Conservation Science News December 20, 2013

Focus of the WeekEndangered Species Act at 40 (NATURE)-4 experts weigh in









NOTE: Please pass on my weekly news update that has been prepared for
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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.  
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Focus of the Week– Endangered Species Act at 40 (NATURE)


Conservation: The Endangered Species Act at 40

Nature 504, 369–370 (19 December 2013)

Noah Greenwald, Amy W Ando, Stuart H M Butchart & John Tschirhart

On the anniversary of a landmark piece of US legislation, four experts weigh in on what has worked and what needs to change.PDF; Rights & Permissions




Noah Greenwald: Cherish the act’s proven power

Endangered species programme director, Center for Biological Diversity

The US Endangered Species Act (ESA) is the reason that there are bald eagles from coast to coast, grizzly bears in the Yellowstone ecosystem and American alligators in the southeastern United States. The act remains our best tool for saving species and their habitats and practically our only way of helping declining populations to recover.

Since it came into effect in 1973, the ESA has had unqualified success at saving species from extinction. So far, only ten of the more than 1,500 species protected under the ESA (see ‘On the list’) have gone extinct, and eight of these were probably extinct before they received protection. A 2006 analysis1 found that, were it not for the ESA, as many as 227 US species would have disappeared.

This landmark law is also putting animals and plants on the path to recovery. An analysis2 of all federally protected species in the northeast found that more than 90% were stabilized or improving since being put on the list; more than 80% were on track to meet recovery goals set by scientists.

The ESA has been criticized for mandating protection of individual species rather than of ecosystems. Yet it has driven some of the most successful efforts in ecosystem management, most notably the Northwest Forest Plan adopted in 1994. These land-use policies have protected forested and aquatic habitats for northern spotted owls, marbled murrelets and Pacific salmonids.

Too often, those who advocate moving away from the firm protections of the act argue for flexible ecosystem management not to advance conservation, but to avoid economic conflicts. In practice, saving a species can mean saving an entire ecosystem. That helps wildlife and people who depend on clean water, clean air and the other benefits that functioning ecosystems provide.


Amy W. Ando: Focus on the bigger picture

Professor of environmental and natural resource economics, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

The ESA has accomplished important victories. However, it causes regulators to stand by until species are near the brink of extinction, and so engenders counterproductive cycles of support and endangerment. Protection can be withdrawn without eliminating the forces that led the species to be imperilled. The ESA can help species threatened by direct human action such as hunting — as it did for the American bison (Bison bison). But most species are in decline because of diffuse threats such as invasive species, large-scale land conversion and climate change, over which the act has little power. Efforts to use the ESA to protect the polar bear (Ursus maritimus) from melting sea ice cannot, for example, force an international agreement on greenhouse-gas emissions.

Furthermore, a conservation policy that counts all species as having equal value can be counterproductive. Mandatory expenditures perceived by the public as having little value could exhaust society’s desire to commit resources to conservation and actually reduce the sum of government and private citizens’ conservation efforts. For instance, ESA policies to preserve a small, unalluring fish known as the delta smelt (Hypomesus transpacificus) has led to controversial water-use restrictions in California, feeding anti-conservation sentiment.

Policies to protect individual species should not be based on indiscriminate rules. They should be justified case by case, according to the value society places on the species, either for the part it plays in a natural community, or because of the place it holds in people’s hearts and lives. For example, freshwater mussels filter out dangerous bacteria; sea turtles inspire awe with their epic migrations. Effective and secure conservation policy will acknowledge these different types of value.

Stuart H. M. Butchart: Clarify extinction risk

Head of science, BirdLife International

The ESA is one of the most powerful pieces of nature legislation in the world. But it has shortcomings. The act’s criteria for listing species as threatened and endangered are remarkably vague. Classifications include terms that lack precise legal or biological meaning, for example, ‘in danger of’, ‘likely’ and ‘foreseeable future’. The resulting legal wrangling costs too much time and money. The phrase ‘significant portion of its range’ is particularly problematic, prompting lengthy arguments in courts and countless pages of legal documents. In the past decade, dozens of challenges to listing decisions have focused on the term.

To be more effective, ESA assessments should incorporate what is widely accepted as the most authoritative system for systematically categorizing species by extinction risk: the Red List of Threatened Species maintained by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), the largest global coalition of environmental organizations. This list uses objective, quantitative criteria that account for uncertainty and gaps in data. For example, species with a population size of fewer than 50 mature individuals are classified as critically endangered.

Regulators in other countries have taken note. Canada’s ESA equivalent, the Species at Risk Act, uses the IUCN Red List system to determine extinction risk; individual species are then listed by explicitly taking into account other societal considerations, such as the perceived economic or even political costs associated with listing. This separates the science and policy aspects of setting conservation priorities. A similar practice might help to unblock the current logjam at the US Fish and Wildlife Service.

Most of the agency’s decisions to review how a species should be listed are initiated not because of scientific uncertainty, but because of lawsuits brought by individuals or interest groups hoping to alter legal protection for particular species. Costly legal arguments caused by ambiguities in the listing process leave the agency with few resources for proactive steps that would help it to fulfil its primary mission to save species.

John Tschirhart: Account for economics

Professor of economics, University of Wyoming

Economic impacts of conservation plans cause many of the controversies surrounding the ESA. To manage endangered species effectively, we need sophisticated, integrated models that evaluate ecosystem and economic trade-offs. If these describe unanticipated economic beneficiaries, conservation plans could have unexpected champions.

Many governments use complex economic models called computable general equilibrium models. These can predict how a tax or tariff policy might affect various industries and how those effects would ripple out to other industries and to consumers’ incomes. Few models consider the effects of conservation policies. Those that do are usually narrow in scope and restricted to a single species.

That is not surprising: ecosystem models that cover multiple species and their effects on each other are relatively new, yet they can reveal unexpected insights. Such large-scale general ecosystem models have, for example, forecast that an increase in pollock (Theragra) levels in Alaskan fisheries could decrease levels of sea otters, even though the species do not interact directly3. More pollock swells populations of their predators, sea lions, which in turn boosts populations of their predators, killer whales, which also feed on otters. Although most ecological modelling considers only two or three species at once, integrated models are emerging, and these will be essential to manage endangered species effectively.

The biggest benefits will come when ecosystem models are integrated into economic ones. Ecological and economic variables are, after all, interdependent. For instance, policies that keep chicken-farm waste from reaching rivers might produce economic benefits in the recreation and fishing industries. Pollock-fishing losses could be outweighed by gains in tourism as more sightseers go to watch sea lions cavort. Economic modelling will not always show net gains for conservation policies, but the current models rarely capture gains at all.


  • Scott, J. M., Goble, D. D., Svancana, L. K. & Pidgorna, A. in The Endangered Species Act at Thirty Vol. 1 (eds Goble, D. D., Scott, J. M. & Davis, F. W.) Ch. 2 (Island, 2006). Show context
  • Suckling, K. Measuring the Success of the Endangered Species Act (Centre for Biological Diversity, 2006). Show context
  • Finnoff, D. & Tschirhart, J. Res. Energy Econ. 30, 91–114 (2008). Article; Show context

Related stories and links


Additional Information:





Point Blue in the News:


Why the notion of bird-conservation triage is no longer heretical

12/3/2013 | Birdwatching Magazine

Black Skimmers at Cape May Point, New Jersey, by Linda Widdop.

A pair of ecologists from Point Blue (PRBO) Conservation Science have stated the unthinkable. “Biodiversity is in a bind,” write John A. Wiens and Thomas Gardali in the August 2013 issue of The Condor. Despite wide-spread awareness of the biodiversity crisis, conservation efforts are failing to keep pace. Government funding has stagnated, and nongovernmental support is insufficient to cover the shortfall. Worse, as many as 20,000 imperiled species in the United States are “conservation-reliant” — that is, even after, or if, they come back, they will still require costly ongoing management to maintain their numbers. “Clearly, the financial resources (not to mention the political will) to support the management needed to conserve all of these species are unlikely to materialize,” write the researchers. “Choices about how to allocate scarce conservation resources will have to be made.” To help set priorities, Wiens and Gardali analyzed 92 species, subspecies, and populations listed either as California Bird Species of Special Concern or as endangered or threatened by the federal government or the state of California. Then they categorized each one according to the threat level it faces and the amount of management it will require going forward….


Read the abstract: John A. Wiens and Thomas Gardali, 2013, Conservation Reliance Among California’s At-Risk BirdsThe Condor 115(3):456-464. Abstract



Close to Home: Eradication of mice on Farallon Islands is right move

A view of Seal Cove at the Farallones National Wildlife Refuge. (RIC RISBERG / Associated Press)

By PETER PYLE Opinion Santa Rosa Press Democrat December 16, 2013, 3:00 AM

I would like to respond to Richard Charter’s Close to Home (“Farallon Islands ecosystem at risk,” Dec. 8.) I am a wildlife researcher who spent parts of 24 years as a biologist on the Farallon Islands, including more than 20 fall seasons when the invasive house mouse population there explodes and crashes each year. I am usually against the use of chemical agents in the environment, but the long-term benefits of a successful mouse eradication on the Farallon ecosystem so vastly outweigh the costs of a single application of brodifacoum that it is greatly worth an attempt. Use of a chemical in the environment is an easy subject to get the public worked up about. In this case, Charter and others have done an admiral job of recruiting opinion against an eradication attempt from a lot of people who have never been to the Farallones, have not read the U.S. Fish and Wildlife’s exhaustive draft environmental impact statement on the project and are forming an opinion without full consideration of the scientific facts or long-term trade-offs of an eradication attempt. It is easy under such circumstances to have the public believe false and distorted scientific information, as seems to be occurring to some extent with the review process of this project. By reading the environmental statement, a 700-page document (available online) in which the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service provides great detail on rodent eradication from islands and alternatives for controlling or removing mice from the Farallones. You will learn that:

  • Each fall, the mouse population reaches plague-like densities of more than 490 mice per acre and some 60,000 to 100,000 mice overall, after which the population crashes to hundreds, at most, in spring. Populations with this sort of extreme and unbalanced annual cycling cannot be eradicated or controlled at low levels through trapping or other means.
  • The mouse crash results in considerable suffering for tens of thousands of mice each year, including hypothermia following winter rains and widespread cannibalism. Those against animal suffering should be for eradication to end this gruesome annual destruction.
  • Migrating burrowing owls will not remain on the island once mice are removed. Storm-petrels are essentially absent from the Farallones from November to February, there is nothing else, besides mice, for arriving migrant owls to eat during this period, and they will continue migrating as do thousands of other migratory birds that stop over on the Farallones each fall. Currently, many or most wintering owls die there in spring, as even the presence of storm-petrels, in the absence of mice, is not enough to sustain them for spring migration. Thus, both owls and storm-petrels die unnecessarily every year due to the mice.
  • The application would take place in November or December, during and after the mouse population crash, and when less than 1 percent of the breeding seabirds (including gulls) are typically present on the islands. Owls will be trapped and relocated to the mainland before application.
  • In saltwater, brodifacoum will dissolve within two to three hours and, at the very low quantities expected to reach the Farallon marine environment, will be undetectable in the turbulent ocean there within a day, if not a few hours. Those against pesticide use would do much better to focus on pesticide and herbicide use on farms and lawns, or tenting of houses for termites, rather than the much-lower-impact, one-time application of brodifacoum on the Farallones.
  • Brodifacoum has been used to successfully eradicate rodents from more than 50 other islands, in most cases, no or only minor incidental death occurred, and each trial results in more data and improved knowledge to limit non-target ingestion during future applications.

I liken the trade-offs to a marble of single-time cost within a living room of permanent benefit. I urge those interested or concerned about this issue to become better-informed of the scientific facts and to carefully consider the big picture before commenting against the project.


Purchase of Skaggs Island farm to restore S.F. Bay marshland

San Francisco Chronicle ‎- by John King ‎- December 14, 2013

By any measure, it’s a good thing when 1,092 acres along San Francisco Bay become permanently protected open space. This is even better: Friday’s sale of an oat farm near Highway 37 to the Sonoma Land Trust will allow 4,400 acres of dry land to be restored to a functioning marsh, just like it was before humans put up dikes and walled out San Francisco Bay. The complicated $8.3 million transaction was announced Friday in a media event on Skaggs Island, which in a few years is fated to begin to disappear – replaced by a managed weave of wetlands and water that will be part of San Pablo Bay’s ever more extensive marshes. The area is a favored stop on the Pacific Flyway for hundreds of thousands of migrating waterfowl each winter. “It’s been a couple of years of work to get to this day,” said Wendy Eliot, the conservation director for the land trust. The deal comes nearly three years after the other 3,300 acres of Skaggs Island was purchased by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, which manages the San Pablo Bay National Wildlife Refuge. Before that, it was owned by the U.S. Navy……



Saving the Great Plains water supply
(December 13, 2013) — Significant portions of the Ogalalla Aquifer, one of the largest bodies of water in the United States, are at risk of drying up if it continues to be drained at its current rate. …
“Already, there are regions in Texas and Kansas where farmers can’t pump enough water to meet the demands of their crops,” said Bruno
Basso, co-author and MSU ecosystem scientist. “If current withdrawal rates continue, such depletion will expand across extensive portions of the central and southern areas served by the aquifer during the next few decades.”

Despite the widespread, rapid decline of the water table, the number of irrigated acres across the region continues to increase. The situation isn’t completely dire, though, as the National Science Foundation-funded research revealed. Basso, David Hyndman and Anthony Kendall, MSU colleagues and co-authors, offered some policy solutions to avert some aspects of this water crisis. Federal crop insurance could be changed to allow substantial water reductions, especially crops categorized as fully irrigated. An example of such a sustainable model was recently proposed by the governor of Kansas. It could save significant amounts of water, and it could be adopted regionally. Another sustainable approach would be to adopt wholesale precision agriculture strategies. These would allow farmers to identify which areas in fields need more water and fertilizer. New precision agriculture strategies combine GPS technologies with site-specific management to apply optimal amounts of water and nutrients, which will increase farmer’s profitability and reduce environmental impact. “When you have a cut in your hand and need disinfectant, you don’t dive into a pool of medicine, you apply it only where you need it and in the quantity that is strictly necessary; we can do the same in agricultural now,” said Basso, part of MSU’s Global Water Initiative. Lastly, policies should address the issue in terms of crop yield – more crop per drop of water. Selecting crops with higher density can increase yield and decrease groundwater evaporation. Upgrades in irrigation systems can reduce water loss from 30 percent to almost zero. And careful water management can stop excess water from flooding fields and leaching valuable nutrients from the soil. Simply put, the current water management strategies of the High Plains Aquifer are unsustainable. For the region to maintain this water source, there has to be a complete paradigm shift, Basso added. full story


Low-cost countries not best conservation investment
(December 18, 2013) — Wildlife conservation projects in countries where management costs are low are less likely to succeed and could also have a negative impact on people, according to new research. The research, which analyzed conservation management, human rights, and governance data, found that countries with low costs generally had low levels of public involvement in conservation projects — resulting in donors becoming more reliant on governments to achieve things on-the-ground. However, worryingly the study also found that governments in low-cost countries scored poorly on bureaucratic quality, corruption and respect for human rights. The research is particularly useful for international donors who play a major role in funding wildlife conservation projects throughout the world and need prioritization strategies to make sure their money is well spent…. > full story



Trash-loving birds [Western Gulls] take bite out of wild salmon

Posted on November 22, 2013 SeaGrant

A gauntlet of Western gulls congregate at the mouth of Scott Creek in Santa Cruz County to bathe, drink and prey on passing fish, including threatened steelhead. Credit: Anne-Marie Osterback

Birds are taking a bite out of young salmon populations in Central California, and researchers suspect that our trash is the likely root of the avian-predation problem. A new study by California Sea Grant-funded researchers shows that a young steelhead has about a 30-percent chance of being eaten by Western gulls during its transit to sea through creek mouths in San Mateo and Santa Cruz counties.

Depending on the specific creek and year, gauntlets of gulls lining narrow streams may consume anywhere from 7-83 percent of young steelhead in the Waddell, Scott and Gazos watershed mouths, according to the same study, published in the journal Ecosphere. Intriguingly, the gulls appear to prefer wild over hatchery-born fish. (Who would guess the raucous dumpster divers would have a gourmet streak?) Central California watersheds support both steelhead, which are listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act, and coho salmon, which have gone locally extinct in 12 of their 14 historic streams south of San Francisco and are considered in danger of extinction. Steelhead were the focus of the Sea Grant project for the practical reason that they can still be found in multiple watersheds in the region. There is no reason to believe, however, that gulls are not also impacting young coho salmon numbers…..


Publications referenced in this article and/or produced with support from this grant include:



Effectively monitoring the state of Europe’s marine environment

Cordis News

 – ‎12 hours ago‎


An EU-funded project has just been launched that will help Member States to effectively and efficiently monitor the environmental status of oceans and seas. This will enable them to meet their obligations under the Marine Strategy Framework Directive …


Variation of Fish Habitat and Extent of the Low-Salinity Zone with Freshwater Flow in the San Francisco Estuary
SF Estuary and Watershed Science December 2013

Wim J. Kimmerer, Michael L. MacWilliams, and Edward S. Gross



Traffic jams lend insight into emperor penguin huddle
(December 16, 2013) — Emperor penguins maintain the tight huddle that protects them from the harsh conditions of an Antarctic winter with stop-and-go movements like cars in a traffic jam, a new study has shown. … > full story

Pollination, land degradation: Top priorities for assessment by new UN intergovernmental body
(December 16, 2013) — Meeting in Antalya, Turkey, nations from around the world agreed Saturday to fast-track science assessments of two priority environmental issues, to include recommendations for government policy changes. The fast-track assessments of land degradation and of the impact on food production of changes in the populations of bees and other insect pollinators around the world form part of the first work program agreed upon for the new UN Intergovernmental science-policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services. … > full story


Detailing The Evolution Of Plumage Patterns In Male, Female Birds


 – December 20 2013‎


Waterfowl such as ducks, geese and swans belong to the order Anseriformes. Game birds such as pheasants, partridges, hens and turkeys are known as the order Galliformes. The birds belonging to both of these orders are recognized not only for their meat, but also for the elegant display of their plumage. Some members within the orders show differences between male and female, known as sexual dimorphism. Such as with the mallard, the male and female plumage is so different that for years they were thought to be a separate species altogether. However, in some species, various members of the same order show little difference between the two sexes. Thanh-Lan Gluckman, a Cambridge PhD candidate, has researched this phenomenon and published her findings in the Biological Journal of the Linnean Society. She notes the similarities and differences in the plumage of almost 300 members of both orders – focusing mainly on the patterning between male and female instead of the color….. “My research looked at the plumage patterns of male and female birds on a separate and equal basis – and then went on to identify similarities and differences between them. By tracing the evolutionary pathways in the dimorphism of 288 species of waterfowl and game birds, I reconstructed the evolutionary history of plumage pattern sexual dimorphism, which allowed me to demonstrate that plumage patterns in females are not a result of genetic correlation,” Gluckman said. “Essentially, what I found was that plumage patterning is remarkably labile – both male and female birds have the capacity to change between different types of patterns. What’s interesting is to consider what are the forces driving these changes in male and female plumage patterns – whether they have an environmental basis and/or whether they have a signaling function between birds of different sexes or within the same sex,” she explained. A paper by John Hunter in 1780, published in the Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London, states the difference in plumage between male and female in a species of bird, are sexually driven. Since then, the view that the male shows off his coloring to win over a female has been understood. An explanation has been given to explain the dimorphism in correspondence with mating habits. A polygamous male (having more than one mate) will develop beautiful plumage to attract as many females as possible. On the other hand, a monogamous male (having only one mate) will have similar patterns and colors to the female. But, this is not always true. According to Gluckman, “Previous research has shown that the traditional argument that differences in plumage between the sexes stem from differences in breeding systems doesn’t always hold up. In many putatively monogamous species, the plumage of the males is significantly different to that of females and, likewise, males and females in many polygamous species have the same type of plumage. This suggests that plumage is not exclusively an outcome of breeding habits – but is a matter of function in a highly complex way.”…



Rice grown in Maryland? Farmer sees a future that doesn’t involve flooding.

View Photo Gallery — Maryland rice, flood not included: An innovative farmer produces a short-grain rice without the paddy fields.

By Tim Carman, Published: December 17

When Heinz Thomet decided in 2011 to plant rice, perhaps the first farmer in more than 130 years to do so in the Chesapeake region, he remembered a magazine article he had read nearly two decades earlier. It concerned a Jamaican man who’d moved to Albany, N.Y., and adopted a practice that deviated from those of virtually every rice farmer in America: He grew his plants without flooded or swampy land. “I thought, ‘If they can do it in Albany, we can grow it here,’ ” recalled Thomet, co-owner of Next Step Produce in Newburg. A Swiss native who grew up on a farm, Thomet, 54, knew that the porous sandy soil in Charles County would never hold water for a traditional rice paddy, at least not without major expense. So he did research and relied on his 40 years of farming experience to cobble together his own idiosyncratic method for growing rice, unaware that some of his practices would place him squarely in the middle of a low-rumbling debate on the best way to produce the grain. Thomet has unwittingly aligned himself with a small group of experimental U.S. farmers and hobbyists, probably no more than 50, who are breaking with a tradition that dates to colonial America. They’re rejecting paddy rice in favor of an increasingly accepted agricultural system that promises to increase crop yields while decreasing water use, chemical dependency and even the amount of arsenic in our grains… This fall, Thomet harvested more than 400 pounds and started selling the short-grain brown rice for $12 a pound at the FreshFarm Market at Dupont Circle…. For the most part, rice in the United States is grown in flooded fields or the boggy lands near rivers or other bodies of water, after practices that date back millennia to rice farming in China and Southeast Asia. The floodwaters serve a purpose: They control weeds that otherwise would compete with the rice plants, which have a unique ability to survive the oxygen-less environment of a paddy field. But as water becomes a precious resource and as consumers fret over arsenic levels in rice (which are higher in plants grown in paddies), some advocates have been promoting an alternative method: It’s called system of rice intensification, or SRI. What exactly is SRI? Erika Styger, director of programs at the SRI International Network and Resources Center at Cornell University, lays out four practices that broadly define the system. They are transplanting seedlings at a young age (to promote disease and pest resistance); reducing plant density (to decrease competition); adding organic matter such as compost to the soil (to increase fertility); and eliminating flooded fields (to allow the roots to breathe better). “A lack of oxygen — rice can tolerate it, but rice is not thriving in it,” Styger says. “Usually when you flood the fields, the roots are basically rotting away, because roots need to breathe as well.”…. Rice researchers are also developing seed varieties that, one day, may be drought resistant or grown with less water or even tolerant of higher-salinity water. “Water resources are the most limiting resource,” says Linscombe. “You can absolutely grow rice with less water. . . . It’s coming down the road in 10 years,” at the earliest. SRI advocates scratch their heads over such high-tech research. Norman Uphoff, professor of government and international agriculture at Cornell and senior advisor of the SRI Center, often wonders why major U.S. rice growers don’t just adopt SRI practices instead of wasting time on expensive systems that SRI proponents contend are ultimately unsustainable. If growers need evidence, Uphoff can point them to a large-scale, mechanized farm in Pakistan that has had success incorporating SRI practices into a number of crops. The Pakistani experiment, Uphoff notes, “really opened up the door for large-scale production.”


Saving Fiji’s coral reefs linked to forest conservation upstream
(December 17, 2013) — The health of coral reefs offshore depend on the protection of forests near the sea, according to a new study that outlines the importance of terrestrial protected areas to coastal biodiversity. … > full story



Rainforest rodents risk their lives to eat
(December 17, 2013) — Hungry rodents that wake up early are much more likely to be eaten by ocelots than rodents getting plenty of food and shut-eye, according to new results. … > full story

species found that owe lives to Giant Sequoias

San Francisco Chronicle ‎- December 14 2013

The complex, mysterious web of life surrounding sequoia trees got a little brighter this week when scientists announced the discovery of two species that thrive on the towering, ancient redwoods. State researchers identified two new types of fungus gnats that buzz around the base of Giant Sequoias, feasting on mushrooms and serving as dinner for countless salamanders, birds, spiders, bats and other animals that call the trees home. The creatures, Azana malinamoena and Azana frizzelli, are black flies – no bigger than the tip of a pencil – that play an important role in the complicated ecosystem supported by redwoods, according to the zoology journal Zootaxa, which published the findings. They’re also the first of the Azana genus discovered in western North America. “It goes to show the world of discovery is not always about the biggest things. It’s often about the smallest things – how they work together, what they do, how they make life possible,” said Richard Campbell, conservation science manager of Save the Redwoods League, a San Francisco nonprofit that funded the research. “There’s still so much out there to discover.” The discovery was made by Peter Kerr, an entomologist with the state Department of Food and Agriculture, who was researching bugs in the Sierra Nevada redwood forests in an attempt to learn more about the area’s biodiversity…..


Linking social science, ecology to solve the world’s environmental problems
December 16, 2013) — Researchers are engaging social science to help solve some of the world’s biggest environmental problems. … > full story

Deep-sea corals record dramatic long-term shift in Pacific Ocean ecosystem
(December 15, 2013) — Long-lived deep-sea corals preserve evidence of a major shift in the open Pacific Ocean ecosystem since around 1850, according to a new study. The findings indicate that changes at the base of the marine food web observed in recent decades in the North Pacific Subtropical Gyre may have begun more than 150 years ago at the end of the Little Ice Age. … > full story


Disease, not climate change, fueling frog declines in the Andes
(December 13, 2013) — Climate change is widely believed to be behind the rapid decline of frog populations in the Andes mountains, but a new study finds that the real culprit is a deadly fungus that has wiped out amphibian species worldwide. Researchers found that highland frogs, while tolerant of increasing temperatures, live in the optimal temperature range for Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis, also known as Bd. … > full story


Nitrogen deposition poses threat to diversity of Europe’s forest vegetation
(December 16, 2013) — Unless nitrogen emissions are curbed, the diversity of plant communities in Europe’s forests will decrease. Atmospheric nitrogen deposition has already changed the number and richness of forest floor vegetation species in European forests over the last 20-30 years. In particular, the coverage of plant species adapted to nutrient-poor conditions has reduced. However, levels of nitrogen deposition in Finnish forests remain small compared to Southern and Central Europe. … > full story


Poor owner knowledge of cat sex life linked to 850,000 unplanned kittens every year
(December 16, 2013) — Widespread ignorance among cat-owners about the sex lives of their pets may be leading to more than 200,000 unplanned litters — or more than 850,000 kittens every year in the UK, finds research. … > full story


Spiders are partial to a side order of pollen with their flies
(December 18, 2013) — Spiders may not be the pure predators we generally believe, after a study found that some make up a quarter of their diet by eating pollen. Biologists have now demonstrated that orb web spiders — like the common garden variety — choose to eat pollen even when insects are available. … > full story




Which of the statements about coyotes are true?
a) are considered clever and adaptable animals
b) can run up to 40-miles an hour
c) found only in remote and wild areas
d) good swimmers
e) all of the above
f) a, b, and d

See answer – at end of poast






NOAA: November global temperature highest on record

Year-to-date global temperature ties for fourth highest on record

December 17, 2013 NOAA Climate Portal: National Snow and Ice Data Center,

According to NOAA scientists, the globally-averaged temperature over land and ocean surfaces for November 2013 was the highest for November since record keeping began in 1880. It also marked the 37th consecutive November and 345th consecutive month (more than 28 years) with a global temperature above the 20th century average. The last below-average November global temperature was November 1976 and the last below-average global temperature for any month was February 1985. Most areas of the world experienced warmer-than-average monthly temperatures, including: much of Eurasia, coastal Africa, Central America, central South America, parts of the North Atlantic Ocean, the south west Pacific Ocean, and the Indian Ocean. Much of southern Russia, northwest Kazakhstan, south India, southern Madagascar, parts of the central and south Indian Ocean, and sections of the Pacific Ocean were record warm. Meanwhile, northern Australia, parts of North America, south west Greenland, and parts of the Southern Ocean near South America were cooler than average. No regions of the globe were record cold. This monthly summary from NOAA’s National Climatic Data Center is part of the suite of climate services NOAA provides to government, the business sector, academia, and the public to support informed decision-making.

…..For the ocean, the November global sea surface temperature was 0.97°F (0.54°C) above the 20th century average of 60.4°F (15.8°C), tying with 2009 as the third highest for November on record. The margin of error is +/- 0.07°F (0.04°C). Neither El Niño nor La Niña conditions were present across the central and eastern equatorial Pacific Ocean during November. According to NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center, neutral conditions are favored into the Northern Hemisphere summer 2014. …..The first 11 months of 2013 tied with 2002 as the fourth warmest such period on record, with a combined global land and ocean average surface temperature of 1.12°F (0.62°C) above the 20th century average of 57.0°F (13.9°C). The margin of error is +/- 0.18°F (0.10°C). The January-November worldwide land surface temperature was 1.76°F (0.98°C) above the 20th century average, also tying with 2002 as the fourth warmest such period on record. The margin of error is +/- 0.38°F (0.21°C).

The global ocean surface temperature for the year to date was 0.86°F (0.48°C) above average, tying with 2006 as the eighth warmest such period on record. The margin of error is +/-0.07°F (0.04°C).


Faux Pause 2: Warmest November On Record, Reports NASA, As New Studies Confirm Warming Trend

By Joe Romm on December 15, 2013 at 11:31 am

Last month saw the hottest global November surface temperature on record, according to the latest data from NASA.

Earth’s surface temperature in °C for each November since 1880 (compared to base period, 1951-1980). Red line is smoothing with a 15-year filter.

Of course, the global surface temperature is only one of many indicators the planet just keeps warming, as I wrote in my September post, “Faux Pause: Ocean Warming, Sea Level Rise And Polar Ice Melt Speed Up, Surface Warming To Follow.”

Now two new studies demolish the myth that warming — including surface warming — has not continued apace. Stefan Rahmstorf, Co-Chair of Earth System Analysis at the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research, discusses the first paper at RealClimate: A new study by British and Canadian researchers shows that the global temperature rise of the past 15 years has been greatly underestimated. The reason is the data gaps in the weather station network, especially in the Arctic. If you fill these data gaps using satellite measurements, the warming trend is more than doubled in the widely used HadCRUT4 data, and the much-discussed “warming pause” has virtually disappeared. “There are no permanent weather stations in the Arctic Ocean, the place on Earth that has been warming fastest,” as New Scientist explained five years ago. “The UK’s Hadley Centre record simply excludes this area, whereas the NASA version assumes its surface temperature is the same as that of the nearest land-based stations.” As I’ve discussed many times, that’s why we know with high certainty that the planet has actually warmed up more in the past decade than reported by the global temperature records, especially the Hadley Center’s. Rahmstorf explains that two scientists, Kevin Cowtan and Robert Way have devised a new method that uses satellite data to fill in the data gaps: Cowtan and Way apply their method to the HadCRUT4 data, which are state-of-the-art except for their treatment of data gaps. For 1997-2012 these data show a relatively small warming trend of only 0.05 °C per decade – which has often been misleadingly called a “warming pause”….

But after filling the data gaps this trend is 0.12 °C per decade and thus exactly equal to the long-term trend mentioned by the IPCC. And so the pause is faux. The second study also reveals “Global warming is unpaused and stuck on fast forward,” as environmental scientist Dana Nuccitelli explains at Skeptical Science: 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. The widespread mainstream media focus on the slowed global surface warming has led some climate scientists like Trenberth and Fasullo to investigate its causes and how much various factors have contributed to the so-called ‘pause’ or ‘hiatus.’ However, the authors note that while the increase in global temperatures has slowed, the oceans have taken up heat at a faster rate since the turn of the century. Over 90 percent of the overall extra heat goes into the oceans, with only about 2 percent heating the Earth’s atmosphere. The myth of the ‘pause’ is based on ignoring 98 percent of global warming and focusing exclusively on the one bit that’s slowed.


NWF Releases Report on Impacts of Climate Change on Big Game (pdf)

In mid-November, the National Wildlife Federation released a report documenting impacts to big game wildlife due to changing climate and outlining key steps needed to reduce those impacts. The report Nowhere to Run: Big Game Wildlife in a Warming World discusses how wildfire, floods and extreme weather events like heat waves, drought and heavy rain are becoming more frequent and more severe. These changes are impacting traditional summer and winter ranges, changing movement patterns, increasing parasites and causing habitat damage through natural disasters and invasive plants. “The recovery of big game species is one of America’s wildlife conservation success stories, made possible in large part by sustained investment by generations of sportsmen,” said Dr. Doug Inkley, senior scientist at the National Wildlife Federation. “But today, a changing climate threatens to rewrite that success story.



Big data project reveals where carbon-stocking projects in Africa provide greatest benefits
(December 19, 2013) — One way to reduce concentrations of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere is to ensure that carbon is stored on the ground to the greatest extent possible. But how do you quantify the potential of landscapes to stock carbon? Researchers now present the first continental-scale assessment of which areas may provide the greatest direct and indirect benefits from carbon storage reforestation projects in Africa. …

“Therefore, we applied a method to optimally select areas which would not only have high carbon returns, but would also conserve native biodiversity and support ecosystem services, that is, services that the environment provides which benefit humans. The areas also had to have low land value and human population density, so as to reduce conflict with people, and high levels of governance, because setting up projects in areas with high levels of violence and corruption would be too risky and have too low chances of success,” Michelle Greve explains…..full story



Lost freshwater may double climate change effects on agriculture
(December 16, 2013) — A new analysis combining climate, agricultural, and hydrological models finds that shortages of freshwater used for irrigation could double the detrimental effects of climate change on agriculture. Given the present trajectory of greenhouse gas emissions, agricultural models estimate that climate change will directly reduce food production from maize, soybeans, wheat and rice by as much as 43 percent by the end of the 21st century. But hydrological models looking at the effect of warming climate on freshwater supplies project further agricultural losses, due to the reversion of 20 to 60 million hectares of currently irrigated fields back to rain-fed crops. “It’s a huge effect, and an effect that’s basically on the same order of magnitude as the direct effect of climate change,” said Joshua Elliott, a research scientist with the Computation Institute’s Center for Robust Decision Making on Climate and Energy Policy (RDCEP), Argonne National Laboratory, and lead author of the paper. “So the effect of limited irrigation availability in some regions could end up doubling the effect of climate change.” … However, while the models predict freshwater shortages in some areas of the world, such as the western United States, India and China, other regions may end up with a surplus of freshwater. Redistributing that excess water to restore or add irrigation to rain-fed crop areas could dampen some of the consequences of climate change upon irrigation and agriculture, Elliott said. “We found that maximal usage of available surplus freshwater could end up ameliorating between 12 and 57 percent of the negative direct effects of climate change on food production,” Elliott said. “However, there are lots of different political, economic and infrastructural reasons why you would consider that to be overly optimistic.” The results are among several major findings reported in the ISI-MIP special issue of PNAS by the AgMIP group, which conducted a “fast-track” exercise to generate new knowledge about climate change impacts on agriculture for the Fifth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. “Understanding the climate change implications of freshwater availability is key to the future food security goals of society,” said Cynthia Rosenzweig, co-primary investigator of AgMIP. “The rigorous AgMIP multi-model approach is enabling advances in research on how climate change will affect agriculture worldwide and water is a vital component.” > full story


Joshua Elliott, et al. Constraints and potentials of future irrigation water availability on agricultural production under climate change. PNAS, December 16, 2013 DOI: 10.1073/pnas.1222474110



It Doesn’t Take Much Global Warming To Drive Global Water Scarcity Way Up

By Jeff Spross on December 17, 2013 at 3:49 pm

Relative change in water resources at 2°C of warming compared to present day. Color is percent change, color saturation is degree of agreement between models. (See below at right.)

CREDIT: Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research

According to new modeling by German researchers, global warming of just 2.7 degrees Celsius would inflict a “severe decrease in water resources” on 15 percent of the global population. What’s especially significant is that most of the damage gets done by relatively low amounts of global warming. The researchers at the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research in Germany, who carried out the modeling, chose as their central framework the RCP8.5 — a future scenario of global warming laid out by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), which assumes a business-as-usual path for carbon emissions. The projections of future population growth relied on the middle-of-road SSP2 scenario. When the researchers looked for the greatest overlap between the results, they found that 1°C to 2°C of global warming drove up absolute water scarcity around the world by 40 percent. That was due to climate change alone, before the effect of population growth was factored in. At 3°C of warming, climate change’s effect falls to just 25 percent of the increase in scarcity, as population growth takes over. But the severe impacts continued well past 2°C of warming. “Absolute water scarcity” is defined as access to less than 500 cubic meters of water per person per year. “Chronic water scarcity” is access to 1,000 cubic meters or less every year. The global average for water consumption per person is 1,200 cubic meters per year, and the number gets considerably higher in advanced western countries. The study involved taking eleven different computer models of water flow and use around the globe, and then running them through five global climate scenarios — a simulation “of unprecedented size” according to the Institute’s press release….



A roly-poly pika gathers much moss: High-fiber salad bar may help lagomorphs survive climate change
(December 17, 2013) — In some mountain ranges, Earth’s warming climate is driving rabbit relatives known as pikas to higher elevations or wiping them out. But biologists discovered that roly-poly pikas living in rockslides near sea level in Oregon can survive hot weather by eating more moss than any other mammal. … > full story


Tiny, Rabbit-Like Animals Eating “Paper” to Survive Global Warming

National Geographic

 – ‎ December 19, 2013‎


As the planet continues to warm, conservation biologists worry about the future of species that depend on the cold, such as the furry pikas that live in mountainous areas of North America, Europe, and Asia. But American pikas (Ochotona princeps) may be able to survive a warming planet thanks to a most unusual food source.

A new study found that pikas living at lower elevations seem to thrive in part by eating nutrient-poor mosses, which suggests that these animals may be able to adapt their behavior to a warming planet. Pikas are known for their ability to live in frigid, alpine areas, and these furry critters are a common sight on the rocky slopes of Mount Hood, outside of Portland, Oregon. Part of the lagomorph order, which includes rabbits and hares, the American pika is the size of a large mouse and looks like a miniature guinea pig.

The pika has a very high metabolism, which enables it to produce large amounts of body heat. Its large belly, short limbs, small ears, and absent tail give it an almost spherical shape that helps it conserve this body heat, as does its thick layer of gray-brown fur. The pika is so good at conserving heat that spending more than two days living at temperatures above 78°F (25.5°C) can kill it. It’s why University of Utah Ph.D. student Johanna Varner was so surprised to hear reports of pikas living in the Columbia River Gorge, a low-lying area not far from Mount Hood. The environment in the gorge is totally different from what the pikas were used to on Mount Hood itself. On the mountain, the pikas had only three months without snow—a short summer period in which the roly-poly furballs made a mad dash to collect as many plants, grasses, and shrubs as they could to create caches of food known as haypiles to nibble on throughout the long winter. The Columbia River Gorge, on the other hand, is covered in snow for less than three weeks per year. Varner wanted to know how these pikas lived and what they ate…..




A conceptualized image of a wind-powered, remotely controlled ship that could seed clouds over the ocean to deflect sunlight. (Credit: John MacNeill)

Hack the planet? Geoengineering research, ethics, governance explored
(December 17, 2013) — Experts have described the proposed Oxford Principles to govern geoengineering research and surveyed the technical hurdles, ethics and regulatory issues related to deliberately manipulating the planet’s climate. …A lot of people, from across the academy, are getting interested in the Anthropocene — the idea that we may have entered a new geological era where human
influence is a dominant feature, and what that means for various issues,” Gardiner said. The collection aims to prompt a serious academic discussion the editors say has so far been lacking. “It’s an interdisciplinary discussion with an emphasis on the research angle — whether and how we should be researching geoengineering,” said co-editor Lauren Hartzell-Nichols, a UW lecturer in philosophy. “We hope it helps people think about this issue in a more interdisciplinary and integrated way.”

full story

Further information:


Geoengineering Is Unlikely To Succeed, Natural Defenses Are The Best  16 December, 2013

Reducing the amount of sunlight reaching the planet’s surface by geoengineering may not undo climate change after all. [1] Axel Kleidon and Maik Renner, two German scientists used a simple energy balance analysis to explain how Earth’s water cycle responds differently to heating by sunlight than it does to warming due to a stronger atmospheric greenhouse effect. They show that this difference implies that reflecting sunlight to reduce temperatures may have unwanted effects on Earth’s rainfall patterns. . ….Many geoengineering approaches aim to reduce global warming by reducing the amount of sunlight reaching Earth’s surface (or, in the pot analogy, reduce the heat from the stove). But when Kleidon and Renner applied their results to such a geoengineering scenario, they found out that simultaneous changes in the water cycle and the atmosphere cannot be compensated for at the same time. Therefore, reflecting sunlight by geoengineering is unlikely to restore the planet’s original climate. “It’s like putting a lid on the pot and turning down the heat at the same time,” explains Kleidon. “While in the kitchen you can reduce your energy bill by doing so, in the Earth system this slows down the water cycle with wide-ranging potential consequences,” he says…..


Humans threaten wetlands’ ability to keep pace with sea-level rise

Coastal wetlands can resist rapid levels of sea-level rise. But humans could be sabotaging some of their best defenses, according to a Nature review paper published December 5 from the Virginia Institute of Marine Science and the Smithsonian Environmental Research Center . [2] The threat of disappearing coastlines has alerted many to the dangers of climate change. Wetlands in particular — with their ability to buffer coastal cities from floods and storms, and filter out pollution — offer protections that could be lost in the future. But, say co-authors Matt Kirwan and Patrick Megonigal, higher waters aren’t the key factor in wetland demise. Thanks to an intricate system of feedbacks, wetlands are remarkably good at building up their soils to outpace sea level rise. The real issue, they say, is that human structures such as dams and seawalls are disrupting the natural mechanisms that have allowed coastal marshes to survive rising seas since at least the end of the last Ice Age. ….Groundwater withdrawal and artificial drainage can cause the land to sink, as is happening right now in Chesapeake Bay . Because of this kind of subsidence, 8 of the world’s 20 largest coastal cities are experiencing relative sea-level rise greater than climate change projections. Dams and reservoirs also prevent 20 percent of the global sediment load from reaching the coast.
Marshes on the Yangtze River Delta survived relative sea-level rise of more than 50 mm per year since the 7th century C.E., until the building of more than 50,000 dams cut off their supply of sediment and sped up erosion
In addition to building vertically, marshes can also respond to sea-level rise by migrating landward.

But, the authors note, human activities have hindered this response as well. Conventional ways of protecting coastal property, such dykes and seawalls, keep wetlands from moving inland and create a “shoreline squeeze,” Kirwan says. Because rates of marsh-edge erosion increase with rates of sea-level rise, the authors warn that the impacts of coastal barriers will accelerate with climate change.


‘Natural defenses’ are best protection from rising sea levels 

Citing a similar study finding Tim Radford reported [3]: Insidious things like sea level rise, coastal subsidence and the loss of wetlands could bring the sea water coursing through city streets in the decades to come. Jonathan Woodruff of the University of Massachusetts Amherst in the US and colleagues report in Nature that shorelines are increasingly at risk, and humans must adapt and learn to live with increasing hazard. …. “Most engineered coastlines are not designed for this increase in extreme flood frequency, and the dominance of sea level rise and landscape dynamics on impacts by landfalling tropical cyclones must be acknowledged for effective planning and management of our future coastlines.”

The scientists reviewed nearly 100 research studies of coastal change. They also noted that, according to an international register of disasters, more than 60% of economic losses – around $400 bn – occurred in the North Atlantic , one of the areas least at risk from tropical hurricanes. The lesson is that governments and civic authorities will need to think more carefully about future threats. “Sea-level rise, severe storms, changing climate, erosion and policy issues are just some of the factors to assess in order to understand risk”, says another of the authors, Jennifer Irish of Virginia Tech College of Engineering. “We reviewed just three of the physical factors – tropical cyclone climatology, sea-level rise and shoreline change. If we look at them separately, we don’t see how they are interconnected.
“But if we pull back to look at the whole picture, we stand a better chance of protecting our homes, roadways, energy and water networks, and the most critical and expensive infrastructure along the coastlines.”



[1] Story Source: The story is based on materials provided by European Geosciences Union (EGU). Journal Reference: A. Kleidon, M. Renner. A simple explanation for the sensitivity of the hydrologic cycle to global climate change. Earth System Dynamics Discussions, 2013; 4 (2): 853 DOI: 10.5194/esdd-4-853-2013

European Geosciences Union (EGU) (2013, December 5). Geoengineering approaches to reduce climate change unlikely to succeed. ScienceDaily. Retrieved December 6, 2013, from /releases/2013/12/131205092049.htm

[2] Story Source: The story is based on materials provided by Virginia Institute of Marine Science. The original article was written by Kristen Minogue, SERC.

Journal Reference: Matthew L. Kirwan, J. Patrick Megonigal. Tidal wetland stability in the face of human impacts and sea-level rise. Nature, 2013; 504 (7478): 53 DOI: 10.1038/nature12856

Source: Virginia Institute of Marine Science (2013, December 4). Humans threaten wetlands’ ability to keep pace with sea-level rise. ScienceDaily. Retrieved December 5, 2013, from /releases/2013/12/131204132024.htm

[3] Source: This article was produced by the Climate News Network., December 5, 2013, “‘Natural defences’ offer best protection from rising sea levels”,



Lower Rio Grande Basin study shows shortfall in future water supply
(December 17, 2013) — Reclamation released the Lower Rio Grande Basin Study that evaluated the impacts of climate change on water demand and supply imbalances along the Rio Grande from Fort Quitman, Tex., to the Gulf of Mexico. As a result of climate change, a projected 86,438 acre-feet of water per year will need to be added to the 592,084 acre-feet per year of supply shortfall predicted in the existing regional planning process in 2060. … > full story



Global warming: Four degree rise will end vegetation ‘carbon sink’, research suggests
(December 16, 2013) — New research suggests that a temperature increase of four degrees is likely to “saturate” areas of dense vegetation with carbon, preventing plants from helping to balance CO2 escalation — and consequently accelerating climate change.
Carbon will spend increasingly less time in vegetation as the negative impacts of climate change take their toll through factors such as increased drought levels — with carbon rapidly released back into the atmosphere where it will
continue to add to global warming. Researchers say that extensive modelling shows a four degree temperature rise will be the threshold beyond which CO2 will start to increase more rapidly, as natural carbon ‘sinks’ of global vegetation become “saturated” and unable to sequester any more CO2 from the Earth’s atmosphere.

They call for a “change in research priorities” away from the broad-stroke production of plants and towards carbon ‘residence time’ — which is little understood — and the interaction of different kinds of vegetation in ecosystems such as carbon sinks. Carbon sinks are natural systems that drain and store CO2 from the atmosphere, with vegetation providing many of the key sinks that help chemically balance the world — such as the Amazon rainforest and the vast, circumpolar Boreal forest. As the world continues to warm, consequent events such as Boreal forest fires and mid-latitude droughts will release increasing amounts of carbon into the atmosphere — pushing temperatures ever higher. Initially, higher atmospheric CO2 will encourage plant growth as more CO2 stimulates photosynthesis, say researchers. But the impact of a warmer world through drought will start to negate this natural balance until it reaches a saturation point.“In heatwaves, ecosystems can emit more CO2 than they absorb from the atmosphere,” said Friend. “We saw this in the 2003 European heatwave when temperatures rose six degrees above average — and the amount of CO2 produced was sufficient to reverse the effect of four years of net ecosystem carbon sequestration.” For Friend, this research should feed into policy: “To make policy you need to understand the impact of decisions. The idea here is to understand at what point the increase in global temperature starts to have serious effects across all the sectors, so that policy makers can weigh up impacts of allowing emissions to go above a certain level, and what mitigation strategies are necessary.” full story


Andrew D. Friend, et al. Carbon residence time dominates uncertainty in terrestrial vegetation responses to future climate and atmospheric CO2. PNAS, December 16, 2013 DOI: 10.1073/pnas.1222477110


Amazon River carbon dioxide outgassing fuelled by wetlands ▶

Gwenaël Abril, Jean-Michel Martinez, L. Felipe Artigas et al. NATURE Dec 19 2013

Global carbon budgets reveal that inland waters emit substantial amounts of carbon, which is believed to originate from the terrestrial biosphere; however, here the carbon emitted from the Amazon River system is shown to originate from temporary wetlands in the flooded area itself, such as flooded forests.


Different developmental stages of the amphipod Themisto compressa. Found in the sediment traps: Three different developmental stages of the amphipod Themisto compressa – juvenile (top), sub-adult (middle), and a mature adult (bottom). (Credit: Angelina Kraft, Alfred-Wegener-Institut)

New actors in the Arctic ecosystem
(December 18, 2013)
Biologists from the Alfred Wegener Institute, Helmholtz Centre for Polar and Marine Research (AWI) have
for the first time shown that amphipods from the warmer Atlantic are now reproducing in Arctic waters to the west of Spitsbergen. This surprising discovery indicates a possible shift of the Arctic zooplankton community, scientists report in the journal Marine Ecology Progress Series.
The primary victims of this “Atlantification” are likely to be marine birds, fish and whales. The reason is that the migrating amphipods measure around one centimetre, and so are smaller than the respective Arctic species; this makes them less nutritious prey.… > full story


A Kraft, EM Nöthig, E Bauerfeind, DJ Wildish, GW Pohle, UV Bathmann, A Beszczynska-Möller, M Klages. First evidence of reproductive success in a southern invader indicates possible community shifts among Arctic zooplankton. Marine Ecology Progress Series, 2013; 493: 291 DOI: 10.3354/meps10507



An Agassiz’s desert tortoise outfitted with monitoring equipment in Joshua Tree National Park. (Jeffrey E. Lovich/U.S. Geological Survey / December 13, 2013)

Decline of Desert Tortoise in Joshua Tree Linked to Longer Droughts
LA Times, 12/13/13
Dwindling populations of the reptiles with scruffy carapaces and skin as tough as rhino hide are facing an even greater threat: longer droughts spurred by climate change in their Sonoran Desert kingdom of arroyos and burrows, according to a new U.S. Geological Survey study…..


ELLIE’s NOTE: This new opinion published in Nature Climate Change today highlights the urgent need to conduct research on how grass fed and grass finished cattle under intensive, prescribed grazing management on western rangelands contribute to methane emissions but also how this management approach enhances ecosystem services such as soil carbon, water storage/flow and biodiversity.   Industrial cattle operations appear to have very different ecological impacts.


Want To Stop Global Warming? Stop Eating Meat: Reducing Methane-Producing ‘Ruminant’ Population Will Abate Climate Change

Ajit Jha on December 20, 2013 10:05 AM EST International Science Times

Ruminant animals, like cows, are a more pressing cause of climate change than CO2 emissions, a new study claims. (Photo: Shutterstock)

The focus of climate change target — carbon dioxide emissions — could be lopsided, according to an opinion commentary published in Nature Climate Change. While CO2 emissions are damaging to climate, they are also just a part of the problem; in reality, a more serious cause of climate change are the methane-emitting animals we raise for food. Pound for pound, the two greatest greenhouse culprits are methane and nitrous oxide – both of which trap more heat than CO2 does. The research team, led by William Ripple from the College of Forestry at Oregon State University, concluded that unless methane and nitrous oxide emissions are curbed along with CO2, we are unlikely to make a real impact on the climate change. Ripple and his team don’t recommend that CO2 should be ignored or that methane and nitrous oxides alone be targeted, but rather that we need multiple approaches to address the threat of climate change. “We clearly need to reduce the burning of fossil fuels to cut CO2 emissions. But that addresses only part of the problem. We also need to reduce non CO2 greenhouse gases to lessen the likelihood of us crossing this climatic threshold,” Ripple said in a press statement. Ruminant animals, including cattle, goats, sheep, and buffalo, according to the researchers are primarily responsible for methane emissions. They produce a copious amount of methane in comparison to non-ruminants like pigs and poultry. Ruminants are mammals that have a special, extra stomach that enables them to get more nutrients out of plant-based foods through a process of fermentation prior to digestion…


Ruminants, climate change and climate policy

William J. Ripple,  Pete Smith, Helmut Haberl, Stephen A. Montzka, Clive McAlpine & Douglas H. Boucher ; Affiliations; Corresponding author

Nature Climate Change 4, 2–5 (2014) doi:10.1038/nclimate2081   Published online  20 December 2013

Greenhouse gas emissions from ruminant meat production are significant. Reductions in global ruminant numbers could make a substantial contribution to climate change mitigation goals and yield important social and environmental co-benefits.


Continued global warming after CO2 emissions stoppage pp40 – 44

Thomas Lukas Frölicher, Michael Winton and Jorge Louis Sarmiento

Nature Climate Change (2014) doi:10.1038/nclimate2060   Published online  20 December 2013

Stopping anthropogenic carbon emissions will not result in a sudden decrease in temperature. Earth system models are used to show that there may be an increase in warming after an initial decrease. This is a result of feedbacks from decreased ocean heat uptake, which exceed the cooling from decreased atmospheric CO2.


Extreme summer weather in northern mid-latitudes linked to a vanishing cryosphere pp45 – 50

Qiuhong Tang, Xuejun Zhang and Jennifer A. Francis

Nature Climate Change (2014) doi:10.1038/nclimate2065   Published online  20 December 2013

The Northern Hemisphere has seen record declines in the summer sea-ice and snow cover at high latitudes, as well as a recent increase in extreme summer events at mid latitudes. The connection between these has been unclear; however, changes in atmospheric circulation attributable to the reduced cryosphere are now shown to be linked to the summer extremes.



Recognizing the elephant in the room: Future climate impacts across sectors
(December 16, 2013) — A pioneering collaboration within the international scientific community has provided comprehensive projections of climate change effects, ranging from water scarcity to risks to crop yields. This interdisciplinary effort, employing extensive model inter-comparisons, allows research gaps to be identified, whilst producing the most robust possible findings. The results provide crucial insights for decision-making regarding mitigation efforts in the face of potential impact cascades. …

“There is an elephant in the room: current and future climate change impacts. But strangely, many people seem to be blind to it,” says Hans Joachim Schellnhuber, director of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research and co-author of the special feature’s introduction as well as several of its papers. “Many decision makers prefer to turn a blind eye to global warming consequences, while many scientists tend to focus on very specific aspects of climate change. So we resemble the fabled blind men, who unknowingly touch different parts of the same elephant: grasping the animal’s trunk, one of the men is convinced he has a snake in his hand, whilst one other mistakes the tail for a rope. To recognize the animal, they must talk to each other to properly identify the individual parts and to bring them together. This is exactly what this international project does.”….
One of the core products of ISI-MIP is a public data archive, where the output as well as the input data from the project is available for further research and to promote maximum transparency. A specific aim is to further enhance the quality of the computer models of impacts. After the publication of its first results, the project now enters a second phase, broadening the scope of impacts considered (addressing, for example, the energy industry and global fisheries) and incorporating models that look more closely at specific regions. “The climate change impacts picture remains far from complete, in particular with regard to socio-economic consequences,” says Pavel Kabat, director of the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis, co-author of several contributions to the special feature, and co-editor. “The human costs of climate change are often triggered by the biophysical impacts, but are not identical to the impacts themselves. For example, water shortages in some regions might contribute to human conflicts and drive large-scale migration. We already have enough certainty today about climate change impacts to recognize it is high time to act. But as scientists we will work hard to further integrate and strengthen the existing expertise to better see the elephant in the room — and just how dangerous the mighty beast really is.”full story

Schellnhuber, H.J., Frieler, K., Kabat, P. The Elephant, the Blind, and the ISI-MIP. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 2013 DOI: 10.1073/pnas.1321791111


Alps Warming At Double The Average Global Rate, New Study Confirms

By Ari Phillips on December 16, 2013

Glaciologists have found a 2,600-year-old leaf that offers further evidence of the rapid climactic changes taking place in areas of high elevation that have been frozen for millennia.


Battle to save barn owl after freak weather kills thousands.
London Observer

Ornithologists fear that there are now fewer than 1,000 breeding pairs of barn owls in England, following four years of extreme weather that have resulted in the population of the protected bird declining by more than three-quarters.


A Natural Capital Approach for Climate Adaptation in Belize

Posted: 17 Dec 2013 07:57 AM PST By Rebecca Traldi and Amy Rosenthal

State and national governments are beginning to consider how to help vulnerable industries and communities adapt to climate change. However, a lack of good examples and large knowledge gaps pose challenges for integrating adaptation into policy. Existing research and policy on climate adaptation often accounts for either economic values….


Struggles to survive in an upside-down world one month after Haiyan’s record surge.
Climate Wire

Millions of families displaced in the typhoon-torn region of the central Philippines will have to weather a rainy season set to begin in late January under the cover of donated blue tarps and scraps of metal as the government struggles with challenges related to land and property rights.




Climate change threatens genetic diversity, future of world’s caribou
(December 16, 2013) — Caribou in southern and eastern Canada may disappear from most of their current range in 60 years if climate change takes the toll on their habitat that scientists predict. Scientists looked at reservoirs of genetic diversity in caribou and whether that diversity was linked to stable habitats. … > full story

Species diversity in coral reefs: Very similar looking coral species differ in how they survive in harsh environments
(December 13, 2013) — Some corals have been found to have the ability to survive in harsh environments, according to new research. The researchers report previously unrecognized species diversity that had been was hiding some corals’ ability to respond to climate change. … > full story


California 2013 Wildfire Season Goes Out With A Blaze

By Joanna M. Foster on December 17, 2013

The 2013 California wildfire season began in early May and now an unusually late fire in Big Sur, is extending the season well into December.


In the Philippines, Fighting Climate Change Impacts with Nature (Part 2)

Lynn Tang December 16, 2013

This is the second half of a two-part blog about the role that restoring and protecting ecosystems like mangroves, reefs and forests can play in buffering communities from extreme weather events like Typhoon Haiyan. Read Part 1. (Note: Although this blog was written prior to the storm, we were relieved to learn that the regions discussed were largely spared from destruction.)

Lynn Tang plants a mangrove seedling in Silonay, Philippines. Mangrove replanting on another Philippine island (Samar) is thought to have played a role in the region’s relatively minor damage from Typhoon Haiyan. (© CI/photo by Kristin Prukop)

In 2008, CI-Philippines conducted a climate change vulnerability assessment in the Verde Island Passage, a species-rich region that is highly valued as a fishing ground, tourist site and shipping lane between the Philippine islands. The assessment identified the coastal community of Silonay as one of the most vulnerable to storm surges and sea level rise. …Mangrove planting activities are a small part of a larger strategy of using ecosystem-based adaptation (EbA) to cope with climate change. A relatively new concept, EbA is defined as reducing the impacts of climate change through the conservation and restoration of natural ecosystems. Because natural systems provide additional benefits besides climate adaptation, such as alternative livelihoods, they are often much more cost-effective than hard-engineered solutions….


Parched Jordan faces water crisis as Syrian refugees flood in.
Reuters A flood of Syrian refugees is threatening to turn Jordan’s chronic water shortage into a crisis, stoking tension among Jordanians already resentful of what they see as Syria’s unfair exploitation of shared water supplies.



British Wine Benefits as the Climate Changes

New York Times

 – ‎Dec 13, 2013‎


DORKING, England – For more than a decade, Matthieu Elzinga ran his own vineyard in the western Loire Valley of France. But this year, just as he was gaining an international reputation for his dry and crisp Muscadets, Mr. Elzinga sold the vineyard …



Rising sea levels torment coastal US. USA TODAY December 18, 2013

One block from the beach on the narrow Willoughby Spit in Norfolk, Va., Bob Parsons was watching the weather news on TV in November 2009 when brackish water suddenly oozed up through the floors of his home. Next year, he will spend $100,000 to raise that home five feet.


Honest Conversations about Climate Change and Uncertainty

By Sara S. Moore ClimatePrep December 12 2013

Uncertainty is hard. Planning for uncertain events, particularly highly uncertain and dangerous events, is even more difficult. Even certain events with uncertain timing, like an earthquake on a fault line, can stop people in their tracks. People don’t want to plan for terrible things. I once attended a doctoral seminar at UC Berkeley (on the Hayward Fault) on climate change adaptation and asked the room, in the middle of complaining about the stubbornness of climate change denialists, how many had earthquake preparedness kits at home. The answer: less than a third. We all live in some degree of denial about highly uncertain, dangerous events. They are just too scary to think through…..So how do you engage with people, acknowledging their fears, in a way that helps us start planning for climate change?…. Scenario planning, pioneered by the U.S. military and developed for wider use in the 1970’s by the Global Business Network, is being used more and more to create a space to talk about climate change. Scenario planning provides a framework for a group to develop multiple plausible futures based on discussion of relative certainties, including many kinds of information, from quantitative scientific projections to personal observations about the changing land. This way, communities can talk through responses to worst case scenarios that feel plausible and imminent, grounded in scientific knowns and unknowns, defining our nightmares to move forward into envisioning solutions.

…..In January 2011, I organized a scenario planning workshop for 35 resource managers in Marin, California. The participants came from the public and private non-profit sectors, representing local, county, and national landscape management institutions. There were water district managers, fire district managers, invasive plant detection experts, researchers, and more. At the end of the day, we had our ‘aha’ moment: fire and water managers need to work more closely across a larger region to plan for long-term change. Two years later, I’m working with the North Bay Climate Adaptation Initiative  and North Bay Watershed Association to make these cross-sector, multi-county planning discussions happen. The managers we engage in planning these discussions continue to affirm that we can no longer plan for one natural system separate from another. The dream is certainty; the reality is that we can’t always reduce climate change uncertainty, and the fear that stems from this can paralyze us. However, we can define our worst-case scenarios, thinking through the consequences of the most critical uncertainties (and how the consequences interact). Scenario planning is not a panacea for all the barriers to climate change preparedness, but it can help us address our biggest nightmares, and hopefully navigate past uncertainty.

Read more articles by Sara Moore at The Past is Not an Option.





Letter: [CA] Governor convenes interagency Drought Task Force

By Maven on Dec 18, 2013 09:54 pm

Governor Brown has directed the Department of Water Resources, the State Water Resources Control Board, the Department of Food and Agriculture, and the Office of Emergency Services to immediately convene an interagency Drought Task Force.
In a letter addressed to Director Mark Cowin, Chair Felicia Marcus, Secretary Karen Ross and Director Mark Ghilarducci, the Governor directs the task force to meet weekly to review expected allocations, the state’s level of preparedness, and whether the conditions warrant declaration of a statewide drought. “We must do everything we can to address the impacts of water shortages and move water from where it is available to where it is needed.  These actions include establishing a clearinghouse of water shortage-related information; assessing the regions most affected by dry conditions and the local community socio- and economic impacts within those regions; and determining potential water transfers, infrastructure improvements, water trucking and other actions that could alleviate the impacts of water shortages.  These measures will work in concert with my directive earlier this year to expedite voluntary transfers of water and water rights to alleviate critical impacts to San Joaquin Valley agriculture and Department of Water Resource’s designation of a drought coordinator.” Read the full letter here: Governor Drought Task Force letter (2) Related posts:

  1. Letter: Feinstein and Costa request Governor declare a drought emergency
  2. Letter: California’s Republican representatives write letter to the President and the Governor, asking him to ‘take immediate action to mitigate the catastrophic effects of another natural drought exacerbated by environmental conditions”
  3. Letter: NGO’s send letter to Governor Brown outlining three actions for achieving a Delta solution


Jerry Brown’s top water official Jerry Meral to retire

Sacramento Bee December 14, 2013

Jerry Meral, Gov. Jerry Brown‘s top water official and a major figure in the controversial, $25 billion water project proposed by the governor, will retire at the end of the month, the Brown administration confirmed Saturday. Meral, deputy secretary of the state’s Natural Resources Agency, told Brown of his retirement in a letter Monday – the same day the Brown administration released its latest environmental analysis of a plan to build two tunnels to divert water around the Delta to the south. “While additional permits will be required,” Meral said in the letter, “it is virtually certain that the plan will be implemented.” Meral, who is widely regarded as one of California’s most accomplished preservationists, worked for Brown as a water adviser when Brown was governor before, from 1975 to 1983. He was one of several high-profile advisers brought back by the Democratic governor when Brown took office in 2011.


Jerry Meral blogs on the Delta controversy and the Bay Delta Conservation Plan

by Maven December 20, 2013

Jerry Meral has posted a three-part blog series over at the Bay Delta Conservation Plan website which covers the history of the controversy in the Delta, from development of the State Water Project to present day.   “Californians have been debating the role of the Delta and the best way to move water to where it’s needed for nearly 70 years,” he writes in the introduction.  “The recently released draft Bay Delta Conservation Plan and accompanying draft Environmental Impact Report/Environmental Impact Statement (EIR/EIS) reflect the ongoing evolution of Delta water policy in the critical areas of supply, water quality, environmental impacts, species preservation and the interests of the Delta communities.  This is the first of a three-part blog that summarizes how our understanding of these issues has changed in relation to the dynamic growth of California and our constantly expanding appreciation of the needs of its environment.”…



Months After Banning Fracking, France Now Has A Carbon Tax

By Emily Atkin on December 19, 2013 at 5:33 pm

The French Parliament on Thursday adopted a budget for 2014 which includes a tax on carbon emissions from gas, heating oil and coal, according to a report in Platts. The money derived from the tax — which largely targets transport fuels and domestic heating — will be used to reduce emissions through increased installation of renewable energy throughout the country, according to the report. The move is projected to raise €4 billion, or $5.5 billion, per year by 2016, which can then spent on tax breaks for the wind and solar power industries. “Its operation is simple: part of domestic consumption taxes on fuels and fossil fuels will be based on CO2 emissions given off by their use,” Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrualt said when introducing the proposed tax in September, noting the tax will affect the petrol, diesel, coal, natural gas, and heavy fuel oil industries. “Throughout this transition, the Government will pay attention to the situation of the French, especially the poorest, who often worry about these changes.”…


Chinese carbon market opens to a busy first day.
Reuters December 20 2013

The first day of trading in what will be by far the largest carbon market in China started briskly on Thursday with pricing in line with expectations, as Beijing continued its drive to slow its rapid growth of heat-trapping emissions.


White House delayed enacting rules ahead of 2012 election to avoid controversy.
Washington Post The White House systematically delayed enacting a series of rules on the environment, worker safety and health care to prevent them from becoming points of contention before the 2012 election, according to documents and interviews with current and former administration officials.


2013 year in review: Obama talks climate change but pushes fracking. Friday, December 20, 2013 The Guardian This was the year when climate change came out of the closet. But it was also a year when Obama claimed as a personal achievement the expansion of oil and gas production through hydraulic fracturing, and when the coal industry sent coal overseas to rescue the mines closing down at home.


White House to get aggressive on climate change?

Washington Post (blog)

 – ‎December 18, 2013‎


…Beyond this flap, there is some important news in the piece about Podesta: He agreed to the job on the condition that he be allowed to oversee an aggressive climate change agenda via executive action. As Politico’s Glenn Thrush reports: The deal-sealer



Most companies still releasing unsustainable amounts of CO2 – study. December 20 2013 Reuters The majority of large global corporations that have reported their annual greenhouse gas emissions for several years now are still releasing more carbon dioxide than they should, a new study published on Wednesday showed.



Obama and Climate Change: The Real Story

By Bill McKibben December 17, 2013 9:00 AM ET

Two years ago, on a gorgeous November day, 12,000 activists surrounded the White House to protest the proposed Keystone XL pipeline. Signs we carried featured quotes from Barack Obama in 2008: “Time to end the tyranny of oil”; “In my administration, the rise of the oceans will begin to slow.”

Our hope was that we could inspire him to keep those promises. Even then, there were plenty of cynics who said Obama and his insiders were too closely tied to the fossil-fuel industry to take climate change seriously. But in the two years since, it’s looked more and more like they were right – that in our hope for action we were willing ourselves to overlook the black-and-white proof of how he really feels. If you want to understand how people will remember the Obama climate legacy, a few facts tell the tale: By the time Obama leaves office, the U.S. will pass Saudi Arabia as the planet’s biggest oil producer and Russia as the world’s biggest producer of oil and gas combined. In the same years, even as we’ve begun to burn less coal at home, our coal exports have climbed to record highs. We are, despite slight declines in our domestic emissions, a global-warming machine: At the moment when physics tell us we should be jamming on the carbon brakes, America is revving the engine.


 … In November, for instance, the EPA allowed Kentucky to weaken a crucial regulation, making it easier for mountaintop-removal coal mining to continue. As the Sierra Club’s Bruce Nilles said, “It’s dismaying that the Obama administration approved something even worse than what the Bush administration proposed.” All these steps are particularly toxic because we’ve learned something else about global warming during the Obama years: Most of the coal and gas and oil that’s underground has to stay there if we’re going to slow climate change.…As the administration’s backers consistently point out, America has cut its own carbon emissions by 12 percent in the past five years, and we may meet our announced national goal of a 17 percent reduction by decade’s end. We’ve built lots of new solar panels and wind towers in the past five years (though way below the pace set by nations like Germany). In any event, building more renewable energy is not a useful task if you’re also digging more carbon energy – it’s like eating a pan of Weight Watchers brownies after you’ve already gobbled a quart of Ben and Jerry’s.


Let’s lay aside the fact that climate scientists have long since decided these targets are too timid and that we’d have to cut much more deeply to get ahead of global warming. All this new carbon drilling, digging and burning the White House has approved will add up to enough to negate the administration’s actual achievements: The coal from the Powder River Basin alone, as the commentator Dave Roberts pointed out in Grist, would “undo all of Obama’s other climate work.”

The perfect example of this folly is the Keystone XL pipeline stretching south from the tar sands of Canada – the one we were protesting that November day. The tar sands are absurdly dirty: To even get oil to flow out of the muck you need to heat it up with huge quantities of natural gas, making it a double-dip climate disaster. More important, these millions of untouched acres just beneath the Arctic Circle make up one of the biggest pools of carbon on Earth. If those fields get fully developed, as NASA’s recently retired senior climate scientist James Hansen pointed out, it will be “game over” for the climate.


Obama has all the authority he needs to block any pipelines that cross the border to the U.S. And were he to shut down Keystone XL, say analysts, it would dramatically slow tar-sands expansion plans in the region. But soon after taking office, he approved the first, small Keystone pipeline, apparently without any qualms. And no one doubts that if a major campaign hadn’t appeared, he would have approved the much larger Keystone XL without a peep – even though the oil that will flow through that one pipe will produce almost as much carbon as he was theoretically saving with his new auto-mileage law.


But the fight to shut down the pipeline sparked a grassroots movement that has changed the culture of environmentalism – but not, so far, the culture of the White House. For me, the most telling moment came a month or two ago when it emerged that the president’s former communications director, Anita Dunn, had taken a contract to flack for the pipeline. The reason for fighting Keystone all along was not just to block further expansion of the tar sands – though that’s required, given the amount of carbon contained in that expanse of Alberta. We also hoped that doing the right thing would jump-start Washington in the direction of real climate action. Instead, the effort necessary to hold off this one pipeline has kept environmentalists distracted as Obama has opened the Arctic and sold off the Powder River Basin, as he’s fracked and drilled. It kept us quiet as both he and Mitt Romney spent the whole 2012 campaign studiously ignoring climate change…..

Global Warming’s Terrifying New Math


Pennsylvania gas drilling decision leaves future uncertain. December 19 2013 AP The energy industry and policy makers in Pennsylvania, the heart of the nation’s gas drilling boom, are thinking about their next moves after the state’s highest court threw out significant portions of a law that limited the power of cities and counties to regulate the industry.



California Plans Tighter Control of Fracking, but Not Enough for Some

New York Times

 – ‎Dec 13, 2013‎


SAN FRANCISCO – California drillers eager to use hydraulic fracturing to tap the nation’s largest oil shale formation will face comprehensive regulation for the first time next year under rules issued this week.


Cordell Bank and Gulf of the Farallones Looking to Expand

Bay Nature

 – ‎December 18, 2013


The Gulf of the Farallones and the Cordell Bank National Marine Sanctuaries cover roughly 1,800 square miles off the California Coast and provide rich feeding grounds for populations of endangered blue, humpback, and gray whales, as well as some of the …



Interior Department Has Stopped Trying To Raise Oil And Gas Royalty Rates, Say Government Auditors

By Jessica Goad, Guest Blogger on December 17, 2013

A report released Tuesday by the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) found that the Department of the Interior has “discontinued” an effort to increase the royalty rate that companies must pay to the government for extracting oil and gas from onshore public lands.



Congress Works on Compromises for Farm Bill, Ag Budget Before Recess

December 17, 2013

Members of the U.S. House of Representatives began their holiday recess this week, but Rep. Frank Lucas, Chair of the House Agriculture Committee and Rep. Collin Peterson, ranking Democrat on the same Committee announced that they would be in Washington to negotiate the final terms of a new Farm Bill. They will be meeting with their counterparts in the Senate, which is still in session, to work on what they hope will be the final terms of a deal that could clear the way to pass a new Farm Bill early next year.   



FDA antibiotics effort a good first step

Published 8:00 pm, Thursday, December 12, 2013

Leftcoast Grassfed in Pescadero is an example of a ranch that has successfully bred cattle without the use of antibiotics. Photo: Michael Macor, The Chronicle

SFChronicle, December 13, 2013

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has taken a significant and long overdue first step toward reducing the use of antibiotics on healthy cows, chickens and pigs that are being raised for human consumption. Under the new guidelines, antibiotics no longer can be added to feed and water for the sole purpose of making livestock grow bigger and faster. The case for limiting – or even banning – the use of low doses of antibiotics on healthy animals has been known since at least 1977, when the FDA correctly predicted that the practice could lead to antibiotic-resistant bacteria. Medical science has indeed witnessed a decline in the effectiveness of various antibiotics – and their role in livestock production is suspected to be a factor. About 23,000 Americans a year are dying from antibiotic-resistant infections…..


Activist Tom Steyer launches California oil tax campaign

Carla Marinucci San Francisco Chronicle

December 17, 2013 Environmental activist Tom Steyer, the billionaire Democrat who poured millions of dollars into 2013 campaigns around the country, launched a political drive Monday in his home state to call for an oil extraction tax that he argues will raise… more »


A 2014 New Year’s resolution every Californian can support

Tom Steyer SF Chronicle Opinion Published 4:23 pm, Sunday, December 15, 2013

California receives just $4.22 for each barrel of oil extracted from such sites as the Midway- Sunset field in Kern County. Texas gets more than three times as much in taxes and royalties. Photo: Jim Wilson, New York Times

Californians will have the opportunity next year to end yet another billion-dollar corporate tax giveaway – this time, to the oil and gas industry. …. California is the only major oil-producing state in the nation that does not collect taxes from the extraction of oil on private lands. This must be changed – and, with the support of state policymakers, we can get it done this year. Since our first productive well was drilled in 1865, California has maintained its position as an oil giant – we’re still the fourth-largest oil-producing state (behind Alaska, Texas and North Dakota), producing 200 million barrels per year. But when it comes to reaping the financial benefits of our own oil resources, Californians rank dead last. California assesses only a 14-cent fee per barrel of oil – an amount referred to as a “free ride” by experts. Even after accounting for property, income and corporate taxes, the combined revenue collected in California is $4.22 per barrel. By comparison, Texas – America’s No. 1 oil producer, and a state of legendarily lax regulations and low taxes – charges oil producers a tax rate of 4.6 percent and royalties of 28 percent, and uses the revenues to benefit public education and other services. That amounts to $14.40 per barrel – more than three times what California charges for the privilege of removing its oil from the ground……


Presidio Trust director’s political, ecological challenges: Terri Thomas

SF Chronicle 9:26 pm, Saturday, December 14, 2013
Peter Fimrite

If there’s anything Terri Thomas has learned in the nearly 30 years she has been protecting natural resources on Bay Area public lands, it’s that bad habits die hard and good things sometimes have negative consequences. It was, for instance, a pretty neat thing for wildlife biologists when coyotes crossed the Golden Gate Bridge in 2000 and returned to their old hunting grounds in the Presidio, but it wasn’t such a happy time for local cat fanciers. The wily predators discovered a well-established population of cats, some of which were surviving on bowls of food left in the park by locals. The well-fed kitties did not, it was quickly demonstrated, have nine lives. “They started eating all the cats,” said Thomas, the director of conservation, stewardship and research for the Presidio Trust, a federal agency created by Congress in 1996 to transform the former U.S. Army post into a financially self-sustaining urban national park. “The cat owners were really upset and wanted us to kill all the coyotes.” It was one of many prickly situations the Bay Area native has clawed her way out of since 1976, when she began working for the National Park Service. She has spent the last 29 years, first with the Golden Gate National Recreation Area and then with the Presidio Trust, helping restore the ecological balance of the long-neglected collection of military bases, beaches and bluffs in and around San Francisco that were cobbled together and turned into the 80,000-acre recreation area….



Gil Philip Friend Named as Palo Alto’s [first] Chief Sustainability Officer

Palo Alto, CA – City Manager James Keene announced today that he has selected Gil Philip Friend to serve as the City’s first Chief Sustainability Officer. ….”Gil is a pioneer in the field of sustainability, and has extensive experience leading and developing strategic sustainability practices for cities and companies across the globe,” said City Manager James Keene. “His thought leadership has inspired many, and he has instituted some of the most innovative programs in the field, including the first sustainability business dashboards nearly 20 years ago. Gil’s deep experience and connections will be instrumental in making Palo Alto not only the greenest city in America, but also a major contributor to advancing world-class sustainability strategies that link to the San Francisco Bay region and beyond.” For the past 22 years, Friend has developed sustainability strategies and roadmaps for companies in the technology, food, energy, retail, apparel and other sectors. He developed green product rating systems for two large retail companies, led integrated ecoaudits for more than 100 diverse manufacturing companies, and developed and delivered sustainability training for leadership teams associated with large public sector organizations. Friend’s experience also includes work with city governments and nonprofit groups to design equitable and environmentally sound economic and community development strategies.” “Palo Alto is a remarkable city with unmatched assets,” said Friend. “I’ve been eager to bring my experience to bear in one place, and I’m delighted this is it. I’m looking forward to working with leaders in the community, business, Stanford, and City staff to build on Palo Alto’s strong foundation, and to contribute to a new, regenerative economy for the planet.”





A Bipartisan Group Of Lawmakers Is Out To Kill The Corn-Based Ethanol Mandate

By Jeff Spross on December 16, 2013

It’s the latest twist in the beleaguered story of American biofuels, but there’s at least a partial case that corn-based ethanol needs to go.


Los Angeles Becomes First Major City To Require ‘Cool Roofs’

By Ari Phillips on December 18, 2013

Los Angeles is the first major city to require all new and refurbished homes to have cool roofs, which reflect light.


Signs of Baby Steps on Stanching Wasteful Flaring of Natural Gas

By ANDREW C. REVKIN NY Times December 18, 2013

Signs of progress on wasteful, warming flaring of natural gas in America’s Bakken oil patch


Green innovator: Turning chicken feathers and plant fiber into eco-leather, bio-based circuit boards
(December 16, 2013) — A scientist is turning materials like chicken feathers, vegetable oil, and plant fiber into such green innovations as eco-leather and bio-based circuit boards. … > full story


Turning a building’s water system into a hydroelectric plant. NY Times Why not harness the power of the wasted water running down the drain? With Hong Kong’s high concentration of skyscrapers, could gravity generate a considerable amount of electricity?







California Draft Delivery Reliability Report 2013 DWR



Sonoma State University’s 30th Annual Planning Commissioners Conference –Resources:


US/Global Wind Maps

US wind map ( — beautiful and useful when thinking about scheduled survey conditions.

Now there is a wind map available for the entire Earth, so that you can check out, for example, the daily likelihood of South Polar Skuas getting blown off their nests at Cape Crozier:


Marine Protected Areas– Ocean Conservancy Video

Marine Protected Areas – Restoring the Beauty, Bounty and Diversity of our Natural Undersea World

This video was produced by the Aquarium of the Bay in collaboration with the Ocean Conservancy.




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


Sanctuary Currents Symposium; Marine Debris: How do you pitch in?
Saturday April 26, 2014, University Center, California State University Monterey Bay

By now we are all familiar with our collective role in polluting the planet, the ocean included. But we are also critical for the many potential solutions. Please join us for a morning of lively discussions about the many scales of problems and solutions, ranging from the small plastic nurdles to a state-size garbage patch, from the deep sea to the intertidal, from local policies to the international arena.  Discussions will occur around plenary sessions featuring internationally-recognized scientists, a research poster session, and exhibitry throughout the day.

Research Posters: Call for abstracts will occur in January. Visit the Sanctuary Currents Symposium website for updates and information: Sanctuary Currents Symposium


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




Ecovillages: Lessons for Sustainable Community

Karen T. Litfin ISBN: 978-0-7456-7949-5 224 pages December 2013, Polity

In a world of dwindling natural resources and mounting environmental crisis, who is devising ways of living that will work for the long haul? And how can we, as individuals, make a difference? To answer these fundamental questions, Professor Karen Litfin embarked upon a journey to many of the world’s ecovillages, intentional communities at the cutting-edge of sustainable living. From rural to urban, high tech to low tech, spiritual to secular, she discovered an under-the-radar global movement making positive and radical changes from the ground up. In this inspiring and insightful book, Karen Litfin shares her unique experience of these experiments in sustainable living through four broad windows – ecology, economics, community, and consciousness – or E2C2. Whether we live in an ecovillage or a city, she contends, we must incorporate these four key elements if we wish to harmonize our lives with our home planet. Not only is another world possible, it is already being born in small pockets the world over. These micro-societies, however, are small and time is short. Fortunately – as Litfin persuasively argues – their successes can be applied to existing social structures, from the local to the global scale, providing sustainable ways of living for generations to come.




(of if you just want a great holiday read on climate change):

One of my favorites is by Naomi Oreskes– Merchants of Doubt. It starts with detailed documentation of how the tobacco industry hoodwinked the public and congress by getting just a few scientists to question the dangers of smoking that were proven as early as the 1952 or so. It goes into climate change– with many of the same scientists recruited by the oil industry to question the reality of global warming. Another great book is more about the history of civilization and the impact of extreme weather eventsThe Winds of Change by Eugene Linden. Finally another favorite– from the perspective of scientists studying high mountain glaciers– Thin Ice by Mark Bowen. A fantastic read….

    Also a great website: . Below is a sample of the excellent information with detailed scientific background they provide:


Global Warming & Climate Change Myths

Here is a summary of global warming and climate change myths, sorted by recent popularity vs what science says. Click the response for a more detailed response. You can also view them sorted by taxonomy, by popularity, in a print-friendly version, with short URLs or with fixed numbers you can use for permanent references.


Climate Myth


What the Science Says


“Climate’s changed before”

Climate reacts to whatever forces it to change at the time; humans are now the dominant forcing.


“It’s the sun”

In the last 35 years of global warming, sun and climate have been going in opposite directions


“It’s not bad”

Negative impacts of global warming on agriculture, health & environment far outweigh any positives.


“There is no consensus”

97% of climate experts agree humans are causing global warming.


“It’s cooling”

The last decade 2000-2009 was the hottest on record.


“Models are unreliable”

Models successfully reproduce temperatures since 1900 globally, by land, in the air and the ocean.


“Temp record is unreliable”

The warming trend is the same in rural and urban areas, measured by thermometers and satellites.


“Animals and plants can adapt”

Global warming will cause mass extinctions of species that cannot adapt on short time scales.


“It hasn’t warmed since 1998”

For global records, 2010 is the hottest year on record, tied with 2005.


“Antarctica is gaining ice”

Satellites measure Antarctica losing land ice at an accelerating rate.


“Ice age predicted in the 70s”

The vast majority of climate papers in the 1970s predicted warming.


“CO2 lags temperature”

CO2 didn’t initiate warming from past ice ages but it did amplify the warming.


“Climate sensitivity is low”

Net positive feedback is confirmed by many different lines of evidence.


“We’re heading into an ice age”

Worry about global warming impacts in the next 100 years, not an ice age in over 10,000 years.


“Ocean acidification isn’t serious”

Ocean acidification threatens entire marine food chains.


“Hockey stick is broken”

Recent studies agree that recent global temperatures are unprecedented in the last 1000 years.


“Climategate CRU emails suggest conspiracy”

A number of investigations have cleared scientists of any wrongdoing in the media-hyped email incident.


“Hurricanes aren’t linked to global warming”

There is increasing evidence that hurricanes are getting stronger due to global warming.


“Al Gore got it wrong”

Al Gore book is quite accurate, and far more accurate than contrarian books.


“Glaciers are growing”

Most glaciers are retreating, posing a serious problem for millions who rely on glaciers for water.


“It’s cosmic rays”

Cosmic rays show no trend over the last 30 years & have had little impact on recent global warming.


“1934 – hottest year on record”

1934 was one of the hottest years in the US, not globally.


“It’s freaking cold!”

A local cold day has nothing to do with the long-term trend of increasing global temperatures.


“Extreme weather isn’t caused by global warming”

Extreme weather events are being made more frequent and worse by global warming.


“Sea level rise is exaggerated”

A variety of different measurements find steadily rising sea levels over the past century.


“It’s Urban Heat Island effect”

Urban and rural regions show the same warming trend.


“Medieval Warm Period was warmer”

Globally averaged temperature now is higher than global temperature in medieval times.


“Mars is warming”

Mars is not warming globally.


“Arctic icemelt is a natural cycle”

Thick arctic sea ice is undergoing a rapid retreat.


“Increasing CO2 has little to no effect”

The strong CO2 effect has been observed by many different measurements.


“Oceans are cooling”

The most recent ocean measurements show consistent warming.


“It’s a 1500 year cycle”

Ancient natural cycles are irrelevant for attributing recent global warming to humans.


“Human CO2 is a tiny % of CO2 emissions”

The natural cycle adds and removes CO2 to keep a balance; humans add extra CO2 without removing any.


“IPCC is alarmist”

Numerous papers have documented how IPCC predictions are more likely to underestimate the climate response.


“Water vapor is the most powerful greenhouse gas”

Rising CO2 increases atmospheric water vapor, which makes global warming much worse.


“Polar bear numbers are increasing”

Polar bears are in danger of extinction as well as many other species.….






Point Blue Conservation Science is a renowned, award-winning non-profit working to reduce the impacts of accelerating changes in climate, land-use and the ocean on wildlife and people while promoting climate-smart conservation. At the core of our work is ecosystem science using long-term data to identify and evaluate both natural and human-driven changes over time. We work hand-in-hand with public and private natural resource managers from the Sierra to the sea and Alaska to Antarctica studying birds and ecosystems. Founded in 1965 as Point Reyes Bird Observatory, the organization has tripled in size over the last decade, and currently has a $10M annual budget with significant growth expected to continue. We seek a qualified CFO, who is passionate about our mission and vision, to join a team of 140+ scientists, informatics experts and educators.  


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.


California Park & Recreation Society (CPRS) (pdf) Executive Director

CPRS is a nonprofit, professional and public interest organization with more than 3,000 members. CPRS supports its members who provide recreational experiences to individuals, families and communities with the goal of fostering human development, health and wellness, and cultural unity. As the largest state society of park and recreation professionals in the United States, CPRS has the collective strength in numbers to be able to advance the positive impact and value of the profession on society. CPRS is the organization that furthers careers of those who know that Parks Make Life Better™.







Reddit forum bans climate change ‘deniers’

The Hill (blog)

December 18, 2013


Nathan Allen, the moderator for the forum /r/science – which provides a digital space for people to discuss recent, peer-reviewed science publications – wrote about the move to ban skeptics of climate science on Grist. A representative for Reddit


3rd Annual Crane Race Summary – 29.11.13, Agamon Hula, Israel

We are happy to send you the presentation summarizing the 3rd Crane Race experience that after three years has turned into an annual tradition. The race presentation can be viewed at    and a short movie can be viewed at The initiative began in 2011 when the Chairman of Ernst & Young, Ronen Barel and Boaz Dekel, Chairman of PMI, were  guests at the Agamon Hula to view the cranes and visit the ringing station, together with Maj. Gen. Noam Tibon, and a group of friends, running enthusiasts. After the ringing in the morning, at Ramot Naftali, with the group of visitors having greatly enjoyed the visit, it was decided to combine the love of running with the love of birds, and this is the third year that the “coolest” race in Israel has been held at the Agamon Hula with 35,000 wintering cranes in magical surroundings. About 1,000 professional runners, about 500 IDF soldiers headed by GOC (General Officer Commanding) Northern Command Maj.-Gen. Yair Golan, Maj.-Gen. Noam Tibon Commander of the northern sector, and Brigade Commander Colonel Yaniv Assor. This year, due to the Hanukkah holiday, 600 school children from the northern region of the Ministry of Education didn’t arrive, but about 400 children and parents took part in the Prinia Race (1 km), about 400 people ran in the Hoopoe Race (5 km), and about 1,000 professional runners in the Crane Race (10 km). Due to the late approval of the state budget, this year we didn’t manage in hosting 100 Jordanians and Palestinians like last year, and we’ll make every effort for this to happen in 2014.


How household dogs protect against asthma and infection
(December 16, 2013) — Children’s risk for developing allergies and asthma is reduced when they are exposed in early infancy to a dog in the household, and now researchers have discovered a reason why. … > full story


The Selling of Attention Deficit Disorder

By ALAN SCHWARZ NY Times December 15, 2013

The number of A.D.H.D. diagnoses has soared amid a 20-year marketing campaign by drug makers…..


Study: Pay kids to eat fruits, vegetables
(December 17, 2013) — Researchers observed three schools adjust to new school lunch standards that require a serving of fruits or vegetables on every student’s tray — whether the child intends to eat it or not. Students discarded 70 percent of the extra fruits and vegetables — wasting about .8 million each day. … > full story

Research backs risk-reduction surgery for ovarian cancer
(December 17, 2013) — A study backs preventative surgery to improve survival for women who are at greater risk of getting ovarian cancer and suggests it appears helpful for women at risk of getting breast cancer because of genetic. … > full story

Smoking changes our genes
(December 17, 2013) — We inherit our genes from our parents at birth. Later in life the genetic material can be changed by epigenetic modifications, i.e. chemical alterations of the DNA the affect the activity of the genes. Such alterations are normally caused by aging, but can also result from environmental factors and lifestyle. New research findings show that smoking alters several genes that can be associated with health problems for smokers, such as increased risk for cancer and diabetes. … > full story


Dogs recognize familiar faces from images
(December 18, 2013) — So far the specialized skill for recognizing facial features holistically has been assumed to be a quality that only humans and possibly primates possess. Although it’s well known, that faces and eye contact play an important role in the communication between dogs and humans, this was the first study, where facial recognition of dogs was investigated with eye movement tracking. … > full story

An apple a day keeps the doctor away
(December 17, 2013) — Prescribing an apple a day to all adults aged 50 and over would prevent or delay around 8,500 vascular deaths such as heart attacks and strokes every year in the UK — similar to giving statins to everyone over 50 years who is not already taking them — according to a study. … > full story













Happy Beethoven’s Birthday:



Which of the statements about coyotes are true?
f) a, b, and d




Ellie Cohen, President and CEO

Point Blue Conservation Science (formerly PRBO)

3820 Cypress Drive, Suite 11, Petaluma, CA 94954

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


Point Blue—Conservation science for a healthy planet.


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