Conservation Science News March 20, 2015


Focus of the Week
Protecting Marine Food Webs: Gulf of Farallones/Cordell Bank National Marine Sanctuary Expansion!










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 or at the CA Landscape Conservation Cooperative website.  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 view past issues of this at the. You can also receive this news compilation by signing up for the California Landscape Conservation Cooperative Newsletter or the Bay Area Ecosystems Climate Change Consortium listserve. 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– Protecting Marine Food Webs: Gulf of Farallones/Cordell Bank National Marine Sanctuary Expansion!


CONGRATULATIONS to our partners at NOAA’s Gulf of the Farallones and Cordell Bank National Marine Sanctuaries- and to everyone who worked on this!


Expansion of marine sanctuaries a victory for the environment

POSTED: 03/19/15, 11:59 AM PDT | Marin Independent Journal Editorial

It’s remarkable, but true: Despite opposition from the oil and gas industry and unsuccessful efforts in Congress, the Obama administration this month protected one of the world’s most productive ecosystems in a vast swath of ocean off the Northern California coast.
It took more than 10 years of legislative efforts, capped by a plan put forth by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. The move more than doubles the size of the Gulf of the Farallones and Cordell Bank national marine sanctuaries. Oil and gas exploration will now be banned not just off the Marin coast, in an area encompassing the Farallon Islands, but now also north along Sonoma and Mendocino counties’ coastlines to just above Point Arena.

That protects a rich feeding area for 25 threatened and endangered species, including blue whales and humpback whales, northern fur seals and leatherback turtles. The area is home to a third of the world’s whales and dolphins, more than 163 species of birds and more than 300 species of fish. Food in the area supports the largest assemblage of breeding seabirds in the continental United States on the Farallon Islands. Expanded protection was championed by former congresswoman Lynn Woolsey, who began pushing for it in the late 1990s. Despite House passage of legislation in 2008 the effort languished in Congress. The move was kept alive by Sen. Barbara Boxer and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, and in 2012 the NOAA proposed it as part of a revised management plan. There were packed hearings, but despite industry resistance the expanded protection enjoyed widespread public support.

Rep. Jared Huffman touted it as the culmination of a decades-long effort by environmental leaders, fishermen and the tourism industry. It took time, patience and political muscle, but ultimately the effort of Woolsey and others paid off. At a time when environmental regulations are under attack from a Republican-controlled Congress, the expansion stands out as a particularly remarkable victory for California legislators, the Obama administration – and the environment.





Protecting Vital Waters as Marine Sanctuaries

Posted by Mike Boots on March 12, 2015 at 11:57 AM EDT

Forty years ago, President Ford approved the designation of the country’s first marine sanctuary — the USS Monitor National Marine Sanctuary, protecting the shipwreck of one of the most famous Civil War ironclads. Since then, 13 other marine protected areas have been added to the Sanctuary system, encompassing more than 150,000 square miles of ocean along our coasts, in the Great Lakes, and near the Hawaiian islands and American Samoa.

Like the Monitor, some of these sanctuaries and monuments provide insight into our nation’s history. Others protect areas rich in biological diversity and significant for scientific research and discovery. Many are economically valuable for fishing, tourism, and recreation. Together, the network of sanctuaries helps preserve a natural resource that all Americans depend on, no matter where they live: a healthy and thriving ocean.

And now, the Obama administration is making that treasured network even stronger. NOAA announced today that it is expanding two existing sanctuaries off California’s North-central coast. The expansion will more than double the current size of the Gulf of the Farallones and Cordell Bank national marine sanctuaries, ensuring that we are protecting all that the region has to offer — from its biologically rich habitats primed for fishing and scientific research to the seascapes and shipwrecks that attract tourists and explorers.

The expansion, which is based on more than a decade of public comment and research by NOAA and its scientific partners in the region, extends west and north from the original sanctuaries up to Point Arena, home to another treasured space the President permanently protected last year. Following the lead of former Representative Lynn Woolsey, members of the California delegation have worked for years to afford greater protection for these vital waters.

The expanded sanctuary area includes one of the most productive upwelling zones in North America — a process in which deeper, colder waters rise and replace surface water as it’s pushed away by the wind. These colder waters are rich in nutrients and support an incredible abundance and diversity of marine life in a complex food web that is essential for commercially valuable fisheries, including red urchin, Dungeness crab, and salmon. These fisheries are an important part of local economies along the length of the North-central California coast. In addition to the numerous species of fish, endangered whales, seabirds, and extensive living reefs of corals and sponges all call the sanctuaries home…..







Coping with the anthropocene: How we became nature

ScienceDaily March 17, 2015

Overpopulation, the greenhouse effect, warming temperatures and overall climate disruption are all well recognized as a major threat to the ecology and biodiversity of the Earth. The issue of mankind’s negative impact on the environment, albeit hotly debated and continuously present in the public eye, still only leads to limited policy action. Urgent action is required, insist Paul Cruzten and Stanislaw Waclawek, the authors of “Atmospheric Chemistry and Climate in the Anthropocene,” published in open access in the new Chemistry-Didactics-Ecology-Metrology.
In their sobering review, Crutzen, the 1995 Nobel Laureate in Chemistry, and Waclawek, outline the development of a new geological epoch — the Anthropocene, where human actions become a global geophysical force, surpassing that of nature itself.
Anthropocene, which relates to the present geological epoch, in which human actions determine the behavior of the planet Earth to a greater degree than other natural processes. The term, coined by American ecologist Eugene F. Stoermer and popularized by Crutzen, introduced the epoch succeeding the Holocene, which is the official term for the present epoch on Geological Time Scale, covering the last 11, 500 years.
Although Anthropocene is not a new concept, it is only now that the authors present stunning evidence in support of their claim. The article describes the negative impact of the human footprint, which ensures a gradual destruction of the Earth. Highlighting different data elements — it yields overwhelming evidence that “man, the eroder” now transforms the atmospheric, geologic, hydrologic, biospheric, and other earth system processes.

The list is long and unforgiving:

· Excessively rapid climate change, so that ecosystems cannot adapt

· The Arctic ocean ice cover is thinner by approximately 40% compared to 20-40 years ago

· Ice loss and the growing sea levels

· Overpopulation (fourfold increase in the 20th century alone)

· Increasing demand for freshwater

· Releases of NO into the atmosphere, resulting in high surface ozone layers

· Loss of agricultural soil through erosion

· Loss of phosphorus. Dangerous depletion in agricultural regions

· Melting supplies of phosphate reserves (leading to serious reduction in crop yield)

Describing the negative impact of human activities on the environment, the authors identify planetary boundaries, as means to attaining global sustainability. It is “a well-documented summary of all humankind actions affecting the environment on all scales. According to Crutzen, we live in a new era, Anthropocene, and our survival fully depends on us. “I strongly recommend this unusual publication in the form of highly informative compressed slides and graphs.” says Marina Frontasyeva from the Joint Institute for Nuclear Research in Dubna, Russia. Nature is us, and responding to the Anthropocene means building a culture that grows with the Earth’s biological wealth instead of depleting it.

Paul J. Crutzen, Stanisław Wacławek. Atmospheric Chemistry and Climate in the Anthropocene. Chemistry-Didactics-Ecology-Metrology, 2015 DOI: 10.1515/cdem-2014-0001




STRAW (Students and Teachers Restoring a Watershed) Celebrates 500th Restoration!

Restoration workers pass out seedlings to students KRCB

Creek restoration group celebrates 500th project

By Danielle Venton KRCB March 20, 2015


STRAW–Students and Teachers Restoring A Watershed–celebrated their 500th project, with a day of planning trees at Tolay Ranch. Since Laurette Rogers, Program Director, began STRAW 23 years ago, she’s seen 40,000 students help restore more than 35 miles of creek bed, plus uncounted wetlands.  “We learned that to help animals we should plant trees to give them nice habitat,” said Sam, 2nd grader at Loma Vista Elementary in Novato.  The site under restoration is slated to become part of Sonoma County’s regional park system, allowing students like Sam to return and visit the trees they’ve planted.  STRAW is now part of Point Blue Conservation Science (formerly PRBO) and is supported by grants and donation. Learn how to support Point Blue online. 





Land managers are seen trying to contain a fire. A new UF/IFAS study shows southern land managers would like to use prescribed burns more frequently to prevent wildfires and protect the ecosystem. But they face numerous barriers, including insurance, costs and proximity to development. Credit: UF/IFAS file photo

Forest managers hindered in efforts to use prescribed burns to control costly wildfires

Posted: 17 Mar 2015 01:21 PM PDT

Land managers use prescribed burns to help prevent wildfires and protect the ecosystem. They prefer to burn every few years, but costs, liability and proximity to development prevent them from performing the prescriptive burns. Forest managers would prefer to use prescribed burns every few years to help prevent costly wildfires and rebuild unhealthy ecosystems, but hurdles like staffing, budget, liability and new development hinder them, a new University of Florida study shows. Fighting wildfires is costly. The U.S. government now spends about $2 billion a year just to stop them, according to the National Interagency Fire Center. That’s up from $239 million in 1985. Leda Kobziar, an associate professor of fire science and forest conservation in UF’s School of Forest Resources and Conservation, led a web-based survey of 523 public and private land managers across Region 8 of the U.S. Forest Service, which consists of 13 Southern states, including Florida. She and her colleagues wanted to see whether front-line experts think prescribed burns prevent wildfires and maintain vegetation and healthy ecosystems. And if they do, what are the circumstances under which such burns work best As it turns out, prescribed burns should be done every few years to prevent wildfires or reduce their severity, depending on weather and the type of ecosystem land managers are trying to protect, according to the survey…. According to the survey, prescribed burns are conducted to restore unhealthy ecosystems. A beneficial prescribed burn can minimize flammable materials and the spread of pest insects and disease. It can also improve habitat for threatened and endangered species, recycle nutrients back to the soil and promote vegetation growth. As time passes, prescribed burns lose their effectiveness, according to the UF study. If forest managers wait five years or more between prescribed burns, only 10 percent said they saw reductions in wildfire in pine forests.

But forest managers can’t do prescribed burns as often as they’d like because of constraints such as weather and smoke management, said Kobziar, an Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences faculty member. Another hurdle is the proximity of commercial and residential areas to forests. Private forest managers cite liability as an impediment to more prescribed burns. Although many Southern states offer strong liability protection for burn managers, private landowners remain concerned about potential costs of smoke-related incidents. Although less than .01 percent of prescribed fires escape, such concerns force private contractors to purchase prescribed burning insurance, which can cost $1,000 to $10,000 annually, or up to $700 per burn Kobziar said. Still, given the critical nature of prescribed burning for maintaining fire-adapted ecosystems across the South, the benefits outweigh the costs, according to survey responses. As one manager said, “Prescribed burning is the most important forest management tool we have.”….



Payments for ecosystem services? Here’s the guidebook

March 12, 2015 Wildlife Conservation Society

A team of investors, development organizations, conservationists, economists, and ecologists have published in the journal Science six natural science principles to ensure success of Payments for Ecosystem Services, mechanisms that have helped preserve carbon stocks stored in Madagascar’s rainforests, maintain wildlife populations important for tourism in Tanzania, and protect watersheds in France by working with local farmers. This is the first time principles have been agreed upon for applying science to PES projects. Agreement from a diverse field of experts on these scientific principles represents an important milestone in the use of Payments for Ecosystem Services and will help ensure that these very important tools are effective at conserving nature and providing benefits to society. Ecosystem services refer to the many different benefits that nature provides to people and society. Payment for Ecosystem Services and similar transactions stimulate investments in nature’s benefits and are the vanguard for meeting society’s social and environmental objectives such as conserving wildlife, securing clean water, mitigating climate change and maintaining natural infrastructure for disaster risk reduction. Such investments and markets focused on carbon, water and biodiversity, for example, are increasing globally and can be extremely useful for creating incentives for conservation. However, the authors say there is a risk that many of these financial mechanisms are being implemented without a sound, scientific understanding of the environmental components upon which transactions are based.
A strong scientific foundation must underpin these mechanisms if they are to deliver returns financially and ecologically. If we don’t understand, measure, or monitor what people are paying for, then these approaches will not work.The principles were designed to be scientifically robust yet practical and general enough that they can be applied to transactions involving water, carbon, wildlife, and/or other benefits provided by nature such as disaster risk reduction, pollination and/or disease regulation.

The six principles are as follows:

Understand the Dynamics of a System– Interventions must consider the natural and anthropogenic drivers that influence the dynamics of an ecosystem and the stocks and flows of the benefits it generates.

Document Baseline Conditions-Initial conditions must be documented to assess if and how transactions have helped secure the desired ecological outcome(s).

Monitor OutcomesPractical yet scientifically sound monitoring is necessary to track progress and status of desired outcomes and ecosystem dynamics relative to baseline conditions.

Metrics — The use of robust, efficient, and versatile methods for procuring and analyzing data is critical for supporting sound decision making related to investments and ecosystem management.

Understanding Connections Among Multiple Ecosystem Services — It is important to recognize tradeoffs and synergies among multiple services or benefits provided by an ecosystem.

Ecological Sustainability -If a PES or similar financial mechanisms are to be sustainable in the long-term, it is critical to consider how an ecosystem and the benefits it provides may change throughout time.

Said Naeem “If society is putting its trust in Payment for Ecosystem Service programs for meeting just about every environmental objective one can think of, at a minimum, insuring that every program meets a minimum of a few basic science guidelines will provide much greater certainty that they will succeed.”


Get the science right when paying for nature’s services

S. Naeem*, et al Science 13 March 2015: Vol. 347 no. 6227 pp. 1206-1207 DOI: 10.1126/science.aaa1403

Payments for Ecosystem Services (PES) mechanisms leverage economic and social incentives to shape how people influence natural processes and achieve conservation and sustainability goals. Beneficiaries of nature’s goods and services pay owners or stewards of ecosystems that produce those services, with payments contingent on service provision (1, 2). Integrating scientific knowledge and methods into PES is critical (3, 4). Yet many projects are based on weak scientific foundations, and effectiveness is rarely evaluated with the rigor necessary for scaling up and understanding the importance of these approaches as policy instruments and conservation tools (2, 5, 6). Part of the problem is the lack of simple, yet rigorous, scientific principles and guidelines to accommodate PES design and guide research and analyses that foster evaluations of effectiveness (4). As scientists and practitioners from government, nongovernment, academic, and finance institutions, we propose a set of such guidelines and principles.


World’s most iconic ecosystems: World heritage sites risk collapse without stronger local management

Posted: 19 Mar 2015 11:33 AM PDT

Without better local management, the world’s most iconic ecosystems are at risk of collapse under climate change, say researchers. Protecting places of global environmental importance such as the Great Barrier Reef and the Amazon rainforest from climate change will require reducing the other pressures they face, for example overfishing, fertilizer pollution or land clearing….


To save an entire species, all you need is $1. 3 million a year

Posted: 16 Mar 2015 01:04 PM PDT

How much would you pay to save a species from becoming extinct? A thousand dollars, $1 million or $10 million or more? A new study shows that a subset of species — in this case 841 to be exact — can be saved from extinction for about $1.3 million per species per year, but only if conservation efforts are put in place immediately to ensure habitat protection and management, according to researchers that include a Texas A&M professor. The international team of researchers includes scientists from the Max-Planck Odense Center at the University of Southern Denmark, Imperial College of London, Australia’s University of Queensland, the American Bird Conservancy, the IUCN SSC Conservation Breeding Specialist Group, the International Species Information System, the World Association of Zoos and Aquariums, and Burak Güneralp, research assistant professor at Texas A&M. The team’s work is published in the current issue of Current Biology. The researchers developed a “conservation opportunity index” using measurable indicators to quantify the possibility of achieving successful conservation of a species, both in its natural habitat and by establishing insurance populations in zoos. They computed the cost of, and opportunities for, conserving 841 species of mammals, reptiles, birds and amphibians listed by the Alliance for Zero Extinction or AZE as restricted to single sites and categorized as Endangered or Critically Endangered on the IUCN Red List. The total cost: only $1.3 billion per year to safeguard all 841 species, truly a bargain basement price by any standard, the researchers note. Of this, a little over $1.1 billion per year would go towards conserving the species in their natural habitats and the rest for complementary management in zoos. “Although the cost seems high, safeguarding these species is essential if we want to reduce the extinction rate by 2020,” said Prof. Hugh Possingham from the University of Queensland….


This is an Amsterdam albatross.Credit: Vincent Legendre

These 15 animal species have the lowest chance for survival

Posted: 16 Mar 2015 10:54 AM PDT

Climbing rats, seabirds and tropical gophers are among the 15 animal species that are at the absolute greatest risk of becoming extinct very soon. Expertise and money is needed to save them and other highly threatened species. A new study shows that a subset of highly threatened species — in this case 841 — can be saved from extinction for about $1.3 billion a year. However, for 15 of them the chances of conservation success are really low. The study published in Current Biology concludes that a subset of 841 endangered animal species can be saved, but only if conservation efforts are implemented immediately and with an investment of an estimated US $1.3 billion annually to ensure the species’ habitat protection and management….




Gulf of Mexico marine food web changes over the decades

Posted: 17 Mar 2015 09:28 AM PDT

Scientists in the Gulf of Mexico now have a better understanding of how naturally-occurring climate cycles — as well as human activities — can cause widespread ecosystem changes. These major shifts happen once every few decades in the Gulf, and can impact ecosystem components, including fisheries. Understanding how and why these shifts occur can help communities and industries alter management strategies in light of them.



Fish experiment: Food the same, but biomass increases

Posted: 16 Mar 2015 06:23 AM PDT

To increase the biomass of fish, contemporary ecological theory predicts that either the amount of food or the quality of the food has to increase. In a recent experiment, researchers doubled the fish biomass under identical food supply and food quality by only controlling how much of total food supply that was channeled to juvenile and adult fish, respectively. The results have major implications for the exploitation (harvest) of fish populations and the coexistence of predatory fish and their prey…. In the case of the Least Killifish we know that small individuals are more efficient than large individuals. This difference in efficiency makes the biomass production dependent on how the food supply is channelled between individuals of different sizes. Switching from an equal distribution of food between small and large individuals to a distribution where the less efficient large individuals received two thirds of the food doubled the fish biomass.

The results have major implications for the exploitation of natural resources — for example, fisheries — and under what conditions predator and prey fish can coexist. A predator can only persist if its prey is abundant enough. This means that — compared to an equally distributed food supply — a predator species that preys on the Least Killifish can invade at a lower food supply to the prey fish when a larger proportion of the total food supply is available to large individuals than to small individuals.


Birte Reichstein, Lennart Persson, André M. De Roos. Ontogenetic asymmetry modulates population biomass production and response to harvest. Nature Communications, 2015; 6: 6441 DOI: 10.1038/ncomms7441



Switch off the lights for bats

Posted: 16 Mar 2015 06:30 AM PDT

Bat activity was generally lower in street-lit areas than in dark locations with similar habitat, a study has found. The findings have important implications for conservation, overturning the previous assumption that common bats benefited from street-lights because they could feed on the insects that congregated around them.



Light pollution shown to affect plant growth, food webs

Posted: 16 Mar 2015 06:30 AM PDT

Artificial night time light from sources such as street lamps affects the growth and flowering of plants and even the number of insects that depend on those plants for food, a study confirms



Here’s the high resolution image made by Globaïa’s Félix Pharand-Deschênes, based on a concept by Adam Nieman for the 2002 Earth Summit in Johannesburg.
Astonishing picture of Earth compared to all its water and air

Jesus Diaz
11/26/13 4:19pm

I’ve seen Earth compared to all its water before, but this image really gives you a perfect idea on how fragile our planet is by adding all the air in another sphere. The density of the air pictured here corresponds to its density at sea level (one atmosphere.) This is one amazing visualization by the U.S. Geological Survey: a picture that gives you a perfect …


Credit: Howard Perlman, USGS; globe illustration by Jack Cook, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (©); Adam Nieman

How much water is there on, in, and above the Earth?

All Earth’s water, liquid fresh water, and water in lakes and rivers

Spheres showing:
(1) All water (sphere over western U.S., 860 miles in diameter)
(2) Fresh liquid water in the ground, lakes, swamps, and rivers (sphere over Kentucky, 169.5 miles in diameter), and
(3) Fresh-water lakes and rivers (sphere over Georgia, 34.9 miles in diameter).

As you know, the Earth is a watery place. But just how much water exists on, in, and above our planet? About 71 percent of the Earth’s surface is water-covered, and the oceans hold about 96.5 percent of all Earth’s water. But water also exists in the air as water vapor, in rivers and lakes, in icecaps and glaciers, in the ground as soil moisture and in aquifers, and even in you and your dog. Water is never sitting still, though, and thanks to the water cycle, our planet’s water supply is constantly moving from one place to another and from one form to another. Things would get pretty stale without the water cycle!

Didemnum aurantium, a species whose name refers to the orange color of their colonies, which measure 1.5 cm-5 cm in length.Credit: James J. Roper

Five new species of marine invertebrates described by scientists

Posted: 18 Mar 2015 05:47 AM PDT

Five new species of ascidians, commonly known as sea squirts, have been described by researchers. Ascidians are marine invertebrates that generally form permanently submerged colonies. Exotic molecules obtained from research on ascidians have been explored worldwide for use in combating cancer








The Totten Glacier catchment (blue outline) is a collection basin for ice and snow that flows through the glacier. It’s estimated to contain enough material to raise sea levels by at least 11 feet.
Credit: Australian Antarctic Division

East Antarctica melting could be explained by oceanic gateways

Posted: 16 Mar 2015 03:39 PM PDT

Researchers have discovered two seafloor gateways that could allow warm ocean water to reach the base of Totten Glacier, East Antarctica’s largest and most rapidly thinning glacier. The discovery probably explains the glacier’s extreme thinning and raises concerns about how it will affect sea level rise. Totten Glacier is East Antarctica’s largest outlet of ice to the ocean and has been thinning rapidly for many years. Although deep, warm water has been observed seaward of the glacier, until now there was no evidence that it could compromise coastal ice. The result is of global importance because the ice flowing through Totten Glacier alone is sufficient to raise global sea level by at least 11 feet, equivalent to the contribution of the West Antarctic Ice Sheet if it were to completely collapse. “We now know there are avenues for the warmest waters in East Antarctica to access the most sensitive areas of Totten Glacier,” said lead author Jamin Greenbaum, a UTIG Ph.D. candidate.

The ice loss to the ocean may soon be irreversible unless atmospheric and oceanic conditions change so that snowfall outpaces coastal melting. The potential for irreversible ice loss is due to the broadly deepening shape of Totten Glacier’s catchment, the large collection of ice and snow that flows from a deep interior basin to the coastline. “The catchment of Totten Glacier is covered by nearly 2½ miles of ice, filling a sub-ice basin reaching depths of at least one mile below sea level,” said UTIG researcher Donald Blankenship. Greenbaum and Blankenship collaborated with an international team from the United States, Australia, the United Kingdom and France. Because much of the California-sized interior basin lies below sea level, its overlying thicker ice is susceptible to rapid loss if warm ocean currents sufficiently thin coastal ice. Given that previous work has shown that the basin has drained its ice to the ocean and filled again many times in the past, this study uncovers a means for how that process may be starting again. “We’ve basically shown that the submarine basins of East Antarctica have similar configurations and coastal vulnerabilities to the submarine basins of West Antarctica that we’re so worried about, and that warm ocean water, which is having a huge impact in West Antarctica, is affecting East Antarctica, as well,” Blankenship said….


J. S. Greenbaum, D. D. Blankenship, D. A. Young, T. G. Richter, J. L. Roberts, A. R. A. Aitken, B. Legresy, D. M. Schroeder, R. C. Warner, T. D. van Ommen, M. J. Siegert. Ocean access to a cavity beneath Totten Glacier in East Antarctica. Nature Geoscience, 2015; DOI: 10.1038/ngeo2388



Coverage of Arctic Sea Ice Shrinks to a Winter Low


There was less sea ice coverage in the Arctic this winter than in any year since satellite measurements began nearly four decades ago, researchers said Thursday. The National Snow and Ice Data Center, a government-sponsored research group, said that in late February ice cover in the Arctic Ocean reached its maximum extent, 5.61 million square miles, which is about 7 percent less than the average from 1981 to 2010 and about 1 percent less than the previous lowest year, 2011. The center said that changes in the jet stream created warmer than normal conditions on the Pacific side of the Arctic. While the extent of Arctic sea ice is naturally variable, it has been generally declining over the past several decades as the region warms more quickly than other parts of the planet…


Massive amounts of fresh water, glacial melt pouring into Gulf of Alaska

Posted: 19 Mar 2015 01:55 PM PDT

Incessant mountain rain, snow and melting glaciers in a comparatively small region of land that hugs the southern Alaska coast and empties fresh water into the Gulf of Alaska would create the sixth largest coastal river in the world if it emerged as a single stream, a recent study shows. Freshwater runoff of this magnitude may play important ecological roles.


Near-term acceleration in the rate of temperature change Nature Climate Change | Letter

Steven J. Smith, James Edmonds, Corinne A. Hartin, Anupriya Mundra & Katherine Calvin Nature Climate Change (2015) doi:10.1038/nclimate2552 Received 24 June 2014 Accepted 27 January 2015 Published online 09 March 2015
Anthropogenically driven climate changes, which are expected to impact human and natural systems, are often expressed in terms of global-mean temperature1. The rate of climate change over multi-decadal scales is also important, with faster rates of change resulting in less time for human and natural systems to adapt2. We find that present trends in greenhouse-gas and aerosol emissions are now moving the Earth system into a regime in terms of multi-decadal rates of change that are unprecedented for at least the past 1,000 years. The rate of global-mean temperature increase in the CMIP5 (ref. 3) archive over 40-year periods increases to 0.25 ± 0.05 °C (1σ) per decade by 2020, an average greater than peak rates of change during the previous one to two millennia. Regional rates of change in Europe, North America and the Arctic are higher than the global average. Research on the impacts of such near-term rates of change is urgently needed.


Visualization of a very wavy northern hemisphere jet stream. (Credit: NASA)

The scary idea that won’t go away: Global warming messing with the jet stream and your weather

By Chris Mooney March 12 2015 Washington Post

Is the rapid melting of the Arctic paying us back for our greenhouse gas emissions by messing with the jet stream — which carries weather through the northern hemisphere? And could that, in turn, explain recent breakouts of extremes all around the northern half of the world — including recent snowfall in the east coast? That’s what Rutgers University’s Jennifer Francis has argued in a series of papers going back to 2012 — but there has been quite a lot of criticism. Several distinguished climate researchers even wrote to Science magazine in early 2014 contesting the notion, saying that “we do not view the theoretical arguments underlying it as compelling.” And yet stubbornly, more published research keeps appearing and seeming to add support to the idea that the warming Arctic is changing the jet stream. That statement comes with an exclamation point on Thursday in particular, with a new paper out in Science that confirms many of Francis’s ideas and applies them not just to extreme winter weather but, in some ways even more troubling, to extremes of summer heat. The new paper, by Dim Coumou and two colleagues at the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research and the University of Potsdam in Germany, finds that the melting Arctic is indeed messing with the jet stream (as well as the broader atmospheric circulation) and our weather. But it also goes further by asserting that there’s a strong effect in the summer in particular. The progress of weather is slowing during the summer, the authors assert, and the result could be a very deadly one — including “more persistent heat waves in recent summers.” Or as the researchers put it, a weaker jet stream and atmospheric circulation in the summer, caused by a reduced differential in temperature between the equator and the north pole as the Arctic warms faster than the mid-latitudes, “has made weather more persistent and hence favored the occurrence of prolonged heat extremes.”… he Potsdam researchers looked at an atmospheric feature called “eddy kinetic energy,” which, as Francis explained, basically refers to the winds swirling around regions of high and low pressure. Those winds have decreased, the paper finds. “That’s why they’re saying that it’s more likely to have summer extreme events,” Francis said. “Because the weather just is not changing as much, and the weather systems themselves are just more stagnant and lethargic.” The new study points in particular to the devastating 2010 summer heat wave in Russia. “By late July and early August, numerous cities witnessed a crescendo of record breaking daily readings near 40ºC, more than +10ºC warmer than what would normally have been experienced at this warmest time of year,” noted the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration at the time. The resulting death toll could have been as high as 55,000. So how did such an extreme come about? The new paper notes that “the record breaking July temperatures over Moscow were associated with extremely low [eddy kinetic energy].” In other words, there was just not enough circulation of air to bring in cooler temperatures. “If this whole circulation slows down and there’s less energy in these storms, then basically we get more persistent weather situations, which can lead to some extreme heat waves,” said Stefan Rahmstorf, also a researcher at the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research but not one of the study’s authors. So what’s the upshot for the ongoing debate over whether the Arctic is, indeed, messing with weather in the mid-latitudes all over the globe? “I think the balance of evidence is kind of moving towards confirming that there is this influence of the Arctic,” said Rahmstorf….


The weakening summer circulation in the Northern Hemisphere mid-latitudes

Dim Coumou1,*, Jascha Lehmann1,2Johanna Beckmann1,2 Science DOI: 10.1126/science.1261768 March 16, 2015

Rapid warming in the Arctic could influence mid-latitude circulation by reducing the poleward temperature gradient. The largest changes are generally expected in autumn or winter but whether significant changes have occurred is debated. Here we report significant weakening of summer circulation detected in three key dynamical quantities: (i) the zonal-mean zonal wind, (ii) the eddy kinetic energy (EKE) and (iii) the amplitude of fast-moving Rossby waves. Weakening of the zonal wind is explained by a reduction in poleward temperature gradient. Changes in Rossby waves and EKE are consistent with regression analyses of climate model projections and changes over the seasonal cycle. Monthly heat extremes are associated with low EKE and thus the observed weakening might have contributed to more persistent heat waves in recent summers.



NASA: Earth Tops Hottest 12 Months On Record Again, Thanks To Warm February

by Joe Romm Posted on March 15, 2015 at 11:18 am

There had never been as hot a 12-month period in NASA’s database as February 2014–January 2015. But that turned out to be a very short-lived record. NASA reported this weekend that last month was the second-hottest February on record, which now makes March 2014–February 2015 the hottest 12 months on record.
This is using a 12-month moving average, so we can “see the march of temperature change over time,” rather than just once every calendar year.

We are experiencing the continuation of the global warming trend that made 2014 the hottest calendar year on record. The very latest science says we should expect an acceleration in surface temperature warming to start quite soon. What is happening now is consistent with that. Once again February has been cold for those of us living in the eastern and northeastern U.S. — and once again, the rest of the country and the globe is quite warm, with large parts of Asia and Alaska experiencing nearly off-the-charts heat. That’s clear in the NASA chart below for February temperatures, whose upper range extends to a whopping 8.4°C (15.1°F) above the 1951-1980 average!

So it was cool in the part of the world that just happens to contain a vast amount of political power and media power. It was hot where the permafrost is already thawing. Talk about a bad combination. Remember, the permafrost contains twice as much carbon as is currently in the entire atmosphere. The faster it turns into a significant source of carbon dioxide and methane emissions, the more humanity will be penalized for delaying climate action. Also, as climatologist Peter Gleick noted on twitter, “California’s February temperatures blast[ed] through 120-year record. 8 degrees F above 20th [Century] avg.” As this NOAA data shows, last month the Golden State averaged a full 1°F higher than the second-warmest February on record:

And this record February heat for California comes on the heels of the driest January ever recorded — a tough one-two punch given the epic drought that has ravaged the state. Scientists explained in December that it is record heat — driven by human-caused global warming — that has made California’s drought the worst in 1200 years. As we reported earlier this month, NOAA finally announced the arrival of a “weak” and “elusive” El Niño. It is usually the combination of the underlying long-term warming trend and the regional El Niño warming pattern that leads to new global temperature records. Here, the El Niño is quite weak but the global warming trend is very strong. This calendar year is very likely to set the record for the hottest calendar year — possibly by a large amount if even this weak El Niño continues through the summer. But 2015 could easily set the record as long as we don’t see a La Niña. Of course, we are going to see a lot of years break the record for hottest year on record thanks to human-caused carbon pollution.


Frequency of tornadoes, hail linked to El Niño, La Niña

Posted: 16 Mar 2015 10:51 AM PDT

Climate scientists can spot El Niño and La Niña conditions developing months ahead of time, and they use this knowledge to make more accurate forecasts of droughts, flooding and even hurricane activity around the world. Now, a new study shows that El Niño and La Niña conditions can also help predict the frequency of tornadoes and hail storms in some of the most susceptible regions of the United States…..We can forecast how active the spring tornado season will be based on the state of El Niño or La Niña in December or even earlier,” said lead author John Allen, a postdoctoral research scientist at the International Research Institute for Climate and Society (IRI). The El Niño-Southern Oscillation, or ENSO, is a naturally occurring climate cycle in which sea-surface temperatures in the equatorial Pacific Ocean fluctuate. When waters are warmer than normal, as they are currently, it is described as El Niño; when cooler, La Niña. Allen and his coauthors show that moderately strong La Niña events lead to more tornadoes and hail storms over portions of Oklahoma, Texas, Kansas and other parts of the southern United States. El Niño events act in the opposite manner, suppressing both types of storms in this area. While the information can’t pinpoint when and where storms will wreak havoc, it will nevertheless be useful for governments and insurance companies to prepare for the coming season, Allen said. In recent weeks, researchers from IRI and other institutions have detected El Niño conditions over the Pacific, which implies that this spring will be a relatively quiet one for severe storms in the southern United States….



Computer sims: In climatic tug of war, carbon released from thawing permafrost wins handily

Posted: 18 Mar 2015 12:39 PM PDT

There will be a lot more carbon released from thawing permafrost than the amount taken in by more Arctic vegetation, according to new computer simulations. The findings are from an Earth system model that is the first to represent permafrost processes as well as the dynamics of carbon and nitrogen in the soil. Simulations using the model showed that by the year 2300, if climate change continues unchecked, the net loss of carbon to the atmosphere from Arctic permafrost would range from between 21 petagrams and 164 petagrams. That’s equivalent to between two years and 16 years of human-induced CO2 emissions


Amazon at dawn | P. van der Sleen

Amazon rainforest is taking up a third less carbon than a decade ago

18 Mar 2015, 18:05 Robert McSweeney

The amount of carbon that the Amazon rainforest is absorbing from the atmosphere and storing each year has fallen by around a third in the last decade, says a new 30-year study by almost 100 researchers. This decline in the Amazon carbon sink amounts to one billion tonnes of carbon dioxide – equivalent to over twice the UK’s annual emissions, the researchers say. If this pattern exists in other forests around the world, deeper cuts in human-caused carbon dioxide emissions are needed to meet climate targets, the researchers say. The Amazon rainforest is the largest rainforest in the world. Spanning nine countries in South America, it’s 25 times the size of the UK. Using a process known as photosynthesis, the Amazon’s three billion trees convert carbon dioxide, water and sunlight into the fuel they need to grow, locking up carbon in their trunks and branches. As they grow, Amazon trees account for a quarter of the carbon dioxide absorbed by the land each year.  Studies suggest that as human-caused carbon dioxide emissions increase, forests will absorb and store more carbon, assuming they have enough water and nutrients to grow. But a new study, published today in Nature, suggests the Amazon has passed saturation point for how much extra carbon it can take up….



Dairy industry making strides toward reducing its carbon footprint

Posted: 18 Mar 2015 04:42 AM PDT

Agricultural greenhouse gases (GHG) make up 8.1% of total U.S. GHG emissions. The dairy cattle farming industry is being challenged to reduce greenhouse gas emissions while maintaining or increasing profitability. Researchers now report that farms with lower carbon footprints and higher-producing cows are more profitable, a win-win situation for everyone, including the cows.


Measuring the pulse of planet Earth to reveal hidden patterns of climate change

Posted: 16 Mar 2015 06:24 AM PDT

Researchers have revealed subtle changes in Europe’s climate through method used by heart surgeons. The method ‘literally takes the pulse of the planet’ to detect regularity of climate change data. Results show that hidden patterns of climate change are often overlooked by other types of analysis. An international research team led by the University of Leicester has for the first time harnessed technology typically used to diagnose heart disease in order to measure planet Earth’s pulse — and has uncovered hidden patterns of climate change often overlooked by other types of measurement. The statistical method is called ‘multi-scale entropy analysis’ and has not been used to study climate data before. Multi-scale entropy analysis works by pattern matching and searches data for repetitive small chunks — or pattern templates — that appear over and over again. If many of these chunks are found, then the data has low entropy and high regularity. If few are found, the entropy is high and the system is harder to predict. Professor Heiko Balzter from the Centre for Landscape and Climate Research and the Department of Geography at the University of Leicester and lead author of the study explained: “I had the idea to apply a new method to the climate data. It has been applied a lot to diagnose heart disease, because it is good at detecting regularity and randomness in time-series data. We are literally taking the pulse of the planet. “Imagine you roll a dice and write down the series of numbers it lands on. You expect these to be random. Say you roll a 1, 6, and 5. If the system has low entropy then we would expect other chunks of rolling 1 followed by 6 to have a higher probability of being followed by a 5. We have applied just that same method to European temperature data.” The study shows that some scientific data analysis methods overlook subtle changes in the ‘regularity’ of the temperature data…. The results show that the temporal scales of the current temperatures (1961-2014) are different from the long-term average (1850-1960). At temporal scales longer than 12 months the researchers found a marked loss of regularity in the data for the past 54 years. “Interestingly, the changes we found only operated on time-scales longer than about a year. On these time-scales the climate seems to have become less predictable,” says Professor Balzter….


Geoengineering proposal may backfire: Ocean pipes ‘not cool,’ would end up warming climate

Posted: 19 Mar 2015 11:33 AM PDT

There are a variety of proposals that involve using vertical ocean pipes to move seawater to the surface from the depths in order to reap different potential climate benefits. One idea involves using ocean pipes to facilitate direct physical cooling of the surface ocean by replacing warm surface ocean waters with colder, deeper waters. New research shows that these pipes could actually increase global warming quite drastically.















Patterns are created and reflected from water receding on the bed of Folsom Lake. As the state ends the fourth-driest water year on record with no guarantee of significant rain and snow this winter, Californians face the prospect of stricter rationing and meager irrigation deliveries. Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times

California has about one year of water left. Will you ration now?

By Jay Famiglietti LA Times OpEd March 13, 2015

  • We’re not just up a creek without a paddle in California, we’re losing the creek too
  • Authorize mandatory water rationing across the state

Given the historic low temperatures and snowfalls that pummeled the eastern U.S. this winter, it might be easy to overlook how devastating California’s winter was as well. As our “wet” season draws to a close, it is clear that the paltry rain and snowfall have done almost nothing to alleviate epic drought conditions. January was the driest in California since record-keeping began in 1895. Groundwater and snowpack levels are at all-time lows. We’re not just up a creek without a paddle in California, we’re losing the creek too. Statewide, we’ve been dropping more than 12 million acre-feet of total water yearly since 2011. Roughly two-thirds of these losses are attributable to groundwater pumping for agricultural irrigation in the Central Valley. Farmers have little choice but to pump more groundwater during droughts, especially when their surface water allocations have been slashed 80% to 100%. But these pumping rates are excessive and unsustainable. Wells are running dry. In some areas of the Central Valley, the land is sinking by one foot or more per year.

As difficult as it may be to face, the simple fact is that California is running out of water — and the problem started before our current drought. NASA data reveal that total water storage in California has been in steady decline since at least 2002, when satellite-based monitoring began, although groundwater depletion has been going on since the early 20th century. Right now the state has only about one year of water supply left in its reservoirs, and our strategic backup supply, groundwater, is rapidly disappearing. California has no contingency plan for a persistent drought like this one
(let alone a 20-plus-year mega-drought), except, apparently, staying in emergency mode and praying for rain.

In short, we have no paddle to navigate this crisis. Several steps need be taken right now.

  • First, immediate mandatory water rationing should be authorized across all of the state’s water sectors, from domestic and municipal through agricultural and industrial. The Metropolitan Water District of Southern California is already considering water rationing by the summer unless conditions improve. There is no need for the rest of the state to hesitate. The public is ready. A recent Field Poll showed that 94% of Californians surveyed believe that the drought is serious, and that one-third support mandatory rationing.
  • Second, the implementation of the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act of 2014 should be accelerated. The law requires the formation of numerous, regional groundwater sustainability agencies by 2017. Then each agency must adopt a plan by 2022 and “achieve sustainability” 20 years after that. At that pace, it will be nearly 30 years before we even know what is working. By then, there may be no groundwater left to sustain. Total water storage in California has been in steady decline since at least 2002 … while groundwater depletion has been ongoing since the early 20th century. –  
  • Third, the state needs a task force of thought leaders that starts, right now, brainstorming to lay the groundwork for long-term water management strategies. Although several state task forces have been formed in response to the drought, none is focused on solving the long-term needs of a drought-prone, perennially water-stressed California. Our state’s water management is complex, but the technology and expertise exist to handle this harrowing future. It will require major changes in policy and infrastructure that could take decades to identify and act upon. Today, not tomorrow, is the time to begin.
  • Finally, the public must take ownership of this issue. This crisis belongs to all of us — not just to a handful of decision-makers. Water is our most important, commonly owned resource, but the public remains detached from discussions and decisions. This process works just fine when water is in abundance. In times of crisis, however, we must demand that planning for California’s water security be an honest, transparent and forward-looking process. Most important, we must make sure that there is in fact a plan. Call me old-fashioned, but I’d like to live in a state that has a paddle so that it might also still have a creek.

Jay Famiglietti is the senior water scientist at the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory/Caltech and a professor of Earth system science at UC Irvine.


New Melones Reservoir, February 20, 2015 Image: DWR

New PPIC Publication: Policy Priorities for Managing Drought



California’s productive agricultural sector requires large volumes of water for irrigation during the dry summer months, typically using roughly four times as much water as cities.13 Over the past few decades, farmers have also adapted to growing water scarcity through major investments in irrigation efficiency and shifts toward crops that generate higher revenues per unit of water used.14 However, these adaptations have not generally increased drought resilience. In most of California’s farming regions, irrigation efficiency improves crop yields and quality, but it does not increase overall water availability.15 That is because irrigation water in less efficient systems generally is not wasted; water not consumed by crops either returns to streams where it is reused by others or else percolates through soils to recharge groundwater basins. Meanwhile, the long-term shift to high-revenue perennial nuts, fruits, and vines has made agricultural water demands more rigid, because it is more expensive to fallow this land during drought. As a result, the drought hit agriculture particularly hard. Statewide, approximately 5 percent of cropland—mainly used for lower-revenue annual crops—was fallowed, with total economic losses of more than $2 billion and 17,000 full- or part-time jobs.16



California’s aquatic ecosystems and the species that depend on them were also hit hard. Many salmon- and steelhead-bearing rivers and streams on the North Coast and in the Central Valley had record-low flows and high temperatures. Unusually low flows into the Sacramento–San Joaquin Delta led to poor water quality. Surveys in fall 2014 found some fish species—including the protected delta smelt—at record or near-record lows (Figure 4), and 95 percent of the 2014 offspring from spawning winter-run Chinook salmon perished because of warm water.17 Fish rescue operations were needed for some native fish species.18 Finally, water for wildlife refuges was significantly cut back, reducing critical winter feeding habitat for birds during an unusually large Pacific Flyway migration.19


….State, federal, and local water managers have worked diligently to reduce the economic, social, and environmental harm from the current drought. But as the drought continues, the challenges will grow more acute. California can learn from experiences to date—and from Australia’s response to its Millennium Drought—to better prepare both for the year ahead and for future droughts.
State leaders should address weaknesses in four areas of drought preparation and response, by:

  1. Manage Water More Tightly, with Better Information

Australia’s Millennium Drought offers a useful case study for California. Before and during that drought, Australians invested significantly in tracking water, including accurate measurements of flow, quality, storage, diversions, discharges, and uses.23 This allowed water managers to tightly manage water allocation and delivery in fair, transparent, and flexible ways. By comparison, California’s water monitoring systems are primitive, with significant gaps in critical information. The resulting uncertainty creates inefficiencies, reduces transparency, and fosters conflict.

California urgently needs to modernize water accounting to support transparent decisionmaking, both for drought curtailments and for water trading. Adopting new technologies (e.g., automated gaging, remote sensing, and improved hydrologic models) to monitor and predict water flow and quality is one piece of the equation. The other piece is requiring more accurate measurement and timely reporting of water diversions and discharges by major water-right-holders. Today, senior surface water-rights holders and those with riparian24 water rights must only report diversions—the amount of water they use on farms or deliver to urban customers—every three years. (Junior rights holders report diversions each year.) And outside of urban areas, no water diverters are required to report discharges—or the amount of water returned to streams after use—even though this constitutes a significant share of supplies on some rivers.

The State Water Resources Control Board, working closely with the Department of Water Resources and the legislature, could enact meaningful reforms in water use reporting. Additional state funds are likely to be needed to improve water monitoring networks—from Proposition 1 or other sources. Federal funds also could help modernize these networks.

2) Set Clear Priorities, Objectives, and Expectations

The water board’s water curtailment actions in 2014 were highly controversial. Many water users questioned the fairness of curtailments, which relied solely on the seniority of water rights and failed to consider the efficiency of use and other factors. Critics also argued that the board did not identify amounts required to meet urgent public health and safety needs or the needs of the environment. By law these factors must be considered along with seniority, and in some circumstances they may take precedence over water rights.25

During the Millennium Drought, some Australian states developed processes that greatly reduced uncertainty and controversy by clearly identifying priorities for public health and safety and giving due consideration to environmental impacts.26 The board could modify its curtailment processes to explicitly identify the magnitudes and priorities of these values in advance of a drought, and exercise these procedures in “dry runs” that simulate droughts, just as agencies have drills for earthquakes, floods, and fires.

  1. Promote Reasonable Use and Robust Supplies

California cities and farms must also make further progress in managing demand and developing reliable supplies. Significant improvements are possible in the following areas:

  • Reduce urban landscape irrigation. Landscape irrigation accounts for roughly half of urban water use.27 In Australia, changes in urban landscaping significantly reduced urban demand. Local agencies can use financial incentives (e.g., rebates) and conservation-oriented water rates to encourage customers to install more efficient irrigation systems and to replace thirsty lawns with more California-friendly plants. Conference participants also highlighted the value of state action, to help local agencies withstand political pressures from residents. For instance, the legislature or the water board could set landscaping water use standards to be implemented by local agencies.28
  • Improve conservation-oriented pricing in cities. Water pricing—particularly tiered rates that charge higher per-gallon rates for greater water use—are important to promote urban conservation. Rates also need to provide revenue streams that are stable when water sales fall, so that utilities can still cover their fixed costs. Ideally, rate structures should allow per-gallon prices to increase during droughts. Unfortunately, very few of California’s urban utilities had robust drought pricing systems in place last year.29 Here again, the legislature or the water board could help by setting standards for local compliance.30
  • Strengthen water markets.
    Australia depended heavily on water markets to reduce the costs of the drought, and made numerous policy changes to enable water markets to function effectively in very dry years. Investments in (sometimes highly controversial) conveyance infrastructure expanded market access.31 California’s water market has helped both farms and cities cope with droughts, but this market can be strengthened with a more transparent approval process and strategic investments in monitoring and conveyance infrastructure.32
  • Continue diversifying urban supplies. Local agencies should continue to make investments in non-traditional supplies (such as recycled water and stormwater capture projects), interconnections, and storage. Proposition 1 authorizes matching funds for such projects.
  • Manage groundwater. As this drought has shown, groundwater is California’s most important drought reserve; it is critical to the health of the agricultural economy. Yet decades of overuse—most notably in the southern Central Valley—have depleted many groundwater basins and reduced their value for drought management. The new groundwater law holds great promise for managing future droughts. But the timeline is long, giving basins more than 25 years to attain sustainability. The state could support local efforts to expedite this process through additional legislation (e.g., to facilitate the allocation of pumping rights and trading), technical assistance (particularly in areas without a history of groundwater management), help in organizing local agencies, and funding (including Proposition 1 bond funds).
  • Prevent waste and unreasonable use. The State Water Resources Control Board should exercise its constitutional authority to ensure that California’s scarce water resources are “put to beneficial use to the fullest extent of which they are capable.” This might include encouraging changes in the timing of water diversions so that they best suit the needs of fish and wildlife – something Sacramento Valley rice growers agreed to this past year on a voluntary basis. Where appropriate, the board could also scrutinize individual users whose diversions harm other water users or the environment, and determine whether local restrictions on water trading constitute unreasonable use during severe droughts.

Modernize Environmental Drought Management

State and federal fish and wildlife agencies—working closely with water managers—undertook great efforts to reduce the environmental harm of this drought. But most efforts were made without advanced planning and without strong scientific input or review. Few investments were made in advance to reduce drought impacts; there has been limited monitoring of the effectiveness of emergency measures; and no strategy has been developed for recovering species when the drought ends.
Failure to protect native species during drought can have costly long-term regulatory consequences, with new restrictions that limit future water supply and hydropower.

California needs an aquatic and wetland drought management plan to improve the resilience of the state’s native biodiversity. This plan should set clear objectives for drought management, including priorities when limited water availability forces difficult trade-offs between species (for example, when storing water for late season flows to protect salmon reduces available water for delta smelt). The plan should also identify key river segments and minimum instream flows needed to maintain species of concern, guidelines for carryover storage in reservoirs to meet environmental needs, and emergency actions (such as captive breeding programs and refuge habitats) to prevent extinction. This plan should be developed by a biodiversity task force made up of independent experts, working closely with agency personnel.

State and federal agencies should then use this plan to guide drought management. Implementation requires both a reliable source of funds and a reliable allocation of water for the environment. Proposition 1 authorizes nearly $1.5 billion for ecosystem investments, and at least half of the $2.7 billion authorized for storage projects must also support the environment. The legislature, which will oversee bond expenditures, could insist that agencies adopt an environmental drought plan and prioritize investments that increase the environment’s drought resilience. The legislature could also identify a reliable long-term funding mechanism that outlives the current bond.

The Australian state of Victoria benefited greatly from this type of planning tool, which enabled environmental water managers to allocate environmental water where it was most needed during the drought.33 California should also consider two additional innovations that have proved very useful for managing Australia’s environment during the Millennium Drought and beyond. The first is purchase of water rights for the environment, which provides managers with a flexible tool for managing key habitats.34 The “Environmental Water Holder” is able to trade its annual water allocations to get water where it is most needed, and even use revenues from water leasing for other habitat improvements.35

The second innovation is a financial contribution from water authorities. In the state of Victoria, this amounts to 5 percent of revenue from urban water services and 2 percent from rural (irrigation) water services.36 The receipts are used to promote sustainable water management and address adverse water-related environmental impacts. These funds can help develop critical drought habitat, purchase water during shortages, and recover populations following drought.


Implementing these four solutions—better water use information, clear priority-setting, stronger demand and supply management, and forward-looking environmental drought management—will improve California’s ability to weather droughts, a recurring feature of the state’s climate. Making these changes will be worth the effort, but it will entail some costs. And like all meaningful reforms, it will require overcoming institutional and political hurdles and objections from those who prefer the status quo. The Australians made these difficult policy changes during their long drought, leaving them better prepared for the next drought. California needs to do the same.



Maggie Robins, 10, left, and Spencer Herberich, 10, both of Oakland, make a rock “snowman” in an area exposed by the relatively low water level of Lake Tahoe, Calif., on Saturday, March 7, 2015. California’s epic drought is entering a fourth year and is forcing change at one of the state’s most iconic landmarks, Lake Tahoe. (Patrick Tehan/Bay Area News Group)

Lake Tahoe: Drought, climate change threatening winter, way of life at iconic landmark.

Julia Prodis Sulek San Jose Mercury News 03/14/2015 01:04:12 PM

TAHOE CITY — There’s something disconcerting about life at Lake Tahoe these days. It’s still winter, but visitors are renting bikes instead of snowshoes and kayaks instead of skis. Come summer — without last-ditch torrential rains — the lake level is expected to be at such a historic low that some marinas will have to dredge for boats to launch. Jumping off the end of a pier could result in a rock-hard landing. California’s epic drought, entering its perilous fourth year, has combined with a pattern of warming temperatures to cast a “Twilight Zone” quality on one of the state’s most popular winter destinations and iconic landmarks. “It’s bizarre what people are doing now. It’s so out of season,” said Geoffrey Schladow, director of the Tahoe Environmental Research Center and a UC Davis professor. “Years like this are going to become more common.” In many ways, Lake Tahoe is California’s canary in the coal mine — at 6,200 feet. While our weather can quickly swing from one extreme to the other, the twin realities of the current relentless drought and steady warming over the past century are converging to create a remarkably different experience at the venerable — and vulnerable — lake. Everyone, from environmental agencies to businesses to tourists, is scrambling to adapt…. “This is just the beginning of a warming trend that will continue for several more decades,” said state climatologist Michael Anderson. “We’re getting less and less snow over time.”

Climate change projections just released by Columbia University’s Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory, and discussed at a climate conference in Pacific Grove last week, also predict that winter seasons will compress, while fall and spring will lengthen — “sort of squeezing winter from both directions,” said Kelly Redmond, regional climatologist with the Western Regional Climate Center, affiliated with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, who attended last week’s conference.

The ski industry has responded by investing millions of dollars in snow-making equipment to not only extend their seasons but save dry seasons like this one. But they’re also adding summer activities on the slopes, including zip lines and mountain biking, in case summers really do become endless. But Tahoe’s warm-weather attractions are also susceptible. The lack of rain means the Truckee River may not get any releases from Lake Tahoe this year — and that would mean another year without enough water in the river for summer rafting….So imagining Lake Tahoe in 2099, when winters could be even shorter and summers will be longer, is a challenge in itself. But scientists say that barring science fiction-style technology — like shooting sulfuric acid into the stratosphere to reflect the sun’s rays away from the Earth — the warmer temperatures are “fated to keep coming,” said Redmond, the regional climatologist. That doesn’t necessarily spell doom for the region’s future economy. As temperatures also rise in the Bay Area and Central Valley, Redmond said he wouldn’t be surprised to see “climate refugees” moving to the Sierra for the relatively cool climes, increasing property values but also putting more pressure on the environment. Warm weather or cold, Tahoe will always be scenic — and ready to adapt….




As Drought Deepens, Groups Call for Heightened Focus on Healthy Headwaters

March 20, 2015

the drought tightens its grip, the Association of California Water Agencies (ACWA), The Nature Conservancy and the Sierra Nevada Conservancy today issued a joint call for renewed attention on California’s headwaters and the role they play in the state’s water supply and ecological health
. The joint call comes the day after Gov. Jerry Brown and legislative leaders outlined an emergency drought package to mobilize state resources to deal with a fourth year of drought. Given the severity of the drought, the risk of more destructive wildfires this summer and ongoing climate change, the three organizations have launched separate but complementary efforts to address headwaters issues as a key part of managing the state’s water resources.

he individual efforts include: 1) a new policy document by ACWA outlining the benefits of healthy headwaters and recommended actions; 2) a new report by The Nature Conservancy that provides the first assessment to estimate the link between ecological forest management, water quantity, and potential economic benefits for water agencies and utilities in the northern Sierra Nevada; and 3) the Sierra Nevada Watershed Improvement Program launched this month by the Sierra Nevada Conservancy and the U.S. Forest Service as a coordinated and integrated effort to restore the health of California’s primary watersheds. “There is no question that California’s forests, meadows and watersheds are under strain and face significant risk,” ACWA Executive Director Timothy Quinn said. “These areas are vital to our water supply and management system, and it is time to focus attention upstream and pursue strategies that improve conditions now and into the future….


ACWA’s policy document: “Improving the Resiliency of California’s Headwaters,” The Nature Conservancy’s new report, also released today, is the is available at



California’s Drought Information Clearinghouse – including weekly drought report







Jessie Olson, of Save the Bay, talks with Timothy Becker and Jason Warner, of the Oro Loma Sanitary District, about the elderberry plants she is growing in a greenhouse at the Baylands Native Plant Nursery in Palo Alto on March 12, 2015. (Gary Reyes/Bay Area News Group)

San Lorenzo: Environmentally friendly levee could protect against sea level rise

By Rebecca Parr Posted:   03/18/2015 11:40:10 AM PDT

SAN LORENZO — What are now seedlings will play a key role in an experiment that could be an environmental triple win — improving water quality and protecting against sea level rise while providing wildlife habitat. An army of volunteers will plant more than 70,000 native plants next fall on a first-of-its-kind ecotone levee and wetland basin. The levee and basin will be built on a vacant field near the Oro Loma Sanitary District wastewater treatment plant. Treated wastewater will flow into the basin and then be piped under the ecotone, percolating out and sustaining the plants. The plants also will improve water quality by removing nutrients that can contribute to algae growth. “Many people see this idea and say, yeah, this has a lot of potential. They’re becoming (fans),” Jason Warner, Oro Loma general manager, said. Climate change will cause a 55″‘inch rise in the water level along the shoreline by the end of the century, scientists predict. “The salt marsh harvest mouse will need a scuba mask to survive,” Warner said, referring to a small endangered animal found in San Francisco Bay salt marshes. If nothing is done, the rising water will cause flooding that will directly affect 80,000 East Bay residents, according to one study. Industrial areas and wastewater treatment plants also are found along the shoreline. That danger has prompted several agencies to collaborate to figure out how to prepare for the rising water level. On one extreme, civil engineers propose building a sea wall; on the other, environmentalist would allow the flooding to take place, Warner said. The ecotone should meet the concerns of both groups, he said.
“People can’t agree on most things, but on this one we do,” he said….

,,,Save the Bay is raising the native plants that will be transplanted to the ecotone and basin. The area will be overplanted to give the native varieties a better chance of getting established before weeds appear, said Jessie Olson, Save the Bay nursery manager.The plants also will get a boost from the continuous supply of treated wastewater being fed through the ecotone. The ecotone is not the first sloped levee built, but with only seasonal rainwater available, invasive weeds have been a problem, said Jeremy Lowe
of Environmental Science Associates, one of the project consultants. Dikes along the shoreline block water from naturally flowing inland. “Combining slopes with discharge from the wastewater plant means we can create some of the habitats we used to have,” he said. The levee could provide refuge for wildlife during storms, Lowe said. The wetland basin also can store 8 million gallons of primary-treated wastewater during heavy rains. “This is exciting,” said Jennifer Koney, a recreation supervisor for the Hayward Area Recreation and Park District, which manages trails, marshes and wetlands along the shoreline. “It’s the first tangible project of actually adapting to sea level rise on a larger scale. Let’s try something and see where it goes.”




Solar could meet California energy demand three to five times over

Posted: 16 Mar 2015 10:51 AM PDT

In the face of global climate change, increasing the use of renewable energy resources is one of the most urgent challenges facing the world. New work finds that the amount of energy that could be generated from solar equipment constructed on and around existing infrastructure in California would exceed the state’s demand by up to five times.




C40 Launches City Climate Change Hazard Taxonomy for Public Comment

Posted by C40 News Team on March 16, 2015

Today, at the UNISDR World Conference on Disaster Risk Reduction, C40 officially launched for public comment the City Climate Hazard Taxonomy, a structured description of the key climate hazards that cities are facing. The Taxonomy was developed by C40 and ARUP with funding from Bloomberg Philanthropies. Cities are key actors in building climate resilience because they are on the frontlines of climate change impacts. Cities are taking effective, direct action in adapting to a changing climate and are increasingly connected through C40 networks to find common solutions.  Indeed, the IPCC Fifth Assessment Report – Impacts, Adaptation and Vulnerability states that action in urban centers is essential to successful global climate change adaptation. As part of C40’s commitment to help cities reduce their climate risk, we have developed the City Climate Hazard Taxonomy to establish a clear and concise lexicon of the climate hazards that cities face today, and how those hazards may change in the future. We are giving cities a common language with which to discuss, assess and report on action relating to climate change adaptation.

The Taxonomy builds upon the UN Disaster Risk Reduction classification of hazards and draws specific focus to the city context and the effects of climate change.  It will support city adaptation in the following ways:

  • Clarifying the range of climate hazards that cities face, and the relationships between hazards.
  • Providing the basis for scoping hazards as part of the risk assessment process.
  • Structuring the collection of data from cities about the hazards they are facing and the actions they are taking in response to specific hazard types.
  • Enabling stakeholders to ‘tag’ or ‘label’ case studies or other materials to streamline searches for relevant information.
  • Driving the use of consistent and clear terminology among stakeholders working on city adaptation and climate resilience.

The Taxonomy is a first step in development of a broader work program that aims to improve and accelerate local urban adaptation efforts, and drive global collaboration among cities by tracking hazards from changing climate, as well as city responses. Already the Taxonomy is being used to support the inclusion of adaptation goals in the Compact of Mayors the world’s largest cooperative effort by mayors to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, track progress and prepare for the impacts of climate change. It offers a mechanism to structure the collection of data from cities about their planning and action to improve city resilience to and reduce vulnerability to climate change. C40 is actively looking to collect feedback from city practitioners and partners on the Taxonomy design and content.  We are also interested to hear from the broader community.  If you would like to provide comments on the document, please send them to before 30 April 2015.


In a pivotal year for climate action, a new campaign seeks to head off efforts to caricature climate scientists by showing who they are and why they care about the planet’s future.

“More Than Scientists” seeks to show human side of climate experts

March 16, 2015  By Marianne Lavelle The Daily Climate

Advocates for climate action have been trying for some time to emphasize the human side of climate change. A new campaign launching today goes one better: It seeks to show a glimpse of the essential humanity of climate scientists. Dozens of climate scientists tell their stories—their hopes for the future, and their fears—in more than 200 brief videos that have been put together by the More Than Scientists project. By “stepping out from behind the data” to share their stories as musicians, artists, hikers, and parents, the scientists hope to inspire people to get more involved in pushing for deployment of solutions, said a prepared statement by the group. “Making personal decisions is really important, but that’s not going to be enough,” says Dargan Frierson, associate professor of atmospheric sciences at the University of Washington, in a video where he is who is shown playing mandolin on campus and talking about his feelings as an expectant father in a warming world. “Another thing we really have got to do is talk to our politicians, to make sure there’s some legislative change.” More than Scientists is a project of the Seattle-based Climate Change Education Project and its founder, Eric Michelman, a technology whiz who is credited with inventing the mouse click wheel, and a devoted climate activist. Michelman said in a prepared statement that the idea of the campaign is to “make a better connection between the scientists and the people that need to hear their message.”

In a year that will be a pivotal year one for negotiations on a new climate treaty, many scientists expect a ramp-up in personal attacks. Michelman’s project seeks to head off attempts to caricature the motivations of climate scientists and their work.

“We want the public to meet the people behind the science and understand why they care about the world we’re leaving to our kids and grandkids,” he said in the group’s press release.



Carbon emissions stop growing globally

By Timothy Cama – 03/13/15 08:36 AM EDT

The growth in global carbon dioxide emissions stalled in 2014 for the first time in the 40 years, and the International Energy Agency (IEA), which has been tracking it, said the slowdown wasn’t connected to an economic downturn. The IEA said the news shows promise that economic progress does not necessarily have to be tied to increasing greenhouse gas emissions, as it has been for decades. “This gives me even more hope that humankind will be able to work together to combat climate change, the most important threat facing us today,” Fatih Birol, IEA’s chief economist, said in a statement from the organization. Global emissions were 32.3 billion metric tons, or the annual emissions of about 6.8 billion American cars, the same volume as 2013. Meanwhile, the world’s economy grew by about 3 percent. The IEA attributed the carbon stall to shifts that China and major developed economies in the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) undertook last year.






Governor Brown, Legislative Leaders Announce $1 Billion Emergency Drought Package

March 19, 2015
Other news

Mobilizing state resources to face another year of extreme dry conditions, Governor Edmund G. Brown Jr. today joined Senate President pro Tempore Kevin de León, Assembly Speaker Toni Atkins, and Republican Leaders Senator Bob Huff and Assemblymember Kristin Olsen to announce legislation to help local communities cope with the ongoing, devastating drought. The $1 billion package will expedite bond funding to make the state more resilient to the disastrous effects of climate change and help ensure that all Californians have access to local water supplies. “This unprecedented drought continues with no signs yet of letting up,” said Governor Brown. “The programs funded by the actions announced today will provide direct relief to workers and communities most impacted by these historic dry conditions.”

The legislation includes more than $1 billion for local drought relief and infrastructure projects to make the state’s water infrastructure more resilient to extreme weather events.  The package accelerates $128 million in expenditures from the Governor’s budget to provide direct assistance to workers and communities impacted by drought and to implement the Water Action Plan. It also includes $272 million in Proposition 1 Water Bond funding for safe drinking water and water recycling and accelerates $660 million from the Proposition 1e for flood protection in urban and rural areas. “Taken together, this package provides a major boost to our state’s efforts to manage the drought and strengthen our infrastructure,” said pro Tempore De León. “I want to thank the Governor and the Speaker for working together to respond to this crisis. It shows how we—as leaders–can get things done when we all work together in common purpose.” ….The Sierra Nevada snowpack, which Californians rely on heavily during the dry summer months for their water needs, is at a near record low. The March snowpack measurement came in at 0.9 inches of water content in the snow, just 5 percent of the March 3rd historical average for the measurement site. The overall water content for the Northern Sierra snowpack came in at 4.4 inches, just 16 percent of average for the date. Central and southern Sierra readings were 5.5 inches (20 percent of average) and 5 inches (22 percent) respectively. Only in 1991 has the water content of the snow been lower. Taking action to further strengthen water conservation in the state, the State Water Resources Control Board on Tuesday voted to expand and extend an emergency regulation to prohibit certain water use, such as washing down sidewalks, and create a minimum standard for outdoor irrigation restrictions by urban water suppliers…..Governor Brown has called on all Californians to reduce their water use by 20 percent and prevent water waste. Visit to find out how everyone can do their part and Drought.CA.Gov to learn more about how California is dealing with the effects of the drought.


Obama to Order Cuts in Federal Greenhouse Gas Emissions


The executive order represents the latest use of presidential power to address climate change, as Congress resists passing legislation. …


Coal mining operations in the Powder River Basin of Wyoming. CREDIT: Shutterstock

The Biggest Source Of U.S. Carbon Emissions Is Coal Extracted From Public Lands

by Nicole Gentile – Guest Contributor Posted on March 20, 2015 at 9:00 am

Taxpayer-owned coal is the single biggest source of greenhouse gas emissions in the United States, according to a new report from the Center for American Progress and The Wilderness Society. The report, released Thursday, finds that emissions from coal, oil and gas that is mined or drilled on federal lands and waters could account for 24 percent of all energy-related greenhouse gas emissions in 2012. The report also concludes that more than 10 percent of all U.S. greenhouse gas emissions result from the combustion of coal extracted on public lands in Wyoming and Montana, primarily in the Powder River Basin (PRB), where 40 percent of all U.S. coal is produced. The report was released as coal companies operating on federal lands in the PRB are coming under increasing scrutiny for allegedly evading royalties by selling coal to their own subsidiary companies at depressed prices. With Thursday’s report, it appears Americans are not only missing out royalty payments that are owed for publicly owned coal, but are also footing the bill for high pollution costs that result from fossil-fuel extraction on public lands. In addition to presenting new estimates of emissions from America’s shared energy resources, the report calls for the Obama Administration to develop a comprehensive strategy to account for and reduce carbon emissions. The U.S. Department of Interior (DOI) does not currently measure the total greenhouse gas emissions from public lands that it manages, despite being one of the most significant sources in the country. “This report shows a clear blind spot in the nation’s climate change strategy and underscores the need to account for the amount of greenhouse gases traced to public lands,” said Chase Huntley, senior director of government relations at The Wilderness Society.



CREDIT: Shutterstock

While We’ve Been Debating Keystone, The U.S. Has Grown Its Pipeline Network By almost A Quarter

by Katie Valentine Posted on March 16, 2015 at 2:07 pm

Americans have been waiting for the federal government to come to a decision over the Keystone XL pipeline for more than six years, enduring countless protests, Congressional hearings and even a Presidential veto over the controversial project. But during that time, pipeline construction in the U.S. hasn’t slowed — in fact, it’s surged. The U.S. has added 11,600 miles of oil pipeline in the last decade, increasing its network of pipelines shipping oil through the country by almost a quarter, according to a report published Monday by the Associated Press. Since 2012, according to the AP, more than 50 pipelines have been constructed, approved, or are in the process of being built. Also since 2012, 3.3 million barrels of oil per day of pipeline capacity has been built in the U.S. — a figure that dwarfs Keystone XL’s capacity to ship about 800,000 barrels per day. Some of those pipelines have been approved even after facing harsh opposition in the states where they were proposed.



California, Quebec teaming up on climate change March 18, 2015 Climate Central

Experts say fresh linkages between the two cap-and-trade programs — one of them among the biggest, the other on the small side — may serve as a template for the gradual emergence of what could eventually become a global carbon market.

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Fossil fuels are way more expensive than you think.

A new report estimates that when we account for the pollution costs associated with our energy sources, gasoline costs an extra $3.80 per gallon, diesel an additional $4.80 per gallon, coal a further 24 cents per kilowatt-hour, and natural gas another 11 cents per kilowatt-hour that we don’t see in our fuel or energy bills. The Guardian


Solar could meet California energy demand 3 to 5 times over

Posted: 16 Mar 2015 10:51 AM PDT

In the face of global climate change, increasing the use of renewable energy resources is one of the most urgent challenges facing the world. New work finds that the amount of energy that could be generated from solar equipment constructed on and around existing infrastructure in California would exceed the state’s demand by up to five times.


Musk: Tesla update tackles range anxiety

March 19, 2015 SF Chron

The Tesla Model S can already go farther on a fully charged battery than any other electric car, and now an update to the car’s software should make running out of juice on the open road “almost impossible,” CEO Elon Musk said Thursday. The Tesla Model S can already go farther on a fully charged battery than any other electric car — more than 200 miles. Now, an update to the car’s software should make running out of juice on the open road “almost impossible,” CEO Elon Musk said Thursday.

Starting in about 10 days, Model S sedans will automatically sense when their drivers are close to traveling beyond the range of a charging station. The car will alert the driver and map out a route to the nearest Tesla station. The car will know which stations are already in use and which are down for maintenance. When plotting the route, the car will also take into account the weather — temperature and wind speed — as well as any mountains or steep terrain along the way, all of which can affect how far the car travels on a charge. The information will be updated every 30 seconds. “You’ve got intelligent charging stations and intelligent cars communicating in a big network,” Musk said Thursday on a conference call with reporters. “That’s never existed before.” The software update is Tesla’s latest attempt to address the “range anxiety” that makes drivers hesitant to buy an electric car….



A surprising benefit of electric cars: Cooler cities.

Electric vehicles are attractive as a way to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and cut down on smog and even noise pollution in urban areas. Now, a new study suggests they might provide another surprising benefit: cooling down sweltering cities. CBS News



Report: Developers Are Cancelling More Coal Plants Than They Build

by Samantha Page Posted on March 17, 2015

But the world’s largest source of carbon emissions is still growing….






New on the CA Climate Commons: Rangelands and Climate Change
Climate change and rangeland scientists, ranchers, and land managers have developed scenarios to address a primary management question: How can we maintain viable ranchland and their ecosystem services in light of future integrated threats? The scenarios represent alternative futures of climate/land use/hydrological change for the Central Valley, surrounding foothills, and most of the southern Inner Coast Range. The project scientists have developed a new article to facilitate use of these rangeland scenarios “How to Use the Threat Assessments on California Rangelands Maps to Inform Land Use Decisions.”



Enhancing the Climate Resilience of America’s Natural Resources, Wed 25 March 2015, 10-11:30 PT
Mariel Murray, White House Council on Environmental Quality
Dr. Mark L. Shaffer, Ph.D., U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service
For more information and to register, go to:

If you have any questions regarding the Safeguarding webinar series, please contact: Shayna Carney,


Western Governors’ Drought Forum Webinar Series

Registration is open for the Western Governors’ Drought Forum Webinar Series, featuring regional experts on water and drought management. The Drought Forum Webinar Series will offer five in-depth discussions on topics that have arisen during the first six months of the Drought Forum, the Chairman’s Initiative of Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval. In addition to providing a closer examination of the emerging challenges in drought management, the webinars will enable the Drought Forum to reach a wider audience of those facing drought in the West. All of the Drought Forum webinars, as well as additional drought-related webinars, can be found on our Webinars page. Each of the five webinars will include a 40-minute panel discussion by three expert panelists, followed by a 20-minute opportunity for questions and discussion for all attendees. The remaining schedule:

  • March 25: “Managing Forest Health for Water Resources” explains the latest science on forest management for water resource needs as well as best practices to add security to water portfolios.The moderator will be Ken Pimlott, California State Forester and Director of CAL FIRE. Panelists: Alan Hook, Project Manager, Santa Fe Municipal Watershed Management Plan and Water Resources Coordinator, City of Santa Fe; Marcos Robles, Conservation Science Specialist, The Nature Conservancy; Don Boucher, Project Manager, Ashland Forest Resiliency Stewardship Project, United States Forest Service. Register.
  • April 8: “One Size Doesn’t Fit All: Why Variation in Hydrology and Legal Structures means that Drought Looks Different across the West” will highlight how solutions tailored to the needs of specific communities can be utilized across the region. The moderator will be Jason King, Nevada State Engineer and the panel will include Sharon Megdal, Director of the Water Resources Research Center at the University of Arizona. We’ll be adding more panelists for this webinar, so check back for updates. Register.

All webinars start at 11 a.m. MT (10 AM PT). Register for a webinar now; we’ll remind you when it’s time to join.






Revelations: Celebrating Our Local Heroes and the Art of Nature  March
22 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   


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.


Sonoma County Adaptation Forum April 8 2015

The North Bay Climate Adaptation Initiative and many other partners invite you to come to the first-ever county-scale adaptation forum in California… the Sonoma County Adaptation Forum  on April 8, at Sonoma State University. April 8 is an all-sector public forum on climate impacts and resilience strategies. In May we’ll follow with an invitation-only workshop of decision-makers in government, civil society, and business, aimed at writing a climate resilience “roadmap” for Sonoma County. Feel free to contact me for questions or any thoughts, and thanks for all you do.


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


16th Bay Area Conservation Biology Symposium
on May 2nd, 2015 Call for Abstracts & Opening of Registration

The Berkeley Chapter of the Society for Conservation Biology would like to announce the 16th Bay Area Conservation Biology Symposium on May 2nd, 2015. Since the 1990s, this one-day conference has showcased the pioneering conservation biology science by graduate students at Bay Area universities and researchers at local agencies and NGOs. Our theme for this year is “Bridging Boundaries for Effective Conservation,” which will foster discussion around connectivity across institutions, disciplines, research methods, and landscapes. We now welcome abstract submissions for oral presentations and posters. Please visit the Registration & Abstracts page to submit your abstract.

  • Abstract submission closes: March 14th
  • Decisions on submitted abstracts: March 30th
  • Early registration closes: April 18th

Please visit our website at for more information including plenary speakers, schedule, and directions. This event is sponsored by UC-Berkeley’s Dept. of Environmental Science, Policy, & Management. Questions? Email us at


National Adaptation Forum
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.



Grand Challenges in Coastal & Estuarine Science: Securing Our Future 8 – 12 November, 2015 Oregon Convention Center | Portland, Oregon
Registration for the CERF 23rd Biennial Conference is now open! The CERF 2015 scientific program offers four days of timely, exciting and diverse information on a vast array of estuarine and coastal subjects. Presentations will examine new findings within CERF’s traditional scientific, education and management disciplines and encourage interaction among coastal and estuarine scientists and managers. Plus, there are plenty of workshops, field trips, and special events to get involved with that will make this conference one you won’t want to miss.


December 13-18, 2015 San Francisco

Abstract Submissions are OPEN for the 21st Biennial. We are currently accepting abstract submissions for workshops, oral, speed and poster presentations for the 21st Biennial Society for Marine Mammalogy Conference, to take place in San Francisco from December 13-18, 2015.  The submission deadline is May 15th, 2015.  Workshops will be held on December 12-13th.



The 2016 Ocean Sciences Meeting will be held 21-26 February 2016 at the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center, located at 900 Convention Center Blvd., New Orleans, LA 70130. Cosponsored by AGU, ASLO, and TOS, the Ocean Sciences Meeting will consist of a diverse program covering topics in all areas of the ocean sciences discipline. The abstract submission site will open 15 July 2015; stay tuned for more details about how to be a part of the scientific program.





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

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



USDA seeks grant proposals to increase recreational public access on private agricultural, forest lands

WASHINGTON, Feb. 23, 2015 – Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack today announced $20 million is being made available to improve wildlife habitat and enhance public access for recreational opportunities on privately held and operated farm, ranch and forest lands. Funding is available to state and tribal governments through the Voluntary Public Access and Habitat Incentive Program (VPA-HIP), authorized in the 2014 Farm Bill….According to a 2013 study commissioned by the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, the outdoor recreation economy supports 6.1 million direct jobs, $80 billion in federal, state, and local tax revenue, and $646 billion in spending each year. Under VPA-HIP, state and tribal governments may apply for grants to encourage owners and operators of privately held farm, ranch or forest land to voluntarily open that land for public hunting, fishing and other wildlife-dependent recreation and to improve fish and wildlife habitat on that land. State and tribal governments may use VPA-HIP funds to create new public access programs, expand existing public access programs and to improve wildlife habitat on enrolled public access program lands. Eligible governments are eligible to apply for VPA-HIP funds for proposed projects that can span up to three years. Award amounts range from $75,000 to $1 million per year. USDA’s 60-day application period will run from Feb. 23 through April 24, 2015. Eligible governments must complete the applications through Funding is not directly awarded by USDA to individuals or groups. Since the reauthorization of VPA-HIP in the 2014 Farm Bill, the program has been administered through the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS). USDA provides the funds directly to state and tribal governments and they, in turn, disburse the funds to private landowners.

Funding priority will be given to applications that meet the following criteria:

  • Increase private land acreage available for public use;
  • Offer a public access program that gains widespread acceptance among landowners;
  • Make special efforts to reach historically underserved or socially disadvantaged landowners;
  • Ensure appropriate wildlife habitat is located on enrolled land;
  • Strengthen existing wildlife habitat improvement efforts;
  • Follow NRCS conservation practice standards for VPA-HIP habitat improvement activities; and;
  • Inform the public about the locations of existing and new lands where public access is available.

Today’s announcement marks the second funding round. The first round of funding under the NRCS-administered VPA-HIP occurred in fiscal year 2014. USDA provided $20 million for access to approximately 2.5 million acres in nine states and one tribal nation and to help state and tribal governments advance recreational opportunities through wildlife habitat and public access improvements on private lands. More information on the fiscal year 2014 grantees can be viewed at VPA-HIP 2014 Funding Grantees. For more information, see the notice on or the NRCS VPA-HIP website.



IWJV [Intermountain West Joint Venture] Capacity Grants Program 2015 Request for Proposals (RFP) Now Available

The IWJV Capacity Grants Program is intended to build capacity and catalyze partnerships that measurably contribute to the protection, restoration, or enhancement of priority bird habitats to support sustainable populations of birds in the Intermountain West. Successful capacity grants are meant to join conservation partners together—around priority areas, habitats, or bird species—to improve conservation program effectiveness. Click here to access the 2015 Capacity Grants RFP.



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


Rangeland Watershed Initiative Partner Biologist, Petaluma, CA 

For more info: Breanna Owens,, Rangeland Watershed Initiative Coordinator

The Rangeland Watershed Initiative Partner Biologist is a Point Blue Conservation Science position in partnership with the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) that will focus on providing value added delivery of wildlife conservation programs on working lands through Farm Bill and other federal and state funding programs.  The Partner Biologist will actively participate with NRCS Field Conservationists, working lands producers, and other resource professionals in the development of ranch and farm conservation plans, including resources assessments, conservation practice design and implementation.  In particular, they will seek to expand the adoption of prescribed rangeland and cropland management practices under NRCS Farm Bill habitat conservation programs.  The Partner Biologist will also be involved with assessment and monitoring of conservation practices that have been applied on those working lands.  This position will provide technical assistance with NRCS field conservationists to working lands producers whose primary focus is on the implementation of conservation in rangeland cropland, wetland, and riparian habitats.  This position, dependent on funding, is intended to be a full time position for a 3-year term with benefits.  The position will be located in the NRCS Petaluma Field Office, covering Sonoma and Marin Counties of California.


Policy Campaign Manager- Save the Bay (San Francisco)

Help us recruit a seasoned professional to develop and manage winning issue advocacy campaigns for the region’s largest organization advocating for the Bay. Position details at:


The Ocean Institute President and CEO

The Ocean Institute is in the search for a President & Chief Executive Officer. Reporting to the Board, the President is accountable for managing all aspects of the Institute’s education and public programming, exhibitions and for developing, continually updating and implementing the Ocean Institute’s strategic plan. We are reaching out to members of the community for suggestions and nominations, and would appreciate your advice. For more information please review the complete Position Description.
Located on the ocean front at Dana Point Harbor in southern California, the Ocean Institute is one of the most renowned hands-on coastal marine science and maritime history education institutes in the US. Founded in 1977 to provide experiential education to K-12 students and their teachers, over the last 38 years the Institute has continually evolved to expand its programs, facilities and constituents, and has acquired (and owns debt-free) a range of facilities to house a strong suite of innovative marine and social science programs. The Ocean Institute’s mission is: Using the ocean as our classroom, we inspire children to learn.











The new optimism of Al Gore

John Schwartz March 17, 2015 NY Times

Al Gore wants to make a point about cellphones, and he has a helpful set of slides on his laptop. “Do you want to see that?” he asks, and starts to turn the MacBook around. “It’s not two hours — don’t worry.” Mr. Gore knows he is The Guy With the Slides, the man who will talk about the environment until you can no longer remember the color of the sky. He long ago mastered the self-deprecating gestures that let you know that he knows what you are thinking. And then he shows you the slides anyway. Slides have been very good to the former vice president of the United States, almost president, environmental activist and now successful green investor. His slide show on the threat of climate change, presented in the movie “An Inconvenient Truth,” won an Academy Award. His efforts to spread the word about global warming earned him, along with the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, a Nobel Peace Prize. His was a dire call to strenuous and difficult action. Over the last year, however, the prophet of doom has become much more a prophet of possibility — even, perhaps, an optimist. Still an object of derision for the political right, Mr. Gore has seen support for his views rising within the business community: Investment in renewable energy sources like wind and solar is skyrocketing as their costs plummet. He has slides for that, too. Experts predicted in 2000 that wind generated power worldwide would reach 30 gigawatts; by 2010, it was 200 gigawatts, and by last year it reached nearly 370, or more than 12 times higher. Installations of solar power would add one new gigawatt per year by 2010, predictions in 2002 stated. It turned out to be 17 times that by 2010 and 48 times that amount last year…..


Diet soda linked to increases in belly fat in older adults

Posted: 17 Mar 2015 06:31 AM PDT

Increasing diet soda intake is directly linked to greater abdominal obesity in adults 65 years of age and older. Findings raise concerns about the safety of chronic diet soda consumption, which may increase belly fat and contribute to greater risk of metabolic syndrome and cardiovascular diseases.


High dose zinc acetate lozenges may help shorten symptoms associated with the common cold

Posted: 16 Mar 2015 06:23 AM PDT

High dose zinc acetate lozenges shortened the duration of common-cold associated nasal discharge by 34%, nasal congestion by 37%, scratchy throat by 33%, and cough by 46%, according to a meta-analysis….















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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