Conservation Science News January 23, 2014



Focus of the Week – Global Warming and a Changing Ocean










NOTE: Please pass on my weekly news update that has been prepared for
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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– Global Warming and a Changing Ocean


Transplanted coral off Java Island, Indonesia. Great damage results from the loss of habitats like coral reefs, an analysis found. Credit Aman Rochman/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

Ocean Life Faces Mass Extinction, Broad Study Says

JAN. 15, 2015 Carl Zimmer NY Times

A team of scientists, in a groundbreaking analysis of data from hundreds of sources, has concluded that humans are on the verge of causing unprecedented damage to the oceans and the animals living in them.We may be sitting on a precipice of a major extinction event,” said Douglas J. McCauley, an ecologist at the University of California, Santa Barbara, and an author of the new research, which was published on Thursday in the journal Science. But there is still time to avert catastrophe, Dr. McCauley and his colleagues also found. Compared with the continents, the oceans are mostly intact, still wild enough to bounce back to ecological health. “We’re lucky in many ways,” said Malin L. Pinsky, a marine biologist at Rutgers University and another author of the new report. “The impacts are accelerating, but they’re not so bad we can’t reverse them.”

Scientific assessments of the oceans’ health are dogged by uncertainty: It’s much harder for researchers to judge the well-being of a species living underwater, over thousands of miles, than to track the health of a species on land. And changes that scientists observe in particular ocean ecosystems may not reflect trends across the planet. Dr. Pinsky, Dr. McCauley and their colleagues sought a clearer picture of the oceans’ health by pulling together data from an enormous range of sources, from discoveries in the fossil record to statistics on modern container shipping, fish catches and seabed mining. While many of the findings already existed, they had never been juxtaposed in such a way.

A number of experts said the result was a remarkable synthesis, along with a nuanced and encouraging prognosis.

“I see this as a call for action to close the gap between conservation on land and in the sea,” said Loren McClenachan of Colby College, who was not involved in the study. There are clear signs already that humans are harming the oceans to a remarkable degree, the scientists found. Some ocean species are certainly overharvested, but even greater damage results from large-scale habitat loss, which is likely to accelerate as technology advances the human footprint, the scientists reported.

Coral reefs, for example, have declined by 40 percent worldwide, partly as a result of climate-change-driven warming. Some fish are migrating to cooler waters already. Black sea bass, once most common off the coast of Virginia, have moved up to New Jersey. Less fortunate species may not be able to find new ranges. At the same time, carbon emissions are altering the chemistry of seawater, making it more acidic. “If you cranked up the aquarium heater and dumped some acid in the water, your fish would not be very happy,” Dr. Pinsky said. “In effect, that’s what we’re doing to the oceans.”

Fragile ecosystems like mangroves are being replaced by fish farms, which are projected to provide most of the fish we consume within 20 years. Bottom trawlers scraping large nets across the sea floor have already affected 20 million square miles of ocean, turning parts of the continental shelf to rubble. Whales may no longer be widely hunted, the analysis noted, but they are now colliding more often as the number of container ships rises. Mining operations, too, are poised to transform the ocean. Contracts for seabed mining now cover 460,000 square miles underwater, the researchers found, up from zero in 2000. Seabed mining has the potential to tear up unique ecosystems and introduce pollution into the deep sea.

The oceans are so vast that their ecosystems may seem impervious to change. But Dr. McClenachan warned that the fossil record shows that global disasters have wrecked the seas before. “Marine species are not immune to extinction on a large scale,” she said. Until now, the seas largely have been spared the carnage visited on terrestrial species, the new analysis also found.

The fossil record indicates that a number of large animal species became extinct as humans arrived on continents and islands. For example, the moa, a giant bird that once lived on New Zealand, was wiped out by arriving Polynesians in the 1300s, probably within a century. But it was only after 1800, with the Industrial Revolution, that extinctions on land really accelerated.

Humans began to alter the habitat that wildlife depended on, wiping out forests for timber, plowing under prairie for farmland, and laying down roads and railroads across continents.

Species began going extinct at a much faster pace. Over the past five centuries, researchers have recorded 514 animal extinctions on land. But the authors of the new study found that documented extinctions are far rarer in the ocean.

Before 1500, a few species of seabirds are known to have vanished. Since then, scientists have documented only 15 ocean extinctions, including animals such as the Caribbean monk seal and the Steller’s sea cow.

While these figures are likely underestimates, Dr. McCauley said that the difference was nonetheless revealing.

“Fundamentally, we’re a terrestrial predator,” he said. “It’s hard for an ape to drive something in the ocean extinct.”

Many marine species that have become extinct or are endangered depend on land — seabirds that nest on cliffs, for example, or sea turtles that lay eggs on beaches. Still, there is time for humans to halt the damage, Dr. McCauley said, with effective programs limiting the exploitation of the oceans. The tiger may not be salvageable in the wild — but the tiger shark may well be, he said. “There are a lot of tools we can use,” he said. “We better pick them up and use them seriously.”

Dr. McCauley and his colleagues argue that limiting the industrialization of the oceans to some regions could allow threatened species to recover in other ones. “I fervently believe that our best partner in saving the ocean is the ocean itself,” said Stephen R. Palumbi of Stanford University, an author of the new study. The scientists also argued that these reserves had to be designed with climate change in mind, so that species escaping high temperatures or low pH would be able to find refuge. “It’s creating a hopscotch pattern up and down the coasts to help these species adapt,” Dr. Pinsky said. Ultimately, Dr. Palumbi warned, slowing extinctions in the oceans will mean cutting back on carbon emissions, not just adapting to them. “If by the end of the century we’re not off the business-as-usual curve we are now, I honestly feel there’s not much hope for normal ecosystems in the ocean,” he said. “But in the meantime, we do have a chance to do what we can. We have a couple decades more than we thought we had, so let’s please not waste it.



Douglas J. McCauley1,*Malin L. Pinsky2, Stephen R. Palumbi3, James A. Estes4, Francis H. Joyce1, Robert R. Warner1

Marine defaunation: Animal loss in the global ocean
Science 16 January 2015
: Vol. 347 no. 6219 DOI: 10.1126/science.1255641

Abstract; Structured Abstract; Editor’s Summary


Comparing patterns of terrestrial and marine defaunation helps to place human impacts on marine fauna in context and to navigate toward recovery. Defaunation began in earnest tens of thousands of years later in the oceans than it did on land. Although defaunation has been less severe in the oceans than on land, our effects on marine animals are increasing in pace and impact. Humans have caused few complete extinctions in the sea, but we are responsible for many ecological, commercial, and local extinctions. Despite our late start, humans have already powerfully changed virtually all major marine ecosystems.


Humans have profoundly decreased the abundance of both large (e.g., whales) and small (e.g., anchovies) marine fauna. Such declines can generate waves of ecological change that travel both up and down marine food webs and can alter ocean ecosystem functioning. Human harvesters have also been a major force of evolutionary change in the oceans and have reshaped the genetic structure of marine animal populations. Climate change threatens to accelerate marine defaunation over the next century. The high mobility of many marine animals offers some increased, though limited, capacity for marine species to respond to climate stress, but it also exposes many species to increased risk from other stressors. Because humans are intensely reliant on ocean ecosystems for food and other ecosystem services, we are deeply affected by all of these forecasted changes.

Three lessons emerge when comparing the marine and terrestrial defaunation experiences: (i) today’s low rates of marine extinction may be the prelude to a major extinction pulse, similar to that observed on land during the industrial revolution, as the footprint of human ocean use widens; (ii) effectively slowing ocean defaunation requires both protected areas and careful management of the intervening ocean matrix; and (iii) the terrestrial experience and current trends in ocean use suggest that habitat destruction is likely to become an increasingly dominant threat to ocean wildlife over the next 150 years.


Wildlife populations in the oceans have been badly damaged by human activity. Nevertheless, marine fauna generally are in better condition than terrestrial fauna: Fewer marine animal extinctions have occurred; many geographic ranges have shrunk less; and numerous ocean ecosystems remain more wild than terrestrial ecosystems. Consequently, meaningful rehabilitation of affected marine animal populations remains within the reach of managers. Human dependency on marine wildlife and the linked fate of marine and terrestrial fauna necessitate that we act quickly to slow the advance of marine defaunation.


Wildlife Loss in the Global Ocean Not as Dire as on Land

Jan. 15, 2015 — Over the past 500 years, approximately 500 land-based animal species have gone the way of the dodo, becoming extinct as a result of human activity. In the ocean, where scientists count only 15 or so such losses, the numbers currently aren’t nearly as dire. But that doesn’t mean they aren’t yet heading in that direction. A consortium of scientists, including UC Santa Barbara’s Douglas McCauley, has found that the same patterns that led to the collapse of wildlife populations on land are now occurring in the sea. According to the researchers, wildlife populations in the oceans are as healthy as those on land were hundreds or thousands of years ago. However, they warn, that may be about to change as the next 100 years promise to present major challenges to marine life. Their findings are published in the journal Science.

The new paper compares the march of the Industrial Revolution on land to current patterns of human use of the world’s oceans. During the 1800s vast tracts of farmland and factories beat back forests and sucked up resources that were mined and drilled out of the ground. As a result, many terrestrial species were driven to extinction. In the ocean, however, fishing continued to rely on sailing ships clustered in small slivers of near-shore water. “A lot has changed in the last 200 years,” said lead author McCauley, a professor in UCSB’s Department of Ecology, Evolution and Marine Biology (EEMB). “Our tackle box has industrialized.”

Co-author Steve Palumbi of Stanford University lists several emerging threats to the oceans. “There are factory farms in the sea and cattle-ranch-style feed lots for tuna,” he noted. “Shrimp farms are eating up mangroves with an appetite akin to that of terrestrial farming, which consumed native prairies and forest. Stakes for seafloor mining claims are being pursued with gold-rush-like fervor, and 300-ton ocean mining machines and 750-foot fishing boats are now rolling off the assembly line to do this work.”

According to the authors, increasing industrial use of the oceans and the globalization of ocean exploitation threaten to damage the health of marine wildlife populations, making the situation in the oceans as grim as that on land. As McCauley pointed out, we now fish with helicopters, satellite-guided super trawlers and long lines that can stretch from New York to Philadelphia.

All signs indicate that we may be initiating a marine industrial revolution,” he said. “We are setting ourselves up in the oceans to replay the process of wildlife Armageddon that we engineered on land.”

One solution the paper highlighted involves setting aside more and larger areas of the ocean that are safe from industrial development and fishing. However, co-author Robert Warner, an EEMB research professor at UCSB, cautioned that reserves alone are not enough. “We need creative and effective policy to manage damage inflicted upon ocean wildlife in the vast spaces between marine protected areas,” he said.

Among the most serious threats to ocean wildlife is climate change, which according to the scientists is degrading marine wildlife habitats and has a greater impact on these animals than it does on terrestrial fauna. “Anyone that has ever kept a fish tank knows that if you crank up your aquarium heater and dump acid into the water, your fish are in trouble,” said co-author Malin Pinsky, an ecologist at Rutgers University. “This is what climate change is doing now to the oceans.”

Still, as the researchers emphasized, the relative health of the oceans presents an opportunity for saving them. “Because there have been so many fewer extinctions in the oceans, we still have the raw ingredients needed for recovery,” said McCauley. “There is hope for marine species that simply does not exist for the hundreds of terrestrial wildlife species that have already crossed the extinction threshold.”

The ocean’s future is yet to be determined, the researchers said. “We can blunder forward and make the same mistakes in the sea that we made on land, or we can collectively chart a different and better future for our oceans,” Warner concluded….full story


Fishermen’s Views of a Changing Ocean

By Michael Conathan | Thursday, January 15, 2015

When we think about climate change, we tend to think of it in terms of future impact. The commonly accepted target among scientists and climate activists is that society must keep global temperatures from rising more than 2 degrees Celsius by 2100. … But for commercial fishermen,* climate change is not a future economic problem: It is a problem right now, and it is costing fisherman both income and jobs. ….The profession of fishing is often multigenerational, with knowledge typically passed down from parent to child to grandchild. The combination of constant exposure to all kinds of weather; the consistent logging of data in the form of catch totals and locations; and a seemingly imperceptible understanding of life over, on, and beneath the waves puts fishermen collectively in a unique position to assess the ecosystems that sustain their livelihoods and that, in turn, nourish the rest of us…..More directly relevant to this report is the fact that in the Northeast, lobster populations have been devastated in recent years in the waters of Long Island Sound and off the southern coasts of Rhode Island and Massachusetts. According to the Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection, from 1998 to 2011, the amount of lobster caught annually in Long Island Sound fell from 3.7 million pounds to just 142,000 pounds, a decline of more than 95 percent. While scientists have not yet been able to confirm the cause of this decline, it is becoming increasingly clear that warming water temperatures are a major factor. The Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission, which coordinates management of the lobster fishery, has found that lobsters are “moving to deeper, cooler waters, thereby concentrating their populations in much smaller areas” in southern New England. To determine fishermen’s perspectives on these changes, the Center for American Progress contracted with Edge Research to conduct a survey of New England commercial fishermen in summer 2014. Edge Research completed telephone surveys  of nearly 600 permit holders in the northeast multispecies fishery—better known as the groundfishery because it targets bottom-dwelling fish such as cod, haddock, and flounders—as well as the lobster fisheries in Maine and Massachusetts. …. Here are a few key results from the fishermen surveyed:

  • Although roughly two-thirds of them identify politically as either “conservative” or “moderate,” fishermen who say climate change is happening outnumber deniers by four-to-one.
  • 65 percent of fishermen surveyed believe climate change could leave them “unable to profit” and ultimately “forced out” of their fishery.
  • A plurality—roughly 40 percent—of them believe observed ocean changes are a “bad thing” for their business, while about 20 percent say it’s a mixed bag and just 10 percent think it’s a “good thing,” with the remaining 30 percent unsure.
  • 40 percent of groundfishermen, 44 percent of Massachusetts lobstermen, and 63 percent of Maine lobstermen say they have noticed “warmer water temperatures.”
  • More than 80 percent of those who have noticed a warming trend attribute it to climate change.
  • In ranking the environmental challenges their industry faces, 36 percent of fishermen listed “ocean warming” as a major problem—roughly equivalent to the 37 percent who listed “declining fish stocks,” the 35 percent who listed “bycatch” of nontargeted species, and the 33 percent who listed “overfishing.” “Water quality” came in at 31 percent, and “ocean acidification” came in at 29 percent.
  • In each fishery, at least 40 percent say they are catching new fish species in areas where those species have not traditionally been found.
  • Fishermen who have been on the water for more than 20 years are somewhat more likely than their less experienced colleagues to perceive climate-related changes as a “serious problem.”….







Pasture feeding may improve nutritional benefits of red meat

Posted: 21 Jan 2015 08:49 AM PST

Cardiovascular disease remains the primary cause of early mortality in the Western world and has largely been attributed to diets rich in saturated fat.
Health risks can be reduced by substituting a portion of dietary saturated fats for polyunsaturated fats.
A new review article in Comprehensive Reviews in Food Science and Food Safety published by the Institute of Food Technologists (IFT) found that pasture-fed lamb meat is high in polyunsaturated fat due to the specific plant species consumed.

Natalie L. Howes, Alaa El-Din Ahmed Bekhit, David J. Burritt, Anna W. Campbell. Opportunities and Implications of Pasture-Based Lamb Fattening to Enhance the Long-Chain Fatty Acid Composition in Meat. Comprehensive Reviews in Food Science and Food Safety, 2015; 14 (1): 22 DOI: 10.1111/1541-4337.12118



Connectivity of Streams and Wetlands to Downstream Waters: A Review and Synthesis of the Scientific Evidence (Final Report).

January 22, 2015

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (USEPA) Office of Research and Development has finalized the report Connectivity of Streams and Wetlands to Downstream Waters: A Review and Synthesis of the Scientific Evidence. The report reviews more than 1,200 peer-reviewed publications and summarizes current scientific understanding about the connectivity and mechanisms by which streams and wetlands, singly or in aggregate, affect the physical, chemical, and biological integrity of downstream waters. The focus of the report is on surface and shallow subsurface connections by which small or temporary streams, nontidal wetlands, and open waters affect larger waters such as rivers, lakes, reservoirs, and estuaries.
This report represents the state-of-the-science on the connectivity and isolation of waters in the United States. It makes five major conclusions, summarized below, that are drawn from a broad range of peer reviewed scientific literature.

  • The scientific literature unequivocally demonstrates that streams, regardless of their size or frequency of flow, are connected to downstream waters and strongly influence their function.
  • The scientific literature clearly shows that wetlands and open waters in riparian areas (transitional areas between terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems) and floodplains are physically, chemically, and biologically integrated with rivers via functions that improve downstream water quality. These systems act as effective buffers to protect downstream waters from pollution and are essential components of river food webs.
  • There is ample evidence that many wetlands and open waters located outside of riparian areas and floodplains, even when lacking surface water connections, provide physical, chemical, and biological functions that could affect the integrity of downstream waters. Some potential benefits of these wetlands are due to their isolation rather than their connectivity. Evaluations of the connectivity and effects of individual wetlands or groups of wetlands are possible through case-by-case analysis.
  • Variations in the degree of connectivity are determined by the physical, chemical and biological environment, and by human activities. These variations support a range of stream and wetland functions that affect the integrity and sustainability of downstream waters.
  • The literature strongly supports the conclusion that the incremental contributions of individual streams and wetlands are cumulative across entire watersheds, and their effects on downstream waters should be evaluated within the context of other streams and wetlands in that watershed.


Conservation Biology

The effect of scientific evidence on conservation practitioners’ management decisions

Jessica C. Walsh*, Lynn V. Dicks and William J. Sutherland Article first published online: 7 AUG 2014 DOI: 10.1111/cobi.12370

Volume 29, Issue 1, pages 88–98, February 2015

A major justification of environmental management research is that it helps practitioners, yet previous studies show it is rarely used to inform their decisions.
We tested whether conservation practitioners focusing on bird management were willing to use a synopsis of relevant scientific literature to inform their management decisions. This allowed us to examine whether the limited use of scientific information in management is due to a lack of access to the scientific literature or whether it is because practitioners are either not interested or unable to incorporate the research into their decisions. In on-line surveys, we asked 92 conservation managers, predominantly from Australia, New Zealand, and the United Kingdom, to provide opinions on 28 management techniques that could be applied to reduce predation on birds. We asked their opinions before and after giving them a summary of the literature about the interventions’ effectiveness. We scored the overall effectiveness and certainty of evidence for each intervention through an expert elicitation process—the Delphi method. We used the effectiveness scores to assess the practitioners’ level of understanding and awareness of the literature. On average, each survey participant changed their likelihood of using 45.7% of the interventions after reading the synopsis of the evidence. They were more likely to implement effective interventions and avoid ineffective actions, suggesting that their intended future management strategies may be more successful than current practice. More experienced practitioners were less likely to change their management practices than those with less experience, even though they were not more aware of the existing scientific information than less experienced practitioners. The practitioners’ willingness to change their management choices when provided with summarized scientific evidence suggests that improved accessibility to scientific information would benefit conservation management outcomes.


Soils Could Keep Contaminants in Wastewater from Reaching Groundwater, Streams

Jan. 22, 2015 — With endocrine-disrupting compounds affecting fish populations in rivers as close as Pennsylvania’s Susquehanna and as far away as Israel’s Jordan, a
new research study shows that soils can filter out and break down at least some of these emerging contaminants. The results suggest that water pollution can be diminished by spraying treated wastewater on land rather than discharging it directly into streams
, according to researchers….”Within the Living Filter, accumulation of endocrine-disrupting compounds in the soil depended on land use. Forested soils accumulated higher levels of the compounds compared to the soil in areas being used for agriculture.”One important difference between soils in the croplands and forests of the Living Filter is the amount and quality of organic carbon present, Woodward explained. “If you have a lot of organic carbon in the soil, then the estrogen compounds are going to bind to the carbon and not move as rapidly through the soil,” she said. “Forested soils had almost three times the amount of organic carbon as the agricultural soils, which might explain the increased accumulation of endocrine-disrupting compounds in these soils.” The research, which was published in the Journal of Environmental Quality, is important because it suggests a way to begin dealing with the worldwide problem of endocrine-disrupting compounds finding their way into streams and other drinking-water sources…..



Point Blue and partners in the news


Preserving Agriculture, Restoring a Watershed, and Getting Help from the Locals To Do It

by Carmen Taylor on January 16, 2015

Students from the STRAW program leave the bus behind as they head out into the fields of the Gonzales Farm. (Photo by Carmen Taylor)

The early morning fog was lifting from the Diablo and Santa Cruz mountain ranges as 65 second graders unloaded from a yellow school bus and walked across the exuberantly green floodplain of Gonzales Farm.

This flatland just outside of Gilroy stretches between the two coastal ranges, glowing green following the December rains like a glorious pastoral scene pulled from a picture book of California agriculture. Yet next to a grazing field an 8-foot wide channel, the only sign of the Pajaro River, suggested the contemporary changes cultivation has brought to the landscape. This land, once dominated by expanses of perennial freshwater wetland and seasonal wet meadow, was reclaimed in the 1870s and has been in use for agriculture ever since.

Restoring some semblance of habitat, while preserving the pastoral use and feel, is the goal of The Nature Conservancy (TNC), which own the property and leases the land to a local rancher.

Enter those kids. Students from a school in nearby Watsonville, they’re part of Point Blue Conservation Science’s
Students and Teachers Restoring a Watershed Program (STRAW).
One plant at a time, STRAW’s young volunteers will restore a corridor for migrating animals along the Upper Pajaro River. This is STRAW’s first collaboration with TNC, but like other STRAW projects, it marries vision with implementation: an idea about landscape restoration and an idea about the way the people who live, work, and play on that land can – and should — be part of restoring it.

Alex Gonzalez, the parent of one of the second grade volunteers, grew up in Watsonville and knows this stretch of the river well. “We used to collect hay from here,” he said, pointing towards the empty field in front of us and shrugging his shoulders. “There has been a lot of change. There used to be dairy farms, a slaughterhouse, and apple orchards. Now it’s residential. I’ve watched the apple orchards being taken out. It’s sad to see. It takes away memories.”

Along with increasing population, historically intensive farming and canal diversions have changed the Gonzales parcel. The Pajaro River used to flow through a channel here before being diverted into a canal built by early-20th century cattle tycoon Henry Miller to irrigate his ranchlands. Miller’s name, found on streets and parks in Gilroy today, is a reminder of the legacy of the town’s farm economy. Agriculture and ranching are an inextricable part of the identity of this land and community.

The Gonzales farm, of course, isn’t a natural landscape; it is a working one. But enough time has passed since its cultivation that wildlife has figured out how to survive on these lands and it’s a concern when they become threatened. The Nature Conservancy worries about degraded habitat along the river, development in the floodplain, loss of agricultural lands, and lack of pathways for wildlife to cross between mountain ranges that need room to find food and reproduce.

Gonzalez and his children, and his children’s friends, are the chance to reverse those declines and build a new narrative around the idea that restoring this channel as a habitat can have a positive impact for the land, animals, and community.

Corralitos student Miri Baity and her mom Annette Baity pound stakes to protect new plants along the Pajaro River. (Photo by Carmen Taylor)

Next to the channel, the wriggling second-graders gathered in a circle after dropping their snack bags and backpacks in a big pile. The leaders from STRAW and TNC began outlining what was going to happen that day. “I’m hungry!” a little girl shouted as Laurette Rogers, the director of STRAW, asked, “Is everyone ready to listen?”

Sasha Gennet, an ecologist with TNC, explained to the students, “We’re trying to get animals from those hills over there,” pointing towards the Santa Cruz range, “to these hills,” turning the other direction towards the Hamilton Mountains in the west.

Gennet asked the students, “If you’re an animal, do you like walking across an open and hot place or a place with trees?”

“Trees!” the kids shouted back.

TNC purchased Gonzales Farm in October 2012, after 15 years working in the Mount Hamilton area. TNC identified the channel as the best corridor for migrating animals, engaged in the landscape-level perspective of the restoration project.

“We’re not trying to restore the land back to a historic idea, but provide more connectivity and function,” said Kirk Klausmeyer a conservation analyst with TNC.

For STRAW, providing this connectivity means getting the local community and their children involved. “It’s a big day for the kids,” Rogers said, “to do something that they know is contributing to their community. There is a lot of healing going on.”

Ricky Nohrden, a student from Bradley School in Corralitos, takes a break from replanting work. (Photo by Carmen Taylor)

In preparation for the restoration day, the students learned about the watershed in a classroom presentation. They talked about the animals that use the creek and how planting trees to restore their habitat could help them and the ranchlands. By the time they were out on the land, with shovels and plantings in sight, there was much excitement in the air and not much that the adults could say to keep their attention.

Still, it fell on Isaiah Thalmayer, a project manager from STRAW, to provide the students with a planting demonstration – match a plastic flag to a plant, please use the tools safely – before they set out onto the field for the day’s work.

At last, released from adult lectures, the young volunteers scattered along the channel with shovels, hammers, burlap, cardboard, wire, bamboo sticks, and plants (and their parents in tow). Now, the sun was fully shining, and the smell of sunscreen floated through the air.

Thalmayer said that the project will continue planting over the next three years, gesturing from one end of the channel to the other to demonstrate the one mile area they hope to cover with more than 20 species of trees.

For the day though, the goal was for the kids to put plants into the ground, along lines on both sides of the channel, marked by those brightly colored flags. And for the kids to learn they could help fix this landscape by themselves.

“This shows how a professional quality restoration can be done by school kids,” Rogers said. She watched for a moment as the children picked up their shovels. “Imagine,” she said, “if everyone was doing this. We can do this everywhere.”

In between work, the kids found time to explore the channel. One boy yelled out, “I found a crawdad!” causing a hubbub as other kids clambered around him to take a look. Two girls took a break from digging to play patty-cake. “This is a meaningful field trip for the kids,” said Stephanie Barnes, the class’s teacher. “Some of the kids that would be considered problem students are the ones that do the best out here.”

STRAW evolved from a project started when Rogers was a fourth-grade teacher and had a student named John Elliot. One day, Elliott asked, “what can we do to help endangered species?” It was the beginning of “the Shrimp Project” in Rogers’ classroom, focused on saving one small critter: the endangered California freshwater shrimp. Rogers and her fourth graders worked with ranchers and professional restoration designers, planting native willows along Stemple Creek in West Marin to begin restoring the shrimp’s riparian habitat. After 22 years, STRAW has grown into a project-based environmental education organization, with 52 restoration projects in the North Bay and Gilroy this year alone.

STRAW has become the anchor for landscape-level restoration projects: the way for an international, billion-dollar conservation enterprise like The Nature Conservancy to align its own long-term vision for the land with the people it hopes will benefit from it.

Larry Serpa, an aquatic biologist with TNC, wandered down the channel with a white net in hand, looking for the small, hard to spot critters living there.

Holding up a plastic cube containing a brightly-colored red, wingless wasp, commonly known as a velvet ant, Serpa drew his own natural-history-inspired analogy on the importance of starting small: “The velvet ant has to move from the Santa Cruz range to the Hamilton Mountains, just like the big animals,” he said. “But, for them, it could take hundreds of years.”

Serpa worked with Rogers on the Shrimp Project, as did Stephanie Barnes, the second-graders’ teacher, who was a student-teacher with Rogers before the first shrimp habitat restoration grew into STRAW.

After a long work day, heading home along the edges of the Gonzales Farm. (Photo by Carmen Taylor)

After several hours of digging, hammering stakes into the ground, and a fair bit of running around, it was lunchtime and the end of the restoration day for the kids. Only a few plants remained in their plastic containers; the rest were in the ground, protected by a cylinder of wire.

Though the young, freshly planted bushes and trees looked vulnerable along the bare channel, it was a day for thinking big. A few years down the line, the hope is for the trees and bushes to be large enough to provide a place for the velvet ants, deer, mountain lions, and other animals to roam. It’s not hard to connect this to the adult’s hope for the kids as well. As the kids grow up, perhaps they will return to the experience they had at the ranch to plant their own ideas.

Like Alex Gonzalez, the local parent from Watsonville, who will be able to come back to the field where he once collected hay with his father, and see the trees that his son planted.


Bad Reputation of Crows Demystified

Jan. 23, 2015 — In literature, crows and ravens are a bad omen and are associated with witches. Most people believe they steal, eat other birds’ eggs and reduce the populations of other birds. But a new study, which has brought together over 326 interactions between corvids and their prey, demonstrates that their notoriety is not entirely merited. The study analyzed the impact of six species of corvid on a total of 67 species of bird susceptible to being their prey, among which are game birds and passerine birds…. full story


Bar-headed geese: Highest bird migration tracked

By Victoria Gill Science reporter, BBC News January 15, 2015

  • A tracking study has revealed the secrets of the world’s highest bird migration – the Himalayan flight of the bar-headed goose.
  • The geese have been recorded at heights of more than 7,000m (23,000ft).

Now, a team led by researchers from Bangor University has tracked the flight and revealed the basis for the birds’ “rollercoaster flight” pattern.

The findings, published in Science, show how the birds hug the mountainous terrain, and that this saves energy.

Bar-headed geese have fascinated biologists for decades. They achieve physiological feats that seem impossible – flying at extreme altitude, where there is less than 10% the oxygen found at sea level. In previous tests, the researchers trained the birds to fly in wind tunnels and to wear masks that monitor their oxygen intake George Lowe, the New Zealand born climber who supported Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay’s ascent in 1953, said he had seen the geese flying over the top of Mount Everest – the peak is approximately 29,000ft. And, using GPS trackers, this team has recorded one bird flying at 24,000ft. The implanted devices also measured the acceleration, body temperature and heart rate of seven geese, caught in central Mongolia. Data from these devices enabled the scientists to work out the birds’ energy use, as well as tracking what they called their “rollercoaster” flight pattern. ….He said that the geese also appeared to take advantage of deflections of wind off ridges to gain extra lift. Even more remarkable, Dr Bishop says, is that the birds do not seem to benefit from any tail winds, and they do not soar. “They never stop flapping their wings,” he said. “And one or two [of the flights we tracked] were up to 17 hours long.”

Flapping flight is an energy-intensive activity and, at high altitudes, it is even more challenging to generate lift in very thin, low density air. Dr Lucy Hawkes, from the University of Exeter, a member of the research team, explained that in their previous studies of the birds, the researchers had found that they would often fly at night, “when the air is colder and denser”. “This would reduce the cost of flight compared to the daytime,” she explained. Dr Bishop added that these geese may represent “the limit” of what birds are capable of. “They have found a way to cross the world’s longest and highest land mass – over 1,500km [930 miles] – relatively easily. They don’t train or acclimatise,” he said. “They could walk on the top of Everest and have no problem at all.” He and other biologists hope, eventually, to understand the genetics of what makes these animals able to perform energetic feats at such high altitudes.



New Device for Measuring How Birds Take Flight

Jan. 16, 2015 — A new device promises to answer long-held questions about the forces birds generate while flying, and could lead to the development of innovative, efficient unmanned aerial … Now engineers at Stanford have developed a device that precisely and humanely measures the forces generated by a bird’s wings while in flight. The work, published in the Royal Society journal Interface, promises to answer many mysteries of bird flight, providing aid in the design of innovative and efficient unmanned aerial vehicles, known as UAVs or, more recently, drones…. full story


Satellite Telemetry Tracks Bearded Vultures

Jan. 16, 2015 — The Pyrenees are home to continental Europe’s only wild population of bearded vultures, a species classified as endangered in Spain. A study compiled by Spanish researchers reveals — in a level of … full story


Credit: Dave Witting/NOAA Fisheries

Whale sharks, the largest fish in the sea, received new protection that reduces the risk they could be caught in fishing nets.

January 20, 2015 NOAA Fisheries West Coast Region

Tuna and other fish species may congregate around whale sharks, but new rule reduces the chance that the giant sea creatures could get caught in nets targeting those species. Whale sharks are among the largest living fish in the world — weighing up to 40,000 pounds and 40 feet in length. They are also so docile that humans often swim with them without concern, snapping photographs of their incredible size. But it is exactly their enormous bulk that had an international commission adopt restrictions protecting them from impacts associated with the international tuna purse seine fishing in the Eastern Pacific Ocean (EPO). Commercial fishermen have known for some time that tuna, along with many other species of fish, congregate around objects drifting on the ocean surface. Fishermen often build floating structures called FADs, or fish-aggregating devices, to attract tuna to an area, allowing them to capitalize on this behavior. Using FADs makes the job of finding and encircling the tuna in the purse seine nets much more efficient. Fishermen also learned that whale sharks are so large that they naturally attract tuna, much like a FAD. This led some fishermen to deploy nets around a whale shark to capture tuna swimming beneath it. In many of the cases, the encircled whale shark was also caught in the net and injured or died…..



Point Blue Snow Plover Webpage Photo

Western Snowy Plovers return to Pacifica State Beach

Pacifica Tribune Posted:   01/13/2015

Visitors to Pacifica State Beach on Christmas day had the holiday treat of seeing 12 Western Snowy Plovers. …. Although Western Snowy Plovers have roosted at Linda Mar for thousands of years, their numbers have declined by 75 percent over the past decade. Over the years many generous volunteers have contributed to the protection of the snowy plovers as well as other shorebirds on our beach. Volunteers are delighted to learn that the snowy plovers have been seen inside the protected symbolic fencing area, north of Crespi Drive, as well as foraging for kelp flies and beach hoppers out on the flat beach and at the wrack line. At least five banded plovers were identified, and band patterns have been sent to scientists at Point Blue Conservation Science to learn the origin of the birds. One is known to be from Oregon by its distinctive blue and purple band. The origin of the other plovers will be posted on PSA’s website as soon as that information is available. Western Snowy Plovers are a small, rare, threatened shorebird that makes its home on certain beaches on the Pacific Coast. Listed as threatened, they are a species of special concern in California. As recently as 1960s they used to thrive on Pacifica State Beach year round; recent years have seen an influx of people and pets on the beach, closing up otherwise open spaces traditionally used by plovers. To help keep the beach safe for shorebirds including Western Snowy Plovers, throw away any trash in the garbage cans so as not to attract predators like ravens and crows. To avoid stressing the birds and other wildlife, please follow leash laws when you bring your pet to the beach. Walk or jog along the wet sand when possible. To learn more about Western Snowy Plovers, watch the movie:


Mystery goo kills over 200 San Francisco Bay birds, officials stumped

Published time: January 23, 2015 00:25

— Over 500 birds had come in as of yesterday (see International Bird Rescue’s blog for more info)

A bird is cleaned at the International Bird Rescue in Fairfield, California January 20, 2015. (Reuters/Robert Galbraith)

California officials are unable to identify a grey, goo-like substance that has been found coating the feathers of hundreds of birds. More than 200 seabirds have been found dead along the coast, while more than 300 have been rescued so far.

The strange, gooey substance degrades the water-repellent properties in the birds’ feathers, causing hypothermia from extended stays in the water. The seabirds – Surf Scoters, Buffleheads, Goldeneyes, and Horned Grebes – have been turning up dead or in need of rescue along 20 miles of coastline in the San Francisco Bay area over the past week. If they react quickly, rescuers can treat the birds for hypothermia and then wash off the goo with baking soda, vinegar and a chemical agent, then soap and water. Others are not so fortunate….







Greenland Ice: The warmer it gets the faster it melts

January 20, 2015

If all the ice in the Greenland Ice Sheet melts, global sea level would rise by about 24 feet. In the last 100 years, sea level in the New York City area has only increased by about one foot. However, storm surges from hurricanes stack on top of this long-term increase, so sea level rise will allow future hurricanes to flood places where people are not ready for or used to flooding. A vivid example occurred during Hurricane Sandy when parts of the New York City subway tunnel system flooded. Greenland might be especially vulnerable to melting because that area of Earth sees about 50 percent more warming than the global average. Arctic sea ice, when it exists, reflects the sun’s energy back through the atmosphere, but when the sea ice melts and there is open water, the water absorbs the sun’s energy and reradiates it back into the air as heat. Arctic sea ice coverage has decreased over the last few decades, and that decrease will probably continue in the future, leading to accelerated temperature rise over Greenland. Floating ice does not add to sea level, but the Greenland Ice Sheet rests on bedrock that is above sea level. Feedbacks in the climate system cause accelerated temperature rise over the Arctic. Other feedbacks in the Greenland Ice Sheet that contribute to melting include height-melting feedback. A warm year in Greenland causes more melt around the edges of the ice sheet, lowering the surface. The atmosphere is warmer at lower altitudes, so the now lower surface experiences even more melting. This process can lead to accelerated ice melt and sea level rise. Another form of feedback occurs because ice sheets are large masses that want to spread. This spreading can either help preserve the ice sheet by allowing it to adjust to increased temperature or accelerate ice melting by moving ice to lower, warmer, places.

Many studies of sea level rise don’t take into account feedbacks that could cause rapid sea level rise,” said Applegate. “We wanted to look at the effects of those feedbacks….”Our analysis suggests that the benefits of reducing greenhouse gas emissions, in terms of avoided sea level rise from the Greenland Ice Sheet, may be greatest if emissions reductions begin before large temperature increases have been realized,” the researchers state in a recent issue of Climate Dynamics.
Currently, about a billion people — 1 percent of the world population — live in areas that would be flooded by a three-foot sea level rise.
If we are going to do something to mitigate sea-level rise, we need to do it earlier rather than later,” said Applegate. “The longer we wait, the more rapidly the changes will take place and the more difficult it will be to change.”


Patrick J. Applegate, Byron R. Parizek, Robert E. Nicholas, Richard B. Alley, Klaus Keller. Increasing temperature forcing reduces the Greenland Ice Sheet’s response time scale. Climate Dynamics, 2014; DOI: 10.1007/s00382-014-2451-7



In April 2014, researchers flew over a site in southwest Greenland to find that a sub-glacial lake had drained away. This photo shows the crater left behind, as well as a deep crack in the ice.
Credit: Photo by Stephen Price, Los Alamos National Laboratory, courtesy of The Ohio State University.

Two lakes beneath the ice in Greenland, gone within weeks

Posted: 21 Jan 2015 10:51 AM PST

Researchers discovered craters left behind when two sub-glacial lakes in Greenland drained away — an indication that the natural plumbing system beneath the ice sheet is overflowing with meltwater. One lake once held billions of gallons of water and emptied to form a mile-wide crater in just a few weeks. The other lake has filled and emptied twice in the last two years.
Researchers who are building the highest-resolution map of the Greenland Ice Sheet to date have made a surprising discovery: two lakes of meltwater that pooled beneath the ice and rapidly drained away. One lake once held billions of gallons of water and emptied to form a mile-wide crater in just a few weeks. The other lake has filled and emptied twice in the last two years.
Researchers at The Ohio State University published findings on each lake separately: the first in the open-access journal The Cryosphere and the second in the journal Nature.
Ian Howat, associate professor of earth sciences at Ohio State, leads the team that discovered the cratered lake described in The Cryosphere. To him, the find adds to a growing body of evidence that meltwater has started overflowing the ice sheet’s natural plumbing system and is causing “blowouts” that simply drain lakes away.
The fact that our lake appears to have been stable for at least several decades, and then drained in a matter of weeks — or less — after a few very hot summers, may signal a fundamental change happening in the ice sheet,” Howat said…Each time the lake fills, the meltwater carries stored heat, called latent heat, along with it, reducing the stiffness of the surrounding ice and making it more likely to flow out to sea, he said. Bevis explained the long-term implications. “If enough water is pouring down into the Greenland Ice Sheet for us to see the same sub-glacial lake empty and re-fill itself over and over, then there must be so much latent heat being released under the ice that we’d have to expect it to change the large-scale behavior of the ice sheet,” he said….Though researchers have long known of the existence of sub-glacial lakes, never before have they witnessed any draining away. The sudden discovery of two — one of which seems to be refilling and draining repeatedly — signals to Bevis that Greenland ice loss has likely reached a milestone.

“It’s pretty telling that these two lakes were discovered back to back,” he said. “We can actually see the meltwater pour down into these holes. We can actually watch these lakes drain out and fill up again in real time. With melting like that, even the deep interior of the ice sheet is going to change.”….

  1. Michael J. Willis, Bradley G. Herried, Michael G. Bevis, Robin E. Bell. Recharge of a subglacial lake by surface meltwater in northeast Greenland. Nature, 2015; DOI: 10.1038/nature14116
  2. I. M. Howat, C. Porter, M. J. Noh, B. E. Smith, S. Jeong. Brief Communication: Sudden drainage of a subglacial lake beneath the Greenland Ice Sheet. The Cryosphere, 2015; 9 (1): 103 DOI: 10.5194/tc-9-103-2015


Melting glaciers have big carbon impact

Posted: 19 Jan 2015 09:45 AM PST

As Earth warms, scientists have been focused on how glaciers melting will affect sea level rise. But, another lurking impact is the amount of carbon that will be released when glaciers melt. This is the first attempt to calculate how much carbon will be released….But another impact lurking in that inevitable scenario is carbon. More specifically, what happens to all of the organic carbon found in those glaciers when they melt?

That’s the focus of a new paper by a research team that includes Florida State University assistant professor Robert Spencer. The study, published in Nature Geoscience, is the first global estimate by scientists at what happens when major ice sheets break down. “This is the first attempt to figure out how much organic carbon is in glaciers and how much will be released when they melt,” Spencer said. “It could change the whole food web. We do not know how different ecological systems will react to a new influx of carbon.” Glaciers and ice sheets contain about 70 percent of Earth’s freshwater and ongoing melting is a major contributor to sea level rise. But, glaciers also store organic carbon derived from both primary production on the glaciers and deposition of materials such as soot or other fossil fuel combustion byproducts. Spencer, along with colleagues from Alaska and Switzerland, studied measurements from ice sheets in mountain glaciers globally, the Greenland ice sheet and the Antarctic ice sheet to measure the total amount of organic carbon stored in the global ice reservoir. It’s a lot. Specifically, as glaciers melt, the amount of organic carbon exported in glacier outflow will increase 50 percent over the next 35 years. To put that in context, that’s about the amount of organic carbon in half of the Mississippi River being added each year to the ocean from melting glaciers.
“This research makes it clear that glaciers represent a substantial reservoir of organic carbon,” said Eran Hood, the lead author on the paper and a scientist with the University of Alaska Southeast. “As a result, the loss of glacier mass worldwide, along with the corresponding release of carbon, will affect high-latitude marine ecosystems, particularly those surrounding the major ice sheets that now receive fairly limited land-to-ocean fluxes of organic carbon.”




‘Hottest Year’ Story Obscures Bigger News: Ocean Warming Now Off The Charts

by Joe Romm Posted on January 22, 2015 at 2:20 pm

The oceans — where over 90% of global warming heat ends up — have literally warmed up off the charts of NOAA.
The big climate news last week was NOAA and NASA announcing that 2014 was the hottest year on record, breaking the highs of 2005 and 2010. But the bigger story got buried: Global warming has continued unabated in recent years. Indeed, it’s not just that there not been a hiatus or pause or even slowdown in surface temperature warming (see below). The oceans, where the vast majority of human-caused global warming heat goes, have seen an acceleration in warming in recent years. As climate expert Prof. John Abraham writes in the UK Guardian, “The oceans are warming so fast, they keep breaking scientists’ charts.” Remember, more than 90 percent of human induced planetary warming goes into the oceans, while only 2 percent goes into the atmosphere, so small changes in ocean uptake can have huge impact on surface temperatures. That’s a key reason surface temperatures haven’t appeared to warm as fast as many had expected in the past ten years — although ocean warming has sped up, and sea level rise has accelerated more than we thought , and Arctic sea ice has melted much faster than the models expected, as have the great ice sheets in Greenland and Antarctica
But here’s where the media’s sometimes single-minded focus on one statistic — the hottest year on record — misses the real story from the latest scientific data and analysis. The human-caused rise in surface air temperatures never paused, never even slowed significantly. And that means we are likely headed toward a period of rapid surface temperature warming. Here’s why.

Dr. Gavin Schmidt, director of NASA’s Goddard Institute of Space Studies, tweeted last week “Is there evidence that there is a significant change of trend from 1998? (Spoiler: No.)” He attached this chart, which uses NASA’s latest data:

The latest NASA temperature data make clear that not only has there been no “pause” in surface temperature warming in the past decade and a half, there hasn’t even been a significant change in trend.

If the media can finally stop missing the forest for the trees, if they can stop missing the blatantly obvious warming trend everywhere scientists said we would see it because they only stare at a very narrow set of (generally misinterpreted) data, then they should stop repeating the myth of a hiatus or even of a global warming slowdown once and for all. In fact, the next big story may well be that surface warming starts accelerating soon. As the lead author of one 2014 study said:

“Scientists have long suspected that extra ocean heat uptake has slowed the rise of global average temperatures, but the mechanism behind the hiatus remained unclear…. But the heat uptake is by no means permanent: when the trade wind strength returns to normal –- as it inevitably will –- our research suggests heat will quickly accumulate in the atmosphere. So global [surface] temperatures look set to rise rapidly….”

And that, combined with the current record ocean temperatures — and faster than expected warming of the ocean’s surface layer — means we can expect a continuation of the unexpectedly fast loss of Arctic sea ice and of land-locked ice in Greenland and Antarctica. And we should anticipate even more record-smashing extreme weather than we’ve had in recent years, as we throw more fuel into the already supercharged atmosphere.



Warming climate likely will change the composition of northern forests, study shows

Posted: 20 Jan 2015 11:28 AM PST

Visitors to northern forests in coming decades probably will see a very different set of trees as the climate warms, a new study shows. The study used a unique long-term outdoor experiment to examine the effects of climate change on trees in the boreal forest along the U.S.-Canadian border. The study, published in the journal Nature Climate Change, used a unique long-term outdoor experiment to examine the effects of climate change on trees in the boreal forest along the U.S.-Canadian border. Some species in the boreal forest are at the far northern range of their growing area, while others are at the far southern edge of their range. Species like spruce and fir that thrive in cooler areas to the north in Canada suffered poorer growth and survival when warmed by a few degrees, while trees like oaks and maples that prefer a more temperate climate performed better when warmed. Other species like aspen, birch, and pine, had a more neutral response. While all of these species may continue to co-exist, at least for a time, in a warmer climate, the study found that the balance of power, competitively speaking, shifted from the boreal species to the oaks and maples.


Peter B. Reich, Kerrie M. Sendall, Karen Rice, Roy L. Rich, Artur Stefanski, Sarah E. Hobbie, Rebecca A. Montgomery. Geographic range predicts photosynthetic and growth response to warming in co-occurring tree species. Nature Climate Change, 2015; DOI: 10.1038/nclimate2497


CREDIT: shutterstock

Things Are Not Looking Good For California’s Big Trees

by Ari Phillips Posted on January 21, 2015 at 10:54 am Updated: January 22, 2015 at 8:54 am]

A group of California scientists published a study this week comparing forest surveys from the 1920s and ’30s to recent U.S. Forest Service data. What they found was not encouraging for the future of the state’s renowned large trees. Published on Tuesday in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, the study found that drought, changes in land use, and fire suppression efforts have caused the number of trees larger than two feet in diameter to decline by 50 percent in a 46,000 square mile area of the state’s forest they surveyed. “Older, larger trees are declining because of disease, drought, logging and other factors, but what stands out is that this decline is statewide,” said study leader Patrick McIntyre, who manages biodiversity data for the California Department of Fish and Wildlife. “Forests are becoming dominated by smaller, more densely packed trees, and oaks are becoming more dominant as pines decline.”

With California currently locked in a serious drought, the role of water stress in determining tree size does not bode well for the future. The study does not factor in the four-year drought now underway as the latest census was taken just before it began. Scientists have determined that the impacts of climate change are exacerbating the state’s current drought. Climate models predict that the state and much of the Southwest will continue to get hotter and drier.

“Based on our data, water stress helps to explain the decline of large trees,” McIntyre said. “Areas experiencing declines in large-tree density also experienced increased water stress since the 1930s.”

According to the study, both large tree declines and increased oak dominance are associated with increases in water deficit, “suggesting that water stress may be contributing to changes in forest structure and function across large areas.”…



Severe water stress (left red) since the 1930s mirrors the decline of large trees (right red) seen throughout the state, from the Sierra Nevada to the Coast Ranges.

Warmer, drier climate altering forests statewide

By Robert Sanders, Media Relations | January 20, 2015


Historical California vegetation data that more than once dodged the dumpster have now proved their true value, documenting that a changing forest structure seen in the Sierra Nevada has actually happened statewide over the past 90 years. A team of scientists from the University of California, Berkeley, UC Davis and the U.S. Geological Survey compared unique forest surveys collected by UC Berkeley alumnus Albert Wieslander in the 1920s and ’30s with recent U.S. Forest Service data to show that the decline of large trees and increase in the density of smaller trees is not unique to the state’s mountains. “Older, larger trees are declining because of disease, drought, logging and other factors, but what stands out is that this decline is statewide,” said study leader Patrick McIntyre, who began the research while a postdoctoral fellow at UC Berkeley and now manages biodiversity data for the California Department of Fish and Wildlife. “Forests are becoming dominated by smaller, more densely packed trees, and oaks are becoming more dominant as pines decline.” The authors found that the density of large trees declined in all regions of California, with declines up to 50 percent in the Sierra Nevada highlands, the south and central coast ranges and Northern California. “Based on our data, water stress helps to explain the decline of large trees,” McIntyre said. “Areas experiencing declines in large-tree density also experienced increased water stress since the 1930s.” The increased density of smaller trees is usually attributed to fire suppression statewide, he noted. Scientists debate the cause of the decline of larger trees, which has been observed in other parts of the world as well, but many suspect that larger trees need more water than smaller trees to withstand droughts and disease.

Co-author David Ackerly, a professor of integrative biology [and Point Blue Board science board member],
said that stressed forests and the loss of large trees could exacerbate the global carbon situation, especially since many are hoping that forests will soak up more and more fossil fuel emissions….“All these records are now brought together in digital form in the EcoEngine, which will allow more people to plumb the data and ask more questions, such as, What about logging? What do the photographic records show?” Kelly said. “We need to remember that there are a lot of valuable collections of data that we can use to make inferences about the future.” Other co-authors are Christopher Dolanc of UC Davis and Alan and Lorraine Flint of the USGS California Water Science Center in Sacramento.




When It Comes to Variations in Crop Yield, Climate Has a Big Say

Jan. 22, 2015 — What impact will future climate change have on food supply? That depends in part on the extent to which variations in crop yield are attributable to variations in climate. A new report has found from researchers at the University of Minnesota Institute on the Environment has found that climate variability historically accounts for one-third of yield variability for maize, rice, wheat and soybeans worldwide — the equivalent of 36 million metric tons of food each year. This provides valuable information planners and policy makers can use to target efforts to stabilize farmer income and food supply and so boost food security in a warming world. The research team is now looking at historical records to see whether the variability attributable to climate has changed over time — and if so, what aspects of climate are most pertinent. “Yield variability can be a big problem from both economic and food supply standpoints,” Ray said. “The results of this study and our follow-up work can be used to improve food system stability around the world by identifying hot spots of food insecurity today as well as those likely to be exacerbated by climate change in the future.”…


Study Projects Unprecedented Loss of Corals in Great Barrier Reef Due to Warming

Jan. 22, 2015 — The coverage of living corals on Australia’s Great Barrier Reef could decline to less than 10 percent if ocean warming continues, according to a new study that explores the short- and long-term … full story


Next-generation sequencing offers insight into how species adapt to climate change

Posted: 21 Jan 2015 10:08 AM PST

Next-generation sequencing allows for the creation and analysis of vast amounts of data about populations and their responses to shifting environmental conditions, including climate change. These data can provide fine-scale information at the genomic level into populations’ adaptations to changing circumstances. Despite the potential usefulness of next-generation sequencing for environmental scientists, it is a costly tool, and funding has yet to equal the value that it may provide.


DNA: How it’s helping scientists understand species’ adaptation to climate change

Carbon Brief (blog)

 – ‎Jan 21, 2015‎


How species respond to climate change could well determine their chances of survival. A new paper describes how scientists are finding new ways to understand how plants and creatures adapt to climate change – by digging deep into their DNA….



Nature experts have hit out at a decision to allow a solar farm with tens of thousands of panels to be built on protected wildlife-rich grassland. Photograph: Tim Ireland/PA

Should tackling climate change trump protecting nature?

Planners have given the green light for a solar farm at Rampisham Down, a SSSI in West Dorset. But stopping biodiversity loss is as important as stopping global warming

Miles King Monday 19 January 2015 07.37 EST

Does the need to mitigate the effects of man-made climate change override the need to protect nature? Climate change is with us, and is one of nine reasons why scientists are now concerned that the rate of environmental degradation is a threat to the future of human life on Earth. The loss of biodiversity, dubbed the Sixth Green Extinction by some, is another threat to humanity, with nearly half of the world’s amphibians and a fifth of its plants at risk of extinction. We do not have the luxury of choosing which of these nine challenges to tackle; they are all critical to our survival. Yet last week, here in West Dorset, the council unanimously approved the development of a 25MW solar farm on a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI). Rampisham Down was designated as a SSSI because it is nationally important for wildlife. There are 70ha of heathland and nature-rich grassland, known as lowland acid grassland at Rampisham. Natural England estimate that there is only 5000ha of this lowland acid grassland type left in England. Rampisham is in the top ten largest surviving fragments in England. It is especially rich in grassland fungi…The National Planning Policy Framework is clear that SSSIs should not be destroyed, unless the benefit outweighs the harm. This is a classic cost-benefit analysis approach, which wilfully ignores all the intangible benefits nature provides us. ….Both Lodge Hill and Rampisham Down are tests of the National Planning Policy Framework and whether it is capable of protecting nature from development. But there is a bigger challenge, to society. Protecting nature is no more an option, than tackling climate change – both are necessary and one cannot outweigh the other.



The U.S. has caused more global warming than any other country. Here’s how the Earth will get its revenge.

By Chris Mooney January 22 at 2:15 PM

The Thwaites Glacier in Western Antarctica. AFP PHOTO/NASA

Last year, we learned what is probably the worst global warming news yet — that we may have irrevocably destabilized the massive ice sheet of West Antarctica, which contains the equivalent of nearly 11 feet of sea level rise. The rate of West Antarctic ice loss has been ominously increasing, and there are fears that if too much goes, the slow and long-term process of ice sheet disintegration could accelerate. Humans have a hard time conceiving of the incredible scale of an ice sheet, so the consequences of such a change can be lost upon us. But in a new paper in the Proceedings of the Institution of Civil Engineers — Forensic Engineering, researchers Ted Scambos of the National Snow and Ice Data Center in Boulder, Colo., and John Abraham of the University of St. Thomas in St. Paul, Minn. – summarize what we now know about West Antarctica. That includes a finding that may serve as a wake-up call for Americans in particular. Namely: If West Antarctica collapses entirely — a process that would likely play out over centuries, but that could substantially begin in this one – the expected 11 feet of sea level rise won’t just spread out evenly across the ocean. The United States will actually get a lot more sea level rise than many other parts of the world — possibly over 14 feet. Call it geophysical karma — we’re the nation most responsible for global warming and, at least in this particular case, we’ll get more of the consequences. So what source of cosmic equity will mete out just deserts in this case? As it turns out — and the mechanisms will be explained in much more detail below — the answer is none other than Isaac Newton’s law of universal gravitation — which states that all objects in the universe attract one another in relation to their masses (and the distance between them)….



Download the report: PDF Download introduction & summary: PDF

Fishermen’s Views of a Changing Ocean

By Michael Conathan | Thursday, January 15, 2015

When we think about climate change, we tend to think of it in terms of future impact. The commonly accepted target among scientists and climate activists is that society must keep global temperatures from rising more than 2 degrees Celsius by 2100. … But for commercial fishermen,* climate change is not a future economic problem: It is a problem right now, and it is costing fisherman both income and jobs. ….The profession of fishing is often multigenerational, with knowledge typically passed down from parent to child to grandchild. The combination of constant exposure to all kinds of weather; the consistent logging of data in the form of catch totals and locations; and a seemingly imperceptible understanding of life over, on, and beneath the waves puts fishermen collectively in a unique position to assess the ecosystems that sustain their livelihoods and that, in turn, nourish the rest of us…..More directly relevant to this report is the fact that in the Northeast, lobster populations have been devastated in recent years in the waters of Long Island Sound and off the southern coasts of Rhode Island and Massachusetts. According to the Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection, from 1998 to 2011, the amount of lobster caught annually in Long Island Sound fell from 3.7 million pounds to just 142,000 pounds, a decline of more than 95 percent. While scientists have not yet been able to confirm the cause of this decline, it is becoming increasingly clear that warming water temperatures are a major factor. The Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission, which coordinates management of the lobster fishery, has found that lobsters are “moving to deeper, cooler waters, thereby concentrating their populations in much smaller areas” in southern New England. To determine fishermen’s perspectives on these changes, the Center for American Progress contracted with Edge Research to conduct a survey of New England commercial fishermen in summer 2014. Edge Research completed telephone surveys  of nearly 600 permit holders in the northeast multispecies fishery—better known as the groundfishery because it targets bottom-dwelling fish such as cod, haddock, and flounders—as well as the lobster fisheries in Maine and Massachusetts. …. Here are a few key results from the fishermen surveyed:

  • Although roughly two-thirds of them identify politically as either “conservative” or “moderate,” fishermen who say climate change is happening outnumber deniers by four-to-one.
  • 65 percent of fishermen surveyed believe climate change could leave them “unable to profit” and ultimately “forced out” of their fishery.
  • A plurality—roughly 40 percent—of them believe observed ocean changes are a “bad thing” for their business, while about 20 percent say it’s a mixed bag and just 10 percent think it’s a “good thing,” with the remaining 30 percent unsure.
  • 40 percent of groundfishermen, 44 percent of Massachusetts lobstermen, and 63 percent of Maine lobstermen say they have noticed “warmer water temperatures.”
  • More than 80 percent of those who have noticed a warming trend attribute it to climate change.
  • In ranking the environmental challenges their industry faces, 36 percent of fishermen listed “ocean warming” as a major problem—roughly equivalent to the 37 percent who listed “declining fish stocks,” the 35 percent who listed “bycatch” of nontargeted species, and the 33 percent who listed “overfishing.” “Water quality” came in at 31 percent, and “ocean acidification” came in at 29 percent.
  • In each fishery, at least 40 percent say they are catching new fish species in areas where those species have not traditionally been found.
  • Fishermen who have been on the water for more than 20 years are somewhat more likely than their less experienced colleagues to perceive climate-related changes as a “serious problem.”….



Sea Levels Already 8 Inches Higher on Marin’s Pacific Coast

Rising Sea Levels the Focus of Marin Online Interaction.

By Bea Karnes (Patch Staff) January 17, 2015 at 9:46pm

Marin County residents concerned about the local impact of rising sea levels have the opportunity to address the issue online. The Marin County Community Development Agency (CDA) is posing questions on its Open Marin webpage. Residents are asked to share facts and opinions about local changes being seen. The Open Marin conversation is a follow-up to public workshops held in West Marin during late October 2014, when residents helped planners identify key assets along the coast that may be vulnerable to higher sea levels and intense storms. Debuted in 2013, Open Marin is a web-based civic forum that expands options for participation inCounty government. It encourages dialogue on specific issues and allows constituents to read what others are saying about hot-button topics. Open Marin makes it easier for people to provide feedback on County program and projects – especially for residents who have a tough time attending public hearings in person because of work schedules, family commitments, travel and other “real life” events. County planners are deep into a public education campaign about the Collaboration: Sea level Marin Adaptation Response Team (C-SMART), which is assessing the vulnerabilities of coastal towns to potential rising ocean levels and intensifying storms.
Scientific evidence shows that sea level rise is accelerating because of thermal expansion of the oceans and the melting of glaciers and ice sheets. Sea level has risen 8 inches along Marin’s Pacific Coast since record keeping began. Although there is no immediate danger to residents, climate experts predict that the sea level could rise nearly 5 ½ feet between now and the year 2100, putting communities such as Bolinas, Stinson Beach, Muir Beach, Point Reyes Station, Inverness and Marshall at risk. Additionally, the intensity and frequency of storms are expected to increase, compounding potential hazards. Natural resources, such as wetlands and habitat areas, also are in jeopardy. The C-SMART program is partially funded with grants from the Ocean Protection Council and the California Coastal Commission. Additional partner organizations include the Gulf of the Farallones National Marine Sanctuary, the U.S. Geological Survey, Point Blue Conservation Science, the MarinCounty Department of Public Works, Caltrans, the National Park Service and the Federal Emergency Management Agency. In addition to Open Marin, residents man still send an email, mail a letter or attend a public meeting to share thoughts with County officials. Learn more at –Information from County of Marin; Image Patch Archive






Jan 21 2014Jan 22 2013


A new year, a new ridge: dry and warm conditions return to California, but how does the present pattern compare to last year’s?

by Daniel Swain on January 17, 2015 • 631 Comments
California Weather Blog

Weather conditions over the past two months have varied wildly throughout California. Extremely heavy precipitation and unusually warm conditions in early December in the northern/central coastal regions gave way to very cold and mostly dry conditions around the new year (though not dry enough to preclude some remarkable low elevation snowfall in the lower hills of Southern California).

Photograph showing widespread snow cover in the Temecula Valley in the wake of the remarkable late-December low-elevation snow event in Southern California. Photo by Tim Lynn via Tara Wallis.

Photograph taken along Tioga Pass Road on January 12, 2015 illustrating the remarkable lack of snow in the High Sierra this winter. Photo courtesy of Bartshé Miller.

Early January continued to bring a mixed bag of conditions–Central California has remained completely dry since the subtropical tap in early December shut off, while parts of SoCal saw some unexpectedly heavy precipitation courtesy of a rather unusual cut-off low pressure area that moved in from the southwest. The Sierra Nevada, for the most part, has been dry over the past month–and in many places, quite warm (with daytime highs and even some overnight lows remaining well above freezing). Meanwhile, far northern California has experienced some significant precipitation over the past couple of days. When taken together, all of these varied conditions paint a complex meteorological picture–but on a statewide basis, conditions have trended once again toward much drier and much warmer than average over the past 30+ days.

A highly-amplified atmospheric pattern over North America–once again

What has been the cause of all this California weather volatility and the recent trend towards warmer and drier conditions (despite the fact that January is historically California’s wettest month?). A high-amplitude atmospheric flow pattern has once again developed over the Eastern Pacific and North America, deflecting the Pacific storm track north of its typical cool-season position along the West Coast and allowing repeated intrusions of extremely cold Arctic air to invade the American Midwest and Eastern Seaboard. This unusual atmospheric configuration has occurred with remarkable frequency and intensity over the past several winters, and has been a major contributor to California’s ongoing extreme drought. While December’s heavy coastal precipitation–associated with a strong zonal Pacific jet–brought a substantial reprieve from this recurring high amplitude flow pattern for a brief period of time, recent observations (and, unfortunately, forecasts for the next couple of weeks) suggest that this persistent pattern has returned in the new year.

Is this the Ridiculously Resilient Ridge, Redux?

I’ve received a lot of questions lately regarding the possible re-appearance of California’s now-infamous persistent atmospheric pattern. As many have pointed out, California is no stranger to mid-winter dry spells lasting multiple consecutive weeks. In fact, these break periods–which often follow a particularly active period of storminess (like the one we received back in early December)–are a characteristic feature of cool-season climate in our part of the world. Dry spells lasting longer than 4 weeks, though, are very unusual, and the mid-winter break across much of California appears destined to last at least that long (and in the Bay Area and Sacramento regions, has already exceeded that duration). The Ridiculously Resilient Ridge (as I defined it back in 2013) is a persistent region of unusually high atmospheric pressure in the middle levels of the atmosphere centered over the far northeastern Pacific Ocean. It’s a feature that existed in the long-term average geopotential height field (over many consecutive months), and does not refer specifically to the extraordinarily intense high pressure system that was in place for a 6-week period during Dec-Jan 2013-2014….. As a result, there’s an excellent chance that January 2015 could go down in the record books as the driest on record across a wide swath of California–especially near the Bay Area, where a number of stations have a respectable shot at recording 0.00 inches for the entire calendar month….

Bottom of Form


California drought could end with storms known as atmospheric rivers

By Tony Barboza January 18, 2015 LA Times

  • Powerful storms known as atmospheric rivers have broken 40% of California droughts since 1950
  • Atmospheric rivers, ribbons of water vapor that extend for thousands of miles, pull moisture from the tropics

California’s drought crept in slowly, but it could end
with a torrent of winter storms that stream across the Pacific, dumping much of the year’s rain and snow in a few fast-moving and potentially catastrophic downpours. Powerful storms known as atmospheric rivers, ribbons of water vapor that extend for thousands of miles, pulling moisture from the tropics and delivering it to the West Coast, have broken 40% of California droughts since 1950, recent research shows… “These atmospheric rivers — their absence or their presence — really determine whether California is in drought or not and whether floods are going to occur,” said F. Martin Ralph, a research meteorologist who directs the Center for Western Weather and Water Extremes at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography at UC San Diego. The storms, which flow like massive rivers in the sky, can carry 15 times as much water as the Mississippi and deliver up to half of the state’s annual precipitation between December and February, scientists say. Though atmospheric rivers are unlikely to end California’s drought this year, if they bring enough rain to erase the state’s huge precipitation deficit, they could wreak havoc by unleashing floods and landslides. Scientists using a new type of satellite data discovered atmospheric rivers in the 1990s, and studies since then have revealed the phenomenon’s strong influence on California’s water supply and extreme weather. This month, a group of government and university scientists, including Ralph,
are launching a major field experiment to better understand atmospheric rivers as they develop over the Pacific. Through the end of February, some researchers will fly airplanes above storms as they pass through, while others will monitor them from ships hundreds of miles off California. As the storms make landfall, the scientists will collect data with ground-based instruments….Scientists will use the information to try to improve atmospheric river forecasts, including where they will hit hardest and for how long. That could help communities prepare for flooding and allow water managers to make better use of storm runoff….








Multiple-benefit flood projects in protecting people from flooding on the Puyallup River (Washington TNC)

Our work with floodplains is allowing local rivers room to roam! Through innovative science, collaboration and partnerships, we’ve been able to create and integrate projects that are improving flood protection for cities like Orting and their surrounding communities!


Protecting California’s natural lands is key to combating climate change

SPECIAL TO SAC BEE 01/20/2015 4:00 PM 
 01/21/2015 12:00 AM

Andrea Tuttle, former director of the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, is an Arcata-based consultant on forest and climate policy.

As a kid, I loved camping. In the pines of the Sierra, I learned the joy of nature and the cycle of life. As a biologist in college, I learned how truly essential our forests, wetlands, farmland and rangelands are to our very existence. These landscapes produce oxygen, capture rain and snow, grow food and fiber, shelter wildlife and provide many other environmental benefits. Today, we face climate change as our biggest environmental challenge, and these lands are more important than ever. Drought and extreme weather already impact California’s communities and economy; rising sea levels already erode our coastline. In his inaugural address, Gov. Jerry Brown identified the important role that natural and working lands play in fighting the threats of climate change. As the Legislature now negotiates the newly released budget, putting investments into natural and working lands is crucial to ensuring those carbon benefits happen. California’s pioneering law, Assembly Bill 32, supports innovative solutions to meet the state’s ambitious climate-change goals and prepare for the impacts of carbon pollution. Right in our own backyard is one of the largest and most cost-effective tools that is already functioning – active carbon storage and removal provided by natural lands.

Forests are a huge carbon-storage bank, and represent our largest opportunity to remove carbon dioxide already in the atmosphere. When forests are lost to development, fire or degradation, they become a major source of emissions. Investments made now to retain and restore forests to healthy, resilient conditions will ensure the carbon bank stays intact and continues to grow. Forested watersheds also supply much of the state’s water, so ensuring those lands stay healthy above the dams is key to implementing the state Water Action Plan.

Wetlands, too, are major storage banks, removing carbon from the atmosphere and storing it in soils and vegetation. These thriving ecosystems protect communities from sea level rise and storm surge, offer natural water storage, improve water quality and provide vital habitat for much of California’s diverse wildlife. With less than 10 percent of the state’s wetlands remaining, investments can help protect and restore these areas for long-lasting benefits.

Preventing the loss of farm and rangeland and improving farm practices reduce harmful emissions in multiple ways. Studies show that developed urban land emits far more pollution than farmland. Using organic fertilizers and other soil management practices can capture large amounts of carbon that would otherwise enter the atmosphere. And every year, more California farmers are harnessing the power of on-farm renewable energy.

Urban parks and forests are also important. They help cool cities, reduce carbon pollution and improve health where most Californians live. Providing green space can break the cycle of neglect in California’s most disadvantaged communities, while capturing rain, shading buildings, cooling pavement and recharging groundwater.

Yes, attention to energy efficiency, renewables and cleaner fuels is crucial in the fight against climate change, and we must invest there. But the challenge cannot be met without also including the natural and working landscape.

The lands we invest in now, to grow and capture carbon, not only deliver immediate climate benefits, but also help bridge the gap while new technology comes online. The competition for budget funds is fierce, but we must remember the dividends that preserving forestland and open spaces will pay in the future. Just like a retirement account, the sooner we start, the greater the benefits.



The words we use matter in climate change adaptation

Jan 17 2015

In 2012, North Carolina outlawed climate change, receiving major press as the face of conservative climate policy. The intent of the law was to stop planning processes from basing their decisions on modeled climate change scenarios of the future, which would halt large investments in coastal development. But the letter of the law actually outlawed the sea from rising, and the new legislation met the American public as the face of many public jokes making North Carolinians look quite naive about the future changes in our ecosystem. The immediate response of state agencies was to follow the letter of the law and remove the phrase “climate change” from their websites, reports, and other public-facing documents. This fits with the cultural understanding of climate change in much of North Carolina, where many do not believe that climate change is human-caused but instead what happens to our planet is directed by God.
According to this philosophy, we should trust God to do what’s right for the planet instead of moaning about how sea level rise might take your house and put it in the ocean. The new law aligns with this resurgence of religious conservatives in state politics and the general notion that you don’t bring up climate change at the dinner table.

Yet, for years before this law and continuing after its enactment, the state and its residents continue to plan for sea level rise at a community or personal level. Residents are moving their houses inland, raising them on stilts, and reconsidering coastal purchases. According to research out of ECU, these residents are perfectly okay planning for sea level rise and discuss many of the effects of climate change freely over the dinner table or in the local newspaper… in a nutshell highlights that you have to speak to members of the community, figure out what terms people are using for the effects of climate change, how they fit them into their worldview, and how to communicate about a changing globe in the context of that worldview. Heading straight for the politically contentious fight by using the wrong terms can take the options toward successful adaptation off the table. But there is another way. Rather than attacking someone’s worldview, understand it, talk within it, and get at the concepts through a different path. If we’re all a little more empathetic, we can create more resilient communities.









Leaders in Davos Urge Quick Action to Alter the Effects of Climate Change

By DAVID GELLES NY Times January 23, 2015

Business and political leaders called on governments to set clear goals so companies are prompted to act before the problems of climate change become irreversible….



In State of the Union address, Obama draws line on climate, says U.S. will lead the world

By Joby Warrick Washington Post January 20 at 10:42 PM

“No challenge — no challenge — poses a greater threat to future generations than climate change. 2014 was the planet’s warmest year on record. Now, one year doesn’t make a trend, but this does — 14 of the 15 warmest years on record have all fallen in the first 15 years of this century.” President Barack Obama struck a defiant pose on the environment in Tuesday’s State of the Union address, signaling a willingness to battle with Congress to keep his initiatives on climate and energy policy on track. Citing a decade’s worth of record global temperatures — including last week’s announcement that 2014 was the hottest year since modern measurements began — Obama vowed to roll back any attempts to undo environmental regulations intended to cut carbon emissions. “I will not let this Congress endanger the health of our children by turning back the clock on our efforts,” Obama said. The remark suggested a likely veto for legislation that would block key White House initiatives to slash pollution from coal-fired power plants or interfere with efforts to reach a landmark treaty on climate change later this year in Paris…..


Senate Votes 98-1 That Climate Change ‘Is Not A Hoax’

January 21, 2015 NBC News

United States senators are now on the record on the question of whether climate change is “a hoax.” But a majority of the Senate, including 15 Republicans, are also on record stating that human activity contributes to climate change. The Senate on Wednesday passed a measure stating that “climate change is real and is not a hoax” by a margin of 98-1.
The Senate also voted down two amendments to the bill approving the Keystone XL pipeline stating that human activity contributes to climate change. (Each amendment needed 60 votes to pass.)….


Senate Votes 98-1 That ‘Climate Change Is Real And Not A Hoax’

by Emily Atkin Posted on January 21, 2015 at 5:38 pm

The U.S. Senate on Wednesday voted 98-1 to approve a resolution stating that “it is the sense of the Senate that climate change is real and not a hoax.” Then, about 15 minutes later, the Senate rejected a second resolution that said climate change is real and caused by humans. The first resolution was approved — and co-sponsored — by one of the most outspoken climate deniers in the Senate, Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-OK), a man who literally wrote a book about how climate change is the “greatest hoax ever perpetrated.” The only Senator to vote against the resolution was Sen. Roger Wicker (R-MS).

Sounds too good to be true, right? That’s because it is. At the last minute, right before a vote was taken, Inhofe took the floor to state that he would be co-sponsoring and approving the amendment on the grounds that yes, climate change is real, but human-caused climate change is not. “Man cannot change climate,” Inhofe said. “The hoax is that there are some people that are so arrogant to think that they are so powerful that they can change climate.”

The resolution was originally put forth by Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) as an amendment to the bill to approve the Keystone XL pipeline. It was widely seen as a way to troll Republicans — a way for Democrats to say “Fine, if you want to approve the Keystone XL pipeline, you have to go on record about whether you think global warming is real.” But Jim Inhofe out-trolled Sheldon Whitehouse. Jim Inhofe out-trolled us all. Fortunately, the effort to get every Senator on the record about their stance on human-caused climate change was not all for naught. Shortly after the vote on Whitehouse’s resolution, the Senate also took up an amendment from Sen. Brian Schatz (D-HI), which stated that climate change is real and that humans contribute to it. That amendment failed, however, following a short speech from Sen. Lisa Murkoswki (R-AK) saying that the amendment’s inclusion of the word “significantly” — as in, humans “significantly” contribute to global warming — should warrant a “no” vote. Schatz’s amendment failed 50-49 (it needed 60 votes to pass), but it does mean that a slim majority of the U.S. Senate acknowledges that climate science is a real and valid thing. Among the votes against Schatz’ amendment acknowledging that climate change is real were Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) and Sen. Rob Portman (R-OH). Republicans who voted to say that climate change is real and significantly caused by humans included Sens. Lamar Alexander (R-TN), Kelly Ayotte (R-NH), Susan Collins (R-ME), Mark Kirk (R-IL), and Lindsey Graham (R-SC).


Mitt Romney: Climate change is real, human-induced, and we must tackle it

Washington Times

 – January 22, 2015‎


…But he spent the half-hour, question-answer session to criticize the federal debt level and to speak of the need for the current White House to address issues that are normally seen as more Democratic in nature – education, poverty and climate change…



Climate change inaction pushes ‘doomsday clock’ closest to midnight since 1984

Symbolic clock is now at three minutes to apocalypse, the darkest hour for humanity since the cold war

Suzanne Goldenberg, US environment correspondent Thursday 22 January 2015 13.07 EST

The symbolic doomsday clock moved to three minutes before midnight on Thursday because of the gathering dangers of climate change and nuclear proliferation, signaling the gravest threat to humanity since the throes of the cold war.

It was the closest the clock has come to midnight since 1984, when arms-control negotiations stalled and virtually all channels of communication between the US and the former Soviet Union closed down. It was the closest the clock has come to midnight since 1984, when arms-control negotiations stalled and virtually all channels of communication between the US and the former Soviet Union closed down. “It is now three minutes to midnight,” said Kennette Bennedict, the executive director of the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, announcing the two-minute shift toward the midnight hour. The move came as scientists sounded a warning about climate change for the second time in three years. The last move of the clock hands, from six minutes to five minutes to midnight, in 2012, was also because of climate change.
As the scientists noted last Thursday, 2014 was the hottest year in 130 years of systematic record keeping. Nine of the 10 hottest years on record have occurred since 2000. But the scientists suggested that the greater danger lay in the failure of leaders to recognise and act on climate change. “Stunning government failures have imperiled civilisations on a global scale,” Benedict said. “World leaders have failed to act on a scale or at a speed to protect humanity from catastrophe.” ….




]STR/AFP/Getty A resident of China’s Hubei province clears the Fuhe river of dead fish, thought to have been poisoned by high levels of ammonia.

Policy: Four gaps in China’s new environmental law

Nature January 21, 2015

Implementation and accountability will remain challenging, especially at the local level, warn Bo Zhang and Cong Cao.




New Congress Begins Anti-Environment Attack With ‘No More National Parks’ Bill

by Claire Moser – Guest Contributor Posted on January 16, 2015

The bill, introduced Tuesday, would amend the 1906 Antiquities Act to effectively block the President from designating any new national monuments without congressional approval and an extensive environmental review…..



Billionaire Tom Steyer won’t run for Boxer’s Senate seat

By Carla Marinucci Updated 4:22 pm, Thursday, January 22, 2015 SF Chronicle

Billionaire activist Tom Steyer won’t run for the U.S. Senate in 2016, saying Thursday he will instead concentrate on electing a Democratic president and in continued activism on his signature issue of climate change. “This was a very hard decision,” he said in a blog post on Huffington Post. “The U.S. Senate offers a unique opportunity to serve, but I also know that we will have excellent candidates. … Given the imperative of electing a Democratic president — along with my passion for our state — I believe my work right now should not be in our nation’s capital but here at home in California and in states around the country where change is on the move.” The decision by the country’s single biggest political donor leaves Attorney General Kamala Harris as the front-runner — and only announced candidate — for the Senate seat to be vacated by retiring Sen. Barbara Boxer, and opens the way for former Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa to be Harris’ chief competitor for the seat. Villaraigosa, in a statement Thursday, called Steyer “a real champion for change in his passionate campaign for a cleaner and healthier world,” adding, “I am proud to be an ally in that fight and wish him all the best.” A source close to Steyer said the activist made his final decision after hearing President Obama’s State of the Union address Tuesday. Steyer believed he needed to “double down” on strategies to make a difference in climate change at the national level, while continuing to ensure that California would set the national lead on the issue. The decision doesn’t mean Steyer is ruling out a future run, the source said. Villaraigosa is expected to be joined by a flurry of Democrats competing for the state’s first open Senate seat since 1992, when Boxer and Feinstein were first elected. State Republicans leaders have all but conceded that no major GOP candidates are expected to compete for the seat. Steyer — who had strongly hinted he was interested in the post — was upbeat in his announcement. “My decision about whether to engage from the outside or seek elected office came down to a single question: how best can I fight for a level playing field at this point?” said Steyer, the founder of NextGen Climate, a leading national advocacy group on the issue of climate change….







Sequestration on shaky ground: Natural impediment to long-term sequestration of carbon dioxide

Posted: 21 Jan 2015 07:32 AM PST

Carbon sequestration promises to address greenhouse-gas emissions by capturing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and injecting it deep below the Earth’s surface, where it would permanently solidify into rock. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency estimates that current carbon-sequestration technologies may eliminate up to 90 percent of carbon dioxide emissions from coal-fired power plants. While such technologies may successfully remove greenhouse gases from the atmosphere, researchers have now found that once injected into the ground, less carbon dioxide is converted to rock than previously imagined.


Hundreds of birds covered in mystery ‘goop’


 – ‎January 21, 2015‎


Authorities are doing two lab tests to determine what the birds, which were found near the San Leandro Marina (SF Bay) on Tuesday, are covered in: one testing the water and another examining the birds to check if they died of hypothermia or were poisoned…


Thousands Of Montanans Can’t Drink Or Cook With Tap Water Because Of Oil Spill

by Katie Valentine Posted on January 20, 2015 Updated: January 20, 2015

The EPA has confirmed that the oil spill contaminated the water supply of one Montana city. …


50,000 Gallons Of Crude Oil Spills Into Partially Frozen Yellowstone River

by Ryan Koronowski Posted on January 19, 2015 at 2:15 pm Updated: January 19, 2015 at 7:00 pm

On Saturday morning, a pipeline in Montana spilled up to 50,000 gallons of crude oil into the Yellowstone River, the pipeline’s operator confirmed Sunday night. Some residents are reportedly smelling and tasting oil in their drinking water, causing the EPA to test water samples and the city water plant to cease drawing water from the river…..


  voices of famous people to speak about conserving nature.

Key Concepts in Climate Change Adaptation
The World Wildlife Fund has developed a Climate-Smart Conservation learning resource
, WWFAdapt, aimed at conservation practitioners. Five quick (2-9 minute) modules take the learner through key concepts and terminology needed for applying climate-smart conservation principles


The King Tides are Here
San Francisco Bay NERR is once again working with the California King Tides Project to encourage people to photograph extreme high tides flooding landscapes they love. The dramatic and often beautiful images start conversations about how our coast will be affected by sea level rise and what we can do now to prepare. Upcoming dates for predicted king tides are December 21-23, January 19-21, and February 17-19






Environmental Communication:  More Than a Message  January 28, 2015
Moss Landing Marine Laboratory
Even the strongest message won’t deliver itself! Learn how the pros plan their campaigns, measure their accomplishments, and do it even better next time. The More Than a Message training provides big concepts and practical tips you need to plan and carry out your effort.  Click here for more information.



The Western Section of The Wildlife Society 2015 Annual Meeting

January 26-30, 2015 — Vineyard Creek Hyatt, Santa Rosa, CA

Conservation through Collaboration

Featuring a Point Blue Conservation Science
keynote and panel on climate-smart conservation through collaboration on January 28, 2015—with Ellie Cohen, Melissa Pitkin, Dr. Jaime Jahncke, Geoff Geupel, Dr. Kristy Dybala, Catherine Hickey, and Wendell Gilgert.

Click here for the 2015 Annual Meeting website.


CA Rangeland Conservation Coalition 10th Annual Summit – Collaborative Conservation for Rangelands

February 3, 2015 Sacramento, CA         
A group of speakers will share their experiences, successes and challenges of collaborative conservation initiatives across the US. Although different in their geographic scope, goals and composition, these partnerships have been able to restore trust and work together to achieve their common goals for the land and for the ranching community. Click here for more information. 





Water 101 Workshop February 5-6, 2015 West Sacramento, CA
The Water Education Foundation is hosting a day-a-half course that offers the opportunity to learn California water basics, hot topics, and water district board member governance. This workshop is open to those interested in learning about the history of and the management structure of water in California, and about the key water issues facing the state – including the ongoing drought, the new groundwater law, and the 2014 water bond.

Click here to learn more.






CHARG- Coastal Hazards Adaptation Resiliency Group- SFBay- to Co-host the 2015 BAFPAA Annual Conference

Thursday February 19, 2015 8:00am-5:00pm (Reception to follow) Elihu M. Harris State Building, 1515 Clay St, Oakland

Please join us for an exciting and informative day-long conference co-hosted by CHARG and BAFPAA. The focus will be on:

  • Adapting to Climate Change
  • Visioning Bay Area Resiliency
  • Mapping and Data Tools
  • Permitting Agencies’ Alignment

Cost: Nominal fee for lunch

Online registration will be available soon at  

Questions: Ellen Cross, CHARG Facilitator 510.316.9657



UC Berkeley presents

Science for Parks, Parks for Science, in partnership with National Geographic Society and National Park Service, and with media partnership from KQED

March 25-27, 2015 at UC Berkeley  Take advantage of the early bird discount and register by January 25!

This meeting convenes leaders to launch a Second Century of stewardship for parks, 100 years after the gathering by Stephen Mather and Horace Albright at UC Berkeley that called for creation of the National Park Service. The program 
features a keynote speech on the mission of parks by Edward O. Wilson; plus 16 plenary lectures by leading natural, physical, and social scientists; strategic conversations on:

  • Stewardship in a Changing World (de-extinction, re-wilding, forced migration and genetic engineering, restoration and more)
  • Mission of the NPS and its relevancy today
  • Engaging People in Parks
  • The Future of Science for Parks, Parks for Science

and 100 accepted speakers in concurrent sessions on Friday March 26, with posters presented Thursday March 24 and Friday March 26.  Click here to see the full schedule. 




Revelations: Celebrating Our Local Heroes and the Art of Nature March22 2015
Join Bay Nature Institute in celebrating Julia Clothier and two other extraordinary Bay Area conservation heroes at its Annual Awards Dinner on March 22, 2015 from 5:30 – 9:00 pm.
Julia is this year’s recipient of the prestigious Local Hero Award for Environmental Education to honor her tremendous achievements educating our communities’ about the natural wonders of the local Bay Area. There will also be a presentation by San Francisco artist Josie Iselin featuring gorgeous images from her book An Ocean Garden: The Secret Life of Seaweed. Enjoy this once-a-year gathering that brings together the Bay Area’s conservation leaders and nature lovers from all points of the nine-county region!


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


INVITATION TO PARTICIPATE  Abstract submission deadline is 1 November 2014 


ABSTRACT SUBMISSION (through November 1, 2014) and REGISTRATION (through January 25, 2015) NOW OPEN for Science for Parks, Parks for Science: The Next Century – A 2.5-day Summit at U.C. Berkeley March 25-27, 2015 convening natural and social scientists, managers and practitioners — 100 years after historic meetings at U.C. Berkeley helped launch the National Park Service — to rededicate a second century of science and stewardship for national parks.  This summit will feature visionary plenary lectures, strategic panel discussions on current controversies, and technical sessions of contributed paper and posters.   Keynote Speaker: E. O. Wilson.  Distinguished Plenary Speakers and Panelists include David Ackerly, Jill Baron, Steven Beissinger, Joel Berger, Edward Bernbaum, Ruth DeFries, Thomas Dietz, Josh Donlan, Holly Doremus, Ernesto Enkerlin, John Francis, David Graber, Denis Galvin, Jane Lubchenco, Gary Machlis, George Miller, Hugh Possingham, Jedediah Purdy, Nina Roberts, Mark Schwartz, Daniel Simberloff, Monica Turner, & Jennifer Wolch.


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.



22nd annual conference

California Society for Ecological Restoration (SERCAL)

“Restoration for the Next Generation” May 12-14 2015 San Diego

The annual SERCAL conference is attended by a diverse mix of researchers, students, consultants, nonprofit and agency scientists, planners, and landowners/managers, and is a great venue for professional development and for staying current with new advances in ecological restoration. “Call for Abstracts” document ( The deadline for abstract submission is Feb. 4, 2015. Please note the five additional conference sessions (Wetlands/Water, Urban, Mitigation Banks, Special-status Plant Species, and Using Restoration to Accomplish Non-restoration Goals) – abstracts are being sought for these sessions as well. A poster session will also be held, and abstracts for this event are also welcome. The conference (May 13-14) will be proceeded by a day of field trips related to restoration in Southern California.



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.



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


Climate Adaptation and Resilience Specialist

National Wildlife Federation Washington, DC

Online Application Available at:

The National Wildlife Federation is looking for a Climate Adaption and Resilience Specialist to work to achieve NWF’s conservation goals through promoting the incorporation of climate considerations into conservation and natural resource management, and in community resilience efforts. This position will be involved in developing and applying new and emerging approaches to climate change adaptation for ecosystem and biodiversity conservation, and in promoting the use of natural infrastructure approaches to reduce community risks from climate-related hazards. The Climate Adaptation and Resilience Specialist will provide organizational leadership and serve as manager on selected projects and programs, including a post-Hurricane Sandy coastal resilience project being carried out in collaboration with the State of New Jersey. The position will be responsible for providing needed technical, scientific, and policy analysis and advice through written products as well as oral presentations. The position will also be responsible for identifying and pursuing foundation and government funding opportunities.


San Joaquin River Parkway and Conservation Trust | Executive Director

An excellent opportunity for the right person and we would greatly value your distribution of the announcement to your networks and contacts as you feel appropriate.  The position is also posted on our website. In case you missed it, last November, we announced that [Dave Koehloer] plans to step down in June of 2015.


Executive Director, San Francisco Bay Bird Observatory

The San Francisco Bay Bird Observatory (SFBBO) is seeking a full-time Executive Director. SFBBO is a non-profit, 501(c)(3) corporation located in Milpitas, CA dedicated to the conservation of birds and their habitats through science and outreach. In 2015, SFBBO will have 8 full-time staff, 6 part-time staff, 3 full-time interns, and an annual budget of $750,000. Established in 1981, SFBBO has 34 years of experience conducting avian and habitat restoration research as well as undertaking community outreach in the San Francisco Bay Area. Our work contributes to land management decisions that address local conservation challenges of concern to resource agencies, policymakers, and California citizens. Our work promotes an ethic of environmental stewardship in Bay Area citizens. …


PROJECT MANAGER for Green Solution – Water Sustainability Program

Community Conservation Solutions (CCS) is seeking an EXPERIENCED PROJECT MANAGER for our Green Solution – Water Sustainability Program, which advances local water sustainability by developing prioritized, metrics-based approaches to capturing, cleaning and re-using of stormwater and dry weather runoff on a watershed scale, and helps develop new funding sources for stormwater projects. See attached PDF for full description.
Learn more about CCS’ Green Solution Program. This position is full-time; salary commensurate with experience.  Benefits include: 403(b) Salary Deferral Plan, medical and dental insurance, vision care, paid vacation.
TO APPLY: Please email resume and cover letter explaining relevant experience and specific interest in this position to: Personnel, Community Conservation Solutions, No phone calls, please.  CCS is an Equal Opportunity Employer.








Sitting for long periods increases risk of disease and early death, regardless of exercise

Posted: 19 Jan 2015 02:17 PM PST

The amount of time a person sits during the day is associated with a higher risk of heart disease, diabetes, cancer, and death, regardless of regular exercise, according to a review study.


Op-Ed | Mark Bittman

Let’s Address the State of Food

By MARK BITTMAN NY Times January 21, 2015

There are at least four crucial issues the president should mention in his speech that affect our health. But will he?



Fatty acids in fish may shield brain from mercury damage

Posted: 21 Jan 2015 11:48 AM PST

The benefits of fish consumption on prenatal development may offset the risks associated with mercury exposure, new findings from research in the Seychelles suggests. In fact, the new study suggests that the nutrients found in fish have properties that protect the brain from the potential toxic effects of the chemical.





The SS Ayerfield Photo by Jason Baker on Wikipedia | Copyright: Creative Commons

Nature is leading a successful mutiny on this century-old freighter










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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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