Ecology, Climate Change and Related News

Conservation Science for a Healthy Planet

Archive: Oct 2014

  1. Damming last big rivers on Earth

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    We’re damming up every last big river on Earth. Is that really a good idea?

    Updated by Brad Plumer on October 28, 2014, 4:05 p.m. ET @bradplumer
    brad@vox.com

    The Three Gorges discharges water during a flood peak July 08, 2012 in Hubei, China. TPG/Getty Images

    Solar and wind power get all the attention these days, but the global hydropower frenzy that’s currently underway could end up being just as consequential for the planet — for better or for worse. Hydropower can provide a source of renewable energy — but also wreak havoc on river habitats Hydroelectric dams are still the biggest source of renewable energy around, generating 16 percent of the world’s electricity. And, according to a recent study in Aquatic Sciences, more than 620 large hydroelectric dams are now under construction, largely in Latin America and Asia — with thousands more in various stages of planning. At the high end, if most of the planned dams were built, global hydropower production could double to 1,700 gigawatts, the study’s authors predict. This would also reduce the number of large free-flowing rivers on the planet by another 20 percent. There are upsides and downsides here. If built, these dams could provide electricity for millions of poor people who don’t have it. But dams can also be extremely controversial. Some projects can end up displacing thousands of people and destroying river habitats — something the United States learned the hard way last century. What’s more, recent research has questioned whether hydropower is always as climate-friendly as once thought…..

    And what about global warming? In theory, hydroelectric dams should produce fewer greenhouse-gas emissions than, say, coal plants. But there’s a huge caveat here. Some recent research has suggested that decaying vegetation in stagnant dam reservoirs may end up producing lots of methane, another potent greenhouse gas. For many dams, this can actually offset a big chunk of the climate benefits, especially in tropical countries like Brazil. So hydropower isn’t always as green as it seems. (There are, however, ways to build lower-emitting dams — but it has to actually get done.)….

    Obviously no one’s going to tear down the Hoover Dam, which still provides electricity for millions of people in Nevada, Arizona, and California. But many smaller dams are now getting dismantled — including the 108-foot Elwha River dam. (The hunt for carbon-free electricity, however, has complicated this task. Back in 2013, Congress passed a bill to help eke out more power from small rivers and streams, particularly by adding generating capacity to existing dams.) … Among other things, the US was providing aid to Cambodia to study how dam construction would affect the river’s flow. The latest Aquatic Sciences paper, by providing a comprehensive database of the 3,700 largest dams being contemplated, aims to provide a useful resources to planners hoping to address some of these concerns. “Clearly,” the authors note, “there is an urgent need to evaluate and to mitigate the social, economic, and ecological ramifications of the current boom in global dam construction.”

    The worldwide dam-building frenzy

    Global spatial distribution of future hydropower dams, either under construction (blue dots; 17%) or planned (red dots; 83%). Credit: Aquatic Sciences (DOI: 10.1007/s00027-014-0377-0)

  2. Climate change impacts countered by stricter fisheries management

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    Climate change impacts countered by stricter fisheries management

    October 24, 2014 Wildlife Conservation Society

    A new study has found that implementing stricter fisheries management overcame the expected detrimental effects of climate change disturbances in coral reef fisheries badly impacted by the 1997/98 El Niño, according to the Wildlife Conservation Society. The 17-year study led by WCS fisheries scientists
    found that rapid implementation of fisheries restrictions countered adverse climate effects and actually increased fisheries catches, counter to predictions and findings in other studies without stricter management. This is good news for the millions of people who depend on coral reefs fisheries, as it provides a management solution for fisheries predicted to decline with global warming.

     

    TR McClanahan, CA Abunge. Catch rates and income are associated with fisheries management restrictions and not an environmental disturbance, in a heavily exploited tropical fishery. Marine Ecology Progress Series, 2014; 513: 201 DOI: 10.3354/meps10925

  3. Rangelands as Carbon Sinks to Mitigate Climate Change: A Review

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    Rangelands as Carbon Sinks to Mitigate Climate Change: A Review

    McDermot C, Elavarthi S (2014) Rangelands as Carbon Sinks to Mitigate Climate Change: A Review. J Earth Sci Clim Change 5:221. doi: 10.4172/2157-7617.1000221

    Journal of Rangelands and Climatic Change September 30 2014

    ABSTRACT: Rangelands cover large areas in the United States and across the world and are natural carbon sinks which if properly managed and maintained can sequester substantial amounts of atmospheric carbon dioxide in the form of soil organic carbon and mitigate climate change. Varied climatic conditions impact carbon sequestration at the arid and semi-arid ecological sites on rangelands. Best management practices, site-specific policies and technological options are important approaches to manage these ecosystems to mitigate the impact of current climate variations. There are a number of co-benefits associated with management of rangelands for carbon storage, these include; improve soil quality and resilience, agronomic productivity, advancing global food security and restoring ecosystem diversity. Also, the non-equilibrium model is proposed for use on these xeric sites of rangelands since it better reflects the ecological dynamics that impact carbon sequestration and as such policies should be embodied this understanding. More studies are needed on the ecological dynamics, and factors that affect soil carbon sequestration process and mechanisms on arid and semi-arid environments as well as the soil organic carbon residence time so as to better our understanding of these regions. The voluntary carbon market was a good approach for stimulating carbon sequestration on rangelands, however the causes of failure should be revisited, addressed and necessary amendment to policies made that will be the driving force towards environment restoration and conservation.
    Some of the obvious challenges and opportunities with regards to efficient use of rangelands as carbon sinks to mitigate as well as adapt to climate change are discussed in this paper.

  4. Restoring wetlands can lessen soil sinkage, greenhouse gas emissions, study finds

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    Restoring wetlands can lessen soil sinkage, greenhouse gas emissions, study finds

    October 30, 2014 Dartmouth College

    Restoring wetlands can help reduce or reverse soil subsidence and reduce greenhouse gas emissions, according to research in California’s Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta. The study is one of the first to continually measure the fluctuations of both carbon and methane as they cycle through wetlands.

    The study, which is one of the first to continually measure the fluctuations of both carbon and methane as they cycle through wetlands, appears in the journal by Global Change Biology.
    Worldwide, agricultural drainage of organic soils has resulted in vast soil subsidence and contributed to increased atmospheric carbon dioxide concentrations. The California Delta was drained more than a century ago for agriculture and human settlement and has since experienced subsidence rates that are among the highest in the world. It is recognized that drained agriculture in the Delta is unsustainable in the long-term. To help reverse subsidence and capture carbon, there is interest in restoring drained agricultural land-use types to flooded conditions, but flooding may increase methane emissions. Carbon dioxide is the primary greenhouse gas emitted through human activities, but pound for pound, methane’s impact on climate change is more than 20 times greater than carbon dioxide.

    Researchers at Dartmouth, UC-Berkeley and UC-Davis installed monitoring equipment on three moveable four-meter towers, measuring carbon dioxide and methane concentrations above a pasture and a cornfield that had been drained and a flooded rice paddy, a newly restored wetland and a wetland that underwent restoration in 1997. They found that the drained sites were net carbon and greenhouse gas sources. Conversely, the restored wetlands were net sinks of atmospheric carbon dioxide, but they were large sources of methane emissions, says co-author Jaclyn Hatala Matthes, an assistant professor an assistant professor in Dartmouth’s Department of Geography. “However, we do expect that the methane emissions will stabilize over time,” she says. “We’ve seen that emissions tend to increase for the first few years, and that this increase is correlated with the increase in wetland plant growth and spread during this time.” In another recent paper published in the Journal of Geophysical Research-Biogeosciences, Matthes and her co-authors analyzed the correlation between wetland methane emissions and vegetation around the towers, where more plants resulted in an increase in the methane emissions. Where the vegetation patches had more “edges” — convoluted borders — the methane emissions were lower. “We are looking at the structure of vegetation patterns that might help to inform management goals for a restored wetland, how big do you want the vegetation patches to be, how much edge they should have,” Matthes says. “It’s a little bit tricky in ecosystem engineering, but we are hoping to learn some things about how people might plan wetland vegetation in order to maximize carbon dioxide uptake but to minimize methane release.”

    1. Jaclyn Hatala Matthes, Cove Sturtevant, Joseph Verfaillie, Sara Knox, Dennis Baldocchi. Parsing the variability in CH4flux at a spatially heterogeneous wetland: Integrating multiple eddy covariance towers with high-resolution flux footprint analysis. Journal of Geophysical Research: Biogeosciences, 2014; 119 (7): 1322 DOI: 10.1002/2014JG002642
    2. Sara Helen Knox, Cove Sturtevant, Jaclyn Hatala Matthes, Laurie Koteen, Joseph Verfaillie, Dennis Baldocchi. Agricultural peatland restoration: effects of land-use change on greenhouse gas (CO2and CH4) fluxes in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta. Global Change Biology, 2014; DOI: 10.1111/gcb.12745
  5. Global Groundwater Crisis

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    Sustained drought in California is depleting aquifers (click to enlarge).

     

    NASA Bombshell: Global Groundwater Crisis Threatens Our Food Supplies And Our Security

    by Joe Romm Posted on October 31, 2014 at 1:22 pm

     

    An alarming satellite-based analysis from NASA finds that the world is depleting groundwater — the water stored unground in soil and aquifers — at an unprecedented rate. A new Nature Climate Change piece, “The global groundwater crisis,” by James Famiglietti, a leading hydrologist at the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory, warns that “most of the major aquifers in the world’s arid and semi-arid zones, that is, in the dry parts of the world that rely most heavily on groundwater, are experiencing rapid rates of groundwater depletion.”

    The groundwater at some of the world’s largest aquifers — in the U.S. High Plains, California’s Central Valley, China, India, and elsewhere — is being pumped out “at far greater rates than it can be naturally replenished.” The most worrisome fact: “nearly all of these underlie the word’s great agricultural regions and are primarily responsible for their high productivity.” And this is doubly concerning in our age of unrestricted carbon pollution because it is precisely these semiarid regions that are projected to see drops in precipitation and/or soil moisture, which will sharply boost the chances of civilization-threatening megadroughts and Dust-Bowlification.
    As these increasingly drought-prone global bread-baskets lose their easily accessible ground-water too, we end up with a death spiral: “Moreover, because the natural human response to drought is to pump more groundwater continued groundwater depletion will very likely accelerate mid-latitude drying, a problem that will be exacerbated by significant population growth in the same regions.”
    So this is very much a crisis, albeit an under-reported one. But why is NASA the one sounding the alarm? How has the space agency been able to study what happens underground? The answer is that NASA’s Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment (GRACE) satellite mission can track the earth’s mass over space and time — and large changes in the amount of water stored underground cause an observable change in mass.

     

    Here is California’s groundwater depletion over the last three years as observed by GRACE:

     

    NASA: “The ongoing California drought is evident in these maps of dry season (Sept–Nov) total water storage anomalies (in millimeter equivalent water height; anomalies with respect to 2005–2010). California’s Sacramento and San Joaquin river basins have lost roughly 15 km3 of total water per year since 2011 — more water than all 38 million Californians use for domestic and municipal supplies annually — over half of which is due to groundwater pumping in the Central Valley.”

     

    Certainly, the combined threat of mega-drought and groundwater depletion in the U.S. breadbaskets should be cause for concern and action by itself. But we should also worry about what is happening around the globe, if for no other reason than it inevitably affects our security. As I wrote last year, “Warming-Fueled Drought Helped Spark Syria’s Civil War. Dr. Famiglietti explains the risk: Further declines in groundwater availability may well trigger more civil uprising and international violent conflict in the already water-stressed regions of the world, and new conflict in others. From North Africa to the Middle East to South Asia, regions where it is already common to drill over 2 km [kilometers] to reach groundwater, it is highly likely that disappearing groundwater could act as a flashpoint for conflict.

     

    Outside of this country, NASA has observed aquifer declines in “the North China Plain, Australia’s Canning Basin, the Northwest Sahara Aquifer System, the Guarani Aquifer in South America … and the aquifers beneath northwestern India and the Middle East.”

     

    Water storage declines (mm equivalent water height) in several of the world’s major aquifers.

     

    Famiglietti says that groundwater “acts as the key strategic reserve in times of drought, in particular during prolonged events,” such as we’re seeing in the West, Brazil, and Australia: Like money in the bank, groundwater sustains societies through the lean times of little incoming rain and snow. Hence, without a sustainable groundwater reserve, global water security is at far greater risk than is currently recognized.

    Yes, we can stave off bankruptcy a little longer despite our unsustainable lifestyle by taking money from our children’s bank accounts. As we reported last year, we’re taking $7.3 trillion a year in natural capital — arable land, potable water, livable climate, and so on — from our children without paying for it. In short, humanity has constructed the grandest of Ponzi schemes, whereby current generations have figured out how to live off the wealth of future generations.


     

  6. Conservation Science News October 31 2014

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    Focus of the WeekGlobal Groundwater Crisis

    1ECOLOGY, BIODIVERSITY, RELATED

    2CLIMATE CHANGE AND EXTREME EVENTS with special DROUGHT section

    3ADAPTATION and HOPE

    4- POLICY

    5- RENEWABLES, ENERGY AND RELATED

    6-
    RESOURCES and REFERENCES

    7OTHER NEWS OF INTEREST 

    8IMAGES OF THE WEEK

    ——————————–

    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 Restorationhttp://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 this news compilation by signing up for the California Landscape Conservation Cooperative Newsletter or the Bay Area Ecosystems Climate Change Consortium listserve to receive this. You can also email me directly at Ellie Cohen, ecohen at pointblue.org with questions or suggestions. 

    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– Global Groundwater Crisis

    Sustained drought in California is depleting aquifers (click to enlarge).

     

    NASA Bombshell: Global Groundwater Crisis Threatens Our Food Supplies And Our Security

    by Joe Romm Posted on October 31, 2014 at 1:22 pm

     

    An alarming satellite-based analysis from NASA finds that the world is depleting groundwater — the water stored unground in soil and aquifers — at an unprecedented rate. A new Nature Climate Change piece, “The global groundwater crisis,” by James Famiglietti, a leading hydrologist at the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory, warns that “most of the major aquifers in the world’s arid and semi-arid zones, that is, in the dry parts of the world that rely most heavily on groundwater, are experiencing rapid rates of groundwater depletion.”

    The groundwater at some of the world’s largest aquifers — in the U.S. High Plains, California’s Central Valley, China, India, and elsewhere — is being pumped out “at far greater rates than it can be naturally replenished.” The most worrisome fact: “nearly all of these underlie the word’s great agricultural regions and are primarily responsible for their high productivity.” And this is doubly concerning in our age of unrestricted carbon pollution because it is precisely these semiarid regions that are projected to see drops in precipitation and/or soil moisture, which will sharply boost the chances of civilization-threatening megadroughts and Dust-Bowlification.
    As these increasingly drought-prone global bread-baskets lose their easily accessible ground-water too, we end up with a death spiral: “Moreover, because the natural human response to drought is to pump more groundwater continued groundwater depletion will very likely accelerate mid-latitude drying, a problem that will be exacerbated by significant population growth in the same regions.”
    So this is very much a crisis, albeit an under-reported one. But why is NASA the one sounding the alarm? How has the space agency been able to study what happens underground? The answer is that NASA’s Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment (GRACE) satellite mission can track the earth’s mass over space and time — and large changes in the amount of water stored underground cause an observable change in mass.

     

    Here is California’s groundwater depletion over the last three years as observed by GRACE:

     

    NASA: “The ongoing California drought is evident in these maps of dry season (Sept–Nov) total water storage anomalies (in millimeter equivalent water height; anomalies with respect to 2005–2010). California’s Sacramento and San Joaquin river basins have lost roughly 15 km3 of total water per year since 2011 — more water than all 38 million Californians use for domestic and municipal supplies annually — over half of which is due to groundwater pumping in the Central Valley.”

     

    Certainly, the combined threat of mega-drought and groundwater depletion in the U.S. breadbaskets should be cause for concern and action by itself. But we should also worry about what is happening around the globe, if for no other reason than it inevitably affects our security. As I wrote last year, “Warming-Fueled Drought Helped Spark Syria’s Civil War. Dr. Famiglietti explains the risk: Further declines in groundwater availability may well trigger more civil uprising and international violent conflict in the already water-stressed regions of the world, and new conflict in others. From North Africa to the Middle East to South Asia, regions where it is already common to drill over 2 km [kilometers] to reach groundwater, it is highly likely that disappearing groundwater could act as a flashpoint for conflict.

     

    Outside of this country, NASA has observed aquifer declines in “the North China Plain, Australia’s Canning Basin, the Northwest Sahara Aquifer System, the Guarani Aquifer in South America … and the aquifers beneath northwestern India and the Middle East.”

     

    Water storage declines (mm equivalent water height) in several of the world’s major aquifers.

     

    Famiglietti says that groundwater “acts as the key strategic reserve in times of drought, in particular during prolonged events,” such as we’re seeing in the West, Brazil, and Australia: Like money in the bank, groundwater sustains societies through the lean times of little incoming rain and snow. Hence, without a sustainable groundwater reserve, global water security is at far greater risk than is currently recognized.

    Yes, we can stave off bankruptcy a little longer despite our unsustainable lifestyle by taking money from our children’s bank accounts. As we reported last year, we’re taking $7.3 trillion a year in natural capital — arable land, potable water, livable climate, and so on — from our children without paying for it. In short, humanity has constructed the grandest of Ponzi schemes, whereby current generations have figured out how to live off the wealth of future generations.

     

     

     

     

     

     

    Nestling birds struggle in noisy environments

    Posted: 29 Oct 2014 06:53 AM PDT

    Unable to fly, nestling birds depend on their parents for both food and protection: vocal communication between parents and offspring helps young birds to determine when they should beg for food and when they should crouch in the nest to avoid a predator seeking an easy meal. A group of researchers has found that ambient, anthropomorphic noise — from traffic, construction and other human activities — can break this vital communications link, leaving nestlings vulnerable or hungry….

     


    Green Spaces Don’t Ensure Biodiversity in Urban Areas


    Oct. 31, 2014 — Green spaces in cities are great, but they don’t ensure biodiversity, according to biologists. The team found insect abundance was lacking in two common urban trees, suggesting insect movement may be … full story

     

    Male Birds Poison Themselves to Appear Sexier—a First

    Great bustards eat toxic beetles to clear parasites and look healthier, study says.


    A female great bustard studies the backside of a male in full courtship display. Photograph by Franz-Josef Kovacs

    Jason Bittel for National Geographic Published October 24, 2014

    The lengths we go to for love can sometimes be dramatic—and so it is for male great bustards (Otis tarda), whose daredevil diet of poisonous beetles may actually help them get a date, a new study reveals. Scientists already knew the large birds, which are native to parts of Europe and Asia, snack on toxic insects to clear their guts of certain intestinal parasites, including bacteria, nematodes, and tapeworms. But the new research, published this week in PLOS ONE, shows that males eat substantially more blister beetles than females, a strategy that makes them appear healthy—and thus sexier—during courtship rituals. If true, the findings may be the first known case of a male “self-medicating” to attract females, according to the study authors. (Also see “Watching ‘Sexy’ Males Leads to Better Chicks, Study Says.”)…

     

     

    In Florida, a water-pollution warning that glows at night

    Bioluminescent algae on Florida’s East Coast are part of increasing numbers of algae blooms in the U.S. — some of which are toxic, with possible impacts including tainted drinking water and poisoned shellfish beds. (Florida Today Communications/PR Newswire)

    By Joby Warrick and Darryl Fears October 26 2014 Washington Post

    COCOA, Fla. — Karen McLaughlin normally carries a flashlight for her nighttime kayak trips along Florida’s Banana River to spot any alligators resting on the banks. But these days, it’s the river itself that glows in the dark. “It’s beautiful!” McLaughlin, an eco-tour guide, said as her boat’s wake set off an eerie light show on a moonless October night. Each dip of her paddle stirred up bioluminescent plankton that have invaded this eastern Florida waterway in record numbers since late summer. Like millions of tiny fireflies, they lit a jumping fish in a geyser of emerald light. A manatee out for the evening glowed like an alien spaceship as it passed underneath. It was striking, but also strange: In a region where explosive “blooms” of toxic or nuisance algae have battered fisheries and killed dolphins and sea turtles in recent years, the glowing microorganisms represent another mysterious shift in an ecosystem that scientists say is out of kilter… In the same week that some Florida researchers monitored the bioluminescent algae on Florida’s East Coast, others were keeping watch on remnants of a massive “red tide” in the Gulf of Mexico, a swath of toxic algae that at one point stretched 100 miles. From Southern California’s beaches to the Chesapeake Bay, waterways across the United States are seeing increasing numbers of algae blooms, with impacts including tainted drinking water and poisoned shellfish beds. Some are linked to higher levels of nitrogen pollution from livestock waste and fertilizers from suburban lawns and farms. Others are mostly natural events that are occurring in new places as oceans and inland lakes grow warmer.

     

     

    Crowdsourcing and Satellites Give Migrating Birds 10K Acres of New Wetlands

    By Allie Wilkinson  10.27.14  |Wired

      Drew Kelly/The Nature Conservancy

    When they’re flying south for the winter, birds need to rest their weary wings—preferably somewhere with food and water. But due to California’s agricultural development (not to mention its record-breaking drought), their preferred West Coast wetland stopovers are few and far between. So Matt Merrifield, a geographer with the Nature Conservancy of California, dove into geospatial data to help develop an alternative. The answer: flooded rice paddies. After the September harvest, farmers flood their fields to break down leftover rice straw. That’s water—but not on the right schedule. “We had to identify, very specifically in time and space, where there were a lot of birds but not a lot of water,” Merrifield says. So he overlaid migration data—crowdsourced from birders—with satellite images showing farmland water use. Then the Conservancy paid rice growers in the overlapping areas of California’s Central Valley to keep certain fields flooded when the birds arrive in October. The result: about 10,000 acres of popup wetlands for birds to visit en route from Alaska to South America, sited underneath them at the exact time they need a landing. “Eventually we want to do this not only in the Central Valley but up and down the Pacific Flyway,” Merrifield says. That should make for some happy birds.

     

    Big City, Big Surprise: New York City’s Newest Species Is a Frog

    National Geographic

    October 29, 2014

           

    The amphibian stayed hidden in plain sight for decades, only to be discovered on Staten Island. A photo of a leopard frog in New York.

     

     

    Credit Irene Rinaldi

     

    Our Highways’ Toll on Wildlife

    By AMANDA HARDY and RENEE SEIDLEROCT. 23, 2014 NYTimes Opinion

    Amanda Hardy is the assistant director of the North America program for the Wildlife Conservation Society, where Renee Seidler is an associate conservation scientist.

    BOZEMAN, Mont. — FALL is the season of apples, frost, turning leaves and roadkill. A 2008 congressional study found that one in 20 reported motor vehicle collisions is animal-related, and the numbers peak in autumn. Annually, these incidents result in about 26,000 injuries and 200 human deaths. Across the country, collisions with deer — the most common type of animal-related incident — cost more than $8.3 billion per year, including vehicle repair, medical services, towing, law enforcement time and carcass disposal. The damages increase when larger animals like moose or elk are hit.

    Spring and autumn, when animals are migrating, searching for mates or evading hunters, are the riskiest periods. Many animals, including deer, are active at dusk and dawn, when twilight reduces their visibility to predators — and to drivers, resulting in more collisions. The transitions to and from daylight saving time are especially hazardous because the timing of our commutes shifts overnight before animals can adjust to avoid the rush hour. This also contributes to the seasonal spike in animals killed. It’s hard to quantify the full impact of vehicle collisions on wildlife populations because most reported incidents involve larger animals like deer (and even those are underreported). The toll on smaller creatures like squirrels, salamanders and birds goes largely uncounted, but a recent study estimated that as many as 340 million birds are killed by vehicles annually. For 21 species listed by federal authorities as threatened or endangered — including the Canada lynx, the red wolf, the Florida panther, the crested caracara and Florida scrub-jay — road death is a
    major threat to survival.

    How can we reduce this carnage? Most collisions with animals occur on two-lane highways that have relatively low traffic volumes (fewer than 5,000 vehicles per day). With greater awareness, motorists can adapt their driving. Research shows that drivers who anticipate danger can halve their reaction time and cut the risk of collision.  Roadside signs may warn us of wildlife crossing these stretches of road, but if drivers rarely encounter animals, they can become habituated to the warnings. Flashing lights augmenting these signs can slow drivers, but they’re most effective if used only during the riskiest periods. Drivers are less likely to ignore animal crossing warnings that are activated by systems that detect moving animals in real time, but these dynamic signs are relatively rare. Ultimately, any system that relies on altering driver behavior will only have limited success. Surprisingly, changing animal behavior is more promising. The most effective tactic uses fencing to channel animals toward structures that safely cross roads. Panthers and alligators in Florida travel through culverts under a section of Interstate 75 known as Alligator Alley. Grizzly bears in Canada’s Banff National Park use overpasses designed for wildlife to cross the Trans-Canada Highway. Texas is planning underpasses along Highway 100 that, when constructed, could protect our 50 remaining ocelots.

    In Wyoming, pronghorn following the 6,000-year-old “Path of the Pronghorn” (our only federally protected migration corridor) are now guided by fences to overpasses and underpasses that cross a highway that lies between their summer and winter ranges. When work on the safe passages and fencing was completed in 2012, we watched the initial crossing attempts of the pronghorn in suspense. When they first encountered the guide fences, they chaotically tried to get through, unaware of the nearby overpass. In time, though, every group of pronghorn found its way over the busy highway. Their instinct to reach their winter range exceeded their fear of the unfamiliar structures; now, these are simply part of their migration path.

    The value of conserving this magnificent phenomenon — one of the last intact long-distance terrestrial migrations — is, in one sense, immeasurable. But it works in monetary terms, too. Before the project, drivers risked colliding with the 140-pound horned animals that crossed the highway by the thousands during their twice-yearly migrations. Over time, the cost savings from avoided collisions will offset the initiative’s $9.7 million price tag. Based on the accident reduction rate so far, the investment will pay off in about 12 years.

    Later this year, Congress must reauthorize a transportation bill that includes provisions designed to reduce animal-vehicle collisions and protect both drivers and wildlife. Congressional representatives must back clauses in the bill that would empower transportation agencies to use these engineering solutions where needed.

    Drivers must do their part to avoid wildlife collisions by slowing down and paying attention when there’s a high probability of encountering wildlife. But the best way of avoiding collisions is to build highways that reduce the hazards for drivers and animals alike where the risks are highest.

     

     

     

    CA BLM WILDLIFE TRIVIA QUESTION of the WEEK

     

    What is unusual about the way that the pallid bat feeds?

    (a.) It grinds up food in its stomach with pebbles it has swallowed.
    (b.) It competes with vultures for desert carrion.
    (c.) It eats seeds, instead of the flying insects that most other bats eat.
    (d.) It eats mostly from the ground, including scorpions.
    (e.) It feeds off of nectar and cactus pulp, instead of insects.
    (f.) It places its little bat utensils to the left of its plate, while most bats place them to the right.

    ——> See answer near the end of this issue of News.bytes.

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    Restoring wetlands can lessen soil sinkage, greenhouse gas emissions, study finds

    October 30, 2014 Dartmouth College

    Restoring wetlands can help reduce or reverse soil subsidence and reduce greenhouse gas emissions, according to research in California’s Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta. The study is one of the first to continually measure the fluctuations of both carbon and methane as they cycle through wetlands.

    The study, which is one of the first to continually measure the fluctuations of both carbon and methane as they cycle through wetlands, appears in the journal by Global Change Biology.
    Worldwide, agricultural drainage of organic soils has resulted in vast soil subsidence and contributed to increased atmospheric carbon dioxide concentrations. The California Delta was drained more than a century ago for agriculture and human settlement and has since experienced subsidence rates that are among the highest in the world. It is recognized that drained agriculture in the Delta is unsustainable in the long-term. To help reverse subsidence and capture carbon, there is interest in restoring drained agricultural land-use types to flooded conditions, but flooding may increase methane emissions. Carbon dioxide is the primary greenhouse gas emitted through human activities, but pound for pound, methane’s impact on climate change is more than 20 times greater than carbon dioxide.

    Researchers at Dartmouth, UC-Berkeley and UC-Davis installed monitoring equipment on three moveable four-meter towers, measuring carbon dioxide and methane concentrations above a pasture and a cornfield that had been drained and a flooded rice paddy, a newly restored wetland and a wetland that underwent restoration in 1997. They found that the drained sites were net carbon and greenhouse gas sources. Conversely, the restored wetlands were net sinks of atmospheric carbon dioxide, but they were large sources of methane emissions, says co-author Jaclyn Hatala Matthes, an assistant professor an assistant professor in Dartmouth’s Department of Geography. “However, we do expect that the methane emissions will stabilize over time,” she says. “We’ve seen that emissions tend to increase for the first few years, and that this increase is correlated with the increase in wetland plant growth and spread during this time.” In another recent paper published in the Journal of Geophysical Research-Biogeosciences, Matthes and her co-authors analyzed the correlation between wetland methane emissions and vegetation around the towers, where more plants resulted in an increase in the methane emissions. Where the vegetation patches had more “edges” — convoluted borders — the methane emissions were lower. “We are looking at the structure of vegetation patterns that might help to inform management goals for a restored wetland, how big do you want the vegetation patches to be, how much edge they should have,” Matthes says. “It’s a little bit tricky in ecosystem engineering, but we are hoping to learn some things about how people might plan wetland vegetation in order to maximize carbon dioxide uptake but to minimize methane release.”

    1. Jaclyn Hatala Matthes, Cove Sturtevant, Joseph Verfaillie, Sara Knox, Dennis Baldocchi. Parsing the variability in CH4flux at a spatially heterogeneous wetland: Integrating multiple eddy covariance towers with high-resolution flux footprint analysis. Journal of Geophysical Research: Biogeosciences, 2014; 119 (7): 1322 DOI: 10.1002/2014JG002642
    2. Sara Helen Knox, Cove Sturtevant, Jaclyn Hatala Matthes, Laurie Koteen, Joseph Verfaillie, Dennis Baldocchi. Agricultural peatland restoration: effects of land-use change on greenhouse gas (CO2and CH4) fluxes in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta. Global Change Biology, 2014; DOI: 10.1111/gcb.12745

     

    Rangelands as Carbon Sinks to Mitigate Climate Change: A Review

    McDermot C, Elavarthi S (2014) Rangelands as Carbon Sinks to Mitigate Climate Change: A Review. J Earth Sci Clim Change 5:221. doi: 10.4172/2157-7617.1000221

    Journal of Rangelands and Climatic Change September 30 2014

    ABSTRACT: Rangelands cover large areas in the United States and across the world and are natural carbon sinks which if properly managed and maintained can sequester substantial amounts of atmospheric carbon dioxide in the form of soil organic carbon and mitigate climate change. Varied climatic conditions impact carbon sequestration at the arid and semi-arid ecological sites on rangelands. Best management practices, site-specific policies and technological options are important approaches to manage these ecosystems to mitigate the impact of current climate variations. There are a number of co-benefits associated with management of rangelands for carbon storage, these include; improve soil quality and resilience, agronomic productivity, advancing global food security and restoring ecosystem diversity. Also, the non-equilibrium model is proposed for use on these xeric sites of rangelands since it better reflects the ecological dynamics that impact carbon sequestration and as such policies should be embodied this understanding. More studies are needed on the ecological dynamics, and factors that affect soil carbon sequestration process and mechanisms on arid and semi-arid environments as well as the soil organic carbon residence time so as to better our understanding of these regions. The voluntary carbon market was a good approach for stimulating carbon sequestration on rangelands, however the causes of failure should be revisited, addressed and necessary amendment to policies made that will be the driving force towards environment restoration and conservation.
    Some of the obvious challenges and opportunities with regards to efficient use of rangelands as carbon sinks to mitigate as well as adapt to climate change are discussed in this paper.

     

     

     

    Climate change impacts countered by stricter fisheries management

    October 24, 2014 Wildlife Conservation Society

    A new study has found that implementing stricter fisheries management overcame the expected detrimental effects of climate change disturbances in coral reef fisheries badly impacted by the 1997/98 El Niño, according to the Wildlife Conservation Society. The 17-year study led by WCS fisheries scientists
    found that rapid implementation of fisheries restrictions countered adverse climate effects and actually increased fisheries catches, counter to predictions and findings in other studies without stricter management. This is good news for the millions of people who depend on coral reefs fisheries, as it provides a management solution for fisheries predicted to decline with global warming.

     

    TR McClanahan, CA Abunge. Catch rates and income are associated with fisheries management restrictions and not an environmental disturbance, in a heavily exploited tropical fishery. Marine Ecology Progress Series, 2014; 513: 201 DOI: 10.3354/meps10925

     

     

    Arctic Ice Melt Doubles Risk of Frigid Eurasian Winters, Study Finds

    Map showing unusually cold air temperatures (blue) across Europe and Asia in December, 2009, associated with a deadly cold snap.Image: NASA

    By Andrew Freedman October 27, 2014 Mashable.com

    Global warming-related sea ice melt in a portion of the vast Arctic Ocean has doubled the risk of colder and snowier winters in Eurasia since 2004, a new study found. The study is the latest in a spate of recent research to examine the ties between rapid Arctic warming and the rest of the Northern Hemisphere. Much of that research is still highly contentious in the mainstream climate science community. Here is what scientists agree on:

     The Arctic is warming at a rate about twice as fast as that of the rest of the globe, and this is rapidly depleting the region’s sea ice, mainly during the summer and early fall.

     Rapid Arctic warming is altering the exchange of heat and moisture between the ocean and atmosphere across the Arctic.

     Arctic warming may be helping to alter the broader jet stream, which is a corridor of high winds at about 35,000 feet that acts as a weather highway, blowing from west to east across the hemisphere.

    The new study, published Sunday in the journal Nature Geoscience, uses 100 computer models as well as observational data to show that recent trends toward colder winters in much of Russia, China, and portions of eastern Europe may be related to the loss of sea ice in the Barents and Kara Sea…

     

     

    The role of the ocean in tempering global warming

    Richard Allan Thursday, October 23, 2014 NOAA

    This is a guest post from Richard P Allan, who is a professor in the Department of Meteorology at the University of Reading/UK…

    It is well known that the surface has warmed over the past few decades, primarily in response to rising concentrations of greenhouse gases. ENSO variability and other natural factors, have additionally contributed toward year-to-year fluctuations about this warming trend (dark red line in Figure 1). Strong El Niño events add a few tenths of a degree Celsius to the global average surface temperatures. However, there has recently been an observed slowing in the rate of surface warming (compare the red and orange trend lines in Figure 1) which may be related in part to a greater number of cold La Niña events in the 2000s compared to previous decades (see article by Climate.gov).

    Figure 1: Observed changes in global annual average surface temperature relative to 1961-1990 from the HadCRUTv4 dataset which is updated to account for gaps in data coverage (version 2.0 Long Reconstruction). The temperature difference is compared with 1961-1990 average using data from Cowtan & Way (2014). The rate of warming from 1970-2013 (red trend line) is larger than the rate of warming between 1998-2013 (orange line).

    On its own, though, ENSO is only part of the story, and it cannot fully explain how and why extra heat trapped by rising greenhouse gas concentrations is unable to raise surface temperatures; recent research indicates that, if anything, the Earth is gaining heat at an increasing rate. How can warming at Earth’s surface have slowed when energy accumulation is becoming larger? The role of our oceans is central in answering this.

    Where is the increasing heat coming from?

    As greenhouse gas concentrations continue to rise, infra-red radiative cooling by the surface and the atmosphere (1) to space becomes less effective. This sends the planet out of balance, with more energy arriving through absorbed sunlight than leaving through infra-red radiation. Or to put simply, more energy stays on our planet than leaves, which results in the Earth warming. The heating effect is modified by knock-on effects which amplify or reduce climate change through vicious cycles or “feedbacks.” For example, as the atmosphere warms, observations and basic physics agree that the atmospheric moisture content increases. This enhances the strength of the greenhouse effect, and therefore the overall heating effect, still further. Inexorable rises in greenhouse gas concentrations have driven a radiative imbalance leading to global warming at the surface, which has been amplified by the associated increases in atmospheric moisture. These processes are crucial in explaining rapid global climate change during my lifetime.

    So where is the recent surface warming?

    While ENSO influences Earth’s overall heating rate and global surface temperatures from year to year (Figures 1-2), what explains the diminishing rate of surface warming over the longer period from the 1990s to the 2000s? A number of small volcanic eruptions (which make the planet reflect more sunlight) and a slightly weaker sun in the 2000s compared to the late 1990s are thought to have offset some of the heating effect of rising greenhouse gas concentrations. However, our recent analysis of satellite data, ocean measurements and detailed simulations (see Figure 2) indicates that Earth’s heating rate has not diminished over the period 1985-2012. And if anything it has increased. Currently heat is accumulating at a rate approximately equivalent to every person worldwide using 20 tea kettles each to continuously boil the oceans. That’s a big tea party….

     

     

     

    New research quantifies what’s causing sea level to rise

    By John Abraham & 30 October 2014 skepticalscience.come

    There have been a number of studies that have come out recently on ocean warming and sea-level rise. Collectively, they are helping scientists coalesce around an emerging understanding of climate change and its impact on the Earth. Most recently, a study by scientists Sarah Purkey, Gregory Johnson, and Don Chambers was published. This team was responsible for a 2010 paper that was groundbreaking in that it quantified very deep (abyssal) sea warming. This latest paper is, in some respects, a continuation of that work. The researchers recognized that changes to the sea levels are mainly caused by thermal expansion of ocean waters as they heat, changes to the saltiness of water, and by an increase in ocean waters as ice melts and flows into the sea. The total annual sea level rise is about 3 mm per year – the question is, how much of that is from expansion and how much is from melting?…. Dr Johnson summarised their results,

    We find a small but measurable contribution from deep-sea warming to the global sea level budget (and hence global energy budget) from 1996–2006. The ocean warming is estimated directly from highly accurate, full-depth, oceanographic temperature data. The magnitude of the deep warming contribution to sea level below 2,000 m is about 13% of the total contribution of the mass trend below 2,000 m for that same time period.

    I asked how this paper agrees or disagrees with a recent paper that reportedly showed the deepest ocean waters are not heating. He replied that the two studies actually agree with each other. They both show that the deepest ocean waters are likely contributing only a small fraction to the overall ocean energy/water rise. On the other hand, the uncertainty is largely because the deepest waters just don’t have a history of sufficient measurements to close the uncertainty range. He also stressed the importance of a proposed fleet of deep-water measuring devices (Deep Argo).

    It is sometimes said that “global warming” is really “ocean warming”. Given the importance the oceans have on our past and future climate, you can be sure scientists around the world are working to better understand how much heat is going into the oceans, where the heat is going, and what will happen in the future. The recent publications are helping us close the uncertainty range and improve our knowledge. This is what progress looks like.

     

    The ocean conveyor moves heat and water between the hemispheres, along the ocean bottom. It also moves carbon dioxide.Credit: NASA

    Climate change caused by ocean, not just atmosphere

    October 25, 2014 Rutgers University

    Most of the concerns about climate change have focused on the amount of greenhouse gases that have been released into the atmosphere. But in a new study published in Science, a group of Rutgers researchers have found that circulation of the ocean plays an equally important role in regulating Earth’s climate. In their study, the researchers say the major cooling of Earth and continental ice build-up in the Northern Hemisphere 2.7 million years ago coincided with a shift in the circulation of the ocean — which pulls in heat and carbon dioxide in the Atlantic and moves them through the deep ocean from north to south until it’s released in the Pacific. The ocean conveyor system, Rutgers scientists believe, changed at the same time as a major expansion in the volume of the glaciers in the northern hemisphere as well as a substantial fall in sea levels. It was the Antarctic ice, they argue, that cut off heat exchange at the ocean’s surface and forced it into deep water. They believe this caused global climate change at that time, not carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. “We argue that it was the establishment of the modern deep ocean circulation — the ocean conveyor — about 2.7 million years ago, and not a major change in carbon dioxide concentration in the atmosphere that triggered an expansion of the ice sheets in the northern hemisphere,” says Stella Woodard, lead author and a post-doctoral researcher in the Department of Marine and Coastal Sciences. Their findings, based on ocean sediment core samples between 2.5 million to 3.3 million years old, provide scientists with a deeper understanding of the mechanisms of climate change today. The study shows that changes in heat distribution between the ocean basins is important for understanding future climate change. However, scientists can’t predict precisely what effect the carbon dioxide currently being pulled into the ocean from the atmosphere will have on climate. Still, they argue that since more carbon dioxide has been released in the past 200 years than any recent period in geological history, interactions between carbon dioxide, temperature changes and precipitation, and ocean circulation will result in profound changes.

     

    Combing the atmosphere to measure greenhouse gases

    Posted: 29 Oct 2014 11:12 AM PDT

    By remotely ‘combing’ the atmosphere with a custom laser-based instrument, researchers have developed a new technique that can accurately measure — over a sizeable distance — amounts of several of the major ‘greenhouse’ gases implicated in climate change.

     

     

    Salt-loving plants may be key to global efforts for sustainable food production

    October 28, 2014

    Farmland is vanishing in part because the salinity in the soil is rising as a result of climate change and other human-made phenomena. In an Opinion piece publishing in the Cell Press journal Trends in Plant Sciences, researchers propose a new concept for breeding salt- tolerant plants as a way to contribute to global efforts for sustainable food production. “We suggest that we should learn from nature and do what halophytes, or naturally salt-loving plants, are doing: taking up salt but depositing it in a safe place — external balloon-like structures called salt bladders,” says co-senior author Prof. Sergey Shabala, of the University of Tasmania, in Australia. “This strategy has never been targeted by breeders and, therefore, could add a new and very promising dimension to breeding salinity-tolerant crops.”…

     

     

    Evaluation of a national high school entertainment education program: The Alliance for Climate Education

    Download PDF (351 KB)  19 Oct 2014 Climatic Change

    Abstract

    Ever-increasing global warming has created a societal imperative to reach and engage youth, whose futures are at risk. In this paper, we evaluate the climate science knowledge, beliefs, attitudes, behavior and communication impact of an entertainment-education high school assembly program in a random sample of 49 schools (from population of 779 that received the intervention) and a panel of 1,241 students. Pre- and post-assembly surveys composed of questions from the Global Warming’s Six Americas segmentation and intervention-specific measures were administered in classrooms. We demonstrate that exposure to climate science in an engaging edutainment format changes youths’ knowledge, beliefs, involvement, and behavior positively and moves them to audience segments that are more engaged in the issue. The net impact of scaled, multi-sensory, captivating programs for youth could be a population shift in science-informed engagement in the issue of climate change. In addition, such programs can inspire youth for deeper engagement in school programs, personal action, and political and consumer advocacy.

     

     

    DROUGHT

     

    Why California’s Drought-Stressed Fruit May Be Better For You

    By Sasha Khokha | KQED Friday, October 24, 2014

    These pomegranates are about an inch smaller than the typical size, but they’re packed with antioxidants.

    Courtesy of Tiziana Centofanti

    California’s severe drought is putting stress on everyone these days: the residents whose wells are running dry; the farmers forced to experiment with growing their produce with much less water; and of course, the thirsty fruits and vegetables themselves. But preliminary research suggests the dryness isn’t hurting the produce’s nutritional value, and with a few added minerals may even boost it.

    That’s the tantalizing concept Tiziana Centofanti has been studying at the U.S. Department of Agriculture lab in Parlier, Calif., a sprawling campus of experimental farmland about half an hour south of Fresno. Centofanti is a research scientist affiliated with the Center for Irrigation Technology at Fresno State. One of the questions she’s asking is how fruit trees react to drought, compared to fruit from trees that get plenty of water. “My research is about physiological response to stresses,” Centofanti says, “and drought is one of those.”….Research shows that pomegranates have specific compounds that may reduce swelling and infection, even possibly fight DNA damage and cardiovascular disease. So to see how drought might change that fruit chemistry, Centofanti takes the water-stressed pomegranates into the lab, cuts them and uses a French press to squeeze everything, including the peel, into juice. She shakes that onto a magnetic stirrer, and analyzes it with liquid chromatography.

    Preliminary data, she says, confirm her suspicions about drought’s effect on the fruit’s nutritional value. “Does not affect the fruit quality, so nothing, no differences at all,” Centofanti says, gesturing toward a deep freezer full of fruit samples. Indeed, so far the results from this study show that the cracked pomegranates grown with much less water still have all the normal antioxidant levels — the same amounts of vitamin C, micronutrients and macronutrients. Same results with the drought-stressed grapes that Centofanti has tested….. As The Salt previously has reported, other farmers in California who’ve been experimenting with so-called dry farming, which involves using far less water than normal, have found it can create much sweeter, more flavorful produce. Meanwhile, researchers in Mexico, Thailand, Taiwan and Spain have managed to grow spicier peppers by giving them less water. But when UC scientists working with jalapeño growers in Santa Clara and San Benito counties tried repeating the experiment, the results were only lukewarm.

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    Pragmatism on Climate Change Trumps Politics at Local Level Across U.S.

    By JOHN SCHWARTZ October 24, 2014 NY Times

    Even as politicians at the national level steer clear of the politically charged topic, officials who live where its effects lap at residents’ doorsteps are embracing the issue…

     

    Payeng stands in his forest he single-handedly planted in Majuli. Production still courtesy of Will McMaster.

    One Man Single-Handedly Plants Forest Bigger Than Central Park
    He did it to save his home. In the middle of a braided river tucked in a remote northeastern region of India, one man planted a forest that has now outgrown the size of New York City’s Central Park. As a teenager in the 1970s, Jadav Payeng noticed a rush of snakes washing ashore, dead. Erosion had scrubbed away vegetation from Majuli island sandbars, stripping away grassy cover and ultimately forcing many native species to flee. Floodwaters transformed some parts into barren landscapes. Its shorelines receded with every monsoon rain. The island, Payeng’s birthplace, was rapidly shrinking.

    Home to approximately 170,000 people, Majuli is one of the world’s largest river islands situated in the middle of the mighty Brahmaputra, making it vulnerable to the tides of a large number of tributaries. The river’s strength reaches an apex every spring when glacial melt from the Himalayas supercharges floodwaters. Flooding has become a problem intensified in recent years due to the effects of climate change and earthquakes, leaving the river’s shape and flow altered after seismic activity. Over the past 100 years, Majuli has lost over 70 per cent of its landmass. ……McMaster collected his footage and made an 18-minute short film in 2013 titled “Forest Man.” This summer, it won best documentary at The American Pavillion Emerging Filmmaker Showcase at Cannes.


    Funding local adaptation – Quantity and Quality Matter

    By Dr. Hannah Reid October 30, 2014 climateprep.org

    Financing for local climate change adaptation initiatives comes from a number of sources: international and bilateral funds specifically targeting climate change, existing local, regional and national level budgetary support from governments, NGOs and INGOs working on climate change, private sector investments, philanthropic contributions, and increasingly, communities themselves who are providing finance and other in-kind contributions to improve local resilience in the face of growing climate-related challenges. There is, however, no global system for tracking and measuring the total amount of global finance made available for adaptation from all these sources. Work on the monitoring and evaluation (M&E) of adaptation and adaptation finance is a fast-evolving area, and tools and data sets are being developed, but most tracking does not look at where finance goes beyond the national level….

     

    How Solar PV Can Power A Carbon-Free Energy Revolution, In 4 Charts

    by Joe Romm Posted on October 28, 2014

    Can we build enough carbon-free energy fast enough to avert catastrophic climate change without having to power this energy transition with fossil fuels that would undermine the whole transition? The answer is “yes,” and here’s why….


    12 ways communities will have to adapt to handle climate change

    Whatever your water crisis, whether drought or flood, these DIY solutions will help you adjust to climate change’s new reality

    Water could (should?) become a thing of the past in some communities. Photograph: Alamy

    Erica Gies Wednesday 29 October 2014 07.45 EDT The Guardian UK

    Climate change is making both droughts and flood more frequent and severe. Whether your area is suffering from too much water or too little, here are things you can do to adapt.

    Drought

    In the face of relentless droughts such as the historic one underway in California, we all want to help conserve. But with water utilities increasingly introducing tiered pricing – in which people who use more water pay an increasingly higher price for it – cutting back can reap monetary savings as well.

    Replace lawns with native plants

    Outdoor water use accounts for 30% of residential demand across the US, and 80% in the arid West, according to Mary Ann Dickinson, president of the Alliance for Water Efficiency. Nixing grass for drought-tolerant native plants can save as much as 10,000 gallons of water a year. Or reduce your lawn’s size and replace standard grass with low-water varieties that make do with two-thirds less water. Local native plant societies often know which plants made your lot home before you did. In the West, where most rain comes during the winter, plant natives in the fall. Natives also provide habitat for local butterflies and birds, and can be more resistant to wildfire than ornamentals.

    Cut the flush

    Toilets use the most water of all indoor fixtures, nearly 30% of home water use, according to the EPA. Drop-A-Brick offers an easy way to cut back. The flattened brick is filled with a powder that turns solid when it gets wet, giving it the weight needed to sink. One $15 Drop-A-Brick in a toilet’s tank will displace almost half a gallon of water per flush, saving around $25 a year on water bills. Why use a manufactured, $15 brick instead of a Lifehacker-style solution like a milk jug filled with water? It “actually improves flushing performance in most [toilets] because it causes water to accelerate more quickly through the flush valve, according to engineers,” said Ali Hart, director of toilet relations for “Project: Drop-A-Brick.” No more flushing twice to clear low-flow toilets!

    “The real goal of this campaign,” she added, “is to raise awareness about urban water conservation.”

    Get savvy

    People tend to dramatically underestimate personal water use. One study found that Americans lowballed their water use by a factor of two. One reason is that we typically get one water bill every two months – a huge gap between use habits and measurement. Tech companies like WaterSmart and Dropcountr are trying to reverse this trend. Dropcountr’s mobile app allows you to track how you use water, set conservation goals, access rebates for low-flow appliances and more. It also alerts you to usage trends that may land you in a higher-priced billing tier and adds a competitive factor by tracking how well you’re keeping up (or rather down) with the Joneses.

    Use rain barrels and graywater systems

    Plants don’t need drinking-quality water. Connecting rain barrels to downspouts is an inexpensive way to harvest rain to supply your garden. Such on-site water supplies increase your water security, independence, and efficiency. Overachieving water conservers have long put a bucket in the shower or kitchen sink to collect “greywater” for plants outside. But an installed system delivering greywater from, say, your washing machine in the garage into your garden would be much easier. Such systems have long been illegal in many jurisdictions, but that’s beginning to change thanks in part to groups like Greywater Action.

    Opt for dual plumbing

    Your toilet doesn’t require drinking water, either. A dual plumbing system allows you to reroute greywater or rainwater back into your house for flushing (or use utility-delivered treated wastewater in some districts). Pipes that route non-potable water are colored purple so that everyone knows not to connect them to sinks. A diverter valve allows people to choose potable water for some needs and alternative water for the rest. If you’re buying a new house in an area where purple pipes are now in the building code, such as San Francisco, you could be on the cutting-edge of water conservation. Otherwise, save this strategy for a major remodel.

    Floods

    Worldwide, increasing development in floodplains is paving over soil that would otherwise soak up water. Coastal plain development is also booming, creating infrastructure that’s more vulnerable than ever as sea levels rise with climate change. A World Bank report last year found that flood damage to coastal cities worldwide could reach $1tn annually.

    To avoid paying your share of that, consider the following adaptations.

    Location, location, location

    This may be obvious, but think before you move. Whether buying or renting, consult flood maps to see if that lovely home is at high risk. If you simply must live near a coast or river, choose or build a home elevated to a height above your area’s predicted flood level rise.

    Raise the mechanicals and valuables

    Move vulnerable elements like furnaces, water heaters and electric panels to higher ground when building or remodeling. If you have a basement, don’t keep a giant plasma TV, gaming center or collection of antiquarian books down there.

    Relocate

    If flooded, put government emergency grants or insurance payouts toward moving to higher ground, not rebuilding. Some cities that flood regularly have used such funds to buy out willing homeowners and transform floodplains into open space. If your city doesn’t offer this option, introduce it at planning meetings. After Tulsa, Oklahoma, bought and removed more than 800 flood-damaged homes and vulnerable buildings and turned the floodplain into a park, flood insurance rates dropped 25%.

    Plan for soft failure

    If you’re already living in a flood zone, you can make your home resilient via renovations that minimize the effect of floodwater. Choose flood damage-resistant materials such as glazed brick, concrete, stone, steel or recycled plastic lumber. Anchor the foundation to resist flotation, collapse, or lateral movement. Create “flow-through” features on the lower levels to prevent water pressure damage.

    Use rain gardens and low-impact development

    Permeable surfaces are your friends. Rather than paving your driveway, choose materials such as pavers that allow water to seep through them into the ground, or gravel. Consider your lot’s slope. Water should flow away from your home, not toward it. Creating a rain garden will slow runoff and allow more absorption into the ground. Add slopes that funnel water into a bioswale (a fancy name for a ditch covered in stones or native grasses), toward planting spaces or a nearby creek, or even into an underground storage catchment that can hold water for drier times, or allow water to seep slowly into the aquifer. If you’re a city-dweller with pavement right up to your house, investigate a permit to dig up part of the sidewalk and plant a small garden that will convey water underground.

    Stay informed

    Apps are not just for the drought-afflicted. Using real-time data from the US Geological Survey and National Weather Service, FloodWatch gives both recent and historical river heights, precipitation totals, and flood stage data throughout the United States. The app allows you to monitor nearby rivers and streams and keep an eye on potential flooding issues, giving you time to move valuables to safety. For worldwide information check out the Flood App from Swiss Re, the leading global reinsurer. With a focus on climate change adaptation, the app offers reliable if general information on flood risks and how to manage and insure these risks.

    Get flood insurance

    Floods are the most common natural disaster. But flood losses are often not covered under standard renter or homeowner’s insurance policies. The good news is that often you can purchase flood-specific insurance. However, some firms are leaving flood-prone areas, reasoning it’s bad business to continue insuring such risky properties. If that’s the case where you live, consider it a sign that you should move. In the United States, the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP), administered by Fema, provides federally subsidized plans in locales that agree to implement its floodplain management ordinances. Homeowners, business owners, and renters in participating areas can purchase these plans via www.FloodSmart.gov.

     

     

     

     

    Europe’s Ambitious Climate Goal

    By THE EDITORIAL BOARD NY Times Editorial October 28, 2014

    A plan to steeply cut greenhouse gas emissions is an important step forward and a signal to other nations to set some aggressive goals of their own.

     

    Undersea life suffers from warming and acid seas

    UN warns of irreversible climate change

    Governments and scientists have been meeting in the Danish capital Copenhagen this week to adopt a key IPCC report on the state of the climate. It says policymakers must act now to avert the worst.

    October 31, 2014

    Climate change may have “severe, pervasive and irreversible impacts for people and ecosystems.” But there is still time to prevent the worst by reducing greenhouse gas emissions now. That is the message from a report by the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) to be published on November 2 after a week of international scrutiny. The “Synthesis Report” does not contain new information. Its wording, however, lends new urgency to the issue. It integrates and condenses the information contained in three separate reports released over the past year, looking at the scientific evidence for climate change, its impacts and what can be done about it. Delegates from more than 100 governments and top scientists are attending the meeting to prepare the publication of the report and the all-important “Summary for Policymakers,” which will be essential reading for governments preparing for this year’s UN climate conference in Peru in December. The IPCC summary states clearly that global warming is happening, that humans have caused it, that it is already dangerous, and that the warming trend could be irreversible.

    It makes it clear that urgent emissions reductions are required in the very near future to keep warming below two degrees Celsius to avert the worst impacts of climate change. These include extreme weather, rising sea levels, and increased heat waves, flooding and droughts. The report also suggests climate change could aggravate violent conflicts and refugee problems and have a negative effect on food production. Another major impact mentioned is ocean acidification, as the sea increasingly absorbs more carbon. This is harmful to marine life. If there are no changes to our emissions of greenhouse gas emissions, “climate change risks are likely to be high or very high by the end of the 21st century,” according to the report….

     

     

    Options for climate change policy well characterized, study says

    Posted: 25 Oct 2014 12:27 PM PDT

    Policy options for climate change risk management are straightforward and have well understood strengths and weaknesses, according to a new study.

     

     

     

     

     

    Solar electric cars: When your gas station is the sun

    A growing number of electric car drivers are fueling their vehicles with the power of the sun. Rooftop solar panels can easily generate enough electricity to power an electric or plug-in gas-electric hybrid vehicle. 

    By Dee-Ann Durbin, Associated Press October 28, 2014 DETROIT — Owners of electric vehicles have already gone gas-free. Now, a growing number are powering their cars with sunlight.

    Solar panels installed on the roof of a home or garage can easily generate enough electricity to power an electric or plug-in gas-electric hybrid vehicle. The panels aren’t cheap, and neither are the cars. A Ford Fusion Energi plug-in sedan, for example, is $7,200 more than an equivalent gas-powered Fusion even after a $4,007 federal tax credit. But advocates say the investment pays off over time and is worth it for the thrill of fossil fuel-free driving….

        


    Wind of Change: European Grid Prepares for Massive Integration of Renewables


    Oct. 30, 2014 — Today, the ancient city of Rome welcomed an important new initiative for the large-scale integration of grids and of renewables sources into Europe’s energy mix, with nearly 40 leading …

     

    We’re damming up every last big river on Earth. Is that really a good idea?

    Updated by Brad Plumer on October 28, 2014, 4:05 p.m. ET @bradplumer
    brad@vox.com

    The Three Gorges discharges water during a flood peak July 08, 2012 in Hubei, China. TPG/Getty Images

    Solar and wind power get all the attention these days, but the global hydropower frenzy that’s currently underway could end up being just as consequential for the planet — for better or for worse. Hydropower can provide a source of renewable energy — but also wreak havoc on river habitats Hydroelectric dams are still the biggest source of renewable energy around, generating 16 percent of the world’s electricity. And, according to a recent study in Aquatic Sciences, more than 620 large hydroelectric dams are now under construction, largely in Latin America and Asia — with thousands more in various stages of planning. At the high end, if most of the planned dams were built, global hydropower production could double to 1,700 gigawatts, the study’s authors predict. This would also reduce the number of large free-flowing rivers on the planet by another 20 percent. There are upsides and downsides here. If built, these dams could provide electricity for millions of poor people who don’t have it. But dams can also be extremely controversial. Some projects can end up displacing thousands of people and destroying river habitats — something the United States learned the hard way last century. What’s more, recent research has questioned whether hydropower is always as climate-friendly as once thought…..

    And what about global warming? In theory, hydroelectric dams should produce fewer greenhouse-gas emissions than, say, coal plants. But there’s a huge caveat here. Some recent research has suggested that decaying vegetation in stagnant dam reservoirs may end up producing lots of methane, another potent greenhouse gas. For many dams, this can actually offset a big chunk of the climate benefits, especially in tropical countries like Brazil. So hydropower isn’t always as green as it seems. (There are, however, ways to build lower-emitting dams — but it has to actually get done.)….

    Obviously no one’s going to tear down the Hoover Dam, which still provides electricity for millions of people in Nevada, Arizona, and California. But many smaller dams are now getting dismantled — including the 108-foot Elwha River dam. (The hunt for carbon-free electricity, however, has complicated this task. Back in 2013, Congress passed a bill to help eke out more power from small rivers and streams, particularly by adding generating capacity to existing dams.) … Among other things, the US was providing aid to Cambodia to study how dam construction would affect the river’s flow. The latest Aquatic Sciences paper, by providing a comprehensive database of the 3,700 largest dams being contemplated, aims to provide a useful resources to planners hoping to address some of these concerns. “Clearly,” the authors note, “there is an urgent need to evaluate and to mitigate the social, economic, and ecological ramifications of the current boom in global dam construction.”

    The worldwide dam-building frenzy

    Global spatial distribution of future hydropower dams, either under construction (blue dots; 17%) or planned (red dots; 83%). Credit: Aquatic Sciences (DOI: 10.1007/s00027-014-0377-0)

     

    Almost Everything You’ve Bought Recently Came to You Via This Dirty Industry

    Ships will bring your iPhone from China—and a whole lot of “black carbon” too.

    —By James West Mother Jones Wed Oct. 29, 2014 6:00 AM EDT

    Containers at Shenzhen Port in China, one of the busiest in the world. Liu Xianglong/Imaginechina/ZUMA

    If you’ve recently purchased a new iPhone, or a fancy t-shirt, or a children’s toy… or really virtually any consumer or industrial good, there’s a strong chance that a giant ship ferried it from or through China. China, dubbed “the world’s factory” for pumping out so much of the world’s consumables, now boasts seven of the world’s top ten busiest trading ports. Strung up and down its densely populated eastern coast, China’s ten biggest ports handle nearly 30 percent of the world’s containers each year. These mega-ports—Shanghai’s is the planet’s busiest—helped China become the biggest trader in the world, eclipsing the US in 2012. China has also become the world’s second largest consumer market—meaning that more and more ships are unloading wares in the country’s ports, not just loading up.  But there’s a big downside for the planet in all that trade, according to a report released Tuesday by the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), a US-based environmental advocacy group with offices in Beijing. When the country’s brutal smog and worsening air crisis make international headlines, as it did earlier this month after runners in the Beijing marathon donned air masks, coal burning and China’s grid-locked streets get most of the attention. But emissions from China’s vast shipping industry have so far been “very much overlooked” by Chinese leaders, says Barbara Finamore, an author of the report and NRDC’s Asia director….

     

     

     

     

     
     

     

    UPCOMING CONFERENCES: 

     

    Visualizing and Analyzing Environmental Data with R
    November 18-19, 2014 Sacramento, CA

    This course is designed for participants who wish to gain beginning to intermediate skills in using R for manipulating, visualizing and analyzing their environmental data.
    It is applicable to anyone that conducts environmental monitoring or uses environmental data for research, management, or policy-making and is recommended for anyone needing to become proficient with R basics. Read More

     

     

    7th California Oak Symposium: November 3-6, 2014; Visalia Convention Center

    Managing Oak Woodlands in a Dynamic World

    Register Today!

     

     

     

    BPC Workshop:
    Challenges & Opportunities to Dredging and Beneficial Reuse
    November 4, 2014 
    9:00 AM to 12:30 PM 

    URS Corporation Offices
    1333 Broadway, 8th Floor
    Oakland, CA 94612

    Register Now! 

    For over 30 years, the Bay Planning Coalition has been working to ensure that the channels and harbors of our region are able to be dredged to adequate navigation depths.This Workshop will provide an update on current dredging projects, an examination of legislative actions that may affect dredging and disposal, and the latest developments in the region-wide effort to increase beneficial reuse. Join us on November 4th as some of the Bay Area’s leading experts on dredging and the beneficial reuse of dredged materials will provide their perspective on the economic, regulatory, and operational challenges associated with dredging in the Bay Area; and the abundant opportunities and positive impact of the beneficial reuse of dredged material in our region. 

    Presentation by Jim McNally“The Disconnect Between Cost & Logistics”

    Panel: “Challenges & Opportunities to Dredging and Beneficial Reuse”

    – Moderated by Josh Gravenmier, ARCADIS

    • Beth Huning, San Francisco Bay Joint Venture
    • Jessica Burton Evans, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers
    • Jim McGrath, BCDC and SFRWQCB Commissioner
    • Steve Goldbeck, BCDC
    • Pascha McAlister, Chevron
    • Amy Hutzel, Coastal Conservancy
    • Steve Carroll, Ducks Unlimited

    Presentation by Will Travis: “Lessons Learned and Looking Towards the Future” 

     

     

     

    Planning and Facilitating Collaborative Meetings
    Nov 6-7, 9:00am – 5:00pm both days 

    Bay Conference Center at the Romberg Tiburon Center, 3152 Paradise Drive, Tiburon, CA 94920

    Join us for this exciting workshop, developed by NOAA Coastal Services Center. This workshop was formerly titled “Navigating Rough Seas: Public Issues and Conflict Management.”  Learn to design meetings that enhance problem solving and minimize conflict.  Collaboration can be complicated, requiring  a systematic approach. This course provides the skills and tools to design and implement collaborative approaches. The skills will be useful even when attending, but not running, meetings. The cost of the workshop is $100, which includes workshop materials, lunch both days and morning refreshments. Contact Heidi Nutters (heidin@sfsu.edu) about scholarships. To register, click here

     

    Symposium: Breaking Through to Global Sustainability

    2:30 p.m. PT| November 11, 2014 Stanford University Cemex Auditorium Reserve seating

    Join the Stanford Woods Institute for the Environment and its colleagues in the water, conservation, sustainable development and public health fields for a 10th anniversary symposium: Breaking Through to Global Sustainability. Learn more about Woods’ work to advance breakthrough environmental solutions through interdisciplinary collaboration, technical innovation, cross-sector partnerships and leadership development. Panelists will commemorate Woods’ first Decade of Solutions with reflections on progress made and pathways forward to a sustainable future for people and planet.

     

     

    Measuring Up: How to Track and Evaluate Local Sustainability Projects – EPA Webinar
    Tuesday, November 18, 2014
    11-1:30 PST

    2:00 pm – 3:30 pm EST

    Register for this webinar

    Measuring, evaluating, and reporting on progress is an important part of local sustainability projects and programs. Tracking and analyzing results can help local entities assess program performance and success, identify specific areas for improvement or expansion, and make informed decisions about future actions. Public reporting can help generate interest in a project, promote accountability, demonstrate success, and attract political and financial support. You’ll learn about two new federal resources to help you measure, track, and report progress, based directly on the experiences of local governments across the country, and hear from one case study taking place in northwest Washington working to evaluate economic impacts of the program:

    • Emma Zinsmeister, EPA Local Climate and Energy Program:  Learn about a new methodology outlining the key steps for developing, tracking, analyzing, and reporting on performance indicators for climate and clean energy programs.
    • Ted Cochin, EPA Office of Sustainable Communities:  This presentation will focus on the Sustainable Community Indicator Catalog, providing information on specific indicators that local entities can use to measure progress toward their sustainability objectives.
    • Alex Ramel, Energy and Policy Director, Sustainable Connections:  Learn about an on-the-ground effort to measure and evaluate the economic impacts of a community energy efficiency program implemented in Bellingham and other areas of northwest Washington.

     

     

    2015 California Climate & Agriculture Summit  March 24 and 25, 2015
    UC Davis Conference CenterCall for Workshop and Poster Presentations   

     

    INVITATION TO PARTICIPATE  Abstract submission deadline is 1 November 2014 

    COME TO OUR HISTORIC SUMMIT 25-27 MARCH 2015

    ABSTRACT SUBMISSION (through November 1, 2014) and REGISTRATION (through January 25, 2015) NOW OPEN for Science for Parks, Parks for Science: The Next Century – A 2.5-day Summit at U.C. Berkeley March 25-27, 2015 convening natural and social scientists, managers and practitioners — 100 years after historic meetings at U.C. Berkeley helped launch the National Park Service — to rededicate a second century of science and stewardship for national parks.  This summit will feature visionary plenary lectures, strategic panel discussions on current controversies, and technical sessions of contributed paper and posters.   Keynote Speaker: E. O. Wilson.  Distinguished Plenary Speakers and Panelists include David Ackerly, Jill Baron, Steven Beissinger, Joel Berger, Edward Bernbaum, Ruth DeFries, Thomas Dietz, Josh Donlan, Holly Doremus, Ernesto Enkerlin, John Francis, David Graber, Denis Galvin, Jane Lubchenco, Gary Machlis, George Miller, Hugh Possingham, Jedediah Purdy, Nina Roberts, Mark Schwartz, Daniel Simberloff, Monica Turner, & Jennifer Wolch.

     

     

    Ninth 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.

     


     

     

    National Adaptation Forum– Call for Proposals
    May 12 – 14, 2015 in St. Louis, MO

    The National Adaptation Forum is a biennial gathering of the adaptation community to foster information exchange, innovation, and mutual support for a better tomorrow. The Forum will take place from May 12 – 14, 2015 in St. Louis, MO. 
    Proposals are being accepted for Symposia, Training Sessions, Working Groups, Poster Presentations, and a Tools Cafe. 

    Click here for more information.

     

     

     

    JOBS  (apologies for any duplication; thanks for passing along)

     

    • The Coastal Adaptation Program Leader (CAPL) will be responsible for executing the strategy and achieving the outcomes of Point Blue’s Protecting Our Shorelines Initiative (described below). As such, the CAPL will help natural resource managers and policy makers (including local elected officials) advance their adaptation efforts in the face of accelerating climate change, ocean acidification, increased storm frequency and intensity, habitat loss, and other stressors, leveraging Point Blue’s extensive scientific resources to enhance and protect coastal wildlife, ecosystems, and human communities. The CAPL will also develop science-based policy and natural resource management recommendations.

    • Chief Development Officer
    • Informatics Engineer
    • RWI ACEP Partner Biologist/Range Ecologist—POINT BLUE Rangeland Watershed Initiative (RWI) Agricultural Conservation Easement Program (ACEP) Partner Biologist/Range Ecologist; McArthur, CA Local Partnership Office.  The ACEP Partner Biologist/Range Ecologist serves as a wildlife biologist/range ecologist on the Rangeland Watershed Initiative staff and provides technical assistance to NRCS Wetland Reserve Easement Implementation Team in Northern California.  The Biologist/Ecologist is responsible for planning and applying conservation measures in all types of situations with emphasis on wildlife biology, grazing management and habitat restoration, especially for wetland wildlife species.  The applicant is also responsible for carrying out NRCS environmental planning and evaluation for conservation easement programs in the area of assignment.

     

     

     

     

     

    • OTHER NEWS OF INTEREST

     

     

    Pricing Carbon Initiative is releasing a short animation about that policy solution. Price Pollution, Cut Carbon shows why we need a price on carbon — and what Americans can do to support one. Watch it now on YouTube.

     

    Thousands of substances ranked according to potential exposure level

    Posted: 29 Oct 2014 09:45 AM PDT

    An overwhelming number of chemicals from household and industrial products are in the environment — and hundreds are in our bodies. But for most of them, scientists have yet to determine whether they cause health problems. Now they’ve taken the first step toward doing that by estimating which substances people are exposed to the most.

     

    FILMS to see:

     

    Diets high in fruit, vegetables, whole grains and nuts among factors to lower first-time stroke risk

    Posted: 29 Oct 2014 05:41 AM PDT

    Eating Mediterranean or DASH-style diets, regularly engaging in physical activity and keeping your blood pressure under control can lower your risk of a first-time stroke, experts say. Additionally, these experts not updated prevention guidelines that focus on lowering stroke risk among women.

     

    High milk intake linked with higher fractures and mortality, research suggests

    Posted: 28 Oct 2014 06:40 PM PDT

    A high milk intake in women and men is not accompanied by a lower risk of fracture and instead may be associated with a higher rate of death, suggests observational research. Women who drank more than three glasses of milk a day had a higher risk of death than women who drank less than one glass of milk a day.

     

    Relationship between diet, inflammation and cancer: Key factor found

    Posted: 28 Oct 2014 11:54 AM PDT

    A category of lipids known as sphingolipids may be an important link in the relationship between diet, inflammation and cancer, a team of scientists has found. They have provided evidence that a sphingolipid metabolite called sphingosine-1-phosphate (S1P) found in both mammalian food products and generated by normal human cells can contribute to inflammation of the colon, inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) and inflammation-associated colon cancer, whereas soy and plant-type sphingolipids called sphingadienes may protect against these conditions.

     

     

     

     

     

    NOTE NEW TAGLINE:


     


     


     


     

     

    GO GIANTS!


     

    CA BLM WILDLIFE TRIVIA ANSWER and Related Information

     

    What is unusual about the way that the pallid bat feeds?

     ANSWER: (d.) It eats mostly from the ground, including scorpions.

    SOURCE: “Pallid Bat – Antrozous pallidus” (BLM California wildlife database) This is one of the few bat species that specializes in eating off the ground rather than in flight. As a result, their diet is quite different from other bats…. http://ow.ly/DtCws

     

    ————

    Ellie Cohen, President and CEO

    Point Blue Conservation Science (formerly PRBO)

    3820 Cypress Drive, Suite 11, Petaluma, CA 94954

    707-781-2555 x318

     

    www.pointblue.org  | Follow Point Blue on Facebook!

     

    Point Blue—Conservation science for a healthy planet.

     

  7. San Francisco- Adaptation Check List for Sea Level Rise

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    A representation of what San Francisco’s Crissy Field would look like under 12 feet of sea level rise. Credit: Nickolay Lamm. Data: Climate Central

    San Francisco Rising to Threat of Swelling Seas

    October 23rd, 2014 By John Upton climatecentral.org

    The fog of uncertainty cast by rising seas is starting to lift from $25 billion worth of public projects planned in San Francisco. The City by the (rising) Bay, where bayfront shorelines will continue to experience worsening high tide flooding, where the nearby international airport is among the nation’s most vulnerable to floods, and where Pacific Ocean shoreline erosion could be accelerated by sea level rise, has adopted a first-in-the-nation approach to assessing potential infrastructure risks posed by rising seas. The new guidance, which includes a simple project checklist, will help officials incorporate sea level rise into decisions about building and upgrading everything from pipes to police stations to streets. Seas have risen 8 inches since industry started burning fossil fuels, although long-term ocean cycles have temporarily spared the West Coast from some of those impacts in recent decades. Two or three more feet of sea level rise is forecast globally this century.

    “I haven’t seen anything this comprehensive,” said Jessica Grannis, the Georgetown Climate Center’s adaptation program manager, after reviewing San Francisco’s new approach. “This is pretty unique, and a cool new step forward in mainstreaming climate adaptation into city capital budgeting processes.” The guidance was adopted last month by the city’s capital planning committee, a group of lawmakers and city officials formed nearly a decade ago to guide and prioritize byzantine capital spending by departments and agencies. According to the committee’s most recent biennial report, such spending will slightly exceed $25 billion during the next decade. The checklist process is simple, designed to create a high-level picture of a proposed infrastructure project’s future flooding risks. Some facilities, such as parks, can easily withstand occasional flooding. A hospital or fire station, by contrast, could be crippled if the land upon which it was built became permanently inundated. The new checklist helps figure out where a project’s flood risks lie between those extremes. The checklist requires a city official to review sea level rise inundation maps to determine whether their infrastructure project will be located in a floodplain under different sea level rise scenarios — or on land that could become permanently inundated. If either of those is the case, then the official ticks a series of “high,” “medium,” or “low” boxes. The boxes indicate how severely anticipated floods would affect operations at the project, how well the infrastructure would recover from a flood, and the extent of projected costs associated with cleaning up after it is waterlogged. Finally, the official jots down sea level rise adaptation measures that are being incorporated into the project.

    The process is straightforward, but not prescriptive. A project won’t automatically be abandoned if sea level rise risks are found to be high. Rather, the findings from the checklist will be used to guide decisions by officials and lawmakers regarding whether a proposed project makes sense, whether it makes sense where it is planned, and whether it needs to be redesigned to reduce flooding hazards — or constructed in such a way that it can be easily adapted later. The capital planning committee doesn’t have the power to veto or approve a project, but it advises lawmakers on whether they should approve its costs. The guidance was adopted five years after San Francisco-based urban think tank SPUR published a report highlighting the need for Bay Area cities and counties to start planning for climate change impacts, and less than two years after San Francisco’s mayor assembled a city committee to do just that.

    In the U.S., much of the work needed to adapt to climate change and improve resilience is occurring within cities, a trend that’s being pushed along by 100 Resilient Cities and similar initiatives. Following Hurricane Sandy, New York launched a $19.5 billion climate resiliency plan, and just this month it released new building guidelines for those living in floodplains.

    The Georgetown Climate Center recently concluded that 14 U.S. states have adaptation plans in place, and another nine have some planning underway. President Obama has proposed spending $1 billion in 2015 on climate resilience at the federal level. The U.S. has not yet committed anything to what is imagined to eventually be a $100 billion a year Green Climate Fund, designed to help the world’s poor and developing countries adapt to climate change, though it has been reported that a pledge might be made next month. So far, the fund has raised about $2.3 billion from other national donors.

    SPUR policy director Laura Tam, who has spoken out in the past about the dangers of lackluster and uncoordinated climate adaptation planning in the San Francisco Bay Area, praised San Francisco’s new guidance. “Five years ago, this topic was virtually unknown,” Tam told Climate Central. “Today, many city departments have not only participated and worked together to produce this guidance, but they are working collaboratively to develop solutions.” The guidance currently relates only to public projects. San Francisco capital planning official Brian Strong, who helped write it, said he hopes that it “leads to reforms” within the city’s planning and building inspection departments, which could use similar processes when assessing risks associated with proposed private developments, such as new homes and neighborhoods. But individual assessments for projects won’t be enough. City officials say sea level rise will start figuring in neighborhood-wide planning efforts, including along its vulnerable northern bayfront, which is a thriving hub of tourism — the city’s most important industry. One major decision that the city is going to start trying to make in the coming months, through what planning department staff say will be a public process, will be how to manage flood risks at Mission Bay, a booming redevelopment area close to the ballpark and near the city’s downtown. The city is building its main public safety building there, in what could become a flood plain. Flood gates are being considered to reduce flooding risks, along with various urban design solutions. As conversations such as those proceed in the coming years, they will be accompanied by an evolution of the new sea level rise guidance and checklist. The city plans to review the guidance in four years, or sooner if need be, as lessons are learned and science advances. “I think that this has to play out a little,” Tam said. “We’ll see how well it works in practice over the next 5 to 10 years as we build projects.”

  8. Compost helps rangeland lock up carbon

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    A sprinkle of compost helps rangeland lock up carbon

    By Carolyn Lochhead Updated 8:22 pm, Saturday, October 18, 2014

    A compost experiment that began seven years ago on a Marin County ranch has uncovered a disarmingly simple and benign way to remove carbon dioxide from the air, holding the potential to turn the vast rangeland of California and the world into a weapon against climate change.
    The concept grew out of a unique Bay Area alignment of a biotech fortune, a world-class research institution and progressive-minded Marin ranchers. It has captured the attention of the White House, the Brown administration, the city of San Francisco, officials in Brazil and China, and even House Republicans, who may not believe in climate change but like the idea that “carbon farming” could mean profits for ranchers.
    Experiments on grazing lands in Marin County and the Sierra foothills of Yuba County by UC Berkeley bio-geochemist Whendee Silver showed that a one-time dusting of compost substantially boosted the soil’s carbon storage. The effect has persisted over six years, and Silver believes the carbon will remain stored for at least several decades.
    The experiments were instigated by John Wick and his wife, Peggy, heiress to the Amgen biotech fortune, on a 540-acre ranch they bought in Nicasio. What began as a search for an artist’s studio turned into a seven-year, $8 million journey through rangeland ecology that has produced results John Wick calls “the most exciting thing I can think of on the planet right now.”
    The research showed that if compost from green waste — everything from household food scraps to dairy manure — were applied over just 5 percent of the state’s grazing lands, the soil could capture a year’s worth of greenhouse gas emissions from California’s farm and forestry industries.
    The effect is cumulative, meaning the soil keeps absorbing carbon dioxide even after just one application of compost, the researchers found. In theory, Silver calculates, if compost made from the state’s green waste were applied to a quarter of the state’s rangeland, the soil could absorb three-quarters of California’s total annual greenhouse gas emissions.
    “For a lot of people, this sounds a little fantastic,” Silver said. “There’s nothing magic about it.”
    Soil is a major source of carbon, “and we’ve been bleeding it into the atmosphere for many, many years through plowing, overgrazing and poor agricultural practices,” Silver said. “So anything we can do to get some of that carbon back into the soil is going to be beneficial.”….

     

    Applying Compost To Soil Can Help Cut Carbon Pollution

    by Katie Valentine Posted on October 22, 2014

    According to research, if compost were applied to 5 percent of California’s land used for livestock grazing, it could result in a year’s worth of emissions from farm and forestry industries being captured. …

  9. No-till with cover crops and rotation effective in dryland ecosystems, less so in moist climates

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    No-till farming, such as used in this Illinois soybean field, shows promise in dry regions but causes lower yields in cold, moist areas like Northern Europe, a new study finds. Credit: Paige Buck/USDA NRCS Illinois photo

    No-till agriculture may not bring hoped-for boost in global crop yields, study finds

    October 23, 2014 University of California – Davis

    No-till farming appears to hold promise for boosting crop yields only in dry regions, not in the cool, moist areas of the world, this study found. As the core principle of conservation agriculture, no-till has been promoted worldwide in an effort to sustainably meet global food demand….Conservation agriculture is currently practiced on 125 million hectares of land globally, an area nearly as big as the total U.S. cropland. Three key principles guide the concept: minimizing soil disturbance (also called no-till farming), protecting the soil with cover crops or leftover crop residue, and rotating the crops.

    The goals of conservation agriculture are to improve long-term productivity, profits and food security, particularly under the threat of climate change. Because conservation agriculture avoids tillage, it is less time-consuming and can be more cost-effective than conventional farming methods. In recent years, however, there has been some disagreement about the impact of no-till farming practices on yield.

    ….For example, yield reductions were minimized when the principles of crop rotation and residue retention were also practiced, highlighting the importance of implementing all three conservation agriculture principles as part of an integrated management system rather than no-till alone. Moreover, when adopted in dry climates in combination with the other two principles of conservation agriculture, no-till farming performed significantly better than conventional tillage, likely due to the higher retention of soil moisture. Dryland ecosystems are home to 38 percent of the world’s population, and millions of acres of land in arid regions of sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia have been identified as suitable for sustainable intensification. Yet, the authors also caution that practicing no-till in dryland areas without the implementation of the other two principles of conservation agriculture decreases yields.
    In regions with moist climates and sufficient precipitation, no-till farming actually resulted in yields that were on average 6 to 9 percent lower than with conventional tillage methods….

     

    Cameron M. Pittelkow, Xinqiang Liang, Bruce A. Linquist, Kees Jan van Groenigen, Juhwan Lee, Mark E. Lundy, Natasja van Gestel, Johan Six, Rodney T. Venterea, Chris van Kessel. Productivity limits and potentials of the principles of conservation agriculture. Nature, 2014; DOI: 10.1038/nature13809

  10. Where Have All The Rangelands Gone?

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    New Study: Where Have All The Rangelands Gone?

    October 23, 2014  |  by: Matt Miller  |  TNC

    Cows on a California ranch. Photo by Matt Miller/TNC.

    By Matt Miller, senior science writer, The Nature Conservancy

    Across the western United States, it’s a familiar conservationist’s lament: rangelands are disappearing at an alarming rate, lost in a sea of “for sale” signs and subdivisions. But what do the data really say? What are the long-term trends in rangeland conversion? Are conservation easements and other land protection tools making a difference? A new paper in the journal PLOS ONE by Dick Cameron, a lead scientist for The Nature Conservancy in California, and coauthors presents a comprehensive view of rangeland conversion — and just as importantly, the drivers of this conversion — on a large scale.

    The result is a comprehensive look at landscape change. And it’s true: rangelands really are disappearing at an alarming rate.

    What are the Losses?

    Cameron and his coauthors used a dataset of land-use types to map rangeland conversion in California between 1984 and 2008. They classified the resulting land-use changes with aerial imagery to determine whether it was developed into homes, planted with crops or dedicated to other land uses. Then they compared this loss against ranchland protection achieved by various conservation measures. They found a loss of more than 20,000 acres of rangeland per year to other uses within California, for a total loss of more than 480,000 acres. Of the remaining rangeland, only 24 percent was protected against future conversions by conservation easement or fee ownership. About 38 percent had no protection at all.

    Is It Just Homes on the Range?

    Conservationists often cite residential and commercial development as key threats to rangeland development. And indeed, researchers found this as a significant factor, accounting for 49 percent of the conversion. More surprisingly, 40 percent of rangelands were lost to agricultural intensification for a variety of crops. While the land was still in agriculture, a lot of the habitat value and low water usage offered by ranching was lost. An agricultural tax incentive — designed to discourage conversion of agricultural lands to residential development — was successful in protecting 37 percent of the remaining rangeland. But those tax incentives don’t protect those lands from being converted to other agriculture.

    Why Should Conservationists Care?

    Rangelands protect a lot of valuable wildlife habitat, but their value goes well beyond that. They often connect large blocks of public lands, providing room for migratory species as well as those that have large home range. And new research is finding even more benefits of protecting rangelands, including storing carbon — helping to mitigate the effects of climate change.

    Perhaps most significant of all is water savings, especially as Western states like California face severe droughts. The rangeland that has been converted to intensified agriculture is estimated to use five times more water than all the households of San Francisco combined.

    What’s Driving the Change?

    Quite simply, economics. It’s not exactly a secret that it’s tough to make a living at ranching. As ranches pass to younger generations, many find that the difficulties are just too much, and choose to sell the property or plant a higher value crop, such as almonds or pistachios. The authors advocate land-use planning that enables large areas of ranchland to remain intact and for increased incentives to make ranching more economically viable. They call conservation easements “underutilized” for ranchland protection and believe their study can help organizations focus on unprotected properties. And policies that provide incentives for keeping working ranches working are also vital, they argue. In California, the Williamson Act — passed in 1965 — provided state money allowing local governments to provide tax incentives to protect land for agricultural land uses. However, state funding of this program ceased in 2009 — and the study’s authors state that this will likely accelerate the rate of land conversion. They urge a return to funding this Act and other policies that provide financial incentives for landowners.

    What’s This Paper’s Impact on Conservation?

    This paper provides a comprehensive look at regional landscape change, but the tools used to measure that change can be applied beyond Central California. “Fragmentation of rangelands isn’t just a story of California, it’s a story of the Western United States,” says Cameron. “By analyzing the data to pick up drivers of conversion, we are in a better position to prevent future losses. Knowing where land is protected by different tools can help us prioritize future public and private investments in habitat conservation.” Cameron calls this approach of tracking loss and protection “conservation accounting.” Just as the private sector uses profit-and-loss statements to measure the health of a company, this accounting allows conservationists to assess losses against protection. “It’s an indicator of progress,” says Cameron. “Conservationists have protected key rangelands in California. But this analysis shows that rangeland is still being lost — and points us to the places where our investments can make the most difference.”