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Conservation Science for a Healthy Planet

September 21, 2012

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Highlight of the Week– Arctic Sea Ice Melts to Record Low










Highlight of the WeekArctic Sea Ice Melts to Record Low

Earth’s Attic Is On Fire: Arctic Sea Ice Bottoms Out At New Record Low

By by Jeff Masters, via the Wunderblog
Climate Guest Blogger on Sep 20, 2012 at 6:10 pm


Figure 1. Arctic sea ice reached its minimum on September 16, 2012, and was at its lowest extent since satellite records began in 1979. Image credit: National Snow and Ice Data Center (NSIDC).


The extraordinary decline in Arctic sea ice during 2012 is finally over. Sea ice extent bottomed out on September 16, announced scientists at the National Snow and Ice Data Center (NSIDC) on Wednesday. The sea ice extent fell to 3.41 million square kilometers, breaking the previous all-time low set in 2007 by 18%–despite the fact that this year’s weather was cloudier and cooler than in 2007. Nearly half (49%) of the icecap was gone during this year’s minimum, compared to the average minimum for the years 1979 – 2000.


This is an area approximately 43% of the size of the Contiguous United States. And, for the fifth consecutive year–and fifth time in recorded history — ice-free navigation was possible in the Arctic along the coast of Canada (the Northwest Passage), and along the coast of Russia (the Northeast Passage or Northern Sea Route.)


“We are now in uncharted territory,” said NSIDC Director Mark Serreze. “While we’ve long known that as the planet warms up, changes would be seen first and be most pronounced in the Arctic, few of us were prepared for how rapidly the changes would actually occur. While lots of people talk about opening of the Northwest Passage through the Canadian Arctic islands and the Northern Sea Route along the Russian coast, twenty years from now from now in August you might be able to take a ship right across the Arctic Ocean.”….


Commentary: Earth’s attic is on fire

To me, seeing the record Arctic sea ice loss of 2012 is like discovering a growing fire burning in Earth’s attic. It is an emergency that requires immediate urgent attention. If you remove an area of sea ice 43% the size of the Contiguous U.S. from the ocean, it is guaranteed to have a significant impact on weather and climate. The extra heat and moisture added to the atmosphere as a result of all that open water over the pole may already be altering jet stream patterns in fall and winter, bringing an increase in extreme weather events. This year’s record sea ice loss also contributed to an unprecedented melting event in Greenland. Continued sea ice loss will further increase melting from Greenland, contributing to sea level rise and storm surge damages. Global warming doubters tell us to pay attention to Earth’s basement–the Antarctic–pointing out (incorrectly) that there is no fire burning there. But shouldn’t we be paying attention to the steadily growing fire in our attic? The house all of humanity lives on is on fire. The fire is certain to spread, since we’ve ignored it for too long. It is capable of becoming a raging fire that will burn down our house, crippling civilization, unless we take swift and urgent action to combat it.


AND MORE on the Arctic Sea Ice:







Forest Fire Research Questions the Wisdom of Prescribed Burns

By JIM ROBBINS New York Times Published: September 17, 2012

MISSOULA, Mont. — On a forested mountainside that was charred in a wildfire in 2003, Richard Hutto, a University of Montana ornithologist, plays a recording of a black-backed woodpecker drumming on a tree. The distinctive tattoo goes unanswered until Dr. Hutto is ready to leave. Then, at the top of a tree burned to charcoal, a woodpecker with black feathers, a white breast and a yellow slash on its crown hammers a rhythmic response. This forest may have burned,” says Dr. Hutto, smiling, “but that doesn’t mean it’s dead. There’s a lot going on.” The black-backed woodpecker’s drum signals more than the return of life to the forest. It also may be an important clue toward resolving a debate about how much, and even whether, to try to prevent large forest fires. Scientists are at loggerheads over whether there is an ecological advantage to thinning forests and using prescribed fire to reduce fuel for subsequent fires — or whether those methods actually diminish ecological processes and biodiversity. The United States Forest Service, which manages nearly 200 million acres of public land, believes limited thinning and burning will prevent catastrophic wildfires. The agency contracts with logging companies to cut down large and small trees across sweeping landscapes, and uses prescribed fire. Besides protecting homes, experts say, these methods also recreate the natural state of the forest. The approach, developed primarily as a result of tree ring studies, seeks to reconstruct the forests of the West before the 20th century, when the large-scale suppression of wildfire first occurred. Some ecologists and environmentalists, however, are challenging the Forest Service’s model, saying it is based on incomplete science and is causing ecological damage.

Recent research, they say, shows that nature often caused far more severe fires than tree ring records show. That means the ecology of Western forests depends on fires of varying degrees of severity, including what we think of as catastrophic fires, not just the kinds of low-intensity blazes that current Forest Service policy favors. They say that large fires, far from destroying forests, can be a shot of adrenaline that stimulates biodiversity. ….


New way proposed to save Africa’s beleaguered soils
(September 19, 2012) — Researchers have made a case for a new type of agriculture that could restore the beleaguered soils of Africa and help the continent feed itself in the coming decades. Their system, which they call “perenniation,” mixes food crops with trees and perennial plants, which live for two years or more. … > full story


Jerry D. Glover, John P. Reganold, Cindy M. Cox. Agriculture: Plant perennials to save Africa’s soils. Nature, 2012; 489 (7416): 359 DOI: 10.1038/489359a


Protecting ecosystems brings benefits to society
(September 17, 2012)Ecosystems are essential to our well-being and prosperity as they provide us with food, clean air and fresh water. Ecosystems also represent an exceptional source of outdoor recreation opportunities. The functions performed by ecosystems that increase our well-being are called ecosystem services. The PEER Research on EcoSystem Services (PRESS) initiative describes how different EU policies can help to increase the services and benefits provided by ecosystems, and calls for the inclusion of the ecosystem services approach into European policy measures affecting the use or state of natural resources…

… The first phase of the study, which was concluded in September 2011 with the publication of a first PRESS report, demonstrated methodologies to map the role of ecosystems as providers of clean water and recreation and investigated how ecosystem services can be mainstreamed into agriculture, fisheries or forestry policies. The second and final phase of the study consisted of case studies carried out on pollination, recreation and water purification to explore how assessment methods to measure and map ecosystem services might be developed at multiple spatial scales….Synthesis report is intended to convey four main policy messages:


Scientists study fungus to defeat cheatgrass
September 06, 2012 12:11 am  •  Jeff Delong – Reno Gazette-Journal RENO, Nev. — At Skull Valley, they study the black fingers of death.These scientists aren’t mad, and this isn’t a B-grade horror flick. Rather, researchers with the U.S. Forest Service’s Rocky Mountain Research Station are closely examining a fungus that has potential to help control the spread of cheatgrass, an invading plant spreading across millions of acres of the Great Basin at alarming cost to its ecology. The fungus’ catchy moniker came from the tiny, hair-like filaments that emerge from cheatgrass seeds after it attacks. “After it kills the seed it sticks these black things out that look like fingers,” Susan Meyer, research ecologist said.”It goes into them and eats them alive, basically,” Meyer said. “It looks like a horror movie. It really does.”It’s the black fingers of death doing their thing.…..Cheatgrass, native to the steppes of Eurasia, was introduced to America through contaminated seed in the 1890s. It was first found in Nevada in 1906 and now dominates roughly 20 million acres of the West, Meyer said. Cheatgrass invades and dominates the landscape, taking over terrain where sagebrush and native grasses thrive naturally. It often dominates land charred by wildfire and, once established, the highly flammable grass is prone to fuel future fires in a damaging cycle….



Invisible Plastic Particles in Seawater Damaging to Sea Animals

September 20, 2012Plastic nanoparticles in seawater can have an adverse effect on sea organisms. Particles measuring about a thirty millionth of a millimetre, and therefore invisible to the naked eye, are responsible. Mussels that have been exposed to such particles eat less, and thus grow less well, according to research carried out by scientists and students at Wageningen University and IMARES, both part of Wageningen UR. They wrote about their research in the most recent issue of Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry. The presence of ‘plastic soup’ in the oceans is regarded as a big problem. Tiny plastic particles enter the sea when plastic debris decomposes. Such particles are probably also released from cosmetics and from clothes in the wash, subsequently entering the sewage system and surface waters and eventually reaching the sea.


The Original ‘Twitter’? Tiny Electronic Tags Monitor Birds’ Social Networks

A tiny, digital tag provides a first peek at the social lives of small animals. Using the tags to track New Caledonian crows revealed a …  > full story


How birds master courtship songs: Zebra finches shed light on brain circuits and learning
(September 17, 2012) — By studying how birds master songs used in courtship, scientists have found that regions of the brain involved in planning and controlling complex vocal sequences may also be necessary for memorizing sounds that serve as models for vocal imitation. … > full story


Rapid urban expansion threatens biodiversity
(September 17, 2012) — A brief window of opportunity exists to shape the development of cities globally before a boom in infrastructure construction transforms urban land cover, according to a new study. … > full story


Aldo Leopold’s Field Notes Score a Lost ‘Soundscape’

ScienceDaily (Sep. 18, 2012) —Rising before daylight and perched on a bench at his Sauk County shack in Depression-era Wisconsin, Leopold routinely took notes on the dawn chorus of birds. Beginning with the first pre-dawn calls of the indigo bunting or robin, Leopold would jot down in tidy script the bird songs he heard, when he heard them, and details such as the light level when they first sang. He also mapped the territories of the birds near his shack, so he knew where the songs originated. Among his many qualities, the pioneering wildlife ecologist Aldo Leopold was a meticulous taker of field notes. Lacking a tape recorder, the detailed written record was the best the iconic naturalist could do. “Leopold took amazing field notes,” says Stan Temple, a University of Wisconsin-Madison emeritus professor of wildlife ecology and now a senior fellow of the Aldo Leopold Foundation. “He recorded his observations of nature in great detail.” …..”The difference between 1940 and 2012 is overwhelmingly the anthrophony — human-generated noise,” explains Temple. “That’s the big change. In Leopold’s day there was much less of that.”

The resurrected soundscape of 1940s Sauk County is the first to be recreated from actual data rather than someone’s imagination of what the past sounded like, says Temple. The work fits into an emerging field of science known as soundscape ecology, which seeks to explain the role of sound within a landscape and how it influences the animals — birds, insects, amphibians, even fish — that live there.…..Preserving the natural sounds of a place, avers Temple, may be just as challenging as conserving the mosaic of plants and animals that help keep an ecosystem intact. Like smell and sight, “sound can be what you associate with a particular landscape,” something Leopold appreciated and wrote about in several of his well known essays. By noting and studying the role of sound in the natural world, Leopold proved again to be ahead of his time. Science is only now coming to grips with the totality of the sounds of nature (much like the sound of an entire orchestra) rather than the individual components of the soundscape, according to Temple. Understanding how nature’s “music” is changing and how much attention we need to pay to the sounds introduced by people, he says, are challenges for soundscape ecologists. And we have much to learn about what the noise people make does to the environment….


Researchers tag great white sharks off Cape Cod LINDSEY ANDERSON, Associated Press September 18, 2012 (AP) — The scientists and fishermen on board the Ocearch, a repurposed crabbing vessel, received word that their scouting boat had hooked a great white shark, sparking a flurry of activity. Unlike Skomal’s team, which has tagged a dozen great… more »


The ‘slippery slope to slime’: Overgrown algae causing coral reef declines
(September 19, 2012) — Researchers for the first time have confirmed some of the mechanisms by which overfishing and nitrate pollution can help destroy coral reefs — it appears they allow an overgrowth of algae that can bring with it unwanted pathogens, choke off oxygen and disrupt helpful bacteria. … > full story


University students design unique marine-tracking device
(September 18, 2012) — Students from different disciplines came together to design a unique marine-tracking device. The device will collect data by being attached to a fish’s tail. By using this technology, which can track up to 500 tail-movements per second, researchers hope to discover more about how a fish’s movement relates to its behavior and growth rate. … > full story


Surprising demographic shifts in endangered monkey population challenge conservation expectations
(September 18, 2012) — At first glance, the northern muriqui monkey is a prime conservation success story. These Brazilian primates are critically endangered, but in the past 30 years a population on a private reserve has grown from just 60 individuals to some 300, now comprising almost a third of the total remaining animals. A recent analysis of the factors contributing to this population’s tremendous growth reveals surprising trends that raise new questions about conservation, recovery and what constitutes a healthy population. … > full story


Oyster genome uncover the stress adaptation and complexity of shell formation
(September 19, 2012) — An international research team has completed the sequencing, assembly and analysis of Pacific oyster (Crassostrea gigas) genome — the first mollusk genome to be sequenced — that will help to fill a void in our understanding of the species-rich but poorly explored mollusc family. The study reveals the unique adaptations of oysters to highly stressful environment and the complexity mechanism of shell formation. … > full story


Chile’s Pacific paradise endangered by goats, cats

EVA VERGARA, Associated Press Associated Press September 20,2012

Jungles remain, but invasive species are crowding out the unique native plants and birds that evolved during more than a million years of splendid isolation. A handful of biologists, environmentalists, teachers and Chilean government officials… more »


An Amateur Rancher Brings the Wastelands of the Southwest Back to Life
What’s a Manhattan society girl to do when she finds herself living on acres of desiccated, left-for-dead earth in the Southwest? If she’s Valer Austin, she rolls up her sleeves and does the miraculous-bringing it all back to lush life.





Global swelter: World has 3rd-warmest summer on record
by Doyle Rice, USA TODAY September 18, 2012 While the USA sweated through one of its warmest summers on record, so, too, did the rest of the globe, federal scientists from the National Climatic Data Center announced Monday. The average summer temperature over global land and ocean surfaces tied with 2005 as the third-highest on record at 61.25 degrees F, or 1.15 degree F above the 20th century average of 60.1 degrees F. Only the summers of 1998 and 2010 were warmer. Records go back to 1880….


June Through August Was Warmest Period For Global Land Temperature Ever Recorded
Posted: 17 Sep 2012 01:43 PM PDT

The average global land surface temperature between June and August of 2012 was the warmest ever recorded, according to data from the National Climatic Data Center. The three month period saw an average land temperature that was 1.03°C (1.85°F) above the 20th century average.


Shrinking snow depth on Arctic sea ice threatens ringed seal habitat
(September 17, 2012) — University of Washington scientists found that the habitat required for ringed seals — animals under consideration for the threatened species list — to rear their young will drastically shrink this century. … > full story


Arctic sea ice thaw may be accelerated by oil, shipping

By Alister Doyle OSLO | Tue Sep 18, 2012 5:46pm EDT

(Reuters) – Local pollution in the Arctic from shipping and oil and gas industries, which have expanded in the region due to a thawing of sea ice caused by global warming, could further accelerate that thaw, experts say…..


Sea surface temperatures reach record highs on Northeast continental shelf
(September 18, 2012)
— During the first six months of 2012, sea surface temperatures in the Northeast Shelf Large Marine Ecosystem were the highest ever recorded. The annual 2012 spring plankton bloom was intense, started earlier and lasted longer than average. This has implications for marine life from the smallest creatures to the largest marine mammals like whales. Atlantic cod continued to shift northeastward from its historic distribution center. … > full story





Climate Change Dramatically Increases Rainfall in the Tropics

Laboratory Equipment – September 18, 2012‎

Global warming is expected to intensify extreme precipitation, but the rate at which it does so in the tropics has remained unclear. Now an MIT study has given an estimate based on model simulations and observations: with every 1 C rise in temperature, the study finds, tropical regions will see 10 percent heavier rainfall extremes, with possible impacts for flooding in populous regions…..”Unfortunately, the results of the study suggest a relatively high sensitivity of tropical extreme rainfall to global warming,” O’Gorman says. “But they also provide an estimate of what that sensitivity is, which should be of practical value for planning.” The results of the study are in line with scientists’ current understanding of how global warming affects rainfall, says Richard Allan, an associate professor of climate science at the Univ. of Reading in England. A warming climate, he says, adds more water vapor to the atmosphere, fueling more intense storm systems. “However, it is important to note that computer projections indicate that although the rainfall increases in the wettest regions — or similarly, the wet season — the drier parts of the tropics… will become drier still,” Allan says. “So policymakers may have to plan for more damaging flooding, but also less reliable rains from year to year.”


Warming Ocean Could Start Big Shift of Antarctic Ice

ScienceDaily (Sep. 19, 2012) — Fast-flowing and narrow glaciers have the potential to trigger massive changes in the Antarctic ice sheet and contribute to rapid ice-sheet decay and sea-level rise, a new study has found. Research results published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences reveal in more detail than ever before how warming waters in the Southern Ocean are connected intimately with the movement of massive ice-sheets deep in the Antarctic interior.

“It has long been known that narrow glaciers on the edge of the Antarctica act as discrete arteries termed ice streams, draining the interior of the ice sheet,” says Dr Chris Fogwill, an author of the study and an ARC Future Fellow with the UNSW Climate Change Research Centre. “However, our results have confirmed recent observations suggesting that ocean warming can trigger increased flow of ice through these narrow corridors. This can cause inland sectors of the ice-sheet — some larger than the state of Victoria — to become thinner and flow faster.”…. The glaciers that responded most rapidly to warming oceans were found in the Weddell Sea, the Admundsen Sea, the central Ross Sea and in the Amery Trough. “To get a sense of the scale, the Antarctic ice sheet is 3km deep … and it extends across an area that is equivalent to the distance between Perth and Sydney. Despite its potential impact, Antarctica’s effect on future sea level was not fully included in the last IPCC report because there was insufficient information about the behavior of the ice sheet. This research changes that. This new, high-resolution modelling approach will be critical to improving future predictions of Antarctica’s contribution to sea level over the coming century and beyond.”


Video: Greenland’s Unfrozen Future

NY Times September 19, 2012

Greenland’s receding ice has exposed vast deposits of valuable minerals and new opportunities for an island in economic decline.


Protecting mangroves is cheaper than building coastal protection, expert says

Christian Science Monitor – ‎September 19, 2012‎

Keeping coastal mangrove forests intact or replanting them is cheaper than building man-made structures to protect coastlines threatened by climate change, according to the head of the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). Skip to next …


Major Changes Needed to Protect Australia’s Species and Ecosystems

ScienceDaily (Sep. 18, 2012)A landmark study has found that climate change is likely to have a major impact on Australia’s plants, animals and ecosystems that will present significant challenges to the conservation of Australia’s biodiversity. The comprehensive study by CSIRO highlights the sensitivity of Australia’s species and ecosystems to climate change, and the need for new ways of thinking about biodiversity conservation.

“Climate change is likely to start to transform some of Australia’s natural landscapes by 2030,” lead researcher, CSIRO’s Dr Michael Dunlop said.

“By 2070, the ecological impacts are likely to be very significant and widespread. Many of the environments our plants and animals currently exist in will disappear from the continent. Our grandchildren are likely to experience landscapes that are very different to the ones we have known.”

Dr Dunlop said climate change will magnify existing threats to biodiversity, such as habitat clearing, water extraction and invasive species. Future climate-driven changes in other sectors, such as agriculture, water supply and electricity supply, could add yet more pressure on species and ecosystems.

The study suggests the Australian community and scientists need to start a rethink of what it means to conserve biodiversity, as managing threatened species and stopping ecological change becomes increasingly difficult.”We need to give biodiversity the greatest opportunity to adapt naturally in a changing and variable environment rather than trying to prevent ecological change,” Dr Dunlop said.

The study highlights the need to start focusing more on maintaining the health of ecosystems as they change in response to climate change, from one type of ecosystem to another.

‘This could need new expectations from the community, possibly new directions in conservation policy, and new science to guide management,” Dr Dunlop said.

To be effective we also need flexible strategies that can be implemented well ahead of the large-scale ecological change. It will probably be too late to respond once the ecological change is clearly apparent and widespread.” The study found the National Reserve System will continue to be an effective conservation tool under climate change, but conserving habitat on private land will be increasingly important to help species and ecosystems adapt.


Here is a link to the website, report and additional information:


Report: The implications of climate change for biodiversity conservation and the National Reserve System: Final synthesis (pdf – 2.07mb)


From the Report:

–Page 40: In summary, in recognition that some losses of biodiversity values are inevitable, there is potentially merit in reducing the management focus on the most vulnerable parts of biodiversity. Such a move would have technical, administrative and social implications. Attempting to do this species-by-species would require considerable amounts of information. An alternative might be to use management approaches that can be demonstrated to be effective for many species, if not the most vulnerable, without necessarily needing to assess the vulnerability and management needs of individual species. Such approaches might focus on ecological processes, locations, biodiversity patterns, ecosystems and landscapes more than on individual species (Prober and Dunlop 2011).=

–Page 43: Adaptive management is a type of reactive strategy, or if implemented “actively” it has proactive elements (testing different strategies); either way, a primary component is waiting and monitoring ecological change, then altering management in response. Thus, due to the protracted feedback and difficulty of detecting the impacts of management or climate change in a timely manner amid much variability, it is likely that adaptive management may not be effective for directly addressing climate change impacts in many situations. It may be better to think of adaptive management as a framework within which climate adaptation might be implemented (and improved) rather than regarding it as a solution to climate change in itself.

–Page 53: As discussed in Section 4.4, the nature of climate change—its timing, multiple types of change, variation and noise—mean that many important signals of ecological change will be hard to detect, and possibly not until it is too late to adequately respond. One way to increase the effectiveness of monitoring might be to use scenario planning to identify key uncertainties about environmental or ecological change and then develop and explore various management options for each scenario. Where the differences between scenarios are critical for management, hypotheses can be developed that distinguish between the scenarios, and research and monitoring can be designed to test the hypotheses and provide rapid guidance about future change and which management actions to implement.

–Page 59: Key knowledge gaps identified in the project include:

Establishing new alliances between science and conservation agencies would ensure research was focused on priority policy and management knowledge gaps, and help facilitate rapid flow of information into conservation agencies’ decision making.


Protected areas facilitate species’ range expansions

Thomas et al PNAS August 14 2012

Abstract: The benefits of protected areas (PAs) for biodiversity have been questioned in the context of climate change because PAs are static, whereas the distributions of species are dynamic. Current PAs may, however, continue to be important if they provide suitable locations for species to colonize at their leading-edge range boundaries, thereby enabling spread into new regions. Here, we present an empirical assessment of the role of PAs as targets for colonization during recent range expansions. Records from intensive surveys revealed that seven bird and butterfly species have colonized PAs 4.2 (median) times more frequently than expected from the availability of PAs in the landscapes colonized. Records of an additional 256 invertebrate species with less-intensive surveys supported these findings and showed that 98% of species are disproportionately associated with PAs in newly colonized parts of their ranges. Although colonizing species favor PAs in general, species vary greatly in their reliance on PAs, reflecting differences in the dependence of individual species on particular habitats and other conditions that are available only in PAs. These findings highlight the importance of current PAs for facilitating range expansions and show that a small subset of the landscape receives a high proportion of colonizations by range-expanding species.


Carbon dioxide from water pollution, as well as air pollution, may adversely impact oceans
(September 19, 2012) — Carbon dioxide (CO2) released into the oceans as a result of water pollution by nutrients — a major source of this greenhouse gas that gets little public attention — is enhancing the unwanted changes in ocean acidity due to atmospheric increases in CO2. The changes may already be impacting commercial fish and shellfish populations, according to new data and model predictions. … > full story


Climate Scientists Put Predictions to the Test

September 19, 2012 — A study has found that climate-prediction models are good at forecasting long-term climate patterns on a global scale but lose their edge when applied to time frames shorter than three decades and on … > full story


Climate change threat more real to those with perceived personal experience: study By Misty Harris September 17, 2012 Calgary Herald

We have dramatically shrinking glaciers. We have compelling science. We have adorable polar bears treading water. But wouldn’t you know it, what really makes us fret over climate change is making it all about us. A new study has found that a feeling of “personally experiencing” global warming heightens people’s perception of risks related to the environmental phenomenon – and particularly those risks germane to where they live. Changes to the seasons, unusual weather, water levels, snowfall patterns and shifts related to plants and animals were among the most common signs cited by lay people…

Unfortunately for climatologists, the study – to appear in the journal Global Environmental Change – paints a grim picture.  Seventy-three per cent of people either weren’t sure if they had experienced global warming or said they hadn’t, echoing the 2010 survey in which 70 per cent of respondents nationwide claimed no personal experience with the phenomenon (“don’t know” wasn’t an option)….

Carbon dioxide from water pollution, as well as air pollution, may adversely impact oceans
ScienceDaily (Sep. 19, 2012) — Carbon dioxide (CO
2) released into the oceans as a result of water pollution by nutrients — a major source of this greenhouse gas that gets little public attention — is enhancing the unwanted changes in ocean acidity due to atmospheric increases in CO2. The changes may already be impacting commercial fish and shellfish populations, according to new data and model predictions published September 19 in ACS’s journal, Environmental Science & Technology. William G. Sunda and Wei-Jun Cai point out that atmospheric levels of CO2, the main greenhouse gas, have increased by about 40 percent since the Industrial Revolution due to the burning of fossil fuels and land-use changes. The oceans absorb about one-third of that CO2, which results in acidification from the formation of carbonic acid. However, pollution of ocean water with nutrient runoff from fertilizer, human and animal waste, and other sources also is adding CO2 via the biological breakdown of organic matter formed during algal blooms, which also depletes oxygen from the water. …
The model predicted that this process will interact synergistically with the acidification of seawater from rising atmospheric CO2 in seawater at intermediate to higher temperatures. Together, the two ocean processes are predicted to substantially increase the acidity of ocean waters, enough to potentially impact commercial fisheries in coastal regions receiving nutrient inputs, such as the northern Gulf of Mexico and Baltic Sea. Clams, oysters, scallops and mussels could be the most heavily impacted, the report indicates….full story



Climate change to fuel northern spread of avian malaria: Malaria already found in birds in Alaska
September 19, 2012) — Malaria has been found in birds in parts of Alaska, and global climate change will drive it even farther north, according to a new study. The spread could prove devastating to arctic bird species that have no resistance to the disease, and may also help scientists understand the effects of climate change on the spread of human malaria. … > full story



Fall foliage in New England. Click on the image for a larger version.Credit:  BrtinBoston/flickr.

Climate Change and Fall Foliage: Not a Good Match

By Michael D. Lemonick
Published: September 19th, 2012

It’s admittedly not on a par with the direct threats posed by rising seas or melting icecaps or extreme weather, but with autumn now upon us, it’s worth noting that climate change could also affect the brilliant foliage that paints forests from the Ozarks to the Appalachians with vibrant color every fall. The damage isn’t just esthetic, either: national statistics are hard to come by, but officials in New Hampshire estimate that leaf-peeping tourists pump up the state economy by about $1 billion each year. The estimate is about the same for North Carolina, and if you project those revenues onto New York, Massachusetts, Vermont, Maine and other prime fall-foliage destinations, you’re talking about real money. This year, at least in some places, the money may not be flowing in. “I hope I’m wrong,” said Karl Niklas, a professor of plant biology at Cornell, in an interview, “but I just think it’s not going to be a great year in central New York….


Global warming: Evolutionary straitjacket means flies can’t take the heat
(September 18, 2012) — Many species of fruit fly lack the ability to adapt effectively to predicted increases in global temperatures and may face extinction in the near future, according to new research. … > full story


Climate change threatens nature from coffee to Arctic fox-forum

By Alister Doyle

LILLEHAMMER, Norway | Wed Sep 19, 2012 11:45am EDT

(Reuters) – Climate change is a threat to everything from coffee plantations to Arctic foxes and even a moderate rise in world temperatures will be damaging for plants and animals in some regions, experts said on Wednesday.

Habitats such as coral reefs or the Arctic region were among the most vulnerable to global warming, scientists said at a conference in Lillehammer, south Norway, organized by the Global Biodiversity Information Facility (GBIF).

Almost 200 governments agreed in 2010 to a goal of limiting global warming to below 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 Fahrenheit) above pre-industrial times, seen as a threshold for dangerous changes such as droughts, floods, desertification and rising sea levels.

“At 2C you have impacts. The idea that 2C is a safe level doesn’t really hold up,” said Jeff Price, coordinator of the Wallace Initiative, an international group seeking to model the effects of climate change on 50,000 types of plant and animals.

“And when you start moving beyond 2C the impacts on biodiversity start rapidly increasing through much of the world,” he said. Greenhouse gases from burning fossil fuels are the main cause of warming, according to a U.N. scientific panel.




Shell scraps Arctic oil plan, not quest

Jennifer A. Dlouhy
San Francisco Chronicle September 18, 2012

Instead of seeking to penetrate underground zones that could contain hydrocarbons, Shell Oil Co. will focus on completing initial “top-hole drilling” in the Arctic, effectively getting a 1,000-foot head start on its Arctic wells so they can be… more »


Obama Signs New E.O. For Gulf Coast Restoration Days after Oil Found on Beaches

On Sept. 10, President Obama signed a new Executive Order (E.O.) into law, which migrates former programs, trusts, and planning council’s regarding Gulf Coast Restoration, into a new bureaucracy just days after new oil and ecological concerns spring up after the effects of hurricane Isaac. The timing of this new E.O. appears to coincide with two new events taking place in the Gulf region. First, after hurricane Isaac crashed onto New Orleans, and other regions of the Gulf Coast, oil balls and other remnants of the BP oil spill surfaced on beaches and coast lines all along the Southeast.





Plans for giant Antarctic marine sanctuary falter

NICK PERRY, Associated Press Associated Press September 14 2012

The United States and New Zealand have spent two years trying to agree on an Alaska-sized marine sanctuary where fishing would be banned and scientists could study climate change. U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton took a strong… more »


Putting SF Bay Area’s Water Source to a Vote

In November, San Francisco will vote on a measure that could ultimately lead to the draining and restoration of Hetch Hetchy Valley – and force the city to look elsewhere for most of its water. In 1913, Congress approved the construction of a dam and an eight-mile-long reservoir, called Hetch Hetchy, in the northwest corner of Yosemite National Park to supply cheap water to San Francisco. The Hetch Hetchy Reservoir submerged a valley often likened to Yosemite Valley in its grandeur.


Starting to tackle climate change

The Hill (blog) – ‎September 20, 2012‎

According to a new study from the Yale Project on Climate Change Communication, 55 percent of registered voters say they will consider candidates’ views on global warming.


Business groups protest Calif. carbon market

JASON DEAREN, Associated Press Associated Press September 20, 2012

(AP) — Dozens of people, some wearing red “Save Our Jobs” T-shirts, packed a public meeting on Thursday to testify that a key component of California’s landmark greenhouse gas emissions law will impose enormous costs on them and… more »


Efforts To Save Dying Salton Sea Dry up at State Capitol

The Salton Sea is already slowly dying. An $8.9 billion preferred alternative for sea restoration was chosen by state Resources Secretary Mike Chrisman and submitted to the Legislature in 2007. It would have created miles of barriers to make the sea one-fifth of its current size, as well as creating shallow saline and marsh habitats. That plan, however, went nowhere in the Legislature. With nowhere near the billions of dollars needed for a Salton Sea fix available, and with little political will in Sacramento and Washington for a comprehensive restoration or mitigation project, local officials are left scrambling.



California: Feds Unveil Plan to Save Endangered Coho Salmon

Federal fisheries managers and NOAA on September 5th proposed an ambitious new plan to save an endangered population of coho salmon on California’s central coast. The wide-ranging, more than 2,000-page plan sets forth detailed restoration actions for creeks and estuaries, regulatory and policy changes and many other actions regulators said are needed to restore lost habitat and help the fish rebound.


Groups sue to try to block Minn. wolf seasons

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — Two groups filed a lawsuit Tuesday to try to block the opening of Minnesota’s inaugural wolf hunting and trapping seasons this fall, saying the Department of Natural Resources failed to provide a proper opportunity for public… more »


23 Oahu species listed as endangered, threatened

Associated Press September 18, 2012

The Fish and Wildlife Service is starting to take a holistic approach to conservation by restoring ecosystems to protect the species that live in them. Before, the service tried to protect endangered and threatened species by adopting separate… more »



A Crop Dividend: Restored Bird Habitat in New Jersey
Farmers and wildlife advocates don’t often see eye to eye; each can look at a field and see widely divergent possibilities. Yet by encouraging farmers to plant fields of flowers, an innovative program in New Jersey is helping to finance the rehabilitation of wildlife areas for endangered species of birds. The crop is sunflowers, and sales of sunflower seeds, bagged and sold as birdseed by the New Jersey Audubon Society, have financed the conversion of a 70-acre tract of state-owned land into a grassland habitat.



Race Is On as Ice Melt Reveals Arctic Treasures

By ELISABETH ROSENTHAL NY Times September 19, 2012

The jockeying among nations has begun as areas of the Arctic once regarded as barren wastelands now offer an abundance of oil, gas and minerals.



In The ‘Crazy’ World Of Carbon Finance, Coal Now Qualifies For Emission Reduction Credits

Posted: 19 Sep 2012 09:30 AM PDT

A coal train, or a load of CDM carbon credits?

In a decision criticized as “unfortunate” and even “insane” by onlookers, the United Nations has decided that new coal plants are eligible for carbon credits under the Clean Development Mechanism (CDM). The CDM is a trading platform set up by the UN that allows developed countries to obtain verified emissions reduction credits through renewable energy, energy efficiency, power plant fuel switching, and sustainable transportation projects in developing countries in order to meet Kyoto Protocol targets. Now the UN has added coal to the list of eligible projects. Again.….


Australian ‘mega mine’ plan threatens global emissions target

‘Unprecedented’ increase in the scale of Australian mining would nullify an internationally agreed goal, Greenpeace warns Oliver Milman, Tuesday 18 September 2012 13.17 EDT

Plans to open up a new Australian “coal export rush” would turn a single Queensland region into the seventh largest contributor of carbon dioxide emissions on the planet, undermining international efforts to keep global warming below 2C, a new report has warned….



Mass slaughter of farm animals set to push food prices up 14%

The cost of feed has soared following the worst US drought in living memory. —Farmers who cannot afford feed ‘liquidating’ pig and cattle herds will drive food inflation to record high, says Rabobank report

Rupert Neate and Josephine Moulds
The Guardian, Tuesday 18 September 2012

The mass slaughter of millions of farm animals across the world is expected to push food prices to their highest ever levels. As well as hitting consumers’ pockets, the predicted 14% jump in food prices will also dash the Bank of England’s hopes of pushing inflation down to 2% by next year.

Farmers across the world have begun a mass slaughter of their pig and cattle herds because they cannot afford the cost of feed, which has soared following the worst US drought in living memory, according to a report published on Wednesday.






Climate Smart Actions for Natural Resource Managers

November 29, 2012, 9:30-4
Elihu Harris Building, Oakland, CA

Sponsored by Bay Area Ecosystems Climate Change Consortium and CA Coastal Conservancy

Are you managing natural resources and interested in learning how to plan for climate change?  This workshop will present case studies AND provide an opportunity for you to request research and tools needed to make informed climate smart decisions.  Please join us on Thursday, November 29, 2012 from 9:30 AM to 4:00 PM at the Elihu Harris Building in Oakland.



National Adaptation Forum–Action today for a better tomorrow

You are invited to be a part of the 1st National Adaptation Forum (NAF): Action today for a better tomorrow. Please join us as we kick-off the inaugural convening of adaptation practitioners and
experts from around the country focused on moving from adaptation planning to adaptation action.

For more information please visit: agenda is coming soon, a call for abstracts (trainings, symposia and working group proposals) open October 15th , and registration will open November 1st. We hope you can make it and look forward to seeing you there.



Facilitation Skills for Scientist and Resource Managers

December 4-6, 2012: 8:30 a.m. – 5:00 p.m. (each day)

Prunedale Grange Hall 17890 Moro Road, Salinas, California

Registration Fee: $450 Instructor: Jim Nelson

Workshop objectives: Participants will be able to design and facilitate meetings more effectively with lower anxiety and better meeting outcomes. This course is intended to be a practical approach to improving group meetings.  It is oriented specifically to the needs of those working with natural resources.  Participants are presented with a wide array of tools and opportunities to practice new facilitation skills.

To register:


SER Announces Release of Protected Area Guidelines on Ecological Restoration
SER is pleased to announce the release of “Ecological Restoration for Protected Areas: Principles, Guidelines and Best Practices.” IUCN’s World Commission on Protected Areas developed these guidelines in collaboration with Parks Canada, the Society for Ecological Restoration, the U.N. Convention on Biological Diversity, and many others. This publication provides advice on underlying principles and guidelines, technical best practices, and implementation processes for restoration. Moreover, it presents case studies of on-the-ground restoration experiences in and around protected areas across the globe.


Bat Conservation International – Executive Director
Founded in 1982, Bat Conservation International (BCI) is the only conservation organization dedicated exclusively to global bat conservation. BCI’s mission is to conserve the world’s bats and their ecosystems to ensure a healthy planet. BCI seeks an innovative, experienced, and dedicated Executive Director to lead BCI to its next level of programmatic, financial, and organizational success. The Executive Director will build on BCI’s achievements to date by facilitating expansion of its programs, leveraging and fostering partnerships to achieve measurable results in bat conservation, significantly increasing BCI’s revenue and membership, and providing leadership in developing the organization’s staff and Board of Directors. The Executive Director will report to the Board of Directors and will be based in Washington, DC. For more information or to apply, please visit:



Seeking Innovative Conservation Ideas in Western North America
A private foundation is looking to support projects in western North America that break new ground, foster innovative conservation thinking, or work in areas that have received little attention. Successful projects would have significant potential impact, either directly by demonstrating important ecological benefits, or indirectly by pioneering new strategies that could be widely applicable in the conservation realm. Projects should be ambitious in scope and vision ($2-8 million), produce tangible, measurable, on-the-ground results within 3-5 years, and focus on key conservation issues. If research or planning is a significant component of the project, these must be supported by other funds. Sell them your idea today by submitting a brief description – (no more than 1 page) to:




**Environmental/Climate Change Music & Performance for Kids– Jeff Kagan & Paige Doughty

CDs & Music [my family loves this music!]

** The Charcoal Forest: How Fire Helps Animals & Plants

on the importance of burned forests—by a former PRBO seasonal biologist!




Quantifying the Greenhouse Gas Benefits of Urban Parks


Australia: Regenerative Adelaide
An urbanizing world requires major policy initiatives to make urban resource use compatible with the world’s ecosystems. Metropolitan Adelaide has adopted this agenda and is well on its way to becoming a pioneering regenerative city region. New policies by the government of South Australia on energy efficiency, renewable energy, sustainable transport, zero waste, organic waste composting, water efficiency, wastewater irrigation of crops, peri-urban agriculture, and reforestation have taken Adelaide to the forefront of eco-friendly urban development.



The Demonization Of Clean Tech: The Five Biggest Myths

Posted: 18 Sep 2012 12:17 PM PDT by Trevor Winnie, via Clean Edge

The case for technologies that harness renewable resources, improve efficiency, and reduce emissions has never been stronger, and the industry known as clean tech continues to grow at a staggering pace – global revenues for the “Big Three” sectors of wind power, solar PV, and biofuels hit $246.1 billion in 2011 after a decade of annual growth averaging more than 30 percent. But such an all-encompassing classification – spanning clean energy, advanced transportation, advanced materials, and clean water technologies – has lately made the industry an easy target for opposition, especially in the U.S., where divisive national politics have made pragmatism a rare commodity. As a longtime analyst at clean-tech research firm Clean Edge and contributor to the recently published book Clean Tech Nation (coauthored by Clean Edge colleagues Ron Pernick and Clint Wilder), I should be on the front lines defending the clean-tech moniker. But given the noticeable intensifying of false debates surrounding clean tech in the last year, it’s worth taking a moment to examine ways in which the industry’s far-reaching identity has opened the door to some misplaced antagonism…..





Court Rules Deniers Have No Right To The Emails Of UVA Climate Scientists
Posted: 17 Sep 2012 03:00 PM PDT Today a Virginia judge ruled that the University of Virginia (UVA) doesn’t have to release the emails of climate scientists like Michael Mann to the anti-science American Tradition Institute (ATI)…..


PBS False Balance Hour – What’s Up With That?

Posted on 20 September 2012 by dana1981

We have previously criticized the mainstream media for favoring false balance over factually accurate scientific reporting when it comes to climate change.  In one of the worst examples of this unfortunate and counter-productive practice, the US Public Boadcasting Service (PBS), which is funded by both taxpayers and private donations, (for example, from the Koch brothers) aired a climate story on the PBS News Hour which began by featuring the Berkeley Earth Surface Temperature (BEST) project’s Richard Muller, “balanced” with a subsequent interview of contrarian blogger Anthony Watts.

Ultimately, Watts’ comments suffered from a double standard, dismissing Muller’s comments as not yet being supported by peer-reviewed research, but offering his own opinions despite the fact that they were not only unsupported, but even contradicted by Watts’ own peer-reviewed research.



Bird stamp entries being sought

September 18, 2012–The state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection is inviting artists to enter their waterfowl artwork in the Migratory Bird Conservation Stamp Art Contest. Entries must be received in person or postmarked on or before March 15, 2013,… more »



Managing for resilience in the face of climate change: a scientific approach to targeted oyster restoration in San Francisco Bay and Elkhorn Slough, California

Our new project website is at   We invite you to take a look at the new website, which provides information on the basic project components, key documents, and collaborative input from key end-users.  We welcome your ongoing questions, feedback and input; and we will be posting updates and new data as it is generated. This project builds upon native oyster restoration research at Elkhorn Slough and recommendations in the San Francisco Bay Subtidal Goals Report, and the new website is tiered from the Subtidal Goals ( This project is characterizing stressor levels at multiple sites at two California estuaries (San Francisco Bay, Elkhorn Slough), assessing native oyster populations at these sites and connectivity between them, and examining impacts of individual and combined stressors in laboratory experiments. The goal is to improve sustainability of Olympia oyster restoration in the face of climate change by providing restoration planning tools. In particular, the tools will identify sites most likely to support sustainable restoration projects, and will indicate whether reduction of some existing stressors will enhance resilience to climate-related stressors.   A more detailed project description can be downloaded from:


Hidden cams reveal Point Reyes’ wildlife haven

SF Chron September 16, 2012

In muted dawn light near Olema Creek at Point Reyes National Seashore, a bobcat slinked along the trail in stealth mode.
But a secret camera caught it in the act.

Later, a buck with 4×3 antlers took a drink from the stream. Then, after that, a coyote. Motion-activated wildlife cameras hidden at Point Reyes have captured more than 20 major species, from mountain lions to badgers, with many surprises along the way. The photos show that the Bay Area’s greatest park is more than a nature sanctuary for humans. It is a vast haven for wildlife. To identify each animal, look for caption just beneath the gallery. The 50-year anniversary of the park, 1962-2012, was Thursday, and most of the ongoing events commemorate the park’s epic status as a national treasure: A diverse landscape that spans from sea to mountaintops, landmarks like the Point Reyes Light and Arch Rock, and when rated against parks across the Bay Area’s nine counties, the most dynamic trail system, best hike-in and boat-in camps, best visitor center and most helpful rangers. And by the way, you can show up for free. Point Reyes also rivals Yosemite National Park and Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park as California’s best wildlife preserve. The park’s 71,000 acres spans many habitats, and in turn, that diversity supports an array of wildlife. The full story and the 10 best places to see wildlife at Point Reyes — and what you might see there — was published in  Sunday’s Chronicle at



Google Energy Use: Company Reveals Information To Show That Search Is Green

JONATHAN FAHEY   09/ 8/11 01:44 PM ET  

NEW YORK — Stung by concerns that using Google is bad for the planet, the Internet search giant has revealed exactly how much electricity the company uses and how much greenhouse gases it produces in an effort to show its business model is environmentally friendly.

Experts say it’s true: Watching a video on Google’s Youtube site is indeed more energy-efficient than watching a DVD that had to be manufactured, packaged, shipped and purchased.


Men see cars and women see birds, study says

CBS News – ‎September 19, 2012‎

(LiveScience) Men are better at identifying pictures of vehicles they’ve studied while woman are better at recognizing birds and other objects of the natural world, the results of a visual recognition experiment suggest. In the study, 227 participants








Figure 1: Natural thermometers indicating a warming world.




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