Conservation Science News Sept 4, 2015



Focus of the WeekPlastic in 99% of Seabirds by 2050










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Focus of the Week– Plastic in 99% of Seabirds by 2050
















August 31, 2015 CSIRO

Researchers from CSIRO and Imperial College London have assessed how widespread the threat of plastic is for the world’s seabirds, including albatrosses, shearwaters and penguins, and found the majority of seabird species have plastic in their gut. The study, led by Dr Chris Wilcox with co-authors Dr Denise Hardesty and Dr Erik van Sebille and published today in the journal PNAS, found that nearly 60 per cent of all seabird species have plastic in their gut. Based on analysis of published studies since the early 1960s, the researchers found that plastic is increasingly common in seabird’s stomachs. In 1960, plastic was found in the stomach of less than 5 per cent of individual seabirds, rising to 80 per cent by 2010. The researchers predict that plastic ingestion will affect 99 per cent of the world’s seabird species by 2050, based on current trends. The scientists estimate that 90 per cent of all seabirds alive today have eaten plastic of some kind. This includes bags, bottle caps, and plastic fibres from synthetic clothes, which have washed out into the ocean from urban rivers, sewers and waste deposits. Birds mistake the brightly coloured items for food, or swallow them by accident, and this causes gut impaction, weight loss and sometimes even death. “For the first time, we have a global prediction of how wide-reaching plastic impacts may be on marine species – and the results are striking,” senior research scientist at CSIRO Oceans and Atmosphere Dr Wilcox said. “We predict, using historical observations, that 90 per cent of individual seabirds have eaten plastic. This is a huge amount and really points to the ubiquity of plastic pollution.” Dr Denise Hardesty from CSIRO Oceans and Atmosphere said seabirds were excellent indicators of ecosystem health. “Finding such widespread estimates of plastic in seabirds is borne out by some of the fieldwork we’ve carried out where I’ve found nearly 200 pieces of plastic in a single seabird,”
Dr Hardesty said….Even simple measures can make a difference, such as reducing packaging, banning single-use plastic items or charging an extra fee to use them, and introducing deposits for recyclable items like drink containers. “Efforts to reduce plastics losses into the environment in Europe resulted in measureable changes in plastic in seabird stomachs with less than a decade, which suggests that improvements in basic waste management can reduce plastic in the environment in a really short time.” Chief Scientist at the US-based Ocean Conservancy Dr George H. Leonard said the study was highly important and demonstrated how pervasive plastics were in oceans. “Hundreds of thousands of volunteers around the world come face-to-face with this problem during annual Coastal Cleanup events,” Dr Leonard said. “Scientists, the private sector and global citizens working together against the growing onslaught of plastic pollution can reduce plastic inputs to help protect marine biodiversity.” The work was carried out as part of a national marine debris project supported by CSIRO and Shell’s Social investment program as well as the marine debris working group at the National Center for Ecological Analysis and Synthesis, University of California, Santa Barbara, with support from Ocean Conservancy


Threat of plastic pollution to seabirds is global, pervasive, and increasing

Chris Wilcoxa,1, Erik Van Sebilleb,c, and Britta Denise Hardestya
PNAS doi: 10.1073/pnas.1502108112

Plastic pollution in the ocean is a rapidly emerging global environmental concern, with high concentrations (up to 580,000 pieces per km2) and a global distribution, driven by exponentially increasing production. Seabirds are particularly vulnerable to this type of pollution and are widely observed to ingest floating plastic. We used a mixture of literature surveys, oceanographic modeling, and ecological models to predict the risk of plastic ingestion to 186 seabird species globally. Impacts are greatest at the southern boundary of the Indian, Pacific, and Atlantic Oceans, a region thought to be relatively pristine. Although evidence of population level impacts from plastic pollution is still emerging, our results suggest that this threat is geographically widespread, pervasive, and rapidly increasing.







Wind turbines  at the Sacramento Municipal Utility District’s 102-megawatt wind farm in Rio Vista, Calif., on March 10, 2010. Wildlife experts have raised concerns about  birds being killed in collisions with wind turbines. (Ken James/Bloomberg)

The surprising way that birds and wind turbines can coexist

By Joby Warrick August 31 at 12:09 PM Wash Post

It has long been the tarnish on one of the cleanest forms of energy: Wind turbines, a rapidly growing source of electricity around the world, can be deadly to birds, including rare and threatened species. At a single wind farm near Altamont, Calif., more than 75 golden eagles die each year from collisions with the farm’s thousands of spinning blades. Now, a study offers new hope for reducing the number of bird deaths. A paper by researchers from Colorado and Ontario says avian mortality can be sharply reduced through better decisions about where future wind farms are built. The study examines the potential for peaceful co-existence between large raptors and rotors across Wyoming, a state with large numbers of eagles and a vast potential for wind-generated electricity. In the article, researchers Brad Fedy and Jason Tack compile data for hundreds of known eagle nesting sites and plots it against some of Wyoming’s most promising regions for wind farms. The exercise successfully identified “sweet spots,” places far removed from nesting grounds but directly in the path of prevailing winds that can keep turbines turning……


Jason D. Tack and Bradley C. Fedy,
Landscapes for Energy and Wildlife: Conservation Prioritization for Golden Eagles across Large Spatial Scales
Published: August 11, 2015 PLOS One DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0134781



As wind-turbine farms expand, research shows they could offer diminishing returns

Posted: 31 Aug 2015 09:37 AM PDT

A slowdown effect triggered by wind turbines is substantial for large wind farms and results in proportionally less renewable energy generated for each turbine versus the energy that would be generated from an isolated wind turbine, scientists report.


The Tibetan Plateau in China was chosen as a study site for its extensive variation in climate. Credit: Xin Jing, Peking University

Biodiversity belowground is just as important as aboveground

Posted: 02 Sep 2015 05:29 AM PDT

Although most of the world’s biodiversity is below ground, surprisingly little is known about how it affects ecosystems or how it will be affected by climate change. A new study demonstrates that soil bacteria and the richness of animal species belowground play a key role in regulating a whole suite of ecosystem functions on Earth. The authors call for far more attention to this overlooked world of worms, bugs and bacteria in the soil. Ecosystem functions such as carbon storage and the availability of nutrients are linked to the bugs, bacteria and other microscopic organisms that occur in the soil. In fact, as much as 32% of the variation seen in ecosystem functions can be explained by the biodiversity in the soil. In comparison, plant biodiversity accounts for 42%. That is the conclusions of a new study published in Nature Communications led by Peking University and the Center for Macroecology, Evolution and Climate at the University of Copenhagen. “Biodiversity below ground is neither very visible nor very cute, but pick up a handful of soil and you might find more species there than all of the vertebrates on the planet. We need to turn our attention towards these organisms, if we are to better understand the ecosystems we depend on for a range of functions,” says co-author Aimée Classen from the Center for Macroecology, Evolution and Climate.

The study is unique in relating soil biodiversity to a whole suite of ecosystem functions rather than focusing on a few. These were combined in an index called ecosystem multifunctionality (EMF). “Ecosystems have multiple functions which are all important. They store carbon in soil and biomass which has massive implications for climate change, but they also hold back and release various nutrients which have effects on natural areas as well as agricultural yield. Therefore, we need to be concerned with the multiple functions of ecosystems, what controls them and how this might change with climate change,” says Dr. Xin Jing from Peking University.

The study was carried out at 60 different sites of alpine grassland on the Tibetan Plateau in China which was chosen for its extensive variation in climate across sites. Even though rainfall, temperature and pH varied from place to place, the soil biodiversity always influenced ecosystem multifunctionality. “The results suggest that the same pattern is likely to be found in other ecosystems around the world. However, our study also shows that the effect of soil biodiversity on ecosystem functions may be greater in areas with higher precipitation. That is important because scientific studies often focus on temperature — not precipitation — when predicting how ecosystems will respond to future changes such as climate change,” says Associate Professor Aimée Classen.


Xin Jing, Nathan J. Sanders, Yu Shi, Haiyan Chu, Aimée T. Classen, Ke Zhao, Litong Chen, Yue Shi, Youxu Jiang, Jin-Sheng He. The links between ecosystem multifunctionality and above- and belowground biodiversity are mediated by climate. Nature Communications, 2015; 6: 8159 DOI: 10.1038/NCOMMS9159

Could more intensive farming practices benefit tropical birds?

Posted: 03 Sep 2015 10:14 AM PDT

Does it help when farms share the land with birds and other animals? The short answer is ‘no,’ based on the diversity of bird species. If the goal is to preserve more bird species, representing a greater span of evolutionary history, then it’s better to farm more intensively in some areas while leaving more blocks of land entirely alone. In other words, land-sparing wins out over land-sharing, experts say…. Edwards’s team concludes that “land-sharing policies that promote the integration of small-scale wildlife-friendly habitats might be of limited benefit without the simultaneous protection of larger blocks of natural habitat, which is most likely to be achieved via land-sparing measures.” There’s plenty of work to do in order to simultaneously protect natural habitats and boost farm yields. Sustainability initiatives for oil palm, soy, and other crops now take a land-sharing approach by requiring the protection of biodiversity within tropical farmland. “My feeling is that land-sparing-type approaches–such as biodiversity offsets, which can protect larger tracts of natural habitat–are gaining traction, but there is a long way to go for expansion of such policies writ large,” Edwards says.


Edwards and Gilroy et al. Land-Sparing Agriculture Best Protects Avian Phylogenetic Diversity. Current Biology, September 2015 DOI: 10.1016/j.cub.2015.07.063

When they started looking at the relation between predators and prey in a range of ecosystems around the world, McGill researchers discovered a predator-prey power law that seems to be consistent across a range of ecosystems. Credit: Amoury Laporte

Ecologists wondering where the lions, and other top predators, are

Posted: 03 Sep 2015 11:20 AM PDT

Ecologists have discovered a pattern that is consistent across a range of ecosystems. They found that, in a very systematic way, in crowded settings, prey reproduced less than they do in settings where their numbers are smaller. Some scientists are already suggesting that it may well be the discovery of a new law of nature…. What the researchers also found intriguing was that the growth patterns they saw across whole ecosystems, where large numbers of prey seemed naturally to reproduce less, were very similar to the patterns of growth in individuals. “Physiologists have long known that the speed of growth declines with size,” said co-author Jonathan Davies from McGill’s Dept. of Biology. “The cells in an elephant grow more than 100 times more slowly than those of a mouse.” “The discovery of ecosystem-level scaling laws is particularly exciting,” adds co-author Michel Loreau, adjunct professor in McGill’s Biology Dept. and currently at the Centre national de recherché scientifique (CNRS) in France. “Their most intriguing aspect is that they recur across levels of organization, from individuals to ecosystems, and yet ecosystem-level scaling laws cannot be explained by their individual-level counterparts. It seems that some basic processes reemerge across levels of organization, but we do not yet fully understand which ones and why.”


I. A. Hatton, K. S. McCann, J. M. Fryxell, T. J. Davies, M. Smerlak, A. R. E. Sinclair, M. Loreau. The predator-prey power law: Biomass scaling across terrestrial and aquatic biomes. Science, 2015; 349 (6252): aac6284 DOI: 10.1126/science.aac6284



Evidence that Earth’s first mass extinction was caused by critters not catastrophe

Posted: 02 Sep 2015 09:34 AM PDT

The Earth’s first mass extinction event 540 million years ago was caused not by a meteorite impact or volcanic super-eruption but by the rise of early animals that dramatically changed the prehistoric environment.In the popular mind, mass extinctions are associated with catastrophic events, like giant meteorite impacts and volcanic super-eruptions. But the world’s first known mass extinction, which took place about 540 million years ago, now appears to have had a more subtle cause: evolution itself. “People have been slow to recognize that biological organisms can also drive mass extinction,” said Simon Darroch, assistant professor of earth and environmental sciences at Vanderbilt University. “But our comparative study of several communities of Ediacarans, the world’s first multicellular organisms, strongly supports the hypothesis that it was the appearance of complex animals capable of altering their environments, which we define as ‘ecosystem engineers,’ that resulted in the Ediacaran’s disappearance.” The study is described in the paper “Biotic replacement and mass extinction of the Ediacara biota” published Sept. 2 in the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B. “There is a powerful analogy between the Earth’s first mass extinction and what is happening today,” Darroch observed. “The end-Ediacaran extinction shows that the evolution of new behaviors can fundamentally change the entire planet, and we are the most powerful ‘ecosystem engineers’ ever known.”…



Large parks key to city success, research shows

Posted: 01 Sep 2015 06:55 AM PDT

Cities should feature compact development alongside large, contiguous green spaces to maximize benefits of urban ecosystems to humans, research has concluded….


California condors have enormous wingspans. That’s fine in the wilderness, but when a bird of this size encounters a power line, the results can be fatal. The San Diego Zoo Safari Park has a program to help train birds to avoid the hazard. Jon Myatt/U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service/Flickr

Small Shocks Help Enormous Birds Learn To Avoid Power Lines

August 30, 2015 5:34 PM ET NPR Staff

The California condor is big. In fact, it’s the largest flying bird in North America with a wingspan of 9 1/2 feet. Michael Mace, curator of birds for the San Diego Zoo Safari Park, tells NPR’s Arun Rath that the condor “is like the 747 compared to a Cessna if you look at it proportionally with other species like eagles and turkey vultures.” Mace works in a condor power line aversion training program at the zoo. It was developed to address the condors’ unfortunate run-ins with power lines.

“When they’re flying, there’s no reason to look forward because they’re scanning the earth looking for carrion,” Mace explains. Because the birds have no reason to look forward, they fly into power lines and risk electrocution. On top of that, when the condors are looking for a place to sleep, they land on power poles and structures, and get electrocuted there too. Their large size makes them more vulnerable to electrocution than smaller birds, because they’re more likely to touch two lines at once. (Touching just one wire is safe, which is why many birds land on power lines without consequence). And each death is worrying. The California condor was on the brink of extinction just a few decades ago, and today there are still fewer than 500 in the world, Mace say. He and his colleagues at the zoo are trying to use aversion training to undo years of evolution that told the birds not to be worried about things like power lines.

“When we started to realize what was occurring, we wanted to look at a way that we could modify their behavior,” Mace explains. Working with local utility companies, they installed power poles inside the condors’ enclosures. “We wired those poles to deliver a very mild electric charge — nothing harmful — but something that a bird would realize that it was not a comfortable place to be,” Mace says. This aversion training isn’t meant to go on indefinitely, though. Eventually, the condors in the program will start to produce their own offspring. As parents, these condors will teach their chicks how to survive in the wild — including avoiding the power structures. “What we’re seeing is the chicks follow the parents’ lead and don’t do it either,” Mace says. The next generation of power line-averse birds is almost ready to graduate into the real world: Mace says the San Diego Zoo Safari Park will send three birds who have undergone the aversion program to field sites in California and Arizona for release in September.


Seeing the forest and the trees, all three trillion of them

Posted: 02 Sep 2015 10:49 AM PDT

A new international study estimates that there are more than 3 trillion trees on Earth, about seven and a half times more than some previous estimates. But the total number of trees has plummeted by roughly 46 percent since the start of human civilization. The results provide the most comprehensive assessment of tree populations ever produced and offer new insights into a class of organism that helps shape most terrestrial biomes….


This image shows a saltmarsh sparrow. Credit: Katrina Papanastassiou/UNH

Species lines blur between two sparrows in New England’s tidal marshes

Posted: 31 Aug 2015 11:02 AM PDT

Among birds, the line between species is often blurry. Some closely related species interbreed where their ranges overlap, producing hybrid offspring. In the coastal marshes of New England, this has been happening between the Saltmarsh Sparrow and Nelson’s Sparrow. Research finds that appearance alone is not enough to identify these hybrid zone birds.


Jennifer Walsh, W. Gregory Shriver, Brian J. Olsen, Kathleen M. O’Brien, Adrienne I. Kovach. Relationship of phenotypic variation and genetic admixture in the Saltmarsh–Nelson’s sparrow hybrid zone. The Auk, 2015; 132 (3): 704 DOI: 10.1642/AUK-14-299.1



Every winter, Common Loons like this one are unable to fly while they molt their feathers. Credit: D. Long

Loons return faithfully to the same wintering sites year after year

Posted: 02 Sep 2015 04:13 PM PDT

Common Loons nest on lakes across Canada and the northern US, but every winter they disperse, many to the open ocean where they’re difficult to track. It’s been well established that many loons return to the same nesting sites every spring, but new research shows for the first time that they are similarly faithful to their wintering sites.


Endangered animals can be identified by rate of genetic diversity loss

Posted: 31 Aug 2015 11:02 AM PDT

A new study presents a novel approach for identifying vertebrate populations at risk of extinction by estimating the rate of genetic diversity loss, a measurement that could help researchers and conservationists better identify and rank species that are threatened or endangered.


White-tailed eagles avoid large bullet fragments during consumption of carcasses

Posted: 31 Aug 2015 05:56 AM PDT

White-tailed eagles detect and avoid the ingestion of large metal particles (larger than 8 mm) but ignore smaller metal particles whilst feeding on shot mammalian carcasses. Lead-based bullets split into numerous small metal fragments when penetrating an animal’s body, whereas lead-free rifle bullets either deform without leaving any particles in the tissue or fragment into larger particles. Thus, the use of lead-free bullets may prevent lead poisoning of scavengers, say authors of a new study.



A rendering of the proposed wildlife overpass above the 101 Freeway near Liberty Canyon Road in Agoura Hills. (Resource Conservation District)

Caltrans proposes wildlife overpass for 101 Freeway

Los Angeles Times | September 2, 2015 | 6:01 PM

Mountain lions, bobcats and other wildlife would have less chance of becoming roadkill if the state adopts a plan to build a landscaped bridge over the 101 Freeway in Agoura Hills, supporters of the proposal said today….









Hairy Woodpecker. Photo: Ken Etzel/Point Blue

Climate: Can We Learn to Handle the Heat of Forest Fires?

With climate change turning up the temperature and the state in a four-year drought, wildfires are scorching California like never before.

But some science suggests a new approach—let it burn.  

By Jane Braxton Little September-October 2015 Audubon magazine

At 3 p.m. on August 17, 2013, a hunter’s illegal campfire crept out of control near Yosemite National Park. The fire spread through dry underbrush along Jawbone Ridge, licking up the trunks of ponderosa pines, searing and scorching until entire treetops burst into flames, flinging sparks and glowing needles skyward. On August 21 the fire, now known as Rim, went on a rampage, exploding over rocks and leaping the Tuolumne River, torching stands of centuries-old pines and plantations of young trees in a red-hot rage that blackened more than 125 square miles in just two days. By the time it was finally extinguished on October 25, the Rim fire had consumed 402 square miles of forest, an area 11 times the size of Manhattan.

Eight months later Ryan Burnett surveyed the scene from a crest overlooking the Tuolumne watershed. Ridgetop after ridgetop was covered with dead trees, some with needles scorched rust from the heat, others singed bare. Not a single green tree stood in the vast and bleak vista. And yet, a green patch of miner’s lettuce crept up a hillside; scarlet paintbrush poked out of the ashy gray dirt; a Lazuli Bunting zipped among the dead mountain mahogany; an American Kestrel hovered over burnt and brittle treetops—all astonishing, spectacular proof that fire creates even as it destroys.

Scientists have long known that fire is a primary force in shaping ecosystems. But because of its destructive power—incinerating homes, habitat, and valuable timber—frightened lawmakers and land managers have driven a campaign designed to control fire at all costs. Thus, for more than a century, fires were suppressed in California’s Sierra Nevada and throughout the West. And while this reduced historic levels of smoke and burned acreage, it left forest ecosystems critically out of balance. Without the cleansing fires that reduce ground fuels and kill some vegetation, many forests grew thick with trees and overcrowded with brush, a tinderbox that only made the landscape more vulnerable.

In those conditions, fire, naturally, has reasserted itself, and the number of wildfires in the West has grown by an average of about seven per year since the mid-1980s. At the same time, forests are burning both earlier and later in the season and with much greater severity than 100 years ago, a U.S. Forest Service study found. And a changing climate is predicted to bring further increases in the incidence of wildfire, say California experts. Temperatures in the Sierra are expected to rise an estimated 10 degrees Fahrenheit over the next century and the snowpack to melt almost a month earlier. That is, if there is snowpack. Last winter the Sierra was virtually snowless, dramatically compounding the effects of the state’s fourth year of drought. Researchers predict a combination of higher temperatures, increased evaporation, and reduced precipitation that could, in 70 years, more than double burned areas in California.

Haunted by this steady escalation of western wildfires, scientists and land managers say the need to better understand how fire affects the landscape is becoming increasingly dire. Burnett, Sierra Nevada director of Point Blue Conservation Science, a nonprofit organization based in Petaluma, California, is trying to answer some of the questions. He is leading a research team into the post-fire “nuke zone,” looking at birds and species diversity for clues that can help inform better forest management. “More and more, the past is becoming irrelevant as we advance to the no-analog future climate,” he says. What his team and others are finding calls for a radically different approach to managing forests, before and after they burn.

Using this auditory repertoire of several hundred calls, Ryan Burnett monitors birds in five-minute point counts to assess the long-term health of habitat. The Black-backed Woodpecker’s call is a sharp, distinct check. Photo: Ken Etzel

A week prior to visiting the site of the Rim fire, Burnett, 41, was slogging through grimy soot 300 miles to the north. Lean and lanky, with an athleticism that made him a high school baseball standout, he loped up a hillside near Humbug Summit at the northern end of the Sierra just south of Lassen Volcanic National Park. The 2012 Chips fire, named for a tributary to the Feather River where it started, burned across 119 square miles of pine and fir forest in the Lassen and Plumas national forests. Now, 18 months later, the soil was soft and pliant under a light cover of pine needles….

….Burnett halted at the sharp metallic chek of a Black-backed. Scanning the trees with binoculars, he found the bird a mere 10 feet away, clinging to the side of a charred fir and all but camouflaged by its soot-colored back. The giveaway was a luminous yellow cap—the male Black-backed’sonly pawn in courtship. After sounding one more alarm, the bird returned to its drilling.

In silent concentration, Burnett monitored the stand for other birds. For all its look of devastation, this stand of trees was bustling with activity. Within an hour Burnett had documented eight woodpecker nests of four different species: White-headed Woodpecker, Hairy Woodpecker, Northern Flicker, and Black-backed. “This is like nest central in here,” he said, picking up his pace in a mild woodpecker euphoria. “It’s basically a big party. Anyone who can probe is here.” As were non-probers, too: Olive-sided Flycatchers, Chipping Sparrows, and Mountain Bluebirds. By the end of his two-hour count, Burnett had documented more than 30 different bird species, pronouncing it “the best transect I’ve ever had!”….




CREDIT: Shutterstock

New Study Shows How Climate Change Is Already Reshaping The Earth

by Joe Romm Sep 3, 2015 8:00am

A landmark study in the journal Nature documents an expansion of the world’s dry and semi-arid climate regions since 1950 — and attributes it to human-caused global warming. This expansion of the world’s dry zones is a basic prediction of climate science. The fact it is so broadly observable now means we must take seriously the current projections of widespread global Dust-Bowlification in the coming decades on our current CO2 emissions pathway — including the U.S.’s own breadbasket. The new study, “Significant anthropogenic-induced changes of climate classes since 1950,” looks at multiple datasets of monthly temperature and precipitation over time. The main finding:

About 5.7% of the global total land area has shifted toward warmer and drier climate types from 1950–2010, and significant changes include expansion of arid and high-latitude continental climate zones, shrinkage in polar and midlatitude continental climates…. As for the cause, “we find that these changes of climate types since 1950 cannot be explained as natural variations but are driven by anthropogenic factors.”In short, humans are causing the world’s arid and semi-arid climate zones to expand into the highly populated mid-latitude continental climates (where, for instance, most Americans live) — and causing the high-latitude climates to expand into the polar zones. Of course, the polar zones are precisely where the carbon-rich frozen tundra is and the land-locked ice of the world’s biggest ice sheets and glaciers. These are stunning changes when you consider the fact that the world has only warmed about 1°F since 1950, and we are on track to warm 5 times that much (or more) this century alone. Multiple climate studies project continued climate inaction will put some one-third of the currently-habited and arable landmass of the planet into a state of near permanent drought post-2050. This new study finds that we are well on our way…. In particular, the researchers found that “rising temperature and decreasing precipitation are about equally important in causing the expansion of semiarid climate in Asia and western North America, while the contribution of decreasing precipitation to the increasing semiarid climate is much larger than that of temperature over North Africa, South Africa and South America.” The only one way to prevent the irreversible Dust-Bowlification of large parts of the land is to keep total warming as low as possible.




Climate change will irreversibly force key ocean bacteria into overdrive

Posted: 01 Sep 2015 11:02 AM PDT

The levels of ocean acidification predicted for the year 2100 have been shown to cause an irreversible evolutionary change to a bacteria foundational to the ocean’s food web. Imagine being in a car with the gas pedal stuck to the floor, heading toward a cliff’s edge. Metaphorically speaking, that’s what climate change will do to the key group of ocean bacteria known as Trichodesmium, scientists have discovered. Trichodesmium (called “Tricho” for short by researchers) is one of the few organisms in the ocean that can “fix” atmospheric nitrogen gas, making it available to other organisms. It is crucial because all life — from algae to whales — needs nitrogen to grow. A new study from USC and the Massachusetts-based Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI) shows that changing conditions due to climate change could send Tricho into overdrive with no way to stop — reproducing faster and generating lots more nitrogen. Without the ability to slow down, however, Tricho has the potential to gobble up all its available resources, which could trigger die-offs of the microorganism and the higher organisms that depend on it. By breeding hundreds of generations of the bacteria over the course of nearly five years in high-carbon dioxide ocean conditions predicted for the year 2100, researchers found that increased ocean acidification evolved Tricho to work harder, producing 50 percent more nitrogen, and grow faster. The problem is that these amped-up bacteria can’t turn it off even when they are placed in conditions with less carbon dioxide. Further, the adaptation can’t be reversed over time — something not seen before by evolutionary biologists, and worrisome to marine biologists, according to David Hutchins, lead author of the study.


David A. Hutchins, Nathan G. Walworth, Eric A. Webb, Mak A. Saito, Dawn Moran, Matthew R. McIlvin, Jasmine Gale, Fei-Xue Fu. Irreversibly increased nitrogen fixation in Trichodesmium experimentally adapted to elevated carbon dioxide. Nature Communications, 2015; 6: 8155 DOI: 10.1038/ncomms9155



Sea temperature changes linked to mystery North Pacific ecosystem shifts

August 31, 2015

Longer, less frequent climate fluctuations may be contributing to abrupt and unexplained ecosystem shifts in the North Pacific, according to a study by the University of Exeter. Researchers have long been puzzled by two rapid and widespread changes in the abundance and distribution of North Pacific plankton and fish species that impacted the region’s economically important salmon fisheries. In 1977, and again in 1989, the number of salmon in some areas plummeted, while it increased in other areas. These events have been dubbed regime shifts by researchers. Now, in a paper published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS), researchers Dr Chris Boulton and Professor Tim Lenton show that the variability of the North Pacific itself has been changing and that marine ecosystems are sensitive to this. They analysed sea surface temperature fluctuations in the North Pacific since 1900 and identified a trend toward longer-lived fluctuations. The authors also found the same pattern in the Pacific Decadal Oscillation index, a widely cited indicator of Pacific climate variability that has previously been linked to the 1977 and 1989 regime changes. These findings reveal a fundamental change in Pacific climate variability over the last century, to a pattern of oscillations in which the region’s ecosystems are more likely to exhibit larger and more abrupt climate-triggered regime shifts.
This suggests that changing climate variability contributed to the North Pacific regime shifts in 1977 and 1989
. Dr Chris Boulton, at the University of Exeter, said: “The causes of these dramatic ecosystem shifts in 1977 and 1989 have been a scientific mystery. This is the first time that anyone has looked for changes in sea surface temperature fluctuations in the North Pacific, and we have now gone some way towards explaining what causes these regime shifts, which have extreme consequences for aquatic life.” Professor Tim Lenton, of the University of Exeter, added: “This study shows that the ongoing monitoring of sea surface temperature variability could help to provide early warning of threats to marine ecosystems.”

Chris A. Boulton and Timothy M. Lenton. Slowing down of North Pacific climate variability and its implications for abrupt ecosystem change. PNAS, August 2015 DOI: 10.1073/pnas.1501781112



Greenland’s rising bedrock interacts with its ice loss from global climate change.Credit: ESA/Sentinel-2, Copernicus Sentinel data

The fingerprints of sea level rise

Posted: 26 Aug 2015 08:11 AM PDT

When you fill a sink, the water rises at the same rate to the same height in every corner. That’s not the way it works with our rising seas.
According to the 23-year record of satellite data from NASA and its partners, the sea level is rising a few millimeters a year — a fraction of an inch. If you live on the U.S. East Coast, though, your sea level is rising two or three times faster than average. If you live in Scandinavia, it’s falling. Residents of China’s Yellow River delta are swamped by sea level rise of more than nine inches (25 centimeters) a year. These regional differences in sea level change will become even more apparent in the future, as ice sheets melt….



Dramatic increase in concurrent droughts, heat waves

Posted: 01 Sep 2015 07:05 AM PDT

Droughts and heat waves are happening simultaneously with much greater frequency than in the past, according to research by climate experts.


Back to the future: using historical climate variation to project near‐term shifts in habitat suitable for coast redwood

Miguel Fernandez, Healy Hamilton and Lara M. Kueppers Global Change Biology (Impact Factor: 8.22). 07/2015; DOI: 10.1111/gcb.13027

ABSTRACT Studies that model the effect of climate change on terrestrial ecosystems often use climate projections from downscaled Global Climate Models (GCMs). These simulations are generally too coarse to capture patterns of fine scale climate variation, such as the sharp coastal energy and moisture gradients associated with wind-driven upwelling of cold water. Coastal upwelling may limit future increases in coastal temperatures, compromising GCMs’ ability to provide realistic scenarios of future climate in these coastal ecosystems. Taking advantage of naturally occurring variability in the high-resolution historic climatic record, we developed multiple fine-scale scenarios of California climate that maintain coherent relationships between regional climate and coastal upwelling. We compared these scenarios against coarse resolution GCM projections at a regional scale to evaluate their temporal equivalency. We used these historically based scenarios to estimate potential suitable habitat for coast redwood (Sequoia sempervirens D. Don) under “normal” combinations of temperature and precipitation, and under anomalous combinations representative of potential future climates. We found that a scenario of warmer temperature with historically normal precipitation is equivalent to climate projected by GCMs for California by 2020-2030, and that under these conditions, climatically suitable habitat for coast redwood significantly contracts at the southern end of its current range. Our results suggest that historical climate data provide a high-resolution alternative to downscaled GCM outputs for near-term ecological forecasts. This method may be particularly useful in other regions where local climate is strongly influenced by ocean-atmosphere dynamics that are not represented by coarse-scale GCMs.



Changing climate could even oust the oriole from Baltimore, study says.

Inside Climate News September 3,2015

North American birds’ habitats are being shrunk by warming temperatures, threatening their survival, a new climate model shows


‘Grey Swans’: Rare but predictable storms could pose big hazards

Posted: 31 Aug 2015 10:58 AM PDT

Researchers have used computer models to show that severe tropical cyclones could hit a number of coastal cities worldwide that are widely seen as unthreatened by such powerful storms.


New study reveals the possibility of hurricanes ‘unlike anything you’ve seen in history.’

September 1, 2015 Washington Post

Last week, the nation focused its attention on the 10-year anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, the most destructive hurricane in U.S. history. As bad as the storm was, though, it wasn’t the worst storm that could have possibly hit New Orleans. That’s true of many, many other places, too. And now, in a new study in Nature Climate Change, Princeton’s Ning Lin and MIT’s Kerry Emanuel demonstrate that when it comes to three global cities in particular — Tampa, Fla., Cairns, Australia, and Dubai, United Arab Emirates — there could come a storm that is much worse than anything in recent memory (or in any memory). Granted, these theoretical storms are also highly unlikely to occur — in some cases, they are 1-in-10,000-year events, or even rarer. The researchers refer to these possible storms as “gray swans,” riffing on the concept of a “black swan” event, an unpredictable catastrophe, or highly impactful event. A “gray swan,” by contrast, can indeed be predicted, even if it is extremely rare. The purpose of the study is “to raise awareness of what a very low probability, very high impact hurricane event might look like,” said Emanuel. The gray swan storms were generated by a computer model that “coupled” together, in the researchers’ parlance, a very high-resolution hurricane model with a global climate model. That allowed the researchers to populate the simulated world with oodles of different storms….



For the First Time on Record, Three Category-4 Hurricanes Occurred Simultaneously in the Pacific Ocean

By Rob Verger September 2, 2015 | 9:45 am

Something unusual happened in the Pacific Ocean over the weekend: There were three hurricanes, all with category-four status at the same time, lined up across the central and eastern region of the world’s biggest ocean.

Phil Klotzbach, a research scientist at the tropical meteorology project at Colorado State University, said that this was the first time in modern recorded history they’ve seen three storms of that level coexisting in that region of the Pacific. But, he and other experts added that good satellite data only goes back three to four decades, so it’s possible that it has happened before. “The fact that you can get three category-fours in one basin is impressive,” Klotzbach told VICE News, referring to the section of the Pacific to the east of the international date line. “And I think it’s especially impressive given that two of those category-four storms were in the Central Pacific.” That region, which spans 140 degrees of longitude to 180 degrees, isn’t usually conducive to hurricanes, he said. The storms were Hurricanes Ignacio and Jimena, plus Kilo, which was down graded to typhoon after it crossed the dateline.While Ignacio is now a tropical storm, Hurricane Jimena had maximum sustained winds of 115 miles per hour as of Tuesday night, according to the Central Pacific Hurricane Center. ….The culprit behind the increased activity is El Niño, Klotzbach and other experts said, which brings warmer waters to the central and eastern Pacific, making it more favorable to hurricane formation. The waters off Hawaii are especially warm, Klotzbach said. This hurricane season is breaking records, he added, with 15 tropical cyclones of category four or five appearing so far in 2015, all of them in the Pacific. The previous record, Klotzbach said, was nine. “In the age of modern hurricane tracking, which is the last 30 to 40 years … , this is the first time we have seen three category fours alive and well and threatening in the Central and Eastern Pacific,” William Patzert, a climatologist at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, told VICE News.

Like Klotzbach, Patzert pointed at the warm waters brought about by El Niño, which occurs every 2 to 7 years, when sea surface temperatures in the Eastern Pacific become anomalously warm, saying storms like this could be expected.

“I’ve never seen such a large area, so warm, so early, and at the peak of the heating season which is the reason you’re seeing all this right now,” Patzert added. Patzert cautioned against attributing the hurricanes to global warming and said that while climate change is a real threat to the globe for a variety of reasons, the data isn’t yet clear on whether or not it will cause stronger or more frequent hurricanes. Kevin Trenberth, a senior scientist at the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Boulder, Colorado, said that global warming was indeed part of the equation. He said that he had expected this lively hurricane action in the Pacific because of El Niño, and that this year reminded him of 2005 in the Atlantic — the year Hurricane Katrina struck New Orleans.

The oceans are absorbing heat from climate change, having warmed by over a degree Fahrenheit since the 1970s, he said, and that heat is fuel for hurricanes, which leave cooler waters in their wake. “The best way to think about it, is that when global warming and natural variability [like El Nino] are going in the same direction — and that’s what’s happening in the Pacific — that’s when you have very active seasons, and that’s when you’re apt to break records, and see some things that you’ve never seen before, like three category-four hurricanes in the same basin,” Trenberth told VICE News.

The season has indeed been “very active,” Alejandro Ludert, a research assistant at the Pacific ENSO Applications Center, a research center in Hawaii, told VICE News. He said they were already seeing their ninth storm of the season, which is well above normal. Like other experts, he chalked the increase up to El Niño. But another phenomenon is at work besides El Niño, said Gabriel Vecchi, a climate scientist and oceanographer at NOAA’s Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Laboratory in Princeton, New Jersey.

I would say there is an El Niño going on right now, however our analysis is that this El Niño is not the most important cause for the big increase of activity in the central Pacific,” Vecchi told VICE News.

Instead, he said, there is very warm “blob” of water, a huge swath of the Pacific that is warmer than usual, above the equator, extending from Mexico out through Hawaii. He thinks it is that stretch of warm water — not caused by El Nino — that is driving the hurricane activity. But he is unsure of the reasons behind the warm patch.

As for global warming, Vecchi said that the general scientific consensus now is that by the year 2100, hurricanes might be slightly more powerful, but that the total number of them globally would either stay the same or decline slightly.

Meanwhile, something rare also happened in the Atlantic, where a hurricane traveled through Cape Verde, just off the coast of Africa. That hurricane, called Fred, was probably the “eastern-most hurricane on record,” Richard Pasch, of the National Hurricane Center in Miami, told VICE News. Fred was “very unusual,” Dave Nolan, of the Department of Atmospheric Sciences at the University of Miami, told VICE News. A warm patch of water between the islands and Africa, he said, helped in its formation.

What caused the water to warm there, he said, remains unknown. 


Global warming intensified the record floods in Texas and Oklahoma

By dana1981 & Skeptical Science posts: 2 September 2015

We know that as humans emit greenhouse gases into the atmosphere, it causes the Earth to warm. But it also causes other climate changes that are less obvious. In some instances, it makes areas wetter (because there is more moisture in the air as temperature increases). This can lead to increased flooding. In other instances, it speeds evaporation so that droughts can set in more quickly and deeply. While it would appear these affects would offset each other, in reality more droughts or floods occur depending on where you are located. 


Heat and acid could squeeze trout out of southern Appalachian streams

Posted: 01 Sep 2015 08:35 AM PDT

A newly published research study that combines effects of warming temperatures from climate change with stream acidity projects average losses of around 10 percent of stream habitat for coldwater aquatic species for seven national forests in the southern Appalachians — and up to a 20 percent loss of habitat in the Pisgah and Nantahala National Forests in western North Carolina….


Denial101x MOOC – Full list of videos and references at your fingertips

By LarryM & BaerbelW Skeptical Science posts: 3 September 2015

The “Denial101x – Making Sense of Climate Science Denial” MOOC (Massive Open Online Course) is now available as a self-paced course that anyone can take at any time.  The course was produced by the all-volunteer Skeptical Science team and the University of Queensland, and hosted on the edX-platform.  The lectures and expert interviews provide a unique resource for countering climate myths, learning effective myth-debunking techniques, and learning the basics of climate science in easily digestible bites.  These resources are now available in an organized and easily searched format.  Use them often!



This prominent marine terrace south of Davenport, is one of several well-known terraces in the Santa Cruz area. It marks the high sea level of 84,000 years ago, but it’s also been uplifted by tectonic activity since that time. (Andrew Alden/KQED)

California’s Coast Gives Clues to Changing Sea Level

By Andrew Alden, KQED Science Contributor August 27, 2015

As you drive along the California coast on Highway 1, in many places you’ll see wide flat areas that are elevated above the sea. These are famous among geologists, who’ve mapped these marine terraces up and down the entire west coast.

Each marine terrace is a record of sea level during the past. Just as sea level rises today as the world’s glaciers melt, previous changes in the polar ice caps have raised and lowered the sea by hundreds of feet.Whenever the sea level remained steady for a few thousand years, the pounding surf had the leisure to cut into the shoreline. As the waves churned the sea cliffs into sand, they carved away the rocks as deep as they could reach and left a level surface behind. Sea level is on scientists’ minds these days as we keep a nervous eye on global warming. A rising sea threatens many places with a slow-motion Katrina. But geologists have always paid attention to this fundamental piece of information in order to visualize the deep past. Imagine the landscape 120,000 years ago, during a warm interglacial period, when the ocean covered today’s coast some 40 feet deep. Imagine later, during the Last Glacial Maximum around 20,000 years ago, when the seas were drawn down by more than 300 feet. The coast was far to the west, and the area between must have been a wide grassland—a “California Serengeti”—roamed by mammoths, sabertooth cats and other Ice Age animals….



Click to Open Overlay Gallery Fadil/Corbis

Climate Change Means One World’s Death and Another’s Birth

September 1, 2015 WIRED

A few years ago in a lab in Panama, Klaus Winter tried to conjure the future. A plant physiologist at the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute, he planted seedlings of 10 tropical tree species in small, geodesic greenhouses. Some he allowed to grow in the kind of environment they were used to out in the forest, around 79 degrees Fahrenheit. Others, he subjected to uncomfortably high temperatures. Still others, unbearably high temperatures—up to a daily average temperature of 95 F and a peak of 102 F. That’s about as hot as Earth has ever been. It’s also the kind of environment tropical trees have a good chance of living in by the end of this century, thanks to climate change. Winter wanted to see how they would do.

The answer came as a surprise to those accustomed to dire warnings that climate change will turn the Amazon into a desert. The vast majority of Winter’s seedlings didn’t die. In fact, most thrived at significantly warmer temperatures than they experience today, growing faster and larger. Just two species succumbed to the heat, and only at the very highest temperatures. The trees’ success echoes paleontological data, which hints that warmer temperatures can be a boon for tropical forests. After all, the last time Earth experienced average temperatures of 95 F, there were rainforests in Michigan and palm trees in the Arctic.

That doesn’t mean climate change won’t affect tropical forests of today. It already is. And it definitely doesn’t mean humans needn’t worry about global warming. Climate change will be the end of the world as we know it. But it also will be the beginning of another. Mass extinctions will open ecological niches, and environmental changes will create new ones. New creatures will evolve to fill them, guided by unforeseen selection pressures. What this new world will look like, exactly, is impossible to predict, and humans aren’t guaranteed to survive in it. (And that’s if civilization somehow manages to survive the climate disasters coming its way in the meantime, from superstorms to sea level rise to agriculture-destroying droughts). Still, experiments like Winter’s offer a glimpse. Adapting to a warmer world will be long and painful process for the rainforest, and many species won’t make it through. Even so, “there will still be tropical forests in 2100,” says Simon Lewis, a plant ecologist at University College London and the University of Leeds. They will probably even contain many of the same species ecologists know today, including some of the trees in Winter’s experiments. It’s the relationships between those species, and the role each plays in the ecosystem, that will change—and, in turn, transform the entire forest. “The forests that come out of this change are probably going to be much different than the kinds of forests we have today,” says Christopher Dick, an evolutionary geneticist who studies tropical trees at the University of Michigan….









Record-strength El Niño likely to bring wet winter to California in midst of worst drought on record

Filed in Uncategorized by Daniel Swain on September 2, 2015 • 244 Comments


The big picture: trends in the tropical Pacific Ocean

The tropical Pacific has taken a decidedly circuitous path over the past several years toward its present extraordinary warmth. Until 2014, persistent and increasingly anomalous warmth in the tropical West Pacific Ocean (near Indonesia) had been in place for the better part of two decades—not coincidentally since the last big El Niño event in 1997-1998. The tropical East Pacific, on the other hand, experienced no such net warming between 1998 and 2014. Since the tropical West Pacific is already warmer on average than the East, this trend led to a substantial increase in the west-to-east temperature differential across the Pacific Ocean basin over a 15 year period. This mean state change generally resembled the ocean temperature pattern associated with La Niña, and as a result the Pacific entered a persistent “La Niña-like” state after the 1997-1998 El Niño. Since the tropical Pacific Ocean has a profound influence upon global climate, this relative warming of the West Pacific had substantial atmospheric effects around the world. The observed pattern of ocean temperature change created a propensity for drought in some regions around the globe—perhaps including California, which has been experiencing drought conditions more often than not over the past decade and a half. The relative warmth in the west and coolness in the east even had a detectable influence upon the Earth’s mean atmospheric temperature, as the planet warmed more slowly over this period than it otherwise would have due to global warming alone. A significant amount of this accumulated energy instead went into heating the world’s oceans—especially the tropical Pacific, where vast quantities of heat were sequestered in the West Pacific Warm Pool and adjacent Indian Ocean. In early 2014, however, it became clear that something different was brewing in the tropical Pacific. …


Strongest California winter precipitation signal in years

It’s hard to imagine a more powerful predictive signal for California winter precipitation than the occurrence of a very strong El Niño event. Weak to moderate El Niño events can have highly variable effects in California, and are in most cases poor predictors of how much precipitation might fall in the Golden State. But the big events are a whole different ballgame—and the presence of a powerful El Niño in the tropical Pacific is the single most useful piece of information we have regarding what might take place in the months to come. While even a record-strength El Niño in the tropical Pacific does not mean that California will experience record rains this winter—since there are always other factors at play—it does strongly shift the odds in favor of a wet winter. This not only fits with conceptual models regarding the atmospheric effects of El Niño, but is also strongly supported by model predictions. While the models do disagree upon the details, there is a very clear signal toward a classic “El Niño” winter dipole along the West Coast of North America, with much below-average precipitation in the Pacific Northwest and British Columbia and much above-average precipitation over essentially all of California from the Oregon border to Baja California…..


Death of the Ridiculously Resilient Ridge? Why it’s not really a tale of El Niño vs. “The Blob”

There has been much discussion recently regarding the potentially competing influences of long-distance atmospheric teleconnections from El Niño in the tropical Pacific and effects of the closer-to-home northeastern Pacific “Blob” of warm water off the Washington and Oregon coastlines. It’s certainly true that unusual ocean temperature patterns at both tropical and high-latitude locations can affect atmospheric circulation. And, in the hypothetical case where the persistent region of warm water in the North Pacific associated with “The Blob” stuck around through the winter, it’s plausible that this could modulate the atmospheric effects of the powerful El Niño event in the tropics. But that hypothetical situation is rather unlikely to actually occur this winter. That’s primarily because “The Blob” itself is thought to largely be a side-effect of the multi-year persistence of the Ridiculously Resilient Ridge, which suppressed the North Pacific storm track and prevented the vertical mixing of colder subsurface ocean waters toward the surface…..


The drought paradox: feast AND famine?

Major winter flood events can occur in California in any given year. In fact, some of California’s worst flood events have occurred when the tropical Pacific is in an ENSO-neutral state. However, the present very strong El Niño is expected to substantially strengthen the subtropical jet stream and associated low-latitude storm track near California this winter, which will bring the potential for more frequent and dynamically stronger systems than would typically occur during the December-March period. Further, water temperatures along the immediate Pacific coastline are expected to remain very warm through the coming winter, which will likely increase the amount of lower-atmospheric moisture available to California-bound storm systems (and perhaps also increase near-surface instability). All of this suggests that there could be a substantially increased risk of precipitation-related hazards this winter in California, including flooding and landslides. Another potentially aggravating factor will be the lingering effects of California’s severe drought. Burn scars from particularly intensely-burning fires in recent years cover hundreds of thousands of acres of the California landscape, and these regions will be profoundly vulnerable to debris flows and landslides as a result of the decreased infiltration capacity of scorched soils. Widespread drought-related tree mortality—both in natural forest stands and also in urban areas—may worsen the impacts of winter storms this year. Drought-killed (or weakened) trees will topple more easily during periods of strong winds, presenting hazards in and of themselves but also increasing the debris load in river and stream channels across the state (and potentially increasing flood risk).

At the same time, California’s multi-year precipitation deficits remain so large (equivalent to 1-2 years’ worth of precipitation on a statewide basis) that it would be essentially impossible to make up the difference in a single year. It’s entirely plausible that many of the state’s major reservoirs will be in substantially better shape after the coming winter, and that short-term drought indicators will improve drastically—which would be very good news, indeed. But it would take an extended sequence of cool, wet winters to meaningfully replenish depleted groundwater aquifers, improve upon the truly abysmal Sierra Nevada snowpack in recent winters, and alleviate some of the long-term ecosystem impacts of California’s ongoing record “hot drought.” Unfortunately, such an outcome doesn’t appear to be in the cards.


Key Points regarding El Niño and the coming California winter

  • A powerful El Niño event in the tropical Pacific is virtually certain, and the present event has a good shot at becoming the strongest on record.
  • A wetter and warmer than average winter is likely for most or all of California in 2015-2016, and there may be an increased risk of flooding in many regions.
  • Partial and potentially substantial alleviation of drought severity in California is likely, though even the wettest winter on record would be insufficient to erase California’s multi-year water deficits.
  • Even though heavy snow may fall at the highest elevations, it’s not clear that conditions will be consistently cold enough for substantial snowpack accumulation at middle elevations in California.
  • Record-warm North Pacific brings increased risk that East/Central Pacific hurricane remnants will affect California between now and the end of October.
  • Managing hydrological impacts of simultaneously-occurring record El Niño and record drought in California will be challenging.


Side-by-side comparison of national vs. international multi-model ensemble forecast for winter 2015-2016. Both suggest above-average precipitation in California. (NOAA CPC)








Photo: Luke Sharrett, Getty Images A loaded CSX Transportation coal train sits parked on a spur track at Blackhawk Mining, LLC Spurlock Prep Plant on June 3, 2014 in Printer, Kentucky.

The end of coal is near

SF Chronicle Opinion September 3, 2015 By David Hochschild and Danny Kennedy David Hochschild is a member of the California Energy Commission. Danny Kennedy is managing director of the California Clean Energy Fund.

We are witnessing the end of an era. Coal is fast becoming the telegraph to renewable energy’s Internet. American coal stocks are undergoing the most precipitous decline in the history of the energy industry.
In 2011, four mining companies — Peabody Energy, Arch Coal, Alpha Natural Resources and Cloud Peak Energy — supplied most of the nation’s coal and together were worth nearly $40 billion. In four years, their combined value has fallen by 98 percent
. Additionally, the fossil-fuel divestment movement, which began just three years ago, is having an impact. Institutional investors representing nearly $1 trillion of portfolio value, including
Stanford University, the Rockefeller Foundation and the Norwegian Sovereign Wealth Fund, have committed to divest from coal. In California, legislation passed Wednesday that would require several of the state’s largest pension funds to divest from coal as well. SB185 now is heading to the governor’s desk. This stock price decline was driven by economics and by free choices by whole states, including California, to move beyond this combustible rock that pollutes our air, clogs our lungs and heats up our planet. Cheap prices for natural gas and renewable energy, with rates for wind and solar energy falling to record levels below the price of energy from new coal-powered plants, have been instrumental too.

History will remember coal as much for undermining civilization as for building it. Perhaps no industry in the world has exacted as great a human cost. Coal made possible America’s rise to be the leading economy in the 20th century and also Germany’s ability to wage two world wars. In China alone, coal emissions are estimated to kill 1.6 million people annually. A recent UC Davis study found this pollution does not stop at the border. It travels high above the Pacific Ocean and over Northern California’s coastal ranges before settling as ozone in the San Joaquin Valley, where it worsens an already serious air quality problem. Coal’s contribution to global warming has led Pope Francis, Prince Charles and the Dalai Lama to call for a transition to clean energy.

While coal remains America’s largest source of electricity generation, over the past six years coal-fired generation has declined from 52 to 34 percent of our electricity portfolio. We must turn away from coal — an old, dirty, increasingly less profitable technology — and invest in the high-growth, high-margin clean technologies taking its place. Renewable energy, which made up just 12 percent of California’s generation in 2008, now provides more than 25 percent of the state’s power. California is on track to reach Gov. Jerry Brown’s goal of 50 percent renewable energy by 2030, after which fossil fuels will become the alternative energy.

As a result of this progress, there are now more Californians working in the solar industry than working for the state’s utilities. The United States now has twice as many solar industry employees as coal miners. As we work to accelerate the transition to a clean energy future, we need to ensure that America’s 80,000 coal miners are given the support they need and that the new energy economy’s benefits are widely shared. Exporting our know-how to the world, which needs to get off coal too, will be our next big business. Now is indeed the time to divest our pension funds from coal, cut the cord from this piece of our past and hasten our transition to a clean energy future.



California Passes Bill to Divest Largest Pension Funds from Coal

In the least contentious of its climate-related bills, California Assembly votes to keep its state pensions out of the coal business.

By Zahra Hirji, InsideClimate News Sep 3, 2015

California is one governor’s signature away from becoming the first state to mandate its major public pension funds to at least partially divest from fossil fuel holdings, which could have ripple effects across the nation. The California Assembly voted 47 to 30 on Wednesday to mandate the state’s two largest pension funds divest from coal assets. It now heads to Gov. Jerry Brown’s office for approval. The Senate voted in favor of the measure in June.

Even though the legislation—Senate Bill 185—awaits the governor’s signature, Brown has been a strong advocate of climate action and has helped steer the state toward being a leader in renewable energy, so divestment proponents are already celebrating. RL Miller, chair of the California Democratic Party’s environmental caucus, was “very happy” and “giddy” after the vote. “This is the beginning of an avalanche,” said Miller, who has helped build support for fossil fuel divestment within the California Democratic Party for several years….



Citi report: slowing global warming would save tens of trillions of dollars

Posted on 31 August 2015 by dana1981

Citi Global Perspectives & Solutions (GPS), a division within Citibank (America’s third-largest bank), recently published a report looking at the economic costs and benefits of a low-carbon future. The report considered two scenarios: “Inaction,” which involves continuing on a business-as-usual path, and Action scenario which involves transitioning to a low-carbon energy mix. One of the most interesting findings in the report is that the investment costs for the two scenarios are almost identical. In fact, because of savings due to reduced fuel costs and increased energy efficiency, the Action scenario is actually a bit cheaper than the Inaction scenario.

What is perhaps most surprising is that looking at the potential total spend on energy over the next quarter century, on an undiscounted basis the cost of following a low carbon route at $190.2 trillion is actually cheaper than our ‘Inaction’ scenario at $192 trillion. This, as we examine in this chapter, is due to the rapidly falling costs of renewables, which combined with lower fuel usage from energy efficiency investments actually result in significantly lower long term fuel bill. Yes, we have to invest more in the early years, but we potentially save later, not to mention the liabilities of climate change that we potentially avoid.

The following figure from the Citi report breaks down the investment costs in the Action ($190.2 trillion) and Inaction ($192 trillion) scenarios. This conclusion soundly refutes the main argument against climate action – that it’s too expensive, with some contrarians even having gone so far as to claim that cutting carbon pollution will create an economic catastrophe. To the contrary, the Citi report finds that these investments will save money, before even accounting for the tremendous savings from avoiding climate damage costs….



Photo: Brant Ward / The Chronicle

SMART trains en route to North Bay; line to open in 2016

By Michael Cabanatuan SF Chronicle August 31, 2015 Updated: September 1, 2015 10:14am

…..SMART is scheduled to start picking up passengers late in 2016 — …. While the 43 miles of SMART tracks are now reserved for specially outfitted vehicles that can roll on rails as well as roads, and occasional freight trains, they soon will be traversed 30 times a day by fast-moving sleek green-and-white trains. Those trains will constitute the North Bay’s first commuter rail line since the Northwestern Pacific Railroad ceased passenger service in 1958, slowly crushed by the Golden Gate Bridge. Hated by some, championed by others, the rail line has been years in the making. And though it hasn’t rolled all of its challenges flat yet, in the past two years it has finally managed to become more than just a snappy acronym and a multimillion-dollar vision among transportation planners. Since voters gave SMART the green light in 2013, the rail line has been transformed from a dilapidated, partially abandoned right-of-way into a modern railroad with concrete ties, long lengths of smooth rail and the foundations for boarding platforms at station sites. It will also be the first commuter train in the state with positive train control, an automated system designed to prevent trains from crashing into each other. Now all but a quarter-mile of track — where crews will connect a refurbished drawbridge shipped in from Texas to the railroad across the Petaluma River next month — has been replaced, installed or improved. Next month, final construction of the boarding platforms will begin, and the new trains, two of which are already on site, will keep arriving through the end of the year…..But the real test will come next fall when SMART starts hauling passengers. After spending about $460 million, most of it raised by a quarter-cent sales tax in the two counties, the commuter railroad will find out just how many people will take the train. Planners predict about 3,000 to 5,000 passengers per weekday, but aren’t sure about weekends….. Passengers will ride in two- to three-car trains that are lightweight and self-powered with clean diesel fuel rather than pulled by a large locomotive. Each train will have Wi-Fi, a cafe serving food and drink, including alcoholic beverages, and bathrooms. From beginning to end, the ride is estimated to take just over an hour, beating the trip in a car by about a half hour time-wise, but in other ways as well, according to Mansourian…








Historic climate-change bills in California Legislature go down to the wire

By Jessica Calefati Posted:   08/29/2015 12:25:42 PM PDT33 Comments

SACRAMENTO — With the deadline for lawmakers to finish their work less than two weeks away, Gov. Jerry Brown and state Senate leader Kevin de León are working feverishly to pass what they call the year’s most important legislation — measures that both men believe will enhance their political legacies. The bills, which would dramatically reduce the state’s reliance on oil and help to combat climate change, have been praised by everyone from Pope Francis to President Barack Obama to the world’s leading scientists. If enacted, the legislation would set international precedent and cement California’s reputation as a leader in the fight against global warming. But standing in the way is one of Sacramento’s most powerful lobbies, the oil and gas industry, which has spent millions of dollars on advertising that paints a dystopian vision of the future: an out-of-control bureaucracy that would have the power to ration gasoline, punish SUV owners and limit the number of miles Californians drive. After passing the Senate by a wide margin in June, the bills face a much tougher test in the Assembly, which is expected to take them up as early as this week. Some moderate Democrats, charging “coastal elitism,” say the bills will harm the middle-class families they represent in the Central Valley. And others are trying to shake down legislative leaders for handouts that benefit their districts…..


CURRENT LAW: Under Assembly Bill 32, signed into law by former Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger in 2006, California must cut greenhouse gas emissions to 1990 levels by 2020.CLIMATE BILLS APPROVED BY SENATE: Under SB 32 and SB 350, California would be required to cut emissions 80 percent below 1990 levels by 2050. The measures would also cut petroleum use in cars and trucks in half, require California to generate half of its power from renewable sources and boost building efficiency standards — all by 2030.




U.N. climate talks begin divided, but with hope for Paris accord

BONN, Germany | By Alister Doyle Reuters August 31, 2015

Chances that governments will work out a U.N. accord to combat climate change in December seem brighter than in the run-up to a failed attempt in 2009, experts said as delegates from almost 200 nations met on Monday, hoping to bridge deep divisions. Memories of a U.N. summit in Copenhagen in December 2009, when world leaders including U.S. President Barack Obama failed to work out a deal intended to avert more heatwaves, floods and rising seas, hang over the talks in Bonn. “We’re closer to an agreement” than at the same time before Copenhagen, Elina Bardram, head of the European Commission delegation, told Reuters. “But there’s a lot still to be done.” Senior government officials began five days of talks in the former West German capital aiming to cut an unwieldy 83-page draft text in the penultimate preparatory session before a Nov. 30-Dec. 11 summit in Paris. The text contains a mix of ideas. Some poor nations are calling for an end to all greenhouse gas emissions by 2050, in contrast with OPEC countries’ preference for no deadlines. “Chances of success are much better” than in the run-up to Copenhagen, Yvo de Boer, who was the U.N. climate chief at the Copenhagen conference and is now head of the Global Green Growth Institute in Seoul, told Reuters. He said that both the United States and China were more engaged this time, the new accord was based largely on voluntary offers to cut greenhouse gas emissions, and ambitions for an all-encompassing fix to climate change were lower. The United Nations has said Paris will only be a step towards achieving a long-term goal of limiting a rise in global temperatures to 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 Fahrenheit) over pre-industrial times. “Paris is not the end of the process, it is the start of the process,” Laurence Tubiana, France’s climate ambassador, told delegates. She urged more focus on action from 2015 to 2020, when the Paris accord will enter into force. Time is running short because there will only be another five-day session of talks in October, also in Bonn, before the Paris summit. “We need to work faster,” China’s chief delegate Su Wei told Reuters.




CREDIT: AP Photo/Martin Meissner

A Major International Climate Meeting Is Wrapping Up Today. What Does It Mean For The Paris Talks?

by Natasha Geiling Sep 4, 2015 8:00am

As far as international climate agreements go, this year has the potential to be a historic one. In December, more than 190 countries — along with representatives from cities, companies, NGOs, and other actors — will descend on Paris in the hopes of emerging with a new international agreement to tackle climate change. But before countries can come together in Paris, there are still a number of meetings to be had and issues to be resolved — including a week-long negotiating session in Bonn held this week. The Bonn negotiations are the second-to-last in a series of intentional negotiating sessions meant to lay the groundwork for Paris, and they’re an extremely important stop on the road to a strong international climate agreement. As Robert Orr, longtime climate adviser to UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon who now works at the University of Maryland’s School of Public Policy, told Politico, the Bonn talks are crucial for tying up loose ends before heading into Paris. “We can’t end up in Paris with a lot of open issues,” Orr said. “These Bonn meetings are critical to ensure that a lot of the key issues get resolved — not all of them, but a lot of the key issues.”

Where Were We Before Bonn?

Bonn isn’t the first international negotiation meant to pave the way toward Paris — there’s been a lot of action leading up to the U.N. Climate Conference in December. Attempts to get countries to sign a binding, international agreement on climate change have been happening for decades — the last big one happened in Copenhagen in 2009 and was largely deemed a failure. In the run-up to Paris, many countries — as well as cities and private companies — have been submitting individual climate pledges to the United Nations. The United States, for example, submitted commitments back in April pledging to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 28 percent by 2025. China has committed to peak its CO2 emissions before 2030. The European Union collectively pledged to cut its emissions at least 40 percent below 1990 levels by 2030, a goal the World Resources Institute called “strong,” but noted that it still has the potential to be even stronger. Canada and Australia — countries whose leaders have notoriously
bad records on climate — have also submitted commitments, though both were met with sharp criticism from environmental groups for not going far enough. In June, G7 leaders announced that they had reached a nonbinding agreement to limit global warming to 2°C.

What Are The Issues Negotiators Are Talking About In Bonn?

One of the biggest issues negotiators are hoping to tackle during the current round of Bonn talks is whether an international climate agreement will set a long term goal for emissions reductions — something that goes beyond the international agreement to limit the impacts of global warming to below 2°C. “Right now all parties agreed to keep global emissions from rising 2 degrees, but that doesn’t really explain how they’re going to do it,” Kyle Ash, Senior Legislative Representative for Greenpeace, told ThinkProgress. Ash said that Greenpeace — as well as others present at the Bonn negotiations — are pushing countries to outline specific emission reduction commitments that go beyond the shorter-term, 2025 commitments. Such a commitment might look like promising to phase out fossil fuels 100 percent by 2050, though Ash notes that this is a parcitularly strong commitment, and other weaker forms are also on the table. Many at the Bonn meetings also hope that the week-long session will provide clarity on the legal nature of any international agreement decided in Paris. Some countries — like the United States — want only certain parts of a climate agreement to be legally binding, something that Ash says could undercut the international agreements ability to influence domestic laws. “If you don’t have international law it’s a lot less likely to result in domestic law,” Ash said. The United States negotiators could be worried that a legally binding international agreement would be politically unpopular — especially with Republicans at the helm of Congress — but Ash argues that such a view is an outdated vestige of an old political atmosphere. “It’s not the case anymore that pushing for action on climate is a political liability, but they’re still operating under that assumption,” he said. There’s also the question of whether countries will agree to meet at specific intervals after Paris in order to reaffirm or strengthen climate commitments. Some countries, like the United States, are pushing for international meetings every five years in order to monitor international progress. But others, like the European Union, are arguing for lengthier intervals or every 10 years — a time-scale that worries environmentalists calling for immediate action on climate. “Every time the IPCC comes out with a report, it’s worse,” Ash said. “It would be good to have shorter commitment periods.” Negotiators in Bonn are also grappling with the issue of transparency and accountability — how nations will share emissions reduction information and how they’ll make sure that information is credible. This means coming to an agreement about how countries measure greenhouse gas emissions — the United States counts all greenhouse gases as part of its individual emissions, but some countries either lack the capacity to calculate all greenhouse gas emissions, or simply choose not to.

So What Comes After Bonn?

Bonn is the second-to-last negotiating session before the Paris climate talks — the final session, also in Bonn, will be held in October. But even if all of the issues outlined above — as well as a number of others still up in the air — aren’t solidified after this session, that doesn’t necessarily mean Paris is doomed to failure. In September, leaders from both China and India will meet with President Obama, and international climate issues will almost certainly be on the agenda. From there, the three leaders will head to New York to meet with U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon. There’s also talk of another international negotiation session being scheduled before Paris, though nothing has been solidified yet, according to Ash. Still, David Waskow, director of the International Climate Initiative at the World Resources Institute, seemed optimistic that this week’s Bonn talks were beginning to set the stage for a successful meeting in Paris. “We have a situation where there really is momentum toward reaching an agreement. The arrows are all pointed in the right direction, in a general sense,” he told reporters on a press call Thursday, adding that “on specific issues, there’s still much that’s still important that’s yet to be determined.”



Obama, Visiting Arctic, Will Pledge Aid to Alaskans Hit by Climate Change

By JULIE HIRSCHFELD DAVIS NY Times September 2, 2015

He will step up government aid for Arctic communities whose shorelines and infrastructure are crumbling as warming seas melt their foundations….


Obama says struggling Arctic village is ‘wake-up call’ for US on global warming

The US president says climate change is threatening remote Kotzebue’s way of life and vowed to help Alaska cut its fossil fuel use

Thursday 3 September 2015 02.57 EDT Last modified on Thursday 3 September 2015 12.13 EDT Guardian UK

Barack Obama concluded his Alaska trip on Wednesday by visiting a struggling community in the Arctic circle and calling its plight a wake-up call on global warming. The president said climate change was threatening a way of life in the remote village of Kotzebue, on the north-west coast, and pledged clean energy initiatives to help Alaska cut its use of fossil fuels. “I’ve been trying to make the rest of the country more aware of the changing climate but you’re already living it,” he told a crowd of more than 1000 representing about a third of Kotzebue’s population. “What’s happening here is America’s wake-up call.” Obama became the first sitting president to cross the Arctic Circle and used the village’s struggles against poverty and the elements to cap a three-day trip focused almost entirely on climate change. “If there’s one thing that threatens opportunity and prosperity for all of us … it’s the threat of a changing climate,” he told the cheering crowd. “Longer, more dangerous fire seasons. Thawing permafrost that threatens homes and infrastructure. Whether we live in the Arctic Circle or the Hawaiian islands, big cities or small towns, we’re one people.”…


Obama records climate video on selfie stick in Alaska

Sept. 3, 2015


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Passersbys examine a solar “Smart Palm” that offers phone recharging, Wi-Fi access and local information on Burj Al Arab beach in Dubai, UAE. TRF/Saket S.

“Smart” solar palm trees power Wi-Fi, phones in Dubai

Thomson Reuters Foundation – Thu, 27 Aug 2015 11:19 GMT Saket S.
More news from our correspondents

DUBAI, Aug 27 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) – A new species of palm tree has started sprouting around Dubai. But instead of producing dates, the fronds of the Smart Palm harness the sun’s energy to allow people to look up city information, access Wi-Fi, and charge their phones, all for free. Topped with nine leaf-shaped photovoltaic modules, a six-meter-tall Smart Palm can generate around 7.2 kilowatt hours per day, enough to operate without ever drawing off the grid.

….The next generation of the device, due to be launched in September, will be created by 3D printer and have a different design. Made from a combination of fiber-reinforced plastic and concrete, the new Smart Palms will also be better able to withstand Dubai’s tropical desert climate. … Its Smart City plan, Green Economy Initiative, and the United Arab Emirates’ declaration of 2015 as the “Year of Innovation” all aim to make Dubai one of the world’s most connected and increasingly sustainable cities within the next few years. Earlier in 2015, the Dubai Electricity and Water Authority announced it was tripling its target share of renewables in Dubai’s energy mix from 5 percent to 15 percent by 2030. Meanwhile, the city has already re-launched Al Khazan Park as the first Dubai park to run completely on solar power and is moving ahead with plans to build the Desert Rose, a sustainable city for a population of 160,000….


Capturing and converting carbon dioxide in a single step

Posted: 28 Aug 2015 10:53 AM PDT

Turning carbon dioxide from certain power plants into a more valuable chemical would reduce emissions while creating a revenue return. Scientists have now derived a metal-free catalyst that does the trick without the need for expensive, extreme conditions…At the University of Pittsburgh, researchers computationally derived a metal-free catalyst that captures and converts the carbon dioxide into formic acid. The catalyst allows the conversion to happen without the need for expensive, extreme conditions.








Upcoming Joint-LCC Science-Management Webinar:

Identifying Resilient Terrestrial Landscapes in the Pacific Northwest
Wednesday, September 9th at 1pm (Pacific)

Please join the North Pacific, Great Northern and Great Basin LCCs on Wednesday, September 9th at 1pm (Pacific), for this science-management webinar with The Nature Conservancy. As the climate changes, species are moving and shifting ranges to stay within their preferred temperature and moisture conditions. How can land managers plan for the conservation of biodiversity at a site when those species might not be there in 50-100 years? Current conservation approaches often focus on predicting where species will move to in the future. This is a reasonable approach but fraught with uncertainty and dependent on a variety of future-climate models.

Space is limited, please register here. If you are unable to attend the webinar, a recording will be available on YouTube shortly after the webinar.


National Adaptation Forum Webinar

EVALUATING AND MONITORING ADAPTATION Wednesday, September 30, 2015, 10AM PST/ 1PM EST (confirm time)

To learn about climate adaptation evaluation and monitoring examples in the field, click HERE to register.
This webinar will feature: 

  • Rachel M. Gregg, M.M.A., Lead Scientist, EcoAdapt. Is it Doing Any Good?: Monitoring and Evaluating Climate Adaptation Activities
  • Anne Carlson, Ph.D., Climate Associate, The Wilderness Society. Carnivores, water and weeds: Improving the success of climate change response strategies through effective monitoring programs
  • Mallory Morgan, Climate Fellow, San Diego Foundation,  A Qualitative Analysis of the Climate Change Action Plan for the Florida Reef System 2010-2015

For more information on the webinar and other National Adaptation Forum webinars visit the webinar support page. If you are not able to make the webinar we will also be providing a recording at


Climate Change and Organic Agriculture
October 6, 2015 12PM Pacific / 3PM Eastern

Presented by USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service – Science and Technology National Technology Support Centers 

Kris Nichols, Ph.D. Chief Scientist Rodale Institute: Dr. Kris Nichols will discuss the Rodale Institute’s white paper: Regenerative Organic Agriculture and Climate Change: A Down-to-Earth Solution to Global Warming. This paper discusses the positive impacts of organically managed soils on climate change. She will present data from farming systems and pasture trials around the world that show the carbon sequestration impact of organic management practices. The presentation will describe the farming practices that can be implemented to meet this objective.





Economics of Soil Health Sept. 21-22, Washington DC

Join us Sept. 21-22, 2015 for a workshop exploring the economics of soil health. Farm Foundation, NFP and USDA’s Economic Research Service are collaborating on this workshop, which will be in the First Floor Auditorium of the ERS Building, Patriot’s Plaza 3, 355 E Street SW, Washington, D.C.  The workshop will be a policy-oriented discussion of existing research on the economics of soil health, and will identify and prioritize evolving areas of research. What are the private benefits of soil health, and are incentives aligned for farmers to make rational decisions about their soil in the short and long run? What are the public benefits of soil health? What environmental benefits are likely to result from the adoption of soil health practices, and how can we model or quantify them?  This workshop will be a valuable opportunity to network with other economists and researchers working on the economics of soil health. Program details and registration information are available on the Farm Foundation website:


State of the San Francisco Estuary Conference – September 17-18, 2015 Oakland, California

The deadline for the early-bird registration rate is August 20thEvery two years, the Partnership brings a focus on the management and ecological health of the San Francisco Bay-Delta Estuary.  The State of the Estuary Conference showcases the latest information about the Estuary’s changing watersheds, impacts from major stressors, recovery programs for species and habitats, and emerging challenges.  The early-bird registration deadline in August 20th


Climate-Smart Conservation – Southern California September 23, 2015

Are you interested in how climate change might impact your work? Interested in integrating climate change into your planning and management activities? Curious to know how others are integrating climate change science into planning and projects? On September 23rd The San Diego Management & Monitoring Program and the San Diego Climate Science Alliance are hosting a symposium of Climate-Smart Conservation case studies from the coast of Southern California. Speakers from across the region will present cutting edge efforts to collaboratively support integration of climate change effects into natural resource management. Presentations will be followed by a roundtable discussion highlighting additional local efforts to integrate climate considerations into management actions. Learn more


The Wildlife Society 22nd Annual Conference
October 17-21, 2015 Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada

The Wildlife Society’s Annual Conference is one of the largest gatherings of wildlife professionals, students and supporters in North America.  More than 1,500 attendees gathered to learn, network and engage at our 2014 Annual Conference in Pittsburgh, PA…


Drought Symposium 15- tentatively scheduled for Oct 20-21, So CA

This October, CalCoast™ and its allies in government, academia, and the private sector (including Strategic Advocacy Partners) will hold “Drought Symposium 15,” tentatively scheduled for Oct 20-21. We have been scouting sites in Ontario, CA; San Diego, CA; and Orange County.  A call for presentations will be circulated soon, but if you have an idea for a presentation or (better yet) a whole panel (90 mins), please send a message to Steve Aceti at and John Helmer at If your organization is interested in becoming a sponsor or exhibitor for Drought Symposium 15, please send a message to Gracie Parisi, CalCoast’s COO, at If you know of any conflicts with other events this October 20-21, please let us know. And stay tuned!



2015 Southwest Climate Summit  November 2-3, 2015 Holiday Inn Capital Plaza Sacramento, CA
Join us for the 2015 Southwest Climate Summit when we’ll promote Climate-Smart Conservation by bringing together managers and scientists from across the Southwest to:

  • Discover emerging climate science
  • Explore adaptive management application
  • Share Climate-Smart Conservation results 
  • Discuss management and policy responses

The California LCC, Southwest Climate Science Center, USDA Southwest Climate Hub, Great Basin LCC, and Desert LCC are hosting the Summit to foster sharing of lessons learned and collaboration across the Southwestern landscape. Click here for more information.


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.




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


Point Blue: Coastal Adaptation Program Leader

The Coastal Adaptation Program Leader (CAPL) will be responsible for executing the strategy and achieving the outcomes of Point Blue’s Protecting Our Shorelines Initiative. As such, the CAPL will help natural resource managers and policy makers advance their adaptation efforts in the face of accelerating climate change, ocean acidification, increased storm frequency and intensity, habitat loss, and other stressors, leveraging Point Blue and partner scientific, data, and informatics resources. The CAPL will also develop science-based policy and natural resource management recommendations. Learn more and how to apply here.

Point Blue: Institutional Philanthropy Director  The Director of Institutional Philanthropy (Director) will be responsible for securing foundation and agency funding for priority programs, and managing all aspects of Point Blue’s foundation relations to advance our innovative climate-smart conservation science strategies. Reporting to the Chief Advancement Officer, the Director will collaborate with the Chief Science Officer, Group Directors, and other organizational leaders on the development and planning of strategic initiatives, assist staff scientists in the production of technical proposals and reports, write foundation proposals and reports, and support the advancement staff in written communications to major donors…


For other jobs at Point Blue, see here.


Chief Executive Officer search for the Catalina Island Conservancy

Santa Catalina Island is one of eight islands off the coast of southern California. Located 19 miles off the coast and a highly visible part of ocean views between Los Angeles and Orange county, Catalina Island has long been an enticing destination to both mainland visitors and residents—especially boaters, since line-of-sight navigation is possible and the relative proximity makes for a pleasant excursion by sail or power. As the third largest landmass in the Channel Islands group, Catalina supports a complex Mediterranean ecosystem… The Catalina Island Conservancy (Conservancy), an independent, California 501(c)(3) non-profit organization, was formed in 1972 to protect and restore the natural and cultural resources of Santa Catalina Island and to make them available for public recreation, education, and enjoyment. …


Wildlife Officers

California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) is recruiting those interested in a career as a wildlife officer. CDFW will accept applications for wildlife officer cadet through the final filing deadline of Oct. 16, 2015. CDFW is particularly interested in recruiting applicants with a passion for conservation of California’s fish and wildlife resources. For information on minimum qualifications and other requirements for wildlife officer cadets, please visit


2016 California Sea Grant’s State Fellows Program: Now accepting applications

The State Fellows Program provides a unique educational opportunity for graduate students at California higher education institutions who are interested both in marine resources and in the policy decisions affecting those resources in California. Modeled after the highly successful national Knauss Marine Policy Fellowship Program, the State Fellows Program provides an opportunity to acquire “on the job” experience in the planning and implementation of marine and/or coastal resource policies and programs in the state of California. The program matches highly motivated and qualified graduate students and recent graduates with “hosts” in State or Federal agencies in California for a 12-month paid fellowship. This year, 23 fellowships are available, including new opportunities with the Office of Lt. Governor Newsom, NOAA National Marine Fisheries Service – Southwest Fisheries Science Center, and Southern California Coastal Water Research Project (SCCWRP). The full request for applications with guidelines and host position descriptions are available here.






The [CA State] Coastal Conservancy
is pleased to announce a new round of competitive grants to fund multi-benefit watershed restoration and ecosystem protection projects. These grants will be funded by the Proposition 1 Water Bond approved by California voters last fall. The proposal solicitation is on our website and applications are due September 30, 2015.


CDFW Now Accepting Proposals for Proposition 1 Restoration Grant Programs

The California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) is now accepting proposals for restoration projects that further the objectives of the California Water Action Plan (CWAP). For Fiscal Year (FY) 2015-2016, a total of $31.4 million in Proposition 1 funds will be made available through CDFW’s two Proposition 1 Restoration Grant Programs. The Watershed Restoration Grant Program will fund up to $24 million in projects of statewide importance outside of the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta, while the Delta Water Quality and Ecosystem Restoration Grant Program will fund up to $7 million in projects that specifically benefit the Delta….


Breakdown and Tips on Prop 1 Funding and Permits

Sustainable Conservation September 4, 2015

Many of you are busy with project implementation right now and may not have had the time to evaluate Prop 1 funding sources. Sustainable Conservation has put together a breakdown of top funding sources, application tips, and which simplified permits for restoration you can use to increase your “project readiness” scoring and save time/resources on permitting. Simplified permits will be essential to getting projects implemented quickly and spending more money for on-the-ground work. Note that we are continually working on new permits where coverage doesn’t already exist, so be sure to check our website for updates. The following tables have summary information to guide you:

1.    Summary of 2015-16 Prop 1 Funding Sources and Application Tips

2.    Coastal Areas and Anadromous Fisheries Simplified Permits

3.    Inland Simplified Permits







Paul McCartney performs on June 11, 2015 at the Stade de France in Saint-Denis near Paris. PATRICK KOVARIK/AFP/Getty Images

Music heavyweights team for climate change song

September 4, 2015, 12:02 PM

Paul McCartney, Jon Bon Jovi, Sheryl Crow and Fergie have joined forces to record a song about climate change. Sean Paul, Leona Lewis and Colbie Caillat also appear on “Love Song to the Earth,” which was released Friday on iTunes and Apple Music via Connect. Proceeds from the track will benefit the United Nations Foundation and Friends of the Earth. Nicole Scherzinger, Natasha Bedingfield, Angelique Kidjo, Kelsea Ballerini and Victoria Justice also appear on the track. The song was created to support a U.N. conference in Paris this December that’s aimed at reaching a deal with more than 190 nations to keep global warming from reaching dangerous levels. “Love Song to Earth” will receive a wide release on Sept. 11. Johnny Rzeznik, Krewella, Christina Grimmie and Q’Orianka Kilcher also sing on the song.



Male seahorse and human pregnancies remarkably alike

Posted: 02 Sep 2015 05:29 AM PDT

Their pregnancies are carried by the males but, when it comes to breeding, seahorses have more in common with humans than previously thought, new research reveals.


Human body has gone through four stages of evolution

Posted: 31 Aug 2015 01:38 PM PDT

Research into 430,000-year-old fossils collected in northern Spain found that the evolution of the human body’s size and shape has gone through four main stages.


A Recipe For Longevity? Beans, Friends, Purpose And Movement

August 26, 2015 WBUR

For nearly a decade, Dan Buettner has been researching so-called Blue Zones – those areas of the world where people live longer, healthier and happier than anywhere else on the planet. After identifying where the zones are (Ikaria, Greece; Okinawa, Japan; parts of Sardinia; Loma Linda, California; and Nicoya, Costa Rica), Buettner proceeded to study the factors that appear to contribute the residents’ longevity. And then, he took it a step further, founding the Blue Zones Project, the largest preventive health care initiative in the United States, so far estimated to have reached 5 million people. Funded largely by insurance companies, the Blue Zones Project focuses on restructuring communities so that healthy choices are also easy choices. Changes might include new sidewalks, establishing friendship groups, re-arranging supermarkets to highlight healthy foods, and even reorganizing family kitchens. The results have been dramatic: In Albert Lea, Minnesota, the average life expectancy rose by nearly three years and health care costs for city workers there dropped by 40 percent. In Spencer, Iowa, health care costs for city workers dropped by 25 percent. And in the Beach Cities, California, smoking rates declined by nearly 30 percent. Buettner writes about his efforts in his new book “The Blue Zones Solution: Eating and Living Like the World’s Healthiest People,” which also includes recipes and lists of do’s and don’ts. He talks with Here & Now’s Robin Young about his new book and his efforts….”Remarkably, no matter where I found long-lived populations, I found similar habits and practices at work. When we asked our team of experts to identify these common denominators, they came up with these nine lessons, which we call the Power Nine:

  1. Move Naturally. The world’s longest-lived people don’t pump iron, run marathons, or join gyms. Instead, they live in environments that constantly nudge them into moving. They grow gardens and don’t have mechanical conveniences for house and yard work. Every trip to work, to a friend’s house, or to church occasions a walk.
  2. Purpose. The Okinawans call it ikigai and the Nicoyans call it plan de vida; for both it translates to “why I wake up in the morning.” In all Blue Zones people had something to live for beyond just work. Research has shown that knowing your sense of purpose is worth up to seven years of extra life expectancy.
  3. Down Shift. Even people in the Blue Zones experience stress, which leads to chronic inflammation, associated with every major age-related disease. The world’s longest-lived people have routines to shed that stress: Okinawans take a few moments each day to remember their ancestors, Adventists pray, Ikarians take a nap, and Sardinians do happy hour.
  4. 80 Percent Rule.
    Hara hachi bu—the 2,500-year-old Confucian mantra spoken before meals on Okinawa—reminds people to stop eating when their stomachs are 80 percent full. The 20 percent gap between not being hungry and feeling full could be the difference between losing weight and gaining it. People in the Blue Zones eat their smallest meal in the late afternoon or early evening, and then they don’t eat any more the rest of the day.
  5. Plant Slant. Beans, including fava, black, soy, and lentil, are the cornerstone of most centenarian diets. Meat—mostly pork—is eaten on average only five times per month, and in a serving of three to four ounces, about the size of a deck of cards.
  6. Wine @ 5. People in all Blue Zones (even some Adventists) drink alcohol moderately and regularly. Moderate drinkers outlive nondrinkers. The trick is to drink one to two glasses per day with friends and/or with food. And no, you can’t save up all week and have 14 drinks on Saturday.
  7. Belong. All but five of the 263 centenarians we interviewed belonged to a faith-based community. Denomination doesn’t seem to matter. Research shows that attending faith-based services four times per month will add 4 to 14 years of life expectancy.
  8. Loved Ones First. Successful centenarians in the Blue Zones put their families first. They keep aging parents and grandparents nearby or in the home, which also lowers disease and mortality rates of their children. They commit to a life partner (which can add up to three years of life expectancy), and they invest in their children with time and love, which makes the children more likely to be caretakers when the time comes.
  9. Right Tribe. The world’s longest-lived people choose, or were born into, social circles that support healthy behaviors. Okinawans create moais—groups of five friends that commit to each other for life. Research shows that smoking, obesity, happiness, and even loneliness are contagious. By contrast, social networks of long-lived people favorably shape their health behaviors.”



A distinct version of the Mediterranean diet is followed on the Blue Zone island of Ikaria, Greece. It emphasizes olive oil, vegetables, beans, fruit, moderate amounts of alcohol and low quantities of meat and dairy products. Gianluca Colla/Courtesy of Blue Zones

The Blue Zones

April 11, 2015 4:14 PM ET NPR Eliza Barclay

Want to live to be 100? It’s tempting to think that with enough omega-3s, kale and blueberries, you could eat your way there. But one of the key takeaways from a new book on how to eat and live like “the world’s healthiest people” is that longevity is not just about food.
The people who live in the Blue Zones — five regions in Europe, Latin America, Asia and the U.S. researchers have identified as having the highest concentrations of centenarians in the world — move their bodies a lot. They have social circles that reinforce healthy behaviors. They take time to de-stress. They’re part of communities, often religious ones. And they’re committed to their families. But what they put in their mouths, how much and when is worth a close look, too. And that’s why Dan Buettner, a National Geographic explorer and author who struck out on a quest in 2000 to find the lifestyle secrets to longevity, has written a follow up to his original book on the subject. The new book, called The Blue Zones Solution, is aimed at Americans, and is mostly about eating. In the new book, which was released April 7, Buettner distills the researchers’ findings on what all the Blue Zones share when it comes to their diet. Here’s a taste:

  • Stop eating when your stomach is 80 percent full to avoid weight gain.
  • Eat the smallest meal of the day in the late afternoon or evening.
  • Eat mostly plants, especially beans. And eat meat rarely, in small portions of 3 to 4 ounces. Blue Zoners eat portions this size just five times a month, on average.
  • Drink alcohol moderately and regularly, i.e. 1-2 glasses a day.

The book also features “top longevity foods” from each Blue Zone, some of which we found pretty intriguing…..


Midday naps associated with reduced blood pressure and fewer medications

Posted: 29 Aug 2015 09:36 AM PDT

Midday naps are associated with reduced blood pressure levels and prescription of fewer antihypertensive medications, according to new research.


Slower melting ice cream in pipeline, thanks to new ingredient

Posted: 31 Aug 2015 06:30 PM PDT

Childhood memories of sticky hands from melting ice cream cones could soon become obsolete, thanks to a new food ingredient.
Scientists have discovered a naturally occurring protein that can be used to create ice cream that is more resistant to melting than conventional products. The protein binds together the air, fat and water in ice cream, creating a super-smooth consistency. The new ingredient could enable ice creams to keep frozen for longer in hot weather. It could also prevent gritty ice crystals from forming, ensuring a fine, smooth texture like those of luxury ice creams. The development could allow products to be manufactured with lower levels of saturated fat — and fewer calories — than at present.













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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