Conservation Science News October 10, 2014

Focus of the Week White House Push for Climate Protection for Natural Resources and Green Infrastructure










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Focus of the Week– White House Push for Climate Protection for Natural Resources and Green Infrastructure


White House pushes climate protections for natural resources

By Timothy Cama – 10/09/14 03:06 PM EDT

The White House launched a set of initiatives aimed at protecting natural resources like landscapes and water from the effects of climate change. The actions center around making natural resources resilient to climate change, improving plants and ecosystems that capture carbon dioxide and better incorporating natural systems into infrastructure and communities, the White House said Wednesday. The plan “identifies a suite of actions the federal government will take to enhance the resilience of America’s natural resources to the impacts of climate change and promote their ability to absorb carbon dioxide,” the White House’s Council on Environmental Quality said in a fact sheet. Along with the federal actions, the White House announced a number of commitments from the private sector with similar goals, including restoring estuaries and mapping forests that trap carbon. Specific federal steps are to be taken by a variety of agencies. The Army Corps of Engineers, for example, updated its model for coastal vulnerability assessments. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration said it would help fund more than 300 projects to build coastal communities that are resilient to climate change impacts like rising sea levels. The American Forest Foundation (AFF) committed help with a $10 million program to reach out to private forest owners and encourage them to maintain the forests sustainably.







Effects of growing rice in low water, high salt conditions

Posted: 06 Oct 2014 10:38 AM PDT

The effects of low water input, and high salt levels, on rice growth has been the focus of recent research. Rice is a staple food across Asia, with both people and economies reliant on its successful harvest. One paper finds that low water input does not affect rice growth as much as the levels of nutrients in soil can, and the second suggests that, although rice is seriously stressed by high salt levels in soil, this can be countered by the application of locally produced compost.


Cartel-poisoned, porcupine-eating mammal next on endangered list?

By Peter Fimrite SF Chronicle Updated 8:19 am, Thursday, October 9, 2014

Photo: Wayne Lynch, Getty Images

Fishers, which lived along the Pacific coast for thousands of years, were nearly wiped out by hunting and loss of habitat from logging. But in an odd twist, the biggest threats now to the smooth-coated critters are cannabis cultivators. A shy, stubby-legged creature known as the Pacific fisher, which lived along the Pacific coast for thousands of years but was nearly wiped out by hunting and loss of habitat, is now threatened by cannabis cultivators. Drug cartels and others have increasingly been setting up huge, illegal marijuana farms in public forests and spreading deadly rodenticides to kill pests that might ruin their plants, and the furtive fishers have been hit hard. This week, the weasel-like mammal was proposed for listing under the Endangered Species Act, giving conservationists hope that the rare and elusive predator can be returned to the forests of California, Oregon and Washington. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service will spend the next year taking public comment and gathering information on the Pacific fisher, which dines on porcupine and lives in old-growth forests. Recent studies have found rodenticides in 75 percent of the fishers tested. “I’m elated that 14 years after we first tried to get these elusive animals protected, they’re finally proposed for the Endangered Species Act protection they need to survive,” said Noah Greenwald, endangered species director for the Center for Biological Diversity, who first authored a petition to protect the fisher in 2000. “Now more than ever, fishers need protection from old-growth forest logging, trapping and poisoning.” Pacific fishers are cantankerous, nocturnal animals with lush fur, long, slender bodies and short legs. They are related to martens, wolverines and weasels. The females are half the size of the males, which weigh about 10 pounds. They mate in the spring, but otherwise have little to do with one another. …


Sky reflected in the windows of a high-rise building in central Gothenburg, Sweden. Credit: Anders Ödeen

Making window glass visible – but only to birds

Posted: 09 Oct 2014 06:17 AM PDT

Ultraviolet patterns can make window glass visible to birds, thus preventing fatal collisions. However, it has now been shown that such windows are not likely to work for all species, but only for birds like small passerines, gulls and parrots, who have a special type of colour vision. For birds of prey, geese, pigeons and crows, these patterns should be difficult to detect. These conclusions appear today in an article by Olle Håstad and Anders Ödeen in PeerJ. Billions of birds are killed in window collisions every year. This is one of the most important human sources of avian mortality. A popular and effective remedy is to apply stickers showing the silhouettes of birds of prey to windows. Birds avoid colliding with these stickers but one problem remains: that the birds collide with the glass in between the stickers instead. To avoid having to cover whole windows with stickers, glass must be made visible to birds in some other, and less obtrusive, way. As most birds can see ultraviolet light, which is invisible to humans, one solution is to mark the glass with ultraviolet reflective or absorbing patterns. Glass panes containing such ultraviolet absorbing patterns are currently commercially available. Elegant as this remedy may seem at first glance, field tests of UV-marked window panes have yielded mixed results. In a study published on October 9 in the open access journal PeerJ, Dr Olle Håstad at the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences and Dr Anders Ödeen at Uppsala University show that ultraviolet window markings indeed have the potential to be effective deterrents. However, since birds differ strongly in how well they see ultraviolet light, the markings should only be visible to those bird species that have the right type of colour vision. Håstad and Ödeen calculated how visible ultraviolet anti-collision markings are by using a physiological model of avian colour vision. They conclude that ultraviolet markings may be clearly visible under a range of lighting conditions, but only to birds with the so called UVS type of ultraviolet vision. Such birds include for example many small perching birds, gulls and parrots.To species with the other (VS) type of colour vision, such as birds of prey, geese and ducks, pigeons and crows, ultraviolet markings should not be visible under most practical circumstances. To be visible to these birds, the patterns would have to produce virtually perfect contrasts and be viewed against a scene with low colour variation but a high ultraviolet content, such as a clear blue sky.


Olle Håstad, Anders Ödeen. A vision physiological estimation of ultraviolet window marking visibility to birds. PeerJ, 2014; 2: e621 DOI: 10.7717/peerj.621



Migrating animals’ urine affects ocean chemistry

Posted: 09 Oct 2014 01:38 PM PDT

Tiny animals migrating from the ocean’s surface to the sunlit depths release ammonia, the equivalent of our urine, that plays a significant role in marine chemistry, particularly in low-oxygen zones.



September 2014

Navigating to New Shores: Seizing the Future for Sustainable and Resilient U.S. Freshwater Resources

Executive Summary (pdf)

After more than six years of intensive, solution-oriented work on U.S. freshwater issues, The Johnson Foundation at Wingspread is concluding its Charting New Waters initiative. Through convening hundreds of experts representing different sectors and perspectives, we have amplified important ideas and innovations that can make a difference. This executive summary (PDF) of our final report synthesizes insights from the full arc of Charting New Waters and is meant to provide a platform for our many partners and other leaders as they continue to address water resource and infrastructure challenges. Without significant changes, existing water systems will soon no longer be able to provide the services that citizens have come to expect. Recent water crises have illustrated that the economic and social consequences of inaction are far too great for this nation and its communities. It is time to accelerate the adoption and implementation of the transformative solutions we know are possible.

Our full report leads with a vision that illustrates what The Johnson Foundation believes is both possible and necessary to achieve if our nation is to successfully navigate our water challenges. It then presents a set of principles, summarized below, to help guide the efforts of leaders in various sectors as they act upon the recommendations we offer. The recommendations themselves, which are also summarized in brief below, fall under the following five key ideas:

1. Optimize the use of available water supplies

2. Transition to next-generation wastewater systems

3. Integrate the management of water, energy and food production

4. Institutionalize the value of water

5. Create integrated utilities


Guiding Principles for the Future of U.S. Freshwater Resources

• Forge partnerships and collaborate to solve problems

• Develop integrated solutions

• Incentivize and promote innovation

• Highlight multiple benefits

• Recognize the value of water

• Plan for adaptation to and mitigation of climate change impacts

• Balance human and environmental needs

• Design infrastructure to restore ecosystem function

• Prioritize local water sources

• Redefine “waste” as valuable resources

• Right-size water systems and services

• Tap into sustainable financing streams

• Ensure accountability


Rivers recover natural conditions quickly following dam removal

Posted: 08 Oct 2014 11:11 AM PDT

A study of the removal of two dams in Oregon suggests that rivers can return surprisingly fast to a condition close to their natural state, both physically and biologically, and that the biological recovery might outpace the physical recovery. In the end, the large pulse of sediment from dam removal simply isn’t that big a problem.


Designing rivers: Environmental flows for ecosystem services in rivers natural and novel

Posted: 08 Oct 2014 05:39 PM PDT

Authors discuss different approaches to achieving ‘environmental flows’ of water to sustain river ecosystems, from controlled releases designed with specific objectives for ecology and ecosystem services in mind, like the recent experiment on the Colorado River, to hands-off policies that minimize or reverse alterations to the natural flow of the river, like the recent demolition of dams on the Elwha River in Washington State…. Outside protected wilderness, the Elwha’s story may be more of an anomaly than a blueprint for future river restoration projects. As non-native species, land development, and climate change remodel river ecosystems, it is no longer easy to define what is “natural” for river systems. But heavily used, regulated, and altered rivers have ecological value. “The future of freshwater biodiversity is inextricably linked to land and water infrastructure management,” writes N LeRoy Poff of Colorado State University in his guest editorial for ESA Frontiers, in which he contemplates whether rivers have changed so much that we need to rethink some of our conceptions about restoration. “We are rapidly entering an era where restoration interventions will be guided less by statistical deviations from historical reference conditions and more by “process-based” understanding of organism-environment relationships,” he writes.


Mike Acreman, Angela H Arthington, Matthew J Colloff, Carol Couch, Neville D Crossman, Fiona Dyer, Ian Overton, Carmel A Pollino, Michael J Stewardson, William Young. Environmental flows for natural, hybrid, and novel riverine ecosystems in a changing world. Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment, 2014; 12 (8): 466 DOI: 10.1890/130134



A Henslow’s sparrow, a bird the Wisconsin DNR includes among its Species of Greatest Conservation Need, perches atop a plant. A new study shows that grasslands support more than three times as many bird species as cornfields. Credit: Tom Prestby

In Wisconsin, bioenergy is for the birds. Really.

October 10, 2014

In a study published today in the journal PLOS ONE, University of Wisconsin-Madison and Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (DNR) scientists examined whether corn and perennial grassland fields in southern Wisconsin could provide both biomass for bioenergy production and bountiful bird habitat. The research team found that where there are grasslands, there are birds. Grass-and-wildflower-dominated fields supported more than three times as many bird species as cornfields, including 10 imperiled species found only in the grasslands. These grassland fields can also produce ample biomass for renewable fuels. Monica Turner, UW-Madison professor of zoology, and study lead author Peter Blank, a postdoctoral researcher in her lab, hope the findings help drive decisions that benefit both birds and biofuels, too, by providing information for land managers, farmers, conservationists and policy makers as the bioenergy industry ramps up, particularly in Wisconsin and the central U.S. “As bioenergy production demand increases, we should pay attention to the ecological consequences,” says Turner. This is especially true for grassland birds, as populations of species like the eastern meadowlark, dickcissel and the bobolink have declined in recent decades…. Among the grasslands studied, the team found monoculture grasses supported fewer birds and fewer bird species than grasslands with a mix of grass types and other kinds of vegetation, like wildflowers. … new findings indicate grassland fields may represent an acceptable tradeoff between creating biomass for bioenergy and providing habitat for grassland birds. The team found that the presence of grasslands within one kilometer of the study sites also helped boost bird species diversity and bird density in the area. This is an opportunity, Turner says, to inform large-scale land use planning. By locating biomass-producing fields near existing grasslands, both birds and the biofuels industry can win. Incentives for a conservation-minded approach could be used to help offset potential differences in profit, the researchers suggest. They also add that the biomass yields calculated in the study may represent the low end of what is possible, given that one of the two study years, 2012, occurred during a significant drought period in the state. “The study shows species generally really benefit from the practice,” says Blank. “We really can produce bioenergy and provide habitat for rare birds in the state.”


Peter J. Blank, David W. Sample, Carol L. Williams, Monica G. Turner. Bird Communities and Biomass Yields in Potential Bioenergy Grasslands. PLoS ONE, 2014; 9 (10): e109989 DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0109989


Killer whales learn to communicate like dolphins

Posted: 07 Oct 2014 08:10 AM PDT

The sounds that most animals use to communicate are innate, not learned. However, a few species, including humans, can imitate new sounds and use them in appropriate social contexts. This ability, known as vocal learning, is one of the underpinnings of language. Now, researchers have found that killer whales can engage in cross-species vocal learning: when socialized with bottlenose dolphins, they shifted the sounds they made to more closely match their social partners.



In the Age of Extinction, which species can we least afford to lose?

Climate change and human intervention are accelerating the planet’s loss of biodiversity. So should we try to preserve ‘useful’ bees before ‘cuddly’ tigers?

Tracy McVeigh
The Observer, Saturday 4 October 2014

No matter how cute a panda is, it’s worms that are grinding up our waste and taking it deep into the soil to turn into nutrients, say scientists. Photograph: Alamy

The threatened extinction of the tiger in India, the perilous existence of the orangutan in Indonesia, the plight of the panda: these are wildlife emergencies with which we have become familiar. They are well-loved animals that no one wants to see disappear. But now scientists fear the real impact of declining wildlife could be closer to home, with the threat to creatures such as ladybirds posing the harshest danger to biodiversity. Climate change, declining numbers of animals, rising numbers of humans and the rapid rate of species extinction mean a growing number of scientists now declare us to be in the Anthropocene – the geological age of extinction when humans finally dominate the ecosystems.

Last week a report from WWF, the Living Planet Index 2014, seemed to confirm that grim picture with statistics on the world’s wildlife population which showed a dramatic reduction in numbers across countless species. The LPI showed the number of vertebrates had declined by 52% over four decades. Biodiversity loss has now reached “critical levels”. Some populations of mammals, birds, reptiles and amphibians have suffered even bigger losses, with freshwater species declining by 76% over the same period. But it’s the creatures that provide the most “natural capital” or “ecosystem services” that are getting many scientists really worried. Three quarters of the world’s food production is thought to depend on bees and other pollinators such as hoverflies. Never mind how cute a panda is or how stunning a tiger, it’s worms that are grinding up our waste and taking it deep into the soil to turn into nutrients, bats that are catching mosquitoes and keeping malaria rates down. A study in North America has valued the loss of pest control from ongoing bat declines at more than $22bn in lost agricultural productivity. “It’s the loss of the common species that will impact on people. Not so much the rarer creatures, because by the very nature of their rarity we’re not reliant on them in such an obvious way,” said Dr Nick Isaac, a macroecologist at the NERC Centre for Ecology & Hydrology in Oxfordshire. He says that recent work he and colleagues have been doing suggests that Britain’s insects and other invertebrates are declining just as fast as vertebrates, with “serious consequences for humanity”. “The really interesting thing about this work is that we are learning that it’s not just about the numbers of species going extinct, but the actual numbers in a population; that’s the beginning of a fundamental shift in our understanding,” he says.

He pointed to the fact that between 23% and 36% of all birds, mammals, and amphibians used for food or medicine are now threatened with extinction. In many parts of the world, wild-animal food sources are a critical part of the diet, particularly for the poor. The blame, most agree, sits with unsustainable human consumption damaging ecosystems, creating climate change and destroying habitats at a far faster rate than previously thought. But this time it’s not just the “big cuddly mammals” we have to worry about losing but the smaller, less visible creatures upon which we depend – insects, creepy-crawlies and even worms…..







Earth Is Heating Faster Than We Realized, Making 2°C Limit For Global Warming More Urgent

by Joe Romm Posted on October 6, 2014 at 4:16 pm Updated: October 6, 2014 at 10:06 pm

A major new study finds that “scientists may have hugely underestimated the extent of global warming because temperature readings from southern hemisphere seas were inaccurate.” In short, as New Scientist puts it, “it’s worse than we thought.” This study is the umpteenth nail in the coffin to the notion we can weaken or replace the 2°C limit for global warming as a basis for climate change policy, which was the central argument of a Nature Comment last week, titled, “Ditch the 2°C warming goal.” I and others strongly disputed that Comment by David Victor and Charles Kennel, and Victor has now offered a tortuous defense on the New York Times blog, DotEarth. There is a solid scientific basis for concluding that humanity should be working as hard as possible to keep total warming under 2°C. And no obviously superior metric to 2°C has been proposed, as I’ll demonstrate below. Furthermore, the debate over whether there are superior metrics appears to be a sideshow to the far more important debate of whether the 2°C limit is too high, reasonable, or too low.

If it is not Victor’s and Kennel’s intent to weaken the 2°C target, they should just say so. They say it is “infeasible,” but the scientific literature says otherwise, as I and others pointed out. Similarly, in a detailed rebuttal, scientists at Climate Analytics explain:

… it is incorrect to claim that achieving this goal is infeasible and cannot be done. The scientific community, in the form of the IPCC AR5 Working Group III report, has assessed that limiting warming below 2°C limit is technically and economically feasible, and at low to modest cost. No one in the scientific community has any doubt about the difficulty of the political decisions that need to made to realise this. Each person is entitled to their own views of whether or not political leaders will take the steps needed, but for the authors to dress up their own judgments — that these decisions will not be made — as a scientific fact is wrong.

Stefan and I pointed out that the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s Fifth Assessment Report (AR5) says we could stay within 450 ppm of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere at a cost of a mere 0.06 percent in lost growth a year. Victor’s response includes a long discussion about why the economic models are too optimistic, and that “when you start telling the models about the real world the costs go up by a factor of up to three.” Even if true, that would still be barely noticeable against the projected growth rate of some 2.5 percent a year….



Global covariation of carbon turnover times with climate in terrestrial ecosystems

Nuno Carvalhais et al Nature 514, 213–217 (09 October 2014) doi:10.1038/nature13731 Published online 24 September 2014

The response of the terrestrial carbon cycle to climate change is among the largest uncertainties affecting future climate change projections1, 2. The feedback between the terrestrial carbon cycle and climate is partly determined by changes in the turnover time of carbon in land ecosystems, which in turn is an ecosystem property that emerges from the interplay between climate, soil and vegetation type3, 4, 5, 6. Here we present a global, spatially explicit and observation-based assessment of whole-ecosystem carbon turnover times that combines new estimates of vegetation and soil organic carbon stocks and fluxes. We find that the overall mean global carbon turnover time is  years (95 per cent confidence interval). On average, carbon resides in the vegetation and soil near the Equator for a shorter time than at latitudes north of 75° north (mean turnover times of 15 and 255 years, respectively). We identify a clear dependence of the turnover time on temperature, as expected from our present understanding of temperature controls on ecosystem dynamics. Surprisingly, our analysis also reveals a similarly strong association between turnover time and precipitation. Moreover, we find that the ecosystem carbon turnover times simulated by state-of-the-art coupled climate/carbon-cycle models vary widely and that numerical simulations, on average, tend to underestimate the global carbon turnover time by 36 per cent. The models show stronger spatial relationships with temperature than do observation-based estimates, but generally do not reproduce the strong relationships with precipitation and predict faster carbon turnover in many semi-arid regions. Our findings suggest that future climate/carbon-cycle feedbacks may depend more strongly on changes in the hydrological cycle than is expected at present and is considered in Earth system models.


Climate Change Alters the Ecological Impacts of Seasons

Oct. 9, 2014 — If more of the world’s climate becomes like that in tropical zones, it could potentially affect crops, insects, malaria transmission, and even confuse migration patterns of birds and mammals … research tandem that has found that the daily and nightly differences in temperatures worldwide are fast approaching yearly differences between summer and winter temperatures…. According to this, the changes have been most dramatic for places closest to the poles and far from oceans. “In these places, warmer winters — decreasing the difference between summer and winter — and hotter days — increasing the difference between day and night — mean that the range of temperatures, which organisms experience over a few days, is closer to the range of temperatures they experience over an entire year. These patterns are strongest in Canada and Russia, but occur even in Germany,” explains Wang. “For example, in Wiesbaden, in 1992, the average difference between day and night was 1.2 degrees, while the average difference between summer and winter was 24.8 degrees. In 2012, the day/night cycle was 5.2 degrees, while the summer/winter cycle was 18.9, so the daily temperature variability is now much more similar to the yearly variability. Compare this to Las Palmas in the Canary Islands, where the day/night difference is about 4.3 degrees and the summer/winter difference is about 6.7 — it has not changed very much.” The range of diurnal temperature cycling (DTC), meaning the change in temperature from the daytime high to nighttime low, was lowest at the poles, intermediate at the tropics and was relatively small close to large bodies of water and at lower elevations, according to the study. The range of annual temperature cycling (ATC), meaning temperatures for any given location will go through a regular cycle on an annual basis, was lowest at the tropics and increased toward the poles. “For these temperature zones that we historically think of as having lower daily variations relative to the annual variations in temperatures, what we found in these zones is that the ATC has not changed much in the last 30 to 40 years,” Michael Dillon explains. “But, the DTC has gone up considerably. If the annual is constant and daily temperatures increase, areas outside the tropics will become more tropical. This idea of convergence could be a really important thing.”

The findings show that no place is safe from climate change. “Most people are rightly concerned about sea level rise, but feel that this will not affect them if they don’t live next to the ocean. We find that places far from the oceans will have be biggest changes in daily and seasonal temperature variability, because they are far away from the buffering effects of oceans,” says Wang. Therefore, there would be no places immune from effects of climate change, and this would have consequences on crops, parasites, and disease….
full story


George Wang, Michael E. Dillon. Recent geographic convergence in diurnal and annual temperature cycling flattens global thermal profiles. Nature Climate Change, 2014; DOI: 10.1038/nclimate2378



Predicting Vulnerabilities of North American Shorebirds to Climate Change

Hector Galbraith, David W. DesRochers, Stephen Brown, J. Michael Reed

Published: September 30, 2014 PLOSOne DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0108899

Despite an increase in conservation efforts for shorebirds, there are widespread declines of many species of North American shorebirds. We wanted to know whether these declines would be exacerbated by climate change, and whether relatively secure species might become at–risk species. Virtually all of the shorebird species breeding in the USA and Canada are migratory, which means climate change could affect extinction risk via changes on the breeding, wintering, and/or migratory refueling grounds, and that ecological synchronicities could be disrupted at multiple sites. To predict the effects of climate change on shorebird extinction risks, we created a categorical risk model complementary to that used by Partners–in–Flight and the U.S. Shorebird Conservation Plan. The model is based on anticipated changes in breeding, migration, and wintering habitat, degree of dependence on ecological synchronicities, migration distance, and degree of specialization on breeding, migration, or wintering habitat. We evaluated 49 species, and for 3 species we evaluated 2 distinct populations each, and found that 47 (90%) taxa are predicted to experience an increase in risk of extinction. No species was reclassified into a lower–risk category, although 6 species had at least one risk factor decrease in association with climate change. The number of species that changed risk categories in our assessment is sensitive to how much of an effect of climate change is required to cause the shift, but even at its least sensitive, 20 species were at the highest risk category for extinction. Based on our results it appears that shorebirds are likely to be highly vulnerable to climate change. Finally, we discuss both how our approach can be integrated with existing risk assessments and potential future directions for predicting change in extinction risk due to climate change.


High in Yellowstone, a foundational tree falters

Whitebark pine, denizen of the high country around Yellowstone National Park, faces an invading pest as its climate shifts. A Climate at Your Doorstep story.

Whitebark pine trees throughout the greater Yellowstone ecosystem are dying, succumbing to a combination of blister rust, beetle infestation and warmer temperatures. Scientists fear the loss of such a foundation species could trigger a cascade of change that fundamentally alters the forests in the High Country. Photo of Gallatin National Forest by Douglas Fischer.

Editor’s Note: “Climate at Your Doorstep” is an effort by The Daily Climate to highlight stories about climate change impacts happening now. Find more stories like this here.

Oct. 8, 2014 By Douglas Fischer The Daily Climate YELLOWSTONE NATIONAL PARK – If you’ve hiked in the Northern Rockies above 9,000 feet, you’ve hiked among a whitebark pine forest. The whitebark pine is both a foundation and a keystone species. The health of the whitebark pine is very closely related to the health of the entire ecosystem. – Jesse Logan, U.S. Forest Service And if you’ve hiked in the Rockies since 2009, you’ve likely hiked through a dead and dying forest, felled by a widespread outbreak of the mountain pine beetle. At a scientific conference Tuesday at Mammoth Hot Springs, near Yellowstone’s northern boundary, biologists cited climate change as a major driver. From the 1980s to today, temperatures have only gone one direction: Up. The death is a major concern for conservationists, biologists and public land managers, for the whitebark pine supports the entire ecosystem. Bears, jays and other forest creatures depend heavily on pine seeds for their diet.  Without the seeds, biologists fear what’s called a “trophic cascade,” where the entire food chain shifts as a primary producer drops out. “The whitebark pine is both a foundation and a keystone species,” said Jesse Logan, a retired U.S. Forest Service entomologist. “The health of the whitebark pine is very closely related to the health of the entire ecosystem.” The greater Yellowstone ecosystem, an area the size of South Carolina sprawling for 31,000 square miles across Montana, Wyoming and Idaho, has been hit particularly hard by beetle outbreak.

Since 2009, more than 95 percent of the large trees in the region have succumbed to pine beetles.  “We view this as the stage-setting event that has allowed more beetle events,” said David Thoma, a National Park Service ecologist studying factors behind the beetle outbreak. “Temperature is the primary driver.” Warmer temperatures allow the beetles to overwinter. Until the late 1990s, winter temperatures in the high country were inhospitable. Thirty years’ of warming has left whitebark pines exposed to a threat they rarely saw.

Not all news is bad, however.  Some trees have proved resistant to outbreaks. Others grow in pockets, or “climate refuges,” that for various reasons have protected trees from the beetles. Thoma sees such areas – also known as “microrefugia” – as essential for any management efforts going forward.

“The concept of microrefugia is reason for hope,” Thoma said. “This is particularly important for managing the landscape in the new beetle norm.”…



Earth’s ocean abyss has not warmed, NASA study finds

Posted: 06 Oct 2014 07:10 AM PDT

The cold waters of Earth’s deep ocean have not warmed measurably since 2005, according to a new NASA study, leaving unsolved the mystery of why global warming appears to have slowed in recent years. But scientists say these findings do not throw suspicion on climate change itself.


Ocean warming in Southern Hemisphere underestimated, scientists suggest

Posted: 06 Oct 2014 06:45 AM PDT

Using satellite observations and a large suite of climate models, scientists have found that long-term ocean warming in the upper 700 meters of Southern Hemisphere oceans has likely been underestimated. Ocean heat storage is important because it accounts for more than 90 percent of Earth’s excess heat that is associated with global warming….

  1. Paul J. Durack, Peter J. Gleckler, Felix W. Landerer, Karl E. Taylor. Quantifying underestimates of long-term upper-ocean warming. Nature Climate Change, 2014; DOI: 10.1038/nclimate2389
  2. W. Llovel, J. K. Willis, F. W. Landerer, I. Fukumori. Deep-ocean contribution to sea level and energy budget not detectable over the past decade. Nature Climate Change, 2014; DOI: 10.1038/nclimate2387


The Ocean’s Surface Layer Has Been Warming Much Faster Than Previously Thought

by Katie Valentine Posted on October 6, 2014 at 9:15 am

Surface layers of the ocean have been warming significantly faster than previous estimates had projected, according to a new study. The study, published in Nature Climate Change, found that the upper 700 meters (about 2,296 feet) of the ocean have been warming 24 to 55 percent faster since 1970 than previously thought. This difference in estimations is likely due to “poor sampling” of ocean temperatures in the Southern Hemisphere, the study notes. If estimations for temperatures in the Southern Hemisphere are readjusted to fit better with climate models, they increase, the scientists found. “It’s likely that due to the poor observational coverage, we just haven’t been able to say definitively what the long-term rate of Southern Hemisphere ocean warming has been,” lead author of the study Paul Durack told the BBC. “It’s a really pressing problem — we’re trying as hard as we can, as scientists, to provide the best information from the limited observations we have.” Meanwhile, temperatures in the deep ocean didn’t increase significantly between 2005 and 2013, according to another study in Nature Climate Change. Both studies noted gaps in data, however, which made uncertainties in temperature estimates more likely. As Science Magazine points out, most ocean temperature readings are collected by buoys that only account for the ocean’s upper 2,000 meters (6,561 feet). With the average depth of the ocean at 4,300 meters (14,107 feet), those buoys are likely missing significant data collection on ocean warming. “It is time to close the deep-ocean measurement gap and reduce the uncertainties in global planetary energy and sea-level budgets,” Gregory Johnson and John Lyman from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration wrote in Nature Climate Change. The world’s oceans are estimated to have absorbed about 90 percent of the excess heat caused by climate change so far. And studies have found that deep ocean water has been steadily warming, too. A 2013 study found that 30 percent of ocean warming over the last 10 years has occurred below the ocean’s top 700 meters (2,296 feet). …


Antarctic sea ice reaches new record maximum

Posted: 08 Oct 2014 09:21 AM PDT    

Sea ice surrounding Antarctica reached a new record high extent this year, covering more of the southern oceans than it has since scientists began a long-term satellite record to map the extent in the late 1970s….


NOAA: Record Antarctic Sea Ice Growth Linked To Its Staggering Loss Of Land Ice

by Joe Romm Posted on October 8, 2014 at 4:34 pm

Antarctic sea ice concentration (via NOAA). Antarctica’s seasonal sea ice extent reached a new high in September even though the Southern Ocean continues to warm.

NOAA said in a news release Tuesday that “as counterintuitive as expanding winter Antarctic sea ice may appear on a warming planet, it may actually be a manifestation of recent warming.”

The most important thing to know about Antarctica and ice is that a large part of the South Pole’s great sheet of land ice is close to or at a point of no return for irreversible collapse. The rate of loss of that ice has reached record levels, tripling in the last five years alone. Only immediate action to sharply reverse carbon pollution could stop or significantly slow that.And that really matters since 90 percent of Earth’s ice is in the Antarctic ice sheet, and even its partial collapse could raise sea levels by tens of feet (over a period of centuries) and force coastal cities to be abandoned.

So you can imagine why the people who don’t want to take any action on climate change focus on floating seasonal Antarctic sea ice, whose winter maximum has been increasing (unlike Arctic sea ice, which has sharply declined). In September, the extent of seasonal Antarctic sea ice reached a new record. For the dwindling number of people who seriously deny the objective reality of man-made warming, this is “proof” that their anti-scientific views are right. For the 97 percent of climate scientists (and world governments and others) who understand the reality of human-caused climate change, this is an intriguing puzzle to be solved. In the reality camp, Skeptical Science reviews the scientific literature (here), explaining that “Antarctic sea ice has been growing over the last few decades but it certainly is not due to cooling — the Southern Ocean has shown warming over same period.”
So why the increased sea ice growth? The National Snow and Ice Data Center (NSIDC) explained this week that the best explanation from NSIDC scientists is that it “might be caused by changing wind patterns or recent ice sheet melt from warmer, deep ocean water reaching the coastline … The melt water freshens and cools the deep ocean layer, and it contributes to a cold surface layer surrounding Antarctica, creating conditions that favor ice growth.”

In its release, NOAA goes into more detail on why scientists think that. NOAA first points out that “much of this year’s sea ice growth occurred late in the winter season, and weather records indicate that strong southerly winds blew over the Weddell Sea in mid-September 2014.”

NOAA goes on to explain: “Winds probably did not act alone to spur so much sea ice growth; melting land ice may have played a role. Most of Antarctica’s ice lies in the ice sheets that cover the continent, and in recent decades, that ice has been melting. Along the coastline, ice shelves float on the ocean surface, and much of the recent melt may be driven by warm water from the deep ocean rising and making contact with ice shelf undersides….”



Penguins Use Their Personalities to Prepare for Climate Change

Posted: 08 Oct 2014 11:09 AM PDT

Birds’ individual personalities may be among the factors that could improve its chances of successfully coping with environmental stressors.


Air pollution increases river-flows, study shows

Posted: 05 Oct 2014 10:49 AM PDT

Air pollution has had a significant impact on the amount of water flowing through many rivers in the northern hemisphere, a new study shows. The paper shows how such pollution, known as aerosols, can have an impact on the natural environment and highlights the importance of considering these factors in assessments of future climate change.



Due to landscape fragmentation, Brazil’s rainforests are releasing more carbon dioxide than previously thought

Posted: 07 Oct 2014 06:23 AM PDT

Because of the deforestation of tropical rainforests in Brazil, significantly more carbon has been lost than was previously assumed. The effect of the degradation has been underestimated in fragmented forest areas, since it was hitherto not possible to calculate the loss of the biomass at the forest edges and the higher emission of carbon dioxide.


Strongest Typhoon Of 2014 Headed Towards Japan With Waves Up To 50 Feet High

by Ari Phillips Posted on October 8, 2014 at 9:28 am Updated: October 8, 2014 at 10:17 am


The strongest typhoon of the year and fifth ‘super typhoon,’ which sustain speeds of over 150 mph, is headed toward Japan after intensifying over the last few days. As of early Wednesday, Super Typhoon Vongfong had winds of over 180 mph with gusts up to 220 mph. Late Tuesday night, the Joint Typhoon Warning Center (JTWC) reported that it was giving rise to waves of at least 50 feet in height. Vongfong will likely remain a Category 5 storm throughout Wednesday unless it unexpectedly weakens, according to the JTWC, which predicts the storm will make landfall in Japan early next week. However, CNN meteorologist Pedram Javaheri said the storm could weaken to a category three equivalent by the time it makes landfall. Typhoon-force wind gusts will hit the Japanese islands over the weekend, where communities are still recovering from last week’s Typhoon Phanfone, which left many areas flooded and wind-ravaged. As of 5 a.m. EDT Wednesday in the U.S., the eye of Vongfong was just over 600 miles south-southeast of Kadena Air Base on Okinawa, moving west-northwest at about 8 mph….



Synopsis: El Niño is favored to begin in the next 1-2 months and last into the Northern Hemisphere spring 2015.


issued by CLIMATE PREDICTION CENTER/NCEP/NWS and the International Research Institute for Climate and Society 9 October 2014

During September 2014, above-average sea surface temperatures (SST) continued across much of the equatorial Pacific (Fig. 1). The weekly Niño indices were relatively unchanged from the beginning of the month, with values ranging from +0.3oC (Niño-3.4) to +1.1oC (Niño-1+2) at the end of the month (Fig. 2). The change in subsurface heat content anomalies (averaged between 180o-100oW) was also minimal (Fig. 3) due to the persistence of above-average temperatures at depth across the central and eastern Pacific (Fig. 4). Equatorial low-level winds were largely near average for the month, though brief periods of westerly wind anomalies continue to arise. Upper-level winds were also close to average for the month. The Southern Oscillation Index has remained negative, and rainfall was near average around the Date Line, with a mix of positive and negative anomalies over Indonesia and Papua New Guinea (Fig. 5). The lack of coherent atmospheric and oceanic features indicates the continuation of ENSO-neutral. Most models predict El Niño to develop during October-December 2014 and to continue into early 2015 (Fig. 6). The consensus of forecasters indicates a 2-in-3 chance of El Niño during the November 2014 – January 2015 season. This El Niño will likely remain weak (3-month values of the Niño-3.4 index between 0.5oC and 0.9oC) throughout its duration. In summary, El Niño is favored to begin in the next 1-2 months and last into the Northern Hemisphere spring 2015 (click CPC/IRI consensus forecast for the chance of each outcome).



The long hot tail of global warming – new thinking on the Eocene greenhouse climate

By howardlee Skeptical Science posts: 9 October 2014

Past climate changes like the Eocene Hyperthermals left many traces in the geological record. These tell scientists a great deal about what the Earth looked like in these hothouse eras, the changes they made to rainfall, drought, landscape, oceans, ecosystems and life. Ultimately those records contain clues to the causes of the climate changes, and are signposts to the effects we can expect from modern climate change.







Hint of atmospheric river for next week in No CA?? (if only…)




Biodiversity does not always improve resistance of forest ecosystems to drought

Oct 06, 2014

Protection forest consisting of about ten tree species above the lake of Brienz. Credit: Canton of Berne, Switzerland

Due to climate change, parts of the world will face droughts that will affect forest health. Scientists from INRA, in collaboration with the Swiss Federal Institute for Forest, Snow and Landscape Research WSL and European colleagues, studied the resistance of forests to drought according to the diversity of tree species. Contrary to what was commonly accepted by scientists, species diversity does not systematically improve tree resistance to drought in forest ecosystems. This result is published in the PNAS on 29 September 2014.


If you think the current drought is bad – try 500 years

BY ETHAN HAWKES / STAFF WRITER Orange Co Register Published: Oct. 6, 2014 Updated: Oct. 7, 2014 12:14 p.m.

Matthew E. Kirby has been digging up 3,000 years’ worth of rainfall records and discovered California isn’t a stranger to extreme droughts. During his research, Kirby, associate professor of geological sciences, found evidence in the sediment of Zaca Lake that California has endured periods of multicentury droughts, the longest of which lasted 500 years. Before this evidence, scientists thought the longest droughts lasted up to 30 years. “Our research indicates that climate can change and that change can persist for much longer than previously thought,” Kirby said. The 500-year drought in Southern California occurred 2,000 to 2,500 years ago, according to Kirby’s research. A majority of the data was gathered from the chemical and physical characteristics of the sediment at the bottom of Zaca Lake, northwest of Santa Barbara. Tree rings usually are used to determine the history of a climate. They are considered the most accurate way to gather climate data. But they’re reliable only when looking back about 1,500 years. Kirby also found evidence from his studies in Lake Elsinore and Lower Bear River Reservoir that lines up with his findings in Zaca Lake. “Climate is complex and it does not change necessarily uniformly over space or time. As a result, it is critical for paleo-climatologists to examine multiple sites to really determine the timing and spatial extent of past drought,” Kirby said. The research, funded by the National Science Foundation, also compared the sediment findings with El Niño conditions and found a direct connection between El Niño and precipitation in Southern California. El Niño is the fluctuation of conditions in the tropical Pacific Ocean, which causes warmer-than-average sea-surface temperatures, and therefore, warmer temperatures globally. “From this, we infer that El Niño’s strength and frequency are the predominant controls on how wet the winter season gets in Southern California over the past 3,000 years,” Kirby said. This is the first time the relationship between El Niño and Southern California climates has been studied back 3,000 years, Kirby said.

The study also shows that any changes to the Pacific Ocean caused by global warming are likely to have an effect on how much water is available, Kirby said. It’s important to note these multicentury droughts do not necessarily mean no rainfall, but it does mean a shift to less rainfall throughout the year, he said. Kirby is now gathering rainfall data from Crystal Lake in the San Gabriel Mountains.



As drought worsens, water agencies eye desalination to quench Bay Area’s thirst

The Mallard Slough site is closed off to the public. (Photo by Ted Andersen)

By Theodore AndersenPosted October 8, 2014 10:42 am

Thirty miles east of Richmond, just beyond railroad tracks, sits a windswept field on the Sacramento/San Joaquin River Delta alive with darting ground squirrels and swaying cattails. This is Mallard Slough, a plot of marshland near Bay Point that holds more potential than its undeveloped landscape suggests. As California’s persisting drought intensifies, Bay Area counties have been working together to find new sources of fresh water. One idea is desalination, the process of separating salt from brackish or ocean water to create drinking water. Desalination has grown in popularity among state and local bodies throughout the past decade, with 17 plants currently in the planning stages up and down California’s coastline. Mallard Slough is one of them. For more than 10 years, officials in Contra Costa, Alameda, San Francisco, and Santa Clara counties have been eyeing potential locations for a $200-million facility. Officials have studied other locations as well — one along Ocean Beach in San Francisco and another near the Bay Bridge in Oakland — but the inter-district prefeasibility studies that began in 2003 and continued into 2007 found Mallard Slough to be the only realistic site. If constructed, the facility would draw from Suisun Bay and could supply supplemental drinking water to East Bay Municipal Utilities District (EBMUD), which serves the city of Richmond as well as more than 1.2 million other water customers in the East Bay. The planning process will continue into 2015, when other details will be hashed out….



Sukkot, rain and Andy Lipkis’ vision for L.A.’s salvation

by Jared Sichel October 7, 2014

TreePeople built an underground water cistern that stores up to 216,000 gallons of rainwater. Photos courtesy of TreePeople

On the afternoon of Oct. 16, the final day of Sukkot, Jews will begin the annual practice of inserting a short but key line into the Amidah prayer: Mashiv haruach u morid hageshem: “Who causes the wind to blow and the rain to fall.” In Jewish tradition, Sukkot marks the beginning of the rainy season in Israel, and, as it happens, for California as well. This year, in the Golden State, morid hageshem takes on heightened meaning, given that the nation’s most populous state is in its third consecutive year of drought, with about 80 percent of California experiencing “exceptional drought” conditions, the most severe on a five-tier scale according to the United States Drought Monitor.  And there is no end in sight, with the Climate Prediction Center forecasting that, at least through the end of the year, the state’s drought likely will persist and possibly even intensify. Only 5.84 inches of rain have fallen in Los Angeles since the beginning of 2014 — about half the average amount — or, put another way, 39.2 billion fewer gallons of rainwater than falls on the city’s 469 square miles in a year of average rainfall. But the problem is even bigger than those numbers indicate. In Los Angeles, an inordinate amount of the rain that falls on us makes no contribution to the city’s water supply — an estimated 80 percent of our rainfall flows directly into storm drains and heads out into the ocean, wasted before ever being used. One consequence is that for each gallon of water not captured, one gallon must be imported.
Los Angeles imports about 90 percent of its water from the Owens Valley in Eastern California (270 miles away), the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta (380 miles away) and the Colorado River Aqueduct near Parker Dam — a 242-mile channel along the California-Arizona border (280 miles away) that was built and is operated by the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California (MWD).
The MWD sells the water wholesale, supplying 1.7 billion gallons of water daily for use by 19 million people across Southern California. 
“The largest single use of electricity in the entire state of California is to pump water over those mountains into Los Angeles,” said Andy Lipkis, founder and president of the nonprofit TreePeople. He pointed toward the mountain ranges abutting the Grapevine, the route through which our Sierra-sourced water flows through a huge — and hugely expensive — system of aqueducts and tunnels. .. Lipkis believes we can use technology to replicate citywide a tree’s natural and remarkable ability to capture and store rainwater. He predicts that if Los Angeles implements such a system, it would become both less reliant on imported water and less prone to flooding.  And maybe — Lipkis emphasizes that it’s a big maybe — the region could also become a little bit more flush with cash if a larger rainwater capture system bring about a smaller water bureaucracy and lower electric costs from not having to pump so much water over those mountains….

Rainwater from neighborhoods north of Elmer Avenue would flow downhill and gather in giant puddles on the street, making driving and walking nearly impossible during and after a rainfall. For TreePeople and a group of other nonprofits and agencies led by the Los Angeles and San Gabriel Rivers Watershed Council (now the Council for Watershed Health), Elmer Avenue’s predicament became a perfect site to experiment with a rainwater capture model. Today, the street looks like one of the newest residential blocks in the city — new sidewalks, a newly paved road and, to Lipkis’ delight, a sophisticated rainwater-capture system. Front yards are filled with plants and native trees that require little water to survive but also store large amounts of moisture. When rainwater hits the street, it flows into drains that direct the water to a 5.2 million-gallon underground infiltration apparatus, which then filters the water into the ground. That’s where nature takes over and brings it to a natural underground aquifer.  Rain that falls on houses is directed via gutters into rain barrels, onto lawns, and to porous driveways as well as to trees and swales — depressions that store water until they soak into the ground — next to the sidewalk. And if the swale fills up? The excess flows into the street, where it then flows to a nearby drain that leads to a large underground water storage device that eventually will redirect the water into a natural aquifer.
This simple but effective system echoes similar rainwater-capture projects that TreePeople has implemented…



California is actually doing a pretty good job of saving water during the drought

By Hunter Schwarz October 8 2014 Washington Post

A coyote crosses part of the dried up bed of Folsom Lake near Folsom, Calif. (Rich Pedroncelli/AP)

The California State Water Resources Control Board announced Tuesday water consumption in August fell 11.5 percent when compared with the same time period last year, the largest monthly decline in water use this year. “The trend is terrific,” said Felicia Marcus, water board chair in a statement. “Every gallon saved today postpones the need for more drastic, difficult and expensive action should the drought continue into next year.” The 11.5 percent decline equals about 27 billion gallons of water saved. In July, the board reported a 7.5 percent decline, and in June, a 4 percent decline….








Plans for wildlife refuges show strengths and weaknesses for adapting to climate change

Indiana University study finds U.S. National Wildlife Refuge System management plans are ahead of their peers for adapting, but more needs to be done

Oct. 8, 2014

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. — As the effects of a changing climate become acute, organizations charged with overseeing refuge areas must take action to adapt. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service maintains the National Wildlife Refuge System — which constitutes the world’s largest system of protected lands and waters — and its experience offers lessons for other public land managers.

…. The article was published online today by BioScience and will appear in the November 2014 issue of the journal. Fischman is a professor and Harry T. Ice Faculty Fellow in the Maurer School of Law. Meretsky is a professor in the School of Public and Environmental Affairs…. The authors undertook a study of 185 U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service comprehensive conservation plans published from 2005 to 2011 and evaluated their coverage of nine climate-change categories. Of the 185 plans, 115 mentioned at least one of the climate-change categories; of these, only 73 included prescriptions for adaptation. Moreover, the percentage of plans with climate-change prescriptions actually dropped in 2011, after steadily rising in each of the previous five years.

When prescriptions were present, they tended to be focused on monitoring that did not include specific criteria for action, rather than on monitoring with action criteria or on adaptive responses themselves. This can be a result of managers’ desire to maintain flexibility in the face of uncertainty; but the authors argue that “without specific criteria for evaluating success, refuge managers will have difficulty knowing whether and how to adjust activities on the basis of monitoring.”

Despite some shortcomings of existing comprehensive conservation plans, the authors see cause for hope in the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s 2013 strategic plan, which calls for reviews that will bring together multiple refuge-level plans in order to produce wider-scale “landscape conservation designs.” These landscape conservation designs will allow reserve managers collectively to make a greater contribution to climate-change adaptation than they otherwise could. As the authors put it, “coordinating the actions of a disparate collection of reserves so that they achieve more together than each can independently is, after all, the whole point of having a conservation system.”

The research is significant because, despite a plenitude of general advice for land managers facing climate change, few studies have examined what might be practical for conservation reserves. The plans for national wildlife refuges show that it is possible to incorporate many ideas into practice. But wider use of emerging decision-support tools and regional-level coordination could help managers better prepare for coming landscape-scale changes….



Strengths and weaknesses for adaptation to climate change

Posted: 08 Oct 2014 10:14 AM PDT

Despite a plenitude of general advice for land managers facing climate change, few studies have examined what might be practical for conservation reserves. The US Fish and Wildlife Service’s comprehensive conservation plans for national wildlife refuges show that it is possible to incorporate many ideas into practice. But wider use of emerging decision-support tools and regional-level coordination could help managers better prepare for coming landscape-scale changes.


These Images Take Us On A World Tour Of Extreme Weather Architecture

Adele Peters October 10, 2014

From multi-billion-dollar sea walls in Japan to floating schools in Bangladesh, a look at the communities already designing for a more turbulent future. As sea levels rise and superstorms become twice as likely in densely populated places like the East Coast, a new photography exhibit shows how people around the world are responding with resilient architecture–from multi-billion-dollar sea walls in Japan to floating schools in Bangladesh. The show, called Sink or Swim: Designing for a Sea Change, which will open in December at the Annenberg Space for Photography in L.A., is equally focused on sharing solutions and reminding people about the scale of the challenge that humanity must meet


“I’ve used the phrase ‘shock and hope,'” says curator Frances Anderton. “We don’t want to pretend that there aren’t some real problems that people have got to get their heads around–we have images that will support the shock, and statistics. But we also want to include hope. This is an architecture show, and architects are by definition optimistic, because they believe in solving problems.” Four photographers were commissioned to travel the world for the show, along with another based in Los Angeles, capturing examples of how different communities were responding to a changing climate, from low tech to cutting edge infrastructure. But the focus isn’t the technology as much as the communities that are using it. Every photo shows people, not just the architecture itself. “When it came to developing the exhibit we wanted to get down on the ground and into the human story,” Anderton says. “That became a process of getting up close and personal with our photography choices.” The exhibit also doesn’t claim that all of the solutions included are actually good; instead, it hopes to start a discussion. “We are not saying that every solution in the show is the perfect,” says Anderton. “We do want to pose the question, is it appropriate to build vast seawalls to keep water out, or are their other answers that might be more integrated to the natural landscape?” Ultimately, the show also raises questions about the limits of technology–at some point, should we stop trying to hold back the water and move further inland? “We’ve become an increasingly coastal global community, and there are implications to our choices to live so close to the water’s edge,” Anderton says. “This is not simply about climate change and rising seas, it’s about where we choose to build.”…


Why Solar Power Is Taking Off At Airports Across The Country

by Emily Atkin Posted on October 6, 2014

Airport solar projects have been on the rise, creating construction jobs and helping reduce air pollution across the country….






California leads on climate change, says 50-state tool


 – October 9, 2014‎


California has completed the highest number of goals to prepare for climate change, followed by Massachusetts and New York, according to a first-of-its-kind 50-state tracking tool unveiled Thursday


Environmental Group Wants 16 Species Protected In California

 Ed Joyce Capitol Public Radio Wednesday, October 08, 2014 | Sacramento, CA | Permalink

California Department of Water Resources

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is required to make an initial finding within three months of getting a petition seeking Endangered Species Act protection for animals. Center for Biological Diversity lawyer and biologist Collette Adkins Giese said that hasn’t happened with a petition filed in 2012, seeing ESA protection for the animals, several of which are found only in California. She said in the meantime, nine types of salamanders, along with lizards, frogs and the western pond turtle in California face habitat loss that threatens their survival. We’re hoping that this notice gives them a nudge that they need to move forward on protecting these amphibians and reptiles because time is really running out for these creatures,” said Adkins Giese. Adkins Giese said the 16 species play important roles as predators and prey in their ecosystems. “And they’re also valuable indicators of environmental health,” said Adkins Giese. “The fact that these animals are dying out is a sign that we’re not treating their habitat in a sustainable way, and that’s not good for humans either.” She said the creatures have been around for hundreds of millions of years. But now, pesticides, climate change and drought are destroying habitat and threatening their survival. The Center has petitioned for the western pond turtle, southern rubber boa, western spadefoot, foothill yellow-legged frog, Colorado Desert fringe-toed lizard, sandstone night lizard and nine salamanders  due to habitat loss and other factors “threatening them with extinction.” The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service office in Sacramento said it can’t comment on pending or potential lawsuits.



Evangelicals Urge Rick Scott To Act On Climate Change As A ‘Pro-Life’ Issue

Huffington Post 

 – ‎October 8, 2014‎


“Climate change is real. It endangers the health of our children, worsens poverty throughout the world, and threatens our economy,” says a male voiceover.







California’s Drought Is So Bad, Even Its Hydropower Is Drying Up

by Emily Atkin Posted on October 7, 2014 at 9:08 am Updated: October 8, 2014 at 8:53 am

Copco No. 1 dam on the Klamath River outside Hornbrook, Calif.CREDIT: AP Photo/Jeff Barnard

California’s ability to produce renewable energy from hydroelectric dams has been significantly hampered over the last few years because of an increasingly severe and widespread drought, the U.S. Energy Information Administration said Monday. The drought, which began in 2011 and is now covering 100 percent of the state, is drying up the reservoirs behind hydroelectric dams. The reservoirs create power when the force of the water in them is released onto turbines. When there is less water, there is also less pressure to spin those turbines, thereby decreasing the amount of renewable electricity that can be produced. Hydroelectric power used to account for 20 percent of California’s in-state electricity generation for the first six months of each year from 2004 until 2013, the EIA said. But during the first six months of 2014, hydropower generation was halved, making up only 10 percent of California’s in-state electricity generation…..


The Vast Benefits Of Energy Efficiency: New York Times Op-Ed Confuses The Facts

by Joe Romm Posted on October 9, 2014

Energy efficiency is a cleaner source of energy, and that’s why the IEA calls it the “first fuel.”…







A Guide to Olympia Oyster Restoration and Conservation: Environmental Conditions and Sites That Support Sustainable Populations in Central California

An interdisciplinary team from the National Estuarine Research Reserves at San Francisco Bay and Elkhorn Slough, UC Davis, and the California Coastal Conservancy began this project in late 2011, with funding from the NERR Science Collaborative.  This project characterized stressor levels (temp, salinity, dissolved oxygen, sedimentation, invasive species, others) at multiple sites in two California estuaries (San Francisco Bay, Elkhorn Slough), assessed native oyster populations at these sites and connectivity between them, and examined impacts of individual and combined stressors in laboratory experiments. The goal is to improve sustainability of Olympia oyster populations in the face of climate change by providing restoration and conservation planning tools. After 2+ years of field work at low tides and continuous lab studies that required long hours, we are excited to share our recent findings about the environmental conditions that are supportive vs. stressful to Olympia oysters, and which sites in central California are best for them.
 You can access the full document and four appendices at


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!



Encroaching Tides
Union of Concerned Scientists October 7, 2014

Tidal flooding, driven by sea level rise, will dramatically increase in U.S. East and Gulf Coast communities over the next 30 years. Full report
Executive summary
Technical appendix

On the Front Line of Tidal Flooding: Community Profiles

Today scores of coastal communities are seeing more frequent flooding during high tides. As sea level rises higher over the next 15 to 30 years, tidal flooding is expected to occur more often, cause more disruption, and even render some areas unusable — all within the time frame of a typical home mortgage.

An analysis of 52 tide gauges in communities stretching from Portland, Maine to Freeport, Texas shows that most of these communities will experience a steep increase in the number and severity of tidal flooding events over the coming decades, with significant implications for property, infrastructure, and daily life in affected areas.  Given the substantial and nearly ubiquitous rise in the frequency of floods at these 52 locations, many other communities along the East and Gulf Coasts will need to brace for similar changes.





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)


  • Chief Development Officer
  • We are looking for curious, smart and enthusiastic people to join our Informatics team in developing and maintaining web applications and extensive databases in support of our scientific programs.  We are a small team supporting a growing science organization working on the most important environmental issues of our time. The successful candidate will interact with Point Blue scientists and program developers, and with our partners, in a variety of projects that span the entire U.S. geography and beyond.  Learn more about Point Blue at and the types of tools we build at


    • Work as a member of our Informatics engineering team on a wide variety of projects.
    • Code, debug, document and support software and database development projects as assigned.
    • Provide online support for our existing customers and partners.  Work with internal and external partners on new and ongoing projects.
    • Gain exposure in all areas of software development, including requirements development, needs assessments, functional design, user-interaction design, graphic design, implementation, testing, documentation, release, revision control, and maintenance.

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. 









Climate Change Hyphenation Guide (thanks Nat!)



Kailash Satyarthi and Malala Yousafzai Are Awarded Nobel Peace Prize

Friday, October 10, 2014 5:11 AM EDT The Norwegian Nobel Committee on Friday awarded the 2014 peace prize to Malala Yousafzai of Pakistan and Kailash Satyarthi of India for their work in helping to promote universal schooling and protecting children worldwide from abuse and exploitation.

The announcement was made in Oslo by Thorbjorn Jagland, the committee’s chairman, after a year in which war has spread into Europe with fighting in eastern Ukraine, and across frontiers in the Middle East after the Sunni militant Islamic State pushed from Syria into Iraq in June.

The committee cited Ms. Yousafzai’s “heroic struggle” for girls’ rights to education. Mr. Satyarthi was praised for “showing great personal courage” in leading peaceful demonstrations focusing on grave exploitation of children for financial gain.

For the previous two years, the prize had been awarded to international bodies: the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons in 2013 and the European Union in 2012.


Students’ religiosity more influential than education in views on evolution

Posted: 07 Oct 2014 10:12 AM PDT

College students’ views on evolution are shaped significantly more by religiosity than education, according to a survey of Southern U.S. students. The study is said to be the first in-depth analysis on the acceptance of evolution in this region.


Universal Ebola drug target identified by researchers

Posted: 07 Oct 2014 12:26 PM PDT

A new tool can be used as a drug target in the discovery of anti-Ebola agents that are effective against all known strains and likely future strains, researchers report. Current experimental drugs generally target only one of Ebola’s five species. “The current growing epidemic demonstrates the need for effective broad-range Ebola virus therapies,” says the lead author on the study.


Sugar linked to memory problems in adolescent rats

Posted: 07 Oct 2014 08:12 AM PDT

Sugar consumption affected memory and was linked to brain inflammation in juvenile rats, researchers report. “The brain is especially vulnerable to dietary influences during critical periods of development, like adolescence,” remarked a corresponding author of the study. “Consuming a diet high in added sugars not only can lead to weight gain and metabolic disturbances, but can also negatively impact our neural functioning and cognitive ability.”


Probiotics protect children, pregnant women against heavy metal poisoning

Posted: 07 Oct 2014 06:23 AM PDT

Yogurt containing probiotic bacteria successfully protected children and pregnant women against heavy metal exposure in a recent study. Canadian and Tanzanian researchers created and distributed a special yogurt containing Lactobacillus rhamnosus bacteria and observed the outcomes against a control group.


Coffee in the Genes? New genetic variants associated with coffee drinking

Posted: 07 Oct 2014 06:23 AM PDT

A new, large-scale study has identified six new genetic variants associated with habitual coffee drinking. “Coffee and caffeine have been linked to beneficial and adverse health effects. Our findings may allow us to identify subgroups of people most likely to benefit from increasing or decreasing coffee consumption for optimal health,” said the lead author of the study.






Whale Alert MUST SEE VIDEO – West Coast
October 7

We went out with Monterey Bay Whale Watch last week and encountered this amazing feeding frenzy that included about 8 humpback whales, 300+ California Sea lions and a few sooty and pink-footed shearwaters. We logged our sightings on the Whale Alert app — at Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary.





Bears of Summer:
It’s a rough life being a camera trap on Laurel Creek, as this series of bear photos and comments by pro camera trapper and naturalist Ken Hickman shows in Mendocino County, CA. (here are 3—go to Bears of Summer to see full sequence and commentary)









Google’s conference bike



Caw vs. Croak: Inside the Calls of Crows and Ravens

Cornell Lab of Ornithology




Ellie Cohen, President and CEO

Point Blue Conservation Science (formerly PRBO)

3820 Cypress Drive, Suite 11, Petaluma, CA 94954

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Point Blue—Conservation science for a healthy planet.


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