Conservation Science News Feb 20 2015



Focus of the WeekClimate-Smart Restoration Tool Kit










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– Climate-Smart Restoration Toolkit

Ecological Restoration

Science and Practice

Worldwide, habitat loss is the number one cause of extinction and loss of ecosystem services.  In California, more than 90% of all wetlands and riparian areas have been completely destroyed and what remains is highly degraded. Accelerating climate and land-use change adds additional stress to what little habitat remains, and to the species and services provided by nature.   

The results – poor water quality, higher flood risk, fewer species, and less carbon sequestered by nature, to name a few. But there is hope.  Ecological restoration is a key tool to help heal the damage and to prepare ecosystems for climate change. 

What is ecological restoration?  The Society for Ecological Restoration defines it as the process of assisting the recovery of an ecosystem that has been degraded, damaged, or destroyed.  Point Blue scientists believe we need to expand this definition to include climate change adaptation – actions designed to reduce the vulnerability of natural and societal systems to the effects of climate change. We call this climate-smart restoration….

Climate-Smart Restoration Toolkit

Tools for preparing restoration projects for climate change

Here we provide resources for restoration practitioners interested in designing their projects in a way that prepares them for climate change – climate-smart restoration.

Restoration Checklist: A check-list (MS Word) that can be used to plan and describe climate-smart restoration projects.

Riparian Restoration Design Database, Marin and Sonoma counties: An XCEL toolkit (MS Excel) and associated “How To” guide (pdf) that allows the user to design riparian restoration re-vegetation projects that are climate-smart.

Selected Resources: Climate Change Predictions

Selected Resources: Riparian Restoration




Pigeon. Birds in urban areas are growing tamer and bolder, outcompeting their country cousins.Credit: © Tatiana Katsai / Fotolia

Fearless birds and big city spiders: Is urbanization pushing earth’s evolution to a tipping point?

Posted: 18 Feb 2015 04:15 PM PST

That humans and our cities build affect the ecosystem and even drive some evolutionary change is already known. What’s new is that these evolutionary changes are happening more quickly than previously thought, and have potential impacts on ecosystem function on a contemporary scale. Not in the distant future, that is — but now. The signs are small but striking: Spiders in cities are getting bigger and salmon in rivers smaller; birds in urban areas are growing tamer and bolder, outcompeting their country cousins. …suggests that if human-driven evolutionary change affects the functioning of ecosystems — as evidence is showing — it “may have significant implications for ecological and human well-being.” Alberti, a professor of urban design and planning, said that until recently it was assumed that evolutionary change would take too long to affect ecological processes quite so immediately. Such thinking has prevented evidence from coming together “in a way that can only emerge through a cross-disciplinary lens,” she said, observing the interactions between humans and natural processes. “We now have evidence that there is rapid evolution. These changes may affect the state of the environment now. This is what’s called eco-evolutionary feedback. “Cities are not simply affecting biodiversity by reducing the number and variety of species that live in urban habitats,” Alberti said. Humans in cities are causing organisms to undergo accelerated evolutionary changes “that have effects on ecosystem functions such as biodiversity, nutrient cycling, seed dispersal, detoxification, food production and ultimately on human health and well-being.”… Humans in cities cause these changes through a variety of ways, Alberti said. Our urbanization alters and breaks up natural vegetation patterns, introduces toxic pollutants and novel disturbances such as noise and light and increases the temperature. Human presence also changes the availability of resources such as food and water, altering the life cycle of many species. Alberti said the emerging evidence prompts serious questions with implications for the focus and design of future studies:

• Can global rapid urbanization indeed affect the course of Earth’s evolution?

• Is urbanization moving the world closer to an environmental tipping point on the scale of the Great Oxidation Event that introduced oxygen into the atmosphere more than 2 billion years ago?

• Might different patterns of urbanization alter the effect of human action on eco-evolution?

Still, Alberti said hers is not a “catastrophic” perspective, but one that highlights both the challenges and the unique opportunity that humans have in shaping the evolution of planet Earth.

Ecosystems in urban environments are a sort of hybrid, she said: “It is their hybrid nature that makes them unstable, but also capable of innovating.” She explores the theme further in a book to be published in spring 2016, titled “Cities as Hybrid Ecosystems.” “We can drive urbanizing ecosystems to collapse — or we can consciously steer them toward a resilient and sustainable future,” Alberti said. “The question is whether we become aware of the role we are playing.”


Marina Alberti. Eco-evolutionary dynamics in an urbanizing planet. Trends in Ecology & Evolution, 2015; 30 (2): 114 DOI: 10.1016/j.tree.2014.11.007


Plants survive better through mass extinctions than animals

Posted: 17 Feb 2015 05:39 AM PST

At least five mass extinction events have profoundly changed the history of life on Earth. But a new study shows that plants have been very resilient to those events.
For over 400 million years, plants have played an essential role in almost all terrestrial environments and covered most of the world’s surface. During this long history, many smaller and a few major periods of extinction severely affected Earth’s ecosystems and its biodiversity.
In the upcoming issue of the journal New Phytologist, the team reports their results based on more than 20,000 plant fossils with the aim to understand the effects of such dramatic events on plant diversity
. Their findings show that mass extinction events had very different impacts among plant groups. Negative rates of diversification in plants (meaning that more species died out than new species were formed) were never sustained through long time periods. This indicates that, in general, plants have been particularly good at surviving and recovering through tough periods.

“In the plant kingdom, mass extinction events can be seen as opportunities for turnover leading to renewed biodiversity,” says leading author Daniele Silvestro. Most striking were the results for the Cretaceous-Paleogene mass extinction, caused by the impact of an asteroid off the Mexican coast some 66 million years ago. This event had a great impact on the configuration of terrestrial habitats and led to the extinction of all dinosaurs except birds, but surprisingly it had only limited effects on plant diversity.

Some important plant groups, such as the gymnosperms (including pines, spruce and firs) lost a great deal of their diversity through extinction. On the other hand, flowering plants (angiosperms) did not suffer from increased extinction, and shortly after the impact they underwent a new rapid increase in their diversity. These evolutionary dynamics contributed to make flowering plants dominate today’s global diversity above all other plant groups. “Mass extinctions are often thought as a bad thing, but they have been crucial in changing the world into how we know it today,” says senior author Alexandre Antonelli. If that asteroid had not struck the Earth, chances are that large dinosaurs would still be hunting around, mammals would be small and hiding in caves, and humans might never have evolved. “By studying such extreme events we are trying to learn which groups of organisms and features are more sensitive to changes, so that we can apply this knowledge to protect biodiversity in the face of on-going climate change and human deterioration of natural ecosystems,” concludes Antonelli


Size matters in the battle to adapt to diverse environments, avoid extinction

Posted: 18 Feb 2015 07:16 AM PST

By examining research on global patterns of amphibian diversification over hundreds of millions of years, researchers have discovered that ‘sexually dimorphic’ species — those in which males and females differ in size, for example — are at lower risk of extinction and better able to adapt to diverse environments.


This is a sample of the debris recovered from marine life. Credit: Lloyd Russell

Global impact of debris on marine life studied

Posted: 19 Feb 2015 07:16 AM PST

Nearly 700 species of marine animal have been recorded as having encountered humanmade debris such as plastic and glass according to the most comprehensive impact study in more than a decadeResearchers at Plymouth University found evidence of 44,000 animals and organisms becoming entangled in, or swallowing debris, from reports recorded from across the globe. Plastic accounted for nearly 92 per cent of cases, and 17 per cent of all species involved were found to be threatened or near threatened on the IUCN Red List, including the Hawaiian monk seal, the loggerhead turtle and sooty shearwater. In a paper, The impact of debris on marine life, published in Marine Pollution Bulletin, authors Sarah Gall and Professor Richard Thompson present evidence collated from a wide variety of sources on instances of entanglement, ingestion, physical damage to ecosystems, and rafting — where species are transported by debris.

Sarah Gall said: “The impact of debris on marine life is of particular concern, and effects can be wide reaching, with the consequence of ingestion and entanglement considered to be harmful. Reports in the literature began in the 1960s with fatalities being well documented for birds, turtles, fish and marine mammals.” In total, they found that 693 species had been documented as having encountered debris, with nearly 400 involving entanglement and ingestion. These incidents had occurred around the world, but were most commonly reported off the east and west coasts of North America, as well as Australia and Europe. Plastic rope and netting were responsible for the majority of entanglements, with a high number of incidents affecting northern right whales, green, loggerhead and hawksbill turtles, and the northern fulmar



White sharks grow more slowly, mature much later than previously thought

Posted: 18 Feb 2015 07:19 AM PST

A new study on white sharks in the western North Atlantic indicates they grow more slowly and mature much later than previously thought. The findings present the first reliable growth curve for this species in the western North Atlantic. The results: males are sexually mature around age 26 and females around age 33, much later than currently accepted estimates of 4-10 years for males and 7-13 years for females.



Farmers can better prevent nutrient runoff based on land characteristics

Posted: 18 Feb 2015 01:58 PM PST

Doing more to keep farm runoff out of the country’s waterways can start with a few key questions about what the land looks like, researchers say after creating a comprehensive nutrient runoff mitigation guide for farmland in both the Ohio and Upper Mississippi River Basins…For the type of farmland Schilling describes–a high-sloped land with a lot of runoff–the research recommends that farmers use some combination of grass waterways, contour filter strips, terraces, ponds, riparian buffers, and cover crops. This is in contrast to the methods recommended for low-sloped, well-drained land. For that type of situation, Schilling’s research suggests farmers pay increased attention to in-field source controls, and use methods such as two-stage ditches, floodplain reconnection, and off-channel wetlands. The researchers envision their guide as equally useful for conservation professionals and watershed managers, who can often be faced with an “overwhelming array of choices,” according to the article. While it is common to think that more choices can be better, the researchers say more choice can often lead to indecisiveness and inaction. With more guidance, the researchers hope that already-limited conservation resources will be directed in the most effective ways. Much of that focus remains on Iowa, Schilling says…




An example of comparing two photos using the visual site assessment method in Barnhardy Meadow. Willow have increased. Aspen are present in the photo, but due to the willow obstruction, it is unclear if the level of recruitment has changed. Bare soil has decreased, eroding banks have decreased, channel width has decreased, and amount of exposed channel decreased. Credit: 1990–Hart Mountain National Antelope Refuge, 2013–Jonathan Batchelor

Cattle damage to riverbanks can be undone

February 19, 2015 Springer Science+Business Media

Simply removing cattle may be all that is required to restore many degraded riverside areas in the American West, although this can vary and is dependent on local conditions, researchers have found after comparing repeat photographs to assess rehabilitation of Oregon wildlife refuge. …
Livestock ranching is ubiquitous across much of the western US. Depending on the density of livestock and grazing duration, it can have numerous impacts on the environment — from changes in the soil characteristics to the plants and animals to be found in an area. Riparian, or riverside, vegetation is particularly susceptible to the effects of grazing. This is because cattle tend to congregate around rivers for easy access to water, lush forage and favorable terrain. Their presence can cause woody plants to decrease, riverbanks to erode, streams to become shallower and wider, and a change to take place in the quality and temperature of the water.
It is not only important to note the effects of grazing on the environment, but also to know what happens when cattle are no longer present in a particular ecosystem. …. “The study at Hart Mountain National Antelope Refuge shows just how much a system can change within only two decades of cattle removal,” said Ripple.
Batchelor added, “The removal of cattle can result in dramatic changes in riparian vegetation, even in semi-arid landscapes and without active restoration treatments.”

Jonathan L. Batchelor, William J. Ripple, Todd M. Wilson, Luke E. Painter. Restoration of Riparian Areas Following the Removal of Cattle in the Northwestern Great Basin. Environmental Management, 2015; DOI: 10.1007/s00267-014-0436-2

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Switchgrass removes PCBs from soils, engineers find

Posted: 18 Feb 2015 11:14 AM PST

A type of grass that was once a staple of the American prairie can remove soil laden with PCBs, toxic chemicals once used for cooling and other industrial purposes, a study has found.


A bumble bee collecting nectar containing iridoid glycoside secondary metabolites from a turtlehead flower.Credit: Leif Richardson

Bee disease reduced by nature’s ‘medicine cabinet’

February 19, 2015

Nicotine isn’t healthy for people, but such naturally occurring chemicals found in flowers of tobacco and other plants could be just the right prescription for ailing bees, according to a Dartmouth College-led study. The researchers found that chemicals in floral nectar, including the alkaloids anabasine and nicotine, the iridoid glycoside catalpol and the terpenoid thymol, significantly reduce parasite infection in bees. The results suggest that growing plants high in these compounds around farm fields could create a natural “medicine cabinet” that improves survival of diseased bees and pollination of crops. The researchers studied parasite infections in bumble bees, which like honey bees are important pollinators that are in decline around the world, a trend that threatens fruits, vegetables and other crops that make up much of the food supply for people….



Researchers propose using a national park in NSW, in Australia, to test if revitalised dingo populations can restore biodiversity and degraded rangelands. Credit: Bob Tamayo

Time for a bold dingo experiment to restore degraded rangelands, researchers say

Posted: 17 Feb 2015 09:27 AM PST

Sturt National Park in Australia is the ideal site to test whether dingoes can play a role in restoring biodiversity and degraded rangelands. The future survival of large carnivores depends on our understanding of their role, researchers say. “Our approach is purposefully bold because only an experiment on this scale can resolve the long-running debate over whether the dingo can help halt Australia’s biodiversity collapse and restore degraded rangeland environments,” said Dr Thomas Newsome from the School of Biological Sciences at the University of Sydney and lead author of an article published in Restoration Ecology. Written with Dr Newsome’s colleagues from the University of Sydney and other universities in Australia and in America, where he completed a Fulbright Scholarship, the article outlines how the experiment could be undertaken. “Half the world’s mammal extinctions over the last two hundred years have occurred in Australia and we are on track for an acceleration of that loss. This experiment would provide robust data to address an issue of national and international significance,” said Dr Newsome. “Our approach is based on dingoes’ ability to suppress populations of invasive predators such as red foxes and feral cats that prey on threatened native species. Dingoes can also control numbers of introduced species such as European wild rabbits, feral pigs and goats or native herbivores such as kangaroos, that in high numbers can contribute to rangeland degradation. “There are major challenges, including convincing livestock producers and local communities to support the experiment, but we currently have almost no understanding of the impact of increased dingo populations over large areas. “It took 20 years of debate in America before wolves were reintroduced into Yellowstone National Park and central Idaho — so let’s start having the conversation.”


Urbanization may affect the initiation of thunderstorms

Posted: 18 Feb 2015 09:36 AM PST

A study that assessed the impact of urban land use on the initiation of thunderstorms from 1997 to 2013 in the humid subtropical region of the southeast United States found that so-called isolated convective initiation events occur more often over the urban area of Atlanta compared with its surrounding rural counterparts. The findings confirm that human-induced changes in land cover in tropical environments lead to more thunderstorm initiation events.


Genetic evidence shows penguins have ‘bad taste’

Posted: 16 Feb 2015 10:11 AM PST

Penguins apparently can’t enjoy or even detect the savory taste of the fish they eat or the sweet taste of fruit. A new analysis of the genetic evidence suggests that the flightless, waddling birds have lost three of the five basic tastes over evolutionary time. For them, it appears, food comes in only two flavors: salty and sour.


iSpot: Crowdsourcing effective for gathering biodiversity data

Posted: 12 Feb 2015 09:23 AM PST

New research on iSpot — The Open University’s platform to help people share and learn more about nature — has recognised crowdsourcing as having a key role in the identification of plant species and wildlife.



Humans altering Adriatic ecosystems more than nature, study shows

Posted: 17 Feb 2015 10:12 AM PST

The ecosystems of the Adriatic Sea have weathered natural climate shifts for 125,000 years, but humans could be rapidly altering this historically stable biodiversity hot spot, a new study shows.


(Photo: Tom Spader / Asbury Park Press)

6 million birds and counting

Amanda Oglesby, @OglesbyAPP1:48 p.m. EST February 15, 2015

Laura Stone spent Sunday morning peeking through the blinds in her Jackson home, counting birds that stopped to feed at her bird feeders despite frigid temperatures and gusty winds. Stone and thousands of other New Jersey residents spent portions of the weekend participating in the Great Backyard Bird Count, an international effort to get a bird’s eye view of avian populations around the world. “It’s important that people look at nature, protect nature,” said 79-year-old Stone, who leads bird talks and monitors 60 bluebird nesting boxes at the Forest Resource Education Center in Jackson in her free time. “They (birds) are so distinct and so different, but people don’t even look… (and) their habitat is disappearing.” The Great Backyard Bird Count was created in 1998 by the National Audubon Society and the Cornell Lab of Ornithology as a way to help scientists understand dynamic bird populations, collect information on species diversity in different environments, and see what diseases are affecting bird communities. Last year, participants counted 4,300 species of birds across 135 countries….


New ozone-destroying gases on the rise; not controlled by treaty

Posted: 16 Feb 2015 10:02 AM PST

Scientists report that chemicals that are not controlled by a United Nations treaty designed to protect the Ozone Layer are contributing to ozone depletion.







Global warming to increase ocean upwelling, but fisheries impact uncertain

Posted: 18 Feb 2015 06:30 AM PST

A new report in NATURE suggests that global warming may increase upwelling in several ocean current systems around the world by the end of this century, especially at high latitudes, and will cause major changes in marine biodiversity. Since upwelling of colder, nutrient-rich water is a driving force behind marine productivity, one possibility may be enhancement of some of the world’s most important fisheries. However, solar heating due to greenhouse warming may also increase the persistence of “stratification,” or the horizontal layering of ocean water of different temperatures. The result could be a warm, near-surface layer and a deep, cold layer. If this happens to a significant extent, it could increase global “hypoxic,” or low-oxygen events, decouple upwelling from the supply of nutrient-rich water and pose a significant threat to the global function of fisheries and marine ecosystems. The projected increase in upwelling, in other words, appears clear and definitive. But researchers say its biological impact is far less obvious, which is a significant concern. These upwelling systems cover less than 2 percent of the ocean surface, but contribute 7 percent to global marine primary production, and 20 percent of global fish catches…. Among the findings of the study:

* The change in upwelling may be more pronounced in the Southern Hemisphere, due to the local influences of land masses, coastline, water depth and other issues.

* Major current systems will be affected off the western coasts of North America, South America, Africa and parts of Europe.

* The general increase in upwelling is going to be driven by a strengthening of alongshore winds, due to a differential in land and ocean heating.

* At high, but not low latitudes, the upwelling season will start earlier, last longer and be more intense.

* At tropical and sub-tropical latitudes, upwelling will become almost a year-round phenomenon.

* The findings are consistent with different research which shows that coastal upwelling has intensified over the past 60 years.

* Impacts on the California Current System are expected to be less pronounced because of other climatic forces at work, such as the Pacific Decadal Oscillation, the El Nino-Southern Oscillation, and the North Pacific Gyre Oscillation.


Daiwei Wang, Tarik C. Gouhier, Bruce A. Menge, Auroop R. Ganguly. Intensification and spatial homogenization of coastal upwelling under climate change. Nature, 2015; 518 (7539): 390 DOI: 10.1038/nature14235



Sardines move north due to ocean warming

Posted: 18 Feb 2015 04:32 AM PST

Sardines, anchovies and mackerels play a crucial role in marine ecosystems, as well as having a high commercial value. However, the warming of waters makes them vanish from their usual seas and migrate north, as confirmed by a pioneering study analysing 57,000 fish censuses from 40 years. The researchers warn that coastal towns dependent on these fishery resources must adapt their economies. The continued increase in water temperature has altered the structure and functioning of marine ecosystems across the world. The effect has been greater in the North Atlantic, with increases of up to 1.3 ºC in the average temperature over the last 30 years. This variation directly affects the frequency and biogeography of a group of pelagic fish, which includes the sardine (Sardina pilchardus), anchovy (Engraulis encrasicolus), horse mackerel (Trachurus trachurus) and mackerel (Scomber scombrus), among others, which feed off phytoplankton and zooplankton and that are the staple diet of large predators such as cetaceans, large fish and marine birds. These fish also represent a significant source of income for the majority of coastal countries in the world. Until now, scientists had not managed to prove whether the changes observed in the physiology of the pelagic fish were the direct result of the water temperature or if they were due to changes in plankton communities, their main food source, which have also been affected by global warming and have changed their distribution and abundance. The new study, published in Global Change Biology and that has developed statistical models for the North Sea area, confirms the great importance of sea temperatures. “Time series of zooplankton and sea surface temperature data have been included to determine the factor causing these patterns,” Ignasi Montero-Serra, lead author of the study and researcher in the department of Ecology at the University of Barcelona, explains….. Due to the accelerated increase in temperature of the continental seas, sardines and anchovies (with a typically subtropical distribution) have increased their presence in the North Sea “even venturing into the Baltic Sea,” confirms Montero-Serra, who adds that the species with a more northern distribution (like the herring and the sprat) have decreased their presence. The analysis is therefore a clear sign that species in the North Sea and Baltic Sea are “becoming subtropical […] where sardines, anchovies, mackerel and horse mackerel, more related to higher temperatures, have increased their presence,” says the researcher. This is due to the pelagic fish being highly dependent on environmental temperatures at different stages of their life cycle: from reproductive migrations and egg-laying, to development and survival of larvae. According to researchers, the changes in such an important ecological group “will have an effect on the structure and functioning of the whole ecosystem.” The expert warns that coastal towns that are highly dependent on these fishery resources “must adapt to the new ecological contexts and the possible consequences of these changes,” although they still do not know the scale of the socio-economic and ecological repercussions….


Ignasi Montero-Serra, Martin Edwards, Martin J. Genner. Warming shelf seas drive the subtropicalization of European pelagic fish communities. Global Change Biology, 2015; 21 (1): 144 DOI: 10.1111/gcb.12747


In a warmer world, ticks that spread disease are arriving earlier, expanding their ranges

Posted: 18 Feb 2015 09:29 AM PST

In the northeastern United States, warmer spring temperatures are leading to shifts in the emergence of the blacklegged ticks that carry Lyme disease and other tick-borne pathogens. At the same time, milder weather is allowing ticks to spread into new geographic regions.



Scientists have used satellite data to map the alkalinity of the world’s oceans for the first time. The image above shows the average level of alkalinity over the past five years with blue marking water that is more acidic. By using satellite data, scientists can obtain live information as the ocean changes.

Satellite images reveal ocean acidification from space

February 16, 2015 University of Exeter

Pioneering techniques that use satellites to monitor ocean acidification are set to revolutionise the way that marine biologists and climate scientists study the ocean. This new approach, published in the journal Environmental Science and Technology, offers remote monitoring of large swathes of inaccessible ocean from satellites that orbit the Earth some 700 km above our heads.
Each year more than a quarter of global CO2 emissions from burning fossil fuels and cement production are taken up by the Earth’s oceans. This process turns the seawater more acidic, making it more difficult for some marine life to live. Rising CO2 emissions, and the increasing acidity of seawater over the next century, has the potential to devastate some marine ecosystems, a food resource on which we rely, and so careful monitoring of changes in ocean acidity is crucial
Current methods of measuring temperature and salinity to determine acidity are restricted to in situ instruments and measurements taken from research vessels. This approach limits the sampling to small areas of the ocean, as research vessels are very expensive to run and operate.
The new techniques use satellite mounted thermal cameras to measure ocean temperature while microwave sensors measure the salinity. Together these measurements can be used to assess ocean acidification more quickly and over much larger areas than has been possible before.A number of existing satellites can be used for the task; these include the European Space Agency’s Soil Moisture and Ocean Salinity (SMOS) sensor that was launched in 2009 and NASA’s Aquarius satellite that was launched in 2011.
The development of the technology and the importance of monitoring ocean acidification are likely to support the development of further satellite sensors in the coming years.



Integrated climate and land use change scenarios for California rangeland ecosystem services: wildlife habitat, soil carbon, and water supply

January, 2015

In addition to biodiversity conservation, California rangelands generate multiple ecosystem services including livestock production, drinking and irrigation water, and carbon sequestration. California rangeland ecosystems have experienced substantial conversion to residential land use and more intensive agriculture. To understand the potential impacts to rangeland ecosystem services, we developed six spatially explicit (250 m) climate/land use change scenarios for the Central Valley of California and surrounding foothills consistent with three Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change emission scenario narratives. We quantified baseline and projected change in wildlife habitat, soil organic carbon (SOC), and water supply (recharge and runoff). For six case study watersheds we quantified the interactions of future development and changing climate on recharge, runoff and streamflow, and precipitation thresholds where dominant watershed hydrological processes shift through analysis of covariance. The scenarios show that across the region, habitat loss is expected to occur predominantly in grasslands, primarily due to future development (up to a 37 % decline by 2100), however habitat loss in priority conservation errors will likely be due to cropland and hay/pasture expansion (up to 40 % by 2100). Grasslands in the region contain approximately 100 teragrams SOC in the top 20 cm, and up to 39 % of this SOC is subject to conversion by 2100. In dryer periods recharge processes typically dominate runoff. Future development lowers the precipitation value at which recharge processes dominate runoff, and combined with periods of drought, reduces the opportunity for recharge, especially on deep soils. Results support the need for climate-smart land use planning that takes recharge areas into account, which will provide opportunities for water storage in dry years. Given projections for agriculture, more modeling is needed on feedbacks between agricultural expansion on rangelands and water supply.

Byrd, K. B., L. E. Flint, P. Alvarez, C. F. Casey, B. M. Sleeter, C. E. Soulard, A. L. Flint, and T. L. Sohl. 2015. Integrated climate and land use change scenarios for California rangeland ecosystem services: wildlife habitat, soil carbon, and water supply. Landscape Ecology:1–22.

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Source: U.S. National Climate Assessment.

What the massive snowfall in Boston tells us about global warming

By Chris Mooney February 10  2015 Washington Post

The snowfall in Boston lately is simply insane. The local bureau of the National Weather Service has tallied up the data and here’s how it looks — with all time records for snow within a 14-, 20-, and 30-day period: You could treat this as ordinary weather, or, you could think about it in a climate context. Counter-intuitive though it may sound, the fact remains that — as I have noted previously — some kinds of winter precipitation could indeed be more intense because we’re in a warming world. Consider, for instance, that sea surface temperatures off the coast of New England are flashing red, showing an extreme warm anomaly. That’s highly relevant — because warmer oceans have atmospheric consequences.  “Sea surface temperatures off the coast of New England right now are at record levels, 11.5C (21F) warmer than normal in some locations,” says Penn State climate researcher Michael Mann. “There is [a] direct relationship between the surface warmth of the ocean and the amount of moisture in the air. What that means is that this storm will be feeding off these very warm seas, producing very large amounts of snow as spiraling winds of the storm squeeze that moisture out of the air, cool, it, and deposit it as snow inland.” Warmer oceans also increase the temperature contrasts that winter storms encounter when they hit the East Coast, notes Mann — and this ups their strength.  “Heavy snows mean the temperature is just below freezing, any cooler and the amount would be a lot less,” adds Kevin Trenberth, a climate expert at the National Center for Atmospheric Research. “Warmer waters off the coast help elevate winter temperatures and contribute to the greater snow amounts. This is how global warming plays a role.” Yes, it might sound strange, but it can actually snow more when it’s a bit warmer — not too warm for snow, of course, but not extremely cold, either. What we’re seeing also fits a trend for New England. As the U.S. National Climate Assessment so helpfully illustrates [above], the region has seen a dramatic 71 percent upswing in extreme precipitation from 1958 to 2012:
“Increase of extreme precipitation has occurred in all regions of the continental USA and further changes are expected in the coming decades,” adds a 
recent study. The mechanisms by which global warming messes with winter certainly do involve some counterbalancing forces. On the one hand, if it’s warmer overall, you’d expect temperatures to reach the threshold required for snow less frequently. You’d also expect snow cover to decline — snow will melt away faster in a warmer world when it does fall. As Trenberth argues, this means that at the beginning and end of winter, precipitation that might once have fallen as snow would now be more likely to fall as rain.



Reduced rainfall in the northern tropics linked to industrial emissions, research suggests

Posted: 09 Feb 2015 08:32 AM PST

Scientists have produced a rainfall record strongly suggesting that man-made industrial emissions have contributed to less rainfall in the northern tropics. The research team reconstructed rainfall patterns stretching back more than 450 years by analysing the chemical composition of a stalagmite recovered from a cave in Belize, Central America…They identified a substantial drying trend from 1850 onwards, coinciding with a steady rise in sulphate aerosols in the atmosphere as a result of burning fossil fuels to drive the industrial boom in Europe and North America. Importantly they also identified nine short-lived drier spells in the northern tropics since 1550 following very large volcanic eruptions in the Northern Hemisphere that produced similar emissions as those produced by burning fossil fuels. This provided very strong evidence that any injection of sulphate aerosols into the upper atmosphere could lead to shifts in rainfall patterns, the researchers said Writing in the journal Nature Geoscience (Monday, February 9), the researchers said that sulphate aerosols moderated temperatures in the Northern Hemisphere by reflecting the Sun’s radiation. As a result the Intertropical Convergence Zone (ITCZ) — a tropical rainfall belt near the equator — shifted towards the warmer Southern Hemisphere leading to dryer conditions in the northern tropics. The findings confirm previously published observations using 20th Century historical data and computer modelling, the researchers said….


Harriet E. Ridley, et al. Aerosol forcing of the position of the intertropical convergence zone since ad 1550. Nature Geoscience, 2015; DOI: 10.1038/ngeo2353



New device will change how Florida monitors sea level rise, water quality, hurricanes and more

Posted: 18 Feb 2015 07:15 AM PST

Small wireless computing devices, ranging from the size of a matchbox to the size of a dime are going to change the way Florida monitors its water quality, sea level rise, hurricanes, agriculture, aquaculture, and even its aging senior population.


Climate change booklet [from the Australian Academy of Science] aims to dispel confusion, misinformation

By environment and science reporter Jake Sturmer Updated Sun at 12:07pmSun 15 Feb 2015, 12:07pm

Australia’s top scientific minds have released a new publication to dispel confusion and misinformation about climate change and warn of dire consequences if no action is taken now. The Australian Academy of Science has launched a new booklet reiterating that man-made climate change is real. The booklet titled Science Of Climate Change: Questions And Answers warns of the consequences for Australia if no changes are made to address the issue. Academy president Professor Andrew Holmes said there was a gap between public perception of climate change and reality. “Therefore we need to communicate with the public efficiently, effectively and convincingly so that they’re aware,” he said.

This update, which has been written and rigorously reviewed by 17 of Australia’s leading experts in a range of climate-related sciences, provides a clear and balanced account of climate change and its impact on Australia. “Climate change is not something happening in the far-off future, it’s happening now. “2014 was the hottest year on record, and 14 of the 15 warmest years on record have occurred during the first 15 years of this century.”


The science of climate change

The science of climate change: Questions and answers – View web version
PDF with references (7mb – PDF)
PDF without references (7mb – PDF)

Wollongong Harbour, NSW. by Robert Montgomery

This publication from the Australian Academy of Science aims to address confusion created by contradictory information in the public domain. It sets out to explain the current situation in climate science, including where there is consensus in the scientific community and where uncertainties exist.



A plume of frigid, Arctic air is pushing south into the eastern U.S. this week. Shown above is an analysis of pressure over North America this week, illustrating a strong ridge of high pressure over the western U.S. and Alaska, and a deep trough in the east, which is allowing polar air to dive south. It’s all connected — while the eastern U.S. freezes, Alaska is surging to more than 40 degrees above normal for this time of year thanks to a strong ridge of high pressure over western North America. (

Polar vortex promises more historic cold in eastern U.S. on Friday

By Angela Fritz February 19 at 10:05 PM Washington Post

Friday morning promises an icy chill as Arctic air surges into the eastern United States. The cold snap is taking aim at long-standing records from Boston to Miami. It could prove to be the coldest morning of the season for many parts of the eastern U.S. as the plume of Arctic air digs in. All-time February record lows are possible from Ohio to Virginia as temperatures plummet to as much as 40 degrees below average for this time of year. … All three Washington-area airports will be in range to set record cool high temperatures on Friday; the old records are 18 degrees at both Baltimore-Washington and National set in 1896, and 26 at Dulles set in 1972.
NOAA’s Weather Prediction Center 
writes that the dangerously cold outbreak is surging south thanks in part to an appendage of the polar vortex
. “There are indications that this could be some of the coldest weather since the mid-1990s for parts of the Southeast U.S., Mid-Atlantic, and central Appalachians,” it wrote. “An eddy of the polar vortex will add to the potency of the surface cold front, thus creating a deep layer of bitterly cold air.” But the week’s record-breaking cold is not just Arctic, but Siberian air that has been trudging across the North Pole and into North America — leading many to refer to the outbreak as the “Siberian Express.”….Contrast the Eastern Seaboard cold with the above-average temperatures in the West, where record highs fell this week. On the north slope of Alaska, temperatures were running an astonishing 40 degrees above average on Thursday morning. A strong ridge of high pressure has been building over the West, all the way north into the Arctic circle, which has not only brought extreme warmth over western North America but has also forced the eastern U.S. into its record-setting February cold snap. Though the cold is expected to linger in the Northeast over the weekend, temperatures will moderate across most of the eastern U.S. by Saturday.



New York City Could See 6-Foot Sea Rise, Tripling of Heat Waves by 2100
Click here to read the report.

If left unconstrained, global warming could wreak havoc on the Big Apple

February 19, 2015 |By Colin Sullivan and ClimateWire

Heat waves and floods caused by climate change could mean disaster for the Big Apple’s five boroughs by the end of the century, with sea levels now predicted by a new report to climb by as much as 6 feet by 2100. According to the New York City Panel on Climate Change, an independent body composed of climate scientists, New York could see a 6-foot increase under a worst-case scenario that has been revised from previous estimates that 2 to 4 feet would be the maximum rise. The report also marked a new estimate for how hot it could become within the next 80 or so years, with the panel projecting a temperature increase as much as 8.8 degrees Fahrenheit and a tripling in the frequency of heat waves by the 2080s in the city. The report noted that temperatures in Central Park climbed at a rate of 0.3 F per decade from 1900 to 2013, totaling a 3.4 F rise, but the panel expects those figures to soar, with an increase of 4.1 to 5.7 F by the 2050s and 5.3 to 8.8 F by the 2080s.

The frequency of extreme precipitation is expected to jump, as well, with about 1½ times more events per year possible by the 2080s, the report said. Coastal communities, like many on Staten Island and in low-lying Brooklyn and Queens, could be in particular jeopardy, with storms likely to alter local beaches and coastlines. To date, the city has already dumped 26,000 linear feet of sand along Staten Island’s shorelines, for instance, but that number could pale in comparison with future adaptation needs, the report said. The report is meant to help the city plan for climate change, including greenhouse gas emission reductions and making Staten Island’s shores more resilient to storm surges and rising seas. New York has set a goal of cutting greenhouse gas emissions by 80 percent by 2050, and a series of projects are underway to harden the city’s infrastructure. The report also attempts to prod the Federal Emergency Management Agency into revising its 2013 preliminary flood insurance rate maps to reflect the panel’s conclusion that new projections will roughly double the areas likely to be affected by a 100-year flood. For the 500-year flood, new sea-level-rise estimates by 2100 increase the affected areas by 50 percent compared with FEMA’s 2013 estimates, the panel said. All this is why the report’s authors are urging FEMA and the administration of Mayor Bill de Blasio (D) to heed the warnings contained in the exhaustive study.

Reprinted from Climatewire with permission from Environment & Energy Publishing, LLC., 202-628-6500



Global Warming Could Make the Super-Rich Jealous of Rowhouse Residents

FEB. 20, 2015 NY Times Ginia Bellafante

As you went spelunking through snowdrifts in recent days, pondering the moral necessity of pet-friendly ice melt and perhaps noting in horror the story of a Manhattan woman who froze to death hiking in subzero New Hampshire temperatures over the weekend, you were thinking about the future, defined in the moment as July. City functionaries were looking further ahead to a potentially more “Hunger Games” epoch. Extreme weather has coincided with the release of a report by the New York City Panel on Climate Change.… Not long after Hurricane Sandy, the Urban Green Council, an organization focused on sustainable building, set out to study those questions and found that few buildings of the kind that populate the city would fare well. The worst possible place to live in a scenario like that one would be a single-family detached house; in other words you would not want to be living in Mill Basin in Brooklyn or many places on Staten Island or in Queens. A single-family detached house, the study found, would fall below freezing by the fourth day of a blackout. But the luxury glass towers proliferating in Manhattan would also do terribly — reaching just slightly above freezing by the fourth day. During a summer blackout, glass towers, because of the intensity with which glass conducts heat, would be rough places to live; indoor temperature would get into the high 80s and beyond by Day 3. (Of course, it is the ultimate science fiction to imagine that anyone living in a $50 million apartment with wall-to-wall views would be in New York in August in the first place.) In both cold and hot conditions, the study found, a rowhouse would be the best place to be. Being attached to other houses limits its exposure and keeps it better insulated. During a winter blackout, the temperature in a townhouse would still be in the low 40s after a week. As if the Brooklyn brownstone needed more to make it a precious commodity, this should be reason enough. And what this all implies is that the poor are right to resent the affluent, but might feel sorry for the exceedingly rich. According to Russell Unger, executive director of the Urban Green Council, the building sector in New York is looking to reduce carbon emissions by 10 percent in the next 10 years, largely through innovative reconstruction. “What Denmark is to windmills,” he told me, “New York could be to retrofit.



A member of Doctors Without Borders (MSF) puts on protective gear at an isolation ward where people infected with the Ebola virus are being treated. (Cellou Binani/AFP/Getty Images)

The weird way that climate change could lead to new disease outbreaks around the world

By Dominic Basulto February 18 at 6:50 AM Washington Post

Climate change could be behind more than just rising ocean levels, melting polar ice caps, and extreme weather events – it could also be creating the ecological basis for infectious diseases to spread to new places and new hosts. Writing in the Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B, two prominent zoologists, Daniel Brooks of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln and Eric Hoberg of the U.S. National Parasite Collection of the USDA’s Agricultural Research Service, warn that outbreaks of infectious diseases such as West Nile virus and Ebola are just the start – global warming could enable similar types of diseases to emerge and thrive in places you might not expect. The basic underpinning of this “climate change causes infectious disease” model is that warming temperatures and other forms of “climatological variation” have the potential to fundamentally change natural habitats. As habitats change, this ultimately leads to wildlife, crops, livestock and humans being exposed to new pathogens. In some cases, these pathogens find new susceptible hosts and are able to spread quickly. If carried to an extreme, it’s an unnerving scenario – “vector-borne diseases” (think malaria) could become more and more likely, even as medical researchers thought they had figured out how to deal with most of them last century. In a worst-case scenario, subtropical and tropical diseases may end up heading to more temperate climes, such as Europe and, yes, America.

“It’s not that there’s going to be one ‘Andromeda Strain’ that will wipe everybody out on the planet,” according to Brooks. “There are going to be a lot of localized outbreaks putting pressure on medical and veterinary health systems. It will be the death of a thousand cuts.” In other words, if climate change takes on greater intensity, localized outbreaks of Ebola could become the norm rather than the exception. This escalation of new outbreaks in places you wouldn’t expect would put a huge strain on the capacity of medical and health practitioners to deal with them.

This innovative thinking about the link between climate change and infectious disease overturns the current thinking on how and why diseases spread. The conventional wisdom (referred to as the “parasite paradox”) is that the host-pathogen relationship is so tightly adapted that pathogens have a hard time finding a new host species when things go wrong. Even with ecological change and habitat destruction, these pathogens would essentially have no place to turn, no “back up plan” if their hosts suddenly disappear as the result of changing habitats and ecosystems. The new thinking, known as the “Stockholm Paradigm” (not to be confused with the “Stockholm Syndrome”), combines four different ecological concepts – ecological fitting, the geographic mosaic theory of co-evolution, taxon pulses and the oscillation hypothesis – to conjecture that pathogens may not really have as hard of a time finding a new host as we thought. They may already have the “ancestral genetic capabilities” to switch to new hosts that are genetically close enough to the original hosts.

Historical examples cited by the researchers, who have studied infectious diseases in both Arctic and tropical ecosystems, include the howler monkey (which substituted nicely for the spider monkey in Costa Rica) and the muskoxen (which took over from the caribou in the Canadian Arctic). Of course, there is bound to be a certain amount of skepticism when people (and especially scientists) claim that, “Well, things are different this time around.” There have always been variations in climate, and there have always been “habitat perturbations.” So what’s different this time around? The answer may be that climate change is happening more rapidly than it has in the past, upsetting biodiversity dynamics in a way that has never before been possible. In layman’s terms, Darwin never thought parasites could evolve this fast. Science naysayers, and there are more than a few of them these days, will no doubt refuse to believe this theory. If they deny global warming, it’s easy to see that they will deny the “climate change causes infectious diseases” theory. The danger, however, is that we will fail to prevent infectious diseases such as Ebola from ever starting in the first place because we won’t understand how and where they can spread. So what can be done if we want to avoid the real-life remake of “Contagion”? One obvious answer might be to provide more funding and support to agencies that monitor and prevent outbreaks. This would help to prevent or minimize human contact with potentially infected animals. “We have to admit we’re not winning the war against emerging diseases,” Brooks said. “We’re not anticipating them. We’re not paying attention to their basic biology, where they might come from and the potential for new pathogens to be introduced.” Another approach that might be worth adopting, says Brooks, is studying the evolutionary relationships among species, in order to predict which species will take over as disease-carriers. He suggests that there should be greater coordination between the public and veterinary health communities and members of the “museum” community who classify species. In short, one of the best ways to prevent disease outbreaks such as Ebola in the future is to look way, way back into our evolutionary past.

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The term that actually makes climate change less political– Geoengineering

By Puneet Kollipara February 18 at 4:13 PM Washington Post

As we’ve told you in recent weeks, a growing body of psychological research in political science is starting to show us why the debate over climate change is so politically polarized. People’s politics and worldviews seem to affect how they perceive climate change’s existence and severity. This “cultural cognition” model is giving us new insights into how we should talk about climate change, vaccines and other hot-button issues where risk is involved. The moral of the story: More information doesn’t always help, and in some cases it can hurt by polarizing people ideologically on these issues. A new study, published recently in the Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science, confirms what we knew — that government proposals to cut greenhouse-gas emissions polarize us over climate change. But it also tells us of a potential policy that actually somewhat depolarizes people, while still getting them to care about climate change: geoengineering.…With the geoengineering group, however, something different happened. The anti-pollution and geoengineering groups were still roughly equally polarized over how risky they think climate change is, relative to the control group. But when it came to the scientific information on climate change that the researchers made all participants read, the anti-pollution group was actually less polarized on whether the science is solid than the control group was. What’s going on here? Not only was it a matter of conservative skepticism of climate science shrinking in the geoengineering group, but liberals in the geoengineering group became more likely to question the science. The researchers wonder whether many liberals’ concerns about geoengineering’s potential pitfalls made them more likely to question the science. Meanwhile, more conservatives in the geoengineering group could have accepted the information because geoengineering wouldn’t entail the emissions-cutting policies they oppose Those findings confirm that people’s views on a problem like climate change are shaped not only by what we know about the problem, but also by the problem’s societal implications. More surprisingly, however, geoengineering might not make people complacent about climate change at all. Also, at least superficially, geoengineering appears to have a depolarizing effect on the climate debate — and not simply by quelling conservative rejection of climate science. I’m not saying we should all hop on board the geoengineering train. But the broader point here is that getting people concerned about climate change isn’t a matter of giving them more information about it. Rather, it may all be in the framing.








State’s population growth expected to outstrip water conservation in coming years

BY MATT WEISER AND PHILLIP REESE  02/14/2015 Sacramento Bee

California water agencies are on track to satisfy a state mandate to reduce water consumption 20 percent by 2020. But according to their own projections, that savings won’t be enough to keep up with population growth just a decade later.

A 2009 state law requires urban water agencies to reduce per-capita water consumption 20 percent by 2020, compared with use at the start of the century. Most agencies are on track to reach that goal, and have made even more progress thanks to emergency cuts over the past year triggered by the ongoing drought. However, by 2030, the data show, these savings will be more than erased by anticipated population growth…”We are having a hard time managing the scarce water we have now,” said Newsha Ajami, director of urban water policy at Water in the West, a research group at Stanford University. “The problem is, every time the drought ends we snap out of it, and we don’t actually start planning for the next drought. We need to help people understand what this means for future generations.”…collectively, urban water agencies expect demand to grow 16 percent by 2030 and continue growing beyond that. This would eclipse the 2020 goal by nearly 1 million acre-feet, potentially adding significant new water demand in the next drought…. Under current law, urban water agencies face no required conservation targets beyond 2020, but a Water Action Plan released last year by Gov. Jerry Brown vows to develop new conservation targets for the years beyond.  “We fully anticipate there will be further targets after 2020,” Brostrom said. “The goal is to hold the total volume of urban water use to be the equivalent of roughly what it was in 2000.”….Gregory Weber, executive director of the California Urban Water Conservation Council, said water agencies throughout the state understand they will have to work harder on conservation. If anything, the current drought has made that clearer.  Conservation is often the first option water agencies choose to accommodate growth, rather than seeking out new water supplies. Conservation and other options – such as recycling stormwater and wastewater – are almost always cheaper than buying water, building dams or drilling wells. “There’s general recognition on the part of members throughout the state that, if you’ve got restrictions on supply, the only way you can pay for growth is by investments in efficiency, conservation or water recycling,” said Weber, whose group represents hundreds of urban water suppliers. “I’ve never heard anybody say, ‘We’ll hit 20 percent by 2020, and then we’re done.’ ” The Pacific Institute and Natural Resources Defense Council recently completed a report, called “Untapped Potential,” that reveals lots of opportunity left in California to conserve water. Simply switching commercial and residential customers to the latest high-efficiency appliances and plumbing fixtures could save 5 million acre-feet per year, according to the report. That’s enough to serve more than 10 million households. Stopping leaks, adding more water recycling and stormwater capture, and reducing water use for landscaping could boost total savings to 13 million acre-feet. “We do have enough water available to meet the demands of a growing population,” Quinn said. “We just have to be more innovative in the ways that we’re using the water that we have.”




New desalination technology could answer state drought woes

Posted: 17 Feb 2015 11:42 AM PST

Could desalination be the answer to California’s drought? As parts of the state become drier, scientists are looking at ways to turn seawater into drinkable water. Desalination has made headlines in recent months as a possible solution to the state’s water shortage. But in addition to being expensive, its byproduct — salty brine — can harm marine life once it’s reintroduced into the ocean. A team of researchers from Humboldt State University and the University of Southern California is hoping to address those concerns with a new process called Reverse Osmosis-Pressure Retarded Osmosis (RO-PRO). They’re developing a portable, prototype RO-PRO system in Samoa, Calif. — which could lower the cost of desalination and reduce its impact on the environment.
“The high cost and environmental impact of desalination are major issues preventing it from becoming a reliable, drought-resistant water supply,” said Andrea Achilli, an Environmental Resources Engineering professor at Humboldt State, who holds a patent on the technology with researchers from the University of Southern California and Colorado School of Mines. “What our system does is address those problems head on.” Desalination plants typically use reverse osmosis, a process that pushes saltwater through a membrane to create purified, drinking water. But in addition to being costly, and energy-intensive, reverse osmosis can negatively impact the environment. The researcher’s system is different because it uses both reverse osmosis and its opposing process, pressure-retarded osmosis. In PRO, freshwater and seawater are combined in a pressurized chamber, creating water pressure that spins a turbine. When combined with RO, that energy is directly used to power the entire system. According to researchers, the process uses 30 percent less energy than traditional desalination methods.
Another benefit of the system is that the highly-concentrated saltwater is eventually diluted back to seawater, reducing environmental harm. “If used on a large scale, it could have a positive environmental effect and result in significant cost and energy savings,” Achilli says. Once the system is completed, it will be housed and tested at the Samoa Pump Mill, where water from the Mad River meets the Pacific Ocean. During that time, researchers will test the system and its efficiency to determine whether it’s suitable for wider use. After that, they plan to incorporate the technology into existing desalination facilities around the state. “Eventually, we’d like to see the technology built into new desalination plants in California and elsewhere,” Achilli says.



Lake Powell, in 2009, showing a white calcium carbonate “bathtub ring” exposed after a decade of drought lowered the level of the reservoir to 60 percent of its capacity. (Photo courtesy of U.S. Bureau of Reclamation.)

The West without Water: What Can Past Droughts Tell Us About Tomorrow?

by B. Lynn Ingram vol. 8, issue 6 – March 2015 OSU.EDU

Editor’s Note:

Almost as soon as European settlers arrived in California they began advertising the place as the American Garden of Eden. And just as quickly people realized it was a garden with a very precarious water supply. Currently, California is in the middle of a years-long drought and the water crisis is threatening the region’s vital agricultural economy, not to mention the quality of life of its people, plants, and animals. This month B. Lynn Ingram, Professor of Geography and Earth & Planetary Science, examines how a deep historical account of California’s water patterns can help us plan for the future.

The state of California is beginning its fourth year of a serious drought, with no end in sight. The majority of water in the western United States is delivered by winter storms from the Pacific, and over the past year, those storms were largely blocked by an enormous ridge of high pressure. A relatively wet December has given way to the driest January on record, and currently over 90 percent of California is in severe to exceptional drought. The southwestern states are also experiencing moderate to severe drought, and this comes on the heels of a very dry decade. This long drought has crept up on the region, partly because droughts encroach slowly and they lack the visual and visceral effects of other, more immediate natural disasters such as earthquakes, floods, or tsunamis. Meteorologists define drought as an abnormally long period of insufficient rainfall adversely affecting growing or living conditions. But this bland definition belies the devastation wrought by these natural disasters. Drought can lead to failed crops, desiccated landscapes, wildfires, dehydrated livestock, and in severe cases, water wars, famine, and mass migration. Although the situation in the West has not yet reached such epic proportions, the fear is that if it continues much longer, it could.

In California, reservoirs are currently at only 38 percent of capacity, and the snowpack is only 25 percent of normal for late January. Elsewhere in the Southwest, Lake Powell, the largest reservoir on the Colorado River, is at 44 percent of capacity. The amount of water transported through irrigation systems to California’s Central Valley—the most productive agricultural region in the world—has been reduced to only 20 percent of customary quantities, forcing farmers to deepen groundwater wells and drill new ones. Over the past year, 410,000 acres have been fallowed in this vast agricultural region that provides 30 percent of all the produce grown in the United States and virtually all of the world’s almonds, walnuts, and pistachios. As California dries up, food prices might well rise across the nation.
The question on everyone’s mind is when will this dry period finally come to an end and rainfall return to normal—and just what is normal for the U.S. Southwest when it comes to rain?
And with a growing and more urban population and an ever-changing climate, will we ever be free from the threat of long dry periods, with their disruptive effects on food production and the plants and animals that rely on water to survive?

A glance into the history of the Southwest reminds us that the climate and rainfall patterns have varied tremendously over time, with stretches of drought many decades longer than the one we are experiencing now. Long dry stretches during the Medieval centuries (especially between 900 and 1350 CE) had dramatic effects on the native peoples of the Southwest (the ancestral Pueblo, Hohokam, and Sinagua), including civilizational collapse, violence, malnutrition, and forced social dislocation. These earlier Americans are a warning to us. The past 150 years, which we have used as our baseline for assumptions about rainfall patterns, water availability for agriculture, water laws, and infrastructure planning, may in fact be an unusually wet period. Let’s look at the past few hundred years first and then explore the region’s climate in geological time.


[excellent article- worth reading entire piece here…]



Photo: Annika Toernqvist, The Chronicle
The view at Squaw Valley on Feb. 17, 2015.

Drought cancels World Cup ski competition at Squaw Valley

By Kurtis Alexander
Updated 10:28 am, Tuesday, February 17, 2015

The lack of snow in the Sierra has prompted the cancellation of a major stop on the international ski and snowboarding circuit.
The International Ski Federation‘s World Cup skicross and snowboardcross competition will not be held March 4-8 at Squaw Valley Alpine Meadows, the U.S. Ski and Snowboard Association announced on its website.
“Squaw Valley has just received more than two feet of snow, however the amount of snow needed to build the World Cup courses is significant,” the organization said.
Three years of drought and extraordinarily warm temperatures have left snow in California at historically low levels. Snowpack statewide Tuesday measured just 22 percent of normal for this time of year.
A handful of smaller, low-lying ski resorts have taken the unprecedented step of closing mid-season because of the conditions. Many of the larger spots are relying on their snow-making capabilities to get by. Normally, February is the height of California’s ski season. The World Cup skicross and snowboardcross competition features Olympic-style ski and snowboard racing. Some of the sport’s biggest names, including Olympian and seven-time X Games champion Nate Holland, were scheduled to compete. It was the first time the World Cup was scheduled for Squaw Valley since 1969. The resort remains open to the public.








Boston Redevelopment Authority- One group suggested floating water gardens in the Fort Point Channel for residents to explore by canoe or kayak.

Designs show how Boston could adapt as sea levels rise

By Steve AnnearGlobe Staff February 19, 2015

In 100 years, when rising sea levels are expected to spill over onto flood-prone Morrissey Boulevard, commuters may be able to ditch their cars in favor of an MBTA water taxi. The proposal to build transit canals alongside the low-lying thoroughfare is one of 50 ideas floated by designers in a $20,000 competition sponsored by the city, which is looking for plans that could help Boston accommodate predicted flooding linked to climate change. Other ideas called for the construction of “living levees” in Fort Point, which could soak up water during storms but also support floating structures — including apartments and a farmers market that would rise and fall with the tides. “We wanted feasible schemes, we weren’t looking for pie-in-the-sky stuff,” said John Dalzell, senior architect at the Boston Redevelopment Authority, which helped organize the contest. “A lot of the schemes really got that.” Called “Boston Living With Water,” the contest drew interest from design and architectural firms from around the world, officials said. The competition launched with the help of the Boston Harbor Association and the Boston Society of Architects on the two-year anniversary of Hurricane Sandy last year….

Boston Redevelopment Authority -One proposal for the Fort Point area anchors around letting the site flood completely and creating a city built over water.
See more designs here.



A Toolkit to Help Communities Respond to a Changing Climate

Posted by Dr. John P. Holdren, Mike Boots, Lisa Monaco on November 17, 2014 at 12:45 PM EST

The Obama Administration, as part of the President’s Climate Data Initiative, released the Climate Resilience Toolkit ( which includes in their catalogue 3 tools developed and managed by Point Blue and numerous partners:

  * Future SF Bay Tidal Marshes 

  * Our Coast, Our Future 

  * California Climate Commons 


NOAA National Sea Grant Resilience Toolkit Released
Sea Grant has recently launched the National Resilience Toolkit, a combination of tools and resources developed over the past several years by the Sea Grant Network to assist local communities in becoming more resilient to climate change. As coastal populations grow, it becomes necessary for communities to become more resilient to several natural hazards, including water quality challenges, severe weather, and overall effects of climate change. Sea Grant programs are spread out across diverse communities and specialize in developing tools that are tailored to local needs. This toolkit allows users to learn about tools from across the entire network, giving them the opportunity to adapt tools for their own local needs. Each entry includes a description of the tools, a link for more information, and a point of contact. The toolkit combines more than 100 tools and will be updated as more tools are created. Visit the toolkit




Interior announces $8 Million for tribal climate change adaptation, planning projects

Adaptation Funding to Help Strengthen Resilience for Communities on the Front Lines of a Changing Climate
Published on Tuesday, 17 February 2015 20:09 DOI Media Release
WASHINGTON – As part of the Obama Administration’s effort to prepare communities nationwide for the impacts of a changing climate, U.S. Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell today announced that the Interior Department will make available $8 million to fund projects that promote tribal climate change adaptation and ocean and coastal management planning through its Tribal Climate Resilience Program. “Sea level rise, coastal erosion, drought and more frequent and severe weather events are impacting Alaska Native villages and American Indian tribal communities across the nation,” said Secretary Jewell. “As governments at all levels work on these challenges, we are committed to partnering with American Indians and Alaska Natives to build more resilient and sustainable communities and economies. This funding can help tribes prepare and plan for climate-related events and build capacity to address these evolving challenges.” “No one is impacted by climate change more than Native communities in Alaska, but we have also seen serious problems developing for tribal communities across the West and on both coasts. We must act to help protect these communities,” said Assistant Secretary – Indian Affairs Kevin Washburn. “The cultural and economic needs of tribes are tied to the land and protecting that land is a critical component of advancing tribal sovereignty and self-determination.” Of the $8 million, $4 million will be available for Climate Adaptation Planning and another $4 million for Ocean/Coastal Management Planning. Funding will support tribal climate adaptation planning, training, and participation in technical workshops and forums. In addition, funding will support coastal tribes in addressing the challenges of coastal erosion and development, rising sea levels, ocean acidification, and emergency management…. A Request for Proposal (RFP) will be available in the coming days and requests for the application can be sent to or to the attention of Helen Riggs, Deputy Bureau Director, Office of Trust Services, Bureau of Indian Affairs, 1849 C St., N.W., MS-4620-MIB, and Washington, D.C. 20240….



Using rooftop rainwater to make drinking water

Posted: 09 Feb 2015 06:49 AM PST

Climate change will lead to water scarcity in large parts of Africa. But there is hope – on African rooftops. Researchers in Norway are currently involved in the development of better water systems for Ghana, in order to ensure that people have more sustainable access to clean water.







EPA considers delaying carbon deadline after utilities object
February 18, 2015 Bloomberg News

The Obama administration may ease off on a deadline for power companies to start meeting new rules to cut carbon emissions, the top environmental regulator said, a win for utilities that complained too much was required too soon. Gina McCarthy, the head of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, offered Tuesday what she said was a “big hint,” saying she heard complaints that the 2020 deadline for states to make steep cuts is too strict. The final climate standards take effect in 2030, and many state regulators said the pace could endanger the reliability of the electric grid. “I have heard very few real comments about the final goal; it’s really a question about how quickly you get there,” McCarthy said at a conference of the National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners in Washington. “We want the states to have flexibility to explore options.” The EPA’s first standards for fossil-fuel power plants, the top source of the emissions blamed for global warming, drew fire from utilities. The plan, which seeks a 30 percent cut in emissions during a quarter century ending in 2030, is the centerpiece of President Barack Obama’s effort to combat global warming.



Climate change efforts backfire in Brazil’s steel industry, doubling carbon emissions

Posted: 09 Feb 2015 09:28 AM PST

New research shows that climate change mitigation efforts in Brazil’s steel industry have failed. Instead of reducing greenhouse gas pollution, scientists discovered that these strategies, promoted under the global Kyoto Protocol, led to an overall doubling of carbon dioxide emissions in the industry.


Outdoors: Court rules that trout stocking can continue

By Tom Stienstra SF Chronicle February 13, 2015 Updated: February 14, 2015 5:15pm
…At the state Court of Appeal in Sacramento, the Center for Biological Diversity lost its lawsuit to stop the Department of Fish and Wildlife from stocking trout in the state’s lakes. In a separate action, the court also ruled that the DFW was wrong to impose a series of requirements on private companies that stock lakes, in a case brought by the California Association for Recreational Fishing. Hundreds of lakes and reservoirs, including those in the Bay Area, would have no trout if they were not stocked, and hundreds of private ponds on ranches would not have bass, bluegill and catfish if they weren’t planted, either. The Center for Biological Diversity was able to block trout plants temporarily in 2008 when it argued that the state must complete environmental studies that show potential impacts before any plants are permitted, such as to the red-legged frog, for instance, even if frogs didn’t exist in the lakes being planted. The court upheld the DFW’s statewide Environmental Impact Report on trout plants, which will allow the hatchery program to continue. The DFW already had transformed its hatcheries to produce a strain of rainbow trout called a “triploid,” which does not reproduce, and therefore can be planted in reservoirs that have feeder streams with wild fish….

ABC Submits New Petition to Regulate the Wind Industry — FWS Considering Rulemaking

February 19, 2015

American Bird Conservancy (ABC) has filed a formal petition with the U.S. Department of the Interior calling for the agency to establish new regulations governing the impacts of wind energy projects on migratory birds. The ABC petition augments an earlier petition filed by ABC in December 2011 that also called for wind industry regulatory action that would reduce the projected 1.4-2 million bird deaths expected to be caused by the industry when it is fully built out. The ABC petition would have the Department of Interior’s Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) establish a permitting process that would significantly improve the protection of birds covered by the Migratory Bird Treaty Act (MBTA) and would afford the wind industry a degree of regulatory and legal certainty that cannot be provided in the absence of such a process. “This is the second time we have petitioned for improvements on the permitting issue—this time with new and even stronger arguments– and it appears that FWS is now starting a process that could lead to that becoming a reality,” Hutchins said in reference to FWS filing a Notice of Intent to take action with the Office of Management and Budget on this issue. “We recognize that properly sited and operated wind energy projects may be an important part of the solution to climate change, a contemporary challenge that indisputably poses a rapidly growing threat to species and ecosystems,” Hutchins said.






Nature’s nastiness: Marine birds smeared with oil wash up on California shores

By Leigh Cooper Santa Cruz Sentinel Posted:   02/17/2015 12:31:32 PM PST0 Comments

SANTA CRUZ — The television images after a catastrophic oil spill, such as the one caused by the container ship Cosco Busan’s 2007 collision with the Bay Bridge, are often stark and heartbreaking — thousands of birds covered in oily tar struggling for their lives. But marine birds smeared with oil continuously wash up on California beaches, and not just after large accidents. The culprit: nature. Oil from natural seeps accounts for 9 of 10 oiled birds found along California’s coast in the average year, according to researchers at Santa Cruz’s Marine Wildlife Veterinary Care and Research Center. Researchers counted oiled birds washing up on California’s coast and sent their greased feathers for “oil fingerprinting” to identify the origination of the oil. Before working on the study, “I didn’t know much about these natural oil seeps in California,” acknowledged Laird Henkel, the center’s director. “We are guessing that more than 1,000 seabirds are oiled each year by this natural source of oil.” Similar to the La Brea tar pits in Los Angeles, natural seeps are cracks in the ground where oil oozes out. Worldwide, nearly 200 million gallons of oil pour into marine ecosystems annually from such seeps, according to the National Research Council. That amount is half the crude oil released into the ocean each year. Humans are responsible for the other half through discharge from ships, oil operations, pipelines, spills and extraction. Once the oil rises to the surface, the birds come in contact with it. “Most of the oiling occurs around the belly, called the bathtub ring,” said Hannah Nevins, a seabird biologist with the American Bird Conservancy. The birds then rub it onto their wings and, if they try to clean themselves, smear it onto their faces and beaks.

Covered in oil, the birds risk hypothermia when they dive for food; they can die from starvation or the cold. “It’s like if you were skiing and had a hole in your down jacket,” Nevins said. “If their feathers get all gummed up, it messes up their waterproofing.” The recently published study by the Marine Wildlife Veterinary Care and Research Center took about a decade to complete….


Numerous bats killed by German wind turbines: Migratory bats at risk

Posted: 10 Feb 2015 06:18 PM PST

Numerous bats are killed by German wind turbines. The number of such turbines, already very high, is planned to be increased further. More than two-thirds of bats being killed by wind turbines on German ground are migrants on their way between summer and winter habitats. Due to its geographical location in Europe, Germany has consequently a central responsibility for the conservation of migratory bats.


Marcus Constantino/Daily Mail/AP

After fiery West Virginia train derailment, is oil by rail safe?

Monday’s derailment in West Virginia is the latest in a string of oil train mishaps that have resulted in explosions and sometimes fatalities.

US shipments of crude by rail have jumped 400 percent since 2005, fueling calls for tighter safety rules.

By Jared Gilmour, Staff writer February 17, 2015

Washington — Fireballs erupted in West Virginia Monday after an oil train derailed, setting ablaze tank cars full of North Dakota crude and threatening the local water supply. One derailed oil car went up in flames after hitting a house. Another ended up in the Kanawha River, threatening drinking water. Of the train’s 109 tank cars, about 25 derailed, each loaded with up to 30,000 gallons of oil. The derailment occurred near Mount Carbon, W.Va. as heavy snows began blanketing the south-central portion of the state Monday afternoon. Though no serious injuries were reported, hundreds evacuated as the derailed cars exploded and shot flames into the air. Tank cars were still burning Tuesday afternoon. “It was a little scary,” David McClung, who lives a half mile uphill from the explosion site, told the Associated Press Monday. Mr. McClung said heat from the blasts could be felt from his home. He even saw one of the explosions send flames bursting 300 feet into the air: “It was like an atomic bomb went off.” Monday’s blast comes as the US Department of Transportation and the Obama administration finalize new rules, first proposed last summer, requiring safer tank cars and limiting train speeds. A string of crude by rail catastrophes – like the fiery derailment that rocked Casselton, N.D., last year – has increased public scrutiny on a growing form of transportation. All told, shipments of crude by rail in the US have increased 400 percent since 2005, prompting many to call for updated safety standards in the industry. The increasing prevalence of oil-related blasts and derailments is one byproduct of a shale oil boom that has boosted US crude production and pushed down the price of oil around the world. “The large-scale shipment of crude oil by rail simply didn’t exist ten years ago, and our safety regulations need to catch up with this new reality,” Deborah A.P. Hersman, chair of the National Transportation Safety Board, said a year ago when proposing tougher standards. But those standards have been slow to materialize, as a growing glut of new US oil looks for ways to get to market….


Impact of Deepwater Horizon Oil on beach microbial communities

Posted: 17 Feb 2015 12:40 PM PST

Using advanced genomic identification techniques, researchers studying the impact of the Deepwater Horizon spill on communities of beach microbes saw a succession of organisms and identified population changes in specific organisms that marked the progress of the oil’s breakdown.










CA LCC Webinar – Impacts of Climate Change on Waterbirds of the Central Valley February 25, 2014 11:00 – 12:00 PM PST
Speakers Dr. Joe Fleskes and Elliott Matchett, USGS Western Ecological Research Center, will discuss their CA LCC-supported project that is investigating the projected impacts of climate, urbanization, and water supply management on the habitats and ecology of waterbirds in California’s Central Valley.
Click here for more information.

To join the webinar: Call-in Number: 1-866-737-4154; Passcode: 287 267 0 Meeting link:



SF BAY AREA: Joint Policy Committee’s BACERP is proud to present two 60-minute webinars on March 4th and 11th.

RSVP via email to to reserve your space. Sign-on info will be sent to you. 


Ohmconnect: Getting Paid to Cut Pollution

Presentation and Q&A with Curtis Tongue, Co-Founder and Executive Director of Ohmconnect

March 4, 11am – Noon

Partnership opportunities for local governments, community-based organizations and others!

Curtis Tongue will show us Ohmconnect, the smart new business that pays you to reduce electricity use during peak demand periods, thereby helping to keep dirty, expensive “peaker” power plants off the grid. More than a great idea, Ohmconnect is up and running using mobile alerts, smart meters and PayPal accounts to reduce GHGs and produce cash for you or your favorite charity.


Proven and Promising Climate Measures from U.S. Communities

Presentation and Q&A with Stacey Meinzen and Ann Hancock, Center for Climate Protection (formerly Climate Protection Campaign)

March 11, 2015 — 9:30 am – 10:30 am

Winning strategies to help your climate program get results!

The authors will present highlights from their recent report on U.S. cities that are achieving measurable success in reducing GHGs. Specific projects are spotlighted for renewable energy, energy efficiency, transportation and land use, solid waste, carbon sequestration, financing, tracking progress, and building awareness & support






Point Reyes Station, CA

The conference takes its name from Wallace Stegner’s famous “Wilderness Letter” to Congress in support of the 1964 Wilderness Act. In it he described wild landscapes as part of our “geography of hope.” Building on that, the 2015 gathering will be a conversation about how to map out a new geography of hope. The Geography of Hope Conference features panels and conversations held in a hay barn and in the West Marin elementary school gymnasium as well as art exhibits and installations at local galleries. Naturalist-led field trips to Point Reyes National Seashore let participants experience the land firsthand. Additional field trips go to privately owned farms and ranches in West Marin. Meals feature delicious food from Marin’s farms and ranches served family-style. For more information, click here.


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.



Communicating about Climate Impacts and Engaging Stakeholders in Solutions April 30 & May 1, 2015, 9:00am – 5:00pm, Romberg Tiburon Center, Tiburon, CA

With Cara Pike from Climate Access. $310 includes lunch and all materials — Limited scholarships are available

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



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)


Bird Conservation Coordinator/North American Bird Conservation Initiative Coordinator for the Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies (AFWA) (pdf)

The coordinator’s responsibilities include coordination of the US NABCI committee and implementation of its priorities including advancement of and support for Bird Habitat Joint Ventures, development and promotion of the State of the Birds report, advancement of effective and efficient bird monitoring, support of efforts to increase bird conservation through management on private lands and support of policies that facilitate and improve the conservation of birds and their habitats. The position also staffs AFWA’s Bird Conservation Committee and supports its working groups which include the Partners in Flight/shorebird/waterbird working group, resident game bird working group, waterfowl working group and migratory shore and upland game bird working group. The position also coordinates work on other state fish and wildlife agency bird conservation priorities including revision and implementation of State Wildlife Action Plans and Flyway Nongame Technical Sections. Through these activities, the coordinator will provide leadership on national bird conservation issues in partnership with state fish and wildlife agencies, federal agencies and non-governmental organizations.


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. …



Executive Director, San Francisco Bay Bird Observatory

The San Francisco Bay Bird Observatory (SFBBO) is seeking a full-time Executive Director. SFBBO is a non-profit, 501(c)(3) corporation located in Milpitas, CA dedicated to the conservation of birds and their habitats through science and outreach. In 2015, SFBBO will have 8 full-time staff, 6 part-time staff, 3 full-time interns, and an annual budget of $750,000. Established in 1981, SFBBO has 34 years of experience conducting avian and habitat restoration research as well as undertaking community outreach in the San Francisco Bay Area. Our work contributes to land management decisions that address local conservation challenges of concern to resource agencies, policymakers, and California citizens. Our work promotes an ethic of environmental stewardship in Bay Area citizens…. To apply please submit a cover letter, a resume, and a list of 3 references to Board Chairs Lynne Trulio and Brian Fulfrost at The deadline for applying for this position has been extended to March 28, 2015. The position will remain open until filled. More info here.



Public Policy Institute of California’s Water Policy Center







Bill Gates Is Still Wrong On Climate Change, It Will Undo His Foundation’s Work

by Joe Romm Posted on February 18, 2015 at 4:59 pm

The Gates Foundation is doing important work helping the poorest countries deal with disease and poverty. The fact that the $42 billion Foundation is utterly ignoring the biggest long-term threat to the health and well-being of the poorest countries would itself be easier to ignore — if only Bill Gates would stop saying nonsensical things about climate change as if they were facts. Gates himself has just invited us all to ask whether climate change will in fact undo the work of his Foundation. In his Foundation’s latest Annual letter, Gates writes early on, “It is fair to ask whether the progress we’re predicting will be stifled by climate change.” I asked and answered that question 6 years ago: Yes, climate change will stifle the progress the foundation is predicting. Even back then, using a “middle of the road” greenhouse gas emissions scenario, a study in Science found that “Half of world’s population could face climate-driven food crisis by 2100.” The study concluded, “Ignoring climate projections at this stage will only result in the worst form of triage.” A study led by MIT economists found that “the median poor country’s income will be about 50 percent lower than it would be had there been no climate change.” And that was based on a 3-degree C warming by 2100, about half the warming we are currently on track to reach. The latest climate research is even more worrisome: Study after study has made clear much of the world’s habited and arable land faces multi-decade megadroughts and/or near-permanent Dust-Bowlification if we were to dawdle, say, yet another 15 years before slashing carbon pollution. Gates offers his own, absurd, answer to his question in the 2015 letter, to explain why the Foundation isn’t focusing resources on the climate problem: The most dramatic problems caused by climate change are more than 15 years away, but the long-term threat is so serious that the world needs to move much more aggressively — right now — to develop energy sources that are cheaper, can deliver on demand, and emit zero carbon dioxide. The next 15 years are a pivotal time when these energy sources need to be developed so they’ll be ready to deploy before the effects of climate change become severe.

How suicidal would it be if the world actually adopted that strategy of focusing on developing new energy sources, wait 15 years to start aggressive deployment? Every major scientific study, every major international report, every major economic analysis makes clear that we must start aggressively deploying the vast array of costs carbon-free technologies now — not 15 years from now.

Action now is super-cheap (see literature review here), whereas delay is super-costly and likely to be fatally late. Back in 2011, the International Energy Agency warned “Delaying action is a false economy: for every $1 of investment in cleaner technology that is avoided in the power sector before 2020, an additional $4.30 would need to be spent after 2020 to compensate for the increased emissions.”

Worse, we are already very close to major climatic tipping points, beyond which comes not merely a bunch of catastrophic impacts, but ones that are irreversible on a time scale of centuries. The collapse of the West Antarctic Ice Sheet may be under way — further delay would only speed up sea level rise and risk crossing many more points of no return.

That’s why in 2014 the world’s top scientists concluded their major literature review of mitigation costs “Delaying is estimated to … substantially increase the difficulty of the transition to low, longer-term emissions levels and narrow the range of options consistent with maintaining temperature change below 2 degrees C.” Again, that IPCC summary conclusion is so uncontroversial every major government in the world signed off on it! Same for the IPCC’s final summary conclusion in November that further delay risks risk “severe, pervasive and irreversible impacts for people and ecosystems.”


Photo: Sophia Germer / The Chronicle In the San Francisco marina, Ian Wren, a Baykeeper scientist, along with Karin Tuxen Bettman of Google explain technologies relating to rising tide levels.

Google camera helps capture bay’s rising sea levels

By Kristen V. Brown Updated 9:36 pm, Friday, February 13, 2015

Recent visitors to San Francisco Bay might have spotted something strange: a small unmanned vessel zipping through the water with a mysterious sphere mounted atop its two parallel hulls….For the past few months, the nonprofit San Francisco Baykeeper has been remotely piloting the craft — a catamaran topped with a loaner Google Street View camera. In a teaming of tech and environmental advocacy, Baykeeper is using the camera’s 360-degree imagery to capture the shoreline’s rising sea levels, mapping a meandering 400 miles of the bay’s coast. The idea is to give people a close-up view of the shore, the kind of view typically available only from a boat. This, Baykeeper hopes, will rile them up. “A lot of people know about sea level rise,” said Sejal Choksi, an environmental lawyer and Baykeeper’s interim director. “We are hoping these images will really bring the reality home to the public, that they will look at pictures of places they know and say, ‘Oh my gosh, this is going to be underwater.‘” Google’s Street View cameras have been affixed to cars, boats, people and even camels. But this catamaran, a Wave Adaptive Modular Vessel that keeps the camera steady even as the tide swells, is a first. Baykeeper initially planned to use kayaks and GoPro cameras to document small parts of the bay. After Baykeeper won a $100,000 grant from Google, though, the Mountain View tech giant offered up its imaging gear….


Popular soda ingredient, caramel color, poses cancer risk to consumers

Posted: 18 Feb 2015 04:16 PM PST

Public health researchers have analyzed soda consumption data in order to characterize people’s exposure to a potentially carcinogenic byproduct of some types of caramel color. Caramel color is a common ingredient in colas and other dark soft drinks. The results show that between 44 and 58 percent of people over the age of six typically have at least one can of soda per day, possibly more, potentially exposing them to 4-methylimidazole (4-MEI), a possible human carcinogen formed during the manufacture of some kinds of caramel color….


Sunlight continues to damage skin in the dark

Posted: 19 Feb 2015 11:46 AM PST

Much of the damage that ultraviolet radiation does to skin occurs hours after sun exposure, a team of researchers has concluded. While noting that news of the carcinogenic effect of melanin is disconcerting, the researchers also pointed to a ray of hope: The slowness of chemiexcitation may allow time for new preventive tools, such as an “evening-after” sunscreen designed to block the energy transfer


Computer model of blood development could speed up search for new leukemia drugs

Posted: 09 Feb 2015 08:32 AM PST

The first comprehensive computer model to simulate the development of blood cells could help in the development of new treatments for leukemia and lymphoma, say researchers.


Even animals compose: What it means to be a musical species

Posted: 17 Feb 2015 09:27 AM PST

Music is found in all human cultures and thus appears to be part of our biology and not simply a cultural phenomenon. One approach to studying the biology of music is to examine other species to see if they share some of the features that make up human musicality.


My Own Life

Oliver Sacks on Learning He Has Terminal Cancer

By OLIVER SACKS FEB. 19, 2015 NY Times Opinion


















Ellie Cohen, President and CEO

Point Blue Conservation Science (formerly PRBO)

3820 Cypress Drive, Suite 11, Petaluma, CA 94954

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


Point Blue—Conservation science for a healthy planet.


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