Conservation Science News October 3, 2014

Focus of the Week
Building an Ark for the Anthropocene; Assisted Migration










NOTE: Please pass on my weekly news update that has been prepared for
Point Blue Conservation Science
staff.  You can find these weekly compilations posted on line
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The items contained in this update were drawn from,, SER The Society for Ecological Restoration,,,, The Wildlife Society NewsBrief, CA BLM NewsBytes and other sources as indicated.  This is a compilation of information available on-line, not verified and not endorsed by Point Blue Conservation Science.  
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Founded as Point Reyes Bird Observatory, Point Blue’s 140 scientists advance nature-based solutions to climate change, habitat loss and other environmental threats to benefit wildlife and people, through bird and ecosystem science, partnerships and outreach.  We work collaboratively to guide and inspire positive conservation outcomes today — for a healthy, blue planet teeming with life in the future.  Read more about our 5-year strategic approach here.



Focus of the Week– Building an Ark for the Anthropocene; Assisted Migration


Building an Ark for the Anthropocene

By JIM ROBBINS NY TIMES SEPT. 27, 2014 Opinion

Credit Jason Holley


WE are barreling into the Anthropocene, the sixth mass extinction in the history of the planet. A recent study published in the journal Science concluded that the world’s species are disappearing as much as 1,000 times faster than the rate at which species naturally go extinct. It’s a one-two punch — on top of the ecosystems we’ve broken, extreme weather from a changing climate causes even more damage. By 2100, researchers say, one-third to one-half of all Earth’s species could be wiped out.


As a result, efforts to protect species are ramping up as governments, scientists and nonprofit organizations try to build a modern version of Noah’s Ark. The new ark certainly won’t come in the form of a large boat, or even always a place set aside. Instead it is a patchwork quilt of approaches, including assisted migration, seed banks and new preserves and travel corridors based on where species are likely to migrate as seas rise or food sources die out.


The questions are complex. What species do you save? The ones most at risk? Charismatic animals, such as lions or bears or elephants? The ones most likely to survive? The species that hold the most value for us?


One initiative, the Intergovernmental Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services formed in 2012 by the governments of 121 countries, aims to protect and restore species in wild areas and to protect species like bees that carry out valuable ecosystem service functions in the places people live. Some three-quarters of the world’s food production depends primarily on bees.


“We still know very little about what could or should be included in the ark and where,” said Walter Jetz, an ecologist at Yale involved with the project. Species are being wiped out even before we know what they are.


Another project, the EDGE of Existence, run by the Zoological Society of London, seeks to protect the most unusual wildlife at highest risk. These are species that evolved on their own for so long that they are very different from other species. Among the species the project has helped to preserve are the tiny bumblebee bat and the golden-rumped elephant shrew.


While the traditional approach to protecting species is to buy land, preservation of the right habitat can be a moving target, since it’s not known how species will respond to a changing climate.


To complete the maps of where life lives, scientists have enlisted the crowd. A crowdsourcing effort called the Global Biodiversity Information Facility identifies and curates biodiversity data — such as photos of species taken with a smartphone — to show their distribution and then makes the information available online. That is especially helpful to researchers in developing countries with limited budgets. Another project, Lifemapper, at the University of Kansas Biodiversity Institute, uses the data to understand where a species might move as its world changes.


“We know that species don’t persist long in fragmented areas and so we try and reconnect those fragments,” said Stuart L. Pimm, a professor of conservation at Duke University, and head of a nonprofit organization called SavingSpecies. One of his group’s projects in the Colombian Andes identified a forest that contains a carnivorous mammal that some have described as a cross between a house cat and a teddy bear, called an olinguito, new to science. Using crowd-sourced data, “we worked with local conservation groups and helped them buy land, reforest the land and reconnect pieces,” Dr. Pimm says.


Coastal areas, especially, are getting scrutiny. Biologists in Florida, which faces a daunting sea level rise, are working on a plan to set aside land farther inland as a reserve for everything from the MacGillivray’s seaside sparrow to the tiny Key deer.


To thwart something called “coastal squeeze,” a network of “migratory greenways” is envisioned so that species can move on their own away from rising seas to new habitat. “But some are basically trapped,” said Reed F. Noss, a professor of conservation biology at the University of Central Florida who is involved in the effort, and they will most likely need to be picked up and moved. The program has languished, but Amendment 1, on the ballot this November, would provide funding.


One species at risk is the Florida panther. Once highly endangered, with just 20 individuals left, this charismatic animal has come back — some. But a quarter or more of its habitat is predicted to be under some three feet of water by 2100. Males will move on their own, but females will need help because they won’t cross the Caloosahatchee River. Experts hope to create reserves north of the river, and think at some point they will have to move females to new quarters.


Protecting land between reserves is vital. The Yellowstone to Yukon Conservation Initiative, known as Y2Y, would protect corridors between wild landscapes in the Rockies from Yellowstone National Park to northern Canada, which would allow species to migrate.


RESEARCHERS have also focused on “refugia,” regions around the world that have remained stable during previous swings of the Earth’s climate — and that might be the best bet for the survival of life this time around. A section of the Driftless Area encompassing northeastern Iowa and southern Minnesota, also known as Little Switzerland, has ice beneath some of its ridges. The underground refrigerator means the land never gets above 50 or so degrees and has kept the Pleistocene snail, long thought extinct, from disappearing there. Other species might find refuge there as things get hot.


A roughly 250-acre refugia on the Little Cahaba River in Alabama has been called a botanical lost world, because of its wide range of unusual plants, including eight species found nowhere else. Dr. Noss said these kinds of places should be sought out and protected.


Daniel Janzen, a conservation ecologist at the University of Pennsylvania who is working to protect large tracts in Costa Rica, said that to truly protect biodiversity, a place-based approach must be tailored to the country. A reserve needs to be large, to be resilient against a changing climate, and so needs the support of the people who live with the wild place and will want to protect it. “To survive climate change we need to minimize the other assaults, such as illegal logging and contaminating water,” he said. “Each time you add one of those you make it more sensitive to climate change.”


The Svalbard Global Seed Vault, beneath the permafrost on an island in the Arctic Ocean north of mainland Norway, preserves seeds from food crops. Frozen zoos keep the genetic material from extinct and endangered animals. The Archangel Ancient Tree Archive in Michigan, meanwhile, founded by a family of shade tree growers, has made exact genetic duplicates of some of the largest trees on the planet and planted them in “living libraries” elsewhere — should something befall the original.


In 2008, Connie Barlow, a biologist and conservationist, helped move an endangered conifer tree in Florida north by planting seedlings in cooler regions. Now she is working in the West. “I just assisted in the migration of the alligator juniper in New Mexico by planting seeds in Colorado,” she said. “We have to.

Climate change is happening so fast and trees are the least capable of moving.”



Do we have time to save species from climate change?

Posted: 29 Sep 2014 10:35 AM PDT

Climate change is expected to result in heightened risk of extinction for many species. Because conservation scientists are just starting to understand this threat, many have concluded that current risk assessment protocols, such as the International ‘Red List’ published by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) and based on rules established in the 1990s, will fail to identify many species at risk from climate change. However, an international team of researchers, including Professor Resit Akçakaya of Stony Brook University’s Department of Ecology and Evolution, counter that current assessment methods are able to identify such species. Their findings are published in the journal Global Change Biology.

According to the scientific team, this is the first study to quantitatively test the ability of any warning system for identifying species vulnerable to climate change. They tested the performance of the IUCN Red List system, the most commonly used method for identifying species threatened with extinction. They used computer models to project the future abundance of 36 species of salamanders, turtles, tortoises, snakes and lizards under climate change. Next, the team performed “virtual” Red List assessments, following the IUCN guidelines to determine the Red List Status (e.g., “Critically Endangered”) of each species throughout the simulation.
The study, “Warning times for species extinctions due to climate change,” funded by NASA, showed that the Red List system would provide several decades of warning time for species that might go extinct because of climate change.
“Although the study shows that the time between when a species is identified as threatened and when it is goes extinct (without any conservation action) is on average over 60 years, the warning time can be as short as 20 years for many species, especially if information about their populations is limited,” explained Professor Akçakaya. “That may not be enough time for saving a species,” added Akçakaya, who cautioned that whether the warning time provided by the IUCN Red List system is sufficient to prevent extinctions depends on how fast conservation actions can lead to recovery of species….


Jessica C. Stanton, Kevin T. Shoemaker, Richard G. Pearson, H. Resit Akçakaya. Warning times for species extinctions due to climate change. Global Change Biology, 2014; DOI: 10.1111/gcb.12721


A Clark’s nutcracker on a limber pine. Credit Richard Perry/The New York Times

For Trees Under Threat, Flight May Be Best Response

SEPT. 18, 2014 Carl Zimmer NY Times


The whitebark pine grows in the high, cold reaches of the Rocky and Sierra Mountains, and some trees, wind-bent and tenacious, manage to thrive for more than a thousand years. Despite its hardiness, the species may not survive much longer. A lethal fungus is decimating the pines, as are voracious mountain pine beetles.


Making matters worse, forest managers have suppressed the fires that are required to stimulate whitebark pine seedlings. Half of all whitebark pines are now dead or dying. In 2012, Canada declared the tree an endangered species, and in the United States it is currently a candidate for listing under the Endangered Species Act.


Now the tree faces a new threat: a swiftly changing climate. Temperatures are rising, and Forest Service researchers estimate that 97 percent of the whitebark pine’s natural range will disappear from the United States by 2100. Traditionally, conservation biologists have sought to protect endangered plants and animals where they live, creating refuges where species can be shielded from threats like hunting and pollution. But a refuge won’t help the whitebark pine, and so now scientists are pondering a simple but radical new idea: moving the trees to where they will be more comfortable in the future.


It’s called assisted migration, and the debate over its feasibility comes as biologists everywhere begin to reassess their tactics and the impact of climate change on endangered species. “What we were doing wasn’t going to protect them in the long term,” said Bruce Stein, director of the National Wildlife Federation’s climate adaptation program. Dr. Stein and his colleagues recently published a 272-page guide to “climate-smart conservation,” offering advice on how to make ecosystems more resilient…. “I’d say it really is a proof of concept,” said Dr. Aitken. “That leads to the question,


‘Should we move whitebark pine?’ But that’s not a biological question.” Indeed, it’s an ethical question that triggers fierce debate in conservation circles. Critics have warned that assisted migrations like this could prove to be expensive failures. Even if they succeed, the rescued species may become invasive pests in their new habitat. Brendon Larson, an environmental social scientist at the University of Waterloo, and Clare Palmer, an ethicist at Texas A&M University, argue that assisted migration of the whitebark pine poses little risk because the species grows so slowly.


In a paper to be published in the journal Environmental Values, Dr. Larson and Dr. Palmer conclude that the pros outweigh the cons. Whitebark pines prevent soil erosion and, by trapping snow in the winter, help foster a steady water supply for the valleys below them. And over a hundred species of animals, including bears and birds, depend on the whitebark pine for food and shelter. “It just makes sense to try to maintain them as best we can, and assisted migration could well help with that,” Dr. Larson said.


Dr. Tomback doesn’t rule out assisted migration, but she has many doubts. To spread their seeds, whitebark pines depend on birds called Clark’s nutcrackers. If the trees are to survive in the long term, conservation biologists also will have to figure out how to establish the birds in their new range….


A less controversial variation of assisted migration involves moving plants or animals within their existing range.
In a species like the whitebark pine, each population may have evolved adaptations to its local environment, and trees on the southern edge of the range may have genes resistant to heat.
Moving some of the southern trees northward could give northern populations the genetic resources to thrive in a warmer climate.


Influencing the evolution of a wild species in such a way strikes many biologists as a perilous step. But most agree that the choices we’ve left for ourselves are far from ideal. Mark W. Schwartz, an ecologist at the University of California, Davis, said: “You see everybody getting more comfortable with the idea that the future is going to look very different from the past.”





Point Blue and partners in the news:


Whale-Counting Expedition Sets Sail for Farallon Islands

The challenge of counting whales is no easy endeavor. But for those who do, the science is more like an art, set against the vast backdrop of the Pacific Ocean.

By Joe Rosato Jr. NBC Thursday, Sep 25, 2014 • Updated at 7:00 PM PDT

The research boat glided through the relatively smooth waters of the Golden Gate Strait, past the churning waters known to fishermen as the “potato patch,” and off toward the Farallon Islands. A slew of researchers fashioned long, lanky nets to a pulley and tested long cylindrical sensors to dip into the Pacific, measuring temperature and elements. The nets would haul in samples of krill, the tiny, preferred prey of whales and sea birds. “We use acoustic methods to estimate krill abundance,” said Jaime Jahncke, a scientist from Point Blue Conservation [Science]. A dozen researchers from NOAA, Point Blue and the Cordell-Bank National Marine Sanctuary scurried around the boat, taking up posts on the upper deck armed with binoculars. The trip marked the group’s 40th similar expedition in 10 years, taking samples and attempting to count birds and mammals along strips of ocean in the Gulf of Farallones National Marine Sanctuary…..”The number of whales we have seen the last three years,” Jahncke said, “is several times greater than the number of whales we saw when we started.” The group’s research has helped sanctuary managers develop policies and regulations aimed at protecting the sanctuary’s aquatic life. In June, the Coast Guard used the research to reroute shipping lanes off the Bay Area coast to avoid migrating whale routes. Jahncke has also helped develop the Whale Alert app which allows the public to record whale sightings. “We’re building a network of citizen scientists,” Jahncke said, “that can help us collect information of where the whales are.”



A researcher holds up a krill from the sampling station on the NOAA research vessel Fulmar. (Photo by Jason Jaacks)

In An Unusual Year for Upwelling, Research Cruise Keeps an Eye on Marine Sanctuaries’ Rich Life

by Jason Jaacks BAY NATURE on September 29, 2014

An orca glides beneath the research vessel. (Photo by Jason Jaacks)

Twelve feet above the Pacific Ocean on the flying bridge of the research vessel Fulmar, Jason Thompson, a volunteer observer with Point Blue Conservation Science, sits at the alert, eyes glued to his binoculars. It’s eerily calm – no wind, hardly any swell and no fog – a perfect day for conducting research. Out here, halfway between the Golden Gate and the Farallon Islands, the water and the sky seem to mirror each other. It’s so quiet that I can perfectly hear the words as Thompson mutters them. “There’s an orca,” he says. …. A black fin rises from the water and the excited conversations suddenly go quiet. The killer whale, a big male, is coming right at us. The fin dips back under the water and the orca glides like a ghost underneath the boat, its white markings tinted aquamarine by the glassy ocean. It surfaces again near the stern, as if wondering what we’re doing out here, before it dips back underwater and disappears. For a moment, nobody says a word. Then the engine roars to life, the boat swings in the water, and we motor again toward the Farallon Islands, which rise like a row of cracked teeth in the distance. For the past decade, NOAA and Point Blue Conservation, along with a few other organizations, have partnered on the Applied California Current Ecosystem Studies, or ACCESS, to study the ocean waters just west of the Bay Area.  The project has focused on everything from ocean acidification and its affect on zooplankton to the distribution of marine wildlife…..




Western Yellow-Billed Cuckoo Receives Federal Protection under the Endangered Species Act

October 2, 2014 Sacramento –
The western population of the yellow-billed cuckoo will be protected as a threatened species under the Endangered Species Act (ESA), the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced today. The Service determined that listing a distinct population segment (DPS) of the bird in portions of 12 western states, Canada and Mexico is warranted. In the U.S., the DPS will cover parts of Arizona, California, Colorado, Idaho, Nevada, New Mexico, Texas, Utah, Wyoming, Montana, Oregon and Washington.

Photo Credit: Mark Dettling, Point Blue Conservation Science

The western population of the yellow-billed cuckoo (Coccyzus americanus), an insect-eating bird found in riparian woodland habitats, winters in South America and breeds in western North America. Once abundant in the western United States, populations have declined for several decades, primarily due to the severe loss, degradation and fragmentation of its riparian habitat as a result of conversion to agriculture, dam construction, river flow management and riverbank protection. Overgrazing and invasive exotic plants have also contributed to declines. “While the major threat to yellow-billed cuckoos has been loss of riverside habitat, we do not anticipate any significant new water-related requirements as a result of this listing decision,” said Ren Lohoefener, Director of the Service’s Pacific Southwest Region.
The water resource requirements for riparian habitat are not unique to cuckoos, and in many cases are already being implemented for other species. Riparian restoration efforts go hand-in-hand with good land management, especially management that promotes good livestock grazing practices.” The Service’s final listing rule, which will be published in tomorrow’s Federal Register and become effective November 3, 2014, is based on a thorough review of the best scientific and commercial information available, obtained through exhaustive research, public comments and independent scientific peer reviews. Next steps include designation of critical habitat for the species and development of a recovery plan. Both steps will be strengthened by participation from other federal and state agencies, tribal entities and the public in the open comment periods. More information, including the listing rule, is at: Western Yellow-Billed Cuckoo Advisory Page

NOTE from Point Blue’s Mark Dettling: Point Blue has studied the Sacramento Valley population since 2010 and found that it was very small and continuing to decline despite robust riparian forest restoration efforts in the region. The species is already listed as endangered by the state, so I’m not sure how this might affect our work in riparian areas. For those with a deeper interest, a draft of the proposed critical habitat was released a month ago (, and is still open for comment.



The State of the Sierra Nevada’s Forests.

October 1, 2014 Sierra Nevada Conservancy

Key findings of the report include the following:

  • The United States Forest Service, Region 5, estimates that between 6 and 9 million acres of lands for which they have management responsibility are in need of restoration. In order to return these lands to ecological health requires a 2 to 3 times increase in the pace and scale of ecological restoration;
  • The amount of area consumed by fire in the Sierra Nevada continues to increase. At slightly less than half way through the current decade, more land has burned so far in the last 4 ½ years than 7 entire decades in the past hundred years;
  • Between 1984 and 2010, there was a significant increase in the number of acres within a forest fire burning at high-intensity; from an average of 20% in mid-1980’s to over 30% by 2010;
  • High-intensity burn areas can experience runoff and erosion rates 5 to 10 times greater than low or moderate-intensity burn areas.
    The sediment that is carried in the runoff, not only degrades water quality and damaged infrastructure, it fills reservoirs reducing storage capacity.
  • The 2013 Rim Fire, the largest in the recorded history of the Sierra Nevada, burned 257,000 acres, almost 40% of which was at high intensity. Estimates are that that fire produced greenhouse gas emissions comparable to 2.3 million vehicles for a year.


Black tip Reef Sharks cruise Kingman Reef, part of the Pacific Remote Islands Marine National Monument. Photo by Kydd Pollock, USFWS.
Pacific Remote Islands Marine National Monument now largest marine reserve in the world

Megan Minor Thu Oct 02, 2014 at 03:21 PM

The Pacific Remote Islands Marine National Monument (PRIMNM)—a cluster of waters and reefs surrounding islands south and west of the main Hawaiian Island chain—will now protect an area six times its original size, making it the largest marine reserve in the world.  On Sept. 25, President Barack Obama signed a proclamation to expand the existing 82,129 square mile marine reserve to 490,000 square miles, an area larger than Texas and California combined.
PRIMNM surrounds the mostly uninhabited Johnston Atoll, Wake Atoll, Jarvis Islands, Kingman Reef, Palmyra Atoll and the Howland and Baker Islands. The new expansion takes the ringed area around three of the islands—Johnston Atoll, Wake Atoll and Jarvis Island—from 50 miles to the Exclusive Economic Zone boundary of 200 miles. The distance is as far as the U.S. can legally expand before the area becomes international waters.

A representation of the PRIMNM expansion—green squares show the former coverage area, blue circles around Wake Atoll, Johnston Atoll and Jarvis Island indicate new expansion. Click to enlarge. Photo: Beth Pike, Marine Conservation Institute via Wikimedia.
The protection of the marine reserve means that the area is off limits to all commercial resource extraction including mining and fishing, though some recreational fishing will still be allowed with permits.
There are only four marine national monuments in the U.S.; all were created by Presidential Proclamation and all are in the central Pacific near Hawaii. The Pacific Remote Islands Marine National Monument was designated—along with nearby Rose Atoll Marine National Monument (13,400 square miles) further south and the Marianas Trench Marine National Monument (96,700 square miles) further west—by President Obama in 2009. George Bush designated the oldest marine national monument, Papahanaumokuakea Marine National Monument, in 2006. It protects an area of 139,800 square miles directly northwest of the main Hawaiian Island chain and is one of just two UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization) World Heritage Sites in Hawaii (the other is Hawaii Volcanoes National Park). All four marine national monuments are at least partly managed by the Marine National Monuments Program under the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS). Only the Pacific Remote Islands Marine National Monument will be changing in size at this time….



Mr. Obama’s Pacific Monument


It’s safe to assume that most presidents have big ambitions and visions of lasting Rooseveltian achievement. Though, in recent history, the millstones of Washington’s pettiness and partisanship usually grind such dreams to dust. There are exceptions, which happen when presidents discover the Antiquities Act. This is the law, used by Theodore Roosevelt and many successors, by which the executive can permanently set aside public lands from exploitation, building an environmental legacy with a simple signature and without Congress’s consent. This is how President Obama last week, in addition to everything else on his plate, created the largest marine preserve in the world. He used his Antiquities Act authority to expand the Pacific Remote Islands Marine National Monument from 87,000 square miles to nearly 500,000 square miles, a vast change. The monument is not one area but the ocean surrounding several coral-and-sand specks of United States territory that most Americans have never heard of and few will ever visit, like Wake and Johnston Atolls and Jarvis Island. The ocean there is relatively pristine and now will stay that way. Commercial fishing, seabed mining and other intrusions will not be allowed. The monument is not as large as it could have been; Mr. Obama chose not to extend its boundaries out to the full 200-mile territorial limit for all the islands within it. Still, environmental groups are uniformly praising him for going as big as he did and for defying opposition from Hawaiian fishing interests whose loyalties lie with the producers of canned tuna. That industry has other places to fish; it will not suffer. But, at a time when the world’s oceans are threatened by rampant pollution, overfishing and climate change, the benefits of Mr. Obama’s decision will be profound, particularly if other countries now follow the United States’ excellent example. Few of us will see these benefits directly. But out there beyond Honolulu, living in splendid isolation, are sharks, rays and jacks; coconut crabs; moosehorn, staghorn and brain corals; humpback and melon-headed whales; green and hawksbill turtles; bottlenose and spinner dolphins; and untold millions of boobies, curlews and plovers. All these, and countless other living things, will be better off. Republicans will complain, but they should remember that it was President George W. Bush who created the monument. Mr. Obama only expanded it. Building an environmental legacy is an idea with bipartisan appeal.



Herbivores play important role in protecting habitats from invasive species

Posted: 02 Oct 2014 09:37 AM PDT

Herbivores consume more non-native oak leaf material in areas with diverse native plant communities than in less diverse communities. Why diverse plant communities tend to resist invasion by non-native plants, remains uncertain. Researchers have been examining the potential role of herbivores on the invasion of non-native plant species in diverse plant communities….


Mountain pine beetles get bad rap for wildfires, study says

Posted: 29 Sep 2014 02:44 PM PDT

New research provides some of the first rigorous field data to test whether fires that burn in areas impacted by mountain pine beetles are more ecologically severe than in those not attacked by the native bug. The study shows that pine beetle outbreaks contributed little to the severity of six wildfires in 2011.




The Head-Scratching Case of the Vanishing Bees


In 1872, a merchant ship called the Mary Celeste set sail from New York, and four weeks later was found by sailors aboard another vessel to be moving erratically in the Atlantic Ocean 400 miles east of the Azores. Curious, those sailors boarded the Mary Celeste, only to find nary a soul. The cargo was intact, as were supplies of food and water. But there was no sign of the seven-man crew, the captain, or his wife and daughter, who had gone along for the journey. To this day, what turned that brigantine into a ghost ship remains a maritime mystery. It was with a nod to this history that when bees suddenly and mysteriously began disappearing en masse in Britain several years ago, the phenomenon came to be known there as Mary Celeste Syndrome. Beekeepers in this country were similarly plagued. Honeybees, those versatile workhorses of pollination, were vanishing by the millions. They would leave their hives in search of nectar and pollen, and somehow never find their way home. On this side of the Atlantic, though, the flight of the bees was given a more prosaic name: colony collapse disorder. What caused it remains as much of a head-scratcher as the fate of the Mary Celeste, but the serious consequences for American agriculture were clear. And thus it draws the attention of this week’s Retro Report, part of a series of video documentaries examining major news stories from the past and analyzing what has happened since. The centrality of bees to our collective well-being is hard to overstate. They pollinate dozens of crops: apples, blueberries, avocados, soybeans, strawberries, you name it. Without honeybees, almond production in California would all but disappear. The United States Department of Agriculture estimates that nearly one-third of everything that Americans eat depends on bee pollination. Billions of dollars are at stake each year for farmers, ranchers and, of course, beekeepers.
But in the fall and winter of 2006-07, something strange happened. As Dave Hackenberg, a beekeeper in central Pennsylvania and in Florida, recalled for Retro Report, he went to his 400 hives one morning and found most of them empty. Queen bees remained, but worker bees had vanished.
…With so many theories in play, several federal agencies weighed in last year, with a joint study that effectively checked the “all of the above” box. A mélange of the various factors was behind the colonies’ devastation, the agencies’ report said, putting no more weight on one cause than on any other.
While Mary Celeste Syndrome — it sounds more lyrical than colony collapse disorder, does it not? — caught everyone’s attention, it is not at the core of concerns over bees today. Colonies still die, for a variety of reasons, but there have been fewer instances of the mass collapse that caused so much anguish in 2006 and ’07. Beekeepers have replaced their dead hives. Experts interviewed by Retro Report seemed unperturbed by thoughts that honeybees were about to disappear. Rather, what worries them is a gradual, steady shrinkage of the honeybee population over the years. Two decades ago, the United States had more than three million colonies; now it is down to an estimated 2.4 million, the Agriculture Department says. And more bees seem to be dying — from all causes, not just colony collapse — in the normal course of what are referred to as the “winter loss” and the “fall dwindle.” Where annual bee losses were once in the range of 5 percent to 10 percent, they are now more on the order of 30 percent. The fear is that this dying-off is too great for the country’s ever-expanding agricultural needs. That, specialists like Dr. Pettis say, is what would really sting.


Genetic secrets of the monarch butterfly revealed

Posted: 01 Oct 2014 10:30 AM PDT

Sequencing the genomes of monarch butterflies from around the world, a team of scientists has made surprising new insights into the monarch’s genetics. They identified a single gene that appears central to migration — a behavior generally regarded as complex — and another that controls pigmentation. The researchers also shed light on the evolutionary origins of the monarch….


Monarch Butterfly Migration May Rebound This Winter, Experts Say

Posted: 10/02/2014 2:31 pm EDT Updated: 1 hour ago

MEXICO CITY (AP) — Experts in Mexico say deforestation is down in the forest that is the winter home of monarch butterflies and they hope to see a rebound in the annual migration after it fell to historic lows. Omar Vidal of Mexico’s World Wildlife Fund says two to three times more monarchs may arrive this year, as compared to last year. Millions of the black and orange butterflies return to a reserve area each year. Farmers who own the land have been known to cut trees for personal use. But Vidal said Wednesday there are no signs of such logging this year. Commercial logging, however, remains a threat in the area. Last year, the monarchs covered only about one-and-a-half acres (half a hectare), an area nearly 60 percent smaller than the previous year…..


Support for controversial Darwin theory of ‘jump dispersal’

Posted: 01 Oct 2014 07:27 AM PDT

More than one hundred and fifty years ago, Charles Darwin hypothesized that species could cross oceans and other vast distances on vegetation rafts, icebergs, or in the case of plant seeds, in the plumage of birds. Though many were skeptical of Darwin’s ‘jump dispersal’ idea, a new study suggests that Darwin might have been correct.



Living Planet Report 2014
October 1, 2014 WWF

The Living Planet Report is the world’s leading, science-based analysis on the health of our planet and the impact of human activity. Knowing we only have one planet, WWF believes that humanity can make better choices that translate into clear benefits for ecology, society and the economy today and in the long term. This latest edition of the Living Planet Report is not for the faint-hearted. One key point that jumps out is that the Living Planet Index (LPI), which measures more than 10,000 representative populations of mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians and fish, has declined by 52 per cent since 1970. Put another way, in less than two human generations, population sizes of vertebrate species have dropped by half. These are the living forms that constitute the fabric of the ecosystems which sustain life on Earth – and the barometer of what we are doing to our own planet, our only home. We ignore their decline at our peril. We are using nature’s gifts as if we had more than just one Earth at our disposal. By taking more from our ecosystems and natural processes than can be replenished, we are jeopardizing our very future. Nature conservation and sustainable development go hand-in-hand. They are not only about preserving biodiversity and wild places, but just as much about safeguarding the future of humanity – our well-being, economy, food security and social stability – indeed, our very survival….



In the past the warming climate benefited Adélie penguins but now they are in decline.Credit: Tom Hart

Spy on penguin families for science

Posted: 19 Sep 2014 07:25 AM PDT

Online volunteers are being asked to classify images of penguin families to help scientists monitor the health of penguin colonies in Antarctica. Recent evidence suggests that populations of many species of penguin, such as chinstrap and Adélie, are declining fast as shrinking sea ice threatens the krill they feed on. By tagging the adults, chicks, and eggs in remote camera images Penguin Watch volunteers will help scientists to gather information about penguin behavior and breeding success, as well as teaching a computer how to count and identify individuals of different species….‘Most penguin colonies are so remote and the environment is so hostile the most practical way to study them is to leave something recording for us. Between the Australian Antarctic Division and ourselves, we have a network of over 50 automated cameras,’ said Dr Tom Hart of Oxford University’s Department of Zoology, who leads the Penguin Watch project and the organisation Penguin Lifelines ( ‘These cameras are now giving us hundreds of thousands of images of penguins throughout the year. Because of the enormous amount of data available, we need volunteers to help us count them and eventually to ‘teach’ computer algorithms how to find and count birds accurately.”Counting penguins in images enables our team to learn more about penguin behaviours; every penguin people tag in these images will help us to extract vital information about the birds’ winter activity, the impact of predators, and the timing of breeding,’ said Caitlin Black of Oxford University’s Department of Zoology, a member of the Penguin Watch team. As they classify images, Penguin Watch volunteers can see how penguin families develop: from finding a mate and laying eggs, to raising and guarding their chicks, to preparing their offspring to weather the Antarctic winter. As part of Zooniverse (, a collection of web-based citizen science projects, Penguin Watch volunteers will be able to join an online community, discuss images and natural history on the project forums, and learn more about the science they are contributing to from the Penguin Lifelines blog (


More waters may deserve federal protection, study suggests

Posted: 30 Sep 2014 08:14 AM PDT

Geographically isolated wetlands can be connected in ways that are largely ignored, but that may be critically important for watershed storage and stabilizing downstream flows, researchers say. The connection between wetlands and federally protected waters should not be limited to those with direct surface connections, they addFederal environmental law can be tricky business. Defining which bodies of water are protected by the federal Clean Water Act can impact the permits required for someone developing their land, especially when wetlands could be affected.

Supreme Court decisions in 2001 and 2006 narrowed legal protections for geographically isolated wetlands, which are those surrounded by higher land. The new legal test created from those decisions protects wetlands and streams only when it can be proven that there is a “significant nexus” to downstream navigable waters. The legal test has created confusion because there is no consensus about what constitutes a significant nexus. A University of Florida research team, whose study is published online in the journal Water Resources Research, shows that geographically isolated wetlands can be connected in ways that are largely ignored, but that may be critically important for watershed storage and stabilizing downstream flows. The study was funded by the Environmental Protection Agency.

Daniel L. McLaughlin, David A. Kaplan, Matthew J. Cohen. A significant nexus: Geographically isolated wetlands influence landscape hydrology. Water Resources Research, 2014; DOI: 10.1002/2013WR015002


Dog waste contaminates our waterways: A new test could reveal how big the problem is

Posted: 01 Oct 2014 07:26 AM PDT

Americans love their dogs, but they don’t always love to pick up after them. And that’s a problem. Dog feces left on the ground wash into waterways, sometimes carrying bacteria — including antibiotic-resistant strains — that can make people sick. Now scientists have developed a new genetic test to figure out how much dogs are contributing to this health concern….



Fronts, fish, and predators –Deep Sea Research Part II: Topical Studies in Oceanography

Fronts, fish, and predators, just published online in Deep Sea Research Part II: Topical Studies in Oceanography.
This is the first-ever special volume on fronts and biota, with an emphasis on higher trophic levels. The nine papers comprising this volume are presented trophically, covering fish larvae, bait fish, whales, squids, sablefish, tunas, and seabirds, in four oceans: Atlantic, Pacific, Indian and Southern. The full contents of this special issue can be viewed at


Big changes in Sargasso Sea’s seaweed populations

Posted: 23 Sep 2014 10:14 AM PDT

In the region of the North Pacific known as the Sargasso Sea, circling ocean currents accumulate mats of Sargassum seaweed that shelter a surprising variety of fishes, snails, crabs, and other small animals. A recent paper shows that in 2011 and 2012 this animal community was much less diverse than it was in the early 1970s, when the last detailed studies were completed in this region.


Water-quality trading can reduce river pollution: Market for water quality credits would cut pollution at less cost

Posted: 23 Sep 2014 10:14 AM PDT

Allowing polluters to buy, sell or trade water-quality credits will reduce pollution in rivers and estuaries faster and at lower cost than requiring them to meet compliance costs on their own, a new study finds. Establishing trading markets at a river-basin scale and allowing interstate trades will yield optimal results, but regulators shouldn’t let uncertainties over details bog down a program’s launch, since trading at any scale will yield gains over no trading at all.


NOTE: Point Blue scientist Nat Seavy, Ph.D. is working with our partner agencies to establish the Central Valley Habitat Exchange. The program creates financial returns for landowners striving to establish both healthy wildlife habitat and productive farming through the exchange of habitat credits.



Food affected by Fukushima disaster harms animals, even at low-levels of radiation, study shows

Posted: 23 Sep 2014 06:02 AM PDT

Butterflies eating food collected from cities around the Fukushima nuclear meltdown site showed higher rates of death and disease, according to a study. “Our study demonstrated that eating contaminated foods could cause serious negative effects on organisms. Such negative effects may be passed down the generations. On the bright side, eating non-contaminated food improves the negative effects, even in the next generation,” the lead author noted.


Poor fish harvests more frequent now off California coast

Posted: 26 Sep 2014 11:10 AM PDT

In the past 600 years off the California coast, occasional episodes of diminished ocean upwelling that cause fish populations to crash have occurred naturally. The poor yearly fish harvests seen in the last 60 years aren’t any worse in severity than earlier, but are happening more frequently.


Chinese mitten crab invades Scotland, poses threat to salmon, trout

Posted: 24 Sep 2014 06:19 PM PDT

The Chinese mitten crab, recorded in Scotland for the first time, poses a serious potential threat to salmon and trout in Glasgow’s River Clyde, according to researchers. The Chinese mitten crab, Eriocheir sinensis, is native to East Asia but is now found across NE Europe and the USA.


Peacock’s train is not such a drag after all: Flight unchanged with and without plumage

Posted: 17 Sep 2014 02:32 PM PDT

The magnificent plumage of the peacock may not be quite the sacrifice to love that it appears to be, researchers have discovered. “These feathers weigh about 300g and can exceed 1.5m, so it’s expected that the male birds would be making a significant sacrifice in their flight performance for being attractive,” one researcher said. However, experiments showed that in fact, the plumage made no difference to take-off and flight of the birds. A kayak trip down the hardest working river in the world


By Nathanael Johnson
24 Sep 2014 6:53 AM

Traveling down a river always makes for a great story. But what if your river runs dry?

CNN reporter John Sutter just finished kayaking — and walking — 417 miles down California’s San Joaquin River. This may be the hardest working river in the world: It runs through wondrously productive farmland, which depends on irrigation. Every drop of the river is sucked dry before it reaches the ocean. Sutter happened to be paddling the river in the middle of the most severe drought in California history, and so his project brought hopes and anxieties for the future of water into stark relief.

Q. How long were you out there?

A. Three weeks — 24 days, I think. So yeah, it was a long adventure.

Q. Did you love the river by the time you were done, or did you hate it?

A. No, I totally loved the river by the time I was done with it. I was also frustrated with it, and with some of the circumstances around it. This was a learning process for me. I started off not being very good at all at kayaking. I didn’t know all that much about the river at first. The more I knew, the more time I spent on it, the more details I learned, the more interesting it got. I was out there with a couple people who study birds, and learning funky things about bird calls. Little stuff like that, as goofy as it sounds, made me fall in love with the river and the character of it. It has a lot of life in it, even though it’s really struggling. And so when I got to the end, at the Golden Gate, I really was very much in love with the river, and that’s why I was frustrated — I knew that the water that started out in the Sierras, maybe three weeks earlier, hadn’t made that journey with me, and it should…..


Current Issue, Volume 12, Issue 3, 2014




How dinosaur arms turned into bird wings

Posted: 30 Sep 2014 11:41 AM PDT

Although we now appreciate that birds evolved from a branch of the dinosaur family tree, a crucial adaptation for flight has continued to puzzle evolutionary biologists. During the millions of years that elapsed, wrists went from straight to bent and hyperflexible, allowing birds to fold their wings neatly against their bodies when not flying. A resolution to this impasse is now provided by an exciting new study.


S.F. next door to ocean wilderness filled with beauty and beasts

Carl Nolte Sunday, September 21, 2014

California sea lions at Seal Cove, one of the many species of wildlife on the southeast Farallon Islands off San Francisco’s coast. Photo: Michael Macor, The Chronicle

Next time you are beaten down by San Francisco – the traffic, the tall buildings, the lost souls sleeping in doorways, the crowds, the never-ending roar of the city – think of this: We live in one of the most amazing places in the world. If you head 30 miles from the center of San Francisco in one direction you end up in the outskirts of Novato, in another direction you are in Concord. Both are nice places if you like suburban life. But go 30 miles west and you are in a little-known wilderness, the waters of the Pacific Ocean. This is the Gulf of the Farallones National Marine Sanctuary, nearly 1,300 square miles of salt water and sea floor. ….

Port bow and stem of the shipwrecked tug recently located off Southeast Farallon Island, in the Gulf of the Farallones National Marine Sanctuary. Octopus, Canary rockfish and sea anemones inhabit the shipwreck. Photo: NOAA


Spending soars higher on relocation of Bay Bridge’s birds

SF Chronicle Monday, September 29, 2014

Nesting cormorants pose costly and time consuming problem for demolition of the old Bay Bridge span. Photo: Caltrans

…As crews demolish the 10,000-foot-long steel structure where the birds roost, they’ve had to navigate around broadly interpreted state and federal environmental laws designed to protect the feathered critters. “We are not going to argue with the law — the issue is often the interpretation of it,” said Randy Rentschler, spokesman for the Bay Area Toll Authority, which is overseeing the tear-down. “And the fact is, the bridge construction has suffered tens of millions of cost overruns and months of delays as these (enforcement) agencies have interpreted the regulations,” Rentschler said. The bird-friendly moves include Caltrans spending $709,000 to build 2½-foot-wide nesting “condos” on the underside of the new bridge, in the hopes that the 800 or so state-protected cormorants would move off the old span. An additional $1 million has been spent to try to lure the birds over to the new bridge, using bird decoys, cormorant recordings and even nests made from discarded Christmas wreaths. But the birds haven’t budged, prompting Caltrans to draw up Plan B — speeding up the demolition in the hopes of beating next spring’s nesting season because, once the birds start laying eggs, the work has to stop. The cost of the speedup: an additional $12.5 million. As part of that effort, Caltrans has also put nets over part of the old span to keep the birds away. It even stationed a truck with an extended boom on the old bridge to help remove some of the vacated bird nests. What’s more, to comply with its federal permit, Caltrans agreed to send any displaced chicks and eggs to the International Bird Rescue center in Fairfield for foster care until the birds are old enough to be released…..



Opinion: We must hear – and heed – the nightingale’s warning

By John W. Fitzpatrick Executive Director, Cornell Lab of Ornithology For Environmental Health News Part 15 of Winged Warnings Oct. 1, 2014

ITHACA, N.Y. – Many birders enjoy playing an imaginary game with one another: “Blindfold me and place me anywhere in the world – I bet I can identify where I am, as long as you let me hear the birds.” This phenomenon exists because most birds are finely tuned to a narrow place on Earth. Every species has developed traits that permit it to cope with the challenges and capitalize on the opportunities of habitat in every biome, whether it’s the windswept Arctic tundra, the Antarctic ice sheets, the fog-shrouded mountaintops or the world’s driest scrubs. From giant ostriches to tiny bee hummingbirds, their ability to populate land and sea the world over is a testament to nearly 200 million years of evolutionary adaptation since diverging from the dinosaurs.

But these remarkable specializations have a huge down side from the birds’ point of view. When the rules of a place begin to change, the survival and reproductive success of its birds decline. If the changes persist, one by one, birds may disappear altogether. The most specialized species are the first to go – the “indicator species” that allow us to measure an ecosystem’s overall health.

Pete Myers

A grasshopper sparrow.

More than any other group of organisms, birds stimulate both sides of our brain with their bewildering diversities in song, color, display, flight style and migratory stamina. On the one hand, because they are accessible models of basic biological principles, they are subjects of our drive to deduce the laws of nature through science. On the other hand, they are featured in centuries of humanist art and poetry because they evoke our emotions, connecting us spiritually with nature. Both of these calls on our consciousness are vital in their roles as beacons of environmental health.

For millions of years, habitats have shifted naturally as landmasses move and climates fluctuate. However, never in Earth’s history have they changed as rapidly as they are changing today. The consequences on bird populations are devastating. Worldwide, BirdLife International estimates that one-eighth of all bird species are threatened, reflecting the health of their habitats. These threatened species continue to sing, but their songs aren’t poetic or musical – they are alarm songs.

These declining bird populations are sending us big, flashing warning signs about the quality of our own lives. In the United States, one distinctive community of specialists, including the bobolink, eastern and western meadowlark, grasshopper sparrow and upland sandpiper, has been sending us winged warnings for the past three decades. As croplands across the middle of North America convert from family farms into horizon-to-horizon crops boosted by pesticides and fertilizers, birds that once sang from fence posts and utility poles are becoming scarce or disappearing altogether….






It’s the month of October and time to think about those spooky, creepy crawly things. What do you know about tarantulas in California? Which of the following statements are true?

(a.) They spend most of their time underground sitting and waiting for prey to come by their burrows

(b.) They typically migrate in September and October

(c.) Tarantulas are usually nocturnal although males will venture out in the daylight in search of females during breeding season.

(e.) They are primarily hunted by the tarantula hawk

(f.) a, b, and c

(g.) all of the above

——> See answer near the end






Could the 2C climate target be completely wrong?

The global warming goal that nearly 200 governments have agreed on should be ditched, say scientists writing in Nature

Adam Vaughan, Wednesday 1 October 2014 13.03 EDT

A discarded signboard from People’s Climate March in a trash bin in Manhattan, New York. Photograph: Carlo Allegri/Reuters

In a nondescript conference centre five years ago, as temperatures fell to freezing outside in the streets of Copenhagen and protesters gathered, world leaders did something remarkable: they put a limit on how high temperatures should be allowed to rise as man-made global warming takes hold. It was the first time the nearly 200 countries in the UN climate talks process had put a number on what constituted the limit for dangerous climate change (Germany had done it years before, followed by the EU). And with hindsight, is one of the signal agreements of a summit that was widely derided as a failure. Since then, the 2C target – or obligation, as some in climate diplomacy circles refer to it – has been repeated like a mantra, mentioned thousands of times in newspaper articles and most recently uttered aloud repeatedly last week by heads of state in New York for a climate summit organised by Ban Ki-moon. But two academics in the prestigious journal Nature now argue that the 2C target has outlived its usefulness. They say it should be abandoned and replaced with a series of measures – “vital signs” of the planet’s health. Under the headline, “Ditch the 2C warming goal”, they argue the 2C limit is “politically and scientifically … wrong-headed”, it is “effectively unachievable” and it has let politicians off the hook, allowing them to “pretend that they are organising for action when, in fact, most have done little.” David G Victor, the University of California professor who co-wrote the comment along with former Nasa associate administrator Charles F Kennel, said he felt compelled to speak out after watching climate diplomacy efforts and working on the latest blockbuster report by the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. “All diplomacy was focused around this goal and yet it struck me as obvious that the emissions trajectories, even if governments made a big effort at controlling emissions, were way off track for 2C.” Working on the IPCC report, he told the Guardian, made him realise the ‘climate establishment’ was “entirely geared to supporting 2C even though nobody had a serious plan for meeting it“. For some in international climate politics, Victor and Kennel’s message of reality, as they call it, is tantamount to heresy. And it has provoked a strong reaction. “The University of California should realise 2C is a fact, not a target,” said Lord Deben, former UK environment secretary and now chair of the UK’s statutory advisers on climate change. “Go above it [2C] and you say something about the world that is intolerable. 2C is dangerous but at least we have some understanding of what that means. To abandon that would seem a most peculiar thing to do.” The 2C mark is often described as the level beyond which disastrous impacts including flooding and heat-waves – and potentially runaway warming as natural ‘feedbacks’ kick in – would take place. …



2°C Or Not 2°C: Why We Must Not Ditch Scientific Reality In Climate Policy

by Joe Romm Posted on October 1, 2014 at 5:01 pm

Global-mean surface temperature 1880-2013. Grey line shows annual values, and the smoothed blue line highlights the long-term evolution. (Via RealClimate using NASA data)

A new Comment piece in Nature argues we should “Ditch the 2 °C warming goal” as a basis for climate change policy. Here’s why the authors, political scientist David Victor and retired astrophysicist Charles Kennel, are wrong — and why “their prescription is a dangerous one,” as a top climatologist told me.
Their core argument, as Nature sums it up, is “Average global temperature is not a good indicator of planetary health. Track a range of vital signs instead.” I’ll discuss below why our global temperature is a perfectly reasonable indicator of planetary health — or rather, of planetary sickness, since we have a fever. First, let’s dispense with the notion that tracking a “range of vital signs” would somehow make it easier for humanity to avoid catastrophe.

Consider that way back in 2009, “a group of 28 internationally renowned scientists identified and quantified a set of nine planetary boundaries within which humanity can continue to develop and thrive for generations to come. Crossing these boundaries could generate abrupt or irreversible environmental changes.”

Unfortunately, we’ve already crossed some key ones, including climate change and rate of biodiversity loss:… Oops. The thing is, five years ago, Nature actually published a major article (and responses) on these “planetary boundaries.” The key takeaways. First, the planet has already overshot multiple boundaries, including climate change (and is close to doing so in a couple more including CO2-driven ocean acidification).

Second, adding more vital signs just gives people more things to argue about, so it is hardly a recipe for faster or more streamlined international action. Indeed, the whole Victor and Kennel approach would be an excuse for more dawdling. They don’t just want to ditch the 2°C limit but they want to replace the entire effort aimed at developing a global plan to avoid that limit culminating in the December 2015 Paris climate conference. Instead, they write, “New indicators will not be ready for the Paris meeting, but a path for designing them should be agreed there.”

Yes, instead of trying to get the world’s leading governments to agree on the commitments needed to avoid crossing the 2°C target, let’s just ask them to agree on a “path for designing” some new targets. So long Miami, New Orleans, and other coastal cities — it’s been good to know you!

As Michael Mann, director of the Earth System Science Center at Pennsylvania State, wrote me:

Giving up on the 2C warming limit, after so much work has been done to motivate this objective and meaningful target for defining dangerous climate change amounts to kicking the can down the road. It simply provides a crutch for those looking for yet another excuse for not doing the tough but necessary work to stabilize greenhouse gas concentrations below dangerous levels. Sure, it’s possible that we will fail to stabilize temperatures below 2C warming even given concerted efforts to lower our carbon emissions, but simply discarding this goal would make failure almost certain.

I’m sure the authors mean well, but their prescription is a dangerous one in my view. TWIMC: The scientific reality is that we are already in overshoot!

So what exactly is wrong with the 2°C target that it should be ditched? Sadly, Victor and Kennel offer a bunch of beyond-dubious arguments: The scientific basis for the 2°C goal is tenuous. The planet’s average temperature has barely risen in the past 16 years These statements are not merely dubious, they are “disingenuous,” to use the word of Stefan Rahmstorf, Co-Chair of Earth System Analysis at the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research, in his debunking post on RealClimate.

It is truly unfortunate that Victor and Kennel perpetuate the myth that there has been some sort of a pause in warming. Nearly a year ago, a journal article explained that a key reason there appears to be a pause is that one of the major temperature data sets ignores all warming in the Arctic (see here). Also, as Rahmstorf notes, it is very widely known that “picking 1998 as start year in this argument is rather disingenuous –- it is the one year that sticks out most above the long-term trend of all years since 1880, due to the strongest El Niño event ever recorded.”

What’s even more bewildering is even to the extent there has been a slowdown in surface air temperature warming during this cherry-picked period that has no bearing on the argument Victor and Kennel are making, as Rahmstorf shows:

They fail to explain why short-term global temperature variability would have any bearing on the 2 °C limit — and indeed this is not logical. The short-term variations in global temperature, despite causing large variations in short-term rates of warming, are very small — their standard deviation is less than 0.1 °C for the annual values and much less for decadal averages (see graph — this can just as well be seen in the graph of Victor & Kennel). If this means that due to internal variability we’re not sure whether we’ve reached 2 °C warming or just 1.9 °C or 2.1 °C — so what? This is a very minor uncertainty.

The argument by Victor and Kennel that there’s no “scientific basis” for the 2°C limit or that it was “uncritically adopted” by governments is thoroughly debunked at length by Rahmstorf (see also Mann’s “Defining Dangerous Anthropogenic Interference).”…




Changing Antarctic waters could trigger steep rise in sea levels, conditions 14,000 years ago suggest

October 1, 2014 University of New South Wales

Current changes in the ocean around Antarctica are disturbingly close to conditions 14,000 years ago that new research shows may have led to the rapid melting of Antarctic ice and an abrupt 3-4 meter rise in global sea level.
The research published in Nature Communications found that in the past, when ocean temperatures around Antarctica became more layered — with a warm layer of water below a cold surface layer — ice sheets and glaciers melted much faster than when the cool and warm layers mixed more easily. This defined layering of temperatures is exactly what is happening now around the Antarctic. “The reason for the layering is that global warming in parts of Antarctica is causing land-based ice to melt, adding massive amounts of freshwater to the ocean surface,” said ARC Centre of Excellence for Climate System Science researcher Prof Matthew England an author of the paper. “At the same time as the surface is cooling, the deeper ocean is warming, which has already accelerated the decline of glaciers on Pine Island and Totten. It appears global warming is replicating conditions that, in the past, triggered significant shifts in the stability of the Antarctic ice sheet.” The modelling shows the last time this occurred, 14,000 years ago, the Antarctic alone contributed 3-4 metres to global sea levels in just a few centuries…. “The results demonstrate that while Antarctic ice sheets are remote, they may play a far bigger role in driving past and importantly future sea level rise than we previously suspected.”….. “The big question is whether the ice sheet will react to these changing ocean conditions as rapidly as it did 14,000 years ago,” said lead author Dr Nick Golledge, a senior research fellow at Victoria’s Antarctic Research Centre. “With 10 per cent of the world’s population, or 700 million people, living less than 10 metres above present sea level, an additional three metres of sea level rise from the Antarctic alone will have a profound impact on us all.”


N. R. Golledge, L. Menviel, L. Carter, C. J. Fogwill, M. H. England, G. Cortese, R. H. Levy. Antarctic contribution to meltwater pulse 1A from reduced Southern Ocean overturning. Nature Communications, 2014; 5: 5107 DOI: 10.1038/ncomms6107




The report, “Explaining Extreme Events of 2013 From a Climate Perspective,” can be viewed online. (Credit: Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society)

New report finds human-caused climate change increased severity of 2013 heat waves in Asia, Europe and Australia

September 29, 2014

A report released today investigates the causes of a wide variety of extreme weather and climate events from around the world in 2013. Published by the Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society, “Explaining Extreme Events of 2013 from a Climate Perspective addresses the causes of 16 individual extreme events that occurred on four continents in 2013. NOAA scientists served as three of the four lead editors on the report. Of the five heat waves studied in the report, human-caused climate change-primarily through the burning of fossil fuels-was found to have clearly increased the severity and likelihood of those events. On the other hand, for other events examined like droughts, heavy rain events, and storms, fingerprinting the influence of human activity was more challenging. The influence of human-caused climate change on these kinds of events was sometimes evident, but often less clear, suggesting natural factors played a far more dominant role. The report, “Explaining Extreme Events of 2013 From a Climate Perspective,” can be viewed online. (Credit: Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society) …. “Results from this report not only add to our body of knowledge about what drives extreme events, but what the odds are of these events happening again-and to what severity.” Key findings include:

U.S. drought:

•Three independent studies, which examined Pacific sea surface temperatures and atmospheric anomalies, did not find conclusive evidence for the impact of human-caused climate change on the ongoing rainfall deficit in California. One paper found evidence that atmospheric pressure patterns increased due to human causes, but the influence on the California drought remains uncertain.

U.S. rainfall events:

•In examining pre-industrial and modern-day Colorado rainfall events, a study using a single model found that the probability of another extreme 5-day rainfall, like the one that caused widespread flooding in Boulder, is estimated to have decreased because of human-caused climate change. However, the study notes that additional research using more models is needed.

•2013 U.S. seasonal precipitation extremes are primarily attributed to natural variability but with some evidence for human influences on the climate having increased the likelihood of such extremes.

U.S. storm:

•A blizzard that struck South Dakota in October was unusually strong for early autumn, but not unprecedented in terms of atmospheric pressure. But there is evidence at present to suggest early autumn extreme snowfall events in western South Dakota are less likely to occur as a result of human-caused climate change….



The Hindu holy town of Kedarnath, India is seen from a helicopter after severe flooding in the northern Indian state of Uttarakhand, June 18, 2013. Torrential monsoon rains caused havoc in northern India leading to flash floods and landslides. AP

Scientists see climate change behind incidents of wild weather

CBS News

September 29, 2014


WASHINGTON — Scientists looking at 16 cases of wild weather around the world last year see the fingerprints of man-made global warming on more than half of them



2014 Arctic sea ice minimum sixth lowest on record

Posted: 23 Sep 2014 06:02 AM PDT

Arctic sea ice coverage continued its below-average trend this year as the ice declined to its annual minimum on Sept. 17, according to new research.



Global Rise Reported in 2013 Greenhouse Gas Emissions


Global emissions of greenhouse gases jumped 2.3 percent in 2013 to record levels, scientists reported Sunday, in the latest indication that the world remains far off track in its efforts to control global warming.
The emissions growth last year was a bit slower than the average growth rate of 2.5 percent over the past decade, and much of the dip was caused by an economic slowdown in China, which is the world’s single largest source of emissions. It may take an additional year or two to know if China has turned a corner toward slower emissions growth, or if the runaway pace of recent years will resume.

In the United States, emissions rose 2.9 percent, after declining in recent years….




Phytoplankton bloom (green and blue swirls) near the Pribilof Islands off the coast of Alaska, in the Bering Sea. The turquoise waters are likely colored by a type of phytoplankton called coccolithophores. This Sept. 22, 2014, image was created with Landsat 8 data. Credit: NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, Norman Kuring; USGS

Ocean data shows ‘climate dance’ of plankton

Posted: 30 Sep 2014 08:34 AM PDT

The greens and blues of the ocean color from NASA satellite data have provided new insights into how climate and ecosystem processes affect the growth cycles of phytoplankton — microscopic aquatic plants important for fish populations and Earth’s carbon cycle….Over the past few years, Behrenfeld has collaborated with Emmanuel Boss at the University of Maine, Orono; David Siegel at the University of California, Santa Barbara; and Scott Doney at Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute, Woods Hole, Massachusetts, to develop a new theoretical framework for explaining phytoplankton blooms, which they call the “Disturbance-Recovery Hypothesis.” According to this view, blooms can be started by any process that disturbs the natural balance between phytoplankton and their predators.

A disturbance may involve deep mixing of the surface ocean by storms, bringing up deep ocean water along coasts (known as coastal upwelling), a river flowing into the ocean or even an intentional disturbance such as fertilizing ocean ecosystems with iron. The new study is focused on the second part of the hypothesis — how plankton ecosystems recover once they have been disturbed.

…”Understanding the plankton ecosystem and how it responds to variability is very important for preparing and looking forward to how Earth’s system changes,” said Behrenfeld. “The environmental conditions that start and then sustain phytoplankton blooms are, in many cases, the same environmental factors that are impacted by climate change.” The next steps are to understand how species succession impacts bloom development and to learn how the carbon dioxide taken up by phytoplankton is processed within plankton ecosystems and then transferred and stored in the deep ocean. These advances are critical for understanding how changes in phytoplankton blooms translate to impacts on fisheries and climate. These challenging goals will require a greater integration of satellite, modeling and field studies.

Michael J. Behrenfeld. Climate-mediated dance of the plankton. Nature Climate Change, 2014; 4 (10): 880 DOI: 10.1038/nclimate2349




Arctic sea ice helps remove carbon dioxide from atmosphere, study shows

Posted: 22 Sep 2014 08:04 AM PDT

Climate change is a fact, and most of the warming is caused by human activity. The Arctic is now so warm that the extent of sea ice has decreased by about 30 percent in summer and in winter, sea ice is getting thinner. New research has shown that sea ice removes carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. If Arctic sea ice is reduced, we may therefore be facing an increase of atmospheric concentration of carbon dioxide, researchers warn.


With few data, Arctic carbon models lack consensus

Posted: 26 Sep 2014 07:18 AM PDT

As climate change grips the Arctic, how much carbon is leaving its thawing soil and adding to Earth’s greenhouse effect? The question has long been debated by scientists. A new study conducted as part of NASA’s Carbon in Arctic Reservoirs Vulnerability Experiment (CARVE) shows just how much work still needs to be done to reach a conclusion on this and other basic questions about the region where global warming is hitting hardest….Scientists urgently want to understand the state of Arctic carbon because there are huge stores of carbon from dead vegetation locked in permafrost — and permafrost is turning out not to be as permanently frozen as its name implies. With the Arctic warming much faster than the rest of the planet, permafrost is thawing. Those carbon stores could be released into the atmosphere either slowly or in a giant burst, further accelerating the pace of climate change. “We’re opening Pandora’s box by warming the permafrost,” Fisher said. “In the Amazon, if you cut down a tree and release carbon to the atmosphere, you can plant another tree that will reabsorb that lost carbon. In the Arctic, the carbon stored in permafrost represents millennia of accumulated dead vegetation. If you lose that carbon to the atmosphere, you can’t get it back that easily.” But more carbon dioxide in the air and longer growing seasons due to global warming promote more plant growth, and plants remove carbon from the air during photosynthesis. Some models suggest that the carbon removed by plants could balance the carbon released by permafrost thaw. That’s one of the questions that CARVE principal investigator Charles Miller of JPL hopes the campaign will help modelers to answer. “Ultimately, we hope the CARVE data can be used to diagnose the strengths and weaknesses of different models and to improve the representation of carbon cycling in Alaska and throughout the Arctic,” Miller said.
“The general feeling is that the Arctic will be a big source of carbon to the atmosphere, but the uncertainty is a little too high to say for sure,” Fisher said. “CARVE measurements will quantify the present-day carbon sources and help to reduce that uncertainty.”
For more information on CARVE, visit: or



The fickle El Niño of 2014

Posted: 23 Sep 2014 12:36 PM PDT

Prospects have been fading for an El Niño event in 2014, but now there’s a glimmer of hope for a very modest comeback. Scientists warn that unless these developing weak-to-modest El Niño conditions strengthen, the drought-stricken American West shouldn’t expect any relief.
The latest sea-level-height data from the NASA/European Ocean Surface Topography Mission (OSTM)/Jason-2 satellite mission show a pair of eastward-moving waves of higher sea level, known as Kelvin waves, in the Pacific Ocean — the third such pair of waves this year. Now crossing the central and eastern equatorial Pacific, these warm waves appear as the large area of higher-than-normal sea surface heights (warmer-than-normal ocean temperatures) hugging the equator between 120 degrees west and the International Dateline. The Kelvin waves are traveling eastward and should arrive off Ecuador in late September and early October. A series of larger atmospheric “west wind bursts” from February through May 2014 triggered an earlier series of Kelvin waves that raised hopes of a significant El Niño event. Just as the warming of the eastern equatorial Pacific by these waves dissipated, damping expectations for an El Niño this year, these latest Kelvin waves have appeared, resuscitating hopes for a late arrival of the event. The new image is online at: For an overview of 2014’s El Niño prospects and Kelvin waves, please see: Climatologist Bill Patzert of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, California, says it’s too early to know for sure, but he would not be surprised if the latest Kelvin waves are the “last hurrah” for this much-hoped-for El Niño. “Since February 2014, the prospect of an El Niño has waxed and waned. This late in the season, the best we can expect is a weak to moderate event. What comes next is not yet clear. But for the drought-plagued American West, the possibility of a badly needed drenching is fading,” said Patzert….

YS Appelhans, J Thomsen, S Opitz, C Pansch, F Melzner, M Wahl. Juvenile sea stars exposed to acidification decrease feeding and growth with no acclimation potential. Marine Ecology Progress Series, 2014; 509: 227 DOI: 10.3354/meps10884


While the Arctic is melting the Gulf Stream remains

Posted: 28 Sep 2014 01:13 PM PDT

The melting Arctic is not the source for less saline Nordic Seas. It is the Gulf Stream that has provided less salt. A new study documents that the source of fresher Nordic Seas since 1950 is rooted in the saline Atlantic as opposed to Arctic freshwater that is the common inference.


Changes in Earth’s gravity field resulting from loss of ice from West Antarctica between November 2009 and June 2012 (mE = 10–12 s–2). A combination of data from ESA’s GOCE mission and NASA’s Grace satellites shows the ‘vertical gravity gradient change’. See full animation at

Credit: DGFI/Planetary Visions

Satellite measurements reveal gravity dip from ice loss in West Antarctica

Posted: 30 Sep 2014 04:54 PM PDT

Although not designed to map changes in Earth’s gravity over time, ESA’s GOCE satellite has shown that the ice lost from West Antarctica over the last few years has left its signature. More than doubling its planned life in orbit, GOCE spent four years measuring Earth’s gravity in unprecedented detail. Researchers have found that the decrease in the mass of ice during this period was mirrored in GOCE’s measurements…Remarkably, they found that the decrease in the mass of ice during this period was mirrored in GOCE’s measurements, even though the mission was not designed to detect changes over time….They have found that that the loss of ice from West Antarctica between 2009 and 2012 caused a dip in the gravity field over the region.




Predicting impact of climate change on species that can’t get out of the way

Posted: 01 Oct 2014 10:31 AM PDT

When scientists talk about the consequences of climate change, it can mean more than how we human beings will be impacted by higher temperatures, rising seas and serious storms. Plants and trees are also feeling the change, but they can’t move out of the way. Researchers have developed a new tool to overcome a major challenge of predicting how organisms may respond to climate change….
Increasingly local adaptation to climate is being studied at the molecular level by identifying which genes control climate adaptation and how these vary between individuals. This type of modeling of variation in genetic makeup represents an important advance in understanding how climate change may impact biodiversity. “We’ve developed the techniques to associate genetic variation to climate and to map where individuals may and may not be pre-adapted to climates expected in the future,” said Fitzpatrick. “It’s important to know where these places are. This gives us a way to link climate responses more closely to the biology than we were able to do previously.” The study, “Ecological genomics meets community-level modeling of biodiversity: mapping the genomic landscape of current and future environmental adaptation,” was published by Matthew Fitzpatrick of the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science and Steven Keller of the University of Vermont. It appeared in the October 1 issue of Ecology Letters.

Matthew C. Fitzpatrick, Stephen R. Keller. Ecological genomics meets community-level modelling of biodiversity: mapping the genomic landscape of current and future environmental adaptation. Ecology Letters, 2014; DOI: 10.1111/ele.12376



Fish need time to adjust to new environmental conditions

Posted: 30 Sep 2014 06:04 AM PDT

Fish can live in almost any aquatic environment on Earth, but when the climate changes and temperatures go up many species are pushed to the limit. The amount of time needed to adjust to new conditions could prove critical for how different species cope in the future, reveals a new study from researchers at the University of Gothenburg, published in the scientific journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B. Climate change continues apace thanks to increasing levels of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. The greenhouse effect has led not only to an increase in average temperatures but also to more extreme weather conditions, such as major heatwaves.

More than just survival

In contrast to birds and mammals, fish are ectothermic, which means that their body temperature fluctuates in line with the temperature of their surroundings. Fish that live at different temperatures can generally do so because they are able to optimise their bodily functions to that particular temperature. Changes in the ambient temperature can therefore disrupt this balance. “Previous research has focused almost exclusively on whether different species will be able to survive an increase in temperature or not,” says Erik Sandblom, researcher at the University of Gothenburg’s Department of Biological and Environmental Sciences. “We were interested in finding out how species that survive actually manage to do so, how long it takes and the limitations they have to contend with during the acclimation period.”

Most vulnerable during the first few weeks

In the published trial the researchers simulated a temporary heatwave and then monitored how the physiology of the shorthorn sculpin, a common marine bottom-dwelling fish species, was affected. The results show that during the first week of the heatwave the fish were severely restricted and were forced to forego high-energy processes such as eating or swimming in order to survive.

“During the first few weeks of a sudden heatwave the fish do survive but are vulnerable to events that would otherwise pass without problem. Dealing with extra challenges such as escaping from predators or coping with disease can be fatal.”

Amount of time decisive

The trial took eight weeks and the results show that the physiological load reduces with each passing week as the fish gradually manage to reset their bodily functions and acclimate to the new environment. The results also show that the “cost” to the fish correlates closely with how long it takes to adjust. In a future that is both warmer and more variable, it is therefore likely to be important not only to adjust to new conditions, but to do so quickly. The research was carried out with: Michael Axelsson, Albin Gräns and Henrik Seth at the University of Gothenburg.


E. Sandblom, A. Grans, M. Axelsson, H. Seth. Temperature acclimation rate of aerobic scope and feeding metabolism in fishes: implications in a thermally extreme future. Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences, 2014; 281 (1794): 20141490 DOI: 10.1098/rspb.2014.1490


Young sea stars suffer more from ocean acidification than adults

Posted: 26 Sep 2014 08:21 AM PDT

Young sea stars from the Baltic Sea suffer more from the effects of ocean acidification than adults. In a laboratory experiment, scientists showed that younger animals already eat less and grow more slowly at only slightly elevated carbon dioxide concentrations…It is not yet fully understood why the majority of the young sea stars develop poorly under elevated CO2 conditions in the laboratory. However, the study showed that the sea stars did not store less calcium carbonate in their skeletons under acidification. “They might grow less because they need more energy to form calcium carbonate,” Thomsen assumes. “The fact that they eat less might also indicate that the acidic water affects the digestive enzymes.” A few individuals grew well even under a high CO2. Appelhans: “If these tolerant animals succeed, sea stars could possibly adjust to new environmental conditions. For some species, there are already indications that an adaptation by evolution is possible. Whether this also applies to the sea stars should be investigated in the future. At the same time, it is important verify the observations from the lab under more natural conditions.”


YS Appelhans, J Thomsen, S Opitz, C Pansch, F Melzner, M Wahl. Juvenile sea stars exposed to acidification decrease feeding and growth with no acclimation potential. Marine Ecology Progress Series, 2014; 509: 227 DOI: 10.3354/meps10884




Near Point Lay, Alaska. (Corey Accardo/NOAA/NMFS/AFSC/NMML/Handout via Reuters)

As sea ice melts amid global warming, 35,000 walrus crowd the shores of Alaska

By Justin Moyer October 2 at 2:20 AM

Female Pacific walruses and their calves spending the summers in the northwest coast of Alaska where they haul-out on shore to rest. This large herd of walruses convened near Pt. Lay Alaska in August of 2011. (U.S. Geological Survey (USGS)) In days of yore, the life of a Pacific walrus was idyllic. Blubbery and social, these 1 1/2 ton beasts laid on sea ice, holding court. Their favorite food, shellfish, was just a short trip down to the ocean floor. Sure, it’s cold down there, but these tusked giants can slow their heartbeats to withstand polar temperatures.  If there was a squabble, it was likely about love or love lost. This harmony has now been threatened by climate change. Due to global warming, the sea ice favored by walrus has disappeared — and now, in northwest Alaska, more than 35,000 walrus have come ashore seeking refuge. “The walruses are hauling out on land in a spectacle that has become all too common in six of the last eight years as a consequence of climate-induced warming,” said a release from the U.S. Geological Survey. “Summer sea ice is retreating far north of the shallow continental shelf waters of the Chukchi Sea in U.S. and Russian waters, a condition that did not occur a decade ago.  To keep up with their normal resting periods between feeding bouts to the seafloor, walruses have simply hauled out onto shore.” “Those animals have essentially run out of offshore sea ice, and have no other choice but to come ashore,” Chadwick Jay, a research ecologist in Alaska with the U.S. Geological Survey, told the Guardian….”It becomes like a giant pig pile,” said Margaret Williams, managing director for the World Wildlife Fund’s Arctic program, told the Guardian. She added: “You have all these animals that are normally distributed on a flat surface. When they lose their sea ice habitat and come ashore in places that are accessible – like flat, sandy beaches – they gather in large numbers. … When they are disturbed it can cause stampedes in large numbers.” Scientists have already begun to count the bodies. The Associated Press reported researchers had counted about 50 walruses which may have been killed in a stampede. In 2009, they counted about 150. “Occupying these areas and foraging these areas concentrates tens of thousands of walruses in a smaller area that is already known to be less rich than their off-shore foraging ground, and there is a concern that they could deplete the resources,” U.S. Geological Survey biologist Tony Fischbach told Think Progress. “We don’t have a good measure of that — these are simply hypotheses or concerns we have.”… The World Wildlife Fund said that the plight of the walrus is just another part of climate change’s unfolding tragedy. The WWF estimated that sea ice has shrunk as much as 4 percent each decade between 1979 and 2012, as Time reported. “The walruses are telling us what the polar bears have told us and what many indigenous people have told us in the high Arctic,” Williams told the Associated Press, “and that is that the Arctic environment is changing extremely rapidly and it is time for the rest of the world to take notice and also to take action to address the root causes of climate change.”





A symbol of the danger of climate change, but in the Western Hudson Bay, scientists have found that our understanding of climate change may not be as simple as it seemed. Video Credit By Joshua Davis and Michael Kirby Smith on Publish Date September 22, 2014.

For Polar Bears, a Climate Change Twist– eating snow geese


LA PÉROUSE BAY, Manitoba — The sea ice here on the western shore of Hudson Bay breaks up each summer and leaves the polar bears swimming for shore. The image of forlorn bears on small rafts of ice has become a symbol of the dangers of climate change. And for good reason. A warming planet means less ice coverage of the Arctic Sea, leaving the bears with less time and less ice for hunting seals. They depend on seals for their survival. But the polar bears here have discovered a new menu option. They eat snow geese. Because the ice is melting earlier, the bears come on shore earlier, and the timing turns out to be fortunate for them. As a strange side-effect of climate change, polar bears here now often arrive in the midst of a large snow goose summer breeding ground before the geese have hatched and fledged. And with 75,000 pairs of snow geese on the Cape Churchill peninsula — the result of a continuing goose population explosion — there is an abundant new supply of food for the bears. What’s good for the bears, however, has been devastating to the plants and the landscape, with the geese turning large swaths of tundra into barren mud. Nor does it mean that the bears are going to be O.K. in the long run. What is clear is that this long-popular fall destination for polar bear tourism has become a case study in how climate change collides with other environmental changes at the local level and plays out in a blend of domino effects, trade-offs and offsets.

“The system is a lot more complicated than anybody thought,” said Robert H. Rockwell, who runs the Hudson Bay Project, a decades-long effort to monitor the environment.

To fully appreciate how the chain reaction plays out in La Pérouse Bay requires studying the individual links in the chain — the geese, the bears, and the plants and the land beneath them.

Dr. Rockwell, 68, has been counting geese in this area every summer since 1969. In the late 1970s, he started building his current camp — a few buildings surrounded by an electric bear fence. It is reachable by helicopter only from nearby Churchill.

From this vantage point, Dr. Rockwell and his team have witnessed the snow goose population swell to the point where they are harming their own nesting grounds. The number of snow geese that live and migrate in the continent’s central flyway exploded from about 1.5 million in the ’60s to about 15 million now, and many of them nest here or stop by on their way farther north.

The reason for the increase, Dr. Rockwell said, can be traced largely to Louisiana and Texas, in the coastal marshes where the geese long spent their winters feeding on spartina, also known as salt hay or salt meadow cordgrass. They then migrate north in spring to nest and raise goslings on grass and sedges and other plants in the marsh and tundra of the bay shore.

The goose population, Dr. Rockwell said, was once limited in size by its sparse winter food supply in southern states. After many of the marshes were drained for various kinds of development, “the snow geese just sort of said, well, wait a minute, what was that green stuff just north of here? And it turns out those are the rice prairies,” he said. Having found the rice farther north in Louisiana, the geese continued to explore and expand their winter range, finding the vast agricultural fields of the Midwest. “So a species that was once in part limited by winter habitat now has an infinite winter supply of food, and that includes the best agricultural products: corn, wheat, soybeans, canola, rapeseed, all of that,” Dr. Rockwell said.

Some snow geese now winter in Nebraska and Iowa where these crops are grown. But they keep coming to the sub-Arctic and the Arctic in the summer, following ancient habit.
During Dr. Rockwell’s time here, the colony increased from 2,500 pairs to 75,000, and the birds moved as far as 20 miles inland as they ruined areas near the coast because of their eating habits.

Standing near the shore of Hudson Bay last June after a long, wet hike through bog and mire and stream and willow thicket, Dr. Rockwell surveyed the damage done by geese: acres of muddy, barren terrain — save for the bleached backbone of a bearded seal — all but devoid of vegetation. Distant booming signals that the pack ice offshore is starting to break up.

The muddy ground used to be like a lawn — “golf course quality,” he said. It is the area where the geese raised their broods after hatching.

With seals becoming scarce and questions arising about the long-term viability of polar bears on Hudson Bay, geese are being closely looked at. A total of 70 cameras are monitoring nests. Credit Michael Kirby Smith for The New York Times

Snow geese graze, eating the tops of plants, and grub, pulling out plants by the roots. They have a serrated beak and a powerful neck, which means they are better able to grip and rip than their Canada geese cousins. But geese not only eat. They are eaten. Many creatures love the eggs and goslings in particular — arctic foxes, sandhill cranes, gulls and, as it happens, polar bears…. The conventional view is that over all, polar bears are “food-deprived” in the summer because there is just not enough food on land to make a significant contribution to their diet. But the snow geese may have changed that, at least here…..



Experts call for widening the debate on climate change

September 26, 2014

Environmental scientists are being urged to broaden the advice they give on global climate change, say experts who are also frustrated that decision makers are not taking enough action. Writing in the journal Nature Climate Change, The University of Manchester researchers argue that scientists are expressing a strong desire to fix the problems highlighted by their studies into human-induced climate change…..”We are grateful that environmental scientists alert us to the impact that people are having on our planet like shifting climatic zones and rising sea levels.

“But knowing how to respond to these impacts requires a broader skill-set than natural science alone provides. It requires honest recognition of, and mature discussion about, the different values that can guide humans towards a different, better future.” ….”Global environmental change raises profound questions — such as whether humans lack humility and wisdom,” said Castree. “But we are concerned that environmental scientists risk using their authority to convince others that future Earth surface change is no more than a fiendishly complicated alteration to fairly well understood physical systems.”

Castree said: “What is needed is a deeper appreciation that such change will cause fundamental disagreements about responsibilities, rights and duties — among humans and towards nature. We think social scientists and humanists could significantly enrich public debates about how to respond to environmental change.”

Noel Castree et al. Changing the intellectual climate. Nature Climate Change, 2014; 4 (9): 763 DOI: 10.1038/nclimate2339

Fall in monsoon rains driven by rise in air pollution, study shows

Posted: 01 Oct 2014 06:03 AM PDT

Emissions produced by human activity have caused annual monsoon rainfall to decline over the past 50 years, a study suggests. In the second half of the 20th century, the levels of rain recorded during the Northern Hemisphere’s summer monsoon fell by as much as 10 per cent, researchers say. Changes to global rainfall patterns can have serious consequences for human health and agriculture….


Growing, and Growing Vulnerable

By CORNELIA DEAN September 30 2014 NY TIMES

A new report from the National Research Council found that the effect of climate change is especially harsh on the United States barrier islands, which are also pressured by rapid development.


Climate Change: Dwindling wind may tip predator-prey balance

Posted: 19 Sep 2014 11:28 AM PDT

Bent and tossed by the wind, a field of soybean plants presents a challenge for an Asian lady beetle on the hunt for aphids. But what if the air — and the soybeans — were still?

Rising temperatures and shifting precipitation patterns may get the lion’s share of our climate change attention, but predators may want to give some thought to wind, according to a University of Wisconsin Madison zoologist’s study, which is among the first to demonstrate the way “global stilling” may alter predator-prey relationships. “There are all sorts of other things that are changing in the environment that affect animals and plants and their interactions,” says Brandon Barton, a UW-Madison postdoctoral researcher. “My students and I were standing out in a cornfield one day as big gusts of wind came by, and the corn stalks were bending almost double. From the perspective of an animal living in the corn, we thought, ‘That’s got to have a big effect.'” Wind speeds in the Midwest are expected to decline as much as 15 percent during the 21st century. Earth’s poles are warming faster than the equator, robbing the atmosphere of some of the temperature differential that creates wind. And the trend across the American landscape is to put up barriers to the wind in the form of buildings and more natural structures. “In North America, we’ve been replanting trees that were lost in the 1800s, after settlers showed up and just leveled places like New England,” Barton says. That’s good news for hungry lady beetles, according to research Barton published in the September issue of the journal Ecology.

Lady beetles eat a major soybean pest, the soybean aphid. Barton grew plots of soybeans in alfalfa fields, protecting some with wind blocks and leaving others in the open…..


Brandon T. Barton. Reduced wind strengthens top-down control of an insect herbivore. Ecology, 2014; 95 (9): 2375 DOI: 10.1890/13-2171.1


Impact of temperature on belowground soil decomposition

Posted: 23 Sep 2014 11:27 AM PDT

Earth’s soils store four times more carbon than the atmosphere and small changes in soil carbon storage can have a big effect on atmospheric greenhouse gas concentrations. A new paper concludes that climate warming does not accelerate soil organic carbon decomposition or affect soil carbon storage, despite increases in ecosystem productivity…. The scientists propose that where ecosystem carbon is unprotected, such as at the surface in plant debris, its decomposition and storage will respond strongly to warming. However, when carbon is protected in the soil, decomposer organisms have reduced access to that carbon and so decomposition or storage show little temperature sensitivity. And while climate warming will continue with the addition of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere due to human activities (fossil fuel combustion, land-use clearing), previous assumptions about a positive soil carbon cycling feedback to future warming may be incorrect. While soil carbon storage and turnover was insensitive to warming, the decomposition of coarse wood and plant growth did increase, which means that the capacity of tropical ecosystems to retain carbon will depend on the balance of changes within each ecosystem. To read the paper:

Christian P. Giardina, Creighton M. Litton, Susan E. Crow, Gregory P. Asner. Warming-related increases in soil CO2 efflux are explained by increased below-ground carbon flux. Nature Climate Change, 2014; 4 (9): 822 DOI: 10.1038/nclimate2322



Testing Future Conditions for the [Crop] Food Chain


SAVOY, Ill. — From afar, the three young men tramping through a corn field here looked like Midwestern farm boys checking their crop. And a fine crop it seemed to be, with plump ears hanging off vibrant green stalks. But as they edged deeper into the field, the men — actually young scientists, not farmers — pointed to streaked, yellowing leaves on some of the corn plants. “You’re definitely seeing some damage,” said Tiago Tomaz, a biochemist from Australia. The injured leaves signaled trouble down the road, and not just for a single plot of corn a few miles from the main campus of the University of Illinois. By design, the scientists were studying the type of damage that could put a serious dent in the food supply on a warming planet. ….Earlier this year, for instance, researchers at Harvard and elsewhere pooled data from the Illinois project with findings from scientists in three other countries. In a high-profile paper, the experts reported that crops grown in environments designed to mimic future conditions have serious deficiencies of certain nutrients, compared with crops of today.
The Illinois researchers are trying to move past just documenting the potential trouble, though. The bigger question is: What can be done to make crops more resilient? That has lately become an urgent topic. For decades, many climate experts were relatively sanguine on the issue, thinking that warming in frigid northern countries would benefit crops, helping to offset likely production losses in the tropics. Moreover, some research suggested potentially huge crop gains from a sort of counterintuitive ace in the hole: the very increase in carbon dioxide that is causing the planet to warm…. The full results of this summer’s labors will not be known for months. But already, it is obvious to the scientists that some varieties of corn resist ozone better than others. Similarly, they have found varieties of soybeans that grow especially well in high carbon dioxide levels. And they are starting to ask similar questions about plants like tomatoes, peas and strawberries that are consumed more directly as food. (Most corn and soybeans become food for farm animals.) The preliminary findings suggest a strategy for securing the food supply. If the researchers can figure out the fundamental genetic reasons that some plants do better than others in difficult conditions, those insights could become crucial for plant breeders. “Plant breeding is the art of picking winners and avoiding losers, so you have to know what to look for,” Dr. Ainsworth said.
The ultimate hope is to develop crop varieties able to stand up to all the stresses global warming is likely to bring. Given the problems already occurring in the global food system from climatic disruption, Dr. Ainsworth added, “building resiliency in agriculture is a topic that’s on everybody’s mind.”



Aral Sea loses its eastern lobe — first time in modern history, NASA’s Terra satellite shows

Posted: 30 Sep 2014 04:33 PM PDT

Summer 2014 marked another milestone for the Aral Sea, the once-extensive lake in Central Asia that has been shrinking markedly since the 1960s. For the first time in modern history, the eastern basin of the South Aral Sea has completely dried.


Floods, forest fires, expanding deserts: the future has arrived

Evidence from around the world supports scientists’ assertion that global warming is already happening

Robin McKie Science Editor The Observer, Saturday 27 September 2014

In Bangladesh, a woman cooks for her child on a makeshift raft after village was flooded in 2012. Photograph: Andrew Biraj/Reuters

Climate change is no longer viewed by mainstream scientists as a future threat to our planet and our species. It is a palpable phenomenon that already affects the world, they insist. And a brief look round the globe certainly provides no lack of evidence to support this gloomy assertion.

In Bangladesh, increasingly severe floods – triggered, in part, by increasing temperatures and rising sea levels – are wiping out crops and destroying homes on a regular basis. In Sudan, the heat is causing the Sahara to expand and to eat into farmland, while in Siberia, the planet’s warming is causing the permafrost to melt and houses to subside. Or consider the Marshall Islands, the Pacific archipelago that is now struggling to cope with rising seas that are lapping over its streets and gardens. Even the home of the country’s president Christopher Loeak is feeling the effects. “He has had to build a wall around his house to prevent the salt water from inundating,” Tony de Brum, the islands’ foreign minister, revealed recently. “Our airport retaining wall that keeps the saltwater out of the landing strip has also been breached. Even our graveyards are also being undermined – coffins and bodies are being dug out from the seashore.” Across the planet, it is getting harder and harder to find shelter from the storm. And things are only likely to get worse, say researchers…. In its latest report, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change estimates that up to 139 million people could face food shortages at least once a decade by 2070. Perhaps most alarming of all the forecasts that concern the future warming of our planet is the work of Camilo Mora at the University of Hawaii. His research – which involved using a range of climate models to predict temperatures on a grid that covered the globe – suggests that by 2047 the planet’s climate systems will have changed to such an extent that the coldest years then will be warmer than even the hottest years that were experienced at any time in the 20th century. “Go back in your life to think about the hottest, most traumatic event you have experienced,” Mora said in an interview with the New York Times recently. “What we are saying is that very soon, that event is going to become the norm.” In other words, our species – which is already assailed by the impact of mild global warming – is now plunging headlong into an overheated future for which there are no recorded precedents.





Psychologists Are Learning How to Convince Conservatives to Take Climate Change Seriously

By Jesse Singal Follow @jessesingal
political psychology October 1, 2014 11:25 a.m.

Photo: Timothy A. Clary/AFP/Getty Images

Last week’s People’s Climate March drew 400,000 people onto the streets of Manhattan and a great deal of international attention to a subject of dire urgency. But some were skeptical about the event’s overall significance. “The march slogan was, ‘to change everything, we need everyone,’ which is telling, because it won’t change everything, because it didn’t include everyone,” wrote David Roberts of Grist. “Specifically, it won’t change American politics because it didn’t include conservatives.” True enough. If there weren’t such a stark divide between American conservatives and almost everyone else on the question of the existence and importance of climate change — a divide that can approach 40 points on some polling questions — the political situation would be very different. So if any progress on climate change is going to be made through the American political system — apart from executive orders by Democratic presidents — it is going to have to somehow involve convincing a lot of conservatives that yes, climate change is a threat to civilization. How do you do that? The answer has more to do with psychology than politics.

The practice of tailoring a political message to a particular group is commonplace, of course. But the climate activist community has broadly failed to understand just how differently conservatives and liberals see the world on certain issues, and, as a result, just how radically different messages targeting conservatives should look. “Although climate scientists update, appropriately, their models after ten years of evidence, climate-science communicators haven’t,” said Dan Kahan, a professor of law and psychology at Yale who studies how people respond to information challenging their beliefs. Luckily, social and political psychologists are on the case. “I think there’s an emerging science of how we should talk about this if we’re going to be effective at getting any sort of movement,” said Robb Willer, a sociologist at Stanford. It’s worth pointing out, of course, that for many conservatives (and liberals), the current debate about climate change isn’t really about competing piles of evidence or about facts at all — it’s about identity. Climate change has come to serve as shorthand for which side you’re on, and conservatives tend to be deeply averse to what climate crusaders represent (or what they think they represent). “The thing most likely to make it hard to sway somebody is that you’re trying to sway them,” said Kahan.

So how would this translate to a real-world message? “What you need to do is put the system first,” said Feygina. “Instead of saying, ‘Let’s deal with climate change, let’s be pro-environmental, let’s protect the oceans,’ what you need to do is come in and say, ‘If we want to preserve our system, if we want to be patriotic, if we want our children to have the life that we have, then we have to take these actions that allow us to maintain those things that we care about.'” The starting point can’t be about averting catastrophe, in other words — it has to be about pride in the current system and the need to maintain it.She cited the film Carbonnation as an example:…

There’s strikingly little talk of disaster here. Rather, climate change is viewed as a challenge to a great country, yes, but also an opportunity to profit, to save money, to compete with China. And, crucially, the messengers aren’t environmentalists or easily identified “activists,” but instead are folks who fit into a conservative view of patriotism and hard work (“military, farmers, Midwesterners, people living in rural areas,” as Feygina put it). The environmental imagery isn’t melting ice caps or stranded polar bears — it’s snow-white clouds and sparkling, bubbling streams. And the filmmakers instantly neutralize any sense that this is about group membership by stating that the film is for both believers in and deniers of human-induced global warming. The movie’s tagline alone — “A climate change solutions movie (that doesn’t care if you believe in climate change)” — echoes many of Kahan, Willer, and Feygina’s suggestions. Still, it’s not as though shifts in framing can undo decades of culture-war battles. Willer was realistic in describing the limitations of grafting language from moral foundations theory and system justification onto climate-change messages. “It’s unlikely that such a short, small framing intervention would have a long, sustained effect — that’s very unlikely,” said Willer. “The idea, we hope, is that application of these techniques in a longer-term more committed campaign would be effective and would stick.”

Another challenge, though, is that many of the messages that do seem to work for liberals — at least “work” in the sense of helping to build communities, organize marches, and so on — are ones that conservatives will likely find extremely off-putting. Climate activists often stamp their feet, perplexed as to how dire talk of ecologies collapsing and cities getting flooded don’t reach conservatives even as they assist in fund-raising and in activating liberals. “Oftentimes people decide on how they’re going to build their [message] based on intuition — they say ‘Oh, this is how humans works,'” said Feygina. But that intuition is often flawed. If climate activists are serious about doing anything other than preaching to the choir, they’re going to have to understand that messages that feel righteous and work on liberals may not have universal appeal. To a liberal, the system isn’t working and innocent people will suffer as a result — these are blazingly obvious points. But conservatives have blazingly obvious points of their own: The system works and we need to protect it, and it’s important not to let pure things be defiled. Climate activists, said Feygina, are often “not able to step outside that and ask questions about how we process information, and what are the barriers at hand.” And that, she said, “completely misses the target.”





California Officially Enters 4th Year Of Drought With Worst Water Situation In History

by Brandon Mercer CBS SF September 30, 2014 1:33 PM

Lake Oroville, California — 2011 on the left, and September, 2014 on the right (Credit Paul Hames and Kelly Grow, California Dept. of Water Resources)

(CBS SF) — Put it in the books–Tuesday ends the 2014 record-keeping period for water watchers, and it’s the driest year since 1977, and the worst possible conditions in the history of California.
Wildfires, lakes turned into barren wastelands, countless acres of decimated farmland, at least a dozen communities running out of water within days, and massive fish kills are just the beginning, as the short-term climate shows no signs of a return of moisture. “The immediate certainty is that day-to-day conservation – wise, sparing use of water – is essential as we face the possibility of a fourth dry winter,” said Department of Water Resources Director Mark Cowin….



Biodiversity does not always improve resistance of forest ecosystems to drought

Posted: 30 Sep 2014 06:04 AM PDT

The resistance of forests to drought has been studied, with a focus on the diversity of tree species. This study shows that mixed species forests are more resistant to drought stress than monocultures in some regions only: tree diversity may afford resistance to drought stress only in drought-prone areas, i.e. in regions where the frequency and severity of drought during the growing season is high…..


Charlotte Grossiord et al. Tree diversity does not always improve resistance of forest ecosystems to drought. PNAS, September 2014 DOI: 10.1073/pnas.1411970111



California’s drought linked to greenhouse gases, climate change in Stanford study

By Lisa M. Krieger Posted:   09/29/2014 10:51:27 AM PDT
Updated:   09/30/2014 08:41:52 AM PDT

The stubborn high-pressure systems that block California rains are linked to the abundance of human-caused greenhouse gases that heat the oceans, according to a major paper released Monday by Stanford scientists. But two other new studies disagree — saying there’s no evidence that warming ocean waters are to blame for our drought. The dispute comes at the end of the state’s official “water year,” which closes Tuesday with less than 60 percent of average precipitation. California’s major reservoirs are collectively holding just one-third of their capacity. The three teams of scientists contributing to an annual analysis of extreme weather events agree that there is a region of exceptionally high, record-breaking ocean temperatures in the North Pacific, nicknamed “The Blob.” It’s big enough to cover the United States 300 feet deep. And they agree that warm Pacific waters — which may be linked to persistent high-pressure systems — can trigger changes in how the atmosphere sweeps across our landscape. But did we inflict this devastating drought upon ourselves?

The evidence isn’t there, conclude the editors of the report — an anthology of more than 20 climate studies published in the Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society.

“The comparison of the three studies for the same extreme event, each using different methods and metrics, revealed sources of uncertainty,” it asserts.

Leading off the three California reports, the Stanford team concluded that high-pressure systems like our current “Ridiculously Resilient Ridge,” diverting storms away from California, are much more likely to form in the presence of concentrations of greenhouse gases, responsible for climate change. “We find that it is very likely that global warming has tripled the probability of this atmospheric configuration occurring,” said Stanford climate scientist Noah Diffenbaugh, associate professor of environmental earth system science, who led the research….


Special update: The Extraordinary California Drought of 2013-2014: Character, Context, and the Role of Climate Change

Filed in Uncategorized by Daniel Swain on September 29, 2014 • 1 Comment

A note from the author This special update is a little different from what I typically post on the California Weather Blog. In the paragraphs below, I discuss results from and context for a study that my colleagues and I recently published in a special issue of the Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society (Swain et al. 2014). Unlike the majority of content on this blog, this report has undergone scientific peer review—an important distinction to make in the science blogosphere—and claims made on the basis of our peer-reviewed findings are marked with an asterisk (*) throughout this post. A reference list is provided at the end of the post, and the full BAMS report is available here.  I would like to thank my co-authors—Michael Tsiang, Matz Haugen, Deepti Singh, Allison Charland, Bala Rajaratnam, and Noah Diffenbaugh—all of whom played critical roles in bringing this paper together.

The Ridiculously Resilient Ridge at its peak during January 2014. (Daniel Swain)

The really short version 

In 2013 and 2014, a vast region of persistently high atmospheric pressure over the northeastern Pacific Ocean–known as the “Ridiculously Resilient Ridge”–prevented typical winter storms from reaching California, bringing record-low precipitation and record-high temperatures. These extremely dry and warm conditions have culminated in California’s worst drought in living memory, and likely the worst in over 100 years. Human-caused climate change has increased the likelihood of extremely high atmospheric pressure over the North Pacific Ocean, which suggests an increased risk of atmospheric patterns conducive to drought in California.

The 12-month Modified Palmer Drought Severity Index for California. The current value is the lowest in more than 100 years, and is part of a century-long downward trend. (NOAA/NCDC)

What are the effects of the ongoing extreme drought in California?

The impacts of the drought are wide-ranging, and continue to intensify with each passing month. Curtailment of state and federal water project deliveries for agricultural irrigation have already resulted multi-billion dollar losses as thousands of acres of farmland are fallowed. Small communities in some regions have started to run out of water entirely, and increasingly stringent urban conservation measures have been enacted over the summer as reservoir storage drops to critically low levels. Thousands of new water wells have been constructed on an emergency basis over the past year, and skyrocketing rates of groundwater pumping have led to rapid land subsidence in the San Joaquin Valley. Not to be outdone, snowpack in the Sierra Nevada Mountains was almost nonexistent for much of 2013-2014, and at least one of California’s major rivers is no longer reaching the Pacific Ocean.

Explosive pyrocumulus cloud development atop the King Fire as it burned through thick high-elevation forest in the Sierra Nevada in September 2014 (looking west from Lake Tahoe). Photo courtesy of Steve Ellsworth, Professor at Sierra Nevada College.

The severity of California’s drought is so great that it is starting to change the physical geography of the state. The Sierra Nevada’s mountain peaks have risen measurably since 2012 as the Earth’s crust rebounds from the net loss of 63 trillion gallons of water—an amount equivalent to the entire annual ice melt of the Greenland Ice Sheet. Intense, destructive wildfires are burning throughout the state, and while September and October are the peak of the typical fire season in California, the number of fires exhibiting extreme behavior and “dangerous” rates of spread has been far higher than usual due to the ubiquity of tinder-dry, drought-cured brush and trees. Conditions have been so warm and dry that at least one glacial outburst flood has occurred on the slopes of Mt. Shasta as winter ice accumulation decreases and summer melt accelerates. The overall visibility and severity of these impacts have brought the drought to the forefront of California politics: landmark legislation regarding the regulation of groundwater recently was recently passed by the state legislature and has now been signed by the governor, and a “water bond” will feature prominently as Proposition 1 on the California ballot this November. 

Just how severe is the current drought relative to others in California’s past?

A smooth 12-month average of California precipitation shows that the current drought ecompasses the driest year on record in California. (Swain et al. 2014)

California is currently experiencing its third consecutive year of unusually dry conditions, but the intensity of California’s long-term drought has increased dramatically over the past 18 months. 2013 was the driest calendar year in at least 119 years of record keeping—but even more impressively, the current drought now encompasses the driest consecutive 12-month period since at least 1895.* This means that the maximum 12-month magnitude of the precipitation deficits in California during the current drought have exceeded those during all previous droughts in living memory—including both the 1976-1977 and 1987-1992 events.* As of September 2014, 3-year precipitation deficits now exceed average annual precipitation across most of California, and most these anomalies stem from the exceptional dryness during 2013 and early 2014. For many practical purposes, 2013 was a “year without rain” in California—an extraordinary occurrence in a region with a traditionally very well defined winter rainy season…..



With Dry Taps and Toilets, California Drought Turns Desperate


Play Video|2:02 Out of Water in Tulare, Ca.

A community in California struggles as the water runs out. One resident has used her own money and donations from others to begin delivering water to people’s homes.

Video by Jennifer Medina on Publish Date October 2, 2014. Photo by Jim Wilson/The New York Times.

PORTERVILLE, Calif. — After a nine-hour day working at a citrus packing plant, her body covered in a sheen of fruit wax and dust, there is nothing Angelica Gallegos wants more than a hot shower, with steam to help clear her throat and lungs. “I can just picture it, that feeling of finally being clean — really refreshed and clean,” Ms. Gallegos, 37, said one recent evening. But she has not had running water for more than five months — nor is there any tap water in her near future — because of a punishing and relentless drought in California. In the Gallegos household and more than 500 others in Tulare County, residents cannot flush a toilet, fill a drinking glass, wash dishes or clothes, or even rinse their hands without reaching for a bottle or bucket. Unlike the Okies who came here fleeing the Dust Bowl of the 1930s, the people now living on this parched land are stuck. “We don’t have the money to move, and who would buy this house without water?” said Ms. Gallegos, who grew up in the area and shares a tidy mobile home with her husband and two daughters. “When you wake up in the middle of the night sick to your stomach, you have to think about where the water bottle is before you can use the toilet.” Now in its third year, the state’s record-breaking drought is being felt in many ways: vanishing lakes and rivers, lost agricultural jobs, fallowed farmland, rising water bills, suburban yards gone brown. But nowhere is the situation as dire as in East Porterville, a small rural community in Tulare County where life’s daily routines have been completely upended by the drying of wells and, in turn, the disappearance of tap water. “Everything has changed,” said Yolanda Serrato, 54, who has spent most of her life here. Until this summer, the lawn in front of her immaculate three-bedroom home was a lush green, with plants dotting the perimeter. As her neighbors’ wells began running dry, Ms. Serrato warned her three children that they should cut down on long showers, but they rebuffed her. “They kept saying, ‘No, no, Mama, you’re just too negative,’ ” she said….State officials say that at least 700 households have no access to running water, but they acknowledge that there could be hundreds more, with many rural well-owners not knowing whom to contact. Tulare County, just south of Fresno, recently began aggressively tracking homes without running water, delivering bottles to hundreds of homes and offering applications for biweekly water deliveries, using private donations and money from a state grant. In August, the county placed a 5,000-gallon tank of water in front of a fire station on Lake Success Road, and plans to add a second soon. A sign in English and Spanish declares, “Do not use for drinking,” but officials suspect that many do. “We will give people water as long as we have it, but the truth is, we don’t really know how long that will be,” said Andrew Lockman of the Tulare County Office of Emergency Services. “We can’t offer anyone a long-term solution right now. There is a massive gap between need and resources to deal with it.”



New Report Predicts Climate Change Will Significantly Impact California’s Central Valley

Sacramento and San Joaquin River Basins Impact Assessment Important Resource in President’s Climate Action Plan

09/22/2014 WASHINGTON, D.C. – A new report released today by the Department of the Interior’s Deputy Secretary Michael L. Connor finds that projected changes in temperature and precipitation, combined with a growing population, will have significant impacts on water supplies, water quality, fish and wildlife habitats, ecosystems, hydropower, recreation and flood control, in California’s Central Valley this century. “These projections by Interior’s Bureau of Reclamation show the importance of President Obama’s Climate Action Plan to address challenges like those California’s Central Valley will face to provide a sustainable water supply for its citizens and economy,” Connor stated. “As President Obama will emphasize once again at the UN Summit this week, climate change is not a problem we can leave to future generations to solve. The challenges to our water supplies illustrated in this study provide graphic examples of how acting now is an economic imperative as well as an environmental necessity.” The Sacramento and San Joaquin Basins Climate Impact Assessment projects temperatures may increase as the distance grows from the Pacific Ocean. Although most of the Central Valley may warm by 1°C in the early 21st century, a 2°C increase is projected by mid-century. Precipitation patterns indicate that there is a clear north to south decreasing precipitation trend compared to historical trends. In the northern parts of the Sacramento Valley there may be an overall increase to average annual precipitation

Some findings of the Sacramento-San Joaquin Impact Assessment that show a potential for significant implications for water management, human infrastructure and ecosystems include the following:

  • Due to the warming conditions, the runoff will increase in winter and decrease in spring as more precipitation falls as rain instead of snow. Reservoirs may fill earlier and excess runoff would have to be released earlier to ensure proper flood protection is maintained. This may lead to reduced storage in reservoirs when the summer irrigation season begins.
  • Water demands are projected to increase. Urban water use is expected to increase due to population increases in the Central Valley while agricultural uses are projected to decrease because of a decline in irrigated acreage and to a lesser extent the effects of increasing carbon dioxide.
  • Water quality may decline by the end of the century. Sea levels are predicted to rise up to 1.6 meters in that time frame which will lead to an increase in salinity in the Delta and a decline of habitat for fish and wildlife. River water temperatures may increase because cold water availability from reservoir storage would be reduced.
  • The food web in the Delta is projected to decline. Projected lower flows through the Delta and reduced cold water due to lower reservoir levels will make less water available for species, including endangered species such as migrating salmon.
  • Hydropower generation is projected to decline in Central Valley Project facilities due to decreased reservoir storage. However, net power usage is also expected to decline due to reductions in pumping water and conveyance.



San Joaquin Grape Growers Cutting Back On Water Through Deficit Irrigation Technique

 Rich Ibarra  Monday, September 22, 2014 | Sacramento, CA | Permalink

Gary Kazanjian / File Photo / AP

Farmers used to pour water down ditches or furrows to irrigate their vineyards, or use overhead sprinklers. Most growers have to pump water underground from wells and that can be expensive.

So in San Joaquin County growers are now using a technique called regulated deficit irrigation using drip irrigation.  Lodi grape grower Craig Rous says the practice has benefits beyond saving water and money. “When you deficit irrigate, in other words, when you irrigate with less water than they really need to grow, they stop growing, the quality of the wine and the juice is actually better when you do it,” says Rous. Growers are also switching to drip irrigation to reduce the costs of pumping groundwater from wells…..

Groundwater pumping and subsidence in the Central Valley

by Maven September 24, 2014

It’s been called the largest alteration of the earth’s surface.  In the San Joaquin Valley,  since the 1920s, farmers have relied on groundwater to varying degrees, and over time, overpumping of groundwater basin has caused the land to subside – over 30 feet in some locations.  In this presentation, USGS hydrologist Michelle Sneed discusses subsidence in the San Joaquin Valley, specifically along the Delta Mendota Canal, where there’s been some problems associated with subsidence, as well…. “This is Joe Poland and he’s using a telephone pole or a power pole to illustrate where the land surface was in 1925, where the sign is, 1955, and where he is standing in 1977. Almost 30 feet of land subsidence has occurred at this location during that time period.” She noted that in the picture, he is standing is southwest of Mendota, but today she would be talking about a different area, a new area where they were surprised to find subsidence occurring. “What we found were 1200 square miles subsided in the northern San Joaquin Valley area in an area bounded by Mendota on the south, Merced on the north, Madera on the east, and Los Banos on the west,” said Ms. Sneed. “The subsidence is occurring at rates ranging from about a half inch a year to almost a foot a year over a 2 year period, from 2008 to 2010.” She noted that surveys done since then by Reclamation and DWR indicate that these rates of subsidence have continued through 2013…..


California Drought Causing Pumpkins To Ripen Early, Shortens World’s Largest Corn Maze

October 1, 2014 Sacramento CBS

A Dixon farm says the drought is certainly affecting this year’s pumpkin crop and some other holiday favorites.  Usually owners at Cool Patch Pumpkins tell customers not to buy their pumpkin now because they aren’t ready. But this year, the advice is the exact opposite.  Matt Cooley says it’s almost frightening how fast his pumpkins are turning this year.








Watch this drone capture the immensity of the People’s Climate March

Written by Zainab Mudallal@Zainab_Mudallal

September 23, 2014

Hailed as the largest climate demonstration in history, the People’s Climate March is estimated to have drawn as many as 400,000 demonstrators to the streets of Manhattan yesterday. While organizers initially expected around 100,000 attendees, the crowd count hovered at around 310,000 by 3pm (the demonstrators—many sporting clever signs and witty costumes—had lined up hours before the 11:30am start time) and eventually spilled over into streets outside the official route. An anonymously submitted drone video captures the crowd congregating along the city’s West Side. But what the video doesn’t quite capture is who was at the front of the march: mainly members of indigenous communities, labor unions, and groups advocating on behalf of immigrants and the poor. These marchers, who came from across the globe, represent communities disproportionately vulnerable to the ripples of climate change, whether it’s the indigenous communities in the Canadian arctic, low-income families slammed by Hurricane Sandy, or people of color, who in the US are more likely than caucasians to live close to coal-fired power plants and breathe in polluted air.

The march focused attention on environmental issues ahead of tomorrow’s United Nations climate summit, where 120 world leaders hope to come up with a global framework on how to combat the environmental crisis. UN secretary-general Ban Ki-moon attended the New York march, as did former US vice president Al Gore, New York City mayor Bill de Blasio, actors Leonardo DiCaprio and Edward Norton, and other widely recognized activists. According to the organizers, more than 2,800 solidarity events were held in 166 countries across the globe, in cities including London, Paris, Istanbul, Jakarta, and Melbourne.


N.Y. law folds climate change into building decisions

Evan Lehmann, E&E reporter Published: Tuesday, September 23, 2014

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed legislation yesterday requiring state agencies to assess the risks of climate change when approving projects like updates of wastewater treatment plants. The law also calls for official projections of sea-level rise to help inform development decisions. The Community Risk and Resiliency Act calls for new standards for rising seas, storm surges and flooding that state officials must use when issuing some major permits or approving funding for a range of projects, including large water infrastructure systems, local parks, waterfront revitalization efforts and coastal rehabilitation work…..


New York: Community Risk Reduction and Resiliency Act (per Alex Leumer, TNC)

Summary: The New York bill (Senate Bill 6617), called the “Community Risk Reduction and Resiliency Act” and sponsored by Democratic state Sen. Diane and Assemblyman Robert Sweeney, amends the state’s existing environmental conservation, agriculture and market, and public health laws to require consideration of the effects of climate change and extreme weather events before issuing state permits and allocating infrastructure funds (including grants to NGOs for conservation work). The purpose of the bill is to amend certain New York legislation to reflect greater awareness and preparedness for climate change associated risks such as sea level rise and flooding. The bill represents one of the first state efforts in the country to incorporate climate change preparedness into official legislation and is an optimistic indicator of growing climate change awareness.

Importantly, it requires the Department of State (DOS) to work with the Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) to develop resiliency guidance that utilizes natural resources and natural processes to reduce risk. It also reaches the local level by requiring DOS to prepare model local zoning laws that include climate risk analysis and make these laws available to municipalities.


  • Purpose: require consideration of "future physical climate risk due to sea level rise, storm surges, and flooding, based on available data predicting the likelihood of future extreme weather events , including hazard risk analysis", before issuing state permits (for design and construction of future projects) and allocating infrastructure funds.
  • More specifically, climate risk analysis requirement is added in the following sections:
    • Smart Growth Infrastructure Policy Act: criteria for financing (including grants) for construction of new or expanded  public infrastructure
    • Citing of hazard waste facilities;
    • Clean Water State Revolving Fund (a climate risk analysis must be included to be eligible for funding and is a criteria for priority ranking of projects);
    • Standards for design and construction of hazardous substance storage facilities
    • State land acquisition policy;
    • Closure of landfills;
    • Establishing standards for existing and new petroleum bulk storage facilities;
    • Applications municipalities and NGOs seeking state funds:
      • For coastal rehabilitation projects;
      • To operate and maintain public open space land conservation projects;
      • For agriculture and farmland protection (under the Agriculture and Markets Law).


NY requires agencies to consider extreme weather
AP September 27, 2014

New York state agencies are required to consider the future likelihood of extreme weather in their decisions on public works projects, industrial and commercial permits and regulations, according to a new law signed this week.






National Adaptation Forum– Call for Proposals
May 12 – 14, 2015 in St. Louis, MO

The National Adaptation Forum is a biennial gathering of the adaptation community to foster information exchange, innovation, and mutual support for a better tomorrow. The Forum will take place from May 12 – 14, 2015 in St. Louis, MO. 
Proposals are being accepted for Symposia, Training Sessions, Working Groups, Poster Presentations, and a Tools Cafe. 

Click here for more information.






Climate Action Champions Competition
Applications for the first round are due October 27, 2014.

On October 1, the Obama administration launched the first round of its Climate Action Champions Competition, a new effort to recognize and support the path-breaking steps that local and tribal governments are already taking to reduce carbon pollution and prepare for the impacts of climate change.The competition, administered by the U.S. Department of Energy, will identify 10-15 communities across the country that have proven themselves to be climate leaders by pursuing ambitious climate action on both tracks: reducing greenhouse gas emissions and building climate resilience.
In addition to earning the Climate Action Champions designation, the selected communities will benefit from facilitated peer-to-peer learning and mentorship, along with targeted support and technical assistance from a range of federal programs. They will also become part of a broader network of efforts to address and prepare for climate change.
Depending on the needs of the communities selected as Champions, competition winners may receive tailored climate data and tools, technical assistance to facilitate climate-smart community planning, access to extreme-weather preparedness exercises run by the Federal Emergency Management Administration, and assistance in accelerating solar energy deployment through DOE, among other benefits. Each of the Champion communities will also be assigned a coordinator to help identify financial and technical assistance opportunities for their preferred climate strategies.

This first round of the competition seeks to select a diverse set of communities that are already leaders in addressing and preparing for climate change. The next round will look for communities that have demonstrated substantial commitment and motivation to take on the climate challenge, but may have lacked sufficient resources to make ambitious investments. The pioneering Champions will mentor and share lessons learned with the communities selected in the second round, helping them to leapfrog over some common implementation challenges and creating a model for future Champions to follow.
Applications for the first round are due October 27, 2014.
For more information on the competition, see the White House blog post, and the Request for Applications.







Obama at climate summit: ‘We have to lead’

By ELANA SCHOR and BOB KING | Politico 9/23/14 1:38 PM EDT Updated: 9/23/14 3:43 PM EDT

Fresh from a closed-door meeting with Chinese Vice Premier Zhang Gaoli, President Barack Obama called on other nations Tuesday to join the United States in confronting climate change, saying U.S. cuts to greenhouse gas pollution are bearing fruit but cannot accomplish the goal alone. “Yes this is hard, but there should be no question that the United States of America is stepping up to the plate,” Obama said in a 14-minute address to the United Nations during a climate summit that saw world leaders pledge to take action while some developing nations’ representatives chided the West for doing too little. “We recognize our role in creating this problem. We embrace our responsibility to combat it. We will do our part, and we will help developing nations do theirs. World leaders need to stay focused on the climate threat and “look beyond the swarm of current events,” Obama added less than a day after the U.S. and its Arab allies launched military strikes on ISIL forces in Syria….


New Executive Order: U.S. Must Consider Climate Change When Helping Other Countries

by Emily Atkin Posted on September 23, 2014 Updated: September 23, 2014

President Barack Obama will announce the new executive order during a speech before more than 120 world leaders at the U.N. climate summit in New York City…..


President’s drive for carbon pricing fails to win at home. President Obama stood in the chamber of the United Nations General Assembly last week and urged the world to follow his example and fight global warming. But a major new declaration calling for a global price on carbon — signed by 74 countries and more than 1,000 businesses and investors — is missing a key signatory: the United States. New York Times


Oil Companies Quietly Prepare For a Future of Carbon Pricing

The major oil companies in the U.S. have not had to pay a price for the contribution their products make to climate change. But internal accounting by the companies, along with a host of other signs, suggest that may soon change — though the implications of a price on carbon are far from clear.

by mark schapiro and jason scores 23 Sep 2014: Analysis
In the winter of 2013, after mounting pressure from shareholder groups who wanted to understand the impacts of any future climate legislation, the biggest U.S.-based oil companies were nudged into a surprising revelation: ‘Carbon,’ the stand-in for carbon dioxide and all other greenhouse gases, had been given a price in the companies’ internal accounting. The externalized and largely uncounted costs long associated with fossil fuels — 20 pounds of CO2 emitted with every gallon of gasoline, according to the EPA — were now being given a number. At the time, the biggest of the oil majors, ExxonMobil, reported a carbon price of $60 per metric ton to the Carbon Disclosure Project, which released the figures. Chevron, BP, and Royal Dutch Shell reported a price of up to $46 per ton, and for the first time, the oil majors appeared to be lifting the lid on the accounting sleights of hand that have kept the full costs of oil hidden from public view…. Alan Jeffers, ExxonMobil’s chief media officer, explains that the company’s pricing of carbon is “a proxy price reflecting all the action the government could take to regulate the exploration, transport, and processing of carbon fuels.” In other words, it rises and falls based on a perception of political and public pressure for restrictions on carbon emissions. Jeffers said that ExxonMobil has been calculating an internal carbon price since 2007, when it was far lower than it is today. The price, Jeffers said, was raised in 2009 when Congress looked likely to impose a cost on carbon through cap and trade, and it declined afterward. Now it’s up again, he explained, reflecting the combination of forces impacting the risks and costs that oil faces in the marketplace: tightened mileage standards by the EPA; renewable fuel standards in California and other states; the talk from President Obama, the World Bank, and others about a coming price for carbon; and rising public pressure for action on the climate….Under most scenarios, the consumer will end up paying any carbon fees because the higher costs will be passed down to them at the pump. This is why what the government does with the revenue generated from carbon pricing is so important. If it is delivered back to consumers in the form of a rebate, or used to build better public transportation and fund research into cleaner energy sources, such revenues could offer significant public benefits. In addition, a price as low as $60 or $80 dollars a ton could begin tilting people away from oil to other forms of energy. If drivers start switching to electric vehicles, for example, it will matter a great deal for Exxon’s bottom line whether those electrons are coming from natural gas, in which Exxon has also invested heavily, or wind and solar, a sector where Exxon and other major oil companies so far have little footing. For now, however, Exxon doesn’t see that as a realistic outcome. From its point of view, the company’s market share remains steady with a price for carbon at $60 or $80 per ton because, as Jeffers puts it, “Our forecasts suggest there is no viable alternative to oil.” The challenge from a climate perspective, of course, is proving him wrong.



FEMA State Multi-Hazard Mitigation Planning Guidance “Key Concepts”
Looking to build climate resilience through your local or State Hazard Mitigation Plan? This could be the first step. The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) continues to work to update the “State Multi-Hazard Mitigation Planning Guidance.” Their new Highlights of Key Concepts is available for public comment. The recommendations include strengthening specific requirements for assessing future risk in light of a changing climate and changes in land use and development. This will ensure that the mitigation strategy addresses risks and takes into consideration possible future conditions in order to identify, prioritize, and implement actions to increase statewide resilience….


Governor Signs Law Accelerating Restoration on Private Lands to Boost Clean Water and Struggling Fish

October 1, 2014

We are thrilled to report that Governor Jerry Brown has signed into law Assembly Bill (AB) 2193, establishing a simplified permitting process that accelerates small-scale, voluntary habitat restoration projects across California through the Department of Fish and Wildlife. Sponsored by Sustainable Conservation and authored by Assemblyman Richard Gordon (D-Menlo Park), AB 2193 establishes a simplified, cost saving permitting process, which removes a major barrier to implementing restoration projects. The bill empowers landowners, government agencies and conservation organizations to improve California’s habitat for endangered species, reduce sediment and pollution in waterways, restore fish habitat, and increase vegetation in riparian corridors. The bill’s nearly 50 supporters, ranging from scientific groups to environmental organizations to resource conservation districts across the state, underscores just how much progress can be made when we all unite to make California thrive. In the end, AB 2193 passed through the entire legislative process without a single “no” vote. Stay tuned for our official press release by refreshing Sustainable Conservation’s new blog.



Protection for Wolves Is Restored in Wyoming


A federal judge restored Endangered Species Act protection for wolves in Wyoming on Tuesday, ruling that the federal Fish and Wildlife Service accepted a state commitment to maintain the wolf population without requiring adequate safeguards. The state’s wolf-management plan declared the wolf a trophy-game animal, allowing seasonal hunting in some areas, and labeled it a predator that could be shot in four-fifths of the state. In United States District Court in Washington, Judge Amy Berman Jackson ruled that the wildlife service’s judgment that the wolf was no longer imperiled in much of its range was reasonable. She also deferred to the wildlife service’s judgment that the wolf was not unduly threatened by Wyoming’s decision to brand it a predator, noting that its numbers were small or nonexistent in much of the area covered by that designation. But she said that the state’s management plan was inadequate and unenforceable and that federal officials were “arbitrary and capricious” in accepting it.

A federal judge restored Endangered Species Act protection for wolves in Wyoming on Tuesday. Credit US Fish & Wildlife, via Associated Press

Her ruling requires that the wolves remain under federal protection until Wyoming officials devise an enforceable proposal to maintain their numbers. Bonnie Rice, a senior representative for the Sierra Club’s Wild America campaign, said Judge Berman’s ruling recognized that Wyoming’s management plan had “very big flaws.” “We think the court is right to require them to develop a plan that’s more science-based and doesn’t treat wolves as vermin in the majority of the state,” she said…..


NRCS Selects California Projects for National Conservation Innovation Grants
Friday, September 26, 2014
The USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) has selected three California organizations to receive national Conservation Innovation Grant (CIG) awards for 2014. “Conservation Innovation Grants provide organizations financial resources to create and implement innovative programs or practices that benefit conservation-minded farmers and ranchers,” said Carlos Suarez, state conservationist for NRCS in California.
– The Western Riverside County Agricultural Coalition (WRCAC) will receive $200,000 to determine if local farmers would benefit from trading water quality credits within a Water Quality Trading (WQT) program.
– The Regents of the University of California will receive $230,000 to support a farmer-initiated effort for monitoring and evaluating pollinator habitat, and educating and engaging agricultural producers in pollinator conservation.
– The California Dairy Research Foundation will receive $73,000 to develop, field-test and demonstrate the use of an electronically available teaching and learning (eLearning) system as an innovative approach to conservation-practice adoption and nutrient management implementation.
In addition to funding these three state projects, California will benefit from a multi-state grant to help rice growers achieve and verify greenhouse gas emissions reductions, using low emission rice practices in their fields.  NRCS administers both a national and a state-level CIG program to fund the development of unique and innovative solutions that will make natural resources conservation more effective and efficient. State level grants will be announced soon. For a full list of CIG award winners click here.



State policies effective in reducing power plant emissions, study finds

Posted: 23 Sep 2014 10:14 AM PDT

Different strategies used by states to reduce power plant emissions — direct ones such as emission caps and indirect ones like encouraging renewable energy — are both effective, a study has found. The study is the first analysis of its kind, the authors report.


New York City Mayor Unveils Plan To Reduce Carbon Emissions By 80 Percent

by Katie Valentine Posted on September 22, 2014

The plan is expected to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from buildings by the equivalent of about 3.4 million metric tons of carbon dioxide…..



Brown Seeks More Electric Cars in California


The governor signed bills to make it easier for low-income Californians to obtain plug-in vehicles ahead of speaking engagements at the United Nations’ Climate Summit 2014…



Stephen Schneider

Calif. Gov. Jerry Brown Honors Pioneering Climate Scientist

October 2, 2014

Stanford’s Stephen Schneider inducted into California’s Hall of Fame

Calif. Gov. Jerry Brown honored pioneering climate scientist Stephen Schneider posthumously by inducting him into the California Hall of Fame on Oct. 1. Schneider, one of eight inductees this year, died in 2010. He was the Melvin and Joan Lane Professor for Interdisciplinary Environmental Studies and a senior fellow at the Stanford Woods Institute.   Praising Schneider for being one of the earliest people to warn about climate change, Brown placed him “in the grand tradition of California scientists who have used their talents and training to tame society’s greatest challenges.” “Just from the general controversies around climate change, you can appreciate what it took for him to pursue his science,” Brown said during the ceremony, which was recorded and can be viewed on YouTube (comments re: Schneider begin at 6:12). As pictures from Schneider’s life appeared in the background, Brown noted Schneider’s many accomplishments, including advising the administration of every president from Richard Nixon to Barack Obama. “I don’t know if they all listened to him,” Brown joked. Brown also shared his memory of testifying with Schneider before the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency about a law to introduce stricter tailpipe emission standards in California.   “I was attorney general and he was the expert,” Brown recalled. “And it was just something to behold, of not only does he have the scientific knowledge and the expertise, but he made complicated stuff appear to be very understandable, very powerful.” Schneider’s widow, Woods Senior Fellow Terry Root (Biology, by courtesy), accepted the Spirit of California medal on Schneider’s behalf. In an emotional speech, she thanked Brown “for honoring my late husband, and for the tireless work that you have done to actually combat climate change. “Like you, Steve fought hard for what he understood to be true,” Root said, “and worked equally as hard to help the public understand the facts of climate change.” The Sacramento Bee has assembled a photo slideshow from the event.

Terry Root talks accepts the Spirit of California medal on behalf of her late husband environmental scientist Stephen Schneider from Gov. Jerry Brown during the 8th Annual California Hall of Fame on Wednesday, Oct. 1, 2014 in Sacramento, Calif.






MIT: Global energy use, CO2 may double by 2100.

October 3, 2014 Climate Central

Even as curbing greenhouse gas emissions becomes more urgent as the effects of climate change become more acute, fossil fuels will remain the largest source of GHGs far into the 21st Century as both global energy use and CO2 emissions double, according to MIT’s 2014 Climate and Energy Outlook….


Desert plan seeks to balance environment, renewable energy

Interior Secretary Sally Jewell unveils a plan that would allocate most of the Southern California desert and inland valleys for renewable energy while setting reserves where land and animals are protected. (Allen J. Schaben, Los Angeles Times)

By Julie Cart
contact the reporter LA Times

Desert land management plan seeks to strike a balance between environment, renewable energy Much of Southern California desert and inland valleys is allocated for solar, wind and geothermal development With towering white wind turbines turning slowly in the background, U.S. Interior Secretary Sally Jewell on Tuesday unveiled a plan to manage both conservation and renewable energy production on more than 22 million acres in California — nearly one-quarter of the state — as part of a federal and state effort to promote clean energy production. The Desert Renewable Energy and Conservation Plan, which Jewell called unprecedented, has been five years in the making. It carves out most of the Southern California desert and inland valleys for large-scale solar, wind and geothermal development and identifies reserve areas where protecting the land and animals that inhabit it will trump energy development. Few environmental groups had read the 8,000-page document, which is still in draft form, before its release, and many praised it as a good start. Others, though, said they worried that the plan provided too much leeway for developers to continue projects in environmentally sensitive areas….


A lighter-than-air turbine to harness high-altitude winds. September 30, 2014 Washington Post

Think of it as a Goodyear blimp for the era of alternative power – a kind of giant tubular helium balloon with a three-bladed turbine inside, floating as much as 2,000 feet in the air so it can capture energy from winds that blow stronger and more steadily than they do at ground level….


Blades of grass inspire advance in organic solar cells

Posted: 30 Sep 2014 11:42 AM PDT

Using a bio-mimicking analog of one of nature’s most efficient light-harvesting structures, blades of grass, an international research team has taken a major step in developing long-sought polymer architecture to boost power-conversion efficiency of light to electricity for use in electronic devices.


Home Solar Plus A Battery Could Be Cheaper Than The Grid In Germany In Just A Few Years

by Jeff Spross Posted on October 3, 2014

An analysis by HSBC suggests a solar-plus-battery home system will be cheaper than grid power in Germany within a few years. And everyone else may not be far behind…..







National Progress Towards Climate Adaptation

Across the country, government agencies, partners, and stakeholders are taking action to prepare for and respond to the impacts of a changing climate. Taking Action, a progress report highlights 50 case studies that demonstrate implementation of the many climate change adaptation actions recommended in the National Fish, Wildlife, & Plants Climate Adaptation Strategy.





Traditional Ecological Knowledge Training Follow-Up- CA Landscape Conservation Cooperative and CA Dept of Water Resources

We have developed a webpage for the presentations, agenda, reference list, and additional TEK resources. A workshop survey has been added too, so if you didn’t get a chance to provide feedback at the end of the day you can do so now! Developing the TEK resource list will be an ongoing work-in-progress and if you have other resources, please email the titles and links to

There will be a field-based TEK workshop in late fall (likely November) in Hopland that will be sponsored by the UC Ag and Natural Resources Dept (UCANR) and the California Department of Food and Ag. One of the instructors from the TEK workshop, Sage LaPena, will be working with Janice Alexander of UCANR to plan the event. This would be a great follow-up to the classroom lecture for those who want to see applied TEK in the field with native practitioners! Contact for more information. With the workshop successfully completed, we are determining next steps and the future direction for the CA LCC Tribal and TEK Team. If you would like to participate in conference calls or even just be on the mailing list for informational purposes, please contact to be added to the email list (if you didn’t already sign up at the workshop). We need your input about what niche this committee can fill!






Visualizing and Analyzing Environmental Data with R
November 18-19, 2014 Sacramento, CA

This course is designed for participants who wish to gain beginning to intermediate skills in using R for manipulating, visualizing and analyzing their environmental data.
It is applicable to anyone that conducts environmental monitoring or uses environmental data for research, management, or policy-making and is recommended for anyone needing to become proficient with R basics. Read More



7th California Oak Symposium: November 3-6, 2014; Visalia Convention Center

Managing Oak Woodlands in a Dynamic World

Register Today!


Planning and Facilitating Collaborative Meetings
Nov 6-7, 9:00am – 5:00pm both days 

Bay Conference Center at the Romberg Tiburon Center, 3152 Paradise Drive, Tiburon, CA 94920

Join us for this exciting workshop, developed by NOAA Coastal Services Center. This workshop was formerly titled “Navigating Rough Seas: Public Issues and Conflict Management.”  Learn to design meetings that enhance problem solving and minimize conflict.  Collaboration can be complicated, requiring  a systematic approach. This course provides the skills and tools to design and implement collaborative approaches. The skills will be useful even when attending, but not running, meetings. The cost of the workshop is $100, which includes workshop materials, lunch both days and morning refreshments. Contact Heidi Nutters ( about scholarships. To register, click here


2015 California Climate & Agriculture Summit  March 24 and 25, 2015
UC Davis Conference CenterCall for Workshop and Poster Presentations   


Ninth International Association for Landscape Ecology (IALE) World Congress meeting, July 9th 2015

Coming to Portland, Oregon July 5-10, 2015! The symposium, which is held every four years, brings scientists and practitioners from around the globe together to discuss and share landscape ecology work and information. The theme of the 2015 meeting is Crossing Scales, Crossing Borders: Global Approaches to Complex Challenges.




National Adaptation Forum– Call for Proposals
May 12 – 14, 2015 in St. Louis, MO

The National Adaptation Forum is a biennial gathering of the adaptation community to foster information exchange, innovation, and mutual support for a better tomorrow. The Forum will take place from May 12 – 14, 2015 in St. Louis, MO. 
Proposals are being accepted for Symposia, Training Sessions, Working Groups, Poster Presentations, and a Tools Cafe. 

Click here for more information.





JOBS  (apologies for any duplication; thanks for passing along)


Executive Director, New Mexico Audubon

Audubon New Mexico ( ) — has a budget of about $1M, a staff of six to eight, is headquartered in Santa Fe, but has activities statewide. 









On Saturday night, crowds descended upon the United Nations Headquarters in New York City as we lit up the UN with 39-story images in a first-of-its-kind event: illUmiNations, Protecting Our Planet.
Why? To put a spotlight on the biggest problem facing humanity today: the mass extinction of species.
The projections we displayed of endangered species, deteriorating coral reefs, and threatened habitats, were nothing short of spectacular. Jaws dropped. Traffic stopped. People were in awe.  You can watch the highlights now by CLICKING HERE. 


Walking off depression and beating stress outdoors? Nature group walks linked to improved mental health

Posted: 23 Sep 2014 09:14 AM PDT

They are common suggestions to remedy stress: You just need a breath of fresh air. Walk it off. Get out and see people. Turns out all those things combined may in fact make you feel better — a lot better — a new large scale study suggests.


Critically ill ICU patients lose almost all of their gut microbes and the ones left aren’t good

Posted: 23 Sep 2014 06:02 AM PDT

After a long stay in the Intensive Care Unit only a handful of pathogenic microbe species remain behind in patients’ intestines, a study has shown. The team of researchers tested these remaining pathogens and discovered that some can become deadly when provoked by conditions that mimic the body’s stress response to illness.


Fruit and vegetable consumption could be as good for your mental as your physical health

Posted: 23 Sep 2014 05:59 AM PDT

New research focused on mental wellbeing found that high and low mental wellbeing were consistently associated with an individual’s fruit and vegetable consumption. 33.5% of respondents with high mental wellbeing ate five or more portions of fruit and vegetables a day, compared with only 6.8% who ate less than one portion.


Healthy fats help diseased heart muscle process, use fuel

Posted: 29 Sep 2014 03:00 PM PDT

Oleate, a common dietary fat found in olive oil, restored proper metabolism of fuel in an animal model of heart failure, researchers report. Heart failure affects nearly 5 million Americans, and more than half a million new cases are diagnosed each year. Heart failure is not the same as having a heart attack — it is a chronic disease state where the heart becomes enlarged, or hypertrophic, in response to chronic high blood pressure which requires it to work harder to pump blood.


Memory loss associated with Alzheimer’s reversed: Small trial succeeds using systems approach to memory disorders

Posted: 30 Sep 2014 11:34 AM PDT

In the first, small study of a novel, personalized and comprehensive program to reverse memory loss, nine of 10 participants displayed subjective or objective improvement in their memories beginning within three to six months after the program’s start.

The study, which comes jointly from the UCLA Mary S. Easton Center for Alzheimer’s Disease Research and the Buck Institute for Research on Aging, is the first to suggest that memory loss in patients may be reversed, and improvement sustained, using a complex, 36-point therapeutic program that involves comprehensive changes in diet, brain stimulation, exercise, optimization of sleep, specific pharmaceuticals and vitamins, and multiple additional steps that affect brain chemistry.

The findings, published in the current online edition of the journal Aging, “are very encouraging. However, at the current time the results are anecdotal, and therefore a more extensive, controlled clinical trial is warranted,” said Dale Bredesen, the Augustus Rose Professor of Neurology and Director of the Easton Center at UCLA, a professor at the Buck Institute, and the author of the paper….




Don’t drink the (warm) water, study says

Posted: 22 Sep 2014 08:01 AM PDT

There’s an old saying: “Don’t drink the water.” But a scientist warns Americans not to drink water from plastic bottles if it’s been sitting in a warm environment for a long time. A research team examined 16 bottled water brands at 158 degrees for four weeks. The study found that as bottles warmed over the four-week period, antimony and BPA levels increased.


Secret to raising well behaved teens? Maximize their zzzzz’s

Posted: 26 Sep 2014 05:58 AM PDT

While American pediatricians warn sleep deprivation can stack the deck against teenagers, a new study reveals youth’s irritability and laziness aren’t down to attitude problems but lack of sleep. This paper exposes the negative consequences of sleep deprivation caused by early school bells, and shows that altering education times not only perks up teens’ mood, but also enhances learning and health.


Use of broad-spectrum antibiotics before age 2 associated with obesity risk

Posted: 29 Sep 2014 03:00 PM PDT

The use of broad-spectrum antibiotics by children before the age of 24 months was associated with increased risk of obesity in early childhood, a study concludes. The authors used electronic health records spanning from 2001 to 2013 from a network of primary care clinics. All children with annual visits at ages 0 to 23 months, as well as one or more visit at ages 24 to 59 months were enrolled. The final group included 64,580 children. Children were followed-up until they were 5 years old.



















What do you know about tarantulas in California? Which of the following statements are true?

ANSWER: (g.) all of the above are correct answers

SOURCE: March of the Tarantulas (SoCal Wild Website) It’s called a migration, but for the thousands of male tarantulas that live in Southern California, it’s more like “knocking on doors looking for a date.”

RELATED: Watchable Wildlife (BLM Hollister Website) For those of you interested in spiders, October is the season to look for tarantulas migrating. As you travel the back roads of southern San Benito County watch for these large spiders as they walk across roads and fields.



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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