Conservation Science News April 24, 2015

Focus of the Week










NOTE: Please pass on my weekly news update that has been prepared for
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The items contained in this update were drawn from,,,,, and other sources as indicated.  This is a compilation of information available on-line, not verified and not endorsed by Point Blue Conservation Science.  
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Focus of the Week










Ecosystems not searching for balance April 22, 2015

Species abundances in natural ecosystems may never settle at a stable equilibrium. Biologists from the University of Amsterdam (The Netherlands), Leigh Marine Laboratory (New Zealand) and Cornell University (USA) report that species in one of the world’s oldest marine reserves showed chaotic fluctuations for more than 20 years. The species replaced each other in cyclic order, yet the exact timing and abundances of the species were unpredictable. The results are published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS). The new study describes a rocky coast in New Zealand, where species show striking ups and downs for at least 20 years. In some years the rocks are covered by barnacles, in other years mussels or algae dominate. The species display a cyclic succession. First, bare rock is colonized by barnacles. The barnacles are invaded by crustose algae, which are in turn overgrown by a dense mussel carpet. After the barnacles are killed, the mussel carpet breaks off and is washed away, and the cycle starts anew. The rates of these species replacements depend on the seasonal temperature variation. Hence, the resulting pattern is erratic. The order of species replacement is cyclic, but the species abundances vary chaotically. Since ancient times, it is often argued that external disturbances are responsible for changes in species abundances. According to this world view, species in undisturbed ecosystems will reach a stable equilibrium, in which species abundances are maintained at constant numbers. Yet, over recent years more and more evidence has accumulated that this “balance of nature” does not exist. Mathematical models predict that species can sustain chaotic fluctuations that appear just as erratic as the stocks on the financial market. These predictions are supported by lab experiments with plankton and insects, and also infectious diseases are known to display chaotic dynamics….



Darwin, Wallace, and the overlooked third man

Posted: 20 Apr 2015 07:10 AM PDT

The horticulturist who came up with the concept of ‘evolution by natural selection’ 27 years before Charles Darwin did should be more widely acknowledged for his contribution, states a new paper by a geneticist. The horticulturist who came up with the concept of ‘evolution by natural selection’ 27 years before Charles Darwin did should be more widely acknowledged for his contribution, states a new paper by a King’s College London geneticist. The paper, published in the Biological Journal of the Linnean Society, argues that Patrick Matthew deserves to be considered alongside Charles Darwin and Alfred Russell. Wallace as one of the three originators of the idea of large-scale evolution by natural selection. Furthermore, Matthew’s version of evolution by natural section captures a valuable aspect of the theory that isn’t so clear in Darwin’s version — namely, that natural selection is a deductive certainty more akin to a ‘law’ than a hypothesis or theory to be tested. Patrick Matthew (1790-1874) was a Scottish landowner with a keen interest in politics and agronomy. He established extensive orchards of apples and pears on his estate at Gourdie Hill, Perthshire, and became adept in horticulture, silviculture and agriculture. Whilst Darwin and Wallace’s 1858 paper to the Linnean Society, On the Origin of Species, secured their place in the history books, Matthews had set out similar ideas 27 years earlier in his book On Naval Timber and Arboriculture. The book, published in 1831, addressed best practices for the cultivation of trees for shipbuilding, but also expanded on his concept of natural selection….




Thomas Nutall – Brief life of a pioneering naturalist: 1786-1859

by John Nelson Harvard Magazine May-June 2015

In 1808, a day after landing in Philadelphia, Yorkshireman Thomas Nuttall found a common greenbrier, a plant new to him. The apprentice printer and aspiring naturalist took it to Benjamin Smith Barton of the University of Pennsylvania, who—struck by this fervor for botany—became Nuttall’s mentor, and in 1810 sent him on a major collecting expedition: to the Great Lakes, northwest to Winnipeg, and down the Missouri and Mississippi rivers. Nuttall, realizing he’d be welcome neither to the British in Canada nor the Plains Indians, eventually joined one of John Jacob Astor’s fur-trading parties. In prairies and woodlands he found plants new to science and collected species that had been discovered, but lost in transit, by the Lewis and Clark Expedition. Washington Irving’s historical account Astoria describes him as a “zealous botanist…groping and stumbling along a wilderness of sweets, forgetful of everything but his immediate pursuit.” In other first-hand stories, his use of his rifle to store seeds illustrates his obliviousness to peril in his single-minded quest to further science…. In 1832 he published a pioneering guide: a two-volume Manual of the Ornithology of the United States and Canada. Despite some errors, it was accurate enough that readers often assumed he was a trained ornithologist.
Birds, he wrote, “play around us like fairy spirits”; he believed them capable of conjugal fidelity, education, and even “reflection.” His call to end their “wanton destruction” has been echoed by American conservationists ever since
. …In Philadelphia he learned that an uncle had left him an estate in England, provided he stay there nine months each year. He lived out his days in Lancashire, but wrote, “I prefer the wilds of America a thousand times over” and returned once, for six months in 1847-48. The preeminent naturalist of his adopted country remained proud of the work he’d done “not in the closet but in the field.” That work lives on through the common and scientific names of Western shrubs and trees like the Pacific dogwood (Cornus nuttallii), 44 marine genera and species, and three birds, including Nuttall’s woodpecker. And the first U.S. ornithological society, founded in 1873, bears his name. Members of the Nuttall Ornithological Club have included Theodore Roosevelt, Ernst Mayr, and Roger Tory Peterson. “Nuttall” still publishes ornithological research, building on its namesake’s groundwork, and meets monthly for lectures at the Harvard Museum of Comparative Zoology.





The World’s Oceans Are Worth Trillions Of Dollars, Report Finds

by Katie Valentine Posted on April 23, 2015

According to the report, if the oceans were a country, they would be the world’s seventh-largest economy in terms of Gross Domestic Product…


Farms that Help Wildlife

Nathaniel Seavy, John Eadie, Jeffrey Mount, Peter Moyle April 21, 2015 CA Public Policy Institute Blog

When we hear that agriculture accounts for 80% of human uses of water in California, attention often turns to water intensive crops like rice and alfalfa (almonds—a water intensive but high revenue crop—have been much in the news as well). The suggestion is often made that farmers stop growing low revenue crops in order to conserve water. There are many reasons not to dictate what crops to plant. One not often discussed is that some crops that generate low revenues per unit of water may actually have high environmental value, particularly for birds and fish. California’s freshwater landscape has been transformed, most notably in the Central Valley where less than 5% of native habitat remains. This transformation has reduced the habitat for waterfowl and shorebirds in the region. Land conversion, in conjunction with water resource development, is also the principal cause of the decline of native fishes such as salmon and steelhead.

Yet the very agricultural fields that contributed to the decline of these species may today provide the opportunity to ensure their future. It turns out that some agricultural fields offer good habitat for both birds and fish. Farmers who flood their rice fields in the winter to help break down rice straw provide valuable wetland habitat for waterfowl and shorebirds that migrate to the Central Valley during the winter. Decades of research have helped develop practices that benefit both farmers and birds. Researchers at UC Davis and the nonprofit California Trout have recently shown that these same rice fields can be used to rear juvenile salmon, mimicking the habitat that floodplains provided in the past. Thanks to unlimited food availability, juveniles in rice fields grow at three times the rate of those confined to river channels. They can also find their way back to rivers if given the opportunity. Their larger size increases the likelihood of survival as they pass through the Delta and head to sea. Even alfalfa—much maligned for its high water use and low revenues—has habitat value. Swainson’s hawks—listed as threatened under the state endangered species act—and long-billed curlews make extensive use of alfalfa fields [as the work of Point Blue Conservation Science demonstrates] because these fields house their favorite insect and rodent prey. Alfalfa also provides nesting and foraging habitat for many other birds and has been reported to support some of the highest biodiversity among row crops. There are many other examples of farmers providing valuable habitat for birds and fish. With modest changes in farming practices they can increase the quality and extent of this habitat. This prospect lies at the root of efforts made by the Natural Resources Conservation Service, Central Valley Joint Venture, and TNC Birdreturns, which help farmers improve the value of habitat on working lands. And projects like the Central Valley Habitat Exchange are providing incentives to farmers to set aside lands for wildlife habitat. Increasing water scarcity and high commodity prices are creating pressure to shift to crops that generate higher revenue per unit of water used—most notably perennial crops like nuts, fruits, and grapes, which generally don’t provide good habitat. This pressure is likely to have the unwanted consequence of reducing the extent and quality of wildlife and fish habitat. Financial and other incentives may be needed to encourage farmers to plant annual crops that have environmental benefits—even if those crops are low revenue and water intensive.


Bees have shown a preference for food which contained pesticides. Neonicotinoids target the same mechanisms in the bee brain that are affected by nicotine in the human brain. Credit: © Gajus / Fotolia

Are bees ‘hooked’ on nectar containing pesticides?

Posted: 23 Apr 2015 08:41 PM PDT

Bees are attracted to nectar containing common pesticides, scientists have discovered. This could increase their chances of exposure to high levels of pesticides….



A deforested area is seen near Novo Progresso, in Brazil’s northern state of Para, in 2009. Image: Andre Penner/Associated Press

Forest protection is about to get a major boost from satellites and AI

Andrew Freeman Mashable April 23, 2015

Monitoring global deforestation can be a tedious process of analyzing individual satellite images from a handful of government spacecraft and trying to infer trends from relatively blurry pixels. Even so, recent advances have yielded clues about shifting hotspots of deforestation, including tropical nations and industrialized countries. The mini-boom in the private sector satellite and satellite data processing industries, however, may soon yield a dramatically different deforestation monitoring regime. In fact, it may soon be possible to predict where deforestation is about to occur, according to James Crawford, founder of Orbital Insight, a Silicon Valley company that uses a technique called deep learning to analyze massive data sets.

Orbital Insight is partnering with the World Resources Institute (WRI), a nonpartisan Washington environmental group, to contribute to WRI’s groundbreaking Global Forest Watch program.

Between 2000 and 2012, the world lost 2.3 million square kilometers of tree cover, or about 888,000 square miles — the equivalent of losing 50 soccer fields’ worth of forests every minute of every day, WRI says. Forests are reservoirs of biodiversity, particularly tropical rainforests, and they are also valuable storage areas for carbon. When trees are chopped down, long-stored carbon is released into the atmosphere, adding to manmade global warming.

According to recently released data from Global Forest Watch, Russia and Canada topped the list of countries with the most tree cover loss, mainly due to forest fires, jointly accounting for 34% of total loss. (Tree cover loss is a measure of the total loss of all trees within a specific area regardless of the cause.) The data show that Russia, Canada, Brazil, the United States and Indonesia make up the top five countries for average annual tree cover loss from 2011 to 2013.

Predicting deforestation before it occurs

Detecting deforestation has “always been an inherently reactive approach,” James Anderson, who works on forest issues for WRI, told Mashable. “What Orbital Insight and Global Forest Watch are going to do is to try to be more proactive.” Aaron Steele, chief technology officer at WRI, told Mashable that artificial intelligence approaches to sifting through huge datasets will be “really key in this space in the next five or 10 years. “As we get more and more data about the world, processing it in real-time is going to be the challenge,” he said. Eventually, he says, “we want to take that to the next level and start to build systems that can automate decision making.”


Where humans and nature collide: Roadkill hot spots identified in California

Posted: 20 Apr 2015 03:33 PM PDT

A map shows how California’s state highway system is strewn with roadkill “hot spots,” which are identified in a newly released report. The data could help state highway planners take measures to protect both drivers and wildlife.


A focus on flight: Birds use just two postures to avoid obstacles during flight

Posted: 23 Apr 2015 10:03 AM PDT

A new study shows birds use two highly stereotyped postures to avoid obstacles in flight. The study could open the door to new ways to program drones and other unmanned aerial vehicles to avoid similar obstacles….



Cooper’s Hawk (accipiter cooperii).Credit: © Steve Byland / Fotolia

‘Flameproof’ falcons and hawks: Most polluted bird on record found in Vancouver

Posted: 22 Apr 2015 01:50 PM PDT

A Cooper’s hawk, found in Greater Vancouver, is the most polluted wild bird that has been found anywhere in the world.A Cooper’s hawk, found in Greater Vancouver, is the most polluted wild bird that has been found anywhere in the world. A team of Canadian researchers made this startling discovery while analyzing liver samples from birds of prey that were discovered either injured or dead in the Vancouver area. The levels of polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs) in the contaminated Cooper’s hawk were 196 parts per million, significantly higher than those recorded in birds found either in cities in California or in an electronic waste site in China. PBDEs are a group of chemicals that act as flame retardants and were once used widely in computers, stereos, televisions, vehicles, carpets and furniture. Although many of the PBDEs have been banned since the 2000s in Canada, they continue to accumulate in landfill sites where people dispose of PBDE-rich items. In British Columbia’s Fraser River delta, for example, the quantity of PBDEs has doubled every four years over the past four decades. This can have a significant effect on the bird populations that live nearby. “Many animals, including coyotes, eagles and hawks benefit from the excess food in our cities. A downside is the high levels of pollution. The levels of flame retardants in starlings, a favourite prey of hawks, which nested near the landfill site were fifteen times higher than levels in starlings found elsewhere in Vancouver,” says Prof. Kyle Elliott, of McGill’s Department of Natural Resource Sciences, one of the authors of the study which was recently published in the journal Science of the Total Environment. “We were surprised to see such high levels of contaminants in what I think of as ‘green’ city. We can only hope that because many forms of PBDEs have now been banned and the levels of these contaminants are rapidly disappearing from herons and cormorants in Vancouver, the same will be true for other bird species.”

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Global warming more moderate than worst-case models, empirical data suggest

Posted: 21 Apr 2015 07:56 AM PDT

A study based on 1,000 years of temperature records suggests global warming is not progressing as fast as it would under the most severe emissions scenarios outlined by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. Natural decade-to-decade variability in surface temperatures can account for some much-discussed recent changes in the rate of warming. Empirical data, rather than climate models, were used to estimate this variability.T o test how accurate climate models are at accounting for variations in the rate of warming, Brown and Li, along with colleagues from San Jose State University and the USDA, created a new statistical model based on reconstructed empirical records of surface temperatures over the last 1,000 years….”By comparing our model against theirs, we found that climate models largely get the ‘big picture’ right but seem to underestimate the magnitude of natural decade-to-decade climate wiggles,” Brown said. “Our model shows these wiggles can be big enough that they could have accounted for a reasonable portion of the accelerated warming we experienced from 1975 to 2000, as well as the reduced rate in warming that occurred from 2002 to 2013.” Further comparative analysis of the models revealed another intriguing insight. “Statistically, it’s pretty unlikely that an 11-year hiatus in warming, like the one we saw at the start of this century, would occur if the underlying human-caused warming was progressing at a rate as fast as the most severe IPCC projections,” Brown said. “Hiatus periods of 11 years or longer are more likely to occur under a middle-of-the-road scenario.” Under the IPCC’s middle-of-the-road scenario, there was a 70 percent likelihood that at least one hiatus lasting 11 years or longer would occur between 1993 and 2050, Brown said. “That matches up well with what we’re seeing.” There’s no guarantee, however, that this rate of warming will remain steady in coming years, Li stressed. “Our analysis clearly shows that we shouldn’t expect the observed rates of warming to be constant. They can and do change.”


Patrick T. Brown, Wenhong Li, Eugene C. Cordero and Steven A. Mauget. Comparing the Model-Simulated Global Warming Signal to Observations Using Empirical Estimates of Unforced Noise. Scientific Reports, April 21, 2015 DOI: 10.1038/srep09957

Phytoplankton, reducing greenhouse gases or amplifying Arctic warming?

Posted: 21 Apr 2015 07:53 AM PDT

Scientists have presented the geophysical impact of phytoplankton that triggers positive feedback in the Arctic warming when the warming-induced melting of sea ice stimulates phytoplankton growth.When the Arctic sea ice melts away due to greenhouse warming, the ocean surface albedo inevitably decreases, reducing the amount of solar energy reflected back from Earth and ultimately resulting in warmer ocean surface. As phytoplankton growth is subject to factors such as temperature, light, and nutrients, the explosive growth of phytoplankton follow when both the warming-induced melting and shortwave radiation penetrating the ocean increase. The new study has confirmed that it is the beginning of the geophysical feedback by which chlorophyll and the related pigments in phytoplankton absorb solar radiation and in turn raise the sea surface temperature even further. Using a coupled ocean-atmosphere model, the authors have revealed that the additional positive feedback in the Arctic can amplify Arctic warming by as much as 20%. “We believe that, given the inseparable connection of the Arctic and global climate, the positive feedback in Arctic warming triggered by phytoplankton and their biological heating is a crucial factor that must be taken into consideration when projecting future climate changes,” says Jong-Seong Kug, a professor at POSTECH’s School of Environmental Science and Engineering and one of the leaders of this study.


Thawing permafrost feeds climate change

Posted: 23 Apr 2015 09:56 AM PDT

Single-cell organisms called microbes are rapidly devouring the ancient carbon being released from thawing permafrost soil and ultimately releasing it back into the atmosphere as carbon dioxide, according to new research. Increased carbon dioxide levels, of course, cause the Earth to warm and accelerate thawing.



High mountains warming faster than expected

Posted: 23 Apr 2015 05:54 AM PDT

High elevation environments around the world may be warming much faster than previously thought, according to members of an international research team. They call for more aggressive monitoring of temperature changes in mountain regions and more attention to the potential consequences of warming….High
mountains are the major water source for large numbers of people living at lower elevations, so the social and economic consequences of enhanced warming in mountain regions could be large, the researchers add. “This alone requires that close attention be paid to the issue. In addition, mountains provide habitat for many of the world’s rare and endangered species, and the presence of many different ecosystems in close proximity enhances the ecological sensitivity of mountains to environmental change.
” Lead author Nick Pepin of the University of Portsmouth, U.K., says, “There is growing evidence that high mountain regions are warming faster than lower elevations and such warming can accelerate many other environmental changes such as glacial melt and vegetation change, but scientists urgently need more and better data to confirm this. If we are right and mountains are warming more rapidly than other environments, the social and economic consequences could be serious, and we could see more dramatic changes much sooner than previously thought.”




Sea ice near Greenland. Courtesy Greenland Travel / Flickr

Giant Waves Quickly Destroy Arctic Ocean Ice and Ecosystems

Scientific American

 – ‎April 21, 2015‎


The chance encounter of a Norwegian research vessel with the largest waves ever recorded amid floating packs of Arctic ice shows how such rollers could reroute shipping, damage oil platforms and threaten coastal communities with erosion. In a March report in Geophysical Research Letters scientists at the U.S. Naval Research Laboratory (NRL) describe how large waves can penetrate more deeply into ice cover and break it up faster and more completely than anyone had suspected. Less ice means more open water to generate large waves—creating a feedback loop that could doom the ice cap. (This dangerous cycle is illustrated in “Waves of Destruction” in the May issue of Scientific American.) Every year Aleksey Marchenko of The University Center in Svalbard, a Norwegian archipelago north of Scandinavia, leads students across the chilly waters of the Barents Sea to study the seasonal ice pack. Near its edges pack ice is composed of pieces loosely drifting on the water. Farther inside the pack there are kilometers-wide chunks that have been blown together into a nearly solid mass. Toughened ships like Marchenko’s converted Arctic fishing vessel, the RV Lance, can usually pick their way slowly through it. When the Lance left port in May 2010, Marchenko was expecting two or three days of leisurely fieldwork. In previous years the group had even camped out on large floes. The Lance sailed east and around 80 kilometers from the small island of Hopen moored next to a large expanse of pack ice on May 2. Marchenko prepared to lead his class out onto the floe. “We were ready to go but when I went out, I discovered many cracks around,” he remembers. He decided to move the Lance deeper into the pack for safety. As he did so, the ship encountered small waves that grew in size over time—a surprise as even a little ice near the pack edges usually damps out waves. These waves then rapidly broke up the ice around the ship into thousands of smaller pieces….

Arctic beetles may be ideal marker of climate change

Posted: 22 Apr 2015 11:23 AM PDT

Researchers need to find ways to measure how the changes in climate are affecting biodiversity. One of the best places to look may be down at our feet, at beetles. That`s because, as a research team discovered after doing the first large-scale survey of Arctic beetles, these six-legged critters are not only abundant in number but also diverse in feeding habits and what they eat is closely linked to the latitude in which they are found.



William R. Wieder/NCAR The carbon uptake of rainforests will be crucial to how the climate responds to human emissions.

Plants may not protect us against climate change

By Tim Wogan 20 April 2015 11:30 am Science| DOI: 10.1126/science.aab2513

Plants are one of the last bulwarks against climate change. They feed on carbon dioxide, growing faster and absorbing more of the greenhouse gas as humans produce it. But a new study finds that limited nutrients may keep plants from growing as fast as scientists thought, leading to more global warming than some climate models had predicted by 2100. Plants need different nutrients to thrive, such as nitrogen for making the light-absorbing pigment chlorophyll and phosphorus for building proteins. Farmers supply these in fertilizer, but in nature, plants have to find their own sources. New nitrogen comes from the air, which is 78% nitrogen by volume, but it is almost all in the form of nitrogen gas. Plants can’t break this down, so they rely on soil bacteria to do it for them. Some plants, mainly legumes, have evolved nodules on their roots that harbor these bacteria. New phosphorus comes from weathering rocks or sometimes from sands blown on the wind from deserts. Yet these two key nutrients are not particularly well accounted for in climate models. Only two of the 11 models used to project future warming in the most recent report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) considered the effects of limited nitrogen on plant growth; none considered phosphorus, although one paper from 2014 subsequently pointed out this omission. So biogeochemist William Wieder of the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Boulder, Colorado, and colleagues looked at the projections for new plant growth in the various models and considered how much new nitrogen and phosphorus would be required for these projections to be met. They then estimated how much extra nitrogen and phosphorus would actually be available from natural sources and found that there would not be enough, revising the models accordingly. Taking nitrogen and phosphorus into account brought down the researchers’ average prediction of annual global carbon storage by 25% compared with the IPCC figures, the team reports online today in Nature Geoscience. Such a dramatic decline could turn the land from taking up carbon overall to pumping it out by 2100, as the rate of respiration by soil microbes, which exhale carbon dioxide, is predicted to increase in a warmer world. This could mean that Earth gets even hotter as the land starts to amplify human-induced warming rather than slowing it down. There are various unknowns, however. For example, bacteria in soil release nitrogen and phosphorus as they break down dead plants, and so these microbes could increase the amount of available nitrogen and phosphorus. The paper is “solid, exciting research,” says ecologist Chris Field of Carnegie Institution for Science in Palo Alto, California, who notes that various models have looked at ways different factors might affect future plant growth. Biogeochemist Eric Davidson of the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science in Frostburg says researchers need to do more fieldwork to see how nutrient conditions affect the growth of forests. “It’s difficult to do, it’s expensive, but it’s the only way we can get better parameters for these models,” he says….


Amazon rainforest losses impact on climate change, study shows

Posted: 21 Apr 2015 07:53 AM PDT

Human activity has removed more than one-tenth of trees and plants from the Amazon rainforest since the 1960s, a study shows. Widespread removal of trees has contributed to a rise in the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, increasing the potential impact of climate change, researchers say.



Carbon emissions higher in California ecosystems than previously thought, study finds

By Robert Patrick Van Tooke | Staff Monday, April 20, 2015

A recently published study has found that wildfires and deforestation have contributed more to greenhouse gas emissions than previously expected. The study, published online in the journal Forest Ecology and Management on Wednesday, was a collaborative effort between researchers with UC Berkeley and the U.S. National Park Service that assesses the amount of carbon stored and released in California ecosystems. The research could shed light on goals established in California’s mandated Global Warming Solutions Act, or AB 32, which requires the state to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to 1990 emission levels by 2020. The act was passed in 2006.

Lead author and U.S. National Park Service climate change scientist Patrick Gonzalez, who analyzed data to conduct an integrated analysis of ecosystem carbon across California, said the findings show that while California forests and other wilderness areas contain large stocks of carbon, wildfires reduced the stocks from 2001 to 2010. “Before our research, it had not been clearly known whether California ecosystems were storing carbon and reducing climate change or emitting carbon and making climate change worse,” Gonzalez said in an email. According to Gonzalez, a century of fire suppression has caused the “unnatural buildup of dead wood and thicker stands of small trees,” providing more fuel for fires. These changes have then contributed to recent instances of particularly large and severe wildfires. Gonzalez said that meanwhile, climate change has been increasing both temperatures and conditions that cause wildfires. UC Berkeley professor of forest ecology John Battles, who participated in the research, said the overall goal of the study was to assess if carbon was being stored or lost in California ….While plants absorb carbon dioxide and the wilderness areas of California store a lot of carbon, the areas have lost carbon over the last decade. Battles said the main culprits are wildfires. “We’re hoping (AB 32) could spur tech innovation,” Battles said. “California is often at the forefront of implementing green laws, such as fuel efficiency.” Gonzalez said that California has the “practices and technology” to become more energy-efficient and that with a combination of science, policy and public support, California can reduce the effects of climate change. When considering whether California can reduce its greenhouse gas emissions to the 2020 targets, Battles named two significant factors: the fire season being aggravated by a warmer and drier climate and California’s policies on fire suppression and forest management



Soil nutrients may limit ability of plants to slow climate change

Posted: 20 Apr 2015 03:27 PM PDT

Many scientists assume that the growing level of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere will accelerate plant growth. However, a new study suggests much of this growth will be curtailed by limited soil nutrients.


Strong currents promote release of Arctic greenhouse gas

Posted: 20 Apr 2015 09:26 AM PDT

Ocean and Earth Science researchers reveal how the interplay between ocean currents and marine microbiology serve to regulate potentially damaging emissions of the potent greenhouse gas methane, created beneath the Arctic Ocean.




The earth will be fine. It’s us that need saving. CREDIT: Shutterstock

Earth Day Should Be Less About Our ‘Precious Planet’ And More About Saving Ourselves

by Joe Romm Posted on April 21, 2015 at 2:32 pm

In his weekly address on Saturday, President Obama said, “Wednesday is Earth Day, a day to appreciate and protect this precious planet we call home. And today, there’s no greater threat to our planet than climate change.”

Obama’s decision to emphasize climate change this week is a sound one, since climate change is certainly the greatest preventable (environmental) threat to the health and well-being of Americans and indeed all of homo sapiens. But the emphasis on protecting this “precious planet” is less sound. Affection and concern for our “precious planet” is misdirected and unrequited. We need to focus on saving ourselves. That being said, there are two messaging problems with Obama’s pre-Earth Day address. For example: “[O]n Earth Day, I’m going to visit the Florida Everglades to talk about the way that climate change threatens our economy,” he said. “Rising sea levels are putting a national treasure — and an economic engine for the South Florida tourism industry — at risk.” First, yes, the Everglades are awesome and vitally important — but the threat rising seas pose to the economy isn’t through their indirect impact on South Florida’s tourism industry. It’s through their impact on people. More specifically, the most immediate threat rising seas pose to our economy is the trillion dollar real estate bubble we are in, led by Florida, detailed here. As Harold Wanless, chair of University of Miami’s geological sciences department, said in 2013, “I cannot envision southeastern Florida having many people at the end of this century.” In 2014, he said, “Miami, as we know it today, is doomed. It’s not a question of if. It’s a question of when.” As Wanless explained to me, we could be facing a rise upwards of 10 feet. And considerably more than that after 2100 — sea level rise exceeding a foot per decade. We’re especially likely to hit the high end of current sea level rise projections if we don’t start we reverse carbon pollution trends ASAP.

So we are in a major coastal real estate bubble…..






U.S. Drought Monitor- California

April 21, 2015 (Released Thursday April 23, 2015) Valid 8 a.m. EDT


D0 – Abnormally Dry

D1 – Moderate Drought

D2 – Severe Drought

D3 – Extreme Drought

D4 – Exceptional Drought

The Drought Monitor focuses on broad-scale conditions. Local conditions may vary. See accompanying text summary for forecast statements.

Author(s): Anthony Artusa, NOAA/NWS/NCEP/CPC


A group of tule elk stand near a road in Point Reyes National Seashore, California April 9, 2015. Reuters/Robert Galbraith

California drought causes cattle and elk to lock horns over pasture

POINT REYES NATIONAL SEASHORE, Calif. | By Mary Papenfuss April 21, 2015 (Reuters) – A herd of tule elk move warily along a California coastal hill as a herd of Black Angus cattle graze nearby. Despite the apparent peaceful coexistence, the animals are at the center of a battle for precious grasslands reduced by the state’s drought. Ranchers and farmers who live and work within the 71,000-acre (287-square km) Point Reyes National Seashore, 35 miles (56 km) northwest of San Francisco, want the free-roaming elk fenced in so their livestock do not have to compete for grass. Wildlife advocates and many park users are opposed after almost half of the majestic elks died while living in a 2,600-acre fenced-in area in the northern part of the park. The park has not yet determined how much land the free-ranging elk herd might be confined to — or even if they would be fenced in. The Point Reyes National Seashore is one of the few parks in America with agricultural operations, some of them dating back to the 1800s. They were purchased by the federal government to create the preserve and the lands were leased back to the same families for agriculture. In the 1970s, tule elk were reintroduced to the park. “If we can’t protect the elk in a national park, where will they be safe?” asked California wildlife photographer Jim Coda, one of thousands who sent in comments to the National Park Service opposing fencing them in. The parks agency is caught in the middle and is attempting to devise a plan that will balance public resources with the needs of 24 dairy and beef commercial operations, numbering close to 6,000 animals, that occupy nearly a quarter of the seashore lands. The seashore is the only national park with tule elk, which are not found outside California. “There’s no perfect solution,” Parks Services wildlife ecologist Daniel Press told Reuters. “We’re committed to the wildlife, but we’re also committed to agriculture,” said Press. “These aren’t show farms. They’re functioning businesses. Every blade of grass counts, especially for the six organic dairies, which have to purchase expensive feed when the grazing runs short.”….




Photo: Rich Pedroncelli, AP In this Tuesday March 31, 2015 photo, almonds are seen on growing in an almond orchard belonging to farmer Bob Weimer, near Atwater, Calif. As California cities and towns move to mandatory water cutbacks in the fourth year of extreme drought, the state’s $6.5 billion almond crop has claimed the spotlight as “the poster child of all things bad in water” in the country’s top agriculture state. At 1 gallon per almond [NOT SURE ABOUT THIS NUMBER?], California’s almond crop is now consuming about 10 percent of all the water that Californians are using in the drought.

Almonds get roasted in debate over California water use

Ellen Knickmeyer, Associated Press Updated 10:06 am, Monday, April 20, 2015 SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — California almonds are becoming one of the world’s favorite snacks and creating a multibillion-dollar bonanza for agricultural investors. But the crop extracts a staggering price from the land, consuming more water than all the showering, dish-washing and other indoor household water use of California’s 39 million people. As California enters its fourth year of drought and imposes the first mandatory statewide water cutbacks on cities and towns, the $6.5 billion almond crop is helping drive a sharp debate about water use, agricultural interests and how both affect the state’s giant economy. Almonds have claimed the spotlight as “the poster child of all things bad in water,” almond grower Bob Weimer said. People around the world are eating over 1,000 percent more California almonds than they did just a decade ago, and last year almonds became the top export crop in the nation’s top agriculture state. China’s booming middle class is driving much of the demand….



In this photo taken Friday March 27, 2015, low-flow water emitter sits on some of the dry, cracked ground of farmer Rudy Mussi’s almond orchard in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta near Stockton, Calif. As California enters the fourth year of drought, huge amounts of water are mysteriously vanishing from the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta, and farmers whose families for generations have tilled fertile soil there are the prime suspects. Delta farmers deny they are stealing water, still, they have been asked to report how much water they’re pumping and to prove their legal right. Mussi says he has senior water rights in a system more than a century old that puts him in line ahead of those with lower ranking, or junior, water rights.(AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli)

Airbnb for water seeks to help farmers transfer surplus

By Greta Kaul SF Chronicle April 21, 2015 Updated: April 21, 2015 6:09pm

Tech startups have made millions turning spare bedrooms into hotel rooms, parked cars into rentals, and pocket change into loans. So why can’t technology help California’s farmers sell their extra water to other people who need it? That’s the business model behind Denver’s SWIIM, a startup that tries to make it easier for farmers to sell excess water to municipal, industrial, conservation or other agricultural users. It’s something like an Airbnb for water, and it’s coming to some drought-stricken California counties this year. Under the state’s century-old water laws, certain farmers who don’t use up their yearly allotment of water risk getting less water from the state in the future. Some farmers lease their unused water, but many say an overcomplicated transfer system makes it difficult. Conserving the water won’t degrade water rights, as long as farmers show they’re truly cutting back — though proving it to authorities can be a burden. Critics say this gives some farmers a perverse motive to overwater, as it’s the easiest way to avoid losing water rights. “If anything, there’s a disincentive for conservation,” said Kevin France, SWIIM’s chief executive officer.

SWIIM, which stands for Sustainable Water and Innovative Irrigation Management, seeks to streamline the water transfer process, selling its service to farmers and water districts. Already operating in Colorado, the startup is working with Western Growers, a trade group, to start pilot programs in Kern County, the Sacramento Valley, the Imperial Valley and Coachella Valley this year.

Water transfers are generally done on an ad-hoc basis, and when it comes to leasing water that’s conserved, measurement is a problem for authorities, said Newsha Ajami, the director of urban water policy at Stanford’s Water in the West program.

“We barely have data on how much water everybody is using. It’s very hard to see to create a baseline to say this is how much everyone is using or this is how much this farm is using,” she said.

SWIIM’s process begins with software. Farmers enter detailed information about past use of their land and water rights, then indicate what they’re willing to do to use less water…..



Mandatory cuts: Water managers issue call for sweeping reductions 

By Kurtis Alexander SF Chronicle April 19 2015

Dead lawns and dirty cars may be the future for California under mandatory water reductions of up to 36 percent rolled out Saturday by state water officials. The unprecedented regulation, which comes despite concern that the state is overreaching, builds on an earlier proposal that compels heavy water users to make the biggest sacrifices as California faces a fourth year of drought. Under the new mandate, each of the state’s 400 largest water agencies is assigned to one of nine tiers of cuts, with those that have historically consumed more water required to make larger reductions — even more than the initial proposal recommended. …


California Lawmakers Want To Ban Cities From Fining Residents Who Don’t Water Their Lawns

by Natasha Geiling Posted on April 24, 2015

The California State Assembly wants cities to stop fining residents who aren’t watering their lawns to save water during the drought….









Goldman Environmental Prize — moving and inspiring.  You can see videos on some of the awardees here
from 2014 and 2015. 



Beijing air pollution is some of the worst in China.

CREDIT: AP Photo/Andy Wong

China Could Get 85 Percent Of Its Electricity From Renewables By 2050, Report Finds

by Samantha Page Posted on April 24, 2015 at 8:00 am

The world’s largest consumer of coal could undergo a dramatic transformation in its energy profile in the coming decades, according to a report released this week. China could get 85 percent of its electricity from renewable resources by 2050, according to the China 2050 High Renewable Energy Penetration Scenario and Roadmap Study, a nongovernmental report by Energy Foundation China.
Reducing the country’s dependence on fossil fuels, particularly coal, is both technically and economically possible, the report found. In fact, non-fossil fuel sources could account for 91 percent of China’s total power generation, a scenario in which coal-fired power generation would drop from 75 percent to less than 7 percent, without sacrificing reliability. Wind and solar would be China’s “backbone” energy sources. “We hope that renewable energy in China can be developed quickly and on a large scale,” said Li Junfeng, the director general for China’s National Center for Climate Change Strategy and International Cooperation, a sponsor of the report….



Families Ditch Cars for Cargo Bikes


When Dave Hoverman, 38, a business strategy consultant in Berkeley, Calif., goes to Costco on the weekends, he ditches his Audi Q7 and instead loads his four children into a Cetma cargo bike with a trailer hitched to the rear. “We do all sorts of errands on the bike,” Mr. Hoverman said. “We try not to get in the car all weekend.” Mr. Hoverman is among a growing contingent of eco-minded and health-conscious urban parents who are leaving their car keys at home and relying on high-capacity cargo bikes for family transportation. Cargo bikes initially catered to the “hard-core D.I.Y. crowd — people who wanted to carry around really large objects like surfboards or big speakers or kayaks,” said Evan Lovett-Harris, the marketing director for Xtracycle, a company in Oakland, Calif., that introduced its first family-oriented cargo model, the EdgeRunner, in 2012. Cargo bikes, he said, now account for the largest proportion of the company’s sales. “When we first started selling these bikes 15 years ago, we were the total freako weirdos,” said Ross Evans, the company’s founder. “Back then, a basket on your handlebars was considered fringe.” These days, cargo bikes are no longer a novelty: They are cropping up not just in the expected West Coast enclaves like Seattle, Portland and the Bay Area, but in cities like New Haven, Tucson and Dallas. “It used to be that if I saw somebody in Boston on a cargo bike, I probably knew them and probably helped them buy their bicycle,” said Nathan Vierling-Claassen, who has ridden a cargo bike since 2008. “Now that’s no longer the case.”…



River flood via Shutterstock

Climate adaptation could slash cost of flood damages by 96%, study shows

22 Apr 2015, 18:00 Roz Pidcock

Without efforts to build resilience, the economic losses from global flooding are expected to rise by at least 430% by 2080, and possibly as much as 2,000%, scientists warn. The number of global fatalities could rise by as much as 200% in the same time, according to new research published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. But ambitious adaptation efforts in flood-prone countries could cut the potential economic costs by 96% and reduce global fatalities by 69%, say the scientists.
The authors say the new study is the first to project how vulnerable the world’s population and economies are to future flooding, and how adaptation could reduce the potential damages.

Between 1980 and 2012, annual reported losses from flooding exceeded $23bn with an average of 5,900 lives lost each year, according to the team of scientists from two Dutch research institutes, Columbia University, the Red Cross and insurance firm Munich Re. The following graph from the paper shows the top 10 recorded floods with the largest economic losses globally. An event in China in 1998 tops the list with $40bn in losses…..



Religions and Environmental Healing—An Open and Urgent Question

“We are one, whether we realize it or not, and not just as humans.”

Rabbi George Gittleman’s remarks at the Climate Change and Overpopulation forum, January 25, 2015, Congregation Shomrei Torah, Santa Rosa, Ca

I’d like to address three issues related to our environmental crisis: First is the notion that western religion, sometimes referred to as “the Judeo-Christian Ethic,” is a root cause of the abuse and degradation of our environment. Second, I’ll share a brief overview of Jewish sources of environmental awareness; and third, look at the road blocks to a total mobilization of the Jewish community toward a tikkun, a repair of the environment….





US to announce plans to reduce agricultural carbon emissions

By JEFF KAROUB Apr. 23, 2015 1:26 AM EDT DETROIT (AP) — Federal agricultural officials are planning to announce voluntary programs and initiatives for farmers, ranchers and foresters meant to build on President Barack Obama’s efforts to combat global warming — and don’t require congressional approval.
Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack is expected to unveil plans Thursday at Michigan State University, where Obama signed the sweeping farm bill into law last year. The efforts, many of which have their roots in that law, aim to reduce net greenhouse gas emissions, boost carbon capture and storage and come with various enticements, including grants, low-interest loans and technical assistance. Vilsack said the agriculture industry accounts for about 9 percent of U.S. emissions, adding that compares favorably with the rest of the globe but can be improved. “We want to do this in a way that will help not only environment but also improve agricultural productivity with improved yields and we can also improve bottom line of producers with greater efficiency,”
he said. Obama administration aides have said the issue of climate change became even more attractive after the November election, because the Democrat has considerable leverage to act without Congress. Such actions, though, have drawn fierce objections from Republicans and the energy industry. Specific actions to be announced Thursday include reducing the unnecessary use of fertilizer and methane emissions from cattle and swine, reforesting areas damaged by wildfire and disease and encouraging tree planting in urban areas. For methane reduction in particular, the federal program promotes installing more anaerobic digesters, which use naturally occurring bacteria to break down organic waste to produce biogas, a fuel similar to natural gas. Vilsack’s department estimates that if all steps are followed, it would reduce emissions and enhance carbon sequestration by roughly 120 million metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent — akin to taking 25 million cars off the road a year….


In this Oct. 30, 2012 file photo, a parking lot full of yellow cabs in Hoboken, N.J. is flooded as a result of Superstorm Sandy.

Big Insurance Companies Are Warning The U.S. To Prepare For Climate Change

by Emily Atkin Posted on April 21, 2015 at 12:00 pm

A coalition of big insurance companies, consumer groups, and environmental advocates are urging the United States to overhaul its disaster policies in the face of increasingly extreme weather due to human-caused climate change. According to a report released Tuesday by the SmarterSafer coalition, the U.S. needs to increase how much it spends on pre-disaster mitigation efforts and infrastructure protection. That way, it asserts, the U.S. can stop wasting so much money on cleaning up after a disaster happens. “Our current natural disaster policy framework focuses heavily on responding to disasters, rather than putting protective measures in place to reduce our vulnerability and limit a disaster’s impact,” the report reads. “This needlessly exposes Americans to greater risks to life and property and results in much higher costs to the federal government.” The SmarterSafer coalition is made up of more than 30 different groups, including some of the biggest insurance companies in the world: Allianz, Liberty Mutual, SwissRe, and USAA, to name a few. Adequately dealing with the risks of climate change is inherently important to the insurance industry, as failure to prepare can lead to increased costs for insurance companies when storms wipe out basements and take out walls. Making sure the government is prepared is important for private insurers too. Because if governments don’t fortify their infrastructure, the damage can fall onto the companies. A good example is Farmers Insurance Co., which sued local governments in the Chicago area last year for failing to prepare for climate change (the lawsuits have since been dropped). That lack of preparedness, the lawsuits said, caused sewers to burst into people’s homes and property values to decline — damage that Farmers had to pay for….



DOI, EPA, NOAA announce Resilient Lands and Waters Initiative to prepare natural resources for climate change

Sites in southwest Florida, Hawaii, Washington, and the Great Lakes selected to showcase climate resilience approach

April 21, 2015 WASHINGTON, D.C. – The Department of the Interior (DOI), Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) today recognized four collaborative landscape partnerships across the country where Federal agencies will focus efforts with partners to conserve and restore important lands and waters and make them more resilient to a changing climate. Building on existing collaborations, these Resilient Lands and Waters partnerships – located in southwest Florida, Hawaii, Washington and the Great Lakes region – will help build resilience in regions vulnerable to climate change and related challenges. They will also showcase the benefits of landscape-scale management approaches and help enhance the carbon storage capacity of these natural areas. The selected lands and waters face a wide range of climate impacts and other ecological stressors related to climate change, including sea level rise, drought, wildfire, and invasive species. At each location, Federal agencies will work closely with state, tribal, and local partners to prepare for and prevent these and other threats, and ensure that long-term conservation efforts take climate change into account. Additionally, the initiative will focus on conserving coastal wetlands and marine conservation areas, protecting drinking water for urban areas, and providing habitat for wildlife. These collaborative efforts will include the use of existing tools to benefit the entire landscape as well as the development of new tools. For example, in the Great Lakes, partners are developing a coastal wetland prioritization tool that will help determine where restoration efforts are most needed. And in the He’eia watershed on the island of O’ahu, organizations are using NOAA’s Sea Level Rise Viewer to see maps of the potential impacts of sea level rise on the region.

…. “Climate change is impacting every corner of the nation – from the Everglades to the Arctic – which has ramifications for our natural and cultural heritage, public health and economic activity,” said Interior Secretary Sally Jewell. “Through increased collaboration, we can pool resources and bring the best available science to bear as we take a landscape-level approach to make these treasured lands and waters more resilient to the impacts of climate change.”

“Building climate resilience on a regional scale is essential for meeting environmental protection goals in the long-term,” said EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy. “Partnering with other Federal agencies in this initiative we will ensure that our latest research plays a central role in protecting our nation’s most precious natural resources and keeping our economy strong.”

The well-being of our families and our communities is closely tied to the health our landscapes and seascapes,” said Kathryn Sullivan, Ph.D., assistant secretary of commerce for oceans and atmosphere and NOAA administrator. “The lands and waters initiative will help our partners better understand the climate change risks and uncertainties in these geographies, and provide decision-makers with actionable information to make their environment, community and economy more resilient to these changes.” The Resilient Lands and Waters initiative is a key part of the Administration’s Climate and Natural Resources Priority Agenda, a first of its kind, comprehensive commitment across the Federal Government to support resilience of America’s vital natural resources. When President Obama launched his Climate Action Plan in 2013, he directed Federal agencies to identify and evaluate approaches to improve our natural defenses against extreme weather, protect biodiversity and conserve natural resources in the face of a changing climate. The Climate Action Plan also directs agencies to manage our public lands and natural systems to store more carbon.


Obama turns up heat on climate change debate in Florida

By Kevin Liptak, CNN White House Producer Updated 9:07 AM ET, Thu April 23, 2015

Everglades National Park, Florida (CNN) President Barack Obama ventured into the South Florida Everglades on Wednesday to lend urgency to his environmental agenda, declaring the dangers of climate change an imminent threat to the state’s economy. “We do not have time to deny the effects of climate change,” Obama said, standing in front of a sawgrass prairie on the eastern edge of the 1.5 million acre wetland. “This is not some impossible problem that we cannot solve,” he said. “We can solve it if we have some political will.”…The trip comes after a flurry of unilateral actions on climate change, which Obama began taking when legislative action on the issue appeared impossible. The White House hopes by issuing new rules on carbon pollution and greenhouse gases they can reinforce the President’s environmental legacy. On Wednesday, Obama underscored how rising sea levels — an effect of warmer temperatures — could wreak havoc on Florida’s multi-billion-dollar tourism economy. “Here in the Everglades you can see the effect of a changing planet,” he said, citing increased levels of seawater that can harm the fragile freshwater environment. ….It’s part of a strategy the White House has employed to make clear the direct ways climate change could impact Americans’ lives, including adverse health effects and declining property values.

“It’s clear the impacts of climate change aren’t just a challenge for future generations. We’re facing them here and now,” said Dan Utech, the deputy assistant to the President for Energy and Climate Change.

Rising seawater levels in the Everglades “threatens an $82 billion state tourism economy, and drinking water for more than 7 million Americans — more than a third of Florida’s population,” Obama’s top adviser on climate change, Brian Deese, wrote in an email to supporters this week. Florida, a state with hundreds of miles of coastline and a smattering of barrier islands, is particularly vulnerable to negative effects of a changing climate, scientists have said. Extreme weather threatens coastal cities, and rising sea levels could taint fresh water supplies. Some towns have already witnessed salt water infiltrating drinking water wells….


NOAA Proposing to De-list Humpback Whale

April 21, 2015 NOAA Fisheries is proposing to revise the listing of the humpback whale under the Endangered Species Act (ESA) based on an extensive status review. Of the 14 distinct population segments identified in the review, two are proposed for listing as threatened, two are proposed for listing as endangered, and 10 are not proposed to be listed under the ESA. Efforts to protect and conserve humpback whales over the last 40 years have been successful and have resulted in growth in most populations of humpback whales. Through our status review, we have determined that ten of the identified DPSs are no longer in danger of extinction (endangered) nor are they likely to become so in the foreseeable future (threatened). NOAA Fisheries is seeking public comments on this proposal in a Federal Register Notice that will publish on 4/21/2015. The public comment period will be open for 90-days until 7/20/2015. For more information, visit our website.


As US assumes Arctic Council chairmanship, new report emphasizes cooperation over conflict

Posted: 20 Apr 2015 09:30 AM PDT

Although the media often portray the Arctic as a new ‘Great Game’ ripe for conflict, a group of international Arctic experts has released recommendations aimed at preserving the polar north as an area for political and military cooperation, sustainable development and scientific research.

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A solar panel being installed at a home in Camarillo, Calif. The state aims to get 50 percent of its energy from renewable sources by 2030. Credit J. Emilio Flores for The New York Times

Batteries and Renewable Energy Set to Grow Together

Pomona, CA NY TIMES April 21, 2015 The future of American energy, according to one widely held view, will include solar panels and wind turbines continuing to proliferate, churning out ever more electricity and eventually eclipsing fossil fuels to help offset the forces of climate change. With the cost of renewable technologies falling sharply, that vision is starting to take shape, especially in areas with abundant sunshine or steady wind. Here in California, the state is making such quick progress toward its goal of getting 33 percent of its electricity from renewable sources by 2020 that Gov. Jerry Brown raised the ante earlier this year, setting a target of 50 percent by 2030. The shift sounds simple in theory — plug more solar and wind into the mix, and unplug more coal- or gas-burning power plants, sparing the world millions of tons of greenhouse gases. But the reality is more complex. Because of the variable nature of these renewable sources — no electricity is generated when the sun goes down or the air is still — they add strains to the system of transmitting and distributing power. Batteries have long been seen as one of the main ways to work more renewables into the electrical grid, by storing electricity during times of excess generation and releasing it when needed. Now, spurred by mandates in California and other states to deploy storage, by the rise of rooftop solar systems, and by falling prices as Tesla Motors and other companies make plans to produce vast numbers of lithium-ion cells, batteries are set to play a significant part in the nation’s power supply. “We can see the role of batteries playing out in different locations around the grid,” said Ravi Manghani, an analyst with GTM Media and author of a recent forecast for the energy storage industry over the next five years. “We expect that every year, we’re going to see on average 100 to 250 percent growth,” he added. “And most of that will be in batteries.”…


Photo by Ideum – ideas + media, on Flickr The Deepwater Horizon offshore drilling platform on fire following the explosion of the Macondo oil well. The federal government estimates that 4.9 million barrels of oil spilled into the Gulf of Mexico before the well was capped.

Five years after the BP/Deepwater Horizon disaster, oil spills are on the rise.

April 19, 2015 Earth Island

Offshore and onshore, oil and gas operations and transportation appear no safer than before. Five years after the BP Deepwater Horizon blowout in the Gulf of Mexico sparked national outrage, oil spills remain a routine occurrence across the United States. Yet many receive little — if any — national attention. The enormity and unprecedented scale of the BP disaster demanded a federal emergency response and captured daily headlines for months. But oil spills and pipeline ruptures occur daily – as they have nearly every day since the Deepwater Horizon exploded on April 20, 2010. While many are relatively small in comparison, they still pose threats to public safety, health, and the environment…. No record of spills from onshore oil and gas operations is maintained by any single federal agency. The Bureau of Land Management requires reporting of “undesirable events” — that is, spills — from oil and gas operations on federal and tribal lands. But these reports are sent to field offices and not readily accessible. Other onshore spill records are maintained by individual states. E&E’s EnergyWire noted last year that while there was a 17 percent increase in incidents between 2013 and 2014, these records are considered “an undercount” and not all states make this data available. In the top 15 oil and gas producing states, EnergyWire tallied at least 7,662 spills or other releases in 2013, up from 6,546 in 2012. That brings the 2013 total to about 20 such incidents per day that, combined, released some 26 million gallons of oil and related fluids. When it comes to pipeline ruptures and spills, the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration does maintain a list of incidents. But the database does not work with all web-browsers, so details on these incidents — including cause and any information about volume and type of fuel spilled — is not readily accessible. Between 2010 and 2014, however, the PHMSA lists 3,072 incidents involving gas or other hazardous liquids. So far in 2015, the agency lists 189 such pipeline incidents. According to the PHMSA, altogether — from 2010 through 2015 — these incidents caused 81 deaths, 378 injuries and more than $2.8 billion in property damage


Let it snow: Intricacies of marine snow formation in the Gulf of Mexico following the Deepwater Horizon oil spill

Posted: 20 Apr 2015 10:07 AM PDT

Before Deepwater Horizon, scientists didn’t know that oil and marine snow had anything to do with each other. “Marine snow is like dust bunnies in the house,” explained a research scientist who has studied the phenomenon for a long time. “All the gunk and little pieces in the ocean stick together, and underwater it looks like a snow-storm. The little particles aren’t heavy enough to sink, but marine snow is big enough to sink very fast, 100 meters or more per day. It’s the only way in which material that grows on the surface, where there is light, goes to depth.



Soy: It’s good for eating, baking — and cleaning up crude oil spills

Posted: 22 Apr 2015 09:19 AM PDT

If you’ve studied ingredient labels on food packaging, you’ve probably noticed that soy lecithin is in a lot of products, ranging from buttery spreads to chocolate cake. Scientists have now found a potential new role for this all-purpose substance: dispersing crude oil spills. Their study could lead to a less toxic way to clean up these environmental messes.


Likely cause of 2013-14 earthquakes: Combination of gas field fluid injection and removal

Posted: 21 Apr 2015 10:20 AM PDT

A seismology team finds that high volumes of wastewater injection combined with saltwater (brine) extraction from natural gas wells is the most likely cause of earthquakes near Azle, Texas, from late 2013 through spring 2014. The team identified two intersecting faults and developed a sophisticated 3-D model to assess changing fluid pressure within a rock formation, and the stress changes induced by both wastewater injection and gas production wells.


UC Berkeley energy study proposes carbon-negative western North American energy grid

By Anna Sturla | Staff Daily Californian Tuesday, April 21, 2015

A new energy system that harvests energy from urban and agricultural waste and then stores carbon dioxide emissions underground could help California’s electric grid become carbon-negative in the future, according to a recent study by UC Berkeley researchers. The proposed system would use carbon capture and sequestration, which involves capturing carbon-dioxide emissions from electric power plants, converting them into high-pressure form and storing the substance underground “for several millennia,” according to study leader Daniel Sanchez, a graduate student with UC Berkeley’s Energy and Resources Group. The study, run out of UC Berkeley’s Renewable and Appropriate Energy Laboratory, is designed in direct response to climate change. Combined with carbon-neutral sources of energy, such as wind and solar, the plan could help California exceed its goal of reducing carbon emissions by 80 percent by 2050. “The big benefit is that we can (achieve negative carbon emissions),” said campus professor Daniel Kammen, who worked on the study. “(Wind and solar) can go to zero, but they can’t go negative.”… The system would use sustainable energy gained from biomass, a term that includes urban and agricultural waste such as wood from construction sites, corn stalks left in fields and trees thinned from California’s forests, according to the study. These sustainable fuels — combined with putting carbon dioxide underground, using wind and solar energy and reducing fossil fuels — would create up to a “145 percent emissions reduction from 1990 levels,” according to the study, turning the western Northern American power grid carbon-negative….

Finding easier ways to charge electric vehicles
April 23, 2015 NY Times

With high numbers of apartment dwellers, New York, along with other cities, represents the promise and challenge of the untapped market for electric vehicles. …”Manhattan is so dense and vertical that traditional approaches to charging don’t work,” said John Shipman, who runs electric vehicle programs at Con Edison, the city’s main utility. Ms. Spitalnick also pointed to a new city law that requires 20 percent of new off-street parking to be built “Charger-ready.” Mayor Bill de Blasio’s administration, she said, “Has been aggressively increasing the city government’s use of electric vehicles, while continuing to partner with the private sector to expand charging infrastructure for private vehicles.” Hevo Power’s green loading zone would allow electric vehicles to charge and trucks to run their refrigeration units off available electric power.…








San Francisco Bay restoration is highlighted in the US Climate Resilience Toolkit focusing on Point Blue‘s web tool and work with Sonoma Land Trust for projecting the future of Bay tidal marshes.


Northwest Climate Science Center Announces Climate Boot Camp 2015 
The NW CSC is pleased to announce its 2015 Climate Boot Camp, to be held in Pack Forest, WA, Aug. 16-21. This annual retreat is designed to support and train graduate students and early career professionals to work at the interface of scientific research on climate and resource management decision-making. Participants included NW CSC Graduate Fellows, Graduate Fellows from other CSCs, and early career professionals working with northwest Tribes, NGOs, and state and federal resource management agencies.
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Science for Parks, Parks for Science – Now Online!

Summit Now Online Thanks to the National Park Service, we were able to livestream the opening ceremony, the keynote by E.O. Wilson and all the plenary lectures. The livestream of E.O. Wilson’s keynote “Saving half the world for the rest of life” was the most watched livestream in the history of UC Berkeley! You can now view all these recordings here. …Our recent conference “Science for Parks, Parks for Science: The Next Century” was a great success. We welcomed over 530 participants from as far away as Israel, Australia, Mexico and Canada. Our youngest participants were 5 week old “Flora” and 10 week old “Bodie” – who rely on good results from our conversations about science for parks, parks for science: the next century.




Human-Climate Interactions and Evolution: Past and Future Friday, May 15, 2015, from 1:005:30 pm at the Salk Institute, Conrad T. Prebys Auditorium.  

You must Login or Create An Account in order to register for events on this site.

Speakers listed below.  Our early ancestors evolved on a drying, cooling, and highly variable planet, which has led to competing ideas as to how climate may have shaped human evolution. Equally compelling is the question of how and when humans began to affect their surroundings to such an extent as to become a force of climate change, with disruptions affecting the globe today. According to earth scientists, paleontologists, and scholars in other fields, the planet has entered a new geological phase – the Anthropocene, the age of humans. How did this transition of our species from an apelike ancestor in Africa to the current planetary force occur?  What are the prospects for the future of world climate, ecosystems, and our species?  This symposium presents varied perspectives on these critical questions from earth scientists, ecologists, and paleoanthropologists. Admission is free and open to the public; however, registration is required.  To register, go to:
LIVE WEBCAST Note that the entire symposium will once again be viewable online via a live webcast.   A link to the live webcast will be posted on the event page on the day of the event.  You will need to log in to your CARTA account in order to access the live webcast.  If you have any questions about this event, feel free to send e-mail to




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


2015 Bay Area Open space Conference May 14, 2015
The 2015 Open Space Conference will focus on innovation, attempts, and lessons learned across the broad field of land conservation. Join 500+ Bay Area leaders in conservation, parks and recreation, and resource management – as well as leaders in health, business, and policy – to learn how we can try, learn and repeat individually and collectively. The conference is on May 14 at the Craneway Pavilion in Richmond, next to the Rosie the Riveter Museum, and on the Bay Trail. Registration is here.



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:


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.



21-26 February 2016 New Orleans

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.




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.


President & CEO of NatureBridge

Do you know a leader who is passionate about connecting kids to nature? I am conducting a search for the next President & CEO of NatureBridge, a leading environmental education nonprofit headquartered in San Francisco. We are seeking a skilled senior-level executive with a deep commitment to the preservation of the natural world.   NatureBridge believes environmental education should be part of every child’s experience. Over 40 years, the organization has helped over 1 million kids connect with nature. Approximately 30,000 students participate in their residential field environmental programs each year in Yosemite National Park, Golden Gate National Recreation Area, Olympic National Park, Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area, Channel Islands National Park, and at their newest site in Prince William Forest Park in Virginia. NatureBridge is in the process of transforming into a truly national organization, and becoming more integrated across multiple program sites. The organization is reorienting from a loose federation of local campuses to a single national educational institution that is focused on engaging and empowering young people so that they can grow into environmentally literate citizens who support a sustainable future. Successful candidates will have a breadth of successful general management and leadership experiences in the nonprofit, public and/or private sector, and experience moving a complex organization from ambitious vision to successful execution. Strong external relations skills and a deep connection to the mission are also required. To learn more about this opportunity or to apply, please see the full opportunity announcement on our website.










World Happiness Report 2015 ranks happiest countries

Posted: 23 Apr 2015 10:03 AM PDT

Since it was first published in 2012, the World Happiness Report demonstrated that well-being and happiness are critical indicators of a nation’s economic and social development, and should be a key aim of policy. This year’s report looks at the changes in happiness levels in 158 countries, and examines the reasons behind the statistics…. The aspiration of society is the flourishing of its members,” said Jeffrey Sachs, Director of the Earth Institute, Columbia University. “This report gives evidence on how to achieve societal well-being. It’s not by money alone, but also by fairness, honesty, trust, and good health. The evidence here will be useful to all countries as they pursue the new Sustainable Development Goals.”….The first World Happiness Report, released in 2012 ahead of the UN high-level meeting on Happiness and Well-being, drew international attention as a landmark first survey of the state of global happiness. This latest report digs even deeper into the data looking at country trends since the first report, regional indicators, factors in gender and age, and the importance of investing in social capital.
The report identifies the countries with the highest levels of happiness:

  1. Switzerland
  2. Iceland
  3. Denmark
  4. Norway
  5. Canada


Just two weeks of drinking sugary drinks boost risk factors for heart disease, study suggests

Posted: 22 Apr 2015 11:25 AM PDT

Beverages sweetened with low, medium and high amounts of high-fructose corn syrup significantly increase risk factors for cardiovascular disease, even when consumed for just two weeks by young, healthy men and women. Consumption of sugary drinks increases risk factors for cardiovascular disease in a dose-dependent manner — the more you drink, the greater the risk. The study is the first to demonstrate such a direct, dose-dependent relationship….




Oral milk thistle extract stops colorectal cancer stem cells from growing tumors

Posted: 20 Apr 2015 11:43 AM PDT

A new study shows that orally administering the chemical silibinin, purified from milk thistle, slows the ability of colorectal cancer stem cells to grow the disease. When stem cells from tumors grown in silibinin-fed conditions were re-injected into new models, the cells failed to develop equally aggressive tumors even in the absence of silibinin.








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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