Conservation Science News February 6, 2015

Focus of the WeekNew Evidence Confirms Recent IPCC Climate Change Estimates










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

The items contained in this update were drawn from,, SER The Society for Ecological Restoration,,,, The Wildlife Society NewsBrief, 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.  
You can sign up for this news compilation by signing up for the California Landscape Conservation Cooperative Newsletter or the Bay Area Ecosystems Climate Change Consortium listserve to receive this. You can also email me directly at Ellie Cohen, ecohen at with questions or suggestions. 

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– New Evidence Confirms Recent IPCC Climate Change Estimates

(Point Blue slide)


Evidence from warm past confirms recent IPCC estimates of climate sensitivity

Posted: 04 Feb 2015 10:41 AM PST


New evidence showing the level of atmospheric carbon dioxide millions of years ago supports recent climate change predictions from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.
A multinational research team, led by scientists at the University of Southampton, has analysed new records showing the CO2 content of the Earth’s atmosphere between 2.3 to 3.3 million years ago, over the Pliocene. During the Pliocene, the Earth was around 2ºC warmer than it is today and atmospheric CO2 levels were around 350-400 parts per million (ppm), similar to the levels reached in recent years.


By studying the relationship between CO2 levels and climate change during a warmer period in Earth’s history, the scientists have been able to estimate how the climate will respond to increasing levels of carbon dioxide, a parameter known as ‘climate sensitivity’. The findings, which have been published in Nature, also show how climate sensitivity can vary over the long term.


Today the Earth is still adjusting to the recent rapid rise of CO2 caused by human activities, whereas the longer-term Pliocene records document the full response of CO2-related warming,” says Southampton’s Dr Gavin Foster, co-author of the study. “Our estimates of climate sensitivity lie well within the range of 1.5 to 4.5ºC increase per CO2 doubling summarised in the latest IPCC report. This suggests that the research community has a sound understanding of what the climate will be like as we move toward a Pliocene-like warmer future caused by human greenhouse gas emissions.”


Lead author of the study, Dr Miguel Martínez-Botí, also from Southampton said: “Our new records also reveal an important change at around 2.8 million years ago, when levels rapidly dropped to values of about 280 ppm, similar to those seen before the industrial revolution. This caused a dramatic global cooling that initiated the ice-age cycles that have dominated Earth’s climate ever since.”


The research team also assessed whether climate sensitivity was different in warmer times, like the Pliocene, than in colder times, like the glacial cycles of the last 800,000 years. Professor Eelco Rohling of The Australian National University in Canberra says: “We find that climate change in response to CO2 change in the warmer period was around half that of the colder period. We determine that this difference is driven by the growth and retreat of large continental ice sheets that are present in the cold ice-age climates; these ice sheets reflect a lot of sunlight and their growth consequently amplifies the impact of CO2 changes.”


Professor Richard Pancost from the University of Bristol Cabot Institute, added: “When we account for the influence of the ice sheets, we confirm that the Earth’s climate changed with a similar sensitivity to overall forcing during both warmer and colder climates.”


M. A. Martínez-Botí, G. L. Foster, T. B. Chalk, E. J. Rohling, P. F. Sexton, D. J. Lunt, R. D. Pancost, M. P. S. Badger, D. N. Schmidt. Plio-Pleistocene climate sensitivity evaluated using high-resolution CO2 records. Nature, 2015; 518 (7537): 49 DOI: 10.1038/nature14145






Point Blue in the News:


Researchers from Point Blue Conservation race to release songbirds caught in the group’s research net. Photo credit: Joe Rosato Jr.

“Birds Can Tell Us a Lot About the Greater Environment”: Researchers Tag Songbirds to Track their Journey…

For 20 years, researchers from the research group Point Blue Conservation Science have used the Bolinas Lagoon Open Space Preserve in Marin County to catch and tag songbirds, interacting with hundreds of birds each year.

Joe Rosato Jr. NBC Bay Area Jan 30 2015

Renee Cormier stepped deliberately along the trail thick with foliage, her rubber boots combing through the thickets of grass and shrub.
She finally reached a clearing where a long black net, almost as if someone expected to strike up a volleyball game in the woods, hung from two poles. In the midst of the net, the small frame of a bird jostled in the mesh. Cormier gingerly untangled the bird, placing it in a cloth bag, and set off again toward the Bolinas lagoon. For 20 years, researchers from the research group Point Blue Conservation Science have used the Bolinas Lagoon Open Space Preserve in Marin County to catch and tag songbirds, interacting with hundreds of birds each year. “We’re primarily interested in tracking songbirds,” said Cormier, “and seeing how they’re doing.” The group employs what are known as “mist nets” to catch birds, which tangle up in the pockets of netting. The group checks the nets every 15 minutes, promptly extracting its surprised visitors. The researchers weigh and measure the birds, and determine the sex. Many of the birds are banded with a small tag. “When we band birds we can determine how long birds are surviving,” Cormier said. The banded birds include sparrows, warblers, kinglets and chickadees, which frequent the preserve during the winter months. When the researchers catch a type of bird known as a fox sparrow, they also outfit it with tiny GPS tags that will record eight pre-programmed points on the journey, to help reveal where the birds go when they leave the California Coast. “When they return next winter,” said Cormier, “we’ll be able to remove the tag, download the data and figure out where they went.”
Although fox sparrows visit the preserve in the winter, researchers know little of the other areas where they travel and breed. It’s only in the last five years the tracking devices have become small and light enough to affix to the tiny birds. Cormier said the devices are a key component in determining the rest of the birds’ travels. “Particularly in the face of things like climate change and continued changes in land use,” Cormier said, “these birds might be facing different challenges depending on where they go. Researchers said songbirds can help deliver a bigger picture of the health of lands like the Bolinas preserve. “The birds can tell us a lot about the greater environment,” said researcher Mark Dettling of Point Blue, “and so we use them as an indicator to see the health of the eco system here.” On a recent day, Cormier and Dettling worked alongside a pair of interns, catching dozens of birds throughout the day. Thirty percent of the birds captured by the nets already wear the group’s metal tags. Newcomers are banded and released. Cormier applied a GPS tag to the lone fox sparrow caught that day, with the careful precision of a surgeon. She photographed the bird with a smart phone as Dettling released it, fluttering away into the brush – hopefully to return next year with its electronic travel log.



State let oil companies taint drinkable water in Central Valley

By David R. Baker SF Chronicle February 1, 2015

Oil companies in drought-ravaged California have, for years, pumped wastewater from their operations into aquifers that had been clean enough for people to drink. They did it with explicit permission from state regulators, who were supposed to protect the increasingly strained groundwater supplies from contamination. Instead, the state allowed companies to drill more than 170 waste-disposal wells into aquifers suitable for drinking or irrigation, according to data reviewed by The Chronicle. Hundreds more inject a blend of briny water, hydrocarbons and trace chemicals into lower-quality aquifers that could be used with more intense treatment. Most of the waste-injection wells lie in California’s parched Central Valley, whose desperate residents are pumping so much groundwater to cope with the historic drought that the land has started to sink.

“It is an unfolding catastrophe, and it’s essential that all oil and gas wastewater injection into underground drinking water stop immediately,” said Kassie Siegel, director of the Climate Law Institute at the Center for Biological Diversity environmental group….”If there are wells having a direct impact on drinking water, we need to shut them down now,” said Jared Blumenfeld, regional adminstrator for the EPA. “Safe drinking water is only going to become more in demand.” California produces more oil than any state other than Texas and North Dakota, and its oil fields are awash in salty water. A typical Central Valley oil well pulls up nine or 10 barrels of water for every barrel of petroleum that reaches the surface. In addition, companies often flood oil reservoirs with steam to coax out the valley’s thick, viscous crude, which is far heavier than petroleum found in most other states. They pump high-pressure water and chemicals underground to crack rocks in the controversial practice of hydraulic fracturing. They use acid and water to clear up debris that would otherwise clog their oil-producing wells. All of that leftover water, laced with bits of oil and other chemicals, has to go somewhere. Pumping the liquid — known in the industry as produced water — back underground is considered one of the most environmentally responsible ways to get rid of it. “If we’re not able to put the water back, there’s no other viable thing to do with it,” said Rock Zierman, chief executive officer of the California Independent Petroleum Association, which represents smaller oil companies in the state. “If you were to shut down hundreds of injection wells, obviously that’s a lot of jobs, a lot of tax revenue.”

Farmers fear that the groundwater they increasingly need to nurture their orchards and crops may one day show signs of pollution, even if it hasn’t surfaced yet. “When I’m concerned for my farm, I’m looking at future generations and reaching a point where they can’t use the groundwater because of things we’re doing today,” said Tom Frantz, 65, a farmer and retired teacher who grows almonds near the town of Shafter (Kern County). The wastewater injection problem stretches back to 1983. ….. In all, 464 wells injected wastewater into aquifers that were supposed to be protected, according to state data. That includes 94 wells drilled into the 11 aquifers that the state considered exempt and the EPA didn’t. Some of the aquifers that were breached were so salty that they would be difficult to use. But a third of the aquifers are believed to hold water that — at least before injection began — was clean enough to drink, either with some treatment or none at all.
To gauge water quality in a river, lake or aquifer, researchers often start with the water’s total dissolved solids — salts and other materials in the liquid. High counts don’t necessarily make water harmful to drink, but they can cloud it and give it a salty or bitter taste.
In general, anything below 500 parts per million requires no treatment and is considered high quality. Water from San Francisco’s Hetch Hetchy system, piped straight from the Sierra, averages 71. State water officials want to prevent contamination of any aquifers that are below 3,000
…..Even in relatively wet years, little rain falls in the southern San Joaquin Valley, forcing its farmers to rely on irrigation. Any potential threat to groundwater matters…..”That’s what we do for a living — we’re farmers, we grow things,” said Hopkins, 67, managing partner of Palla Farms. “If we don’t have water, your property’s worth zero.”



(Photo: RGJ file)

Avian cholera returns after decades, kills thousands of Nevada birds

Jeff DeLong, Reno Gazette J 4:21 p.m. PST February 2, 2015

Thousands of birds have died at Walker Lake from a disease experts say hasn’t made an appearance in Nevada in decades. An estimated 3,000 birds — most of them American coots and ducks — have died in an outbreak of avian cholera since early December in an event that still is unfolding. As many as 10 percent of Walker Lake’s ducks may have died. “It is still an ongoing outbreak,” said Peregrine Wolff, veterinarian for the Nevada Department of Wildlife. The event marks the first time for an outbreak of avian cholera in Nevada since the 1980s, Wolff said. The highly infectious and quick-killing disease is unrelated to the avian flu that has spread among waterfowl in neighboring states and which experts said last Friday was found in a duck in Nevada’s Lincoln County late in January. Avian cholera poses no threat to people or dogs. The Department of Wildlife was first notified by hunters in early December that they were finding dead ducks around Walker Lake. It was the wrong time of year for the most common culprit when it comes to Nevada bird die-offs, avian botulism, so experts suspected something else was responsible for a die-off that appeared fairly large in scale. “There’s not a lot of things that kill a lot of birds quickly but avian cholera in one of them,” Wolff said….



Addressing feral cats’ diet may help protect native species

Posted: 02 Feb 2015 06:24 PM PST

Because reducing the impacts of feral cats–domestic cats that have returned to the wild–is a priority for conservation efforts across the globe, a research team recently reviewed the animals’ diet across Australia and its territorial islands to help consider how they might best be managed. The investigators recorded 400 vertebrate species that feral cats feed on or kill in Australia, including 16 globally threatened birds, mammals and reptiles. The cats feed mainly on rabbits when they are available, but they switch to other food groups when they are not. Reptiles were eaten most frequently in desert areas, whereas medium-sized mammals, such as possums and bandicoots, were eaten most frequently in the temperate southeast. “Our most significant finding was a pattern of prey-switching from rabbits to small native mammals,” said Tim Doherty, lead author of the Journal of Biogeography study. “This is important because control programs for rabbits could inadvertently lead to feral cats killing more native mammals instead. This means that land managers should use a multi-species approach for pest animal control.”


Tim S. Doherty, Robert A. Davis, Eddie J. B. van Etten, Dave Algar, Neil Collier, Chris R. Dickman, Glenn Edwards, Pip Masters, Russell Palmer, Sue Robinson. A continental-scale analysis of feral cat diet in Australia. Journal of Biogeography, 2015; DOI: 10.1111/jbi.12469



Krysta Rogers / Courtesy photo California’s only native pigeon is the band-tailed pigeon, which spends springs and summer in the Bay Area and other parts of Northern

Mass pigeon deaths alarm biologists; public asked for help

By Peter Fimrite  SF Chronicle February 2, 2015 Updated: February 2, 2015 9:09pm

California’s only native pigeon is the band-tailed pigeon, which spends springs and summer in the Bay Area and other parts of Northern California An alarming increase in the number of dead and dying band-tailed pigeons along the California coast has prompted wildlife biologists to ask the public for help documenting the apparent decline of the only native pigeon left in the state.
At least 1,000 of the pigeons, which winter in Central and Southern California, have been found dead in Santa Clara and Santa Barbara counties since December, the apparent victims of a parasite spread by the common rock pigeon, said Krysta Rogers, an environmental scientist with the California Department of Fish and Wildlife. The sudden increase in mortality is disturbing, Rogers said, because the closest living relative to the extinct passenger pigeon has been struggling for decades to recover from rampant hunting, habitat loss and other environmental problems.

The potential death of a thousand pigeons is very concerning, especially since they have a relatively low reproductive rate. A pair produces about one chick per year,” Rogers said. “When there is really high mortality like this, it can take the population years to recover. In addition to that, these mortality events with band-tailed pigeons have been reported with increasing frequency over the past 10 years.” Band-tailed pigeons are the West Coast version of the passenger pigeon, which was once the most abundant bird in North America until it was hunted to extinction. Millions of band-tailed pigeons used to inhabit California, but they too were hunted for food throughout the 19th century, and much of their habitat was destroyed. They were eventually protected by the Migratory Bird Treaty Act of 1918, which was passed largely out of guilt over the wholesale slaughter of many bird species, including the killing off of the passenger pigeon.

Band-tailed pigeons, which are not listed as endangered, prefer redwood and pine forests in higher elevations along the Central Coast and Sierra Nevada mountain ranges. The pigeons spend their winters in oak and conifer forests between the Bay Area, Santa Barbara County and the San Bernardino Mountains before migrating in late winter or early spring to the northernmost regions of Northern California, Oregon, Washington and British Columbia. About 500 dead band-tailed pigeons have been found over the past two months in the Saratoga and Los Gatos areas of Santa Clara County. An additional 500 carcasses were found in the Solvang, Los Olivos and Santa Ynez areas of Santa Barbara County. The state Department of Fish and Wildlife Investigations Laboratory determined the cause of death to be avian trichomonosis or, more specifically, Trichomonas gallinae. It is believed that non-native rock pigeons, the species commonly seen in urban areas, including San Francisco, are spreading the parasite. Rock pigeons were introduced to North America from Europe.

“Researchers believe that this trichomonosis parasite evolved with these rock pigeons in Europe, and they are immune to it but can carry it,” Rogers said. “Right now, it’s really hard to estimate mortality because the reports I am getting are all in locations where people live. So if there are deaths in remote locations,we’re not getting reports. That’s the challenging thing about this.” The parasite was first reported in band-tailed pigeons in the 1940s, but Rogers said it has become more common over the past 10 years. It lives in the mouth and throat of infected birds, causing lesions in the mouth or esophagus that eventually block the passage of food. Infected birds die from starvation or suffocation. “Band-tailed pigeons are highly susceptible to it,” she said. “When band-tailed pigeons get infected by it, they die.” Rogers is researching the disease to determine exactly how it is being spread, whether from direct contact or whether other species are also carriers. It is believed that water sources, like bird feeders and stagnant pools, may play a role. She said the death toll from the parasite seems to be worse during dry winters.

“These events seem to be more common in winters with less precipitation, so I do suspect there is some weather component in these mortality events,” Rogers said. “When you have large flocks and there is a disease like this circulating, and you have stagnant pools and puddles and not much flowing water, the parasite can become more concentrated in that small amount of water and the disease is going to spread more easily.”

Rogers urged residents to be on the lookout for band-tailed pigeons this winter and to report sick or dead birds. “It’s very complex, but that’s part of the research, to test these ideas out and get some real proof that these things are happening,” Rogers said. “My job is to determine whether these mortality events are contributing to the decline, why they occur and how many birds die when they do occur.”


How to help California’s native
band-tailed pigeons


One good turn: Birds swap energy-sapping lead role when flying in v-formation

Posted: 02 Feb 2015 01:07 PM PST

Migrating birds ‘share the pain’ of the arduous task of leading a v-formation, so that they can then take turns saving energy by following in another bird’s wake, a new study shows…


This African pygmy kingfisher is an insect-eating bird in Ethiopian forests. It was among 51 bird species netted by University of Utah researchers who found that shade coffee farms in Ethiopia — the native home of Arabica coffee — are good for birds, but that some species do best in forest. Credit: Evan Buechley, University of Utah.

Shade coffee is for the birds

Posted: 05 Feb 2015 05:29 AM PST

The conservation value of growing coffee under trees instead of on open farms is well known, but hasn’t been studied much in Africa. So biologists studied birds in the Ethiopian home of Arabica coffee and found that “shade coffee” farms are good for birds, but some species do best in forest.Ethiopian shade coffee may be the most bird friendly coffee in the world, but a primary forest is irreplaceable for bird conservation, especially for birds of the forest understory,” says doctoral student Evan Buechley, lead author of a new study that will be published online Feb. 11 in the journal Biological Conservation. “The best coffee for biodiversity is organic shade coffee in Ethiopia, where the coffee is a native species of the forest,” says ornithologist Çağan Şekercioğlu, the study’s senior author and assistant professor of biology at the University of Utah. “It is grown where it belongs in its native habitat with native tree cover and without chemicals. Not all shade coffee is equal,” Şekercioğlu adds. “Because shade coffee is trendy, there are a lot of commercial plantations in the world where they grow shade coffee under exotic trees, not native trees, so they can call it shade coffee. But it’s not as bird friendly as in Ethiopia. We hope to see increased marketing of Ethiopia shade coffee so the local farmers get a better deal for their beans by keeping the shade coffee intact rather than converting it to open sun farming” by cutting trees, Şekercioğlu says. The researchers found that all 19 bird species living closer to the ground in the “understory” of forests also were found in nearby shade coffee farms in Ethiopia. However, understory forest specialists — especially insect-eating birds of the forest understory — were found in much lower numbers in shade coffee….


Excitement over rare red fox sighting in Yosemite

By Peter Fimrite SF Chronicle Updated 4:14 pm, Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Photo: Motion Detection Camera / Yosemite National Park A Sierra Nevada red fox was captured by a motion activated camera in the northern part of Yosemite National Park.

Wildlife biologists are giddy after their motion-activated cameras captured a rare Sierra Nevada red fox loping through the forests of Yosemite National Park. When cameras spotted the fox on Dec. 13 and Jan. 4 in the remote northern section of the park, it was the first confirmed detection of the species in Yosemite since 1916, said Sarah Stock, a wildlife biologist for the National Park Service. “We are pretty excited because, if you look at the confirmed evidence in the park, there was every reason to believe they had disappeared,” Stock said. “Confirmation of the Sierra Nevada red fox in Yosemite National Park’s vast alpine wilderness provides an opportunity to join research partners in helping to protect this imperiled animal.” The Sierra Nevada red fox is one of the rarest mammals in North America. The native foxes, known as Vulpes vulpes necator, prefer high-elevation alpine regions and were once abundant throughout the Sierra range. But their lush, warm coats and bushy tails were coveted by fashionable women and fur coat manufacturers in the 19th and early 20th centuries, leading to their wholesale slaughter by trappers. It didn’t help that most predators were considered vermin at the time and shot on sight — even by those who didn’t care about their coats. Geneticists believe there are now fewer than 50 Sierra Nevada red foxes left in California. A decision by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is expected this fall on whether to accept a petition filed in 2011 to list the foxes under the U.S. Endangered Species Act.  Stock said she and her colleagues suspected the foxes might be living in Yosemite after a small population was discovered in 2010 in the Sonora Pass area, just north of the park border. Six motion-sensitive cameras were set up over the winter, and a party of backpacking biologists recently retrieved the photos.  The Sierra foxes look similar to, but are genetically distinct from, non-native red foxes imported from Alaska in the early 20th century for their fur. Thousands of these Alaska foxes can be found, mostly in lower elevations like the Central Valley, but Stock said they have recently been moving higher as the weather has warmed and high-elevation snow has decreased…..


Pigeon power: Study suggests similarity between how pigeons learn the equivalent of words and the way children do

Posted: 04 Feb 2015 03:44 PM PST

A new study finds pigeons can categorize 128 photographs into 16 categories of natural and humanmade objects, a skill researchers say is similar to the mechanism children use to learn words.


Hot on the Trail: The Bay Trail to connect Marin with neighboring counties…

Peter Seidman Pacific Sun Jan 29, 2015

Late last year, members of the AmeriCorps NCCC (National Civilian Community Corps) spent six weeks planting native plants as part of the wetlands restoration effort at Hamilton, the former airfield in Novato. The team, comprised of a dozen 18- to 24-year-olds from across the country, planted 11,000 plants. Everyone on the team knew they were helping to create a large and functional seasonal wetland. Restoring the wetlands at Hamilton is part of a larger plan to restore wetlands around San Francisco and San Pablo bays. Wetlands can provide one of the first lines of defense for shoreline communities facing the challenge of sea-level rise. Restoring wetlands accomplishes a multi-part benefit: It improves the natural environment; it improves the visual impact of the wetlands and shoreline; it keeps tidal surge at bay, to an extent. And in the case of San Francisco and San Pablo bays, the wetlands restoration project serves as part of the foundation for completing the Bay Trail, which will encircle San Francisco and San Pablo bays with pathways and routes for pedestrians and bicyclists. A segment of the Bay Trail includes a two-mile portion at Hamilton. The segment, which officially opened in the summer, offers Bay Trail travelers a look at the former airfield as well as the wetlands restoration and San Pablo Bay. The Hamilton segment also provides a look back in history to a time when the Bay Area—and Marin—played a role in protecting the safety of the nation.

….The San Francisco Bay Trail Project, which is administered by the ABAG, will be a 500-mile circular route when all connections are complete, but as Gaffney says, it’s never really complete—at least for a while. A large part of the work-in-progress status comes because planners continually seek to realign the trail for a better experience. And as roads and the built environment change (as well as environmental restoration in some areas), the route of the trail accommodates….In addition to providing a recreational outlet for exercise and a utilitarian path to connect travelers to schools and work and transit, the Bay Trail also serves as a link connecting neighborhoods, points of interest and destinations such as beaches, fishing piers, boat launches and more than 130 parks and wildlife preserves totaling 57,000 acres of open space…..The plan envisions a recovery effort that will last 50 years. That might seem like a long time, but the shorelines of San Francisco and San Pablo bays have a long way to go to recover from development and environmental pressure that stretches back about 150 years. Only about 8 percent (16,000 acres) remain of ancient marshland that totaled about 190,000 acres along the bay. But when counting the number of acres of tidal marshes, it’s critical to understand the concept of ancient marshes and “modern marshes,” areas that actually increased because of human influence. When the combination of ancient marshes and human-influenced marshes are combined, the number of remaining tidal marsh acreage still is a mere hint of what once ringed the bay. Of the original tidal marshes in the bay system, about 35,000 were left by 1980.

Bottom of Form

Top of Form

Bottom of Form







This 2014 photo provided by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the Hawaii Institute of Marine Biology shows bleached coral at Lisianski Island in the Papahanaumokuakea Marine National Monument. The pale coral is bleached due to thermal stress, while the lavender-colored coral is healthy. (AP Photo/NOAA and the Hawaii Institute of Marine Biology, Courtney Couch)

Coral reefs are in such bad shape that scientists may have to speed up their evolution

By Chris Mooney February 3 2015 Washington Post

The coral reefs of the world are in serious danger. A recent scientific report on corals in the Caribbean Sea, for instance, found that coral cover declined from 34.8 percent to 16.3 percent from 1970 to 2012. One of the chief threats to corals is climate change. Not only do warmer waters stress the species, leading to bleaching events like the one pictured above. Climate change provides a double blow to corals because it also brings on ocean acidification, driven by increasing concentrations of carbon dioxide (caused by the burning of fossil fuels) dissolved in seawater. As sea waters acidify, corals have a harder time producing calcium carbonate, which is crucial to reef formation. That’s why, in the latest issue of Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, a group of researchers from the Australian Institute of Marine Science and the Hawaii Institute of Marine Biology now tentatively propose something that they admit is “extremely novel” in conservation circles. Namely, they suggest that humans may need to intervene in the breeding of corals so as to “assist” their evolution. Such “anthropogenically enhanced” corals may survive better, the researchers suggest, in a world of warming and acidifying seas. Moreover, this “environmental engineering” may be necessary as a last-ditch effort since, to be blunt, climate change is proceeding so fast — with so much change already locked in — that there may be no other choice.

So what are they planning to do? This is genetic alteration, to be sure — evolution always is — but it is not what we typically think of as genetic engineering. “Although the development of GMO corals might be contemplated in extremis at a future time, we advocate less drastic approaches,” notes the study. “They’re not proposing Frankenstein coral,” stresses Nancy Knowlton, a marine scientist at the Smithsonian Institution who edited the paper. Rather, “assisted evolution” entails a series of strategies that are perhaps best likened to the domestic breeding of anything from dogs to cows to pigeons to change their attributes.
Charles Darwin called it “artificial selection,” as opposed to natural selection, which usually plays out over much longer periods of time. For corals, here’s how it might work. The researchers propose a number of strategies, some affecting corals and some affecting the communities of microbes that live with them in a symbiotic relationship….

The question you should be asking yourself right now is: How did it come to this? The answer — plain and simple — is our “rapidly changing ocean,” as the researchers put it. If it comes down to choice between losing corals or trying new things, it appears that at least some scientists would probably prefer the latter. After all, coral reefs aren’t just gorgeous — they support a huge amount of fish life and are also critical to local economies. According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, coral reefs contribute $9.6 billion in benefits from the way that they support tourism, and another $5.7 billion due to their contribution to fisheries. So no wonder scientists want to save them, even by unconventional means. We need, the researchers conclude, to consider building up a “biological tool box now” — in case we have to use it later.



How will ocean acidification impact marine life?

Posted: 03 Feb 2015 08:21 AM PST

Many marine organisms–such as coral, clams, mussels, sea urchins, barnacles, and certain microscopic plankton–rely on equilibrated chemical conditions and pH levels in the ocean to build their calcium-based shells and other structures. A new analysis published in the journal Environmental Science and Technology provides a holistic analysis of how species will be affected worldwide under different climate scenarios. “Calcifying species are indispensable for ecosystems worldwide: they provide nursery habitats for fish, food for marine predators, and natural defenses for storms and erosion. These species are also particularly vulnerable to ocean acidification triggered by increased fossil fuel emissions,” says IIASA researcher Ligia Azevedo, who led the study. Just as carbonated soda water is more acidic than flat tap water, higher levels of carbon dioxide (CO2) in the ocean cause the water to become more acidic. And high acidity makes it more difficult for calcifying species to make their calcium structures such as shells, reefs, and exoskeletons.

“Previous studies have shown that marine species were being negatively affected by decreasing ocean pH levels. But until now most studies looked at individual species. This study is one of the first to analyze the impact on the whole community of calcifying species, while also looking at both pH levels and CO2 partial pressure,” says Azevedo…..The analysis finds that under the high emissions scenario, between 21-32% of calcifying species would be significantly affected, based on a threshold of 10% of a species population being affected. In the low emissions scenario, only 7-12% of species would be affected. Azevedo notes that while the study is an important new milestone for ocean acidification research, it does not show what level of impact which species population can handle, that is, how much acidification is too much. “It’s hard to say what the level of impact would mean for different organisms — a 10% rate could be no problem for some species, but for other more sensitive species it could mean one step closer to local extinction,” explains Azevedo. The study also emphasizes that much uncertainty remains about the level of acidification that would lead to major impacts on calcifying species — in part because of varying experimental results. The researchers say that the analysis is an important step forward to provide policymakers a better understanding of the big picture of climate impacts on the ocean. Azevedo says, “The main benefit of this study is to provide a new research framework that policymakers could use for climate policy planning, life cycle impact assessment, and environmental risk assessment.”


Ligia B. Azevedo, An M. De Schryver, A. Jan Hendriks, Mark A. J. Huijbregts. Calcifying Species Sensitivity Distributions for Ocean Acidification. Environmental Science & Technology, 2015; 49 (3): 1495 DOI: 10.1021/es505485m


Climate change redistributes fish species at high latitudes

Posted: 27 Jan 2015 03:41 PM PST

For millions of years, large parts of the marine biotas of the North Atlantic and North Pacific have been separated by harsh climate conditions in the Arctic. A new study underlines that climate change has begun to weaken this natural barrier promoting the interchange of fishes between the two oceans along with many ecological and economic consequences….The team’s results based on predictive ecological modelling, shows that Arctic warming promotes the interchange of fishes between the North Atlantic and North Pacific Oceans via the Northwest and Northeast Passages as sea temperatures and productivity increase at high latitudes.

The last time the environmental conditions allowed such large-scale transfer to occur was nearly three million years ago during the opening of the Bering Strait, which facilitated the spread of mostly Pacific marine species toward the Atlantic.

Redistribution of species and interchange will cause a tremendous increase in fish biodiversity in coastal areas around e.g. Greenland and Svalbard, and thus dramatic changes to interactions between species. History has shown that such biotic interchange can result in severe ecological consequences. For example, the construction of the Suez Canal in 1869 resulted in the invasion of the Mediterranean Sea by Red Sea marine fauna. The Mediterranean fish community is now dominated by Red Sea fishes, and this has had harmful ecological and economic consequences for Mediterranean biodiversity and its fishing industry.

The newly published work foresees that some commercial species will extend their range at higher latitudes and potentially increase fish yields. However, these fish populations will also encounter new ecological contexts with climate change, such as competition between existing and invading species. The coming decades will therefore present new challenges and opportunities for North Atlantic and North Pacific fisheries, which today contribute almost 40% to commercial fish landings, globally.


M. S. Wisz, O. Broennimann, P. Grønkjær, P. R. Møller, S. M. Olsen, D. Swingedouw, R. B. Hedeholm, E. E. Nielsen, A. Guisan, L. Pellissier. Arctic warming will promote Atlantic–Pacific fish interchange. Nature Climate Change, 2015; DOI: 10.1038/nclimate2500




Puget Sound salmon face more ups and downs in river flows

Posted: 03 Feb 2015 12:59 PM PST

Climate change projections predict increased climate variability, which is already appearing in the form of more pronounced fluctuations in salmon rivers around Puget Sound, Wash. That poses increased risks for threatened Chinook salmon, a new study finds.



Farming Now Worse For Climate Than Deforestation

Published: February 3rd, 2015 By John Upton Climate Central

….Efforts such as these to slow deforestation have delivered some of humanity’s few gains in its otherwise lackadaisical battle so far against global warming. A gradual slowdown in chainsawing and bulldozing, particularly in Brazil, helped reduce deforestation’s annual toll on the climate by nearly a quarter between the 1990s and 2010. A new study describes how this trend has seen agriculture overtake deforestation as the leading source of land-based greenhouse gas pollution during the past decade. While United Nations climate negotiations focus heavily on forest protections, the researchers note that delegates to the talks ignore similar opportunities to reform farming. “The decline in deforestation over the past decade or two is a success story,” Rob Jackson, a professor at Stanford University’s earth sciences school, said. He was not involved with the new study. The deforestation slowdown has, “in large part,” he said, been driven by new forestry rules in Brazil, by the U.N.’s Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation (REDD) program, which funds forest conservation, and similar policies elsewhere.

The new study, led by the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization and published in Global Change Biology, quantifies the reductions in climate pollution from the degradation and clearcutting of forests. Clearcutting most often clears space for agriculture, suggesting agriculture’s indirect climate impacts surpass the impacts of deforestation for timber and other commodities. The researchers aim to tally those indirect impacts later this year. This paper was an early step in a larger effort to better understand and report on the climate repercussions of how land is used. “Every year, we’ll have updates,” lead author Francesco Tubiello said.

The study is also a reminder that the burning of fossil fuels remains the main cause of global warming. Burning fuel produces about four times more climate pollution every year than forestry and agriculture combined — a figure that is growing. The research shows that the recent climate-protecting gains in forests are being nearly canceled out by efforts to satisfy the world’s growing appetite — particularly its appetite for meat. Greenhouse gases released by farming, such as methane from livestock and rice paddies, and nitrous oxides from fertilizers and other soil treatments rose 13 percent after 1990, the study concluded. Agricultural climate pollution is mostly caused by livestock. Cows and buffalo are the worst offenders — their ruminating guts and decomposing waste produce a lot of methane. They produce so much methane, and eat so much fertilized feed, that livestock are blamed for two-thirds of agriculture’s climate pollution every year. “We’re seeing an expansion of agricultural lands in some areas because of the growing global population,” Jackson, who is a co-chair of the Global Carbon Project, which studies the global carbon cycle, said. “We’re also seeing intensification of agriculture.”

Although annual climate pollution from deforestation is declining, experts warn that recent gains could quickly be reversed. Deforestation in the Amazon rainforest spiked recently following nearly a decade of declines, for example, as farmers and loggers rushed to exploit loopholes in forest protection laws. Some parts of Central Africa are seeing deforestation in areas where it was not previously a problem. And cutting down trees can reduce moisture levels in a rainforest, which could cause parts of the Amazon to start dying off — even if everybody’s chainsaws simultaneously jammed. The researchers drew on three global datasets to try to hone in on land’s changing contribution to global warming. Such impacts are harder to quantify accurately than are the pollution impacts of burning fuel. Governments invest fewer resources tracking and reporting complex climate indicators for deforestation and agricultural activity than is the case for the energy sector. The paper noted a gulf between global efforts to reduce the climate impacts of deforestation, and the dearth of a global response to the climate impacts of food production. REDD is a major focus of U.N. climate negotiations, but agriculture is barely discussed during the talks….

Doug Boucher, the director of climate research at the Union of Concerned Scientists, says agriculture’s climate impacts could be reduced without taking food off tables. Reducing the overuse of fertilizers, protecting the organic content of soils by changing farming practices, and keeping rice paddies flooded for fewer weeks every season could all contribute to a climate solution, he said. The biggest opportunities for reforming agriculture’s climate impacts can sometimes be found miles from where any food is grown. Reducing waste where food is sold, prepared, eaten and, in many cases, partly tossed in the trash as uneaten leftovers or unsellable produce, reduces the amount of land, fertilizer and equipment needed to feed everybody. “Shifting consumption toward less beef and more chicken, and reducing waste of meat in particular, are what seem to have the biggest potential,” Boucher said.

Bottom of Form



Tiny termites can hold back deserts by creating oases of plant life

February 5, 2015 Princeton University

Termite mounds can help prevent the spread of deserts into semi-arid ecosystems and agricultural lands. The results of a new study not only suggest that termite mounds could make these areas more resilient to climate change than previously thought, but could also inspire a change in how scientists determine the possible effects of climate change on ecosystems. In the parched grasslands and savannas, or drylands, of Africa, South America and Asia, termite mounds store nutrients and moisture, and — via internal tunnels — allow water to better penetrate the soil. As a result, vegetation flourishes on and near termite mounds in ecosystems that are otherwise highly vulnerable to “desertification,” or the environment’s collapse into desert.

Princeton University researchers report in the journal Science that termites slow the spread of deserts into drylands by providing a moist refuge for vegetation on and around their mounds. They report that drylands with termite mounds can survive on significantly less rain than those without termite mounds. The research was inspired by fungus-growing termites of the genus Odontotermes, but the theoretical results apply to all types of termites that increase resource availability on and/or around their nests. Corresponding author Corina Tarnita, a Princeton assistant professor in ecology and evolutionary biology, explained that termite mounds also preserve seeds and plant life, which helps surrounding areas rebound faster once rainfall resumes. “The rain is the same everywhere, but because termites allow water to penetrate the soil better, the plants grow on or near the mounds as if there were more rain,” Tarnita said. “The vegetation on and around termite mounds persists longer and declines slower,” she said. “Even when you get to such harsh conditions where vegetation disappears from the mounds, re-vegetation is still easier. As long as the mounds are there the ecosystem has a better chance to recover.”… Thus, Huisman said, Tarnita and her co-authors showed that vegetation patterns that currently might be interpreted as the onset of desertification could mean the total opposite — that plants are persevering thanks to termite mounds.

The coexistence of multiple patterns at these scales makes ecosystems more robust and less prone to collapse, and that is the significance of this study,” Huisman said. “In that sense, we have to adjust our models for drylands because these ecosystems are much more resistant to desertification than we previously believed.” Furthermore, climate models for every ecosystem need to better account for organisms such as termites and mussels that “engineer their own environment,” Huisman said. “This is an eye-opening study that says we really need to investigate these ecosystems in more detail and incorporate all these other mechanisms before we can say what will lead to a catastrophic collapse in ecosystem function,” Huisman said. “We should always be humble in our model predictions because nature can always be more complex than we initially anticipate.”…


J. A. Bonachela, R. M. Pringle, E. Sheffer, T. C. Coverdale, J. A. Guyton, K. K. Caylor, S. A. Levin, C. E. Tarnita. Termite mounds can increase the robustness of dryland ecosystems to climatic change. Science, 2015; 347 (6222): 651 DOI: 10.1126/science.1261487


Seafloor volcano pulses may alter climate: Strikingly regular patterns, from weeks to eons

February 5, 2015 The Earth Institute at Columbia University

Vast ranges of volcanoes hidden under the oceans are presumed by scientists to be the gentle giants of the planet, oozing lava at slow, steady rates along mid-ocean ridges. But a new study shows that they flare up on strikingly regular cycles, ranging from two weeks to 100,000 years — and, that they erupt almost exclusively during the first six months of each year. The pulses — apparently tied to short- and long-term changes in earth’s orbit, and to sea levels–may help trigger natural climate swings. Scientists have already speculated that volcanic cycles on land emitting large amounts of carbon dioxide might influence climate; but up to now there was no evidence from submarine volcanoes. The findings suggest that models of earth’s natural climate dynamics, and by extension human-influenced climate change, may have to be adjusted. The study appears this week in the journal Geophysical Research Letters. “People have ignored seafloor volcanoes on the idea that their influence is small — but that’s because they are assumed to be in a steady state, which they’re not,” said the study’s author, marine geophysicist Maya Tolstoy of Columbia University’s Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory. “They respond to both very large forces, and to very small ones, and that tells us that we need to look at them much more closely.” A related study by a separate team this week in the journal Science bolsters Tolstoy’s case by showing similar long-term patterns of submarine volcanism in an Antarctic region Tolstoy did not study…..


Satellite science improves storm surge forecasting around the world

Posted: 05 Feb 2015 09:28 AM PST

A new online resource which will help coastguards, meteorological organisations and scientific communities predict future storm surge patterns has been created. The freely-accessible database of storm surge data has been compiled through the multi-partner, international eSurge project, which was launched in 2011 with the aim of making available observational data to improve the modelling and forecasting of storm surges around the world using advanced techniques and instruments. …


Heavy Rainfall Events Becoming More Frequent on Big Island, Hawaii

Feb. 5, 2015 — A recent study determined that heavy rainfall events have become more frequent over the last 50 years on Hawai’i Island. For instance, a rare storm with daily precipitation of nearly 12 inches, … full story









A bottle is pictured in part of the Jaquari reservoir, during a drought in Vargem, São Paulo state, Jan. 28, 2015. Reuters/Roosevelt Cassio

Brazil’s Historic Drought Is Showing No Signs Of Abating

By  Brianna Lee
@briannaclee on January 30 2015 9:00 AM

Brazil’s worst drought since the 1930s doesn’t seem to be letting up anytime soon. Halfway through its rainy season, reservoirs remain critically low, blackouts have been plaguing cities and officials are urging residents to cut back on consumption. Drastic water rationing may be coming soon to three of Brazil’s most populous states, which could amplify frustration that has already been simmering against local and state authorities.

São Paulo, home to around 20 million Brazilians, has been the focal point of the prolonged water crisis, and has been feeling the effects for months: 2014’s rainfall levels were the lowest on record there, and the Cantareira reservoir system — the largest of São Paulo’s six reservoirs — is only at around 5.1 percent of its capacity, according to water utility company Sabesp. This week, São Paulo officials said some areas could face severe water rationing if rainfalls don’t return to normal, suggesting that the 6 million people served by the Cantareira water system might be getting as few as two days of water service a week.

That’s a stark about-face for the state government, which had in recent months downplayed the chance that water rationing would be necessary. But rationing has already become a part of daily life for São Paulo residents, who have been seeing reduced water availability during overnight hours. As the situation grows more desperate, other states are scrambling for ways to cut back on water usage. According to Brazil’s Folha de S.Paulo newspaper, 93 cities have already instituted rationing. The main reservoir in Rio de Janeiro state is operating at zero capacity, according to the federal water agency, although officials have noted plans to divert water from other sources to prevent rationing until at least July. In Minas Gerais, the home state of President Dilma Rousseff and a prime coffee-producing region, officials have asked companies and residents to cut back water usage by as much as 30 percent.

The drought has already taken its toll on agriculture: Soybean crops have already seen “irreversible yield damage,” according to Hamburg-based analysis group Oil World, and forecasts for this year’s coffee harvest are considerably lower than last year. Drought conditions have also hit the tourism sector, with several municipalities canceling Carnival celebration plans for mid-February.

Brazilians have also faced rolling blackouts in recent weeks as hydropower resources dwindle, heightening fears about impending energy rationing on top of the water shortage. Hydroelectric dams provide some two-thirds of the country’s energy. For some residents, the lack of water and light in the midst of boiling summer temperatures has pushed them to the brink: Scattered protests have broken out in some municipalities, including São Paulo, in recent months. Analysts have highlighted climate change, Brazil’s population surge and deforestation all as factors that have  contributed to the current crisis. But Brazilians have been pointing fingers at local and state officials for poor planning and failing to upgrade municipal pipe systems. A government reported released this month said that 37 percent of treated water was wasted due to pipe failure before it even reached residents’ taps, based on data from 2013.



Scientists reprogram plants for drought tolerance

Posted: 04 Feb 2015 10:41 AM PST

Plant biologists report that drought tolerance in plants can be improved by engineering them to activate water-conserving processes in response to an agrochemical already in use — an approach that could be broadly applied to other parts of the same drought-response pathway and a range of other agrochemicals. The finding illustrates the power of synthetic biological approaches for manipulating crops, opening new doors for crop improvement.



First-ever rainless January in S.F. history

By Jill Tucker Updated 5:41 pm, Saturday, January 31, 2015

The month ended with a sun-drenched bang Saturday, an apropos ending for what was the driest January on record in San Francisco. Not one drop of measurable rain fell on city streets in January, the first time that’s happened in recorded weather history, which dates back to the Gold Rush. Other Bay Area cities, including San Jose, saw at most two one-hundredths of an inch during the same time, which was probably just real heavy fog with a drizzle rather than real rain, said Jan Null, former lead meteorologist for the National Weather Service and a meteorology consultant. “It certainly has been a memorable January,” Null said. Memorable because it didn’t look anything like a January. It was shorts and T-shirt weather Saturday, with temperatures hitting 70 degrees before lunch in San Francisco and a whopping 73 at the beach in Half Moon Bay. Crowds gathered around the produce stands at Ferry Plaza Farmers Market, buying up flowers, carrots, Brussels sprouts, broccoli and other fruits and vegetables. Business was good, but the farmers couldn’t help but wonder about the future. Some of the growers were pulling land out of production because of the drought or relying on wells and other sources of water rather than the sky and the clouds. “We’re really concerned,” said apple grower Stan Devoto, owner of Devoto Gardens in Sebastopol. Most of his orchards are dry farmed, meaning they rely on rain rather than irrigation. Without rain, the trees could die. Last year, he used a drip system on some trees to keep them alive. But Devoto is also worried about the warm weather. Apple trees need 600 to 1,000 hours of below 45-degree weather and they haven’t gotten that this year.
“It’s definitely going to affect the size of the fruit,” he said. Yet even without a drop of rain in January, the Bay Area is officially above normal in rainfall for this time of year, Null said. San Francisco is at 112 percent of normal while San Jose is at 131 percent, thanks to the deluge of 15 inches or more of rain in December. But it’s going to have to start raining soon to maintain a normal pace for the season….




Conserving ecosystems during droughts

February 4, 2015
Conferences and Seminars

Chuck Bonham, Sandy Matsumoto, Dr. Peter Moyle, and Tim Quinn discuss how to prepare for the next drought, including developing a plan, designating priority habitat, and securing water for the environment

As January ends as a record-breaking drought in some areas of the state and winter once again seemingly passes California by, a fourth year of drought is looking more certain. Anticipating such a dry future, in January the Public Policy Institute of California (PPIC) brought together agency officials, policy makers, and a variety of stakeholders came together to discuss how the state could be made more resilient to drought. The event included presentations by state climatologist Michael Anderson (see coverage here), Australian official Jane Doolan (see coverage here), and a series of panel discussions on legislative priorities, managing water scarcity, and allocating water during droughts. In this panel discussion, Chuck Bonham, Director of the Department of Fish and Wildlife; Sandy Matsumoto, The Nature Conservancy; Dr. Peter Moyle , Professor of fish biology at UC Davis; and Tim Quinn, Executive Director of the Association of California Water Agencies discuss how to best manage ecosystems in a drought. The panel was moderated by PPIC fellow Ellen Hanak.
Click here to read the remarks.

To get the discussion started, PPIC fellow Jeff Mount gave some opening remarks.



































Not Enough: Heavy Storm Won’t Alleviate California’s Drought

By M. Alex Johnson February 6, 2015

After 43 days of bone-dry weather, San Francisco was getting its first rain Thursday night, the start of a storm that’s expected to drench Northern California and the Pacific Northwest into the middle of next week. But the soaking won’t do much to relieve California’s historically parching drought, forecasters said Thursday. Coastal and northern parts of the Bay Area could get as much as 6 inches of rain by Sunday, with isolated parts of the North Bay possible getting more than 9 inches, according to the National Weather Service, which issued flood watches and small watercraft advisories for the area through late Friday night. Minor flooding was reported in Eureka, in Humboldt County in the northwest corner of the state. But the worst of it will come Friday, when heavy rain is expected to be accompanied by winds up to 30 mph with gusts above 40 mph.


FROM MAVEN’s NOTEBOOK: Storm and flood management resources on the internet: Radar, satellite, river stages, rainfall maps, atmospheric rivers and more …

Weather and storm information


Check out the radar from the National Weather Service.


Check out the Western satellite from NOAA here.

Atmospheric River Portal

Get current atmospheric river conditions and forecasts and more from the Atmospheric River Portal from Scripps and the Center for Western Water and Weather Extremes. (More atmospheric river information by clicking here.)

Rainfall Maps

You can see a rainfall map for the last hour, six hours, 24 hours, or more at this website. Look at it statewide or by region.

The latest watches, warnings, and advisories

Get a list of all the watches, warnings and advisories for California at this National Weather Service website.

California Nevada River Forecast Center

Check in here to find out which rivers are at monitor stage or flood stage. You can also look at observed or forecasted precipitation, temperatures, snow levels, freeze levels and more.

Advanced Hydrologic Prediction Service

This website from the National Weather Service has a wealth of information. Mouse over a particular gage to get a graph of the flow for the last four days plus the forecasted flows for the next five days. Precipitation data as well.

Flooding Map from ESRI with Social Media Links

Continuously updated US flooding information from the National Weather Service shows observed flooding locations and statistics, flood warning areas, as well as current precipitation. See the real-time effects of the flooding via social media posts.

River Stage Maps

At this CDEC website, you can display river stage maps for current hour and the past two hours for the North Coast, Upper Sacramento, Lower Sacramento, Russian, Central Coast, San Joaquin, or Truckee rivers.

USGS Webcams

Check out webcams of the Eel, Truckee, and Merced rivers, plus San Pedro Creek at Goleta and Arroyo Seco near Pasadena.

Bottom of Form











As climate changes, cities grapple with big rains
Environment Dan Kraker · Duluth, Minn. · Feb 4, 2015 Climate Change in Minnesota: An MPR News special report

In Duluth, city workers have replaced 8-foot culverts wiped out in a 2012 storm with two sections 10 feet wide, more than doubling their capacity. In Minnetonka, the city is creating computer models to see where increased rainfall is putting the most pressure on its stormwater system. In north Minneapolis, a street has been torn out to make room for huge tanks that can store stormwater and prevent it from overwhelming the city’s system that drains into the Mississippi River. In all three cases, whether officials say it in so many words or not, they are adapting their cities’ infrastructure to a changed climate, one that has been dumping more rain and bigger rains on Minnesota…..The amount of rain falling in very heavy events has increased 37 percent in the past half century in Minnesota, according to the National Climatic Data Center. Five of Minnesota’s largest rainfalls ever recorded have occurred since 2000. That includes a June 2012 whopper that poured up to 10 inches of rain on Duluth. ….”It was a real eye opener for our community to see that our infrastructure simply wasn’t up to the task, given our changing realities.”….That system was designed to handle a 100-year storm, defined as the severity of storm that can be expected – statistically – every 100 years at a given location. But what was once a 100-year storm has been happening more frequently. The state has spent $450 million to help communities like Duluth rebuild from the five biggest rainstorms this century. The federal government, individuals, and cities and counties have spent hundreds of millions more. Where it can, Duluth has used the money to install more resilient infrastructure… ….Researchers led by Michael Simpson, director of Antioch University’s Center for Climate Preparedness and Community Resilience, found that farther west in Victoria, policies to protect wetlands and to cluster new development had created a system more resilient to climate change. Simpson recommended a host of flood control features, most of which Minneapolis has been building for several decades. Those include big storage ponds and dry basins — huge grassy bowls that fill up with rainwater during big storms. But Minneapolis stormwater director Lois Eberhart says to build those, the city had to take out dozens of homes. …the city is starting to look underground. One example is the north Minneapolis pilot project where stormwater tanks were installed beneath what once was a street 5½ blocks long but now is a pedestrian and bicycle path. “They are huge,” she said of the tanks. “Some of them are up to 18 feet wide by about 10 feet tall, one after the other after the other.” So far, the system has worked, Eberhart said, but it cost $6 million. To build more would be expensive, an estimated $40 million to $70 million just in the 1,000 acres that drain into Lake Hiawatha….




Ruth DeFriesCredit Columbia University

A Scientist’s View of ‘Planetary Boundaries’ from the Ground Up – in Rural India

By Andrew C. Revkin NY Times January 30, 2015 3:56 pm January 30, 2015 3:56 pm

I’ve been tracking various reactions to the updated assessment of “planetary boundaries” —  nine physical or biological parameters that define “a safe operating space for humanity.”

Given that the goal of this Dot Earth journey is to clarify how to fit our seemingly infinite aspirations on a finite planet, such efforts have great value. But so does the ensuing discussion among researchers with varied vantage points on this analysis. Below you’ll find a valuable perspective from the ground up — specifically from an area in rural India where many communities still scratch out a precarious living on farmland and in forests and have little connection to the wider world. This “Your Dot” contribution comes from  Ruth DeFries, a professor at Columbia University in the department of ecology, evolution, and environmental biology, who’s on sabbatical in Madhya Pradesh, India. Defries is the author of The Big Ratchet: How Humanity Thrives in the Face of Natural Crisis, published last year by Basic Books (I’m in the early stages of reading it and several related books).

Musings on Planetary Boundaries from Mowgli’s Land

By Ruth DeFries

A group of scientists, delineating nine “planetary boundaries,” recently announced that humanity has transgressed what the planet can withstand. Too much greenhouse gas going into the atmosphere, too much fertilizer running off into waterways, and too little forest left to provide habitat for other species has catapulted Earth’s life-support system into a state that cannot support civilization as we know it. This classic environmental line of reasoning, arguing that people are the problem, worked well for environmental concerns in the past. Air and water are cleaner and pesticides less toxic than a few decades ago, at least in some parts of the world.

But the logic that there is a line in the sand for human insults to the planet that, if violated, makes our home inhospitable for humanity is too simplistic. It ignores the complexities of today’s interwoven, multifaceted problems that arise from our domination of the planet. It discounts the long history of people adapting to changes around them and the vast array of cultures across the world. Is there another, more useful way to think about overcoming the pitfalls that our success has created?
…..The broad scope of human history shows the same dynamic evolution as the farmers of Mowgli’s old stomping grounds. People’s usurpation of nature to produce food and expand across the globe has indeed led to many problems. The most far-reaching goes back to the very origins of agriculture. When people domesticated grains, their diets became starchier and less diverse with fewer foraged seeds, nuts and fruits. Their teeth had more signs of decay, their life spans were shorter, and diseases like smallpox emerged with crowded conditions. If the notion of planetary boundaries had existed at the time, surely someone would have warned against the spread of agriculture. Despite the problems, agriculture made civilization as we know it possible. Ever since, people have been devising new ways to extract more from nature and to adapt to the problems that civilization created. Trade brought diversity of foods to different places, for example, and fertilizer replaced the nutrients stripped from the soil. Each of these solutions led to new problems, which in turn led to new solutions.

Civilization’s dependence — and impact — on nature is mired in complexity and steeped in our species’ exceptional ability to adapt. It cannot be reduced to simple definitions of boundaries that humanity collectively should not transgress. The global-scale problems of today – climate change, biodiversity loss and the vast impacts from our manipulation of planetary processes to cycle elements – call for realistic solutions grounded in the reality of our species’ ability to change and adapt. Boundaries and limits analogous to standards for air and water pollution, just applied at a global scale, will not lead us to solutions. Solutions to less damaging ways to extract what we need from nature, and adapt to those changes that we create, will only be workable in the context of each society and culture around the world. The more I learn from the people of Mowgli’s land, the more I puzzle over something that I thought I knew. What does science have to offer in a world of mind-boggling diversity and complexity amidst trajectories that are damaging the atmosphere, ocean, and the living world? Science can neither prescribe nor predict the future of civilization. Even the most sophisticated number-crunching models cannot capture the ingenuity of farmers fighting for their survival. Perhaps by offering with humility its powers of analysis and observation, science can highlight possible consequences of different courses of action for different places and peoples. Science is surely just one cog in a wheel of many spokes that shape the future as cultures around the world continue to evolve and adapt.







White House: Climate change threatens national security

By Timothy Cama – 02/06/15 10:50 AM EST

The Obama administration looks at climate change as a threat to national security on par with terrorism, weapons of mass destruction and disease outbreaks. President Obama’s national security strategy released Friday updates the previous plan published in 2010, with focuses on Russia, Islamic militants and health. “Climate change is an urgent and growing threat to our national security, contributing to increased natural disasters, refugee flows, and conflicts over basic resources like food and water,” the White House says in the 35-page strategy document. “The present day effects of climate change are being felt from the Arctic to the Midwest. Increased sea levels and storm surges threaten coastal regions, infrastructure, and property. In turn, the global economy suffers, compounding the growing costs of preparing and restoring infrastructure.” The administration argues that effective action against climate change will bolster the security of the United States and its allies. The document aligns with Obama’s second-term emphasis on fighting climate change internationally and identifying it as a threat to areas as diverse as agriculture, health and the economy.

In addition to increasing the urgency in the climate fight, the national security strategy could lend legitimacy to the administration’s efforts to diversify the military’s sources of energy. The strategy goes on to tout domestic and international efforts to fight climate change, as outlined in Obama’s 2013 Climate Action Plan. “America is leading efforts at home and with the international community to confront this challenge,” the document says. “We are also working to strengthen resilience and address vulnerabilities to climate impacts.” The White House also calls for more efforts to increase energy security. “Seismic shifts in supply and demand are underway across the globe,” it says. “Increasing global access to reliable and affordable energy is one of the most powerful ways to support social and economic development and to help build new markets for U.S. technology and investment.” Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz underscored the importance of energy security in his own statement on the plan. “Now more than ever, it is critical for us to focus our efforts to cooperate on security issues that are increasingly critical to the stability of global markets and underscore the risk of relying on one source of energy,” he said. “At the same time, collective action on security also presents an opportunity to diversify our low-carbon energy options, combat climate change, and strengthen our economies.”


UN climate chief tempers expectations on Paris deal

By KARL RITTER Associated Press February 5, 2015 Updated 19 hours ago

STOCKHOLM — Tempering expectations on a global climate deal in Paris this year, the U.N.’s top climate diplomat on Thursday warned against assuming the pact will suffice to prevent dangerous levels of warming. As negotiators prepare for a new round of talks in Geneva next week, U.N. climate chief Christiana Figueres said the role of the deal is not to fix the problem, but to chart the course for countermeasures that can be scaled up over time. “It is a fundamental misinterpretation or misunderstanding of the complexity of what we’re dealing with to even imagine that an agreement in Paris would in and of itself, at the turn of a dime, miraculously solve climate change,” Figueres said. Countries are supposed to announce well before the Paris summit in December how they plan to contribute to reducing global emissions of greenhouse gases. The European Union, U.S., China and Norway have already done so. Figueres said it’s already clear the combined pledges won’t match what scientists say is required to avoid dangerous warming, meaning deeper cuts have to occur in the future. “What Paris does is to chart the course toward that long-term destination,” she told reporters in a webcast briefing.


CEOs call for zero emissions goal in Paris climate deal

By Valerie Volcovici WASHINGTON Thu Feb 5, 2015 8:36am EST

(Reuters) – A group of high-profile CEOs on Thursday called on world leaders to agree to bring the balance of greenhouse gas emissions to zero by mid-century in a global climate change deal to be finalized in Paris in December. The leaders of B Team, a coalition about 12 CEOs and policymakers including Virgin [VA.UL] founder Richard Branson, Unilever chief Paul Polman and Tata International’s [TATAI.UL] Ratan Tata, said a global net-zero emissions goal by 2050 will prompt businesses to embed new investments and clean energy research into their business strategies. Branson told Reuters in an interview the lofty goal – one of the options for a long-term climate goal being considered for the Paris draft negotiating text – is “doable” with private sector help. “The politicians in Paris need to know business is behind them taking the right decisions and they are not going to damage the world economically by taking these decisions,” he said.

The leaders, which also included telecoms magnate Mo Ibrahim and Huffington Post founder Arianna Huffington, made the announcement a week before climate negotiators meet in Geneva to make progress on a Paris draft.

A November report by the U.N. Environment Programme said governments should phase out net carbon dioxide emissions by 2070 in order to meet a U.N. goal of limiting average temperature rises to 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 Fahrenheit) above levels before the Industrial Revolution. Net-zero emissions, or carbon neutrality, means that any carbon dioxide emissions from burning fossil fuels should be offset, for instance by planting forests that suck carbon from the air as they grow….



China To Create Carbon Market And Cap Emissions

by Ari Phillips Posted on February 4, 2015 at 9:16 am Updated: February 4, 2015 at 10:28 am

On Wednesday, a Chinese government official said that China plans to launch the first stages of a national carbon market next year. According to the South China Morning Post, Jiang Zhaoli, a senior official with National Development and Reform Commission’s (NDRC’s) climate change department, said that China plans to initially cap emissions from six industrial sectors. These include power generation, metallurgical, nonferrous metal, building materials, chemicals, and aviation.



Americans are finally taking climate change seriously. Here is why that might not last.

Neil BhatiyaThe Economist February 5, 2015

A big new poll has raised some optimism that public opinion on climate change is finally catching up to the science. But the poll is a welcome reflection that more and more people understand the seriousness of the climate threat, some caution is merited — for two important reasons. Among the adults polled by The
New York Times, Stanford University, and Resources for the Future in January, a healthy majority — 78 percent — think global warming will be a serious problem for the United States (44 percent very serious; 34 percent somewhat serious). Even among Tea Party supporters, 59 percent put themselves in one of the “serious” camps
.  As the poll breakdown shows, even though people more clearly recognize that climate change will be a problem, they still consider the threat something that will happen to “other” people, either those living in foreign countries or future generations. When asked if climate change will hurt them personally, more people are likely to say “a little” or “not at all” than “a great deal” or “a lot.”  This persistent view that the worst effects are far into the future is not necessarily inaccurate. As reports from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and World Bank indicate, even at current rates, the worst effects manifest themselves at temperature levels that we will only begin reaching at midcentury, even under a business-as-usual (no policy changes) scenario. However, because the effects of climate change are cumulative, and the transitions needed to prevent the worst effects involve large-scale changes to our economy, it is precisely now that action is needed. And even if the worst effects are still a generation away, there are still many effects that we are seeing right now.

The Risky Business Project, co-chaired by Michael Bloomberg, Henry Paulson, and Tom Steyer, is dedicated to demonstrating that while climate change is having immediate economic effects, for business as well as nations, time is still on our side. Doing something now, they argue, would be more effective and less expensive than doing something later, as investments and policy changes made today will pay much bigger dividends than waiting to play catch-up. 

That the public is still slow to realize this underscores the flaws in how the risks and benefits are being communicated.

Which brings us to the next problem: how to go about doing what is necessary. This challenge is entirely separate from convincing folks climate change is a threat, and the results are less than encouraging.

An overwhelming number of respondents (80 percent) think the government should give tax breaks to companies that use more renewable energy. (To put this in perspective, a modified version of this idea is one of the two main components of Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott’s climate change plan — which is much maligned.) Nearly as many (78 percent) would support a federally mandated limit on greenhouse gas emissions, which is the closest analog to the Obama administration’s Clean Power Plan. 

Unfortunately, far fewer people said that they would tolerate an increase to their electric bills, or an increase to the gas tax to discourage emissions from transportation (a large slice of the American greenhouse gas footprint). This suggests that public tolerance for policies on climate change are household cost sensitive in a way that is not true for policies that are perceived to affect individual companies. …




Obama proposes $4 billion for states beating climate goals

Pittsburgh Post Gazette 

 – ‎February 3, 2015‎


The Obama administration is proposing a $4 billion fund to reward states that exceed cuts in greenhouse-gas emissions, and wants Congress to back steeper royalty rates for oil, gas and coal extraction from public land….




Obama Designates $20 Million in Funding to Extend SMART to Larkspur [No. SF Bay region]

If approved by Congress, the funding will come as part of the nationwide Federal Transit Administration Small Starts grant program.

By Renee Schiavone (Patch Staff) February 3, 2015 at 5:05pm

The following is a news release from the Sonoma-Marin Area Rail Transit:

Sonoma Marin Area Rail Transit (SMART) announced Monday that based on recommendation from the U.S. Secretary of Transportation, the President’s FY 2016 budget recommends $20 million to complete construction of SMART’s rail extension to Larkspur. If approved by the Congress, the funding will come to the region as part of the highly competitive nationwide Federal Transit Administration Small Starts grant program.

Previously, Transportation Authority of Marin (TAM) had recommended $11M towards the $40M Downtown San Rafael to Larkspur extension project. Based on that recommendation the Metropolitan Transportation Commission (MTC) increased the amount to $20M and urged the Secretary of Transportation to fund the remaining amount and ranked SMART’s project as one of the Bay Area’s top priority for Federal funding. Upon approval of the President’s budget by the U.S. Congress; the Larkspur extension is now fully funded.

The past 24 months for the SMART project is perhaps best summarized in this way: Relentless focus on delivering the voter’s vision. Board direction to our staff has remained the same: Deliver the full rail and pathway project, from Cloverdale to Larkspur, in the shortest time possible. Every cost saving measure has been utilized in going further and further. This has been accomplished by focusing on fundamental elements with functional but simple facilities such as the train operation center and passenger stations.



Secretary Jewell Announces $50 Million for Western Drought Response Funding will help stretch water supplies in California’s Central Valley and throughout West during time of historic drought

February 6, 2015 SACRAMENTO, Calif. – Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell today announced that the Bureau of Reclamation is making $50 million in funds available immediately for drought relief projects throughout the West —including nearly $20 million for California’s Central Valley Project. “California’s ongoing drought is wreaking havoc on farmers, ranchers, municipalities, tribes and the environment,” said Secretary Jewell. “With climate change, droughts are projected to become more intense and frequent in many parts of the West, so we need to pursue every measure to provide relief and support to communities who are feeling the impacts.” “Today’s funding will help boost immediate and long-term efforts to improve water efficiencies and increase resilience in high-risk communities, including in California’s Central Valley,” added Jewell. “I appreciate the support of Congress, especially that of Senator Feinstein and the California delegation, in helping make these much needed funds available.” Secretary Jewell made today’s announcement after a meeting with Governor Edmund G. Brown Jr. to discuss the Obama Administration’s ‘all-in’ approach to the drought in California. These efforts include strategic investments in science and monitoring, operational flexibility to help manage limited water supplies and other efforts to ensure that public health and safety are not compromised. “This important investment will help us improve how we save and move water, while continuing to protect sensitive habitat and wildlife,” said Governor Brown. “Even with recent storms, we have a long, dry trek ahead and a close partnership with the federal government is crucial.”



How can we avoid peak chocolate?

Feb 4 2015 Guardian

A shortfall in chocolate in the next five years is only likely to be averted if major manufacturers such as Nestlé create a business model that includes cocoa farmers, says report out today. Fast-forward ten years and the cocoa industry is predicted to be in crisis. Productivity in Ghana and Cote d’Ivoire – which together account for 60% of global cocoa production (pdf) – will have dropped due to land degradation, lack of investment by smallholder farmers and the declining availability of suitable land due to climate change. Combine these with rising demand for chocolate from Brazil, China and other emerging markets, and the $9bn cocoa industry is likely to face supply shortages unless it takes action now, warns a new report…..







Preventing greenhouse gas from entering the atmosphere

February 5, 2015 Harvard University

A team of researchers has developed a novel class of materials that enable a safer, cheaper, and more energy-efficient process for removing greenhouse gas from power-plant emissions. The approach could be an important advance in carbon capture and sequestration. The team, led by scientists from Harvard University and Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, employed a microfluidic assembly technique to produce microcapsules that contain liquid sorbents, or absorbing materials, encased in highly permeable polymer shells. They have significant performance advantages over the carbon-absorbing materials used in current capture and sequestration technology. The work is described in a paper published online today in the journal Nature Communications.Power plants are the single largest source of carbon dioxide (CO2), a greenhouse gas that traps heat and makes the planet warmer. According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, coal- and natural gas-fired plants were responsible for a third of U.S. greenhouse gas emissions in 2012. That’s why the agency has proposed rules mandating dramatically reduced carbon emissions at all new fossil fuel-fired power plants. Satisfying the new standards will require operators to equip plants with carbon-trapping technology. Current carbon-capture technology uses caustic amine-based solvents to separate CO2 from the flue gas escaping a facility’s smokestacks. But state-of-the-art processes are expensive, result in a significant reduction in a power plant’s output, and yield toxic byproducts. The new technique employs an abundant and environmentally benign sorbent: sodium carbonate, which is kitchen-grade baking soda. The microencapsulated carbon sorbents (MECS) achieve an order-of-magnitude increase in CO2 absorption rates compared to sorbents currently used in carbon capture. Another advantage is that amines break down over time, while carbonates have a virtually limitless shelf life….



Clean technology can partially make up for weak CO2 pricing

Posted: 02 Feb 2015 08:45 AM PST

Clean technology support can to some extent make up for weak carbon dioxide pricing and hence help keep the two degrees target within reach, a new study shows. Even if the world climate summit in Paris later this year is successful in striking a climate deal, it might not bring about sharp greenhouse-gas cuts in the near-term. However, emission targets could be strengthened by complementary policies.


Oil sands mining operation near Fort McMurray, Alberta, Canada. Photographer: Ben Nelms/Bloomberg

EPA Keystone Review Links Oil Sands to Carbon Emission Jump

by Jim SnyderMark Drajem Washington Post 8:08 AM PST February 3, 2015

(Bloomberg) — The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency said developing Canadian oil sands would significantly increase greenhouse gases, a conclusion environmental groups said gives President Barack Obama reason to reject the proposed Keystone XL pipeline.

Until ongoing efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions associated with the production of oil sands are more successful and widespread,” developing the crude “represents a significant increase in greenhouse gas emissions,” the EPA said Tuesday in a letter to the State Department, which is reviewing the project. The proposed pipeline has pitted Obama’s allies in the environmental movement against the U.S. energy industry. Obama has said he’ll reject TransCanada Corp.’s Keystone if it would lead to a significant increase in carbon pollution. Proposed in 2008, Keystone would deliver Alberta oil sands to U.S. Gulf Coast refineries. The Republican-led House next week probably will pass a Senate bill to approve the pipeline and circumvent the State Department review. Obama said he will veto the measure and continue with his administration’s review. Supporters don’t appear to have the votes to override a veto. “The EPA, in polite, knife-sharp Washingtonese, has taken apart the State Department on” Keystone “and shown it to be a climate disaster,” Bill McKibben, who has led protests against the project, said in a message on Twitter. Shawn Howard, a TransCanada spokesman, didn’t return telephone and e-mail messages seeking comment on the EPA report. TransCanada rose as much as 2.8 percent in Toronto trading, to C$59.05 ($47.53), after the letter was released. The Natural Resources Defense Council said the assessment means the pipeline fails the standard Obama has said he’ll use to judge the $8 billion project. “There should be no more doubt that President Obama must reject the proposed pipeline once and for all,” Danielle Droitsch, Canada project director for the NRDC, said in a statement. The State Department in an environmental impact statement released a year ago said Keystone probably wouldn’t increase emissions, even though oil sands are more carbon intensive, because the crude would be produced with or without the project….


Deepsea oil drilling is one of BP’s priorities for investment (Pic: BP)

BP embraces climate change risk resolution

RTCC Last updated on 6 February 2015, 10:12 am

Oil major supports “non confrontational” call from shareholders to disclose analysis of climate risk

By Megan Darby

BP will advise shareholders to back a resolution on climate change at April’s annual general meeting.The resolution, similar to one endorsed by Shell last week, will force the company to reveal the risks climate action poses to its business plan.
That is likely to heighten scrutiny on high cost projects like its “Sunrise” venture in Canada’s tar sands. Analysts say these could struggle to turn a profit as governments act to curb greenhouse gas emissions from fossil fuels.

Explaining the board’s reasons for accepting the resolution, a BP spokesperson said they saw it as “non-confrontational”. “It also gives us the opportunity to demonstrate BP’s current actions in the area and build on its existing disclosures in the area,” he added….












The Conservation Community’s Response to Hurricane Sandy: Helping Communities and Habitats Achieve Resiliency

When: Wednesday 11 February 2015, 01:00 PM – 02:30 PM Eastern Time (US and Canada)  10-11:30 PT
Mandy Chesnutt, National Fish and Wildlife Foundation; Richard O. Bennett, Ph.D., U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service
For more information and to register, go to:






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.




First San Joaquin River Restoration Program Science Symposium

June 11-12, 2015, Los Banos Community Center, Los Banos, CA.  More information will follow soon, but save the date!  



American Water Resources Association (AWRA): “Climate Change Adaptation”  June 15 – 17, 2015 in New Orleans, Louisiana
Abstracts due to AWRA website: 02/13/2015  

The focus of the conference is on ACTION – how we more effectively develop and use climate change adaptation information to respond, build resilient systems, and influence decision makers. The conference will bring water professionals from federal, state, local, and private sectors together to focus on the issues that need to be addressed to develop effective strategies for mitigating climate change impacts such as sea-level rise, changes in precipitation patterns, increased severe weather events, and worsening droughts, AND more effectively communicate such information to decision makers. Conference sessions will be devoted to addressing the following questions:

•     How can climate change adaptation be integrated into water, coastline, and riparian resource planning and management?
•     How can data, models and tools aid in adaptive actions?
•     What are social/cultural factors of climate change adaptation?
•     How are businesses and economics impacted by climate change and can they serve as drivers of action?
•     What adaptation actions should be taken to conserve, restore, protect, and enhance water quality and quantity?
•     Moving from planning to action – what steps are needed? What do decision makers need?
•     What engineering and infrastructural approaches are available to address climate change adaptation?


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.




The NERRS Science Collaborative (NSC) is soliciting proposals for two types of projects.


Science Collaborative Projects

·       Pre-proposals are due February 27; if invited to submit, full proposals will be due May 13

·       Two types of projects are possible: collaborative research projects (up to $250,000/year, for 1 – 3 years) and integrated assessments (up to $250,000 total, for 1 – 2 years).

·       Projects should address reserve management and research priorities, within the context of NSC priorities, and use a collaborative approach that engages end-users.


Science Transfer Projects

·       Proposals are due March 27

·       Awards of up to $45,000 total, for up to 2 years

·       Projects should extend, share and apply existing information, approaches, and/or techniques within the NERRS and with partners outside of the reserve system.


All questions about these funding opportunities should be submitted to For additional information, please visit


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



Migratory Bird Program Director, The Nature Conservancy (SF or Sacramento)

The Senior Project Director of the Migratory Bird Initiative for The Conservancy’s California Chapter (Senior Project Director) will have primary responsibility for leading a multi-disciplinary team to set and drive The Conservancy’s strategy to advance water for nature when and where it is needed to secure the wintering grounds of the Pacific Flyway in California. An important component of this will be collaborating with Audubon California and Point Blue Conservation Science, through the Migratory Bird Conservation Partnership (Partnership), which seeks to increase the pace and scale of migratory bird conservation, primarily in the Central Valley. The Senior Project Director will lead the Conservancy’s team to refine, advance and implement strategies to secure sufficient water for wildlife refuges, enhance private lands to create bird habitat and protect and restore critical habitat. 

Job description attached. Interested parties should apply online by February 12, 2015.



TomKat Ranch Conservation Ranching Fellowship 2015

Innovations in sustainable animal agriculture, conservation ranching, business, technology, food advocacy, and community organizing are needed to truly make sustainable animal agriculture viable and sustainable.The TomKat Ranch Educational Foundation is committed to producing healthy food on working lands in a way that sustains the planet and inspires others to action.  In cooperation with our on-site partners, the ranch is an open-source learning laboratory that supports research and innovation to inform compatible and sustainable strategies for conservation and production. The Conservation Ranching Fellowship is an exciting opportunity for leaders, innovators, and professionals in the field of sustainable ranching to spend a year at TomKat Ranch working closely with TomKat’s world-class staff and on-site partners to care for the ranch’s 2,000+ acres and herd of 100% grass-fed cattle, share his/her knowledge, skills, and ideas and work with the TomKat team to develop innovative solutions to the challenges of sustainable ranching. The Conservation Ranching Fellowship is a one-year paid position that includes a competitive compensation package (including health benefits) to attract the best and brightest in sustainable ranching.  The fellow’s principal responsibility is to provide on-the-ground support and knowledge to help TomKat Ranch manage its land and animals using the most ecological, productive, and sustainable methods available. …




Public Policy Institute of California’s Water Policy Center


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.







Water is far more valuable and useful than oil

The water footprint of a half-litre bottle of water is 5.5 litres – yet well over a billion people live in areas with chronic scarcity

Stephen Leahy December 18, 2014 The Guardian

I have a confession: I knocked back 320 pints at the pub last night. I actually only had two shots of a decent single malt but it took 320 pints of water to grow and process the grain used to make the whisky. That’s a whole lot of water considering the average bathtub holds 60 to 80 litres. Even after 20 years of covering environmental issues in two dozen countries I had no idea of the incredible amounts of water needed to grow food or make things. Now, after two years working on my book Your Water Footprint: the shocking facts about how much water we use to make everyday products, I’m still amazed that the t-shirt I’m wearing needed 3,000 litres to grow and process the cotton; or that 140 litres went into my morning cup of coffee. The rest of my breakfast swallowed 1,012 litres: small orange juice (200 litres); two slices of toast (112 litres); two strips of bacon (300 litres); and two eggs (400 litres).

Water more valuable and useful than oil

Researching all this I soon realised that we’re surrounded by a hidden world of water. Litres and litres of it are consumed by everything we eat, and everything we use and buy. Cars, furniture, books, dishes, TVs, highways, buildings, jewellery, toys and even electricity would not exist without water. It’s no exaggeration to say that water is far more valuable and useful than oil. A water footprint adds up the amount of water consumed to make, grow or produce something. I use the term consumed to make it clear that this is water that can no longer be used for anything else. Often water can be cleaned or reused so those amounts of water are not included in the water footprints in the book. The water footprint of 500ml of bottled water is 5.5 litres: 0.5 for the water in the bottle and another five contaminated in the process of making the plastic bottle from oil. The five litres consumed in making the bottle are as real water as the 500ml you might drink but hardly anyone in business or government accounts for it. The incredible amounts of water documented in Your Water Footprint are based primarily on research done at the University of Twente in the Netherlands, where Arjen Hoekstra originated the concept of water footprints. The amount consumed to make something varies enormously depending on where the raw materials come from and how they are processed. Wheat grown in dry desert air of Morocco needs a lot more water than wheat grown in soggy Britain. For simplicity, the amounts in the book are global averages. One of the biggest surprises was learning how small direct use of water for drinking, cooking and showering is by comparison. Each day the average North American uses 300 to 400 litres. (Flushing toilets is the biggest water daily use, not showers.) 400 litres is not a trivial amount; however, the virtual water that’s in the things we eat, wear and use each day averages 7,500 litres in North America, resulting in a daily water footprint of almost 8,000 litres. That’s more than twice the size of the global average. Think of running shoes side by side: the global shoe is a size 8; the North American a size 18. By contrast, the average water footprint of an individual living in China or India is size 6.

Peak water is here

Water scarcity is a reality in much of the world. About 1.2 billion people live in areas with chronic scarcity, while 2 billion are affected by shortages every year. And as the ongoing drought in California proves, water scarcity is an increasing reality for the US and Canada. Water experts estimate that by 2025 three in five people may be living with water shortages. While low-flow shower heads and toilets are great water savers, the water footprint concept can lead to even bigger reductions in water consumption. For example green fuels may not be so green from a water consumption perspective. Biodiesel made from soybeans has an enormous water footprint, averaging more than 11,000 litres per litre of biodiesel. And this doesn’t include the large amounts of water needed for processing. Why so much water? Green plants aren’t “energy-dense,” so it takes a lot of soy to make the fuel. Beef also has a big footprint, over 11,000 litres for a kilo. If a family of four served chicken instead of beef they’d reduce their water use by an astonishing 900,000 litres a year. That’s enough to fill an Olympic size pool to a depth of two feet. If this same family of opted for Meatless Mondays, they’d save another 400,000 litres. Now they could fill that pool halfway. We can do nearly everything using less water. It’s all about smart substitutions and changes, rather than sacrifice and self-denial, but we can’t make the right choices unless we begin to see and understand the invisible ways in which we rely on water.


It’s never the science itself: The right questions on climate and vaccines

February 6, 2015 The Guardian

Creationism, climate denial and anti-vaccination rage: Long before the measles outbreak in the U.S., a deep mistrust of scientists infected some strands of the American conservative movement…


Add nature, art and religion to life’s best anti-inflammatories

Posted: 03 Feb 2015 10:32 AM PST

Taking in such spine-tingling wonders as the Grand Canyon, Sistine Chapel ceiling or Schubert’s ‘Ave Maria’ may give a boost to the body’s defense system. Researchers have linked positive emotions — especially the awe we feel when touched by the beauty of nature, art and spirituality — with lower levels of pro-inflammatory cytokines.



E-cigarette exposure impairs immune responses in mouse model

Posted: 04 Feb 2015 11:45 AM PST

In a study with mice, researchers have found that e-cigarettes compromise the immune system in the lungs and generate some of the same potentially dangerous chemicals found in traditional nicotine cigarettes.


Light jogging may be most optimal for longevity: Too much strenuous jogging may be harmful

Posted: 02 Feb 2015 01:07 PM PST

Jogging may be best in small quantities according to a new study. The study, which tracked hours of jogging, frequency, and the individual’s perception of pace, found that over the 12-year study strenuous joggers were as likely to die as sedentary non-joggers, while light joggers had the lowest rates of death.


Organic food reduces pesticide exposure

Posted: 05 Feb 2015 02:48 PM PST

A new study is among the first to predict a person’s pesticide exposure based on information about their usual diet.


Hiker permit quotas adopted to spread out ‘Wild’ crowd on PCT

The Spokesman Review (blog) 

February 5, 2015


HIKING — Growing numbers of hikers on the Pacific Crest Trail, the Mexico-to-Canada route made increasingly popular by the movie “Wild,” have led officials to take steps to alleviate traffic. The Pacific Crest Trail Association announced on Wednesday…



2015 James Irvine Foundation Leadership Awards

Through new approaches, these five leaders are creating jobs, protecting our children, closing learning gaps, and improving our society. Their models are cost-effective and yield positive results in the face of tough challenges. Each of us can learn from their specific approaches, as well as from the spirit of creativity and partnership they bring to their work…view the brief video here that previews these extraordinary leaders and their work, and to learn more at

















Signe Wilkinson 02/02/15*450/20150202_toon.jpg









Ellie Cohen, President and CEO

Point Blue Conservation Science (formerly PRBO)

3820 Cypress Drive, Suite 11, Petaluma, CA 94954

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


Point Blue—Conservation science for a healthy planet.


Leave a Reply

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