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Conservation Science News May 31, 2013

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Highlight of the Week










Highlight of the Week


Peter Moyle with a pikeminnow. (Credit: Image courtesy of University of California – Davis) [PeterMoyle is a member of PRBO’s Science Advisory Committee—congratulations to Peter and coauthors on this paper!]


Climate Change Vulnerability of Native and Alien Freshwater Fishes of California: A Systematic Assessment Approach

Peter B. Moyle1*, Joseph D. Kiernan1,2, Patrick K. Crain1,3, Rebecca M. Quin˜ ones1,4

1 Center for Watershed Sciences and Department of Wildlife Fish and Conservation Biology, University of California Davis, Davis, California, United States of America,

2 Fisheries Ecology Division, Southwest Fisheries Science Center, NOAA National Marine Fisheries Service, Santa Cruz, California, United States of America, 3 ICF

International, Sacramento, California, United States of America, 4 Lehrstuhl fu¨ r Aquatische Systembiologie, Technische Universita¨t Mu¨ nchen, Freising, Germany


Freshwater fishes are highly vulnerable to human-caused climate change. Because quantitative data on status and trends are unavailable for most fish species, a systematic assessment approach that incorporates expert knowledge was developed to determine status and future vulnerability to climate change of freshwater fishes in California, USA. The method uses expert knowledge, supported by literature reviews of status and biology of the fishes, to score ten metrics for both (1) current status of each species (baseline vulnerability to extinction) and (2) likely future impacts of climate change (vulnerability to extinction). Baseline and climate change vulnerability scores were derived for 121 native and 43 alien fish species. The two scores were highly correlated and were concordant among different scorers. Native species had both greater baseline and greater climate change vulnerability than did alien species. Fifty percent of California’s native fish fauna was assessed as having critical or high baseline vulnerability to extinction whereas all alien species were classified as being less or least vulnerable. For vulnerability to climate change, 82% of native species were classified as highly vulnerable, compared with only 19% for aliens. Predicted climate change effects on freshwater environments will dramatically change the fish fauna of California. Most native fishes will suffer population declines and become more restricted in their distributions; some will likely be driven to extinction. Fishes requiring cold water (,22uC) are particularly likely to go extinct. In contrast, most alien fishes will thrive, with some species increasing in abundance and range. However, a few alien species will likewise be negatively affected through loss of aquatic habitats during severe droughts and physiologically stressful conditions present in most waterways during summer. Our method has high utility for predicting vulnerability to climate change of diverse fish species. It should be useful for setting conservation priorities in many different regions.


Main comparison paper—PRBO’s (Point Blue):

Gardali T, Seavy NE, DiGaudio RT, Comrack LA (2012) A climate change vulnerability assessment of California’s at-risk birds. PLoS ONE 7: e29507. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0029507.

Climate change threatens extinction for 82 percent of California native fish
(May 30, 2013) — Of 121 native fish species in California, researchers predict 82 percent are likely to be driven to extinction or very low numbers as climate change speeds the decline of already depleted populations. …
May 30, 2013 — Salmon and other native fr
eshwater fish in California will likely become extinct within the next century due to climate change if current trends continue, ceding their habitats to non-native fish, predicts a study by scientists from the Center for Watershed Sciences at the University of California, Davis. The study, published online in May in the journal PLOS ONE, assessed how vulnerable each freshwater species in California is to climate change and estimated the likelihood that those species would become extinct in 100 years. The researchers found that, of 121 native fish species, 82 percent are likely to be driven to extinction or very low numbers as climate change speeds the decline of already depleted populations. In contrast, only 19 percent of the 50 non-native fish species in the state face a similar risk of extinction. “If present trends continue, much of the unique California fish fauna will disappear and be replaced by alien fishes, such as carp, largemouth bass, fathead minnows and green sunfish,” said Peter Moyle, a professor of fish biology at UC Davis who has been documenting the biology and status of California fish for the past 40 years.

“Disappearing fish will include not only obscure species of minnows, suckers and pupfishes, but also coho salmon, most runs of steelhead trout and Chinook salmon, and Sacramento perch,” Moyle said. Fish requiring cold water, such as salmon and trout, are particularly likely to go extinct, the study said. However, non-native fish species are expected to thrive, although some will lose their aquatic habitats during severe droughts and low-flow summer months. The top 20 native California fish most likely to become extinct in California within 100 years as the result of climate change include (asterisks denote a species already listed as threatened or endangered):

  1. Klamath Mountains Province summer steelhead
  2. McCloud River redband trout
  3. Unarmored threespine stickleback*
  4. Shay Creek stickleback
  5. Delta smelt*
  6. Long Valley speckled dace
  7. Central Valley late fall Chinook salmon
  8. Kern River rainbow trout
  9. Shoshone pupfish
  10. Razorback sucker*
  11. Upper Klamath-Trinity spring Chinook salmon
  12. Southern steelhead*
  13. Clear Lake hitch
  14. Owens speckled dace
  15. Northern California coast summer steelhead
  16. Amargosa Canyon speckled dace
  17. Central coast coho salmon*
  18. Southern Oregon Northern California coast coho salmon*
  19. Modoc sucker*
  20. Pink salmon

The species are listed in order of vulnerability to extinction, with No. 1 being the most vulnerable.

Climate change and human-caused degradation of aquatic habitats is causing worldwide declines in freshwater fishes, especially in regions with arid or Mediterranean climates, the study said. These declines pose a major conservation challenge. However, there has been little research in the scientific literature related to the status of most fish species, particularly native ones of little economic value…..full story

California native fish could disappear with climate change

Los Angeles Times  – May 31 2013‎

UC Davis professor Peter Moyle, an expert on California fish and lead author of a paper that found climate change could push many of the state’s native fish to extinction…..






Even farm animal diversity is declining as accelerating species loss threatens humanity
(May 27, 2013)
The accelerating disappearance of Earth’s species of both wild and domesticated plants and animals constitutes a fundamental threat to the well-being and even the survival of
humankind, warns the founding Chair of a new global organization created to narrow the gulf between leading international biodiversity scientists and national policy-makers.. In Norway to address an elite gathering of 450 international officials with government responsibilities in the fields of biodiversity and economic planning, Zakri Abdul Hamid offered his first public remarks since being elected in January to head the new Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) — an independent body modeled on the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

Dr. Zakri, a national of Malaysia who co-chaired 2005’s landmark Millennium Ecosystem Assessment and serves also as science advisor to his country’s prime minister, cited fast-growing evidence that “we are hurtling towards irreversible environmental tipping points that, once passed, would reduce the ability of ecosystems to provide essential goods and services to humankind.” The incremental loss of Amazon rainforest, for example, “may seem small with shortsighted perspective” but will eventually “accumulate to cause a larger, more important change,” he said. Experts warn that ongoing climate change, combined with land use change and fires, “could cause much of the Amazon forest to transform abruptly to more open, dry-adapted ecosystems, threatening the region’s enormous biodiversity and priceless services,” he added.

It has been clear for some time that a credible, permanent IPCC-like science policy platform for biodiversity and ecosystem services is an important but missing element in the international response to the biodiversity crisis,” Dr. Zakri told the 7th Trondheim Conference on Biodiversity.

The Millennium Ecosystem Assessment “demonstrated that such an intergovernmental platform can create a clear, valuable policy-relevant consensus from a wide range of information sources about the state, trends and outlooks of human-environment interactions, with focus on the impacts of ecosystem change on human well-being. It showed that such a platform can support decision-makers in the translation of knowledge into policy. “The Millennium Ecosystem Assessment provides our baseline,” he said. “The IPBES will tell us how much we have achieved, where we are on track, where we are not, why, and options for moving forward. It will help to build public support and identify priorities.” The structure of IPBES mimics that of the IPCC but its aims go further to include capacity building to help bridge different knowledge systems.

… > full story


Improving ‘crop per drop’ could boost global food security and water sustainability
(May 29, 2013) — Improvements in crop water productivity — the amount of food produced per unit of water consumed — have the potential to improve both food security and water sustainability in many parts of the world, according to a new study. … > full story

Small dams on Chinese river harm environment more than expected, study finds
(May 30, 2013) — A fresh look at the environmental impacts of dams on an ecologically diverse and partially protected river in China found that small dams can pose a greater threat to ecosystems and natural
landscape than large dams. The research team’s surveys of habitat loss and damage at several dam sites on the Nu River and its tributaries in Yunnan Province revealed that, watt-for-watt, the environmental harm from small dams was often greater than from large dams. …
From its headwaters in the Tibetan Plateau, the Nu River flows through China, Myanmar (Burma) and Thailand. “While the number of small hydropower dams in operation or planned for tributaries to the Nu River is unreported,” the authors note in this study, “our field surveys indicate that nearly one hundred small dams currently exist within Nujiang Prefecture alone.” Thirteen large hydropower dams are proposed for the main stream of the Nu River in Tibet and Yunnan Province in China. “No large dams have been built, but there have been reports that site preparations have begun at some proposed dam sites,” Kibler said. Environmental, social, and economic factors make the Nu River basin extremely sensitive to hydropower installations. In addition to supporting several protected species, the region is home to a large proportion of ethnic minorities and valuable natural resources, the authors report in the study. Parts of the Nu River are also designated as a World Heritage site and the Nature Conservancy and Conservation International have delineated stretches of this river and its tributaries as biodiversity hotspots. But proposed hydropower projects are threatening these statuses, according to Kibler. While large hydropower projects are managed by the central government, and both large and small hydropower projects undergo environmental impact assessments, decisions about small hydropower projects are made at a provincial or other regional level and receive far less oversight, Kibler and Tullos state in their paper. Small dams in China “often lack sufficient enforcement of environmental regulations” because they are “left to the jurisdiction of the province,” said Guy Ziv, lead scientist for the Natural Capital Project, an organization which develops tools to assess and quantify natural resources, and a researcher for the Woods Institute for the Environment at Stanford University. This study, he added, is “an important contribution to the field of natural resource management.” The lack of regulation paired with a dearth of communication between small dam projects in China allows for the impacts to multiply and accumulate through several dam sites, the study authors write…. full story



Simplified solutions to deforestation ineffective in long run
(May 29, 2013) — Deforestation is the second largest source of CO2 emissions after consumption of fossil fuels. So-called PES programs, where landowners are paid to replant or protect forests, have been promoted as a way to reduce deforestation. However, the effectiveness of the programs has been questioned, and new research points to potential negative long-term effects and a need for broader guidelines and policies.   … > full story


Call to protect all coral reefs
pp528 – 530

Tom C. L. Bridge, Terry P. Hughes, John M. Guinotte and Pim Bongaerts
doi:10.1038/nclimate1879 NatureClimateChange
The world’s coral reefs are in decline, threatening the food security of millions of people. Adopting an ecosystem-scale approach that protects deep as well as shallow reefs would deliver several social and economic benefits.


Rare species perform unique roles, even in diverse ecosystems
(May 28, 2013) — A new study reveals the potential importance of rare species in the functioning of highly diverse ecosystems. Using data from three different ecosystems — coral reefs, tropical forests and alpine meadows — a team of researchers has shown that it’s primarily the rare species, rather than more common ones, that have distinct traits involved in unique ecological functions. As biodiversity declines, these unique features are particularly vulnerable to extinction because rare species are likely to disappear first. … > full story


Novel disease in songbirds demonstrates evolution in the blink of an eye

Posted: 28 May 2013 03:08 PM PDT

A novel disease in songbirds has rapidly evolved to become more harmful to its host on at least two separate occasions in just two decades, according to a new study. The research provides a real-life model to help understand how diseases that threaten humans can be expected to change in virulence as they emerge.


Striking green-eyed butterfly discovered in the United States

Posted: 28 May 2013 09:25 AM PDT

Striking olive-green eye colour allows scientists to distinguish a new butterfly species, which was confirmed using Smithsonian entomology collections. Previously unrecognized because of its similarity with the common Gray Ministreak, the newly described Vicroy’s Ministreak was named after the wife of Jeffrey Glassberg, who discovered it. It may turn out to be the last distinctive butterfly species from the United States.


New bait may cut horseshoe crab bait use

May 30, 2013 LEWES, Del. (AP) — Researchers announced Wednesday that a new bait alternative may help reduce the number of horseshoe crabs harvested to be used as bait. Researchers with the University of Delaware and DuPont that they have developed a recipe… more »


More at-risk bird species in Brazilian forest than previously thought
(May 29, 2013) — In a new study, a team of researchers has applied a novel method for linking large-scale habitat fragmentation to population sustainability. … > full story


Antarctic polar icecap is 33.6 million years old, researchers show

Posted: 27 May 2013 07:05 AM PDT

Seasonal primary productivity of plankton communities appeared with the first ice. This phenomenon, still active today, influences global food webs. These findings are based on fossil records in sediment cores at different depths.



How Kitty Is Killing the Dolphins The pathogens of land animals are spreading to the oceans, threatening otters, seals, whales, coral and other sea creatures

By Christopher Solomon April 29, 2013

DOMESTIC CATS carry a parasite, Toxoplasma gondii, that has sickened dolphins found stranded in the Mediterranean Sea. Image: SHERI L. GIBLIN Getty Images (cat); HIROYA MINAKUCHI Getty Images (dolphin)

In Brief

The detective story had begun, as they always do, with a ringing phone. A biologist was on the line. He had found a corpse. A few days later he called a second time, having found another. Soon the calls were coming “again and again,” Melissa A. Miller recalls. “At the hıghest point, we were getting four a day.” As the bodies piled up, so did the questions. Miller is a wildlife pathologist and veterinarian. The dead were California sea otters, a threatened subspecies of sea otter that today numbers fewer than 2,800 along the state’s central coast. In all, more than 40 sick and dying otters washed ashore during that terrible April 2004 episode—an astounding number in such a short time…..



Bees tell birds to buzz off: How bumblebees steal birds’ nests

Posted: 28 May 2013 06:21 AM PDT

A new study reveals how bumblebees steal birds’ nests. The study highlights the ‘parasitism by theft’ of bumblebees that invade birds’ nests and claim them as their own. Their warning buzz helps bumblebees to “scare” the bird away from the nest.


Recovery of Hawaiian green sea turtles still short of historic levels
(May 29, 2013) — Hawaiian green sea turtle populations have increased in recent years, but their numbers still fall far short of historic levels. A new report suggests that calls to lift protection for this species may be premature. … > full story


Human activity echoes through Brazilian rainforest
(May 30, 2013) — The disappearance of large, fruit-eating birds from tropical forests in Brazil has caused the region’s forest palms to produce smaller, less successful seeds over the past century, researchers say. The findings provide evidence that human activity can trigger fast-paced evolutionary changes in natural populations. … > full story






Vulnerability assessment methodologies: an annotated bibliography for climate change and the fisheries and aquaculture sector

Barsley, W., De Young, C & Brugère, C. 2013.
FAO Fisheries and Aquaculture Circular No. 1083. Rome, FAO. 43 pp

The PDF publication can be downloaded from the following url:



The Jet Stream: How Its Response To Enhanced Arctic Warming Is Driving More Extreme Weather

Posted: 30 May 2013 02:19 PM PDT

We’ve written
extensively about how how arctic ice loss is driving extreme weather. We’ve known for a long time that global warming melts highly reflective white ice and snow, which is replaced by the dark blue sea or dark land, both of which absorb far more sunlight and hence far more solar energy. That is one of the many sources of “polar amplification,” whereby the Arctic warms much faster than other parts of the globe. Now it seems increasingly clear that the amplified Arctic warming in turn amplifies extreme weather by weakening the jetstream (see video here). The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) explained in an October 2012 news release: The effects of Arctic amplification will increase as more summer ice retreats over coming decades. Enhanced warming of the Arctic affects the jet stream by slowing its west-to-east winds and by promoting larger north-south meanders in the flow. Predicting those meanders and where the weather associated with them will be located in any given year, however, remains a challenge. The researchers say that with more solar energy going into the Arctic Ocean because of lost ice, there is reason to expect more extreme weather events, such as heavy snowfall, heat waves, and flooding in North America and Europe but these will vary in location, intensity, and timescales.

Dr. Jennifer A. Francis of Rutgers University’s Institute of Marine and Coastal Sciences explains, “As the Arctic warms at twice the global rate, we expect an increased probability of extreme weather events across the temperate latitudes of the northern hemisphere, where billions of people live.”

This effect is all but certain to become even larger in the next decade or two (see Experts Warn ‘Near Ice-Free Arctic In Summer’ In A Decade If Volume Trends Continue). So all of us need to understand the jetstream better John Mason at Skeptical Science has put together an extensive, must-read primer, “A Rough Guide to the Jet Stream: what it is, how it works and how it is responding to enhanced Arctic warming.” This figure-filled piece also explains key terms we’ll all be hearing more about in the coming years, including the “North Atlantic Oscillation” and “blocking ridge.”

He concludes, “Evidence is mounting to indicate that the response of the jet stream to” polar amplification “has been to tend to slow down and meander more, with a greater tendency to develop blocking patterns,” which in turn prolong and intensify all sorts of extreme weather events. We are only just beginning to sort out the implications of this for key global concerns, such as food security.

Related Posts:


Study explores atmospheric impact of declining Arctic sea ice

May 28, 2013 There is growing recognition that reductions in Arctic sea ice levels will influence patterns of atmospheric circulation both within and beyond the Arctic. New research in the International Journal of Climatology explores the impact of 2007 ice conditions, the second lowest Arctic sea ice extent in the satellite era, on atmospheric circulation and surface temperatures. Two 30-year simulations, one using the sea ice levels of 2007 and another using sea ice levels at the end of the 20th century, were used to access the impact of ice free seas. The results showed a significant response to the anomalous open water of 2007. The results confirm that the atmospheric response to declining sea ice could have implications far beyond the Arctic such as a decrease in the pole to equator temperature gradient, given the increased temperatures associated with the increase in open water, leading to a weaker jet stream and less storminess in the mid-latitudes. “In the context of decreasing Arctic sea ice extent, our experiments investigating the impacts of anomalous open water on the atmosphere showed increased heat transfer from the ocean to the atmosphere and warmer temperatures in areas of reduced sea ice. Comparing the model simulated circulation to the observed circulation for the summer of 2007 (the year of focus for the model experiments), we found the simulated circulation to be quite different than what was observed for spring and summer while more similar for autumn and fall,” said Elizabeth Cassano from the University of Colorado. “This suggests the sea ice conditions in the months preceding and during the summer of 2007 were not responsible for contributing to a circulation pattern which favored the large observed sea ice loss in that year. The circulation during autumn and winter which was more similar between the model simulations and the observed circulation suggests that the reduced sea ice in 2007 was in part responsible for the observed atmospheric circulation during autumn and winter of that year.”


Is More Global Warming Hiding in the Oceans?

By Jeff Nesbit
May 29, 2013
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The HMS Challenger set sail 135 years ago. It was the world’s first scientific survey of ocean life. But the HMS Challenger also studied ocean temperatures along the way by dropping thermometers attached to Italian hemp ropes hundreds of meters deep – an effort that has been used as a baseline for global warming in oceans since pre-industrial times. Now, according to a new study, U.S. and Australian researchers have combined the work of the HMS Challenger with modern-era climate science models – and have some surprising results.
The study found we may be significantly under-estimating global warming’s impact and heat content in the oceans; and sea level rise from global warming seems to be split 60/40, with 40 percent coming from expansion of sea water caused by warming, and the remaining 60 percent coming from melting ice sheets and glaciers
. The U.S. and Australian researchers who re-examined the HMS Challenger thermometer readings in light of modern supercomputer climate models say it provides further confirmation of human-produced global warming over the past century. “Our research revealed warming of the planet can be clearly detected since 1873 and that our oceans continue to absorb the great majority of this heat,” said Dr. Will Hobbs, the study’s lead author and a researcher at the University of Tasmania’s Institute for Marine and Antarctic Studies. “Currently scientists estimate the oceans absorb more than 90 percent of the heat trapped by greenhouse gases, and we attribute the global warming to anthropogenic causes.”…. This research on ocean heat content comes at a critical moment in the discussion of global warming. A leading climate scientist, Dr. Kevin Trenberth, recently wrote in a blog post for The Conversation that we may be vastly under-estimating just how much global warming is hiding in the world’s oceans – and that we may need to re-define the way we think about global warming. “Rising surface temperatures are just one manifestation. Melting Arctic sea ice is another. So is melting of glaciers and other land ice that contribute to rising sea levels. Increasing the water cycle and invigorating storms is yet another,” wrote Trenberth, who is a senior scientist at the National Center For Atmospheric Research in Boulder, Colorado. “But most (more than 90 percent) of the energy imbalance goes into the ocean, and several analyses have now shown this. But even there, how much warms the upper layers of the ocean, as opposed to how much penetrates deeper into the ocean where it may not have much immediate influence, is a key issue,” he continued. Trenberth and some of his colleagues recently published a new analysis of their own which shows that, in the past decade, roughly 30 percent of global warming heat may be hiding below 2,000 feet in the world’s oceans – essentially, in the bottom half of most of the oceans where very little observational research has been done. That’s a significant analysis – because there has been virtually no research on missing heat at the deepest depths of the world’s oceans (below 700 meters). “The cause of the shift is a particular change in winds, especially in the Pacific Ocean where the subtropical trade winds have become noticeably stronger, changing ocean currents and providing a mechanism for heat to be carried down into the (deep) ocean,” Trenberth wrote. “This is associated with weather patterns in the Pacific, which are in turn related to the La Niña phase of the El Niño phenomenon.” Trenberth predicted that some of this “missing heat” will return at some point – with long-term consequences. “Some of the penetration of heat into the depths of the ocean is reversible, as it comes back in the next El Niño,” he wrote. “But a lot is not; instead it contributes to the overall warming of the deep ocean. This means less short-term warming at the surface, but at the expense of greater long-term warming, and faster sea levels rise. So this has consequences.” But one thing is abundantly clear, Trenberth wrote. Despite the ups and downs of ocean heat, the La Nina/el Nino cycles and solar cycles that impact surface temperature from year to year, global warming is here to stay. “The past decade is by far the warmest on record,” he wrote. “Human induced global warming really kicked in during the 1970s, and warming has been pretty steady since then.

Long-term warming restructures Arctic tundra without changing net soil carbon storage

NATURE May 29 2013 Nearly half of the world’s soil carbon is stored at high latitudes, so it is vital to understand how these regions will respond to climate change. A two-decade warming experiment in an Alaskan tundra ecosystem shows that while warming alters the structure of plant and soil communities, the overall soil carbon storage remains unchanged. There was an increase in shrub dominance and, although decomposer activity at the surface decreased, it increased in the deep mineral soil following a ‘biotic awakening’.


Climate researchers discover new rhythm for El Niño
(May 27, 2013)
El Niño wreaks havoc across the globe, shifting weather patterns that spawn droughts in some regions and floods in others. The impacts of this tropical Pacific climate phenomenon are well known and documented.

A mystery, however, has remained despite decades of research: Why does El Niño always peak around Christmas and end quickly by February to April? Now there is an answer: An unusual wind pattern that straddles the equatorial Pacific during strong El Niño events and swings back and forth with a period of 15 months explains El Niño’s close ties to the annual cycle. This finding is reported in the May 26, 2013, online issue of Nature Geoscience by scientists from the University of Hawai’i at Manoa Meteorology Department and International Pacific Research Center. “This atmospheric pattern peaks in February and triggers some of the well-known El Niño impacts, such as droughts in the Philippines and across Micronesia and heavy rainfall over French Polynesia,” says lead author Malte Stuecker. When anomalous trade winds shift south they can terminate an El Niño by generating eastward propagating equatorial Kelvin waves that eventually resume upwelling of cold water in the eastern equatorial Pacific. This wind shift is part of the larger, unusual atmospheric pattern accompanying El Niño events, in which a high-pressure system hovers over the Philippines and the major rain band of the South Pacific rapidly shifts equatorward. With the help of numerical atmospheric models, the scientists discovered that this unusual pattern originates from an interaction between El Niño and the seasonal evolution of temperatures in the western tropical Pacific warm pool….


Arctic current flowed under deep freeze of last ice age, study says
(May 29, 2013) — During the last ice age, when thick ice covered the Arctic, many scientists assumed that the deep currents below that feed the North Atlantic Ocean and help drive global ocean currents slowed or even stopped. But in a researchers have now shown that the deep Arctic Ocean has been churning briskly for the last 35,000 years, through the chill of the last ice age and warmth of modern times. … > full story


Framing biological responses to a changing ocean pp530 – 533
Philip W. Boyd Nature Climate Change
To understand how marine biota are likely to respond to climate change-mediated alterations in ocean properties, researchers need to harmonize experimental protocols and environmental manipulations, and make better use of reference organisms.



Climate change thaws out 400-year-old plants

Grist   May 28 2013‎

As glaciers melt and slowly recede from the land they once covered, we don’t really know what we’re going to find there. Scientists have already found plants that have been chilling out under glaciers for about four centuries – plants that, now that …


Active or ‘extremely active’ Atlantic hurricane season predicted for 2013
(May 24, 2013) — In its 2013 Atlantic hurricane season outlook issued today, NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center is forecasting an active or extremely active season this year. … > full story


Scientists Discover Way to Neutalize CO2 Acid in Oceans

Latinos Post  – ‎May 28 2013‎

Scientists from Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in California have developed a technique that, basically, exchanges bad carbon dioxide with an eco-friendly solution.



Fast-sinking jellyfish could boost the oceans’ uptake of carbon dioxide

Posted: 28 May 2013 09:25 AM PDT

Increasing numbers of gelatinous plankton might help in mitigating the carbon dioxide problem. In field and laboratory experiments scientists have shown that dead jellyfish and pelagic tunicates sink much faster than phytoplankton and marine snow remains. Jellies are especially important because they rapidly consume plankton and particles and quickly export biomass and carbon to the ocean interior.


CBS News Ties Extreme Weather To Manmade Climate Change

Posted: 28 May 2013 08:38 AM PDT

CBS News had a terrific panel discussing the climate change link to the extreme weather slamming the country on Face the Nation Sunday.

Watch the key issues discussed by Climate Central’s Chief Climatologist Heidi Cullen, WFOR’s Chief Meteorologist David Bernard, TIME‘s Jeffrey Kluger and American Meteorological Society President Marshall Shepherd:

It’s good to see experts who distinguish between the extreme weather events that we know global warming is already making worse — such as droughts, heat waves, and superstorms — and the cases where the link is more tenuous, such as tornadoes (see “Tornadoes, Extreme Weather And Climate Change, Revisited“). And unlike many panels of experts who ignore the central cause of recent climate change, Kluger stated clearly, “We’re getting a level of consensus on thousands of peer reviewed studies over decades that have established the human contribution to climate change.”

Finally, Cullen made clear we must act now to reduce carbon pollution because “the longer you wait to fix it the tougher it gets to fix, so the sooner we start the better off we are.”

Related Post: Silence Of The Lambs 3: Media Coverage Of Climate Mixed In 2012, But Still Down Sharply From 2009



Drought Will Magnify Water Scarcity Issues

Posted: 30 May 2013 11:19 AM PDT

Dr. Upmanu Lall is the director of the Columbia University Water Center and a leading expert on hydroclimatology, climate change adaptation, risk analysis and mitigation.

Credit: J. Carl Ganter/Circle of Blue

By Dr. Upmanu Lall, director of the Columbia University Water Center

It’s well-documented that more regions of the United States will face increased water scarcity over the years to come, yet we often forget that an age-old problem — drought — magnifies the effects of water scarcity. A new report issued by the Columbia University Water Center, in conjunction with Veolia Water and Growing Blue, shows the water-scarce regions where drought is expected to have the greatest impact. The study reveals that some of the most iconic areas of the United States will be affected.

Of greatest concern are several notable metropolitan areas, including Washington, D.C., New York City, Los Angeles and San Diego. Taken alone, this could impact nearly 40 million Americans. However, this threat extends to numerous counties, many located in “America’s breadbasket” — Nebraska, Illinois and Minnesota — which produce almost 40 percent of the country’s corn.

In response, organizations are starting to develop tools designed to map water scarcity risk. The estimates used by these tools are typically based on supply and demand. It’s clearly important to understand any discrepancies between supply and demand, but without understanding climate variations, a major factor is being ignored.

In fact, these types of analyses actually understate the potential water risk that arises due to climate variations. Some areas which do not use more water than the existing supply will still be stressed by persistent shortage due to climate-related water conditions. As argued in the study:

A clear understanding of shortages induced by droughts, in terms of the magnitude, duration and recurrence frequency will better inform the water businesses and water-related sectors.

Drought will occur regardless of whether a region’s water resources are plentiful or stretched. And when drought hits a region with stretched resources, it magnifies preexisting problems — a scenario that will play out more and more as America’s demand for water outstrips its supply.

In order to take climate-related variations into consideration when factoring water risk, Columbia University researchers examined not only demand, but also variations in renewable water supply. Water risk was estimated using more than 60 years of daily precipitation data compared to the current water use pattern for U.S. counties.

Only precipitation that occurs directly over each county is considered, to reflect the dependence of that county on the need for storage or groundwater or water from other counties that may flow in through rivers or canals. We believe that this reveals a more accurate depiction of the discrepancy between water use and water availability, and the potential for spatial competition and conflict during times of water stress.

In the past, we’ve often talked about “growing green,” but this study reaffirms that the answer to the water scarcity problems of the future is to “grow blue.” We must change our current approach to water management, focusing on extracting more productivity out of each drop, reducing wastage and implementing new technologies and management processes that are focused on sustainability. Our problems of water scarcity can be mitigated, but it will take the will to do so; the result will be a better world for generations to come.

Related Post:


Global warming caused by CFCs, not carbon dioxide, researcher claims in controversial study
(May 30, 2013) — Chlorofluorocarbons are to blame for global warming since the 1970s and not carbon dioxide, a researcher claims in a controversial new study. CFCs are already known to deplete ozone, but in-depth statistical analysis now suggests that CFCs are also the key driver in global climate change, rather than carbon dioxide emissions, the researcher argues. … > full story


Intense Heat Wave In India Brings Sunstroke Deaths, Electric Grid Meltdown, And Spoiled Fruit

Posted: 29 May 2013 03:30 PM PDT

Heat wave conditions have claimed the lives of over 500 people in India since April. India’s Department of Disaster Management reported that 524 people have died of sunstroke since April 1. The Indian Meteorological Department said tomorrow’s forecast called for clear skies and continued heat, warning that “the heatwave will continue.” The Times of India reported that the state of Hyderabad’s 500 sunstroke deaths in just three days is the highest such death toll in recent history. New Delhi saw 43 degrees C (or over 109 degrees Fahrenheit) today, western states such as Gujarat saw highs between 116-118 degrees Fahrenheit, and the northern state of Uttar Pradesh hit 45 C (113 F). This state is one of the nation’s poorest, with 190 million people. Its energy infrastructure is inadequate to the demand of so many residents trying to cool themselves. Since pumps are often required to provide water, this also means that a power outage comes with a water outage. Angry residents attacked power company officials and even set fire to a power station. For the rest of the population, power outages combined with humidity caused most people to stay indoors…..





Battle Brewing in California over Climate Change Funds

Huffington Post  – ‎May 28 2013‎

California has led the nation in attacking climate change, setting up a cap-and-trade program to charge polluters for greenhouse gas emissions, with the money going to reduce pollution and boost the clean energy economy.


Calif tunnels, delta restoration at $24.54 billion

AP May 29 2013 State officials say the plan will help restore dwindling fish species in the delta while creating a more reliable means to supply water to 25 million Californians and about 4,700 square miles of farmland. […] opponents, including delta… more »



Land-based carbon offsets: False hope? Forest and soil carbon is important, but does not offset fossil fuel emissions
(May 30, 2013) — Leading world climate change experts have thrown cold water on the idea that planting trees can offset carbon dioxide emissions from fossil fuels. Land carbon sinks cannot solve the problem of atmospheric carbon emissions but they legitimize the ongoing use of fossil fuels. … > full story


Brendan Mackey, I. Colin Prentice, Will Steffen, Joanna I. House, David Lindenmayer, Heather Keith, Sandra Berry. Untangling the confusion around land carbon science and climate change mitigation policy. Nature Climate Change, 2013; 3 (6): 552 DOI: 10.1038/nclimate1804


Syria Today Is A Preview Of Memorial Day, 2030

Posted: 27 May 2013 08:17 AM PDT

The worst direct impacts to humans from our unsustainable use of energy — over the next few decades — will, I think, be Dust-Bowlification and extreme weather and food insecurity: Hell and High Water.

But all of the impacts occurring at once will have an even more devastating synergy (see “An Illustrated Guide to the Science of Global Warming Impacts“). This means the rich countries will be far less likely to be offering much assistance to the poorer ones, since there will be ever worsening catastrophes everywhere simultaneously so we’ll be suffering at the same time. Heck, the deep economic downturn and the record-smashing disasters of the past three years has already exacerbated media myopia and compassion fatigue to help those around the world staggered by floods and droughts.

And that suggests another deadly climate impact — far more difficult to project quantitatively because there is no paleoclimate analog — may well affect far more people both directly and indirectly: war, conflict, competition for arable and/or habitable land.

We will have to work as hard as possible to make sure we don’t leave a world of wars to our children. That means avoiding decades if not centuries of strife and conflict from catastrophic climate change. That also means finally ending our addiction to oil, a source — if not the source — of two of our biggest recent wars.] In November 2011, Nobel Peace Prize winner and former U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan “said rising temperatures and rainwater shortages are having a devastating effect on food production. Failing to address the problem will have repercussions on health, security and stability.”

Last week, Tom Friedman described how warming-worsened drought has exacerbated political instability even now in Syria. His must-read piece “Without Water, Revolution” explains:

THIS Syrian disaster is like a superstorm. It’s what happens when an extreme weather event, the worst drought in Syria’s modern history, combines with a fast-growing population and a repressive and corrupt regime and unleashes extreme sectarian and religious passions, fueled by money from rival outside powers — Iran and Hezbollah on one side, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and Qatar on the other, each of which have an extreme interest in its Syrian allies’ defeating the other’s allies — all at a time when America, in its post-Iraq/Afghanistan phase, is extremely wary of getting involved.

I came here to write my column and work on a film for the Showtime series, “Years of Living Dangerously,” about the “Jafaf,” or drought, one of the key drivers of the Syrian war. In an age of climate change, we’re likely to see many more such conflicts.

Warming-worsened drought is causing problems all around the Mediterranean:

NOAA concluded in 2011 that “human-caused climate change [is now] a major factor in more frequent Mediterranean droughts.” Reds and oranges highlight lands around the Mediterranean that experienced significantly drier winters during 1971-2010 than the comparison period of 1902-2010.  [Click to enlarge.] But, obviously, the poorer a country is — and the worse it is governed — the more warming-worsened drought is likely to drive instability:

“The drought did not cause Syria’s civil war,” said the Syrian economist Samir Aita, but, he added, the failure of the government to respond to the drought played a huge role in fueling the uprising. What happened, Aita explained, was that after Assad took over in 2000 he opened up the regulated agricultural sector in Syria for big farmers, many of them government cronies, to buy up land and drill as much water as they wanted, eventually severely diminishing the water table. This began driving small farmers off the land into towns, where they had to scrounge for work….

Then, between 2006 and 2011, some 60 percent of Syria’s land mass was ravaged by the drought and, with the water table already too low and river irrigation shrunken, it wiped out the livelihoods of 800,000 Syrian farmers and herders, the United Nations reported. “Half the population in Syria between the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers left the land” for urban areas during the last decade, said Aita. And with Assad doing nothing to help the drought refugees, a lot of very simple farmers and their kids got politicized. “State and government was invented in this part of the world, in ancient Mesopotamia, precisely to manage irrigation and crop growing,” said Aita, “and Assad failed in that basic task.”

Young people and farmers starved for jobs — and land starved for water — were a prescription for revolution.

The NY Times
reported in 2009, “climate-induced crises could topple governments, feed terrorist movements or destabilize entire regions, say the analysts, experts at the Pentagon and intelligence agencies who for the first time are taking a serious look at the national security implications of climate change.”….



Bill Would Shift NOAA Resources from Climate Research

Published: May 28th, 2013 , Last Updated: May 28th, 2013 By Andrew Freedman

A bill being drafted in the House could potentially undermine the climate science research activities and the oceans programs of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). It also would open up the weather satellite sector, which has been a troubled area for NOAA in recent years, to more privatization. The bill, known as the “Weather Forecasting Improvement Act,” would put more emphasis on research and development of new weather forecasting capabilities for anticipating near-term, high-impact events, such as tornadoes and hurricanes, at the possible expense of two of the agency’s other long-standing areas of focus — climate and marine science. The bill was the subject of a May 23 hearing in the House Science Subcommittee on the Environment. It has not yet been formally introduced, and is largely being drafted by Republicans on the subcommittee, which has jurisidiction over NOAA’s National Weather Service, according to several close observers of the legislation. Representatives of NOAA and the academic research community were absent from the hearing, which featured members of two private sector weather companies — AccuWeather and GeoOptics. In the past, AccuWeather has backed legislation to open more of NOAA’s activities to private competition. NOAA said it was invited to the hearing but did not receive sufficient advanced notice to allow it to formulate a response to the bill and also clear testimony through the White House. The agency has asked for an opportunity to testify at a subsequent hearing. The subcommittee’s Democratic members requested a second hearing to give NOAA officials a chance to testify, and to bring in representatives of the academic research community, as well…..



Four Things The Farm Bill Could Do For Clean Energy

Posted: 26 May 2013 06:22 AM PDT

Cattle feedlot solar installation (Credit: Business Wire)

America’s agriculture is highly dependent on specific, stable climate conditions. Yet global warming is wreaking havoc on our nation’s farmlands — an industry that produces nearly $300 billion per year in commodities. The frequency and severity of droughts, floods, and changes in precipitation are having negative effects on crops. It’s only going to get worse. According to the U.S. Climate Assessment, the future holds far more devastating droughts, more floods and more heat waves — resulting in the further decline of crops and livestock production. An effective strategy to protect America’s agricultural sector will have to involve both climate change mitigation and adaptation practices. Indeed, Mark Hertsgaard wrote last year in The New York Times, “The farm bill is not only the centerpiece of United States food and agriculture policy, it is also a de facto climate bill.”





Rangeland Services and Payments Workshop

June 19, 2013 ~ 9:00 a.m. – 2:00 p.m.

Marin and Sonoma Ranchers are vital service providers. In addition to the world class agricultural products they produce, they provide multiple benefits to the environment through conservation and stewardship on their lands. These rangelands supply habitat, clean water, productive soil and numerous other valuable environmental services. This workshop offers ranchers the opportunity to learn more about how to measure, communicate, and capture returns from these services they provide. Presenters include ranchers and organization representatives that are already participating in payments for ecosystem service programs. Confirmed speakers include:

Register by June 12, 2013 or call Paige at (415) 437-4204. $10 per person, lunch included The Dance Palace ~



Western Governors’ Association – 2013 Annual Meeting

Friday, June 28, 2013 – Sunday, June 30, 2013
Montage Deer Valley 9100 Marsac Avenue Park City, Utah 84060 United States

Early registration ends Friday (May 31) for the 2013 Annual Meeting of the Western Governors’ Association June 28-30 at the beautiful Montage Deer Valley in Park City, Utah. 

We’re excited to announce that new Interior Secretary Sally Jewell has agreed to attend and will participate on a panel examining ways to align state and federal resources to improve health and management of public lands.  Our keynote speaker will be T. Boone Pickens, the Chairman of BP Capital Management. In addition to building one of the largest independent oil companies in the United States, he’s a compelling speaker on energy. You can also take your pick of a variety of Plenary Sessions on compelling issues such as Healthcare, Education, Endangered Species, Energy and Public Lands that will be attended by Western governors and other high-profile guests.
Much more is being planned. Hotels in the Park City area are beginning to fill, so register NOW to get the best rate and secure your room.
Register here.



22nd Biennial Coastal and Estuarine Research Federation (CERF) Conference this November 3-7 in San Diego, California.

As part of the conference, CERF and The Coastal Society (TCS) are collaborating on the organization of a Sea Level Rise plenary symposium and associated concurrent sessions on understanding and adapting to impacts. CERF is offering a special extension of the abstract submission date to June 10th for current and potential members of the Coastal Society interested in participating in the conference. Anyone interested in submitting abstracts for the TCS track Sea Level Rise concurrent sessions should address all inquiries to Megan Bailiff (TCS’s local contact organizing this effort) at .

3B Street, Point Reyes Station, 94956





Despite safety and other concerns, nuclear power saves lives, greenhouse gas emissions, experts say
(May 29, 2013) — Global use of nuclear power has prevented about 1.84 million air pollution-related deaths and release of 64 billion tons of greenhouse gases that would have resulted from burning coal and other fossil fuels, a new study concludes. … > full story


The US shale-gas revolution and European renewables: Divergence and cooperation in alternative energy
(May 29, 2013) — That the United States and Europe have been following different energy policies over the past few decades won’t come as a surprise. However, according to one researcher, their divergence – with the US leading ‘the shale gas revolution’ and Europe investing heavily in modern renewables – is a good thing for the development of both alternative-energy sources. … > full story


Must-See Video Shows Impact Of Coal As Its Use In U.S. Power Sector Rebounds

Posted: 29 May 2013 11:12 AM PDT

A new video from the Sierra Club makes the connection between coal, public health, and greenhouse gas emissions. Coal 101 points out that the United States still gets 40 percent of its electricity from coal, and new data from the Energy Information Administration shows that natural gas is not replacing coal as many assume. In fact, coal is reclaiming its market share. What does this mean? As the U.S. burns more coal, carbon dioxide emissions will rise. This has serious impacts both globally and locally. Burning coal also harms human health from air and water pollution, mercury poisoning, and toxic waste in the form of coal ash. Rural communities have to deal with mountaintop removal mining — i.e. blowing up a mountain to get at what’s inside, and leaving slag behind. There are signs of hope — the amount of electricity from renewable energy has doubled over the last few years, with Iowa and South Dakota getting more than 20 percent of their energy from wind for example.



MindDrive: World’s First Social Media Powered Electric Car is Fueled by Tweets and Likes

by Lori Zimmer, 05/28/13

A group of Kansas City teens have transformed a 1967 Volkswagen Karmann Ghia into the world’s first social-media fueled vehicle! With the help of non-profit MindDrive, the teens converted the vintage car into an electric vehicle that gets jolt of power for every tweet, like and social media share. MindDrive created the social-media powered car to engage at-risk youth by giving them the skills to build an electric vehicle.

How Better Place got lost

May 28, 2013 Peter Hannam Carbon economy editor

The Australian former head of electric car venture Better Place, Evan Thornley, has blamed the company’s failure on poor management but says the shift away from petrol and diesel-powered cars is inevitable.

Speaking to the media for the first time since Israel-based Better Place filed for liquidation over the weekend, Mr Thornley described the head office failings as his ”biggest surprise. Israel is pound-for-pound the best high-tech economy in the world. Why this company didn’t live up to Israel’s usual standards is something I will always wonder.”

Many savvy investors, including Morgan Stanley, HSBC and Israeli’s richest man, Idan Ofer, pumped about $US850 million ($885 million) into Better Place after being sold on the vision of fleets of electric-powered vehicles flooding global markets.

Better place? No, the end of the line.

The company’s business model relied not only on such a transformation but on drivers turning to Better Place’s battery switching and management technology in volume.

Mr Thornley, who made a fortune with his LookSmart internet venture before a brief stint as a Labor MP in the Victorian Parliament, headed Better Place’s Australian operations before becoming global chief executive. He resigned after just three months when he disagreed with the board’s decision to close the Australian and US operations to focus on Israel and Denmark.

Tesla to Expand Electric-Car Charging for Coast-to-Coast

By Douglas MacMillan – May 29, 2013 8:26 PM PT

Tesla Motors Inc. (TSLA) will roll out a rapid-charging network for its electric cars that will allow drivers to travel to New York from Los Angeles, according to Elon Musk, Tesla’s chief executive officer and biggest shareholder.

Tesla is expanding a network of fast-charging stations to major U.S. and Canadian metropolitan areas to make its Model S a more viable alternative to gasoline-fueled cars, Musk said in an onstage interview at the D: All Things Digital conference in Rancho Palos Verdes, California.

Tesla needs an expanded network of charging stations to appeal to customers beyond California and the Northeast U.S., where it now has fueling spots.


Combining Electric Cars With Smart Grid Technology Can Cut Charging Costs In Half

Posted: 31 May 2013 09:46 AM PDT

Credit: Anthill Online

Electric cars are one of the key pieces of the renewable energy economy of the future, but they do come with a few challenges: charging them currently takes a while (30 minutes to a few hours), charging can add considerably to a home’s overall electricity use, and — when scaled up to thousands or millions of homes — that charging places a lot of extra demand on an electrical grid. At the same time, smart grid technology offers two-way information and communication between consumers and providers, allowing the first to better manage their electricity use and costs, and the second to better manage electricity supply. But so far, there hasn’t been much investigation into how smart grid technology could help with electric car charging specifically.




American environmentalist Bill McKibben wins Sophie Prize for his fight against global warming

By Associated Press, Updated: Tuesday, May 28, 3:03 AM

OSLO, Norway — American environmentalist Bill McKibben has won the $100,000 Sophie Prize for being a mobilizing force in the fight against global warming. The award committee commended McKibben for “building a global, social movement, fighting to preserve a sustainable planet.”

McKibben, born in 1960, has written widely about the impact of global warming. In 2008, he founded, an international movement aimed at solving the climate crisis with representatives in some 190 countries. The annual Sophie Prize was created in 1997 to reward efforts for a sustainable future. The winner is selected by a Norwegian cultural committee, which said Tuesday that the award ceremony will be held in October in Oslo….


Apes get emotional over games of chance
(May 29, 2013) — Like some humans, chimpanzees and bonobos exhibit emotional responses to outcomes of their decisions by pouting or throwing angry tantrums when a risk-taking strategy fails to pay off, according to new research. … > full story


Why early human ancestors took to two feet
(May 24, 2013) — A new study by archaeologists challenges evolutionary theories behind the development of our earliest ancestors from tree dwelling quadrupeds to upright bipeds capable of walking and scrambling. … > full story


Cinnamon compound has potential ability to prevent Alzheimer’s
(May 23, 2013) — Cinnamon: Can the red-brown spice with the unmistakable fragrance and variety of uses offer an important benefit? The common baking spice might hold the key to delaying the onset of — or warding off — the effects of Alzheimer’s disease. … > full story


Picking up a second language is predicted by ability to learn patterns

Posted: 28 May 2013 11:38 AM PDT

Some people seem to pick up a second language with relative ease, while others have a much more difficult time. Now, a new study suggests that learning to understand and read a second language may be driven, at least in part, by our ability to pick up on statistical regularities.


Artificial Sweeteners May Do More Than Sweeten: It Can Affect How the Body Reacts to Glucose

May 29, 2013 — Researchers at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis have found that a popular artificial sweetener can modify how the body handles sugar. In a small study, the researchers analyzed the sweetener sucralose (Splenda®) in 17 severely obese people who do not have diabetes and don’t use artificial sweeteners regularly. “Our results indicate that this artificial sweetener is not inert — it does have an effect,” said first author M. Yanina Pepino, PhD, research assistant professor of medicine. “And we need to do more studies to determine whether this observation means long-term use could be harmful.” The study is available online in the journal Diabetes Care






Video (Spoof): What’s Better? More Pollution Or Less Pollution?

Posted: 27 May 2013 06:08 AM PDT

Moms Clean Air Force has created a series of ads with the Environmental Defense Fund taking off on a recent set of AT&T commercials.

These ads thank various senators for their “opposition to anti-Clean Air Act amendments during Senate budget debates in March that would have blocked the EPA’s historic Carbon Pollution Standard, the Mercury and Air Toxics Standards, as well as other clean air standards and public health protections.”




Star Trek San Francisco

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