Conservation Science News March 14, 2014

Focus of the WeekNew Ozone-destroying Chemicals Found in Atmosphere; Primer on Short-lived Climate Pollutants









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Focus of the Week– New Ozone-destroying Chemicals Found in Atmosphere; Primer on Short-lived Climate Pollutants


New ozone-destroying chemicals found in atmosphere

Mysterious compounds undermining recovery of giant ozone hole over Antarctica, scientists warn
The chemicals are also extremely potent greenhouse gases; Newly discovered greenhouse gas ‘7,000 times more powerful than CO2’

Damian Carrington The Guardian, Sunday 9 March 2014 14.00 EDT

The ozone hole reached its biggest extent for the year on 26 September, 2013. Photograph: NOAA

Dozens of mysterious ozone-destroying chemicals may be undermining the recovery of the giant ozone hole over Antarctica, researchers have revealed. The chemicals, which are also extremely potent greenhouse gases, may be leaking from industrial plants or being used illegally, contravening the Montreal protocol which began banning the ozone destroyers in 1987. Scientists said the finding of the chemicals circulating in the atmosphere showed “ozone depletion is not yesterday’s story.”

Until now, a total of 13 CFCs and HCFCs were known to destroy ozone and are controlled by the Montreal protocol, widely regarded as the world’s most successful environmental law. But scientists have now identified and measured four previously unknown compounds and warned of the existence of many more.”There are definitely more out there,” said Dr Johannes Laube, at the University of East Anglia. “We have already picked up dozens more. They might well add up to dangerous levels, especially if we keep finding more.” Laube and his colleagues are in the process of fully analysing the dozens of new compounds, but the work completed on the four new chemicals shows them to be very powerful destroyers of ozone.

Laube is particularly concerned that the atmospheric concentrations of two of the new compounds, while low now, are actually accelerating. “They are completely unimpressed by the Montreal protocol,” Laube told the Guardian. “There are quite a few loopholes in the protocol and we hope some of these are tightened. But the good news is that we have picked up these [four] early.” The chemicals take decades to break down in the atmosphere, meaning their impact on ozone and climate change is long-lived.

“This research highlights that ozone depletion is not yesterday’s story,” said Prof Piers Forster, at the University of Leeds, who was not involved in the study. “The Montreal protocol – the most successful international environmental legislation in history – phased out ozone-depleting substances from 1987 and the ozone layer should recover by 2050. Nevertheless this paper reminds us we need to be vigilant and continually monitor the atmosphere for even small amounts of these gases creeping up.”

The new research, published the journal Nature Geoscience, analysed air samples captured since the mid-1970s in several ways. Air bubbles trapped in snowpack in Greenland, samples taken by scientists in Tasmania and others collected by aircraft flying 13 miles above Europe were all analysed. The team found three new CFCs and one HCFC, none of which had been identified before. “I was surprised no-one had picked these up before,” said Laube. At least 74,000 tonnes of the four newly discovered chemicals have been emitted, the scientists estimate, although in the 1980s one million tonnes of other CFCs were pumped into the atmosphere every year.

Despite the production of all CFCs having been banned since 2010, the concentration of one – CFC113a – is rising at an accelerating rate. The source of the chemicals is a mystery but Laube suggests that CFC113a may be being used as a feedstock chemical in the production of agricultural pesticides. “But we can’t rule out illegal sources,” he said.

CFCs and HCFCs were used mainly in refrigeration and aerosol sprays but, in 1985, scientists discovered the Antarctic ozone hole. It grew in size from almost nothing in 1979 to a peak of 26.6m sqkm in 2006. As the Montreal protocol has taken effect, it has recovered slowly, shrinking to 21.0m sqkm in 2013. Ozone screens out harmful ultraviolet rays from sunlight that can cause cancer in humans, as well as damaging marine life, crops and animals.

“Although these new emissions [of the four chemicals] are small, for the Montreal protocol to continue to be successful it is necessary to understand whether it is being strictly complied with,” said Prof William Collins, at the University of Reading, and not part of the research team. “This study provides useful new information on policing the protocol, tracing sources of new CFCs that are possibly arising as the by-products of manufacturing other chemicals.”

In December, Nasa researchers revealed the discovery of a new greenhouse gas that is 7,000 times more powerful than carbon dioxide at warming the Earth and which has been in use by the electrical industry since the mid-20th century. The four newly identified compounds are also expected to trap heat thousands of times more powerfully than CO2.



The Climate and Clean Air Coalition to Reduce Short-Lived Climate Pollutants
began in February 2012 with 7 partners. Today it has 80. With its rapid growth, this global effort to reduce emissions of black carbon, methane and many hydrofluorocarbons has already touched numerous sectors of society in the effort to slow the rate of global warming and protect human health, agriculture and the environment….


Primer on Short-lived Climate Pollutants Feb 2013

Primer on Short-Lived Climate Pollutants

(pdf) provides a summary of short-lived climate pollutants (SLCPs), including: an introduction to SLCPs; explanation of the multiple benefits of reducing SLCPs with respect to climate, human health and food security; and a menu of mitigation options for reducing SLCPs, including international and regional initiatives, such as the Climate and Clean Air Coalition (CCAC). Institute for Governance and Sustainable Development (IGSD), 2013.



TIME TO ACT to Reduce Short-Lived Climate Pollutants (Version 1)


Through text and colorful graphics, this publication explains short-lived climate pollutants and their effects on climate, health and agriculture. Time to Act also offers 16 measures to reduce black carbon and methane, two of the most potent SLCPs, details why the measures are beneficial, and describes the overall advantages of SLCP mitigation. Climate and Clean Air Coalition, 2013



On Thin Ice: How Cutting Pollution Can Slow Warming and Save Lives


This report is about how climate change is affecting the cryosphere—those snow-capped mountain ranges, brilliant glaciers, and vast permafrost regions on which all of us depend. It lays out 14 specific measures we could take by 2030 to reduce short-lived climate pollutants and slow the melting of ice and snow that must stay frozen to keep oceans and global temperatures from rising even faster. The World Bank, International Cryosphere Climate Initiative, 2013

See more at:





‘Tree of life’ distances are no shortcut to conservation
(March 9, 2014) — Some conservation strategies assume that the evolutionary distances between species on a phylogenetic ‘tree of life’ (a branching diagram of species popularized by Charles Darwin) can be used to predict how diverse their biological features will be. These distances are then used to select which species to conserve in order to maximize interesting biological features — such as potentially useful drug compounds and resilience to climate change. But a new analysis of data from 223 studies of animals, plants, and fungi, shows that methods based on such distances are often no better at conserving interesting biological features than picking species at random. … > full story

Exotic plant species alter ecosystem productivity
(March 11, 2014) — Biologists have reported an increase in biomass production in ecosystems colonized by non-native plant species. In the face of climate change, these and other changes to ecosystems are predicted to become more frequent, according to the researchers. … > full story


More to biological diversity than meets the eye: Specialization by insect species is the key
(March 13, 2014) — Scientists found greater diversity among insects in a rainforest in Peru than theory would predict. Scientists have been studying flies in the tropics for years, and now report evidence that there is more to a fly’s ecological niche than where it lives and what it eats — you have to look at what eats the fly, as well. …
“Most insects are specialists,” Forbes says. “We have an idea that being a specialist should reduce the amount of overlap that you have with other species. So if you specialize in eating some plants, there shouldn’t be lots of other similar insects eating the same plants. But we’re finding lots and lots of fly species and lots and lots of parasitic wasp species in the same place. “It’s these interactions between plants, flies, and wasps that lead to far more diversity than we expect in this system,” Forbes says. “Each fly can only be killed by one wasp, so when a fly moves into a new type of flower home it escapes that wasp. Eventually, the wasp might find it again, or a new wasp may evolve the ability to kill the fly. “It’s like a big game of hide and seek,” he adds…full story


M. A. Condon, S. J. Scheffer, M. L. Lewis, R. Wharton, D. C. Adams, A. A. Forbes. Lethal Interactions Between Parasites and Prey Increase Niche Diversity in a Tropical Community. Science, 2014; 343 (6176): 1240 DOI: 10.1126/science.1245007


Land cover change over five years across North America revealed (March 11, 2014) — A new set of maps featured in the CEC’s North American Environmental Atlas depicts land cover changes in North America’s forests, prairies, deserts and cities, using satellite images from 2005 and 2010. These changes can be attributed to forest fires, insect infestation, urban sprawl and other natural or human-caused events. Produced by the North American Land Change Monitoring System (NALCMS), a trinational collaborative effort facilitated by the CEC, these maps and accompanying data can be used to address issues such as climate change, carbon sequestration, biodiversity loss, and changes in ecosystem structure and function.


This project, which seeks to address land cover change at a North American scale, was initiated at the 2006 Land Cover Summit, in Washington, DC. Since then, specialists from government agencies in Canada, Mexico and the United States have worked together to harmonize their land cover classification systems into 19 classes that provide a uniform view of the continent at a consistent 250-meter scale. To view examples of significant land cover changes in British Colombia, California, and Cancun, slide the green bars on the maps, found at: To view the full 2005-2010 land cover change map, visit and click on “Terrestrial Ecosystems” on the left. Under “Land Cover,” click on the plus sign next to “2005-2010 land cover change” to add the map layer to North America. Then zoom in and take a look at all the purple patches — these are the areas of North America where land cover has changed over the five-year period…. > full story


In grasslands remade by humans, animals may protect biodiversity: Grazers let in the light, rescue imperiled plants
(March 9, 2014) — A study of grasslands on six continents suggests a way to counteract the human-made overdose of fertilizer that threatens the biodiversity of the world’s prairies. The solution originates in nature: let grazing animals crop fast growing grasses, which have a competitive advantage in an over-fertilized world. The grasses block sunlight from ground level, but herbivores make light available to other plants. … In general, where fertilizer was added and grazing animals were kept out, the variety of plants in the experimental plots decreased. Where animals were allowed to graze in the fertilized plots, plant diversity generally increased. The researchers’ data analysis concluded that the grazers improved biodiversity by increasing the amount of light reaching ground level. Grassland plants have evolved a variety of strategies to take advantage of a setting where nutrients are in short supply and inconsistently available. They may be ground-hugging, or ephemeral, or shoot up when they capture a nutrient pulse, Gruner explained. These differing strategies create a diverse grassland ecosystem. In the human-altered world where nutrients are always plentiful, plants that put their effort into growing tall to capture sunlight have an advantage. They block the sunlight from reaching most other plant species, which cannot grow or reproduce. But grazing animals cut down the light-blocking plants and give the others a chance to bloom. “Where we see a change in light, we see a change in diversity,” said Borer, the lead author. “Our work suggests that two factors which humans have changed globally, grazing and fertilization, can control ground-level light. Light appears to be very important in maintaining or losing biodiversity in grasslands.” The effect was greatest where large animals, wild and domesticated, grazed on the test plots: cattle, pronghorn and elk on North America’s Great Plains; wildebeests and impala on Africa’s Serengeti; and horses, sheep and ibex in rural India. In places where the only grazers were small animals like rabbits, voles and gophers, the grazers’ effect was weak and variable….> full story


Elizabeth T. Borer, et al. Herbivores and nutrients control grassland plant diversity via light limitation. Nature, 2014; DOI: 10.1038/nature13144


Tropical Grassy Ecosystems Under Threat, Scientists Warn

Mar. 13, 2014 — Scientists have found that tropical grassy areas, which play a critical role in the world’s ecology, are under threat as a result of ineffective management. This land is often misclassified, which leads to degradation of the land and has a detrimental effect on the plants and animals that are indigenous to these areas. Tropical grassy areas cover a greater area than tropical rain forests, support about one fifth of the world’s population and are critically important to global carbon and energy cycles, and yet do not attract the interest levels that tropical rainforests do. They are characterised by a continuous grass understorey, widespread shade-intolerant plants and the prevalence of fire, which all generate a unique and complex set of ecological processes and interactions not found in other habitats … Approximately 20% of the world’s population depend on these areas of land for their livelihoods including their use for grazing, fuel and food. They also store about 15% of the world’s carbon. Tropical grassy ecosystems are associated with savannas and upland grasslands in Africa and savanna-type grasslands in India, Australia, and South America, representing diverse lands from open grassland through to densely canopied savanna….full story


Catherine L. Parr, Caroline E.R. Lehmann, William J. Bond, William A. Hoffmann, Alan N. Andersen. Tropical grassy biomes: misunderstood, neglected, and under threat. Trends in Ecology & Evolution, 2014; DOI: 10.1016/j.tree.2014.02.004



Soil microbes shift as shrubs invade remnant hill prairies
March 11, 2014) — Perched high on the bluffs of the big river valleys in the Midwest are some of the last remnants of never-farmed prairie grasslands. These patches, edged by forest, are slowly being taken over by shrubs. A recent study examined the soil microbes on nine patches, also called “balds,” that had varying degrees of shrub invasion and found an interesting shift in the composition of the microbial community. … > full story


Serpentine ecosystems shed light on the nature of plant adaptation and speciation

EurekAlert (press release)

March 10 2014


Plants that live in unusual soils, such as those that are extremely low in essential nutrients, provide insight into the mechanisms of adaptation, natural selection, and endemism.


A plague of fleas: Tiny Eurasian exotic is upending watery ecosystems across the northern Great Lakes
(March 12, 2014) — The spiny water flea, aka Bythotrephes, is devouring its way through the Great Lakes and into the surrounding inland waters, including Minnesota’s Voyageurs National Park, disrupting an entire ecosystem from the bottom up. … > full story


Salmon may get lift to ocean if drought slows, warms rivers

Associated Press Published 4:47 pm, Tuesday, March 11, 2014 Sacramento

Wildlife officials said they will consider a plan to move millions of hatchery-raised salmon by tanker trucks to the ocean if the Sacramento River and its tributaries prove inhospitable due to the drought.

Officials fear the rivers could become too shallow and warm, affecting food supply and making salmon easier to catch by predators, the Sacramento Bee reported. State and federal officials said Monday that they were watching conditions and would be ready to implement the plan next month, barring heavy rains. Salmon are usually released in April and May from the Coleman National Fish Hatchery on Battle Creek, a tributary of the river…..The California Department of Fish and Wildlife is also putting together similar trucking plans for the Feather, American and Mokelumne rivers, which also produce millions of young salmon annually. Some concerns over trucking the fish have been raised after evidence that the transported fish sometimes swim into the wrong river when they return to spawn as adults, harming the unique genetic traits of the species. A long-term study is under way to help scientists determine the least disruptive way to transport the salmon…..



Over demanding market affects fisheries more than climate change
(March 7, 2014) — Fisheries that rely on short life species, such as shrimp or sardine, have been more affected by climate change, because this phenomenon affects chlorophyll production, which is vital for phytoplankton, the main food for both species. … > full story



The Island That Came in from the Cold—Skaggs Island (SF Estuary)

by Joe Eaton March 2014 SF Estuary
For years, Skaggs Island was a tantalizing blank in the map of San Pablo Bay wetlands restoration. Renee Spenst of Ducks Unlimited says it was “one of those places in a strange limbo.” Two-thirds of it was owned by the US Navy, which had operated a top-secret listening post there; the rest was privately-owned farmland, where the Haire family grew oat hay. Converting any of the 4,400 acres back to tidal wetland was out of the question. “The agencies doing restoration just had to work around these two parcels,” recalls San Francisco Bay Joint Venture coordinator Beth Huning.

Within the last few years, though, these key pieces in the North Bay restoration puzzle have fallen into place. The Navy transferred its property to the US Fish & Wildlife Service in 2011. Then, last December, came what the Sonoma Land Trust’s Wendy Eliot calls “the Holy Grail,” namely acquisition of the Haire Ranch. In a creative triple play, the US Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resources Conservation Service paid the Haire family $7.5 million for a conservation easement; the Land Trust then purchased the land itself for $707,421 (with help from the California Coastal Conservancy and the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation) and transferred it to the Service. The entire island is now part of the San Pablo Bay National Wildlife Refuge and restoring Skaggs is no longer a pipe dream.
Considered as terra firma, Skaggs Island was the creation of British immigrant John Percival Jones, a gold-seeker turned silver baron whose Pacific Reclamation Company took title to the tract in 1878. It was originally called Camp 6, one of a string of work camps along the Bay. Jones hired Chinese laborers to hand-build levees and drainage ditches; later, clamshell dredgers took over the work…..


Trapping And Tracking The Mysterious Snowy Owl

by Adam Cole and Meredith Rizzo NPR March 11, 2014 5:30 AM 5 min 5 sec

Meredith Rizzo/NPR

This is Hungerford, a large female snowy owl. Last summer she was just a hatchling — a gray ball of fuzz in the middle of the Arctic tundra. In the fall, newly equipped with adult plumage, she flew thousands of miles south until she reached the coast of Maryland. And this winter, she became an important part of an unprecedented research project. Snowy owls are among the largest birds in North America, but scientists know very little about their behavior. The owls spend most of their days far from humans, hunting rodents and birds in the flat expanses of the Arctic Circle. In the winter, the owls move south, but they don’t usually reach the United States. Most years, only a few are spotted in the northernmost states — a rare treat for birders. But this winter was different.

Source: IUCN, Credit: Alyson Hurt and Matt Stiles / NPR

Owls started to appear all over the United States right around Thanksgiving — in Nebraska, in Kentucky — even as far south as Georgia. , a biologist with the Maryland Department of Natural Resources, was shocked when he saw not one but two snowy owls on a small stretch of Maryland beach.

“Something huge is going on,” Brinker told his colleagues. “We won’t see something like this for a long time — probably for the rest of our lifetimes.” This rapid population boom — called an “irruption” by ecologists — is the largest the East Coast has seen in 40 or 50 years. …. Thanks to the abundance of lemmings last summer, well-fed mother owls laid more eggs, and huge numbers of owlets grew up fat and strong. Come winter, they spread far to the south.
This irruption has provided a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for owl researchers — the chance to tag and track members of a mysterious species.
Brinker says that following the movements of a few snowy owls will give scientists unprecedented information — about their routes through Canada and around the Arctic Circle, about their hunting patterns, and about the human-made hazards they face. That new understanding, in turn, will help the scientists better protect the owls.
So Brinker teamed up with his colleague Scott Wiedensaul ….. You can follow the tagged owls at



Bottlenose dolphin attack on a harbour porpoise

March 12, 2014 Caroline Weir

Events in February 2014 and media coverage

On 17 February I assisted the Scottish Marine Animal Strandings Scheme (SMASS) with the collection of two dead harbour porpoises from St Cyrus beach in Aberdeenshire. The skin of both porpoises exhibited extensive tooth raking from bottlenose dolphins, and at this stage an attack by dolphins is presumed to have caused their deaths. These animals were transported to the Scottish Agricultural College in Aberdeen where they await post-mortem….

Why do bottlenose dolphins attack harbour porpoises?

Attacks by dolphins on porpoises have been investigated in several scientific papers. Bottlenose dolphins and harbour porpoises do not prey upon each other, and consequently a predatory basis for the interactions can be eliminated. However, several other mammal species engage in inter-specific killings where direct predation is not the primary driver, for example when eliminating potential competitors for food resources (e.g. wolves killing coyotes)…..



Light pollution impairs rainforest regeneration: Seed-dispersing bats avoid feeding in light polluted areas
(March 10, 2014) — Increasing light pollution in tropical habitats could be hampering regeneration of rainforests because of its impact on nocturnal seed-dispersers. These new findings show that seed-dispersing bats avoid feeding in light-polluted areas. … > full story


Deer proliferation disrupts a forest’s natural growth
(March 8, 2014) — Researchers have discovered that a burgeoning deer population forever alters the progression of a forest’s natural future by creating environmental havoc in the soil and disrupting the soil’s natural seed banks. … > full story

Bright blue says, “I’m not on the menu!”Credit: Courtesy of MSU

Impersonating poisonous prey: Evolution of interspecific communication
(March 10, 2014) — Imitation is the most sincere form of flattery — especially in the predator/prey/poison cycle. In nature, bright colors are basically neon signs that scream, ‘Don’t eat me!’ But how did prey evolve these characteristics? When did predators translate the meaning? …
In the current issue of the journal PLOS ONE, researchers at Michigan State University reveal that these color-coded communiqués evolve over time through gradual steps. Equally interesting, the scientists show how drab-colored, oft-eaten prey adopt garish colors to live long and prosper, even though they aren’t poisonous, said Kenna Lehmann, MSU doctoral student of zoology. “In some cases, nonpoisonous prey gave up their protection of camouflage and acquired bright colors,” said Lehmann, who conducted the research through MSU’s BEACON Center for the Study of Evolution in Action. “How did these imitators get past that tricky middle ground, where they can be easily seen, but they don’t quite resemble colorful toxic prey? And why take the risk?” They take the risk because the evolutionary benefit of mimicry works. A nontoxic imposter benefits from giving off a poisonous persona, even when the signals are not even close. Predators, engrained to avoid truly toxic prey, react to the impersonations and avoid eating the imposters….full story




This is a close up of Eschscholzia papastillii. Credit: Shannon M. Still; CC-BY 4.0

California and Arizona Amaze With Two New Species of Desert Poppy

Mar. 11, 2014 — Not quite desert roses, two new species of desert poppies from North America amaze with their simple beauty. The newly described plants are found in the deserts of California and Arizona and have a vibrant yellow colored inflorescences, typical for all the desert dwellers from the Eschscholzia genus of the poppy family. The study was published in the open access journal PhytoKeys. Most commonly known for the iconic California Poppy, the state flower of California, Eschscholzia is a genus in the poppy family Papaveraceae that previously held 12 species. The genus is native to the mainland and islands of western North America in both the United States and Mexico, but the type species, Eschscholzia
californica, is commonly spread and has invaded Mediterranean regions around the world. Shannon Still discovered the new species while studying Eschscholzia for his dissertation research at the University of California Davis. “What is interesting about these new species is that, while people have been collecting these plants for decades, they were not recognized as something different” Still said. “They were always confused for existing species. This confusion led to my study of the group, and ultimately, recognizing something new. I imagine there are many more desert plant species that are also understudied.”…. full story


Evidence that speed restrictions implemented in 2008 to reduce vessel related deaths of North Atlantic right whales along the East Coast of the United States have been effective.

Laist, D.W, A.R. Knowlton, and D. Pendleton.  2014.  Effectiveness of mandatory vessel speed limits for protecting North Atlantic right whales.  Endangered Species Research 23(2): 133-147. 

ABSTRACT: To reduce right whale Eubalaena glacialis deaths caused by ship collisions along the US East Coast, a rule was implemented on 8 December 2008 requiring all vessels ≥65 feet (19.8 m) to travel 10 knots (18.5 km h−1) or less in 10 seasonal management areas (SMAs). To evaluate the effectiveness of this rule, we plotted the locations of all right whale and humpback whale Megaptera novaeangliae carcasses attributed to ship-strikes since December 1990 in US waters to determine their proximity to SMAs. In the 18 yr pre-rule period, 13 of 15 (87%) right whales and 12 of 26 (46%) humpback whales killed by ships were found inside later SMA boundaries or within 45 nmi (83 km) of their perimeters during later active dates. In the first 5 yr after the rule became effective, no ship-struck right whales were found inside or within 45 nmi of any active SMA. This was nearly twice as long as the longest pre-rule period without discovery of a ship-struck carcass in those areas during effective time periods. Based on the 18 yr pre-rule period, bootstrap resampling analyses revealed that the probability of finding no ship-struck whales in or near SMAs during the first 5 yr post-rule period would be a statistically significant reduction in such deaths (p = 0.031). The results suggest the rule has been effective at reducing right whale deaths. We suggest enlarging SMAs to include additional parts of the right whale migratory corridor.



Birds drawn to frozen lake’s ferry channels

Bennington Banner

 – ‎ March 10 2014‎


CHARLOTTE — Thousands of water birds that normally spread out across Lake Champlain are seeking refuge in the channels left by two ferry routes that carry passengers between Vermont and New York during this bitterly cold winter. Thousands of water birds that normally spread out across Lake Champlain are seeking refuge in the channels left by two ferry routes that carry passengers between Vermont and New York during this bitterly cold winter. Bird watchers have been drawn to the Essex, N.Y., landing of the ferry from Charlotte in hopes of catching a glimpse of sometimes-rare birds that are usually scattered across the length of the 120-mile lake. During a winter of below-zero temperatures, the ducks, bald eagles and other birds have been forced to scour the open water of the channels for food. “They are surviving the winter in a lake that’s over 100 miles long that right now is down to five puddles,” said Ian Worley, a retired University of Vermont environmental studies professor who goes birding along the lake two to three times a week. It’s the first time the lake has frozen since 2007 and it’s created a paradise for birders, who peer through the eyepiece of a scope to watch birds foraging for the zebra mussels, fish, plants or other animals they need to survive. “The lake — as it ices over and pulls the birds into this little isolated place — also pulls the possibility of uncommon or rare or really rare species right to you as well,” Worley said. Birders on the New York side of the ferry crossing are eager to spot the single tufted duck, which is common in Europe and Asia but exceedingly rare in the eastern United States. The duck is spending this winter in the lake among the more-familiar mallards, black ducks and common goldeneyes…









Non-stationary seabird responses reveal shifting ENSO dynamics in the northeast Pacific

March 3 2014 Marine Ecology Progress Series, Vol. 499: 249–258, 2014 doi: 10.3354/meps10629

Annie E. Schmidt1, 2,*, Louis W. Botsford1, John M. Eadie1, Russell W. Bradley2, Emanuele Di Lorenzo3, Jaime Jahncke2


ABSTRACT: The impacts of the El Niño Southern Oscillation (ENSO) and the Pacific Decadal Oscillation (PDO) on the ecology of the northeast Pacific are well known. However, recently there has been a shift in the dominance of El Niño events from the eastern Pacific (canonical) El Niño, to the central Pacific (Modoki) El Niño, concurrent with a strengthening of the North Pacific Gyre Oscillation (NPGO). Our examination of ocean conditions and seabird reproductive success in central California shows that the way these physical factors affect the pelagic food web is also changing. Reproduction of Cassin’s auklet Ptycoramphus aleuticus and Brandt’s cormorant Phalacrocorax
penicillatus, species that forage at different trophic levels, responded primarily to ENSO variability from the 1970s to the 1990s. By 1995, however, NPGO had become the dominant variable determining Cassin’s auklet reproductive success. Eventually, NPGO also became correlated with Brandt’s cormorant success but in the opposite direction to Cassin’s auklet. Thus, during the mid-1990s, the correlation between the reproduction of these 2 species weakened and eventually became inversely correlated. This shift from coherent reproduction, presumably bottom-up driven, to an inverse relationship between the 2 species suggests that the structure of the local marine food web changed as the equatorial forcing changed. This non-stationary response of seabirds to physical forcing is cause for concern since predictions of future ecosystem productivity and effects of climate change rely on the assumption that a species’ response to environmental conditions is consistent over time.



Projection of Earth warming by 2099: A new NASA study suggests that projections of Earth’s future warming should be more in line with previous estimates that indicated a higher sensitivity to increasing greenhouse gas emissions. Credit: NASA SVS/NASA Center for Climate Simulation

Long-term warming likely to be significant despite recent slowdown
(March 11, 2014) — A new study shows Earth’s climate likely will continue to warm during this century on track with previous estimates, despite the recent slowdown in the rate of global warming. The research hinges on a new and more detailed calculation of the sensitivity of Earth’s climate to the factors that cause it to change, such as greenhouse gas emissions. The study found Earth is likely to experience roughly 20 percent more warming than estimates that were largely based on surface temperature observations during the past 150 years. …
One reason for the disproportionate influence of the Northern Hemisphere, particularly as it pertains to the impact of aerosols, is that most human-made aerosols are released from the more industrialized regions north of the equator. Also, the vast majority of Earth’s landmasses are in the Northern Hemisphere. This furthers the effect of the Northern Hemisphere because land, snow and ice adjust to atmospheric changes more quickly than the oceans of the world. “Working on the IPCC, there was a lot of discussion of climate sensitivity since it’s so important for our future,” said Shindell, who was lead author of the IPCC Fifth Assessment Report’s chapter on Anthropogenic and Natural Radiative Forcing. “The conclusion was that the lower end of the expected warming range was smaller than we thought before. That was a big discussion. Yet, I kept thinking, we know the Northern Hemisphere has a disproportionate effect, and some pollutants are unevenly distributed. But we don’t take that into account. I wanted to quantify how much the location mattered.”

Shindell’s climate sensitivity calculation suggests countries around the world need to reduce greenhouse gas emissions at the higher end of proposed emissions reduction ranges to avoid the most damaging consequences of climate change. “I wish it weren’t so,” said Shindell, “but forewarned is forearmed.”…full story


Drew T. Shindell. Inhomogeneous forcing and transient climate sensitivity. Nature Climate Change, 2014; DOI: 10.1038/nclimate2136



More Accurate Data on Thousands of Years of Climate Change

Mar. 13, 2014 — Using a new, cutting-edge isotopic tool, researchers have reconstructed the temperature history of a climatically important region in the Pacific Ocean. The study analyzes how much temperatures have increased in the region near Indonesia, and how ocean temperatures affect nearby tropical glaciers in Papua New Guinea and Borneo. Researchers also evaluated the accuracy of existing climate model predictions for that region. The findings illustrate that the region is very sensitive to climate change and that it has warmed considerably over the last 20,000 years, since the last ice age…. “We found that the large amount of ocean warming goes a long way to explaining why glaciers have retreated so much,” said Tripati, a faculty member in the College of Letters and Science and a member of UCLA’s Institute of the Environment and Sustainability. “Throughout the region, they have retreated by close to a kilometer since the last ice age, and are predicted to disappear in the next one to three decades. Previously understanding this large-scale glacial retreat has been a puzzle. Our results help resolve this problem.” Among the implications of the study are that ocean temperatures in this area may be more sensitive to changes in greenhouse gas levels than previously thought and that scientists should be factoring entrainment into their models for predicting future climate change. The group has already begun a follow-up study, looking at sediment from Indonesia’s Lake Towuti to develop data that can be used to further improve models of climate and water cycling for the region. Researchers will also look at other places in the tropics, the Western U.S. and China…. full story


Aradhna K. Tripati, Sandeep Sahany, Dustin Pittman, Robert A. Eagle, J. David Neelin, Jonathan L. Mitchell, Luc Beaufort. Modern and glacial tropical snowlines controlled by sea surface temperature and atmospheric mixing. Nature Geoscience, 2014; 7 (3): 205 DOI: 10.1038/ngeo2082


This graphic shows the global carbon budget with black arrows and values reflecting the natural carbon cycle and red the anthropogenic perturbation. Credit: Courtesy of the 2007 IPCC report

Ocean Food Web Is Key in the Global Carbon Cycle

Mar. 11, 2014 — Nothing dies of old age in the ocean. Everything gets eaten and all that remains of anything is waste. But that waste is pure gold to an oceanographer. In a study of the ocean’s role in the global carbon cycle, oceanographers used those nuggets to their advantage. They incorporated the lifecycle of phytoplankton and zooplankton — small, often microscopic animals at the bottom of the food chain — into a novel mechanistic model for assessing the global ocean carbon export…. “Quantifying this carbon flux is critical for predicting the atmosphere’s response to changing climates,” Siegel said. “By analyzing the scattering signals that we got from satellite measurements of the ocean’s color, we were able to develop techniques to calculate how much of the biomass occurs in very large or very small particles.” Their results predict a mean global carbon export flux of 6 petagrams (Pg) per year. Also known as a gigaton, a petagram is equal to one quadrillion (1015) grams. This is a huge amount, roughly equivalent to the annual global emissions of fossil fuel. At present, fossil fuel combustion represents a flux to the atmosphere of approximately 9 Pg per year. “It matters how big and small the plankton are, and it matters what the energy flows are in the food web,” Siegel said. “This is so simple. It’s really who eats whom but also having an idea of the biomasses and productivity of each. So we worked out these advanced ways of determining NPP, phytoplankton biomass and the size structure to formulate mass budgets, all derived from satellite data.” The researchers are taking their model one step further by planning a major field program designed to better understand the states in which the biological pump operates. “Understanding the biological pump is critical,” Siegel concluded. “We need to understand where carbon goes, how much of it goes into the organic matter, how that affects the air-sea exchanges of CO2 and what happens to fossil fuel we have emitted from our tailpipes.”…. full story


D. A. Siegel, K. O. Buesseler, S. C. Doney, S. F. Sailley, M. J. Behrenfeld, P. W. Boyd. Global assessment of ocean carbon export by combining satellite observations and food-web models. Global Biogeochemical Cycles, 2014; DOI: 10.1002/2013GB004743


How do oceans absorb carbon dioxide? Scientists find clues. Christian Science Monitor

Are you grateful that it’s not 850 degrees Fahrenheit outside right now, like the surface of Venus? You can thank some of the ocean’s tiniest and simplest creatures, who help trap most of our heat-trapping carbon dioxide emissions in the ocean. The ocean’s biological pump, exports organic carbon from the upper part of the ocean into the deeper layers below, “through sinking particulate matter, largely from zooplankton feces and aggregates of algae,” say researchers, who published their findings in a paper titled “Global assessment of ocean carbon export by combining satellite observations and food-web models” in the journal Global Biogeochemical Cycles. The color of ocean waters is an indicator of the type of phytoplankton biomass and its composition. For example – green ocean water means the particular area probably contains a lot of phytoplankton. Blue water could mean that portion of the ocean has less phytoplankton. Using satellite images, the team of researchers examined the color of ocean waters which helped them to zero in on the different types of phytoplankton present in oceans. Among other things, the images also helped them to determine the size and pigmentation of the phytoplankton, David Siegel, director of the Earth Research Institute at UC Santa Barbara, and an author of the paper told the Monitor.



New light shed on changing Greenland ice
(March 10, 2014) — Research using NASA data is giving new insight into one of the processes causing Greenland’s ice sheet to lose mass. A team of scientists used satellite observations and ice thickness measurements gathered by NASA’s Operation IceBridge to calculate the rate at which ice flows through Greenland’s glaciers into the ocean. The findings of this research give a clearer picture of how glacier flow affects the Greenland Ice Sheet and shows that this dynamic process is dominated by a small number of glaciers. Over the past few years, Operation IceBridge measured the thickness of many of Greenland’s glaciers, which allowed researchers to make a more accurate calculation of ice discharge rates. In a new study, researchers calculated ice discharge rates for 178 Greenland glaciers more than one kilometer (0.62 miles) wide. … > full story


Volcanoes helped species survive ice ages
(March 10, 2014)

Researchers have found evidence that the steam and heat from volcanoes and heated rocks allowed many species of plants and animals to survive past ice ages, helping scientists understand how species respond to climate change. … > full story


Sun’s energy influences 1,000 years of natural climate variability in North Atlantic
(March 9, 2014) — Changes in the sun’s energy output may have led to marked natural climate change in Europe over the last 1,000 years, according to researchers. The study found that changes in the sun’s activity can have a considerable impact on the ocean-atmospheric dynamics in the North Atlantic, with potential effects on regional climate. … > full story


Predation on invertebrates by woodland salamanders increases carbon capture
(March 10, 2014) — Woodland salamanders perform a vital ecological service in American forests by helping to mitigate the impacts of global warming. Woodland salamander predation on invertebrates indirectly affects the amount of leaf litter retained for soil-building where nutrients and carbon are captured at the litter-soil interface. … > full story





Number of Days Without Rain to Dramatically Increase in Some World Regions

First-of-its-kind analysis considers the effects of climate change on a daily basis

Mar 13, 2014 Scripps News


Map of projected change in frequency of dry days


By the end of the 21st century, some parts of the world can expect as many as 30 more days a year without precipitation, according to a new study by Scripps Institution of Oceanography, UC San Diego researchers. Ongoing climate change caused by human influences will alter the nature of how rain and snow falls; areas that are prone to dry conditions will receive their precipitation in narrower windows of time. Computer model projections of future conditions analyzed by the Scripps team indicate that regions such as the Amazon, Central America, Indonesia, and all Mediterranean climate regions around the world will likely see the greatest increase in the number of “dry days” per year, going without rain for as many as 30 days more every year. California, with its Mediterranean climate, is likely to have five to ten more dry days per year. This analysis advances a trend in climate science to understand climate change on the level of daily weather and on finer geographic scales…..

….”Looking at changes in the number of dry days per year is a new way of understanding how climate change will affect us that goes beyond just annual or seasonal mean precipitation changes, and allows us to better adapt to and mitigate the impacts of local hydrological changes,” said Polade, a postdoctoral researcher who works with Scripps climate scientists Dan Cayan, David Pierce, Alexander Gershunov, and Michael Dettinger, who are co-authors of the study.

In regions like the American Southwest, where precipitation is historically infrequent and where a couple of storms more or fewer can make a wet or a dry year, annual water accumulation varies greatly. A decrease in precipitation frequency translates into even more year-to-year variability in fresh water resources for the Southwest.   

“These profound and clearly projected changes make physical and statistical sense, but they are invisible when looking at long-term trends in average climate projections,” Gershunov said. Other regions of the world, most of which are climatologically wet, are projected to receive more frequent precipitation. Most such regions are not on land or are largely uninhabited, the equatorial Pacific Ocean and the Arctic prominent among them.     The authors suggest that follow-up studies should emphasize more fine-scale analyses of dry day occurrences and work towards understanding the myriad regional factors that influence precipitation. “Climate models have improved greatly in the last 10 years, which allows us to look in detail at the simulation of daily weather rather than just monthly averages,” said Pierce. Besides the Southwest Climate Science Center, the NOAA Regional Integrated Sciences and Assessments program provided major funding for the study, which appears in Scientific Reports, the open-access journal from Nature Publishing Group.


Suraj D. Polade, David W. Pierce, Daniel R. Cayan, Alexander Gershunov & Michael D. Dettinger. The key role of dry days in changing regional climate and precipitation regimes

Scientific Reports 4, Article number: 4364 doi:10.1038/srep04364 13 March 2014




New Planning and Drought guide (pdf)
American Planning Association January 2014

The new publication “Planning and Drought” offers a comprehensive guide for citizens, planners and communities to explore what drought is, how to track it, its impacts, and how planners and communities can prepare to mitigate its effects [and climate change and drought]. The volume includes eight case studies illustrating the range of drought’s consequences and how different organizations prepared for and responded to them. NIDIS and the National Drought Mitigation Center joined the American Planning Association to create the new guidebook, published in January 2014. Find a free download here or purchase a hard copy here.


Optimizing the dammed: Water supply losses and fish habitat gains from dam removal in California

UC Davis- John Muir Institute of the Environment; Journal of Environmental Management April 2014

Dams provide water supply, flood protection, and hydropower generation benefits, but also harm native species by altering the natural flow regime and degrading aquatic and riparian habitat. Restoring some rivers reaches to free-flowing conditions may restore substantial environmental benefits, but at some economic cost. This study uses a systems analysis approach to preliminarily evaluate removing rim dams in California’s Central Valley to highlight promising habitat and unpromising economic use tradeoffs for water supply and hydropower…. Results show that existing infrastructure is most beneficial if operated as a system (ignoring many current institutional constraints). Removing all rim dams is not beneficial for California, but a subset of existing dams are potentially promising candidates for removal from an optimized water supply and free-flowing river perspective. Removing individual dams decreases statewide delivered water by 0e2282 million cubic meters and provides access to 0 to 3200 km of salmonid habitat upstream of dams. The method described here can help prioritize dam removal, although more detailed, project-specific studies also are needed. Similarly, improving environmental protection can come at substantially lower economic cost, when evaluated and operated as a system.



Why Distant Dust Storms Matter to California Rainfall

Lauren Sommer, KQED Science | March 10, 2014 |

A storm approaching California on February 24 had large amounts of dust at the center, as shown by the highlighted orange areas. (NASA Earth Observing System Data and Information System)

California’s recent rainstorms, as welcome as they were, haven’t been enough to save the state from a serious drought this year. The rainy season typically winds down by late March. Scientists are trying to understand why some storms unload lots of rain and snow in California and others don’t. They’re finding it could be linked to dust storms thousands of miles away. ….Tiny particles like pollution, sea spray, dust and smoke, are the seeds of a rainstorm. The water inside a cloud condenses on these aerosols, growing larger and larger until it becomes a raindrop or snowflake that’s heavy enough to fall….The dust has made its way from the deserts of Asia and Africa. Dust storms send particles miles into the air, then they drift to California in 7 to 10 days…..she says. “And it’s not a lot of dust. It’s just the right amount of dust that comes in and seeds the very top of the clouds.” In one study, Prather found that the right kind of dust storm could boost snowfall in the Sierra Nevada by 40 percent. It happens because dust helps ice crystals grow. Ice formation appears to be the magic recipe for producing lots of precipitation….”Are we getting less precipitation? The ultimate goal is to be able to feed this into weather forecast models and improve those models, where they actually take into account the seeds. Right now, they don’t.” An improved forecast could help California manage its water supplies better, leading to fuller reservoirs that help buffer California against drought. “The storms that provide the beneficial water that we really need badly this year?” says Marty Ralph, director of the Center for Western Weather and Water Extremes at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography. “It often comes in just a few events each winter, and that’s really the make or break thing for the season.” California’s network of reservoirs stores that runoff. But reservoirs are required to release a lot of stored water in the fall and early winter, in order to make room for runoff from extreme storms and protect against floods.
“In the future, it may be possible if we can predict these storms accurately enough ahead of time, we could maybe keep a little extra water in there, knowing that if we had three days lead time we could release that water in a safe and appropriate way,” Ralph says…..



California’s drought-prone pattern forcing farmers to adapt

Carolyn Lochhead SF Chronicle March 9, 2014

Shawn Coburn farms land that holds senior water rights to the giant Central Valley Project, rights that usually assure him water. Not this year. He already has decided to let his pomegranates die, abandon alfalfa and cut his tomato crop by half. He may not plant any row crops if the state water board follows through on its intention to slash deliveries to “protect human health and safety” from the effects of drought. Coburn, 45, says his ranch near Dos Palos (Merced County) is no water-guzzler. He uses buried irrigation. Computers tell him how much moisture his plants lose each day.

“I need every drop of water to keep the trees and vines alive,” he said. “I can’t conserve any more. This year I’m going to watch stuff die.” As California gets drier and hotter, no one is more vulnerable than farmers. And no one is likely to have to do more to adapt to what many experts fear will be a more drought-prone environment. Climate change is “coming upon us, and it looks like it’s coming upon us fairly quickly,” said Paul Wenger, a Modesto almond and walnut grower who heads the California Farm Bureau Federation. Wenger said this year’s drought has farmers asking how long they can continue. “It’s going to be difficult,” he said. “We’re going to see a lot of farmland retired.”….


….Farmers tend to see more and bigger dams as a solution, but many experts believe California can no longer plumb its way out. “You can build all the storage you want right now, but there’s no water to fill it,” said Jay Lund, director of watershed science at UC Davis. “It’s not like a pile of concrete in a river is going to create water.” Faced with water cutbacks imposed on them in recent years by environmental legislation and litigation, farmers adopted sophisticated irrigation systems. Central Valley farmers now use 2 million acre-feet less water than 25 years ago and grow twice as much per gallon, said Timothy Quinn, chief of the Association of California Water Agencies. An acre-foot is what would cover a football field with a foot of water and supply two California households for a year.

Yet in achieving those savings, other problems emerged. Drip irrigation saves water but also can increase groundwater pumping, which exhausts aquifers and in some places actually causes the land to sink. Drip irrigation also intensifies salt buildup in soils that damages crops. Environmentalists argue that some crops shouldn’t be grown at all. They accuse farmers of “exporting water” in the form of crops such as alfalfa and almonds to Japan and China. Alfalfa is one of the state’s biggest water users, far exceeding the water requirements of other crops grown in the state…..


….Coburn, however, says his thirsty alfalfa isn’t some boutique crop – it’s vital to San Joaquin Valley ranchers and dairies that put meat and milk in the refrigerators of millions of Californians. The drought has driven alfalfa prices to record highs,
if it is available at all. When Coburn told one farmer he wasn’t going to grow any alfalfa this summer, “he literally was beside himself,” Coburn said. “How am I going to feed my cows this summer?” the man asked him. Farmers’ point: Everything they grow requires water, and shorting them has consequences for everyone. “We will see sizable impacts this year for a lot of those fruits and vegetables, sweet corn, melons, those things that you take for granted that are fresh,” said Wenger, the farm bureau president. “You like wine?” Coburn asked. “How many gallons of water do you think goes into a bottle of Two-Buck Chuck or a really nice varietal up north? Take your pick: 275 gallons.”…..


Farmers have taken heat from environmentalists for going more heavily into permanent crops – trees and vines that produce grapes, almonds, pistachios, avocados and the like, and require steady watering over their decades-long life. They cannot be fallowed like melons or tomatoes for a year or two during droughts. The public, however, seems to like tree crops. Last week, the Chipotle restaurant chain warned in its annual report that climate change could reduce avocado supplies and force it to stop serving guacamole. Such was the panic that the company had to clarify that a “guacapocalypse” was not at hand. If climate-change models are borne out and California droughts intensify, the trade-offs are likely to be increasingly painful for consumers as well as farmers. “When people say the farmers are using all the water,” said Michael Dimock, head of Roots of Change, a San Francisco sustainable food group, “what they’re really saying is the public is eating.”



Scientists: Past California droughts have lasted 200 years
(including again—by popular demand)

MCT: Aric Crabb, Bay Area News Group Police officers Eric Baade, left, and Daren Prociw ride across the bed of Folsom Lake.

1/31/14 By Paul Rogers of San Jose Mercury News

SAN JOSE, Calif. — California’s current drought is being billed as the driest period in the state’s recorded rainfall history. But scientists who study the West’s long-term climate patterns say the state has been parched for much longer stretches before that 163-year historical period began. And they worry that the “megadroughts” typical of California’s earlier history could come again.

Through studies of tree rings, sediment and other natural evidence, researchers have documented multiple droughts in California that lasted 10 or 20 years in a row during the past 1,000 years — compared to the mere three-year duration of the current dry spell. The two most severe megadroughts make the Dust Bowl of the 1930s look tame: a 240-year-long drought that started in 850 and, 50 years after the conclusion of that one, another that stretched at least 180 years. “We continue to run California as if the longest drought we are ever going to encounter is about seven years,” said Scott Stine, a professor of geography and environmental studies at Cal State East Bay. “We’re living in a dream world.” California in 2013 received less rain than in any year since it became a state in 1850. And at least one Bay Area scientist says that based on tree ring data, the current rainfall season is on pace to be the driest since 1580 — more than 150 years before George Washington was born. The question is: How much longer will it last? A megadrought today would have catastrophic effects. California, the nation’s most populous state with 38 million residents, has built a massive economy, Silicon Valley, Hollywood and millions of acres of farmland, all in a semiarid area. The state’s dams, canals and reservoirs have never been tested by the kind of prolonged drought that experts say will almost certainly occur again.

Stine, who has spent decades studying tree stumps in Mono Lake, Tenaya Lake, the Walker River and other parts of the Sierra Nevada, said that the past century has been among the wettest of the last 7,000 years. Looking back, the long-term record also shows some staggeringly wet periods. The decades between the two medieval megadroughts, for example, delivered years of above-normal rainfall — the kind that would cause devastating floods today. The longest droughts of the 20th century, what Californians think of as severe, occurred from 1987 to 1992 and from 1928 to 1934. Both, Stine said, are minor compared to the ancient droughts of 850 to 1090 and 1140 to 1320. What would happen if the current drought continued for another 10 years or more?…


California Drought News: Food for thought next time you eat almonds, hydropower and more

KPCC staff Southern CA Public Radio | March 12th, 2014, 7:30am

Maya Sugarman/KPCC Almond farmers rely on bees to pollinate trees in the spring.

Today’s journey through the drought reveals the growing impacts on California’s all-important agricultural sector. But renewable energy offers a bright spot. 

  • California’s all-important almond crop is making news this morning: Mark Bittman writes the beauty of the spring almond blossoms in the San Joaquin Valley belies the stark reality of their demand on local water supplies. (New York Times)
  • Jim Jelter says water-craving almonds have become California’s second most profitable crop (only behind grapes). What happens when the global economy and Mother Nature collide? (MarketWatch)
  • The global supply chain of food
    won’t be enough to offset the effects of California’s drought, writes Dana Hull. Higher prices are coming to a supermarket near you. (San Jose Mercury News)
  • More than two years of drought have taken their toll on California’s hydroelectric sector, but as Josie Garthwaite reports, other renewables are picking up the slack. (National Geographic)
  • The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors have passed a motion to build
    more stormwater capture projects. During the storms a couple weeks ago, existing systems snared enough water to supply 15,000 homes for a year. (KABC)


The Opinion Pages|Contributing Op-Ed Writer

Exploiting California’s Drought

MARCH 11, 2014 NY TIMES Mark Bittman

The San Joaquin Valley in California can be stunningly beautiful: On a visit two weeks ago, I saw billions of pink almond blossoms peaking, with the Sierra Nevada towering over all…..

Efficiency is imperative: The amount of water available is not going to increase. This drought may or may not be a result of climate change, but the area is likely to become warmer and drier as the effects of global warming increase. But there is enough water to farm here while providing water for 40 million people (with more coming) to drink, bathe and wash. Some of that will be “gray” (recycled) water, especially for lawns, the single biggest use of residential water.

And, according to Obegi, it could be that not every one of the current eight million irrigated acres will be planted.
This year, about 500,000 of those acres will lay fallow, and although that may not have a national impact — mass-produced food is a global commodity, and California’s drought is not a global tragedy — it’s a crisis locally. Many farmers are receiving 0 percent (as in none) of their federal water allocation, and some are pulling out their trees or crops or not bothering to plant at all.
The more squarely the state faces the necessary changes now, the more drought-resistant California can be in the years to come.

For a consistently reliable water supply, one of two things must happen: Crop selection must be modified or water delivery and use must be more rational. But trying to persuade politicians, farmers and even water conservation advocates to think about determining what’s grown may be nearly impossible. Still: The most water-thirsty “crops” are industrially produced meat and dairy and the food needed to sustain them. Livestock guzzle water and produce a double-digit percentage of our greenhouse gases. Other crops, like almonds (California grows 82 percent of the world’s supply), are mostly exported.

But the state can’t dictate what landowners grow. (We can help by eating fewer animal products.) It can, however, price water more fairly and make profligate water use unprofitable.

Some argue that more dams would solve the problem, but as the Sierra’s snowpack shrinks, this might be a recipe for expensive and dry reservoirs. Less expensive and more effective solutions would essentially overhaul the water delivery system to provide metered water on demand (now it’s often “use it or lose it”), which in turn would encourage more farmers to install drip irrigation, which quickly pays for itself. The state should not just monitor but also manage groundwater usage, and mandate treatment and recycling plants; these may be expensive, but they’re far less so than building new dams and shipping water hundreds of miles. Furthermore, if farmers were encouraged to build soil health by rotating crops, planting cover crops and integrating more organic matter, the land itself would become more drought-resistant.

The current drought is a crisis worth exploiting. Because rainfall cannot be relied upon but California agriculture is of critical importance nationally (the state provides around 50 percent of our fruits, vegetables and nuts), these kinds of changes are needed to begin to shift an arcane and antiquated system.


Farm to fork: California drought to drive up food prices in the long term

By Dana Hull San Jose Mercury News   03/11/2014 04:35:46 PM PDT

…. Jim Cochran of Swanton Berry Farm in Davenport offers a hint of what may come. He stopped watering his artichokes a month ago and expects the cost of a pint of organic strawberries, which usually sell for $3.50 at Bay Area farmers markets, to go up roughly 20 percent to at least $4.20 a pint. “We are going to have to sell our products for higher prices because we are not going to have the yield,” Cochran said. “We’re not trying to make more money; we’re trying to lose less.” California is the nation’s largest producer of many fruits, vegetables and nuts. But with the traditional rainy season more than half over, farmers are making hard decisions about what crops to plant and how many acres to leave fallow. At least 500,000 prime acres, representing an area the size of Los Angeles and San Diego combined, are expected to go unplanted this spring because of insufficient water….



In Parched California, Town Taps Run Nearly Dry


Lake of the Woods, a small community north of Los Angeles, is running dry amid a deep California drought. Residents are changing water habits, but many worry about the future.

LAKE OF THE WOODS, Calif. — People in this mountain town straddling the San Andreas Fault are used to scrapping for water. The lake for which it is named went dry 40 years ago. But now, this tiny community is dealing with its most unsettling threat yet: It could run out of water by summer.


Water-rich gem points to vast ‘oceans’ beneath Earth’s surface, study suggests
(March 12, 2014) — The first terrestrial discovery of ringwoodite confirms the presence of massive amounts of water 400 to 700 kilometers beneath Earth’s surface. Ringwoodite is a form of the mineral peridot, believed to exist in large quantities under high pressures in the transition zone. Ringwoodite has been found in meteorites but, until now, no terrestrial sample has ever been unearthed because scientists haven’t been able to conduct fieldwork at extreme depths. … > full story

Can the solution to climate change help eliminate poverty


March 10, 2014 Taylor & Francis

It is clear that climate change and poverty are two separate problems that affect all corners of the world, but can the solution to one help eliminate the other? Richard Munang and Jessica Andrews, authors of “Harnessing Ecosystem-Based Adaptation: To Address the Social Dimensions of Climate Change,” published in Environment: Science and Policy for Sustainable Development, think that we can.


Ecosystem-Based Adaptation (EbA) is becoming more widely recognized as a possible solution to addressing climate change. “EbA is the use of biodiversity and ecosystem services as part of an overall adaptation to help people and communities adapt to the negative effects of climate change at local, regional, and global levels.” It works by providing sustainable social benefits for a local community within climate change adaptation practices. This idea understands the relationship and interconnectivity between many different facets of life; ecological, social/cultural, economic, and institutional.

EbA is built to successfully implement sustained social and environmental achievements. Developing a community’s resilience in the face of climate change impacts improves the wellness of the entire ecosystem. “EbA can accelerate income gains, improve health, and secure food production, all while ensuring the sustainable development of local resources.” Munang and Andrews provide examples where this program has been successful. In Togo, Africa, EbA aided in the revitalization of water reservoirs, as well as cereal and vegetable production in the savannah region, directly benefiting women and youth groups. The extraordinary and integral component of this program is the collaboration between nongovernmental and civil society organizations (NGOs and CSOs, respectively) and the local community. This resulted in improved access to water, an array of social benefits, and a trained community competent to take an active role in future resilience efforts.

However, there are some problems. The success of EbA depends largely on the involvement of the local community in the planning and implementation process, while also taking into consideration the overall political context and land use conflicts. Also, the concept of EbA is relatively new and needs to be fully understood by the public, and there needs to be development to provide further evidence of the success of the program. Although this program does have its setbacks and limitations, it provides a plan to combat climate change while uplifting poverty stricken communities most vulnerable to the negative effects of climate change….

Richard Munang, Jesica Andrews, Keith Alverson, Desta Mebratu. Harnessing Ecosystem-based Adaptation To Address the Social Dimensions of Climate Change. Environment: Science and Policy for Sustainable Development, 2014; 56 (1): 18 DOI: 10.1080/00139157.2014.861676






For EPA’s Global Warming Rules, Will ‘Next Year’ Mean ‘Never’? March 11 2014

EPA is running out of time to craft carbon-emissions standards for industrial polluters beyond power plants.

EPA’s new budget plan says the agency hopes to make critical—and controversial—decisions about its effort to regulate greenhouse gases by the end of fiscal 2015.

Specifically, the budget says the agency hopes to determine whether it should craft carbon-emissions standards for several big industrial pollution sources—notably refineries, but also pulp and paper facilities, iron and steel production, and few other categories. But if the pledges about expanding climate rules sounds familiar to EPA-watchers, they should: The fiscal 2014 plan said the same thing about a decision on the rules, and the fact that the agency has now moved these decisions to its 2015 budget suggests that determinations in 2014 are probably not in the cards.

Now, with the clock winding down on the Obama administration, experts say it’s unclear whether EPA will craft carbon-emissions standards for any big stationary pollution sources beyond power plants—or even if it has enough time or resources left to do so. “As a practical matter, they would probably need to get started on the rulemaking by the end of this year if they want to get new [greenhouse-gas] regulations in place for refineries or any other industry sector before they leave office,” said Jeff Holmstead, who was the top EPA air pollution official under President George W. Bush and is now a partner at Bracewell & Giuliani….


30 Senators stay up for climate change – a turning point for US policy?

The all night, 15-hour event was a display of climate science awareness and a shift in political strategy

On the night of March 10th to the morning of March 11th, 30 US Senators stayed up all night speaking about climate change for 15 hours. The Up4Climate event was the first hosted by the Senate Climate Action Task Force. A video of the full session can be viewed courtesy of C-SPAN2, and is also searchable by speaker and keyword.

The event was encouraging not just because 30 percent of the members of the US Senate were willing to devote their personal time to discuss this critical subject, but also because they displayed a strong understanding of climate change and its impacts. Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT) invoked the 97 percent expert consensus on human caused global warming from the study my colleagues and I published last year.


Making a Visible Difference in Communities across the Country through Green Infrastructure

The President’s proposed fiscal year 2015 budget for the EPA dedicates $5.0 million and adds 30 staff to strengthen green infrastructure activities to further sustainability goals, particularly in urban, underserved and economically distressed communities. Incorporating green infrastructure and enhancing stormwater management helps to create livable urban communities and improve the quality of urban waters. Green Infrastructure is a cost-effective and resilient approach to our stormwater infrastructure needs that provides many community benefits: improving water and air quality; reducing energy use and mitigating climate change; improving habitat for wildlife; reducing a community’s infrastructure cost and promoting economic growth. The proposed FY15 funding continues and increases EPA’s commitment to expanding the use of green infrastructure through collaborative partnerships and capacity building. More information:

 For more details on the President’s proposed fiscal year 2015 EPA budget, please see:


California’s water system faces a funding drought: New PPIC report says resources and reforms needed

by Maven March 13, 2014

New Public Policy Institute of California (PPIC) Report highlights the resources and reforms needed for rural communities, flood protection, stormwater pollution, and aquatic ecosystems

From the Public Policy Institute of California:

“California faces critical funding gaps in five key areas of water management, according to a report released today by the Public Policy Institute of California (PPIC). These areas include safe drinking water in small, disadvantaged communities; flood protection; management of stormwater and other polluted runoff; aquatic ecosystem management; and integrated water management.

The report identifies the overall funding gap in these five areas at $2 billion to $3 billion annually. Filling this gap would require a spending increase of 7–10 percent—or $150 to $230 per household—for a water system with annual spending of more than $30 billion.

Our water challenges seem daunting, but this is a fixable problem,” said Ellen Hanak, PPIC senior fellow and one of the authors of the report. “With a bold, concerted effort by state and local leaders, Californians can sustainably manage this critical resource—despite increasing water scarcity, population growth, and climate change.” … ”

Click here to continue reading this press release at the PPIC website.

Click here to download the report.

Click here for more information and to register for the related event on April 10.



Wildlife organizations send letter to [CA] State Water Board: Don’t leave the refuges out to dry

by Maven

The Nature Conservancy, the Trust for Public Land, Audubon, Defenders of Wildlife, Ducks Unlimited and the California Waterfowl Association have send a letter to Felicia Marcus outlining concerns over potential impacts of this extreme drought on refuges and Central Valley wetlands, and recommending actions that need to be taken to protect waterfowl and migrating birds along the Pacific Flyway.

This year, Central Valley refuges anticipate receiving little more than one-quarter of their legally-mandated supplies, and the post-harvest flooding of wildlife-friendly farmland – a vital component of the flyway habitat mosaic – could decline severely this year due to potential water supply curtailments, the letter says.  This loss of flooded agricultural habitat places overwhelming pressure on the private and public refuges, making them less able to provide food and nesting habitat for the millions of birds and other species, they say, and collectively, available habitat may be reduced to levels not seen since the 1980s. The cumulative impacts of habitat loss at both refuges and agricultural lands is an unprecedented challenge to birds and wetland-dependent wildlife, and it could take many years for populations to recover, they say. Public refuges, private wetlands, and some agricultural land piece together just one-tenth of the four million acres that once supported wildlife before human development, and millions of migrating birds depend on these remaining wetlands to rest and feed between long flights of hundreds, even thousands of miles, the letter says.  These relatively few remaining wetland areas are not incidental; their existence depends on dedicated water supplies and active management, the groups point out.

“Unquestionably, our farms and communities are suffering during this drought. So, too, are migratory birds, resident waterfowl, and other wetland wildlife. These species have no insurance policy to recover from the significant loss of habitat they could suffer this year if no action is taken. To protect our public investments and international commitments, we must provide a backstop to so much habitat loss in the Central Valley by prioritizing and augmenting water supplies to the remaining 5 percent of California wetlands.”

Don’t be too hasty with your decision, the groups say.  Take action only after directly engaging with agencies and organizations, considering all the information provided as well as the creative solutions proposed by water users.

“We urge the Board to fully consider the cumulative effects that comprehensive “dewatering” of the Flyway may cause.”

Read the letter here:  SWRCB-Drought-and-Flyway-Letter


Obama Creates New [Coastal] National Monument (Mendocino, CA)

By Joanna M. Foster on March 11, 2014 at 1:50 pm

Mendocino Coast, California. CREDIT: SHUTTERSTOCK

On Tuesday, President Obama held a ceremony at the White House to announce his use of executive authority to expand the California Coastal National Monument (CCNM) to include the Point Arena-Stornetta Public Lands on the Mendocino Coast. This is the first land-based addition to the CCNM and permanently protects more than 1,660 acres of beach, bluffs, and the Garcia River estuary. The area is home to rare and endangered species such as coho salmon, steelhead, the Point Arena mountain beaver, and the Behren’s silverspot butterfly. The Mendocino Coast of California was recently picked for the number 3 spot in the New York Times “52 Places to Go in 2014.”
This is the 10th national monument designated by President Obama. For comparison, President Clinton created 19 new monuments and enlarged three others, while President George W. Bush used his power under the Antiquities Act just 5 times. While Obama has been criticized in the past for his reluctance to declare monuments, there appears to be new momentum in the administration to conserve. Former Interior Secretary Ken Salazar announced five designations before leaving office last year, and in November, his successor Sally Jewell delivered a major agenda-setting speech on conservation that challenged Congress to pass the many backlogged conservation bills that are pending, saying that “President Obama is ready and willing to step up where Congress falls short.”  Obama confirmed this in his state of the Union speech, saying — “I’ll use my authority to protect more of our pristine federal lands for future generations.”

Even Congress seems to be hearing the message. Although the previous 112th Congress became somewhat notorious as the first in decades not to protect a single new acre of public lands, last Tuesday, Congress passed a bill to set aside more than 30,000 acres of wilderness at Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore in Michigan….



Wildlife Researcher Sentenced to Three Years Probation, Fined $7,500 For Unlawful Taking of Golden Eagle

San Diego – United States Attorney Laura E. Duffy announced that John David Bittner, 68, of Julian, Calif., was sentenced August 13 following his plea of guilty to the unlawful taking of a Golden Eagle, in violation of the Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act. At the sentencing hearing today, Magistrate Judge David H. Bartick observed that although Bittner had devoted his life to wildlife, he had apparently placed his own financial interests ahead of the need to comply with federal permitting requirements. Judge Bartick cited the fact that Bittner captured and banded birds without federal and state permits, placed unpermitted devices on birds, conducted aerial surveys after authorization was denied, used wild birds in educational programs without a permit, failed to immediately send eagle carcasses to the National Eagle Repository (where there is a lengthy waiting list for Native Americans to obtain plumage for religious ceremonies) and failed to provide to the government the data he had obtained about this wildlife. After considering the scientific concerns associated with placing multiple tracking devices on a single bird, and the failure to send eagle carcasses to the National Eagle Repository, Judge Bartick concluded that it cannot be said that there was no harm in this case….


Tom Steyer: An inconvenient billionaire. Men’s Journal

Hedge-fund mogul Tom Steyer is using his checkbook to punish climate-change deniers, persuade Obama to halt the Keystone XL pipeline, and try to save the planet.








Now You Can Walk Into A Best Buy And Get A Solar System For Your Home

By Jeff Spross on March 12, 2014 at 9:30 am

CREDIT: Shutterstock

SolarCity and Best Buy have just announced a deal allowing customers to get low-cost and low-hassle solar power for their homes.
It’s what’s called a third party leasing agreement.
Rather than purchasing a solar array outright, they lease the system from the provider — SolarCity, in this case. It’s just that the system is installed on the roof of the homeowner. The benefit for the customer is they don’t have to worry about installation and maintenance — the provider handles that — and there are no big upfront costs. The customer just pays the provider a set amount each month for the electricity, and that cost is usually slightly lower than the going market rate. Meanwhile, as the provider, SolarCity gets a guaranteed revenue stream for whatever period of time the lease agreement covers. Partnering with Best Buy allows SolarCity to make use of the chain’s already-existing network of stores to reach as many customers as possible…..While residential solar has grown more slowly than utility-scale installations, its growth has been steady. And third party leasing and deals like this are a big reason why. Third party leasing is also an example of how innovations in the ways we buy, sell and finance solar are just as important to its widespread adoption as technological innovations. But there are still some blockages. States are still figuring out how to adjust to the arrival of distributed solar, because traditional regulations have locked the market into a specific relationship between utilities and customers, with certain expectations from each. As a result, only a limited number of states currently allow for third party leasing. That’s why the deal between SolarCity and Best Buy is only available to customers in California, Arizona, New York and Oregon right now. For it to spread further, more states will have to adapt their regulations to allow for freer exchange of energy buyers, sellers, and innovators on their grids….



Alaska the Last Frontier … not for long
(March 10, 2014) — Alaska, the last great frontier, is being threatened by many proposals to mine an estimated 5.5 trillion tons of coal. Scientists comment on the struggle to keep Alaska untouched. … > full story


Is pee-power really possible? March 13, 2014 BBC

Today, over seven billion people populate our planet, which means on average around 10.5 billion litres of human urine is produced and wasted each day. It’s the equivalent of 4,200 Olympic-sized swimming pools, if anyone was counting. In fact, some scientists are – and if they have their way, our human waste will be wasted no more. …Is pee-power really possible? With around one-seventh of the population lacking access to basic electricity, and as our global supply of oil slowly dwindles and coal continues to add to mounting greenhouse gases, scientists have rushed to find solutions to power the world in more renewable and sustainable ways. One answer could lie in methods being developed to generate power from perhaps an unlikely source. Last year, a group of researchers at Bristol Robotics Laboratory in the UK proved they could power a mobile phone with human urine. Their device uses what’s known as microbial fuel cells, or MFCs, to generate enough energy for a smartphone to text, browse the internet and make short phone calls. But they believe, in time, it could eventually help power houses, buildings, and maybe even entire off-grid villages. A microbial fuel cell is essentially an energy converter, which uses bacteria found in nature to breakdown organic matter, and in turn produce electrons that are converted into energy. It’s a self-renewing system, because the more waste the microbes eat, the more energy the system can generate and for longer.
MFCs hold such promise because they are currently one of the most efficient means of converting waste to energy. According to Ani Vallabhaneni, co-founder of Sanergy, a start-up that converts human waste to energy and fertiliser in Kenya’s slums, common biogas digesters (which convert waste into mostly methane gas) are around 35% efficient in terms of capturing energy inside the waste. It’s claimed MFCs have upwards of 85% efficiency…..



‘Super bacteria’ clean up after oil spills
(March 10, 2014) — Researchers have achieved surprising results by exploiting nature’s own ability to clean up after oil spills. Scientists know that marine bacteria can assist in cleaning up after oil spills. What is surprising is that given the right kind of encouragement, they can be even more effective. … > full story


Small biomass power plants could help rural economies, stabilize national power grid
(March 10, 2014) — Researchers have found that creating a bioenergy grid with these small plants could benefit people in rural areas of the country as well as provide relief to an overworked national power grid. … > full story


California Set Back-To-Back Solar Records Last Week

By Katie Valentine on March 11, 2014

Last week was a good week for solar power in California….



Nuclear Power:


World’s Greatest Crime against Humanity and Nature– draft op-ed

James E. Hansen


A world awash in a nuclear explosive? Center for Public Integrity

A generation after Three Mile Island and Chernobyl, the world is rediscovering the attractions of nuclear power to curb the warming pollution of carbon. Japan is leading the global move towards dangerous reactors fueled by plutonium, experts say….



Scents and sustainability: Renewable sources for artificial scents and flavors
(March 10, 2014) — Fresh banana, a waft of flowers, blueberry: the scents in some labs are a little sweeter than most. Researchers are engineering bacteria to make esters — molecules widely used as scents and flavorings, and also as basic feedstock for chemical processes from paints to fuels. … > full story


New Jersey Banned Tesla To Help Out Car Dealers

By Ryan Koronowski on March 12, 2014 at 4:38 pm

In this May 2, 2013 photo, a Tesla car is shown outside of Tesla motors in Fremont, Calif. CREDIT: AP Photo/Jeff Chiu

If you want to buy a Tesla in the Garden State, after April 1 you’ll have to try your luck somewhere else. New Jersey regulators caved to pressure from car dealers and decided on Tuesday to ban automakers that want to sell directly to customers from doing so in the state. The New Jersey Motor Vehicle Commission rushed through a rule change and voted 6-0 to adopt this new regulation that mandates that all new car dealers get a franchise agreement if they want a state license to sell cars in New Jersey….







EPA has released two climate and energy strategy guides for local governments:

On-Site Renewable Energy Generation. A growing number of local governments are turning to renewable energy sources such as solar, wind, biomass, hydropower, and landfill gas, to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, improve air quality and energy security, boost the local economy, and pave the way to a sustainable energy future. Local governments can work with utilities, local businesses, nonprofit groups, residents, state agencies, and green power marketers and brokers to plan and implement on-site renewable energy generation projects at local government facilities and throughout their communities.

Combined Heat and Power. Combined heat and power, also known as cogeneration, refers to the simultaneous production of electricity and thermal energy from a single fuel source. Simultaneous production is more efficient than producing electricity and thermal energy through two separate power systems and requires less fuel. Reductions in fuel use can produce a number of benefits, including energy cost savings, reduced GHG emissions, and reductions in other air emissions.


NEW: NOAA climate and fisheries webpage

Climate change is already having a profound effect on life in the oceans. Marine species tend to be highly mobile, and many are moving quickly toward the poles to stay cool as average ocean temperatures rise. These shifts can cause ecological disruptions as predators become separated from their prey. They can also cause economic disruptions if a fish population becomes less productive or moves out of range of the fishermen who catch them. In addition to getting warmer, the oceans are also becoming more acidic as they absorb about one-half of the CO2 we emit into the atmosphere. This increased acidity can make life difficult for organisms that build shells out of calcium carbonate. This includes not only corals and shellfish, but also tiny organisms like pteropods that form the foundation of many marine food webs. NOAA Fisheries scientists are working to understand the effects of climate change and ocean acidification so we can minimize the disruptions they cause, adapt to the changes that are coming, and ensure that future generations can enjoy the benefits of healthy marine ecosystems. Here are some of the things we’re working on










21st Century Sea Level Rise and  the Fate of California Coastal Marshes
March 19, 2014 12:00-1:00 pm PST

Speaker Glen MacDonald, Director of the UCLA Institute for the Environment and Sustainability.

This webinar will present some basics on potential rates and magnitudes of relative sea level rise along the California coast over the 21st century as influenced by climate change, tectonics and other related factors. The potential accretion rates of selected marshes relative to anticipated sea level rise will be outlined and a multidisciplinary joint USGS-UCLA project to study past, present and future marsh response to sea level changes will be described. Click here for CA LCC webpage for this event.







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 19-20, 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:

Call for Session ProposalsDue: March 20, 2014
This forum is designed to create a network of climate adaptation leaders who have a strong commitment to addressing climate risks.
Proposal session categories include: 
1) Planning 
2) Governance 
3) Implementation Strategies 
4) Monitoring and Evaluation 
5) Innovation and Technology 
6) Communication and Stakeholder Engagement 
7) Funding, Financing and the Economics of Adaptation  
Click here for more information.




JOBS  (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




Postdoctoral Research Associate Opportunity: Landscape Analysis

Utah State University and U.S. Geological Survey, Bureau of Land Management and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

The Research Associate will work as part of a joint Utah State University, FWS Southern Rockies Landscape Conservation Cooperative (SRLCC), and Bureau of Land Management (BLM) interdisciplinary team assessing the capabilities of landscape-level data and information in resolving regional and local land management issues. The spatial extent of the work is the SRLCC geographic area with initial emphasis on the Colorado Plateau ecoregion….Applications will be accepted until the position is filled, with initial review beginning on 14 April 2014. Candidates should submit to, Requisition ID=054420. Any questions and all documents regarding the position should be sent via email only; phone calls will not be returned.

Thomas C. Edwards, Research Ecologist and Professor; U.S. Geological Survey and Wildland Resources, Utah State University;






Natural selection has altered the appearance of Europeans over the past 5,000 years
(March 10, 2014) — There has been much research into the factors that have influenced the human genome since the end of the last Ice Age. Anthropologists, geneticists and archaeologists have analyzed ancient DNA from skeletons and found that selection has had a significant effect on the human genome even in the past 5,000 years, resulting in sustained changes to the appearance of people. … > full story


Dinosaur skull may reveal T. rex’s smaller cousin from the north
(March 12, 2014) — A 70-million-year-old fossil found in the Late Cretaceous sediments of Alaska reveals a new small tyrannosaur. Tyrannosaurs, the lineage of carnivorous theropod (“beast feet”) dinosaurs that include T. rex, have captivated our attention, but the majority of our knowledge about this group comes from fossils from low- to mid-latitudes of North America and Asia. In this study, scientists analyzed the partial skull roof, maxilla, and jaw, recovered from Prince Creek Formation in Northern Alaska, of a dinosaur originally believed to belong to a different species, and then compared the fossils to known tyrannosaurine species. … > full story



Citizen Scientists Needed For New Barn Swallow Study

Researchers will study the effects of artificial light on the pace of life March 13, 2014 Ithaca, N.Y.—We live in an incredibly well-lit world. All that wattage in heavily-populated areas creates a halo glow that brightens the night sky. Researchers at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Syracuse University, and the Globe at Night project are seeking participants for a unique new study. Scientists want to know what impact all that extra night light might have on the circadian rhythms of life using Barn Swallows as their subjects. Barn Swallows have adapted to live near humans and nest almost exclusively on structures such as bridges, homes, and yes, barns. Volunteers can sign up through the Cornell Lab’s free NestWatch citizen-science project.


Environmentally Friendly Fashion? Dress Knitted out of Birch Cellulose Fiber

Mar. 13, 2014 — The first garment made out of birch cellulose fiber using the Ioncell method is displayed at a fashion show. The Ioncell method is an environmentally friendly alternative to cotton in textile … full story


Mongol Empire rode wave of mild climate, but warming now may be tipping region into unparalleled drought
(March 10, 2014) — Researchers studying the rings of ancient trees in mountainous central Mongolia think they may have gotten at the mystery of how small bands of nomadic Mongol horsemen united to conquer much of the world within a span of decades, 800 years ago. The rise of the great leader Genghis Khan and the start of the largest contiguous empire in human history was propelled by a temporary run of nice weather. … > full story

First-ever blood test identifies impending Alzheimer’s disease

March 10, 2014, 3:27 p.m. LA Times

For the first time, a test that detects 10 types of lipids, or fats, circulating in a person’s blood has been shown to predict accurately whether he or she will develop the memory loss and mental decline of Alzheimer’s disease over the next two to three years. A screening test based on the findings could be available in as little as two years, said the researchers who identified the blood biomarkers…..


Could grapefruit be good for your kidneys?
(March 12, 2014) — A natural product found in grapefruit can prevent kidney cysts from forming, new research indicates. Naringenin, which is also present in other citrus fruits, has been found to successfully block the formation of kidney cysts, an effect that occurs in polycystic kidney disease, by regulating the PKD2 protein responsible for the condition. With few treatments currently available, symptoms include high blood pressure and loss of kidney function, and lead to the need for dialysis. … > full story


Even Babies Discriminate: A NurtureShock Excerpt.

By Po Bronson and Ashley Merryman Newsweek   Updated 1/23/14 at 4:23 PM

At the Children’s Research Lab at the University of Texas, a database is kept on thousands of families in the Austin area who have volunteered to be available for scholarly research. In 2006 Birgitte Vittrup recruited from the database about a hundred families, all of whom were Caucasian with a child 5 to 7 years old…


Dropped your toast? Five-second food rule exists, new research suggests
(March 10, 2014)Food picked up just a few seconds after being dropped is less likely to contain bacteria than if it is left for longer periods of time, according to new research. The findings suggest there may be some scientific basis to the ‘5 second rule’ — the urban myth about it being fine to eat food that has only had contact with the floor for five seconds or less. The study, undertaken by final year biology students monitored the transfer of the common bacteria Escherichia coli (E. coli) and Staphylococcus aureus from a variety of indoor floor types (carpet, laminate and tiled surfaces) to toast, pasta, biscuit and a sticky sweet when contact was made from 3 to 30 seconds. … > full story






The climate contrarian guide to managing risk. Created by John Cook



Dianne Feinstein outraged that CIA spied on her Senate staff







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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