Conservation Science News March 7, 2014

Focus of the WeekCalifornia’s groundwater problems and prospects









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

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

Founded as Point Reyes Bird Observatory, Point Blue’s 140 scientists advance nature-based solutions to climate change, habitat loss and other environmental threats to benefit wildlife and people, through bird and ecosystem science, partnerships and outreach.  We work collaboratively to guide and inspire positive conservation outcomes today — for a healthy, blue planet teeming with life in the future.  Read more about our 5-year strategic approach here.



Focus of the Week– California’s groundwater problems and prospects

California’s groundwater problems and prospects

Posted on January 30, 2013 by UC Davis Center for Watershed Sciences

Photo by California Department of Water Resources

Under the rocks and stones, there is water underground – Talking Heads

By Jay R. Lund and Thomas Harter

Jay R. Lund is the Ray B. Krone Professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering at UC Davis and director of the university’s Center for Watershed Sciences. Thomas Harter holds the Robert M. Hagan Endowed Chair in Water Management and Policy at UC Davis.

Groundwater is one of California’s most ubiquitous, widely used resources that is unseen and misunderstood. Aquifers gather and store water and contaminants from large areas over decades to eons to support many human and ecosystem functions.  We must manage groundwater wisely.

Groundwater is important to California in many ways.  Roughly 30 percent of water deliveries in California come directly from groundwater, with much more in drought years, particularly long droughts (CDWR 2005, Megdal et al. 2009).  Smaller urban and rural areas depend entirely on groundwater, as do many sizable cities, including Fresno. In all, 85 percent of Californians depend on groundwater for at least part of their drinking water. (SWRCB, 2012). The state’s groundwater storage capacity is more than 10 times that of all its surface reservoirs.  Groundwater removes some, but not all, forms of drinking water contaminants. Groundwater also accumulates contaminants with time, particularly salts and nitrate.  Groundwater pumping energy is about 2% of California’s electricity use (5,800 GwH/yr of total 280,000 GwH/yr).  And many native species depend on streamflows and wetlands fed by springs and supported by high groundwater tables. California’s multifaceted dependence on groundwater leads to diverse controversies and myths.

Where does groundwater come from? Groundwater comes from surface water, natural landscape recharge and irrigation return water. When pumping exceeds recharge, it depletes aquifer storage.  Recharge from streams occurs when the groundwater table is lower than the stream. Natural landscape and irrigation water recharge occurs when unused water percolates to below the root zone of plants and crops. Percolation is vital to crops and ecosystems. Without some percolation, the root zone accumulates salinity that kills plant life. In some areas, recharge basins, injection wells and irrigation management are used to intentionally recharge and bank groundwater during wet years or winters when ample water is available, for long-term storage and use in dry years or summer. In much of California, groundwater pumping has significantly lowered groundwater levels, which often increases recharge from streams. Increased losses from streams to groundwater can reduce downstream flows and affect ecosystems, if not regulated by upstream dams.  Ultimately, almost all groundwater used for irrigation and drinking water would have become streamflow were it not pumped. (The largest exception is chronically overdrafted aquifers, less than 10% of California’s groundwater use.) .

Irrigation “inefficiency” is a major source of groundwater recharge.  In the Central Valley and other agricultural regions of California, irrigation inefficiency is a major source of aquifer recharge (Ruud et al. 2004).  In many areas, drought-year groundwater supplies depend substantially on irrigation inefficiency in wetter years, when surface water is available and used by farmers. Ironically, local inefficiency often improves regional water use efficiency and sustainability. However, excessive groundwater pumping causes long-term continual decline in groundwater levels (“overdraft”) and irrigation inefficiency increases salt and nitrate loads to groundwater.  There are few perfect solutions in water.

Groundwater problems in California vary greatly and are locally quite important. 

  • Overdraft in California today occurs in parts of the Central Valley, especially the Tulare Lake Basin, but also in some coastal and southern California basins with limited surface water supplies and intensive agriculture.  During wet periods with more surface water deliveries, some overdraft reverses temporarily.  Still, statewide overdraft is estimated diversely to average between 500,000 acre-feet a year to more than 1.5 million acre-feet a year, which amounts to 10-20 percent of all water use in the Tulare Lake Basin (Faunt et al 2009). Other Central Valley areas with groundwater overdraft are along the eastern margin of the San Joaquin Valley, including east of the Delta. Overdraft in much of the Sacramento Valley has been limited due to increased infiltration from streams induced by lower groundwater tables (Harou and Lund 2008; Faunt, et al. 2009).  Overdraft in most of Southern California has largely ended by regulation from local groundwater adjudications and water imports (Blomquist 1998).  In Southern California, the Tulare Lake Basin and elsewhere, drawdown of aquifers has created empty groundwater storage capacity used to store water from wet years for droughts (Vaux 1986; Jenkins 1998; Hanak et al. 2012). The Tulare Lake Basin’s long dependence on the Delta and overdraft for about 60 percent of its water supplies is a major regional and statewide challenge. The Tulare Lake Basin uses more water than any other region of California – about 8 million acre-feet a year. Delta imports and San Joaquin River diversion supply about 3 million acre-feet; local streams, 3.2 million acre-feet; local groundwater inflows from precipitation, 1.1 million acre-feet; and 0.7-1.5 million acre-feet from groundwater overdraft (Hanak et al. 2011; CDWR 2009). The high value of Tulare Lake Basin agriculture, its dependence on water imports and overdraft, and the accumulation of salts and nitrate in this closed basin raise substantial long-term economic and social challenges for this region and the state (Chou 2012).
  • Nitrate contamination is one of the most widespread groundwater problems worldwide and in California, affecting drinking water supplies in many agricultural or historically agricultural areas.  While even large cities such as Fresno are affected, nitrate contamination is most expensive for small rural water supplies that lack economies of scale. Nitrate contamination affects many groundwater-dependent systems in California, including more than 200,000 people in small and household wells in the Tulare and Salinas basins (Harter et al. 2012). Most nitrate contamination is from agricultural fertilizers, although other sources, notably septic tanks and dairies, can be important locally. Most agricultural areas can expect nitrate contamination of drinking water supplies. Source control of nitrate discharge is only a partial long-term solution because of the large extent of contamination and its decades of travel in groundwater.  Providing drinking water solutions and compensation for affected communities now and into the foreseeable future is an unavoidable and urgently needed response (Harter et al 2012).  Nitrate problems for drinking water are often compounded by naturally occurring arsenic, chromium, uranium, and other groundwater contaminants (SWRCB 2012).
  • Salinity accumulation is another long-term groundwater quality challenge. Salt accumulation is particularly problematic on the Westside of the Tulare Lake and San Joaquin basins, which lack much ability to export salt from imported water or local soils – affecting about 500,000 acres of farmland (SJVDP 1990). In many other parts of California, such as the cities of Davis and Woodland, the accumulation of salts in groundwater is threatening the viability of urban groundwater water use, because of wastewater regulations regarding the consequently higher salinity in urban wastewater discharges.  Statewide, major sources of salt are local soils and aquifers, irrigation water, animal farming, and municipal and industrial wastes – including salts from water softeners. Salts in irrigation water and wastewater applied to crops or urban landscapes are concentrated by evapotranspiration from plants, leaving salts behind.  Salinity accumulation has a history of ending agriculture in arid regions (Hillel 2000).
  • Land subsidence resulting from groundwater use has been considerable in some areas, particularly in the Tulare Lake and San Joaquin basins. In the mid-20th century, land subsidence in the San Joaquin Valley and Tulare Lake basins has ranged from a few feet to over 30 feet (Poland et al 1975; Faunt et al. 2009). Due to decreasing groundwater levels, land subsidence is recurring and remains a threat in these regions (Corbett et al. 2011). While physically remarkable, there has been insufficient analysis of the occurrence and implications of subsidence and little accounting of the long-term economic costs. However, regional subsidence can incur potentially large costs from flooding and insufficient slopes on canal and drainage systems.
  • Decreased streamflows have occurred on many California streams, as groundwater levels were lowered from pre-development levels. Lowered groundwater levels drain water from rivers, stressing ecosystems during low-flow times (Harou and Lund 2008; Faunt et al. 2009). Ironically, streams with an upstream dam now often have higher summer streamflows than they would have with natural runoff, despite surrounding groundwater levels being lowered. Reservoir operations delivering summer streamflow significantly contribute to groundwater recharge. But in unmanaged rivers, pumping drains water from riparian ecosystems (Fleckenstein et al. 2004; Harter and Hines 2008; Howard and Merrifield 2010) and more generally undermines surface supplies for junior surface water right holders (who sometimes respond by increasing their own groundwater pumping).

Should the State do anything? 

  • The sky is not falling, in most places. California has widespread groundwater problems, and probably always will. California is a dry place, after all.  Many groundwater problems are severe, growing and local. Some groundwater problems could benefit from state action, but California’s groundwater problems must be solved mostly at local and regional levels, perhaps with some state legal, financial, and technical help. The state can provide better institutional and information frameworks to help locals solve local and regional groundwater problems.
  • Many local groundwater problems are being handled well locally. California has had a remarkable record of effective local groundwater management (Nelson 2011, 2012; ACWA 2011; Blomquist 1992). Historical overdraft in some areas of California has been eliminated or limited by build-out of surface water projects, and more recently by effective local conjunctive use in much of the Central Valley or groundwater adjudication in Southern California. In other areas, problems of groundwater depletion remain. Groundwater quality management has been much more difficult, with accumulations of salt and nitrate having so far defied local solutions. Groundwater quality and groundwater overdraft management are closely linked, as are groundwater and surface water. Creative regional solutions that consider these broader scales and interconnections are needed. Support for successful development of stakeholder supported local-regional management is also critical.

Some state reforms would be useful. 

  1. Official information is important. State agencies should declare areas at risk of nitrate and salinity contamination. Many domestic well users will not know of contamination without such official declarations. And local governments and interests are likely to lack capacity or incentive to address long-term groundwater contamination issues without the attention of state agencies.
  2. Effective compensation is needed more than source control. Source control for large-scale groundwater problems, such as nitrate and salt contamination, often take decades to be effective, but people drink from and use these aquifers every day.  Declarations of at-risk areas should trigger compensation mechanisms
    for affected water users, while long-term source control policies are developed and implemented. Long-term source control poses a dilemma for the state, as even the best source control may not provide clean recharge and large-scale groundwater degradation often requires decades of response time. Because degradation in some aquifers is long-term and perhaps permanent for nitrate and salinity, providing mechanisms for information and compensation are key state roles.
  3. Better data and science.  Much data is available on groundwater in California, but too much of it is poorly organized, not in electronic format or hidden by secrecy rules. Consequently, little synthetic work is done to develop insights from these data.  A serious technical program is needed, at arm’s length from stakeholders, to develop the perspective and insights needed for informed public policy and management discussions and actions. State efforts to account for and model groundwater have been missing and hindered by data problems, but advanced substantially for the Central Valley with the recent California Department of Water Resources C2VSIM model and the U.S. Geological Survey model, CVHM.  While both substantially improve answers to major groundwater questions, they still have great potential for further improvement.
  4. Security of groundwater rights and integrated regional water management.  Except in adjudicated groundwater basins, where courts have divided and allocated groundwater rights and established watermasters and enforcement mechanisms, most groundwater use in California is largely unregulated.  Environmental limits on some surface water supplies for agriculture and urban users have stressed groundwater to levels not seen since the 1950s and ’60s. In addition, large-scale groundwater quality management, driven by the state’s nutrient and salt management policy, is becoming intimately intertwined with water quantity management. The state needs to find a way to more expeditiously establish groundwater use rights in ways compatible with separately regulated water quality and with physically connected, but legally separated surface water rights. Groundwater recharge management, integrated with groundwater quality management, in both urban areas and agricultural areas must become part of state and local groundwater protection strategies.
  5. The major overdraft areas of California create substantial economic value.  In the Tulare Lake Basin and numerous smaller basins, groundwater is mined, as one would deplete gold, oil and other mineral deposits. Are there areas of California where depletion of water should be viewed and accepted economically? In many areas, new solutions should be sought to increase groundwater banking and conjunctive use that allow water users to work within a long-term water budget, particularly in agricultural regions. This approach would provide a sustainable future for groundwater reservoirs (Scanlon et al., 2012; Hanak et al. 2012).

California will always have groundwater problems, and its dependence on groundwater is likely to increase with changes in demands, climate and environmental regulations.  Success will be in how effectively groundwater is managed, especially in managing groundwater together with other water supplies and demands. Effective management will require state and regional frameworks of information, organization and authorities that help local water managers work effectively and transparently. Effective management of overdraft, salinization and contamination also will require a long-term perspective and serious technical efforts – through the end of the 21st century and beyond. This requires an important, if limited, role for the state.

Further reading




POINT BLUE and partners publications and news:


2014 Coastal California Waterbird Conservation Plan (pdf) Published by U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Pacific Southwest Region


Shuford, W. Dave (author and editor). 2014. Coastal California (BCR 32) Waterbird Conservation Plan: Encompassing the coastal slope and Coast Ranges of central and southern California and the Central Valley. A plan associated with the Waterbird Conservation for the Americas initiative. U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Region 8, 2800 Cottage Way, Sacramento, CA 95825. Additional Species Account Authors: Lyann A. Comrack, Meredith Elliott, Catherine M. Hickey, Gary L. Ivey, John P. Kelly, Dan Robinette, Cheryl Strong

The 2014 Coastal California Waterbird Conservation Plan, which focuses on the U.S. portion of Bird Conservation Region (BCR) 32 encompassing the coastal slope and Coast Ranges of central and southern California and the Central Valley is now available as a pdf online.  The Coastal California plan provides a framework for implementing the initiative’s vision regionally by sustaining or restoring the distribution, diversity, and abundance of populations and habitats of breeding, migratory, and nonbreeding waterbirds in conservation region. The plan includes 46 species of waterbirds (loons, grebes, pelicans, cormorants, herons, egrets, night-herons, bitterns, ibis, rails, gallinules, coots, cranes, gulls, terns, and skimmers).  This will also be distributed via the Waterbird Initiative listserve and web site but feel free to distribute to interested parties. For further details regarding the document and utilization of the data for future conservation efforts, please contact Rob Doster at



Satellites reveal divergent migration habits among Long-billed Curlews

3/6/2014 |BirdWatching Magazine enews

Long-billed Curlew at Fort De Soto County Park, Tierra Verde, Florida, by geopix.

Cinnamon-brown above, buff below, and large, Long-billed Curlew is always a welcome sight. Its ringing call is the quintessential sound of spring and summer on many midwestern and western grasslands. Yet the bird’s population is small, its breeding range has shrunk, and many aspects of its biology remain unknown, leading it to be categorized as a species of high conservation concern in the United States, Mexico, and Canada. To shed light on its migration patterns, Gary W. Page of Point Blue Conservation Science, Nils Warnock of Audubon Alaska, and other researchers recently netted over two dozen curlews at three widely separated breeding sites, outfitted them with satellite transmitters, and then tracked their movements over four years. The birds were captured in north-central Oregon, northeastern Nevada, and north-central Montana…..


Gary W. Page, Nils Warnock, T. Lee Tibbitts, Dennis Jorgensen, C. Alex Hartman, and Lynne E. Stenzel (2014) Annual migratory patterns of Long-billed Curlews in the American West. The Condor: February 2014, Vol. 116, No. 1, pp. 50-61. Abstract.



Nesting ecology of Marbled Murrelets at a remote mainland fjord in southeast Alaska

Blake A. Barbaree
1,a*, S. Kim Nelson 2, Bruce D. Dugger 1, Daniel D. Roby 2, Harry R. Carter 3, Darrell L. Whitworth 4, and Scott H. Newman 5 The Condor 116(2):173-184. 2014 doi:


Studying the ecology of endangered species in portions of their range where the population remains abundant can provide fundamental information for conservation planners. We studied nesting by radio-tagged Marbled Murrelets (Brachyramphus marmoratus) during 2007 and 2008 in Port Snettisham, a relatively pristine, remote mainland fjord in southeast Alaska with high at-sea densities of Marbled Murrelets during the breeding season. Of 33 active Marbled Murrelet nest sites located during the study, we found 15 within forested habitat (tree nest sites), 16 in nonforested habitat (ground nest sites), and 2 that could not be determined. Some nests were located farther inland from the coast (range: 1–52 km) and at higher elevations (range: 42–1,100 m) than previously documented in Alaska. Nesting success to ≥20 days posthatch (0.20 ± 0.07 [SE]) was less than half of similar estimates in British Columbia and more comparable to estimates from California and Washington. A logistic regression found that nesting success did not differ between years, but nesting success was higher for tree nests than for ground nests. Conservation planners should consider that Marbled Murrelets will use certain nonforest habitat types for nesting in mainland southeast Alaska. Our reported nesting success was likely a maximum, and our results indicate that nesting success can be low even when nesting habitat is seemingly abundant and marine habitat appears excellent.


RESTORE Episode 14: Marijuana Grows and RestorationForest Service News Video

Marijuana growing on our national forests causes significant harm to the land, water and animals. The toxicants and lethal weapons found at these sites are both shocking in terms of amount, and raise concerns regarding the health of the Region’s forests. The Forest Service, along with other agencies and volunteers, are working together to restore these impacted lands….


Coral fish biodiversity loss: Humankind could be responsible
(February 28, 2014) — Literal biodiversity reservoirs, coral reefs and associated ecosystems are in grave danger from natural and human-made disturbances. The latest World Resources Institute assessment is alarming with 75% of coral reefs reported as endangered worldwide, a figure that may reach 100% by 2050. The numbers are concerning, particularly as coral reefs provide sustenance and economic benefits for many developing countries and fish biodiversity on coral reefs partly determines the biomass available for human consumption. … > full story


How river networks move across a landscape
March 6, 2014) — Large river networks — such as those that funnel into the Colorado and Mississippi rivers — may seem to be permanent features of a landscape. In fact, many rivers define political boundaries that have been in place for centuries. Now researchers have developed a mapping technique that measures how much a river network is changing, and in what direction it may be moving.
Large river networks — such as those that funnel into the Colorado and Mississippi rivers — may seem to be permanent features of a landscape. In fact, many rivers define political boundaries that have been in place for centuries. But scientists have long suspected that river networks are not as static as they may appear, and have gathered geologic and biological evidence that suggest many rivers have been “rewired,” shifting and moving across a landscape over millions of years. Now researchers at MIT and the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (ETH Zurich) have developed a mapping technique that measures how much a river network is changing, and in what direction it may be moving. Their results are published in this week’s issue of Science.

The technique focuses on a river network’s drainage divides — ridgelines, such as along mountain ranges, that act as boundaries between two river basins. As rainwater flows down either side of a drainage divide and into opposing rivers, it erodes the underlying rock. The river on one side of a divide may erode faster than the other, creating what the researchers call an “imbalance” in the river network. To reach a balance, they reasoned that a drainage divide must shift to assume a more stable pattern. .. > full story


Sean D. Willett, Scott W. Mccoy, J. Taylor Perron, Liran Goren, Chia-Yu Chen. Dynamic Reorganization of River Basins. Science, 2014 DOI: 10.1126/science.1248765



Birds display lateralization bias when selecting flight paths
(March 6, 2014)Flocks of birds manage to navigate through difficult environments by individuals having predispositions to favor the left- or right-hand side. Researchers flew the budgerigars down a tunnel where they were met by an obstacle, and a choice of two paths to fly through. Sometimes the paths were of equal size, and sometimes one would be bigger than the other. Some birds had no bias and would choose the wider gap every time, while others with a distinct bias preferred going to one side, even if it was significantly narrower than the alternative. Scientists at The University of Queensland’s Queensland Brain Institute (QBI) and the Australian Research Council Centre of Excellence in Vision Science found that budgerigars display individual bias to fly to the left or right. This allows flocks to quickly navigate past obstacles by being able to split and not slow down due to crowding. Dr Partha Bhagavatula, the study’s first author, says: “We were looking at finding out how birds decide to navigate, because they’re very good at travelling through environments with narrow gaps such as dense bush and forests quickly and without collisions.” Researchers flew the budgerigars down a tunnel where they were met by an obstacle, and a choice of two paths to fly through. Sometimes the paths were of equal size, and sometimes one would be bigger than the other.

By giving birds the choice of flying left or right, through a pair of two adjacent openings, we were able to see that they displayed individual preferences,” Dr Bhagavatula said. Some birds had no bias and would choose the wider gap every time, while others with a distinct bias preferred going to one side, even if it was significantly narrower than the alternative. “This is very interesting and unexpected — because it’s generally expected for an animal species to have one dominant side that they prefer, so we theorised why this is the case,” Dr Bhagavatula commented.

… > full story


Partha S. Bhagavatula, Charles Claudianos, Michael R. Ibbotson, Mandyam V. Srinivasan. Behavioral Lateralization and Optimal Route Choice in Flying Budgerigars. PLoS Computational Biology, 2014; 10 (3): e1003473 DOI: 10.1371/journal.pcbi.1003473


Surface of the sea is a sink for nitrogen oxides at night
(March 3, 2014) — The surface of the sea takes up nitrogen oxides that build up in polluted air at night, new measurements on the coast of southern California have shown. The ocean removes about 15 percent of these chemicals overnight along the coast, a team of atmospheric chemists reports. … > full story

Monarch Population Status
March 3, 2014 Monarch Water

The overwintering numbers are in from Mexico and once again it’s bad news. The numbers are not a surprise; as early as May, we predicted that the population would be lower this winter. The total area occupied by monarch colonies at overwintering sites in Mexico this winter was a mere .67 hectares, down from the previous all-time low of 1.19 hectares reported last year. Monarch numbers will rebound but only if the weather allows AND there is enough milkweed to increase the population. While we will never get back to the large populations of the 1990s, there is still enough milkweed to produce monarchs in sufficient numbers to colonize 3-4 hectares of the forests in Mexico. However, given the current size of the overwintering population it is likely that it will take 2-3 years with relatively favorable breeding conditions for the population to attain such numbers. For a more detailed discussion of the monarch population status please visit



Monarch butterfly numbers are at an all-time low and many pollinators are declining as well. The widespread planting of herbicide tolerant corn and soybean lines, intensive farming, and the ethanol mandate have led to a rapid loss of habitats for monarchs, and many species of bees and other pollinators. This loss of habitat threatens the monarch migration and all the species dependent on the services of pollinators to provide the fruits, nuts, seeds and foliage they feed on. Monarchs and pollinators need our help. By planting milkweeds, the host plants for monarch caterpillars, and nectar plants for adult monarchs and pollinators you can help maintain the monarch migration and sustain the pollinators whose pollinating services maintain our ecosystems. As you may know, Monarch Watch launched the “Milkweed Market” last year, commissioning the production of 25,000 plugs of some 15 species of milkweed. The mission of the Milkweed Market is milkweed restoration and to that end we only ship plants to ecological regions from which the seeds were obtained. This project has been supported by a large number of volunteers who have supplied seeds of many milkweed species from most areas of the country. If we don’t have milkweeds available for your area, please take advantage of the new vendor listing – more than 70 vendors that sell native milkweeds in various regions of the country are currently listed in a searchable/sortable format. Go to and click on the “Milkweed Market” button or visit for complete details.



Humans responsible for 62% of cougar deaths in re-established populations
(March 3, 2014) — The reintroduction of mountain lions across the mid-western United States has made species management an urgent area of research for conservationists. A new report explores the fatal cost of human interaction with cougars and asks what state agencies can do to protect both species. … > full story


This is a reconstruction of a Last Interglacial temperate landscape (Germany) with typical Late Pleistocene European large herbivores such as the now extinct straight-tusked elephant (Elephas antiquus), an extinct rhinoceros (Stephanorhinus kirchbergensis), as well as the still common roe deer (Capreolus capreolus).

Large mammals were the architects in prehistoric ecosystems
(March 3, 2014) — Elephants, rhinoceroses and aurochs once roamed around freely in the forests of Europe, while hippopotamuses lived in rivers such as the Thames and the Rhine. New research shows how we can use knowledge about the past to restore a varied landscape with a high level of biodiversity. … > full story

Rare Purple Martin birds — and locals — return to Mount Umunhum outside San Jose

Posted on March 4, 2014 | By Peninsula Press
By Faine Greenwood

The purple martin bird, an iconic fixture of East Coast backyards, has a little-known Western hideout: the summit of Mount Umunhum in the Santa Cruz Mountains outside of San Jose — the former site of an Air Force surveillance center, and the future site of a recreational area. “It’s one of those situations where no one was really up there looking around, and we didn’t realize the birds had been there all the time,” said San Francisco Bay Bird Observatory biologist Alvaro Jaramillo of the rediscovery of these social, plum-purple migratory birds. Environmentalists hope the discovery of the rare birds will boost public interest in the site, as officials complete its transformation from a former Air Force station laced with toxic chemicals into a new addition to the Midpeninsula Regional Open Space District….


Zoos, aquariums do teach us about biodiversity, largest international study proves
(March 3, 2014) — Zoos and aquariums do teach the public about the delicate balance between animal species and their habitats, a new international study shows. More than 6,000 visitors to over 30 zoos and aquariums across the world took part in this landmark study. Participants filled out pre- and post-visit surveys to evaluate their biodiversity understanding and knowledge of how to help protect biodiversity. The study found there was an increase from pre-visit (69.8%) to post-visit (75.1%) in respondents demonstrating some positive evidence of biodiversity understanding. … > full story



Is West Nile virus coming to your town? UCLA releases first risk-assessment predictions

By Rebecca Kendall February 28, 2014

Since its introduction to the U.S. in 1999, West Nile virus has spread rapidly across North America, threatening wildlife populations and posing a serious health risk to humans. In 2012, there were more than 5,500 human cases of the disease reported in 48 states, the highest number in more than a decade. Now, a team of researchers from the Center for Tropical Research at UCLA’s Institute of the Environment and Sustainability has created a model to help predict where the disease may occur under future climate change. Their findings were published Feb. 27 in the journal Global Change Biology…. The most important climate variables predicting West Nile virus occurrence, said the researchers, are the maximum temperature of the warmest month and measures of annual and seasonal precipitation. This study does not take into account factors like future land-use changes, insect control efforts, socioeconomic conditions, host-switching by West Nile carrying insects or host community diversity, which are difficult to predict in the long-term, Harrigan said. The information, he said, is useful to a variety of groups, including the general public, who may use it to better understand their personal geographical risk; local vector control agencies, which can identify potential “hot spots” in various counties and districts; and wildlife biologists, who can use it to determine need and risk in certain areas and how this may impact animal populations. The intent of the research is not to cause alarm but rather to raise awareness of the existence of the disease and where the risks are to encourage people to take precautions,” said Harrigan, adding that although there is no cure for the virus, symptoms can be lessened, if caught early, through supportive therapy.



NOAA CLIMATE PREDICTION CENTER/NCEP and the International Research Institute for Climate and Society

6 March 2014

Synopsis: ENSO-neutral is expected to continue through the Northern Hemisphere spring 2014, with
about a 50% chance of El Niño developing during the summer or fall.

ENSO-neutral continued during February 2014, with below-average sea surface temperatures (SST) continuing in the eastern equatorial Pacific Ocean and above-average SSTs increasing near the International Date Line….


This is a map of sea water temperatures indicating the El Nino effect, the inexplicable warming of the Pacific Ocean off the coast of Ecuador that has upset weather patterns for much of the world. El Nino has fueled killer storms, waves and tornadoes in California and the South, and has kept Arctic air from pushing into northern parts of the United States. Photo: Associated Press


Here comes El Nino; good news for US weather woes

By SETH BORENSTEIN, AP Science Writer Updated 9:08 pm, Thursday, March 6, 2014 WASHINGTON (AP) — Relief may be on the way for a weather-weary United States with the predicted warming of the central Pacific Ocean brewing this year that will likely change weather worldwide. But it won’t be for the better everywhere. The warming, called an El Nino, is expected to lead to fewer Atlantic hurricanes and more rain next winter for drought-stricken California and southern states, and even a milder winter for the nation’s frigid northern tier next year, meteorologists say. While it could be good news to lessen the southwestern U.S. drought and shrink heating bills next winter in the far north, “worldwide it can be quite a different story,” said North Carolina State University atmospheric sciences professor Ken Kunkel. “Some areas benefit. Some don’t.” Globally, it can mean an even hotter year coming up and billions of dollars in losses for food crops.

The National Oceanic Atmospheric and Administration issued an official El Nino watch Thursday. An El Nino is a warming of the central Pacific once every few years, from a combination of wind and waves in the tropics. It shakes up climate around the world, changing rain and temperature patterns.

….Kevin Trenberth, a senior scientist at the National Center for Atmospheric Research, who wasn’t part of NOAA’s forecast, agreed that an El Nino is brewing. “This could be a substantial event and I think we’re due,” Trenberth said. “And I think it could have major consequences.” Halpert said it is too early to say how strong this El Nino will be. The last four have been weak or moderate and those have fewer effects on weather. Scientific studies have tied El Ninos to farming and fishing problems and to upticks in insect-born disease, such as malaria. Commodity traders even track El Nino cycles. A study by Texas A&M University economics professor Bruce McCarl found the last big El Nino of 1997-1998 cost about $3 billion in agricultural damage.

Trenberth said this El Nino may even push the globe out of a decade-long slowdown in temperature increase, “so suddenly global warming kicks into a whole new level.”

Kunkel said if this El Nino is a strong one, global temperatures, probably in 2015, could “be in near record breaking territory.” Halpert, however, says El Ninos can be beneficial, and that the one being forecast is “a perfect case.” After years of dryness and low reservoirs, an El Nino’s wet weather would be welcome in places like California, Halpert said.

“If they get too much rain, I think they’d rather have that situation rather than another year of drought,” Halpert said. “Sometimes you have to pick your poison.”….


Global Warming
Slows Down Antarctica’s Coldest Currents

The deep, salty currents that carry oxygen and nutrients to the ocean depths have been disappearing over the past few decades

Scientific American-Mar 4, 2014

A shift from briny to fresh in Antarctica’s ocean waters in recent decades could explain the shutdown of the Southern Ocean’s coldest, deepest currents, a new study finds. The cold currents, called the Antarctic Bottom Water, are chilly, salty rivers that flow from the underwater edge of the Antarctic continent north toward the equator, keeping to the bottom of the seafloor. The currents carry oxygen, carbon and nutrients down to the deepest parts of the ocean. Previous studies have found this deep, dense water is disappearing, though researchers aren’t sure if the shrinkage is part of a long-term trend linked to global warming, or a natural cycle. The new study suggests that Antarctica’s changing climate is to blame for the shrinking Antarctica Bottom Water. In the past 60 years, the ocean surface offshore Antarctica became less salty as a result of melting glaciers and more precipitation (both rain and snow), researchers reported Sunday (March 2) in the journal Nature Climate Change. This growing freshwater layer is the key link in a chain that prevents the cold-water currents from forming, the study finds. “Deep ocean waters only mix directly to the surface in a few small regions of the global ocean, so this has effectively shut one of the main conduits for deep-ocean heat to escape,” said Casimir de Lavergne, an oceanographer at McGill University in Montreal….

Warm rivers play role in Arctic sea ice melt
(March 5, 2014) — The heat from warm river waters draining into the Arctic Ocean is contributing to the melting of Arctic sea ice each summer, a new NASA study finds. … > full story


Joe Raedle / Getty Images file 2 days

Scientists More Certain Than Ever on Climate Change, Report Says

By John Roach February 28, 2014 NBC

Experts are more certain than ever that human activity is changing the global climate, even though they don’t fully understand every detail of the climate system, according to a new report released Wednesday by two of the world’s leading scientific bodies. The document from the U.S. National Academy of Sciences and the United Kingdom’s Royal Society aims to move the climate change debate beyond humans’ role in global warming to a discussion of how to limit the impacts on society. “Climate change is happening. We see it in temperature, we see it in the melting ice, and we see it in sea-level rise,” Inez Fung, an atmospheric scientist at the University of California at Berkeley and a co-lead author of the report, told NBC News. The changes are due to rising atmospheric concentrations of carbon dioxide with a chemical signature from the burning of fossil fuels, she added. The report, “Climate Change: Evidence and Causes,” is written in simple language and filled with pictures and graphs to illustrate why scientists are certain human activity is causing the climate to change….. The linchpins linking freshwater and cold currents are polynyas, or natural holes within sea ice. These persistent regions of open water form when upwellings of warm ocean water keep water temperatures above freezing, or when winds drive sea ice away from the coast. Polynyas are one of the main sources of Antarctica Bottom Water. Polynyas act like natural refrigerators, letting frigid temperatures and cold winds chill seawater and send it sinking down to the ocean bottom. As the cold water sinks, warmer ocean water comes up to take its place, maintaining the polynya’s open water. [Album: Stunning Photos of Antarctic Ice] But as Antarctica’s ocean surface water has freshened, fewer polynyas have appeared, the researchers found. That’s because the fresher water is less dense. Even if the water is very cold, it doesn’t sink as readily as saltier water, de Lavergne explained. The freshwater acts like a lid, shutting down the ocean circulation that sends cold water to the seafloor, and brings up warm water into the polynyas.

“What we suggest is, the change in salinity of the surface water makes them so light that even very strong cooling is not sufficient to make them dense enough to sink,” de Lavergne told Live Science. “Mixing them gets harder and harder.”


Study Suggests Non-Uniform Climate Warming Globally

Mar. 5, 2014 — A recent study of five decades of satellite data, model simulations and in situ observations suggests the impact of seasonal diurnal or daily warming varies between global regions affecting many … full story


Smell of forest pine can limit climate change – researchers

BBC News

February 28, 2014


New research suggests a strong link between the powerful smell of pine trees and climate change. Scientists say they’ve found a mechanism by which these scented vapours turn into aerosols above boreal forests.


Warmer temperatures push malaria to higher elevations
(March 6, 2014) — Researchers have debated for more than two decades the likely impacts, if any, of global warming on the worldwide incidence of malaria, a mosquito-borne disease that infects more than 300 million people each year. Now, ecologists are reporting the first hard evidence that malaria does — as had long been predicted — creep to higher elevations during warmer years and back down to lower altitudes when temperatures cool. … > full story


Warming temperatures are pushing two chickadee species — and their hybrids — northward

ScienceDaily March 6, 2014 Villanova University

The two chickadee species overlap in a narrow band across the eastern United States. This band has moved northward by 7 miles in the last decade. Credit: Image courtesy Cornell Lab of Ornithology

The zone of overlap between two popular, closely related backyard birds is moving northward at a rate that matches warming winter temperatures, according to a study by researchers from the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Villanova University, and Cornell University. The research was published online in Current Biology on Thursday, March 6, 2014.


In a narrow strip that runs across the eastern U.S., Carolina Chickadees from the south meet and interbreed with Black-capped Chickadees from the north. The new study finds that this hybrid zone has moved northward at a rate of 0.7 mile per year over the last decade. That’s fast enough that the researchers had to add an extra study site partway through their project in order to keep up.

“A lot of the time climate change doesn’t really seem tangible,” said lead author Scott Taylor, a postdoctoral researcher at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology. “But here are these common little backyard birds we all grew up with, and we’re seeing them moving northward on relatively short time scales.”… As a final step, the researchers overlaid temperature records on a map of the overlap zone, drawn from eBird sightings of the two chickadee species. They found a very close match: the zone of overlap occurred only in areas where the average winter low temperature was between 14 and 20 degrees Fahrenheit. They also used eBird records to estimate where the overlap zone had been a decade earlier, and found the same relationship with temperature existed then, too. The only difference was that those temperatures had shifted to the north by about seven miles since 2000.


Scott A. Taylor, Thomas A. White, Wesley M. Hochachka, Valentina Ferretti, Robert L. Curry, Irby Lovette. Climate-Mediated Movement of an Avian Hybrid Zone. Current Biology, March 2014 DOI: 10.1016/j.cub.2014.01.069



Food production in northeastern U.S. may need to change if climate does
(February 28, 2014) — If significant climate change occurs in the United States it may be necessary to change where certain foods are produced in order to meet consumer demand. Researchers have provided an overview of current farmland use and food production in the Northeastern U.S., identifying potential vulnerabilities of the 12-state region. … > full story

Spanish forest ecosystems: Carbon emission will be higher in second half of century
(March 3, 2014) — Spanish forest ecosystems will probably emit high quantities of carbon dioxide in the second half of the 21st century. This is the conclusion of a report that reviews the results obtained from the implementation of a forest simulation model that serves as a tool to simulate forest growth processes under several environmental conditions and to optimize Mediterranean forests management strategies in the context of climate change. … > full story


Europe may experience higher warming than global average
(March 6, 2014) — The majority of Europe will experience higher warming than the global average if surface temperatures rise to 2 degrees C above pre-industrial levels, according to a new study. … > full story


Frequency of severe flooding across Europe ‘to double by 2050 Independent UK

The frequency of severe flooding across Europe is set to double by 2050 and over the same period there could be a nearly fivefold increase in the annual economic losses resulting from floods, a study has found.


If Climate Change May Sink These Islands Anyway, Should We Save Their Biodiversity?


By: By Michele Berger Published: March 3, 2014

Many islands could be under water by the year 2100 if sea-level rise continues at its current rate. In 2009, the island nation of Maldives (seen above) held a cabinet meeting below the waves to highlight the problem. Now the question becomes, what happens to the ecosystems on these islands? (Thinkstock)

It’s not news that as a result of climate change, oceans could literally swallow many low-lying islands if sea-level rise continues at its current pace. Four years ago, the small island nation of Maldives, population 393,988, held its cabinet meeting underwater to highlight the problem, hoping the backdrop of coral would raise alarm bells about a rising Indian Ocean. Several islands off of India have all but disappeared, lost under the waves for years only to reemerge on satellite images. In many cases, it’s no longer a question of whether this will happen, but when. A new paper in the March Trends in Ecology & Evolution asks a different question about these islands, particularly those acting as sanctuaries for species, where invasives have been eradicated: What happens to the animals on these places, and if climate change will sink the islands anyway, are they ecosystems worth saving? Researchers from the New Zealand’s University of Auckland, France’s University of Paris Sud and Australia’s Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization looked at more than 600 islands where invasive-species eradication has been successful. They found that should the ocean waters rise just 3 feet, 26 of the islands will be submerged, The
New Zealand Herald reports. Of 4,500 islands in what are considered biodiversity hotspots, up to 19 percent of those could drown, according to Grist. The researchers don’t conclude that the animals should be left to swim or sink. And they don’t propose halting efforts to remove invasive species from these islands. Rather, they suggest a new approach that considers changes in levels of the sea: “The full spectrum of climate change, especially sea-level rise and loss of suitable climatic conditions, should be rapidly integrated into island biodiversity research and management,” they write in the abstract to their paper. “It may be that eventually we will be faced with some tough decisions about whether we move species in order to save them or whether we do nothing and let them go extinct,” James Russell, one of the researchers from the University of Auckland, told the Herald. Now, he added, is the time to determine which species most need our help “and the options for saving them.”….


Climate change, sea-level rise, and conservation: keeping island biodiversity afloat

Franck Courchamp1,  Benjamin D. Hoffmann2James C. Russell3Camille Leclerc1 and Céline Bellard1

Trends in Ecology & Evolution, Volume 29, Issue 3, 127-130, 30 January 2014 doi:10.1016/j.tree.2014.01.001

Island conservation programs have been spectacularly successful over the past five decades, yet they generally do not account for impacts of climate change. Here, we argue that the full spectrum of climate change, especially sea-level rise and loss of suitable climatic conditions, should be rapidly integrated into island biodiversity research and management…..




Climatologist Who Predicted California Drought 10 Years Ago Says It May Soon Be ‘Even More Dire’

By Joe Romm on March 7, 2014 at 12:26 pm

Climate change can worsen drought in multiple ways. Climate scientists and political scientists often confuse the public and the media by focusing on the narrow question, “Did climate change cause the drought” — that is, did it reduce precipitation? In general, most climate scientists say that is the wrong question — severe drought is much more than just a reduction in precipitation. After a political scientist unjustifiably labeled his mainstream views “zombie science,” the President’s Science Advisor, Dr. John P. Holdren, explained in an extended debunking how climate change worsens Western droughts even if it doesn’t reduce precipitation (see here and below).

First, though, as I’ve reported, scientists a decade ago not only predicted the loss of Arctic ice would dry out California, they also precisely predicted the specific, unprecedented change in the jet stream that has in fact caused the unprecedented nature of the California drought. Study co-author, Prof. Lisa Sloan, told me last week that, “I think the actual situation in the next few decades could be even more dire that our study suggested.”

Back in 2004, Sloan, professor of Earth sciences at UC Santa Cruz, and her graduate student Jacob Sewall published, “Disappearing Arctic sea ice reduces available water in the American west” (subs. req’d). They used powerful computers “to simulate the effects of reduced Arctic sea ice,” and “their most striking finding was a significant reduction in rain and snowfall in the American West.” “Where the sea ice is reduced, heat transfer from the ocean warms the atmosphere, resulting in a rising column of relatively warm air,” Sewall said. “The shift in storm tracks over North America was linked to the formation of these columns of warmer air over areas of reduced sea ice.” In January, Sewall wrote me that “both the pattern and even the magnitude of the anomaly looks very similar to what the models predicted in the 2005 study (see Fig. 3a [below]).”

Here is what Sewall’s model predicted in his 2005 paper:

Figure 3a: Differences in DJF [winter] averaged atmospheric quantities due to an imposed reduction in Arctic sea ice cover. The 500-millibar geopotential height (meters) increases by up to 70 m off the west coast of North America. Increased geopotential height deflects storms away from the dry locus and north into the wet locus

“Geopotential height” is the height above mean sea level for a given pressure level. The “500 mb level is often referred to as the steering level as most weather systems and precipitation follow the winds at this level,” which is around 18,000 feet. Now here is what the 500 mb geopotential height anomaly looked like over the last year, via NOAA:

That is either a highly accurate prediction or one heck of a coincidence. The San Jose Mercury News explained that “meteorologists have fixed their attention on the scientific phenomenon they say is to blame for the emerging drought: a vast zone of high pressure in the atmosphere off the West Coast, nearly four miles high and 2,000 miles long, so stubborn that one researcher has dubbed it the Ridiculously Resilient Ridge.” This high pressure ridge has been acting “like a brick wall” and forcing the jet stream along a much more northerly track, “blocking Pacific winter storms from coming ashore in California, deflecting them up into Alaska and British Columbia, even delivering rain and cold weather to the East Coast.

Last year, I contacted Sloan to ask her if she thought there was a connection between the staggering loss of Arctic sea ice in recent years and the brutal drought gripping the West, as her research predicted. She wrote, “Yes, sadly, I think we were correct in our findings, and it will only be worse with Arctic sea ice diminishing quickly.” Last week, Sloan wrote me:

Yes, in this case I hate that we (Sewall & Sloan) might be correct. And in fact, I think the actual situation in the next few decades could be even more dire that our study suggested. Why do I say that? (1) we did not include changes in greenhouse gases other than CO2; (2) maybe we should have melted more sea ice and see what happens; (3) these atmospheric and precipitation estimates do not include changes in land use, in the US and elsewhere. Changing crops, or urban sprawl increases, or melting Greenland and Northern Hemisphere glaciers will surely have an impact on precipitation patterns. All this isn’t “proof” that human caused climate change helped shift and reduce precipitation in California during its record-setting drought. But a prediction this accurate can’t be ignored, either, especially because of its implications for the future. That’s doubly true when there is also emerging evidence — documented by Senior Weather Channel meteorologist Stu Ostro and others — that “global warming is increasing the atmosphere’s thickness, leading to stronger and more persistent ridges of high pressure, which in turn are a key to temperature, rainfall, and snowfall extremes and topsy-turvy weather patterns like we’ve had in recent years.”

That’s why it was so puzzling that NOAA’s Martin Hoerling was quoted in the NY Times Thursday saying “to state the obvious, this drought has occurred principally due to a lack of rains, not principally due to warmer temperatures.” He ended by saying, “It is quite clear that the scientific evidence does not support an argument that this current California drought is appreciably, if at all, linked to human-induced climate change.”

Except that it is not quite clear there is no connection to climate change — as we’ve seen. Michael Mann, one of the country’s leading climatologists, told me: There is credible peer-reviewed scientific work by leading climate scientists, published more than a decade ago, that hypothesized that precisely this sort of blocking pattern would become more frequent with disappearing Arctic sea ice. Moreover, Arctic sea ice has declined precipitously in the intervening decade. So it seems quite clear that there is a potential connection, in a statistical sense, between human-caused global warming, declining Arctic sea ice, and the anomalous blocking pattern this winter that has added to other factors we know are tied to human-caused climate change (warmer temperatures and increased soil evaporation, and decreased winter snowpack and freshwater runoff) to produce the unprecedented drought this year in California. To claim that it is “quite clear” there is no connection at all turns the burden of scientific evidence completely on its head. Such a statement defies logic….


SF Bay Area Adaptation Report March 6, 2014

A new 125-page report on Bay Area climate adaptation/resilience is now available. The report contains county-level “snapshots” of projects, structures and needs/barriers for each of the 9 Bay Area counties. Each chapter is truly a snapshot—we don’t claim to know everything—but together they provide a clearer picture of where we are and what we need to move forward. The report is biased towards larger projects and programs involving the public sector—this is not a complete inventory of the hundreds of efforts underway in our region. The snapshots will be revised and updated next in mid-2014. Page 2 of the Full Report provides more context for this project.
Our next step is to turn these findings into draft recommendations for action that will be discussed with you and finalized in the next 4-6 weeks. 
The Full Report and the individual County Reports are available on the JPC web site at:


The surf’s up at San Onofre nuclear power plant. And it will likely go further up. Photo by D. Ramey Logan, courtesy of Wikipedia.

Infrastructure threatened by climate change poses a ‘national crisis’

Evan Lehmann, E&E reporter ClimateWire: Thursday, March 6, 2014

The nation’s aging infrastructure makes up an interconnected web of systems that are alarmingly vulnerable to the shocks of climate change, according to a report released today that will inform the National Climate Assessment, to be made public next month. The difficulty of strengthening the systems that support the American economy — from electricity to drinking water — poses significant problems requiring large investments at a time of rising risk and receding political appetite for big spending initiatives. “It’s kind of a national crisis,” said Tom Wilbanks, a senior scientist at the Department of Energy’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory and a co-author of the 109-page report. It is the first time the National Climate Assessment will include a section on the risks to infrastructure, a broad term that includes most major societal investments. Among them are health care systems; the nation’s web of roads, airports and seaports; and communication systems relied on by every owner of a cellphone….



Israel Gives California Some Advice On How To Deal With Drought

By Ari Phillips on March 6, 2

California and Israel have major water challenges both within their borders and beyond. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu stopped in California to address some of these issues, including construction of the hemisphere’s largest desalination plant.



Why women are the secret weapon to tackling climate change

CNN-Mar 6, 2014


  • Climate change impacts women at a greater scale, especially in developing countries
  • Small scale farming, cooking, fetching water, and walking long distances put women at risk
  • Women are also key figures in tackling climate change and developing new solutions
  • Four easy steps can increase gender equality and lessen the climate change impact

Although climate change
affects all people, women often bear the brunt in places where the impacts of climate change are already being felt…..

…When extreme weather conditions do hit—something we’re seeing with increased regularity—women suffer the most. This is often linked to their lack of rights. For example, many can’t leave their homes during emergencies if they lack a male escort.
It’s easy to label these women as victims, but what makes them vulnerable also makes them pivotal to climate change action. Whether in developing countries or in developed countries, women stand at the front lines in the battle against climate change: as providers of water, food, and energy or as leaders in businesses, communities and politics. Women are in a unique position to recognize some of the opportunities that climate change provides. We recognized some of these women and the work they do to tackle climate change as part of the United Nations’ Momentum for Change initiative at the Warsaw climate change conference last year. For example, the Low Smoke Stoves Project is delivering health and economic benefits to households in the strife-torn region of Darfur, Sudan, where climate change, drought and desertification are a fact of life. In Ghana, propelled by women’s leadership, the Ghana Bamboo Bikes Initiative is tackling climate change and providing an income for women by training them to build and sell high-quality bamboo bicycles. In Guatemala, women farmers are planting trees to sequester carbon and improve farming techniques. And in Australia, 1 Million Women has grown to become the country’s largest women’s environmental organization — with a goal to get one million women to take small steps in their daily lives that shrink their carbon footprint….These women are not only inspirational, they’re entrepreneurs and trailblazers. But if they are to be true agents of change, real and measurable action at all levels must be ramped up. Here are four steps we can take immediately that will increase equality for women worldwide, and lessen the severity of climate change. First, we can reduce consumption patterns that have become incompatible with a sustainable future and instead invest in products that support low-carbon living. Second, we can support the expansion of women’s rights throughout the world as well as their leadership in climate-related activities. Third, we can enable the transfer of technologies to developing countries to help establish renewable energy and build sustainable transportation. This includes technologies that will empower women to adapt to climate change. Finally, we can encourage government representatives to achieve an international agreement on climate change backed up by national plans of action. This will have a positive and lasting effect for all people…



Revealed: How climate change ended world’s first great civilisations

‘Megacities’ of the Indus Valley region of Pakistan and north-west India declined and never recovered because of a dramatic increase in drought conditions, according to new research

David Keys Archaeology Correspondent Monday 03 March 2014

The world’s first great civilisations appear to have collapsed because of an ancient episode of climate change – according to new research carried out by scientists and archaeologists. Their investigation demonstrates that the Bronze Age ‘megacities’ of the Indus Valley region of Pakistan and north-west India declined during the 21st and 20th centuries BC and never recovered – because of a dramatic increase in drought conditions. The research, carried out by the University of Cambridge and India’s Banaras Hindu University, reveals that a series of droughts lasting some 200 years hit the Indus Valley zone – and was probably responsible for the rapid decline of the great Bronze Age urban civilization of that region….


Extreme weather is ‘silver lining’ for climate action: Christiana Figueres. Devastating extreme weather including recent flooding in England, Australia’s hottest year on record and the U.S. being hit by a polar vortex have a “silver lining” of boosting climate change to the highest level of politics, according to the U.N.’s climate chief. The Guardian





EU injects €35.5 Million into Pacific climate change adaptation

Matangi Tonga

 – ‎March 5, 2014‎


The European Union and the Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat have signed a €37.26 million financing agreement to support the “Adapting to Climate Change and Sustainable Energy” programme. The agreement was signed in Suva, Fiji last week. The bulk of 


Will $1 billion help regions prepare for the impacts of climate change? Yes, according to President Obama

President Obama’s 2015 budget includes a new climate resilience fund within a broader $56 billion Opportunity, Growth, and Security Initiative, designed to boost research spending and spur growth.


Podesta: The man behind Obama’s new environmental push
March 4, 2014 Washington Post

John Podesta’s role at the White House, which includes steering climate and public lands policies, provides the clearest indication yet that President Obama and his top aides are increasingly focused on cementing a presidential legacy on the environment during his remaining time in office….


Students arrested in Keystone pipeline protests outside White House
Al Jazeera America March 3, 2014
Police arrested nearly 400 student-led demonstrators who marched to the White House on Sunday to protest against the Keystone XL pipeline.   Marching under the name XL Dissent, at least 500 students from across the United States demonstrated and carried out acts of civil disobedience outside of the White House….





Vermont loves renewable energy, except when it arrives AP March 3, 2014 Getting energy from the sun, wind and forests fits with Vermont’s sense of itself as clean, green and independent. But when it comes time to build and live with the projects that make it possible, things can get complicated.


Ohio wind turbine shutdown raises issue of migratory bird safety.
Environmental groups have won what they call a victory for birds with the suspension of a plan to build a wind turbine in Ohio. Great Lakes Echo, Michigan








Soil Health and Production Benefits of Mob Grazing

NRCS webinar, Tuesday, March 11th at 11:00 am Pacific Time, 2:00 pm Eastern.

This webinar focuses on how both soil health and productivity can be improved by managing grazing to mimic the impact bison had on prairies, a system characterized by high plant diversity, intensive grazing, trampling of vegetation, and long rest periods. Because of their vegetative cover, pastures and rangeland are often overlooked as having degraded soils. In fact, grazing lands suffer from soil disturbing activities caused by overgrazing that results in reduced root mass, increased weed pressure, compacted soils, greater surface runoff, and diminished soil habitat. Our presenter will explain how managing stock density can be the most powerful tool available to manage grassland resources. He will cover how stock density affects utilization, reduces spot grazing, controls weed competition, improves manure distribution, and provides seed to soil contact. Simply put, managing stock density has the potential to improve and build more soil than we ever thought possible. This webinar is presented by the USDA NRCS National Soil Health and Sustainability Team located at the East National Technology Support Center. Contact David Lamm, Team Leader, for soil health technical assistance. Contact Holli Kuykendall, Ph.D., National Technology Specialist, for more information about this webinar.





Global Ocean Refuge System to Protect  Marine Life Worldwide (GLORES)

March 13, 2014 10:00-11:00 am PST (2 pm Eastern)
Speaker Lance Morgan of the Marine Conservation Institute will discuss GLORES. GLORES is a science-based strategy for for advancing marine protected areas worldwide.
Click here for more information.




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 (SF) 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



Stanford experts from a range of disciplines will discuss the interconnections and interactions among humanity’s need for and use of climate, energy, food, water, and environmental resources…..


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

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.


Ecosystems, Economy and Society: How large-scale restoration can stimulate sustainable development (in DC)

29 – 30 MAY 2014 U.S. National Academy of Sciences, Washington DC, USA


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:



(apologies for any duplication; thanks for passing along)


Point Blue Conservation Science, founded as Point Reyes Bird Observatory and based in Petaluma, California, is a growing and internationally renowned nonprofit with over 140 staff and seasonal scientists. Our highest priority is to reduce the impacts of accelerating changes in climate, land-use and the ocean on wildlife and people while promoting climate-smart conservation for a healthy, blue planet. Point Blue advances conservation of nature for wildlife and people through science, partnerships and outreach. Our scientists work hand-in-hand with wildlife managers, private land owners, ranchers, farmers, other scientists, major conservation groups, and federal, state, and local government agencies and officials.  Point Blue has tripled in size over the past 12 years in response to the ever–increasing demand for sound science to assess and guide conservation investments in our rapidly changing world. At the core of our work is innovative, collaborative science.


Studying birds and other environmental indicators, we evaluate natural and human-driven change over time and guide our partners in adaptive management for improved conservation outcomes. We publish in peer-reviewed journals and contribute to the “conservation commons” of open access scientific knowledge. We also store, manage and interpret over 800 million bird and ecosystem observations from across North America and create sophisticated, yet accessible, decision support tools to improve conservation today and for an uncertain future.


This is a pivotal moment in the history of life on our planet requiring unprecedented actions to ensure that wildlife and people continue to thrive in the decades to come.  Working from the Sierra to the sea and as far away as the Ross Sea (Antarctica), Point Blue is collaboratively implementing climate-smart conservation.   Read more at







A wristband for a different kind of cause … environmental health
(March 5, 2014) — From ‘Livestrong’ to ‘Purple Paws,’ trendy wristbands have come to represent causes from cancer to ending cruelty to animals. Add a new wristband of a different sort: one that could close the loop on determining the potential disease risks of exposure to substances like pesticides. … > full story

Elephant age estimated from voice: A powerful conservation tool?
(March 6, 2014) — Researchers have been able to estimate the age of an elephant based on its vocal sounds. Results showed that they could distinguish infants, calves, juveniles, and adults with 70 percent accuracy and youngsters (infants/calves) from adults with 95 percent accuracy. The call feature that was most useful for doing this was overall frequency — not surprisingly, since vocal frequency usually decreases as an animal grows larger. … > full story

BPA linked to breast cancer tumor growth
(March 6, 2014) — Researchers have attempted to trace how bisphenol-A may promote breast cancer tumor growth with help from a molecule called RNA HOTAIR. “We can’t immediately say BPA causes cancer growth, but it could well contribute because it is disrupting the genes that defend against that growth,” said a corresponding author on the paper. BPA has been widely used in plastics, such as food storage containers, the lining of canned goods and, until recently, baby bottles. Previous studies have linked BPA to problems with reproductive development, early puberty, obesity and cancers. … > full story

Marijuana’s anxiety relief effects: Receptors found in emotional hub of brain
(March 6, 2014) — Cannabinoid receptors, through which marijuana exerts its effects, have been found in a key emotional hub in the brain involved in regulating anxiety and the flight-or-fight response. This is the first time cannabinoid receptors have been identified in the central nucleus of the amygdala in a mouse model. … > full story


Santorini tree rings support the traditional dating of the volcanic eruption
(March 6, 2014) — Will the dating of the volcanic eruption of Santorini remain an unsolved mystery? The question whether this natural disaster occurred 3,500 or 3,600 years ago is of great historiographical importance and has indeed at times been the subject of heated discussion among experts. After investigating tree rings, scientists have concluded that the volcano erupted in the 16th century BC, rather than any earlier than that. … > full story


Eating red, processed meat: What scientists say
(March 6, 2014) — Recent reports warn about a link between eating red and processed meat and the risk of developing cancer in the gut. These reports have resulted in new nutritional recommendations that advise people to limit their intake of red and processed meats. A recent perspective paper, authored by 23 scientists, underlines the uncertainties in the scientific evidence and points to further research needed to resolve these issues and improve the foundation for future recommendations on the intake of red meat. … > full story





Starling Murmurations Video








Ellie Cohen, President and CEO

Point Blue Conservation Science (formerly PRBO)

3820 Cypress Drive, Suite 11, Petaluma, CA 94954

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


Point Blue—Conservation science for a healthy planet.


Leave a Reply

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