Conservation Science News May 23 2014Leave a Comment
NOTE: Please pass on my weekly news update that has been prepared for
Point Blue Conservation Science
staff. You can find these weekly compilations posted on line by clicking here. For more information please see www.pointblue.org.
The items contained in this update were drawn from www.dailyclimate.org, www.sciencedaily.com, SER The Society for Ecological Restoration, http://news.google.com, www.climateprogress.org, www.slate.com, www.sfgate.com, The Wildlife Society NewsBrief, CA BLM NewsBytes and other sources as indicated. This is a compilation of information available on-line, not verified and not endorsed by Point Blue Conservation Science.
You can sign up for the California Landscape Conservation Cooperative Newsletter or the Bay Area Ecosystems Climate Change Consortium listserve to receive this or you can email me directly at Ellie Cohen, ecohen at pointblue.org if you want your name added to or dropped from this list.
Founded as Point Reyes Bird Observatory, Point Blue’s 140 scientists advance nature-based solutions to climate change, habitat loss and other environmental threats to benefit wildlife and people, through bird and ecosystem science, partnerships and outreach. We work collaboratively to guide and inspire positive conservation outcomes today — for a healthy, blue planet teeming with life in the future. Read more about our 5-year strategic approach here.
Focus of the Week– Fixing Global Warming- 2 perspectives
This is part of a series exploring how collective intelligence can create a better world. Read the whole series here.
Think you’ve landed on the solution to the global warming crisis, if only you could get someone to hear you out? Tired of your friends and family suddenly remembering “other plans” and darting off the moment you start laying out your glorious ideas? Finally, there’s an alternative to tormenting your near-and-dear: Climate CoLab, a project from the MIT Center for Collective Intelligence, wants to provide you — yes, you! — with a listening ear, through a platform that makes it easier for everyone to come up with solutions to climate change. Why are they so interested in what you have to say? Because, as Climate CoLab principal investigator Thomas Malone sees it, top-down approaches like international treaties or national legislation don’t seem like they’re going to get us out of our planetary pickles. So he’s decided to see what us regular schmos can come up with, instead.
By crowdsourcing ideas on everything from enacting carbon taxes to reducing bus emissions and designing more efficient buildings, Climate CoLab hopes to dig up “new angles, new perspectives, new ways of looking at things,” the lab’s community manager, Laur Fisher, says. CoLab staffers do this by organizing contests where anyone can submit a creative climate solution. Then they call on expert judges to weed through and pull out the schemes that actually might be feasible (because, as Malone explains, while crowds are very good at coming up with out-of-the box ideas, we’re not always very practical). Finally, the judges choose one set of winners, then turn to crowdsourcing again, letting users vote for their favorites. This not only creates a way for more people to get involved, but could also hone in on which solutions are socially viable, because, while groups of people aren’t necessarily the most analytical, “crowds can do a good job of assessing what crowds want,” Malone says — an important thing to know when trying to garner support in order to put a plan into action.
Last year, Climate CoLab held 18 contests, reeling in about 400 proposals from a fairly diverse group from around the world. Submissions ran the gamut from fun to pragmatic, and from grounded in reality … to clearly not. Examples of winning proposals include getting kids to develop eco-friendly habits through a Tamagotchi-like “pet” that you keep alive through green deeds, and developing power plants that remove excess CO2 via wet limestone scrubbing. While overall the contestants were an educated bunch – 84 percent had graduated from college, and 58 percent had completed or were currently attending graduate school – they didn’t necessarily come from environmental fields. For example, Dennis Peterson, who has now won three Climate CoLab contests, is a software engineer who calls himself an amateur when it comes to climate change. Still, he produced an overarching plan to reduce carbon emissions that won the popular choice award in 2011. He won another popular choice award in the “electric power sector” category in 2013 with his proposal to invest in nuclear fusion.
While winning a Climate CoLab contest doesn’t mean that your big idea will ever become reality, Fisher hopes the stamp of approval will lend a certain credibility to the ideas. “What we do have the privilege of at MIT is being a connective power,” Fisher says. From inventors and funders to experts and policy makers, “we do work really hard on connecting our winners with the right people to move things forward.” For Peterson, the awards meant he got to present his plans to a group at the United Nations, to another group of staffers at the U.S. Congress, and at a conference at MIT. “Before I started on all of this, I was on Reddit commenting on [climate-related articles] all the time. But that’s kind of less satisfying than talking to the UN or going to a conference,” Peterson says. “[Colab] is a way of taking ideas and putting them into a forum that has a little more chance of becoming something real.” When it comes to dealing with climate change, “we never know where the breakthrough ideas are going to come from, or what they’re going to look like,” Fisher says. Who knows: maybe, it could even be one of yours.
Samantha Larson is a science nerd, adventure enthusiast, and fellow at Grist. Follow her on Twitter.
2- The Big Fix
This is the first in a series of [New York Times] articles examining potential solutions to climate change.
By JUSTIN GILLIS MAY 30, 2014
Grates are the first step in capturing cow manure to remove methane, a greenhouse gas, and use it generate electricity, keeping the gas out of the air. Credit Sally Ryan for The New York Times Sally Ryan for The New York Times
KEWAUNEE, Wis. — Bryan T. Pagel, a dairy farmer, watched as a glistening slurry of cow manure disappeared down a culvert. If recycling the waste on his family’s farm would help to save the world, he was happy to go along. Out back, machinery was breaking down the manure and capturing a byproduct called methane, a potent greenhouse gas. A huge Caterpillar engine roared as it burned the methane to generate electricity, keeping it out of the atmosphere. The $3.2 million system also reduces odors at Pagel’s Ponderosa Dairy, one of the largest in Wisconsin, but it would not have been built without a surprising source of funds: a California initiative that is investing in carefully chosen projects, even ones far beyond its borders, to reduce emissions as part of the battle against climate change. “When they came out here and told us they were willing to send us checks, we were thrilled,” Mr. Pagel said. California’s program is the latest incarnation of an increasingly popular — and much debated — mechanism that has emerged as one of the primary weapons against global warming. From China to Norway, Kazakhstan to the Northeastern United States, governments are requiring industries to buy permits allowing them to emit set levels of greenhouse gases. Under these plans, the allowable levels of pollution are steadily reduced and the cost of permits rises, creating an economic incentive for companies to cut emissions.
The system encourages companies to find the least expensive ways to make the cuts, either by adopting cleaner energy technology or by investing in outside emission-control projects, like the Pagels’ methane digester.
Congress rejected a national plan of this type during President Obama’s first term, but 10 states, including most of those in the Northeast and mid-Atlantic, have developed their own programs. And the approach is expected to get a huge lift on Monday when Mr. Obama unveils a long-awaited national plan requiring states to lower their power plant emissions. One likely effect will be to encourage more states to adopt systems like California’s.
Already, the approach is spreading worldwide, with the number of people living in places that have such a system nearing one billion, or 14 percent of the world’s population, including about 80 million Americans.
“The point now is to say, look, this can work, it can be scaled, and please join,” said Frank A. Wolak, an economist at Stanford University.
Yet in the decade it has been used to tackle global warming, this approach has had a turbulent history. The world’s largest such system, in Europe, has had severe problems, including gyrations in the prices that polluters have to pay. Given a lack of evidence that the system can actually solve the emissions problem, some environmental groups and scientists have developed serious reservations…..
….California as Pioneer
Mary Nichols cut her teeth as a young lawyer by successfully suing the California state government for violating the federal Clean Air Act. She has long since become an insider, running the most powerful state environmental agency in the country, California’s Air Resources Board.
Ms. Nichols — chosen by a Republican governor and kept on by the Democrat who succeeded him — said that when her agency set out to create a carbon market, her European counterparts were candid in advising the state how not to repeat their mistakes. “It was an act of great generosity on their part,” she said. California’s Global Warming Solutions Act, signed in 2006 by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, set a goal of lowering California’s greenhouse gases in 2020 to the 1990 level, a cut of 28 percent from the level they had been expected to reach in 2020 without the law.
Even after it was signed, the law was the subject of political and legal battles, with oil companies and other polluters fighting to overturn it. When voters were asked whether they wanted the state to tackle global warming in 2010, they voted 62 percent to 38 percent to move forward with the law, which requires more efficient cars, more renewable power on the state’s electric grid and many other steps. A centerpiece was a provision capping emissions from big polluters, including power generators and gasoline refiners, and setting up a permit-trading system…..
How a Carbon Market Works
Governments around the world are experimenting with issuing permits that allow industries to emit carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases, then restricting those permits to rein in carbon emissions.
NY Times graphic from CA Air Resources Board
As the Climate Changes, So Does the Language
Climate change has created its own vocabulary of concepts and institutions. Here are a few of the terms that often come up in discussions of the problem and its proposed solutions.
Carbon market: A financial market where government-issued permits that regulate greenhouse-gas emissions are traded as a commodity.
Cap and trade: A government-created system to restrict emissions by imposing a limit, or cap, on the amount of pollution that can be spewed into the atmosphere by certain industries. The government issues permits or carbon allowances to industries for the amount of greenhouse gases they are allowed to emit, then gradually reduces the cap and the number of permits, providing a financial incentive for those companies to pollute less. Companies that need fewer permits can trade with those that need more permits on a financial commodities market, with the price driven by supply and demand. The higher the price of the permits, the greater the incentive to reduce emissions.
Greenhouse gas: A type of pollutant that scientists say contributes to global warming. The primary pollutant is carbon dioxide, but there is also methane, nitrous oxide and many refrigerants.
Carbon allowances: Government-issued permits to industries that allow them to pollute up to a certain limit.
Carbon offsets: Projects that lower carbon emissions in nonregulated industries, such as forestry or farming. These projects produce “offset credits” that can be traded on the carbon market and used by polluters to comply with emissions limits. Governments usually set limits on how many of these types of credits polluters can use.
Carbon price: The cost to industries or companies for each ton of greenhouse gas that is emitted in a given period. The cost can be established directly by the government, in the form of a tax or a set price for permits, or indirectly through carbon markets, where permits are traded freely and supply and demand sets the price.
Carbon pricing: A system that requires polluters to pay for their carbon emissions.
Pollution rights: Permission given by a government to an industry or company to pollute up to a certain controlled level. Such a system leaves it up to the company or industry to figure out the best way to stay within the limit.
Emissions Trading System: A financial market created by the European Union to trade the carbon allowances issued to industries to control carbon emissions. The system has been in effect since 2005 and covers about 11,000 power plants, industrial facilities and airlines in 31 countries.
Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change: A body of scientists and other experts appointed by the United Nations to periodically assess and issue reports about the status and impact of climate change on the planet.
National Climate Assessment: A report issued periodically by the federal government and prepared by a panel of scientists and other experts, including representatives of fossil-fuel companies, to assess the status and impact of climate change on the United States.
Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative: A cap-and-trade system limiting emissions in nine states in the Northeast and mid-Atlantic regions. The system has raised $1.7 billion for the governments, which have mostly put the money back into clean-energy projects.
A version of this article appears in print on May 30, 2014, on page A1 of the New York edition with the headline: A Price Tag on Carbon as a Climate Rescue Plan. Order Reprints|Today’s Paper|Subscribe
Posted: 27 May 2014 10:33 AM PDT
An approach to calculating a fair and consistent price for natural capital stocks that is grounded in the same theory of economic capital that governs the pricing of other capital assets, from stock prices to factories, has been developed.
May 29, 2014 — As population grows, society needs more — more energy, more food, more paper, more housing, more of nearly everything. Meeting those needs can lead to changes in how land is used.
Native grasslands, forests and wetlands may be converted into croplands, tree plantations, residential areas and commercial developments. Those conversions can, in turn, diminish the health of natural ecosystems and their ability to provide an array of valuable services, such as clean air and water, wildlife and opportunities for recreation, to name a few. In two papers published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, … addresses how to strike a balance between providing for humanity’s growing needs and preserving the natural systems that make it possible to meet those needs. In one paper…. model the future of land-use change in the United States under various scenarios and possible effects on the provision of some important ecosystem services. In a related publication, the researchers develop incentive structures to best encourage landowners to provide ecosystem services….full story
J. J. Lawler, D. J. Lewis, E. Nelson, A. J. Plantinga, S. Polasky, J. C. Withey, D. P. Helmers, S. Martinuzzi, D. Pennington, V. C. Radeloff. Projected land-use change impacts on ecosystem services in the United States. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 2014; 111 (20): 7492 DOI: 10.1073/pnas.1405557111
By Amy Joi O’Donoghue, Deseret News Published: Tuesday, May 27 2014 9:30 p.m. MDT
A new conservation program created with the February passage of the farm bill frees up more than a billion dollars aimed at improving water quality and soil health. The Colorado River Basin is one of eight priority regions identified for funding.
SALT LAKE CITY — The Colorado River Basin was identified Tuesday as one of eight priority areas across the nation under a new program that will parlay more than a billion dollars into conservation projects.
Authorized with the passage of the farm bill of 2014 in February, the Regional Conservation Partnership Program directs money to boost soil health and bolster water quality in a program that now brings together businesses, nonprofits and government agencies. In Utah, money could go toward improving riparian habitat along the Jordan River, improving rangelands as a fire suppression management tool, or addressing the aftermath of wildfire destroying a watershed, such as the 2012 Seeley Fire that impacted Emery County’s Huntington Creek….
“This is an entirely new approach to conservation,” Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said Tuesday in a teleconference announcing the plan. “We’re giving private companies, local communities, and other non-government partners a way to invest in what are essentially clean water start-up operations. By establishing new public-private partnerships, we can have an impact that’s well beyond what the federal government could accomplish on its own,” Vilsack said. “These efforts keep our land resilient and water clean, and promote tremendous economic growth in agriculture, construction, tourism and outdoor recreation, and other industries.” Ultimately, the $1.2 billion investment by the federal government over the life of the five-year program will help to leverage an additional $1.2 billion for conservation. In the first year, $400 million in USDA funding is available…..
May 29, 2014 — New tools to collect and share information could help stem the loss of the world’s threatened species, according to a paper. The study — by an international team of scientists — reviewed … full story
MAY 22, 2014 Carl Zimmer NY Times
An artist’s depiction of the elephant bird, now extinct, which lived on Madagascar and could grow to a height of nine feet. Credit Brian Choo
Just a few centuries ago, Madagascar was home to a monstrous creature called the elephant bird. It towered as high as nine feet. Weighing as much as 600 pounds, it was the heaviest bird known to science. You’d need 160 chicken eggs to equal the volume of a single elephant bird egg. The only feature of the elephant bird that wasn’t gigantic was its wings, which were useless, shriveled arms. Instead of flying, the elephant bird kept its head down much of the time, grazing on plants. Scientists aren’t precisely sure when this strange creature became extinct, but it probably endured well into our human-dominated age. In the Middle Ages, Marco Polo heard tales of a huge bird that stalked Madagascar. A French colonial governor of Madagascar wrote in 1658 about a giant bird that lived in the remote parts of the island. Today, scientists are trying to determine when the elephant bird became extinct by estimating the age of its youngest remains. It’s possible the birds were still thundering across Madagascar in the 1800s.
A young kiwi. This small flightless bird from New Zealand is the closest living relative to the extinct elephant bird. Credit David Gray/Reuters
Now that the elephant bird is gone, scientists have to content themselves with indirect clues to its existence. For a long time, they could only study its bones and fragments of eggshells. In the 1990s, some scientists began to look for bits of DNA in those elephant bird remains, but for two decades they came up dry. Finally, a team of Australian researchers has now recovered sizable chunks of DNA from two different species of elephant birds. And that genetic material has delivered a big surprise: it turns out that the closest relative of the mighty elephant bird is the kiwi, a six-pound flightless bird that lives more than 7,000 miles away, in New Zealand. Other experts accepted the finding, reported on Thursday in the journal Science, although they didn’t see it coming. “I don’t think anyone would have predicted kiwis,” said Joel L. Cracraft, the curator of ornithology at the American Museum of Natural History, who was not involved in the research. The research isn’t just prompting scientists to rethink the evolution of elephant birds. It’s also fueling a broader debate about the origins of many of the world’s best-known flightless birds, from ostriches in Africa to emus in Australia….
Humpback whale subspecies revealed by genetic study
(May 20, 2014) — A new genetic study has revealed that populations of humpback whales in the oceans of the North Pacific, North Atlantic and Southern Hemisphere are much more distinct from each other than previously thought, and should be recognized as separate subspecies. Understanding how connected these populations are has important implications for the recovery of these charismatic animals that were once devastated by hunting. … > full story
Citizen scientists map flyways of North American birds
(May 19, 2014)
Flyways used by migratory birds as they travel across America have long been a topic of fascination for ornithologists. For larger species like waterfowl that are easily visible during their migratory flights, these flyways have been described, but until now the flyways for smaller-bodied birds have been largely based on conjecture. New research in the Journal of Biogeography has used analyses of information from the eBird citizen-science database to describe week by week the distributions of 93 North American land birds. By determining the level of similarity in the locations of bird distributions across time, the researchers were able to identify, for the first time, three migration flyways located in the western, central, and eastern portions of the continent.
Frank A. La Sorte, Daniel Fink, Wesley M. Hochachka, Andrew Farnsworth, Amanda D. Rodewald, Kenneth V. Rosenberg, Brian L. Sullivan, David W. Winkler, Chris Wood, Steve Kelling. The role of atmospheric conditions in the seasonal dynamics of North American migration flyways. Journal of Biogeography, 2014; DOI: 10.1111/jbi.12328
New biodiversity study throws out controversial scientific theory
(May 27, 2014) — Scientists have released ground-breaking findings that dismiss the ‘Neutral Theory of Biodiversity’. The theory has dominated biodiversity research for the past decade, and been advocated as a tool for conservation and management efforts. The study, the largest of its kind, covers a broad range of marine ecosystems on Earth and has important implications for how marine conservation areas are managed. Professor Sean Connolly from the ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies (Coral CoE) at James Cook University (JCU) is the lead author of the international study, which he says overturns the long-used theory by employing a novel mathematical method. It is the largest study of its kind, covering a broad range of marine ecosystems on Earth.
“The study has important implications for how marine conservation areas are managed,” Professor Connolly says.
“The aim of neutral theory is to explain diversity and the relative abundances of species within ecosystems. However, the theory has an important flaw: it fails to capture how important the highly abundant species that dominate marine communities are.”
Professor Connolly explains that it’s often the really abundant species that deliver substantial ecosystem services like providing habitat for fishes, or keeping reefs clear of seaweeds. “These species have unique features that allow them to be so abundant, and to play those key roles,” he says.
But when neutral theory underpins marine conservation, species are treated as swappable. “So the theory implies that, if you lose a really abundant species, then another can simply increase in abundance to take its place.”
… > full story
Sean R. Connolly et al. Commonness and rarity in the marine biosphere. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 2014 DOI: 10.1073/pnas.1406664111
Better science for better fisheries management
(May 19, 2014) — Cod fishing in New England has steadily declined over the past three decades. It’s estimated that hundreds of people have lost their jobs as a result and that continued failure to rebuild the fishery could cost the region’s economy a total of 0 million, studies show. Now, researchers explain how various types of fishing gear can impact the Northeast region’s fisheries in the first of a series of research articles. … > full story
LA Times May 29 2014
Federal officials gave a major boost Wednesday to the city’s plans to turn the Los Angeles River into an urban oasis for recreation and an inviting locale for new commercial and residential development. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers said it has decided to recommend approval of an ambitious, $1-billion proposal to restore habitat, widen the river, create wetlands and provide access points and bike trails along an 11-mile stretch north of downtown through Elysian Park. The city sees those 11 miles as the starting point for a project that will eventually revitalize all 51 miles of the river, from the San Fernando Valley to Long Beach. …
Scientific American (blog)
– May 19, 2014
Some species of blue butterfly mimic ant larvae so well that the ants will bring them food and care for them until they are ready to pupate and turn into a chrysalis.
Posted: 28 May 2014 01:36 PM PDT
Using computer vision and machine learning techniques, researchers have developed Birdsnap, a free new iPhone app that’s an electronic field guide featuring 500 of the most common North American bird species. The app enables users to identify bird species through uploaded photos, and accompanies a comprehensive website.
Striking lack of diversity in prehistoric birds
(May 27, 2014) — Birds come in astounding variety — from hummingbirds to emus — and behave in myriad ways: they soar the skies, swim the waters, and forage the forests. But this wasn’t always the case, according to new research. … > full story
POINT BLUE IN THE NEWS:
Posted: 05/19/2014 03:29:41 PM PDT
A wind turbine erected on a North Marin olive ranch amid pitched controversy — including concerns about an avian slaughter — has had “possibly nil” impact on birds, a three-year study concluded.
The comprehensive, 39-month study of bird mortality near the 148-foot McEvoy Ranch wind turbine turned up no evidence of any bird killed by the device, although three dead bats were found over the period. “During the first 39 months of the McEvoy wind turbine operation, the observed avian mortality rate was zero — a strong indication that this particular wind turbine is not having an adverse impact on local bird populations,” the study reported. “Though there is a small probability that some mortality events were undetected, the overall impact this single wind turbine has had on birds and bats during the study period appears to have been extremely small in the case of bats to possibly nil for birds,” according to Ryan DiGaudio and Geoffrey Geupel, experts from Point Blue Conservation Science, formerly known as Point Reyes Bird Observatory Conservation Science. Their study was part of a monitoring program required by county supervisors who approved the turbine plan in 2007 amid protests from neighbors and environmentalists who cited vista and noise concerns and warned of a potential bird slaughter…..
Disappearing puffins, stray whales, invading sailfish: The North Atlantic is in a bad way. Here’s why.
Robert F. Bukaty/AP
The new poster child for climate change had his coming-out party in June 2012, when Petey the puffin chick first went live into thousands of homes and schools all over the world. The “Puffin Cam” capturing baby Petey’s every chirp had been set up on Maine’s Seal Island by Stephen Kress, “The Puffin Man,” who founded the Audubon Society’s Project Puffin in 1973….
..Life would go on without puffins. Unfortunately, these clowns of the sea seem to be the canaries in the western Atlantic coal mine. Their decline is an ominous sign in a system that supports everything from the last 400 North Atlantic right whales to the $2 billion lobster industry…..
By Joe Romm on May 6, 2014
The National Climate Assessment is the definitive analysis of current and future impacts of carbon pollution on the United States. The picture it paints is stark: Continued inaction will devastate much of the arable land of the nation’s breadbasket — and ruin a livable climate for most Americans.
Posted: 27 May 2014 07:14 AM PDT
The rapid spread of hybridization between a native species and an invasive species of trout in the wild is strongly linked to changes in climate, scientists have discovered. Experts have long predicted that climate change could decrease worldwide biodiversity through cross-breeding between invasive and native species, but this study is the first to directly and scientifically support this assumption.
Phys.org May 21, 2014
Illustrated here is an example of a greening semi-arid ecosystem in the Northern Territory of Australia that played a key role in the record 2011 global land carbon sink following prolonged La Nina rainfall and long-term changes in vegetation. Credit: Eva van Gorsel (CSIRO)
Dryland ecosystems, which include deserts to dry-shrublands, play a more important role in the global carbon cycle than previously thought. In fact, they have emerged as one of its drivers, says Montana State University faculty member Ben Poulter. Surprised by the discovery, Poulter and his collaborators explained their findings in Nature. At the same time, they urged global ecologists to include the emerging role of dryland ecosystems in their research. “Our study found that natural events in Australia were largely responsible for this anomaly,” Poulter said. “La Nina-driven rainfall during 2010 and 2011, as well as the 30-year greening up of its deserts and other drylands contributed to significant changes across the globe.”…
Posted: 25 May 2014 12:47 PM PDT
Soils that formed on Earth’s surface thousands of years ago and that are now deeply buried features of vanished landscapes have been found to be rich in carbon, adding a new dimension to our planet’s carbon cycle. The finding is significant as it suggests that deep soils can contain long-buried stocks of organic carbon which could, through erosion, agriculture, deforestation, mining and other human activities, contribute to global climate change.
Iron from melting ice sheets may help buffer global warming
(May 21, 2014) — A newly-discovered source of oceanic bioavailable iron could have a major impact our understanding of marine food chains and global warming. Scientists have discovered that summer meltwaters from ice sheets are rich in iron, which will have important implications on phytoplankton growth. … > full story
Posted: 28 May 2014 10:31 AM PDT
A new study has found that the Antarctic Ice Sheet began melting about 5,000 years earlier than previously thought coming out of the last ice age — and that shrinkage of the vast ice sheet accelerated during eight distinct episodes, causing rapid sea level rise.
By KENNETH CHANGMAY 19, 2014
Muir Glacier at Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve in Alaska is among the many worldwide that are disappearing. Muir, left, as seen in August 1941, and photographed in August 2004. Credit W. Field; B. Molnia/U.S.G.S., via Glacier Photograph Collection
Centuries from now, a large swath of the West Antarctic ice sheet is likely to be gone, its hundreds of trillions of tons of ice melted, causing a four-foot rise in already swollen seas. Scientists reported last week that the scenario may be inevitable, with new research concluding that some giant glaciers had passed the point of no return, possibly setting off a chain reaction that could doom the rest of the ice sheet. For many, the research signaled that changes in the earth’s climate have already reached a tipping point, even if global warming halted immediately. “We as people see it as closing doors and limiting our future choices,” said Richard Alley, a professor of geosciences at Pennsylvania State University. “Most of us personally like to keep those choices open.” But these glaciers are just the latest signs that the thawing of earth’s icy regions is accelerating. While some glaciers are holding steady or even growing slightly, most are shrinking, and scientists believe they will continue to melt until greenhouse gas emissions are reined in. “It’s possibly the best evidence of real global impact of warming,” said Theodore A. Scambos, lead scientist at the National Snow and Ice Data Center. Furthest along in melting are the smallest glaciers in the high mountainous regions of the Andes, the Alps and the Himalayas and in Alaska. By itself, their melting does not pose a grave threat; together they make up only 1 percent of the ice on the planet and would cause sea level to rise only by one to two feet. But the mountain glaciers have been telling scientists what the West Antarctica glacier disintegration is now confirming: In the coming centuries, more land will be covered by water and more of nature will be disrupted. A full melt would cause sea level to rise 215 feet…..
Central Valley sees big drop in wintertime fog needed for fruit, nut crops
(May 20, 2014) — California’s winter tule fog — hated by drivers, but needed by fruit and nut trees — has declined dramatically over the past three decades, raising a red flag for the state’s multibillion dollar agricultural industry, according to researchers at UC Berkeley. Crops such as almonds, pistachios, cherries, apricots and peaches go through a necessary winter dormant period brought on and maintained by colder temperatures. Tule fog, a thick ground fog that descends upon the state’s Central Valley between late fall and early spring, helps contribute to this winter chill.
“The trees need this dormant time to rest so that they can later develop buds, flowers and fruit during the growing season,” said biometeorologist and study lead author Dennis Baldocchi, whose father grew almonds and walnuts in Antioch and Oakley. “An insufficient rest period impairs the ability of farmers to achieve high quality fruit yields.”
The study was published May 15 in the journal Geophysical Research Letters, a publication of the American Geophysical Union. The findings have implications for the entire country since many of these California crops account for 95 percent of U.S. production, the authors noted….Other studies have marked the decline in the Central Valley of winter chill — the number of hours between 0 and 7 degrees Celsius. The number of hours of winter chill has dropped by several hundred since the 1950s, the study authors noted.
But ambient air temperature alone may not adequately reflect the heat experienced by the crops, said Baldocchi. Direct sunlight can heat the buds so that they are warmer than the surrounding air temperature. As a result, fog is important in shielding the buds from the sun and helping them accumulate winter chill. Climate forecasts suggest that the accumulation of winter chill will continue to decrease in the Central Valley. Baldocchi said that fruit developers are already trying to develop cultivars that can tolerate less winter chill. “Farmers may also need to consider adjusting the location of orchards to follow the fog, so to speak,” said Baldocchi. “Some regions along the foothills of the Sierra are candidates, for instance. That type of change is a slow and difficult process, so we need to start thinking about this now.”. … > full story
Dennis Baldocchi, Eric Waller. Winter fog is decreasing in the fruit growing region of the Central Valley of California. Geophysical Research Letters, 2014; DOI: 10.1002/2014GL060018
Posted: 28 May 2014 07:33 AM PDT
The ocean has steadily taken up excess anthropogenic carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, but a slow down is expected in various parts of the ocean. The current observational network needs to be improved to monitor these changes. Using the latest collection of data and state-of-the-art Earth system models, researchers confirm that ocean partial pressure of carbon dioxide has steadily increased following the atmospheric carbon dioxide concentration in the past four decades. A large portion of this increase is attributed to the ongoing invasion of anthropogenic carbon dioxide into the ocean, whereas increase in sea surface temperature contributes only marginally.
With climate changing, Southern plants outperform Northern
(May 20, 2014) — Can plants and animals evolve to keep pace with climate change? A new study shows that for at least one widely-studied plant, the European climate is changing fast enough that strains from Southern Europe already grow better in the north than established local varieties. … > full story
Shrub growth decreases as winter temperatures fluctuate, triggering premature spring growth
(May 20, 2014) — Many have assumed that warmer winters as a result of climate change would increase the growth of trees and shrubs because the growing season would be longer. But shrubs achieve less yearly growth when cold winter temperatures are interrupted by temperatures warm enough to trigger growth. … > full story
Warmer Summers May Mean Slower Douglas-Fir Growth
Climate Circulater- Pacific Northwest Climate Impacts Research Consortium
Douglas Fir is a climatically versatile and commercially valuable tree species. Although its response to climate variability and change is still uncertain, a new study suggests that as Oregon’s temperature continues to rise, summer heat may limit Douglas-fir growth in the future. In the Northwest, Douglas-fir growth is determined by interactions of temperature and soil moisture during the growing season, along with other climate variables. Science suggests that Douglas-fir growth in the Pacific Northwest is water limited, which means that both temperature and moisture consistently limit forest growth during the summer. Researcher Peter Beedlow and colleagues examined the response of Douglas-fir growth to air temperature and soil water patterns during the growing season. They analyzed growth data collected at roughly four-week intervals from 1998 through 2009 at five mature forest stands in Oregon. One site is near the Pacific Coast, while the other four (Moose Mountain, Falls Creek, Soapgrass and Toad Creek) straddle the Cascades up to about 1,200 meters in elevation. The scientists looked at mean daily air temperature for January and July/August; average precipitation for the summer and for the year; and vapor-pressure deficit. At four of the five sites, tree growth was equally affected by maximum daily air temperature and soil water, the study showed. At the coastal site, however, soil water was more important. Growth rates were optimal at temperatures of about 20 degrees to 25 degrees Celsius, while rates decreased at higher temperatures. At the two driest sites (Moose Mountain and Toad Creek) temperature and soil water affected growth interactively as optimal temperature dropped along with soil water. Interactions between temperature and soil water limited growth at three of the five sites. Because July/August maximum temperatures often fall between 20 degrees and 25 degrees Celsius, the interaction of temperature and moisture limits growth at all sites when summer temperatures are above average.
Beedlow, Peter A., et al. (2103). The Importance of Seasonal Temperature and Moisture Patterns on Growth of Douglas-fir in Western Oregon, USA. Agricultural and Forest Meteorology, 169, 174-185
Mountain Plants Adapt to Factors Above and Below
Climate Circulater- Pacific Northwest Climate Impacts Research Consortium
Think of a conical mountain in a warming climate. Will plants simply move upslope to stay within their usual temperature range? It’s not that simple, an experiment in the Siskiyou Mountains of Oregon suggests. Temperature and elevation are only part of the picture driving plants’ adaptation to warming in alpine ecosystems, Marko Spasojevic and colleagues found. A complex mix of other factors — soil chemistry, topography, plant-to-plant interactions and microclimates (the climate in a small area that may differ from the surrounding climate) — help determine plant survival in a new location, the researchers found. For the experiment, Spasojevic’s team moved three plant species to cooler locations, i.e. to more north-facing slopes or to higher elevations, than they currently inhabit. The scientists also removed existing vegetation at some of the new sites before transplanting the target species. Two species grew better at the cooler sites than at their original locations, especially at sites where neighboring vegetation remained, perhaps because neighboring vegetation can provide shelter from wind and cold. The higher soil organic matter naturally present at the cooler sites also improved the success of one of the transplanted species. The authors conclude that the buffering effect of topography and microclimates can only be fully understood when considered in the context of above-ground, plant-to-plant interactions and below-ground biogeochemical processes and feedbacks. Without consideration of these effects, the survival of a species in a warmer climate may be underestimated. This study also suggests that at least some species may already be out of equilibrium with current climate conditions, and may disperse naturally soon.
Spasojevic, Marko J. et al. (2014). Above- and Belowground Biotic Interactions facilitate Relocation of Plants into Cooler Environments. Ecology Letters, 17, 6, 700–709,
May 19, 2014 Dartmouth College
Rising temperatures and ash from Northern Hemisphere forest fires combined to cause large-scale surface melting of the Greenland ice sheet in 1889 and 2012, contradicting conventional thinking that the melt events were driven by warming alone, a new study finds…
Kaitlin M. Keegan, Mary R. Albert, Joseph R. McConnell, and Ian Baker. Climate change and forest fires synergistically drive widespread melt events of the Greenland Ice Sheet. PNAS, May 19, 2014 DOI: 10.1073/pnas.1405397111
Posted: 27 May 2014 08:49 AM PDT
Butterflies and dragonflies with lighter colors are out-competing darker-colored insects in the face of climate change. Scientists have shown that as the climate warms across Europe, communities of butterflies and dragonflies consist of more lighter coloured species. Darker coloured species are retreating northwards to cooler areas, but lighter coloured species are also moving their geographical range north as Europe gets warmer.…
by Sharon Levy • May 27, 2014
The sky darkens above the ruins of a cluster of ponderosa pine that burned 20 years ago. Two women stand amid grass and wildflowers, in a field studded with the charred stumps and downed trunks of dead trees. In the dry hills of Montana’s Helena National Forest, the landscape can take decades to recover after a burn. But as the sun emerges from behind a blanket of thunderclouds, the air comes alive with buzzing, swooping activity. Bees begin to appear among the blossoms of blanket-flower, yarrow, and vetch. “Here comes a little cutey-pants,” murmurs Elizabeth Reese, a research assistant at Montana State University. She swoops a bee into her net, flicking her wrist to trap it near the top of the cone-shaped mesh. Then she expertly transfers the insect to a clear vial and hands it to me. The black and yellow specimen—a female—squirms inside its plastic prison, orbs of bright yellow jiggling on its hind legs. Bees have evolved brushes of hair designed to trap and carry pollen; this one appears to be carrying a full load. Over the past 30 years, residents of Montana and neighboring western states have watched and worried as wildfires in their region have grown in both number and intensity. Data collected by the U.S. Forest Service reveal that the average number of fires that burned more than 1,000 acres in Montana and Wyoming has doubled since the 1970s; in Idaho, the number has nearly quadrupled. And with the increased threat of devastating wildfires comes the increased need to find new ways of fostering biodiversity in their aftermath. That’s why Reese and her supervisor, Laura Burkle, a community ecologist at Montana State, are poking around the wildflowers in a burned-over pine grove on this overcast midsummer day. Much of Burkle’s research focuses on wild pollinators, a group of insects made up largely of the tens of thousands of native bee species that are far different from the honey-makers people usually think of when they hear the word “bee.” For the past few years, she has been looking especially closely at these creatures as part of a larger study on biodiversity’s role in helping landscapes recover after wildfire… Pollination biologists and ecologists are also aware, in a way that many non-scientists aren’t, of the critical yet largely unheralded role that wild pollinators already play in global food production. It’s a role that has grown even more vital to humans as honeybee populations decline. We need wild pollinators to help restore burned forest landscapes, to help feed us, and to help provide a number of other important ecosystem services. But if we want wild pollinators to keep helping us, we have to start helping them. Because thanks to climate change, their habitats around the globe are being dramatically altered. Sometimes their habitats are disappearing altogether….
By Rebecca Leber on May 26, 2014
But the real culprit for worsening fires is climate change…
New Stanford research reveals that farmers in Europe will see crop yields affected as global temperatures rise, but that adaptation can help slow the decline for some crops.
By Laura Seaman Stanford Report, May 20, 2014
A newly published Stanford study indicates European wheat yields will drop more than 20 percent by 2040 due to global warming. A new Stanford study finds that due to an average 3.5 degrees Fahrenheit of warming expected by 2040, yields of wheat and barley across Europe will drop more than 20 percent. New Stanford research reveals that farmers in Europe will see crop yields affected as global temperatures rise, but that adaptation can help slow the decline for some crops. For corn, the anticipated loss is roughly 10 percent, the research shows. Farmers of these crops have already seen yield growth slow down since 1980 as temperatures have risen, though other policy and economic factors have also played a role. “The results clearly showed that modest amounts of climate change can have a big impact on yields of several crops in Europe,” said Stanford doctoral student Frances Moore, who conducted the research with David Lobell, an associate professor of environmental Earth system science. Moore, a student in the Emmett Interdisciplinary Program in Environment and Resources, described the results as somewhat surprising because Europe is fairly cool. “So you might think it would benefit from moderate amounts of warming,” she said. “Our next step was to actually measure the potential of European farmers to adapt to these impacts.” Moore and Lobell analyzed yield and profit records from thousands of farms between 1989 and 2009. These originated in the European Union’s annual Farmer Accountancy Data Network survey. Combining detailed climate records with the farm data, they were able to understand how yields and profits have changed over time. By comparing yields in warmer and cooler parts of Europe, they could predict how adaptation may help European farmers in the coming decades. Their research is detailed in the latest issue of the journal Nature Climate Change…
By Joe Romm May 27, 2014 at 4:56 pm Updated: May 27, 2014 at 8:53 pm
Do we finally have the answer to the age-old (decade old?) question of what term is better for climate hawks to use: “global warming” or “climate change”? In new polling by the Climate Change Communication efforts of Yale and George Mason, “global warming” is the winner — across the board:
We found that the term global warming is associated with greater public understanding, emotional engagement, and support for personal and national action than the term climate change. … the use of the term climate change appears to actually reduce issue engagement by Democrats, Independents, liberals, and moderates, as well as a variety of subgroups within American society, including men, women, minorities, different generations, and across political and partisan lines.
Here’s an even more amazing finding: “Within the Weather category, global warming generates a higher percentage of associations to “extreme weather” than does climate change, which generates more associations to general weather patterns.”
So for all those who think the term climate change is more closely associated with extreme weather — I’m looking at you Wall Street Journal editors — think again. Indeed, as that WSJ article shows, it is difficult to separate the question of which term is better from the doubly wrong claim by conservatives that progressives are allegedly now using the term ‘climate change’ because the planet has supposedly stopped warming. Of course, warming hasn’t actually stopped, it has sped up. Similarly the melting of the great ice sheets has accelerated. In fact, recent analysis makes clear that even surface air temperatures are rising faster than reported by the global temperature records, especially the Hadley Center’s (see “Faux Pause 2“): A new study by British and Canadian researchers shows that the global temperature rise of the past 15 years has been greatly underestimated. The reason is the data gaps in the weather station network, especially in the Arctic. If you fill these data gaps using satellite measurements, the warming trend is more than doubled in the widely used HadCRUT4 data, and the much-discussed “warming pause” has virtually disappeared. But since the deniers make up stuff about the science, why shouldn’t they make up stuff about everything else? In fact it was the GOP’s spinmaster, Frank Luntz — the guy who pushed “death tax” to replace “estate tax” — who first urged conservatives to switch from “global warming” to “climate change” over a decade ago! Scientists, environmentalists, progressives, and frankly the whole darn planet have always used both terms — hence the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, established in 1988.
In a confidential 2003 memo, Luntz wrote (original emphasis): It’s time for us to start talking about “climate change” instead of global warming… 1) “Climate change” is less frightening than “global warming”. As one focus group participant noted, climate change “sounds like you’re going from Pittsburgh to Fort Lauderdale.” While global warming has catastrophic connotations attached to it, climate change suggests a more controllable and less emotional challenge.
D’oh! And as it turns out, at least according to the Yale polling, Luntz was right. Yale explains that “the term global warming is associated with”:
- Greater certainty that the phenomenon is happening, especially among men, Generation X (31-48), and liberals;
- Greater understanding that human activities are the primary cause among Independents;
- Greater understanding that there is a scientific consensus about the reality of the phenomenon among Independents and liberals;
- More intense worry about the issue, especially among men, Generation Y (18-30), Generation X, Democrats, liberals and moderates;
- A greater sense of personal threat, especially among women, the Greatest Generation (68+), African-Americans, Hispanics, Democrats, Independents, Republicans, liberals and moderates;
- Higher issue priority ratings for action by the president and Congress, especially among women, Democrats, liberals and moderates;
- Greater willingness to join a campaign to convince elected officials to take action, especially among men, Generation X, liberals and moderates.
So it would seem that global warming is the term to use (though other polling has found little difference between the two terms). For the record, widespread use of the term “climate change” long predates Luntz’s memo, particularly in the scientific literature:
Indeed, the term “climatic change” goes back to a 1956 paper by Gilbert Plass, long-predating the use of “global warming” by climatologist Wallace Broecker in 1975. I have always used both terms, though, as I’ve said many times, I prefer “Hell and High Water,” since it is more descriptive of what is to come. Others prefer “Global Weirding.” Whatever you call it, it ain’t gonna be pretty.
Credit Ping Zhu
THIS month, a report issued by a prominent military advisory board concluded that climate change posed a serious threat to America’s national security. The authors, 16 retired high-ranking officers, warned that droughts, rising seas and extreme weather events, among other environmental threats, were already causing global “instability and conflict.” But Senator James M. Inhofe of Oklahoma, the ranking Republican on the Senate Armed Services Committee and a stalwart believer that global warming is a “hoax,” dismissed the report as a publicity stunt.
Perhaps the senator needs a history lesson, because climate change has been leading to global conflict — and even the collapse of civilizations — for more than 3,000 years. Drought and famine led to internal rebellions in some societies and the sacking of others, as people fleeing hardship at home became conquerors abroad.
One of the most vivid examples comes from around 1200 B.C. A centuries-long drought in the Aegean and Eastern Mediterranean regions, contributed to — if not caused — widespread famine, unrest and ultimately the destruction of many once prosperous cities, according to four recent studies. The scientists determined the length and severity of the drought by examining ancient pollen as well as oxygen and carbon isotope data drawn from alluvial and mineral deposits. All of their conclusions are corroborated by correspondence, inscribed and fired on clay tablets, dating from that time.
Ancient letters from the Hittite kingdom, in what is now modern-day Turkey, beseech neighboring powers for shipments of grain to stave off famine caused by the drought. (The drought is thought to have affected much of what is now Greece, Israel, Lebanon and Syria for up to 300 years.) One letter, sent from a Hittite king, pleads for help: “It is a matter of life or death!” Another letter, sent from the city of Emar, in what is now inland Syria, states simply, “If you do not quickly arrive here, we ourselves will die of hunger.” The kingdom of Egypt, as well as the city of Ugarit, on the coast of what is now Syria, responded with food and supplies, but it is not clear if they were able to provide enough relief. It certainly created problems of national security for the great powers of the time. Correspondence between the Egyptians, Hittites, Canaanites, Cypriots, Minoans, Mycenaeans, Assyrians and Babylonians — effectively, the Group of 8 of the Late Bronze Age — includes warnings of attacks from enemy ships in the Mediterranean. The marauders are thought to have been the Sea Peoples, possibly from the western Mediterranean, who were probably fleeing their island homes because of the drought and famine and were moving across the Mediterranean as both refugees and conquerors.One letter sent to Ugarit advised the king to “be on the lookout for the enemy and make yourself very strong!” The warning probably came too late, for another letter dating from the same time states: “When your messenger arrived, the army was humiliated and the city was sacked. Our food in the threshing floors was burned and the vineyards were also destroyed. Our city is sacked. May you know it! May you know it!”
While sea levels may not have been rising then, as they are now, changes in the water temperature may have been to blame for making life virtually unlivable in parts of the region.
A 2012 study published in the Journal of Archaeological Science found that the surface temperatures of the Mediterranean Sea cooled rapidly during this time, severely reducing precipitation over the coasts. The study concluded that agriculture would have suffered and that the conditions might have influenced the “population declines, urban abandonments and long-distance migrations associated with the period.”
To top it off, catastrophic events, in the form of a series of earthquakes, also rocked many ancient cities in these areas from around 1225 to 1175 B.C. These, together with the famines and droughts, would have further undermined the societies of the time, most likely leading to internal rebellions by the underclass and peasant populations who were facing severe food shortages, as well as invasions by migrating peoples.
We still do not know the specific details of the collapse at the end of the Late Bronze Age or how the cascade of events came to change society so drastically. But it is clear that climate change was one of the primary drivers, or stressors, leading to the societal breakdown.
The era that followed is known as the first Dark Ages, during which the thriving economy and cultures of the late second millennium B.C. suddenly ceased to exist. It took decades, and even hundreds of years in some areas, for the people in these regions to rebuild.
We live in a world that has more similarities to that of the Late Bronze Age than one might suspect, including, as the British archaeologist Susan Sherratt has put it, an “increasingly homogeneous yet uncontrollable global economy and culture” in which “political uncertainties on one side of the world can drastically affect the economies of regions thousands of miles away.”
But there is one important difference. The Late Bronze Age civilizations collapsed at the hands of Mother Nature. It remains to be seen if we will cause the collapse of our own.
By Joe Romm on May 22, 2014
Large parts of the Southwest are drier than they were during the 1930s Dust Bowl. And the latest science says unrestricted carbon pollution will make this a near-permanent situation post-2050 in a growing portion of this country and around the world — for a thousand years or more….
Michael Robinson Chavez / Los Angeles Times Though this is the third year of drought, fieldworker Antonio Chavarrias believes it’s just the beginning of the hardships.
LA Times May 30, 2014 Diana Marcum
These days in Huron — and Mendota and Wasco and Firebaugh and all the other farmworker communities on the west side of the San Joaquin Valley — even the permanent populations are packing up…
Capital Public Radio Pauline Bartolone Thursday, May 29, 2014 | Sacramento, CA
Many people who live in the Fresno area say water isn’t flowing from their taps like it used to. Households using private groundwater wells are finding the water table is falling below their pump during the drought. CapRadio’s Pauline Bartolone visited the people in Fresno they call when the water runs out. …
May 28 2014
At the USC Center for Sustainability’s Spring Forum on May 6, titled “Envisioning Drought Resilient Cities,” Founder and President of TreePeople Andy Lipkis shared the unprecedented success Australia experienced after its citizens installed rainwater-capture cisterns on their homes during the country’s historic 12-year drought. Lipkis discussed how, in the face of changing weather patterns due to climate change and with fewer trees to capture, clean, and store rainwater than we once had, those living in cities must mobilize to collect as much precipitation as possible—and local water agencies must work together on stormwater solutions rather than remaining in isolation. MIR has included an edited transcription of his remarks. Andy Lipkis: Things are changing day to day. Whatever you heard was fact in Los Angeles, even a year ago, is no longer. My goals today are to help us understand that a new, resilient, local water supply is not only possible—it’s now beginning to happen, even at DWP, at LA County Public Works Flood Control, and at LA City Sanitation. … ”
Researchers at the University of California, Davis Center for Watershed Sciences have attached a dollar estimate to the economic impact of this year’s ongoing drought in California’s Central Valley, the state’s agricultural heartland. Their preliminary report, released earlier this week, estimates a total economic loss of $1.7 billion, along with “substantial long-term costs” of groundwater overdraft that will go unaccounted for.
Last year marked the driest year in California since records began in 1895, and in January Gov. Jerry Brown declared a drought state of emergency. Seven of the state’s 12 main reservoirs are at or below 60 percent of the historical average, and a dry winter has left snowpack levels–an important source for replenishing water supplies–at just a fifth of historical levels, as of late April. Several dry seasons in a row have pushed greater reliance on the state’s grounwater reserves. Overall water delivery to the agriculture sector will drop by 33 percent this year, according to the UC Davis report. But, with increased groundwater pumping making up for the bulk of that loss, the overall water losses will be about 7.5 percent of the industry’s average use. Still, researchers estimate this will result in the loss of 410,000 acres in fallowed land, or an estimated $740 million in crop revenue loss. Feed crops will take the biggest loss–close to 150,000 planted acres–contributing, in part, to expected rises in meat prices this year. Increased groundwater pumping also means greater costs for farmers. Including those costs, estimated at $450 million the economic toll on Central Valley farmers rises to $1.2 billion, or about 5 percent of the sector’s $25BN annual value. Full-time and seasonal job losses and knock-on economic effects drive the total economic impact of the drought on Central Valley agriculture to $1.7 billion. Researchers estimate a loss of 14,500 jobs as a result of dry conditions. All considered, the effects of the drought may not as dramatic as earlier thought. However, report authors caution that increased reliance on groundwater today could have much greater effects down the road, including dry wells, decreased water quality and stream depletion.
NPR May 23, 2014 4:01 PM ET Dan Charles
Farmworkers pull weeds from a field of lettuce near Gonzales, Calif. Salinas Valley farms like this one rely on wells, which haven’t been affected much by the drought. George Rose/Getty Images
The entire state of California is in a severe drought. You might expect this to cause food shortages and higher prices across the country. After all, California grows 95 percent of America’s broccoli, 81 percent of its carrots and 99 percent of the country’s artichokes, almonds and walnuts, among other foods. Yet there’s been no sign of a big price shock. What gives?
Here are three explanations.
1. Some farmers have backup water supplies.
Drive southwest from Fresno, and you can easily see the drought’s impact. In this area, farmers rely on the for irrigation.
In a normal year, Westlands delivers water to each farm through a network of underground pipes. That water is drawn from artificial rivers that link this area to dams and reservoirs hundreds of miles away, mostly in the northern part of the state.
This year, because of the drought, Westlands cannot deliver any of that water. And the result is bare dirt where vegetables normally would grow.
Sarah Woolf takes me on a tour of her family’s farm, and points toward one dry field. “It had onions in it last year, and we’re not farming it at all, because we don’t have enough water supply,” she says. (Woolf is also on the board of the Westlands Water District.)
But that’s not the whole story in this region. I still see plenty of green: fields of alfalfa and garlic and leafy almond orchards.
They exist because many farmers here have a backup supply of water. They’re pumping it out of underground aquifers.
This is happening all across the state. According to a new from the University of California, Davis, the extra water that farmers will pump from their wells this year will make up for about 75 percent of the cutbacks in water from dams and reservoirs.
But this can’t go on forever: That groundwater is limited. Woolf tells me that just this morning, she heard about problems at one of their wells. “We have to actually drill down and drop the well deeper, which is a very bad sign,” she says. It means that the water table is dropping; the aquifer is drying up.
2. Some parts of California are less dry than others.
Agriculture in California is spread around different parts of the state. One key region is the Salinas Valley, sometimes called America’s salad bowl.
“In June, 90 percent of the lettuce in the United States is grown in the Salinas Valley,” says , an economist at UC Davis. Yet there’s “no effect of the drought yet in the Salinas Valley.”
Those farms don’t get water from California’s dams and reservoirs, even in a normal year. They’ve always been able to rely on wells, and nothing’s changed this year.
So fear not; there’s plenty of baby spinach and mesclun mix.
In the winter, meanwhile, salad greens mostly come from areas far to the south, near the Mexican border. Those areas get their water from the Colorado River, which is also in relatively good shape this year thanks to snowfall far upstream.
3. The limited water is going to crops that consumers are most likely to notice.
Allen Peterson farms land near the town of Turlock, on the east side of the Central Valley. He grows mostly almonds, but also some corn and alfalfa, which he sells to dairy farmers nearby.
An irrigation canal runs right past his orchards. It’s a concrete channel 18 feet wide and 6 feet deep, full of water.
That water supply is relatively secure; it comes straight from Lake Don Pedro, created by a dam that the helped to build. So Peterson is still getting about half of his normal allotment of water. It’s enough to grow a crop, but not on every acre.
“I’ve kept water on our almond crop, which is a higher-value crop. I’ve left fallow some corn ground, to make sure I have enough water for my almonds,” Peterson says.
That means he won’t have corn to sell to his neighbors, the dairy farmers. Those dairy farmers are suffering from the drought. They’re bringing in feed from far away, and it’s expensive. Farmers in California are also growing less rice.
In other words, water is flowing toward food that consumers eat directly, because that’s where the money is. Those also tend to be crops that California dominates. Less water is going toward production of crops like alfalfa or rice, which are available from other places or that consumers don’t eat directly.
As a consequence, consumers are shielded from the drought’s effects.
Sumner, the agricultural economist, says this is economics in action. “People move the water to its highest-value use. People pay attention to markets. If you can’t get something from California, you get it from somewhere else. That’s what markets do. They’re good at it,” he says.
Of course, the drought is having an effect, just not a big one so far. A few farms have bulldozed almond and citrus trees because of water shortages. It’s possible that citrus prices will rise next winter, because of shortfalls in production.
If the drought continues into next year, meanwhile, some of the current coping strategies may not work so well. The unrestricted use of groundwater is increasingly controversial. Some water experts are calling for limits on the amounts of water that farmers can draw from underground aquifers.
London Daily Mail, United Kingdom
Conservationists think that dragonflies, which are extremely sensitive to temperature change, have benefited from a warming climate and a general increase in the number and quality of wetlands. …
The new, relocated village of Vunidogoloa on Vanua Levu, the second largest island of Fiji. Credit: Government of Fiji
SYDNEY, May 25 2014 (IPS) – Still a long way off in many parts of the world, climate displacement is already a reality in the Pacific Islands, where rising seas are contaminating fresh water and agricultural land, and rendering some coastal areas uninhabitable. In Fiji, where the survival of 676 communities is now precarious, the government is set to establish the region’s first national policy to address the challenges of internal migration as the last option in adaptation….
May 21 2014 Bloomberg BNA – New York Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman (D) has proposed legislation to require that New York’s electricity and gas utilities assess their vulnerability to the impacts of climate change and prepare a plan for adapting to severe weather….
Disaster planning: Risk assessment vital to development of mitigation plans
(May 23, 2014) — Wildfires and flooding affect many more people in the USA than earthquakes and landslide and yet the dread, the perceived risk, of the latter two is much greater than for those hazards that are more frequent and cause greater loss of life. Research suggests that a new paradigm for risk assessment is needed. … > full story
– May 19, 2014
Most efforts at climate change adaptation treat it as a technical challenge of increasing production and managing community participation…
May 28, 2014 By Moses Jackson
Will climate change cause conflict? That question, which has sparked heated debates
in academia and the media, resists simple answers. But is climate change already contributing to conflict in some places? If so, how exactly? And more importantly, what should be done about it? These questions were the focus of a 2013 preliminary report produced for USAID by international development firm Tetra Tech ARD, which examines the climate-conflict nexus in Uganda, Ethiopia, and Peru. Author Jeffrey Stark writes that previous studies were either speculative and empirically weak; grounded in hard data but lacking explanatory power; or focused on geospatial analysis that offers little actionable guidance for development practitioners… “Climate change adaptation programs address crucial natural resource use and livelihood issues,” concludes Stark. “To be successful, they must be participatory; and by engaging marginalized communities, they address the perceived lack of participation and representation that is one of the main sources of instability in all three countries.”
By Jack Jenkins May 21, 2014 at 12:46 pm Updated: May 21, 2014 at 2:31 pm
Pope Francis made the religious case for tackling climate change on Wednesday, calling on his fellow Christians to become “Custodians of Creation” and issuing a dire warning about the potentially catastrophic effects of global climate change. Speaking to a massive crowd in Rome, the first Argentinian pope delivered a short address in which he argued that respect for the “beauty of nature and the grandeur of the cosmos” is a Christian value, noting that failure to care for the planet risks apocalyptic consequences. “Safeguard Creation,” he said. “Because if we destroy Creation, Creation will destroy us! Never forget this!” The pope centered his environmentalist theology around the biblical creation story in the book of Genesis, where God is said to have created the world, declared it “good,” and charged humanity with its care. Francis also made reference to his namesake, Saint Francis of Assisi, who was a famous lover of animals, and appeared to tie the ongoing environmental crisis to economic concerns — namely, instances where a wealthy minority exploits the planet at the expense of the poor. “Creation is not a property, which we can rule over at will; or, even less, is the property of only a few: Creation is a gift, it is a wonderful gift that God has given us, so that we care for it and we use it for the benefit of all, always with great respect and gratitude,” Francis said. Francis also said that humanity’s destruction of the planet is a sinful act, likening it to self-idolatry….
May 23, 2014
When readers come to the SF Globe, we know you are expecting something special. This story we hope you will find as educational and awesome as we did. We hope it encourages more people to take risks and develop innovations that help the world.
Climate Change And President Obama’s Action Plan May 6, 2014
President Obama has announced a series of executive actions to reduce carbon pollution, prepare the U.S. for the impacts of climate change, and lead international efforts to address global climate change.
The National Climate Assessment- Watch Dr. John Holdren, Assistant to the President for Science & Technology, discuss the Report
On May 6, the Administration released the Third U.S. National Climate Assessment, the most authoritative and comprehensive source of scientific information to date about climate-change impacts across all U.S. regions and on critical sectors of the economy.
Explore the report—and learn more about the effects of climate change and President Obama’s plan to combat and prepare for it.
May 29 2014 Davenport NY TIMES
President Obama’s new global warming regulation will cut carbon pollution from the nation’s coal-fired power plants by up to 20 percent, according to people familiar with the rule, and will pave the way for the creation of state cap-and-trade programs across the country…
Can we break out of the Endangered Species Act death spiral?
by Chris Austin SACRAMENTO May 20, 2014 9:30am
• Endangered species and drought colliding
• “We will not be able to drought-proof California”
(Editor’s Note: This is republished with permission from Maven’s Notebook. Please see additional note at end of story.)
In April, the UC Drought Science, Policy and Management Summit drew upon the extensive brain trust throughout the University of California system, bringing together speakers from eight UC campuses to the state capital to explore ways to mitigate the effects of the current drought while preparing for future water shortages. ….The impact of the drought on endangered species was the topic of an afternoon panel featuring Professor Peter Moyle with the UC Davis Center for Watershed Sciences, former Deputy Secretary of the Interior David Hayes, now with Stanford Law School; Professor Richard Frank with UC Davis Law School, Joshua Viers with UC Merced; and Professor David Sedlak with UC Berkeley. The panel was moderated by Ellen Hanak with the Public Policy Institute of California….The analyses that my colleagues and I have done indicate that climate change will accelerate declines of native fishes with extinctions likely during periods of drought,” he said. “Then in turn, tolerant non-native fishes such as carp, catfish and sunfishes will increasingly dominate the remaining waters. This is the choice we’re making. We’ll still have fish; it might not just be the right kinds of fish.” Mr. Moyle said that this depressing view assumes that we do not take any positive steps but just continue on our present course of action just reacting to crises, but there are things we can do to perpetuate native fishes and ecosystems. “The drought has exposed our complete unpreparedness to do drought management for fish and wildlife, and this is the usual situation that when the going gets tough, the environment loses,” he said. “I agree that the environment represented by fish has to take a hit during the drought, just like every water user, but it should not be the sacrificial lamb for our failure to adequately plan for providing environmental water during dry times. I think this failure stems in part from our outmoded allocation system. At the very least, we should figure out how to use the little water available for fish and wildlife in smarter ways so we can minimize the damage,” he said, and he gave some examples:
• Re-regulating rivers by applying the natural flow regime concept: “This can conserve water at relatively low water costs,” he said, citing Putah Creek as a good example.
• Place a high priority on protecting and restoring spring-fed streams: “Investment in restoring flows to the Shasta River will have important consequences for the whole lower Klamath River salmon populations, as likewise increasing efforts to manage flows in Battle Creek can help provide a refuge for winter run and spring run Chinook salmon. These spring fed systems are very special places that could have big consequences if we manage them right.”
• Focus conservation efforts in coastal regions that are salmon strongholds: Places such as the Smith River, south fork Eel and Blue Creek. “All native fishes need a refuge somewhere, whether it’s artificial or natural. And special efforts need to be made to improve the habitats, acquire water rights, or make other protections to drought proof these refuges as much as possible.”
• Reestablish native fishes in urban streams and similar environments using non-standard sources of water….
USDA Rolls Out Strong New Partnered Conservation Program
California’s Bay-Delta [and Central Valley] Designated a Critical Conservation Area
DAVIS, Calif., May 27, 2014 – Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced a new era in American conservation efforts with an historic focus on public-private partnership. The USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) Regional Conservation Partnership Program (RCPP), created in the 2014 Farm Bill, will fund a number of conservation activities across California – with special funding available for California’s Bay-Delta watershed. “This is an entirely new approach to conservation,” said Vilsack. “We’re giving private companies, local communities, and other non-government partners a way to invest in what are essentially clean water start-up operations. By establishing new public-private partnerships, we can have an impact that’s well beyond what the Federal government could accomplish on its own. These efforts keep our land resilient and water clean, and promote tremendous economic growth in agriculture, construction, tourism and outdoor recreation, and other industries.” RCPP will competitively award funds to conservation projects designed by local partners specifically for their region. Eligible partners include private companies, universities, non-profit organizations, local and tribal governments and others joining with agricultural and conservation organizations and producers to invest money, manpower and materials to their proposed initiatives. Through RCPP, partners propose conservation projects to improve soil health, water quality and water use efficiency, wildlife habitat, and other related natural resources on private lands. USDA’s $1.2 billion in funding over the life of the five-year program can leverage an additional $1.2 billion from partners for a total of $2.4 billion for conservation. $400 million in USDA funding is available in the first year. Secretary Vilsack announced California’s Bay-Delta Watershed as one of eight critical conservation areas (CCA) that will compete for one third of the total available funds. This future work will build upon the more than $50 million invested by NRCS since 2011 to protect and improve natural resources in the Bay-Delta. Additionally the Colorado River Basin CCA will take in small portions of Imperial, Riverside and San Bernardino Counties. The RCPP funds will be divided among three funding pools:
· 35 percent of total program funding will be directed to the eight critical conservation areas.
· 40 percent will be directed to regional or multi-state projects through a national competitive process.
· 25 percent will be directed to state-level projects through a competitive process established by NRCS state leaders.
RCPP replaces the former NRCS Agricultural Water Enhancement Program (AWEP) and Cooperative Conservation Partnership Initiative (CCPI) program. These two programs also worked with conservation partners to implement conservation using a landscape approach. NRCS California has established eight natural resource priority concerns for which applications will be accepted. These are soil health, water quality, air quality, water quantity, habitat degradation for at-risk species, inefficient energy use, forest health, and rangeland health is now accepting proposals for this program. Pre-proposals are due July 14, and full proposal are due September 26. For more information on applying, visit http://www.grants.gov/web/grants/view-opportunity.html?oppId=256049 NRCS has provided leadership in a partnership effort to help America’s private landowners and managers conserve their soil, water and other natural resources since 1935. For more information on NRCS, visit www.nrcs.usda.gov.
Tom Steyer Hopes NextGen Climate Gets Voters to Consider Environment
By CORAL DAVENPORT NY Times MAY 22, 2014
Tom Steyer, whose “super PAC” will spend about $100 million this year trying to elect candidates who support climate policy. Credit Jason Henry for The New York Times
WASHINGTON — Tom Steyer, a billionaire environmental activist from California, wants to blast the issue of climate change to the front lines of American politics. His “super PAC,” NextGen Climate, will spend about $100 million this year to influence several Senate and governor’s races in which climate change could play a major role.
But the goal, Mr. Steyer’s strategists say, is to pave the way for climate change to become a major issue in the next presidential campaign, by elevating it in the minds of voters in states that will play crucial roles in nominating and electing the next president. Mr. Steyer’s organization will pour money into media campaigns to influence Senate races in Iowa, New Hampshire, Colorado and Michigan, and governors’ races in Pennsylvania, Florida and Maine. They will back candidates who openly embrace climate change policies in an effort to help them defeat those who question or deny the established science of climate change. Mr. Steyer hopes those tactics will create a political landscape in which candidates fear that they will be politically punished for questioning that science. To coordinate the effort, Mr. Steyer has hired Chris Lehane, a veteran Democratic strategist. “We want 2014 to be a pivot year for climate — the year we can demonstrate that you can use climate change as a wedge issue to win in political races,” Mr. Lehane said Wednesday at a briefing with reporters…..
By Joe Romm on May 23, 2014
The latest scientific observations provide strong evidence we are headed toward the high end of sea level projections. We now know devastating storm surges will become routine on the East Coast. This raises the question: What year will coastal property values crash?
Electricity use slashed with efficiency controls for heating, cooling
(May 23, 2014) — Commercial buildings could cut their heating and cooling electricity use by an average of 57 percent with advanced energy-efficiency controls, according to a year-long trial of the controls at malls, grocery stores and other buildings across the country. … > full story
Planting the ‘seeds’ of solar technology in the home
(May 20, 2014) — In an effort to better understand what persuades people to buy photovoltaic (PV) systems for their homes, researchers are gathering data on consumer motivations that can feed sophisticated computer models and thus lead to greater use of solar energy. … > full story
By Katie Valentine on May 27, 2014
A report, published by the American Wind Energy Association, found that wind energy production in 2013 resulted in carbon emissions reductions of 126.8 million tons…
The National Wildlife Federation’s Climate Smart Conservation – Putting Adaptation Principles Into Practice looks at how climate change already is affecting the nation’s wildlife and habitats, and addresses how natural resource managers will need to prepare for and adapt to these unprecedented changes. Developed by a broad collaboration of experts from federal, state, and non-governmental institutions, the guide offers practical steps for crafting conservation actions to enhance the resilience of the natural ecosystems on which wildlife and people depend.
The role of marketing and flagship species in mainstreaming biodiversity. Wed. June 4 10-11:30 PT
Join the Bird Education Alliance for Conservation (BEAC) next Wednesday, June 4 at 10-11:30am Pacific time/1-2:30pm Eastern Time for our upcoming webinar: the role of marketing and flagship species in mainstreaming biodiversity. Campaigns featuring flagship species are a key part of the conservation education efforts. Yet, these use of conservation flagships often lack an evidence-base, which impacts selection and our understanding of flagship impacts. Diogo Verrisimo will present his research conducted at two study sites in Northeast Brazil and discuss how the field of marketing can provide important theoretical support for the use of flagship species in bird conservation education campaigns.
Presenter: Diogo Verissimo works at the interface between social and natural sciences, with a focus on behavior change and evidence-based conservation. He first gained experience in environmental education while working as an educator and guide for the Lisbon Zoo, Portugal. His work has taken him beyond his native Portugal to Brazil, India, São Tomé and Príncipe, Costa Rica and Sri Lanka where he has worked on environmental education, social marketing, community-based conservation and natural resource management. Diogo has a degree in Environmental Biology from the University of Lisbon (Portugal), an MSc in Conservation Biology, and PhD in Biodiversity Management from the Durrell Institute of Conservation and Ecology (DICE), University of Kent (UK). He is currently a David H. Smith Conservation Fellow researching the impact of conservation programs aiming to change human behavior and the application of social return on investment metrics. Diogo also writes regularly in the popular press and manages a biodiversity-related social media platform with more than 16,000 followers.
2. Register for the meeting.
3. Check for confirmation email with instructions on how to join.
To view in other time zones or languages, please click the link:
Habitat Restoration Webinars June 10-19, 2014
If you know anyone who might be interested in a very cost-effective way to learn about planning and/or implementing a habitat restoration project, please forward this on to them. Sustainable City Network has partnered with the Northwest Environmental Training Center to provide habitat restoration training in online courses offered June 10 through 19. Instructor Larry Lodwick will conduct the 6-hour habitat restoration planning course in three 2-hour webinars June 10, 11 and 12 for those with limited to moderate experience in natural area management, natural resource management or environmental permitting. The 6-hour habitat restoration implementation course will be presented in three 2-hour webinars on June 17, 18 and 19. Continuing education certificates will be provided, and each session will be recorded, so missing live sessions won’t be a problem.
Environmental Data Summit June5 and June 6 2014
The Delta Science Program will host the two-day Environmental Data Summit next week. It will bring together scientists, resource managers, stakeholders, and interested citizens to discuss a new era in information management. The summit will be Thursday, June 5, at UC Davis, and Friday, June 6, in Sacramento.
North America Congress for Conservation Biology Meeting. July 13-16, Missoula, MT. The biennial NACCB provides a forum for presenting and discussing new research and developments in conservation science and practice for addressing today’s conservation challenges.
July 21-23, Washington, DC.
First Stewards will hold their 2nd annual symposium at the National Museum of the American Indian. This year’s theme is
“United Indigenous Voices Address Sustainability: Climate Change and Traditional Places“
99th Annual Meeting of the Ecological Society of America
Sacramento, California August 10-15, 2014 http://www.esa.org/sacramento
California Adaptation Forum
August 19-20, 2014. SACRAMENTO, CA
This two-day forum will build off a successful National Adaptation Forum held in Colorado in 2013. The attendance of many California leaders there underscored the need for a California-focused event, which will be held every other year to complement the biennial national conference. To register go to: https://www1.gotomeeting.com/register/886364449
International Association for Landscape Ecology (IALE) World Congress meeting, July 9th 2015
Coming to Portland, Oregon July 5-10, 2015! The symposium, which is held every four years, brings scientists and practitioners from around the globe together to discuss and share landscape ecology work and information. The theme of the 2015 meeting is Crossing Scales, Crossing Borders: Global Approaches to Complex Challenges.
***SAVE THE DATE!!*** Sponsored by the CA LCC and CA Dept. of Water Resources
Traditional Ecological Knowledge Workshop September 23rd, 2014 @ California State University, Sacramento
Registration will open in June 2014. Check the California LCC website for details: http://californialcc.org/
The CA LCC, DWR and co-sponsors will host a one-day workshop for state and federal agency staff, NGOs, and Tribes with interest in how Traditional Ecological Knowledge (TEK) can help ensure resilient and sustainable natural landscapes for California in the face of climate change and other ecological stressors. Participants will learn from Tribal instructors about what TEK is, how it has been cross-walked with Western science to gain valuable insights about species and ecological cycles, and how to talk with Tribes about TEK. Attendees will come away with an increased understanding of TEK and indigenous peoples of California, and how we can work together in the future.
- Ron Goode (North Fork Mono Tribe)
- Sage LaPena (Nomptipom Wintu Tribe)
- Chuck Striplen (San Francisco Estuary Institute, Amah Mutsun Tribe)
- Dr. Beth Rose Middleton (UC Davis)
Workshop Topics (subject to change)
- Basic definitions and applications
- Cultural sensitivity
- TEK and ethnobiology
- Tribal sovereignty – with respect to protection of tribal lifeways, access to resources, resilient environments.
- TEK and the policy environment
- Intellectual property law
- Tribal consultation
- Ethno-ecological fire traditions
- Cultural landscape mapping – archaeology + ethnography + historic and contemporary resources
- Science needs – data, mapping, cross-walking of sensitive information
- Successful partnerships between tribes and agencies (NGO, universities) that advance resource co-management
JOBS (apologies for any duplication; thanks for passing along)
Ideal candidate would have a strong fundamentals in conservation and natural resource management with specific direct experience in ag.
Please spread the word about an exciting opportunity at EDF to help us develop the Central Valley Habitat Exchange and pursue other opportunities to bring habitat markets to scale. If you have any questions about the position, let me know. And if you have networks where you can post this, it would be much appreciated.
The National Park Service Klamath and Pacific Island Network Program Manager positions are now open. They are Interdisciplinary Supervisory GS-12/13 positions. Please distribute this announcement widely to anyone who may be interested. The announcement number is: PWROPI-14-I&M-1118179 DE/MP
- OTHER NEWS OF INTEREST
Green Is Good
by D. T. Max May 12, 2014
Mark Tercek, the head of the Nature Conservancy, recently took a tour of the largest chemical-manufacturing facility in North America: the Dow plant in Freeport, Texas. The Nature Conservancy, which is responsible for protecting a hundred and nineteen million acres in thirty-five countries, is the biggest environmental nongovernmental organization in the world. Tercek, accompanied by two colleagues, had come to Freeport because the facility—a welter of ethylene crackers and smokestacks built next to a river that flows into the Gulf of Mexico—is at the center of a pilot collaboration that he hopes will reshape conservation. The key idea is to create tools that can assign monetary value to natural resources. Tercek, a former partner at Goldman Sachs, thinks that environmental organizations rely on fuzzy science and fail to harness the power of markets. With the help of sound metrics drawn from the world of finance—”a higher level of accountability,” in his words—some of the ecological harm caused by the very same corporations can be undone. Nudging big business in a green direction, he believes, can do far more good than simply cordoning off parcels of Paradise.
Written by Mark Tercek & Peter Kareiva
Published on May 5th, 2014 |
More than 60 years ago, scientists began The Nature Conservancy (TNC) with an idea — to protect a piece of nature by purchasing it and setting it aside. The Nature Conservancy has grown since then. But we’ve remained consistent about our dedication to science, to practical solutions, and most of all, to finding the best ideas to meet the challenges nature faces. That inclusive approach is why TNC embraces a wide variety of ways of doing conservation — and reasons for supporting it. Those reasons range from having access to abundant hunting and fishing to the philosophy that every species has a right to exist. From the need to sit alone in quiet contemplation of a beautiful landscape to the needs of hundreds of millions whose livelihoods depend on healthy fisheries or grasslands. Some might think all these motivations are incompatible. At TNC, we see them as part of our big tent.
But you might be surprised to learn that science is a crucial part of what allows us to be so ecumenical. How is that possible? Doesn’t science rule out much more than it allows? On the contrary. Science asks questions, challenges conventional wisdom, applies the latest technologies, and leaves no stone unturned. A science-based organization is by definition always restless, experimenting and casting a wide net for better solutions whose worth is proven by evidence. And conservation today needs that attitude. The challenges the world faces — from climate change to land conversion for agriculture to the growing footprint of our energy appetites — are immense and expanding exponentially. The story journalists report about conservation today — like the New Yorker piece just published on The Nature Conservancy — sometimes emphasize tensions between “new” and “traditional” approaches. We understand how tension and conflict makes for a good story. But we do not see things as new versus old. We also do not see conservation as choosing between protected areas and biodiversity or working with corporations and smart development. We think and have shown you can get both. We have worked with Rio Tinto in Mongolia to mitigate mining impacts and gotten an additional 400,000 hectares of land protected where mining is prohibited. To be clear: The Nature Conservancy continues to embrace “traditional” strategies. We still buy land, we arrange for easements with ranchers and logging companies, we help nations establish marine protected areas….
Posted: 28 May 2014 05:43 PM PDT
A new study has shown that streaming can be much better for the environment, requiring less energy and emitting less carbon dioxide, than some traditional methods of DVD renting, buying and viewing.
By Joe Romm on May 26, 2014
If we continue listening to the voices of denial and delay and disinformation, we’ll assuring everyone ultimately becomes a veteran of the growing number of climate-related conflicts. Our most necessary fight today is a WWII-scale and a WWII-style effort to address the problem.
By Emily Atkin on May 27, 2014 at 2:51 pm
Neil deGrasse Tyson explains the amazing things that we can accomplish…if we don’t destroy ourselves first.
—By Chris Mooney | Mon May 19, 2014 2:25 PM EDT Mother Jones
Domestication of dogs may explain mammoth kill sites and success of early modern humans
(May 29, 2014) — A new analysis of European archaeological sites containing large numbers of dead mammoths and dwellings built with mammoth bones has led to a new interpretation of these sites — that their abrupt appearance may have been due to early modern humans working with the earliest domesticated dogs to kill the now-extinct mammoth. … > full story
Why you need olive oil on your salad
(May 19, 2014) — A diet that combines unsaturated fats with nitrite-rich vegetables, such as olive oil and lettuce, can protect you from hypertension, suggests a new study. The findings help to explain why some previous studies have shown that a Mediterranean diet can reduce blood pressure. The Mediterranean diet typically includes unsaturated fats found in olive oil, nuts and avocados, along with vegetables like spinach, celery and carrots that are rich in nitrites and nitrates. … > full story
Vitamin E in canola, other oils hurts lungs
(May 20, 2014) — A large new study advances our understanding of vitamin E and ties increasing consumption of supposedly healthy, vitamin E-rich oils — canola, soybean and corn — to the rising incidence of lung inflammation and, possibly, asthma. The good news: vitamin E in olive and sunflower oils improves lungs. The study shows drastically different health effects of vitamin E depending on its form: gamma-tocopherol in soybean, canola and corn oil and alpha-tocopherol in olive and sunflower oils. … > full story
Testing paleo diet hypothesis in test tubes: Surprising relationships between diet and hormones that suppress eating
(May 20, 2014) — By comparing how gut microbes from human vegetarians and grass-grazing baboons digest different diets, researchers have shown that ancestral human diets, so called ‘paleo’ diets, did not necessarily result in better appetite suppression. The study reveals surprising relationships between diet and the release of hormones that suppress eating. … A closer cataloguing of all the metabolites produced by the bacterial cultures digesting potato or grass diets showed that as the levels of the amino acids isoleucine and valine rose, so too did the amount of PYY released. This relationship was even stronger than that with SCFAs.
“This hints that protein might play a greater role in appetite suppression than the breakdown of starch or fiber,” said Timothy Barraclough, another co-author of the study. “More work will be needed to explore the effects of alternative breakdown products of various foods.”
… > full story
An area’s level of poverty or wealth may affect the distribution of cancer types
(May 27, 2014) — A new analysis has found that certain cancers are more concentrated in areas with high poverty, while other cancers arise more often in wealthy regions. … > full story
Fighting cancer with dietary changes
(May 26, 2014) — Calorie restriction, a kind of dieting in which food intake is decreased by a certain percentage, has been touted as way to help people live longer. New research suggests that there may be other benefits, including improving outcomes for women in breast cancer. According to a study published May 26th in Breast Cancer Research and Treatment, the triple negative subtype of breast cancer — one of the most aggressive forms — is less likely to spread, or metastasize, to new sites in the body when mice were fed a restricted diet.. .. In earlier studies, Dr. Simone and colleagues had shown that calorie restriction boosted the tumor-killing effects of radiation therapy. This study aimed to examine which molecular pathways were involved in this cooperative effect…. > full story
Ellie Cohen, President and CEO
Point Blue Conservation Science (formerly PRBO)
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