the carbon pollution of natural gas, would be a loser. Today, ExxonMobil openly acknowledges that carbon pollution from fossil fuels contributes to climate change. ….

Koch Industries maintains ties to the Tea Party group Americans for Prosperity, which last year campaigned against Republicans who acknowledged the science of climate change. The company also contributes money to the American Energy Alliance, a Washington-based advocacy group that campaigns against lawmakers that it claims support a carbon price. This year, the American Energy Alliance says it has spent about $1.2 million in ads and campaign activities attacking candidates who it says support a carbon price. Robert Murphy, senior economist at the American Energy Alliance, said his group was not concerned that it had taken a different position from the major oil companies. “We’re not taking marching orders from Big Oil,” he said. In fact, Koch has a longtime resentment of the biggest oil companies. According to company history, Koch’s founder, Fred Koch, the father of Charles and David, invented a chemical process to more efficiently refine oil but was blocked from bringing it to the market by John D. Rockefeller, the owner of Standard Oil — the company that was later broken up to make some of the major oil companies of today, including ExxonMobil. People at Koch say sore feelings remain to this day.



Safeguarding California DRAFT Plan: Available for Public Comment

The California Natural Resources Agency is pleased to announce the release of a public review draft of Safeguarding California: Reducing Climate Risk
(PDF; an update to the 2009 California Climate Adaptation Strategy).

You may find a copy of the Safeguarding California Plan on our website, along with information about public workshops and how to submit comments.

As a reminder, two public workshops will be held in January on the 22nd (Sacramento) and the 27th (San Francisco) to get public input on the draft (more information at

From the press release:

“The draft plan released today is an excellent addition to the state’s developing climate policy and we look forward to providing input,” said Louis Blumberg, director, California Climate Change Initiative for The Nature Conservancy. “This plan will help guide state agencies to consider escalating climate change impacts into their planning and projects.” Below are the nine broad areas impacted by climate change. Each suggests real-world, realistic recommendations for actions that we can do today to ensure a better future.


Safeguarding our Everyday Lives from Climate Change:

         A Changing Water Future: Develop an urban water use plan that reduces reliance on distant, unpredictable sources.

         Keeping the Lights On: Promote development of smart grids that are connected, but localized.

         More Hot Days: Protect vulnerable people from extreme heat. More hot days in a row are already responsible for more frequent hospitalizations and deaths.

         Do Better Today, Live Better Tomorrow: By reducing our carbon output today, we can lessen the extent of impacts in the future.


Safeguarding our Natural World:

         Nature Moves with the Climate: As climate patterns shift, so will nature. Proving habitat connectivity and chances for adaptation will help allow species and habitats to survive.

         Help Nature Protect Herself: Improve forest and other habitat resilience.


Safeguarding California – What Science and Lawmakers Can Do:

         Knowing the Real Impacts: Sound science will highlight risks, and help provide a path to solutions.

         Help is on the Way: Assess adequacy of emergency responders.

         Better Together: Collaborate with federal and local government.


Governors prepared to do more to fight wildfires. AP During the annual winter meeting of the Western Governors Association on Thursday, state leaders told federal officials that they recognize times are tight and that they plan to spend more of their own resources fighting fires in their states….



For additional information on the rule, click here:

On Dec. 6, the US Department of Interior (DOI) announced a new rule that would allow renewable energy projects such as wind farms to obtain permits to disturb, injure or kill bald and golden eagles for up to 30 years. permits are contingent on applicants adhering to adaptive management measures to limit detrimental impacts on the eagles.

According to DOI, “permits will be closely monitored to ensure that allowable take numbers are not exceeded and that conservation measures are in place and effective over the life of the permit.” The US Fish and Wildlife Service would review the permits and eagle conservation measures every five years. The rule drew strange bedfellows of criticism from not only environmental groups, but Environment and Public Works Committee Ranking Member David Vitter (R-LA). “Permits to kill eagles just seems unpatriotic, and 30 years is a long time for some of these projects to accrue a high death rate,” said Ranking Member Vitter. “The administration has repeatedly prosecuted oil, gas, and other businesses for taking birds, but looks the other way when wind farms or other renewable energy companies do the exact same thing.” The Natural Resources Defense Council asserted that Interior rejected recommendations that would have allowed the wind projects to move forward while increasing safety for the eagles.


Obama extends eagle ‘take’ permits to 30 years. December 7, 2013 Greenwire The Interior Department announced today that it has finalized a new rule that will allow renewable energy and other projects to obtain permits to injure, kill or disturb bald and golden eagles for up to 30 years, a move that pleases the wind power industry but alarms environmentalists.


Warsaw Climate Talks End with Foundation for a Global Agreement

Center For American Progress

 – ‎Dec 4, 2013‎


Delegates from nearly 200 countries convened in Warsaw, Poland, for the annual Conference of the Parties to the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change, or UNFCCC, to craft an effective global strategy to reduce global warming pollution and adapt


Top 3 climate change adaptation outcomes at the UN climate talks

PreventionWeb (press release)

December 10, 2013


The top 3 climate change adaptation outcomes of the UN Climate Summit according to Acclimatise were in the field of climate finance, loss and damage and ‘the Caring for Climate Business Forum,’ which offered the business world an opportunity to network  “In summary Warsaw just about did the minimum that could be achieved to avoid being dubbed a total failure. It forms a basis for further discussions, but most of the central questions around adaptation finance remain unanswered…In the meantime the UNFCCC process seems increasingly inadequate as a mechanism to deal with climate change impacts. The main lesson from Warsaw is that governments, businesses and development agencies simply cannot wait for a global agreement; they must all act now.”




View the full letter here:

On Dec. 2, the Ecological Society of America (ESA) issued a letter to Under Secretary for Research, Education and Economics and Chief Scientist Catherine Woteki on the US Department of Agriculture’s draft Research, Education, and Economics (REE) Mission Area Action Plan. ESA sought to enhance the focus of ecology in the USDA research and education action plan. “Most fundamentally, agroecology works from the acknowledgment that agricultural systems are inescapably ecological and social systems, and thus must be analyzed from these contexts,” the letter states. “Agroecologists study agriculture’s effects on natural resources, the socioeconomic viability and effects of different farming systems and practices, disease ecology and prevention in crops and livestock, forestry, conservation biology, biotechnology and crop genetics, biodiversity, pest control, soil science, and agriculture’s responses to and effects on climate change, among other areas. In other words, its areas of focus precisely align with USDA REE objectives.” In addition to bolstering ecology’s presence in the plan, the letter calls for USDA REE to have a dedicated budget for agroecology research. It also calls for a USDA agroecology conference to foster collaboration among the agency, the agroecological research community, farmers, ranchers and other stakeholders.



Ecological Society of America (ESA) Poilcy News: CURRENT POLICY December 9 2013

Introduced in House

  • H.R. 3640, the Innovation, Research and Manufacturing Act – Introduced Dec. 3 by Rep. Julia Brownley (D-CA), the bill would make permanent the research and development tax credit and increase the existing credit by 50 percent. The bill has been referred to the House Ways and Means Committee.

Approved by House Committee/Subcommittee

On Dec. 4, the House Natural Resources Committee approved several bills by voice vote, including the following:

  • H.R. 3286, the Protecting States, Opening National Parks Act – Introduced by Rep. Steve Daines (R-MT), the bill would direct the Secretary of the Treasury to reimburse states that opened national parks during the Oct. 2013 federal government shutdown. The bill has 26 bipartisan cosponsors. Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-TN) has introduced companion legislation in the Senate (S. 1572) that also has bipartisan support.
  • H.R. 1425, the Marine Debris Emergency Act of 2013 – Introduced by Rep. Suzanne Bonamici (D-OR), the bill would amend the Marine Debris Act to encourage the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and state governors to improve response to severe marine debris.
  • H.R. 1491, The Tsunami Debris Cleanup Reimbursement Act – Introduced by Rep. Bonamici, the bill would provide funding to address the marine debris impacts of the March 2011 Tohoku earthquake and tsunami.

On Dec. 5, the House Science, Space and Technology Committee approved the following bipartisan bills by voice vote:

  • H.R. 2413, the Weather Forecasting Improvement Act – Introduced by Rep. Jim Bridenstine (R-OK), the bill seeks to reprioritize weather forecasting and tornado warning data within the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). The bill was amended from a previous version by Environment Subcommittee Chairman Chris Stewart (R-UT) and Environment Subcommittee Ranking Member Suzanne Bonamici (D-OR) to prioritize weather related activities, including climate and ocean research. A previous version of the bill sought to move funding away from climate research.
  • H.R. 2431, the National Integrated Drought Information System Reauthorization Act of 2013 – Introduced by Rep. Ralph Hall (R-TX), the bill would reauthorize the National Integrated Drought Information System. The bill was also amended to include research on extreme weather and climate variability.
  • H.R. 2981, the Technology and Research Accelerating National Security and Future Economic Resiliency (TRANSFER) Act of 2013 – Introduced by Rep. Chris Collins (R-NY), the bill would direct each federal agency to establish a small business technology transfer (STTR) program to help accelerate the commercialization of federally funded research.


Send questions or comments to Terence Houston, Policy Analyst, If you received Policy News from a friend and would like to receive it directly, please send an e-mail to with the following in the body of the message: sub ESANEWS {your first and last name}



Environmentalists pressured to embrace fracking on climate, health issues. Environmentalists should embrace hydraulic fracturing for natural gas as a means to mitigate climate change and ease air pollution, a University of California, Berkeley, physicist contends in a new report. EnergyWire






Reservoir emissions: A quiet threat to expanding hydropower.
ClimateWire Hydropower is a frequent target for criticism. Regardless of your views on global warming, turning a serene stretch of river into an artificial lake humming with electrical equipment can make you unpopular, and the announcement of any new hydropower project is often swiftly followed by outcries.


The dirty secrets of clean cars.
Lacking clean electricity, the plug-in electric vehicles and hydrogen cars that manufacturers are being pressed to produce to meet the zero-emission vehicles goals could wind up being bigger polluters than the petrol and diesel vehicles they replace. That is the message carmakers hope will be heard loud and clear by lawmakers everywhere….

….. However, if air is used as the oxidiser instead of pure oxygen, burning hydrogen produces all the noxious oxides of nitrogen that fossil fuels generate. These are an even bigger curse than carbon dioxide as far as damaging greenhouse gases are concerned. That is why work on using hydrogen as a fuel for a modified internal-combustion engine has been more or less abandoned, even though getting such a power unit into production was considered cheaper than any of the clean alternatives. BMW built a couple of hydrogen-powered supercars, only to find them no cleaner than clunkers from the days before catalytic converters. Hence the embrace of fuel cells, which extract chemical energy from hydrogen without resorting to combustion. The process is essentially the opposite of electrolysis: instead of using electricity to split water into hydrogen and oxygen, a fuel cell combines the two gases electrochemically to produce water, while generating an electric current in the process. A fuel cell’s only emissions are thus water vapour and heat. At its simplest, the “PEM” (short for proton-exchange membrane) type of fuel cell used in cars has two electrodes—an anode and a cathode—separated by an electrolyte in the form of a polymer membrane coated with a platinum-palladium catalyst. Hydrogen from a fuel tank is pumped into the anode side of the cell, while the cathode is surrounded by oxygen drawn from the air. Fuel-cell stacks are potentially three or four times more efficient than internal combustion engines. More to the point, cars using them are essentially electric vehicles, but without the heavy battery. As such, they solve two big problems that plague battery-powered electric vehicles: their limited range and their long recharging time. Vehicles powered by the latest fuel-cell stacks can achieve over 300 miles (480km) on a tankful of hydrogen. Filling the tank takes five minutes at most. And, like battery electrics, they are classed as zero-emission vehicles (ZEVs). This matters because carmakers have to show state authorities (California’s Air Resources Board, in particular) that they are working hard to meet those states’ zero-emission sales targets. They have grown despondent about battery-powered electric cars—with their paltry ranges and long recharging times—being able to do the job, even if the batteries were to halve in price or double in range. By contrast, hydrogen vehicles—which behave more like conventional cars—could help them get closer to the mandated requirements. By 2025, car companies will need to have sold at least 1.5m zero-emission vehicles in California under the latest clean-air rules. In a normal year, Californians buy around 1.7m new cars. That means something like 15% of all new cars sold in the state will have to be ZEVs by 2025…..


Big idea in tiny package

SF Chronicle December 11, 2013

Sonoma County builder is at the forefront of the burgeoning small-living movement.









CALCC Climate Commons new highlights:

Pacific Flyway Shorebird Survey led by Matt Reiter,

Species Distribution Modeling and Conservation Planning workshop presented in September by Sam Veloz and friends.



King Tide Dates for 2013/2014

December 30th-31st
January 1st-2nd  
January 29th-31st

For specifics on when the King Tides will occur in your area and how high they will be, check out the tide height and times information here. a Marketplace for Grazing Services
A young rancher from Oregon has launched an innovative online campaign to raise funds to create, a website connecting land managers with professional graziers. There is an ever growing demand for grazing services all over the country. will create a market place to connect land management agencies and organizations in need of grazing services with ranchers willing to provide them. Livestock owners will be able to find grazing opportunities and land management agencies will be able to find experienced graziers through this website. This site will be completely free to use. Help create this website for the healthy landscapes of tomorrow! To learn more click here.




Introduction to Geographic Information Systems (GIS)  January 17-18, 2014, 8:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.

Elkhorn Slough Coastal Training Program and Center for Integrated Spatial Research at the University of California, Santa Cruz Registration fee: $500 Instructor: Barry Nickel, Director of the Center for Integrated Spatial Research

This course is an introduction to the concepts and application of Geographic Information Systems (GIS). The course presents conceptual and practical discussions of the analysis of spatial information with the addition of exercises using the ESRI ArcGIS suite of applications. The class is designed to provide a basic introduction to GIS including spatial data structures and sources, spatial tools, spatial data display and query, map generation, and basic spatial analysis using ArcGIS software. It is the foundation for the rest of the classes offered in our GIS series.

Course Format: Approximately 50% lecture and 50% lab exercise. Please Note – There is a lot of information presented in this workshop in a short amount of time. We will maintain a fast pace, so please be prepared.


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:


EcoFarm Conference
January 22-24, 2014 Pacific Grove, CA
This year’s conference features Temple Grandin as a plenary speaker and workshop presenter.  The special workshop Integrating Stockmanship with Range Management, on January 23 will teach participants how to incorporate stockmanship, the skillful handling of livestock in a safe, efficient, low-stress manner, into range and pasture management for economic and environmental benefits. Presenters will discuss opportunities for how stockmanship can reduce predation from herding and restore native grasslands. Other ranching topics include Managing Pastures for Optimal Forage Quality and Improved Nutrition of Meat, Milk and Eggs, Safe, Wholesome Raw Milk From Your Farm, among others.  Farmer/rancher scholarships and discounts are available now on a first-come, first-serve basis.


Fostering Resilience in Southwestern Ecosystems: A Problem Solving Workshop

February 25-27, 2014
Tucson, Arizona
This workshop will focus on answering urgent questions such as: How do managers “build resilience” when ecosystems are undergoing rapid change? What are our options when megafires remove huge swaths of forests not well adapted to this disturbance?

Click here for more information or to register. 




Communicating Climate Change: Climate Engagement Strategies and Problem Solving

San Francisco Bay NERR March 4, 2014 Contact: Heidi Nutters, 415-338-3511 -or-
Elkhorn Slough NERR March 6, 2014
Contact: Virginia Guhin, 831-274-8700 Please read the details carefully as this 1-day training is being offered in two locations!

Sponsored by: Elkhorn Slough and San Francisco Bay Coastal Training Programs Instructor: Cara Pike, TRIG’s Social Capital Project/Climate Access

Most Americans accept the reality of climate disruption and climate impacts are beginning to act as a wake-up call for many. Engaging key stakeholders and the public in preparing for and reducing the risks from these impacts is essential.  This engagement requires approaches that recognize how people process risk, such as the importance of values, identities, and peer groups. Join environmental communication expert Cara Pike for an in-depth training in public engagement best practices for climate change. Participants will have an opportunity to design strategies for reaching and motivating target audiences, and be part of a unique problem-solving approach where a common public engagement challenge is tackled collaboratively.

Intended Audience:

Coastal resource managers, government staff, public engagement staff, outreach specialists and environmental interpreters

Workshop Format: This one-day workshop will be held in two locations, the registration fee is $60 for either, and includes your attendance in a follow-up webinar that will take place on March 19, 2014 more details to follow.  The fee also includes lunch and materials.

Important Registration and Payment Details Please note, you must pre-register, and we must receive your payment no later than 5 p.m. on February 10, 2013 for us to reserve a spot for you at the workshop. Your registration will not be completed without payment received by this date.  Please pay by credit card from this site or, if sending a check, make it payable to Elkhorn Slough Foundation. Mail to: Elkhorn Slough Foundation ATTN: Virginia Guhin 1700 Elkhorn Road Watsonville, CA 95076

Follow-up Webinar – March 19 from 10:00am-11:30am (for all workshop attendees) additional details will be emailed to registered attendees and shared at workshop.  This workshop is complementary to the February 4 and February 6 training (Communicating Climate Change: Effective skills for engaging stakeholders, partners and the public.)


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:



North Bay Watershed Association  Friday, April 11, 2014  NOVATO, CA  8:00 AM to 4:30 PM PDT

The conference will bring together key participants from around the North Bay to focus on how we can work together to manage our water resources.

Keynote Speakers

  • Mark Cowin, Director, CA Department of Water Resources
  • Jared Huffman, U.S. Congressman, California 2nd District
  • Felicia Marcus, Chair, State Water Resources Control Board

For more information or questions contact: Elizabeth Preim-Rohtla North Bay Watershed Association 415-945-1475


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





National Wildlife Federation: Senior Climate Policy Rep

The Senior Policy Representative (Climate & Energy) will help define and support efforts to implement National Wildlife Federation’s national climate and energy policy initiatives, including securing carbon controls under existing statutes, and devising strategies to advance new federal policies. This position will require initiating meetings and briefings with decision makers, conducting policy analysis, preparing electronic communications, and developing resource materials, including reports, blogs, fact sheets, and presentations.


National Audubon Society: Policy Director for California, based in San Francisco or Sacramento.

Climate Protection Campaign Director of Development and Communications– Santa Rosa, CA (Sonoma County)

WHSRN (Western Hemisphere Shorebird Reserve Network) Director







Decreased diversity of bacteria microbiome in gut associated colorectal cancer
(December 6, 2013) — Decreased diversity in the microbial community found in the human gut is associated with colorectal cancer, according to a new study published. … > 


Flying deer hits runner in Loudoun

By Mary Pat Flaherty, Published: December 7 E-mail the writer

Krystine Rivera had a bad day at work Thursday and was waffling over whether to head out for a seven-mile run. She decided to go for it. And then her day, as she says, “got astronomically worse.” She was hit by an airborne deer. Rivera, 27, was jogging on a path adjoining Claiborne Parkway in Ashburn near the Dulles Greenway about 6 p.m. A 71-year-old woman from South Riding was driving a Toyota SUV on the road. And the deer — a buck — came from somewhere. The SUV struck the deer, which sent the animal flying into Rivera, who remembers running one minute and then coming to in an ambulance as a paramedic told her he needed to cut away one of her favorite running shirts “because it had deer blood all over it.”….


Results from first 59 leukemia patients who received investigational, personalized cellular therapy
(December 8, 2013) — Three and a half years after beginning a clinical trial that demonstrated the first successful and sustained use of genetically engineered T cells to fight leukemia, a research team will today announce the latest results of studies involving both adults and children with advanced blood cancers that have failed to respond to standard therapies. … > full story






‘The Last Ocean’—Photos from the Ross Sea, Antarctica December 5, 2013 Washington Post

John Weller, a conservation photographer and founder of Last Ocean, an advocacy group for the conservation of the Ross Sea, has a new photo book, “The Last Ocean: Antarctica’s Ross Sea Project.” Published by Rizzoli New York, it is a visual journey through one of the last pristine ecosystems on Earth — the Ross Sea. Hoping to preserve one of  the most healthy open-ocean ecosystems left on the planet, Weller uses his images to show the stunning beauty of one of the few places still untouched by humankind. The documentary “The Last Ocean” also has been released about Weller’s work and conservation efforts to protect the Ross Sea.




View the entries for the Climate Change Communication Challenge

We challenged U-M students to create a public service announcement that would inspire positive action on climate change. Eleven teams of students put their skills to the test.


PHOTOS: Shanghai’s Unbelievable Pollution Problem Started The Week Badly, Ended Worse

By Rebecca Leber on December 9, 2013 at 9:02 am

CREDIT: Greenpeace

A heat map from a Greenpeace analysis of NOAA data shows how the smog has traveled from coal-burning regions into the city. Orange shows the highest concentrations of sulfur dioxide (SO2) and the pollutant’s trajectory. The sources come from coal regions Jiangsu, Anhui, Shandong and Henan….What is China, and the world, doing to cut the sources of debilitating pollution?

In 2013, China has doubled its renewable energy sector, accounting for over half of new power capacity. Recognizing more recently that renewable incentives must be paired with consequences for fossil fuels, China is launching its first carbon trading scheme and more transparency of public health trends. Presidents Barack Obama and Xi Jinping have also announced they will seek to eliminate potent greenhouse gasses and to phase down the consumption and production of hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs). With Vice President Joe Biden is in China this week, the U.S. and China discussed a more aggressive approach to lowering vehicle emissions. Until China’s air problems improve, it is taking more than five years off the lives of northern residents.



Nelson Mandela transformed himself and then his nation

Dec 06, 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.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *