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Strategic Grazing Management- land cover results in New Mexico

Upland Bare Ground and Riparian Vegetative Cover Under Strategic Grazing Management, Continuous Stocking, and Multiyear Rest in New Mexico Mid-grass Prairie RANGELANDS 2017 (pdf)

IN PRESS By Rick Danvir, Gregg Simonds, Eric Sant, Eric Thacker, Randy Larsen, Tony Svejcar, Douglas Ramsey, Fred Provenza, and Chad Boyd  Rangelands xx(x):1—8 doi 10.1016/j.rala.2017.12.004 © 2017 The Society for Range Management.

On the Ground
• We compared land cover attributes on rangeland pastures with strategically managed ranches (SGM), continuously stocked (CS), and rested pastures.
• SGM pastures had less upland bare ground and more riparian vegetative cover than adjoining CS pastures, and SGM pastures had bare ground cover
comparable to pastures rested from grazing for three or more years.
• Differences in riparian cover between management types were greatest in years of near-average precipitation and lower in years of high precipitation
or drought.
• Remote sensing technology provided a means of quantifying range condition and comparing management effectiveness on large landscapes in a constantly changing environment.

Providing for 7 billion. Or not.

  • After looking at data on quality of life and use of resources from some 150 countries, they found that no nation currently meets the basic needs of its citizens in a sustainable way.
  • Only Vietnam came close to meeting both measures of providing the basics of a good life without excessive cost in resources.
  • The United States provides a relatively high quality of life but fails on every measure of sustainability in the study. For example, it emits 21.2 metric tons of carbon dioxide per person per year, while the study’s sustainability threshold is 1.6 metric tons.

By John Schwartz Feb 15 2018 read full NY Times article here

Can we provide good lives for the seven billion people on Earth without wrecking the planet? Daniel O’Neill of the University of Leeds and colleagues asked this enormous question in a recent paper in the journal Nature Sustainability and on an accompanying website.

Their answer is uncomfortable. After looking at data on quality of life and use of resources from some 150 countries, they found that no nation currently meets the basic needs of its citizens in a sustainable way. The nations of the world either don’t provide the basics of a good life or they do it at excessive cost in resources, or they fail at both….

Providing a good quality of life to everyone on the planet would require “two to six times the sustainable level for resources,” Dr. O’Neill said. “Something has to change.”

…The conclusions have caused a stir, especially in conservative circles. National Review denounced the paper as a call for “global wealth distribution,” saying “the goal clearly is a technocracy that will undermine freedom, constrain opportunity, not truly benefit the poor, and materially harm societies that have moved beyond the struggle for survival.”…

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Daniel W. O’Neill, Andrew L. Fanning, William F. Lamb and Julia K. Steinberger. A good life for all within planetary boundaries. Nature SustainabilityFeb 2018 https://doi.org/10.1038/s41893-018-0021-4
Humanity faces the challenge of how to achieve a high quality of life for over 7 billion people without destabilizing critical planetary processes. Using indicators designed to measure a ‘safe and just’ development space, we quantify the resource use associated with meeting basic human needs, and compare this to downscaled planetary boundaries for over 150 nations. We find that no country meets basic needs for its citizens at a globally sustainable level of resource use. Physical needs such as nutrition, sanitation, access to electricity and the elimination of extreme poverty could likely be met for all people without transgressing planetary boundaries. However, the universal achievement of more qualitative goals (for example, high life satisfaction) would require a level of resource use that is 2–6 times the sustainable level, based on current relationships. Strategies to improve physical and social provisioning systems, with a focus on sufficiency and equity, have the potential to move nations towards sustainability, but the challenge remains substantial.

Extreme Weather Will Occur More Frequently Worldwide Even if 2C Paris Target Met

  • Even if we stay under 2C, extreme events -heat, floods, drought – will become more likely in the decades ahead. And if countries do not meet the Paris climate agreement goals, the risks will be even greater
  • Overall, up to 60% of locations across North America, Europe, East Asia and parts of southern South America would likely see at least a 3x and up to 5x increase in some areas increase in various extreme events, according to a Stanford study published yesterday in the journal Science Advances.
  • The country pledges to the Paris climate accord may put the world on track to warm by about 3 C, unless significantly greater climate action is promised—and soon.

By Chelsea Harvey, ClimateWire on February 15, 2018 see full article here

…the pledges world nations have submitted under the Paris Agreement are likely still not enough to keep global temperatures within the 2 C threshold envisioned by the accord. Experts suggest that the pledges may put the world on track to warm by about 3 C, unless significantly greater climate action is promised—and soon.

In addition to not meeting the global temperature target, those commitments also imply substantial increase in the probability of record-setting events,” said Noah Diffenbaugh, a Stanford University climate researcher and the new study’s lead author. “Not only hot events but wet events, and also in other regions of the world, dry events as well.”…

….Heat records are likely to be among the most sensitive to future climate change. Record-breaking nighttime temperatures have already been increasing across 90 percent of the studied areas, the research suggests, and these records may increase by at least fivefold across half of Europe and a quarter of East Asia. Extreme wet events and milder cold spells are also expected to increase throughout the world, and extreme dry events will see an uptick in certain regions, mainly in the midlatitudes.

Strengthening the Paris pledges could help significantly reduce the risks of extreme climate events, the new research suggests, although it warns that these events will still become more frequent in the future, even if temperature increases stay under 2 C.

….The findings, overall, carry a double warning. First, even with aggressive climate action, extreme climate events are likely to increase throughout much of the world—and human societies should brace themselves for that future, no matter what. But those mitigation efforts are still sorely needed, the research also suggests. Without them, the risks could be far more intense.

Noah S. Diffenbaugh, Deepti Singh, and Justin S. Mankin. Unprecedented climate events: Historical changes, aspirational targets, and national commitments. Science Advances, 14 Feb 2018 DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.aao3354

Peru Moves to Protect ‘One of the Last Great Intact Forests’

  • While the United States may be weakening protections for wilderness, the creation of Yaguas National Park protects millions of acres from development and deforestation.

February 14, 2018 JoAnne Klein  read full NY Times Magazine article here

The remote rain forests in Peru’s northeast corner are vast — so vast that the clouds that form above them can influence rainfall in the western United States. The region contains species, especially unusual fish, that are unlike any found elsewhere on Earth. Scientists studying the area’s fauna and flora may gain insights into evolutionary processes and into the ecological health and geological history of the Amazon.

Now the area has become home to one of the Western Hemisphere’s newest national parks. Yaguas National Park will protect millions of acres of roadless wilderness — and the indigenous people who rely on it — from development and deforestation….

…Peru’s new park, on the other hand, joins a network of parks and reserves recently created to preserve territory in South American countries, including Ecuador, Chile and Colombia.

“Nowadays we’re trying to think big,” said Avecita Chicchón, who leads the Andes-Amazon Initiative, part of the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation. “You need these large areas to be connected.”

In Peru and elsewhere, political leaders, bolstered by strong civil society initiatives, are recognizing the current effects of climate change and their role in mitigating them in the future. They are setting aside large parcels of land in part to fulfill commitments made as part of the Paris climate agreement. And local and indigenous groups, finally getting a legal say in the process, have also provided critical support….

Presence, persistence of estrogens in vernal pools an emerging concern

  • The planned, beneficial re-use of water has become an increasingly common conservation practice worldwide, sparking questions about the degree of water treatment needed to mitigate negative environmental impacts
  • Sewage treatment plants are not designed with the capability to remove hormones or other emerging contaminants, and there are currently no water standards for these contaminants.
  • Low concentrations of pharmaceuticals, personal hygiene products and pesticides in waters — just to name a few — are known to be causing reproductive abnormalities in fish and other aquatic organisms. When wastewater is reused for irrigation activities, some environmental tradeoffs are likely occurring.

February 13, 2018 Penn State read full ScienceDaily article

Estrogens in treated wastewater that find their way into temporary wetlands known as vernal pools persist for weeks or even months, according to researchers, who suggest that persistence may have implications for these critical aquatic habitats.

…In the highly oxygenated water of streams and rivers, estrogens break down relatively quickly. But this study demonstrated, for the first time, that in the dissolved-oxygen-depleted water of vernal pools the estrogens persist and even transform into parent compounds….

….the planned, beneficial re-use of water has become an increasingly common conservation practice worldwide, sparking questions about the degree of water treatment needed to mitigate negative environmental impacts.

Sewage treatment plants are not designed with the capability to remove hormones or other emerging contaminants, and there are currently no water standards for these contaminants. Low concentrations of pharmaceuticals, personal hygiene products and pesticides in waters — just to name a few — are known to be causing reproductive abnormalities in fish and other aquatic organisms. When wastewater is reused for irrigation activities, some environmental tradeoffs are likely occurring….

Odette Mina, Heather E. Gall, Herschel A. Elliott, John E. Watson, Michael L. Mashtare, Tracy Langkilde, Jeremy P. Harper, Elizabeth W. Boyer. Estrogen occurrence and persistence in vernal pools impacted by wastewater irrigation practices. Agriculture, Ecosystems & Environment, 2018; 257: 103 DOI: 10.1016/j.agee.2018.01.022

Penguins track Antarctic changes

  • Shifts in food webs and climate are written in penguin feathers and eggshells and revealed through an amino acid isotope technique.
By Carolyn Gramling February 14, 2018 read full Science News post here

Penguins preserve records of Antarctic environmental change. The birds’ feathers and eggshells contain the chemical fingerprints of variations in diet, food web structure and even climate, researchers reported February 12 at the American Geophysical Union’s 2018 Ocean Sciences Meeting.

The Antarctic environment has changed dramatically in recent decades. Overfishing has led to a decline in krill, small swimming crustaceans that are a key food source for birds, whales, fish and penguins in the Southern Ocean. Climate change is altering wind directions, creating open water regions in the sea ice that become hot spots for life….

…This study highlights the power of this amino acid isotope technique to track environmental change through animal tissues, says Seth Newsome, an animal ecologist at the University of New Mexico in Albuquerque who was not involved in the study. The technique is becoming popular because it can detect both diet and baseline changes in the food web from the same tissue, he says.

“This 80-year record is just part of a much broader record of change,” McMahon said.

K. McMahon, C. Michelson and M.J. Polito. Developing compound-specific stable isotope analysis of archival penguin tissues to reconstruct past Antarctic ecosystem responses to climate change and anthropogenic disturbance. American Geophysical Union Ocean Sciences meeting, Portland, Oregon, February 12, 2018.

Fracking tied to reduced songbird nesting success

February 14, 2018 American Ornithological Society Publications Office Read full ScienceDaily coverage here

The central Appalachian region is experiencing the country’s most rapid growth in shale gas development, or ‘fracking,’ but we’ve known almost nothing about how this is affecting the region’s songbird populations — until now. A new study demonstrates that the nesting success of the Louisiana waterthrush — a habitat specialist that nests along forested streams, where the potential for habitat degradation is high — is declining at sites impacted by shale gas development in northwestern West Virginia…

Mack W. Frantz, Petra B. . Wood, James Sheehan, Gregory George. Demographic response of Louisiana Waterthrush, a stream obligate songbird of conservation concern, to shale gas development. The Condor, 2018; 120 (2): 265 DOI: 10.1650/CONDOR-17-130.1

Wildfire management of CA’s chaparral ecosystem can devastate wild bird populations and fire-risk reduction is only temporary- new study

  • Although bird species diversity and abundances rebounded after one-time use of prescribed fires, most birds never returned to masticated sites. Mastication reduced the number of bird species by about 50 percent and reduced total numbers of birds by about 60 percent.
  • “The best available science tells us that managing chaparral imperils wildlife and increases fire risk…Our study continues to build the case that we should live densely and away from chaparral.”

February 14, 2018 University of Arizona read full ScienceDaily article here

On the tail of California’s most destructive and expensive year of firefighting ever, it might seem obvious that vegetation removal would reduce the risk of such a year happening again. But scientists are showing that in chaparral, California’s iconic shrubland ecosystem, management can devastate wild bird populations and that fire-risk reduction is only temporary.

…Chaparral is a fire-prone ecosystem in North America that is widespread throughout California. Although it makes up only 6 percent of California by area, it contains one-quarter of the species found in the California Floristic Province, a global biodiversity hotspot. To date, no other studies have compared the effects of different fire management types on California chaparral wildlife….

…Although bird species diversity and abundances rebounded after one-time use of prescribed fires, most birds never returned to masticated sites. Mastication reduced the number of bird species by about 50 percent and reduced total numbers of birds by about 60 percent….

…Much of California’s chaparral is burning too frequently to replace itself because of human-caused ignitions and longer wildfire seasons due to climate change. According to Scott Stephens, the principal investigator of the experiment at UC Berkeley, too-frequent fire can cause chaparral to be replaced by invasive grasses, which can increase fire risk.

This leads to other problems. Grasses don’t hold soils in place, so deadly mudslides may follow wildfires, such as those in Santa Barbara, California….

…”The best available science tells us that managing chaparral imperils wildlife and increases fire risk,” she said. “Our study continues to build the case that we should live densely and away from chaparral.”

Erica A. Newman, Jennifer B. Potts, Morgan W. Tingley, Charles Vaughn, Scott L. Stephens. Chaparral bird community responses to prescribed fire and shrub removal in three management seasons. Journal of Applied Ecology, 2018; DOI: 10.1111/1365-2664.13099

Intensive agriculture caused cooler temps and more rain in US Midwest from 1950-2000

  • The combination of improved seeds, fertilizers, and other practices, between 1950 and 2000 increased the annual yield of corn in the Midwest fourfold and soybeans 2x.
  • Denser plants with more leaf mass increased the amount of moisture released into the atmosphere that served to both cool the air and increase the amount of rainfall, the researchers suggest.
  • The regional cooling may have masked part of the warming effect that would have occurred over that period. That kind of intensification of agricultural yields achieved in the Midwest are unlikely to be repeated now.

February 14 2018  read full ScienceDaily article here

…The team showed that there was a strong correlation, in both space and time, between the intensification of agriculture in the Midwest, the decrease in observed average daytime temperatures in the summer, and an increase in the observed local rainfall. In addition to this circumstantial evidence, they identified a mechanism that explains the association, suggesting that there was indeed a cause-and-effect link between the changes in vegetation and the climatic effects.

Eltahir explains that plants “breathe” in the carbon dioxide they require for photosynthesis by opening tiny pores, called stoma, but each time they do this they also lose moisture to the atmosphere. With the combination of improved seeds, fertilizers, and other practices, between 1950 and 2009 the annual yield of corn in the Midwest increased about fourfold and that of soybeans doubled. These changes were associated with denser plants with more leaf mass, which thus increased the amount of moisture released into the atmosphere. That extra moisture served to both cool the air and increase the amount of rainfall, the researchers suggest….

…The findings suggest the possibility that at least on a small-scale regional or local level, intensification of agriculture on existing farmland could be a way of doing some local geoengineering to at least slightly lessen the impacts of global warming, Eltahir says. A recent paper from another group in Switzerland suggests just that.

But the findings could also portend some negative impacts because the kind of intensification of agricultural yields achieved in the Midwest are unlikely to be repeated, and some of global warming’s effects may “have been masked by these regional or local effects. But this was a 20th-century phenomenon, and we don’t expect anything similar in the 21st century,” Eltahir says. So warming in that region in the future “will not have the benefit of these regional moderators.”

Ross E. Alter, Hunter C. Douglas, Jonathan M. Winter, Elfatih A. B. Eltahir. Twentieth Century Regional Climate Change During the Summer in the Central United States Attributed to Agricultural Intensification. Geophysical Research Letters, 2018; DOI: 10.1002/2017GL075604

Living in a fire-adapted landscape: Priorities for watershed resiliency in Sonoma County’s natural and working lands

February 12 2018 Living in a Fire-Adapted Landscape

In the wake of the North Bay fires, the Sonoma County Board of Supervisors directed the Sonoma County Ag + Open Space District to convene a coalition of organizations and agencies to identify short-term actions for watershed recovery and long-term strategies for watershed resiliency. This Watershed Collaborative included the active engagement and participation of nearly 160 individuals representing over 65 local nonprofits [including Point Blue Conservation Science], RCDs and community groups, as well as state and federal agencies. Together, this group developed a set of short-term recovery and long-term strategies for watershed resiliency. The report, Living in a Fire-Adapted Landscape, was delivered to our Board in January, and will be a foundational document for the Natural Resources position in the County’s newly-formed Office of Recovery and Resiliency.

THE REPORT: Living in a fire-adapted landscape: Priorities for resiliency in Sonoma County’s natural and working lands (pdf) Jan 2018

Overall Priorities
1. Support landowners and land managers in assessing and mitigating watershed impacts from the 2017 North Bay fires.
2. Increase community awareness and preparedness for living in fire-prone landscapes.
3. Evaluate the response of natural and working lands to the fires to inform recovery, vegetation management, and fire-preparedness efforts.
4. Identify and implement practices – including land conservation, fuel-load
management – that maximize the resiliency of natural and working lands to
climate change and future disasters.
5. Ensure long-term attention to community and ecosystem resiliency through policy, long-term funding, and established working groups.
6. Permanently protect a network of lands that support biological diversity through changing climate conditions and prevent development in high risk areas.
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