Conservation Science News Oct 30 2015

Focus of the Week
When megafauna disappear, so does their ecosystem-sustaining poop










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Focus of the Week– When megafauna disappear, so does their poop- disrupts Earth’s nutrient cycle



This diagram shows an interlinked system of animals that carry nutrients from ocean depths to deep inland — through their poop, urine, and, upon death, decomposing bodies. A new study in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences reports that — in the past–this chain of whales, seabirds, migratory fish and large land mammals transported far greater amounts of nutrients than they do today. Here, the red arrows show the estimated amounts of phosphorus and other nutrients that were moved or diffused historically — and how much these flows have been reduced today. Grey animals represent extinct or reduced densities of animal populations. Credit: Diagram from PNAS; designed by Renate Helmiss


Declines in whales, fish, seabirds and large animals disrupt Earth’s nutrient cycle

Posted: 26 Oct 2015 02:20 PM PDT

In the past, whales, giant land mammals, and other animals played a vital role in keeping the planet fertile by transporting nutrients via their feces. However, massive declines and extinctions of many of these animals has deeply damaged this planetary nutrient recycling system, threatening fisheries and ecosystems on land, a team of scientists reports.

Giants once roamed the earth. Oceans teemed with ninety-foot-long whales. Huge land animals–like truck-sized sloths and ten-ton mammoths–ate vast quantities of food, and, yes, deposited vast quantities of poop.

A new study shows that these whales and outsized land mammals–as well as seabirds and migrating fish–played a vital role in keeping the planet fertile by transporting nutrients from ocean depths and spreading them across seas, up rivers, and deep inland, even to mountaintops.

However, massive declines and extinctions of many of these animals has deeply damaged this planetary nutrient recycling system, a team of scientists reported October 26 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

“This broken global cycle may weaken ecosystem health, fisheries, and agriculture,” says Joe Roman, a biologist at the University of Vermont and co-author on the new study.

On land, the capacity of animals to carry nutrients away from concentrated “hotspots,” the team writes, has plummeted to eight percent of what it was in the past–before the extinction of some 150 species of mammal “megafauna” at the end of the last ice age.

And, largely because of human hunting over the last few centuries, the capacity of whales, and other marine mammals, to move one vital nutrient–phosphorus–from deep ocean waters to the surface has been reduced by more than seventy-five percent, the new study shows….

The world of giants came to an end on land after the megafauna extinctions that began some 12,000 years ago–driven by a complex array of forces including climate change and Neolithic hunters. And it ended in the oceans in the wake of whale and other mammal hunting in the industrial era of humans.

“But recovery is possible and important,” says UVM’s Roman. He points to bison as an example. “That’s achievable. It might be a challenge policy-wise, but it’s certainly within our power to bring back herds of bison to North America. That’s one way we could restore an essential nutrient pathway.”

And many whale and marine mammal populations are also recovering, Roman notes. “We can imagine a world with relatively abundant whale populations again,” he says.

But have domestic animals, like cows, taken over the nutrient distribution role of now-extinct large land animals? No, the new study shows. Though there are many cows, fences constrain the movement of domestic animals and their nutrients. “Future pastures could be set up with fewer fences and with a wider range of species,” the team writes….

Christopher E. Doughty, Joe Roman, Søren Faurby, Adam Wolf, Alifa Haque, Elisabeth S. Bakker, Yadvinder Malhi, John B. Dunning Jr., and Jens-Christian Svenning. Global nutrient transport in a world of giants. PNAS, October 26, 2015 DOI: 10.1073/pnas.1502549112


Francois Gohler/Science Source

When whales disappear, so does their ecosystem-sustaining poop

26 October 2015 5:45 pm Science Mag

Humans have been bad for blue whales. As many as 350,000 of the giant mammals (pictured) once plied the oceans; now, only a few thousand are left.


Although removing such creatures from ecosystems can have a host of effects, a new study draws attention to one in particular: There’s a lot less poop getting spread around the planet. In the research, published online today in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, the scientists describe how losing these animals and other “megafauna” has upset a global cycle that once passed large amounts of nutrients like phosphorus from the ocean depths where large marine mammals like blue whales often feed into the sunlit surface waters where seabirds or migrating fish like salmon browse.


As those fish swam back up the rivers where they were born or the birds returned to dry ground, the nutrients went with them, incorporated into their bodies or excreted, eventually feeding a host of terrestrial organisms. In turn, those animals’ own waste—and eventually decomposing bodies—helped spread the nutrients even further, fertilizing the interior of continents, the scientists say.


In all, the researchers used a set of mathematical models to reveal that today animals only have about 6% of their former capacity to move such nutrients away from “hot spots” and across the oceans and land.


Such a loss may continue to weaken ecosystem health, fisheries, and agriculture, leaving them less naturally productive than they might otherwise be. Protecting whales, migratory fish, and seabirds could make a difference in restoring, at least somewhat, the nutrient pathway, the scientists say. 





In this photo taken on Thursday, Oct. 1, 2015, an elephant crosses the road in Hwange National Park, about 700 kilometers south west of Harare, Zimbabwe. Cyanide poisoning has killed 22 elephants in Zimbabwe. Photo: Tsvangirayi Mukwazhi, Associated Press

Scientists’ warning: Extinction of big land animals forever alters environment

By Peter Fimrite Updated 3:03 pm, Monday, October 26, 2015 SF Chronicle

Extinctions of large animals — a fate that could soon befall elephants and rhinoceros — have a cascade effect on local ecosystems, including Northern California, where many smaller animals and plants died off after mammoths were wiped out, a team of scientists has discovered. The size of elephants, wildebeest and other big plant-eaters not only makes them impressive and fascinating, but vital to the many species, including flora and fauna, that live with and depend on them, according to a joint report by UC Berkeley, Stanford University, California State University Sacramento and the University of Chile. “Ecological studies have shown that if you pull out a top predator or a key herbivore today, you get dramatic change in the ecosystem,” said Anthony Barnosky, a UC Berkeley professor of integrative biology and the study leader. “Our study makes it clear that in the past, such changes have lasted for thousands of years. These extinctions really do permanently change the dynamics. You can’t go back.” The study, which was released Monday and is to be published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, looked at past extinctions in North and South America since humans arrived about 15,000 years ago. The scientists found that the number and diversity of small animals and vegetation decreased all along the Pacific Northwest, as well as the western and northeastern United States, after mammoth and mastodon extinctions. In Alaska and the Yukon, what was once a mix of forest and grassland became mostly tundra after the loss of mammoths, native horses and other large animals, according to the study….



Rewilding the future

Posted: 27 Oct 2015 06:52 AM PDT

New research shows that the loss of large animals has had strong effects on ecosystem functions, and that reintroducing large animal faunas may restore biodiverse ecosystems. Rewilding is gaining a lot of interest as an alternative conservation and land management approach in recent years, but remains controversial. It is increasingly clear that Earth harbored rich faunas of large animals — such as elephants, wild horses and big cats — pretty much everywhere, but that these have starkly declined with the spread of humans across the world — a decline that continues in many areas. A range of studies now show that these losses have had strong effects on ecosystem functions, and a prominent strain of rewilding, trophic rewilding, focuses on restoring large animal faunas and their top-down food-web effects to promote self-regulating biodiverse ecosystems. A new study led by researchers from Department of Bioscience, Aarhus University, published in PNAS today, synthesizes the current scientific research on trophic rewilding and outlines key research priorities for rewilding science. “Reviewing the evidence from major rewilding projects such as the wolf reintroduction to the Yellowstone National Park and the Oostvaardersplassen experiment in the Netherlands, the study concludes that species reintroductions and ecological replacements can successfully restore lost food-web cascades with strong ecological effects,” says lead author Professor Jens-Christian Svenning, Department of Bioscience, Aarhus University.


Jens-Christian Svenning, Pil B. M. Pedersen, C. Josh Donlan, Rasmus Ejrnæs, Søren Faurby, Mauro Galetti, Dennis M. Hansen, Brody Sandel, Christopher J. Sandom, John W. Terborgh, Frans W. M. Vera. Science for a wilder Anthropocene: Synthesis and future directions for trophic rewilding research. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 2015; 201502556 DOI: 10.1073/pnas.1502556112


Mauricio Anton Violent attacks by large packs of carnivores limited the population of mammoths, mastodons and other species in the Pleistocene epoch.

Large, violent animal packs shaped the ecosystems of the Pleistocene epoch

Research led by UCLA biologist uses wide variety of data to reconstruct an ancient era

Stuart Wolpert | October 26, 2015

For years, evolutionary biologists have wondered how ecosystems during the Pleistocene epoch survived despite the presence of many species of huge, hungry herbivores, such as mammoths, mastodons and giant ground sloths. Observations on modern elephants suggest that large concentrations of those animals could have essentially destroyed the environment, but that wasn’t the case. Now life scientists from UCLA and other universities in the U.S. and England argue that the ecosystem was effectively saved by predatory animals that helped keep the population of large herbivores in check. Their findings, reported this week in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, show that intense, violent attacks by packs of some of the world’s largest carnivores — including lions much larger than those of today and sabertooth cats — went a long way toward shaping ecosystems during the Pleistocene epoch. The research could have implications for animal conservation efforts today. The paper notes that many of today’s endangered species evolved during or before the Pleistocene epoch, and under very different conditions from today’s. “Recreating these [Pleistocene] communities is not possible, but their record of success compels us to maintain the diversity we have and rebuild it where feasible,” the researchers write. Led by Blaire Van Valkenburgh, a UCLA evolutionary biologist, the researchers found that, because of their larger size, the ancient carnivores were very capable of killing young mammoths, mastodons and other species, which prevented those animals from destroying ecosystems in the Pleistocene, which ended about 11,700 years ago. The paper suggests that the extinction of the largest of the “hyper-carnivores” (such as lions, sabertooth cats and hyenas) during the late Pleistocene almost certainly was caused by the disappearance of their preferred prey, including young mega-herbivores (the mammoths, mastodons and giant ground sloths). “Based on observations of living mega-herbivores, such as elephants, rhinos, giraffes and hippos, scientists have generally thought that these species were largely immune to predation, mainly because of their large size as adults and strong maternal protection of very young offspring,” said Van Valkenburgh, who holds an appointment in the UCLA College’s department of ecology and evolutionary biology….



Only four percent of the ocean is protected, research shows

Posted: 26 Oct 2015 06:28 AM PDT

Despite global efforts to increase the area of the ocean that is protected, only four per cent of it lies within marine protected areas (MPAs), according to a new study.


Lisa Boonzaier, Daniel Pauly. Marine protection targets: an updated assessment of global progress. Oryx, 2015; 1 DOI: 10.1017/S0030605315000848

Marine reserves will need stepping stones to help fish disperse between them

Posted: 27 Oct 2015 10:29 AM PDT

A massive field effort on the Belizean Barrier Reef has revealed for the first time that the offspring of at least one coral reef fish, a neon goby, do not disperse far from their parents. The results indicate that if marine protected areas aim to conserve such fishes, and biodiversity more broadly, then they must be spaced closely enough to allow larvae to disperse successfully between them.
A growing body of scientific research has demonstrated that marine protected areas, particularly no-take marine reserves that exclude extractive activities like fishing, can increase biodiversity and sustain fisheries within the reserves, often with spillover benefits in surrounding areas. But despite the decline of coral reefs and fisheries worldwide, only 3.5 percent of the ocean is protected and only 1.6 percent of it is fully protected. Moreover, for reserves to conserve marine biodiversity most effectively, they must be embedded in networks that are connected such that marine life from one reserve can repopulate other reserves. “Before our study, we didn’t have a deep, quantitative understanding of how far fish larvae do and do not disperse from their parents,” says study co-author Peter Buston of Boston University. “If we’re going to design effective networks of marine reserves, we need to know how far baby fish can and cannot travel. Our study suggests that for fishes like the neon gobies, protected areas may need to be close together.”…


Cassidy C. D’Aloia, Steven M. Bogdanowicz, Robin K. Francis, John E. Majoris, Richard G. Harrison, Peter M. Buston. Patterns, causes, and consequences of marine larval dispersal. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 2015; 201513754 DOI: 10.1073/pnas.1513754112



Seals not competing with Irish fishing stocks, according to new research

Posted: 27 Oct 2015 07:06 AM PDT

Seals are not threatening commercial fishing stocks in Irish waters, with the possible exception of wild Atlantic salmon, according to new research.



Water-treatment plants are not supposed to harm the functioning of river ecosystems

Posted: 29 Oct 2015 10:46 AM PDT

When a river receives waste water from a treatment plant, the plant’s efficiency is revealed. A new study group has observed that the waste water from treatment plants significantly influences the river ecosystem. As the quantity of organic matter is bigger, the activity of the organisms that feed on it increases. Yet other organisms are harmed because this matter contains toxic substances



CREDIT: wikimedia commons The swift fox, a species that’s benefited from local conservation efforts.

A New Way To Protect Animals With Dwindling Populations– At-Risk Category

by Katie Valentine Oct 25, 2015 9:00am

There’s no question that the Endangered Species Act has had some major successes. When America’s beloved bald eagle was placed on the endangered list in the 1960s, there were fewer than 400 nesting pairs in the country — now, that number has risen to nearly 10,000. The brown pelican was nearly extinct in the U.S. when it was listed in the 1970s, but its numbers improved so dramatically that it was removed from the list in 2009.

But an endangered listing typically serves as an option of last resort for declining species in America — something that can swoop in when numbers get frighteningly low. There are many species that aren’t yet listed as endangered but whose numbers are threatened by pollution, loss of habitat, and other factors. That’s why a new report from the Center for American Progress recommends that the federal government create a new category under the Endangered Species Act — “at risk.” An at risk species would be a lower category than the ESA’s threatened or endangered listing, and wouldn’t afford a species any legal protections. But it would encourage voluntary efforts to conserve the at-risk species’ habitat, and would prioritize federal funding for incentives for this voluntary conservation. “A farmer who has important aquatic habitat for an at-risk amphibian, for example, could receive priority consideration for funding from the Agriculture Department’s Wetlands Reserve Program,” the report states. “A land trust that is working with a rancher to place a conservation easement on high-priority habitat for at risk species might likewise get favorable consideration from the Land and Water Conservation Fund or the Agricultural Conservation Easement Program.”…



Annual Antarctic ozone hole larger and formed later in 2015

Posted: 29 Oct 2015 03:55 PM PDT

The 2015 Antarctic ozone hole area was larger and formed later than in recent years, said scientists….


Aquaculture: Gear, not geoducks, impacts ecosystem if farming increases

Posted: 22 Oct 2015 06:45 AM PDT

The equipment used to farm geoducks (clams), including PVC pipes and nets, might have a greater impact on the Puget Sound food web than the addition of the clams themselves. That’s one of the findings of the first major scientific study to examine the broad, long-term ecosystem effects of geoduck aquaculture in Puget Sound.




Mountain big sagebrush – or Artemisia tridentata ssp. vaseyana – is a sub-species of big sagebrush that is found in primarily at higher elevation and colder, drier sites between the Rocky Mountains and the Cascades and Sierra Nevada. (High resolution image

Technical Announcement:
Restoration Handbook for Sagebrush Steppe Ecosystems, Part 1 – Understanding and Applying Restoration
Released: 10/26/2015 12:30:00 PM Click here for Handbook

CORVALLIS, Ore. — Heightened interest in advancing sage-grouse conservation has increased the importance of sagebrush-steppe restoration to recover or create wildlife habitat conditions that meet the species’ needs.  Today, the U.S. Geological Survey published part one of a three-part handbook addressing restoration of sagebrush ecosystems from the landscape to the site level….The new handbook describes a sagebrush-steppe habitat restoration framework that incorporates landscape ecology principles and information on resistance of sagebrush-steppe to invasive plants and resilience to disturbance. This section of the handbook introduces habitat managers and restoration practitioners to basic concepts about sagebrush ecosystems, landscape ecology and restoration ecology, with emphasis on greater sage-grouse habitats.

Six specific concepts covered are:

  • similarities and differences among sagebrush plant communities,
  • plant community resilience to disturbance and resistance to invasive plants based on soil temperature and moisture regimes,
  • soils and the ecology critical for plant species used for restoration,
  • changes that can be made to current management practices or re-vegetation efforts in support of general restoration actions,
  • landscape restoration with an emphasis on restoration to benefit sage-grouse and
  • monitoring effectiveness of restoration actions in support of adaptive management.

Restoration of an ecosystem is a daunting task that appears insurmountable at first,” said Pyke. “But as with any large undertaking, the key is breaking down the process into the essential components to successfully meet objectives. Within the sagebrush steppe ecosystem, restoration is likely to be most successful with a better understanding of how to prioritize landscapes for effective restoration and to apply principles of ecosystem resilience and resistance in restoration decisions.” Pyke noted that the blending of ecosystem realities – such as soil, temperature and moisture – with species-specific needs provides an ecologically based framework for strategically focusing restoration measures to support species of conservation concern over the short and long term. Part one of the handbook sets the stage for two decision support tools. Part two of the handbook will provide restoration guidance at a landscape level, and part three, restoration guidance at the site level.

The handbook was funded by the U.S. Joint Fire Science Program and National Interagency Fire Center, Bureau of Land Management, Great Northern Landscape Conservation, USGS, and Western Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies with authors from the USGS, U.S. Forest Service, Bureau of Land Management, Oregon State University, Utah State University and Brigham Young University


Siberian jays can recognize unfamiliar, distant relatives

Posted: 26 Oct 2015 06:32 AM PDT

Can animals recognize distantly related, unfamiliar individuals of the same species? Siberian jays possess this ability as evolutionary biologists recently could demonstrate for the first time. This bird species belongs to the crow family and is able to accurately assess the degree of kinship to unfamiliar individuals. This ability provides advantages when sharing food and other forms of cooperation.


Birds require multiple sperm to penetrate eggs to ensure normal embryo development

Posted: 27 Oct 2015 06:36 PM PDT

Unlike humans, birds require multiple sperm to penetrate an egg to enable their chicks to develop normally.



Amazonian natives had little impact on land, new research finds

Posted: 28 Oct 2015 02:45 AM PDT

Natives of Amazonia had limited impact on the forests and land surrounding them, suggests new research. The findings reinforce how vulnerable Amazonian forests may be to logging and mining.

It’s Bat Week

U.S. Department of the Interior October 28, 2015

It’s Bat Week — a week dedicated to celebrating the importance of bats! Far from scary, these little creatures act as pollinators and natural pest control. Watch this video to learn more cool bat facts, find out what challenges are facing bats today and what you can do to help #savethebats.






Plankton poo clue could aid climate predictions

By Matthew Stock Mon Oct 26, 2015 11:17am EDT

Scientists from the UK’s National Oceanography Center (NOC) have set their sights on unmasking the ocean’s ‘twilight zone’ – the area between 100 and 1000 meters deep where a small amount of the sun’s light can still penetrate. This area has proved particularly troublesome for researchers to study, as scientific instruments are typically designed to either sink to the ocean floor or float on the surface. But this elusive region is teeming with ocean life that plays a key role in keeping atmospheric carbon-dioxide (CO2) levels 30 percent lower than it otherwise would be, according to the scientists from NOC. “Just like the plants in your garden, phytoplankton – the plants in the ocean – absorb carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. The difference is when these guys sink they can go down into the deep ocean. And then the deep ocean of course isn’t in contact with the air anymore and so it’s captured and it’s stored down there for long periods of time,” ocean biochemist Dr. Stephanie Henson told Reuters, adding that understanding what processes are involved in carbon transport in the ocean could lead to better predictions of global environmental change. Professor Richard Sanders is leading a project to develop a scientific instrument that can gather samples of these organisms. At the NOC headquarters in Southampton, Sanders and his team are testing a device they’ve built called PELAGRA, or the ‘pelagic lagrangian sediment trap’. “This is specifically designed to attack and sample the key unknown part of the ocean; we call it the ‘twilight zone’, where there’s just a little bit of light. So what this does is it samples the bit between about 50 and 500 meters, that’s where a lot of the action is. We’ve got stuff sinking and there’s lots of organisms that live there eating it. And what we want to know is what they’re doing. What this device does is it captures the flux at different depths in that depth range, so we can work out what the organisms that live there are doing,” explained Sanders. PELAGRA’s sediment traps will help scientists calculate the carbon entering the oceans by providing a sample of the volume of sediment that sinks in a given period of time. Known as ‘marine snow’ for its appearance as it falls through the ocean, this sediment consists of flakes of marine detritus – dead plant and animal plankton, and plankton faeces. “Marine snow is composed of dead phytoplankton which sort of clump together to form flakes and then they’re heavy enough to sink down into the deep ocean. It can also be formed of little animals which eat the little plants and then they poop out that carbon, and then their fecal pellets are very heavy and they sink down to the bottom of the ocean, also carrying lots of carbon with them,” said Henson. She added that scientists have known about marine snow as a mechanism for getting carbon out of the atmosphere and down into the ocean for about 50 years, but it’s only recently that technology has evolved to a degree that allows for accurate measurements….



Warming waters a major factor in the collapse of New England cod

Posted: 29 Oct 2015 12:02 PM PDT

Today, cod stocks are on the verge of collapse, hovering at 3-4 percent of sustainable levels. Even cuts to the fishery have failed to slow this rapid decline, surprising both fishermen and fisheries managers. For the first time, a new report in Science explains why. It shows that rapid warming of Gulf of Maine waters — 99 percent faster than anywhere else on the planet – reduced the capacity of cod to rebound from fishing, leading to collapse….


Andrew J. Pershing, Michael A. Alexander, Christina M. Hernandez, Lisa A. Kerr, Arnault Le Bris, Katherine E. Mills, Janet A. Nye, Nicholas R. Record, Hillary A. Scannell, James D. Scott, Graham D. Sherwood, and Andrew C. Thomas. Slow adaptation in the face of rapid warming leads to collapse of the Gulf of Maine cod fishery. Science, 29 October 2015 DOI: 10.1126/science.aac9819


The great northern cod comeback [anyone know if this is related to decline in New England?]

Posted: 27 Oct 2015 04:48 AM PDT

Once an icon of overfishing, mismanagement, and stock decline, the northern Atlantic cod is showing signs of recovery according to new research published in the Canadian Journal of Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences. This research, led by Dr. George Rose, tracks what is arguably the most important comeback of any fish stock worldwide. Studying the great northern Atlantic cod stock complex off Newfoundland and Labrador, once considered among the largest cod stocks in the world before its disastrous decline in the 1990s, Dr. Rose documents the stock’s rebound over the past decade from tens of thousands to several hundred thousand tonnes and growing. According to the study, this comeback from commercial extinction has followed three distinct steps:

1. After a decade and a half moratorium on fishing, improved environmental factors resulted in stock rebuilding in the southern Bonavista Corridor spawning-migration route accompanied by increases in size structure and fish condition.

2. Two more northerly routes became populated with a wide size structure of fish.

3. Generation of strong recruitment from all three regions. The stock is positioned for this third and final step.

Dr. Rose credits many equally important yet diversified factors in the continued rebuilding of this stock, “The important take-away from this study is that with favourable environmental conditions, in this case the increase in capelin as a key food for this stock, and a severe reduction of fishing, even the most decimated fish stocks have the potential to recover.” Stressing the importance of responsible management, Dr. Rose continues, “Without a doubt, maintaining low removals of this stock over the past decades has been essential to recovery. While the timing of a full recovery remains uncertain, continued protection from excessive fishing remains essential to achieving that outcome.” While Dr. Rose underscores that neither the full northern cod stock nor the Bonavista Corridor group are fully rebuilt or recovered at this stage, the findings show that the stock is making a strong comeback after nearly two decades of attrition.


George A. Rose, Sherrylynn Rowe. Northern cod comeback. Canadian Journal of Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences, 2015; 1789 DOI: 10.1139/cjfas-2015-0346



Harmful algal blooms and climate change: Preparing to forecast the future

Posted: 26 Oct 2015 10:21 AM PDT

Marine scientists have warned that the future may bring more harmful algal blooms (HABs) that threaten wildlife and the economy, and called for changes in research priorities to better forecast these long-term trends.


Mammal body-size responds to climate change in ancient Wyoming

Posted: 29 Oct 2015 08:22 AM PDT

Evidence from fossils suggests that multiple global warming events, which occurred over 50 million years ago, impacted the evolution of mammals living in ancient Wyoming. Using over seven thousand fossilized teeth, paleontologists found a reduction in body size of mammal populations, hypothesized to be related to warming events.
This work provides a unique glimpse at the long-term impact of climatic change on mammal populations….


Worst Climate Threat You Never Heard of Is Stronger Than CO2

Alex Nussbaum

October 29, 2015 — 5:00 PM PDT Updated on October 30, 2015 — 7:44 AM PDT

  • HFCs are thousands of times stronger than CO2 at trapping heat
  • As envoys debate a phase-out, some countries balk at cost

The biggest global warming battle you’ve never heard of kicks off in Dubai this weekend. Climate negotiators from across the globe will gather in the Persian Gulf city to debate how to get rid of hydrofluorocarbons — a class of hundreds of artificial chemicals used in refrigerators, air-conditioners, fire suppressants and other widely used products. While less common than greenhouse gases like carbon dioxide or methane, HFCs can be thousands of times more potent, pound for pound, at heating up the planet. They’re also gaining in popularity as demand for air conditioning, refrigeration and other services is expected to soar in developing countries in coming decades. The result: HFCs are now the world’s fastest growing greenhouse gases and projected to rise even more in the future. A worldwide agreement coming out of the United Nations-run meeting in Dubai to quickly get rid of HFCs may keep the equivalent of 100 billion tons of CO2 out of the atmosphere by 2050 and avoid a half-degree Celsius of warming by century’s end, proponents say. That’s about a quarter of the 2-degrees Celsius (3.6-degree Fahrenheit) limit that scientists say is needed to avoid the worst effects of climate change. “If we can avoid 100 billion tons and eliminate a half-degree of warming, that’s a pretty good down payment,” said Durwood Zaelke, president of the Washington-based Institute for Governance & Sustainable Development. A global deal is proving elusive, however. Poorer countries and those in warmer climates have concerns about the reliability and expense of substitutes, which can cost ten times as much as the climate-threatening chemicals they replace. Advocates fear a new ban may boost the black market for HFCs. Chemical makers including Chemours Co. have found a significant amount of the refrigerants in use in some regions are labeled as the newer, safer products, but are actually older, cheaper products harmful to the environment. “The chemical industry is producing literally hundreds of different kinds of HFC blends,” said Clare Perry, a senior campaigner for the Environmental Investigations Agency, a nonprofit that tracks environmental crime. “The scope for illegal trade is just enormous.”….



This river is one of a network of thousands at the front line of climate change


October 27, 2015 NY TIMES

By Coral Davenport, Josh Haner, Larry Buchanan and Derek Watkins

On the Greenland Ice Sheet — The midnight sun still gleamed at 1 a.m. across the brilliant expanse of the Greenland ice sheet. Brandon Overstreet, a doctoral candidate in hydrology at the University of Wyoming, picked his way across the frozen landscape, clipped his climbing harness to an anchor in the ice and crept toward the edge of a river that rushed downstream toward an enormous sinkhole. If he fell in, “the death rate is 100 percent,” said Mr. Overstreet’s friend and fellow researcher, Lincoln Pitcher. But Mr. Overstreet’s task, to collect critical data from the river, is essential to understanding one of the most consequential impacts of global warming. The scientific data he and a team of six other researchers collect here could yield groundbreaking information on the rate at which the melting of Greenland ice sheet, one of the biggest and fastest-melting chunks of ice on Earth, will drive up sea levels in the coming decades. The full melting of Greenland’s ice sheet could increase sea levels by about 20 feet. “We scientists love to sit at our computers and use climate models to make those predictions,” said Laurence C. Smith, head of the geography department at the University of California, Los Angeles, and the leader of the team that worked in Greenland this summer. “But to really know what’s happening, that kind of understanding can only come about through empirical measurements in the field.” For years, scientists have studied the impact of the planet’s warming on the Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets. But while researchers have satellite images to track the icebergs that break off, and have created models to simulate the thawing, they have little on-the-ground information and so have trouble predicting precisely how fast sea levels will rise…The scientists were excited but anxious as they prepared to travel inland by helicopter to do the fieldwork at the heart of their research: For 72 hours, every hour on the hour, they would stand watch by a supraglacial watershed, taking measurements — velocity, volume, temperature and depth — from the icy bank of the rushing river.

“No one has ever collected a data set like this,” Asa Rennermalm, a professor of geography at the Rutgers University Climate Institute who was running the project with Dr. Smith, told the team over a lunch of musk ox burgers at the Kangerlussuaq airport cafeteria. Taking each measurement was so difficult and dangerous that it would require two scientists at a time, she said. They would have to plan a sleep schedule to ensure that a group was always awake to do the job. Everyone knew the team would be working just upriver from the moulin — the sinkhole that would sweep anyone who fell into it deep into the ice sheet. ….They might even learn, Dr. Smith said, that the water is refreezing within the ice sheet and that sea levels are actually rising more slowly than models project. For three days and three nights, the scientists continued to measure the river, as up to 430,000 gallons of water a minute poured off the ice and into the moulin. On the final morning, the team, tired but elated, gathered by the river as the boogie board made its final trip. By then, Mr. Ryan’s backup drone had safely completed its mapping mission. Mr. Overstreet broke open a celebratory bag of dried mangoes — a lavish treat for the ice campers.


Ancient permafrost quickly transforms to carbon dioxide upon thaw

Posted: 26 Oct 2015 02:14 PM PDT

Researchers have quantified how rapidly ancient permafrost decomposes upon thawing and how much carbon dioxide is produced in the process.



CREDIT: Dylan Petrohilos/ThinkProgress

How Washington Transformed Its Dying Oyster Industry Into A Climate Success Story [for now]

by Natasha Geiling Oct 28, 2015 11:07am

….The hatchery was still suffering massive larvae mortality — months where nearly every one of the billions of tiny larvae housed in the hatchery’s vast network died before it could reach maturity. Two-hundred miles up the coast in Shelton, Washington, Bill Dewey was also stumped. As director of public affairs for Taylor Shellfish, the country’s largest producer of farmed shellfish, he couldn’t figure out what was causing the hatchery’s tiny larvae to die in huge numbers….Dick Feely, a senior scientist with NOAA’s Pacific Marine Environmental Laboratory, was just halfway through the first-ever survey meant to measure the amount of carbon dioxide in the surface waters of the Pacific Coast. Already, he could tell from the few samples they had collected that he and his team had the material for a major scientific paper. He called his boss at NOAA to tell him that there was something wrong with the water. It seemed that an increase in carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, propelled by the burning of fossil fuels, was also increasing the acidity of the water….

Less than a decade after the small business balanced dangerously on the edge of ruin, the hatchery is surviving. Up at Taylor Shellfish, things are markedly better, too — the company posted record production in 2009. In 2013, the Washington state legislature set aside millions of dollars in the state budget dedicated to combating the problem that Dick Feely and the team of scientists detected so near the coast back in 2007. In recent years, representatives from Washington have traveled around the country and the world, teaching other coastal communities about the dangers of and potential solutions to the increase of acidity in ocean waters caused by the absorption of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, also known as ocean acidification.

“It’s one beautiful story of how science and government and industry work together,” Feely said. “This would have never worked out anywhere else, but it works beautifully here.” But as global carbon dioxide emissions continue to pour into the atmosphere — and seep into the water — other states are beginning to face the threat of ocean acidification in their own waters. By the end of the century, under a business-as-usual carbon emissions scenario, some scientists think the acidity of the world’s oceans could double. If that happens, can the Pacific Northwest’s regional success help guide a global fight against the impacts of ocean acidification?…….

….With data coming in daily from the monitoring system, hatcheries were able to install buffer systems — tanks that pump sodium carbonate back into the water to manually raise the concentration of carbonate ions.

“That turned things around almost instantaneously for us in the hatcheries,” Bill Dewey of Taylor Shellfish said. “We went from 75 percent mortality to record production almost overnight.” But while monitoring and buffering helped save the hatcheries from years of dismal production, everyone knew that they were little more than short-term fixes. As the atmospheric concentration of carbon dioxide continues to increase, the number of favorable days for oyster spawning will continue to decrease, narrowing from 50 percent of the time to only a quarter of the time. “What we’ve got is no doubt a temporary workaround,” Dewey said….

Gregoire convened the country’s first Blue Ribbon Panel on Ocean Acidification that following year, and asked Manning if he would serve as chair. All the key players — Dick Feely, Bill Dewey, and Burke Hales’ OSU colleague George Walbusser — were joined by more than 20 scientists, industry professionals, and local and national representatives. Many of the politicians on the panel were from conservative, rural districts. They weren’t the poster children of environmental activism, but were willing to participate because the shellfish industry was a crucial economic driver for their districts — and the threat of losing jobs was enough to bring a bipartisan coalition to the table.

“Industry led the charge, and they had really good people doing it who had pre-established political relationships with these relatively conservative representatives,” Manning said. “They were able to convince them that something had to be done and something had to be done quickly.” A year later, the Blue Ribbon Panel produced a lengthy report outlining 42 key early actions that the state could take to combat and adapt to ocean acidification. Shortly thereafter, state senator Kevin Ranker, who represents Orcas Island, set about implementing the recommendations that had come out of the Blue Ribbon Panel. In her parting budget, Gregoire had allotted $3.3 million to address the panel’s top recommendations — Ranker managed to get $1.7 million of that included in the Washington state budget that passed in 2013. That money went towards the creation of the Washington Ocean Acidification Center, based out of the University of Washington, as well as the Marine Resources Advisory Council, a standing committee tasked with advising the state on issues relating to marine resources and ocean acidification. Each year, Ranker continues to include money in the state’s budget dedicated to ocean acidification, and has been able to leverage private money to match the state’s contribution…..

In 2014, Maine became the first East Coast state to establish a commission charged with studying the potential impact of ocean acidification on their commercial industries, notably their lobster fisheries. Throughout the process, the commission looked to Washington for guidance, even designating a subcommittee tasked with reviewing the Washington Blue Ribbon Panel’s work and finding recommendations that could directly translate to Maine. In the end, Maine adopted 23 recommendations outlined in the Washington Blue Ribbon Panel. In February, the commission issued its final report, outlining six steps that the state should take to combat ocean acidification.

Devin is also hoping to pass two bills this upcoming session that take a page out of Washington’s playbook: One would create an ocean acidification monitoring system, the other would establish a coordinating council to ensure the state continues to work toward understanding and mitigating ocean acidification.

…”Human beings have a choice to make, and that choice is are we going to do something about this now, and preserve what we have, or are we just going to burn everything and see what happens,” Feely said. “That’s all our choice, and we have to collectively come to that decision.” If that doesn’t happen, scientists like Feely and Alin worry that oyster larvae might just be the beginning — scientists at NOAA are beginning to look into how ocean acidification might impact other marine organisms, like pteropods, tiny marine butterflies that are the primary source of food for juvenile salmon during their first year. Preliminary studies have shown that increased acidity in ocean waters can literally eat away at a pteropod’s shell, endangering a critical part of the marine food web. Scientists like Alin are also trying to understand how ocean acidification interacts with things like algae blooms and dead zones, and whether acidification or temperature increase could ramp up the toxicity of potentially harmful blooms….





Pilgrims in Mecca, Saudi Arabia, in September. A new study predicts heat and humidity levels “intolerable to humans.” Credit Ahmad Masood/Reuters

‘Intolerable’ Heat May Hit the Middle East by the End of the Century

By JOHN SCHWARTZ NY Times October 26, 2015

By the end of this century, areas of the Persian Gulf could be hit by waves of heat and humidity so severe that simply being outside for several hours could threaten human life, according to a study published Monday. Because of humanity’s contribution to climate change, the authors wrote, some population centers in the Middle East “are likely to experience temperature levels that are intolerable to humans.” The dangerously muggy summer conditions predicted for places near the warm waters of the gulf could overwhelm the ability of the human body to reduce its temperature through sweating and ventilation. That threatens anyone without air-conditioning, including the poor, but also those who work outdoors in professions like agriculture and construction. The paper, published in the journal Nature Climate Change, was written by Jeremy S. Pal of the department of civil engineering and environmental science at Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles and Elfatih A. B. Eltahir of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Previous studies had suggested that such conditions might be reached within 200 years. But the new research, which depends on climate models that focus on regional topography and conditions, foresees a shorter timeline. The researchers resolve the old argument over whether the source of summer misery is the heat or the humidity by saying that it is both. They rely on a method of measuring atmospheric conditions known as wet-bulb temperature, which, while less well known and understood than the standard method of measuring temperatures, describes the extent to which evaporation and ventilation can reduce an object’s temperature.
A wet-bulb thermometer has, literally, a wet bulb: It is wrapped in a moistened cloth. If the wet-bulb temperature is 95 degrees Fahrenheit (35 degrees Celsius), even a person drenched in sweat cannot cool off.
Wet-bulb readings are not the same as the heat-index measurements used by the National Weather Service, Dr. Eltahir said. (This is the figure used by weather forecasters to say what a hot day “feels like” when the humidity is added.) A wet-bulb measure of 95 degrees Fahrenheit, he estimated, would roughly translate to a heat-index reading of 165 degrees.
Since even today’s heat waves cause premature deaths by the thousands, mainly affecting very young, elderly and infirm people, the more extreme conditions envisioned in the new paper “would probably be intolerable even for the fittest of humans, resulting in hyperthermia” after six hours of exposure.…

If the nations of the world reduce their greenhouse-gas emissions, the authors concluded, the predicted disasters can be prevented: “Such efforts applied at the global scale would significantly reduce the severity of the projected impacts.”

An essay published with the new paper by Christoph Schär of the Institute for Atmospheric and Climate Science at ETH Zurich said the message of the new research is clear. “The threats to human health may be much more severe than previously thought, and may occur in the current century,” he wrote. A heat wave in July of this year got very close to the 95-degree wet-bulb threshold described by the authors, reaching about 94.3 degrees. “It is credible that it will sometimes rise above 35 °C within this century,” he wrote….

…Steven Sherwood, a researcher whose work in 2010 suggested that parts of the world could become uninhabitable within 200 years if fossil-fuel burning continued unabated, said he saw no reason to doubt the results of the new study. However, he added that “we really need to learn how to improve these models” to build confidence in the results. Still, he said he was startled by the prediction that many cities on the Persian Gulf coast could be essentially uninhabitable by the end of the century for those without air-conditioning. “That is truly shocking,” he wrote in an email exchange, and added that he found it ironic, “given the region’s importance in providing fossil fuels.”



Future temperature in southwest Asia projected to exceed a threshold for human adaptability

Jeremy S. Pal & Elfatih A. B. Eltahir Nature Climate Change (2015) doi:10.1038/nclimate2833 Published online 26 October 2015



Asia’s coasts to experience most extreme weather

Posted: 21 Oct 2015 07:49 AM PDT

Over the next 50 years, people living at low altitudes in developing countries, particularly those in coastal Asia, will suffer the most from extreme weather patterns, according to researchers.


A transmission electron microscopy image of cells from a mutant version of an Arabidopsis plant. Researchers found that the plant’s cells can destroy damaged individual structures that help the plant grow. Credit Salk Institute

Plants Manage Cellular Damage Related to Weather

By SINDYA N. BHANOO NY Times October 26, 2015

Plants rid their cells of individual chloroplasts damaged by heat and drought, scientists find.



Seed Sourcing for Restoration in an Era of Climate Change

Kayri Havens1,2 , Pati Vitt1 , Shannon Still1 , Andrea T. Kramer1 , Jeremie B. Fant1 and Katherine Schatz1 Natural Areas Journal 35(1):122-133. 2015 doi:


Proper sourcing of seed for ecological restoration has never been straightforward, and it is becoming even more challenging and complex as the climate changes. For decades, restoration practitioners have subscribed to the “local is best” tenet, even if the definition of “local” was often widely divergent between projects. However, given our increasing ability to characterize habitats, and rapid climate change, we can no longer assume that locally sourced seeds are always the best or even an appropriate option. We discuss how plants are responding to changing climates through plasticity, adaptation, and migration, and how this may influence seed sourcing decisions. We recommend focusing on developing adequate supplies of “workhorse” species, undertaking more focused collections in both “bad” years and “bad” sites to maximize the potential to be able to adapt to extreme conditions as well as overall genetic diversity, and increasing seed storage capacity to ensure we have seed available as we continue to conduct research to determine how best to deploy it in a changing climate



AFP/AFP/File – Researchers reported October 28, 2015 that habitats for some of the rarest birds in the Hawaiian islands (pictured: the city of Honolulu on Oahu) are being destroyed by a warming climate, which helps avian diseases spread.

Climate change to shrink habitat for rarest Hawaii birds

By AFP | AFP – 23 hours ago

By the end of this century, a warming climate may wipe out available habitat for some of Hawaii’s rarest birds, researchers warned on Wednesday. The future is particularly dire for certain species living in high elevations, said the study, published in the open-access journal PLOS ONE. The yellow honeycreeper known as ‘Akeke’e, the gray Akikiki bird and a rare songbird known as Puaiohi could lose all of their current range, said the study. Three others, including the Maui parrotbill, the tiny orange honeycreeper known as ‘Akepa and the crested honeycreeper ‘Akohekohe, could lose around 90 percent of their range. “As dire as these findings are, they do not mean that these bird species are doomed,” said the study’s lead author Lucas Fortini, a research ecologist with the US Geological Survey. “Instead, our findings indicate what may happen if nothing is done to address the primary drivers of decline: disease spreading uphill into the few remaining refuges.” Researchers say the most vulnerable birds have been able to survive in Hawaii’s higher elevation forests, where cooler temperatures tend to keep away mosquitos that carry diseases, like avian malaria.

In the future, conservation efforts must include interrupting “the cycle of malaria transmission and mortality” over the long-term, the study said. “Such actions could include vector control and genetic modification of both birds and mosquitos.”





CREDIT: Climate Interactive The world had been on a path toward 900 ppm of CO2 in the air by 2100. Commitments made by major countries to cut or constrain CO2 emissions through 2030 — Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDCs) — would put us on a sharply lower trajectory. To avoid catastrophic impacts, however, we will need much stronger commitments post-2030.

Elevated CO2 Levels Directly Affect Human Cognition, New Harvard Study Shows

by Joe Romm Oct 26, 2015 10:05am

In a landmark public health finding, a new study from the Harvard School of Public Health finds that carbon dioxide (CO2) has a direct and negative impact on human cognition and decision-making. These impacts have been observed at CO2 levels that most Americans — and their children — are routinely exposed to today inside classrooms, offices, homes, planes, and cars. Carbon dioxide levels are inevitably higher indoors than the baseline set by the outdoor air used for ventilation, a baseline that is rising at an accelerating rate thanks to human activity, especially the burning of fossil fuels. So this seminal research has equally great importance for climate policy, providing an entirely new public health impetus for keeping global CO2 levels as low as possible. In a series of articles, I will examine the implications for public health both today (indoors) as well as in the future (indoors and out) due to rising CO2 levels. This series is the result of a year-long investigation for Climate Progress and my new Oxford University Press book coming out next week, “Climate Change: What Everyone Needs to Know.” This investigative report is built on dozens of studies and literature reviews as well as exclusive interviews with many of the world’s leading experts in public health and indoor air quality, including authors of both studies.

What scientists have discovered about the impact of elevated carbon dioxide levels on the brain

Significantly, the Harvard study confirms the findings of a little-publicized 2012 Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (LBNL) study, “Is CO2 an Indoor Pollutant? Direct Effects of Low-to-Moderate CO2 Concentrations on Human Decision-Making Performance.” That study found “statistically significant and meaningful reductions in decision-making performance” in test subjects as CO2 levels rose from a baseline of 600 parts per million (ppm) to 1000 ppm and 2500 ppm.

The impact of fossil fuels and modern buildings on human cognition

For most of human evolution and modern history, CO2 levels in the air were in a fairly narrow and low range of 180 to 280 parts per million. Also, during the vast majority of that time, humans spent most of their time outdoors or in enclosures that were open (like a cave). Even once humans built dwellings, those were not tightly sealed as modern buildings are. So even though we generate and breathe out CO2, homo sapiens were not generally exposed to high, sustained CO2 levels.

CO2 concentrations over the last 400,000 years CREDIT: Wikipedia

But in recent decades, outdoor CO2 levels have risen sharply, to a global average of 400 ppm. Moreover, measured outdoor CO2 levels in major cities from Phoenix to Rome can be many tens of ppm higher — up to 100 ppm or more — than the global average. That’s because CO2 “domes” form over many cities primarily due to CO2 emissions from traffic and local weather conditions. The outdoor CO2 level is the baseline for indoor levels. In buildings — the places where most people work and live — CO2 concentrations are considerably higher than outdoors. CO2 levels indoors that are 200 ppm to 400 ppm higher than outdoors are commonplace — not surprising since the design standard for CO2 levels in most buildings is 1000 ppm….…Interestingly, the authors of all of these studies — the direct CO2 studies and the CO2-as-a-proxy-for-ventilation studies — are generally public health researchers focused on indoor environmental quality (IEQ). As a result, their published work does not examine the implications these findings have for climate policy.

The risks of doing nothing

But the implications for climate policy are stark. We are at 400 parts per million (ppm) of CO2 today outdoors globally — and tens of ppm higher in many major cities. We are rising at a rate of 2+ ppm a year, a rate that is accelerating. Significantly, we do not know the threshold at which CO2 levels begin to measurably impact human cognition….Loftness draws two key conclusions from these studies, her own work, and the vast database of scientific literature she has surveyed.

First, the immediate public health message is to increase ventilation and the use of outside air in buildings.

And second:

We have to do everything we can to keep outdoor CO2 levels below 600 ppm because something serious starts happening then.

Researchers at Climate Interactive put together a chart of where CO2 levels headed as we head into the crucial Paris climate talks in December [see chart above]. Commitments made by major countries to cut or constrain CO2 emissions through 2030 — Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDCs) — would put us on a sharply lower trajectory. To avoid catastrophic impacts, however, we will need much stronger commitments post-2030. Success at Paris, as I have written, would buy us 5 to 10 years in the fight to avoid catastrophe. But we would still be on a path to 675 ppm, which is too high for both the climate change impacts and the direct human cognition impacts. Worse, that level of warming will likely trigger many major carbon-cycle amplifying feedbacks that are not included in the climate models, such as permafrost melting. So we must take stronger action. On the immediate public health front, we need to start monitoring indoor CO2 more closely and keep inside levls as close as possible to levels outdoors through greater use of outside air. According to the building design experts I have interviewed, such as Dr. Loftness, that can be done without increases in building energy consumption using cost-effective strategies and technologies available today. Indeed, systematic green design will lower total energy consumption. I will examine these design strategies later in this series.




Photo: Bruce Chambers, Associated Press The 1998 El Niño rains caused severe floods in the state, inclu ding this street in the Orange County town of Laguna Beach.

Restored wetlands and the floods in our future

By Andrew Gunther Andrew Gunther is the executive coordinator of the Bay Area Ecosystem Climate Change Consortium. He is joined in this opinion by other members of the Baylands Goals Steering Committee, which represents 21 nonprofits and agencies, including Beth Huning, coordinator of San Francisco Bay Joint Venture.

October 24, 2015 Updated: October 26, 2015 11:02am

Despite the drought, now is the time to increase public support for flood protection efforts. One key to that is restoring our wetlands. The effect of El Niño and rising seas require the Bay Area to be prepared for flooding this winter and in the decades to come. Restored wetlands will provide vital protection from future damage. We’ve been spared from violent storms such as Hurricane Patricia that just hammered Mexico. But our homes, businesses, highways, railroads, airports, groundwater basins, sewage treatment plants and other vital resources for the region’s 7 million inhabitants are at risk. Even facilities on higher ground are vulnerable because many are linked economically to resources that are threatened. The Bay Area Council conservatively estimates $10 billion in damages from a single major storm. The risk we face has many sources. Extreme storms, such as those driven by El Niño, produce intense rainfall that strains our aging flood control infrastructure. Global warming is heating up the ocean and melting glaciers and ice sheets, causing the water level of San Francisco Bay to rise at an accelerating rate. Prior to 2000, we lost 85 percent of the bay wetlands (marshes and mudflats) that once buffered our shorelines from storm surges and high tides. In recent decades, the supply of silt that nourished and maintained our wetlands has declined dramatically. We can reduce the risk. A landmark report from more than 200 scientists and other experts recently produced a set of recommendations on how. The report ( urges Bay Area leaders to build on previous efforts and accelerate progress toward the long-standing goal of restoring 100,000 acres of bay wetlands. By restoring these natural systems, we take advantage of “natural engineering” to protect our communities from floods. The proposed solutions also create public recreation areas and abundant wildlife habitat, filter bay water and preserve the iconic beauty that contributes to our quality of life and our tourist economy.
To achieve this goal, we must use silt to build up our wetlands over time as sea level rises. We can use the silt dredged from ports, flood-control channels and construction projects (when not polluted), to nourish wetlands growth. We can improve the natural flows of silt our streams deliver to the shore by considering our regional lands as one system from the hills to the bay, coordinating the activities of cities, counties and special districts. But we must act quickly. Restored, healthy wetlands must be secured by 2030, before sea level rise accelerates, or the wetlands will not keep pace as bay waters rise. In places where wetlands cannot provide the full solution, levees and sea walls will be necessary, either alone or in combination with wetlands. Just as we have used our knowledge and foresight to make investments that reduce our vulnerability to earthquakes, we must also take action to address larger floods. We can do so using an innovative approach that generates multiple benefits, and provides a global example of how a coastal urban region can tackle climate change, extreme weather and rising seas. Scientists have provided guidance. Now we need the political leadership to act.











Drought-driven salmon deaths could have far-reaching impact

Drought-driven salmon deaths could have far-reaching impact

By Peter Fimrite SF Chronicle Updated 7:46 am, Thursday, October 29, 2015

One of the last wild runs of chinook salmon in California is sinking fast amid the four-year drought and now appears perilously close to oblivion after the federal agency in charge of protecting marine life documented the death of millions of young fish and eggs in the Sacramento River. The National Marine Fisheries Service reported Wednesday that 95 percent of the winter-run chinook eggs, hatchlings and juvenile salmon died this year in the river, which was too warm to support them despite conservation efforts. It was the second year in a row that most of the juvenile salmon died in the soupy water released from Shasta Dam, failing to make it to the ocean. The situation could have far-reaching effects, leading to cuts in water allotments to farmers next year if projected rains and a strong snowpack don’t erase drought deficits this winter. Commercial and recreational fishing limits could be imposed to protect the endangered chinook population, taking a toll on those industries. “Certainly there is cause for alarm when we are talking about 95 percent mortality,” said Garwin Yip, the branch chief for water operations and delta consultations for the fisheries service. “We think it is temperature-related.”

The problem was caused by a lack of snow this year on top of four years of drought. The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, Yip said, was left without enough cold water behind Shasta Dam to release during spawning season. Chinook, also known as king salmon, are born in the Sacramento River and pass through San Francisco Bay. They roam the Pacific Ocean as far away as Alaska before returning three years later to spawn. There are three distinct runs of salmon — winter, spring and late fall, which is what West Coast fishers catch in the ocean. The winter and spring-run chinook salmon are listed under the state and federal endangered species acts. The winter run has been endangered since 1994. The fisheries service worked with two state agencies, the Department of Water Resources and the Department of Fish and Wildlife, to develop an elaborate plan this year to regulate cold-water releases from Shasta Dam.

Resource officials are required by law to release enough cold water to keep the Sacramento River at 56 degrees — the ideal temperature for fish. In a bid to meet that requirement, federal officials sharply limited flows and delayed water deliveries to hundreds of Central Valley farmers.

Failed plan

The problem, Yip said, was that “there wasn’t as much cold water as anticipated and the water wasn’t as cold as we thought it was going to be.” The lack of cold water forced regulators to come up with a new temperature management plan, this one allowing the water to warm up to 57 degrees. But it didn’t work, and water temperatures, at times, rose to 58 degrees, he said. As a result, the number of juvenile fish counted this month at the Red Bluff diversion dam, downstream of Shasta, was down 22 percent compared with last year, which was also a bad year. That’s despite the fact that there were 21 percent more adult fish laying eggs in the river, Yip said. Two months remain in this year’s run, but the number of juvenile fish is unlikely to grow much beyond the 217,489 counted so far….



March 31, 2011 (download large image) compared to March 31, 2015 (download large image)

Earth Observatory’s World of Change: Snowpack in the Sierra Nevada

October 27, 2015 NASA

Sierra Nevada is a Spanish name that means “snowy mountain range.” While the term “snowy” has generally been true for most of American history, the mountain range has seen far less snow accumulation in recent years. The depth and breadth of the seasonal snowpack in any given year depends on whether a winter is wet or dry. Wet winters tend to stack up a deep snowpack, while dry ones keep it shallow. These images show the snowpack on the Sierra Nevada amid the wet year of 2011 (top) and the dry year of 2015 (bottom).
They were acquired by the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) on NASA’s Terra satellite. Turn on the image comparison tool to see the difference in the snowpack. Both images were acquired on March 31, about halfway through the water year. A “water year” is the 12-month period from October 1 through September 30. The snowpack on the Sierra Nevada has generally peaked and begins to melt by the beginning of April. Meltwater runoff from that snowpack helps replenish rivers and reservoirs while recharging the groundwater. The wet year of 2011 buffered the initial effects of drought that returned in 2012, but dry conditions deepened in subsequent years. By March 2015, about one-third of the ground-based monitoring sites in the Sierra Nevada recorded the lowest snowpack ever measured. Some sites reported no snow for the first time. One month later, only some sites—generally those at higher elevations—had any measureable snowpack. Scientists from the University of Arizona wrote in a September 2015 article in Nature Climate Change that the low snowpack conditions of 2015 were truly extraordinary. Tree-ring records of precipitation anomalies and of temperature allowed them to reconstruct a 500-year history of snow water equivalent in the Sierra Nevada. The researchers found that the low snowpack of April 2015 was “unprecedented in the context of the past 500 years.


A helicopter suspending a large loop of electrical equipment to measure the conductivity of underground soils. This approach called SkyTEM, for transient electromagnetism, will be used to build a colorful, three-dimensional model of an aquifer a thousand feet under the surface of California’s central valley farms. Photo taken Oct. 27, 2015 at the Visalia Airport. (Lisa Krieger/Bay Area News Group)

Stanford project maps underground water

By Lisa M. Krieger, Posted: 10/29/15, 7:47 PM PDT | Updated: 7 hrs ago

TULARE >> In the drought-ravaged Central Valley, scientists are using a new imaging technology to find ancient worlds of trapped water, hidden hundreds of feet underground. The Stanford University-led project, the first of its type in California, is aimed at taking the guesswork out of well drilling — and guiding restoration of precious groundwater supplies once winter rains start soaking the state. “Medical imaging has revolutionized our approach to human health. This lets us do the same thing for groundwater, probing very deep,” said Stanford geophysicist Rosemary Knight, who is leading the effort. This week, a helicopter swept 60 linear miles of parched fields in the Tulare Irrigation District in one of the most arid regions of California. By suspending a large hexagonal array of electrical equipment, the technology located patches of underground sand, gravel, clay and water by measuring the differences in their conductivity. The low-flying helicopter system sent an electromagnetic pulse, about the same strength as that emitted by a cellphone, which then traveled into the Earth’s subsurface and returned to be measured by instruments on the helicopter. The data will be used to build a colorful three-dimensional map of the ground that identifies the regions of differing soils and water. While the technology, owned by a Danish company called SkyTEM, has been widely used in oil, gas and mineral exploration in California, it has never been used to survey the state’s other huge natural resource: groundwater. Scientists hope the tool can build a picture of what’s underneath not only Tulare County’s dusty soils, but also California’s 20 other stressed water basins



Farmers near Sacramento River save water for winter birds

By Heather Hacking, Chico Enterprise-Record Posted: 10/29/15, 5:33 PM PDT | Updated: 10 hrs ago

Willows >> Nothing has been normal when it comes to water supplies over the past several years.

Normally, rice farmers in the Sacramento Valley have access to water in the late fall and early winter to flood their fields after harvest. Right now, migrating waterfowl are looking for wet places to land and feed. Drought, however, means less winter water available for fields and less water for those hungry birds. This week, several Sacramento River farm water districts finalized a deal with the federal Bureau of Reclamation to use water later in the year, to provide water for birds in November. The water is left over from the growing season and normally would need to have been used by October, when the contracts for the water season end. Usually, these same growers would have additional water to flood land during the winter months, but that water has been cut off this year due to the extended drought. Over the growing season, some farmers used wells on their property. Many others saved as much water as they could through summer. Also, some land was not planted.

The result is that about 50,000 acre-feet of water had not been used by the end of the growing season. The water districts asked the Bureau if that water could be used in November through Dec. 10 when there would be the greatest benefit to birds. Of the eight districts, the largest allocation will go to the Glenn-Colusa Irrigation District, 24,370 acre-feet. Others include the Princeton-Codora-Glenn Irrigation District (3,249 acre-feet) and Provident Irrigation District (5,280 acre-feet).

One acre-foot of water is 325,851 gallons, enough to fill an acre of land a foot deep with water. Bird groups, including Audubon California, California Waterfowl Association, Ducks Unlimited and the Nature Conservancy, lauded the plan to delay the use of the 50,000 acre-feet of water.
Refuges in Northern California had their water cut back 25 percent his year, and about 20 percent less rice was planted, a letter of support from the bird groups states. Before the drought, about 300,000 acres of land was flooded for birds. Only about 100,000 acres of that rice land is expected to be wet this year, the letter continues.
Right now, birds are in large numbers on refuges, said Lewis Bair, manager of Reclamation District 108, based in Grimes southwest of Yuba City. The best time to use that leftover 50,000 acre-feet of water is going to be in November, Bair said. Normally, the irrigation districts would need to use the water now. Farmers, in fact, prefer to use the water now when it’s warm. The warm water helps speed up the decomposition of rice straw. With water limited, “We’ve been working with (groups) and saying what’s the best time to deliver that water for birds. It would be mid-November,” Bair said. If it rains, even better, he said.



Governor Brown Takes Action to Protect Communities Against Unprecedented Tree Die-Off

Dead Tree Removal Strategy– see letter here

October 30, 2015

From the Office of the Governor:

As record drought conditions exacerbate bark beetle infestation that is killing tens of millions of trees across California, Governor Edmund G. Brown Jr. today declared a state of emergency and sought federal action to help mobilize additional resources for the safe removal of dead and dying trees. “California is facing the worst epidemic of tree mortality in its modern history,” said Governor Brown in a letter to U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack. “A crisis of this magnitude demands action on all fronts.” Four years of drought have made trees in many regions of California susceptible to infestation by native bark beetles, which are normally constrained by the defense mechanisms of healthy trees. The United States Forest Service recently estimated that more than 22 million trees have already died in California due to current conditions. The tree die-off is of such a scale that it significantly worsens wildfire risk in many areas of the state and presents life safety risks from falling trees to Californians living in rural, forested communities. Several counties have declared local state of emergencies due to this epidemic tree mortality. The Governor’s state of emergency proclamation on the tree mortality epidemic builds on the April 2014 executive order to redouble the state’s drought response, which included provisions to expedite the removal of dead and dying hazardous trees.
Today’s proclamation helps identify high hazard zones for wildfire and falling trees that have resulted from the unprecedented die-off and prioritizes tree removal in these areas. It also calls for state agencies to take several actions to enable removal of hazard trees. Governor Brown’s letter to Secretary Vilsack requests urgent federal action, including additional technical assistance for private land owners, matching federal funding and expedited approval for emergency actions on federal lands. In addition, the Governor’s Office of Emergency Services and CAL FIRE are convening a Task Force on Tree Mortality comprised of state and federal agencies, local governments and utilities that will coordinate emergency protective actions and monitor ongoing conditions. The Governor’s state of emergency proclamation on the tree mortality epidemic can be found here and his letter to Secretary Vilsack can be found here.



Signs along River road on the Delta waters of the Sacramento River, Calif., as seen on Wednesday July 30, 2014 near Rio Vista, Calif. Photo: Michael Macor, The Chronicle

Proposed bay delta tunnels will let in even more saltwater

By Gary Bobker and Barbara Barrigan-Parrilla — Gary Bobker is the rivers and delta program director for the Bay Institute. Barbara Barrigan- Parrilla is the executive director of Restore the Delta.

October 26, 2015 SF Chronicle OpEd

Whether walking the dog or riding a ferry full of awestruck tourists, every day Bay Area residents experience a national treasure — the San Francisco Bay Delta, the largest estuary on the West Coast of the Americas. Many bay delta fish and wildlife species and habitats depend on the right mix of salty and freshwater to thrive. But too much saltwater is creeping east into the estuary as river flows are diverted for urban and agricultural use. As sea levels rise with climate change, the problem will get worse. Gov. Jerry Brown’s proposed delta tunnels would grab up to half of the flow of the Sacramento River, water desperately needed to keep the ecosystem healthy. Encroaching saltwater is the enemy of a healthy estuary, drinking water supplies and the $5.2 billion delta farm economy.

From the Golden Gate Bridge to Sacramento’s Tower Bridge to Weber Park in Stockton, the bay delta estuary supports the largest nursery for California fisheries and the largest Pacific Coast stop for migrating waterfowl. The bay delta also provides recreation, fishing, boating, tourism and more than 500,000 acres of California prime farmland. The region is home to 15 million people. This July, with the drought in its fourth summer, state water officials said they were “struggling” to keep saltwater from pushing further inland. The state installed a $40 million pile of rocks called the False River Dam to keep saltwater back. Freshwater flowing through the bay delta would have kept the saltwater from intruding.
To increase water deliveries to Central Valley farms, officials have used “emergency declarations” 15 times over the past three years to waive clean water standards, pushing native fish species closer to extinction than ever before. So why dig two new 40-foot diameter tunnels under the delta to suck even more freshwater out of the system? The tunnels will degrade water quality for people, who live in or visit the bay delta, as well as endangered species and habitats. Gov. Brown is committed to reducing California’s carbon footprint, so why is he proposing to expand our water footprint by increasing dependence elsewhere in the state on imported delta water? The Delta Independent Science Board recently found the tunnel project’s Environmental Impact Report inadequate. “The Current Draft … lacks completeness and clarity in applying science to far-reaching policy decisions.” Instead of spending $15 billion to build the delta tunnels to send more Sacramento River water to grow almonds and hay for export, we should invest in projects that promote groundwater recharge, storm water capture, water recycling and an expansion of urban conservation projects that worked so well this year. In 1982, the Peripheral Canal, which also sought to take more water from the delta and ship it south, was defeated by voters. But the public will not get to vote on the delta tunnels. Our only chance to speak up is by commenting on the delta tunnels environmental impact report by Friday. One cannot hope to maintain a healthy estuary by taking more freshwater out of an already struggling habitat. With the effects of climate change increasing each year, we should protect the many benefits this estuary provides for humans and the environment. Draining the bay delta of water — and life — is not the way to do it.



Almond Industry and Sustainable Conservation Launch New Partnership to Explore Almond Acreage Groundwater Recharge Potential

MODESTO, Calif., Oct. 26, 2015 /PRNewswire/ — The Almond Board of California and Sustainable Conservation, a conservation nonprofit that unites people to steward California’s resources in ways that make economic sense, today announced a new partnership focused on exploring the potential of California’s one million acres of almond orchards for groundwater recharge. The partnership launches just as California is entering a much-anticipated El Niño year, which could bring an exceptionally wet winter.
Groundwater recharge returns water to underground aquifers, collectively California’s largest water storage system, through managed flooding with seasonal floodwaters. The partnership between Sustainable Conservation and the Almond Board marks the first concerted effort to increase groundwater recharge on almond farmland. With a long track record of working hand in hand with California farmers to promote environmental solutions that work economically, Sustainable Conservation has been partnering with growers on field trials to accelerate groundwater recharge on agricultural lands in the San Joaquin Valley. For more than 20 years, the Almond Board has funded several research projects to understand water movement in the soil, and preserve and improve groundwater quality.  “Leveraging almond acreage for groundwater recharge has the potential to benefit the entire Central Valley,” said Ashley Boren, Executive Director of Sustainable Conservation. “Once a farmer utilizes his or her land to return water to the aquifer, it serves the greater community, not just that farmer. Maximizing the capture of excess flood flows during wet years replenishes groundwater supplies for use during dry years, while also reducing downstream flood risk.”

“Groundwater has always been a vital resource for all Californians, and has played a critical role in maintaining California’s economic and environmental sustainability through the years,” said Richard Waycott, President and CEO of the Almond Board. “The Almond Board will identify farmers who are already using or are interested in trying groundwater recharge to join the Sustainable Conservation program. This partnership is complemented by Almond Board-funded research with the University of California, Davis to understand the orchard health impact of applying excess water to almond trees.” While the ongoing drought continues to impact everyone across California, the California Almond industry has focused decades of investment in research and improved production practices to protect California’s valuable natural resources. Through nearly 100 innovative Almond Board-funded research projects since 1994, almond growers have incorporated state-of-the-art, research-proven irrigation practices that reduced the amount of water needed to grow each pound of almonds by 33 percent[1]. …



 The Rain Maker uses heat to create water vapor that it distills into freshwater, top, and at scale, bottom, could remedy California’s drought. Photo: Courtesy of Billions in Change

This billionaire wants to solve California’s water problem

by Brittany Shoot October 29, 2015, 10:00 AM EDT

Manoj Bhargava, the man behind 5-Hour Energy, believes his affordable desalination technology can equally help wealthy Californians and poor Indians. If rain doesn’t arrive soon, speculators will start taking bets on whether California can survive what has already been a devastating four-year drought. Many hope that El Niño storms will help replenish groundwater reserves. Relocating millions of people has been floated as a last resort. But Manoj Bhargava prefers to make his bet—one worth an estimated $4 billion, thanks to 5-Hour Energy, his smash-success energy drink—on his own innovations. Bhargava’s bottled beverage is ubiquitous, but his name is mostly unknown. Yet for the past several years the self-effacing CEO has been quietly pouring most of his wealth into radical, home-brewed solutions through Stage 2 Innovations, his investment fund. Tucked away in a sprawling R&D facility in the tony Detroit suburb of Farmington Hills are solutions that, Bhargava says, will solve the planet’s most pressing resource scarcities. Take the Rain Maker, a desalination unit roughly the size of a flatbed truck that relies on a conventional power source to distill seawater into freshwater well beyond Environmental Protection Agency guidelines. A single Rain Maker can be placed in a town with a wastewater plant. In a crisis, hundreds could be stacked on an ocean barge to process seawater.
Coastal desalination facilities typically cost billions to construct and require massive amounts of energy. Could the Rain Maker, produced at industrial scale, pull California back from the brink of disaster? The forecast looks promising. Regulators at the Brackish Groundwater National Desalination Research Facility, a testing facility administered in New Mexico by the Department of the Interior, have given it a stamp of approval….



Beverly Hills, 3 other suppliers fined over water use

Los Angeles Times | October 30, 2015 | 12:01 PM

The city of Beverly Hills and three other water suppliers face financial penalties for falling short of state water conservation mandates, officials said today. Statewide, Californians cut their urban water use in September by 26.1% compared with the same month in 2013, regulators said, but still in line with Gov. Jerry Brown’s order that cities and towns slash water consumption by 25% amid a four-year drought….



Water pipe on Richmond Bridge from Contra Costa to Marin County during 1977 drought. Photo by MMWD – found on KQED

Writer Peter Anderson Remembers Gov. Brown’s Rain Drum -1977 Drought Solution!!

Marin NostalgiaPeter Anderson

In Marin, it was horrible. Nobody could water their lawns or gardens. Showers were severely limited. Fines were heavy if you exceeded your rationed amount. Neighbors sometimes stole from neighbors by hitching their hoses to next door. Swimming pools went empty. Dishes and silverware never looked totally clean. It was a downer. In late 1977, I was writing for a Marin weekly, Pacific Sun, as their Sacramento correspondent. I scored a real coup by interviewing Jerry Brown, who was in the third year of his first term as Governor. The morning of the interview, I was ushered into his private office. He was seated on a white sofa. Above him on the wall was the famous “Whole Earth” painting by his friend Steward Brand. On the coffee table was a drum, and Brown, knowing I was from Marin, was beating the drum and humming for rain. He explained that an Indian friend of his from Marin had given him the drum and exhorted him to use it as a drought-buster. Two weeks later, right around the time my cover story/interview came out, the Marin drought ended!
Next time I ran into the Governor, drinking beer and playing Liar’s Dice at David’s Brass Rail, I commented on the timing. He merely grinned, and said, “What else did you expect? Miracles happen.” By the way, what a lot of people don’t recall is that Marin was absolutely bone dry, and, at the midnight hour, the head of the Water District, a no-B.S. guy named Dietrich Stroeh, got a pipeline built across the San Rafael-Richmond Bridge in record time, shaming bureaucracies infamous for massive consumption of time. He got it done in less than a month. There was a vacant right lane on the top level of the bridge, and pipe was laid from the Contra Costa Water Agency all the way into the entrance of Marin near San Quentin. It literally saved Marin County. Sadly and stupidly, the pipeline was taken down a few years ago. Now we are up against it again. Stroeh has written a wonderful book explaining his heroism. I did early research for the first few drafts of his book — it is called “The Man Who Made It Rain.” It can be found on Amazon. People, start banging your drums. 







Point Blue file photo.

California Seeks to Base Future Growth on Climate Change Adaptation

The Safeguarding California report calls on state agencies to take action to help the state adapt to a hotter climate.

Ben Miller | October 27, 2015

If climate change scenarios plotted out through scientific research come to fruition, California faces a future of flood and fire. The problems inherent in rising temperatures and sea levels in the state are vast — cities at risk for partial submersion underwater, an agriculture industry battling a rising number of pests and a shrinking amount of water, forests dying and providing kindling for wildfires, and hotter days ramping up the incidence of heat stroke. It’s a lot for a state to deal with, and for that reason, California has begun to work climate adaptation into its plans for growing and governing in the future. At the direction of Gov. Jerry Brown, the Natural Resources Agency put out a report, Safeguarding California: Implementation Action Plans, on Oct. 9. The document is aimed at sizing up the scope of potential problems and identifying agencies and organizations that can help, and rounding up potential solutions. Through a variety of mechanisms — grant money handed out for climate-conscious projects and requirements that governments plan to adapt to climate changes, for example — the plan aims to begin preparing the state for climate changes. The agency presented the draft report at public hearings in Sacramento and Los Angeles on Monday and Tuesday, respectively. A big focus at the Los Angeles meeting was on the need for adaptation to come from all sides — that is, many different groups need to be preparing for the effects of global warming, and many of the solutions they come up with can be used to address multiple problems. The report covers agriculture, ocean management, wildlife preservation, forestry, emergency management, urban planning and other sectors of governance. “It’s probably the most comprehensive adaptation strategy in the country,” said JR DeLaRosa, special assistant for climate at the Natural Resources Agency, during the Los Angeles hearing. As a result of the plan, climate adaptation could influence things like how the state builds roads, where it places affordable housing and how it farms the land…..



Governments to raise $22 billion from carbon pricing in 2015: report

October 29, 2015 Reuters LONDON

Governments around the world will this year raise around $22 billion from schemes putting a price on carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions such as taxes or emissions trading systems, a report on Wednesday showed. The role of carbon pricing, in efforts to curb rising emissions blamed for global warming, has gained prominence this year after several multinational companies including oil majors said such a price is needed to spur investment in low-carbon energy. The figure is up 46 percent from an estimated $15 billion raised in 2014, the report by industry group the Climate Markets and Investment Association (CMIA) showed. “Revenues from carbon pricing appear likely to continue to increase around the world, and continuing debate will be needed about how these funds should best be used in future,” it said. Europe, which has an emissions trading system (ETS) as well as carbon taxes in some countries, accounted for almost three quarters of the revenue, the report said…





We use a LOT of energy…to heat our homes, to transport ourselves, and to make stuff. Energy went into making the computer you’re using right now, the clothes you’re wearing, the food you ate for breakfast, and pretty much everything you’ve ever bought, used, or thrown away. All that energy emits a lot of greenhouse gases (GHG), contributing to our climate problem. We hear a lot about changing our energy systems to tackle climate change, how energy and transportation are the two biggest culprits — the smokestacks and the tailpipes. But if a lot of those smokestack and tailpipe emissions come from making all our stuff, shouldn’t we be talking about HOW our stuff is made, too?

Smokestacks, Tailpipes and Trash Cans

More than 40% of our climate impact in the U.S. comes from our stuff and our food — how we make it, haul it, use it and throw it away. It’s called our consumption emissions. The more we buy and throw away stuff, the more energy it takes to make new stuff, and the faster climate change accelerates. Zero Waste addresses the entire system of our stuff and can substantially reduce climate emissions by changing what and how much we buy, what resources went into making it, how long it’s designed to last, how much gets reused, recycled or composted, and what we throw away. Zero Waste is one of the fastest, easiest, most cost-effective short-term climate solutions We need time to solve our long-term energy and transportation problems. Zero Waste strategies can be implemented TODAY, using existing technologies and proven programs, and produce immediate results. Zero Waste can help buy us some time to develop more complex energy and transportation solutions.

By 2030, Zero Waste strategies could reduce GHG emissions by more than 400 million metric tons CO2 per year, the equivalent of taking more than 20% of U.S. coal-fired powered plants off the grid. This means Zero Waste offers greater annual GHG savings than expanding nuclear power, significantly improving vehicle efficiency, carbon capture projects, and many other prominent climate strategies. Zero Waste strategies are also cost-effective climate solutions. ICLEI calls out recycling and composting as some of the most cost-effective actions local governments can take to reduce community GHG emissions. Communities around the world are investing in Zero Waste as a priority climate action. One of California’s first actions in its landmark climate change policy was to require businesses and apartments to recycle, a move that will reduce GHG emissions by five million metric tons….

Leading experts support Zero Waste as a climate solution:

Recycling is already making a major contribution to keeping down emissions. Indeed, its scale is so little appreciated that it might be described as one of the ‘best kept secrets’ in energy and climate change…”

-Renowned Economist Lord Nicholas Stern, Blueprint for a Safer Planet



Fact Check: Reign of Recycling

The New York Times (NYT Opinion) printed an opinion piece by John Tierney (@JohnTierneyNYC) that astounded us by the sheer number of inaccurate statements and misrepresentations about the economic and environmental impact of the recycling industry. We thought it would be helpful to point a bunch of them out and share third-party, verifiable sources.




Levee breach transforms [1000 acres of] Sears Point farmland back into wetlands


October 25, 2015, 6:37PM

Cooled by a stiff breeze off San Pablo Bay, about 300 supporters and partners of the Sonoma Land Trust cheered on Sunday as an excavator’s crane broke through a 140-year-old Sears Point levee, allowing saltwater to flood back over 1,000 acres of reclaimed oat hay fields at the southern tip of Sonoma County. As the water rushed in, the crowd of government officials and others involved in the decade-old Sears Point Restoration Project threw balls of pickleweed seeds into the mud to aid the wetland’s rebirth. It is expected to take another 25 to 30 years before the marshland’s vegetation and wildlife comes back completely, but a flock of sandpipers swept in Sunday to investigate the small levee breach, which will be widened to 285 feet. “Historically, over a quarter of the bay’s estuarine habitat was up here at the north end of the bay,” said Don Brubaker, the National Wildlife Refuge manager for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, one of about two dozen partners in the project. “We’re going to see ducks coming in, and wading birds like herons and egrets … eventually, salmon could move in here.” About 1,000 members of the public were expected at a tour of the levee site later Sunday. The morning breach was just the start of the work planned this week by the Sonoma County Land Trust, which plans to lower about a mile of the old levee and cut another 285-foot breach along Tolay Creek.
During the past three years, the Sonoma County Land Trust has excavated a channel for the tidal water to enter the field and used the soil to build a new levee protecting the railroad tracks about a mile to the north, which will become the new northern edge of San Pablo Bay. Public access to the site is expected in early 2016, once safety measures at a railroad crossing are added. Sunday’s celebration started at 10:30 a.m. with a festive brunch and a string of speakers from various organizations and government, including Congressman Mike Thompson, D-St. Helena; state Sen. Lois Wolk, D-Solano; Assemblyman Bill Dodd, D-Napa; and Sonoma County Supervisor David Rabbitt.

Officials praised the restoration project’s many benefits, saying it will lessen the impact of rising sea levels, protect against floods, filter runoff pollution and attract wildlife.
“We are putting a big down payment toward our sea-level-rise insurance policy,” said Jared Blumenfeld, the southwest regional administrator for the Environmental Protection Agency. “I have spent a lot of time trying to make levees bigger and stronger, so this is ironic,” Wolk said. “But what we learned with (Hurricane) Katrina is that when the Mississippi Delta was eliminated, that created more of a problem when the sea rose.”

….The project adds nearly 1,000 acres toward a goal first established by the scientific community in 1999 of restoring 100,000 acres of wetlands in the Bay Area. About 45,000 acres have been restored to date, according to Save the Bay.

Meisler, with the land trust, confessed Friday that he had major doubts whether the tidal restoration would ever be realized. Perhaps the greatest hurdle was finding money for the project. The land trust raised $20 million to acquire the property in 2005 and raised another $18 million for the restoration work. Major donors included the state Wildlife Conservation Board ($5 million), California Coastal Conservancy ($3.2 million) and the Environmental Protection Agency ($2.5 million). There also have been many technical challenges with the project. To raise the farmland by about 7 feet, project managers are relying on the natural process of allowing tides to carry sediment into the area versus the standard — and more expensive — practice of trucking dirt in. The natural approach has never been tried before on a project of this size. Crews added more than 500 small islands to support marsh plants, act as wind breaks and filter out sediment from the incoming tides.

Standing in the dry basin Friday, his boots caked in dirt, Meisler acknowledged not knowing what would happen once water began flowing in. Asked to describe what it would look like in 30 years at the spot where he stood, he replied, “at least six feet under water and covered with pickleweed.”


Observers watch the levee being breached Sunday at Sears Point Ranch near Highway 37. A 1,000-acre tidal basin was created for the marsh restoration project. (Frankie Frost/Marin Independent Journal)

San Pablo Bay tidal basin flooded for marsh restoration project

By Janis Mara, Marin Independent Journal Posted: 10/25/15, 9:04 PM PDT | Updated: 1 hr ago

The long arm of the excavator scooped up a load of mud from the levee, and as onlookers gasped, the waters of San Pablo Bay flooded the tidal marsh basin Sunday at Sears Point Ranch in Sonoma County. The moment was the product of 10 years of planning and $18 million in funds, plus tireless work on the part of lead agency Sonoma Land Trust and more than a dozen governmental and advocacy groups. “The restoration of tidal flows is incredibly important,” state Sen. Lois Wolk, D-Davis, told a group of about 300 activists and dignitaries who watched the levee breaching at noon. Nearly 1,000 members of the public signed up to watch the water flowing into the recently constructed 1,000-acre tidal marsh basin off Reclamation Road near Highway 37 at 2 p.m. “(The tidal basin) will be the first line of defense against rising sea levels and the intense storms we know are to come,” Wolk said. “The delta and its survival are part of our national heritage and we must protect it,” Wolk said. “Fresh water mixes with the salty Pacific Ocean and this is what makes this ecosystem special. All species depend on tides and wetlands.”
The project is one of several restoring thousands of acres of marshland around the bay….The levee at Novato’s former Hamilton Field was breached in April 2014, unleashing the bay’s waters into the 648-acre area. That $200 million project will help restore the habitat for the California clapper rail, the salt marsh harvest mouse, fish and tidal plants. “It’s a thrill to be out here today to see the breach happening,” said Roger Leventhal, a senior engineer with Marin County. He was previously a design engineer for the preliminary design for the Sears Point Ranch project. “If you look at what happened at Hamilton and will hopefully happen in Novato, we will have a string of wetlands all the way from China Camp all the way around up to the Napa River,” Leventhal said. The next step in the Bay Area-wide plan is restoration of 1,850 acres north of Hamilton, including a large part of Bel Marin Keys….. “Today we are seeing what is the beginning of a new segment of the trail, two and a half miles,” said planner Maureen Gaffney of the San Francisco Bay Trail project. “This will connect to an existing one that is one and a half miles away at Sonoma Baylands, and will eventually make a ring around the entire San Francisco Bay.” Gaffney added, “The access for hiking and biking and wildlife viewing is amazing.”…






Current climate commitments would increase global temperature around 3° C

Posted: 27 Oct 2015 07:06 AM PDT

An assessment shows that current climate commitments submitted by 155 countries for COP21 would increase global temperature around 3º C.


If a major economy takes the lead, warming could be limited to 2°C

Posted: 26 Oct 2015 09:50 AM PDT

Though most countries around the globe agree that warming must be limited to 2 degrees Celsius to avoid the raft of climate risks, they clash about who should do what to reach this target. Hence the issue of allocating greenhouse-gas emissions reductions will be key for the outcome of the world climate summit COP21 in Paris. Scientists now found what amount of emissions reductions it takes for a major economy to lead out of the climate gridlock.


New campaign to limit warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius

October 26, 2015

The Climate Vulnerable Forum (CVF) and CARE International have launched a new online campaign
to gather more support to the global call to keep warming below 1.5°C. The campaign kick off took place at the sidelines of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) negotiations in Bonn, the last preparatory meeting before the COP21 UN climate change conference in Paris this December.

  • We need to limit warming to a strict minimum to safeguard communities and the world. Less than 1°C of warming has already triggered scores of dangerous and unmanageable impacts. Raising ambition is a question of survival. It’s also feasible and an opportunity for communities to thrive. We hope this campaign will help to convince other countries to call for a sensible decision on the temperature goal at the Paris climate change conference.” – Emmanuel de Guzman, Climate Change Commissioner of the Philippines
  • “Countries are supporting the 1.5°C goal because climate change has already proved dangerous and in some cases unmanageable. Costa Rica has also committed to truly ambitious climate action, including a rapid transition to carbon neutrality because we believe in the benefits this will bring for people, the environment and the economy. We see 1.5°C as an opportunity to work together towards enhanced global prosperity and we’re encouraging others to join us.” – Pascal Girot, Ministry of Environment and Energy of Costa Rica
  • “It is crucial that the 1.5°C goal, and the means to make it happen, are part of the new UN climate agreement due to be signed in Paris. We must come together to rally all countries to support this goal. CARE International is already seeing how the poorest and most vulnerable communities are being hit the hardest by increasingly severe climate change impacts.” – Sven Harmeling, CARE International’s Climate Change Advocacy Coordinator
  • “It’s significant that 103 nations and hundreds of civil society groups already support the ambitious 1.5°C temperature goal, because numbers do matter in the UN climate talks. Paris provides a rare opportunity to increase our collective ambition to combat climate change including by strengthening the 2°C goal that the vulnerable countries rightly view as totally inadequate. And support for 1.5°C is steadily growing – this campaign will only add to that momentum.” – Saleemul Huq, Director of the International Centre for Climate Change and Development and Chair, Advisory Group of the Climate Vulnerable Forum.



Everyone’s favorite climate change fix

Economists, officials, and executives across the globe increasingly support carbon pricing to stem the rise of greenhouse-gas emissions. Can it work?

by Cristina Maza, staff writer of The Christian Science Monitor • Oct. 29, 2015

On the first day of the hottest June ever recorded, a letter from a group of concerned citizens arrived at the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. Rising greenhouse-gas emissions, the letter warned, would warm the planet to dangerous levels unless more action was taken to transition to cleaner energy. The letter’s authors called on world leaders to implement a global price on carbon to “help stimulate investments in the right low carbon technologies and the right resources at the right pace.” The message itself was not so extraordinary. For years, economists and environmentalists have made the case for using price signals to efficiently and effectively tilt global energy toward cleaner sources. But this letter didn’t come from a think tank or an environmental group. Instead, the signatories of the June 1, 2015 dispatch were chief executives of some of the world’s most carbon-intensive companies – oil supermajors like BP, Eni, and Statoil – companies that profit enormously from the very fuels carbon pricing aims to curtail. “Pricing carbon obviously adds a cost to our production and our products,” the letter continued, “but carbon pricing policy frameworks will contribute to provide our businesses and their many stakeholders with a clear roadmap for future investment, a level playing field for all energy sources across geographies and a clear role in securing a more sustainable future.” Some dismissed Big Oil’s call for a popular climate policy as a public-relations ploy. Others noted that only European firms signed on, representing just one slice of a sprawling international oil and gas industry. But if taken in earnest, the letter from six oil supermajors reflects a widening acceptance of climate change as a challenge humanity should – and can – tackle. Even more significantly, the letter offers up a solution embraced by an increasingly diverse group of businesses, governments, non-profits, investors, and other institutions….



A Global Agreement On Climate Change Likely Won’t Include Carbon Pricing

by Samantha Page Oct 27, 2015 2:10pm

We won’t have a global price on carbon with the United Nations conference ends in December, the UN climate chief said Monday. Christiana Figueres, head of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, which will meet in Paris in December to hammer out worldwide carbon emissions reductions, said Tuesday that the conference will not include global carbon pricing. Carbon pricing has been gaining support from a broad range of stakeholders, including the IMF, the World Bank, oil and gas companies, and world leaders. But agreeing on what the price would look like and how it would be charged is too big a challenge for this round of negotiations, Figueres said. “(Many have said) we need a carbon price and (investment) would be so much easier with a carbon price, but life is much more complex than that,” Figueres said. “It’s not quite what we will have.” Climate policy experts, though, weren’t rattled by the comments. The Paris agreement is part of a larger framework, building off the 1992 convention, said Joe Robertson, the global strategy director at Citizens’ Climate Lobby. The goals are to come up with a legally binding outcome, identify strong national plans, move forward on financing commitments, and establish action platforms that can help member countries achieve carbon reduction targets.

“This is the next step forward in an ongoing framework,” Robertson told ThinkProgress, saying it is not a “Big Bang” treaty that is going to end global warming in December. “It’s not possible. That’s not what the world is trying to do — and it should not be reported that way.” On a domestic level, introducing a price on climate at the Paris conference could trigger the need for congressional ratification. International agreements that bind or prohibit U.S. actions that aren’t already part of U.S. law must be approved by Congress. As Figueres pointed out Monday, there are already pricing mechanisms in use or planned across much of the globe. And more are expected. The Carbon Pricing Leadership Coalition — a group representing global leaders, non-profits, and corporations — is one of the so-called action platforms and will help global economies implement carbon pricing. The coalition will work with member states to help build carbon pricing mechanisms, either through fees, taxes, or cap and trade systems, that will help them more efficiently achieve reduction pledges.

In the meantime, U.S. states are developing carbon reduction plans. Many of these plans will likely include some system of cap and trade or carbon fee as economically efficient ways to meet the mandates of the Clean Power Plan.

The carbon pricing landscape is shifting quickly. Some experts have called for a global carbon fee, and suggested that if China, the United States, and the EU began collecting fees at their borders, the scheme would quickly go global.


Massachusetts Mulls an Economy-Wide Price on Carbon

One of six states considering carbon pricing to combat climate change, Massachusetts weighs two bills that could make the state a trendsetter.

By Zahra Hirji, InsideClimate News

Oct 29, 2015

“We have to step up our fight against climate change,” Massachusetts state Sen. Michael Barrett told a packed committee hearing in Boston on Tuesday. Barrett’s solution: put a price on carbon. Barrett laid out his plan in Senate Bill S.1747, one of two carbon price options before the legislature. Massachusetts joins five other states—Connecticut, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont and Washington—with proposed legislation exploring this option for cutting greenhouse gas emissions. Although the idea of a carbon price is not new, it is increasingly seen as a key climate solution in the leadup to the U.N. climate talks in Paris in December. Six major oil and gas companies, including BP, Shell and Statoil, have said they support carbon pricing. In recent weeks, Germany’s Chancellor Angela Merkel and Norwegian Prime Minister Erna Solberg voiced support for a global price on carbon. So have the heads of the World Bank and International Monetary Fund, along with many global leaders in business and politics. Responding to such calls for action, U.N. climate chief Christiana Figueres said on Tuesday that pricing carbon will not be part of the upcoming climate treaty; but she expressed optimism that it will happen in the future. “The idea of putting a price on carbon is catching fire as one of the best ways we can cut emissions and deal with the worst effects of climate change,” Kenneth Kimmell, president of the Union of Concerned Scientists, a climate research and communications nonprofit told InsideClimate News. “I do think the Paris agreement is going to galvanize that further. “People have to recognize that right now, fossil fuels are getting an enormous subsidy because the harm of their emissions are not being captured in their price.”

Carbon pricing, whether through a cap-and-trade program, a carbon tax or carbon fee, seeks to encourage communities, organizations, even individuals to use less carbon-intensive energy sources by raising the prices of fossil fuels to reflect their associated carbon pollution. Massachusetts has already been pricing carbon for the electricity sector for more than five years through a cap-and-trade program called the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, or RGGI. It involves a regional carbon cap and a market for its nine member states to sell and purchase carbon credits. But for Massachusetts, the power sector accounts for only 20 percent of the state’s emissions; the remaining 80 percent comes from sources not covered under RGGI––such as heating fuels, construction, transportation and manufacturing. The new carbon pricing proposals aim to fill that gap.




Can the University of California help answer our climate problems?

After a two-day climate summit at the University of California San Diego, university leaders say the school’s 10 campuses can serve as role models for the rest of the world. 

By Story Hinckley, Staff October 28, 2015 Christian Science Monitor

The University of California (UC) renewed its commitment to fight climate change at the UC Carbon and Climate Neutrality Summit at UC San Diego Tuesday. University president Janet Napolitano assured California Gov. Jerry Brown and other summit participants that the university’s 10 campuses will continue to act as “living laboratories” for climate change solutions.  “Addressing these challenges, and reducing our carbon footprint, is a moral imperative,” Ms. Napolitano, a former governor of Arizona and Homeland Security secretary, said at the summit. Through the Carbon Neutrality Initiative, announced by Napolitano in 2013, UC is committed to making all buildings and vehicles associated with its 10 campuses carbon neutral by 2025. To successfully emit net zero greenhouse gases in 10 years, the University of California will primarily focus on energy and food waste….



Environmental groups demand inquiry after Exxon ‘misled public’ on climate

In call for attorney general to investigate, top activists say company acted deceptively despite knowing about climate change ‘as early as the 1970s’

Joanna Walters Friday 30 October 2015 13.49 EDT Last modified on Friday 30 October 2015 13.55 EDT

Leading US environmental campaigners have joined a diverse line-up of pressure groups to demand a federal investigation into allegations that the oil giant ExxonMobil illegally covered up the truth about climate change. Earlier in the week, first Bernie Sanders and then Hillary Clinton, the leading Democratic presidential candidates, called for the US government to announce an official investigation. On Friday morning,, an environmental movement, issued a letter signed by climate campaigners, civil rights organizations, indigenous people’s groups and others, calling on US attorney general Loretta Lynch to investigate. The letter cited “revelations that the company knew about climate change as early as the 1970s, but chose to mislead the public about the crisis in order to maximize their profits from fossil fuels”. The letter was signed by groups such as the Environmental Defense Fund, Friends of the Earth, the Natural Resources Defense Council, Greenpeace and the Sierra Club, as well as bodies such as the Indigenous Environmental Network, which promotes environmental and economic justice issues affecting indigenous communities. …


Exxon’s climate change denial warrants federal inquiry, congressmen say

Members of Congress claim that oil company’s ‘sustained deception campaign’ could be prosecuted through truth in advertising and racketeering laws

Friday 16 October 2015 18.17 EDT Susan Goldenberg

Members of Congress have asked for a federal investigation into whether ExxonMobil broke the law by intentionally obscuring the truth about climate change….In an opinion piece for the Washington Post last May, Whitehouse wrote there was already a precedent for such legal action with the successful prosecution of tobacco companies under anti-racketeering laws. Richard Keil, a spokesman for Exxon, rejected the allegations contained in the letter. “This is complete bullshit,” he told the Guardian. “We have a 30 year continuous uninterrupted history of researching climate change and the LA Times for whatever reason chose to ignore that fact.” Greenpeace spent years investigating the extent of Exxon’s funding for climate denial, estimating the oil company spent more than $30m funding thinktanks and front groups disputing global warming before publicly disavowing such activities. The Guardian reported last July that the oil company’s scientists knew that fossil fuels caused climate change as early as 1981 – 27 years before climate change became a public issue.



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Exploiting renewable energy while allowing for protecting biodiversity

Posted: 29 Oct 2015 08:22 AM PDT

Global expansion of bioenergy possesses serious threats to biodiversity, whereas solar energy could have potential for power provision with limited impacts on biodiversity, say experts…


Upcoming UN Climate Summit can’t overlook China’s support of global coal power

Posted: 27 Oct 2015 06:36 PM PDT

When global leaders converge on Paris on Nov. 30 for the 2015 United Nations climate change conference, they should create guidelines and incentives for developing nations to cooperate with one another on lower-carbon energy projects, according to a new report. Failure to do so could contribute to an unchecked expansion of coal energy in developing counties, which has already accelerated in recent years with the help of Chinese firms going global.






NOAA Guidance for the Use of Living Shorelines

Today, NOAA released Guidance for Considering the Use of Living Shorelines. This Guidance was developed in an agency wide effort to clarify NOAA’s encouragement for the use of living shorelines as a shoreline stabilization technique along sheltered coasts. Living shorelines can preserve and improve habitats and their ecosystem services at the land-water interface. Although erosion is a natural coastal process, coastal communities face constant challenges from shoreline erosion that threaten valuable resources along the nation’s coastline. Living shorelines are gaining attention around the country as an alternative to traditional shoreline stabilization techniques like seawalls and bulkheads, which create a barrier between land and water.

In the Guidance, readers will learn about:

  • NOAA’s living shorelines guiding principles.
  • NOAA’s role in providing science, tools, and training to help select appropriate techniques.
  • How to navigate NOAA’s potential regulatory and programmatic roles in living shorelines project planning.
  • Questions to consider when planning a shoreline stabilization effort. 









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.


An Overview of Climate-Smart Conservation November 6, 2015 at The San Diego Foundation

This one day overview class is being hosted by the California Landscape Conservation Cooperative (CA LCC) and is based on the guide Climate-Smart Conservation: Putting Adaptation Principles into Practice. This publication is the product of an expert workgroup on climate change adaptation convened by the National Wildlife Federation in collaboration with the FWS’s National Conservation Training Center and other partners. The course is designed to provide an introduction to climate adaptation for application to on-the-ground conservation. It will provide an overview of how to craft climate-informed conservation goals, to carry out adaptation with intentionality, and how to manage for change and not just persistence…. The San Diego Foundation, 2508 Historic Decatur Road, San Diego, CA 92106 Register Now– contact Christy Coghlan –


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.


First Western Governor’s Association Species Conservation
and ESA Initiative WorkshopNov. 12-13 in Wyoming

The first workshop of the
Western Governors’ Species Conservation and Endangered Species Act Initiative will be held Nov. 12-13 at the Buffalo Bill Center for the West in Cody, Wyo. The Chairman’s Initiative of Wyoming Gov. Matt Mead creates a mechanism for states that will: share best practices in species management; promote and elevate the role of states in species conservation efforts; and explore ways to improve the efficacy of the Endangered Species Act (ESA). Gov. Mead will speak at the first workshop, which will feature a robust and bipartisan conversation regarding species conservation and the ESA. The Wyoming workshop will be the first in a series of regional workshops. Learn more


California Association of Resource Conservation Districts:

Healthy Forests, Healthy Soils, A Resilient California” 70th Annual Conference November 18—21, 2015 Tenaya Lodge, Yosemite, CA

Don’t miss out on being part of the change. California’s future is the crucial discussion at this year’s CARCD Annual Conference November 18th—21st at the Tenaya Lodge in Yosemite, CA. The Sierra National Forest, backdrop for Yosemite National Park, will provide a perfect classroom and case study of the challenges California will face if we cannot enact effective and efficient management strategies at the local, regional and statewide levels.  We will discuss how smart, integrated management projects on a seemingly small-scale are the building blocks that affect water abundance, water quality, soil health, tree/ plant health, forest health, groundwater, and climate change throughout the state.  In addition, we will examine innovative developments to solve new world challenges like the  latest developments in carbon markets, building partnerships to solve complex, multi-jurisdictional issues, state programs focused on solving California’s problems, capacity building for RCDs and much more.


National Living Shorelines Summit December 1-2, 2015 in Hartford CN

hosted by Restore America’s Estuaries



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.


2nd California Adaptation Forum
SEPTEMBER 7-8, 2016
Renaissance Long Beach Hotel and Long Beach Convention Center

The Local Government Commission and the State of California are proud to host the second California Adaptation Forum in the Fall of 2016. The two-day event will be the premiere convening for a multi-disciplinary group of 1,000+ decision-makers, leaders and advocates to discuss, debate and consider how we can most effectively respond to the impacts of climate change.

The 2016 California Adaptation Forum will feature:

  • A series of plenaries with high-level government, community and business leaders
  • A variety of breakout sessions on essential adaptation topics
  • Regional project tours highlighting adaptation efforts in Southern California
  • Pre-forum workshops on tools and strategies for implementing adaptation solutions



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


Point Blue: Coastal Adaptation Program LeaderHelp save the world!!

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.








Al Gore: Optimist?

The slide show is alive and well, and now he’s training hundreds of mini-Gores. And he claims that in the “struggle between hope and despair,” these days he’s a hope guy.

By Michael Grunwald October 2015

…Yes, it’s that slide show, the one that thrust climate change into popular culture, generating the 2007 Academy Award and Nobel Prize in the process. Gore is still doing it, and training a global cadre of mini-Gores to do it as well; there have been 30 Climate Reality trainings, from South Africa to Australia to India.
Fifteen years after he missed out on the White House by the narrowest of conceivable margins, Gore is still schlepping around the world to try to save it, spreading his unique brand of alarmism backed by data leavened with hope. The former vice president still begins and ends his presentation with photos of the earth from space, iconic reminders of what’s at stake. He still lectures in that much-mocked wooden style, with sporadic flashes of passion detectable more by changes in volume than delivery. The big difference in the updated version of the slide show is that a decade ago, Gore mostly warned about what could happen. Now he shows what’s already happening.

…..Most of the show is itself a deluge of apocalyptic extreme-weather images: body bags stacked like firewood after a recent heat wave in Pakistan, a “This Is Where I Belong” sign in front of a house burned down by a California wildfire, the rope-assisted rescue of a Brazilian woman (but not, alas, her dog) from a raging flood, the roof of the Metrodome collapsing after a record snowfall and a clump of 35,000 walruses forced onto an Alaska beach after their sea ice melted. Gore explains how a climate-driven drought that ravaged 60 percent of Syria’s farmland and 80 percent of its livestock drove rural Syrians into cities, laying the groundwork for the current refugee crisis. He even suggests that climate-driven food shortages helped trigger the Arab Spring. But toward the end of his presentation, Gore adds a new twist, another element that his slide show lacked nine years ago: Good news. If the biggest change from the 2005 version is proof, the second-biggest is legitimate grounds for optimism.

Now there are graphs showing how wind and solar prices are plummeting while wind and solar installations are soaring, how global investment in renewables exceeds investment in fossil fuels, how “green bonds” have expanded 1,500 percent in two years. There are images of solar panels on a grass hut in Africa and in a slum in Bangladesh, where two new solar systems are deployed every minute. There’s one of Gore with one of those clunky 1980s mobile phones, the point being that no one expected them to get so ubiquitous so quickly, either. You know when you’re at a football game and the momentum shifts, and you can just feel it in the stadium?” Gore asked the trainees. “Well, the momentum is shifting! We’re winning! We’ve got to win faster, but we’re winning!“…

… “Anyone who works on the climate issue has an internal dialogue, the struggle between hope and despair. All my colleagues struggle with that. But I’ve always come down on the side of hope.”

Gore truly believes the world has reached a tipping point in its transition away from fossil fuels, a transition he describes as the greatest challenge humanity has ever faced. He says that carbon-polluting industries can delay that transition, but they can’t stop it any more than King Canute could stop the tides. Meanwhile, though, he’s still leading his audiences on that nature hike through Revelations, a tour he still completes with the blue marble portrait of the earth from space. “There we are. That’s our home,” he says. “Don’t let anyone tell you we can escape to Mars; we couldn’t even evacuate New Orleans. The earth is the only planet habitable for human beings. We’re going to have to make our stand right here.”


Research investigates impact of carbon footprint label

Posted: 26 Oct 2015 06:29 AM PDT

An initiative to show consumers which products are more environmentally friendly needs to be easy to understand to be effective, say investigators.



Processed meat was classified as carcinogenic to humans, based on sufficient evidence in humans that the consumption of processed meat causes colorectal cancer.Credit: © volff / Fotolia

Processed meat can cause cancer

Posted: 27 Oct 2015 10:51 AM PDT

Researchers have evaluated the carcinogenicity of the consumption of red meat and processed meat. They classified the consumption of red meat as probably carcinogenic to humans, based on limited evidence that the consumption of red meat causes cancer in humans and strong mechanistic evidence supporting a carcinogenic effect. Processed meat was classified as carcinogenic to humans….The consumption of meat varies greatly between countries, with from a few percent up to 100% of people eating red meat, depending on the country, and somewhat lower proportions eating processed meat. The experts concluded that each 50 gram portion of processed meat eaten daily increases the risk of colorectal cancer by 18%. “For an individual, the risk of developing colorectal cancer because of their consumption of processed meat remains small, but this risk increases with the amount of meat consumed,” says Dr Kurt Straif, head of the IARC monographs programme.”In view of the large number of people who consume processed meat, the global impact on cancer incidence is of public health importance.”… “These findings further support current public health recommendations to limit intake of meat,” says Dr. Christopher Wild, director of IARC. “At the same time, red meat has nutritional value. Therefore, these results are important in enabling governments and international regulatory agencies to conduct risk assessments, in order to balance the risks and benefits of eating red meat and processed meat and to provide the best possible dietary recommendations.”



After just 9 days on the study’s sugar-restricted diet, virtually every aspect of the participants’ metabolic health improved, without change in weight. Credit: © Walenga Stanislav / Fotolia

Obese children’s health rapidly improves with sugar reduction unrelated to calories

Study indicates that calories are not created equal; sugar and fructose are dangerous

October 27, 2015 University of California – San Francisco

Reducing consumption of added sugar has the power to reverse a cluster of chronic metabolic diseases in children in as little as 10 days, according to a study.



REI closing on Black Friday for 1st time in push to #OptOutside

Hadley Malcolm, USA TODAY 2:15 p.m. EDT October 27, 2015

Outdoor gear and sporting goods retailer REI is canceling Black Friday this year. No promotions, no hourly sales, no doorbusters, no waiting in line.

In an unprecedented move for the modern-day holiday shopping season, REI’s 143 stores will be closed the day after Thanksgiving. The co-op business plans to launch a campaign Tuesday encouraging people to forgo shopping to spend time outside instead. With the hashtag #OptOutside, REI will ask people to share what they’re doing on Black Friday on social media. REI is taking direct aim at the frenzied consumerism that dominates the holidays with a message to do the exact opposite of what Black Friday demands….



With the passing of Halloween, millions of pounds of pumpkins have turned from seasonal decorations to trash destined for landfills, adding to more than 254 million tons of municipal solid waste (MSW) produced in the United States every year. This Halloween, think of turning this seasonal waste into energy as a very important “trick” that can have a positive environmental and energy impact. At landfills, MSW decomposes and eventually turns into methane—a harmful greenhouse gas that plays a part in climate change, with more than 20 times the warming effect of carbon dioxide (CO2). However, when MSW is used to harness bioenergy—rather than simply being thrown away—the end result benefits the environment and helps our nation become less dependent on carbon-based fuel. Harnessing the potential of bioenergy allows the United States to generate its own supply of clean energy that reduces greenhouse gas emissions. It also limits stress on landfills by reducing waste and could ultimately create jobs for manufacturing, installing, and maintaining energy systems. The Energy Department’s Bioenergy Technologies Office is working together with industry to develop and test integrated biorefineries—facilities capable of efficiently converting plant and waste material into affordable biofuels, biopower and other products. These projects are located around the country and use a variety of materials as feedstocks….











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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