Conservation Science News August 30, 2013Leave a Comment
Highlight of the Week– Wildfire and Climate Change
5- RENEWABLES, ENERGY AND RELATED
6–OTHER NEWS OF INTEREST
7–IMAGES OF THE WEEK
We have changed our name to Point Blue Conservation Science (formerly PRBO) reflecting the expanded depth and reach of our work, building on our long-term bird ecology expertise. Our 140 Point Blue
scientists and educators work with hundreds of partners, pointing the way forward to secure a healthy, blue planet well into the future. We have changed our name to Point Blue
to more directly address climate change, together with other environmental threats, through nature-based solutions that benefit wildlife and people. For more information please see From Point Reyes to Point Blue as well as our first Point Blue Quarterly. You might also enjoy viewing our inspiring ~6 minute video introducing Point Blue that includes partner and staff highlights as well as a brief congratulatory video from Congressman Jared Huffman (CA-2). Our new website, www.pointblue.org, is under construction through the summer. Until then, our existing website, www.prbo.org, will remain active.
Highlight of the Week– Wildfire and Climate Change
Wildfires projected to worsen with climate change
(August 28, 2013) –
Environmental scientists bring bad news to the western United States, where firefighters are currently battling dozens of fires in at least 11 states. The Harvard team’s study suggests wildfire seasons by 2050 will be about three weeks longer, up to twice as smoky, and will burn a wider area in the western states. The findings are based on a set of internationally recognized climate scenarios, decades of historical meteorological data, and records of past fire activity. The results will be published in the October 2013 issue of Atmospheric Environment and are available in advance online…. By examining records of past weather conditions and wildfires, the team found that the main factors influencing the spread of fires vary from region to region. In the Rocky Mountain Forest, for example, the best predictor of wildfire area in a given year is the amount of moisture in the forest floor, which depends on the temperature, rainfall, and relative humidity that season. In the Great Basin region, different factors apply. There, the area burned is influenced by the relative humidity in the previous year, which promotes fuel growth. Yue, who was a postdoctoral fellow at Harvard SEAS and is now at Yale University, created mathematical models that closely link these types of variables — seasonal temperatures, relative humidity, the amount of dry fuel and so forth — with the observed wildfire outcomes for six “ecoregions” in the West….. For example, the calculations suggest the following for 2050 in the western United States, in comparison to present-day conditions:
- The area burned in the month of August could increase by 65% in the Pacific Northwest, and could nearly double in the Eastern Rocky Mountains/Great Plains regions and quadruple in the Rocky Mountains Forest region.
- The probability of large fires could increase by factors of 2-3.
- The start date for the fire season could be earlier (late April instead of mid-May), and the end date could be later (mid-October instead of early October).
…Air quality is also projected to suffer as a result of these larger, longer-lasting wildfires. Smoke from wildfires is composed of organic and black carbon particles and can impede visibility and cause respiratory problems. The U.S. Forest Service keeps a record of the amount of fuel (biomass) available across the entire United States, and another set of databases known as the Landscape Fire and Resource Management Planning Tools tracks specific types of vegetation for each square kilometer of land. Based on this information and known emission factors for combustion, the researchers predict that smoke will increase 20-100% by the 2050s, depending on the region and the type of particle. The main innovation of the new study is its reliance on an ensemble of climate models, rather than just one or two. One of the greatest uncertainties in the science of climate change is the sensitivity of surface temperatures to rising levels of greenhouse gases….…..> full story
Xu Yue, Loretta J. Mickley, Jennifer A. Logan, Jed O. Kaplan. Ensemble projections of wildfire activity and carbonaceous aerosol concentrations over the western United States in the mid-21st century. Atmospheric Environment, 2013; 77: 767 DOI: 10.1016/j.atmosenv.2013.06.003
August 29, 2013 Firefighters have 30 percent containment of Rim Fire, believe full containment could come within two to three weeks.
Full containment weeks away
August 30, 2013 Firefighters slow Yosemite fire, now 311 square miles, but it continues to spread further into the national park.
Weather could frustrate progress
Interactive map of Yosemite fire
|Los Angeles Times||– August 27, 2013||
The massive Rim fire on Tuesday became the seventh-largest wildfire in California’s history, and remained 20% contained as it burned in and around Yosemite National Park.
Mother Jones Maggie Severns | Updated: Wed Aug. 28, 2013 06:00 PM PDT
Just another wildfire? Nope. This one’s different. Here’s why.
By ANDREW C. REVKIN NYT August 29, 2013
The growing intensity of Western fires is the result of many factors, with a drying, heating climate high on the list.
….Here’s a different visual showing the same pattern, but seen through four centuries of fire-frequency data in the Yosemite region gleaned from hundreds of tree-ring and wood samples:
Thomas Swetnam et al. A graph of 400 years of fire history derived from tree ring samples taken along transects near Yosemite National Park (the various horizontal lines) shows a sharp drop in frequency starting in the late 19th century (source). You can’t avoid seeing a fingerprint of fire-suppression policies in the region now ablaze. ….
…..Our love for forest and other wild landscapes, coupled with astronomical real estate prices in urban cores, has led to expansive residential development on the edges of our wildlands. Today, fully one-third of U.S. homes lie within such interfaces, where vegetation and topography make them more susceptible to wildfire. If we think about the sprawling transportation, power and water systems that support our cities, the functional urban-wildland interface could be seen to extend hundreds of miles.
To support the millions of people living in the great mega-cities of the West such as San Francisco, Los Angeles, Las Vegas, Salt Lake City or Denver, we have built gigantic, and sometimes fire-vulnerable, infrastructure to capture and transfer water and energy from the wildlands to the urban cores. ….Studies of climate change and fire suggest that the annual area burned in the Sierra Nevada could triple with modest warming. At the same time, tight economic conditions and a popular groundswell for less government are producing a situation where the state is imposing mandatory landowner fees to support state’s rural firefighting, and the U.S. Forest Service has seen $212 million in congressional sequestration cuts.
What is the role of cities in meeting these challenges? Obviously smart and sustainable growth planning and decreasing carbon footprints. Initiatives such as the California Fire Service and Rescue Emergency Mutual Aid Plan, which has brought city firefighters from San Francisco and Los Angeles to fight the Rim Fire, are important. Fighting fires once they start is expensive though. The real solution is sound forest and wildland management practices, but this will take considerable money to implement on the scale needed. The political will to develop and fund sound fire policies in the 21st century must come from the San Francisco and other cities, because Western cities everywhere are on the wildland fire front lines. more »
Firefighters Trever Winters (left) and Leno Estrada put out hot spots along Highway 120 near Groveland. Photo: Michael Macor, San Francisco Chronicle
The Rim Fire is one of the largest fires in recent California history. It highlights how every Californian has a stake in our forests, no matter how far away you are from the flames…As California experiences the effects of climate change, our forest environment will become hotter and drier. More severe and more frequent fires are predicted. About three-quarters of the state’s water, millions of homes, not to mention a multibillion-dollar tourism industry, are just a few of the benefits we reap from our forests. So, suppressing fires to protect our natural resources is not bad policy in itself, but it must be matched with efforts to create stronger, healthier forests that are more resilient to wildfire. One way to begin to strengthen our forests is to burn them. “Prescribed fire” – intentionally set and closely controlled fire – is an effective tool, and we should not ignore its benefits. In California’s forests, fire is a natural process that benefits forest health by eliminating brush and trees that would fuel hotter, more intense fires. Low-intensity fires also can rid the forests of disease and insect infestation. In the Sierra Nevada forests, where the Rim Fire is burning, low-intensity wildfires historically occurred every 10 to 20 years.
But prescribed fires have potential drawbacks, including smoke and the potential for escape, which preclude its use in many forested areas bordering homes. Another important tool is forest thinning, which is a process of selectively removing thick vegetation while leaving the majority of larger, more fire-tolerant trees in place. Trees from the thinning can be sold to cover the cost of the program. Thinning projects put people to work, create funding for the state and protect us from dangerous, costly wildfires. When thinning is used as a part of an integrated strategic fire-prevention approach, it can make forestlands not only resilient after wildfire but also resistant to erosion, which harms water quality. Thinning also can create openings or paths that can be used as escape routes and locations where firefighters can safely attack the flames. Forest management tools like prescribed fires and thinning imitate natural processes so that when fires do occur, our watersheds, our wildlife and our communities are all protected.
(see more pictures below)
New Point Blue publication:
CONSERVATION RELIANCE AMONG CALIFORNIA’S AT-RISK BIRDS
John A. Wiens and Thomas Gardali
The Condor 115(3):456–464 The Cooper Ornithological Society 2013
Conservation-reliant species require continuing management to ensure their long-term persistence. We qualitatively assessed the extent of conservation reliance for 92 California bird taxa listed under federal or California endangered species acts or recognized as California bird species of special concern. Habitat loss and fragmentation are the major threats for over 90% of these taxa, whereas interactions with predators or brood parasites threaten less than half, and human actions imperil roughly 40%. Some form of habitat enhancement is proposed to reduce the threats for most taxa, reinforcing the value of habitat-conservation strategies. Protecting habitat for wetland taxa and restoring habitat for island taxa appear to be particularly costly actions. Importantly, the species of special concern are every bit as conservation reliant as are taxa listed as endangered or threatened; management of these yet-unlisted taxa may be especially effective in preventing them from slipping into a more precarious status. Consideration of the magnitude of threats together with the degree of conservation reliance may help in prioritizing taxa for conservation. The philosophy and practice of conservation and resource management must recognize that continuing actions will be required to maintain the viability of populations of a great many species.
Key words: at-risk species, California, conservation, conservation reliance, habitat, management, prioritization.
From the text:
Biodiversity is in a bind. Rates of extinction or imperilment are increasing and may become even greater as the effects of climate change amplify (Ricketts et al. 2005, Sekercioglu et al. 2008, Urban et al. 2012). Despite the growing awareness of the biodiversity crisis, conservation efforts are failing to keep pace with the growing queue of species meriting attention.….This situation is exacerbated by the recognition that many imperiled species will require continuing management to persist even after they have met mandated recovery goals—they are “conservation-reliant species” (Scott et al. 2005, Redford et al. 2011). Over 80% of the 1136 species listed under the Endangered Species Act (as of 2007) are likely to be conservation reliant, with only slight differences among taxa as diverse as plants, invertebrates, birds, or mammals (Scott et al. 2010). If this proportion is applied to the estimate of currently unlisted but imperiled species of Wilcove and Master (2005), then some 20, 000 species in the United States may be conservation reliant. Clearly, the financial resources (not to mention the political will) to support the management needed to conserve all of these species are unlikely to materialize. Choices about how to allocate scarce conservation resources will have to be made (Mace and Purvis 2007, Briggs 2009); the notion of conservation triage is no longer heretical (Bottrill et al. 2008, Schneider et al. 2010, Rudd 2011, Wiens et al. 2012; but see Parr et al. 2009)….
….. Our analysis suggests that active management of species and ecosystems may become the norm rather than the exception. The philosophy and practice of conservation and resource management must embrace a situation in which continuing action will be required to maintain the viability of populations of a great many birds in California and elsewhere. The financial resources needed to address these threats across the breadth of conservation-reliant taxa considered here (or by Scott et al. 2010) are not available now, nor are they likely to be available in the future (Underwood et al. 2009). The magnitude and extent of conservation reliance just among California birds make it clear that hard decisions must be made about how best to invest limited conservation resources. The Endangered Species Act dictates that federally listed taxa must receive attention (although attention is clearly greater for a salmon than for a butterfly). Our analysis suggests that the BSSC may be every bit as demanding of conservation attention, even though most are less immediately imperiled. In fact, investments in species that are not poised on the brink of extinction may yield a greater return, in terms of the probability of long-term population persistence (Possingham et al. 2002). The “low-hanging fruit” for conservation investment may be those conservation-reliant species that are still abundant enough to support functioning populations and that require only infrequent and inexpensive management of habitat or the other factors that threaten their persistence…. Conservation is challenging, and the task will only become more formidable as the environmental changes now unleashed play out. Recognizing that conservation reliance extends well beyond the species formally recognized as endangered or threatened is an essential first step toward the difficult task of prioritizing and optimizing our conservation actions. It will not be easy. But we must begin.
Future water levels of crucial agricultural aquifer forecast
(August 26, 2013) — A study focuses on future availability of groundwater in the High Plains Aquifer. It finds that if current irrigation trends continue, 69 percent of the groundwater stored in the aquifer will be depleted in 50 years. But immediately reducing water use could extend the aquifer’s lifetime and increase net agricultural production through the year 2110. The study investigates the future availability of groundwater in the High Plains Aquifer — also called the Ogallala Aquifer — and how reducing use would affect cattle and crops. The aquifer supplies 30 percent of the nation’s irrigated groundwater and serves as the most agriculturally important irrigation in Kansas. “Tapping unsustainable groundwater stores for agricultural production in the High Plains Aquifer of Kansas, projections to 2110″ appears in the scientific journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, or PNAS. The study took four years to complete and was funded by the National Science Foundation, the U.S. Department of Agriculture and Kansas State University’s Rural Transportation Institute. “I think it’s generally understood that the groundwater levels are going down and that at some point in the future groundwater pumping rates are going to have to decrease,” Steward said. “However, there are lots of questions about how long the water will last, how long the aquifer will take to refill and what society can do.”.. Using measurements of groundwater levels in the past and present day in those regions, Steward and colleagues developed a statistical model that projected groundwater declines in western Kansas for the next 100 years and the effect it will have to cattle and crops…. “The main idea is that if we’re able to save water today, it will result in a substantial increase in the number of years that we will have irrigated agriculture in Kansas,” Steward said. “We’ll be able to get more crop in the future and more total crop production from each unit of water because those efficiencies are projected to increase in the future.” Steward said he hoped the study helps support the current dialogue about decisions affecting how water can help build resiliency for agriculture in the future. “We really wrote the paper for the family farmer who wants to pass his land on to his grandchildren knowing that they will have the same opportunities that farmers do today,” Steward said. “As a society, we have an opportunity to make some important decisions that will have consequences for future generations, who may or may not be limited by those decisions.” … > full story
David R. Steward, Paul J. Bruss, Xiaoying Yang, Scott A. Staggenborg, Stephen M. Welch, and Michael D. Apley. Tapping unsustainable groundwater stores for agricultural production in the High Plains Aquifer of Kansas, projections to 2110. PNAS, 2013 DOI: 10.1073/pnas.1220351110
NPR August 27, 2013 3:03 AM
Listen to the Story 3 min 53 sec
An irrigation pivot waters a corn field in Nebraska. Many farmers in Nebraska and Kansas rely on irrigation to water their corn fields. But the underground aquifer they draw from will run dry. Nati Harnik/AP
Across the High Plains, many farmers depend on underground stores of water, and they worry about wells going dry. A new scientific of western Kansas lays out a predicted timeline for those fears to become reality. But it also shows an alternative path for farming in Kansas: The moment of reckoning can be delayed, and the impact softened, if farmers start conserving water now…..”The family farmer who’s trying to see into the future, and trying to pass on his or her land to their grandchildren.”
Farmers in western Kansas have good reason to worry about the future. They know that big irrigated fields of corn in this part of the country are taking water out of underground aquifers much faster than rain or snow can fill those natural reservoirs back up.
Steward decided to come up with better estimates for how soon the aquifers will go dry and how that will affect farmers. He got together with experts on growing corn and raising livestock. “We were trying to provide a little bit better glimpse into the future, so that people would have a better idea how to plan,” he says. According to their calculations, if Kansas farmers keep pumping water out of the High Plains aquifer as they have in the past, the amount of water they’re able to extract will start to fall in just 10 years or so. They’ll still be able to continue harvesting more corn for another generation, though, because technology — better irrigation systems and genetically improved corn — will let them use that water more efficiently. But after that, even the latest technology won’t save the corn fields. Irrigated fields will start to disappear, followed by cattle feedlots. The long expansion of agricultural production in western Kansas will end. Yet Steward and his colleagues also lay out some alternative paths that the farmers of Kansas could take. For instance, if farmers reduced their water use by 20 percent right now, it would take a big bite out of their corn production, but production then would resume growing. It wouldn’t peak until 2070, and then it would decline much more gradually. “If we’re able to save as much water as possible now, the more we save, the more corn we’ll be able to grow into the future,” Steward says….
Changing river chemistry affects Eastern US water supplies
(August 26, 2013) — Human activity is changing the basic chemistry of large rivers in the Eastern US, with potentially major consequences for urban water supplies and aquatic ecosystems, a new study has found. … In the first survey of its kind, researchers looked at long-term records of alkalinity trends in 97 streams and rivers from Florida to New Hampshire. Over time spans of 25 to 60 years, two-thirds of the rivers had become significantly more alkaline and none had become more acidic. Alkalinity is a measure of water’s ability to neutralize acid. In excess, it can cause ammonia toxicity and algal blooms, altering water quality and harming aquatic life. Increasing alkalinity hardens drinking water, makes wastewater disposal more difficult, and exacerbates the salinization of fresh water. Paradoxically, higher acid levels in rain, soil and water, caused by human activity, are major triggers for these changes in river chemistry, said associate professor Sujay Kaushalof the University of Maryland. Kaushal, a geologist, is the lead author of a paper about the study, published August 26 in the online edition of the peer-reviewed journal Environmental Science and Technology…..> full story
A group of ducks take off from a restored wetland in the Napa-Sonoma Marshes State Wildlife Area on Friday, Aug. 23, 2013 in Napa, Calif. About 10,000 acres of former salt ponds are being restored to wetlands in the North Bay. (Aric Crabb/Bay Area News Group)
By Paul Rogers Posted: 08/29/2013 05:56:38 PM PDT Updated: 08/30/2013 07:31:49 AM PDT
NAPA — The Carneros region in southern Napa and Sonoma counties has been known for years for chardonnays, pinot noirs and merlots. But as the grapes hang plump on the vines awaiting the autumn harvest, this area along the northern shores of San Francisco Bay is growing a new bounty: huge numbers of egrets, herons, ducks, salmon, Dungeness crabs and other wildlife, all returning to a vast network of newly created marshes and wetlands.
Construction crews and biologists are in the final stretch of a 20-year project to restore 11,250 acres of former industrial salt ponds back to a natural landscape. The aquatic renaissance is already the largest wetlands restoration project ever completed in the Bay Area, turning back the clock 150 years and transforming the area between Vallejo and Sonoma Raceway, despite little public awareness because of the distance from the Bay Area’s large cities. “It’s a stunning achievement,” said Marc Holmes, program director with the Bay Institute, an environmental group in San Francisco. “It’s a phenomenal ecological restoration, one of the most important coastal wetlands projects ever done in the United States.” The restoration — encompassing an area as big as 8,500 football fields — is also offering a road map for similar projects now underway in the East Bay and Silicon Valley, particularly the massive restoration of 15,100 acres of former Cargill Salt ponds that extend from Hayward to San Jose to Redwood City. During a recent afternoon, fishermen in boats motored through parts of the new Napa-Sonoma marshes that look like the Florida Everglades, past flocks of ducks, thick grasses and even the occasional harbor seal. Only a decade ago the area was a dry, desolate expanse of mud caked with white salt crystals.
On Friday morning, a group of local political leaders, nonprofit groups and government agencies plan to meet at the Napa-Sonoma marsh area to commemorate one of the last steps in the restoration. They’ll mark the completion of a 3.4-mile pipeline to connect the Sonoma Valley County Sanitation District treatment plant with the marsh complex. The $10 million pipeline will take up to 550 million gallons a year of treated wastewater to two former salt ponds, where it will dilute a highly saline byproduct of salt-making called bittern, so it can be slowly released to the bay. “We are bringing back the bay,” said Grant Davis, general manager of the Sonoma County Water Agency, which oversaw the pipeline construction. “This is called the Bay Area for a reason. The bay is what defines us.”
After the bittern has been diluted, the recycled water will be used for growing grapes in the Carneros region, decreasing farmers’ reliance on pumping groundwater.
Since the Gold Rush of 1849, San Francisco Bay has shrunk by a third, as people diked, dredged and filled its waters to create hay fields, housing subdivisions like Foster City, even airport runways. The rampant filling largely stopped in the 1970s, with the advent of modern environmental laws such as the federal Clean Water Act. Since the 1990s, biologists, environmental groups and government agencies have been restoring wetlands around the bay, slowly pushing it back into its historic footprint. The new wetlands not only expand wildlife and public recreation, they also offer a buffer to reduce flooding as sea levels continue to rise because of global warming, scientists say. And unlike other environmental restoration projects — such as replanting a clear-cut redwood forest, which can take 100 years or more to come to fruition — the payoff with wetland restoration begins almost immediately. Once earthen levees are breached, bay waters thick with fish, crabs, plant seeds and other life come pouring in, which in turn draw everything from steelhead trout to avocets to snowy egrets looking for a meal. “Once you open these areas to the tides, Mother Nature takes care of it,” said Amy Hutzel, program manager with the state Coastal Conservancy, a government agency that oversaw the marsh restoration. “The sediment, the plants and eventually the animals come back really quickly.”
The Napa-Sonoma marsh area was part of the bay until the 1860s, when farmers began diking and filling it. In fact, the word “Carneros” is Spanish for “the ram,” a reference to the sheepherders and dairy farms of the 1800s. By the 1950s, salt companies began building huge salt evaporation ponds, cultivating salt for food, road de-icing and other uses. Everything changed in 1994, when the previous owner, Cargill Salt, sold the property to the state for $10 million. Much of the money came from a $10.8 million court settlement paid by Shell Oil to compensate for a 1988 oil spill it caused in Carquinez Strait. Crews working on the North Bay Cargill salt ponds restoration ran into numerous setbacks, including funding shortfalls and not knowing how to stop the ponds from making salt at first. Eventually the whole project, which will cost roughly $40 million, was funded through state and federal money, including bond funds. Agencies that worked on the project, including the Army Corps of Engineers, the Coastal Conservancy and the U.S. Geological Survey, learned lessons that are helping with other Cargill restoration projects further south. For now, outdoor lovers, fishermen, duck hunters and the project planners are reveling in their newfound creation. Striped bass, endangered shorebirds and even bat rays are back. “What’s the saying: If you build it, they will come?” said Larry Wyckoff, a biologist with the state Department of Fish and Wildlife, which owns the site. “Well, that’s what’s happening.”
For information about how to visit the Napa-Sonoma marsh area, go to www.dfg.ca.gov/lands/wa/region3/nsmwa.
Fifteen new species of Amazonian birds
(August 28, 2013) — Biologists have recently discovered 15 species of birds previously unknown to science. Not since 1871 have so many new species of birds been introduced under a single cover. … > full story
|The Guardian||– August 30 2013||
The research in Lancashire will examine the efficiency of different types of “diverters” – attachments to power lines to make them stand out better to flying birds – as well as look at agricultural, landscape and weather factors that affect their flights.
|Raw Story||August 29 2013||
Whooping cranes learn how to migrate by following elders in their midst, suggesting that social influence has a larger bearing than genetics on the birds‘ behavior, scientists said Thursday. The large, white birds are endangered in the wild of North …
Woodland salamanders indicators of forest ecosystem recovery
(August 28, 2013) — Woodland salamanders are a viable indicator of forest ecosystem recovery, according to researchers, … > full story
Not the end of the world: Why Earth’s greatest mass extinction was the making of modern mammals
(August 28, 2013) — The ancient closest relatives of mammals – the cynodont therapsids – not only survived the greatest mass extinction of all time, 252 million years ago, but thrived in the aftermath, according to new research… The first mammals arose in the Triassic period, more than 225 million years ago. These early fur balls include small shrew-like animals such as Morganucodon from England, Megazostrodon from South Africa and Bienotherium from China.
They had differentiated teeth (incisors, canines, molars) and large brains and were probably warm-blooded and covered in fur — all characteristics that stand them apart from their reptile ancestors, and which contribute to their huge success today. However, new research suggests that this array of unique features arose gradually over a long span of time, and that the first mammals may have arisen as a result of the end-Permian mass extinction — which wiped out 90 per cent of marine organisms and 70 per cent of terrestrial species. … > full story
Fukushima radioactive plume to reach US in 3 years
(August 28, 2013) — The radioactive ocean plume from the 2011 Fukushima nuclear plant disaster will reach the shores of the US within three years from the date of the incident but is likely to be harmless according to new paper in the journal Deep-Sea Research 1.
While atmospheric radiation was detected on the US west coast within days of the incident, the radioactive particles in the ocean plume take considerably longer to travel the same distance. … > full story
Ocean fish acquire more mercury at depth
(August 25, 2013) — Mercury accumulation in the ocean fish we eat tends to take place at deeper depths, in part because of photochemical reactions that break down organic mercury in well-lit surface waters, according to new research. More of this accessible organic mercury is also being generated in deeper waters. … Bacteria in the oceans change atmospheric mercury into the organic monomethylmercury form that can accumulate in animal tissue. Large predatory fish contain high levels of methylmercury in part because they eat lots of smaller, mercury-containing fish. In 2009, researchers at UH Manoa determined that the depths at which a species feeds is nearly as important as its position in the food chain in determining how much methylmercury it contains….The finding that mercury is being converted to its toxic, bioavailable form at depth is important in part because scientists expect mercury levels at intermediate depths in the North Pacific to rise in coming decades. “The implication is that predictions for increased mercury in deeper water will result in higher levels in fish,” said Joel Blum of the University of Michigan, the lead author on the new paper and a professor in the department of earth and environmental sciences. “If we’re going to effectively reduce the mercury concentrations in open-ocean fish, we’re going to have to reduce global emissions of mercury, including emissions from places like China and India.”
Research that helps us to better understand mercury concentrations in fish has potential benefits for all fish-consuming societies, but is particularly relevant here in Hawai’i where marine fish consumption is among the highest levels in the United States. …> full story
Protect corridors to save tigers, leopards
(August 29, 2013) — Conservation geneticists makes the case that landscape-level tiger and leopard conservation that includes protecting the corridors the big cats use for travel between habitat patches is the most effective conservation strategy for their long-term survival. … > full story
Sea otters promote recovery of seagrass beds
(August 26, 2013) — Scientists studying the decline and recovery of seagrass beds in one of California’s largest estuaries have found that recolonization of the estuary by sea otters was a crucial factor in the seagrass comeback. … > full story
|Washington Post August 25, 2013||
LAS VEGAS – For decades, the vulnerable desert tortoise has led a sheltered existence. Developers have taken pains to keep the animal safe.
Snapping turtles finding refuge in urban areas while habitats are being polluted
(August 27, 2013) — Snapping turtles are surviving in urban areas as their natural habitats are being polluted or developed for construction projects. One solution is for people to stop using so many chemicals that are eventually dumped into the waterways, a scientist said. … > full story
Scientists analyze the effects of ocean acidification on marine species
(August 25, 2013) — Ocean acidification (OA) could change the ecosystems of our seas even by the end of this century. Biologists have assessed the extent of this ominous change. They compiled and analyzed all available data on the reaction of marine animals to OA. While the majority of investigated species are affected, the respective impacts are very specific. …The AWI-researchers present their results as an Advance Online Publication on Sunday 25 August 2013 in Nature Climate Change. The oceans absorb more than a quarter of anthropogenic carbon dioxide emitted to the atmosphere. They form a natural store without which Earth would now be a good deal warmer. But their storage capacities are limited and the absorption of carbon dioxide is not without consequence. Carbon dioxide dissolves in water, forms carbonic acid and causes the pH value of the oceans to drop — which affects many sea dwellers. In recent years much research has therefore been conducted on how individual species react to the carbon dioxide enrichment and the acidifying water. So far the overall extent of these changes on marine animals has been largely unknown….The results of this new assessment are clear. “Our study showed that all animal groups we considered are affected negatively by higher carbon dioxide concentrations. Corals, echinoderms and molluscs above all react very sensitively to a decline in the pH value,” says Dr. Astrid Wittmann. Some echinoderms such as brittle stars have lower prospects of survival in carbon dioxide values predicted for the year 2100. By contrast, only higher concentrations of carbon dioxide would appear to have an impact on crustaceans such as the Atlantic spider crab or edible crab. However, the sensitivity of the animals to a declining pH value may increase if the sea temperature rises simultaneously.… The presumption that fish can cope with ocean acidification better than corals also becomes evident on taking a look at the past. “We compared our results with the widespread deaths of species around 250 and 55 million years ago when CO2 concentrations were also elevated. Despite the relatively rough statements we were able to make with the assistance of sediment samples from the past, we discovered similar sensitivities in the same animal taxa,” explains Prof. Hans-Otto Pörtner. The spread of the corals and the size of the reefs slumped drastically 55 million years ago whilst
fish exhibited a great adaptive capacity and were able to further extend their dominance. The finding that in the past fish were not highly sensitive to acidic water surprises the scientists because current research results show that fish at the larval stage are quite sensitive to ocean acidification. “Not all effects we are currently measuring are decisive for the destiny of a species possibly in the long term,” explains Pörtner….. > full story
Astrid C. Wittmann, Hans-O. Pörtner. Sensitivities of extant animal taxa to ocean acidification. Nature Climate Change, 2013; DOI: 10.1038/nclimate1982
Insight into marine life’s ability to adapt to climate change
(August 26, 2013) — A study into marine life around an underwater volcanic vent in the Mediterranean, might hold the key to understanding how some species will be able to survive in increasingly acidic sea water should anthropogenic climate change continue. Researchers have discovered that some species of polychaete worms are able to modify their metabolic rates to better cope with and thrive in waters high in carbon dioxide (CO2), which is otherwise poisonous to other, often closely-related species. The study sheds new light on the robustness of some marine species and the relative resilience of marine biodiversity should atmospheric CO2 continue to cause ocean acidification. … Project leader Dr Piero Calosi, of Plymouth University’s Marine Institute, said: “Previous studies have shown that single-cell algae can genetically adapt to elevated levels of carbon dioxide, but this research has demonstrated that a marine animal can physiologically and genetically adapt to chronic and elevated levels of carbon dioxide. Furthermore, we show that both plasticity and adaptation are key to preventing some species’ from suffering extinction in the face of on-going ocean acidification, and that these two strategies may be largely responsible to defining the fate of marine biodiversity.”… > full story
Climate change: Ocean acidification amplifies global warming
(August 26, 2013) — Scientists have demonstrated that ocean acidification may amplify global warming through the biogenic production of the marine sulfur component dimethylsulphide (DMS). Ocean acidification has the potential to speed up global warming considerably, according to new research. It is common knowledge that fossil fuel emissions of CO2 lead to global warming. The ocean, by taking up significant amounts of CO2, lessens the effect of this anthropogenic disturbance. The “price” for storing CO2 is an ongoing decrease of seawater pH (ocean acidification1), a process that is likely to have diverse and harmful impacts on marine biota, food webs, and ecosystems. Until now, however, climate change and ocean acidification have been widely considered as uncoupled consequences of the anthropogenic CO2 perturbation2… Recently, ocean biologists measured in experiments using seawater enclosures (mesocosms)3 that DMS concentrations were markedly lower in a low-pH environment. When DMS is emitted to the atmosphere it oxidizes to gas phase sulfuric acid, which can form new aerosol particles that impact cloud albedo and, hence, cool Earth’s surface. As marine DMS emissions are the largest natural source for atmospheric sulfur, changes in their strength have the potential to notably alter Earth’s radiation budget…In the journal Nature Climate Change it is demonstrated, that modeled
DMS emissions decrease by about 18 (±3)% in 2100 compared to preindustrial times as a result of the combined effects of ocean acidification and climate change. The reduced DMS emissions induce a significant positive radiative forcing of which 83% (0.4 W/m2) can, in the model, be attributed to the impact of ocean acidification alone. Compared to Earth system response to a doubling of atmospheric CO2 this is tantamount to an equilibrium temperature increase between 0.23 and 0.48 K. Simply put, their research shows that ocean acidification has the potential to speed up global warming considerably….. > full story
Posted: 26 Aug 2013 02:14 PM PDT ThinkProgress.
Nature: “Marine phytoplankton releases sulphur compounds into the atmosphere that contribute to cooling the planet. But ocean acidification could hinder this process.”
Ocean acidification may speed up total warming this century as much as 0.9°F, a new study finds. This amplifying feedback is not to be found in the forthcoming climate report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) — one more reason it provides an instantly out of date lowball estimate of future warming. The oceans are now acidifying 10 times faster today than 55 million years ago when a mass extinction of marine species occurred. We are risking a marine biological meltdown “by end of century.”
But unrestricted carbon pollution doesn’t merely threaten to wipe out coral reefs, oysters, salmon, and other ocean species we rely on. Researchers find “Global warming amplified by reduced sulphur fluxes as a result of ocean acidification,” in a new Nature Climate Change study (subs. req’d).
As an accompanying news article in Nature explains:
Atmospheric sulphur, most of which comes from the sea, is a check against global warming. Phytoplankton — photosynthetic microbes that drift in sunlit water — produces a compound called dimethylsulphide (DMS). Some of this enters the atmosphere and reacts to make sulphuric acid, which clumps into aerosols, or microscopic airborne particles. Aerosols seed the formation of clouds, which help cool the Earth by reflecting sunlight….
More recently, thinking has shifted towards predicting a feedback in the opposite direction, because of acidification. As more CO2 enters the atmosphere, some dissolves in seawater, forming carbonic acid. This is decreasing the pH of the oceans, which is already down by 0.1 pH units on pre-industrial times, and could be down by another 0.5 in some places by 2100. And studies using ‘mesocosms’ — enclosed volumes of seawater — show that seawater with a lower pH produces less DMS. On a global scale, a fall in DMS emissions due to acidification could have a major effect on climate, creating a positive-feedback loop and enhancing warming…..
So we have up to 0.9°F warming from acidification this century that isn’t in the IPCC’s Fifth Assessment Report models. You can add that to the carbon feedback from the thawing permafrost — also unmodeled by the new IPCC report — which is projected to add up to 1.5°F to total global warming by 2100.
That means actual warming this century might well be 2°F higher than the IPCC projects. In the case where humanity keeps taking little or no action to restrict carbon pollution, that means actual warming by 2100 from preindustrial levels could exceed 10°F.
Arctic sea ice update: Unlikely to break records, but continuing downward trend
(August 23, 2013) — The melting of sea ice in the Arctic is well on its way toward its annual “minimum,” that time when the floating ice cap covers less of the Arctic Ocean than at any other period during the year. While the ice will continue to shrink until around mid-September, it is unlikely that this year’s summer low will break a new record. Still, this year’s melt rates are in line with the sustained decline of the Arctic ice cover observed by NASA and other satellites over the last several decades. … > full story
East Antarctic Ice Sheet could be more vulnerable to climate change than previously thought
(August 28, 2013) — The world’s largest ice sheet could be more vulnerable to the effects of climate change than previously thought, according to new research. … Using measurements from 175 glaciers, the researchers were able to show that the glaciers underwent rapid and synchronised periods of advance and retreat which coincided with cooling and warming. The researchers said this suggested that large parts of the ice sheet, which reaches thicknesses of more than 4km, could be more susceptible to changes in air temperatures and sea-ice than was originally believed. Current scientific opinion suggests that glaciers in East Antarctica are at less risk from climate change than areas such as Greenland or West Antarctica due to its extremely cold temperatures which can fall below minus 30°C at the coast, and much colder further inland. But the Durham team said there was now an urgent need to understand the vulnerability of the East Antarctic Ice Sheet, which holds the vast majority of the world’s ice and enough to raise global sea levels by over 50m…. > full story
On warming Antarctic Peninsula, moss and microbes reveal unprecedented ecological change
(August 29, 2013) — By carefully analyzing a 150-year-old moss bank on the Antarctic Peninsula, researchers describe an unprecedented rate of ecological change since the 1960s driven by warming temperatures. … > full story
|The Guardian||– August 28, 2013||
Climate change could bring about the greening of Greenland by the end of the century, scientists predict. Today only four indigenous tree species grow on the island, confined to small areas in the south.
NASA data reveals mega-canyon under Greenland ice sheet
(August 29, 2013) — Data from a NASA airborne science mission reveals evidence of a large and previously unknown canyon hidden under a mile of Greenland ice. The canyon has the characteristics of a winding river channel and is at least 460 miles (750 kilometers) long, making it longer than the Grand Canyon. In some places, it is as deep as 2,600 feet (800 meters), on scale with segments of the Grand Canyon. This immense feature is thought to predate the ice sheet that has covered Greenland for the last few million years. … > full story
Sea ice decline spurs the greening of the Arctic
(August 23, 2013) — Sea ice decline and warming trends are changing the vegetation in nearby arctic coastal areas, according to scientists. … > full story
Where can coral reefs relocate to escape the heat?
(August 29, 2013) — The best real estate for coral reefs over the coming decades will no longer be around the equator but in the sub-tropics, new research suggests. … > full story
Ozone depletion linked to extreme precipitation in austral summer
(August 29, 2013) — The new study showed that the ozone depletion over the South Pole has affected the extreme daily precipitation in the austral summer, for Dec., Jan., and Feb. … > full story
Source: Thu, 29 Aug 2013 09:03 AM Author: Mark Fos
Understanding the vulnerability of forest-dependent communities is a point of departure for building more effective climate mitigation and adaptation strategies, a study has found.
Among its findings, the study reported that mitigation activities might make communities more vulnerable to the effects of climate change and other factors. It also argued that positive outcomes from conservation depend on the willingness and motivation of communities to engage and participate in mitigation activities. The study, published in the International Journal of Biodiversity and Conservation, was written principally by Eugene Chia who conducted the research as part of a graduate thesis at the Norwegian University of Life Sciences….
by Sarah Crean, Aug 18, 2013
Looking out at the Manhattan skyline from Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge (Photo: Flickr/Jeffrey Bary/Creative Commons).
NEW YORK — Jamaica Bay, the city’s largest wetland and open space, could be critical to the ongoing sustainability of the metropolis. The Bay’s marshes help to break waves from major storms and absorb carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. The Bay is also a refuge for hundreds of local and migratory species. While the Bay was already a focus of the city’s sustainability efforts, the devastation wrought by Hurricane Sandy highlighted the need to maintain and strengthen the city’s natural defenses against rising sea levels. “Wetlands are among the most biologically productive ecosystems in the world; they also can dissipate the destructive energy of wave action during storm conditions,” Daniel Zarrilli, the city’s director of resiliency, said in an email last week. “Expected sea level rise and the increased frequency of the most intense storms associated with climate change will make this function even more important in the future.” In recognition of the Bay’s significance, Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Interior Secretary Sally Jewell announced Aug. 12 that a new Science and Resilience Institute will focus on the 18,000-acre estuary. A consortium of academic and other institutions, led by the City University of New York, will conduct research on “resilience in urban ecosystems and their adjacent communities.” ….
Posted: 28 Aug 2013 02:44 PM PDT
Extreme weather like droughts, heat waves and superstorms affect the carbon balance of vegetation differently. Up arrows indicate extra CO2 in the air. Down arrows signify that CO2 is removed from the air more slowly. Orange arrows are for short-term effects, purple arrows for long-term. Via Nature. A major new study in Nature, “Climate extremes and the carbon cycle” (subs. req’d), points to yet another significant carbon cycle feedback ignored by climate models. The news release sums up the key finding of this 18-author paper: Researchers “have discovered that terrestrial ecosystems absorb approximately 11 billion tons less carbon dioxide every year as the result of the extreme climate events than they could if the events did not occur. That is equivalent to approximately a third of global CO2 emissions per year.”
Measurements indicate, for instance, that the brutal 2003 European heat wave “had a much greater impact on the carbon balance than had previously been assumed.” We’re already seeing a rise in extreme weather in North America. Last year, Munich Re, a top reinsurer, found a “climate-change footprint” in the rapid rise of North American extreme weather catastrophes: “Climate-driven changes are already evident over the last few decades for severe thunderstorms, for heavy precipitation and flash flooding, for hurricane activity, and for heatwave, drought and wild-fire dynamics in parts of North America.”
The new Nature study found that one type of extreme weather event is worse than the others:
Periods of extreme drought in particular reduce the amount of carbon absorbed by forests, meadows and agricultural land significantly. “We have found that it is not extremes of heat that cause the most problems for the carbon balance, but drought,” explains [lead author] Markus Reichstein…. Drought can not only cause immediate damage to trees; it can also make them less resistant to pests and fire. It is also the case that a forest recovers much more slowly from fire or storm damage than other ecosystems do.
And this is worrisome because as a major 2013 review of observations and climate models pointed out, “historical records of precipitation, streamflow and drought indices all show increased aridity since 1950 over many land areas.” That study, by Aiguo Dai, “Increasing drought under global warming in observations and models,” found:
… the observed global aridity changes up to 2010 are consistent with model predictions, which suggest severe and widespread droughts in the next 30–90 years over many land areas resulting from either decreased precipitation and/or increased evaporation.
According to Climate Central, “Reichstein singled out the ongoing drought in the Southwest as a particularly damaging extreme weather event that could affect ecosystems’ carbon dioxide absorption in the U.S.” And that is worrisome because, as Dai has explained, thanks to climate change, “The U.S. may never again return to the relatively wet conditions experienced from 1977 to 1999.”
The new study finds “a few major events dominate the global overall effect, while the more frequent smaller events occurring throughout the world play a much less significant part.” And that is worrisome because global warming — by shifting the bell curve and causing step-function changes in the climate — dramatically increases the odds of the most extreme events, like, say, Superstorm Sandy.
And so we may be headed to what Reichstein calls “a self-reinforcing effect” whereby increased CO2 in the air increases the frequency of the most extreme kinds of weather, which in turn puts more CO2 in the air. We can add this to the amplifying feedback I reported on Monday, whereby ocean acidification may amplify global warming this century up to 0.9°F. And there’s a third major carbon feedback unmodeled by the new IPCC report — the thawing permafrost — which is projected to add up to 1.5°F to total global warming by 2100.
Climatologist Michael Mann wrote in an email, “This study is another sober reminder that uncertainties in the science of climate change are a reason for concern rather than complacency. In this case, this new finding implies that the terrestrial biosphere is likely to become a less efficient ‘sink’ of carbon than previously acknowledged. That, in term, means that the airborne fraction of CO2, and, hence, the human-caused greenhouse warming, may well be greater than most previous assessments have suggested.”
Reichstein issued a stark warning about this latest feedback:
“I think counting on the biosphere’s ability to absorb carbon is a risky thing because you don’t know how long it will continue to take up carbon dioxide that we emit.”
Is anyone listening? The time to act to slash manmade carbon emissions is NOW — before we devastate the biosphere’s ability to store carbon.
The post Vicious Cycle: Extreme Climate Events Release 11 Billion Tons Of CO2 Into The Air Every Year appeared first on ThinkProgress.
|Wunderground.com (blog)||August 28, 2013||
If humans one day are able to bring greenhouse gas emissions under control and forestall the worst impacts of global warming, they may have an unlikely hero to thank. The lowly dung beetle, which feeds on animal feces and is found on every continent save Antarctica, helps reduce the amount of methane released into the atmosphere from farms by doing what it does best — burrowing into cow patties and other animal droppings. That makes it a surprisingly effective weapon in the battle against climate change, notes a study released this month in the science journal PLOS ONE, because methane is one of the most potent of the heat-trapping greenhouse gases. “We believe that these beetles exert much of their impact by simply digging around in the dung,” said Atte Penttilä, a masters student at the University of Helsinki and one of the study’s co-authors, in a press release. “Methane is primarily born under anaerobic conditions, and the tunneling by beetles seems to aerate the pats,” he added. “This will have a major impact on how carbon escapes from cow pats into the atmosphere.”…
Earlier peak for Spain’s glaciers
(August 26, 2013) — Over much of the planet, glaciers were at their greatest extent roughly 20,000 years ago. But according to geologists, that wasn’t true in at least one part of southern Europe. Due to local effects of temperature and precipitation, the local glacial maximum occurred considerably earlier, around 26,000 years ago. … > full story
Carbon-sequestering ocean plants may cope with climate changes over the long run
(August 26, 2013) — A year-long experiment on tiny ocean organisms called coccolithophores suggests that the single-celled algae may still be able to grow their calcified shells even as oceans grow warmer and more acidic in Earth’s near future. The study stands in contrast to earlier studies suggesting that coccolithophores would fail to build strong shells in acidic waters. … > full story
Marin Municipal Water District Newsletter July/August 2013
In spite of a record dry spring, as of June 2 MMWD’s reservoirs were 85 percent full—just slightly below the 88 percent average for that date. Thanks to good carryover storage from last year and abundant early rainfall in the fall, MMWD’s reservoirs filled to capacity in late December. Since then, however, the year has turned decidedly dry. In fact, rainfall for January through May totaled just over five inches at Lake Lagunitas, about 16 percent of average rainfall for the period and
the driest January-May ever recorded. The previous record low January-May rainfall was ten inches in 1984. Even though reservoir levels were only slightly below average as of the beginning of June, we have taken proactive operational measures to optimize our supply this year. We also are reminding our customers this has been an unusually dry spring and water conservation is especially important this year.
Smithsonian Science Surprises August 23, 2013
North Country Public Radio-NPR
Aug 27, 2013 (Morning Edition) — Known for its sparkling turquoise waters and white sand, Spain’s Mediterranean beaches are developing a new reputation … There’s been a spike in the number of jellyfish on Mediterranean beaches this summer. Scientists blame overfishing — and possibly climate change. The British government has put out a warning to its citizens vacationing near those waters….
San Francisco Chronicle - August 25 2013
Ask Adm. Samuel Locklear III, commander of the U.S. military’s sprawling Pacific Command, what his most serious threat is, and you might be surprised. There’s a long list of possibilities, after all: North Korean nukes, rising Chinese military power and aggressive cyberespionage, multiple territorial disputes between major powers and persistent insurgencies from the Philippines to Thailand, not to mention protecting some of the world’s most vulnerable shipping choke points. Add all of that up, though, and there’s something even more dangerous to keep even the most seasoned military officer up at night: the looming disaster of climate change. Locklear is not alone in his assessment. He is one among a rising chorus of voices from the national security community, from senior military and intelligence officials to front-line combat veterans, united by what is fast becoming a consensus view. Climate change is much more than an environmental or public health issue. The phenomenon, and the dangerous fossil fuel dependency that drives it, is among the most serious national security threats we face. Our dependence on fossil fuels – oil, in particular – is a crucial part of the threat. A new generation of combat veterans has seen the consequences firsthand on the battlefields of Afghanistan and Iraq….
Posted: 28 Aug 2013 05:49 AM PDT
CREDIT: AP/Nati Harnik
Extreme weather has cost the federal government billions in crop insurance payouts over the last few years, but according to a new report, certain farming practices have the potential to lower that amount in the future and prepare farmers for the effects of climate change.
According to the report, released Tuesday by the Natural Resources Defense Council, the Federal Crop Insurance Program paid out a record $17.3 billion in insurance claims to farmers in 2012, just one year after the program set a record at $10.8 billion in claims in 2011. Climate change played a large role in these historic payments — in 2012, 80 percent of all payments made by the FCIP were for farmers whose crops had been lost to heat, drought or high wind, according to the NRDC. Many Midwestern states were hit even harder by these impacts — in Illinois, 98 percent of FCIP payouts in 2012 were to farmers with losses from heat, drought or hot wind, along with 97 percent in Iowa and Indiana….
SF Chronicle Editorial August 30 2013
The risks and rewards of this potential oil boom are why the Legislature… more »
AP August 24, 2013 An Oregon conservation group has proposed a health initiative linking landowners with carbon offset buyers, getting money to the older owners for health care costs while more effectively managing their timber. Catherine Mater of the Pinchot…more »
San Diego, Calif. August 29, 2013 — The increase in weather-related disasters worldwide has helped galvanize attention on the need for climate change adaptation and risk mitigation projects in the public and private sector. A comprehensive new study by Environmental Business International, Inc., publisher of Climate Change Business Journal, details a $700-million U.S. and $2-billion global climate change adaptation services market and forecasts annual growth in the 12-20% range to 2020. Today’s market is led by consulting & engineering and specialty firms working primarily for government agencies in analysis, risk management and planning, but increasingly the market will tilt to project implementation and construction. There are few assets in the world that will not be profoundly affected by climate change. Governments at the local, state, regional and national levels are in the midst of seriously considering the threat of climate change to public health and epidemiology, agriculture, power production, transportation, town planning, coastal protection, and water resources. Some have gone beyond serious consideration of these threats to detailed scenario analysis, planning, even initial design and construction of preventative measures. ….EBI Report 4800: Climate Change Adaptation
(updated for 2013) focuses on the U.S. climate change adaptation industry and prospects for global growth. The U.S. climate change adaptation industry is just emerging, led by consulting & engineering firms doing assessment and planning work. CCBJ estimates that adaptation will grow to a billion-dollar industry in the United States by 2015, followed by exponential growth once design and construction of adaptation measures begin in earnest. CCBJ’s assessment of climate change adaptation markets identified a small number of funded projects in a variety of regions including government agencies, non-profits, universities as well as a few well-placed consulting & engineering firms. Design, engineering and construction of responses or preventive measures will ultimately be the bulk of the market, but most believe this activity is unlikely to take off within a 10-year time frame in the U.S. However, markets in the developing world may see earlier movement depending on international funding agreements. This report maps out the Climate Change Adaptation Industry with market forecasts, and profiles of existing projects and companies engaged in the practice… TABLE OF CONTENTS
|How the Arctic Ocean could transform world trade
|Melting northern waters attract Asia’s commercial giants, but they will need the help of Arctic nations to succeed.
Last Modified: 27 Aug 2013 08:29 Opinion
Chinese companies are scoping out alternatives to the Panama Canal, including a parallel canal through Nicaragua and so-called “dry canals” – container ports linked by rail – in Honduras and Guatemala. Another dry canal could link Eilat and Tel Aviv by rail through Israel, allowing ships to bypass the Suez Canal. China, along with other Asian trading nations, is also looking towards the north for alternate shipping lanes. The Bering Strait is a deep, wide, pirate-free channel between Russia and Alaska that connects the Pacific and Arctic Oceans. Eastward from there, Canada’s Northwest Passage offers a 7,000-kilometre shortcut to the US’ Atlantic Seaboard. Westward, Russia’s Northern Sea Route offers a 10,000-kilometre shortcut to Europe. With time, a third route will open across the centre of the Arctic Ocean. These Arctic routes are becoming alternatives to conventional routes because of climate change. Rising temperatures are causing sea-ice to melt at an unprecedented rate; all six of the lowest ice-extents on record have occurred in the last six years. Last summer, the area of Arctic Ocean covered by ice was just half the average seasonal low from 1979 to 2000. In China, the media refer to the Northern Sea Route as the “Arctic Golden Waterway”. Professor Bin Yang of Shanghai Maritime University estimates the route could save his country $60bn to $120bn per year. In preparation for Arctic routes, shipyards in South Korea, Singapore and India are building ice-strengthened cargo ships and tankers. Some of these are equipped with dual-directional technology that enables them to use a high efficiency bow on open seas, and an icebreaking stern when moving backwards through ice….
By THE EDITORIAL BOARD NY Times Published: August 23, 2013
Hurricane Sandy, the monster storm that hit the Atlantic Seaboard on Oct. 29, left at least 159 dead and caused $65 billion in damages. But as a presidential task force made clear this week, Sandy cannot be considered a seasonal disaster or regional fluke but as yet another harbinger of the calamities that await in an era of climate change. With that in mind, the report says that individuals, local governments and states that expect federal help cannot simply restore what was there but must adopt new standards and harden community structures to withstand the next flood or hurricane.
This report, from the President’s Hurricane Sandy Rebuilding Task Force, identifies 11 climate-related disasters costing an estimated $110 billion in damages in the last year alone. It makes 69 recommendations that Shaun Donovan, the task force chairman and secretary of the Department of Housing and Urban Development, calls “the most important step the federal government has taken so far to incorporate the realities of climate change into the way we recover from disasters.” The proposals range from urging better cooperation among government agencies to recommendations for hardening and backing up the electrical grid to ensuring the availability of fuel and cellphone coverage. Some of the detail is telling. There are, for instance, federally funded projects that require as many as 40 different permit and review procedures, stalling rebuilding or relief projects for up to four years.
The report noted that three states hardest hit by Sandy — New York, New Jersey and Connecticut — have been slow in adopting internationally accepted building codes, making it too easy for homeowners to patch what they have rather than spend extra to prepare for another Sandy. This warning could be applied nationally. The report also noted that Congress made important changes last year to the financially distressed National Flood Insurance Program, reducing subsidies that have made this insurance affordable. Now homeowners who live in risk-prone areas are faced with an expensive predicament: they can either pay much higher insurance rates if they leave things the way they are or they can reconfigure their houses to prepare for the next disaster. Reconfiguring could mean raising the house on pylons above the high-water level, as predicted on the latest federal flood maps, a potentially expensive proposition. This makes perfect sense, harsh as it sounds, though there should be some way to ease the blow for those who can’t afford either the insurance or the pylons. In the end, taxpayers should not be paying to rebuild and then re-rebuild as the sea level rises. Even those politicians who say they still don’t believe in climate change must see that the system needs fixing.
This Hurricane Sandy Rebuilding Strategy
from HUD (August 2013) establishes guidelines for the investment of the Federal funds made available for recovery and sets the region on the path to being built back smarter and stronger with several outcomes in mind:
• Aligning this funding with local rebuilding visions.
• Cutting red tape and getting assistance to families, businesses, and communities efficiently and effectively, with maximum accountability.
• Coordinating the efforts of the Federal, State, and local governments and ensuring a regionwide approach to rebuilding.
• Ensuring the region is rebuilt in a way that makes it more resilient – that is, better able to withstand future storms and other risks posed by a changing climate.
Resilience involves enabling the region to respond effectively to a major storm, recover quickly from it, and adapt to changing conditions, while also taking measures to reduce the risk of significant damage in a future storm. Sustainability involves ensuring the long-term viability of the people and economy of the region and its natural ecosystems, which requires consideration of the risks posed by a changing climate, the practicality of maintaining a long-term presence in the most vulnerable areas, and the need to protect and restore the natural ecosystems. ….
September 5, 2:00-3:15 PM (EDT) – Building green provides many benefits: efficient operations, higher property value, comfortable and healthy spaces, creation of skilled jobs, and more. County governments can support local construction economies and meet growing demand for green buildings with thoughtfully designed policies, mandatory codes, and voluntary incentive programs. In this National Association of Counties (NACo) webinar, the first of two, industry experts will outline best-available building rating systems, standards, and model codes, highlighting recent updates.
September 18, 1:00–2:00 PM (EDT) –This webinar is an introduction to EPA’s Climate Ready Water Utility initiative and climate change adaptation planning. The recently updated CRWU Adaptation Strategies Guide highlights strategies for pursuing both adaptation and sustainability goals, specifically those related to green infrastructure and energy management. This webinar will provide an in depth look at the new sustainability information in the Guide and utility representatives will share their experience planning and implementing sustainable strategies.
As a focal point for the national dialogue on resource recovery and green infrastructure, this Leadership Summit has been driving the notion of water as an integrating strategy for the urban environment.
• Spotlight Communities panels, including the City of Atlanta and others, will feature cross-agency, cross-department, community and business leaders to share their models of creative integration and innovative approaches.
• One half day focused on communities in Southern California
• Multi-disciplinary and geographically diverse presentations will demonstrate the flexibility of green infrastructure to serve a multitude of needs.
• Strategic Sidebar conversations will allow those at the cutting edge to compare notes and tackle obstacles.
• Roundtable discussions will shed light on emerging opportunities and challenges.
Attendees and presenters will reflect the broad scope of stakeholders needed to recreate our cities with resource recovery and green infrastructure. Join water leaders, sustainability directors, transportation, parks and recreation officials, as well as business leaders, non-profit organizations, and U.S. EPA regulators as we drive the paradigm shift for water sustainability. The Leadership Summit is organized annually by the U.S. Water Alliance’s Urban Water Sustainability Council. Through this Leadership Summit the Council seeks to connect the dots among water, land use, parks, forests, transportation, energy, and other sectors around a goal of revitalizing cities with multi-benefit projects that produce triple bottom-line results.
The San Francisco Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve is excited to announce this upcoming workshop!
Project Design and Evaluation
September 23-24, 2013 9:00am – 5:00pm both days
” How can I be sure that my projects will reach the right audience and have the right impact?”
“What can I do to make sure that my efforts go beyond ‘preaching to the choir’?”
If you’ve ever asked yourself these questions, this is the course for you!
The Project Design and Evaluation course provides coastal resource management extension and education professionals with the knowledge, skills, and tools to design and implement projects that have measurable impacts on the audience they want to reach. This interactive curriculum can help you increase the effectiveness of your projects by applying valid instructional design theory to their design. For more information or to register, click here. Course Instructed by NOAA Coastal Services Center
Join us for a Webinar on September 25 Space is limited. Reserve your Webinar seat now at: https://www4.gotomeeting.com/register/674795351
This webinar will take a detailed look at resilience planning at one of the world’s leading forestry companies.
Sara Kendall will discuss Weyerhaeuser’s strategic initiatives, opportunities, and challenges for building resilience to the impacts of a changing climate on forestry and land use.
Building Business Resilience to Climate Change: Weyerhaeuser
Date: Wednesday, September 25, 2013
Time: 2:00 PM – 3:00 PM EDT
October 4, 2013 8:30 – 5:00
Elkhorn Slough National Estuarine Research Reserve Including field site training at ALBA’s Triple M Ranch, Las Lomas; Carlie Henneman- POINT BLUE CONSERVATION SCIENCE, Dale Huss, Marc Los Huertos, and Paul Robins, Instructors
This one-day workshop trains participants in how to improve their analyses in consideration of the use of buffers for wetland and riparian areas in agricultural settings. Presenters will train participants in analytical frameworks for determining if and how buffers could be effective at providing pollution prevention and wildlife habitat benefits, how implementation of buffers affects farming, and how to engage with stakeholders when considering buffer implementation. The workshop includes hands-on, skills-improving exercise, including field exercises, to improve integration of course material.
Instructors have expertise in the wide range of subjects key to better understanding the subject matter. Workshop instructor Marc Los Huertos, with CSU Monterey Bay, has extensive research and practical experience in analyzing buffer effects on reducing water pollution in agricultural settings. Instructor Carlie Henneman, with Point Blue Conservation Science, draws on her own as well as her organization’s experience with wildlife ecology and buffers in training others in improved conservation approaches. Presenter Dale Huss, with Ocean Mist Farms, has extensive experience with successful farming operations and management practices that reduce agricultural impacts to surrounding lands. Paul Robins, Executive Director of the Resource Conservation District (RCD) of Monterey County, will share the region’s wealth of RCD experience engaging stakeholders with conservation practices such as buffers. During an in-depth field training session , participants will also have opportunities to discuss farming operations and buffers with Agriculture and Land-Based Training Association (ALBA) affiliated Francisco Serrano (Serrano Organic Farm), Hector Mora (Hector’s Organic Farm), and Guilebaldo Nuñez (Nuñez Farms) as well as Kaley Grimland- ALBA’s Triple M Ranch Wetland Restoration Project Manager. To register and for more information: http://www.elkhornsloughctp.org/training/show_train_detail.php?TRAIN_ID=AnP4EPT
“The Westerner is less a person than a continuing adaptation. The West is less a place than a process.” – Wallace Stegner
From prehistoric times to the present, human societies have successfully adapted to the challenges of a changing West, including periods of severe drought, limitations created by scarce resources and shifting cultural and economic pressures. Now, the American West is entering an era of unprecedented change brought on by new climate realities, which will test our capacity for adaptation as well as challenge the resilience of the region’s native flora and fauna. It is therefore paramount that we find and share inspiring ideas and practical strategies that help all of the region’s inhabitants adapt to a rapidly changing world. We will hear from scientists, ranchers, farmers, conservationists, urban planners and others who have bright ideas and important tools to share from their adaptation toolbox.
The Ecological Society of America, American Geophysical Union, and US Geological Survey are co-sponsors of the upcoming
Soil Science Society of America ecosystems services conference–abstracts are now being invited and are due by 12/1/2013.
March 6-9, 2014
Sheraton Grand Hotel, Sacramento, CA
Purpose of Conference: Soils provide provisioning and regulating ecosystem services relevant to grand challenge areas of 1) climate change adaptation and mitigation, 2) food and energy security, 3) water protection, 4) biotechnology for human health, 5) ecological sustainability, and 6) slowing of desertification. The purposes of this conference will be to evaluate knowledge strengths and gaps, encourage cross-disciplinary synergies to accelerate new learning, and prioritize research needs.
More info is available here: https://www.soils.org/meetings/specialized/ecosystem-services
99th Annual Meeting of the Ecological Society of America
Sacramento, California August 10-15, 2014 http://www.esa.org/sacramento
Call for Proposals– Symposia, Organized Oral Sessions, and Organized Poster Sessions
Deadline for Submission: September 26, 2013
Only proposals that are complete and submitted by 5:00 PM Eastern Time will be considered.
We invite proposals for Symposia, Organized Oral Sessions, and Organized Poster Sessions for ESA’s 99th Annual Meeting to be held in Sacramento, California. The theme for the 2014 meeting is “From Oceans to Mountains: It’s All Ecology.” That’s right! Ecology is everywhere. Whether we are exploring the depths of the ocean, arid desert communities, or frigid mountaintops, we find abundant ecological interaction among organisms and environment. These fascinating relationships abound in every setting. California is an especially interesting setting for studying ecology. It has all these and more! Its 160,000 square miles is a center of extraordinary biodiversity and endemism, containing more plant and animal species and more endemic species than any other state in the United States. Our theme emphasizes the inherent ecological diversity of the state, fitting well between the theme of the 99th Annual Ecological Society of America Meeting’s emphasis on learning from the past and the 100th Annual Meeting in 2015 which will develop a blueprint to shape the future.
|NOAA Climate Program Office Releases FY14 –Federal Funding Opportunity
NOAA is accepting individual applications for nine competitions organized around the Climate Program Office’s Climate Observations and Monitoring; Earth System Science; Modeling, Analysis, Predictions, and Projections; and Climate and Societal Interactions (CSI) programs. Letters of intent are due by September 10, 2013; final applications are due by November 14, 2013. For the CSI programs, watch here for an FAQ and information about an informational teleconference on August 29 at 3pm eastern time to specifically discuss the letters of intent.
|National Science Foundation Solicits Proposals for Water Sustainability and Climate Program
This solicitation from the seeks proposals to determine how our built water systems and our governance systems can be made more reliable, resilient, and sustainable to meet diverse needs. Successful proposals are expected to study water systems in their entirety and to enable a new interdisciplinary paradigm in water research. Projects supported under this solicitation may establish new observational sites or utilize existing observational sites and facilities already supported by NSF or other federal and state agencies. The application deadline is September 10, 2013.
For more information, click here.
|NOAA Announces Solicitation for the U.S. Marine Biodiversity Observation Network
This funding opportunity invites proposals for projects that demonstrate how an operational Marine Biodiversity Observation Network could be developed for the nation by establishing one or more prototype networks in U.S. coastal waters, the Great Lakes, and the EEZ. Applications are due on December 2, 2013.
For more information, click here.
Cost gap for Western renewables could narrow by 2025
(August 27, 2013) — A new study indicates that by 2025 wind and solar power electricity generation could become cost-competitive without federal subsidies, if new renewable energy development occurs in the most productive locations. … > full story
Posted: 27 Aug 2013 05:47 AM PDT
Work from an international effort to model climate change’s effects show that the more carbon emissions humanity cuts, the better the global economy will perform over the next century. The report is part of the Fifth Assessment Report (AR5) by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), which was set up by the United Nations to offer a comprehensive assessment of climate science. The last report — the AR4 — was put out in 2007. And while the AR5 is not due until 2014, numbers from it are already making their way out….
CREDIT: Carnegie Wave Energy
Posted: 30 Aug 2013 06:27 AM PDT
A new project in Australia aims to create freshwater by harnessing the kinetic force of ocean waves, RenewEconomy reports. Run by the Perth-based firm Carnegie Wave Energy in cooperation with the Water Corporation, and supported by a $1.27 million grant from the Australian Federal Government’s AusIndustry Clean Technology Innovation Program, the plant will use Carnegie’s proprietary CETO wave energy technology to power reverse osmosis desalination. The resulting process, free of carbon emissions, “will be a world first” according to CEO Michael Ottaviano.
Reverse osmosis desalination has been in use for several decades, and works simply enough: high pressure is used to force saltwater through a membrane, producing drinkable freshwater on the other end. Traditionally the pressure is provided with electric pumps powered by fossil fuels, resulting in both carbon dioxide emissions and lots of points for energy loss. But instead of relying on those electric pumps, Carnegie is using the latest iteration of its CETO technology — CETO 5 — to supply that pressure with wave energy instead. Underwater buoys eleven meters in diameter are installed offshore, and as ocean waves catch them, the movement supplies hydraulic power to pump seawater up underground pipes to shore. At that point, the water runs into the desalination plant, where it directly supplies the pressure for the reverse osmosis. Some of that hydraulic energy is also converted into electric power as needed. The resulting system not only cuts out all carbon dioxide emissions, it also greatly reduces the points where energy can be lost, making the process much more energy efficient and cost-effective….
August 27, 2013 ICLEI- Local Governments for Sustainability When it kicks off the world’s first EcoMobility Festival on 1 September, Suwon, a city 30 km from Seoul, South Korea will prove that a truly ecomobile city – one where citizens can move freely, safely and sustainably – can exist. Showcasing the world’s first ecomobile city, Suwon will engage 4,300 residents to swap some 1,500 cars for ecomobile vehicles, and adopt an ecomobile lifestyle for the entire September. Haenggung-dong, one of the most crowded neighborhoods in Suwon, will be designated as a car-free zone, where various cultural and arts performance will take place. This unique undertaking is backed by a €9 million euro (13 billion KRW) public investment to regenerate the inner city of Suwon. It is part of Suwon’s Mayor Yeom Tae-young’s program to transform the neighborhood into one that prioritizes sustainability and accessibility – particularly for low-income residents whose access to employment and services was impaired. Around 5,000 international visitors, led by influential Mayors, policy makers, CEOs and concerned citizens, will witness the transformation of a neighborhood and test the suite of human-powered and electric vehicles from around 39 manufacturers from eight countries including the United States, Germany, Taiwan and South Korea. The newest line-up of ecomobile vehicles are: Yikebike, the smallest foldable bike; Trimobile, a tricycle that can carry three people at a time but only requires one to pedal; Nordic Cab’s multipurpose bike trailer made out of eco-friendly aluminum and hardened plastic; Gobax, a customized ambulance bike; Egretta, a bike that consolidates both sophistication and practicability; MoVi, a safe and robust light electric vehicle, and many more….
No evidence of residential property value impacts near US wind turbines
(August 27, 2013) — After analyzing more than 50,000 home sales near 63 wind facilities in 27 counties across nine US states, researchers were unable to uncover any impacts to nearby home property values. … > full story
- OTHER NEWS OF INTEREST
Worth reading (from Andy Gunther/BAECCC):
The Collapse of Western Civilization: A view from the future By Naomi Oreskes and Erik Conway 2013
In the prehistory of “civilization,” many societies rose and fell, but few left as clear and extensive an account of what happened to them and why as thetwenty-½rst-century nation-states that referred to themselves as Western civilization. Even today, two millennia after the collapse of the Roman and Mayan empires and one millennium after the end of the Byzantine and Inca empires, historians, archaeologists, and synthetic-failure paleoanalysts have been unable to agree on the primary causes of those societies’ loss of population, power, stability, and identity. The case of Western civilization is different because the consequences of its actions were not only predictable, but predicted. Moreover, this technologically transitional society left extensive records both in twentieth-century-style paper and in twenty-½rst-century electronic formats, permitting us to reconstruct what happened in extraordinarily clear detail….
Posted: 25 Aug 2013 06:25 AM PDT
Jonathan Koomey, Ph.D. is a Research Fellow, Steyer-Taylor Center for Energy Policy and Finance, Stanford University and the author of Cold Cash, Cool Climate: Science-based Advice for Ecological Entrepreneurs and Turning Numbers into Knowledge: Mastering the Art of Problem Solving.
For 14 years, the coal industry has been pushing the myth the Internet is an energy hog. For 14 years, I (and other scientists) have been debunking that myth. Last week, I promised a detailed debunking of the iPhone=Refrigerator calculation from Dr. Jon Koomey, the world’s foremost authority on the electricity consumption of the Internet. Here it is — JR.
Last week, several friends alerted me to a claim that the iPhone supposedly uses as much electricity as two refrigerators — when you count the energy needed to make it, run it and power the “behind-the-wall” equipment to deliver data to the device. Discussion of the original report (“The Cloud Begins with Coal,” hereafter CBC) showed up on the Breakthrough Institute site, Time Magazine Online, MSN News, the Huffington Post, MarketWatch, and Grist, among others (with most focusing on the comparison between a smart phone and one refrigerator).
When I heard this claim, it took me back to the year 2000, when Mark P. Mills and Peter Huber first made the claim that the networking electricity for a wireless Palm VII exceeded the electricity for running a refrigerator (1000 to 2000 kWh, they claimed, the lower bound of which was a bit higher than the average installed base for US fridges at that time). It didn’t sound plausible, and so I and some colleagues investigated, finding that Mr. Mills and Mr. Huber had overestimated the electricity needed to feed data to a wireless Palm VII by a factor of 2000 (Koomey et al. 2004).
Just as happened last time, Mr. Mills, in the CBC report, has made attention-getting claims that don’t stand up to scrutiny (Kawamoto et al. 2002, Koomey 2000, Koomey 2003, Koomey 2008, Koomey et al. 1999, Koomey et al. 2002, Koomey et al. 2004, Romm et al. 1999, Roth et al. 2002). He cherry picks numbers to achieve his desired results, and his report has vague or non-existent references (but lots of footnotes). This appears to be an attempt to create a patina of respectability for his calculations while obfuscating his methods, but I don’t know for sure…..
Midway—A film this simple, beautiful, and heartbreaking comes along so rarely — and to get its point across, we hardly need to hear a word.
Climate Name Change—naming extreme storms after ? or:
By ANDREW C. REVKIN
An edgy climate campaign names hurricanes for politicians rejecting action on global warming.
For ‘The Birds’
August 29, 2013 Bodega festival marks the 50th anniversary of Alfred Hitchcock’s classic thriller.
‘Safe’ levels of environmental pollution may have long-term health consequences
(August 29, 2013) — If you’re eating better and exercising regularly, but still aren’t seeing improvements in your health, there might be a reason: Pollution. According to a new research report what you are eating and doing may not be the problem, but what’s in what you are eating could be the culprit. … > full story
Yosemite Rim Fire Photos….
A fire restrictions sign is partially burned away by the Rim Fire in the Stanislaus National Forest Thursday, Aug. 22, 2013, in California. California Gov. Jerry Brown declared a state of emergency due to the huge fire, one of several blazes burning in or near the nation’s national parks and one of 50 major uncontained fires burning across the western U.S. Photo: Andy Alfaro, Associated Press
Smoke from the Rim Fire is visible from satellite images. Photo: NOAA
Faller Craig Morgan who is responsible for cutting down unstable burned trees walks through a burned area off of Packard Canyon Rd. near Groveland, Ca., as the 16,000 acre Rim Fire continues to grow on Wednesday August 21, 2013. Photo: Michael Macor, San Francisco Chronicle
Fire consumes trees along US highway 120 as the Rim Fire burns out of control on August 21, 2013 in Buck Meadows, California. The Rim Fire continues to burn out of control and threatens 2,500 homes outside of Yosemite National Park. Over 400 firefighters are battling the blaze that is only 5 percent contained. Photo: Justin Sullivan, Getty Images