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Ecology, Biodiversity, Climate Change and Related News Updates May 4, 2012

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Ecology, Biodiversity, Climate Change and Related News Updates

May 4, 2012


Highlights of the Week   –Ecosystem effects of biodiversity loss and  plant diversity key to productive vegetation













8IMAGES OF THE WEEK and a poem…



Have a great weekend-







Highlight of the Week….    Ecosystem effects of biodiversity loss and  plant diversity key to productive vegetation


Ecosystem effects of biodiversity loss could rival impacts of climate change, pollution  May 02, 2012  Written by Jim Erickson ANN ARBOR, Mich. [see paper abstract below]

Loss of biodiversity appears to impact ecosystems as much as climate change, pollution and other major forms of environmental stress, according to a new study from an international research team. The study is the first comprehensive effort to directly compare the impacts of biological diversity loss to the anticipated effects of a host of other human-caused environmental changes.

The results highlight the need for stronger local, national and international efforts to protect biodiversity and the benefits it provides, according to the researchers, who are based at nine institutions in the United States, Canada and Sweden. “Loss of biological diversity due to species extinctions is going to have major impacts on our planet, and we better prepare ourselves to deal with them,” said University of Michigan ecologist Bradley Cardinale, one of the authors. The study is scheduled for online publication in the journal Nature on May 2 [see below].


“These extinctions may well rank as one of the top five drivers of global change,” said Cardinale, an assistant professor at the U-M School of Natural Resources and Environment and an assistant professor in the Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology.


Studies over the last two decades have demonstrated that more biologically diverse ecosystems are more productive. As a result, there has been growing concern that the very high rates of modern extinctions – due to habitat loss, overharvesting and other human-caused environmental changes – could reduce nature’s ability to provide goods and services like food, clean water and a stable climate. But until now, it’s been unclear how biodiversity losses stack up against other human-caused environmental changes that affect ecosystem health and productivity.


“Some people have assumed that biodiversity effects are relatively minor compared to other environmental stressors,” said biologist David Hooper of Western Washington University, the lead author of the Nature paper. “Our new results show that future loss of species has the potential to reduce plant production just as much as global warming and pollution.”


In their study, Hooper and his colleagues used combined data from a large number of published studies to compare how various global environmental stressors affect two processes important in all ecosystems: plant growth and the decomposition of dead plants by bacteria and fungi. The new study involved the construction of a data base drawn from 192 peer-reviewed publications about experiments that manipulated species richness and examined the impact on ecosystem processes….





Still to be determined is how diversity loss and other large-scale environmental changes will interact to alter ecosystems. “The biggest challenge looking forward is to predict the combined impacts of these environmental challenges to natural ecosystems and to society,” said J. Emmett Duffy of the Virginia Institute of Marine Science, a co-author of the paper….



A global synthesis reveals biodiversity loss as a major driver of ecosystem change▶ NATURE (Abstract) David U. Hooper, E. Carol Adair, Bradley J. Cardinale, Jarrett E. K. Byrnes, Bruce A. Hungate et al. Nature (2012) doi:10.1038/nature11118  Received 09 January 2012  Accepted 13 April 2012 Published online 02 May 2012

Evidence is mounting that extinctions are altering key processes important to the productivity and sustainability of Earth’s ecosystems1, 2, 3, 4. Further species loss will accelerate change in ecosystem processes5, 6, 7, 8, but it is unclear how these effects compare to the direct effects of other forms of environmental change that are both driving diversity loss and altering ecosystem function. Here we use a suite of meta-analyses of published data to show that the effects of species loss on productivity and decomposition—two processes important in all ecosystems—are of comparable magnitude to the effects of many other global environmental changes. In experiments, intermediate levels of species loss (21–40%) reduced plant production by 5–10%, comparable to previously documented effects of ultraviolet radiation and climate warming. Higher levels of extinction (41–60%) had effects rivaling those of ozone, acidification, elevated CO2 and nutrient pollution. At intermediate levels, species loss generally had equal or greater effects on decomposition than did elevated CO2 and nitrogen addition. The identity of species lost also had a large effect on changes in productivity and decomposition, generating a wide range of plausible outcomes for extinction. Despite the need for more studies on interactive effects of diversity loss and environmental changes, our analyses clearly show that the ecosystem consequences of local species loss are as quantitatively significant as the direct effects of several global change stressors that have mobilized major international concern and remediation efforts9.




Plant diversity is key to maintaining productive vegetation (May 3, 2012) — Vegetation, such as a patch of prairie or a forest stand, is more productive in the long run when more plant species are present, results of a new study show. The long-term study of plant biodiversity found that each species plays a role in maintaining a productive ecosystem, especially when a long time horizon is considered.

The research found that every additional species in a plot contributed to a gradual increase in both soil fertility and biomass production over a 14-year period. This week’s issue of the journal Science published the results. They highlight the importance of managing for diversity in prairies, forests and crops, according to Peter Reich, lead author of the paper and a forest ecologist at the University of Minnesota. … > full story

P. B. Reich, D. Tilman, F. Isbell, K. Mueller, S. E. Hobbie, D. F. B. Flynn, N. Eisenhauer. Impacts of Biodiversity Loss Escalate Through Time as Redundancy Fades. Science, 2012; 336 (6081): 589 DOI: 10.1126/science.1217909




  1. 1.       ECOLOGY


At an urban L.A. school, nature grows — and test scores too

By Louis Sahagun, Los Angeles Times April 16, 2012

At Leo Politi Elementary, workers ripped out concrete and planted native flora. The plants attracted insects, which attracted birds, which attracted students, who, fascinated by the nature unfolding before them, learned so much that their science test scores rose sixfold….



Ranchers shift from traps to dogs to fight coyotes

Peter Fimrite, San Francisco Chronicle, 04/27/12

Marcia Barinaga was hustling around making cheese, answering phone calls and handling business at her ranch in Marshall the other day, but the real work was going on in the lush green fields, where most of her 230 sheep were grazing. There, spread out in several pastures among the woolly flock, were four big, white dogs, seemingly lolling about as if they didn’t have a care in the world, but, in rural western Marin County, they are the difference between success or failure, life and death.

The 80- to 115-pound dogs – Oso, Big Otis, Shep and Gordy – are Great Pyrenees, one of the most dedicated livestock guardian breeds in the world.  Their presence reflects a radical change in the livestock industry, which has, for a century, relied almost exclusively on traps, bullets and poison to control canine predators. The practice of using the dogs is not only encouraged in Marin County, in some cases it’s subsidized. “There is no other program like this that we are aware of in the country,” said Camilla Fox, the executive director of Project Coyote, a national nonprofit headquartered in Larkspur. “We believe it sets a model for other communities to emulate and tailor to their needs.”….


Gas Development Linked to Wildlife Habitat Loss

May 2, 2012 — Intense development of the two largest natural gas fields in the continental U.S. are driving away some wildlife from their traditional wintering grounds, new research … > full story


Massachusetts: The Economic Impacts of Ecological Restoration in Massachusetts This report analyzes four ongoing or completed restoration projects (Broad Meadows Restoration, Eel River Headwaters Restoration, Stony Brook Restoration, and North Hoosic River Restoration) using the IMPLAN regional economic impact model as a means to helps the Division on Ecological Restoration (DER) gain an initial sense of the direct and indirect effects of their activities on a “per restoration dollar” basis.


Impaired Recovery of Atlantic Cod: Forage Fish or Other Factors?

April 30, 2012 — Biologists suggest the delay in recovery of Atlantic cod on the eastern Scotian Shelf could be attributed to increased predation by grey seals or other governing factors and not the effect of forage … > full story


The Future of America’s First Fishery: Improving Management Of The New England Groundfishery

Posted: 01 May 2012 07:23 AM PDT by Michael Conathan Director of Ocean Policy at the Center for American Progress.  You can download the full report here.

Before Christopher Columbus’s grandparents were born, early European explorers from the Vikings to the Basques had already discovered an untold wealth of fish in the corner of the northwest Atlantic now known as the Gulf of Maine. Here, the proximity of seemingly limitless stocks of cod that could be readily salted, dried, and transported back across the ocean helped establish communities that laid the groundwork for our modern-day society. Today there is no more iconic profession in eastern New England than fishing. From the “Ocean State” of Rhode Island, to the Sacred Cod that has hung in the Massachusetts House of Representatives chamber since 1784, to the lobster that epitomizes coastal Maine, fish are integral to New England’s culture and economy. Today this fishery—which was once so robust, legend says, that fishermen could haul in a healthy catch just by dropping a weighted basket over the side of a skiff— is struggling to recover from decades of overfishing.

… As consumers become ever more educated about their seafood—trying to balance factors such as local sourcing, environmental impacts of different fishing gear, mercury and heavy metal content, and overall sustainability—reestablishing one of the world’s most productive fisheries is of interest to more people than ever before. This report begins by summarizing management of the northeast multispecies fishery, which is more commonly known as the New England groundfishery and whose participants are referred to as groundfishermen. (These terms will be used throughout this report.) The fishery is comprised of 15 bottom-dwelling species of fish such as haddock, flounders, and the iconic cod, which in some cases are further divided into distinct populations known as “stocks.” Atlantic cod, for example, is managed as Gulf of Maine cod, Georges Bank cod, and Georges Bank cod east…..


First-of-Its-Kind Study Reveals Surprising Ecological Effects of Earthquake and Tsunami  ScienceDaily  May 2, 2012  … A new paper appearing today in the journal PLoS ONE elucidates the surprising results … pointing to the potential effects of natural disasters on sandy beaches worldwide. …  Jaramillo elaborated, “This is very important because sandy beaches represent about 80 percent of the open coastlines globally. Also, sandy beaches are very good barriers against the sea level rise we are seeing around the world. It is essential to take care of sandy beaches. They are not only important for recreation, but also for conservation.” The study is said to be the first-ever quantification of earthquake and tsunami effects on sandy beach ecosystems along a tectonically active coastal zone.> full story

Eduardo Jaramillo, Jenifer E. Dugan, David M. Hubbard, Daniel Melnick, Mario Manzano, Cristian Duarte, Cesar Campos, Roland Sanchez. Ecological Implications of Extreme Events: Footprints of the 2010 Earthquake along the Chilean Coast. PLoS ONE, 2012; 7 (5): e35348 DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0035348



Scientists provide first large-scale estimate of reef shark losses in the Pacific Ocean (April 27, 2012) — First study to provide estimates of reef shark losses in the Pacific Ocean are sobering. Researchers noted the enormous detrimental effect that humans have on reef sharks. … > full story


Protection sought for rare woodpecker

SCOTT SONNER, Associated Press, 05/02/12

(05-02) 12:54 PDT Reno, Nev. (AP) — Smokey Bear has done such a good job stomping out forest fires the past half-century that a woodpecker that’s survived for millions of years by eating beetle larvae in burned trees is in danger of going extinct in parts of the West, according to conservationists seeking U.S. protection for the bird. Four conservation groups filed a petition with the U.S. Interior Department on Wednesday to list the black-backed woodpecker under the Endangered Species Act in the Sierra Nevada, Oregon’s Eastern Cascades and the Black Hills of eastern Wyoming and western South Dakota.

It is the first federal petition to recognize the ecological significance and seek protection of post-fire habitat, an expert said. In addition to fire suppression, the groups contend post-fire salvage logging combined with commercial thinning of green forests is eliminating what little remains of the bird’s habitat, mostly in national forests where it has no legal protection.



Flooding Spreads Invasive Species In Vermont, Iowa, Louisiana

AP  |  By LISA RATHKE Posted: 04/29/2012 12:01 pm

BETHEL, Vt. (AP) — Last year’s hurricanes and flooding not only engulfed homes and carried away roads and bridges in hard-hit areas of the country, it dispersed aggressive invasive species as well.

In Vermont, the floodwaters from Tropical Storm Irene and work afterward to dredge rivers and remove debris spread fragments of Japanese knotweed, a plant that threatens to take over flood plains wiped clean by the August storm. The overflowing Missouri and Mississippi rivers last year launched Asian carp into lakes and oxbows where the fish had not been seen before, from Iowa to the Iowa Great Lakes. Flooding also increased the population along the Missouri River of purple loosestrife, a plant that suppresses native plants and alters wetlands. “It’s quite an extensive problem around the country and it’s spreading,” said Linda Nelson, aquatic invasive species expert with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. The agency’s budget for controlling invasive aquatic plants has grown from $124 million in 2008 to $135 million for fiscal year 2012…..


Wildlife Conservation Society and Partners Increase Habitat for Sprague’s Pipit
Released: 4/25/2012 8:00 AM EDT Source: Wildlife Conservation Society

The Wildlife Conservation Society, in partnership with the American Prairie Reserve, World Wildlife Fund-US, Nature Conservancy Canada, and The Nature Conservancy, has been awarded funding by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to maintain and restore critical habitat for the Sprague’s pipit in northern Montana, North Dakota, and southern Saskatchewan. …As a group, grassland birds are the most imperiled in North America, and neotropical grassland birds—those that migrate south of the United States—are at particular risk due to habitat fragmentation, livestock overgrazing, and land conversion of their grassland habitats. Sprague’s pipit was once a common bird within its U.S. historical range but requires large areas of light-to moderately-grazed native grasses to breed. Habitat fragmentation due to tilling of land has greatly reduced the availability of such areas. The U.S. Geological Survey estimates that suitable habitat for the species has decreased by more than 97 percent….”Grassland birds in general, and the Sprague’s pipit in particular, are disappearing as large grassland habitats are lost,” said Dr. Steve Zack, Coordinator of Bird Conservation for WCS. “Working with ranchers on managing grazing with wildlife in mind will go a long way toward keeping the Great Plains vibrant with singing birds and many other native species.” In related work, WCS is working with U.S. National Park Service to study migration by the Sprague’s pipit, using tiny archival geolocator tags to record each bird’s location between breeding and wintering areas. The goal is to answer where, when, and how the species migrates and uses wintering areas.



Study: Towers kill 6.8 million birds a year
Collisions with communication towers kill about 6.8 million birds — nearly all of them migratory — each year in Canada and the United States, a new study has calculated. Researchers based their calculation on previous studies of bird victims found around 38 towers, extrapolating the findings to all towers 197 feet or higher in the two countries. The worst offenders are tall towers, some so high they reach into altitudes at which migratory birds travel, and those with steady-burning red lights. More


Mobs rule for Great Tit neighbors (May 1, 2012) — Great tits are more likely to join defensive mobs with birds in nearby nests that are ‘familiar neighbours’ rather than new arrivals, new research has found. … > full story



Wildlife feels the strain of South Florida’s drier-than-usual spring
The Sun-Sentinel
At the peak of South Florida’s winter-to-spring dry season, water levels from Lake Okeechobee to the Everglades are receding and drying up marshes relied on for nesting and feeding. Since November, South Florida has gotten about 45 percent of its normal rainfall. Dried-out marshes threaten the foraging grounds of the endangered Everglades snail kite. Alligators are retreating to their self-made watering holes, awaiting relief from summer rains. The number of wood storks and other wading birds is down, blamed on lingering effects from last year’s drought. More




Rich Pedroncelli / Associated Press A harvester works through a field of genetically modified corn near Santa Rosa. Approval of a new corn may lead to heavy use of a 1940s-era herbicide.

Genetically modified crops’ results raise concern

Carolyn Lochhead Monday, April 30, 2012 Washington — Biotechnology’s promise to feed the world did not anticipate “Trojan corn,” “super weeds” and the disappearance of monarch butterflies. But in the Midwest and South – blanketed by more than 170 million acres of genetically engineered corn, soybeans and cotton – an experiment begun in 1996 with approval of the first commercial genetically modified organisms is producing questionable results. Those results include vast increases in herbicide use that have created impervious weeds now infesting millions of acres of cropland, while decimating other plants, such as milkweeds that sustain the monarch butterflies. Food manufacturers are worried that a new corn made for ethanol could damage an array of packaged food on supermarket shelves.  Some farm groups have joined environmentalists in an attempt to slow down approvals of genetically modified organisms, or GMOs, as a newly engineered corn, resistant to another potent herbicide, stands on the brink of approval….


First of 2 papers on lab-made bird flu published

MALCOLM RITTER, Associated Press, 05/02/12

(05-02) 10:20 PDT NEW YORK, (AP) — Four months ago the U.S. government sought to block publication of two studies about how scientists created an easily spread form of bird flu. Now a revised version of one paper is seeing the light of day with the…


Amazon: Ancient farming method may help conserve savannahs
A fire-free farming method practiced by early inhabitants of the Amazonian savannahs could help inform efforts to conserve and rehabilitate these important ecosystems around the world, a study has found. This latest study, published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (9 April), found that 800 years ago, prior to European settlement of Latin America, indigenous farmers had developed a technique known as ‘raised-field’ farming to manage land sustainably without using fire.


Scientists discover 24 new lizard species in Caribbean

Christian Science Monitor – ‎May 1, 2012

Two dozen new species of skink, a type of lizard, have been discovered in the Caribbean. But many of them are imperiled by the mongoose, which was introduced to the islands in the 19th century.


Some dinosaurs were declining before asteroid struck, say scientists (+video)

Christian Science Monitor – ‎ May 1, 2012‎

By the time that giant meteor collided with our planet at the end of the Cretaceous, some dinosaur species were already heading toward extinction, new research indicates.


Early North Americans lived with extinct giant beasts, study shows (May 3, 2012) — A new study that determined the age of skeletal remains provides evidence humans reached the Western Hemisphere during the last ice age and lived alongside giant extinct mammals. The study addresses the century-long debate among scientists about whether human and mammal remains found at Vero Beach in the early 1900s date to the same time period. Using rare earth element analysis to measure the concentration of naturally occurring metals absorbed during fossilization, researchers show modern humans in North America co-existed with large extinct mammals about 13,000 years ago, including mammoths, mastodons and giant ground sloths. … > full story






Increasing speed of Greenland glaciers gives new insight for rising sea level (May 3, 2012) — Changes in the speed that ice travels in more than 200 outlet glaciers indicates that Greenland’s contribution to rising sea level in the 21st century might be significantly less than the upper limits some scientists thought possible, a new study shows. … they started with the winter of 2000-01 and then repeated the process for each winter from 2005-06 through 2010-11, and found that the outlet glaciers had not increased in velocity as much as had been speculated. “In some sense, this raises as many questions as it answers. It shows there’s a lot of variability,” said Ian Joughin, a glaciologist in the UW’s Applied Physics Laboratory …The scientists saw no clear indication in the new research that the glaciers will stop gaining speed during the rest of the century, and so by 2100 they could reach or exceed the scenario in which they contribute four inches to sea level rise.”There’s the caveat that this 10-year time series is too short to really understand long-term behavior,” Howat said. “So there still may be future events — tipping points — that could cause large increases in glacier speed to continue. Or perhaps some of the big glaciers in the north of Greenland that haven’t yet exhibited any changes may begin to speed up, which would greatly increase the rate of sea level rise.”….> full story

R. B. Alley, I. Joughin. Modeling Ice-Sheet Flow. Science, 2012; 336 (6081): 551 DOI: 10.1126/science.1220530

Antarctic Albatross Displays Shift in Breeding Habits

April 30, 2012 — A new study of the wandering albatross — one of the largest birds on Earth — has shown that some of the birds are breeding earlier in the season compared with 30 years … > full story





Integrating Climate Vulnerability with Lists of At-Risk Species

Posted: 30 Apr 2012 08:13 AM PDT

Tom Gardali and Dr. Nathaniel Seavy, PRBO Conservation Science

As managers struggle to identify actions they can take to prepare for climate change, one approach that appears promising is to modify existing conservation tools by integrating traditional conservation concerns with concerns associated with climate change. To this end, we have worked with the California Department of Fish and Game…


Stream Temperatures Don’t Parallel Warming Climate Trend May 2, 2012 — A new analysis of streams in the western United States with long-term monitoring programs has found that despite a general increase in air temperatures over the past several decades, streams are not … > full story


Marine Food Chain Becomes Clearer With New Revelations About Prey Distribution

May 2, 2012 — A new study has found that each step of the marine food chain is clearly controlled by the trophic level below it — and the driving factor influencing that relationship is not the abundance of prey, … > full story

Pacific islands on equator may become refuge for corals in a warming climate due to changes in ocean currents (April 29, 2012) — Scientists have predicted that ocean temperatures will rise in the equatorial Pacific by the end of the century, wreaking havoc on coral reef ecosystems. But a new study shows that climate change could cause ocean currents to operate in a surprising way and mitigate the warming near a handful of islands right on the equator. As a result these Pacific islands may become isolated refuges for corals and fish. … > full story

Wind farms are numerous in parts of Texas; scientists report new results on their effects. (Credit: U.S. Department of Energy)

Night-Warming Effect Found Over Large Wind Farms in Texas

ScienceDaily (Apr. 30, 2012) — Large wind farms in certain areas in the United States appear to affect local land surface temperatures, according to a paper published April 30 in the journal Nature Climate Change. The study, led by Liming Zhou, an atmospheric scientist at the State University of New York- (SUNY) Albany, provides insights about the possible effects of wind farms. The results could be important for developing efficient adaptation and management strategies to ensure long-term sustainability of wind power. “This study indicates that land surface temperatures have warmed in the vicinity of large wind farms in west-central Texas, especially at night,” says Anjuli Bamzai, program director in the National Science Foundation’s (NSF) Division of Atmospheric and Geospace Sciences, which funded the research. “The observations and analyses are for a relatively short period, but raise important issues that deserve attention as we move toward an era of rapid growth in wind farms in our quest for alternate energy sources.”….



Pine beetle damage

Global Warming is Doubling Bark Beetle Mating, Boosting Tree Attacks Up To 60-Fold, Study Finds

By Joe Romm on Apr 30, 2012 at 5:00 pm Long thought to produce only one generation of tree-killing offspring annually, some populations of mountain pine beetles now produce two generations per year, dramatically increasing the potential for the bugs. Because of the extra annual generation of beetles, there could be up to 60 times as many beetles attacking trees in any given year, their study found. And in response to warmer temperatures at high elevations, pine beetles also are better able to survive and attack trees that haven’t previously developed defenses. That’s from the University of Colorado, Boulder news release for a new study in in The American Naturalist. We’ve known that climate change  favors invasive species, but the mountain pine beetle infestation is far worse than anyone had imagined even a decade ago. This new study, “Mountain Pine Beetle Develops an Unprecedented Summer Generation in Response to Climate Warming,” spells out the grim facts…


Experiments Underestimate Plant Responses to Climate Change

ScienceDaily (May 2, 2012) — Experiments may dramatically underestimate how plants will respond to climate change in the future. That’s the conclusion of an analysis of 50 plant studies on four continents, published this week in an advance online issue of the journal Nature, which found that shifts in the timing of flowering and leafing in plants due to global warming appear to be much greater than estimated by warming experiments. “This suggests that predicted ecosystem changes — including continuing advances in the start of spring across much of the globe — may be far greater than current estimates based on data from experiments,” said Elizabeth Wolkovich, an ecologist at the University of British Columbia who led an interdisciplinary team of scientists that conducted the study while she was a postdoctoral fellow at the University of California, San Diego. “These findings have extensive consequences for predictions of species diversity, ecosystem services and global models of future change,” said Elsa Cleland, an assistant professor of biology at UC San Diego and senior author of the study, which involved 22 institutions in Canada, Sweden, Switzerland, the U.K. and the U.S. “Long-term records appear to be converging on a consistent average response to climate change, but future plant and ecosystem responses to warming may be much higher than previously estimated from experimental data.”


Warming experiments underpredict plant phenological responses to climate change ▶
E. M. Wolkovich, B. I. Cook, J. M. Allen, T. M. Crimmins, J. L. Betancourt et al.
Advances in plant flowering and leafing times in response to warming are underpredicted by experimental warming studies. 

Scientists core into California’s Clear Lake to explore past climate change (May 3, 2012) — One of the oldest lakes in the world, Clear Lake in northern California has deep sediments that contain a record of the climate and local plants and animals going back perhaps 500,000 years. Scientists are drilling cores from the sediments to explore 130,000 years of this history and fine-tune models for predicting the fate of today’s flora and fauna in the face of global warming and pressure from a growing human population. The core drilling is part of a unique, multifaceted effort at UC Berkeley to determine how Earth’s flora and fauna responded to past changes in climate in order to improve models that project how life on Earth will adapt to today’s environmental pressures. What the researchers learn from their look-back in time will be crucial for state or local planners clamoring for better predictive tools to guide policies crucial to saving ecosystems threatened by climate change. …. Using isotope and chemical analysis as well as carbon dating, the researchers will obtain a long series of detailed snapshots — ideally, every 10 years — of the plant and animal communities in the Clear Lake area and how the communities changed in response to “natural” global warming events. The analysis will also provide a measure of the temperature, oxygen content and nutrient levels of the lake, which reflect rainfall and water level…. > full story



Scientists worry that warming seas may be harming the endangered right whale

BILL GREENE/BOSTON GLOBE VIA GETTY IMAGES – A right whale sounds in Cape Cod Bay. Aerial surveys have counted only six new calves this year, down from the average of 20.

By Peter Brannen, Published: April 30 Provincetown, Mass. — Normally for a few days in spring, beachgoers on this hook of land stretching into Cape Cod Bay witness one of the rarest scenes in the animal kingdom: dozens of surface-skimming North Atlantic right whales, lumbering just a few hundred yards from shore. But that rite of spring was upended this year. The critically endangered animals, which usually arrive in late March or early April to graze on shrimplike plankton, began arriving before Christmas, as water temperatures hovered several degrees above normal, dispersing only recently…. Water temperatures in and around Cape Cod Bay were more than 3.5 degrees above average this winter, although scientists say this is probably a short-term anomaly that can’t be directly attributed to climate change. “To me or you 3.5 degrees isn’t a big difference, but in an ocean system it means different oceanography, different currents and different biological processes,” Mayo said. He suspects this could be driving changes in the distribution and timing of plankton blooms, in turn influencing the whales’ odd behavior.  ….According to scientists, the disappointing numbers could be linked to changes in the animals’ northern feeding grounds brought on by water that is warmer but also less salty because of melting Arctic sea ice…..



Zimbabwe: Climate Change – Farming’s Biggest Threat

By Jeffrey Gogo, 30 April 2012

….For the new farmers — both large-scale commercial and small-scale farmers not to mention their subsistence counterparts — their biggest mandate is to provide food for the nation and for export.

But since the start of the fast track land reforms over 10 years ago, that goal is yet to be met.

During this period, Zimbabwe has been forced to import, on average, 50 percent of its annual grain requirements to cover local deficits. The reasons for poor food and agricultural production in a land-reformed Zimbabwe are numerous, key among them lack of funding, inputs shortage and lack of adequate agriculture skills as well as laziness. However, the biggest challenge to farming and food security in the country today is not funding, it is not skills shortage but climate change and global warming. Changing climatic and weather systems pose a serious threat to agriculture, as they have disrupted rains, caused droughts and resulted in higher average temperatures….


Do Lawns Contribute to Climate Change?

Posted: 04/30/2012 3:02 pm

Mark Hostetler, Professor, Department of Wildlife Ecology & Conservation, University of Florida

Do lawns contribute to climate change? … The take home message is that highly maintained lawns and trees sequester much less carbon dioxide than more natural areas with little maintenance. ……. These carbon dioxide emissions are not trivial; for example, a 4-hectare greenspace in Miami-Dade with 85 percent of the land covered in lawn would emit over 11 tons of carbon dioxide per year. … At this stage, natural greenspaces in and around urban areas, with little to no maintenance, seem to be the best option for carbon dioxide sequestration. Natural urban greenspaces also have other benefits, such as biodiversity conservation, reduced stormwater runoff, and reduced fertilizer applications. Overall, the conservation of urban open space could play a role in reducing Florida’s carbon footprint, but highly maintained urban greenspace could be regarded as a source of greenhouse gases….








Two Years After The Deepwater Horizon Disaster, BP Uses Quarterly Profits For Millions In Lobbying Dollars

Posted: 01 May 2012 06:43 AM PDT by Kiley Kroh and Rebecca Leber

Two years after the Deepwater Horizon disaster, BP is reporting profits of $5.9 billion for the first quarter of 2012. That’s an 18.5 percent dip compared to the first quarter of last year; however, it’s a major reversal from 2010. After claiming a loss that year, BP quickly rebounded in 2011, recording a profit of $25.7 billion. Even as the company sells off assets to pay billions in damages for the 2010 disaster, it is already pursuing drilling plans again in the Gulf of Mexico…


Independent Analysis Confirms That Hydraulic Fracturing Caused Drinking Water Contamination In Wyoming  Posted: 01 May 2012 12:11 PM PDT

by Jessica Goad A recent study from the Environmental Protection Agency showing that chemicals from hydraulic fracturing had contaminated groundwater has just been validated by an independent hydrology expert. The impact of natural gas drilling — particularly hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking” — on drinking water and groundwater has been heavily debated. It has also been one of the most serious PR issues for the oil and gas industry. In December 2011, the Environmental Protection Agency found official evidence that poisonous chemicals from fracking had contaminated water near drill rigs in Pavillion, Wyoming. That study has now been backed up by an independent expert. In a report released today, commissioned by several environmental groups….







  1. 4.    POLICY


Panetta: Climate change hits national security

The Hill (blog) – ‎

By Carlo Munoz – 05/04/12 11:30 AM ET Climate change has had a direct effect on national security, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said this week.


IFC debuts green bond to fight climate change

MarketWatch – May 4, 2012‎

By Thomas Kostigen  SANTA MONICA, Calif. (MarketWatch) – As climate change skeptics’ nakedness is almost shone through, and they reach for the clouds to buttress their loony theory that global warming does not exist, more sober people are getting on  with the business of making the world more climate-friendly. Or to put that another way, a better place. The International Finance Corp., a member of the World Bank Group, is raising $500 million for climate-friendly investments in emerging markets — and it’s turning to the U.S. bond market to do so through a “green bond” offering. This is the first IFC green bond targeting U.S. investors.  Lars Thunell, the IFC’s chief executive says, “This bond will strengthen our ability to invest in innovative energy-efficiency and renewable-energy projects that can help these countries confront climate change….




Global warming: New research blames economic growth (May 1, 2012) — It’s a message no one wants to hear: to slow down global warming, we’ll either have to put the brakes on economic growth or transform the way the world’s economies work. That’s the implication of an innovative study examining the evolution of atmospheric CO2, the most likely cause of climate change. .. To break the economic habits contributing to a rise in atmospheric CO2 levels and global warming, Tapia Granados says that societies around the world would need to make enormous changes. “Since the mid 1970s, scientists like James Hansen have been warning us about the effects global warming will have on the Earth,” Tapia Granados said. “One solution that has promise is a carbon tax levied on any activity producing CO2 in order to create incentives to reduce emissions. The money would be returned to individuals so the tax would not burden the population at large. ..What our study makes clear is that climate change will soon have a serious impact on the world, and the time is growing short to take corrective action.“… > full story


José A. Tapia Granados, Edward L. Ionides, Óscar Carpintero. Climate change and the world economy: short-run determinants of atmospheric CO2. Environmental Science & Policy, 2012; 21: 50 DOI: 10.1016/j.envsci.2012.03.008


Offering a conservative perspective on climate change

Apr. 30, 2012  Iowa  by Bill Ferrel

As a conservative Republican who very much understands the need to reduce and control our spending, it may seem strange that I understand and accept that climate change is impacting my home, state and country.

It is beyond comprehension that my party would so adamantly avoid dealing with the fact that we now are facing historical events on such a regular basis that it is impacting our state and national budgets in the hundreds of billions of dollars annually…..Why is it that we have not connected the dots between climate change and real life events that have occurred in our own backyards? Why do we find it acceptable to have massive damage to our university, and yet sit by and be satisfied with the hundreds of millions of dollars that are being spent locally to repair the damage?…. Come on, people, let’s all grow up just a bit. My grandparents taught me about taking responsibility for my actions. They also taught me about using good judgment and not acting in a selfish way that will cause harm to others. Can we really afford to continue to pay for our lack of action?

Speaking to everyone — but specifically to my Republican friends — it is time that we all act in a manner that asks the tough questions about disasters and the costs. It is time that we ask what part we as humans have in the causes of these events and what we can do about it to mitigate the extreme costs. I am not asking for billions of dollars or hundreds of new regulations. Like most Americans, I do not want to spend excessive amounts of money or be overly regulated. I am asking you to ask the questions and seek reasonable solutions. It is time we unify across this country and provide world leadership. It is time that we connect the dots between our actions and the results of those actions.


Can Nature’s Beauty Lift Citizens From Poverty?
Using nature’s beauty as a tourist draw can boost conservation in China’s valued panda preserves, but it isn’t an automatic ticket out of poverty for the humans who live there, a unique long-term study shows. The truly impoverished have a harder time breaking into the tourism business, according to the paper, “Drivers and Socioeconomic Impacts of Tourism Participation in Protected Areas,” published in the April 25 edition of PLoS One.



Public Opinion Snapshot: The Death Of Public Support For Global Warming Action Is Greatly Exaggerated Posted: 30 Apr 2012 09:25 AM PDT by Ruy Teixeira

…But a just-released poll from the Yale and George Mason climate change communication programs reveals the lie in this claim. 63 percent of respondents said the United States should move forward to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, regardless of what other countries do, compared to 3 percent who said we should await action by industrialized countries, 8 percent who said we should wait for both industrialized and developing countries to move, and 5 percent who said we shouldn’t bother reducing emissions. In the same poll, the public supported — by a margin of 63 percent to 37 percent — requiring electric utilities to produce at least 20 percent of their electricity from renewable energy sources, even if that would cost the average household an extra $100 per year….



Commentary: Public must stay involved in Central Valley flood planning

Issue Date: May 2, 2012

By Justin Fredrickson For much of this year, Farm Bureau has been urging the state to change its Draft Central Valley Flood Protection Plan, to minimize its impact on farmland and other agricultural resources. We’ve made progress with state officials and still have hope that the plan will be amended further. But we’ve also made surprising discoveries about the plan that indicate its impact on farmland could be even greater than we first thought. In reviewing the draft plan, we discovered that its major thrust was to increase flood protection in urban areas and increase opportunities for habitat restoration by creating large levee setbacks and additional flood bypass areas on a total of about 40,000 acres, mostly agricultural land, from Butte and Colusa counties in the north, to southern San Joaquin County in the south.


Insurers Prepare for Climate Change…Except in U.S.
Sunday, April 29, 2012 Insurance company executives are aware of the future risks posed by climate change. And yet they have been slow to prepare for the coming wave of weather-related accidents and litigation spawned by global warming changes. In a survey conducted by Ceres, a Boston-based coalition of investors and environmental groups, more than 75% of insurers acknowledged the existence of perils stemming from climate change. “Yet despite widespread recognition of the effects climate change will likely have on extreme events, few insurers were able to articulate a coherent plan to manage the risks and opportunities associated with climate change,” the Ceres report states. The Ceres study found that out of 88 U.S. insurance companies, only 11 had formal climate change risk policies and more than 60% had no dedicated management approach to assessing climate risks. Ben Schiller at Yale’s Environment 360 noted that while American insurance companies have been slow to prepare for global warming’s ramifications, their European counterparts have been getting ready for a potentially costly future. “It is frustrating to see that it’s so extremely difficult to include this huge risk of climate change into current business,” Andreas Spiegel, senior climate change adviser at Swiss Re, a large reinsurance company, told Schiller. “There is a bit of a short-term view on the benefits, risks, and costs.”….




  1. 5.    RESOURCES


Wetlands Restoration and Conservation Requirements – COMMENT PERIOD

The Verified Carbon Standard has posted the Wetlands Restoration and Conservation Requirements for a 60-day public comment period. This is a significant step forward to linking carbon finance with coastal wetlands restoration and conservation activities, as the draft requirements set out rules for crediting a range of wetland activities, adding the eligible activities in the Agriculture, Forestry and Other Land-Use sector. The public comment period lasts until June 23, 2012, and the requirements are available at Once public comments are received, the draft WRC requirements will be finalized and submitted to the VCS Board for approval, after which they will be prepared for publication, likely in September. The WRC requirements were developed by the VCS Wetlands Technical Working Group and underwent a rigorous peer review. The Group was coordinated by Restore America’s Estuaries and includes Carolyn Ching (VCSA), Dr. Steve Crooks (ESA PWA), Dr. Igino Emmer (Silvestrum), Dr. Pat Megonigal (Smithsonian Environmental Research Center), Dr. Boone Kauffman (Oregon State University), Dr. Hans Joosten (Greifswald University, Germany), and Steve Emmett-Mattox (RAE).



National Global Change Research Plan 2012-2021: A Strategic Plan for the U. S. Global Change Research Program

The U.S. Global Change Research Program (USGCRP) is pleased to release the new National Global Change Research Plan 2012-2021: A Strategic Plan for the U. S. Global Change Research Program. The development of this plan is mandated by the Global Change Research Act of 1990 (GCRA, P.L.

101-606) and will serve as the guiding document for USGCRP for the next decade…..Please go to  to see the final Plan (here is the direct link to the 31MB file:



App depicts impact of climate change on planet – ‎ April 30, 2012

TORONTO (Reuters) – Whether it is melting glaciers, coastal erosion or drying lakes, a new app displays the impact of climate change on the planet by using before and after satellite images. Called Fragile Earth, the app for iPhone and iPad shows how our planet is impacted by global warming by featuring more than 70 sites such the receding Muir Glacier in Alaska, the impact of Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans and the draining of the Mesopotamia Marshes in Iraq….



New York City

Climate Change Is Real and Here: What To Do NOW To Protect Your Building

By Alice Cook  May 2012  Habitat Magazine

…..Condos and co-ops can do their part to mitigate this by installing green roofs. These structures can absorb and capture the excess rainfall during intense precipitation events, helping to forestall sewage overflows. Additionally, rainfall can be captured and re-appropriated for use in building systems or, in some cases, toilet flushing. Doing this not only saves on water, it also hygienically preserves quality, since the increased flooding makes the water grid susceptible to dirt. In keeping with the “multiplicity of benefits” principle so common to the eco-friendly design world, green roofs also act as natural insulators, protecting against both types of extreme weather: hot summers and cold winters. If your building’s fresh-air intakes are on the roof, a green roof helps modulate temperatures and minimizes the cooling requirements for the air being pulled into the building. Thinking on larger geographies, if the whole city were to implement green roofs, this would curb the “heat island effect” that contributes to cities being a few degrees warmer during summer. In general, the more external foliage you incorporate, the better. Trees and plants provide vital shade in urban places and they release water vapors by their leaf transpiration. Collectively, if the city were to cover itself in green, this would have a huge impact on cooling the entire metropolis in the summer, and modulating temperatures during winter. In fact, vines — so often considered a menace to the integrity of our building’s walls — may actually work to preserve them…..




Monitoring Climate Effects in Temperate Marine Ecosystems: A Test Case Using California’s MPAs

This new report outlines a new and innovative framework for measuring climate change effects and informing adaptive MPA management. The MPA Monitoring Enterprise worked with EcoAdapt to develop an approach to efficiently and effectively track climate change effects that augments ongoing MPA monitoring. This information will not only aid in the interpretation of MPA monitoring results, but also can be designed to inform the management dialogue around potential climate change effects on marine ecosystems and adaptation or mitigation measures. We hope that this can lead to climate-savvy management for better future outcomes. To view the full report go here.


Webinar series
The CA LCC has begun a regular series of webinars highlighting projects supported by the LCC. The next webinar, presented by Steve Schoenig, California Department of Fish and Game, is noon-1 p.m. (PST), May 10. He will discuss “Assessing Species Vulnerability to Climate Change and Mapping Occurrences and Distribution of Those Believed to Be the Most Vulnerable in California.”  To view the webinar, visit The login is CaliforniaLCC and the password is 18*ngAbj.  For information contact Rebecca Fris at
The National Wildlife Federation and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service are sponsoring the following webinar 10-11:30 a.m. (PST) Wednesday, May 16. You must register to join this webinar. Lines are limited, so please consider viewing in groups.


WEBINAR: Safeguarding Wildlife from Climate Change Web Conference Series (ALC3209) A partnership between the National Wildlife Federation and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service :
Conserving wildlife in mountain ecosystems: importance of a broad-scale perspective Wednesday, May 16, 10:00-11:30 PM Pacific  Erik Beever, Ph.D.  Research Ecologist  U.S. Geological Survey Northern Rocky Mountain Science Center

Description:  This presentation will use mountain wildlife to illustrate several phenomena related to contemporary climate change:
a) investigation of body-condition and reproductive-fitness responses to possible phenological mismatches across elevational gradients, involving timing of sagebrush-obligate migratory birds, their insect prey, and plant flowering
b) examples of behavioral plasticity ‘softening’ distributional constraints, illustrating one form of adaptation
c) context-dependent trends and distributional constraints in a broadly distributed species
In the latter case, research on American pikas across 18 years of contemporary data and historical records from 1898-1956 suggest that pace of local extinctions and rate of upslope retraction have been markedly more rapid in the last decade than during the 20th century, and that dynamics governing the extinction process differed greatly between the two periods.  This may mean that understanding even recent dynamics of species losses may not always help us predict the patterns of future loss.   Given the prevalence and importance of clinal variability and ecotypic variation, phenotypic and behavioral plasticity, and variation in climatic conditions, greatest progress in understanding phenomena such as distributional determinants, the local-extinction process, and factors acting as drivers of density and population dynamics will occur with coordinated, landscape-scale research and monitoring.


Once submitted, your name will be added to the registry for the webinar and you will receive an email with instructions on how to join the webinar via WebEx platform.

This webinar will be recorded for later viewing. If you cannot attend the webinar it will be posted approximately 1-2 weeks after the presentation is given and posted on our Climate Change website: If you have any questions regarding the Safeguarding webinars, please contact: Ashley Fortune: 304.876.7361 or

Climate change workshop– conservation management and climate change
The University of California, Riverside Center for Conservation Biology and the UC Division of Agriculture and Natural Resources will hold a one-day workshop on conservation management and climate change, Tuesday, May 22, in Palm Desert, CA. Cost is $55 by May 4 and $75 after.

Land managers are increasingly aware of the potential impacts of climate change on species and ecosystem processes and are asked to develop management plans with a minimum of information to support their plans. Conservation researchers in southern California are studying climate change impacts on biota and ecosystems, but much of this is available either in scientific publications that do not reach managers, or is research in progress. The objectives of this workshop will be to extend scientific information on climate change implications for local conservation to managers and regulators; to learn from regional land managers what their climate change management plans are; to discuss ways that recent scientific findings can be incorporated into monitoring, data management, and land management plans, and to keep current and future managers abreast of recent findings through outreach programs.

To register, visit For additional information, contact Edie Allen at or Chris McDonald at


Restoration 2012: Beyond Borders-May 15-18
Four of the Northwest’s premiere ecological restoration and fisheries organizations are coming together to present Restoration 2012 : Beyond Borders, May 15-18 in Victoria BC.

Sustainability- Special Issue Terrestrial Ecosystem Restoration-Call for Papers- Due Aug 31
Open access journal, Sustainability, is calling for papers to be submitted to a special issue entitled Terrestrial Ecosystem Restoration, due August 31, 2012.

6th Annual Conference on Coastal and Estuarine Habitat Restoration– Oct. 20-24

NOAA Ocean Service (NOS)  Subscribe/Unsubscribe to NOS Email List


Foul Murder on the marshes—birder mystery novel

Retired American detective Patrick McCluskey is a contented man. He aims to live happily ever after in a 300-year-old cottage on England’s wild and windy North Norfolk coast, sharing life with his new partner, Judith, a beautiful and talented illustrator of birds. Then Rev. Richard Rocastle, the vicar for Chesley-Next-The-Sea, arrives with the news that his church roof restoration fund is missing . . . and McCluskey is instantly plunged into a tangled investigation of abduction, incest, dope-dealing, nudity and cold-blooded murder. Another in a series from Bantry Books, Waiting for Godwits is an murder mystery written especially for birders. Free sample chapters of Waiting for Godwits and Digby Maclaughlin’s other mysteries for birders — A Bird of a Different Color and a Bird to Die For –can now be downloaded direct from Amazon to your Kindle, Ipad, I-phone or PC. Simply click Digby at the Kindle Store and Amazon will do the rest. To learn more about the author, why not visit Digby’s web page?



A Book Review Of ‘The Crash Course’: The Unsustainable Future Of Our Economy, Energy and Environment

Posted: 28 Apr 2012 06:59 AM PDTby John Atcheson

The first thing to say about The Crash Course is that it is an impressive work of scholarship.  It is reminiscent of Guns, Germs and Steel in terms of the scope and breadth of knowledge brought to bear by the author in support of his thesis – which is basically that we’re headed for hard times unlike anything humanity has seen. The second is that it contains a few fundamental flaws. The third is that you should read it anyway.  His thesis is more than plausible; his research is meticulous; and no matter how much you think you know about sustainability, you will walk away from The Crash Course wiser, if sadder….








Broken Promises: Ocotillo Wind Project Wins Approval Despite Outcry From Tribes, Residents And Environmentalists East County Magazine, 4/26/12
“Despite the pleas of Native Americans, area residents and environmentalists seeking to stop the Ocotillo Express wind project, Imperial Valley Supervisors approved it by a 4-1 vote late yesterday after a two-day hearing.”

Renewable energy: Group looks for locations that avoid harm Riverside Press-Enterprise, 4/24/12
Conflicts with wildlife and Native American artifacts “have slowed progress, added to the costs of renewable energy development and triggered opposition from environmental groups and tribes concerned about wildlife, landscapes, sacred sites and other natural resources. Avoiding such conflicts is a major goal of an interagency group working to develop energy sites throughout Southern California ….. The Desert Renewable Energy Conservation Plan would allow for development by 2040 of more than 20,000 megawatts of clean, alternative energy — enough for more than 8 million homes — in ways that minimize conflicts…


Use of public and private dollars for scaling up clean energy needs a reality check, say scholars (May 1, 2012) — In a post-Solyndra, budget-constrained world, the transition to a decarbonized energy system faces great hurdles. Overcoming these hurdles will require smarter and more focused policies. Two writers outline their visions in a pair of high-profile analyses. … > full story


Merkel’s Green Jobs Ambition Stalls With Cuts for Solar

By Stefan Nicola on April 30, 2012

German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s effort to create jobs in renewable energy is faltering as subsidy cuts and competition from Chinese manufacturers forces the industry to stop hiring for the first time in eight years.  Employment in Germany’s clean energy industry probably will “stagnate” this year after creating about 31,600 jobs a year since 2004, said Claudia Kemfert, senior energy analyst at the DIW economic institute in Berlin. Four German solar companies filed for protection from creditors since December including Q- Cells SE, once the world’s biggest cell maker…






E.O. Wilson Wants to Know Why You’re Not Protesting in the Streets

Posted: 01 May 2012 09:31 AM PDTby Lisa Hymas, Grist

We had lots of questions for acclaimed biologist and conservationist Edward O. Wilson when he dropped by the Grist office recently while touring to promote his latest book, The Social Conquest of Earth. But Wilson directed the toughest question of the day back at us: Why aren’t you young people out protesting the mess that’s being made of the planet? As we squirmed in our seats, Wilson, 82, continued: “Why are you not repeating what was done in the ‘60s? Why aren’t you in the streets? And what in the world has happened to the green movement that used to be on our minds and accompanied by outrage and high hopes? What went wrong?”….Over the course of his long career as a professor at Harvard, he’s conducted pioneering research on ants, written seminal books on sociobiology and biogeography, published ant-centric fiction in The New Yorker, and led major efforts to preserve global biodiversity. His new book traces human morality, religion, and arts to their biological roots, and turns traditional Darwinism on its head, arguing that social groups and tribes are the primary drivers of natural selection.

Q. The title of your book has the word social in it. Social has become a buzzword for online networking, this new way of forming groups. Are you on Facebook? Are you using the internet to look at the way groups behave?

A. No, others are doing that.

We are entering a new world, but we’re entering it as Paleolithic brains. Here’s my formula for Earth’s civilization: We are a Star Wars civilization. We have Stone Age emotions. We have medieval institutions — most notably, the churches. And we have god-like technology. And this god-like technology is dragging us forward in ways that are totally unpredictable…..



A Critique Of The Broken-Record Counterfactual Message of The New York Times On Environmentalists and Scientists

By Joe Romm on Apr 29, 2012 at 12:30 pm

The New York Times keeps running opinion pieces and analyses that misstate the positions of the major environmental groups and even leading scientists. A classic example is the Dot Earth post from Friday headlined, “A Critique of the Broken-Record Message of ‘Green Traditionalists’.” I will show that this critique is pure bunk. Indeed, this critique isn’t merely untrue, it is the exact opposite of the truth.

Amazingly, we will even see that the critique contains an utterly false attack on “a bunch of scientists” who just published a major report. But people just don’t click on links, I guess….


Clouds’ Effect on Climate Change Is Last Bastion for Dissenters

By JUSTIN GILLIS NY Times Published: April 30, 2012

LAMONT, Okla. — For decades, a small group of scientific dissenters has been trying to shoot holes in the prevailing science of climate change, offering one reason after another why the outlook simply must be wrong.  Over time, nearly every one of their arguments has been knocked down by accumulating evidence, and polls say 97 percent of working climate scientists now see global warming as a serious risk.

Yet in recent years, the climate change skeptics have seized on one last argument that cannot be so readily dismissed. Their theory is that clouds will save us.  They acknowledge that the human release of greenhouse gases will cause the planet to warm. But they assert that clouds — which can either warm or cool the earth, depending on the type and location — will shift in such a way as to counter much of the expected temperature rise and preserve the equable climate on which civilization depends.

Their theory exploits the greatest remaining mystery in climate science, the difficulty that researchers have had in predicting how clouds will change. The scientific majority believes that clouds will most likely have a neutral effect or will even amplify the warming, perhaps strongly, but the lack of unambiguous proof has left room for dissent.  “Clouds really are the biggest uncertainty,” said Andrew E. Dessler, a climate researcher at Texas A&M. “If you listen to the credible climate skeptics, they’ve really pushed all their chips onto clouds.”  Richard S. Lindzen, a professor of meteorology at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, is the leading proponent of the view that clouds will save the day. His stature in the field — he has been making seminal contributions to climate science since the 1960s — has amplified his influence……


Rare glimpse into great blue heron nest (May 1, 2012) — In a first for technology and for bird watching, thousands of people watched live this weekend as a tiny Great Blue Heron emerged from an egg in between its father’s gigantic feet. Viewers around the world are now able to follow the surprising lives of herons, including rare views still little known to science. … > full story



Tim McCarver Believes Climate Change Has Led To More Home Runs (VIDEO)

By Matt Yoder, Awful Announcing Tim McCarver isn’t just a baseball announcer, no, he’s also evidently an amateur meteorologist. How else would one explain McCarver dropping this wisdom on an unsuspecting nation during Saturday afternoon’s MLB on Fox coverage….


Washington Post backs Tim McCarver climate change-home run connection

Published: 4:57 PM 04/30/2012



Rapid Sierra Nevada uplift tracked by scientists (May 3, 2012) — From the highest peak in the continental United States, Mt. Whitney at 14,000 feet in elevation, to the 10,000-foot-peaks near Lake Tahoe, scientific evidence shows the entire Sierra Nevada mountain range is rising at the relatively fast rate of 1 to 2 millimeters every year. … > full story

Garlic compound fights source of food-borne illness better than antibiotics (May 1, 2012) — A compound in garlic is 100 times more effective than two popular antibiotics at fighting the Campylobacter bacterium, one of the most common causes of intestinal illness. The discovery opens the door to new treatments for raw and processed meats and food preparation surfaces. … > full story


















And last but  not least—a poem for spring, a metaphor on life:

By John Updike: “Baseball”

It looks easy from a distance,
easy and lazy, even,
until you stand up to the plate
and see the fastball sailing inside,
an inch from your chin,
or circle in the outfield
straining to get a bead
on a small black dot
a city block or more high,
a dark star that could fall
on your head like a leaden meteor.

The grass, the dirt, the deadly hops
between your feet and overeager glove:
football can be learned,
and basketball finessed, but
there is no hiding from baseball
the fact that some are chosen
and some are not—those whose mitts
feel too left-handed,
who are scared at third base
of the pulled line drive,
and at first base are scared
of the shortstop’s wild throw
that stretches you out like a gutted deer.

There is nowhere to hide when the ball’s
spotlight swivels your way,
and the chatter around you falls still,
and the mothers on the sidelines,
your own among them, hold their breaths,
and you whiff on a terrible pitch
or in the infield achieve
something with the ball so
ridiculous you blush for years.
It’s easy to do. Baseball was
invented in America, where beneath
the good cheer and sly jazz the chance
of failure is everybody’s right,
beginning with baseball.

“Baseball” by John Updike, from Endpoint and Other Poems. © Alfred A. Knopf, 2009



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