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Conservation Science News January 4, 2013

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Highlight of the Week









Highlight of the Week








Bering Sea study finds prey density more important to predators than biomass
(January 3, 2013)
Marine resource managers often gauge the health of species based on overall biomass, but a new study of predator-prey relationships in the Bering Sea found that it isn’t the total number of individuals that predators care about — it’s how densely they are aggregated.
It’s more than searching for an easy meal, the researchers say. Predators need to balance how much energy they expend in searching for food with the caloric and nutrient value of that which they consume. When prey doesn’t aggregate, however, the search for food becomes much more difficult — affecting the health of the predators’ offspring and the vitality of their overall population. Results of the study were published this week in the journal PLOS ONE. The study was part of the Bering Sea Integrated Ecosystem Research Project, which was funded by the North Pacific Research Board and the National Science Foundation. “We had to think very differently about these interactions, trying to see the world from the predators’ point of view,” said Kelly Benoit-Bird, an Oregon State University marine ecologist and lead author on the study. “When we first tried to identify good foraging locations for predator species we looked at areas of high prey numbers because it makes sense that they’d be where the food is. But the results didn’t match what we might have expected. “Predator populations that should have been doing well, based on prey numbers or biomass, were in fact not doing well,” added Benoit-Bird, an associate professor in OSU’s College of Earth, Ocean, and Atmospheric Sciences. “What we discovered is that smaller aggregations of prey are more attractive to predators if they are sufficiently dense.” “It is a trade-off strategy,” said Benoit-Bird, a 2010 recipient of a MacArthur Fellowship. “They feed themselves in one place and nourish their offspring from another.”This concept of prey “patchiness” can change rapidly, the researchers noted. Pollock aggregated only when the number of individuals in an area reached a certain threshold; below that threshold, they swam as individuals.”If the population is sufficiently diffuse, the pollock don’t aggregate and that could spell trouble for species that prey upon them,” Heppell said. “A 10 percent shift in the number of fish could change how the entire stock behaves — and have a major impact on the birds, seals and other predators.“…full story

Kelly J. Benoit-Bird, Brian C. Battaile, Scott A. Heppell, Brian Hoover, David Irons, Nathan Jones, Kathy J. Kuletz, Chad A. Nordstrom, Rosana Paredes, Robert M. Suryan, Chad M. Waluk, Andrew W. Trites. Prey Patch Patterns Predict Habitat Use by Top Marine Predators with Diverse Foraging Strategies. PLOS ONE, 03 Jan 2013 DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0053348

A tagged blue whale in the Santa Barbara Channel Islands shipping lanes. J. Calambokidis / Cascadia Research

Ocean shipping lanes near San Francisco changed to protect whales

By GUY KOVNER THE PRESS DEMOCRAT Thursday, December 27, 2012 at 7:15 p.m.

Shipping lanes that carry about 20 cargo and cruise vessels a day in and out of San Francisco Bay are being revised in an effort to reduce fatal collisions with whales, federal officials said Thursday.

The proposal developed by the U.S. Coast Guard and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration modifies shipping lanes that head north, west and south from the Bay, limiting their overlap with areas frequented by endangered blue, humpback and fin whales. Five whales were killed by confirmed or likely ship strikes in the San Francisco area in 2010, and scientists say the mortality rate may be much higher because most dead whales sink….


USGS- Quantifying Ecosystem Services Recent years have seen a proliferation of methods for quantifying ecosystem services but a lack of synthesis of these alternative approaches and comparative analysis between multiple models at a common site. We recently released this USGS report, which details the application of multiple tools to the San Pedro River watershed in southeast Arizona.


Rebuilding Resilience on the Land – Ecological Restoration & the Hydrological Cycle
A farmer, taking a break from heart-rending work tilling under a failed crop in the droughty backfield, is refreshing his spirit at what has become a favorite spot. The restored prairie is blooming even while his corn is dying. This makes him glad he put that marginal 20-acre field into prairie awhile back. Maybe he should think about restoring prairie to that droughty back field too, if the government program continues. This ecological vignette stands in sharp contrast to events that unfolded on many Midwestern streams and rivers during the drought-plagued summer of 2012. The land has a built-in resiliency and ability to maintain balance. Or, at least, it once did…



Evolutionary rescue in changing environments

Issue compiled and edited by Andrew Gonzalez, Ophélie Ronce, Regis Ferrière and Michael E. Hochberg

The ubiquity of global environmental change and its impacts on biodiversity poses a clear and urgent challenge for biologists. In many cases, environmental change is so widespread and rapid that plants and animals can neither accommodate to them physiologically nor migrate to a more favourable site. Extinction will ensue unless the population adapts fast enough to counter the rate of decline. The aim of this special issue is to present current understanding of evolutionary rescue: the case where evolution can reverse rapid population decline due to environmental stress, and so prevent otherwise inevitable extirpation. Remarkably, little is known about the prevalence of evolutionary rescue in nature, and even less about how to predict it. The contributions to this issue provide new insights about when evolutionary rescue might occur, address the latest conceptual developments, and report novel theoretical and experimental results. The results show that this burgeoning area of research can inform problems of direct practical concern, such as the conservation of biodiversity, adaptation to climate change, and the emergence of infectious disease. The continued development of research on ER will be necessary if we are to understand the extent to which anthropogenic global change will reduce the Earth’s biodiversity.


Environmental Threat Map Highlights Great Lakes Restoration Challenges
In an article published online Dec. 17 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, a group led by researchers at the University of Michigan reports on an expansive and detailed effort to map and cross-compare environmental stresses and the ecological services provided by the five lakes. Their efforts have produced the most comprehensive map to date of Great Lakes’ stressors, and also the first map to explicitly account for all major types of stressors on the lakes in a quantitative way. The map represents the combined influence of nearly three dozen individual stressors and is incredibly detailed for a region spanning nearly 900 miles, showing impacts at the scale of half a mile…


Scientists challenge current theories about natural habitats and species diversity
(December 30, 2012) — How can a square meter of meadow contain tens of species of plants? And what factors determine the number of species that live in an ecosystem? This has been selected as one of the 25 most important unresolved questions in science, both for its importance in understanding nature and due to the value of natural ecosystems for humankind. The value of goods and services provided by natural ecosystems is estimated to exceed the GDP of our planet. … > full story

New York Times

Birdsong Stirs Birds’ ‘Emotions’ Much As Music Affects Humans, Brain Imaging ... Written by

Jacqueline Howard

Huffington Post January 3, 2013

“We found that the same neural reward system is activated in female birds in the breeding state that are listening to male birdsong, and in people listening to music that they like,” Sarah Earp, an Emory undergraduate who co-authored the study with


Jellyfish experts show increased blooms are a consequence of periodic global fluctuations
(December 31, 2012) — Blooms, or proliferations, of jellyfish can show a substantial, visible impact on coastal populations — clogged nets for fishermen, stinging waters for tourists, even choked cooling intake pipes for power plants — and recent media reports have created a perception that the world’s oceans are experiencing trending increases in jellyfish. Now, a new multinational collaborative study suggests these trends may be overstated, finding that there is no robust evidence for a global increase in jellyfish over the past two centuries. … > full story

The effect of stress on Atlantic salmon’s congenital immunity to IPN
(January 2, 2013) — Stress affects the congenital immune defence system. New doctoral research has revealed how stress can lower the immunity of salmon and increase its susceptibility to viral infection. Furthermore, stress can increase the propagation of viruses in the fish’s internal organs and can cause “benign” viruses to turn “pernicious”. … > full story


New insights into how plants grow in response to light, water and gravity
(January 2, 2013) — Elementary school students often learn that plants grow toward the light. This seems straightforward, but in reality, the genes and pathways that allow plants to grow and move in response to their environment are not fully understood. Leading plant scientists now explore one of the most fundamental processes in plant biology — plant movement in response to light, water, and gravity. … > full story


The New Frontier: Systems View of Life – Restoring Natural Capital & Sustainability
Humanity stands at the edge of a new frontier. In the 1960s and 1970s, advances in complexity theory and mathematics, coupled with dramatic advances in computing, allowed researchers and scientists to begin modeling and comprehending the predicament Earth’s inhabitants now find themselves in. A linchpin of the current predicament is the collective underlying philosophy that shapes assumptions about how the world works. These operating views govern how people think and make decisions affecting their present and future. This article will trace the evolving path of this collective worldview, focusing on the latest developments in the emerging Systems View of Life.


The Achievements of Cuba’s “Ecological Agriculture”
When Cuba faced the shock of lost trade relations with the Soviet Bloc in the early 1990s, food production initially collapsed due to the loss of imported fertilizers, pesticides, tractors, parts, and petroleum. The situation was so bad that Cuba posted the worst growth in per capita food production in all of Latin America and the Caribbean. But the island rapidly re-oriented its agriculture to depend less on imported synthetic chemical inputs, and became a world-class case of ecological agriculture.

Graze Cattle Such As Bison to Restore British Countryside
The British countryside could be restored by cattle herds grazing such as the bison of the American plains, according to organic farmers. … the countryside is being destroyed by industrial scale farms that concentrate on monoculture fields of wheat and animals in massive sheds. Organic matter in soils has been reduced by continuous use of fertilisers and pesticides. Instead he said that more of Britain could return to grazing animals as this returns fertility to grassland and retains the countryside. He suggested a US method ‘mob grazing’, based on how wild bison graze the American plains, is the best way to ensure productivity. Using electric fences, farmers split their pastures into a large number of small paddocks. Putting their cattle into each paddock in turn, they graze it off quickly before moving the herd to the next. US farmers report that their animals stay very healthy on this grazing regime, putting on weight fast. At the same time the soil quickly becomes more fertile as it accumulates carbon compounds. ..


A Watershed Era for Urban River Restoration
Recent US population growth trends show many cities are growing faster than suburbs, reflecting shifting lifestyle choices that favor urban living. There is also a concurrent interest in restoring natural features of the urban landscape, particularly river corridors, as part of this urban living renaissance. Daylighting is being considered by many cities as a way to manage flows and water quality while simultaneously revitalizing downtowns and urban areas. The Cheonggyecheon Stream restoration in Seoul, South Korea in 2005 received significant worldwide attention. In the US, small and large cities, as well as recently many federal agencies, are getting more involved in urban river restoration.


From Canada To Latin America, The Christmas Bird Count Is On

NPR  – ‎January 4, 2013‎

Every year at around this time, tens of thousands of people take part in a kind of bird-watching marathon. From Canada to Latin America and throughout the United States, participants will get up in the middle of the night…


Birds’ nests drop by 39 percent in South Florida

The News-Press  – ‎January 4, 2013‎

“We had two years of drought, in 2010 and 2011, and for birds that feed on animals that live in water, that’s not a good thing,” said Mark Cook, the South Florida Water Management District’s lead environmental scientist.






2012 in Review – a Major Year for Climate Change

Posted on 1 January 2013 by dana1981

With 2012 now in the books, let’s take a look back at some of the biggest climate-related events of the year.  Here we’ll examine some of the most significant scientific papers, debunked myths, climatic events, and steps taken towards solving the climate problem, as determined in part by the most widely-viewed Skeptical Science blog posts of 2012.  Let’s begin with two of the most significant climatic events of the year… in terms of impacts on people, the climate, and public awareness of climate change: the record-shattering Arctic sea ice melt, and Hurricane Sandy.


Light Absorption Speeding Arctic Ice Melt


The record-setting disappearance of Arctic sea ice this fall was an indication to many climate scientists and ice experts that the pace of climate change was outstripping predictions.

Geophysical Research LettersThe rate of the ocean’s heat absorption is depicted along a color spectrum, with red representing the highest levels and green the lowest.

Now a new study published this week in the journal Geophysical Research Letters provides a look at a dynamic that may further accelerate the process: the rate at which the ocean underneath the ice absorbs sunlight. The bottom line of the study, which was done by four scientists, three at the Alfred Wegener Institute for Polar and Marine Research in Bremerhaven, Germany, and one from the department of aerospace engineering sciences at the University of Colorado, Boulder, is that the ocean under newly formed ice (“first-year ice” in the scientists’ terminology) absorbs 50 percent more solar energy than the ocean beneath older ice (“multiyear ice”).
This means that the more the ice melts in late summer, the more first-year ice replaces multiyear ice, and the warmer the ocean beneath the ice becomes, accelerating the melting process. One sentence of the study says it all: “a continuation of the observed sea-ice changes will increase the amount of light penetrating into the Arctic Ocean, enhancing sea-ice melt and affecting sea-ice and upper-ocean ecosystems.”
The study, the first of its kind, used a remotely driven undersea vehicle equipped with spectral radiometers, devices capable of measuring light. It then produced a map of the distribution of light under the summer ice across the Arctic….


Natural relationship between carbon dioxide concentrations and sea level documented
(January 2, 2013) — By comparing reconstructions of atmospheric carbon dioxide concentrations and sea level over the past 40 million years, researchers have found that greenhouse gas concentrations similar to the present (almost 400 parts per million) were systematically associated with sea levels at least nine meters above current levels.

The study determined the ‘natural equilibrium’ sea level for CO2 concentrations ranging between ice-age values of 180 parts per million and ice-free values of more than 1,000 parts per million. It takes many centuries for such an equilibrium to be reached, therefore whilst the study does not predict any sea level value for the coming century, it does illustrate what sea level might be expected if climate were stabilized at a certain CO2 level for several centuries. Lead author Dr Gavin Foster, from Ocean and Earth Science at the University of Southampton which is based at the centre, said, “A specific case of interest is one in which CO2 levels are kept at 400 to 450 parts per million, because that is the requirement for the often mentioned target of a maximum of two degrees global warming.” “This trend reflects the behaviour of the large East Antarctic ice sheet in response to climate changes at these very high CO2 levels. An ice-free planet, with sea level 65 metres above the present, occurred in the past when CO2 levels were around 1200 parts per million.” Professor Rohling said, “Sea level rises to these high values will take many centuries, or even millennia, but the implications from the geological record are clear – for a future climate with maximum warming of about two degrees Centigrade, that is with CO2 stabilized at 400 to 450 parts per million, sea level is set to steadily rise for many centuries, towards its natural equilibrium position at around 24 +7/-15 metres, at 68 per cent confidence. In Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change terms, this is a likely rise of at least nine metres above the present. Previous research indicates that such rises above present sea level may occur at rates of roughly one metre per century.”
Based on these results, which document how the Earth system has operated in the past, future stabilization of CO2 at 400-450 parts per million is unlikely to be sufficient to avoid a significant steady long-term sea level rise.full story


Dr Gavin Foster et al. The relationship between sea level and climate forcing by CO2 on geological timescales. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 2013



As climate warms, bark beetles march on high-elevation forests
(December 31, 2012) — In a new study, scientists report a rising threat to the whitebark pine forests of the northern Rocky Mountains as native mountain pine beetles climb ever higher, attacking trees that have not evolved strong defenses to stop them. … Trees and the insects that eat them wage constant war. Insects burrow and munch; trees deploy lethal and disruptive defenses in the form of chemicals. But in a warming world, where temperatures and seasonal change are in flux, the tide of battle may be shifting in some insects’ favor, according to a new study. In a report published today (Dec. 31, 2012) in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, a team of scientists from the University of Wisconsin-Madison reports a rising threat to the whitebark pine forests of the northern Rocky Mountains as native mountain pine beetles climb ever higher, attacking trees that have not evolved strong defenses to stop them. The whitebark pine forests of the western United States and Canada are the forest ecosystems that occur at the highest elevation that sustains trees. It is critical habitat for iconic species such as the grizzly bear and plays an important role in governing the hydrology of the mountain west by shading snow and regulating the flow of meltwater.

Warming temperatures have allowed tree-killing beetles to thrive in areas that were historically too cold for them most years,” explains Ken Raffa, a UW-Madison professor of entomology and a senior author of the new report. “The tree species at these high elevations never evolved strong defenses.”….> full story


Sandy funnels northern birds to Florida, great danger

USA TODAY  – ‎Dec 31, 2012‎

Sandy may have blown the small birds off course and destroyed their food supply. They are coming to Florida in search of food, but the long journey and lack of food they are used to eating is killing them.


Climate change to put paid to the ‘perfect’ lawn

The Times UK (subscription)  – ‎Jan 2, 2013‎

The “bowling green” lawn will soon be a thing of the past thanks to climate change, horticultural experts are warning. It won’t be global warming that puts paid to the well-manicured lawn so much as unpredictable weather patterns that alternate



Climate Impacts on the Winter Tourism Economy in the United States

NRDC December 2012 The winter sports industry is deeply dependent upon predictable, heavy snowfall, but climate change is expected to contribute to warmer winters, reduced snowfall, and shorter snow seasons. The estimated $12.2 billion U.S. ski and snowmobile winter sports industry has already felt the direct impact of decreased winter snowpack and rising average winter temperatures.

And climate change will spell more trouble, according to research done for the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) and Protect Our Winters (POW), for all businesses dependent on winter weather from snowmobiling, snowboarding, and ice fishing to snowshoeing and skiing — as well as the other related sectors that depend on winter sports tourists, such as restaurants, lodging, gas stations, grocery stores, and bars…..


Scientists link climate change and gray snapper

Phys.Org  – ‎Jan 4 2013‎

(—NOAA scientists continue to develop and improve the approaches used to understand the effect of climate change on marine fisheries along the


A ringed seal pup peeks out from its protective snow cave near Kotzebue, Alaska. (Credit: Michael Cameron, NOAA’s Alaska Fisheries Science Center)

NOAA lists ringed and bearded ice seal populations under the Endangered Species Act
(December 30, 2012) — NOAA Fisheries has announced its final listing decision for four subspecies of ringed seals and two distinct population segments (DPSs) of bearded seals under the Endangered Species Act. Specifically, in line with the proposal, NOAA will list as threatened the Beringia and Okhotsk DPSs of bearded seals and the Arctic, Okhotsk, and Baltic subspecies of ringed seals. The Ladoga subspecies of ringed seals will be listed as endangered. The species that exist in U.S. waters (Arctic ringed seals and the Beringia DPS of bearded seals) are already protected under the Marine Mammal Protection Act. ..

“Our scientists undertook an extensive review of the best scientific and commercial data. They concluded that a significant decrease in sea ice is probable later this century and that these changes will likely cause these seal populations to decline,” said Jon Kurland, protected resources director for NOAA Fisheries’ Alaska region. “We look forward to working with the State of Alaska, our Alaska Native co-management partners, and the public as we work toward designating critical habitat for these seals.”. > full story


Climate change threatens Tahoe’s snow levels, lake clarity

San Jose Mercury News  – ‎Jan 4 2013‎

That’s equivalent to moving Lake Tahoe from its current elevation of 6,200 feet above sea level to 3,700 feet, climate scientists report in a special January issue of the journal Climatic Change. That’s as high as the peak of Contra Costa County’s .


Top 10 ways Israel fights desertification

Israel has gained a worldwide reputation for its ability to turn barren desert into useful and arable land. ISRAEL21c takes a look at the country’s top 10 eco-strategies.

By Karin Kloosterman July 15, 2012,  10 Comments

This past year’s erratic and violent weather is only a small taste of what’s to come, climate scientists predict, as the impact of global warming starts to hit. Weather will become more unpredictable, flooding will become even fiercer, and droughts and famine more widespread as land increasingly gives over to desert. With desert covering a large part of its surface, Israel has had to quickly develop solutions for its lack of arable land and potable water. Israeli research, innovation, achievements and education on this topic now span the globe in tackling problems common to all desert dwellers. “We’ve done a lot of research on ecosystem response to drought because we have this problem on our doorstep,” says Prof. Pedro Berliner, director of Israel’s foremost research center for desert research, the Jacob Blaustein Institute for Desert Research at Ben-Gurion University in the Negev Desert. ISRAEL21c looks at Israel’s top 10 advances to combat desertification, putting special focus on the work done by researchers at the Blaustein Institute.

1. Looking to the ancients

They lived in the Land of Israel more than 2,000 years ago in the heart of the Negev Desert, yet found a way to survive and thrive. How did the Nabateans build a sustainable community that provided food, firewood and fodder for animals?

This is Prof Pedro Berliner’s area of interest. He has developed a modern-day version of the Nabatean floodwater collection system, Runoff Agroforestry Systems, and travels the world teaching farmers in countries such as Kenya, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, India, and Mexico how to implement it. His low-tech approach redirects floodwaters to dike-surrounded plots or hand-dug pits in which trees or shrubs are planted. Going one step further than the Nabateans, “In our system we not only plant trees and between them rows of crops, but gave the old a new twist by using legume shrub-like trees which can absorb atmospheric nitrogen through their root system,” Berliner says. Soil fertility is maintained at practically no cost, ensuring the long-term sustainability of the system….


Climate change may increase volcanic eruptions

Findings were based only on natural changes in climate, so it’s not clear whether human-caused climate change would have the same impact

By Tia Ghose, LiveScience Thu, Jan 03 2013 at 10:10 AM

The rapid rise in sea levels could cause a dramatic increase in volcanic eruptions, according to a new study….It’s long been known that volcanism can dramatically alter the climate, often in cataclysmic ways. For instance, mass extinctions such as the one at the end of the Permian period may have been caused by continuous volcanic eruptions that cooled the climate and poisoned the atmosphere and the seas. [50 Amazing Volcano Facts] But few people thought climate change could fuel volcanic eruptions before Jegen and her colleagues began looking at cores drilled from the oceans off of South and Central America. The sediments showed the last 1 million years of Earth’s climatic history. Every so often, shifts in Earth’s orbit lead to rapid warming of the planet, massive melting of glaciers and a quick rise in sea levels. The team found that much more tephra, or layers of volcanic ash, appeared in the sediment cores after those periods. Some places, such as Costa Rica, saw five to 10 times as much volcanic activity during periods of glacial melting as at other times, Jegen told LiveScience.


2012 was the second-wettest year in Britain since records began in 1910



LAST UPDATED AT 15:12 ON Thu 3 Jan 2013

BRITAIN endured its second wettest year on record in 2012 and the Met Office has warned that “extreme rainfall” is becoming more frequent, something that could be connected to climate change.

Although the first few months of last year were dry, the rest of 2012 was a washout, and by the end of December the total rainfall stood at 1330.7mm, just 6.6mm off the record set in 2000. Four of the five wettest years since records began in 1910 have occurred since the turn of the century. “Changes in sea surface temperatures because of decreasing Arctic sea ice is one possible cause for the changes in weather patterns,” reports the Daily Telegraph. “Another possibility is that a 0.7C increase in global air temperatures since pre-industrial times has led to a four per cent increase in moisture in the atmosphere, bringing with it a greater potential for heavy rain.” The Daily Mail said that torrential rain is on the increase and “climate change is probably the cause”. It says that in the 1960s extreme rain would fall once every 125 days, but now it is more like once every 75 days. In 2012 such events happened every 70 days….

Little sign of easing in US’s big dry

Sydney Morning Herald  – ‎ January 3, 2013‎

Snowfall in parts of the US Plains last week had little impact on historic drought gripping the region, but parts of northern Illinois and southern Wisconsin showed slight improvement, weather experts said


Video On 2012′s Extreme Weather: ‘A Jawdropping Year’

By Joe Romm on Jan 3, 2013 at 1:52 pm VIDEO:

WeatherNation Chief Meteorologist Paul Douglas reviews past year’s amazing string of extreme weather events:


Facebook And The Rest Of Silicon Valley Could Be Wiped Out In 40 Years

Alyson Shontell | Jan. 3, 2013, 5:24 PM |

Facebook’s sprawling Menlo Park campus is surrounded by water on three sides. It’s beautiful now, but in a few decades its location could be problematic.

According to ClimateWire, Facebook and 256 other Silicon Valley tech companies sit in a dangerous flood zone. As climate change becomes more of a reality and sea levels rise, they could all be in serious trouble.






Cost of combating climate change surges as world delays: study

Environment Correspondent Alister Doyle Reuters

6:18 a.m. CST, January 3, 2013 OSLO (Reuters) – An agreement by almost 200 nations to curb rising greenhouse gas emissions from 2020 will be far more costly than taking action now to tackle climate change, according to research published on Wednesday. Quick measures to cut emissions would give a far better chance of keeping global warming within an agreed U.N. limit of 2 degrees Celsius (3.6F) above pre-industrial times to avert more floods, heatwaves, droughts and rising sea levels.

“If you delay action by 10, 20 years you significantly reduce the chances of meeting the 2 degree target,” said Keywan Riahi, one of the authors of the report at the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis in Austria. “It was generally known that costs increase when you delay action. It was not clear how quickly they change,” he told Reuters of the findings in the science journal Nature based on 500 computer-generated scenarios….


Insurers paid $40B for Sandy, drought

By  Geir Moulson ASSOCIATED PRESS Friday January 4, 2013 5:19 AM

BERLIN — Natural disasters cost insurers $65 billion last year, with the United States accounting for nine-tenths of the bill and superstorm Sandy prompting payouts of $25 billion, a leading insurance company said yesterday. However, Munich Re AG said that the total insured losses worldwide were down from a record $119 billion in 2011, when devastating earthquakes in Japan and New Zealand cost the industry dearly.

The company said total economic costs in 2012 from natural disasters worldwide — including uninsured losses — amounted to $160 billion, compared with the previous year’s $400 billion.

Sandy, which battered Eastern coastline areas at the end of October, killed at least 125 people in the United States and 71 people in the Caribbean. New York, New Jersey and Connecticut were the hardest-hit U.S. states. Munich Re estimated insured losses from Sandy at $25 billion and total losses at $50 billion, though it cautioned that the figures are “still subject to considerable uncertainty.” That made it the year’s most costly disaster — but several other events in the U.S. meant that the country accounted for 90 percent of insured costs and 67 percent of overall losses, the company said.

Over the past decade the well-insured U.S. on average accounted for 57 percent of insured losses and 32 percent of overall costs.



Schwarzenegger’s Climate-Change Legacy

National Journal  – ‎Jan 2, 2013‎

If the United States ever enacts a major climatechange law, it will owe a debt to Arnold Schwarzenegger. Strange as it sounds, the Austrian-born bodybuilder, former California governor, and movie star has flexed more legislative muscle on climate


E.P.A. Chief Set to Leave; Term Fell Shy of Early Hope

By JOHN M. BRODER NY TIMES Published: December 27, 2012 200 Comments

Lisa P. Jackson is stepping down as administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency after a four-year tenure that began with high hopes of sweeping action to address climate change and other environmental ills but ended with a series of rear-guard actions to defend the agency against challenges from industry, Republicans in Congress and, at times, the Obama White House.

Ms. Jackson, 50, told President Obama shortly after his re-election in November that she wanted to leave the administration early next year. She informed the E.P.A. staff of her decision on Thursday morning and issued a brief statement saying that she was confident “the ship is sailing in the right direction.”

She has not said what she intends to do after leaving government, and no successor was immediately named, although it is expected that Robert Perciasepe, the E.P.A. deputy administrator, will take over at least temporarily. Ms. Jackson’s departure comes as many in the environmental movement are questioning Mr. Obama’s commitment to dealing with climate change and other environmental problems. After his re-election, and a campaign in which global warming was barely mentioned by either candidate, Mr. Obama said that his first priority would be jobs and the economy and that he intended only to foster a “conversation” on climate change in the coming months.


Wind energy tax credits survive as Congress passes fiscal cliff deal

By Katie Fehrenbacher Jan 2, 2012 Congress approved a fiscal cliff deal on Tuesday and in it included an extension of the wind energy tax credits for wind projects built in 2013. The wind energy industry is breathing a sigh of relief and says 37,000 jobs will be saved….


Laws of Geo-Engineering to Mitigate Global Warming?



January 2, 2013 — A law professor believes the legal ramifications of geo-engineering need to be thought through now and a global governance structure put in place soon to oversee these efforts to fight climate … > full story



A Nissan electric car being recharged outside the Windsor Airside Nissan dealership in Dublin. Derek Speirs for The New York Times

Carbon Taxes Make Ireland Even Greener

Environmental Taxes in Ireland: Taxes on garbage and fossil fuels are part of Ireland’s novel strategy to shrink its debt.

By ELISABETH ROSENTHAL Published: December 27, 2012 196 Comments

DUBLIN — Over the last three years, with its economy in tatters, Ireland embraced a novel strategy to help reduce its staggering deficit: charging households and businesses for the environmental damage they cause. The government imposed taxes on most of the fossil fuels used by homes, offices, vehicles and farms, based on each fuel’s carbon dioxide emissions, a move that immediately drove up prices for oil, natural gas and kerosene. Household trash is weighed at the curb, and residents are billed for anything that is not being recycled.

The Irish now pay purchase taxes on new cars and yearly registration fees that rise steeply in proportion to the vehicle’s emissions.

Environmentally and economically, the new taxes have delivered results. Long one of Europe’s highest per-capita producers of greenhouse gases, with levels nearing those of the United States, Ireland has seen its emissions drop more than 15 percent since 2008. Although much of that decline can be attributed to a recession, changes in behavior also played a major role, experts say, noting that the country’s emissions dropped 6.7 percent in 2011 even as the economy grew slightly….


WATCH: What Obama Should Say About Climate Change



Huffington Post January 3, 2013

What should President Obama say about climate change in his State of the Union address? We asked scientist Anthony Leiserowitz, director of the Yale Project on Climate Change Communication, in this extended preview clip from the next Moyers


Climate Change in Hawaii: It’s Here

A new report brings together all the science and concludes it’s time to act.

Honolulu Weekly Jan 2, 2013

For years we’ve been hearing ominous rumblings about climate change and its many implications for the planet, especially Hawaii and other islands in the Western Pacific. The scenarios fueled by a rapidly expanding body of science are sobering: rising temperatures and prolonged droughts, dying coral reefs and dwindling fish stocks. Rising sea levels will eventually, for some atolls and low-lying areas of Hawaii, bring total inundation. We have lots and lots of science,” says Jesse Souki, director of the Office of State Planning (OSP). “We have a pretty good idea of what the problem is, and what’s going to happen. The hard part is figuring out what to do about it.” Humans can respond locally and globally in two ways: We can mitigate, which means reducing the carbon emissions that are warming the planet, and we can adapt, as in figure out how to live with the changes we’ve already set into motion. Act 234, adopted in 2007, is the state’s response to mitigation. It calls for cost-effectively rolling back greenhouse gas emissions to 1990 levels by the year 2020, and has driven the Islands’ foray into renewable energy sources. With Act 286, the state is now turning its attention to adaptation. Drafted by OSP and signed by Gov. Abercrombie this past July, the bill is intended “to encourage cooperation and collaboration . . . to plan for the impacts of climate change and avoid, minimize or mitigate loss of life, land and property for future generations.”


Exclusive: Senators seek probe into royalties on coal exports



Patrick Rucker Reuters 10:22 a.m. CST, January 4, 2013 WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Two top U.S. senators are calling for the Interior Department to investigate whether coal companies are undervaluing coal they export in order to lower their royalty payments to the government by hundreds of millions of dollars. Democratic Senator Ron Wyden, the incoming chairman of the Energy and Natural Resources Committee, and the panel’s leading Republican, Senator Lisa Murkowski, said they were concerned that coal companies may be shorting royalty payments.


Colorado: Disaster Bill Could Include State Watershed Restoration Funds
A $60.4 billion disaster appropriations bill for Hurricane Sandy relief and rebuilding now includes $125 million for restoration efforts at Colorado watersheds damaged by this summer’s wildfires. Colorado Senators Mark Udall and Michael Bennet worked to add funding to the bill. In a statement, Bennet says the $125 million will address damaged watersheds across the country and in El Paso, Larimer, and Weld counties….


More Gulf Restoration Projects Coming Online
More restoration projects – valued at about $9 million – to repair damage from the 2010 Deepwater Horizon Oil Disaster are set to begin in the next months along the beaches of the Florida panhandle, Mississippi and Alabama, including habitat improvements for nesting sea turtles and seabirds. The work is part of the second phase of early restoration projects being organized by the Natural Resource Damage Assessment trustees. Altogether, BP will fund $1 billion in early restoration projects.


Lean Manufacturing: Addressing Climate Change Through Reductions In Waste

Posted: 04 Jan 2013 06:14 AM PST by Rob Honeycutt

Climate scientists are in the unfortunate position of being the messengers of bad news. So in a way, climate change denial is a massive attempt to shoot the messenger.

There are so many existing technologies to address climate change that are positive messages that too often get lost in the noise.  I want to share what I see coming from my industry, which is manufacturing. Specifically, I want to address how things are manufactured rather than technological solutions.






Western Section TWS conference, Sacramento  Jan 28 – Feb 2

So. Sierra Adaptation Workshop, Convention Center, Visalia February 20-22

Nevada: Resilient Landscapes: Planning for Floor, Drought & Fire July 21-24, 2013

Climate change workshop, Las Vegas March 27-28

National Adaptation Forum, Denver Co April 2-4

International Congress for Conservation Biology

Connecting Systems, Disciplines and Stakeholders 21-25 July 2013 Baltimore, Maryland, USA

Call for Abstracts for Contributed Oral, Speed with Poster, Poster, and Student Award Presentations

The Society for Conservation Biology announces the Call for Abstracts for the 2013 International Congress for Conservation Biology (ICCB), to be held 21-25 July in Baltimore, Maryland, USA.

We are seeking abstracts for contributed oral, speed with poster, poster, and student award presentations.

The deadline to submit your abstract is 30 January 2013.  Visit the Call for Abstracts page of the ICCB website for complete instructions and to access the Abstract Management System. Decisions on submitted proposals will be made by 28 February 2013.

EPA-Climate Ready Water Utilities 101– January 23, 1:00-2:00 PM (EST) – This webinar is an introduction to EPA’s Climate Ready Water Utilities initiative and climate change adaptation planning. Learn about the history of the initiative and the tools and resources available to the water sector, including an adaptation guide, an extreme events workshop planner, and comprehensive risk assessment software. Webcast registration


Piloting the National Secretive Marshbird MonitoringWhat have we learned, and where are we headed?
Wednesday, January 16 2013
12:00 – 1:30 PM EST
Presenter: Dr. Mark Seamans, USFWS
Phone:  866-912-2391
Passcode:  1221990
Webex Link:;p=MIDWESTBIRDS&amp;t=c<>
click on this link to launch the new window with meeting number and
passcode automatically filled in)
Abstract:  Secretive marsh birds in North America are poorly monitored by
existing avian monitoring programs.  Some marsh bird species are of
conservation concern, some are open to sport harvest, and for all species
their emergent marsh habitat has been in decline for decades.  A pilot
study was conducted in seven U.S. states (Florida, Idaho, Kentucky,
Michigan, New York, Ohio, and Wisconsin) to determine if a proposed study
design and protocol were suitable for monitoring secretive marsh birds
during the breeding season.  Using an omnibus surveillance monitoring
approach, the design and protocol worked or would likely work well for all
but three rare rail species (Black, King, and Yellow Rails).  Stratifying
the sample in some states between high and low quality habitat resulted in
more precise estimates.  A more targeted hypothesis-driven approach is
recommended for all species and would likely be needed to assess status of
the three rare rail species.  Data for four species (Clapper and Virginia
Rail, Sora, and American Bittern) were used in a formal analysis using
distance sampling and a binomial mixture model to account for imperfect
detectability.  Except for Idaho, the sample frame in each state was
incomplete; typically private lands or National Wildlife Refuges were not

NOAA: Coastal and Marine Habitat Restoration Funding Opportunities- Due February 19, 2013
NOAA’s Restoration Center recognizes that healthy habitat is critical to recover and sustain fish populations. To that end, NOAA is currently soliciting applications for restoration projects that use a habitat-based approach to foster species recovery and increase fish production. The funding opportunity will focus on projects that will aid in recovering listed species and rebuilding sustainable fish populations or their prey. Awards will likely range from $500,000 to $5 million over three years. NOAA will accept one, two, or three year proposals.



Organic lithium-ion batteries on horizon

Zain Shauk San Francisco Chronicle January 4, 2013

In one more step of a global effort to develop greener battery technology, researchers at Rice University say they have found a way to replace a costly metallic component in lithium-ion batteries with material from a common plant. Many of… more »


Putting an End to the Myth that Renewable Energy is too Expensive

Posted on 3 January 2013 by dana1981

The Washington Post recently published an excellent piece of investigative journalism in which they found that the Heartland Institute has teamed up with the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) in an effort to reverse state renewable energy mandates across the USA.  ALEC is a highly controversial organization, essentially comprised of corporations which draft up legislation favorable to their interests, and then pass it along to legislators who will introduce and attempt to implement their bills in state legislatures and US Congress.

The Washington Post reports that ALEC has drafted the Electricity Freedom Act, which would repeal state renewable electricity standards (RESs), which require that a given state meet a certain percentage of its electricity demand with renewable sources by a certain date.  For example, California has an RES to supply 33% of its electricity demand with renewables by 2020, and overall 29 states (plus the District of Columbia) have RESs in the USA. A further 7 states have non-mandatory renewable electricity goals (Figure 1). The Heartland Institute defended the group’s efforts to repeal state RESs, calling them “essentially a tax on consumers of electricity” and claiming: “alternative energy, renewable energy, is more expensive than conventional energy.”

In short, the Heartland/ALEC argument is that mandating that electricity comes from renewable sources will raise prices for consumers, and that we should therefore not implement these standards.

There are of course many benefits to implementing renewable energy which this argument neglects, primarily involving reduced pollution — both of traditional pollutants and their human health effects, and greenhouse gases and their climate impacts.  But before we address these important neglected points, is it true that deploying renewable energy technologies raises electricity prices?  Let’s see what the data say.

Read more…


Towad reducing the greenhouse gas emissions of the Internet and telecommunications
(January 2, 2013) — Amid growing concern over the surprisingly large amount of greenhouse gas produced by the Internet and other telecommunications activities, researchers are reporting new models of emissions and energy consumption that could help reduce their carbon footprint. T
heir report appears in ACS’ journal
Environmental Science & Technology. Researchers from the Centre for Energy-Efficient Telecommunications (CEET) and Bell Labs explain that the information communications and technology (ICT) industry, which delivers Internet, video, voice and other cloud services, produces more than 830 million tons of carbon dioxide (CO2), the main greenhouse gas, annually. That’s about 2 percent of global CO2 emissions — the same proportion as the aviation industry produces.
Projections suggest that ICT sector’s share is expected to double by 2020. The team notes that controlling those emissions requires more accurate but still feasible models, which take into account the data traffic, energy use and CO2 production in networks and other elements of the ICT industry. Existing assessment models are inaccurate, so they set out to develop new approaches that better account for variations in equipment and other factors in the ICT industry…..The researchers suggest, based on their models, that more efficient power usage of facilities, more efficient use of energy-efficient equipment and renewable energy sources are three keys to reducing ICT emissions of CO2.… > full story


Shell Runs Its Arctic Drilling Rig Aground; Coast Guard Prepares For ‘Possible Spill-Response’

Posted: 02 Jan 2013 06:09 AM PST by Kiley Kroh

It appears 2013 will begin much like 2012 ended for Shell’s Arctic Ocean drilling efforts – with yet another mishap.

After several failed attempts to secure the equipment in harsh weather, Shell’s enormous Kulluk drilling rig ran aground near Kodiak Island, Alaska late Monday night. With approximately 143,000 gallons of fuel and 12,000 gallons of lubricating oil and hydraulic fluid on board, the Coast Guard is now preparing for the “salvage and possible spill-response phase of this event.” Two Coast Guard flyovers on Tuesday did not detect any leakage but a severe winter storm – with winds up to 70 mph and waves as high as 50 feet – has prevented crews from conducting a full assessment of the damage….


Transocean To Pay $1.4 Billion In Civil & Criminal Penalties For Deepwater Horizon Disaster

Posted: 04 Jan 2013 08:40 AM PST




Developers of Wind Farms Run a Race Against the Calendar

A newly finished 126-turbine wind farm in Rosamond, Calif. J. Emilio Flores for The New York Times

By MATTHEW L. WALD Published: December 27, 2012

WASHINGTON — Forget about parties, resolutions or watching the ball drop. To Iberdrola Renewables, New Year’s Eve will mean checking on last-minute details like the data connections between 169 new wind turbines in New Hampshire, Massachusetts and California and its control center in Portland, Ore. ….


Recology seeks higher rates in S.F.

Neal J. Riley San Francisco Chronicle January 1, 2013

A new proposal from Recology, the city’s trash hauler, seeks to increase collection rates starting in July 2013 as people continue to throw out less garbage and recycle more, and many customers who don’t step up their recycling habits will face a… more »


Chevron’s CEO: Affordable energy is crucial

By JONATHAN FAHEY— Dec. 27 1:00 PM EST NEW YORK (AP) — Chevron CEO John Watson notices something important as he visits his company’s operations around the globe: Governments everywhere find high energy prices much scarier than the threat of global warming. And that means the world will need a lot more oil and gas in the years to come. To meet that demand, Chevron is in the midst of an enormous cycle of investment aimed at extracting oil and gas from wherever it hides in the earth’s crust. Chevron Corp., based in San Ramon, Calif., is the second largest investor-owned oil and gas company in the world, and the third largest American company of any type as measured by revenue and profit. Over the last year, Chevron has earned $24 billion on revenue of $231 billion. Every day, the company produces the equivalent of 2.7 million barrels of oil and gas, mostly outside the U.S. Next year Chevron will invest $33 billion — more than it ever has — to drill wells, erect platforms, build refineries and scan for undiscovered deposits of oil and gas. Among its biggest projects: A natural gas operation in Australia that will ultimately cost Chevron and its partners $65 billion to build. Also planned are three deep-water drilling and production projects in the Gulf of Mexico that will cost $16 billion.


Electric car sales to double in the UK this year



January 2, 2013 By Graeme McMillan
American automobile enthusiasts may remain unconvinced, but it looks as though the electric car has found a slightly more receptive audience on the other side of the Atlantic, with one expert estimating sales of electric vehicles to double in 2013…..






Online science news with user comments fraught with unintended consequences, study suggests
(January 3, 2013) — A science-inclined audience and wide array of communications tools make the Internet an excellent opportunity for scientists hoping to share their research with the world. But that opportunity is fraught with unintended consequences. New research shows the tone of comments posted by other readers can make a significant difference in the way new readers feel about the article’s subject. The less civil the accompanying comments, the more risk readers attributed to the research described in the news story. … > full story


Make a resolution for a sustainable 2013



Lindsey Cromwell Kalkbrenner San Francisco Chronicle January 1, 2013 While world leaders work to hammer out global solutions to climate change, there are many ways individuals can make sustainability a personal New Year’s resolution in 2013. Spend your time doing things with people instead of buying… more »


NASA’s Kepler Space Telescope discovers evidence of 100 billion planets

The Space Reporter  – ‎January 3, 2013‎

It may be a difficult number to verify, but NASA officials are saying that a batch of recently discovered planets prove that the universe is littered with hundreds of billions of planets similar those within our own solar system. A new study finds that our own galaxy likely hosts upwards of 100 billion planets. “There are at least 100 billion planets in the galaxy, just our galaxy,” says John Johnson, assistant professor of planetary astronomy at Caltech and coauthor of the study, which was recently accepted for publication in the Astrophysical Journal. “That’s mind-boggling.”


Meteorite from Mars contains water

San Francisco Chronicle January 4, 2013

The baseball-size meteorite, estimated to be 2.1 billion years old, is strikingly similar to the volcanic rocks examined on the Martian surface by the NASA rovers Spirit and Opportunity, which found water-bearing minerals. Short of sending a… more »

Reward for help in catching shore birds killer

(AP) January 2, 2013— PETA is offering $5,000 for help in catching whoever drove into a flock of shore birds on the beach in southwest Washington and killed 92 of them. Wildlife Center of the North Coast said the trauma the birds suffered is consistent with… more »


Rebecca Tarbotton, environmental leader, dies

Vivian Ho San Francisco Chronicle January 1, 2013

The environmental activist traveled the world fighting the exploitation of rain forests, championing the preservation of natural resources and human rights, and winning numerous battles in the ongoing fight for ecosystem health. A coroner… more »


Man dies after being swept into ocean near Point Reyes Lighthouse

Marin Independent-Journal  – ‎January 2, 2013‎

… The man was walking with his wife and dog on the beach around 12:30 p.m. Tuesday when a wave swept the two people into the water, said Marin County Fire Department Battalion Chief Mike Giannini. “This is an example of the longstanding adage, ‘Never turn your back on the ocean,'” said Giannini, describing the unusually large wave that swept the couple into the water as a “sneaker wave.” Such waves are common in the area, and the battalion chief urged Marin residents to be vigilant when walking on the beach….


Violent media poisoning nation’s soul

Mick LaSalle San Francisco Chronicle January 2, 2013

Fourteen years ago, Lt. Col. Dave Grossman and Gloria DeGaetano, in “Stop Teaching Our Kids to Kill,” were warning us about the effects of violent video games and movies on young and impressionable minds. When I saw it at an advance screening, I… more »


Getting Started in Farming in Marin County. 
You can access this factsheet two ways:

We hope you find this useful as a resource for starting up a farming operation in Marin County.  And please refer yourself to the other Grown In Marin Factsheets on farming and ranching in Marin.  Enjoy!








Copyright Jim Powell,

St Louis Post Dispatch- Editorial














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