Conservation Science News February 7, 2014

Focus of the WeekMacrosystems Ecology– a
new scientific field









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Focus of the Week– Macrosystems Ecology


Macrosystems ecology: New scientific field looks at the big picture
(February 3, 2014) — Big data is changing the field of ecology. The shift is dramatic enough to warrant the creation of an entirely new field: macrosystems ecology.


“Ecologists can no longer sample and study just one or even a handful of ecosystems,” said Patricia Soranno, Michigan State University professor of fisheries and wildlife and macrosystems ecology pioneer. “We also need to study lots of ecosystems and use lots of data to tackle many environmental problems such as climate change, land-use change and invasive species, because such problems exist at a larger scale than many problems from the past.” To define the new field and provide strategies for ecologists to do this type of research, Soranno and Dave Schimel from the California Institute of Technology’s Jet Propulsion Lab co-edited a special issue of the Ecological Society of America’s journal Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment. They worked with many other researchers, funded from the National Science Foundation’s MacroSystems Biology program, who have written nine papers showing the advantages of taking such an approach to solve many environmental problems. Data-intensive science is being touted as a new way to do science of any kind, and many researchers think it has great potential for ecology, Soranno said. “Traditionally, ecologists are trained by studying and taking samples from the field in places like forests, grasslands, wetlands or water and measuring things in the lab,” she said. “In the future, at least some ecologists will need to also be trained in advanced computational methods that will allow them to study complex systems using big datasets at this large scale and to help integrate fine and broad-scale studies into a richer understanding of environmental problems.”….. “Even ten years ago, it would have been much harder to take this approach,” Soranno said. “We didn’t have the wonderful intersection that we have today of great tools, volumes of data, sufficient computing power and a better developed understanding of systems at broad scales.”

A significant part of these new approaches involves the integration of biology with other fields, involving scientific, engineering and education areas across NSF, said John Wingfield, NSF assistant director for biological sciences The makeup of newly minted macrosystems ecology research teams should reflect the new demands of data-intensive ecology. Teams should include database managers, data-mining experts, GIS professionals and more. “An important question we’re facing right now is whether ecologists will be the leaders in solving many of today’s top environmental problems that need a broad-scale approach,” Soranno said. “Seeing the research that has been done to date by macrosystems ecologists already doing this work and reading the papers that make up this issue, the answer is an emphatic ‘yes’,” Soranno said…. > full story


James B Heffernan, Patricia A Soranno, Michael J Angilletta, Lauren B Buckley, Daniel S Gruner, Tim H Keitt, James R Kellner, John S Kominoski, Adrian V Rocha, Jingfeng Xiao, Tamara K Harms, Simon J Goring, Lauren E Koenig, William H McDowell, Heather Powell, Andrew D Richardson, Craig A Stow, Rodrigo Vargas, Kathleen C Weathers. Macrosystems ecology: understanding ecological patterns and processes at continental scales. Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment, 2014; 12 (1): 5 DOI: 10.1890/130017



Pioneering a new field: Microsystems’ Ecology –short YouTube Video

Published on Feb 3, 2014

Big data is changing the field of ecology. The shift is dramatic enough to warrant the creation of an entirely new field: macrosystems ecology. Patricia Soranno, MSU professor of …



Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment: Special Issue – Microsystems Ecology: An Emerging Perspective


Guest Editorial


Macrosystems ecology: big data, big ecology

Patricia A Soranno, David S Schimel
Citation . Full Text . PDF (167 KB) 

Ecologists are increasingly confronted by questions that, in one way or another, involve analysis or prediction across vast geographic areas or time periods. There is little doubt that many of the problems facing environmental systems have broad-scale components. These problems range from understanding the spatial distributions of invasive species to discerning how the local ecology of forests interacts with regional fire patterns to influence continental fluxes of carbon. Although ecologists have been successful at answering research questions and developing theory at fine scales, they are now rapidly adding new techniques to their toolkit that facilitate the study of broad-scaled regional processes, and interactions with fine-scaled and global processes. This is where “macrosystems ecology” (MSE) fits in.

The papers in this Special Issue were prepared by participants in the US National Science Foundation’s MacroSystems Biology program. A common theme throughout most of these articles is a seemingly simple but challenging topic – data! Specifically, it’s the data required to study large, complicated, and highly variable objects typical of macrosystems research. The amount of data involved in MSE research is far beyond that which a single research lab can collect and process. What then are the options available to ecologists for conducting data-intensive research if they clearly cannot collect, process, or analyze it all on their own? At least some ecologists will have to develop the concepts and methodology for studying ecological systems at broad scales; revitalize the culture in which they work to be even more collaborative, open, and interdisciplinary than it already is; and embrace the era of “big data“.

To date, ecologists have used any of four strategies for acquiring ecological big data: (1) Collate existing small but information-rich datasets to create spatially, temporally, and thematically extensive datasets. This strategy is extremely difficult, is unexpectedly expensive, and can result in datasets with geographic or temporal gaps. (2) Compile data from remote-sensing platforms that are spatially and often temporally extensive. This approach is limited by the fact that the variable(s) measured must be drawn from a narrow set of features that can be observed remotely, and which are frequently proxies for the actual quantity of interest. (3) Link spatially distributed sensor-based observatories or experiments that use common methods. Such efforts often require complex and expensive instrumentation, and can also have geographic or temporal gaps. (4) Launch “big science” programs that span continental scales, use standardized methods, and are designed from the outset to address broad-scaled ecological research questions. These strategies can be costly; require management, computing, and systems engineering skills unfamiliar to most ecologists; and may be subject to spatiotemporal gaps.

So, which strategy should ecologists focus their efforts on to boldly venture into data-intensive research? The answer is all of them. The various approaches for collecting big data have different strengths and weaknesses, and data-intensive science of ecological systems (ie “big ecology”) will best progress when all strategies are harnessed to their full potential. Some scientists have dismissed big science approaches in ecology because the International Biology Program (IBP) of the 1960s and 1970s is today frequently portrayed as a failure. However, its legacy may be due for a reassessment: the IBP provided lasting foundational science and datasets used to this day. It can also provide valuable lessons, both positive and negative. Ecologists have made progress over the past 40 years in developing and applying novel methods to address problems across a wide range of scales.

The experiences of the emerging MSE community, some of which are discussed in this Special Issue, demonstrate that ecology needs to integrate the single-investigator model of science with a collaborative, open, and interdisciplinary one. Between the extremes of big science and single-investigator science is a wide range of research conducted by groups of varying size, as small or large teams, working groups, networks, and networks of networks. This Special Issue highlights the growing emphasis on collaboration and a culture shaped by focused, broad-scale scientific questions. Although individual investigator-driven research is still the dominant mode of ecological research, the current successes of MSE research suggest that it is only one of several different possible approaches.

To understand and solve many of today’s problems, ecologists need “big data” and “big ecology”. This Special Issue of Frontiers provides a wealth of new perspectives on this necessity. Hampton et al. (Front Ecol Environ 2013; 11[3]: 156–62) asked whether the leaders of big ecology will even be ecologists: this issue suggests the answer is an emphatic “yes”.




Macrosystems ecology: understanding ecological patterns and processes at continental scales

James B Heffernan, Patricia A Soranno, Michael J Angilletta Jr, Lauren B Buckley, Daniel S Gruner, Tim H Keitt, James R Kellner, John S Kominoski, Adrian V Rocha, Jingfeng Xiao, Tamara K Harms, Simon J Goring, Lauren E Koenig, William H McDowell, Heather Powell, Andrew D Richardson, Craig A Stow, Rodrigo Vargas, Kathleen C Weathers
Abstract . Full Text . PDF (3466 KB) . Supplemental Material 



Approaches to advance scientific understanding of macrosystems ecology

Ofir Levy, Becky A Ball, Ben Bond-Lamberty, Kendra S Cheruvelil, Andrew O Finley, Noah R Lottig, Surangi W Punyasena, Jingfeng Xiao, Jizhong Zhou, Lauren B Buckley, Christopher T Filstrup, Tim H Keitt, James R Kellner, Alan K Knapp, Andrew D Richardson, David Tcheng, Michael Toomey, Rodrigo Vargas, James W Voordeckers, Tyler Wagner, John W Williams
Abstract . Full Text . PDF (2065 KB) . Supplemental Material 



Completing the data life cycle: using information management in macrosystems ecology research

Janine Rüegg, Corinna Gries, Ben Bond-Lamberty, Gabriel J Bowen, Benjamin S Felzer, Nancy E McIntyre, Patricia A Soranno, Kristin L Vanderbilt, Kathleen C Weathers
Abstract . Full Text . PDF (1082 KB) . Supplemental Material 



Creating and maintaining high-performing collaborative research teams: the importance of diversity and interpersonal skills

Kendra S Cheruvelil, Patricia A Soranno, Kathleen C Weathers, Paul C Hanson, Simon J Goring, Christopher T Filstrup, Emily K Read
Abstract . Full Text . PDF (1888 KB) . Supplemental Material 



Improving the culture of interdisciplinary collaboration in ecology by expanding measures of success

Simon J Goring, Kathleen C Weathers, Walter K Dodds, Patricia A Soranno, Lynn C Sweet, Kendra S Cheruvelil, John S Kominoski, Janine Rüegg, Alexandra M Thorn, Ryan M Utz
Abstract . Full Text . PDF (1343 KB) . Supplemental Material 



Riverine macrosystems ecology: sensitivity, resistance, and resilience of whole river basins with human alterations

Kevin E McCluney, N LeRoy Poff, Margaret A Palmer, James H Thorp, Geoffrey C Poole, Bradley S Williams, Michael R Williams, Jill S Baron
Abstract . Full Text . PDF (2449 KB) . Supplemental Material 



Climate forcing of wetland landscape connectivity in the Great Plains

Nancy E McIntyre, Christopher K Wright, Sharmistha Swain, Katharine Hayhoe, Ganming Liu, Frank W Schwartz, Geoffrey M Henebry
Abstract . Full Text . PDF (1638 KB) . Supplemental Material 



Cross-scale interactions: quantifying multi-scaled cause–effect relationships in macrosystems

Patricia A Soranno, Kendra S Cheruvelil, Edward G Bissell, Mary T Bremigan, John A Downing, Carol E Fergus, Christopher T Filstrup, Emily N Henry, Noah R Lottig, Emily H Stanley, Craig A Stow, Pang-Ning Tan, Tyler Wagner, Katherine E Webster
Abstract . Full Text . PDF (2883 KB) . Supplemental Material 



Ecological homogenization of urban USA

Peter M Groffman, Jeannine Cavender-Bares, Neil D Bettez, J Morgan Grove, Sharon J Hall, James B Heffernan, Sarah E Hobbie, Kelli L Larson, Jennifer L Morse, Christopher Neill, Kristen Nelson, Jarlath O’Neil-Dunne, Laura Ogden, Diane E Pataki, Colin Polsky, Rinku Roy Chowdhury, Meredith K Steele
Abstract . Full Text . PDF (1666 KB) . Supplemental Material 

Life Lines


What is one datum worth?

Adrian Burton
Citation . Full Text . PDF (221 KB) 



Macrosystems Ecology: The More We Know The Less We Know.

Posted on February 4, 2014
Post by Simon Goring, Postdoc at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. This post originally appeared at downwithtime.

One of the answers was simply that as ecologists we often recognize the depth of knowledge of our peers and as such, are unlikely (or are unwilling) to comment in an area that we have little expertise. ….This speaks to a broader issue though, and one that is addressed in the latest issue of Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment.  The challenges of global change require us to come out of our disciplinary shells and to address challenges with a new approach, defined here as Macrosystems Ecology.  At large spatial and temporal scales – the kinds of scales at which we experience life – ecosystems cease being disciplinary.  Jim Heffernan and Pat Soranno, in the lead paper (Heffernan et al., 2014) detail three ecological systems that can’t be understood without cross-scale synthesis using multi-disciplinary teams.

….Interdisciplinary research is not something that many of us have trained for as ecologists (or biogeographers, or paleoecologists, or physical geographers. . . but that’s another post).  It is a complex, inter-personal interaction that requires understanding of the cultural norms within other disciplines.  Cheruvelil et al. (2014) do a great job of describing how to achieve and maintain high-functioning teams in large interdisciplinary projects, and Kendra also discusses this further in a post on her own academic blog.

Figure 2. From Goring et al., (2014). Interdisciplinary research requires effort in a number of different areas, and these efforts are not recognized under traditional reward structures.

The interactions (red arrows) that are rewarded among individuals, institutions, and funding agencies. The traditional reward system applied to disciplinary-based research (a) is well supported and most of the depicted interactions are valued and rewarded. In contrast, the traditional reward system applied to interdisciplinary-based collaborative research (b) shows that while certain interactions are favored and rewarded (red arrows, similar to those in [a]), there are many interactions that are undervalued (gray arrows). The size and shape of symbols within the collaboration in (b) represent career stage and type of discipline, respectively. Undervaluing collaboration provides weak support for individuals engaged in this kind of research (ie fewer red arrows), even as outlets for interdisciplinary research dissemination increase. By expanding evaluation criteria for interdisciplinary research (Table 2), a more complex set of interactions is supported. These expanded measures of success should support the investment in time and effort required for effective interdisciplinary collaboration.

In Goring et al. (2014) we discuss a peculiar issue that is posed by interdisciplinary research.  ….. As we move towards greater interdisciplinarity we begin to recognize that simply superimposing the traditional rewards structure onto interdisciplinary projects (Figure 2) leaves a lot to be desired.  This is particularly critical for early-career researchers.  We are asking these researchers (people like me) to collaborate broadly with researchers around the globe, to tackle complex issues in global change ecology, but, when it comes time to assess their research productivity we don’t account for the added burden that interdisciplinary research can require of a researcher.….In Goring et al. (2014) we propose a broader set of metrics against which to evaluate members of large interdisciplinary teams (or small teams, there’s no reason to be picky).  This list of new metrics (here) includes traditional metrics (numbers of papers, size of grants), but expands the value of co-authorship, recognizing that only one person is first in the authorship list, even if people make critical contributions; provides support for non-disciplinary outputs, like policy reports, dataset generation, non-disciplinary research products (white papers, books) and the creation of tools and teaching materials; and adds value to qualitative contributions, such as facilitation roles, helping people communicate or interact across disciplinary divides…..





Water supply availability ‘to dominate U.S. natural resource management’
(February 5, 2014) — Water supply is the most pressing environmental issue facing the United States, according to a survey of policy makers and scientists have revealed. …
The survey, by Dr Murray Rudd of the Environment Department at York and Dr Erica Fleishman, of the John Muir Institute of the Environment at UC Davis, asked managers
, policymakers and their advisers, and scientists to rank the questions on the basis of their applicability to policy.

The 602 respondents included 194 policymakers, 70 government scientists, and 228 academic scientists. A question on the water supply necessary to sustain human populations and ecosystem resilience was ranked as having the greatest potential, if it was answered, to increase the effectiveness of policies related to natural resource management in the United States. The publication comes as California suffers its worst drought in nearly half a century. The question emerged from a previous collaboration among decision makers and scientists that yielded 40 research questions that most reflected the needs of those with jurisdiction over natural resources. That research also was published in BioScience…Other questions that were ranked as of high importance to policy included those on methods for measuring the benefits humans receive from ecosystems; the effects of sea-level rise, storm surge, erosion and variable precipitation on coastal ecosystems and human communities; and the effect on carbon storage and ecosystem resilience of different management strategies for forests, grasslands, and agricultural systems . Dr Rudd said, “We found a significant difference in research priorities between respondents. Importantly, there was no evidence of a simple science-policy divide. Priorities did not differ between academics and government employees or between scientists (academic and government) and policymakers. “Our results suggest that participatory exercises such as this are a robust way of establishing priorities to guide funders of research and researchers who aim to inform policy.”….full story


Murray Rudd, Erica Fleishman. ‘Policymakers’ and Scientists’ Ranks of Research Priorities for Resource-Management Policy. BioScience, 2014 DOI: 10.1093/biosci/bit035


Humans, urban landscapes increase illness in songbirds, researchers find
(February 5, 2014) — Humans living in densely populated urban areas have a profound impact not only on their physical environment, but also on the health and fitness of native wildlife. For the first time, scientists have found a direct link between the degree of urbanization and the prevalence and severity of two distinct parasites in wild house finches. Loss of natural habitat may be a driving force behind increases in avian parasite infections. …

According to the study, more than half of the world’s population now lives in cities. Natural habitats and ecosystems have been dramatically altered from their original states, and there is rising concern about the spread of diseases that can be passed from urban wildlife to humans. Research also shows as much as 75 percent of the world’s emerging infectious diseases are zoonoses — those that can be transmitted from animals to humans. “Much like the spread of human disease in populated areas, urban centers can foster increases in multiple disease types in wild animals,” said McGraw, senior author of the study. “We are now investigating the mechanism underlying this observation — are urban animals immuno-compromised and less able to fight off infections than rural ones? Or, do they acquire more disease because of increased contact with other, infected animals?”

Loss of natural habitats may drive avian parasite infections

The researchers found that the presence and seriousness of gastrointestinal parasitic infections were higher in more urbanized areas with land covered by compact soil and cultivated vegetation. Also, birds from sites with more cultivated vegetation were heavier — and significantly, heavier birds were more infected by the parasite. These internal parasites, called coccidians, live in a bird’s gut and disrupt the animal’s ability to get nutrients. They also found that the percentage of poxvirus infections was higher in more human-populated areas, but did not find a connection to oxidative stress. The avian poxvirus, somewhat like the chicken pox virus in humans, causes lesions on the body — mostly on the feet, eyes, wings and ears, which in the late stages maybe become bloody and crusty, and lead to the loss of digits…full story


Mathieu Giraudeau, Melanie Mousel, Stevan Earl, Kevin McGraw. Parasites in the City: Degree of Urbanization Predicts Poxvirus and Coccidian Infections in House Finches (Haemorhous mexicanus). PLoS ONE, 2014; 9 (2): e86747 DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0086747


Uncovering the drivers of honey bee colony declines and losses
(February 5, 2014) — Scientists have announced the results of research conducted on honey bee colony declines and the factors attributed to honey bee losses. The work shows that socioeconomic and political pressures on honey production over the past few decades has caused a long-term reduction in the number of colonies in production in the USA, Europe and many other countries. However, more recently honey bee managers have reported increased losses in their stocks each year (so-called ‘annual colony losses’), and the new research shows that pests, pathogens and management issues likely play a major role in this, and are under researched and poorly understood drivers. … > full story


In the waters off the coast of Gabon, a humpback whale lunge-feeds in the near vicinity of an offshore oil platform. In a recently published study in Conservation Biology, scientists have quantified the overlap between humpback whales using Africa’s coastal waters and several forms of ocean industries and ocean-based pollution, primarily offshore oil platforms, shipping lanes, and potentially harmful toxicants.

Credit: Photo credit: T. Collins/Wildlife Conservation Society.

Whales and human-related activities overlap in African waters
(February 5, 2014) — Scientists have found that humpback whales swimming off the coast of western Africa encounter more than warm waters for mating and bearing young. New studies show that the whales share these waters with offshore oil rigs, major shipping routes, and potentially harmful toxicants.
the aid of satellite tags affixed to more than a dozen whales, the researchers have quantified the amount of overlap between hydrocarbon exploration and extraction, environmental toxicants, shipping lanes, and humpback whales occurring in their nearshore breeding areas. The scientists also identified additional parts of the whales’ breeding range and migratory routes to sub-Antarctic feeding grounds.

The study appears in the latest edition of the journal Conservation Biology. …”Throughout numerous coastal and offshore areas, important whale habitats and migration routes are increasingly overlapping with industrial development, a scenario we have quantified for the first time in the eastern South Atlantic,” said Dr. Howard Rosenbaum, Director of WCS’s Ocean Giants Program. “Studies such as this one are crucial for identifying important habitats for humpback whales and how to best protect these populations from potential impacts associated with hydrocarbon exploration and production, shipping, and other forms of coastal and offshore activities. … > full story


HOWARD C. ROSENBAUM, SARA M. MAXWELL, FRANCINE KERSHAW, BRUCE MATE. Long-Range Movement of Humpback Whales and Their Overlap with Anthropogenic Activity in the South Atlantic Ocean. Conservation Biology, 2014; DOI: 10.1111/cobi.12225


Critically endangered leatherback turtles tracked to reveal danger zones from industrial fishing
(February 3, 2014) — One of the biggest threats to critically endangered leatherback turtles is bycatch from industrial fishing in the open oceans. Now, a team of researchers has satellite-tracked 135 leatherbacks with transmitters to determine the turtles’ patterns of movement in the Pacific Ocean. Combined with fisheries data, the researchers entered the information into a computer model to predict bycatch hotspots in the Pacific. … > full story


Pacific salmon inherit magnetic sense of direction
(February 6, 2014) — A team of scientists last year presented evidence of a correlation between the migration patterns of ocean salmon and Earth’s magnetic field, suggesting it may help explain how the fish can navigate across thousands of miles of water to find their river of origin. This week, scientists confirmed the connection between salmon and the magnetic field. … > full story


Nathan F. Putman et al. An Inherited Magnetic Map Guides Ocean Navigation in Juvenile Pacific Salmon. Current Biology, 2014; DOI: 10.1016/j.cub.2014.01.017


Drug trafficking leads to massive deforestation in Central America

Forests are being slashed to make roads or illegal airplane landing strips.

By John Platt Fri, Jan 31, 2014 at 11:36 AM

Tourists walk in the woods of Tatumbla in Central America on Earth Day 2012 to protest deforestation there. (Photo: Orlando Sierra/AFP/Getty Images)

Drug traffickers in Central America a slashing vitally important rain forest ecosystems to make way for their illegal activities, causing massive deforestation wherever they operate, according to a study published this week in the journal Science. Much of this ecological destruction is now taking place in countries such as Honduras, Guatemala and Nicaragua. The study’s lead author, Ohio State University associate geology professor Kendra McSweeney, said this is a response to U.S.-led anti-trafficking efforts in Mexico, which have pushed traffickers into new territories. “In response to the crackdown in Mexico, drug traffickers began moving south into Central America around 2007 to find new routes through remote areas to move their drugs from South America and get them to the United States,” McSweeney said in a news release. “When drug traffickers moved in, they brought ecological devastation with them.” The devastation takes many forms. Traffickers slash down forests to create secret, illegal smuggling roads or landing strips for airplanes. They also convert forests into agricultural businesses as a way to launder their drug profits….


VIDEO: Orca whales spotted hunting, killing dolphins off the coast of Nanaimo

Ecosystems rebounding

By Amy Judd and Peter Meiszner  Global News February 4, 2014

An unexpected February snowfall wasn’t the only work of nature making waves in Nanaimo on Monday. A pod of Pacific white-sided dolphins and a pod of orcas whales were spotted off the coast of the harbour city on Monday. In what is considered to be a very rare sight, the orcas were hunting the pod of dolphins and ended up killing two of them. They can be seen diving under the dolphins, coming up suddenly and throwing them up in the air trying to injure them and slow them down. “These kinds of high jumps are fairly typical when killer whales are attacking either porpoise or dolphins,” said Dr. Lance Barrett-Lennard, senior marine mammal scientist. “And what’s going on, they’re actually trying to strike the dolphin or porpoise from underneath because they can’t actually, as strong and as capable as they are, they can’t, it’s very hard for them to actually swim up to a swimming dolphin and grab it. Their mouth just isn’t that big.”….


As many as 988 million birds die annually in window collisions.

Up to 988 million birds collide with windows and die. The biggest share comes not from skyscrapers but from crashes into smaller buildings.

By Susan Milius and Science News, Published: February 3 2014 Washington Post

Between 365 and 988 million birds die from crashing into windows in the United States each year, according to a new report. That may be as much as 10 percent of the estimated total bird population of the country. The estimate puts windows behind only cats as the largest source of human-related menaces that kill birds directly. The biggest share of the collision deaths comes not from glass massacres at skyscrapers but from occasional collisions with the nation’s many small buildings, says Scott Loss of Oklahoma State University in Stillwater. “It’s death by a million nicks.” Buildings four to 11 stories tall account for about 56 percent of deaths in the new estimate, Loss and his colleagues report in the Condor: Ornithological Applications. Residences that are one to three stories tall make up around 44 percent, with skyscrapers representing less than 1 percent. Any given small building kills only a few birds each year, vs. the 24 expected to die annually at a single skyscraper. But the United States has about 15.1 million low-rises and 122.9 million small residences, and only about 21,000 skyscrapers. Loss applauds efforts to make skyscrapers bird-friendly, but he cautions that protecting birds takes a broader effort. Some species appear especially vulnerable to the deceptions of windows, Loss and his colleagues find. Among the possible reasons are disorientation from artificial lights for birds on long-haul migrations at night. Compiling data from all kinds of buildings, the team found that Anna’s hummingbirds, black-throated blue warblers, ruby-throated hummingbirds, Townsend’s solitaires and golden-winged warblers topped the risk list. There’s no nationwide reporting of birds’ thumping into glass or succumbing to a paw, so estimating death tolls has long been difficult and controversial. The new estimate of mortality from windows, based on statistical analysis of 23 local studies, comes close to an old estimate (100 million to 1 billion) that had been derided for its simple, back-of-the-envelope approach. “We were a little surprised,” Loss says…..


Falcon feathers pop up during dive
(February 6, 2014) — Similar to wings and fins with self-adaptive flaps, the feathers on a diving peregrine falcon’s feathers may pop up during high speed dives. … > full story


Eye-opening New Research Helps Us Understand How Birds Communicate

Audubon Magazine

 – ‎February 6, 2014‎


A new study strengthens the case that jackdaws, crow-like birds found in Eurasia and Africa, use their eyes to communicate with other members of their own species—an ability that, up until now, was thought to only exist in humans and other primates.


Wildlife conservation: Passenger pigeons and canaries in coal mines

Washington Post

 – Feb 4 2014


In its form, the pigeon was reminiscent of the mourning dove, but quite a bit bigger and more dazzling in its plumage: The striking male was blue and gray, but like the dove and the common city pigeon had moments of opal-like iridescence. “A throat and …


Mass Slaughter of Vulnerable Shark Species in China, Wildlife Group Says –

By DIDI KIRSTEN TATLOW NY Times February 3, 2014

A wildlife group says businesses in China are slaughtering and processing hundreds of sharks yearly, including members of the whale, basking and great white species, in contravention of international wildlife trade laws.

Rat islands ‘a laboratory of future evolution’: Rats predicted to fill in Earth’s emptying ecospace
(February 3, 2014) — New research predicts that rats will continue to grow and fill a ‘significant chunk’ of Earth’s emptying ecospace. Their global influence is likely to grow in the future as larger mammals continue to become extinct. ..

Dr Jan Zalasiewicz from the Department of Geology at the University of Leicester suggests that we better get used to having rats around — and that their global influence is likely to grow in the future as larger mammals continue to become extinct.

Dr Zalasiewicz said: “Rats are one of the best examples of a species that we have helped spread around the world, and that have successfully adapted to many of the new environments that they found themselves in. “They are now on many, if not most, islands around the world — and once there, have proved extraordinarily hard to eradicate. They’re often there for good, essentially. Once there, they have out-competed many native species and at times have driven them to extinction. “As a result, ecospace is being emptied — and rats are in a good position to re-fill a significant chunk of it, in the mid to far geological future.” As rats fill the newly opened ecospace left in the wake of other extinct mammals, over time they, like many species of animal, experience evolutionary adaptation. Gigantism can occur in animals as they adapt to their environment and Dr Zalasiewicz believes that rats will prove to be no exception to this timeless rule….full story


To calculate long-term conservation pay off, factor in people
(January 31, 2014) — Paying people to protect their natural environment is a popular conservation tool around the world, but figure out that return on investment, for both people and nature, is a thorny problem, especially since such efforts typically stretch on for years. Researchers have developed a new way to evaluate and model the long-term effectiveness of conservation investments. … > full story




In sage grouse breeding, which of the following statements are true?

(a) Only males with loud drumming sounds will be chosen as a mate.
(b) All performing males will be chosen as a mate by one of more females in the lek.
(c) Males that win initial fights, with other males, and perform strongly during the dance rituals will be chose to mate.
(d) Only one or two males get picked to mate with females in the lek.
(e) Males are selective in which female they will mate with.
(f) c and d

See answer at bottom.




Dramatic thinning of Arctic lake ice cuts winter ice season by 24 days compared to 1950
(February 3, 2014) — Arctic lakes have been freezing up later in the year and thawing earlier, creating a winter ice season about 24 days shorter than it was in 1950, a new study has found. … > full story


Greenland’s fastest glacier reaches record speeds
(February 3, 2014) — Jakobshavn Isbræ (Jakobshavn Glacier) is moving ice from the Greenland ice sheet into the ocean at a speed that appears to be the fastest ever recorded. Researchers measured the dramatic speeds of the fast-flowing glacier in 2012 and 2013. …
We are now seeing summer speeds more than 4 times what they were in the 1990s on a glacier which at that time was believed to be one of the fastest, if not the fastest, glacier in Greenland,” says Ian Joughin, a researcher at the Polar Science Center, University of Washington and lead-author of the study. In the summer of 2012 the glacier reached a record speed of more than 17 kilometres per year, or over 46 metres per day. These flow rates are unprecedented: they appear to be the fastest ever recorded for any glacier or ice stream in Greenland or Antarctica, the researchers say. They note that summer speeds are temporary, with the glacier flowing more slowly over the winter months. But they add that even the annually averaged speedup over the past couple of years is nearly 3 times what it was in the 1990s….full story


A look back and ahead at Greenland’s changing climate
(February 6, 2014) — Over the past two decades, ice loss from the Greenland Ice Sheet increased four-fold, contributing to one-quarter of global sea level rise. However, the chain of events and physical processes that contributed to it has remained elusive. One likely trigger for the speed up and retreat of glaciers that contributed to this ice loss is ocean warming. … > full story


While The World Waits For A Real Climate Deal, Megacities Are Taking Action

By Ryan Koronowski on February 5, 2014 at 5:34 pm

Cities may be responsible for 70 percent of the world’s carbon emissions, but they are also moving faster than ever to cut them, according to C40, the global climate leadership group for the world’s largest megacities. The former mayor of New York City, Michael Bloomberg, and the current mayor of Rio de Janeiro, Eduardo Paes, released the new draft of the Climate Action in Megacities 2.0 report, spelling out exactly how the world’s largest metropolises are cutting greenhouse gas emissions and improving urban resilience to climate change. Paes, still settling in as Chair of C40 after Bloomberg became President of the Board back in November, leads a consortium of 63 of the largest cities on the planet taking action to address climate change. These cities represent 600 million people worldwide. In the two years since the previous survey, responding cities have doubled the number of steps they’re taking to address climate change to a collective total of 8,068. These actions range from low-carbon transportation options to building efficiency improvements, lighting upgrades to waste management — but adapting to climate change tops the list for most.


Here are concrete actions individual cities are making to address climate change:….

  • Adapting to the climate change already happening…
  • Recycling on a huge scale….
  • Moving people around with less pollution…
  • Using less energy to do more…
  • Switching to low-carbon energy…

…”Cities account for 70 percent of the world’s carbon emissions, and three-quarters of the world’s energy use,” Bloomberg told reporters on Tuesday. “So the actions they take today to confront climate change really will have a global impact.” Bloomberg trumpeted cities as being uniquely capable of taking action to mitigate and adapt to climate change when compared to a national government’s….



Satellites show ‘total’ California water storage at near decade low
(February 3, 2014)
Updates to satellite data show that California’s Sacramento and San Joaquin River basins are at near decade-low water storage levels. …

The researchers noted that snowpack, surface water and soil moisture storage in the river basins were all at their lowest points in nearly a decade, illustrating a growing threat to groundwater supplies in the Central Valley, and highlighting the urgent need to manage them sustainably. Groundwater is typically viewed as a strategic reserve that supplements sparse surface water supplies in times of drought. By combining their satellite-based estimates of 10 years (October 2003 — November 2013) of Central Valley groundwater storage changes with long-term estimates of groundwater losses from the U. S. Geological Survey, the researchers noted that steep declines in groundwater storage are typical during droughts, when Central Valley farmers are forced to rely more heavily on groundwater to meet irrigation demands. The advisory report underscores that the rates of declining groundwater storage during drought almost always outstrip rates of groundwater replenishment during wet periods, and raises fears about the impact of long-term groundwater depletion on sustaining a reliable water supply in the current, record-setting drought. The team’s previous 2011 study estimated that the Central Valley lost 20 cubic kilometers of groundwater during the 2006-2010 drought. Historically, drought conditions and groundwater depletion in the Central Valley are responsible for widespread land subsidence, reductions in planted acreage, higher food costs and ecological damage. Famiglietti notes that if the drought continues “Central Valley groundwater levels will fall to all-time lows.” Stephanie Castle, a UCCHM researcher who contributed to the report, believes that groundwater supplies should be more actively managed. Castle states that “the path of groundwater use that we are on threatens the sustainability of future water supplies for all Californians.” She noted that several communities within the state are on track to run out of water within the next few months….Download the report at story



Converting land to agriculture reduces carbon uptake, study shows
(February 6, 2014) — Researchers examined the impact that converting natural land to cropland has on global vegetation growth, as measured by satellite-derived net primary production, or NPP. They found that measures of terrestrial vegetation growth actually decrease with agricultural conversion, which has important implications for terrestrial carbon storage. … > full story

W. Kolby Smith, Cory C. Cleveland, Sasha C. Reed, Steven W. Running. Agricultural conversion without external water and nutrient inputs reduces terrestrial vegetation productivity. Geophysical Research Letters, 2014; DOI: 10.1002/2013GL058857



Tree roots in the mountains ‘acted like a thermostat’ for millions of years
(February 5, 2014) — Tree roots in the mountains may play an important role in controlling long-term global temperatures. Researchers have found that temperatures affect the thickness of the leaf litter and organic soil layers, as well as the rate at which the tree roots grow. When the roots reach the rock below the soil, the rock disintegrates, releasing carbon dioxide. Researchers say this process is “acting like the Earth’s thermostat.” … > full story

Mass extinction may not cause all organisms to ‘shrink’: Aquatic invertebrates varied in size after mass extinction event
(February 5, 2014)The sizes of organisms following mass extinction events may vary more than previously thought, which may be inconsistent with the predictions of the so-called “Lilliput effect.” … > full story

A ‘smoking gun’ on Ice Age megafauna extinctions
(February 5, 2014) — It was climate that killed many of the large mammals after the latest Ice Age. But what more specifically was it with the climate that led to this mass extinction? The answer to this is hidden in a large number of sediment samples from around the Arctic and in the gut content from permafrozen woolly rhinos, mammoth and other extinct ice age mammals. … > full story


Forest emissions, wildfires explain why ancient Earth was so hot
(February 5, 2014) — The release of volatile organic compounds from Earth’s forests and smoke from wildfires 3 million years ago had a far greater impact on global warming than ancient atmospheric levels of carbon dioxide, according to a new study. The research provides evidence that dynamic atmospheric chemistry played an important role in past warm climates, underscoring the complexity of climate change and the relevance of natural components. … > full story


National Geographic

Epic California Drought and Groundwater: Where Do We Go From Here?

National Geographic

 – ‎February 5, 2014‎


November 2013 marks the low point in nearly a decade. From the UCCHM Water Advisory #1. GRACE data … Background colors represent periods of drought (white), of variable to dry conditions (grey), of variable to wet conditions (light blue) and wet …

California DroughtHere is complete coverage from The Chronicle and SFGate.

After three consecutive years of below-normal rainfall, California faces its most severe drought emergency in decades. Governor Jerry Brown has called for Californians to reduce water use by 20 percent voluntarily, and mandatory rationing could be ordered soon so that homes, businesses and farms don’t run dry over the summer. Wildfire danger is unusually high.


Remembering the ’77 drought

How did we deal with the last two big droughts in California history?


Scientists help western states prepare for drought as new norm
NPR February 5, 2014

As California copes with a historic drought, scientists like Frank Gehrke are helping Western states figure out how to do more with less water, as droughts like these are predicted to be the new norm in a warmer world. All Things Considered


Viewpoints: Environmental water market would help the losers in this drought

By Jay Lund, Ellen Hanak and Barton “Buzz” Thompson
Special to The Sacramento Bee Published: Sunday, Feb. 2, 2014 – 12:00 am

California is in a major drought, and state and federal regulators will be under pressure to loosen environmental standards that protect native fish. This happened in the 1976-77 and 1987-92 droughts, and the current drought could become much more severe. These standards demonstrate the high value society places on the survival of native fish and wildlife. In past droughts, we have given away some of these protections because of pressure to make more water available for other uses. But this time, California can do better. We can create a special water market that meets the state’s goals of both ensuring a reliable water supply and protecting the environment. In this market, growers and cities would pay for the additional water made available from relaxed environmental standards, and the revenues would help support fish and wildlife recovery. ….. A better approach would create a special drought environmental water market, so that those who gain from relaxed standards help compensate the losers. When standards are loosened, fish threatened with extinction may require additional expensive actions such as habitat restoration and acquisition and “conservation hatcheries,” which help maintain populations of endangered species outside of their natural environment. Unlike past environmental water markets, where agencies only bought water for fish and wildlife refuges, some environmental flows in this special drought market would be treated as senior water rights that could be sold. Fishery agencies could sell some of these flows when they determine that the reduction will not jeopardize endangered species. The sale of this water would provide funds that help native species recover. For example, a relaxation of environmental flow requirements that made available 100,000 acre-feet of water (1 acre-foot is about 326,000 gallons) – perhaps worth $400 an acre-foot during a drought – would generate $40 million to help pay for compensating actions. Those actions might include buying water for environmental purposes elsewhere in the state or creating a reserve fund to aid native fish after the drought. Making this new market work would require some new rules, and there are several options. Compensated relaxation of environmental flow standards could be done as part of regulatory actions under the Endangered Species Act (biological opinions, incidental take permits and habitat conservation plans), negotiated agreements with water users or fixed penalties for violating flow and water quality standards. The price could be set at the fair market value of the water made available, the cost of compensatory environmental actions or a fixed or negotiated fee established by the regulatory agency. Creating this type of drought environmental water market would help limit the reductions in environmental river flows, while ensuring that such reductions receive some compensation. For California, this would be an appropriate expression of the state’s co-equal environmental and economic goals for water management in times of hardship. If we can’t all get better together in a severe drought, at least we can reduce and share the pain fairly in a way that provides some help to fish and other species that depend on our rivers for their survival.




Drought’s secret toll in Australia’s Bush.
February 1, 2014 The Australian The terrible human toll of the two-year drought in Queensland is deepening, with new figures revealing at least 16 cattlemen, farmers and farm workers have taken their own lives in the state’s northwest in the past year.



Parts of Somerset have been flooded throughout January

UK floods: January rain breaks records in parts of England February 1, 2014 BBC

Parts of England have had their wettest January since records began more than 100 years ago, figures show. The Met Office said much of southern England and parts of the Midlands had already seen twice the average rainfall for January by midnight on Tuesday – with three days left in the month….



Flooded British villages ignite climate

San Francisco Chronicle ‎- February 3, 2014

THORNEY, England (AP) — As children climb into boats to get to school and scores of hoses pump floodwaters from fields day and night, one corner of southwest England 


Protecting farms or front rooms? The impossible dilemma that climate change forces upon us

We need a concerted national debate about how we best protect ourselves from increasingly extreme weather.

By Guy Shrubsole Published 04 February 2014 12:34

At last, someone has said it. Chris Smith, chair of the Environment Agency, wrote in the Telegraph of the impossible dilemma facing Britain as climate change leads to ever-worsening flooding: “…This involves tricky issues of policy and priority: town or country, front rooms or farmland? Flood defences cost money; and how much should the taxpayer be prepared to spend on different places, communities and livelihoods – in Somerset, Lincolnshire, Yorkshire, or East Anglia? There’s no bottomless purse, and we need to make difficult but sensible choices about where and what we try to protect.” Smith’s words go to the heart of the challenge climate change poses to these shores. Do we continue to defend all parts of the country against rising sea levels and increasing floods – or abandon whole swathes of low-lying land to its fate?
This vexed, heartrending conundrum ought to be one of the biggest issues in British politics. Yet it is barely spoken about in Westminster. The scientists and engineers facing up to the problem are far less circumspect. “Retreat is the only sensible policy,” says Colin Thorne, professor of physical geography at Nottingham University and respected flooding expert. “If we fight nature, we will lose in the end… Can the Somerset Levels be defended between now and the end of the century? No….


Holding back the water

Dredging, flood barriers, natural flood management and sustainable drainage are recognised methods of preventing or alleviating flooding. BBC News looks at how these methods work and the scientific principles behind them.


Nature can, selectively, buffer human-caused global warming, say scientists
(February 2, 2014) — Can naturally occurring processes selectively buffer the full brunt of global warming caused by greenhouse gas emissions resulting from human activities? Yes, says a group of researchers in a new study. … The satellite observations have shown that warming of the tropical Indian Ocean and tropical Western Pacific Ocean — with resulting increased precipitation and water vapor there — causes the opposite effect of cooling in the TTL region above the warming sea surface. Once the TTL cools, less water vapor is present in the TTL and also above in the stratosphere. Since water vapor is a very strong greenhouse gas, this effect leads to a negative feedback on climate change. That is, the increase in water vapor due to enhanced evaporation from the warming oceans is confined to the near- surface area, while the stratosphere becomes drier. Hence, this effect may actually slightly weaken the more dire forecasted aspects of an increasing warming of our climate, the scientists say….full story


Adapting to Sea Level Rise Could Save Trillions by 2100

Climate Central

 – ‎Feb 3, 2014‎


Floods already pose major problems for coastal communities each year. Those issues are only likely to grow as oceans continue to rise, due in part to climate change, threatening millions of people and trillions of dollars in infrastructure. But new


Does Polar Vortex Mean ‘So Much for Global Warming?’ (Op-Ed)

By Michael Mann January 31, 2014

Michael Mann is Distinguished Professor of Meteorology at Penn State University and was recognized in 2007, with other IPCC authors, for contributing to the award of the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize for his work as a lead author on the Observed Climate Variability and Change” chapter of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Third Scientific Assessment Report. This article is adapted from one that appeared on Mann contributed this article to LiveScience’s Expert Voices: Op-Ed & Insights.

Over the past couple of months, the United States has seen the return of something many believed had been lost for good: cold weather.

Although the current temperatures in the eastern United States may seem unusually cold, in the context of our history they really aren’t. In fact, most of the cold that has made the news lately hasn’t been all that chilly compared what was “normal” for the 20th century. The Associated Press explained the nation’s short-term memory loss in the article “Scientists: Americans are becoming weather wimps,” — the nerdy web comic XKCD captured the sentiment even more concisely.

The bottom line? Because the last decade was the hottest on record (and just a year ago, the United States saw its warmest year ever) Americans have grown accustomed to warmer winters that make normal cold feel extreme. Some then wonder why this winter has been so (normally) cold and why temperatures in Peoria this winter have not been warmed by climate change to, say, a balmy 60 degrees Fahrenheit (16 degrees Celsius). The climate denial bubble claims that the cold winter weather means that surely CO2 cannot be warming the atmosphere. How can there be global warming if it’s snowing outside, after all?


Well, the short answer is that cold winters still happen even in a warmed world, but that doesn’t mean it’s cold everywhere. In fact, you don’t even have to leave the United States to find a very striking image of warming. Just shift your attention from the East Coast to the West Coast. Alaska, usually snowy and frigid, has had two weeks of record high temperatures. Amazingly, the second half of January has averaged 40 F (4 C) above normal during some days in the central and western parts of the state.

The persistently jagged jet stream we have witnessed in recent weeks has led most recently to what some have termed a “Drunken Arctic.” Stumbling south with polar winds and snow, this unexpected meteorological event seems to have caught our collective attention. And why shouldn’t it? It is an unusual enough, if not unprecedented, event. And it has rekindled curiosity over how human-caused climate change may be impacting the jet stream and the weather systems associated with it.


So, is there a climate connection to this strange occurrence? While more study is certainly needed, I have been increasingly impressed by the growing body of evidence supporting the hypothesis that climate change may lead to more persistent meanders in the jet stream. In a world without global warming, the temperature difference between the freezing Arctic and warmer lower latitudes creates a pressure field that confines the jet stream to a relatively tight band around the Arctic, with wave-like meanders characterized by ephemeral “ridges” and “troughs.” As the Arctic melts and warms, however, that temperature difference is reduced, and the meanders of the jet stream potentially become more pronounced and more sluggish. The more sluggish and persistent those meanders, the more persistent the patterns of regional warmth where the jet stream pulls warm air northward, and the regional cold where it pulls arctic air south.


Perfectly encapsulating the upside-down, hung-over Arctic is this remarkable observation, courtesy of Jeff Masters of the popular Weather Underground blog: At 10 p.m. on Jan. 26th, 2014, the temperature in Homer, Alaska of 54 F (12 C) was warmer than any other place in the contiguous United States except southern Florida and southern California.


As we approach Groundhog Day, celebrated in the iconic town of Punxsutawney, the question we’re all asking here in central Pennsylvania of whether or not we’ll see an extended winter may in fact depend on what is happening instead thousands of miles to the north in the melting Arctic.

And the very same jet stream configuration responsible for the southward plunging Arctic air mass chilling the eastern United States is associated further to the west with a “ridge” of high pressure that is pushing the warm, moist subtropical Pacific air masses that would normally deliver plentiful rainfall (and snowpack) to California well to the north.

Climate scientists were beginning to suspect a decade ago that the dramatic loss of Arctic sea ice might alter the jet stream in precisely this way, favoring conditions eerily like what we are seeing right now in California: unprecedented and devastating drought.


So to conclude, I propose a toast to the Arctic, whose instability should serve as a wake-up call to those steeped in denial. When it comes to kicking our “fossil fuel addiction” (as former president George W. Bush referred to it), let’s hope we’re not much further from hitting rock bottom. Because when a drunken Arctic leaves Alaska warmer than Georgia in mid-winter, and California as high and dry as it has ever been, we should know we may have a problem.


Climate change threatens a simple cup of tea. Carolyn Johnson January 28, 2014

Boston Globe Everyone knows that climate change threatens coastlines and wildlife. But its effects won’t be limited to destroying property and altering the natural world; it will also affect the quality of experiences and products we now take for granted — such as the simple ritual of sipping a cup of tea.


Climate change is slowly but steadily cooking the world’s oceans

By Gwynn Guilford @sinoceros February 4, 2014

The sea absorbs 90% of global warming. Reuters/Francois Lenoir

Because the ocean’s so big—it takes up more than 70% of the planet’s surface—it absorbs a lot of energy without anyone being much the wiser. Here’s a look at data for the upper 2,000 meters (1.14 miles) of the global ocean. Check out the three-month moving average for the last quarter of 2013, via the National Oceanographic Data Center, which actually goes off the chart:


National Oceanographic Data Center (NODC)

Roughly speaking, from about 1980 to 2000, the ocean gained around 50 zettajoules (ZJ, or 1021 joules) of heat. But from 2000 to 2013, it added another 150 ZJs of heat. Of course, even if you knew what a zettajoule is, it’s hard to envision what this means.  Science Skeptic, a blog on climate change, offers this useful analogy: Over the last half-dozen or so decades, the ocean’s been storing the heat energy equivalent of about two Hiroshima bombs per second. Worryingly, that rate’s picking up, with around four bombs per second stored in the last 16 years. In 2013, however, the ocean gained the heat equivalent to about 12 bombs per second, says Science Skeptic. That adds up to more than 378 million atomic bombs a year worth of heat. That’s troublesome, considering that warmer waters are thought to make hurricanes and typhoons more severe, including Typhoon Haiyan, which ravaged the Philippines in 2013. Warmer waters also cause global sea levels to rise, threatening property values and exacerbating flooding….



Google Earth: how much has global warming raised temperatures near you?

The Guardian

 – ‎February 4, 2014‎


If you’ve ever wondered how much global warming has raised local temperatures in your area or elsewhere on the globe, the University of East Anglia Climatic Research Unit (UEA CRU) has just released a new interactive Google Earth layer that will let


Winter Olympics: Downhill forecast Nature 506, 20–22 (06 February 2014) doi:10.1038/506020a

Meteorologists may scoff at the decision to hold a winter sporting event in a city where February averages a balmy 6 °C and temperatures hover just above freezing in the nearby mountains. But Sochi and its massive snow-making operation offer a glimpse of the future of skiing and the pressures that will confront Olympic planners as the world heats up.


Winter Olympics inadvertently adapting to climate change. Climate Central
Climate change became a Winter Olympic issue in 1998 in the wake of the Nagano Games. The four subsequent host cities have made strides to address climate change. However, the Games have been unwittingly preparing for climate change over their 90-year history.


The End of Snow?

By PORTER FOX SUNDAY NY Times February 9, 2014

Nothing besides a national policy shift on how we create and consume energy will keep our mountains white…. It’s easy to blame the big oil companies and the billions of dollars they spend on influencing the media and popular opinion. But the real reason is a lack of knowledge. I know, because I, too, was ignorant until I began researching the issue for a book on the future of snow.

I was floored by how much snow had already disappeared from the planet, not to mention how much was predicted to melt in my lifetime. The ski season in parts of British Columbia is four to five weeks shorter than it was 50 years ago, and in eastern Canada, the season is predicted to drop to less than two months by midcentury. At Lake Tahoe, spring now arrives two and a half weeks earlier, and some computer models predict that the Pacific Northwest will receive 40 to 70 percent less snow by 2050. If greenhouse gas emissions continue to rise — they grew 41 percent between 1990 and 2008 — then snowfall, winter and skiing will no longer exist as we know them by the end of the century.

The effect on the ski industry has already been significant. Between 1999 and 2010, low snowfall years cost the industry $1 billion and up to 27,000 jobs. Oregon took the biggest hit out West, with 31 percent fewer skier visits during low snow years. Next was Washington at 28 percent, Utah at 14 percent and Colorado at 7.7 percent.

…..The National Ski Area Association has reacted with relatively ineffective campaigns like Sustainable Slopes and the Climate Challenge, while policies at ski resorts range from aggressively green to indifferent. Somewhere in between lie the majority of American ski areas, which are struggling to make ends meet while pushing recycling, car-pooling, carbon offsets and awareness campaigns to show they care.

The truth is, it is too late for all of that. Greening the ski industry is commendable, but it isn’t nearly enough. Nothing besides a national policy shift on how we create and consume energy will keep our mountains white in the winter — and slow global warming to a safe level.

This is no longer a scientific debate. It is scientific fact. The greatest fear of most climate scientists is continued complacency that leads to a series of natural climatic feedbacks — like the melting of the methane-rich permafrost of Arctic Canada.

Artificial snow-making now helps to cover 88 percent of American ski resorts, and has become the stopgap measure to defend against the early effects of climate change. Snow-making requires a tremendous amount of electricity and water, though, so it’s unlikely that snow guns will be our savior. In the Alps, snow-making uses more water in the winter than the entire city of Vienna, about 500,000 gallons of water per acre. Ski areas like Vail, Keystone, Breckenridge and Arapahoe Basin seed clouds with silver iodide to make it snow, but that won’t help much when it gets warmer. When it does, whatever the clouds bring will fall as rain…..

With several dry winters back to back, the ski industry is waking up. Last spring, 108 ski resorts, along with 40 major companies, signed the Climate Declaration, urging federal policy makers to take action on climate change. A few weeks later, President Obama announced his Climate Action Plan, stating, “Mountain communities worry about what smaller snowpacks will mean for tourism — and then, families at the bottom of the mountains wonder what it will mean for their drinking water.”

It was a big step forward for skiers and the country. And it led people to ask me, “Why save skiing when there are more pressing consequences of climate change to worry about?” The answer is, this is not about skiing. It is about snow, a vital component of earth’s climate system and water cycle. When it disappears, what follows is a dangerous chain reaction of catastrophes like forest fires, drought, mountain pine beetle infestation, degraded river habitat, loss of hydroelectric power, dried-up aquifers and shifting weather patterns. Not to mention that more than a billion people around the world — including about 70 million in the western United States — rely on snowmelt for their fresh water supply.

I remember watching my first Winter Olympics in 1980. We were on a family ski trip at Copper Mountain in Colorado, where my brother and I skied the first powder run of our lives. It was on a gentle slope just off one of the main trails. We wiggled down the hill in chaotic rapture then skied the run again and again. The snow was soft and the turns effortless. You don’t have to be a skier to feel nostalgia for those whitewashed days — or to see the writing on the wall.



How to convince your friends to believe in climate change. It’s not as hard as you think.

By Brian Palmer, Washington Post Published: February 3 2014

….But if you’re serious about the environment and want others to share your passion, don’t be intimidated by the potential mockery or resistance. There’s an extensive body of research on how to persuade those who view science with suspicion — it’s called the science of science communication. Much of the work centers on climate change. “There is a socially constructed silence around climate change,” says George Marshall, founder of the Climate Outreach and Information Network and author of the forthcoming book “Don’t Even Think About It: Why Our Brains Are Wired to Ignore Climate Change.” Socially negotiated silences grow up around issues that we simply can’t agree on. But we have to find a way around this stalemate, because the consequences are monumental. Marshall recommends tweaking your language slightly to make yourself sound less judgmental. “Speak openly of your personal ownership of your convictions,” he notes. “Say, ‘This is what’s important to me, and this is why.’ Don’t get caught up in the scientific discussion. You’re not a scientist, and evidence doesn’t persuade people who reject climate change. What carries power is your personal conviction as a friend, colleague or neighbor.”

Climate change communications research suggests that a person’s views are formed in large part by their social network. When a climate change rejectionist finds he is surrounded by believers, it eases the path toward changing his mind. Say that you, too, were once reluctant to accept the idea of climate change. It helps your audience identify with you.

Now you’ll need a compelling argument to explain why you came around. As Marshall notes, communications research shows that “because scientists say so” is a loser. (President Obama made this mistake last week in his State of the Union address, when he bluntly declared that “climate change is a fact.”)

Stephan Lewandowsky, who studies this issue at the University of Bristol, offers four arguments that have been shown to appeal to the sort of person who rejects the idea of climate change.

  • First, frame it as a risk-management issue. We aren’t really a society of believers and deniers on climate change; our opinions exist on a spectrum. Maybe you’re 90 percent sure that climate change is real, while your neighbor sets the probability at just 20 percent. A disagreement over numbers is easier to discuss than a fundamentally different set of worldviews. Even if there’s only a 20 percent chance of rising sea levels, intensifying storm systems and crop failure, we ought to take steps to mitigate the risk. After all, your house probably won’t burn down or flood, but you still have homeowners insurance.
  • Next, talk about nuclear power. “People who are suspicious of hippies and Al Gore accept nuclear as a possible solution,” Lewandowsky says. Even if you’re personally opposed to nuclear power, this is a handy way to open climate-change rejectionists to the idea of managing the risks. From there, you can expand the discussion into other business opportunities that would arise from managing climate change, like hydrogen-powered cars or possibly solar arrays.
  • Illness terrifies people of all stripes, so it sometimes helps to emphasize the links between climate change and disease. “Mosquitoes now live at higher altitudes and spread farther from the tropics than they used to,” Lewandowsky says, “and diseases like malaria and dengue are migrating from the equator.” Nobody likes malaria, even if they’re not so bothered about the possible extinction of polar bears.
  • If all else fails, bring up the Pentagon. People who reject climate-change science often find the views of the Department of Defense…






House backs bill to speed logging of trees burned in Rim Fire

February 06, 2014 12:15 PM

WASHINGTON (AP) — The House approved a wide-ranging public lands bill Thursday that would speed logging of trees burned in last year’s massive Rim Fire in California.

The measure also allows vehicular access to North Carolina’s Cape Hatteras National Seashore, extends livestock grazing permits on federal land in the West and lifts longstanding restrictions on canoes, rafts and other “hand-propelled” watercraft in Yellowstone and Grand Teton national parks. The House approved the bill, 220-194, on a largely party-line vote. It now goes to the Senate, where it is considered unlikely to pass. The White House opposes the bill but has not issued a veto threat….


Another approach to post-fire management—featuring Point Blue’s Ryan Burnett:

Huge Rim Fire
Gives Opportunity to Restore Forest Differently

National Geographic by Clark Howard Jan 20, 2014


Inducing climate-smart global supply networks
February 5, 2014) — Extreme weather events like super-typhoon Haiyan and hurricane Sandy can have major negative impacts on the world economy. So far, however, the effects on global production and consumption webs are missing from most assessments. This is a serious deficit, argues one expert: “World markets as well as local economies are highly interlinked and rely on global supply chains — adaptation therefore requires a global perspective, not just a local one.” … > full story


White House Announces Network of Climate Hubs. So What Are They?

Regional hubs aim to match latest climate science with farmers and ranchers.

This aerial view of drought-stricken Arkansas shows damaged corn and sparse soybean crops. The ground is so dry that tractors leave several hundred yards of dust in their wake. PHOTOGRAPH BY LES STONE, CORBIS

Patrick J. Kiger for National Geographic

Saying it wants to help farmers and ranchers better cope with the effects of climate change, the Obama Administration on Wednesday announced a new network of regional “climate hubs.” The idea is to dispatch a cadre of climate change specialists across the nation to gather the latest science on how climate shifts may affect crops and animals, and to disseminate the information to farmers, ranchers, local officials, and others. The hubs will operate out of U.S. Department of Agriculture offices, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said in making the announcement. Data from those hubs could help farmers and ranchers anticipate a variety of potentially damaging effects of the warming trend, said Bill Hohenstein, director of the USDA’s Climate Change Program Office. “Higher nighttime temperatures, for example, can affect plant development at critical stages of the growth cycle,” Hohenstein said in an interview Wednesday. “And in the west, smaller winter snowpacks can affect the availability of water for irrigation during the growing season.” The climate shift can also mean increased risk to farms from fires, and boost the spread of pests and diseases that threaten farm output, he said. The new climate hubs could offer solutions, such as helping wheat farmers select seeds whose genetic makeup makes them more resilient against predicted drought conditions. “On the pest management side, we know that insects respond differently to warmer, drier weather,” said Ann Bartuska, deputy undersecretary for the USDA’s Research, Education, and Economics section. “If we can predict the change in their range, we can help farmers to find measures to deal with them.”

Getting Info to Farmers

The USDA described some of the impacts it expects from climate shifts in a February 2013 report, saying the agency’s scientists expect the trend to have “overall detrimental effects on most crops and livestock” by the mid-21st century. (Related: “Leaked Report Spotlights Big Climate Change Assessment.”) The Department of Agriculture has been generating such information for years, spending $120 million a year on climate change-related research. “The question is how we can get that information into the hands of those who need it,” said Bartuska…..


U.S. Climate Action Report (pdf)

2014 opened with the release of the latest U.S. Climate Action Report (pdf), including the first ever U.S. Biennial Report and the sixth quadrennial National Communication to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). The report laid out steps that the U.S. is taking domestically and internationally to address climate change [mitigation—reduction of GHG], particularly highlighting progress in and goals for emissions reductions….


How the U.S. Exports Global Warming

While Obama talks of putting America on the path to a clean, green future, we’re flooding world markets with cheap, high carbon fuels

By Tim Dickinson Rolling Stone February 3, 2014 11:00 AM ET

Illustration by Victor Juhasz

The greening of American energy is both real and profound. Since President Obama took office, the nation’s solar capacity has increased more than tenfold. Wind power has more than doubled, to 60,000 megawatts – enough to power nearly 20 million homes. Thanks to aggressive new fuel-efficiency standards, the nation’s drivers are burning nearly 5 billion fewer gallons of gasoline a year than in 2008. The boom in cheap natural gas, meanwhile, has disrupted the coal industry. Coal-power generation, though still the nation’s top source of electricity, is off nearly 20 percent since 2008. More than 150 coal plants have already been shuttered, and the EPA is expected to issue regulations in June that will limit emissions from existing coal facilities. These rules should accelerate the shift to natural gas, which – fracking’s risks to groundwater aside – generates half the greenhouse pollution of coal. But there’s a flip side to this American success story. Even as our nation is pivoting toward a more sustainable energy future, America’s oil and coal corporations are racing to position the country as the planet’s dirty-energy dealer – supplying the developing world with cut-rate, high-polluting, climate-damaging fuels. Much like tobacco companies did in the 1990s – when new taxes, regulations and rising consumer awareness undercut domestic demand – Big Carbon is turning to lucrative new markets in booming Asian economies where regulations are looser. Worse, the White House has quietly championed this dirty-energy trade. “The Obama administration wants to be seen as a climate leader, but there is no source of fossil fuel that it is prepared to leave in the ground,” says Lorne Stockman, research director for Oil Change International. “Coal, gas, refinery products – crude oil is the last frontier on this. You want it? We’re going to export it.”….


Waxman: Time to change tactics on climate
The Hill February 7, 2014

With House GOP leadership making it impossible to move any type of legislation on climate change in Congress at the moment, Rep. Henry Waxman (D-Calif.) and fellow Democrats plan to take their cause off the House floor.


US farm bill a bonanza for California growers

San Francisco Chronicle

 – ‎February 4, 2014‎


Washington — After decades playing the stepchild of U.S. farm policy, California will see billions of dollars in federal aid under the new five-year farm bill that won final congressional passage Tuesday and now goes to President Obama for his signature….



California drought: State’s water deliveries to be halted

Melody Gutierrez and Jill Tucker SF Chronicle Updated 10:43 pm, Friday, January 31, 2014

YWCA of San Francisco resident Wai Ying Pang, uses an aerator, installed by the SFPUC, while filling a bowl with water to clean vegetables on Tuesday, January 28, 2014 in San Francisco, Calif. Pang was demonstrating how she puts water into a bowl, instead of letting the water run, to clean vegetables which helps save water. Photo: Lea Suzuki, The Chronicle

 SACRAMENTO — As drought conditions worsen, California is taking the unprecedented step of cutting off water to contractors that serve 25 million people and 750,000 acres of farmland.

As a result, Californians who have not yet felt the effects of what could be the state’s worst drought in modern history may soon begin to experience the pain. Across the state, more cities are expected to begin implementing mandatory restrictions on water use. “Today’s action is a stark reminder that California’s drought is real,” Gov. Jerry Brown said Friday. “We’re taking every possible step to prepare the state for the continuing dry conditions we face.” The California Department of Water Resources announced Friday that if dry conditions continue, water agencies will not receive any water from the State Water Project, a system that serves two-thirds of California’s population using reservoirs, aqueducts, power plants and pumping plants. Water is sent to 29 water suppliers throughout the state, including four in the Bay Area, which then provide the water to agencies serving homes and farms. San Francisco, the Peninsula and other parts of the Bay Area would not be directly affected by the water cutoff because they get water from other sources, such as Hetch Hetchy. But as water becomes scarce, less fortunate agencies may turn to healthier ones for assistance.

Department Director Mark Cowin said at a news conference that if the dry spell continues, only carryover water from last year will be channeled to the farmers and several towns that get their water from the State Water Project. Those users will have to rely on groundwater, local reservoirs and other supplies.

“Everyone – farmers, fish, people in our cities and towns – will get less water as a result, but these actions will protect us all better in the long run,” Cowin said. “Simply put, there is not enough water to go around, so we need to conserve.”….


As California drought persists, federal aid begins to flow

By Michael Doyle Fresno Bee Washington Bureau February 4, 2014 

WASHINGTON — The Agriculture Department on Tuesday offered new aid to water-starved California farmers, while lawmakers tussled over competing anti-drought proposals. Underscoring how California’s water crisis has reached a political boil, top federal and state officials jointly announced the relatively modest new package of aid that features $20 million for agricultural water conservation efforts. Additional aid for California will be announced by the Forest Service on Thursday. “This is really designed to pump resources into problem solving,” Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said. “We expect and anticipate that this is the first of a number of (aid) announcements.” Accompanied by Karen Ross, secretary of the California Department of Food and Agriculture, and Rep. Jim Costa, D-Fresno, Vilsack announced the funding for which California farmers can apply. Grants will be provided for projects that could include improving irrigation efficiency, planting cover crops and protecting grazing lands, among other efforts. “While we’re all praying for rain, we can use all the help we can get,” Costa said. Officials opened up the aid taps precisely as the Republican-controlled House prepared to approve on Wednesday an ambitious California water package tailored for Central Valley irrigation districts. The House bill authorizes several new dams, repeals a San Joaquin River restoration program and steers water from fish to farmers…..



The untold story of Keystone Macleans

The five-years-and-counting Keystone XL pipeline saga has become among the highest-profile environmental controversies to engulf North America in the 21st century and fodder for the merciless machinery of presidential politics. But even as its consequences mount, the full story of the Keystone XL dispute remains little understood.

How one Nebraska farmer killed the pipeline

by Luiza Ch. Savage on Monday, January 27, 2014



Randy Thompson (Photograph by Alyssa Schukar/Novus Select)

Two thousand miles west of Washington, D.C., on the vast Nebraska prairie, you can drive for hours on roads that were once wagon trails, and rarely pass another car or truck. When one finally comes by, the driver will usually give you a little wave, like a lone hiker saluting another on a backcountry trail. And if you pull over to the side of that road, shouldered with wild sunflowers in late summer, a perfect stranger will worry enough about your stopped vehicle to circle back half an hour later to make sure that you are okay.

It was here, among the soft-spoken corn farmers and the tight-lipped cattle ranchers, and the billboards proclaiming, “Nebraska . . . the good life,” that troubles for the Keystone XL pipeline began.
The case for TransCanada’s proposed pipeline from the Alberta oil sands, through America’s heartland, to refineries on the Gulf Coast of Texas was simple: the Texas refineries depended on declining supplies of “heavy” crude oil from Mexico and Venezuela. The landlocked oil sands had growing, cheap supplies of the kind of crude in which the refineries specialized. All that was lacking was the pipeline to get it there. Because the pipeline crossed the border, it required a permit from the president. George W. Bush had approved TransCanada’s first Keystone pipeline, from Alberta to the U.S. Midwest, in less than two years. Obama quietly okayed another oil sands pipeline to the Midwest, the Alberta Clipper, in 2009.

Access to Canadian oil had been so coveted by successive U.S. administrations that American negotiators had made it a priority in free trade negotiations in the 1980s. TransCanada assumed they’d have a permit by 2010. The stakes were high. For the U.S., the project meant refining profits, stable supplies from a non-hostile regime and, in the aftermath of a recession, thousands of related jobs. For Canada, it was the key to unlocking the economic engine that the oil sands had become. The pipeline’s proposed 830,000 barrels per day would come on top of the two million per day already heading from northern Alberta to the U.S.—Canada’s only customer. Without access to southern refineries, Canadian oil was piling up in the Midwest and selling at a discount. As wars raged in the Middle East, Canadian officials pushed a vision of continental energy integration: “Working together we can achieve what was dreamed about,” said Natural Resources Minister Joe Oliver, “and that is North American energy independence.”

But as energy markets analyst Bob McNally would later put it, “In the case of Keystone XL, just about everything that could possibly go wrong, did.”

The five-years-and-counting Keystone XL pipeline saga has become among the highest-profile environmental controversies to engulf North America in the 21st century and fodder for the merciless machinery of presidential politics. It has bred mistrust between Ottawa and Washington, and led a wary Prime Minister to press for a historic turning away from our largest trading partner toward markets entire oceans away. But even as its consequences mount, the full story of the Keystone XL dispute remains little understood. Attention has focused on Hollywood stars protesting the oil sands, and a standoff between Obama and Republicans over jobs and energy security.

The story is more than that. The Keystone XL project was ensnared as much by concerns over water as over air, and its first—and in some ways most effective—opponents were Republicans, operating far from the cameras of the national media. Their story opens a window on the unpredictable interplay between conservatism’s business wing and its grassroots, libertarian wing, and underscores how America’s restless and kaleidoscopic politics can confound Canadian diplomacy.

The storm around Keystone XL is remarkable not least because of where it began. In all its history, the state of Nebraska has voted for a Democrat for president exactly once: back in 1964. That this thoroughly Republican state of rural conservatism could trip up the cross-border energy trade occurred to no one when the pipeline was first proposed in 2008….



    Tom Steyer Letter to Secretary of State John Kerry on the Keystone Pipeline February 2, 2014


Tom Steyer may target Mary Landrieu in next ad blitz Politico By ANDREW RESTUCCIA | 2/5/14 6:01 PM EST

Billionaire activist Tom Steyer signaled that he’s willing to target Democrats who support construction of the Keystone XL oil pipeline….Steyer’s PAC, NextGen Climate Action, is calling on supporters to choose the next target of its latest anti-Keystone ad, which says proponents of the pipeline “take Americans for suckers.” Help us pick the next target for our Keystone XL television ad! These are just a few of the elected officials and candidates who’ve been sold on the idea that the Keystone XL pipeline is a good deal for America,” the group says on its website. It then gives supporters five options, including Sen. Mary Landrieu, a Democrat and vocal Keystone supporter who is running for reelection in Louisiana this year. The four other possible targets are Republicans: Reps. Paul Broun of Georgia and Shelley Moore Capito of West Virginia, who are both running for Senate; Florida Sen. Marco Rubio; and Mike Rounds, a former South Dakota governor who is also running for Senate. Steyer, a former hedge fund manager, so far has been quiet about his plans for 2014. But the list offers the first glimpse into which 2014 races Steyer is eyeing.

Why is Keystone so important to supporters and opponents? February 1, 2014 Toronto Star

Why Keystone XL? As the U.S. inched closer to a final decision on the project Friday, the answer to the question lies upstream. That’s where a growing ocean of oil production is building up in western Canada, looking for conduits to market.


State Dept. gives Obama political cover to OK Keystone XL pipeline looming over his legacy.
February 1, 2014 AP

President Barack Obama is running out of reasons to say no to Keystone XL, the proposed oil pipeline that’s long been looming over his environmental legacy. Associated Press


How to deconstruct the difficult math of Keystone XL’s carbon footprint. Inside Climate News

We may never know the Keystone XL’s precise carbon footprint, but it’s possible it will add up to a billion tons of CO2 over the lifetime of the project.



EPA staff struggling to create pollution rule. NY Times February 4, 2014

In marathon meetings and tense all-day drafting sessions, dozens of lawyers, economists and engineers at the Environmental Protection Agency are struggling to create what is certain to be a divisive but potentially historic centerpiece of President Obama’s climate change legacy.


UN appoints former NYC Mayor Bloomberg cities, climate change envoy


 – ‎Jan 30, 2014‎ 


….Ban said Bloomberg will assist him in “consultations with mayors and related key stakeholders, in order to raise political will and mobilize action among cities as part of his long-term strategy to advance efforts on climate change.”…


Bloomberg vows to boost cities’ efforts to curb climate change February 6, 2014 Reuters

Former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg aims to use his new role as U.N. envoy on cities and climate change to help “frustrated” U.N. chief Ban Ki-moon motivate world leaders to cut greenhouse gas emissions by showing them progress made by large cities.


Steinberg bill aims to ease California drought

By Matt Weiser SAC BEE Published: Monday, Feb. 3, 2014 – 12:00 am

California’s Senate leader is drafting legislation that would expedite help for communities facing what may become the worst drought in state history. The actions proposed by Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg, D-Sacramento, would set a July 1 deadline for state agencies to approve water recycling and stormwater reuse projects. It also would redirect millions of dollars intended for climate-change relief to projects that benefit water conservation.….The measures are proposed as urgency amendments to Senate Bill 731, a pending bill drafted by Steinberg that makes changes to the California Environmental Quality Act. The goal is to avoid further delaying “shovel ready” projects that can bring relief, whether this is the last year of drought or just another year in a much longer drought.

The proposal would appropriate $11 million of existing state and federal funds for clean-drinking-water programs and direct the State Water Resources Control Board to speed up spending that money to help poor and disadvantaged communities. Some environmental groups said they would support the emphasis on water recycling. “However, there must be enough time to allow public health experts to confirm that the highest safety standards will continue to be met,” said Jonas Minton, senior project manager at the Planning and Conservation League.

Among other provisions, the legislation:

• Appropriates $40 million from the Greenhouse Gas Reduction Fund for the Department of Water Resources to spend on water conservation and energy-saving programs for farms, homes and businesses.

• Dedicates $50 million in existing funds for DWR to spend on flood-control projects that also benefit water supply.

• Appropriates $4.8 million from the state general fund for the Water Resources Control Board to increase monitoring and reporting of groundwater use.

Steinberg was the architect of a complex package of water laws in 2009, during the last drought, that reformed many aspects of state water management and allocated money for conservation and habitat projects. Those laws, for the first time, required well owners to file regular reports with the state on their groundwater use. California remains the only state in the nation that does not regulate groundwater pumping, a sore spot with many conservation advocates.

“This bill would make a small but necessary down payment on addressing the overpumping of the state’s groundwater,” Minton said.

The bill also would direct state agencies to work more closely together to expedite drought relief. In particular, it would direct DWR and the Department of Food and Agriculture to jointly develop a program of incentives for farms to conserve water.


Presidio Trust shoots down George Lucas’ plan, 2 others

John King SF Chron Updated 10:58 pm, Monday, February 3, 2014

The Presidio Trust called an end Monday to the competition for the 8-acre site on Crissy Field coveted by “Star Wars” creator George Lucas and two other would-be developers.

The unanimous vote by the trust’s seven-member board of directors left the site’s future open and rejected all three proposals – including the one by Lucas, who had pledged to spend $700 million to build and endow a museum holding his collection of popular art.

Instead, the board said it wants to work with Lucas to find an alternative site for his museum within the 1,491-acre park. As for the other teams – one led by the Golden Gate National Parks Conservancy, the other by architecture firm WRNS Studio – the board said it hopes to pursue “collaboration” with them regarding future programs at the Presidio.







[note that this does not address the issue of potential impacts on wildlife, fisheries or marine food webs…]

Winds of change: Floating power turbines envisioned off Oregon coast LA Times February 5, 2014

A Seattle energy company received initial regulatory approval Wednesday to build five massive wind turbines floating 16 miles off the Oregon coast. The pilot project off Coos Bay would be the first offshore wind facility on the West Coast. It also would be the biggest demonstration of technology that places floating turbines on platforms in deep water, according to federal officials and executives at Principle Power, the developer. The turbines would be as tall as a 60-story building, vastly larger than typical turbines on land-based wind farms, and able to tap strong ocean winds that blow consistently in southern Oregon, said Kevin Banister, Principle’s vice president for business and government affairs. Each 6-megawatt turbine would be supported on three floating platforms moored by cables anchored to the sea floor, about 1,400 feet below the surface. The electricity would be transmitted to shore via underwater cable. The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation and Enforcement, part of the Interior Department, gave approval for the company to submit a formal plan for building the 30-megawatt project. Principle Power would lease 15 square miles of ocean away from shipping lanes and barely visible from the coast….The Energy Department’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory has estimated that the West Coast has 800 gigawatts of wind energy potential, equal to more than three-fourths of the nation’s entire power generation capacity. Banister said the company’s research has determined that southern Oregon and Northern California have some of the strongest and most consistent winds, along with parts of Southern California. “Offshore wind in the right locations is a very promising technology,” said Bill Corcoran, the Sierra Club’s western director for its Beyond Coal campaign. Banister said the company’s studies indicate that the turbines will produce about 40% of their maximum potential generating capacity, significantly above the 20% to low 30% that is typical on land-based California wind farms. The best wind farms planned for Wyoming are expected to product at 45% capacity…..

Could wind power’s future be windmills on a grain of rice? Fast Company

This new windmill measures less than 2 millimeters in diameter, making it useful in places where bulky turbines don’t work…..
Wind power is big. Very big. The turbines have steadily grown from the scale of old-fashioned windmills to having blades the size of football fields. Being big has its advantages–namely generating a lot of power. But researchers J.-C. Chiao and Smitha Rao at the University of Texas in Arlington think there could be advantages at the other end of the scale. They’ve developed a tiny windmill with a diameter of 1.8 mm, that could potentially be used in settings where windpower has so far been implausible. “I think it could be integrated together with a solar panel,” says Chiao, an electrical engineering professor. “Solar panel use for the day and wind use at night.”….



Approach helps identify new biofuel sources that don’t require farmland
(February 5, 2014) — While the debate over using crops for fuel continues, scientists are now reporting a new, fast approach to develop biofuel in a way that doesn’t require removing valuable farmland from the food production chain. Their work examining the fuel-producing potential of Streptomyces, a soil bacterium known for making antibiotics could help researchers identify other microbes that could be novel potential fuel sources. … > full story



Ga. island considers birds’ fate if turbine built

By MARY LANDERS, The Savannah Morning News Published 9:23 am, Saturday, February 1, 2014

TYBEE ISLAND, Ga. (AP) — Endangered piping plovers blend into the background of sandy beaches like Tybee’s, where these small shorebirds are known to visit. First decimated by the use of their feathers in women’s hats in the late 1800s, plovers have since suffered from having to compete with humans for beach space. Now only 60 or so breeding pairs remain in the smallest of their three known populations. The U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service has identified global warming and wind turbines as emerging threats to these birds. The paradox of that pair of threats is not lost on Tim Keyes, a wildlife biologist with the Georgia Department of Natural Resources who is worried that a proposed wind turbine on Tybee would harm plovers that migrate through or winter there…..


New technique makes ‘biogasoline’ from plant waste
(February 3, 2014) — Gasoline-like fuels can be made from cellulosic materials such as farm and forestry waste using a new process. The process could open up new markets for plant-based fuels, beyond existing diesel substitutes. … > full story








Green Power Procurement: A Guide to Developing and Implementing Greenhouse Gas Reduction Programs (pdf)

EPA has released a new climate and energy strategy guide for local governments, titled Green Power Procurement: A Guide to Developing and Implementing Greenhouse Gas Reduction Programs (pdf). Green power is a subset of renewable energy produced with no greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, typically from solar, wind, geothermal, biogas, biomass, or low-impact hydroelectric sources. By substituting green power for conventional electricity, which is produced primarily by combusting fossil fuels and accounts for nearly 33 percent of total U.S. energy-related GHG emissions, local governments and their communities can achieve significant energy, environmental, and economic benefits…..This guide is part of EPA’s Local Government Climate and Energy Strategy Series, which is designed to help policy makers and program staff plan, implement, and evaluate cost-effective climate and energy projects that generate environmental, economic, social, and human health benefits.To access other guides in this series, please visit the Local Government Climate and Energy Strategy Series page.




Please note that webinar space is limited.

California Dept of Fish and Wildlife CLIMATE COLLEGE– Year 2- Marine Focus- starts Mon Feb. 10th 2 pm PT (7 part lecture series)

The California Department of Fish and Wildlife will hold the second iteration of its Climate College in the spring of 2014, this time focusing on the state’s marine resources and featuring tribal perspectives on marine ecosystem management….The course will describe California’s unique challenges and opportunities in managing its 1,100 miles of coastline, bays/estuaries, and marine protected areas under climate impacts.  It will also discuss case studies to show examples of responses to climate impacts.  The second Climate College course will consist of a 7-part lecture series with the first class scheduled for 2pm on Monday, February 10th in the Resources Building Auditorium at 1416 9th Street, Sacramento.  Remaining classes are still being planned, and will be posted as they are confirmed.  We encourage all who are interested to participate either in person or via WebEx.  Please check this web page for future updates:


The Biology of Soil Compaction February 11, 2014
2PM Eastern / 11AM Pacific

Jim Hoorman Extension Educator, Cover Crops and Water Quality, The Ohio State University 

This webinar is presented by the USDA NRCS National Soil Health and Sustainability Team located at the East National Technology Support Center.  Join the Webinar  Save to Calendar 

Related Files  AEX-543-09 The Biology of Soil Compaction.pdf (1159Kb)



Vulnerability Assessment for Focal Resources of the Sierra Nevada–  February 12, 2014 12:00-1:00pm PST
Chrissy Howell, US Forest Service, and Jessi Kershner, EcoAdapt, will present results of focal resource vulnerability assessments from the Sierra Nevada and discuss broader impacts and next steps for adaptation implementation. Click here for more information on this CA LCC project. To join the online meeting.

1. Click here

2. If a password is required, enter the meeting password: calcc

3. Call-in number: 1-866-737-4154

4. Passcode: 287 267 0






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

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:


Cartographic Design for Geographic Information Systems (GIS)March 14-15, 2014, from 8:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.

Center for Integrated Spatial Research at the University of California, Santa Cruz– The Elkhorn Slough Coastal Training Program

Registration fee: $500 Teacher: Tim Norris, Cartography Consultant, PhD Candidate



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


Southern Sierra Fire and Hydroclimate Workshop

April 22-24, 2014 Yosemite Valley, CA

This workshop is focused on developing an integrated view of the physical landscape, climate effects, hydrology and fire regimes of the Sierra Nevada.


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


Scenario Planning toward Climate Change Adaptation (pdf) WORKSHOP May 6-8, 2014 NCTC, Shepherdstown, West Virginia

This overview course will introduce the core elements of scenario planning and expose participants to a diversity of approaches and specific scenario development techniques that incorporate both qualitative and quantitative components.


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:






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.  

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. 


Western Rivers Conservancy Lands Director

Additional information regarding Olive Grove and Western Rivers Conservancy can be found on our websites.

San Francisco Estuary Institute-ASC Executive Director: This is an exciting opportunity to lead the San Francisco Estuary Institute/Aquatic Science Center, a well-respected scientific organization whose opinion is sought out by decision-makers across the state. Under the general direction of, and working in partnership with, a Board of Directors, the Executive Director provides leadership, vision, and overall direction of staff, business and operations. The successful candidate will join a semi-academic work setting and lead a diverse group of environmental scientists and administrative support staff whose mission is to foster development of the scientific understanding needed to protect and enhance the San Francisco Estuary. More details are in the attached brochure and on the SFEI web site.  Filing date: Sunday, February 16, 2014.

Senior Project Manager: SFEI-ASC is seeking a Senior Project Manager to assist in the management of projects within the Clean Water Program, including the Regional Monitoring Program for Water Quality in San Francisco Bay (Bay RMP), the Delta Regional Monitoring Program (Delta RMP), and the San Francisco Bay Nutrient Management Program. The successful candidate will have a demonstrated range and depth of skills in project management, conducting scientific investigations, or managing environmental stakeholder processes. This position will report directly to SFEI-ASC’s Clean Water Program Directors (Drs. Jay Davis and David Senn) and is an integral part of the Clean Water team of senior scientists and managers. Position open until filled. More information.

Vegetation & Fire Ecologist Marin County– The Vegetation and Fire Ecologist will develop, plan, organize and administer the functions and activities of the Vegetation and Biodiversity Management Plan (VBMP) and associated Environmental Impact Report, in order to reduce fire fuels and protect the natural biodiversity of Marin County Parks. Closes 2/18/2014







Opinion: Ham and Cheese on Nye.
Daily Climate Debating arch-creationists and climate deniers is a bad thing for science, and maybe even for ‘debate.’


Gardening provides high-to-moderate physical activity for children
(January 31, 2014) — The metabolic cost of 10 gardening tasks was measured in children to determine associated exercise intensities. The children performed the tasks while wearing a portable telemetric calorimeter and a heart rate monitor to measure oxygen uptake and heart rate. Results showed digging and raking to be high-intensity, while the other activities were determined to be moderate-intensity. The data can facilitate the development of garden-based exercise programs for children that promote health and physically active lifestyles. … > full story

Simulated blindness can lead to recovery of lost hearing (blog)

  February 6, 2014‎


Minimizing a person’s sight for as little as a week may help improve the brain’s ability to process hearing, neuroscientists have found.


Sickeningly sweet: sugar’s health impact

CNN February 4th, 2014 02:00 PM ET

In recent years, sugar – more so than fat – has been receiving the bulk of the blame for our deteriorating health.

Most of us know we consume more sugar than we should. Let’s be honest, it’s hard not to. The (new) bad news is that sugar does more damage to our bodies than we originally thought. It was once considered to be just another marker for an unhealthy diet and obesity. Now sugar is considered an independent risk factor for cardiovascular disease, as well as many other chronic diseases, according a study published Monday in JAMA Internal Medicine. “Sugar has adverse health effects above any purported role as ’empty calories’ promoting obesity,” writes Laura Schmidt, a professor of health policy in the School of Medicine at the University of California at San Francisco, in an accompanying editorial. “Too much sugar doesn’t just make us fat; it can also make us sick.”

But how much is too much? Turns out not nearly as much as you may think. As a few doctors and scientists have been screaming for a while now, a little bit of sugar goes a long way.

ReadSugar not only makes you fat, it may make you sick


You’ll Be Surprised How Many Donuts Worth Of Sugar Are In These 10 Everyday Foods

Dina Spector Published 9:07 am, Thursday, February 6, 2014

Some foods contain a shocking amount of sugar. To visualize this, we compared the amount of sugar in foods that are not traditionally thought of as dessert items, like yogurt and apple sauce, to the amount of sugar in a chocolate glazed donut — about 13 grams. Nutritionists recommend limiting added sugar to 6 teaspoons per day for women and 9 teaspoons per day for men. For reference, 4 grams of sugar equals one teaspoon of granulated sugar. Added sugar only includes things like cane sugar and high fructose corn syrup that aren’t found naturally in ingredients like fruit and milk. Keep in mind that naturally-occurring sugars and added sugar are combined on nutrition labels as “total sugar.”  (A similar post from Dana Liebelson at Mother Jones inspired our list of high-sugar foods. See their list here.)

Fruit-flavored yogurt = 2 chocolate glazed donuts.

There are 26 grams of sugar in a typical 6-ounce container of fruit-flavored yogurt (more than half is added sugar). That’s equivalent to around 6.5 teaspoons of sugar.

Clif bar= 1.8 chocolate glazed donuts

There are 23 grams of sugar in one chocolate-chip flavored Clif bar. That’s equivalent to 5.75 teaspoons of sugar. 

Starbucks Caffe Latte = 1.3 chocolate glazed donuts

There are 17 grams of sugar in a 16 oz (grande) Caffe Latte from Starbucks. That’s equivalent to 4.25 teaspoons of sugar.

There are 39 grams of sugar in one 12-oz can of coke. That’s equivalent to 9.75 teaspoons of sugar.






Two Images Tell the Tale of California’s Drought

January 31, 2014

California is experiencing an epic drought. Paul Rogers reports for the San Jose Mercury News that some communities could actually run out of water in the next few months if the Golden State doesn’t get some rain: In some communities, wells are running dry. ….California accounts for almost 12 percent of the nation’s agricultural production…At i09, Annalee Newitz offers two satellite images that show how dry it is. The first was taken a few days ago. The second shows the same territory last year. Newitz writes, “Note the radically different snow cover, and how the valley areas are a barren brown instead of a deep green.”

Images: NASA’s Earth Observatory


California’s severe drought exposes civilization’s thin veneer

By David Horsey LA Times February 6, 2014, 5:00 a.m.

The severe drought in California and much of the West is a reminder that civilized life is a paper-thin veneer that overlays the deep upheavals of nature. … Something made the ancient ones abandon their settlements – most likely a 300-year drought that began in the 12th century — and the Anasazi vanished. As the consequences of climate change become more stark and real, it is a delusion to think we are immune from existential change. Our civilization is more complex and technologically advanced than the Anasazi culture, but that may only make us more vulnerable. Those ancient natives could take their knowledge of simple agriculture and move on to seek more fertile ground and abundant water elsewhere. When our farmers can no longer feed us, where will we go?


The chick on our Laysan Albatross cam is about a week and a half old. Click the image to watch live.

Watch a Fluffy Albatross Chick Grow Up on Our Newest Cam

Feb 2014 Cornell Lab of Ornithology

It may not seem like nesting season to most of us, but it is for Laysan Albatrosses in the Hawaiian islands. Our Bird Cams began streaming the action from a nest on Kauai last week, just as a little gray-and-blond chick emerged from its shell. By July this chick—which weighed less than a glass of water at hatching—will grow into a bulky brown-and-white bird with a nearly seven-foot wingspan. To raise their chick, the two parents will range across the Pacific, traveling as far as Alaska or Japan to bring back meals of digested squid. The camera captures incredible details of the birds’ plumage—including the soft, almost airbrushed shading of the adults’ faces and the frizzy down of the chick. Watch the cam (If you see a dark screen, bear in mind that dawn in Hawaii is at around noon Eastern time, or 9 a.m. on the West Coast.) 



Watch: Video of a Swimmer’s Chance Encounter With a Family of Killer Whales

One New Zealander got the thrill of a lifetime.

(Photo: Screengrab / YouTube)



CA BLM WILDLIFE TRIVIA ANSWER and related information


In sage grouse breeding, which of the following statements are true?

(f) c and d:

(c) Males that win initial fights, with other males, and perform strongly during the dance rituals will be chose to mate.
(d) Only one or two males get picked to mate with females in the lek.

SOURCES: All About Birds, Cornell Lab of Ornithology


Sage-Grouse Lek Video (BLM YouTube)
Video taken at the Mount Biedeman Wilderness Study Area in the Bodie Hills. The strutting grouse sound like coffee percolators. This is one of the larger leks; BLM wildlife crew counted 116 birds the day before. Video by Bob Wick, BLM



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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