Conservation Science News January 17, 2014

Focus of the WeekNew IPCC Leaked Report- Risk of Severe Climate Change Disruption Rising; Drought Emergency Declared in CA









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Focus of the Week– New IPCC Leaked Report- Risk of Severe Climate Change Disruption Rising; Drought Emergency Declared in CA



1-U.N. Says Lag in Confronting Climate Woes Will Be Costly


By JUSTIN GILLIS NY Times JAN. 16, 2014 Related:


Nations have so dragged their feet in battling climate change that the situation has grown critical and the risk of severe economic disruption is rising, according to a draft United Nations report. Another 15 years of failure to limit carbon emissions could make the problem virtually impossible to solve with current technologies, experts found. Delay would likely force future generations to develop the ability to suck greenhouse gases out of the atmosphere and store them underground to preserve the livability of the planet, the report found. But it is not clear whether such technologies will ever exist at the necessary scale, and even if they do, the approach would likely be wildly expensive compared with taking steps now to slow emissions.


The report said that governments of the world were still spending far more money to subsidize fossil fuels than to accelerate the shift to cleaner energy, thus encouraging continued investment in projects like coal-burning power plants that pose a long-term climate risk. While the spread of technologies like solar power and wind farms might give the impression of progress, the report said, such developments are being overtaken by rising emissions from fossil fuels over the past decade, especially in fast-growing countries like China. And one of the most important sources of low-carbon energy, nuclear power, is actually declining over time as a percentage of the global energy mix, the report said.


Unless far greater efforts are made to reduce emissions, “the fundamental drivers of emissions growth are expected to persist despite major improvements in energy supply” and in the efficiency with which energy is used, the report declared. The new warnings come in a draft report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, a United Nations panel of climate experts that won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2007 for its efforts to analyze and communicate the risks of climate change. The report is not final, but a draft dated Dec. 17 leaked this week and was first reported by Reuters. The New York Times obtained a copy independently.


Business leaders will address many of the problems raised in the draft next week, at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, where a day will be devoted to addressing the rising economic costs of climate change — and the costs to businesses and governments of solving the problem. Within the business community, “there is an awakening of increasing economic risk — a recognition that operating conditions are changing and we need to respond,” said Dominic Waughray, head of environmental initiatives for the forum. “There has been a failure of government to address these solutions. If there is an alliance of companies that can bite off pieces of the puzzle, it might help.” In the dry language of a technical committee, the draft outlines an increasingly dire situation.


Even as the early effects of climate change are starting to be felt around the world, the panel concluded that efforts are lagging not only in reducing emissions, but in adapting to the climatic changes that have become inevitable. It is true, the report found, that the political willingness to tackle climate change is growing in many countries and new policies are spreading, but the report said these were essentially being outrun by the rapid growth of fossil fuels. While emissions appear to have fallen in recent years in some of the wealthiest countries, that is somewhat of an illusion, the report found. The growth of international trade means many of the goods consumed in wealthy countries are now made abroad — so that those countries have, in effect, outsourced their greenhouse gas emissions to countries like China.


Emissions in the United States rose slightly in 2013, but are still about 10 percent below their 2005 levels, largely because of the newfound abundance of natural gas, which produces less greenhouse gases than burning coal. The Kyoto Protocol, an international treaty meant to limit emissions, has “not been as successful as intended,” the report found. That is partly because some important countries like the United States refused to ratify it or later withdrew, but also because of flaws within the treaty itself, the report found. The treaty exempted developing countries from taking strong action, for instance, a decision that many experts now say was a mistake. Efforts are underway to negotiate a new international treaty to replace the Kyoto Protocol, but it is not even supposed to take effect until 2020, and it is unclear whether countries will agree on ambitious goals to limit emissions. It is equally unclear how much political support a new treaty will gain in China and the United States, the world’s largest emitters.


The Obama administration is pushing for a deal, but any treaty would have to be ratified by the Senate; many Republicans and some coal-state Democrats are wary, fearing economic damage to the country. The new report suggests, however, that the real question is whether to take some economic pain now, or more later.
Nations have agreed to try to limit the warming of the planet to 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit above preindustrial levels. Even though it will be exceedingly difficult to meet, this target would still mean vast ecological and economic damage, experts have found. But the hope is that these would come on slowly enough to be somewhat manageable; having no target would be to risk catastrophic disruption, the thinking goes
As scientists can best figure, the target requires that atmospheric concentrations of carbon dioxide, the main greenhouse gas, stay below 500 parts per million. The level recently surpassed 400, and at present growth rates will surpass 500 within a few decades.


If countries permit continued high emissions growth until 2030, the draft report found, the target will likely be impossible to meet, at least without a hugely expensive crash program to rebuild the energy system, and even that might not work.If emissions do overshoot the target, the report found, future generations would likely have to develop ways to pull greenhouse gases out of the air. It is fairly clear this will be technically possible. It could be achieved, for instance, by growing bioenergy crops that take up carbon dioxide, burning the resulting fuel and then injecting the emissions into underground formations.


The leaked draft is the third and final segment of a major report that the climate change panel is completing in stages. The first segment, published in Stockholm in September, reviewed the fundamental physical science of climate change, finding a 95 percent or greater likelihood that human activity is the main cause of the ongoing planetary warming. The second segment, focusing on the probable impacts of climate change, leaked in October and is due for publication in Yokohama, Japan, in March; a major finding is expected to be that the food supply is at serious risk as warming continues. The third segment, prepared by a committee made up largely of economists and policy analysts, many of them with some scientific training, focuses on policies that could limit the overall damages from climate change, and is to be published after an editing session in Berlin in April.


Coral Davenport contributed reporting.






Jerry Brown declares drought emergency, asks public to ration water

Kurtis Alexander SF Chronicle Updated 9:17 am, Friday, January 17, 2014

(01-17) 09:16 PST San Francisco — Gov. Jerry Brown on Friday officially declared a drought emergency in California, asking for a collaborative effort from water users around the state to ration supplies. The governor, while not ordering mandatory rationing, said he is seeking the voluntary reduction of water use by 20 percent from people and businesses around the state. The declaration, announced at a news conference at the governor’s San Francisco office, comes as the state is gripped by a third consecutive year of dry weather. Rivers are running low. Snowpack is meager. And communities across California are worried about having sufficient water for homes, businesses and farmland. The dry weather also has increased the threat of wildfire, with record acreage burning this month, including a 1,700-acre fire that continues to char the hills above Los Angeles. Friday’s declaration is the third statewide drought declaration statewide since 1987, the previous coming between 2007 and 2009. An earlier declaration came during the 1976-77 drought, amid Brown’s first stint as governor.


This January, most of California has seen little or no rainfall. The dry spell follows a record-dry 2013 in much of the state, and climate models suggest rain will remain scant during the next few months, setting up California for its third dry winter in a row. Meanwhile, the Sierra Nevada snowpack, vital to filling the state’s sprawling system of reservoirs, measured just 17 percent of normal this week. Already, a handful of water agencies have imposed restrictions on consumers while others – including some in the Bay Area – are asking for voluntary water reductions. Sacramento is the biggest community to enact requirements so far, ordering consumers Tuesday to scale back water use by 20 to 30 percent. Few areas are threatened as much as the Central Valley, where farmers dependent on state and federal water allocations face among their lowest allotments in years. The State Water Project estimated in November that it would fill only 5 percent of the water requests it has received from contracting agencies. Federal officials offered some support Thursday. The U.S. Department of Agriculture designated 27 of California’s 58 counties – alongside portions of 10 other states – as natural disaster areas because of the drought, which means farmers can get emergency low-interest loans. While projections released his week from the National Weather Service don’t offer much hope of improving conditions, forecasters note that two months remain of the wet season – plenty of time to make up for lost ground.


National Overview

– Annual 2013

Top of Form


CALIFORNIA OUTLOOK: Logan Johnson, Warning Coordination Meteorologist, National Weather Service, San Francisco Bay Area/Monterey, CA:













  • More….






Living on islands makes animals tamer
(January 10, 2014) — Biologists have found that island lizards are “tame” compared to their mainland relatives, confirming Charles Darwin’s observations of island tameness. Darwin had noted that island animals often acted tame, and presumed that they had evolved to be so after coming to inhabit islands that lacked most predators. The researchers found island lizards were more accessible the farther the islands were from the mainland. … > full story


Nitrous oxide emissions in streams and rivers examined
(January 14, 2014) — The scientists are trying to understand how populations of microorganisms regulate emissions of nitrous oxide from streams and rivers. … > full story


Death dust: The valley-fever menance. New Yorker January 20, 2014

Dust storms in the West stir up microscopic spores of the toxic soil-dwelling fungus Coccidioides immitis. The Centers for Disease Control reports a tenfold increase in infections, some of them fatal.

In 1977, the San Joaquin Valley—the swath of agricultural land that runs through central California—was designated a disaster area. Record-low runoff and scant rainfall had created drought conditions. At the beginning of Christmas week, the weather was normal in Bakersfield, the city at the Valley’s southern end, but in the early hours of December 20th a strong wind began to blow from the Great Basin through the Tehachapi Mountains. Hitting the ground on the downslope, it lofted a cloud of loose topsoil and mustard-colored dust into the sky. The plume rose to five thousand feet; dust blotted out the sun four counties away. Traffic on Highway 5, the state’s main artery, stopped. At a certain point, the anemometers failed; the U.S. Geological Survey estimated wind speeds as high as a hundred and ninety-two miles an hour. Windows on houses were sandblasted to paper thinness. The Tempest from Tehachapi, as one researcher called it, spread dirt over an area the size of Maine. Twenty hours afterward, the dust reached Sacramento, four hundred miles north of Bakersfield, in the form of a murky haze that hung in the air for another day, stinging the eyes and noses of the residents. On the twenty-first, it started raining in Sacramento, which turned the dust to mud, coating the cars and sidewalks, and marked the end of the drought. Over the next several weeks, Sacramento County recorded more than a hundred cases of coccidioidomycosis, otherwise known as valley fever, or cocci, a disease caused by inhaling the microscopic spores of Coccidioides immitis, a soil-dwelling fungus found in Bakersfield. (In the previous twenty years, there had never been more than half a dozen cases a year.) Six of the victims died…..


Scientists warn: Conservation work in zoos is too random

(January 15, 2014) — The world’s zoos work hard and spend enormous resources on the conservation of endangered species, but the resources are not always optimally spent. One big problem is international legislation and the need of more zoos to work in regional or global networks. Zoo resources can be spent much more effectively, say scientists after analyzing animal collections across the world’s zoos. … > full story


Ice-Loving Sea Anemone Discovered Beneath the Ross Ice Shelf

Jan. 16, 2014 — Using a camera-equipped robot to explore beneath the Ross Ice Shelf off Antarctica, scientists and engineers with the Antarctic Geological Drilling (ANDRILL) Program made an astonishing discovery. Thousands upon thousands of small sea anemones were burrowed into the underside of the ice shelf, their tentacles protruding into frigid water like flowers on a ceiling. “The pictures blew my mind,” said Marymegan Daly of Ohio State University, who studied the specimens retrieved by ANDRILL team members in Antarctica. The new species, discovered in late December 2010, was publicly identified for the first time in a recent article in the journal PLoS ONE. Though other sea anemones have been found in Antarctica, the newly discovered species is the first known to live in ice. They also live upside down, hanging from the ice, compared to other sea anemones that live on or in the sea floor. …..


Bee sensors take flight to help farmers

Thousands of honey bees in Australia are being fitted with tiny sensors as part of a world-first research program to monitor the insects and their environment using a technique known as ‘swarm sensing’.

15 January 2014

The research is being led by CSIRO and aims to improve honey bee pollination and productivity on farms as well as help understand the drivers of bee Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD), a condition decimating honey bee populations worldwide. Up to 5 000 sensors, measuring 2.5mm x 2.5 mm are being fitted to the backs of the bees in Hobart, Tasmania, before being released into the wild. It’s the first time such large numbers of insects have been used for environmental monitoring. “Honey bees play a vital role in the landscape through a free pollination service for agriculture, which various crops rely on to increase yields. A recent CSIRO study showed bee pollination in Faba beans can lead to a productivity increase of 17 per cent,” CSIRO science leader Dr Paulo de Souza, who leads the swarm sensing project, said. “Around one third of the food we eat relies on pollination, but honey bee populations around the world are crashing because of the dreaded Varroa mite and Colony Collapse Disorder. Thankfully, Australia is currently free from both of those threats.” The research will also look at the impacts of agricultural pesticides on honey bees by monitoring insects that feed at sites with trace amounts of commonly used chemicals. Using this technology, we aim to understand the bee’s relationship with its environment.”….



Sonoma County wine growers set goal of 100% sustainability

Wine commission wants all vineyards on board within 5 years

In the Dry Creek Valley of Sonoma County, a worker prunes some cabernet vines for the winter. Sustainability also helps the workers get health insurance Tuesday January 14, 2014. Sonoma County vintners are announcing that winemakers here will be completely sustainable within five years, making it the first wine region in the country with such a designation.

By Stacy Finz SF Chronicle January 15, 2014 6:18 AM

The Sonoma County Winegrape Commission wants every vineyard and winery in its domain to be certified sustainable in the next five years. The plan, which will be announced Wednesday, could make Sonoma County the first wine region in the nation to be 100 percent sustainable. It’s a tall order, given that it’s difficult to get 100 percent compliance in any voluntary program, but in particular, farmers tend to be an independent lot. Then there’s the problem that the word “sustainable” is used so often that no one really knows what it means.

Yes, the commission’s president, Karissa Kruse, acknowledges that “sustainable” has become a buzzword in the market. But to growers the tenet of sustainability is fairly simple: good farming practices and living as light on the land as possible.It’s being a good steward, a good employer and a good neighbor,” she said, explaining that it comes down to using fewer chemicals and less water, and preserving the natural resources of the land. Given that 85 percent of the 1,800 vineyards in Sonoma County are family owned, there should be a strong commitment to keeping them healthy and viable to pass on to the next generation, Kruse said. There’s also a financial incentive. Consumers – whether they know what it means or not – are demanding products produced sustainably. Big-box stores such as Walmart have even begun to ask wholesalers for information on their sustainability programs, Kruse said. For those reasons most of the growers and winemakers in the region have already rolled out sustainability programs, many having third-party certification, Kruse said. “What makes this new is the exhaustive approach we’re taking,” Kruse said, adding that she hopes the push will entice small growers, who might have been reluctant to pay $1,500 to $2,000 in third-party certification, to make the investment. Karen Ross, secretary of the California Department of Food and Agriculture, said that while other regions are deep into promoting good farming and winemaking practices – including the California Sustainable Winegrowing Alliance – which helped develop the “Code of Sustainable Winegrowing Workbook,” Sonoma’s plan is the most ambitious. “What’s unique about Sonoma is the goal of 100 percent participation within a set time,” she said. “It’s pretty bold to have that level of commitment on a county-wide base system.”….



The variables in the song of every male spectacled warbler could play a crucial role in mating,
defending territory and recognition between individuals of this species. (Credit: Ana Plamero)

Male Spectacled Warblers Are Innovative Singers

Jan. 14, 2014
Science Daily— The variability in the song of the male spectacled warbler could play a crucial role in mating, defending territory and recognition between individuals of this species. Studying their acoustic signals will help to understand how this bird, with a small brain and limited social needs, can use a complex system of communication. Each male specimen of spectacled warbler, Sylvia conspicillata, has a complex, diverse song, in which new syllables are added and the order is changed as they go along, with a level of skill that relies on their capacity for innovation. Spanish scientists have characterised the acoustic signal of this species, its virtuosity and variability, to try to understand the role that this signal plays in mating, defending territory and recognising individual birds….


Farmers urged to count birds to help conservation

Johann Tasker Monday 13 January 2014 10:50

Farmers are being urged to take part in the first annual Big Farmland Bird Count and help researchers understand how conservation work is helping threatened species.

The Game & Wildlife Conservation Trust (GWCT) says the event will be one of the largest counts of farmland birds ever undertaken in the UK. It is due to take place between 1-7 February, when farmers will be invited to spend about half an hour recording the species and number of birds seen on one area of their farm. Once sightings are recorded, they will be submitted either online or post to the GWCT. Jim Egan, of the GWCT’s Allerton Project Farm, said, “Farmers and gamekeepers are responsible for managing the largest songbird habitat in this country on their land. “Their efforts to ensure the future survival of many of our most cherished farmland bird species such as skylark, yellowhammer, corn buntings and wild grey partridges are therefore vital. “We believe that having a better understanding of which conservation measures are proving to be attractive to birds and which are not will be enormously helpful in adding to our understanding of why our birds are still declining.” Official figures suggest farmland bird numbers are falling. But many farmers dispute this. Some 16,000ha (40,000 acres) of special wildlife seed crops are now being grown on farmland across England according to DEFRA and the Campaign for the Farmed Environment. In addition, farmers provide thousands of tonnes of grain as supplementary food for farmland birds during the “hungry gap” – helping birds survive the leanest months of winter.


Fly like a bird: The V formation finally explained

By Victoria Gill Science reporter, BBC News January 15, 2014

Lead researcher Steven Portugal explains new findings that reveal why birds fly in a V formation.

The mystery of why so many birds fly in a V formation may have been solved. Scientists from the Royal Veterinary College fitted data loggers to a flock of rare birds that were being trained to migrate by following a microlight. This revealed that the birds flew in the optimal position – gaining lift from the bird in front by remaining close to its wingtip. The study, published in the journal Nature, also showed that the birds timed their wing beats. A previous experiment in pelicans was the first real clue of the energy-saving purpose of V formations. It revealed that birds’ heart rates went down when they were flying together in V. But this latest study tracked and monitored the flight of every bird in the flock – recording its position, speed and heading as well as every wing flap. …

Flapping and flying

As a bird’s wings move through the air, they are held at a slight angle, which deflects the air downward.

This deflection means the air flows faster over the wing than underneath, causing air pressure to build up beneath the wings, while the pressure above the wings is reduced. It is this difference in pressure that produces lift. Flapping creates an additional forward and upward force known as thrust, which counteracts the weight and the “drag” of air resistance. The downstroke of the flap is also called the “power stroke”, as it provides the majority of the thrust. During this, the wing is angled downwards even more steeply. You can imagine this stroke as a very brief downward dive through the air – it momentarily uses the animal’s own weight in order to move forward. But because the wings continue to generate lift, the creature remains airborne.

In each upstroke, the wing is slightly folded inwards to reduce resistance. This was possible thanks to a unique conservation project by the Waldarappteam in Austria, which has raised flocks of northern bald ibises and trained them to migrate behind a microlight. The aim of this unusual project is to bring the northern bald ibis back to Europe; the birds were wiped out by hunting, so the team is retraining the birds to navigate a migration route that has now been lost. Fitting tiny data loggers to these critically endangered ibises showed that the birds often changed position and altered the timing of their wing beats to give them an aerodynamic advantage. Lead researcher Dr Steven Portugal explained: “They’re seemingly very aware of where the other birds are in the flock and they put themselves in the best possible position.” This makes the most of upward-moving air generated by the bird in front. This so-called “upwash” is created as a bird flies forward; whether it is gliding or flapping, it pushes air downward beneath its wings. ….


Steven J. Portugal, et al. Upwash exploitation and downwash avoidance by flap phasing in ibis formation flight. Nature, 2014; 505 (7483): 399 DOI: 10.1038/nature12939


River Otters Coming Back to the Urban S.F. Bay Area

By Denis Cuff Contra Costa Times Posted:   01/11/2014 05:33:53 PM PST

When fishermen reported seeing river otters in Lake Temescal earlier this year, park superintendent Doug Cantwell thought it might be an urban legend in the making.  He had never heard of the playful creatures being spotted before at the urban lake wedged between two Oakland freeways. “Maybe we should call it the Loch Ness otter,” he said with a laugh.  But Cantwell become a proud believer this fall when he saw them for himself, adding another small chapter to the comeback story of the sleek and frisky river otter to the urban Bay Area.  Otter watchers see the return as a good omen.  “We think this a hopeful sign for our water environments,” said Megan Isadore of the River Otter Ecology Project, a Marin County-based nonprofit that monitors and studies otters in the region. “The otters are clearly expanding into areas where they were not seen before.”  After decades of few or any sightings, in the past two years the group has recorded about 600 otter reports.  Either unnoticed or gone from the Bay Area three decades ago, the North American otter has been spotted in Los Gatos, San Francisco, Oakland, Fremont, Martinez, Walnut Creek, Richmond, Berkeley, Napa, Lafayette and elsewhere in the Bay Area….





US carbon emissions rose 2 percent in 2013 after years of decline.
Los Angeles Times By Tony Barboza January 13, 2014

Carbon dioxide emissions from the nation’s energy sector rose about 2 percent in 2013 after declining for several years, federal energy officials reported Monday. The reversal came because power plants last year burned more coal to generate electricity, after years in which natural gas accounted for an increasing share of the nation’s electricity, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, the analytical branch of the Department of Energy. Though the 2013 figures are not final, once all the data are in, analysts expect a roughly 2% increase in carbon emissions over 2012 because of a small rise in coal consumption, the agency said in a report posted online on Monday. Power plants are the biggest source of greenhouse gases that are building up in the atmosphere and causing climate change. Carbon dioxide emissions from domestic power generation peaked in 2007 and have declined four out of the six years since, the agency said. The downward trend is tied in part to sagging energy demand in the wake of the recent recession, but is also being propelled by improvements in energy efficiency, shifts in energy prices and the displacement of coal power by natural gas and renewables. The energy administration, in a report last year, warned of the 2013 increase in carbon emissions. That report found coal use on the upswing because of a drop in coal prices and a rise in natural gas prices. Power plants that burn natural gas produce about half as much heat-trapping carbon dioxide as coal-fired plants.


Western Land Managers will Need all Available Tools for Adapting to Climate Change, Including Grazing: A Critique of Beschta et al.

Received: 29 July 2013 / Accepted: 11 December 2013 Springer Science+Business Media New York (outside the USA) 2014

Abstract (for more information see:

In a previous article, Beschta et al. (Environ Manag 51(2):474–491,2013 ) argue that grazing by large ungulates (both native and domestic) should be eliminated or greatly reduced on western public lands to reduce potential climate change impacts. The authors did not present a balanced synthesis of the scientific literature, and their publication is more of an opinion article. Their conclusions do not reflect the complexities associated with herbivore grazing. Because grazing is a complex ecological process, synthesis of the scientific literature can be achallenge. Legacy effects of uncontrolled grazing during the homestead era further complicate analysis of current grazing impacts. Interactions of climate change and grazing will depend on the specific situation. For example, increasing atmospheric CO2 and temperatures may increase accumulation of fine fuels (primarily grasses) and thus increase wildfire risk. Prescribed grazing by livestock is one of the few management tools available for reducing fine fuel accumulation. While there are certainly points on the landscape where herbivore impacts can be identified there are also vast grazed areas where impacts are minimal. Broad scale reduction of domestic and wild herbivores to help native plant communities cope with climate change will be unnecessary because over the past 20–50 years land managers have actively sought to bring populations of native and domestic herbivores in balance with the potential of vegetation and soils. To cope with a changing climate, land managers will need access to all available vegetation management tools, including grazing.


….Beschta et al. (2013) devote a significant portion of their climate change discussion to warmer spring temperatures, reduced snow packs, earlier peak flows, and reduced summer stream flows. It is unclear how removing grazing would overcome the effects of large-scale climatic changes (such as reduced snow packs) that are triggered by larger and more complex resource issues than grazing. Some of the discussion on carbon sequestration is particularly unclear. For example, Beschta et al. (2013) cite Lal (2001) as saying that heavy grazing has long-term negative impacts on soil organic carbon. That citation is a chapter in a book titled ”The Potential of US Grazing Lands to Sequester Carbon and Mitigate the Greenhouse Effect” (Follett et al. 2001). This book provides examples where grazing increases carbon sequestration compared to no grazing. Beschta et al. (201 ) suggest that the economic impacts of their proposal would be ”relatively minor to modestly positive”. That may be true for unique areas with high recreational potential such as Jackson Hole, Wyoming, but it is not true for most of the rural West and not necessarily for even some of the high value recreation areas. A few studies have examined the regional economic impact of removing public land grazing from representative ranches and all show significant negative impacts to local economies (Torell et al. 2002 ; Rimbey et al. 2003; Tanaka et al. 2007). Whether recreation service jobs will replace ranching jobs and income lost in a local economy is largely unknown. To summarize, grazing is a complex ecological process with impacts that vary across time and space. This complexity leads to challenges in synthesizing the scientific literature and allows authors to select the literature which supports particular points of view about grazing impacts. Legacy impacts of homestead era over-grazing and potential climate change further complicate assessment of current grazing impacts. Clearly, there are examples where reduced grazing can increase the potential negative impacts of climate change (in the case of wildfire risk). We suggest that land managers in the western US will need all available vegetation management tools to cope with climate change.



Original Paper by Beschta:

Beschta RL, Donahue DL, DellaSala DA, Rhodes JJ, Karr JR, O’Brien MH, Fleischner TL, Williams CD (2013) Adapting to climate change on western public lands: addressing the ecological effects of domestic, wild, and feral ungulates. Environmental Management. 51(2):474–491

Abstract. Climate change affects public land ecosystems and services throughout the American West and these effects are projected to intensify. Even if greenhouse gas emissions are reduced, adaptation strategies for public lands are needed to reduce anthropogenic stressors of terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems and to help native species and ecosystems survive in an altered environment. Historical and contemporary livestock production-the most widespread and long-running commercial use of public lands-can alter vegetation, soils, hydrology, and wildlife species composition and abundances in ways that exacerbate the effects of climate change on these resources. Excess abundance of native ungulates (e.g., deer or elk) and feral horses and burros add to these impacts. Although many of these consequences have been studied for decades, the ongoing and impending effects of ungulates in a changing climate require new management strategies for limiting their threats to the long-term supply of ecosystem services on public lands. Removing or reducing livestock across large areas of public land would alleviate a widely recognized and long-term stressor and make these lands less susceptible to the effects of climate change. Where livestock use continues, or where significant densities of wild or feral ungulates occur, management should carefully document the ecological, social, and economic consequences (both costs and benefits) to better ensure management that minimizes ungulate impacts to plant and animal communities, soils, and water resources. Reestablishing apex predators in large, contiguous areas of public land may help mitigate any adverse ecological effects of wild ungulates.


The case for low methane-emitting cattle
(January 10, 2014) — A new research project looks into the possibilities of adapting every aspect of cattle husbandry and selection processes to lower their greenhouse gas emissions. … > 


A wildfire burns in the hills just north of the San Gabriel Valley community of Glendora, Calif., on Thursday, Jan 16, 2014. Southern California authorities have ordered the evacuation of homes at the edge of a fast-moving wildfire burning in the dangerously dry foothills of the San Gabriel Mountains. CREDIT: AP Photo/Nick Ut

Extreme Red Flag Fire Warnings Across Southern California, As Drought And Wind Fuel Fire

By Ari Phillips on January 16, 2014

On Wednesday, the National Weather Service issued a red flag fire warning for Kern County, north of Los Angeles, for the first time ever in January. Low humidity, strong winds and a lack of rain or snowfall has made the mountainous area especially susceptible the early onset of fire season. Dry and windy conditions across the region have led to critical fire warnings in counties including Santa Barbara, Los Angeles and south toward the Mexico border, as well as some areas near the San Francisco Bay. “Following the driest year on record, 2014 is kicking off as what may be the driest January on record in many locations in California,” senior meteorologist Jon Erdman said. ….In the next few days, California Governor Jerry Brown is expected to declare the state is officially in the midst of a drought…..


Acidification, Predators Pose Double Threat to Oysters

January 15, 2014The once-booming, now struggling Olympia oyster native to the West Coast could face a double threat from ocean acidification and invasive predators, according to new research from the University of California, Davis’ Bodega Marine Laboratory. The work is published Jan. 15 in the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B.… Invasive snails ate 20 percent more juvenile oysters when both oysters and snails were raised under ocean conditions forecast for the end of this century, the researchers found. The results highlight the dangers of multiple stressors on ecosystems, said Eric Sanford, professor of evolution and ecology at UC Davis and first author on the study. “You might decide to go to work if you had a toothache. But what if you had a toothache, the flu, and a broken leg? At some point, multiple stressors will cause natural systems to break down,” he said. Native Olympia oysters were once so common in San Francisco Bay that they were a cheap food during the Gold Rush, commemorated in Hangtown Fry, an omelet of eggs, bacon and oysters. The population collapsed from overfishing in the late 1800s and has never recovered. Atlantic oysters imported to the West Coast brought predatory snails such as the Atlantic oyster drill, which uses acid and a rasping tongue to drill holes in oyster shells.

….Scientists have become increasingly concerned about the effects of climate change on ocean chemistry. As heat-trapping carbon dioxide builds up in the atmosphere, some of the gas dissolves in the oceans, causing a steady rise in the overall acidity of the oceans. An interdisciplinary team of researchers based at UC Davis’ Bodega Marine Laboratory is looking into the oceans’ future by raising animals in seawater with raised levels of dissolved carbon dioxide. In earlier work, they found that oysters raised under conditions predicted for the end of this century are smaller than present-day animals. In Tomales Bay north of San Francisco, young snails emerge from egg capsules at about the same time of year that juvenile oysters settle from the plankton and grow into adults. Sanford and colleagues raised both oysters and snails in the lab to simulate this process under present-day conditions and with levels of carbon dioxide forecast for 2100. They found that oysters raised under high carbon dioxide were smaller, but did not have thinner shells than oysters reared under present-day conditions. The snails were not affected by high carbon dioxide, but ate 20 percent more oysters under these conditions. “It’s like if you go out for tacos,” Sanford said. “If the tacos are smaller, you’re going to eat more of them….> full story


E. Sanford, et al Ocean acidification increases the vulnerability of native oysters to predation by invasive snails. Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences, 2014; 281 (1778): 20132681 DOI: 10.1098/rspb.2013.2681


Key species of algae shows effects of climate change over time
(January 15, 2014)
A study of marine life in the temperate coastal waters of the northeast Pacific Ocean shows a reversal of competitive dominance among species of algae, suggesting that increased ocean acidification caused by global climate change is altering biodiversity. The study, published online January 15, 2014, in the journal Ecology Letters, examined competitive dynamics among crustose coralline algae, a group of species living in the waters around Tatoosh Island, Washington. These species of algae grow skeletons made of calcium carbonate, much like other shelled organisms such as mussels and oysters. As the ocean absorbs more carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, the water becomes more acidic. Crustose coralline algae and shellfish have difficulty producing their skeletons and shells in such an environment, and can provide an early indicator of how increasing ocean acidification affects marine life. “Coralline algae is one of the poster organisms for studying ocean acidification,” said lead study author Sophie McCoy, a PhD candidate in the Department of Ecology and Evolution at the University of Chicago. “On one hand, they can grow faster because of increased carbon dioxide in the water, but on the other hand, ocean acidification makes it harder for them to deposit the skeleton. It’s an important tradeoff.” … > full story



Coral reefs in Palau surprisingly resistant to naturally acidified waters
(January 15, 2014) — Ocean researchers working on the coral reefs of Palau in 2011 and 2012 made two unexpected discoveries that could provide insight into corals’ resistance and resilience to ocean acidification, and aid in the creation of a plan to protect them. … > full story


Safe havens revealed for biodiversity in a changed climate
(January 13, 2014) — Researchers have found a way to project future habitat locations under climate change, identifying potential safe havens for
threatened biodiversity. ….
or the first time, their novel approach, recently published in PLOS One and involving Light Detection And Ranging (LiDAR) instruments, is able to translate a traditional plot observation to the entire landscape. Dr Wardell-Johnson said this enabled the team to apply expected future changes in rainfall to landscape-scale vegetation and find potential refugial sites, essential for conservation efforts. “Global warming is a particular issue in Mediterranean-climate regions. It is especially so in the flat landscapes of south-western Australia — home to a global biodiversity hotspot,” Dr Wardell-Johnson said. “South-western Australians have been living through the impacts of a drying climate for more than 40 years and are bracing for a continuing drier and warmer trend. Understanding where refugia will be is of particular importance in light of human-caused global warming, to offer the best chances for our precious flora and fauna in times of transformative change.”

By using 4-metre x 4-metre plot-based data of vegetation profiles on and around granite outcrops across south-western Australia, the team were able to relate vegetation types to soil depth and rainfall. They found a very strong relationship between all three. This finding meant the team could compare current climate and future climate under a continuing trend of reduced rainfall in the region…. Dr Wardell-Johnson said that very large shifts in vegetation structure were predicted and able to be mapped for future climates, with greatest changes expected to happen in the highest rainfall areas.

“We found it very likely that some refugia will be found in sites receiving greatest water run-off below granite outcrops, as well as areas where a reduction in rainfall is offset by deeper soil,” Dr Wardell-Johnson said. … > full story


Antonius G. T. Schut, et al. Rapid Characterisation of Vegetation Structure to Predict Refugia and Climate Change Impacts across a Global Biodiversity Hotspot. PLoS ONE, 2014; 9 (1): e82778 DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0082778


Arctic: Mercury deposition and ozone depletion, linked to sea-ice dynamics
(January 15, 2014) — Scientists have established, for the first time, a link between Arctic sea ice dynamics and the region’s changing atmospheric chemistry potentially leading to increased amounts of mercury deposited to the Earth’s northernmost and most fragile ecosystems. … > full story


Massive Antarctic Glacier Has Entered Irreversible Melt, Could Add Up To 1 Centimeter To Sea Level

By Ari Phillips on January 13, 2014 at 5:01 pm

CREDIT: NASA Goddard Space Flight Center

After last week’s Arctic-fueled cold snap — dubbed the ‘Polar Vortex’ — brought freezing temperatures and claims of climate change denial to the attention of the general public, the situation has now returned to normal. Or the new normal at least — in which climate change happens out-of-sight and out-of-mind for many Americans. One of the latest indicators that climate change is progressing whether we’re looking or not comes from a study in the journal Nature Climate Change finding that one of the largest glaciers in Antarctica has started melting irreversibly. An international team of researchers found that Antarctica’s Pine Island Glacier, the single largest Antarctic contributor to sea-level rise, could add as much as one centimeter to ocean levels within the next 20 years.

The glacier “has started a phase of self-sustained retreat and will irreversibly continue its decline,” Gael Durand, a glaciologist with France’s Grenoble Alps University, told Australian Broadcasting Corporation. The team of researchers used state-of-the-art ice-flow models and field observations to help determine how the glacier’s ice flows will change in coming years. “At the Pine Island Glacier we have seen that not only is more ice flowing from the glacier into the ocean, but it’s also flowing faster across the grounding line — the boundary between the grounded ice and the floating ice,” Dr. G. Hilmar Gudmundsson, a researcher on the project, told Planet Earth Magazine. The glaciologists found that that glacier’s grounding line, which has already receded up to 10 kilometers this century, is “probably engaged in an unstable 40-kilometer retreat.” Pine Island Glacier is one of the main avenues for ice to flow from Antarctica into the ocean. As the tip of the glacier melts and thins, the glacier is discharging more ice into the sea. The glacier has been losing about 20 billion tonnes of ice a year for the last two decades, but scientists see this rising to 100 billion tonnes a year in the coming decades.


The Flood Next Time

By JUSTIN GILLIS NY Times January 13 2014

The numbers are unmistakable, scientists say. Global sea level is rising, while land along the East Coast is sinking. Just ask Norfolk, Va. ….That may not sound like much, but scientists say even the smallest increase causes the seawater to eat away more aggressively at the shoreline in calm weather, and leads to higher tidal surges during storms. The sea-level rise of decades past thus explains why coastal towns nearly everywhere are having to spend billions of dollars fighting erosion. The evidence suggests that the sea-level rise has probably accelerated, to about a foot a century, and scientists think it will accelerate still more with the continued emission of large amounts of greenhouse gases into the air. The gases heat the planet and cause land ice to melt into the sea. The official stance of the world’s climate scientists is that the global sea level could rise as much as three feet by the end of this century, if emissions continue at a rapid pace. But some scientific evidence supports even higher numbers, five feet and beyond in the worst case…..


Climate Aids in Study Face Big Obstacles


Some of the technologies cited in the latest draft report by United Nations climate experts face significant obstacles before they can be widely put in effect to limit the impact of climate change. The technologies, including a method of energy production that permanently removes carbon dioxide from the air, are still in their infancy, with few projects operating around the world. The report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change refers to bioenergy with carbon capture and storage, or Beccs, as a possible mitigation technology. Beccs involves using biomass — often waste from crop or forest production — to produce energy. Vegetation removes carbon dioxide that is currently in the air through photosynthesis and stores the carbon in its tissues. When the vegetation is burned, carbon dioxide is released. With Beccs, this gas is captured and injected deep underground. The net effect is permanent removal of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. Fossil fuels form from vegetation that is millions of years old, so capturing the carbon released by burning does not reduce current atmospheric concentrations. Some studies have suggested that the technology, if widely adopted, could result in the removal of about 10 billion metric tons of carbon dioxide a year by 2050. (Energy producers and industry currently emit about 30 billion metric tons of carbon dioxide a year.) But there are many challenges to widespread adoption of Beccs, and while there have been a few small demonstration projects overseas, there is only one in the United States, in central Illinois. ….



Far West Got Drier Last Year, Data Shows

By HENRY FOUNTAIN NY Times JAN. 15, 2014

Drought conditions in California and elsewhere in the Far West intensified last year, government scientists said Wednesday, adding to concerns about water supplies in the region.
Although on the whole 2013 was a wetter than average year for the contiguous 48 states, the scientists said, that statistic masked sharp regional differences. Many states east of the Rockies had much higher than average precipitation, helping to alleviate drought in the central United States and the Southeast. “But California had its driest calendar year on record, by a pretty wide margin,” said Jake Crouch, a scientist with the National Climatic Data Center in Asheville, N.C. Other Western states were affected as well: Oregon, for example, had its fourth-driest year on record. According to the center, which released its annual review of the nation’s weather, California had almost two and a half inches less precipitation than it had in the previous record year, 1898. Snowpack levels at many mountain locations in the state were about 25 percent of normal, Mr. Crouch said. Melted snow normally provides about one-third of the state’s water. In the early part of 2013, the scientists said, the state experienced a dry end to the wet season, which began the previous November. “We knew by the time we got into midspring that the next really good chance to see drought relief was late 2013,” said Deke Arndt, the chief of the data center’s climate monitoring branch. But dry conditions persisted last fall. “We have not seen a productive season,” he said. Last year was also warmer than average for the 48 contiguous states, the scientists said. But the nation got a respite from the blistering conditions of 2012, which was the hottest year in the 119 years that records have been kept. Over all, 2013 was slightly more than three degrees cooler than 2012, and the average summer temperature, 72.6 degrees, was the lowest since 2009. Last year was also relatively quiet in terms of extreme weather, with the fewest hurricanes and tornadoes in decades. The tornado count was about 900, or about 70 percent of the annual average and the lowest number since 1989. There were only two hurricanes in 2013, the fewest since 1982, and neither made landfall in the United States. The data center reported seven weather disasters with losses of $1 billion or more last year.

Five involved severe storms or tornadoes, including the Category 5 tornado that hit Moore, Okla., on May 20, killing 24 people. The center has not yet estimated the total monetary damage for each disaster, but the total of seven is lower than in each of the previous two years. Over all, 2013 was a “relatively benign year,” Mr. Arndt said, especially compared with 2011 and 2012. But any single year “by itself doesn’t fully affirm or refute what we already know about climate change,” he said. Mr. Arndt added, “We’re very confident that we see in the data an increase in the three main variables that we know are related to climate change.” Those variables are stronger and more frequent heat waves, more frequent episodes of heavy precipitation and fewer intense cold snaps…..



Big, old trees keep growing and capturing carbon, study finds

The world’s biggest trees – such as this large western white pine in the Sierra Nevada – are also the fastest-growing trees, according to a new study. (Rob Hayden)

By Bettina Boxall LA TIMES January 15, 2014, 7:17 p.m.

Scientists who gathered decades of measurements from hundreds of thousands of trees all over the world are punching a hole in the common assumption that large, old trees are biologically pretty much over the hill. To the contrary, researchers found that the senior trees have rapid growth rates and keep capturing carbon – lots of it. “The growth rate just keeps increasing as trees get bigger,” said study leader Nate Stephenson, a California-based research ecologist with the U.S. Geological Survey. The findings, published Wednesday in a letter in the journal Nature, are based on repeated measurements of 673,046 trees belonging to 403 species across every forested continent. The 38 authors said that extraordinary growth was not limited to a few standout species, like giant sequoias. “Rather, rapid growth in giant trees is the global norm and can exceed [1,300 pounds] per year in the largest individuals,” they wrote. The productivity of individual leaves – that is, the amount of mass a tree adds per unit of leaf area – does decline with age. “But the thing is that old trees have so much more leaf area than a little tree, they more than compensate for that decline in productivity,” Stephenson said. It’s well known that large trees are good at locking up carbon, preventing it from escaping into the atmosphere and contributing to global warming. But the research suggests that the big guys are not just storing carbon. They are fixing large amounts of it with continued rapid growth, every year adding a little more mass to their trunks, limbs and leaves. At the high end, the authors said a single big tree can in one year add the same amount of carbon to a forest as is stored in an entire mid-sized tree. “It’s the equivalent of managing a sports team,” Stephenson said. “You need to know who your star players are. It turns out they’re not the 20-year-olds. They’re the 90-year-olds.”
In old growth plots in the western U.S., the authors said the largest trees comprised 6% of the forest but contributed a third of the annual growth in forest mass.
That does not mean, however, that on a forest level old stands capture more carbon overall than young stands. Young forests are denser, with more trees, and when old trees die, they release carbon back into the atmosphere….

Stephenson and Adrian Das, a USGS coauthor, got the idea for the study after observing rapid growth rates in big trees in Sierra Nevada research plots. They wanted to know whether the same was true elsewhere. So they put out a call for data. Researchers from around the world responded, providing diameter measurements that had periodically been taken of the same large trees, in some cases over decades. The measurements were then used to figure increases in the trees’ overall mass. “We already knew it’s important to conserve old trees for the species that depend on them,” Stephenson said. “I just think this adds a little bit of extra emphasis. Not only do they lock up a lot of carbon, they’re really good at pulling carbon out of the atmosphere.”


Tide Gauges Needed for Research Are Often Victims of Storms

By JUSTIN GILLIS NY Times January 13 2014

As Hurricanes Sandy, Katrina and Rita showed, equipment for accurate tidal readings, vital to understanding individual storms, may not withstand them.



High levels of molecular chlorine found in arctic atmosphere
(January 13, 2014) — Scientists studying the atmosphere above Barrow, Alaska, have discovered unprecedented levels of molecular chlorine in the air, a new study reports. … > full story



Walden Pond trees leafing out far earlier than in Thoreau’s time
(January 13, 2014) — Climate-change studies show leaf-out times of trees and shrubs at Walden Pond are an average of 18 days earlier than when Henry David Thoreau made his observations there in the 1850s. … > full story



The Rim fire, its recovery and the debate

By Pia Lopez Published: Sunday, Jan. 12, 2014 – 12:00 am

Smoke still curls out of smoldering forest from the Rim fire that swept through the Stanislaus National Forest, Yosemite National Park and private timberland late last summer. A sea of black candlesticks covers vast sections of the landscape. The Rim fire scorched 257,000 acres, making it the largest wildfire ever recorded in the Sierra Nevada. That’s like having 40 percent of Sacramento County burn. ….So now the issue is recovery. On the table for debate is how much salvage logging should be allowed in the national forest, how much land should be left untouched, and how much should be planted in conifer seedlings to help regenerate the forest within our lifetime. Unfortunately, the extremes have dominated the stage. At one end are those who advocate logging even the most inaccessible dead trees on steep slopes and who want massive, tree-farm replanting. At the other end are those who advocate leaving every dead tree in place. Both could contribute to high-intensity fire in the future.


[Also, SAC BEE Editorial –]


Heatwave halts Australian Open tennis matches

Soaring temperatures have halted matches at the Australian Open tennis tournament, as a report warns that the country will see hotter heatwaves. Melbourne, where the tournament is held, is seeing a third consecutive day of heat above 40C, with temperatures of 41.7C (107F) on Thursday. Australia’s Climate Council says in a report that the number of hot days in the country has “more than doubled”. 2013 was recently declared Australia’s hottest year on record. The Climate Council report attributed the development to climate change, caused by greenhouse gases….


Australia’s record heatwave: melting bottles and fainting ball boys

Top-ranked tennis players in Australia faint and hallucinate as a heatwave melts water bottles and forces beach life guards to work at night

By Jonathan Pearlman, Sydney 2:26PM GMT 14 Jan 2014

Australia is in the grip of an extreme heatwave which has forced beach life guards to work at night and left players and ball-boys hallucinating and complaining of “inhumane” conditions at the Australian Open tennis championship. The worst-affected cities have been Melbourne and Adelaide, which are facing daily temperatures of up to 113F (45C) for the rest of the week. The state of Victoria has warned it is facing its highest fire danger since the devastating Black Saturday bushfires in 2009, which killed 173 people and destroyed 2000 homes. Tens of thousands of firefighters have been put on standby and fire bans were imposed across the state. ….At the Australian Open in Melbourne, plastic water bottles melted on the rubberised courts as the tournament faced one of its hottest days in history. A Canadian player, Frank Dancevic, hallucinated and thought he saw “Snoopy” before collapsing and receiving treatment during his first-round defeat to Frenchman Benoit Paire. The temperatures at the open hit a high of 109F (42.8C). ….




Australian heatwave set to worsen as fires rage. Agence France-Presse

Australians sweltering through a severe heatwave were warned on Thursday that the worst Is yet to come, with hundreds of fires raging in several states and temperatures nearing record highs….


Shishmaref, Alaska, a village eroding due to climate change, asks for congressional action.
Anchorage Alaska Dispatch
Five residents from the eroding village of Shishmaref in Northwest Alaska journeyed to Washington, D.C., this week to sound the alarm on climate change, while hauling a pineapple-sized chunk of frozen tundra to present to lawmakers.


Extreme Weather Wreaking Havoc on Food as Farmers Suffer

By Brian K. Sullivan, Elizabeth Campbell and Rudy Ruitenberg January 17, 2014

The cut off stalks of corn plants stand in a field cleared after drought conditions and extreme heat during pollination irreversibly damaged the crop in the United States. Photographer: Daniel Acker/Bloomberg

Volatile weather around the world is taking farmers on a wild ride. Too much rain in northern China damaged crops in May, three years after too little rain turned the world’s second-biggest corn producer into a net importer of the grain. Dry weather in the U.S. will cut beef output from the world’s biggest producer to the lowest level since 1994, following 2013’s bumper corn crop, which pushed America’s inventory up 30 percent. U.K. farmers couldn’t plant in muddy fields after the second-wettest year on record in 2012 dented the nation’s wheat production….



Environment Agency warns of risk of further flooding in southern England

The Guardian

 – ‎January 10 2014‎


People living along the lower reaches of the Thames, as well as the Avon in Hampshire and the Stour in Dorset, should be prepared for the risk of flooding 


Meltwater from Tibetan glaciers floods pastures
(January 16, 2014) — Glaciers are important indicators of climate change. Global warming causes mountain glaciers to melt, which, apart from the shrinking of the Greenlandic and Antarctic ice sheets, is regarded as one of the main causes of the present global sea-level rise. Tibet’s glaciers are also losing mass clearly, as scientists reveal using satellite-based laser measurements. Over the last decade, the research team has detected a “clear loss in mass of around 16 gigatons a year in around 80 percent of the Tibetan glaciers,” says a glaciologist. …


Increasing threat of intense tropical cyclones hitting East Asia
(January 15, 2014) — The intensity of tropical cyclones hitting East Asia has significantly increased over the past 30 years, according to a new study. … > full story



Climate-change denying scientists … er … scientist getting a bit lonely

By Meteor Blades Jan 14, 2014 11:18am PST  Daily Kos

Here’s how many scientists published peer-reviewed articles denying climate change in the past year (se diagram above). Writes Holly Richmond at Grist:  Only one — ONE — of the 9,137 authors of peer-reviewed climate change articles rejected anthropogenic global warming. Geochemist James Powell did the research on publications from November 2012 and December 2013. (But if a year-long sample isn’t good enough for you, Powell previously examined 21 years of peer-reviewed literature and found that only 24 out of 13,950 articles — or two-tenths of a percent — came out and rejected human-caused climate change.)  The lone dissident, S. V. Avakyan, wrote in Herald of the Russian Academy of Sciences, “The contribution of the greenhouse effect of carbon-containing gases to global warming turns out to be insignificant.” But Coby Beck smacks this idea down in his “How to talk to a climate skeptic” series….Another big chunk, moderate Republicans and, sadly, many Democrats, are delayers when it comes climate change policy. And delay is denial….




Records fall as temperatures rise in SF Bay Area

Vivian Ho, San Francisco Chronicle Published 7:38 pm, Wednesday, January 15, 2014

(01-15) 19:37 PST SAN FRANCISCO — Temperatures reached record highs throughout the Bay Area on Wednesday, bringing the number of shattered records to 36 since Jan. 1. Oakland International Airport saw temperatures soar to 77 degrees, with downtown Oakland at 76, both beating records set in 2009, the National Weather Service said. San Francisco International Airport hit 73 degrees, breaking a 1974 record high of 69, but downtown San Francisco, at 71, missed the 2009 record by 2 degrees. Napa, at 72 degrees, burned past a 1966 record of 70, while temperatures at Moffett Field tied a 2009 record of 72. Marin County also surpassed a record, with a high of 68 in Kentfield. The last record, 67 degrees, was reported in 1945. The recent winter spate of dry, warm weather has broken a number of records, with San Jose beating a 2009 record on Tuesday, reaching 74 by 3 p.m., and Pinnacles National Park in San Benito County hitting 83. In contrast, December’s cold snap set 37 record lows, the National Weather Service reported. The heat is expected to continue through Thursday, said meteorologist Will Pi. “It will probably end by Friday, and get a little cooler,” he said. “But in general, the high-pressure system is still over us, so it will be pretty warm.”


Major drought a curse, blessing

SF Chronicle January 17, 2014

Historic dry spell could become a dire emergency. But rather than just fretting, some are enjoying the great weather.




U.N. Says Lag in Confronting Climate Woes Will Be Costly

By JUSTIN GILLIS NY Times JAN. 16, 2014

Nations have so dragged their feet in battling climate change that the situation has grown critical and the risk of severe economic disruption is rising, according to a draft United Nations report. Another 15 years of failure to limit carbon emissions could make the problem virtually impossible to solve with current technologies, experts found. Delay would likely force future generations to develop the ability to suck greenhouse gases out of the atmosphere and store them underground to preserve the livability of the planet, the report found. But it is not clear whether such technologies will ever exist at the necessary scale, and even if they do, the approach would likely be wildly expensive compared with taking steps now to slow emissions. The report said that governments of the world were still spending far more money to subsidize fossil fuels than to accelerate the shift to cleaner energy, thus encouraging continued investment in projects like coal-burning power plants that pose a long-term climate risk….The new warnings come in a draft report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, a United Nations panel of climate experts that won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2007 for its efforts to analyze and communicate the risks of climate change. The report is not final, but a draft dated Dec. 17 leaked this week and was first reported by Reuters. The New York Times obtained a copy independently.

Boxer task force’s 1st goal to change political climate

Carolyn Lochhead Updated 10:10 pm, Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Sen. Barbara Boxer leads a task force made up of Democrats and independents. Photo: J. Scott Applewhite, Associated Press

WashingtonShrugging off potential political damage to vulnerable Southern and mountain-state Democrats, Sen. Barbara Boxer led 18 senators Tuesday on an election-year assault against climate change denial, accusing oil and coal interests of holding members of Congress captive on the issue. These ostensible captives are not just Republicans, but Democrats representing conservative-leaning states that are home to large fossil-fuel industries. Democratic senators facing tough re-election battles in November include Mary Landrieu of Louisiana, home to the nation’s offshore oil industry, and Mark Begich of Alaska, another big oil producer. Democrats also must defend three seats left open by retirements in coal and gas country: Montana, West Virginia and South Dakota. In all five states, Republicans lead by large margins in early polling. Democrats now control the Senate by a five-vote margin. Asked about the risk of a climate-change task force whose agenda she unveiled Tuesday, Boxer, D-Calif., called the political calculus “ridiculous.” “How about we get five Republicans from coastal states whose states are already suffering from sea-level rise, droughts, floods and all the rest of it?” Boxer said. “I’m not going to walk into that issue, that I have to have 100 percent of Democrats. I don’t need 100 percent of Democrats. All I need is a majority of Democrats and Republicans, and we will change this place and we will make sure that our grandchildren have a safe planet.”….Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., did not join the task force, but is a member of an allied group of Democratic senators called the Climate Change Clearinghouse, a kind of internal think tank.



Feinstein, Boxer, Costa Call on President to Form Federal Drought Task Force

Urge Swift Action if State Requests Federal Disaster Declaration

Washington, DC January 16 2014 Maven’s Notebook

In light of California’s extreme dry conditions, Senator Dianne Feinstein, Senator Barbara Boxer, and Congressman Jim Costa called on President Obama to form a federal drought task force capable of coordinating a swift, decisive crossagency response to the state’s looming water crisis. In a letter, the lawmakers also asked that the President move quickly to authorize a disaster declaration should California request a federal declaration. Last month, Costa and Feinstein urged California Governor Jerry Brown to declare a statewide drought emergencythat would mobilize additional resources necessary to address the state’s current water challenges. Full text of the letter here.


Environmental groups say Obama needs to address climate change more …

Washington Post January 17, 2014 Juliet Eilperin and Lenny Bernstein

A group of the nation’s leading environmental organizations is breaking with the administration over its energy policy, arguing that the White House needs to apply a strict climate test to all of its energy decisions or risk undermining one of the president’s top second-term priorities. The rift — reflected in a letter sent to President Obama by 18 groups, including the Sierra Club, the Environmental Defense Fund and Earthjustice — signals that the administration is under pressure to confront the fossil-fuel industry or risk losing support from a critical part of its political base during an already difficult election year. For years, the administration has pushed aggressively to limit pollution from coal-fired power plants and improve fuel efficiency in transportation while also embracing domestic production of natural gas, oil and coal under an “all of the above” energy strategy. This has angered environmental groups, which reluctantly went along until Thursday’s break. “You can’t have it both ways,” Sierra Club Executive Director Michael Brune said in an interview. The criticism came on the same day that the fossil-fuel industry and its congressional allies began separate efforts to challenge the administration’s environmental policies. That suggests that the White House will have to marshal additional resources to defend the work it is already doing to address climate change….



Global warming’s biggest contributors identified

Alex Morales Bloomberg January 15, 2014 4:52 PM

China, India and Brazil, three of the largest developing nations, joined the U.S. in a list of the biggest historical contributors to global warming, according to a study by researchers in Canada. Seven nations between them accounted for more than 60 percent of all heat-trapping gas emissions between 1750 and 2005, researchers at Concordia University, Montreal, said Wednesday. Russia, the United Kingdom and Germany rounded out the list. The findings are important for diplomats trying to broker a new deal by 2015 to limit fossil fuel emissions. The question of historical responsibility caused friction at talks in Warsaw in November, when richer nations blocked a Brazilian proposal that would use pollution levels dating back to the Industrial Revolution to help set limits on future emissions. “A clear understanding of national contributions to climate warming provides important information with which to determine national responsibility for global warming, and can therefore be used as a framework to allocate future emissions,” the researchers said in their paper, to be published in the journal Environmental Research Letters. “Our analysis has the potential to contribute to this discussion.” The U.S. is the “unambiguous leader,” responsible for about 20 percent of total warming since industrialization.
That’s equivalent to about 0.27 degree Fahrenheit, according to the researchers. The group was led by Damon Matthews, an associate professor in Concordia’s department of geography, planning and environment. China and Russia each accounted for about 8 percent of total emissions. Brazil and India had 7 percent apiece, and the United Kingdom and Germany each were responsible for 5 percent…..



Who pays for climate regulation? 
Taxing carbon emissions at $15 a metric ton would have a significant economic impact on key industries and on the poorest consumers, says Charles Kolstad


Climate change will cut California’s ability to make electricity just as more is needed – report.

Climate change will decrease California’s ability to make electricity while creating heavier demands for it, and the state needs to ramp up planning now, energy leaders warned yesterday. ClimateWire


Antarctica and the Arctic: A polar primer for the new great game. Christian Science Monitor

Antarctica and the Arctic are the focus of global hunger for untapped resources – and global warming has helped drive the polar rush.



Climate Engineering: What do the public think?
(January 12, 2014) — Members of the public have a negative view of climate engineering, the deliberate large-scale manipulation of the environment to counteract climate change, according to a new study. … > full story

Environmental groups sue Navy over sonar use

Published January 16, 2014 Associated Press

SAN DIEGO –  Environmental organizations have added the Navy to their lawsuit against the federal government that seeks more measures to protect whales and other marine mammals from the military’s sonar use. Earthjustice and other organizations announced the addition Wednesday to their lawsuit filed in December against the National Marine Fisheries Service. The lawsuit demands that the service force the Navy to seek alternatives to its five-year plan that will intensify off the California and Hawaii coasts.





Offshore windfarms could protect cities from hurricanes
Giant offshore turbines could protect cities by reducing the wind speed of hurricanes coming from the sea, says a research team led by Mark Jacobson.
Program in Atmosphere/Energy


Solar on a grand scale: Big power plants coming online in the West.
Washington Post January 16, 2014

High-tech plants that use the sun to generate electricity are coming online, but a smaller future looms.


Researchers harness sun’s energy during day for use at night
(January 14, 2014) — Solar energy has long been used as a clean alternative to fossil fuels such as coal and oil, but it could only be harnessed during the day when the sun’s rays were strongest. Now researchers have built a system that converts the sun’s energy not into electricity but hydrogen fuel and stores it for later use, allowing us to power our devices long after the sun goes down. … > full story










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.



Sustainable Communities – Implementation Challenges and Opportunities   

Wednesday, January 22nd, 2014 11:30 AM to 1:30 PM PST University of California Center Sacramento 1130 K Street, Suite LL22, Sacramento, CA 95814

Presented by the UC Davis Policy Institute for Energy, Environment and the Economy and the National Center for Sustainable Transportation.The Sustainable Communities and Climate Protection Act of 2008 (SB 375) aims to help California reach its AB 32 greenhouse gas emissions reductions targets by creating incentives for smarter land use and transportation planning with the ultimate goal of creating more sustainable communities. This forum series consists of four sessions that will bring together researchers, policy-makers, and stakeholders to discuss and explore the latest research and real-world experience with implementation of SB 375 and related policies. Each forum session will include short presentations, discussion and opportunity to ask questions.This first forum session will present the policy landscape and current activities relating to sustainable communities. Speakers will address the role of SB 375 in meeting the state’s climate, environmental quality, public health, economic and housing needs. The program will begin with lunch at 11:30am and will conclude at 1:30pm.  Due to limited space, please RSVP as soon as possible by clicking the link below. Register Now!



California Drought Forum, planned for February 19-20, in Sacramento, California

We would like to invite you to the California Drought Forum, planned for February 19-20, in Sacramento, California.  The Forum is being co-organized and co-sponsored by the National Integrated Drought Information System (NIDIS) and California partners.This two-day event will cover a range of critical drought topics, including current drought conditions, the outlook for continued drought, impacts and responses among different sectors, drought forecasting and monitoring, early warning information needs and resources, and opportunities to improve drought preparedness, resilience, and readiness. More details will be coming soon.  For now, please hold the dates, and we look forward to seeing you at the Forum.  

Anne Steinemann, Scripps Institution of Oceanography; University of California, San Diego; CIRES / NIDIS University of Colorado, Boulder



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. 




Climate-Smart Conservation  NWF/NCTC ALC3195 

March 4-6, 2014 Sacramento State University – Modoc Hall. Sacramento, CA 3 days /no tuition for this class.

The target audience includes conservation practitioners and natural resource managers working at multiple scales to ensure the ongoing effectiveness of their work in an era of climate change. This course is based on a forthcoming guide to the principles and practice of Climate-Smart Conservation. This publication is the product of an expert workgroup on climate change adaptation convened by the National Wildlife Federation in collaboration with the FWS’s National Conservation Training Center and other partners (see sidebar). The course is designed to demystify climate adaptation for application to on-the-ground conservation. It will provide guidance in how to carry out adaptation with intentionality, how to manage for change and not just persistence, how to craft climate-informed conservation goals, and how to integrate adaptation into on-going work. Conservation practitioners and natural resource managers will learn to become savvy consumers of climate information, tools, and models. Register online at . In partnership with staff from National Wildlife Federation, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, U.S. Geological Survey, National Park Service, Environmental Protection Agency, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Army Corps of Engineers, U.S. Forest Service, Maryland Department of Natural Resources, Wildlife Conservation Society, The Nature Conservancy, EcoAdapt, Geos Institute, and Point Blue Conservation Science.

Contact for Registration Questions: Jill DelVecchio at 304/876-7424 or  

Contact for Content Questions: Christy Coghlan at 304/876-7438 or



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



California Adaptation Forum 
August 18-20, 2014

This two-day forum will build off a successful National Adaptation Forum held in Colorado in 2013. The attendance of many California leaders there underscored the need for a California-focused event, which will be held every other year to complement the biennial national conference. To register go to:





2015 NOAA Sea Grant John A. Knauss Marine Policy Fellowship

California Sea Grant College Program is now seeking applications for the 2015 NOAA Sea Grant John A. Knauss Marine Policy Fellowship. Deadline: February 14, 2014

The Knauss Fellowship, established in 1979, provides a unique educational experience to graduate students who have an interest in ocean and coastal resources and in the national policy decisions affecting those resources. 



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™.





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.




***NFWF 2013 Hurricane Sandy Coastal Resiliency Competitive Grants Program
– $100 million

Application Due: January 31, 2014 Eligible Entities: Local governments and agencies, recognized tribes, state government agencies, non-profit 501(c) organizations, and academic institutions.

 Marking the one-year anniversary of Hurricane Sandy, the U.S. Department of the Interior launched the Hurricane Sandy Coastal Resiliency Competitive Grant Program. The program will use competitive grants to award funding for science-based solutions by states, local communities, non-profit organizations, and other partners to help restore key habitats and bolster natural systems, enabling these areas to withstand the impacts and better protect local communities from future storms. For more information, visit the program webpage.







It’s all coming back to me now: Researchers find caffeine enhances memory
January 12, 2014) — Caffeine is the energy boost of choice for millions. Now, however, researchers have found another use for the stimulant: memory enhancer. … > full story

Reading the Tea Leaves: Impact of Climate Change on World Favorite Drink

January 16, 2014 — Climate change is reportedly affecting the cultivation of tea in China, with changes in temperatures and rainfall altering not only the taste, aroma, and potential health benefits of the popular … > full story

Researchers target sea level rise to save years of archaeological evidence
(January 16, 2014) — Prehistoric shell mounds found on some of Florida’s most pristine beaches are at risk of washing away as the sea level rises, wiping away thousands of years of archaeological evidence. … > 

Building ‘belt’ offers cheap, quick repair of earthquake damage
(January 13, 2014) — Four years after the January 2010 earthquake, 145,000 people still remain homeless in Haiti. A cheap and simple technology to repair earthquake damaged buildings could help to reduce these delays by quickly making buildings safe and habitable. … > full story


Doctor shares simple tips to keep immune system strong during flu season


 – ‎January 12 2014‎


FOX6 News spoke with a local doctor about some ways you can keep your immune system strong during flu season. Dr. Thomas Nielsen with American Family Care says according to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), Alabama was the first state with a …











Video: Fish leaps to catch birds on the wing
NATURE Daniel Cressey 09 January 2014

Tigerfish swallows swallows after grabbing them out of the air over African lake.

The waters of the African lake seem calm and peaceful. A few migrant swallows flit near the surface. Suddenly, leaping from the water, a fish grabs one of the famously speedy birds straight out of the air.
“The whole action of jumping and catching the swallow in flight happens so incredibly quickly that after we first saw it, it took all of us a while to really fully comprehend what we had just seen,” says Nico Smit, director of the Unit for Environmental Sciences and Management at North-West University in Potchefstroom, South Africa.
After the images did sink in, he adds, “the first reaction was one of pure joy, because we realized that we were spectators to something really incredible and unique”…. This is the first confirmed record of a freshwater fish preying on birds in flight, the team reports in the Journal of Fish Biology1. Rumours of such behaviour by the African tigerfish (Hydrocynus vittatus), which has been reported as reaching one metre in length, have circulated since the 1940s. But Smit says that his team was “never really convinced by the anecdotal reports”. So, when they set out to study of the migration and habitat use of these animals in a South African lake in the Mapungubwe National Park, near the border with Botswana and Zimbabwe, they were not necessarily looking for fish flying out of the water….






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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